Saturday, April 23, 2005


A message from a devout Catholic writer about a group of Protestants:

Today I received a request to write a short article on Pope Benedict XVI from a club called the De Tocqueville Society, in a small college in Northern Virginia. That such a request came was no surprise. Its provenance is, and cheeringly so. For this De Tocqueville Society is made up of a group of students at the new Patrick Henry College, founded by Mike Farris, the President of the Home School Legal Defense Association. More than ninety percent of the college's students were homeschooled. If there's a Roman Catholic in the bunch, I've yet to hear about it, and I've been to that campus twice to give lectures.

More on that in a moment. I could spend all evening singing the praises of PHC (as the students fondly call it), but let me share one discovery I made that should gratify Touchstone readers. The first time I spoke there, two years ago, I was stunned to meet young men and women who-who were young men and women. I am not stretching the truth; go to Purcellville and see it for yourselves if you doubt it; I believe my wife took a couple of pictures, just to quiet the naysayers. The young men stand tall and look you in the eye-they don't skulk, they don't scowl and squirm uncomfortably in the back chairs as they listen to yet another analysis of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, or one of the healthier poems of Sylvia Plath. They're frank and generous and respectful, but they hold their own in an argument, and they are eager to engage you in those. They are comfortable in their skins; they wear their manhood easily. And the young ladies are beautiful. They don't wither away in class, far from it; but they wear skirts, they are modest in their voices and their smiles, they clearly admire the young men and are esteemed in turn; they are like creatures from a faraway planet, one sweeter and saner than ours.

Two years ago I spoke to them about medieval Catholic drama. They are evangelicals, half of them majors in Government, the rest, majors in Liberal Arts. They kept me and my wife in that room for nearly three hours after the talk was over. "Doctor Esolen, what you say about the habits of everyday life-to what extent is it like what Jean Pierre de Coussade calls `the sacrament of the present moment'?" "Doctor Esolen, do you see any connections between the bodiliness of this drama and the theology of Aleksandr Schmemann?" "Doctor Esolen, you have spoken a great deal about our recovery of a sense of beauty, but don't you think that artists can also use the grotesque as a means of bringing people to the truth?" "You've suggested to us that Christians need to reclaim the Renaissance as our heritage, yet we are told that that was an age of the worship of man for his own sake. To what extent is the art of that period ours to reclaim?" And on and on, until nearly midnight.

The questions were superior to any that I have ever heard from a gathering of professors-and alas, I've been to many of those. I mean not only superior in their enthusiasm and their insistence, but in their penetrating to the heart of the problem, their willingness to make connections apparently far afield but really quite apropos, and their sheer beauty-I can think of no better word for it.

A few weeks ago I was in town for another talk, on the resurrection of the body. The Holy Father had passed away. At supper, ten or fifteen of the students packed our table, to ask questions before the talk. They were reverent and extraordinarily well informed; most especially they were interested in the Theology of the Body. The questions on that topic continued after the lecture, and I had the same experience I'd had before, but now without the surprise.

And these are the young people who are devoting an entire issue of their journal to the thought of Cardinal Ratzinger, now the new head of the Roman Catholic Church. They are hungry to know about him; in the next week or two they will do what our slatternly tarts and knaves, I mean our journalists, have never done and will not trouble themselves to do, and that is to read what Benedict XVI has said, read it with due appreciation for their differences with him, and due deference to a holy and humble man called by Christ to be a light not only to Roman Catholics but to all the nations.

These students don't know it, but in their devotion to their new school (they are themselves the guards, the groundskeepers, the janitors; they `own' the school in a way that is hard to explain to outsiders), they live the community life extolled by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum; in their steadfastness to the truth they are stalwart participators in the quest set out by John Paul II in Fides et Ratio; in their welcoming of me and, God bless them, of the good Benedict XVI, they live in the true spirit of Lumen Gentium, that greathearted document of the council so often invoked for the lame tolerance of every betrayal of the ancient faith.



In my view there is a sense in which education ought to be democratic and another sense in which it ought not. It ought to be democratic in the sense of being available, without distinction of sex, colour, class, race, or religion, to all who can-and will-diligently accept it. But once the young people are inside the school there must be no attempt to establish a factitious egalitarianism between the idlers and dunces on the one hand and the clever and industrious on the other. A modern nation needs a very large class of genuinely educated people and it is the primary function of schools and universities to supply them. To lower standards or disguise inequalities is fatal.

If this sounds harsh, I would observe that the opposite policy is really devised to soothe the inferiority complex not of the idlers and dunces but of their parents. Do not be in the least afraid that those who live out their school-days-which should be brief-on the back bench of the lowest class will suffer any trauma when they see promotion and honours and official ap-proval going to the diligent minority. They are stronger than it. They can punch its head and kick its stern. All the distinctions they really care about-the popularity and the success in games-go not to it but to them. They enjoy their school-days very much. Our real problem is to see that they impede as little as possible the purposes for which school really exists.

More here


An administrator at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School faces discipline for failing to contact police about an alleged sexual assault on campus, district sources said Wednesday. All the district would say officially was that "corrective action" had been taken against the administrator, whom police have identified as the dean of students at the Bayview District school. However, sources familiar with the case say the dean has been counseled and still faces unspecified disciplinary action.

Police say they have launched a criminal investigation into why the dean didn't call them immediately when a distraught 14-year-old girl told him April 6 about an incident in a school bathroom involving a 14-year-old boy. Although upset, she told the dean that nothing had happened, said district sources who spoke on condition they not be identified. The dean called a parent and sent the girl home on a bus.

Instead, she went to the Taraval police station and reported that she had been forced to perform oral sex on the boy. The boy has since been charged in juvenile court with sexual assault and faces an expulsion hearing. The Marshall dean told police that he had been conducting his own investigation of the girl's accusations, police said. The dean has told investigators he intended to report the matter but wanted to do more fact- finding. State law requires that school officials notify police promptly when they suspect a crime has been committed on campus.....

Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is out of town and could not be reached for comment. The senior member of the school board said he wanted a full accounting of how the Marshall assault allegation had been handled. "The district needs to get to the bottom of it," said board member Dan Kelly. "The district needs to be sure that every principal, every administrator needs to report sexual assault in a proper way. "If this report is correct, it's a very serious failure of the staff of Thurgood Marshall school," Kelly said. "No question about it."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, April 22, 2005


And nobody cares -- unless their negligence is publicized, of course

The horror that happened at Mifflin High School in Columbus, Ohio, is happening in public schools everywhere. While the names and ages of the young victims vary, one thing is constant across the country: spineless education bureaucrats more concerned about covering their hides than protecting innocent children from harm.

On March 9, according to press reports, a developmentally disabled girl told Mifflin school officials that four boys dragged her into the school auditorium, punched her in the head and face, pushed her to her knees, and forced her to have oral sex with two of them. A crowd of students watched, and one student videotaped the incident. The 16-year-old girl's lip was bloodied in the alleged gang attack; dazed and crying, her face swollen, she reported the assault immediately to her special education teacher, Lisa Upshaw-Haider.

One monstrosity was piled upon another. When the girl's father, who had been summoned to the school by the teacher, insisted on calling police, an assistant principal twice urged him not to call 911, according to Upshaw-Haider. Assistant Principal Rick Watson implored the girl's father to call the non-emergency police line instead of 911, a violation of Ohio state law, because "a news channel might tape his daughter and cause her further mental trauma," according to his statement to school investigators.

Meanwhile, according to witnesses, the school's principal, Regina Crenshaw, shuttered herself in a meeting about bell schedules and curriculum for a half-hour while underlings scrambled to perform damage control. Cover your ears, cower in a classroom, and pray that the media stay out of it. It's all about the children, right?

Witness statements revealed that none of the administrators bothered to call a nurse to assist the girl. Only after the girl's father called police himself did law enforcement come to the scene. By the time the cops arrived, all of the administrators had gone home for the day.

The principal is now in the process of being fired. The animals accused of assaulting the victim were suspended and may face criminal charges. But two of three assistant principals, including alleged cover-up man Rick Watson, are protesting their measly suspensions over the incident as "unwarranted." Worried as ever about his own hide, Watson said through a lawyer that he hoped to be "spared the public ordeal of a full hearing."

What about the girl's ordeal? As is frequently the case in these situations, this was probably not the first time the disabled student was attacked. Police are investigating claims that she had been previously assaulted on a school bus, and that boys had tried to disrobe her at school.

Public-school Pollyannas will dismiss the Mifflin High School horror story as an isolated case. Open your eyes. Smell the stench. It's in your neighborhood. The New York Post reported recently that assaulted or sexually abused students and staff members collected $6.9 million in negligence claims against the New York City school system in fiscal 2004, an 18 percent increase in payouts over the previous fiscal year. The largest settlement, $1 million, was awarded to a Bronx high school student whose classmates stabbed him in the head with a screwdriver. The school had refused his mother's request for a safety transfer before the assault.

In my home county, Montgomery County, Md., a local government report revealed that nearly 12,000 children ages 12 to 17 are bullied, abused or robbed by peers and others. Of that number, more than 1,000 are victims of sexual assaults. The school system, which is not required to inform police of these crimes, has been bombarded with complaints by parents that school officials ignored the victims or downplayed sexual assaults, including a number of incidents involving young girls attacked on local school buses.

These are heart-stopping nightmares every parent fears. You send your children to school to learn, not to be assaulted by classmates and abused by the negligent overseers of Public School Classrooms Gone Wild. If these assaults occurred in private schools, the institutions would be shut down. Instead, the government dance of the lemons continues, as abominable administrators skip away with "sensitivity training," "reassignment," and eternal protection from accountability.

From Michelle Malkin


Parental choice has become a hot issue in this state. Unfortunately, it is generating the heat of controversy rather than the light of reason. Opponents of reform, including certain media, are now pulling out the race card and arguing that school choice will "re-segregate" public schools. That charge is not just false, it is hypocritical.

For all the anti-reformers talk and alleged concern, the fact is, today's public schools are disgracefully segregated. According to Harvard Professor Paul Peterson in his article School Choice: A Civil Rights Issue, "Despite the efforts of the civil rights movement, public schools today remain just as segregated as they were in the 1950s." There is ample evidence out there to support Mr. Peterson's contention. According to a published analysis of Department of Education data, 55% of public school 12th graders nationwide are in racially segregated classrooms (where more than 90% of students are of the same background) compared to 41% of private school 12th graders.

Anyone who wants local proof does not have to look far. South Carolina's record on race, justice, and equity is deplorable. Just look at a school district like Clarendon One. It is hard to imagine a school district more segregated (well over 90% Black) and one where the schools have failed the students so badly (95% of 8th graders cannot read and write at proficient level). Allendale County schools are almost 95% Black. Thanks to poor education, only 3% of Allendale students can qualify for the state's LIFE scholarship due to low SAT scores and GPAs. Jasper County's schools are 86% Black. Again, because of low achievement, less than 1% of students qualified for LIFE scholarships. Not a single one was Black. One shudders to think of the many lost opportunities for our children due to poor education that this system has provided them.

It is a shame and it is unjust that Blacks are stuck in this situation. But what is worse is that our so- called "champions of education" are working to keep Blacks in this system. Ultimately we must ask ourselves, "What sort of reform will bring about the change we need to expand opportunity?" In a word, we need choice and the power that goes with it. That is why I and other pastors across the state have formed a new association called Clergy for Educational Options (CEO). We believe school choice is a tool that will empower Black parents to the maximum extent possible and will give us the leverage necessary to secure an adequate education for all children.

Unfortunately, opponents of reform who are desperate and frightened about losing control over our children are playing the race card - saying that "school choice" is code for "re-segregation." This is a cynical, malicious attempt to kill a proposal that will finally give Blacks equal choice in education. Haven't we had enough racial hatemongering in this state's history?

Thankfully, Blacks across the state aren't buying this argument. To combat this bleak picture of lost opportunity and grinding poverty, Blacks are establishing their own schools with high academic standards, tight discipline, and absolutely first-class academic outcomes. Anyone who is skeptical should take a day trip to John's Island to see Capers Christian Academy, or visit Russellville to see Theresa Middleton's alternative school, just to name a few. Throughout the state, independent, Black-run schools are thriving, in spite of the segregation "warnings" of the education establishment. In fact, a new association comprised of black independent schools in the state (49 have been identified thus far), has been formally organized so that Black schools and parents will have an even greater voice.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, April 21, 2005


This report is from a long while back but I don't think it should be forgotten

"A recently released report challenges the commonly held belief that students perform better when class sizes are reduced. This is one of the hottest issues in the current education debate and is the basis on which teachers' unions across Australia argue for increased staffing levels. The report, written by academic John Keeves and Victorian teacher Anthony Larkin was published by the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Its release will be like a red rag to a bull. Already there are indications that teachers will take industrial action on the staffing issue as soon as the school year begins.

Apart from questioning whether reducing class sizes automatically improves the quality of education, the report even suggests that students often achieve more when class sizes are increased. The authors found:

* That classroom practices do not vary greatly with class size and that the teacher's own individual style appears to be the main factor determining classroom activities:
* That more able students are placed in larger classes because remedial classes are traditionally small and year co-ordinators are more prepared to tolerate class sizes creeping up if they know the class contains more able students:
* That classroom practices that change with size have little influence upon achievement outcomes;
* That larger classes have enhanced occupational and educational aspirations, possibly because students responded to greater competition:
* That larger classes achieve more.

The report did find, however, that increased class sizes have a detrimental effect upon student attitudes towards science.

The report has been warmly received by the NSW Education Department but with misgivings by the NSW Teachers Federation.

"The report doesn't solve all the questions but it adds a new dimension to the debate about classroom sizes" says NSW deputy director of education, Mr Bob Winder.

Says Federation president, Mr Ivan Pagett: "I don't dispute the findings of the report - there is a body of research which shows there is no clear correlation between class sizes and achievement. However I am worried that the report will be misused to justify a cost-cutting exercise by the Education Department""

From p. 11 of the Sydney "SUNDAY TELEGRAPH", JANUARY 27, 1985


According to a study recently released last month by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, high-school graduation rates in California are almost 20 percent less than those officially reported by the California Department of Education. While the state data show 87 percent of high-school students graduating in 2002, the Harvard study says the graduation rate was 71 percent. More shocking is the snapshot the study provides of minority graduation rates. Statewide, 57 percent of blacks and 60 percent of Latinos graduate from high school. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 39 percent of Latinos and 47 percent of blacks graduate....

Given that education is the principal predictor of future earning power, we are looking here at a classic cycle of poverty. This means that poor kids in L.A. are incapable of taking advantage of the single resource available to them - education - that can change their lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 1999, the earnings of full-time workers without a high-school degree were 77 percent the earnings of those with high-school degrees and 45 percent of those with bachelor's degrees. The gap between education and earnings widens over time. Back in 1975, those without high-school degrees earned 90 percent of those with high-school degrees and 58 percent of those with bachelor's degrees. Not only are inner-city high schools factories of hopelessness, but as society becomes more complex, with increasing demands for an educated work force, the hole just gets deeper for kids, overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, who are not getting educated....

The frameworks for standards, reform and sanctions defined by No Child Left Behind are important reforms for our public school system. But the problem is our public school system itself. How do you fix a business that has no competition and for which government itself limitsthe possibilities for reform? Poor kids are simply trapped in a government school monopoly where the manner in which education is defined and administered and the values that are conveyed are by and large pre- scripted by a politically correct establishment..... Businesses that face competition deliver more and more for less and less. Monopolies deliver less and less for more and more. What else can we expect from the NEA and the government school monopoly than claims that spending is the answer for everything?...

We can educate these kids. But we need to open the education marketplace, take it out of the hands of the unions and monopolists, and let people who really want to help these families and their children have a chance with them.

More here


According to the RAND Corporation, Texas boasted an 88 percent pass rate on its eighth grade reading test last year while South Carolina turned in a miserable 21 percent pass rate. Texas children read far better than South Carolinians, one might conclude. One would be wrong, though. On the standard National Assessment of Educational Progress, scores from these two states are nearly identical: South Carolina has a 24 percent "proficiency" rate compared with only 26 percent among Texans.

Different state exams were useful in a pre-NCLB world. Then, states set standards with an eye toward cleaning their own houses. Now they tailor tests and statistical methods to obscure reality, compromising the integrity of state systems to keep the federal government flying blind. Last year the state of Michigan reduced the number of "failing" schools under its care from 1,500 to 216. But this remarkable achievement was merely a statistical sleight of hand. Michigan lowered the minimum passing score on the state's assessment from 75 percent to a mere 42 percent, the Heartland Institute reports. Other states lower standards by manipulating their methods for reporting results. North Carolina increased the percentage of its schools reporting adequate progress from 47 percent to 70 percent last year. The increase is largely due to a technical change in the way the data are reported. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have made similar adjustments.

But state bureaucrats aren't the only ones with reason to dissemble. The Bush administration touted NCLB as a seminal domestic policy achievement. It wants the Act to appear successful, and it seems prepared to tolerate fuzzy math. The Department of Education has been complicit in these state shenanigans and others, approving technical obfuscations and plans that backload required progress to a time when both state and federal executive branches are sure to be in different hands. Just this week, the Department reversed a prior decision to agree with North Dakota that a teacher can be "highly qualified" by no other standard than having spent years in a public school classroom.

NCLB has states and feds smiling thinly across a mountain of paperwork like two cheating spouses in front of the children. Federal micromanagement of state testing regimens just wasn't a very good idea. The foregoing facts have inspired demands that Congress dump state tests in favor of national assessments, or empower federal bureaucrats with more minute control over schooling. But it is no solution to demand that the federal government toughen up. NCLB has already caused some homogenization of school curricula, a disturbing trend that may thwart fruitful experimentation by states and localities.

The No Child Left Behind Act should be ended, not mended. If the law were repealed, Congress could unearth some good proposals, like the House measure that would grant massive regulatory relief to "charter states" experimenting with real reform. Better yet, lawmakers could revisit an older idea: a plan to phase out the federal department entirely.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I guess it's mainly a game for the kids concerned but it is intolerant nonetheless

A students' association has called for the Bible to be removed from more than 2,000 university rooms because it could offend non-Christians. Stirling University Students' Association (SUSA) wants the Gideons Bibles taken out of all student rooms. Students said providing the Bible in all university accommodation was "presumptuous" and offensive to different religions on the campus. The university would not comment until SUSA submits its request next month.

A motion to have the Bibles removed was passed by 15-1 at a recent student council meeting. Seven members abstained. The council said representing one faith was not in the spirit of equality and cited the Scottish Executive's One Scotland Many Cultures campaign. SUSA president Al Wilson said: "The one thing that students have brought up is the fact that they do have Gideon's Bibles in their rooms. "They felt that this was not really fair on those students who practice other faiths. And it was promoting one faith over others. So we are trying to encourage the university to still retain the Bibles within the buildings themselves but not necessarily in the rooms." SUSA wants other faith texts provided to create a campus of "great diversity".

A former chaplain at the university said it was wrong to remove a book from a bedroom in a place of learning. The Reverend John Munro, of Kinross Parish Church, said: "I think there is an agenda here, seemingly politically correct. There is actually a hostility towards faith by those who have none. "This is repeating the worst of our errors, where the Christian faith used to have an intolerant attitude towards people of no faith."



The nonmarket organization of education has a serious but unappreciated implication for the financing of schools: people do not know what they pay. As Myron Lieberman writes, "None of us knows the costs of public education, from our own pockets or the government's. These costs are extremely diffuse and intermingled with others beyond identification. Even with the help of a supercomputer, it is impossible to ascertain what any individual is paying for education."

Generally, it is easy to tell what we pay for the various goods and services we buy. But when every level of government, taxing us in a variety of ways, puts money into the schools, how can anyone know precisely what he has been forced to contribute?

That lack of knowledge has further consequences. Most people will not undergo the arduous effort to find out how much they pay. Many people will shrug and think, "What's the point? I won't be able to do anything about it anyway?" That understandable ignorance and weakening of responsibility suit the authorities just fine. They would prefer not to have the taxpayers looking over their shoulders, closely watching their decisions. It gives them substantial rein to spend money and to experiment with any fad in education theory that catches their fancy. The system's inherent lack of accountability insulates the administrators from those who foot the bill and suffer the educational results. It also enables them to form close alliances with education professionals, who are seen as the experts who understand the "science" of education and child development, although there are excellent reasons for believing that those are bogus disciplines.

That mystification of financing creates fertile ground for bureaucratic irresponsibility. As noted in the Appendix, the financing of public schools has skyrocketed in recent years. It is unlikely that the taxpayers have even been aware of that fact. The system has been arranged to keep taxpayers in the dark. No, they are not prohibited from acquiring the information. But such acquisition is made so difficult that most people, busy as they are raising their families and making a living, will not have the time to navigate the backwaters of the bureaucracy. The division of labor, normally a blessing, is perverted so as to discourage people from exercising self-responsibility.

A related problem is that tax financing precludes market prices for educational services. Market prices do not only let buyers know what they are paying. They are the fruit of a complex communications process that encapsulates information about the relative scarcity of resources and conveys it to all participants in the marketplace. That information is crucial to intelligent planning by buyers and producers of services. It is at the very heart of market competition, which Nobel-laureate F.A. Hayek properly called a "discovery procedure."

We live in a world of uncertainty, an open-ended world in which perfect knowledge is denied to us. Discovery of new things and methods is always possible. But discovery is fueled by incentives. As economist Israel M. Kirzner points out, in the marketplace, the lure of profit creates incentives for entrepreneurs to find unsatisfied needs and to devise ways of satisfying them. Those incentives do not exist in government schools.

In the market, entrepreneurs are accountable to consumers; they face the constant threat of financial loss. The alleged accountability of officeholders to voters is a mirage. It bears not real resemblance to the accountability of the marketplace. If the shoe-store operator misrepresents his product, there is recourse in the civil courts. Offended customers can take their business elsewhere without notice. They do not have to persuade over 50 percent of the other consumers to join in the boycott. That power held by the individual consumer in the marketplace-sometimes called consumer sovereignty-is lacking in the democratic administration of services such as education.

The inherent insulation of school boards (and other democratic bodies) from real accountability aggravates a phenomenon known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy. The law says that in almost any group endeavor, a small elite will emerge as the most active in determining the activities of the group. Even in a neighborhood bridge club, two or three people will show the most interest in running the group - finding a place to play, determining the game night, and so forth. The Iron Law asserts itself because people tend to have busy lives, and few will find the activity of such importance that they wish to invest an extraordinary amount of time. Of course, in a bridge club the Iron Law is benign. But that is not true with things such as school boards. Even if people might like to spend lots of times studying every aspect of the school system, attending board meetings, and the like, most simply cannot do it. Besides, as mentioned above, the return on the effort will seem too small. Those who can invest such time usually have a special interest in doing so-members of the teachers' union, for example. In the end, school policy will be inordinately influenced by a small group of activists, not by the mass of taxpayers or parents..

More here

DC: Schools advocates to protest at ballpark opener "A coalition of advocacy groups, teachers and students upset about the disrepair of D.C. public schools plans to rally outside RFK Stadium Thursday, when tens of thousands of fans head to the Washington Nationals' home opener. 'It's not a negative action against baseball, but it is a statement about the city's priorities,' said Roger Newell, an organizer for the coalition, known as D.C. Public Schools Full Funding Campaign. 'It's a statement to say that if the city had the same enthusiasm for making repairs in the city schools as it did to get RFK Stadium ready for baseball, then 65,000 students would be in a lot better shape,' Newell said [Sunday]. Marc Borbely, another organizer, said the widespread public attention focused on Major League Baseball's return to the District is one reason the groups decided to hold the rally before and during part of the Nationals' first home game." They already get comparatively huge funding so the dissatisfaction shows that a total rethink is needed rather than more funding


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Why go to a Catholic university if you don't like Catholic teachings? Is diversity among universities not allowed? Or must all universities conform to Leftist ideas?

Refusal to allow formation of a gay student organization at Duquesne University is fanning an extraordinary debate on the Catholic campus, where 119 faculty and staff are publicly urging the administration to reconsider. What is being framed by some as a struggle pitting diversity against school mission surrounds sophomore Matthew Pratter. He penned an opinion piece in the student newspaper, The Duquesne Duke, recounting his failed bid to gain approval for a gay-straight alliance on the 10,000-student campus. Pratter argued that at schools where they exist, such groups promote dialogue and discourage harassment. "It is crucial to combat the 'better dead than gay' lesson that so many young people are taught," Pratter wrote. "This outreach does not mean an official endorsement of homosexuality, but rather a desire to provide support for people who may need to be supported, and a voice for those who need to be heard."

Pratter, an education major, said he was told by campus authorities whom he did not identify that such a proposal was in conflict with the school's mission. "When I inquired further, I was informed there were no homosexuals that attended Duquesne University," he wrote. Pratter's piece, in which he described himself as gay, brought a flood of letters to The Duke for and against his position after it was published on March 3. The matter escalated this week with the surfacing of a petition addressed to Duquesne President Charles Dougherty that by yesterday had garnered 119 signers campus-wide, most of whom teach in disciplines from theology to business to pharmacy.

Dougherty was traveling and unavailable late yesterday. Spokeswoman Bridget Fare said the matter is under review even though Pratter apparently did not go through proper channels in making his request. "The president and the administration recognize that it's an issue of concern and reflection, not only for Duquesne, but for campuses across the country," Fare said. "[School leaders] are taking it under consideration. They're discussing it. Any decision will be made in light of the school's mission."

Pratter, 21, of Bryn Mawr, said in an interview yesterday that he's heartened by the response including other gay students who wrote to The Duke. "I'm not alone. There clearly are other students in my position as a gay student on a Catholic campus," he said. The petition was drafted by several professors involved in social justice issues and conveyed electronically across campus. Fred Evans, a philosophy professor who helped circulate it, said there are moral and educational issues involved beyond one's thinking on whether a group supportive of gays is any different from one that represents international students or African-American students.

More here


Dr. James Barnard, a professor of Physiological Science at UCLA, is no one’s idea of a bon-a-fide professor. To the conservative, he is politically outrageous and intolerant. To the liberal, he is embarrassing and discomforting. To the apathetic, he is dreary and dull. Professor Barnard taught in the fall of 2004 the first half of Physiological Sciences 5, Diet and Exercise. (The second half was taught by Professor Roberts, a much better and apolitical teacher.) There are several features that became apparent to us from Barnard’s introductory lecture.....

It is also obvious from the get-go that Dr. Barnard is a pessimist. His very attitude and tone suggest a deeply-rooted negativity. Even in the most benign of things, Barnard finds an omen to global pandemonium. This observation is well documented on, our professor ratings service. One student writes, “You are going to die. This is the message I got from the 2 and a half weeks of cardiovascular physiology I took from him…. The man has some sorta ultra-pessimistic outlook on life and is intent on convincing his students that a slow, painful death is at hand.”

The two biggest causes of concern are pesticides and cigarettes. Pesticides, of course, are the cause of infections, ailments, and even death. Meanwhile, cigarettes are deadly and wicked. Therefore, those that use pesticides and those that smoke cigarettes are bad, bad people. What makes Barnard an inductee to our Academian Nut series is not, however, his pessimism or his crippled logic. It’s what he holds to be the cause of his pessimism: capitalism and corporate America. In the first week of class, Barnard was already on his soapbox. “The greatest problem that we all face is corporate greed,” he announced. Corporations, he continued, are guilty in the production of destructive commodities and in the cover-up of their damaging effects on human life. And he wouldn’t stop. For a whole half hour, Barnard opined and pontificated.

As if this was not enough, he proceeded to show the class a one-sided documentary that slurred corporations that produce pesticides. The documentary, which interviewed “victims of corporate negligence” and representatives of various left-wing environmental groups gave legitimacy to Barnard’s claims. And to the interested students, Barnard was kind enough to recommend the book Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The book is a ferocious hatchet-job on the Bush administration.

The opening lecture was so horrifyingly political, so biased, that nobody could dismiss the unfairness. A liberal student next to me said, “I agree with him and I can even admit that this is guy is a political hack. All he wants to do is shove his views on his students.”

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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Monday, April 18, 2005


Every year about this time, high school students get letters of admission — or rejection — from colleges around the country. The saddest part of this process is not their rejections but the assumption by some students that they were rejected because they just didn't measure up to the high standards of Ivy U. or their flagship state university. The cold fact is that objective admissions standards are seldom decisive at most colleges. The admissions process is so shot through with fads and unsubstantiated assumptions that it is more like voodoo than anything else.

A student who did not get admitted to Ivy U. may be a better student than some — or even most — of those who did. Admissions officials love to believe that they can spot all sorts of intangibles that outweigh test scores and grade-point averages. Such notions are hardly surprising in people who pay no price for being wrong. All sorts of self-indulgences are possible when people are unaccountable, whether they be college admissions officials, parole boards, planning commissions or copy-editors.

What is amazing is that nobody puts the notions and fetishes of college admissions offices to a test. Nothing would be easier than to admit half of a college's entering class on the basis of objective standards, such as test scores, and the other half according to the voodoo of the admissions office. Then, four years later, you could compare how the two halves of the class did. But apparently this would not be politic.

Among the many reasons given for rejecting objective admissions standards is that they are "unfair." Much is made of the fact that high test scores are correlated with high family income. Very little is made of the statistical principle that correlation is not causation. Practically nothing is made of the fact that, however a student got to where he is academically, that is in fact where he is — and that is usually a better predictor of where he is going to go than is the psychobabble of admissions committees.

The denigration of objective standards allows admissions committees to play little tin gods, who think that their job is to reward students who are deserving, sociologically speaking, rather than to select students who can produce the most bang for the buck from the money contributed by donors and taxpayers for the purpose of turning out the best quality graduates possible. Typical of the mindset that rejects the selection of students in the order of objective performances was a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education which said that colleges should "select randomly" from a pool of applicants who are "good enough." Nowhere in the real world, where people must face the consequences of their decisions, would such a principle be taken seriously.

Lots of pitchers are "good enough" to be in the major leagues but would you just as soon send one of those pitchers to the mound to pitch the deciding game of the World Series as you would send Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens out there with the world championship on the line? Lots of military officers were considered to be "good enough" to be generals in World War II but troops who served under General Douglas MacArthur or General George Patton had more victories and fewer casualties. How many more lives would you be prepared to sacrifice as the price of selecting randomly among generals considered to be "good enough"?

If you or your child had to have a major operation for a life-threatening condition, would you be just as content to have the surgery done by anyone who was "good enough" to be a surgeon, as compared to someone who was a top surgeon in the relevant specialty?

The difference between first-rate and second-rate people is enormous in many fields. In a college classroom, marginally qualified students can affect the whole atmosphere and hold back the whole class. In some professions, a large part of the time of first-rate people is spent countering the half-baked ideas of second-rate people and trying to salvage something from the wreckage of the disasters they create. "Good enough" is seldom good enough.



Columbia University, only a few miles north of Ground Zero, treats young people who are training to defend this nation as second-class citizens. You might think that, at a university where virtually every student and faculty member was directly affected by 9/11, there'd be respect and gratitude for ROTC. Reserve Officer Training Corps students, after all, seek to serve and protect their country and their community. Instead, President Lee Bollinger (who's also under fire over alleged anti-Semitism in his Mideast Studies Department) has said he allows ROTC recruiters at the Law School only "with regret," and ROTC itself is banned on the Columbia campus.....

At other schools, ROTC students receive regular course credit for their ROTC classes and conduct their other ROTC activities on campus. At Columbia, ROTC is barred; students who wish to add these activities to already demanding schedules may do so - but elsewhere, please. Columbia banned ROTC in 1969, a few months after the height of the famous campus demonstrations against the Vietnam war and all things military. Yet that knee-jerk anti-military attitude doesn't apply to today's Columbia students: Two years ago, a student referendum to bring ROTC back to campus passed with 65 percent of the vote.

The faculty is another matter. It took a year after the referendum before the faculty-dominated University Senate would even form a task force to study the isssue. After a year of town halls, email exchanges and committee meetings, the committee is deadlocked, 5 to 5, over whether to change the existing policy. The full Senate is set to decide on May 6.

ROTC opponents claim that they're not anti-military - that their opposition is solely related to the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. That's supposedly the one issue that has the committee deadlocked, because the policy doesn't match with Columbia's own non-discrimination policy. One can only wonder: If (God forbid) terrorists launched an attack at Columbia, would these critics block the gates of 116th and Broadway to prevent the military from entering the campus because "Don't ask, don't tell" violates Columbia's anti-discrimination policy?

Keep in mind that ROTC students have their tuition partially paid by Uncle Sam; checks are sent directly to Columbia from the "Don't ask, don't tell" U.S. Army. Columbia has yet to send any of those checks back. But the hypocrisy gets worse.

An official Columbia group, the Columbia Law School Center for the Study of Law and Culture, recently hosted a "teach-in" on this subject. Professor Michael Adler, who supports the return of ROTC, hoped the center would allow for a debate on the issue. In an email (provided to me by an ROTC supporter) to Professor Kendall Thomas, the center's co-director, Adler noted: "The fact is that most of us who support the return of ROTC to Columbia would be willing to make common cause with the law students" on certain aspects of the "Don't ask, don't tell" issue.

Professor Thomas replied, "A teach-in is being planned, which I believe will be a more productive use of the law school's resources, and its members' time." Thomas failed to explain how three hours of one-sided military-bashing would be "more productive" use of resources at a center of higher education. Debate is apparently inappropriate for the education of future lawyers......

More here

Tennessee: Teachers resist incentives: "The long-standing, contentious issue of incentive pay for Metro teachers is at a stalemate after the teachers union again opposed the idea last week. All nine Metro school board members say it's a good idea, especially for enticing teachers to schools with many low-income students. Those schools have grappled for years with low academic achievement by students and high turnover among teachers. While they haven't set a definite dollar amount, school board members want to offer a salary bonus to lure the best teachers to those schools. But salaries and all other teachers pay must be negotiated with the teachers union, which has declined further discussion. Among the objections: Teachers who don't get the bonus would feel slighted. 'We just think there's a better way to tackle the problem, that incentive pay is a political Band-aid that sounds good,' said Ralph Smith, Metro Nashville Education Association president."


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Sunday, April 17, 2005


The flying chair that knocked out a Cleveland high school administrator on Mon day should send alarms throughout the city. When going to class means risking a hospital visit, education stands no chance. And when adults look at chaos and call it order, they undermine the school district's credibility and put more students in jeopardy.

Monday's fracas at South High School that sent an administrator and a student to emergency rooms is only the latest example of uproar in local buildings. As Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett reported on Sunday, Glenville High School suffered an incident of its own last week that bloodied students and teachers and led to the arrests of two teens. Journalists' visits to Collinwood High School, meanwhile, have revealed an institution where students are completely comfortable loitering in hallways when they should be in class.

Disruptive students themselves bear first responsibility for this culture of unrest. Teenagers are old enough to know how they should act; those who choose to do otherwise ought to face discipline, up to and including expulsion. The parents of such youths also should be accountable. They are their children's first teachers, and at the least should impart respect for authority. At South High, however, police say a parent pitched in to injure a student, underlining the desperate need for church and community leaders to play a vocal and visible role in establishing basic standards for behavior.

But no matter how spectacularly those outside school walls may fail in their obligation to guide young people, education officials must do what is necessary to guarantee safety within their buildings. That means beefing up security, an area that took large hits in last year's budget cuts and now faces more reductions. Meanwhile, alternative schools - where the district assigns its most troublesome youths - also face closure. That's a recipe for more chaos and less learning.

Of course school officials want to devote the bulk of their shrinking resources to instruction, but reality dictates that security must command a hefty share of the budget. No one - much less a teenager - concentrates well in a state of constant fear. It is regrettable that meeting the demands of safety means spending less on other valuable programs, but district officials have no choice. They must stop declaring order and actually restore it.



My home-schooled granddaughter and I went to have lunch with my public schooled granddaughter at her school recently. She wanted us to come have lunch with her. It cost $2.50 for me and $1.50 for granddaughter.

It sure wasn't like when we went to school. None of the kids were allowed to talk at all to each other during their lunch hour. After they finished eating, they had to read a book that they brought with them. There were monitors with eyes roving to and fro. If they order milk, they are forced to drink it all. It seemed to me more like I was in a prison cafeteria.

They had to get in no-talking lines to arrive and to leave, all in the same uniforms, and no talking of course, even in the rest rooms. If they talk in lines, they have to go to the principal's office. I sure didn't see much socialization going on there. My home-schooled granddaughter and I were glad to get out of there, and step back into freedom.

This report now seems to have gone offline but originally appeared in "The Ledger", Lakeland, Polk County, Florida, here on 14th April, 2005

Students apathetic, unknowledgeable about 1st Amendment : "Most high school students in the United States do not understand or are apathetic toward the First Amendment [guaranteeing free speech etc.], according to a survey released in January by the University of Connecticut. The survey suggests media studies classes and student journalism give students a greater appreciation and understanding of First Amendment rights than they would have without that background. For the project, 'The Future of the First Amendment,' commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, more than 100,000 students, almost 8,000 teachers, and more than 500 administrators and principals at public and private high schools were surveyed. 'These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous,' said Knight Foundation President and CEO Hodding Carter III in the Knight news release."


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here