Saturday, May 14, 2005


As nearly as they can make it, anyway

The difference between excellence and mediocrity? Starting next year in elementary schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, the answer is no. Officials there plan to replace A-F grading with numbers 1, 2 and 3: 1 means the student is working a year or more below grade level, 2 indicates the student is working less than a year below grade level and 3 means they are working at or above grade level.

But, "at or above grade level" means there is no distinction between a child barely making the grade and an academic standout. It means getting "100" or "65" on a test is exactly equal. Does that sound like an educational system preparing kids for the vicissitudes of the real world? Or more like one creating another generation of brats taught to believe that feeling good about themselves is a viable substitute for genuine achievement? These days everyone's kid is a "genius" - no matter how mediocre they really are



Michael Bloomberg, one of the most successful businessmen in the United States, pledged to fix the public schools when he ran for mayor of New York in 2001. He said that he could get better results without any additional money, just by applying proven managerial techniques. He promised a back-to-basics curriculum and an end to bilingual education. After his election, he persuaded the state Legislature to give him control of the school system, with its 1.1 million students and 80,000 teachers. He selected as chancellor of the schools a respected antitrust attorney, Joel Klein, who--like Mr. Bloomberg--had no experience in education.

Neither Mr. Bloomberg nor Mr. Klein knew about the war of ideas that had been raging among educators for many years. On one side, beloved by schools of education, are the century-old ideas of progressive education, now called "constructivism." Associated with this philosophy are such approaches as whole language, fuzzy math, and invented spelling, as well as a disdain for phonics and grammar, an insistence that there are no right answers (just different ways to solve problems), and an emphasis on students' self-esteem. Constructivists dislike any kind of ability grouping or special classes for gifted children. By diminishing the authority of the teacher, constructivist methods often create discipline problems.

On the other side are those who believe that learning depends on both highly skilled teachers and student effort; that students need self-discipline more than self-esteem; that accuracy is important; that in many cases there truly are right answers and wrong answers (the Civil War was not caused by Reconstruction); and that instructional methods should be chosen because they are effective, not because they fit one's philosophical values.

Messrs. Bloomberg and Klein embarked on school reform knowing nothing of this heated debate. Mr. Klein selected Diana Lam as his top deputy. At the time she was superintendent of schools in Providence, R.I. More important, she was a constructivist and a proponent of bilingual education. At her urging, the mayor expanded bilingual education instead of eliminating it. Ms. Lam picked citywide reading and math programs that no one would describe as "back to basics." The reading program, called Month-by-Month Phonics, is akin--despite its name--to the whole-language philosophy. Because of the program's weak phonics component, the New York State Education Department withheld $38 million in federal funds until Mr. Klein reluctantly installed a research-based reading program in 49 of the city's nearly 700 elementary schools. The city's elementary mathematics program, Everyday Math, has been criticized by university mathematicians who complain that it neglects basic computational skills.

In the fall of 2003, Chancellor Klein introduced the mandated reading and math programs. About 200 relatively high-scoring schools were exempt from the mandates, and many others adopted supplementary programs to supply the basics that are missing from the standard approach. Still, teachers frequently complained of micromanagement, due to the heavy-handed imposition of lockstep constructivism. In some districts, supervisors roamed classrooms with stopwatches, and teachers were penalized if they spent a few too many or too few minutes on a mandated activity. The new curriculum has proven to be a bonanza for the education establishment, particularly schools of education such as Columbia's Teachers College, which receives millions of dollars each year to train teachers in constructivist methods.....

Since Mr. Bloomberg's original program was announced, the reform agenda has grown. Now one of its highest priorities, funded by the Gates Foundation, is to break up large high schools into small schools of fewer than 500 students. Many of these new small schools are ultraprogressive, appear to lack academic rigor and have inexperienced leaders. Since dozens of them have been established simultaneously, with inadequate planning, the remaining large high schools are bursting at the seams, as students are reassigned to them to make room for the minischools. Some large high schools are now operating at 200% of capacity.

In the first round of state testing in 2004, the results were mixed. In the fourth grade, where the pedagogical changes were concentrated, the citywide scores in math were up by 1.4%, but in reading they declined by 3%. In some poor districts, such as Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the score declines in reading were in double digits.

State scores for 2005 will be released in the next few weeks. It is widely expected that scores will rise, reflecting the unusual amount of time devoted this year to test preparation. Social studies and other subjects have been shelved to focus on the all-important tests of reading and mathematics (81% of eighth graders failed the state social studies exam, a 20% increase in the failure rate since Mayor Bloomberg took charge). A modest amount of time devoted to test preparation makes sense; but when it consumes vast amounts of instructional time, it does not. In addition, the state education department quietly informed elementary schools that they could exempt children with limited English proficiency from city and state reading tests this year even if they had been in U.S. schools for as long as five years and even if they were tested in English last year. This change will remove an unknown but significant number of low-scoring students from the testing pool and boost reading scores, an advantage not previously available.

Everyone gives Mr. Bloomberg credit for taking on the biggest public policy challenge in the city. Yet the experience of these past two years suggests that it may not be a great idea to give total control of the schools to the mayor. Education is now in the thick of partisan politics. Decisions are made and press releases issued with the election in mind, rather than based on careful evaluation of what works. There is a lesson here. Business leaders who want to reform schools should educate themselves about the issues or risk being co-opted by the education establishment. Who would have believed that smart, pragmatic Mike Bloomberg would become a champion of constructivist pedagogy?

More here


A stunning 81% of the city's eighth-graders flunked the state's basic social studies exam last year - and the scores have gone down annually since the test debuted in 2001. The troubling spiral was disclosed by Education Department officials yesterday at a hearing on civics and social studies instruction called by the City Council's Education Committee. "Clearly we have a crisis on our hands," said City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan), who was chairwoman of the hearing and blasted educrats for having a lack of urgency about how to adequately address the problem. The failure rate for eighth-graders on a test that measures students' knowledge of basic history and government has climbed steadily from 62% in the 2001-02 school year, to 76% in 2002-03 and 81% in 2003-04.

Top educrats who testified offered conflicting reasons for the drop in scores. Elise Abegg, the department's social studies czar, said some schools were spending too much time teaching students how to read and do math out of fear that they would be labeled a "failing school" under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

But J.C. Brizard, the department's executive director for high schools, said the real problem was that the 60-question standardized test requires that students be able to read and understand the questions - something he said many cannot do. "They have trouble comprehending what they are reading," Brizard said.

Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx) said it isn't just a reading problem. "I am dumbfounded that when I go into a class and I ask them who the mayor is, or what a congressman does, they don't know," he said.


Federal court upholds Arizona tax credits : "Ruling in what school choice advocates have called 'the most frivolous' challenge ever filed against a school choice program, a federal district court judge on March 24 upheld Arizona's scholarship tax credit program as constitutional, dismissing a lawsuit from the state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter. Since Arizona enacted the Tuition Tax Credit Program eight years ago, it has been under almost continuous legal assault by opponents of school choice, first in state courts and more recently in federal ones."


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Friday, May 13, 2005


I have been a language teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1991. Today I will sign a final agreement after an exhaustive grievance process, in which I will never be allowed to teach in the District again. For its part, the District will remove my negative teacher performance evaluation. During my last two years at Dorsey High, I've had my classroom burnt to the ground, had a death threat, physical assaults, and constant accusations of racism. Community "activists" in our area have written woeful letters to the Superintendent, imploring her to remove me from my position as a Spanish teacher. Their accusation: Students are failing my class because they're forced to learn Greek and Hebrew instead of Spanish.

I've endured countless demeaning "parent conferences" where lack of student comportment and academic achievement was inevitably spun into my "lack of classroom management and INSENSITIVITY TO THE NEEDS OF A DIVERSE STUDENT POPULATION." Students who did little or no homework, refusing to turn in term papers and not having passed a single exam, were able to manipulate conferences with allegations of racism or personal animosity. When students were sent from my room to the Dean's office for outrageous behavior, such as stabbing another student with a pencil, obnoxious epithets or racial slurs, and open defiance directed against the teacher, they would never arrive; instead, they were picked up by security (found walking around the campus) while our ever-resourceful administration documented a "clear lack of student-teacher rapport and managerial skills." The picture I've painted becomes clearer when one considers that the student who threatened to kill me was allowed to run for student body office! If I had any doubts about my stature on our campus, they were dispelled by such overt attitudes such as this.

Despite numerous excellent references and observations on the part of counselors, mentor teachers, and coaches about my dedication to upholding high academic standards and maintaining a high level of student responsibility and values, I spent two years in a hostile environment without respite from community or administration. Only two individuals came to my assistance during this nightmare: Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, community activist and director of BOND International, and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach. Congressman Rohrabacher was sufficiently convinced of egregious nature of campus relations that he contacted Superintendent Roy Romer for clarification. He was stonewalled again and again, with each inquiry going unanswered (the Superintendent was either on vacation or too busy to get back to the Congressman- this over a period of several months and many messages left by staff). Rev. Peterson was present at one of my grievance hearings and was moved to make the comment that I could never get a fair hearing from my administrator since in his words, "She is a blatant racist."

I am not a loser nor will I ever have cause to join the walking wounded. I am a successful author, athlete, speak five languages, and run a successful surfing school. A far more lucrative lifestyle awaits me, far beyond the stifling social prison I've experienced at Dorsey. Yet there is a deep sadness in me, a feeling of disconnectedness from the many students with whom I was fortunate enough to befriend, impacting their lives with a sense of a world built on achievement, maximum effort, and tireless academic rigor. As I told the District Superintendent during my last stage of the grievance process, I forgive the death threats, the physical assaults, the demeaning and racial slurs hurled at me by my charges. If they didn't have the support of "activists" and malevolent do-gooders intent on re-addressing perceived wrongs and power trips by "outsiders" toward their community, this despicable behavior and attitude never would have occurred. In several cases, stacks of letters of complaints were waved at me by my principal ( I was never allowed to see the letters or respond to them) as proof that I was not getting along with my students. She offered this as the justification for burning down my classroom.

It will be hard for me to reconcile with an administration bent on political correctness that serves to ramrod a concerned and caring teacher right out of the District. My union rep told me frankly that I was "the wrong man in the wrong community." This is what hurts me most of all. I gave it my best, taking students with severe emotional and family problems, tempering them with a sense of achievement for a job well done: "You missed the deadline for the term paper? It's OK, your grade won't be as high as it should, but just get it in to me as soon as you can-with spelling and grammar checked.." Around campus, the many students who didn't manage to pass my class would greet me each morning, ask how things are going-each of them knowing that ultimately, I was on their side. I will miss my students, and I know that they won't forget me.

From Rabbi Nachum Shifren


A distressing number of California students have completed 12 years in classrooms but can't read on a tenth-grade level or do eighth-grade math. So they can't pass the state's high-school exit exam within six tries in three years. Should they graduate anyway? The correct answer is no, they shouldn't. Graduating kids who can't meet even minimum standards does them no favors - or their prospective colleges or employers. And it diminishes the meaning and reputation of high-school diplomas for all students, including the majority capable of passing the exit exam.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 83 percent of the class of 2006, when the exit exam is supposed to count, have already passed the English portion of the test, and 82 percent have passed the math. Nevertheless, the exam, once slated to begin with the class of 2004 and since postponed until the class of 2006, may be postponed yet again. Critics want it delayed unless schools offer a "performance assessment" to kids in lieu of the exit exam, or until school districts statewide achieve perfection in teacher credentialing, student/teacher ratios and curriculum materials.

A bill mandating such subjective testing and a bill mandating such a utopian system at gargantuan cost have just been approved by legislative committees. If either measure becomes law, the California high-school exit exam as a genuine measure of student achievement will join the passenger pigeon in extinction. That would suit critics concerned less about actual achievement than graduation, as though it were a rite of passage to which seat time entitles every student. It shouldn't suit parents, students or teachers who understand that an unearned diploma raises hopes that the working world quickly dashes. And it especially shouldn't suit the many Latino and black parents whose children attend underachieving schools and whose achievement potential is consistently underrated by legislators, grass-roots groups and the teachers union looking for ever more votes, breaks and pay.

The choices are not lowering expectations and standards for all students, or leaving many minority kids behind, or spending more money Californians don't have. The choices are either spending the K-12 budget - $54 billion in 2005-06, or $10,084 per pupil - on the adults in a system stultified by union rules and bureaucratic bloat or spending it on the kids in the classroom, and meaningful results on a meaningful exit exam.



A decision to take Advanced Placement biology instead of gym will cost a Bow High School senior her diploma, but it won't keep her from going to college in the fall. Though Isabel Gottlieb is a good student, a trumpet player in the school band and holds varsity letters in three sports, she discovered last fall she was one gym class shy of having enough credits to graduate next month.

She asked for a waiver, but the school wouldn't budge, telling her instead she had to drop a class to take gym. "Why would I drop an AP biology class to take P.E.?" the 18-year-old said. "It's just not on my priority list."

"Waivers vary from school to school and they're not standardized at all," said Principal George Edwards. Gottlieb added the class last year after the school told her she had to take it, but then dropped it when she found out it was too much on top of classes she was already taking, including two Advanced Placement classes and calculus. Both Gottlieb and her mother said the school suggested dropping either band, chorus, AP biology or calculus. But she and her mother decided sacrificing any of those would have diminished the quality of Gottlieb's education.

"I'm trying to get into college and someone isn't going to want to see someone drop an AP biology class a month into the year in order to pick up P.E.," Gottlieb said. There will likely be no compromises in time for graduation. The class is not offered in the summer. And it may not matter. Gottlieb already has been accepted to Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where she plans to major in biology.

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Thursday, May 12, 2005


My son did well in his dual enrolment university course last year but he was a private school student

When Sarah Cheney began excelling in her home school lessons, her parents decided it was time for some accelerated learning at the next level. So they joined what has become a growing trend for home schooled high school students. The Cheneys signed up their daughter for dual-enrollment courses at Pasco-Hernando Community College, an option once reserved for students in public schools. ``She's done well,'' said Richard Cheney, her father. ``She's gotten all A's, except one B.'' Dual enrollment allows teenagers to take college courses while they are still in high school. The credits earned are counted toward both a high school diploma and a college degree. Students pay no tuition, but home school students pay for their textbooks. School districts typically pay for textbooks for their dual-enrollment students.

At one time, dual enrollment was strictly for public high school students. Then the program was made available to students in private schools. In 1996, the Legislature expanded the program to include home school students. ``It's an equity issue to be sure we are fair,'' said Paul Szuch, vice president of educational services for PHCC. ``It makes sure all students, whether they are in public school, private school or home school, have access to the program.'' Initially, PHCC didn't see many home school students. That began to change about three or four years ago as what had been one or two students quickly grew, Szuch said. Today, PHCC has 47 dual-enrollment agreements with home school families.

Colleges report that dual enrollment, in general, is growing. But Szuch said the home school portion appears to be increasing at a faster rate at PHCC. Szuch anticipates there could be as many as 60 home- school students in the PHCC program when the fall semester begins in August. ``It wasn't too long ago we didn't have any,'' Szuch said......

LaWanda Sutherland of Plant City, who is District 5 director of the Florida Parent- Educator Association, said dual enrollment is popular among home school families. ``Home schoolers love it,'' Sutherland said. ``It's an opportunity for them to get their AA [associate's] degree while they are getting their high school diploma.'' Sutherland's daughter Jenny, 17, was in dual enrollment at Hillsborough Community College last year, earning 14 credit hours, said Sutherland, who began home schooling her children 12 years ago. She also has a son, Britt, 14, and another daughter, Erin, 12.

The Florida Parent-Educator Association district that Sutherland represents consists of Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Citrus counties. The association doesn't push dual enrollment, but it does make sure its members are familiar with it. Each year, the association holds a graduation ceremony for home school students. Several of the students already have earned an associate's degree by the time they accept their high school diplomas, she said.

That may not be surprising, considering trends Moore has observed at St. Petersburg College. ``These students take more courses than students in public and private schools because they have more time,'' Moore said. Students in public and private schools have a structured schedule during the day to work around, while the home school students don't, he said.........

Richard and Beverly Cheney began home schooling their daughter, Sarah, 19, in their New Port Richey home after she finished sixth grade in public schools. ``She was only doing fair, a little below average on achievement tests,'' Richard Cheney said. ``Since then, she's several grades ahead on most of it.'' The Cheneys make use of a computer program designed with home school students in mind. When Sarah was 16, the Cheneys learned about the dual-enrollment option and decided she had progressed well enough to take on the more challenging courses at PHCC. Sarah has taken college courses in such subjects as marketing, English and psychology.

Sarah said as a young girl in public school, she had been a shy loner. During her years of home schooling, though, she developed into an outgoing teenager. Moving back into a classroom setting with other students at PHCC wasn't that difficult a transition, she said. ``I really enjoyed it,'' she said. ``I opened up more and liked to interact more with people after I was home schooled awhile.''

More here


In the Legislature, the Democratic majority's only agenda is to undermine hard-won education reforms that had been championed by Democrats in the past. The high school exit examination tops the list. On party line votes, Democrats on Assembly and Senate education committees have passed bills that would delay the exam in perpetuity or transmogrify the requirement into mush. SB 517 would suspend the exit exam until a school district can show that it has fully certified teachers in core subject areas, instructional materials aligned with content standards, supplementary instruction and counselor/pupil ratios of 1 to 476. If we wait until the school system is perfect, we'll never make progress in creating a meaningful high school diploma.

Another bill, AB 1531, would create a fragmented system, where each school district could create its own "performance assessments." All students would still take the exit exam, but could not be denied a high school diploma if they fail - unless they were given two or more ways to complete an "alternate performance assessment." This would render diplomas worthless.

The fact is, the exit exam requirement for a high school diploma, beginning with the Class of 2006, already is having positive effects. High schools are offering more demanding courses. They're working with feeder middle schools. They are identifying students who need additional help and offering more remedial programs. Students have a new incentive to take high school seriously and parents to demand higher quality.

Democrats are poised to take a giant step backward. Next on their list is charter schools. California was the second state to authorize public charter schools and could rejoin other states leading charter school development by allowing colleges and universities to authorize and oversee public charter schools. Many school districts simply have no interest in charter schools or no capacity to do proper oversight. Yet, on a party line vote, Democrats rejected SB 844, which would expand charter school options in a positive way and require greater accountability for oversight.

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Top universities are setting targets that favour state pupils over independent pupils in return for being able to set higher fees, The Times has learnt. Despite ministers' assurances that top-up fees would not affect admissions, vice-chancellors have told the official regulator that they would take more state pupils as long as they could charge maximum fees. The move was attacked last night by senior academics for making social engineering part of the admissions process rather than pure academic merit.

Plans sent to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) by Cambridge, Exeter, Leeds, King's College London and York all pledge to change their student intake in return for being able to raise annual fees to œ3,000. Charles Clarke, in his letter of guidance to Offa as Education Secretary last year, said that it should have "nothing to do with admissions" but focus on efforts to increase applications from students in under-represented groups. Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: "It is very foolish of the universities to tie themselves to these targets because they may have to widen admissions on social background rather than academic ability to meet them. They will then weaken themselves as universities."

A spokesman for the Independent Schools Council, which represents more than 1,000 fee-paying schools, said: "Admissions targets or benchmarks or quotas based on the type of school an individual went to are a clear breach of the principle that students should be treated on their individual merits and not as representatives of a group. Any targets based on this . . . might lead in individual cases to unfair discrimination." Clarissa Farr, the president of the Girls' Schools Association, said that efforts to widen the pool of qualified applicants to top universities should not extend to social engineering of admissions.....

Cambridge told Offa that it planned to raise state school admissions from 57.6 per cent to 60-63 per cent. It acknowledged that it already had four applicants for every place. Oxford set no admissions target and limited itself to increasing the proportion of state school applicants from 57 per cent to 62 per cent. This will require it to attract another 270 state candidates per year. King's College London included an admissions target after declaring that it "fell short" of government performance indicators for state school entrants. It promised to revise selection procedures if necessary to raise the proportion from 70 per cent to 76 per cent.

More here


Several centuries ago, some "very light-skinned" people were shipwrecked on a tropical island. After "many years under the tropical sun," this light-skinned population became "dark-skinned," says Biology: The Study of Life, a high-school textbook published in 1998 by Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education. "Downright bizarre," says Nina Jablonski, who holds the Irvine chair of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Jablonski, an expert in the evolution of skin color, says it takes at least 15,000 years for skin color to evolve from black to white or vice versa. That sure is "many years." The suggestion that skin color can change in a few generations has no basis in science.

Pearson Education spokesperson Wendy Spiegel admits the error in describing the evolution of skin color, but says the teacher's manual explains the phenomenon correctly. Just why teachers are given accurate information while students are misled remains unclear.

But then there's lots that's puzzling about the science textbooks used in American classrooms. A sloppy way with facts, a preference for the politically correct over the scientifically sound, and sheer faddism characterize their content. It's as if their authors had decided above all not to expose students to the intellectual rigor that is the lifeblood of science. Thus, a chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin (2000), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: "Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return. April is the month of Sprouting Grass Moon." Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth--not by the return of the crows. Houghton Mifflin spokesman Collin Earnst says such tales are included in order to "connect science to culture." He might more precisely have said to connect science to certain preferred, non-Western, or primitive cultures. Were a connection drawn to, say, a Bible story, the outcry would be heard around the world.

Affirmative action for women and minorities is similarly pervasive in science textbooks, to absurd effect. Al Roker, the affable black NBC weatherman, is hailed as a great scientist in one book in the Discovery Works series. It is common to find Marie Curie given a picture and half a page of text, but her husband, Pierre, who shared a Nobel Prize with her, relegated to the role of supportive spouse. In the same series, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, is shown next to black scientist Lewis Latimer, who improved the light bulb by adding a carbon filament. Edison's picture is smaller.

Jews have been awarded 22 percent of all Nobel Prizes in science, but readers of Houghton Mifflin's fifth-grade textbooks won't get wind of that. Navajo physicist Fred Begay, however, merits half a page for his study of Navajo medicine. Albert Einstein isn't mentioned. Biologist Clifton Poodry has made no noteworthy scientific discoveries, but he was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian reservation, so his picture is shown in Glenco/McGraw-Hill's Life Science (2002), a middle-school biology textbook. The head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, and Nobel Laureates James Watson, Maurice H.F. Wilkins, and Francis Crick aren't named.

More here


Today, former graduate student Scott McConnell filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., because it expelled him from its education master's program based on his personal beliefs. In January 2005, administrators summarily dismissed McConnell because he had expressed views that opposed "multicultural education" and had stated in an academic assignment that "corporal punishment has a place in the classroom."

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took up McConnell's case, reminding Le Moyne, a Jesuit college, that its actions breached its own promises to respect students' academic freedom and due process. When Le Moyne refused to address these concerns, FIRE publicly exposed Le Moyne's repressive actions.

McConnell is represented in the suit by New York civil rights attorney Samuel A. Abady and by the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C. "Le Moyne has had multiple opportunities to right this wrong," remarked David French, president of FIRE. "If Le Moyne College had followed its own policies and procedures regarding freedom of expression and due process, it would not only have done the right thing but also would have saved itself a lot of time, money, and embarrassment."

During the Fall 2004 semester, Scott McConnell submitted a paper advocating strong discipline in the classroom for a course taught by Professor Mark J. Trabucco. Trabucco gave the paper an "A-" and wrote a cryptic note to McConnell that his ideas were "interesting" and that he had shared the paper with Cathy Leogrande, the graduate education department chair. Then, without any warning, Leogrande expelled McConnell from the graduate education program in a Jan. 13, 2005, letter, in which Leogrande stated that she had "grave concerns" about a "mismatch" between McConnell's "personal beliefs" and "the Le Moyne College program goals." At the time of his expulsion, McConnell had earned a 3.78 grade-point average for the fall semester and an "excellent" evaluation for his work in a Syracuse elementary school classroom.....

McConnell's lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of Onondaga, asks for McConnell's reinstatement to Le Moyne's graduate education program and for millions of dollars in damages for violations of civil rights laws and New York state law. "As we said before, the fight for the academic freedom of Scott McConnell and for all Le Moyne students will not end just because administrators don't feel like addressing the issue," commented Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "FIRE, along with Scott McConnell and his attorneys, will pursue this issue in the court of public opinion, and now in the courts of law, until Le Moyne College honors its own commitments and this injustice is corrected."

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Considering the overwhelming evidence in favor of the productive power of free individuals and markets, the only parts of the public debate on school choice tax credits that are "just plan wrong" are the arguments presented against deregulating what has been called the last public monopoly.

* It will drain money from public schools.
You can say deregulating telecommunications resulted in AT&T losing money, but deregulation unarguably improved consumer choice, pricing and product innovation. We are better off because we created a telecommunications marketplace rather than rely on a telecommunications monopoly. Politically boxing out competitors because they will upset the financial interests of the status quo is the worst reason to deny parents a competitive market for education.

* There are no alternatives in the poorest counties.
The public school is the only school. It is true that there are currently few alternatives in the poorest counties. However, this situation is the result of government assuming the role of a monopoly provider with enough political clout to suppress competition. Poor parents certainly have the desire for better education. Tax credits and scholarship-granting organizations will give them the purchasing power.

* Some parents just don't care.
School choice will do nothing to help those children. It is simply not justifiable to deny freedom of choice to the majority of parents who do care because a small number of parents do not.

* School choice tax credits encourage private schools with little or no accountability.
Market standards of accountability are more objective and much more useful than government ones. To say that school choice relies on market standards of accountability, not government standards, is actually high praise. There are many examples of markets creating aids for the consumer seeking reliable measures of quality. For example, The U.S. News and World Report Guide to Colleges, The Princeton Review, Consumer Reports magazine and Morningstar mutual fund ratings, to name just a few. Contrast that with a public school system that rates itself. Is it any wonder that we are regularly told we are making "wonderful progress" while our graduation rates and SAT scores remain among the lowest in the country?

* School choice puts public money into private schools.
This is simply false. If you spend money on child care, you can claim a tax credit. It is your money when you spend it, and the government simply gives you a break for spending it on child care as opposed to video poker or the lottery. Such a break is not public money, any more than a tax-deductible charitable contribution. Any claim to the contrary is completely dishonest.

Improving education must consist of some form of school choice, the greater the better. Consumers have benefited from one deregulated industry after another, from telecommunications, to securities, to airlines. Education should prove no different. America is a land of opportunity precisely because limited resources are allocated by competition and markets, not by political clout. Somewhere out there, there is a Sam Walton or Bill Gates of education, just waiting for the opportunity to exercise real creativity in the effective education of children. School choice tax credits may be just what that person is waiting for. We should not keep him or her waiting any longer.

More here


Two or three times a month, when at home in California, Arthur Benjamin slips into a tuxedo for another of his one-man magic shows. He neither pull rabbits out of hats, nor saws people in half. Instead, he entertains audiences with what he calls Mathemagics. "My mission in life is to bring mathematics to the masses," said Dr Benjamin, a mathematics professor at California's Harvey Mudd College, and now a visiting professor at the University of NSW. Maths "can be wonderfully creative and fun".

At his shows for schools, teachers groups or corporate functions, he hands out calculators, challenging audiences to beat his brain at solving mental arithmetic. What's the square of 963? It's 927,369 he replied without hesitation. "I can rattle off 100 digits of pi," he added. Give him your birthdate and he can tell you on which day of the week you were born. "People love the birthday one because it's so personal," he said. Unlike Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man, Dr Benjamin is not an autistic savant. "Autistic savants can very rarely explain how they are doing it. The numbers just appear to them." Dr Benjamin must calculate the answers in his head, which is the point of his performances. He wants to show that everyone, if they know the tricks and short cuts, can tackle complex mental arithmetic. "After a little practice, you can throw away the calculator."

One of his tricks is doing his mental arithmetic from the left, instead of the right, as most people are taught at school. In the case of finding the square of 963, for example, "it is more important to know the answer is around 900,000, than that it ends in nine. It allows me to start saying my answer while I'm still calculating. It gives the illusion that I am even faster."

Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child, and required to take valium daily between four and 14, Dr Benjamin said he was not a genius. Achieving at maths, like playing a musical instrument or juggling, just required practice, which he said was why homework was so important for students. With Mathemagics, "people come away, even if momentarily, thinking about mathematics more positively. If that attitude stays for just a couple of people in the audience, especially children, my mission is accomplished.



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Monday, May 09, 2005


Thousands of students hoping to embark on part-time study for degrees next year will find their ambitions blocked as universities fear that they will no longer be able to afford the cost of running the courses. Vice-chancellors believe that part-time degrees could gradually disappear as more universities turn to full-time education to maximise funding. With more than 812,000 students, the part-time sector involves 42 per cent of higher education students and is the biggest growth area for universities. However, from 2006, part-time students, unlike their full-time counterparts, will not be eligible for maintenance grants or bursaries and will have to pay increased tuition fees.

Ivor Crewe, president of Universities UK, said: “There is a real danger that universities will see full-time education as financially more advantageous than part-time education. Universities will feel they can’t charge higher fees to part-time students and, given that higher education is a loss-making enterprise, universities will be tempted to move full-time.” Last week the Higher Education Statistics Agency disclosed a 4.2 per cent rise in the number of part-time first-year students to 406,550 in 2003-04. In ten years the number of part-timers has risen by 92 per cent, against 10 per cent for full-timers. In spite of this growth, the needs of part-time students, many of whom are single parents and mature students, were ignored in the Higher Education act 2004. As a result, universities face putting up tuition fees to the proportionate level of full-time degrees or finding money from elsewhere to pay for them.

Les Ebdon, Vice-Chancellor of Luton University, which has 4,504 part-time students, says: “The question is, if we charge £1,500 upfront, will they be able to pay or will we just kill the market off? There is a very powerful disincentive now to recruit part-timers and a real danger that part-time degrees could wither on the vine”.

From next year, full-time undergraduates will have to repay tuition fees only when their income exceeds £15,000 a year, and the real rate of interest will be set at zero. As a result, universities feel able to charge full-time undergraduates higher fees of up to £3,000 — a rise of 30 per cent per student over the combined tuition fee plus government grant that universities receive now. Vice-chancellors say that although part-time students must pay fees upfront without access to the same generous loans, many will feel unable to raise the money, even though the cost of provision is the same, and will instead cut courses.

Carl, a single father of twins who is self-employed, graduated in law from Luton in 2003. Having paid £90 a week in childminding charges, he said that higher tuition fees would certainly put him off doing a degree now. “It’s not worthwhile, if you balance what you lose from working with what you gain from a degree. A degree already costs £4,000 over four years, so if they’re now saying they’ll charge £3,000 upfront and no bursaries, it’s a double whammy.”

David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck College in London, which with the Open University is the only institution in Britain dedicated to part-time degrees. Professor Latchman fears he will have to put up fees, but he is concerned that any increase without a rise on the cap on fee waivers will hit the very people Birkbeck should help. “Everything is calculated to put off precisely the ones you want to attract — we’re not going to put off the City banker, but the single mum who wants to climb another rung on the career ladder with a degree,” he said.

A survey of students at Birkbeck suggested that more than 40 per cent would be forced to give up their courses if fees were increased. That figure rose to 90 per cent at the Open University. David Vincent, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, says that higher fees would be unsustainable and has offered instead to lay on courses in subjects that other universities have dropped. “We can support subjects which individual universities can no longer afford to teach, but I don’t think an increase in business that way is an adequate alternative.”

The Times


Which is very short-term thinking (HECS are fees paid by Australian students for their tuition )

Australia's universities have become so financially dependent on foreign students that their viability as learning and research institutions hinges entirely on that market. But the pressure of maintaining the 220,000 international students needed each year to keep the campuses afloat has led to a drop in academic standards, a Herald investigation has found. Severe funding cuts to universities began when the Howard Government was first elected in 1996, and the institutions have sought to make up the shortfall by aggressively recruiting foreign students, who pay at least the full cost of their course. These students now make up one in five enrolments in Australian universities. But growth in numbers of foreign fee-payers who rescued universities from collapse has now slowed, leaving the institutions vulnerable.

One university, the University of Central Queensland, gets almost 40 per cent of its revenue from international students. Four others, Curtin University in Western Australia, Macquarie University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Wollongong University, receive more than 20 per cent of their revenue in the same way, according to Education Department figures.......

The Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, agreed universities were exposed to "the vagaries of the international marketplace". He said that like "our wheat producers, our coal exporters", the commodities and services industries, "if you rely significantly on international markets and exports for your wellbeing and financial security, in a sense you are exposed".

The higher education market is at the mercy of the dollar, changes in student visa regulations or political instability in students' home countries. Universities also face competition from the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. China, the biggest source of foreign students for Australia, is priming its universities to keep more at home. In 12 months to February China provided about 30,000 of Australia's almost 130,000 foreign higher education students.

Academics say that in some courses entry requirements have been lowered, courses have been made easier and marking has been softened to help overseas students cope with their English language problems. In a survey of 21 economic department heads, Professor Peter Abelson, of Macquarie University, found most believed standards in undergraduate economics courses had fallen over the past decade when foreign student numbers exploded in commercial subjects.

Foreign funding is also skewing the university curriculum towards money-making subjects. Faculties that attract fee-payers had become booming "sausage machines", said the NSW secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, Stuart Rosewarne, while less lucrative subjects, such as languages, struggled for survival or died......

Many Australian undergraduates, whose HECS fees rise regularly, are complaining of overcrowding in lectures and tutorials. Staff-student ratios have soared. In 1993 there were just 14 students for every teacher. Now it is 21.

Government funding has been restored this year to a similar level as a decade ago but is not indexed. Professor Sutton said this meant income would fall behind university running costs over the next three years. He predicted that universities would hit a financial crisis in 2008 unless the Government budges. However, he defended university standards, saying the quality of students Australia produced was "very high indeed for a mass system, which we are now".

Dr Nelson said that subjects such as the pure sciences and humanities were "bleeding" but blamed universities for offering populist subjects such as aromatherapy and golf club management instead of focusing on "core" subjects.

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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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Sunday, May 08, 2005


Rumors of impending violence between black and Hispanic gang members kept an estimated 51,000 students away from city schools on Cinco de Mayo. "I'm devastated that a rumor can cause such fear," said Randy Cornfield, assistant principal at Hamilton High School. "I was telling parents it would be safer to have their kids in school than out on the street or at the mall." The Los Angeles Unified School District reported that about 18 percent of the 290,000 students enrolled in middle and high schools failed to show up Thursday. The absence rate was 8 percent higher than for the previous Thursday. At Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles, about 1,700 of 2,800 students did not attend - more than a fivefold increase over a normal day. "I am sitting here staring at a mountain of absentee cards," said Johnny Stevenson, an attendance officer. Attendance was expected to return to normal Friday.

A circulating e-mail rumor had said that Hispanic gang members were going to use the traditional Mexican holiday to attack black gangsters in retaliation for drug thefts, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said. The rumors followed two outbreaks of ethnic violence that ended with injuries and arrests last month at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles. Bratton said the LAPD investigated the rumors and concluded they were baseless. However, school and city police beefed up security at campuses as a precaution.

The only violence reported Thursday in the district was a scuffle between about 10 youngsters outside Narbonne High School in the Harbor City area. The lunch-hour confrontation was quickly broken up and there were no arrests, school police Sgt. F. Minutella said.

More here


But their arrogance is undiminished

Results for the Undergraduate Students Association Council elections were released Thursday night, with the opposition slate Bruins United winning council majority – the first time the Student Power! slate and its predecessors will not control council in over a decade. Runoffs will be held for the positions of president and external vice president, as no candidate received a majority of votes. Jenny Wood with Student Power! and Alex Gruenberg with Bruins United will compete for the position of president, and Jesse Melgares with Bruins United and Jeannie Biniek of Student Power! will compete for the position of internal vice president.

Thirty-one percent of undergraduate students voted in the primary elections for a total of 7,241 voters – the largest voter turnout since 1993, when 36.9 percent of undergraduate students participated in an election where free ice cream cones were given to voters. Seven of the nine candidates from the Bruins United slate were elected in the primaries. "We just did something that has not been done in a long, long time," said an ecstatic Gruenberg, the current Financial Supports commissioner.

Gruenberg said Bruins United winning council majority is the completion of the vision the slate has had since its inception, when it was created to challenge the reign of Student Power! Rallying their supporters in Meyerhoff Park with the help of the 8-clap and a bagpiper, Gruenberg promised his slate would make a full sweep in next week's runoff elections.

With the most influential position on council, the presidency, still undetermined, the race isn't over yet, said Joe Vardner, the newly elected Facilities commissioner. Wood said if elected, she is confident she can overcome the barriers of her slate's minority on council. No candidates were elected from the Future Front or the Bruin Liberation Movement slates, and none of their candidates will advance to the runoffs.

Despite having two of their candidates defeated in the primaries, Student Power! candidates say they are ready to fight even harder during runoffs. "This is our university! We own it!" Wood said while rallying Student Power! supporters as they gathered on Bruin Walk after hearing the election results. Student Power! candidates remain optimistic about their prospects for the future, both individually and for action on council. Pointing to the large number of Student Power! supporters still gathered at 10:45 p.m., Biniek said her slate had the ability to get work done, with or without positions in USAC.

Wood said Student Power! candidates and supporters will continue to work toward social justice and issues on their platform, despite minority standing on council. Wood said she will remain active on campus if not elected, but not necessarily on USAC. Bruins United leaders said they will take the overwhelming student support they have received in elections and try to turn it into substantive change on council. "Some changes are going to be happening to student government," said Vardner. "USAC will once again be opened up to all students."


Sex-Ed Curriculum Put On Hold

Post lifted from The Narrow

For those of us tired of being told that homosexuality is normal, natural and morally right, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr., has put on hold a sex-ed program in Montgomery County MD that would have taught all of these ideas.

Judge Williams agreed with the two groups that filed the lawsuit -- Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) -- who argued that the curriculum is biased toward homosexuality and dismisses religious perspectives on the subject.

Montgomery County Public Schools "open up the classroom to the subject of homosexuality, and specifically, the moral rightness of the homosexual lifestyle," the judge wrote in his decision.

"However, the Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject -- that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle -- to the exclusion of other perspectives.

"The public interest is served by preventing [school officials] from promoting particular religious beliefs in the public schools and preventing [the officials] from disseminating one-sided information on a controversial topic," Judge Williams wrote.

The program was to have been taught at three middle schools and three high schools.

It is very refreshing to see a Judge use logic and reason while making a decision. Our society has redefined tolerance not as something that allows leeway from a societal norm but rather something we should not only tolerate, but embrace and condone alternative lifestyles. So, for the Judge to say The Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject -- that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle -- to the exclusion of other perspectives is quite a stand in this climate.

David Fishback, chairman of the citizens advisory committee that approved the course materials, said he expected Judge Williams to rule against CRC because the curriculum "does nothing more than state basic facts about sexual orientation as understood by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association."

Nothing quite like statements without facts. Mr. Fishback's assertion that the curriculum does nothing more than state basic facts about sexual orientation as understood by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association demands evidence. I have seen no valid evidence presented by this advisory committee to back such an assertion. Just because you want to believe something is true, doesn't make it so.

I pray this decision holds and this pro-homosexual program never sees the light of day.


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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