Saturday, September 24, 2005


The lack of boys on campus just means that boys are wising up faster than girls to the uselessness of many degrees. And none too soon. Ivar Berg demonstrated the uselessness of most tertiary education 30 years ago -- and educational standards have certainly not risen since then. Unsurprisingly, the article also fails to mention race differences. It notes the large male population in jails as if it were a problem for all males when in fact it is mainly a problem for black males. The article is basically a sanctimonious attempt to scare young males back into college by way of gross misrepresentations of what a lack of college education generally leads to. Read Berg's book (now out in a 2003 edition) for the real facts of the matter

"Currently, 135 women receive bachelor's degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education. This is ominous for every parent with a male child. The decline in college attendance means many will needlessly miss out on success in life. The loss of educated workers also means the country will be less able to compete economically. The social implications - women having a hard time finding equally educated mates - are already beginning to play out.

But the inequity has yet to provoke the kind of response that finally opened opportunities for women a generation ago. In fact, virtually no one is exploring the obvious questions: What has gone wrong? And what happens to all the boys who aren't in college? Some join the armed forces, but the size of the military has remained steady, at about 1.4 million, for the past decade. For the rest, the prospects appear dark:

The workforce. Thousands of young men find work as drywallers, painters and general laborers, but many have troubling landing jobs. The unemployment rate for young men ages 20-24 is 10.1%, twice the national rate. As for earnings, those who don't graduate from college are at a severe, lifelong financial disadvantage: Last year, men 25 and older with a college degree made an average of $47,000 a year, while those with a high school degree earned $30,000.

Prisons and jails. Nearly as many men are behind bars or on probation and parole (5 million) as are in college (7.3 million).

"Lost." Young people who aren't in school or the workforce are dubbed "non-engaged" by the annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. But "lost" sounds just as accurate. About 3.8 million youth ages 18-24 belong to this group, roughly 15% of all people of that age. Though there are no gender breakdowns for this group, the pathways leading to this dead end - dropping out from high school, emerging from the juvenile justice system - are dominated by boys.

While demographers and economists have a pretty good idea where the boys end up, educators are largely clueless about the causes. Some say female teachers in elementary and middle schools, where male teachers are scarce, naturally enforce a girl-friendly environment that rewards students who can sit quietly - not a strong point for many boys, who earn poor grades and fall behind. Others argue that a smart-isn't-cool bias has seeped into boys of all racial and ethnic groups.

Solutions are just as uncertain. Hiring more male teachers would likely help, as would countering the anti-intellectual male code. But it's not that simple. Many boys leave middle school with pronounced shortcomings in verbal skills. Those lapses contribute to the low grade and high dropout rates. Surely, a problem that creates crime, increases unemployment and leads to hopelessness deserves attention. Where are the boys? Too often, going nowhere".



Tony Blair's crusade to raise education standards was dealt a triple blow yesterday with figures showing soaring school truancy levels, a student drop-out rate of nearly 25 per cent and a surprise fall in state school entries to top universities. Truancy jumped by almost 10 per cent last year to its highest level, despite almost £1 billion in government spending since 1997 to tackle the problem. At the same time, figures from the Higher Education Funding Council indicated that more than 71,000 first-year students would fail to graduate, wasting around £500 million a year.

The proportion of candidates from state schools rejected by top universities also rose, as admissions tutors increased recruitment from fee-paying schools. The decline in state school entry to 16 of the 19 universities in the Russell Group reversed the trend in admissions for the first time since Gordon Brown, in 2000, attacked the “old school tie” at Oxford over its rejection of Laura Spence, a Tyneside comprehensive student with five A-grade A levels.

Universities are spending more than £300 million of government funding this year on “widening participation” initiatives to encourage applications from state schools. The setbacks for two of the Government’s key objectives raise troubling questions for ministers about the massive levels of public spending on programmes to cut truancy and attract more state school students into higher education.

David Cameron, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: “These figures are dreadful. The Government has spent nearly £1 billion on tackling truancy and it is getting worse.” Jacqui Smith, the School Standards Minister, announced a crackdown on the “stubborn minority” of 8,000 students at 146 schools who were responsible for a fifth of all truancy. Teachers will be required to identify the most persistent offenders and their parents will be threatened with jail if attendance does not improve. [Note the Leftist reliance on coercion. Coercion is about the only idea Leftists have]

Professor Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group, said that there was no evidence of a “systematic approach to decrease state students” among admissions tutors. “It may be just one of those things. The best students happened to fall in a different area this time,” he said. Professor Sterling, the Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University, suggested that a reluctance to admit extra students above the number for which the institutions received government funding may have contributed to the decline in state entrants.The rise in entrants from private schools was evidence that universities were choosing the most able, regardless of government pressure. “We must not deviate from taking the best. It would be indefensible to take students who were not as good simply to make that ratio ever increasing,” he said



Most of the truants are probably only marginably educable anyway so truancy probably makes little difference to anything. For many truants, staying away is probably a rational decision. They can make more money by drug-dealing etc. that way

The number of children playing truant has risen by more than a third to 1.4 million since Labour took office, according to official figures published yesterday. The Department for Education and Skills revealed that more than 55,000 pupils skipped class every day in the past school year; a rise of 4,500 since 2003-04 and the biggest jump since the figures were first recorded in 1994.

In spite of the Government spending 1 billion pounds on initiatives tackling absenteeism since 1997, the annual number of pupils playing truant from school has soared by 43 per cent. Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister, said that school attendance was higher than ever, with fewer children going sick or taking term-time holidays, but said that she was disappointed that a "stubborn minority" of teenagers were skipping school. "Schools are treating absenteeism more rigorously, challenging questionable reasons for absence and cracking down on unnecessary time out of school," she said.

But she added: "It is disappointing that a stubborn minority of pupils, estimated at 8,000 in just 4 per cent of secondary schools, remain determined to jeopardise their education and their futures." Officials at the Department for Education and Skills claim that these serial truants, who miss up to five weeks of class at a time, account for a fifth of all truancy figures. Ms Smith declared that 146 schools would now be forced to identify their most persistent truants and place the parents on a "fast track to attendance" scheme.

The parents would be assigned a truancy officer and receive support from social and youth services to help to tackle issues such as drugs, parenting skills or mental health problems. If there were no serious improvements within three months, the parents would face a court appearance, which normally results in a 2,500 pound fine or three months in prison. Since September last year, more than 18,000 parents have been placed on such schemes. The Government's new target comes after an initiative with the travel industry to allow parents discounts for making early holiday bookings, to cut term-time holidays.

Of the 1,381,458 truants, almost two thirds, or 793,628, are teenagers. As in previous years, the highest number of truants are in the North East and West, Yorkshire and Humberside, followed by London. While the percentage of truants from private schools was just 0.13 per cent, in city academies [charter schools] the average pupil absence was estimated to be 2.84 per cent, more than double that of state secondary schools, at 1.25 per cent. At the City Academy Bristol, Ray Priest, the principal, has presided over an 11 percentage point drop in truants from 15 to 4 per cent in two years.

He credits a liberal interpretation of the curriculum, a positive school atmosphere and an "attendance team" of three, which works with both the families and his 1,300 pupils. "They are the real key," he said, "because people need to be in the school and building relations with families and children



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, September 23, 2005


Gosh! A whole 23% of students have to be competent at the "3Rs"!

More California schools are now facing the consequences imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind education law. Nearly 200 schools across the state have been added to the list of schools failing to meet the benchmarks on test scores set by President Bush's signature education law, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education. That brings to 1,772 the number of California schools in "program improvement" - the process required by the law when test scores do not meet targets for two consecutive years.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell attributed the increase to the ratcheting up of performance standards under No Child Left Behind. Last year the law required that about 12 percent of students score proficient or better on math and language arts tests for a school to avoid program improvement. This year, the law requires about 23 percent hit that mark on the tests students took last spring. "The growth targets by the federal government have doubled," O'Connell said in a phone interview.

In the Sacramento region, 69 schools are in program improvement. They now face a series of interventions and sanctions spelled out by No Child Left Behind for each year a school does not meet the federal standard, known as "adequate yearly progress." At the first stage, schools must inform parents that they can send their children to a different school in the district. In Year 2, schools must offer students extra tutoring. By Year 4, the school must start planning a complete overhaul. The law's consequences apply only to schools that receive Title I money, the federal program that aids schools with large numbers of poor children. California has 5,887 Title I schools, and 30 percent of them are now in program improvement.

O'Connell said he expects the portion of Title I schools facing the law's consequences to rise each year as the federal performance target goes up. In 2007-2008, No Child Left Behind will require that about 34 percent of students test proficient. The increase continues until 2014, when 100 percent of students are supposed to be proficient in math and English.

More here


You would think so from the Leftist clamour but "A total of 86.8 per cent of entrants in 2003-04 came from state schools". Only when NO private school students get to university will the British Left be happy

Top universities are rejecting more students from state schools in favour of rivals from the fee-paying sector, new figures showed yesterday. Sixteen of the nineteen universities in the Russell Group took a smaller proportion of entrants from state schools last year despite government pressure on them to admit more. The figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency threw into reverse the trend towards greater admission of state school candidates by leading universities since Labour took office.

They emerged as ministers prepare a campaign to persuade teenagers not to be deterred from applying to university next year by the introduction of 3,000 pounds-a-year tuition fees.

The "performance indicators" from the agency showed that Oxford admitted 53.8 per cent of students from state schools in 2003-04, against 55.4 the year before. Admissions at Cambridge also fell from 57.6 per cent to 56.9 per cent. The proportion of state students admitted by Newcastle and Nottingham fell by more than 5 percentage points to 68.6 per cent and 67.4 per cent respectively. At Imperial College, London, and King's College London the drop was about 3 percentage points to 59.6 and 67.3 per cent. Only Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield in the Russell Group increased their share of state students. However, there were declines at other leading universities, including Durham, Bath and York.

The drop in admissions came as new figures from the Higher Education Funding Council showed that almost a quarter of first year students fail to graduate from the university or college where they enrolled. The figure, which represents nearly 70,000 students, could be costing as much as 500 million pounds a year. Not included in the total are those students who leave before December 1 in their first term after the frantic rush through clearing.

The overall proportion of state candidates accepted at British universities fell for the first time since 2000, the year Gordon Brown attacked the influence of the "old school tie" at Oxford over its rejection of the Tyneside comprehensive student Laura Spence. A total of 86.8 per cent of entrants in 2003-04 came from state schools, compared with 87.2 per cent in 2002-03.

The Independent Schools Council welcomed the increased success of fee-paying students. Jonathan Shephard, its general secretary, said: "All the evidence is that universities are putting their academic reputations first and recruiting the best candidates, regardless of means and regardless of social background."

Officials at the Higher Education Funding Council for England sought to dismiss the findings as a "blip", but acknowledged that there were deep-rooted problems in persuading more state school students to aspire to university. John Rushforth, the funding council's director of widening participation, said: "We know that this is a problem that comes through in the schools. It comes through in some cases, research suggests, at a very early age in terms of aspiration, seven and eight-year-olds. "Any changes are going to take a long time. We are clear this is something we have to stick at and all of us - institutions, the funding council, government and other people - have to keep working hard."

Sir Peter Lampl, a government adviser on widening participation and chairman of the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, called the figures very disturbing. "It looks like a lot of the good work that has been done over the past few years is being reversed. This is a crucial issue because our research shows there are still 3,000 students from state schools who should be going to top universities and are not," he said. Sir Peter said controversy over new "benchmark" targets for state school admissions had "taken the spotlight off this issue". Previous benchmarks were based on A-level results, but the funding council now uses the points system adopted by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas).

The benchmarks for state school entrants were previously based on A-level points, where an A grade was 120 points, a B 100 and so on down to 40 for an E. Students with three A grades were deemed to have 360 points. Under the new benchmarks, a wide range of qualifications attract points, creating a far bigger pool of students with 360. Hefce regards them all as theoretically eligible for entry to Oxbridge and other top universities, even though in practice they would not be considered.

Admissions tutors say that the targets are unattainable because they require candidates to have specific A-level grades rather than Ucas points totals. Oxford said that applications from state students had risen by nearly 40 per cent in the past five years. A spokesman said the university would continue to encourage more applicants, but added: "We will not be exercising any positive discrimination at selection stage."

The Independent Schools Council described the benchmarks as absurd. Mr Shephard said: "Compiling the benchmarks in this way has led to massive increases in the number of state sector pupils assumed to be qualified for entrance to a top university. The reality is somewhat different."

Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, said individual universities were responsible for admissions. He added: "Do we want to see more young people from state schools going to higher education? Yes we do. "Widening participation in higher education is a shared responsibility, and the challenge is for universities and colleges to reach out to communities, attract new students and offer new opportunities for everyone with the ability to participate."



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, September 22, 2005


They basically don't give a damn whether poor kids learn the "3Rs" or not. It's getting the Leftist propaganda into them that matters

Two years ago, W.H. Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Va., began to take the No Child Left Behind law very seriously. Intensive 120-minute reading classes were installed, along with more math. Physical education went from 150 to 90 minutes a week. Music time was cut in half. This was part of a national movement to make sure all children, particularly those from low-income families -- as were 50 percent of Keister students -- mastered reading and math skills essential to their lives and the rest of their educations.

But such parents as Todd Hedinger, whose son, Gabe, attended the school, reacted negatively, saying there was too much emphasis on a few core subjects. "The emphasis on instructional time pushes everything else out of the way," Hedinger said. Such concerns have been part of the continuing debate over No Child Left Behind. The time devoted to reading and math has increased. And in many places, the increase has brought results. Between 2002 and 2004, Keister Elementary's passing rate went from 81 to 92 percent on the state English test and from 86 to 90 percent on the math test.

But critics of the federal law say children need a more complete education. The Washington-based Center on Education Policy reported this year that 27 percent of school systems say they are spending less time on social studies, and nearly 25 percent say they are spending less time on science, art and music. "This tendency results in impoverishing the education of all students, but particularly the education of students who perform less well on the tests," said Robert G. Smith, Arlington County school superintendent, who said his schools have resisted the trend.

Many educators defend the focus on reading and math, as long as it is done properly. Lucretia Jackson, principal of Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, said that basic skills are very important and that many children need extra time to acquire them. Her school made significant test-score gains this year by scheduling after-school classes and enrichment activities three days each week. "They need to develop the quality of skills that will enable them to meet the needs of the future society," Jackson said.....

Barksdale said that among the activities teachers have told her they dropped because of test pressure were silent reading, book talks, science experiments, picnics, field trips, classroom skits and creative writing.

"The logic of the fundamental importance of reading and mathematics is universally accepted," said David P. Driscoll, Massachusetts state education commissioner. "However, the testing of those subjects leads people to spend more time out of fear. While some extra focus particularly around test-taking skills and the most common standards is appropriate, this pushing other subjects aside to concentrate on reading and math is not. A full, robust program whereby kids are actively engaged in their learning produces the best results."

At Keister Elementary, test scores are up not only in reading and math but in science and social studies, despite fears of a negative result. Hedinger congratulated the "dedicated, loving, smart and creative people" who teach at the school but said he still does not like the long reading classes and athletic and music cuts because they reduced his son's love of learning. "Is the meaning of education cramming as much knowledge in, to pass a standardized test, or is it meant to include something else -- creativity, reflection, synthesis, hypothesizing, daydreaming?" Hedinger asked. "What happens to all of that in the process?"

More here

Double standards at De Paul

Post lifted from Erin O'Connor

Last year, De Paul University suspended--and effectively terminated--adjunct professor Thomas Klocek for criticizing, and thereby offending, a group of pro-Palestinian students who were manning the Students for Justice in Palestine table at a student activities fair. Klocek stopped by the table, picked up some literature, and wound up in an argument with the students. Allegedly, one compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to Hitler's treatment of Jews; Klocek parried by observing that while not all Muslims are terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims. The offended students filed a complaint against Klocek, and he was suspended from teaching without ever seeing the complaint or having a chance to face his accusers. FIRE defended Klocek against the school's open viewpoint discrimination; he has since sued DePaul for defamation. He has refused to apologize for his statements, and as a result remains suspended without pay.

But the problem here is not just that Klocek offended some students by criticizing their views. It's also that he offended them--and the school--by having the wrong views himself. You can be offensive at De Paul as long as your offensiveness is of the accepted sort. Hence the university's invitation to Ward Churchill to speak next month. Last spring, De Paul dean Susanne Dumbleton wrote a letter to the student paper explaining that Klocek had been punished because the school felt the need to protect students from the pain of having their views rejected: "The students' perspective was dishonored and their freedom demeaned. Individuals were deeply insulted. ... Our college acted immediately by removing the instructor from the classroom." Churchill's "little Eichmanns" comment has caused similar outrage across the country. And yet De Paul does not seem to feel the need to protect its sensitive students from the incendiary insults of a man who has made a career out of angry ideological agitprop. Indeed, the school is willing to pay liberally for the privilege of having Churchill come vent his spleen on campus. Churchill makes several thousand dollars per appearance. My guess is that his fee for a single speech amounts to a substantial portion of Klocek's meager adjunct salary. But then, De Paul clearly regards the one viewpoint as more valuable than the other.


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, September 21, 2005

Learning sinks in a sea of claptrap

What do Education Minister Brendan Nelson and Don Watson, author of Death Sentence and Dictionary of Weasel Words, have in common? If you think it is their political affinity, you are wrong. The correct answer is that both have attacked the cliches and jargon that are drowning Australia's education system in a sea of claptrap. Nelson has been arguing against student reporting where levels of achievement are described by vacuous terms such as "beginning", "established" and "consolidated". Watson is reported as describing the Tasmanian education department's Essential Learnings pamphlet for parents as being full of buzz words such as "key element outcomes" and he tells parents: "There's absolutely no shame at all in saying you don't understand it."

Welcome to the world of edu-babble associated with Australia's adoption of what is called outcomes-based education. Even George Orwell would be surprised if he knew of the tortured language use that parents, teachers and students face.

Most parents will remember the time they went to school and, based on the belief that teachers taught and students learned, there were subjects such as English, history, geography, mathematics, science, art, physical education. Such is no longer the case. Teachers are now "facilitators" and "knowledge navigators". Children from prep to Year 12 are no longer students; instead they are described as "lifelong learners", "autonomous learners", "connected lifelong learners" and "self-directed and reflective thinkers".

In education departments across Australia, curriculum is no longer defined in terms of subjects such as mathematics, science and English. Instead, the priority is given to what are termed "essential learnings". A South Australian document describes essential learnings as: "Understandings, dispositions and capabilities which are developed through the learning areas and form an integral part of children's and students' learning from birth to Year 12 and beyond. They are resources which are drawn upon throughout life and enable people to productively engage with changing times as thoughtful, active, responsive and committed local, national and global citizens. Engaging with these concepts is crucial to enhancing the learning culture within and beyond schools/sites."

Education once focused on teaching students the content associated with particular subjects such as history or mathematics. The emphasis now is on teaching students to have politically correct "understandings and dispositions". The result? While many leave school culturally illiterate and unable to properly read, write and add up, at least they exhibit high self-esteem and are sympathetic towards the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the environment and world peace.

The Northern Territory education department, in line with the psycho-babble reminiscent of the age of Aquarius, defines essential learnings as the "inner learner, creative learner, collaborative learner and constructive learner". Tasmania, not to be outdone, defines education in terms of "Thinking, communicating, personal futures, social responsibility and world futures".

The justification for overturning what many teachers see as a more sensible and practical approach to education is because, in case you haven't noticed, the world is changing. Phrases such as "rapidly changing world", "the world is rapidly changing", "meet the challenges of the future" and "meet the challenges of life in a complex, information-rich and constantly changing world" litter state and territory curriculum documents. The cliched nature of such phrases is cause for alarm. Repeating the mantra of change is also no substitute for acknowledging the truism that without knowledge of the past it is impossible to understand the present or to address the future.

Most parents probably expect that the curriculum is divided into year or grade levels, with students expected to learn what is taught and to show a minimum level of achievement each year. Given Australia's adoption of a developmental approach to learning, this is no longer the case. Not only does the curriculum, described in terms of standards or learning outcomes, equate to a number of year levels, but there are also few, if any, consequences for failure. To quote an SA document: "All children and students learn and progress in different ways and at different rates. Standards include specific outcomes and guide educators when tracking students to achieve a higher standard, rather than 'passing' or 'failing' at a particular point."

The NT Curriculum Framework also embraces a developmental approach: "Learning is a lifelong journey in which all learners develop at their own pace as they progress via many different pathways. Development patterns follow a broad continuum that builds on demonstrated knowledge and understandings." Although there is an element of truth in the observation that learning is a lifelong journey following different pathways, there is also the reality, especially in areas such as numeracy and literacy, that those students who have not mastered the basics at each year level are educationally at risk.


Hasta la vista to literature in Australian schools

As noted in "Fahrenheit 451", one of the strategies oppressive governments use to maintain power is to destroy creativity and freedom by burning books. In a world where nobody reads, especially the classics, the culture becomes shallow and impoverished and people are easier to control. Of course, destroying books is something that only happens in Hitler's Nazi Germany or in Cambodia under Pol Pot. It could never happen in a civilised country such as Australia. Our education system ensures that students read great books, become culturally literate and sensitive to the moral and aesthetic value of good literature.

Wrong. Judged by the draft Victorian Year 11 and 12 English study design, those who should be the custodians of our literary tradition are happy to feed students a weak and insipid gruel guaranteed to make them culturally illiterate and in danger of being emotionally and morally adrift. Historically, one of the foundations of English teaching has been literature, defined as those novels, plays, poems and short stories that say something lasting and profound about the human experience and our relationship with what D.H. Lawrence terms the"circumambient universe at the living moment". In the new study design, the more traditional definition of literature is exploded to include: CD-ROMs, websites or blogs, computer games, hyperfiction and "multimodel texts which also make use of visual, auditory and digital features".

The result, the dialogue from an Arnie Schwarzenegger movie has the same value as a Shakespearean sonnet and students can spend their time watching films and giving oral reports instead of reading sustained works of fiction and having to write an essay inresponse. The situation is made worse in that, unlike the existing English study design, where students have to read at least four novels or equivalent works over the two years, in the new study design students only have to read one novel a year.

Compare the new Victorian English course, which has much in common with other English courses around Australia, with the course students have to complete when undertaking the increasingly popular and more rigorous International Baccalaureate. Not only does the IB language course place literature centre stage, there is no mention of song lyrics and videos, but students are expected to read 11 works over two years. A look at the IB English syllabus outline for Melbourne's Ivanhoe Grammar School shows works such as: Medea, Antigone, Othello, Macbeth, the Romantic poets, A Room of One's Own and The Virgin and theGypsy. Unlike the Victorian English study design, unashamedly the expectation is that students value their "literary heritage" and learn to read with discrimination and to "express ideas with clarity, coherence, precision and fluency".

Judged by the report recently released by academics at the Australian Defence Force Academy detailing the poor writing skills of many undergraduates, this is something students completing mainstream senior school English courses find difficult.

The flaws in the Victorian English study design are manifold. First, as has already been suggested, literature deals with human predicaments in a unique way. No amount of watching Neighbours, googling the internet or SMSing friends will teach about human nature as does studying Macbeth or Greek tragedies such as Oedipus Rex. Such plays reveal in an imaginatively compelling way the influence of elemental emotions such as greed, jealousy and ambition. Students also learn about the destructive influence of hubris and the fact that, being human, we are not always in control.

Information is not knowledge and understanding should not be confused with wisdom. One of the benefits of great literature is that it tells us something significant, lasting and profound about the human predicament. Especially among young children, as argued by the American psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, literature is also important in nurturing emotional and psychological wellbeing. Classic myths, fables and legends such as The Iliad and Beowulf address in an immediate and profound way many of the uncertainties and dilemmas faced in growing to maturity.

Literature, unlike the more general category of text, is also unique in the way language is used. Reading a computer manual asks for language tobe taken literally and the reader seeksinformation in its most straightforward guise. Reading literature, on the other hand, requires language to be read aesthetically, and when reading William Blake's poetry or the novels of David Malouf one encounters similes, metaphors and a musical quality in language impossible to find in an SMS message or most movie scripts.

The new study design is also seriously flawed in that one of the justifications in making English more entertaining, contemporary and relevant is the argument that not all students, especially working-class students and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, are capable of reading theclassics. As we now live in the information age, where students spend much of their time communicating in internet chat-rooms and via SMS text, and where visual images are so pervasive, the written word is obsolete.

Ignored is that while some students, especially those labelled as disadvantaged, are denied our literary heritage, others are free to read widely and, as a result, are culturally enriched. Christopher Lasch, in The Culture of Narcissism, wrote of those who argue literature is not for all: "In the name of egalitarianism, they preserve the most insidious form of elitism, which in one guise or another holds the masses incapable of intellectual exertion."

One of the defining characteristics of the draft English study design is that everything is a worthwhile text for study. Not only is literature devalued, but there is also the belief that the function of reading is to analyse texts in terms of power relationships. Ignored is the aesthetic and moral value of literature and the basic human need to find some more profound meaning in life, the type of meaning that cannot be found in a hypertext document, a blog or a multi-model text.

As argued by S.L. Goldberg: "People are more likely than not to go on being interested in people, as much as they are in abstract theories and ideologies, or impersonal forces, or structural systems, or historical information, or even the play of signifiers. "So it is more likely than not, I'd say, that people will go on valuing those writings that they judge best help them to realise what the world is and what people are, and to live with both as realistically and as fully as they can."



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, September 20, 2005


One of my friends has just retired from teaching at her local primary school. The school is a public one but is in an affluent area so there are few discipline problems. The teachers there are allowed considerable flexibility in how they teach and they have devised a system based primarily on phonetics that is very successful in rapidly teaching their grade-school kids how to read and write. I remember my friend proudly showing me a piece of work produced by a GRADE 1 student (aged about 6). It said: "I luv my ticha". The spelling wasn't very good -- it was phonetic -- but this was from a kid still in in GRADE 1. Lots of American High School graduates can do no better. In fact, from the emails I receive, I can assure you that even some American TEACHERS can't do much better. Does this or does this not show what a great sin much of the educational system commits against our children?

I hope that will leave readers thinking about what COULD be. And I think you will also now understand better why I do this blog.

As well as posting here, I also of course post on a number of other sites. One place where I have been posting a lot recently is Tongue Tied. Several of my posts there recently have been about educational matters so I am re-posting them below on the assumption that few readers of this blog also monitor Tongue Tied.

"Dual Immersion" Madness

American Leftists constantly express their anti-Americanism. Note for example this quote from the much-acclaimed Michael Moore about his fellow-Americans: "They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet... in thrall to conniving, thieving, smug pricks" . And there are few more reliably Left-leaning groups than America's teachers and educators (as we see here).

A logical corollary of being an America-hater is a hatred of America's language -- which is English. So the fact that there are now a lot of Spanish-speakers in America who need to learn English is used as an excuse to teach Spanish instead! And "dual immersion" is the fiercest form of that -- where not only Spanish kids but also Anglo kids are taught in Spanish! And it's happening. They're even trying to introduce it in Utah. Note the following report (excerpts):

"As the Washington County School District continues to explore the possibility of teaching both English and Spanish at a local elementary school, Principal Dale Porter met with Spanish-speaking parents Thursday evening at Dixie Downs Elementary to discuss the program. Called "dual immersion," the program would teach classes of evenly balanced English- and Spanish-speakers. Both language groups would learn the other language just as English is now taught in district elementary schools.... Those who live in Dixie Downs' boundaries will not be required to participate and may choose another school in the district to attend.... Porter explained how all students in the program learn a foreign language - either English or Spanish - and how both language populations benefit from each other. The languages are taught simultaneously by bilingual teachers."


That report is from a few months back so here's an update from one of my readers:

"Dixie Downs elementary school has not yet been selected to be the "dual immersion" elementary school in town, because the district has not yet decided if it will try the experiment. But it began the school year with many new teachers. 100% of the teachers now speak both Spanish and English. Any teachers which did not have moved to a different school. 100% of teachers for some grades are teaching their own class for the first time. The principal has declared that he only hired the best teachers who applied (all the best teachers were bi-lingual?)

Imagine the school board's surprise recently when several parents, who don't want dual immersion, spoke at the school board meeting and asked why a common phrase, with a familiar rhythm and accompanying actions did not sound familiar when they visited the classrooms. If one listens to the rhythm and not the words one can almost hear..... "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America"...... However the children all recite it in SPANISH! Even the ones that can't trace any Spanish ancestry.

So the principal of the school is moving ahead as if the idea were already approved, which it probably will be unless some parents get very active. But it is a "poor" school (intellectuals would much rather experiment on other people's kids than on their own) -- 42% of the students are eligible for a free lunch (See here) -- so I guess the education authorities are banking on parental activism not happening. And, being poor, not many parents may be able to excercise the option of transferring to another school.

My prediction? Lots of kids subjected to such treatment will end up even more illiterate than they do now. If the schools cannot teach the "3Rs" in English properly, how the heck are they going to do it in Spanish?

But anyone who opposes the whole idea is "racist", of course.

The British Attack on "Extremism"

At first glance the news excerpt below seems reasonable:

"Extremist organisations are operating on university campuses across the country and pose a serious threat to national security, according to a new report. Yesterday the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, ordered vice-chancellors to clamp down on student extremists in the wake of the July terror attacks in London. But a report due to be published next week by Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University's centre for intelligence and security studies, lists more than 30 institutions - including some of the most high-profile universities in the country - where "extremist and/or terror groups" have been detected. "This is a serious threat," Professor Glees told the Guardian. "We have discovered a number of universities where subversive activities are taking place, often without the knowledge of the university authorities." ... Among the universities named are Cambridge, where the BNP were detected; Oxford, where the report said animal rights extremists had been active; and the London School of Economics and Manchester University, which both had active Islamist extremist groups".


But in fact there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with extremism. I am an extreme advocate of rationality and individual liberty and make absolutely no apology for that. It is advocacy of violence that should be monitored, not "extremism". Slipping in attacks on all "extremists" under the cover of preventing violence seems a very serious attack on civil liberties. And who is to define "extremism"? Will Brits soon all have to have the conformity of ants? In America, the New York Times regularly describes as "out of the mainstream" anybody they disagree with. It's not hard to envisage the ruling British Leftists doing much the same.

Figure This One

In universities and colleges, speech seems to be getting "correcter" by the day. It's no longer good enough to refer to shorties as "height challenged" or fatties as "width challenged" (or whatever) so we now have one term that seems to confer correct speech generally. The real buzz term now is "differently abled". Here is the Fort Valley State University announcing their correctness:

"The Differently Abled Services Center (DASC) is administratively a part of the Department of Student Affairs. The mission of the Differently Abled Services Center is to increase retention for students with learning disorders by ensuring equal treatment, opportunity, and access for persons with impairments and/or disorders. The center provides support services which assist students with learning disorders in the attainment of their academic as well as personal potential".


First problem: Aren't we ALL "differently abled"? Don't we all have a different set of abilities? I am hopeless at catching balls. Does that make ME differently abled? If ever I am out Fort Valley way I am going to enjoy all those "services" they offer, I guess.

But here's the kicker: The page I got the above quote from was headed in large letters "Building the Fence". Isn't building fences what they are supposed NOT to be doing? Go figure.


How come fatties are getting such a bum rap these days? They are not "differently abled" or whatever. They are "obese". Just another target of Leftist "tolerance", I guess (as distinct from real tolerance)

Both Free Speech and Academic Freedom Under Legal threat

Voltaire once said: "I disagree with you but I will defend to the death your right to say it". There are not many Voltaires around these days. An Australian university professor has recently come under fire for opposing the intake of refugees from Sudan into Australia. He made his comments initially in a newspaper but he has elaborated his views in a sufficiently sound way for them to be accepted for publication in an Australian academic law journal. Read on (excerpt):

"A lawyer for Australia's Sudanese community has threatened a Victorian university with legal action if it publishes an article by a controversial Sydney-based law professor. Called `Rethinking the White Australia Policy?, the 6,800-word article was written by Associate Professor Andrew Fraser, who's been banned from teaching at Sydney's Macquarie University after making racist remarks. The Canadian-born academic wrote a letter to his local suburban newspaper in July, claiming Australia was becoming a Third World colony by allowing non-white immigration.... Lawyer George Newhouse today warned Deakin University to scrap plans to publish Prof Fraser's contentious views in its next law journal. ``I am shocked that a university would even want to publish something along these lines,'' he said. ``I put the university on notice that if they repeat the racial vilification, a claim for compensation may be made against the university and the editors that publish or republish this poison.'' Mr Newhouse said he had already commenced proceedings on behalf of the Sudanese Darfurian community in the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission."


The university that publishes the journal does not seem to be caving in to the threat so far but the whole thing is a good example of how only those things that accord with the official "line" can safely be said today. Stalin would approve.


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, September 19, 2005


A lot of parents don't want their kids taught by whining feminists and Leftists who can't teach anyway. When lots of parents are prepared to pay twice for their child's education -- once via their taxes and again to a private school -- it is a pretty emphatic example of voting with your feet against a failed system

Public education in Sydney's inner suburbs is dying, with low enrolments threatening the viability of a number of schools. Department of Education figures reveal that at least six public schools within a five-kilometre radius of the CBD catered to fewer than 100 students last year. And at three of the schools - Fort Street at Millers Point, Plunkett Street at Woolloomooloo and St Peters Public School - student numbers are hovering around, or have dropped below, 50.

The data, obtained from the State Government by the Port Jackson District Council of Parents and Citizens Associations through freedom of information laws, shows a detailed school-by-school pattern of decline in public education over the past 17 years, with the inner west and eastern suburbs recording the sharpest drop in enrolments. Student numbers at eight primary schools and two high schools in the east and inner west have halved in the past decade, while a further six primary and three secondary schools in the area have lost at least a third of students.

Over the same time, private schools in these areas have recorded strong growth. Enrolments in non-government schools in the inner west and inner south have grown by almost 18 per cent in the past seven years, while in the eastern suburbs private schools now have a 60 per cent share of the market.

Dr Cappie-Wood said recent figures showed the decline in NSW public school participation was slowing and in some areas stopping. A range of initiatives was slowing the decline further, he said. More than $100 million had been spent on upgrading schools in inner suburbs, including more than $4 million on Dulwich and Marrickville high schools since 2001. According to the figures supplied under FoI, student numbers in both primary schools and the secondary school in Marrickville halved between 1994 and 2004.

More here


I last posted on this back in June 21st. The following is something of an update:

"When engineering student Jeff Bowman needed help in calculus last year, a professor at the University of North Dakota suggested he get tutoring. Bowman, who lives in the Caribbean and takes courses online, found a tutor - in India. A working electrician, Bowman would log on to the Internet before work, around 3 a.m., and get one-on-one help from one of dozens of overseas tutors the university hired through a U.S. company called Smarthinking. "I kind of doubt that I would have been able to pass it (calculus) without help," says Bowman, 45. "When I want help, I don't care how I get it."

Soon, help like this could come to public school students. Thanks to President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, kids in struggling schools are eligible for free after-school tutoring in reading and math. In many schools, local teachers, non-profit groups and even churches are approved to provide it. So are for-profit companies. Many are investing in technology that allows students and tutors to communicate via special Internet chat rooms and Web-enabled telephone service. Several companies cautiously are considering the practice of "offshoring" a portion of their online tutoring to countries including India.

Despite some educators' worries that offshore tutors might not meet certification requirements, one U.S. company already has conducted a pilot program with Indian tutors. Indian firms are eager to offer - and in some cases expand - their services here. "This is a very good, upcoming field because there is a huge demand for teachers," says Basak Somit, manager of e-learning for Career Launcher, a New Delhi-based education firm. "The sort of queries which we are getting over here, it's tremendous."

Career Launcher piloted a tutoring program last year with eSylvan, a division of Baltimore-based Educate Inc., through Educate's retail operations. The sessions, staffed by five tutors, weren't part of NCLB; families paid privately. Somit says difficulties getting teacher certifications forced them to pull out of the pilot, but Career Launcher is developing its own program and hopes to launch sessions directly through schools this year.

Outsourcing long has been a contentious labor issue. U.S. teachers never have faced overseas competition, but a perfect storm of factors - better technology, rising numbers of struggling schools and millions of dollars in new federal aid - could change that, making "education process outsourcing" a reality. Indian tutors work, on average, for the equivalent of about $200 monthly, putting in six to eight hours a day, five to six days a week. That means they earn the equivalent of about a $1.40 an hour, compared with upward of $20 to $30 an hour for many U.S. tutors.

Public schools last year spent about $218 million on tutoring with an anticipated price tag of $500 million this year, says J. Mark Jackson, a senior analyst at Eduventures, a Boston market research company specializing in education. Outsourcing tutoring is "perfectly feasible," he says, but "politically it would be a disaster" for a for-profit company. "It's a very politically charged debate. The person who's not doing that work is the local teacher."

While workers in other professions suffer from outsourcing all the time, observers say it is unlikely that any community's public schools will be totally outsourced. So companies that want to peel off even a small portion of teachers' work must make the case for it locally, Jackson says. "You want the local community, where the teachers have such strong power in the political process, supporting what you want to do."

Liz Pape, CEO of Virtual High School, an online school that serves more than 6,000 students, says rural areas can benefit from online teaching. "If your child happens to be in a very rural, somewhat isolated area and is going to a high school where there are no teachers who can teach A.P. statistics, wouldn't you want your student to take a course in A.P. statistics from a teacher in Massachusetts?" she says.


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, September 18, 2005


Maybe this will do some good

Muslim community leaders will be asked to help "identify and isolate" potential extremists on university campuses as students start their new term, the Guardian has learned. The move is among measures to be outlined today in a speech by the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, and comes amid concern that radical groups are using universities as recruiting grounds.

Yesterday the higher education minister, Bill Rammell, who has launched a nationwide programme of meetings with Muslim students and academics as part of the initiative, said the government was responding to issues raised by the Muslim community. "I am doing this because leaders of faith communities have approached me and expressed fears that their young people are being attracted to and converted to violent extremism," he said. "Community leaders say to us that they are worried about some students, a tiny, tiny minority, who are drawn to extremist ideas and this is about shifting the terms of debate."

In the aftermath of the London bombings in July, the Guardian revealed that the security services had barred more than 200 foreign scientists from studying at British universities on grounds of security. The National Union of Students has banned Hizb ut-Tahrir from campuses, accusing the group of "supporting terrorism and publishing material that incites racial hatred". The organisation denied the accusations.

Speaking ahead of Ms Kelly's speech, Mr Rammell said it was important to listen to the concerns of Muslim students but insisted the wider Islamic community had an obligation to help the authorities identify individuals or groups possibly posing a threat.

Last night Wakkas Khan, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, welcomed Mr Rammell's comments, but said the initiatives must not infringe the rights of Muslim students. "I think the concern revolves around the level of involvement of the universities and outside bodies in Islamic societies and activities. "We would find it very difficult if university authorities began investigating Islamic societies and searching prayer rooms as a matter of course. Where it is absolutely necessary it is fine, but it must not become the norm."

Mr Rammell said the government was planning to review the student vetting scheme, which relies on universities to refer suspect students from Islamic countries applying to do science courses. He said the government was working with colleges to complete guidelines for vice chancellors - to be published in November - on how to tackle campus extremism. But he said the crucial point was to establish a dialogue between Muslim students, universities and the government.



And in California at that!

Parents of public school students are finally getting a chance to see how their kids did on tests they took last spring. School districts across the state are sending out the one-page STAR Student Report to the homes of the state's estimated 6 million public school students. Educators see the reports, all of which should be mailed by the end of this month, as a road map to improving each student's performance.

The report offers an evaluation of each child's progress, measured primarily by scores on the California Standards Tests, which kids took as part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program. The multicolored report, printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper, includes a bar graph indicating a child's score on each subject-related test taken - English language arts, math, science and history-social science - and where that score falls on the proficiency scale: far below basic, below basic, basic, proficiency and advanced. The state's goal is for all students to be proficient or advanced in all subjects.

On the back page, each subject is broken down, with the percent of questions answered correctly by a child compared to the percent correct of students statewide. The percentages listed by each subject area give parents and teachers a chance to tailor their efforts to help the child. Another part assigns a reading list number that can be matched with a list of books appropriate for the child's reading ability. The books can be found on the California Department of Education's Web site at So, for instance, a middle school student whose reading list number is 9 would be pointed to such books as "All Creatures Great and Small," by James Herriot, and "Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange," by Elizabeth Partridge.

Officials at the state Department of Education say they worked with graphic designers, educators and parents to design something devoid of "educationalese" that would be easy to read for all parents. "We want to foster that conversation between the parent and the teacher. They're the two experts," said Rick Miller, director of communications for the Education Department. "This would provide specifics for the conversation." Miller said parents should use the report to talk with teachers and find out what can be done at home to complement the work done at school. "You can be a participating parent without ever stepping foot in the classroom," Miller said. "It's about working with your child at home."

The reports are available in English, though the department produces translation guides in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Korean and Tagalog. Those guides are sent out according to a family's home language.



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