Saturday, October 08, 2005

It had to happen: University Dumps Admissions Requirements

Post lifted from Mike Pechar

The University of Washington is scrapping the customary and traditional method of screening and evaluating students for admission. Gone are the minimum grade-point averages from high school as are minimum achievement scores on the SAT.

From The Seattle Times:
Instead, university staffers plan to read and review every one of the 16,000 annual freshmen applications to come up with a "holistic" assessment of each candidate. Besides academic performance, they will consider factors such as whether a student has overcome personal or social adversity, their leadership skills and their extracurricular interests.
Critics believe that the "holistic" assessment is being used to skirt the restrictions of Initiative 200 passed by voters in 1998. I-200 makes it illegal to use race as an admissions factor. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that racial fomulas could not be used for admissions, however, race could be considered if it was mixed in with other stuff. Consequently, the University of Washington has turned its admissions requirements into a stew where race could easily be the determining factor.

So, students, do not worry if you only have a 1.5 GPA and scored 650 on the SAT. Sure, it used to that an applicant had to have something like a grade-point average of 3.5 and a SAT score of 1420, but that's all changed. Forget the GPA and test scores, you now may be "holistically" qualified.

By obfuscating the admissions process, it appears that the University of Washington is ideologically devoted to giving race-based preferences despite what the voters and the Supreme Court have mandated.

In summary, the only objective criteria that must be met to be admitted to the University of Washington are respiration and a heartbeat. Everything else is subjective.


Schools are not about teaching and learning. They are really about maintaining a dizzying holding pattern, circling like a plane, waiting for the tarmac to be ready for a safe landing. That will not happen as long as there is little but chaos on the academic runway. These are the halls and classrooms where there is no official sanction to enforce fair standards of discipline. More than ever, feral kids prowl with cockiness and richly deserved contempt for the hamstrung "authorities." Under Klein "Children First" initiatives, anything goes. There is no provision for separating monsters from their mayhem. This failure of willpower negates all good intentions and instruction.

Let's cut to the chase. No student shedding your child's blood is likely to be proportionally punished. Attacks on life and limb are no big deal. That is not Klein's party line, which proclaims zero tolerance, but is his standard operating procedure. He has a real commitment to favorable publicity, but his restrictions on effective discipline are an incitement to anarchy. By "playing it safe" and not making the hard decisions of which he is a loquacious apostle, he is leaving your children in the line of fire as his hundreds of backscratchers take care not to get burned. His offer to grease principals with bonuses to stick out temporary duty in a war zone is another slimy gimmick. Principals get payoffs; teachers get challenges.

If a student jabs a knife to your child's neck, but doesn't break the skin, and the blade was less than four inches, you must make your own police report if you are not forgiving, because the school's action will be minimal. The penalty is likely to be the same as for throwing furniture, menacing, death threats, extortion, vandalism: next to nothing. There has been much publicity about teachers' having the power, under "Save Legislation" to remove major agitators from their classes. Surely part of a teacher's duties is management of errant kids. But even when they are a fatal hindrance to all teaching, they cannot be bounced . The paperwork is time-consuming and onerous, and administrators use the referrals more as scorecards to keep track of teachers who are making them work than to reign in the difficult students.

The knife-brandishing student will not be "suspended". He will be remanded for a few days to a cozy room within the school. This "Alternate Learning Site" is a holding pen where students are asked to sit all day and do work assigned them by their teachers. If they don't do it there is no way to force them. The number of days in the ALS allowed per year is restricted, so the authorities are forced to divvy out sentences very sparingly. Because of the DOE's budget, which exceeds that of most member countries of the United Nations, there may not be funding to keep them operating more than twice a week . Klein's rationale for the flimflam known as ALS is that we must not interrupt a student's education in order to punish him. Sounds laudable. The real reason is that he wants suspensions to go the way of rotary phones. The gullibility of the public is a pheromone to Klein. When the tabloids show that suspensions are down 95% and have become as rare as asteroids plummeting into supermarkets, they will praise Klein for his overall effectiveness and the chancellor will parlay that into a vindication of all he stands for. The bad news is that your innocent child may still be caught in the crossfire. Just pray that he doesn't make eye contact with the wrong child.

Regardless of the crime, even if your child were pushed down a flight of stairs, there will be no indelible record of it on the offender's "permanent record." He might be discreetly transferred to another school ( often a better one, to which he may have unsuccessfully applied before trouble found him), or to an "alternate school" for a brief and refreshing stay. This would be his worst-case scenario even if he took a sword with more than a four-inch blade to the throat of a teacher about whose grading he disagreed. If the assailant is in a special education class, and impulsive antisocial acts have been identified as part of his disability, then his actions are no impediment to his continuing state of innocence. Guilt or innocence: six of one, half a dozen of the other, so far as Klein is concerned. The Chancellor has issued a Discipline Code which lists specific types of offences, assigns each a number according to severity, and prescribes a range of elective or mandatory consequences accordingly. This sounds fair and rational, but there are loop holes big enough for Australia to pass through. There is so much ambiguity in diagnosis and elasticity in treatment, that whether the punishment will fit the crime is a crap shoot. Extenuating circumstances are often concocted and mitigating facts contrived to bargain a high crime down to a peccadillo, especially if the offending child belongs to a parent activist or fund raiser. Suspension numbers will be more fudged than a gallon of Ben and Jerry's chocolate.

Klein has showcased, under strobe-lit media cameras, his new "second chance" or "alternate schools". One of my students was sent there on temporary duty, having done something really brutal to a classmate. When he returned a few days later he was a hero to himself, more chipper than ever, having done some self-esteem exercises and needlepoint or something rather like it.

The Regional Operations Centers must approve disciplinary action taken, even if it is in pantomime, against serious lawbreakers. Even in emergency, they do not pick up telephone receivers. All transactions, vital and picayune are through electronic mail only. Principals get an average of forty pages of such drivel and drool at a time almost daily. The people in charge at these Centers, the spawn and yoke of Klein, are not educators and there is no dialogue possible with them. They are crucially placed in the lineup, but they haven't a clue how to hold a bat. They're proud of that, will never solicit or tolerate advice, and woe unto the educator or would buck them.



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, October 07, 2005


When Hurricane Katrina left 372,000 without schools, President Bush responded with a plea to Congress to provide educational aid to every displaced child, regardless of where they found refuge — in public, private, or religious schools. Louisiana's Democratic senator Mary Landrieu and her Republican counterpart David Vitter immediately followed suit with an across-the-board relief bill.

But soon, groups like the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association expressed outrage. They strongly objected to public funds being channeled to private schools in order to accommodate displaced children. The handmaidens in Congress quickly followed suit, saying that now is not the time for a debate over vouchers. Senator Ted Kennedy proposed a bill that would provide aid only to public schools — and explicitly not private schools — that have taken in displaced children. Kennedy has been joined inexplicably by Wyoming's Republican senator Michael Enzi. Now it appears Kennedy and Enzi are backing off somewhat, but they still only want to allow aid to go to private-school students after being channeled through public schools. If it is not defeated, this measure will add yet another unnecessary layer of regulation to a relief effort that has already been strangled by red tape.

Unlike Kennedy, the hurricane did not discriminate between children attending public and private schools. Owing to the abysmal condition of New Orleans public schools, roughly one-third of the schoolchildren in the most ravaged parts of Louisiana already were attending private schools. Many of their families, like so many others, lost everything in the flood.

The scores of private and religious schools around the nation that have opened their doors to displaced schoolchildren deserve prompt and equal compensation. Some Catholic schools in Houston are reportedly operating double shifts to accommodate children from Louisiana and Mississippi. But while public schools that are extending a helping hand can expect reimbursement, private and religious schools may not be so fortunate — not, at least, if Kennedy and his fellow sponsors have their way.

The message is as perverse as it is blatantly discriminatory. A person who is drowning doesn't care at all if the person throwing a lifeline is wearing a clerical collar. Likewise, whether an entity extending assistance to victims of a natural catastrophe happens to be a neighboring government or the Salvation Army, or a religious school, the response should be the same: thanks, encouragement, and support.

Those who oppose individual choice in the use of federal school funds often cloak themselves in the rhetoric of separation of church and state. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that when such choices are entrusted to free individuals, they do not constitute the establishment of a religion. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has charted a course of non-discrimination against religious organizations, which the Kennedy plan blatantly violates.

It is not the Bush administration that has raised ideological issues in the context of disaster relief. Its policy is relief for all children, everywhere. Kennedy and his allies seek to substitute a different standard: aid for only those children who do not find relief from private and religious schools. The burden of justification falls upon those who support such discrimination.

In Kennedy's case, the explanation is simple: he is in the grip of teachers' unions, who militantly oppose the freedom of parents to choose to spend public funds in private schools. Even in the most dire of circumstances, he can't seem to shake his addiction to special-interest pressures. He's obsessing over where Katrina victims will go to school, while the victims themselves are busy worrying about whether they will get to school at all.

The situation is especially poignant for impoverished New Orleanian children, whose public schools were already devastated by corruption and mismanagement long before the hurricane arrived. Many low-income families had scraped together enough money to pay private school tuition, but many more were unable to do so. The conditions were so bad that earlier this year, the heavily Democratic Louisiana House of Representatives voted to establish a voucher plan for New Orleans schools (though the bill stalled in the state Senate).

Now, if there is a silver lining to this horrible tragedy, it is that the children displaced by Katrina might yet find a brighter educational future with the introduction of school choice. This is much less likely, however, if Kennedy has his way. Kennedy's own children spent precious little time in public schools growing up. It is a shame that the senator, so proficient in the art of noblesse oblige, would deny other families the opportunity to be able to say the same.


Ideology blackens schooling research

Much education research is of poor quality and tainted by ideology, a visiting scholar has claimed. "Education is one of those rare fields where the research and the theory very quickly move into practice," Terry Moe, a visiting US academic told last week's Schooling for the 21st Century conference at the University of Sydney. Professor Moe, a Stanford University political scientist whose market-based research has inspired the "school choice" movement, said education was a field unlike any other social science. "If you were in political science and you proposed something like vouchers [enabling families to choose schools], there'd be a big theoretical discussion," he said. "In education, they're thinking, what is the impact on the system which we all really care about and are invested in? "Just something as simple as getting up in front of an audience and presenting your research [honestly] leads some people to get mad. "As a result, a lot of education research is, I think, of poor quality. A lot of it is mixed with ideology."

Professor Moe praised last week's Sydney conference as an attempt to bring together a range of views. "If this conference had occurred in the States and we had a bunch of Americans in the audience they'd have been throwing vegetables ... it wouldn't have been pretty." US teachers unions have vehemently opposed vouchers as contrary to equitable schooling. Professor Moe said school choice was most important for poor and struggling families since the wealthy had no problem financing their choice.

Last week's Sydney conference featured those who have shaped Australia's school systems (former Queensland education adviser Allan Luke); their critics (commentator Kevin Donnelly); and leading overseas reformers (former Blair government adviser Michael Barber). As the conference came to an end last Friday some common ground emerged on curriculum with an emphasis on less clutter and more rigour.

Professor Moe said he and other researchers - mostly outside education faculties - had banded together in the Koret Taskforce to provide an alternative centre of research. "My hope is that education will really develop as a social science and that we can have really honest exchanges," he said. "I've been in [Stanford's political science] department 24 years - I'm the chairman of the department - and basically I don't know anybody's ideology in the department. We do our work and our work doesn't really have anything to do with our own personal ideology.

"Well, in the education school that's not true ... they know where people stand and they know it when they hire people, and that's why they don't hire people like me. "If you do support markets, for what I consider to be truly legitimate theoretical and research-based reasons, [then] all I am is just a conservative ... I'm a right-wing nut who's dangerous. "This is not just the Stanford education school, this is a general problem, I think."



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, October 06, 2005


"Thousands of children are starting secondary school unable to read or write properly". In California thousands of children are FINISHING secondary school unable to read or write properly!

Thousands of children are starting secondary school unable to read or write properly because of poor teaching, school inspectors have found. One in three primary school lessons are still no better than satisfactory despite the Government’s commitment to improve standards, Ofsted reported yesterday. Boys in particular have shown little improvement and they fall further behind girls in test results as they grow older.

The inspectors said “urgent” action is required to help pupils who start secondary education without reaching the levels of English skills expected of their age group. National test results show that about one in five 11-year-olds do not reach the standard expected of their age group in English. The inspectors found that schools which teach using traditional phonics “systematically and rapidly” from an early age, have the greatest success in helping children to learn to read and write.

Ofsted’s study of the state of English teaching over the past five years found that pupils did not know how to improve because the quality of teachers’ assessment was “consistently weak”. Miriam Rosen, Ofsted’s director of education, said: “We are concerned, particularly because it will interfere with their ability to access the rest of the curriculum.” Standards in English continued to rise over the five-year period that the report covered, she said. “However, they have yet to reach the Government’s targets.” The Ofsted report concluded: “There is an urgent need for schools to improve the literacy skills of pupils who enter year seven (the first year of secondary school) with attainment below Level 4 (the standard expected of 11-year-olds).” Despite significant improvements in teaching between 2000 and 2005, 30 per cent of all primary English lessons are “no better than satisfactory”, Ofsted said.

Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister and a former teacher, said: “Let’s get this in context. When Ofsted say that 30 per cent of lessons are no better than satisfactory this does not mean that these lessons are failing — it means they are meeting the expected standard but that there is room for improvement.”

The inspectors findings on the success of phonics come just months ahead of a Government review into the way reading is taught in primary schools. It is expected to examine whether more traditional methods could be used to raise standards. Jim Rose, a former director of inspection at Ofsted, was commissioned to report in January whether blending the sounds and shapes of individual letters instead of recognising whole words, would help children learn to read more easily. Since the 1960s, the “whole language” method of learning has predominated in most English primary schools. The Government embarked on the study after a seven-year pilot of children in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, showed that by age 11, pupils who had been taught throughout primary school to read with synthetic phonics, were three years ahead of their peers. Nick Gibb, the shadow Schools minister welcomed the findings and called for all primary schools to employ the more traditional teaching method



Cookery classes will return to secondary schools as part of “healthy eating” proposals set out yesterday by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary. Boys and girls aged 11 to 14 will learn how to prepare vegetables and cook basic dishes under revisions to the national curriculum. The restoration of domestic science was recommended by the Government’s School Meals Advisory Panel, which accepted that schools concentrated too much on teaching food theory rather than on kitchen skills.

Ms Kelly supported the panel’s report that all children should be taught food preparation and practical cooking skills in the context of healthy eating. Parents might also be told what food is permitted in packed lunches, which are a must at thousands of primary schools without kitchen facilities. Pupils may also be barred from leaving school grounds at lunchtimes to stop them buying fast food. The proposals, subject to consultation, come after Ms Kelly’s announcement to the Labour Party conference last week that junk food would be banned from canteens and school vending machines.

Practical cookery is not in the curriculum, which requires pupils only to study food technology in design and technology classes. A curriculum review would now emphasise cooking skills. The Department for Education and Skills said: “Alongside giving children better meals, we want to ensure that they learn about diet, nutrition, food safety and hygiene, practical food preparation and cooking. Preparing and cooking food is a key skill that will benefit them as they move into adulthood and independence.”

The panel has also identified a £266 million funding gap in the Government’s programme for improving school dinners. The Government promised £220 million, but tough new standards for school canteens, recommended by the panel and approved by Ms Kelly will cost £486 million to implement. Schools will have to observe food standards in September that require children to have at least two portions of fruit and vegetables a day for lunch, as well as easy access to fresh drinking water. Menus must include oily fish regularly, and no more than two deep-fried products a week



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, October 05, 2005

Schools as Catering Halls

From a very disgruntled NYC teacher who just wants to teach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

It is the month of the harvest moon and the first frost. Gold and red leaves will soon scrunch under our feet. But there is an acrid taste, a prickly touch, a reeking smell, a raucous cry, and very crisp cowardice borne by the wind. It is a new academic season. Time for the halls of scholarship to be confirmed anew as catering halls. How so?

On the eve of the past presidential election, Garden State teacher wasfired for posting, among a gallery of presidential portraits on her classroom's bulletin board, a photo of the current George Bush. Students' parents, partial to John Kerry, demanded he get equal billing. The teacher explained that she had not endorsed or censured either candidate. There had been no electioneering. The only reason that Bush was cheek to jowl with Jefferson and Lincoln was that they all held at one time the highest office in the land. The unappeased parent bee-lined to the principal who ordered the teacher to remove the offending picture or collect her personal effects and beat it. After much turbulence she was restored to work but transferred. The scowl of media spotlight spared the terminating rod.

Catering to parents and historical revisionists has become a primary duty of teachers not on a martyrdom track. Kowtowing has become the backbone of the educational process. Textbook publishers doctor history to treat their own bottom line ailments. Politicians who control school boards are themselves ruled by a wide range of pressure groups. The ancient and sacred nature of teaching has itself yielded. No longer do we chaperone the spirits of youth to the truth wherever it leads us. Instead we draft our students as pawns in a despicable chess of political litmus tests.

A few years ago, a public service "documentary" lauded the American Army's Black soldiers who liberated European extermination camps at the end of World War 2. The problem was it didn't happen that way. The credit was no distortion; it was fabrication. The army was deplorably segregated back then. No Black troops were positioned to have a chance to exercise the noble capability that they shared with the fighters who actually did the job. Not having accomplished what was beyond their control was neither their shame nor their achievement by proxy. The film's defenders viewed this revelation as petty and mean-spirited. They argued that relations between Blacks and Holocaust-minded Jews were warmed by the fable, so the creative license was a salutary example of the means justifying the ends.

If I tactfully exposed this whopper in class, what would happen if a parent or organized group cried racism out of sincere or other assumption? Should I be persecuted like the curator of the presidential portraits? If as an English teacher I need to illustrate the uneven literary quality of Nobel Prize for Literature winners, and Toni Morrison came naturally to mind as unworthy company of Beckett, Eliot, Hemingway, and Churchill, must I bite my tongue and cite a non-Black laureate, just to play it safe? When the social studies textbook shows a typical Nigerian kitchen looking like Billy Joel's, may a teacher sympathetically set the record straight? And what if he has a rightly muted kind word for the British Empire?

Are we not more than paid mouths? Must we agree with the assertions made commonly in texts and in the film "Motorcycle Diaries" that the Incas in sixteenth century Peru were in the midst of performing brain surgery when they were rudely interrupted by the Spaniards' gunpowder? We have been re-educated to recoil at Christopher Columbus the plunderer. And when did the major publishers decide that the Aztecs did not really rip out the still-beating hearts of children in sacrifice to virgin goddesses?

If the teacher implicates the drug culture of Colombia, being careful not to equate it with Colombian culture as a whole, should he fear the wrath of those who would call him, absurdly, anti-immigrant? Should reference to India's caste system, including such indignities as requiring its "untouchables" who, because of their low-born social class, must clean toilets with bare hands, be avoided because South Asian societies might complain?

During a discussion of current events, mandated as "enrichment", an astute student in a Queens, New York middle school linked the imminent American election to the global omen of terrorism. In the natural course of providing context and perspective, his teacher identified Israel as the only nation in the Middle East that shares America's democratic values and institutions. A local Imam was not amused. That discussion will never happen again. But shouldn't it?

Will we all now be required to present the flip side of terrorism? "Balanced" views of the Pearl Harbor attack are already fed like Fruit Loops to children. Dare we show the audacity to depict our own way of life with at least benign neutrality?

On Korean Thanksgiving Day, late September, my middle school students wore traditional native dresses and treated the staff to some lovely sweet rice. Linking their holiday to our classroom discourse, we compared notes about gratitude. I was astonished that not one child had ever been told about America's sacrifice, self-interested as it may been to a degree, to keep the whole Korean nation from a perpetual diet of tree bark soup, as in North Korea. Was my eye-opener inflammatory as charged?

In the judgment of the father of one of my students, I was obliged to excuse his child's failure to complete my assignment on world affairs on the grounds that according to their upbringing, adolescence was too soon to endanger a child with political notions. Should I have worked around it to keep the peace or stood on principle? Since he is a customer of education, as the Department of Education sees him, the father's bum steer could not be addressed safely.

Many students in New York schools are children of United Nations employees. The United Nations, of which criticism is taboo, has admitted to hiring laborers who are known terrorists in Gaza. It has also been implicated in the "oil for food" turpitude If this comes up in class, can we "run with it" or must we suppress, sanitize, or must we give the truth the slip? If a member of my class happens to be the daughter of a consul, may I get a ginger ale on the way to the principal's office? How do we raise consciousness if not under the sturdy roof of free inquiry?

The inhibitions provoked by pandering can be funny. A teacher of science cited Edwin Teale's classic about bees, The Golden Throng. A parent mistook it as "Thong." To make life simpler, the teacher now tells the kids that the book is called The Golden Swarm. But at the end of the day, truth wants no caterer.


Teaching reform in Australia: It is time to change what, and how, our schools teach

"One of the most hypocritical aspects of Australian public life over the past 30 years has been the way politicians talk about education, without ever doing anything to improve it. At election after election candidates promise to spend more on schools to ensure existing standards are improved. And they cite selective statistics to demonstrate how students in their state are either the best, or worst, in the world, depending on whether they are in government or opposition. But they never address the values crisis that cripples public education, and risks reducing it to a second-rate system, shunned by all but the poor. And they never discuss why we are in this mess, with a system designed to serve circumstances that no longer exist. And we are stuck with the outcome of their inertia today. The philosophical basis of schooling still dates from the 1960s, when education was supposed to drive social reform. And the structure of senior secondary education reflects the assumptions of politicians in decades past who assumed there would never be enough jobs to go round and so used school to keep kids off the unemployment rolls.

All of this is ancient history now. But while the real world changed, education theory did not. The result is we are are cursed with an education system that would make old hippies happy. In Australia today, the education orthodoxy holds that schools should teach students to critically analyse information, which is code for courses that emphasise Australia's faults and failings, especially with regard to the environment and indigenous issues. And in terms of what kids learn, it does not matter if it is not much. What is important is for them to learn at their own pace, regardless of the skills they lack at the end of each school year. And we encourage far too many students to go on to Year 12. The final two school years were originally intended for an academically inclined minority. But today they are holding camps for enormous numbers of kids, many of whom would be happier learning a trade.

One result of this sorry situation is too much of the syllabus reflects what teachers were taught about their role as social reformers. Another is that students who would be better served by trade training are forced into studying abstract subjects, for which they are not suited. And in the process, the academic element of Year 12 is eroded to cater for "mixed ability" classes, an Orwellian euphemism if ever there was one. Fortunately solutions to this archaic assembly of old-fashioned political ideology and education theory are starting to emerge. Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has tapped into the community's deep disquiet with the quality and content of teaching and learning in Australian schools. His demands for plain-English report cards, and comparative assessments of core subjects between the states, are pushing them towards reform. Inevitably state ministers complain Dr Nelson is playing politics with education. But it is easy to imagine they are privately pleased with the way he is forcing reforms that may be unpopular with academics and union leaders, but will please parents and serve students.

The federal Government has also established the foundations for a long overdue return to the old system of streaming, where students could select the sort of high school that suited their interests and aspirations, with the creation of new technical colleges. That Kim Beazley supports the general approach of student choice is an excellent outcome. If this means that one day we will emulate Germany, where tradespeople are respected for their ability and the benefits they bring society, good. For too long the orthodoxy in Australian education has been that only a university education would do. We are paying the price for this silly snobbery now, with lawyers in plague proportions and shortages of tradespeople so severe they threaten our economic growth. And significant structural reform is also on the agenda, with talk of ways to encourage autonomy for individual public schools. While the syllabus in each state will always be set by central bureaucrats, the more decisions made at a local level the better. Of course all these ideas and initiatives will be howled down by advocates of the failed status quo, who always argue every reform is anti-teacher. Nonsense. There is nothing wrong with Australia's committed teachers. It is the prevailing philosophy of education that they are obliged to follow which is one of the core problems in Australian education. In a just society, schools give every student the education they need to make the most of their abilities. For too many our children Australia's schools do no such thing. It is time they did".

(The above is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper of October 1st)


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, October 04, 2005


This is a story of almost total educational failure and, even so, it does not take account of the 30% or more who drop out without taking ANY exam

Nearly 100,000 California 12th graders — or about 20% of this year's senior class — have failed the state's graduation exam, potentially jeopardizing their chances of earning diplomas, according to the most definitive report on the mandatory test, released Friday. Students in the class of 2006, the first group to face the graduation requirement, must pass both the English and math sections of the test by June. The exit exam — which has come under criticism by some educators, legislators and civil rights advocates — is geared to an eighth-grade level in math and to ninth- and 10th-grade levels in English.

But the report by the Virginia-based Human Resources Research Organization showed that tens of thousands of students, particularly those in special education and others who speak English as a second language, may fail the test by the end of their senior year despite remedial classes, after-school tutoring and other academic help. Teachers, according to the report, said that many students arrive unprepared and unmotivated for their high school courses and that their grades often reflect poor attendance and low parental involvement.

The group reviewed the test results as part of a report ordered by the Legislature when it instituted the exit exam several years ago. Among its findings: 63% of African Americans and 68% of Latinos in the class of 2006 have passed both parts of the exam. By comparison, 89% of Asians and 90% of whites have passed. The report recommended that the state keep the exam but consider several alternatives for students who can't pass. "Clearly, we need to have some options for these students," said Lauress L. Wise, the firm's president, in a telephone interview with reporters.

The state, for example, could allow seniors to submit portfolios of work [Done by someone else] that demonstrate mastery of English and math, the report's authors suggested. The report also proposed that schools allow students to spend an extra year in high school or earn diplomas by completing special summer school programs in lieu of the exam. Additionally, the state could establish alternate diplomas or graduation certificates for students who pass part of the exit exam, the group said.

But California's superintendent of public instruction, Jack O'Connell, said he opposes any change that would diminish the worth of a high school diploma. "It's important to keep one core principle front and center: awarding a student a diploma without the skills and knowledge to back it up does the student a disservice," said O'Connell, who added that his staff would study the options outlined in the report.

The exit exam was originally slated for students in the class of 2004. But disappointing passing rates prompted state education officials to push the requirement back two years. The state also shortened the test from three days to two. Students get several opportunities to pass the exam in high school, and they have to correctly answer only a little more than half of the questions to succeed.

More here


It was not always so and it does not need to be so. It reflects the way the Leftist takeover of the education system has put propaganda before all else

Many teachers cannot spell and there are hundreds of examples to prove it, the Federal Government says. Education Minister Brendan Nelson has released examples of teachers' spelling and grammatical mistakes, in a push to overhaul English education standards. One example included a teacher spelling Qantas as Quantas. Dr Nelson said parents should be shocked. He blamed the shortcomings on the way Bachelor of Education students were taught at university. "Parents have every reason to be concerned because a significant number of children are being let down," he said.

But university lecturers have hit back, accusing Dr Nelson of being an ignorant trouble-maker. "Regarding the Qantas example, the teacher was right as far as the rules go (putting a U after a Q). Maybe the teacher had never flown Qantas before and didn't know how the company spelt its name," Flinders University primary school literacy and English lecturer Barbara Neilsen said. "I assure you some young teachers graduating today are brilliant and we are not helped by people blaming us, but helping us to do better."

Hundreds of examples were sent to Dr Nelson by parents from across the nation after he last month highlighted his concerns about teaching standards. One parent sent in a note written to her by an English teacher regarding the large number of uncorrected spelling mistakes in her son's exam. It said: "This task was an assessment task set to test comprehension skills, and spelling and grammar were irrelevant." [!!!]

Dr Nelson said one in five students left school with serious reading, writing and communication problems, which put them at a big disadvantage in the job market. The Federal Government inquiry would rank states according to their teacher training levels and the results would be made public, Dr Nelson said. "This will put pressure on the lower-ranked states to improve their performance and I'm hoping a national standard will be adopted," he said.


The above article is from Sept. 25th. As a follow-up, on p. 53 of the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of October 2nd., were printed many letters from readers about the issue. There was much support for the Minister's remarks and many comments about higher standards prevailing in the past. I reproduce two of the letters below:

"I was school secretary of three very large schools over 14 years, and during this period typed thousands of pages of work from hundreds of teachers' handwritten information. I was absolutely amazed (and sometimes horrified) at the countless spelling mistakes contained in the information given, and was just very thankful thatI had excellent spelling skills in order to ensure that the typed article was correct, especially as a considerable amount of the articles I typed were examination papers. On a few occasaions I even overheard teachers telling parents that it was the content that was important, not the grammatical or spelling content, in order for the student to pass that particular assignment or examination. I believe that our children do suffer because of this. Going back to good old spelling tests each Friday would be an effective way around the problem. I remember them well and they didn't have any far-reaching effects that caused me "great psychological damage""

"Why was I not surprised to read about students, including teachers, who have not been taught to spell properly? I am 58 years old and when I was at school we had it hammered into us every other day. I can remember even in my first grade where we had a copybook where we learnt to write properly between the given lines. I take pride in the fact that, today, I have quite nice handwriting and always have had, probably because of my being taught very well. As for spelling, I also take pride in the fact that I class myself as "up there" with the best. Also our tables were drummed into us and, still to this day, and until the day I die, will always be programmed in my memory bank. You could never beat the old-faswhioned system of the three Rs. There is absolutely no question about it, and this is what they must do and the sooner the better".


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, October 03, 2005

Poverty of Mind and Spirit - The Solution

"In response to Evan Sayet's "Dead Man Walking" piece about the lack of ideas coming from the Democrat Party, Richard Becker writes:

"Does ANYONE know what the Dems plan to do to improve our schools?

I know what the Dems plan to do to improve our schools, and that is spending more on the schooling system that has passed for education in the decades since the infamous "Great Society" social(ist) spending that proclaimed it would improve decaying and crumbling cities, poor housing, POOR QUALITY EDUCATION, etc. Billions of taxpayer dollars spent to create the huge deficit and dependence on government as the alleged solution for everything (even Republicans seem to be afflicted with that), the problems not only remain but have gotten worse!

Spending more on schooling that passes for education is no solution, because education quality was better prior to the mid '60s when spending was only $484 per student K-12 in 1965 (U.S. News & World Report 9-1-'75 p44) and is now approaching $7,000 per student amid a clamor for more improve education!!!! RHB "

What Evan and Richard are saying is not so much that the Democrat Party has no ideas but that the underlying principles upon which they govern not only haven't worked but continue to debilitate and enslave many Americans. The Democrat Party didn't plan for so many things to go wrong. It just turned out that way. Let's look at those failed principles.

Collectivist Thought. The Great Depression was the culmination of a century of anti-business sentiment stemming from the unregulated freedom business enjoyed. From railroad barons, to oil monopolist to irresponsible stock market speculators there was always plenty of ammunition for Democrats to convince ordinary Americans that they were being oppressed. The crash of 1929 was that Party's "proof" that business was at its core "corrupt". The Party adopted Marx's collectivist thought to solve the problems of the day. They didn't. They resulted in 12 years of anti-business solutions that left 17% of Americans out of work on December 7, 1941 when World War II corrected that. Unfortunately, the United States suffers today from a hangover from that thought. Democrats don't solve problems; they generally just throw money at them. Their answer is never to face the issue of inefficiency but to solve it by redistributing money from the rich to the poor, a now failed policy that is the energizing principle of the "new" and "old" left in America. That idea has failed but the Democrats insist it hasn't.

Self-Esteem. A century of psychology has ushered in a collective guilt the Democrat Party and their elite in academia have used to perpetuate anti-business and anti-authority policies. By supporting the elimination of discipline in schools, 50% of the black population doesn't even get a high school education. Without discipline and structure the schools have decayed and the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened. Unfortunately, throwing money at the problem has only exacerbated it. Having been denied structure and discipline, it isn't a mystery why crime, dependency and misapplied concern have resulted in the poverty of mind and spirit of so many Americans. The failure to support American values and heritage in the name of "multiculturalism" has resulted in such confusion that many Americans are rebelling at the Democrat Party whose intent it appears is to replace secularism and patriotism with evolution and a masochistic psychoanalysis.

Short-term Prognosis. I could go on for pages describing how the Democrat Party's governing principles are unfair and haven't worked. But if you are breathing you already know that. That Party's failure to put forward a cohesive plan, at its core, involves the rejection of collectivism and the adoption of pro-business, privatization concepts as well as re-establishing a positive pro-American initiative involving discipline and structure.

At this juncture Democrats don't buy that. Hillary Clinton is their hope to continue their "hopeless" "village" "group" "collectivist" agenda. John Kerry presidential run was not the defeat they needed to change. They need a real whipping...."

More here


Orwell would recognize it

State schools chief Jack O'Connell said Friday he will consider "additional options" that would give the 90,000 seniors who have yet to pass the California High School Exit Exam a shot at graduation in June. O'Connell said his decision does not waver from his long-standing belief that the state should not make special accommodations for students struggling to pass the exam, which is a graduation requirement this year for the first time. But his comments drew sharp criticism from the test's supporters, who said the superintendent was sending a mixed message to students, teachers and parents.

"We're staying the course, but does that mean we should preclude every possible option?" O'Connell said. "We're going to look at (other options) very carefully, but it's not a change of position one iota."

Jim Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence, called O'Connell's announcement a retreat that threatened efforts to hold students of all racial and economic backgrounds to the same academic expectations. "It's a sad day when the adults of the state will redraw targets before targeting the problem that kids are not being taught what they need to know," Lanich said.

O'Connell's comments followed the release Friday of a report by an independent consultant that said about 78 percent of the class of 2006 has passed the exam, which tests students on seventh-and eighth-grade math skills and ninth-and 10th-grade English skills. Students must pass both parts.

More here

Chancellor Klein's Dirty Kiss

More outrage from NYC. Reminder for the poor benighted folk who don't live in NYC: Chancellor Klein is in charge of the New York City public school system. He is the former Clinton-era Justice Department federal prosecutor in the Microsoft case. He is the first chancellor to have absolute and total control of the system through the Mayor, Bloomberg

Every day is a time to celebrate the contributions of teachers, says bleeding hypocrite Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City schools. Not long ago,on the pretext of it being National Teacher Day, he codified his venal acclaim in a letter that soiled every teacher's mailbox. It was just another masked insult dished out to teachers forced to endure hisabusive reign. This destroyer of education and morale sent a syrupy letter to teachers praising them for "opening the minds" of students and helping them to "prepare to become our City's next generation of citizens."

It prattles on how "every single teacher plays a critical role in our mission to put children first," and credits teachers who work "every day in our classrooms to inspire."What a guy!This kind of patronizing letter is like the turkey that factory workers used to get on Thanksgiving to distract them from the misery of horrible working conditions. Being told, in effect, to "have a nice day" as the knife is being twisted deep into your back at the most critical vertebrae is not much comfort, although it serves to throw the victim off his guard.

Nobody but nobody among classroom educators in the New York City public school system believes that Chancellor Klein is a man of decency or genuine vision. He has done more to ruin the school system than have all the combined educational leaders who have preceded him in this City since Hiroshima. And whatever good was preserved from the past or new evil avoided is by accident.

Chancellor Klein is at war with the folks to whom he is kissing up in his National Teacher day letter.



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, October 02, 2005


A new book by Douglas J. Slawson, The Department of Education Battle, 1918–1932, is a case study in federal government involvement. Slawson focuses on an especially active period of lobbying for and against a federal department of education, a period that ended with the forces of government expansion defeated (an unfortunately too-rare outcome). Of course, the advocates of a Cabinet-level department would eventually get their wish, when a separate U.S. Department of Education came into being almost 50 years later in 1979. (Federal funding and regulation were already long established by that point.)

Slawson’s book, published by The University of Notre Dame Press, highlights the role of Catholics in defeating the drive for a federal department of education. Protective of the school system they built at heavy cost, Catholics were sensitive to any move that appeared to threaten their schools’ existence. It was the 1920s after all, an era of anti-Catholic sentiment that manifested itself, among other places, in an Oregon law that mandated public-school attendance for elementary-age children. (The law was nullified by the courts, a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court in 1925.)

As Slawson points out, Catholics were not alone, however; in fact, they were “in the political mainstream.” President Coolidge in particular was concerned with shrinking government expenses, and the creation of another Cabinet-level department was hardly consonant with that goal. Lutherans, too, who boasted a large parochial school system of their own, lobbied against the establishment of a mechanism that could be used to standardize schooling and make life difficult for non-public education.

On the other side were a variety of public school proponents, the National Education Association among the more respectable of them. Already a powerful and astute lobbyist, the NEA, failing in the contemporary political climate to get the whole package of a federal department and federal funding for schools, settled on a piecemeal campaign, whereby a department would be achieved first. Funding and control would naturally follow.

But opponents were wise to the strategy. Jesuit Paul Blakely at America magazine opined that any federal involvement represented the nose of a camel poking into the education tent: “Soon the whole animal would be inside.” Catholics understood that the federal government had a valuable and vital role to play in American society, a role articulated and delineated in the Constitution. But education regulation was clearly intended by the Constitution to be a function of local and state governments. Catholics perceived that their self-interest and constitutional principles coincided and they made the most of it.

The push for bigger government is relentless, however, and the NEA and its allies eventually won their department. The latest installment of federal funding (and control), the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has continued the trend. As one veteran educator put it, public school administrators are “pulling out their hair” trying to comply with the Act’s extensive reporting requirements, which mandate not only administration and tabulation of test scores for every student, but tracking of progress made by sub-groups such as African-Americans, to ensure that no group is being left behind.

The impetus behind NCLB -- discontent with the poor quality of public education in many parts of the country -- was justified. But the effort to address the problem, coming as it did from a national office incapable of taking into account local variations, became a bureaucratic nightmare. The NEA is now among the loudest critics of NCLB. But the act is the logical result of a federal department of education that the NEA lobbied strenuously for decades to create. The power of the leviathan appears seductive until it has passed out of one’s own control. Instead, and in retrospect, the uncompromising approach of the Catholic opposition 80 years ago appears to be validated. When next it is proposed that the federal government get involved in an area beyond what the Constitution provides, we should remember the warning about the nose of a camel

More here

Learning As A Martial Art

A thought-provoking perspective

Learning is all about motivation. Students will race around a track in sheets of rain and howling wind. In any chosen athletic contest or training they will wring every ounce of energy from their psyche and body. They will not wait to be driven but will drive themselves to collapse and be exhilarated by team loyalty and pride in their personal self-discipline. They will love and obey the slaphappy coach who makes Marine drill instructors seem like dishrags but bulldozes his students to victory over the limitations of others and of themselves. Why will these same kids despise the classroom teacher who insists they bring a pencil to school each day?

There are probably no martial artists on staff at Columbia University Teachers College, but many karate instructors know more how to motivate youth than do most experts from the academic educational industry. The "sensei"solidly teaches all his students what is needed to survive and prevail. He points out striking links between coping with life itself and managing one's affairs in the kickboxing or grappling ring. The combat is not necessarily literal. It's not about kicking, twisting limbs, strangling, dislocating joints or moving on your back or stomach.

The techniques they teache stand for more than the actions themselves. Students are learning more than a fighting skill. They are learning patience, how to follow directions, acceptance of pain, humility, confidence, and to outlet our built-up emotions. They are learning how to be accountable for what we do and not to blame others or make excuses for our laziness or other weaknesses. They are discovering that hard work equals success, and a mental discipline from which we learn the value of kindness to others. We will put these values into our lives. They will make us better workers, parents, and citizens." What has all this to do with academics?

Everything! Intellect is served by character and character is fueled by intellect. Students need them in order to confront difficult, unexpected, and sometimes maddening answers. Students need to be in control of their own inner resources and not have the chaos within them catered to and rationalized away. They must organize their projects. Just as they put socks, sweaters, and underwear into separate drawers, they must compartmentalize their chores and assignments, whether academic or otherwise.

The majority of school systems would never stomach, much less authorize their schools to hold students liable for their failed will power.Their students would never consent to be relieved of responsibility even if they were offered it. Kids who gut texts, set pails on fire, pull fire alarms, discharge extinguishers, spray graffiti on desks, and vandalize toilets in the public school that mollycoddles them, will within days of starting physical and moral training at an average martial arts school, volunteer for the privilege of wiping the sweat off his martial arts school mats.

They are fiercely loyal to their community and their teacher. They know he will make non-negotiable demands on his kids so that they will take responsibility for their destinies. They learn to deal with life's unfair and inevitable obstacles. They will bow to the black belt champion, but thumb their noses at the public school system that they realize is holding them back, even while it patronizes them. Teachers, the agents of inspiration, are like salmon swimming upstream in an inhospitable river.

In a kickboxing ring there is no such thing as not having done your homework. The fighter must be perfectly "on task" and in control of temper and temptation. He cannot plagiarize a battle plan. He must be able to adapt to the strategies of others. He must take the blows and not lose focus. He must learn to abide by rules made by others and master his rage even when a referee makes a mistake and his long hard work doesn't get the earned trophy. Classroom teachers are referees too. They may deduct too many points off a test.

Most people scoff at martial arts philosophy, because they associate it with quotes of corny wisdom, cloned action sequences, stock characters, and poor speech-to-mouth coordination. The truth is, that properly presented, it gives kids the core values that are absent from any approved syllabus in our public schools.

Many chief educational administrators in America have no credentials whatsoever as professional educators. They believe that any manager can manage any administrative unit, whether a hospital, jail, or school. That is debatable. Perhaps the qualifications of being an educator should be illustrated rather than defined. But definitely a teacher, in the deepest sense, can come from any walk of life. Many martial arts instructors are more in the tradition of Socrates than is your local school's Dean of Discipline. As our schools spasm in violent underachievement, the last refuge for a sound education may be a metaphorical ring of combat



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