Saturday, October 22, 2005


A magazine cover story about postmodern life on the American college campus depicts three monkeys in cap and gown, covering their ears, eyes and mouth, a parody of the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil caricature. But students at many colleges actually get quite the opposite. They're required to hear, see, speak and study all about evil, as long as it's the evil oppression of everybody in American society.

Parents, inoculate yourselves. It may be too late for your children.

There's an emphasis on multicultural studies and few campuses have escaped the disease, and it's not yet Halloween. The title of a course taught to undergraduates in American studies at New York University, for example, is called "Intersections: Gender Race and Sexuality in U.S. History and Politics." You might think this is a strange way to get at American history. The class spends a week analyzing the murder of Teena Brandon (aka Brandon Teena), a young woman who pretended to be a man, and includes the screening of the movie, "Boys Don't Cry," the narrative version.

The following week students study the life and murder of Tupac Shakur, the "gangsta" rapper whose rough and raw lyrics glorified drugs, abusing women and the violence that finally took his life. There's "Queer Lives and Culture," "Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora," and a discussion of the relationship of gender, race and war in Haiti through the lens of "Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism." One teaching assistant of this course describes herself as an "anti-racist queer activist feminist." That covers just about everything, except the tuition for a year at NYU, which parents shell out $40,000.

Smith College, the elite school that once was only for women, and still is, sort of, has a different problem. About two dozen women who arrived as female have become male, more or less. The Financial Times reports that some of the more traditional "girls in pearls" on campus think the new "guys" should transfer to a co-ed college. Smith has long been "gay friendly," but now that girls have become "boys" Smithies joke that the school motto is "Queer in a year or your money back." It's not a joke, and it costs $37,000 a year.

Somewhere Sophia Smith is spinning. The Massachusetts woman who left her fortune to create a college where women "could develop as fully as may be the powers of womanhood" did not have a third sex in mind. Once known for their dedication to academic rigor, Smith students voted to change the school constitution to purge all "gender-specific" language. No "she" and no "her," but an all-purpose "student." The Rev. L. Clark Seelye, the first president of Smith College, said that the study of English should produce clarity of thought and expression. Other seats of higher learning have gone farther, creating synthetic pronouns, using "hir" for "her" or "his," and "ze" for "she" and "he". You thought "herstory" for "history" was a joke.

Smith is not alone in disfiguring what passes for education. A popular introductory freshman course at the University of Pennsylvania deconstructs Herman Melville and other dead white males (if not white whales), seeking hidden meanings of homosexuality, pederasty and incest. Majors in the humanities are down, and why not? In "Binge: What Your College Student Won't Tell you," author Barrett Seaman finds lots of colleges that promote gay-ity. Vassar College has a "Homo Hop" and the Queer Student Union at Williams College holds a "Queer Bash" with gay pornography, widely attended by straight students. Adrienne Rich, a lesbian poet, encourages young women to experiment with homosexuality and bisexuality.

An authentic liberal education promotes both character and understanding with a rigorous study of what Matthew Arnold called "the best that is known and thought in the world." When dead white males like Thomas Jefferson and John Milton are replaced, or must compete with popular studies about transgendered males and newly-minted homosexual heroes in classic novels, students are deprived of any trace of disciplined thought. They're doubly vulnerable when at the same time they're encouraged to indulge in undisciplined social experimentation without anchors of moral reference.

"Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Afro-American Studies, Women's Studies, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Studies," writes Roger Kimball, author of "Tenured Radicals," in New Criterion magazine, "are not the names of academic disciplines but political grievances... Parents are alarmed, rightly so, at the spectacle of their children going off to college one year and coming back the next having jettisoned every moral, religious, social and political scruple they have been brought up to believe." These studies inhibit debate, corrupt young minds and infect learning with a virus for which, like bird flu, there is not yet an antidote.



One school in four no better than mediocre, says Ofsted. And you can be sure that "mediocre" is a very polite way of putting it

The head of Ofsted cast doubt yesterday on the effectiveness of key government programmes for raising standards in schools. David Bell said that one in four schools continued to offer "nothing better than mediocrity" to their pupils despite an overall decline in levels of outright failure. Pupils who had fallen behind in English and maths continued to struggle at secondary school despite initiatives costing hundreds of millions of pounds to help them. Primary schools were ignoring efforts to broaden the curriculum, while a minority of head teachers were actively resisting attempts to improve classroom standards.

Mr Bell gave warning in his annual report for the 2004-05 academic year that "the challenge of dealing with some persistent weaknesses in our education system should not be underestimated". A "significant minority" of primary schools had failed to use materials designed to improve teaching standards across the curriculum as part of the Government's Primary National Strategy. "Primary schools have been reluctant to risk losing hard-won improvements in English and mathematics and have missed opportunities to broaden the curriculum by not giving enough emphasis to other subjects," it said.

Schools with the worst results "lacked a sense of urgency and determination in taking effective action to improve achievement". Ofsted said: "Overall, schools have not evaluated sharply enough the impact of actions on the achievement of all pupils." Many schools gave their most able children extra work to do "rather than matching the curriculum more closely to their needs and providing sufficiently challenging teaching".

Pupils in greatest need of help were "too frequently" left with untrained classroom assistants, while teachers concentrated on the rest of the class.

The Chief Inspector was even harsher on the Key Stage 3 National Strategy, which cost 670 pounds million last year and aims to boost standards in the early years of secondary school. Catch-up lessons in English and maths for children who had fallen behind were unsatisfactory in a quarter of secondaries and good in only a third. Ofsted said that "well under half of pupils" had caught up with their peers by the age of 14.

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, announced on Monday that she will spend a further 450 million pounds by 2008 on catch-up tuition, including one-to-one and small group lessons. The Department for Education and Skills has also awarded a 178 million pound contract to the consultancy firm Capita to advise schools on improving the primary and secondary strategies over the next five years.

Ofsted concluded that the Key Stage 3 strategy, introduced in 2001, had made an "inadequate" impact in 20 per cent of secondary schools. In half of schools, "the intended substantial transformation in the effectiveness of teaching and sharp rise in standards have not yet occurred".

Some teachers know too little about their subject, particularly in mathematics, to respond effectively to pupils' questions. The report raised concerns about maths teaching generally. There had been a "marked drop" in maths achievement at GCSE compared with results in national curriculum tests at 14. The initial positive effect of the national numeracy strategy in primary schools had slowed and there was evidence of a rise in unsatisfactory achievement by the youngest pupils. The report said: "Renewed momentum to tackle these issues and improve achievement is needed."

Ofsted said that the Government's Primary Leadership Programme, which focuses on heads of the 4,500 weakest schools, had been "compromised by the resistance to change of a small minority of schools and their failure to recognise that raising standards needs to be a key outcome of the programme".

More herre


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 21, 2005


by Norman Levitt

A new buzzword has entered the lexicon of academic fashion in the USA, threatening to drown poor professors like me in yet another wave of coy euphemism. The term is 'cultural competence'. Like its predecessors 'affirmative action,' 'diversity,' and 'multiculturalism', it attempts to cloak problematical and even disturbing policy initiatives in linguistic vestments that suggest that no right-minded person could possibly demur. A 'culturally competent' academic, one might naively surmise, would be one who has absorbed and is able to propound some of the deep values - ethical, aesthetic or epistemological - that embody the stellar achievements of Western culture, one who could explain, for instance, why Dante or Kant or Ingres is present, at least subtly, in the assumptions under which we all live. Or something like that.

This, alas, would be a comical error. 'Cultural competence' is, in essence, a bureaucratic weapon. 'Cultural competence', or rather, your presumed lack thereof, is what you will be clobbered with if you are imprudent enough to challenge or merely to have qualms about 'affirmative action', 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism', as those principles are now espoused by their most fervent academic advocates. Cultural competence, like the UK's proposed new identity card, is something a professor is supposed to keep handy at all times, and to display with a straight face whenever confronted with a socially or ethnically charged situation, in order to dispel any suspicion of racism, sexism or Eurocentrism that might arise in the minds of the professionally suspicious.

The term has been around for a couple of years, drastically mutating as it puts down deeper roots. Originally, it was fairly innocuous. It was largely restricted to the healthcare professions, and referred to the ability to function effectively with members of ethnic minorities and immigrant groups by dint of insights into the local community's idiosyncratic prejudices, fears and assumptions, insofar as these differed from the norms of middle-class white society. It seems obvious that such knowledge could be helpful to a doctor, nurse or social worker hoping to convince patients or clients from these groups to keep medical appointments, complete a course of antibiotics or have their children vaccinated. Though cultural competence, in this sense, presumes a degree of open-mindedness and empathy, it seems only vaguely political, at most.

Now, however, cast loose from its original moorings, the phrase has become emphatically political. I offer the reader, with some trepidation, the formal definition as jargonistically set out by some purported educators: Cultural competence requires that individuals and organisations:

a) Have a defined set of values and principles, demonstrated behaviours, attitudes, policies and structures that enable them to work effectively in a cross-cultural manner;

b) Demonstrate the capacity to 1) value diversity, 2) engage in self-reflection, 3) manage the dynamics of difference, 4) acquire and institutionalise cultural knowledge, and 5) adapt to the diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities they serve;

c) Incorporate and advocate the above in all aspects of leadership, policymaking, administration, practice and service delivery while systematically involving staff, students, families, key stakeholders and communities.

If we divest this of its thick integument of happy talk and explore the details, we find that in practice it means deference, even servility, toward the norms and values espoused by fervent multiculturalists, along with tame assent to whatever measures they propose to achieve their aims. Attempts to explicate the idea occasionally slip into language that reveals the underlying political programme:

In the context of higher education, cultural competence necessitates abject refusal to articulate or defend ideas that might make certain protected groups uncomfortable. Professors can only be deemed 'culturally competent' if they openly profess the approved corpus of received values.

Here is an illustrative if fragmentary list of transgressions that would likely strip an academic of any chance of being designated culturally competent:

* Suggesting that affirmative action might conflict with other standards of justice and equity, or that opponents of affirmative action are not ipso facto Klansmen waiting for their white sheets to come back from the laundry;

* Taking issue with the claim that Malcolm X was a paragon of humanitarianism and political genius;

* Disputing the wisdom of feminist theory as regards the social constructedness of gender;

* Asserting that the early demographic history of the Americas is more accurately revealed by scientific anthropology than by the Native American folklore and myth celebrated by tribal militants;

* Expressing doubts that 'queer theory' should be made the epicenter of literary studies.

Likewise, to maintain that hiring, retention and promotion within the university should focus on the traditional academic virtues of the scholar, rather than assigning enormous importance to the candidate's race, ethnicity, sex or sexuality, would banish one permanently from the culturally competent elect. To deny that feminist theorists should call all the shots on matters having to do with sexual harassment would be an act of self-immolation.

Much more here


The six-year-old Troops to Teachers program recruits and prepares former members of the armed services to teach in public school. A new report on the 7,500 teachers who have gone through the program from Virginia's Old Dominion University reveals that nine of every ten principals surveyed say the former troops are unusually effective, particularly in areas of greatest need. They are more likely to teach in high-poverty schools. They are also more likely to teach hard-to-staff subjects such as math and science. The program also adds diversity: 37% of the former members of the armed forces are non-white, compared with 15% of the general teaching force, providing role models for minority children.

The news gets better: more than 80% are men. That's a badly needed jolt. The number of men teaching in K-12 classrooms has plummeted from 31% in 1986 to 18% this year, and the academic performance of boys in those grades has plummeted as they've left - an under-noticed national problem with sweeping implications. Junior high and middle schools - grades 6 through 9 - appear to have taken the biggest losses, and suffered the greatest impact. During those middle school years, gender gaps in verbal skills double in size, an assortment of research shows. That sets boys up to fail in high school. And they do, graduating and attending college far less often than girls do. Troops to Teachers is one of the few effective counter-strategies that has been found. Finding a way to boost the numbers would be even better news.

Soldiers know the importance of preparation, unlike high school seniors who are long on college ambitions but short on preparation to make those dreams come true. This week, the National Center for Education Statistics defined the problem quite sharply. Though an impressive 62% of high school seniors said they plan to attend a four-year college, only a third of those have mastered even low-level math skills. The news doesn't get any better for the more ambitious students, those planning on getting a graduate degree. Only about half of those can handle intermediate math skills. This not the first time surveys have picked up this mismatch. A poll sponsored in part by the Gates Foundation this year reported that nearly 90% of young people of all races and income levels would like to get a college degree. But according to the Census Bureau, only about a third of 25-29 year-olds have college degrees. Among African-Americans, 17% have earned degrees. Among Hispanics, 11%.

The reason for the mismatch is clear: Only 32% of high school seniors graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college, according to a 2005 report from the Manhattan Institute. Recent reports from Achieve Inc., a school reform group led by business leaders and governors, help explain the gap between ambition and reality. While more than 70% of high school seniors enter two- and four-year colleges, nearly half end up taking either remedial English or math courses. The odds of dropping out rise sharply with the number of non-credit, remedial courses a student is required to take.

Much of the blame for the poor preparation falls on the students: Only 56% who took the 2005 ACT college admissions test studied a college-preparation curriculum: four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies. So much ambition, so little preparation. Such a needless waste.

More here


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

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

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


Thursday, October 20, 2005


You think it's a joke, don't you? Or at least a bit exaggerated. Go here and you will see every one of the ten rules multiply documented.


Top marks in cooking and dance could help West Australian students into university law degrees, ahead of those who studied physics and chemistry. n education lobby group opposed to the state's new curriculum yesterday described the 50 new subjects being finalised by WA's Curriculum Council as nonsense. The changes mean that old subjects that did not count towards tertiary entrances will be scrapped.

Curriculum council acting chief executive Greg Robson has described the rewritten courses as intellectually rigorous, providing real challenges for students who reach the top levels in each course. "All we are trying to do is recognise a broad array of achievement," Mr Robson said. He said he understood that some teachers were reluctant to accept that food science and technology was as worthy a subject as physics but that view was out of date. "It makes a lot of sense to acknowledge high standards wherever they are. "There is a huge difference between a highly-talented chef and what he or she prepares and the average Joe like me who has trouble cooking a steak."

Among the new subjects being drafted are physical education, food science and technology, dance, religion and life, building and construction, children, family and the community, Australian indigenous languages and recreational and environmental studies. But People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes claims it is outrageous for subjects such as food science and technology -- no matter how challenging -- to be considered on a par with the sciences and mathematics. PLATO co-founder Greg Williams said until universities set pre-requisites for entry to courses that presently did not have any, the system would be open to manipulation. "I don't have a problem with these courses coming into the calculation of a student's tertiary entrance score -- they can put needlework in as far as I'm concerned -- but I have a problem with the fact that level 8 physical education is being considered equally as difficult as level 8 calculus," he said.

The new courses are part of the state's outcomes-based education model in which no student can fail and everyone achieves at least one of eight levels of difficulty. Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has been highly critical of OBE and the introduction of similar models in other states. The State School Teachers Union is generally supportive, claiming the present system treats students, who are not destined for university, as second-class citizens. Under the proposed OBE model, any subject can be examined for university entrance, with only those students who achieve at the top three levels (six, seven and eight) in each subject considered for a tertiary place. "In theory you could do metalwork, woodwork, cooking and English and if you get high enough 'levels' in those you can get into one of the most demanding university courses that doesn't set any prerequisites. And at the moment that includes law," Mr Williams said.

Mr Williams's criticisms come as a delegation of university physicists prepare to meet Mr Robson and other Curriculum Council chiefs today to discuss concerns about OBE. Introduced to West Australian primary schools 10 years ago, the OBE model has similarities to those systems already in place in NSW and Victoria. The council claims universities have backed the new courses saying these will provide students with greater opportunities than current subjects.



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 19, 2005


Enforced ideological conformity that the Soviets would have been proud of

The cultural left has a new tool for enforcing political conformity in schools of education. It is called dispositions theory, and it was set forth five years ago by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Future teachers should be judged by their "knowledge, skills, and dispositions." What are "dispositions"? NCATE's prose made clear that they are the beliefs and attitudes that guide a teacher toward a moral stance. That sounds harmless enough, but it opened a door to reject teaching candidates on the basis of thoughts and beliefs. In 2002, NCATE said that an education school may require a commitment to social justice. William Damon, a professor of education at Stanford, wrote last month that education schools "have been given unbounded power over what candidates may think and do, what they may believe and value."

NCATE vehemently denies that it is imposing groupthink, but the ed schools, essentially a liberal monoculture, use dispositions theory to require support for diversity and a culturally left agenda, including opposition to what the schools sometimes call "institutional racism, classism, and heterosexism." Predictably, some students concluded that thought control would make classroom dissent dangerous. A few students rebelled when a teacher at Brooklyn College School of Education showed Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 in class and dismissed "white English" as "the language of oppressors." Five students filed written complaints and received no formal reply from the college. One was told to leave the school and take an equivalent course at a community college. Two of the complaining students were then accused of plagiarism and marked down one letter grade. The two were refused permission to bring a witness, a tape recorder, or a lawyer to meet with a dean to discuss the matter.

K. C. Johnson, a history professor at the school who defended the dissenting students, became a target himself. After writing an article in Inside Higher Ed attacking dispositions theory as a form of mind control, Johnson faced a possible investigation by a faculty Integrity Committee. The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education entered the case on Johnson's behalf, accusing the college of viewpoint discrimination and a violation of academic freedom. FIRE is a national civil liberties group that does what the American Civil Liberties Union should be doing but usually won't. FIRE said: "Brooklyn College must confirm that it tolerates dissent, that it is not conducting another secret investigation of one of its own professors." FIRE says the college has "disavowed any secret investigation."

Backing down:

Another battle over dispositions theory has been unfolding at Washington State University's college of education. The college threatened to terminate a student, Edward Swan, 42, for failing four "professional disposition evaluations." Swan, a religious man of working-class background, has expressed conservative opinions in class. He opposes affirmative action and doesn't believe gays should adopt children. His grades are good, and even his critics say he is highly intelligent. One teacher gave Swan a failing PDE after spotting the statement "diversity is perversity" in Swan's copy of a textbook.

At the start of the current semester, Swan was offered a choice: Sign a contract with the college or be expelled. The contract included mandatory diversity training, completing various projects at the faculty's direction, and the possibility of above-normal scrutiny during Swan's student teaching this fall. Instead of signing, Swan contacted FIRE. "Almost immediately, Swan's situation changed," said an article in the local newspaper, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. The faculty told Swan he did not have to sign the contract and would not be expelled. Judy Mitchell, dean of the college of education, said the school would continue using the PDEs. A reporter asked her if Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would pass a PDE if he were a student at the college. "I don't know how to answer that," Mitchell replied.

David French, president of FIRE, then jumped in. "I commend the dean for her honesty," he said. "But the answer is alarming because Scalia shouldn't fail any 'character' test because of his beliefs." Obviously, the dean had a problem. She couldn't say that no conservatives need apply, and she couldn't tell her faculty that the PDE s would be waived for someone like Scalia. In both the Johnson and the Swan cases, the colleges backed down when FIRE went public, but neither agreed to avoid using dispositions theory for apparently ideological purposes. The lesson for education students is clear: Say what you think in class, and if the administration moves against you, give FIRE a call



(Post lifted from Colossus of Rhodey)

We've said it before (most recently here), and we'll say it again: "Diversity" doesn't equate to any academic benefits, and those who argue loudest for "diversity" never can answer why the supposed "benefit" of their ideology doesn't apply to HBCs -- Historically Black Colleges. John Rosenberg picks up on the latest example. And, like John's Florida A&M post, more recently Delaware State University recently revealed its own share of ... troubles. Wonder how that will affect enrollment.

Notice what John posts about the University of Kentucky:

That explanation (about reasons why black enrollment dropped) brought an angry response from several black Kentucky lawmakers, who accused the university of offering poor excuses for its own failure to maintain diversity...

However, at Delaware State the "legacy of an historically black institution" cannot be "disregarded." Today, Delaware's very own race hustler, Jea Street, continued to say as much:

"All are welcome at our university, and should be welcome, but we can't stand idly by and allow the legacy of the institution to change. He (DSU President Allen Sessoms) needs to go, and the board needs to go. The onus falls on the governor. I want to hear two words from him: 'I quit.' "

Don't believe Street for a second. If Sessoms' efforts to "increase diversity" succeed, and whites begin to outnumber blacks at DSU, Street will be screaming bloody murder about DSU's "lost legacy" and will have forgotten all about his "all are welcome" statement mighty quick.

But therein lies the conundrum: Sessoms, like those black lawmakers Rosenberg noted in Kentucky, want "diversity" -- apparently for its supposed educational/academic benefits. However, one of the reasons Sessoms is under fire (by black lawmakers and alumni alike) at DSU is precisely because of his spoken efforts to increase ... diversity! Loudmouths like Street are constantly in the newspaper and local TV screaming about how [public] school choice in Delaware is leading to "resegregation"; but it's plain 'ol Jea just wants his cake and to be able to eat it too -- as evidenced by his ranting about DSU.

For the record: We at Colossus believe that HBCs should be allowed to maintain their unique legacy and identity. But we also recognize that "diversity" is a pitiful excuse for a desire to increase "academic achievement," and university efforts to do whatever it takes to increase such "diversity" (ie, minority enrollment) are largely a waste of time of money.


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 18, 2005

Schools boot out bureaucrats to win pupils to new 'brands'

Amazing progress towards choice coming in Britain

Companies and top head teachers will form rival education "brands" to run groups of secondary schools under government plans for a classroom revolution. Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, aims to create local education markets to increase competitive pressures on state schools to improve standards.

Local authority controls will be swept away to give rival brands the freedom to respond to "parent power". Schools will be allowed to write their own curriculum to create greater choice and tailor education to the needs of different pupils. Ms Kelly has drawn up a list of businesses and charities to be invited to enter the schools market. The Times has learnt that new providers could be in place by next September, underlining Tony Blair's impatience at the current pace of reform.

Ambitious heads will be free to become "chief executives" of chains of schools, and private schools will be encouraged to protect their charitable status by establishing their brands in the state sector. They will be given funding to run state schools, which would use the power of the private school's image to attract parents.

Ms Kelly will publish a White Paper next week that will promise to abolish bureaucratic obstacles and harness "parent power" to reshape the education system. Local authorities will lose powers to block the expansion of popular schools or prevent new providers entering the market. School Organisation Committees, in which council officials decide policy with representatives of heads and governors, will be abolished. Instead, heads will run their own affairs in charge of "independent state schools". Councils will be left to ensure that local markets operate fairly, for example in admissions policies.

Local authority boundaries will be broken down to encourage providers to enter the market. Organisations will be able to run groups of schools across the country as part of their "brand", seeking new business by offering to run underperforming comprehensives. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) will also steer them towards struggling inner-city schools to ensure that poorer pupils have the same opportunities as those in wealthier suburbs.

Brands will be held accountable for the performance of all schools within their group. Parents will be able to lobby for new providers to take over the management of schools if they are dissatisfied with standards. Heads with records of academic success would be encouraged to expand their influence by taking over several schools. Assistant heads in charge of individual schools would be accountable to this "chief executive" for the success of the brand in responding to parental demands


Labour councils will resent loss of empires

Another commernt on the new British reforms

The Government's White Paper plan for sweeping reform of secondary schools gives substance to Ruth Kelly's pledge to put "parent power" at the heart of education. Head teachers will be free to shape schools in response to parental wishes, subject only to rules on fair admissions. New providers will vie for parental support to take over under-performing schools.

Successful heads will be free to extend their influence to other schools. Companies, charities and fee-paying schools will be encouraged to create "brand" identities that give purpose and pride to groups of comprehensives, particularly in inner-city areas. The package promises to be the most "new Labour" of Tony Blair's education reforms with its aim of using consumer pressure to reshape public sector provision.

But the proposal to establish local education markets threatens a showdown with many Labour MPs, who will see it as further evidence of Mr Blair's desire to open public services to private providers. Labour councils will also be hostile to the move to break up their education empires and relegate them to an advisory role. School organisation committees, set up by Labour in its first term as part of moves to abolish grant-maintained status, will go. They are seen as obstacles because heads who wish to expand come under pressure from their council and other schools.

The proposal to allow schools to design their own curriculum, subject to DfES approval, will be seen as particularly radical given the hostility that Ms Kelly attracted for her rejection in February of reforms set out by Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former head of Ofsted, to replace GCSEs and A levels with a diploma. New school providers will be able to negotiate their own pay and conditions agreements with teachers, in the same way as city academies [charter schools], to encourage innovation.

Teachers' unions will be fearful that this marks the end of national salary scales. However, their experience in academies so far has been one of improved conditions. The White Paper will confirm the creation of 200 academies by 2010 and ministers are confident that the goal will be achieved quite comfortably.

The reforms have been driven by a Prime Minister who is desperate to stamp his legacy on education and health before he stands down. Last week he told his monthly press conference: "By the end of the third term I want every school that wants to be, to be able to be an independent non-fee paying state school with the freedom to innovate and develop in the way it wants and the way the parents at the school want, subject to certain common standards, and the White Paper will be the route map to make this happen."

Mr Blair highlighted the example of Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, a successful inner-city school in South London where 86 per cent of pupils gained five good GCSEs last year. He said it had raised standards without altering its intake of pupils. "The whole purpose of our reform programme is to give the kids in the poorer more disadvantaged areas the chance of a really good school," he said. The school has formed a federation with a second academy, the Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy, that has opened on the site of the Malory School in Bromley, where only 15 per cent of pupils passed five good GCSEs



New York City Schools Chancellor Klein has redefined contraband as any token of love, gratitude, or holiday cheer, worth over five dollars retail, gifted to teachers by students and their parents. If no security bugs caught me secreting a Santa Claus mug into my knockoff gym bag, I should for now avoid the wrath of the Office of Special Investigations, which is the closest modern equivalent of King Henry the Eighth's Court of Star Chamber. But as a respecter of the spirit of giving, I am high-risk as a tempter of fate.

Klein has ruled that because teachers are far more prone to corruption than is the general population and can be assumed to put their souls on market for a silk tie, they must be protected from their impulses. Any seasonal gift worth more than a slice of cherry pie must be returned to the sender.

Not only does that decree assume the worst of teachers' judgment, an attitude recognized as Klein's calling card, but also it is unenforceable, counterproductive, and insulting to all. It implies that educators can be bought, that their sense of honor is apocryphal, that students and parents have no other motive than seeking to bribe or otherwise curry favor, and that a crisis of integrity has arisen across the board. Parents by their own initiative have expressed outrage at the chancellor's patronizing, paternalistic, and hypocritical fiat. The same Conflict of Interests Board that is lauding Klein for his five-dollar cap, two summers ago allowed one of Klein's senior deputies, already drawing pay equal to that of a U.S. Supreme Court Judge, to hold a different six-figure, unrelated, overlapping second job.

Is Klein for real or is he spoofing Scrooge? Is his meanness tongue-in-cheek, or is it yet another self-caricature? How do we appraise the gift? Do we send parents flyers admonishing them to attach original receipts? Do we snip the ribbon and ravage the wrapping paper in view of the child wherever and whenever presented with the gift? Was it on sale? Was it the genuine designer article or an intellectual property rights violation? This is the stuff of satire, but it also the grist for the mill of disgust.

If a confidential informant claims that there was a $7.99 price tag on a gift that you, the teacher, failed to regurgitate, you will be called down to the Office of Special Investigations weeks after being advised that an allegation of employee misconduct has been lodged against you. You will be provided no details and may stew in speculation before your hearing. It will have a predetermined outcome and be held by a retired police detective who will be prosecutor, jury, and judge. There will be no legal oversight or standards for evidence gathering or admissibility. This is no bona-fide judicial forum.

You will be provided with no copies of any written allegations, witness testimony, or other evidence whatsoever. Subpoenas, hidden cameras, undercover surveillance agents, and other techniques may deployed to nab you absconding with a your cache of donated #2 pencils.

The Chancellor has lost many of his natural allies among reformers and educational researchers and historians. He has shunned many of the finest material assets and thinkers in the professional community. He has estranged men and women of all parties, wings, factions and philosophies. Deploying troops to interdict ten-dollar bonuses of scented soap demeans him and our common cause of serving children

From Redhog


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 17, 2005


Note the unbelievable bit I have highlighted in red. Is there hope for sanity yet?

I came to visit the Meadowcliff Elementary School. ... About 80% of Meadowcliff's students in the K-to-5 school are black, the rest Hispanic or white. It sits in a neighborhood of neat, very modest homes. About 92% of the students are definable as living at or below the poverty level, a phrase its principal, Karen Carter, abhors: "I don't like that term because most of our parents work at one or two jobs." This refusal to bend to stereotypes likely explains what happened last year at Meadowcliff.

Students' scores on the Stanford achievement rose by an average 17% over the course of one year. They took the Stanford test in September and again in May. Against the national norm, the school's 246 full-year students rose to the 35th percentile from the 25th. For math in the second grade and higher, 177 students rose to the 32nd percentile from the 14th. This is phenomenal. What happened in nine months?

Meadowcliff has two of the elements well established as necessary to a school's success--a strong, gifted principal and a motivated teaching staff. Both are difficult to find in urban school systems. Last year this Little Rock public school added a third element--individual teacher bonuses, sometimes known as "pay for performance." Paying teachers on merit is one of the most popular ideas in education. It is also arguably the most opposed idea in public education, anathema to the unions and their supporters. Meadowcliff's bonus program arrived through a back door.

Karen Carter, the school's principal, felt that her teachers' efforts were producing progress at Meadowcliff, especially with a new reading program she'd instituted. But she needed a more precise test to measure individual student progress; she also wanted a way to reward her teachers for their effort. She went to the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock. The Foundation had no money for her, and the Little Rock system's budget was a nonstarter. So the foundation produced a private, anonymous donor, which made union approval unnecessary.

Together this small group worked out the program's details. The Stanford test results would be the basis for the bonuses. For each student in a teacher's charge whose Stanford score rose up to 4% over the year, the teacher got $100; 5% to 9%--$200; 10% to 14%--$300; and more than 15%--$400. This straight-line pay-for-performance formula awarded teachers objectively in a way that squares with popular notions of fairness and skirts fears of subjective judgment. In most merit-based lines of work, say baseball, it's called getting paid for "putting numbers on the board."

Still, it required a leap of faith. "I will tell you the truth," said Karen Carter. "We thought one student would improve more than 15%." The tests and financial incentives, however, turned out to be a powerful combination. The August test gave the teachers a detailed analysis of individual student strengths and weaknesses. From this, they tailored instruction for each student. It paid off on every level.

Twelve teachers received performance bonuses ranging from $1,800 to $8,600. The rest of the school's staff also shared in the bonus pool. That included the cafeteria ladies, who started eating with the students rather than in a nearby lounge, and the custodian, whom the students saw taking books out of Carter's Corner, the "library" outside the principal's office. Total cost: $134,800. The tests cost about $10,000.

The Meadowcliff bonus program is now in its second year, amid more phenomena rarely witnessed in "school reform." Last year's bonuses were paid for by an anonymous donor; this year the school board voted to put the pay-for-performance bonuses on the district's budget. The Little Rock teachers union thereupon insisted that Meadowcliff's teachers vote for a contract waiver; 100% voted for the waiver. Another grade school, with private funding, will now try the Meadowcliff model.

The Meadowcliff program has the support of both Little Rock's superintendent, Roy Brooks, and Arkansas' director of education, Ken James. Superintendent Brooks, who was recruited from the reform movement in Florida, has cut some 100 administrative positions from the central bureaucracy and rerouted the $3.8 million savings back to the schools.

At his offices in the capitol building, Director James calls himself an "advocate of pay for performance" for a couple of reasons. Financial incentives of some sort are needed, he says, to stop math and science teachers from jumping ship to industry. And school districts like Little Rock's have to innovate fast because jobs and population are migrating internally, mostly into northwestern Arkansas. The Springdale district alone, he says, near Fayetteville and Bentonville, "hired 180 new teachers this year." Little Rock has to find a way to hold its best teachers. The teachers I saw at Meadowcliff Elementary seemed pretty happy to be there.

"School reform" is one of the greatest of the great white whales of American politics. It's by now virtually a mythical beast, chased by specialists, commissions, think tanks, governors. Gov. Bill and Hillary Clinton were famous Arkansas school reformers. With No Child Left Behind, President Bush has flung the reform fishing net over the whole country. The biggest urban school systems--New York, Chicago, L.A.--get most of the ink. But maybe the solutions are going to be found in places like Little Rock, where talented people can fly beneath the radar long enough to give good ideas a chance to prove themselves.


No Disaster Big Enough to Permit School Choice

Leftists know if the lose control of the schools, they are REALLY had-it

Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever strike the United States. Federal, state, and local governments' responses to it, sadly, were almost as calamitous. For some politicians, though, there has never been a disaster big enough to convince them to loosen government's grip on the people. Just take a look at education: Whether it is parents from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana trying to get their children's education back on track, or just parents faced with hopeless public schools, government has consistently stood in the way of families trying to help themselves.

Recently, as part of its disaster relief package, the Bush administration outlined a plan to provide federal educational relief to the families whose lives were destroyed by Katrina. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the administration is "proposing up to $2.6 billion in funding for elementary, secondary and post secondary relief" including "up to $488 million to compensate families for the costs associated with attending private schools." That last part translates into federal school vouchers.

Without question, there are excellent grounds to oppose Bush's plan, including the vouchers. Perhaps the most compelling one is that the Constitution grants the federal government no specific, enumerated, power--the only kind it may legitimately exercise--over either education or disaster relief, and if the government has proven one thing in the aftermath of Katrina, it is its complete inability to handle anything it was not specifically designed to confront. This, however, is not even close to the objections to Bush's plan voiced by most of its opponents. They are happy to involve the federal government in both disaster relief and education. What they object to is any proposal that might give victims even a little educational freedom.

Sen. Edward Kennedy demonstrated this in a press release late last month. He said that although he applauded the administration's relief efforts, he was "extremely disappointed that [Bush] has proposed providing this relief using such a politically-charged approach. This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers."

That said, pressed to not completely ignore the desires of the roughly one-third of parents in hard-hit southeastern Louisiana who had sent their kids to private schools before Katrina, Kennedy is reportedly preparing to offer them his own, big-government brand of assistance: a convoluted proposal to dispense through public schools all aid for displaced students attending private and religious schools. According to a recent report in Congressional Quarterly, Kennedy's plan would route all relief funds for students in private schools through local public school districts, which would then supply private schools with books, computers and teachers, as well as oversee all expenditures. In addition, all instruction would have to be taught on a non-ideological and non-sectarian basis.

Details of this proposal are still being worked out, so nothing is set in stone. But from what we have so far, it seems Kennedy's concept of compassion is either to push thousands of Katrina's youngest victims into public schools, or to push public schools under private school roofs.

Of course, government compassion ending when politicians and special interests might lose control is nothing new--education has proven it for decades. Kennedy, countless other politicians at every level of government, and special interest groups ranging from teachers unions to school board associations, have long preferred to trap students in disastrous public schools rather than give parents choice. Apparently, they aren't about to let some natural disaster change that.

Despite their objections, none of those who feed from the government trough can change the fact that the private sector has always been far more reliable than government, whether in education or disaster relief. Indeed, much as Wal-Mart provided water and filled prescriptions well before FEMA arrived in the Gulf Coast, private schools all over America, often at their own expense, took in refugee students before hearing a peep from Washington. Even the prestigious Phillips Academy in Massachusetts enrolled 19 displaced students according to Education Week, five of whom had attended public schools before the catastrophe. For politicians like Ted Kennedy, though, none of that matters. There will never be enough proof either of government failure or private sector success to justify getting government out of the way and letting parents take control of their children's education.



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 16, 2005


Universities are the mighty fortresses of the American left. The assertion that American universities encourage a freewheeling clash of ideas might be the mother of all phoniness in the United States today.

Richard Lamm is the former Democratic governor of Colorado (1975-1987), now a free-thinking, self-described "progressive conservative" who teaches public policy at the University of Denver. In the journal of the conservative National Assn. of Scholars, Lamm has written about the time he submitted an article about racism to a university publication called the Source — which is run by the administration, not by students.

Lamm's submission compared the harm wrought by racism to the good that comes out of working to overcome obstacles. His article discussed the success of the Japanese, Jews and Cubans in the U.S.; all three have suffered bigotry and prospered. Mexicans in America have done less well. But Mexicans and Cubans are equally Latino and face similar kinds of prejudice. If Cubans have thrived and Mexicans haven't, racism can't possibly be the whole story.

Exactly the sort of provocative, challenging article any university would be proud to publish, right? Only kidding. Lamm reports that the Source rejected his piece: "too controversial"; then he appealed to the provost, and then the chancellor. They agreed with the editors. Too controversial.

According to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, "administrators countered that the decision not to run Lamm's article was more an issue of editorial space than academic freedom." Maybe that's what university officials were thinking. But no one in this news article denies that they said what Lamm says they said.

If you believe that our universities promote freewheeling debate, that Bill Bennett is a racist and that the United States will be a better place if Dick Cheney apologizes to Charlie Rangel, I have a bridge for sale; you might want to check it out. Maybe I'll just list it on EBay and wait for the crowd of bidders.

More here


Classrooms are dark but students still find their way. The light bulbs, called ballasts, have burned out throughout my building. Replacing them had always been a simple matter. No sooner was a call placed to the on-site custodian than the job was done. New York City Schools Chancellor Klein has put an end to that. To streamline the system, he has taken simple repairs out of the hands of custodians and required the work be farmed out only to outside electrical contractors. Six months have passed, nobody has shown up, and nothing can be done. Flickering fluorescence and the sun alone brighten the printed page for the eyes of students for whom the illuminations of books are already fading fast, thanks to Klein's discredited but embraced "Balanced Literacy" mock-curriculum.

Lighting is no longer a problem in bathrooms that have been padlocked all day every day due to violence and vandalism that the Chancellor's regulations have effectively ignored. Perhaps Klein will dispense constipating agents to students like those ingested by international drug "mules" to ensure self-control until the proper time. The one hundred percent statistical drop in toilet terror coupled with total student self-discipline will surely enable Klein's publicists to give him credit for a re-hauled educational focus.

Denied bathroom access and dimmed ceiling lights don't strike us as related to a lousy syllabus and hallway hooliganism, but they are all symptoms of the same wasting disease of cynicism and neglect.

At Daniel Beard Middle School, each day starts with ten-minutes of mandated "academic enrichment." This "innovation" is in keeping with Tweed's view that change for the sake of change creates the needed illusion of new ideas. All teachers are given the same material and script. It consists of a reading passage, usually biographical, followed by questions that are remarkably devoid of ingenuity. Though the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln fall in February, a month that includes Presidents Day and the anniversary of the monumental World War II battle of Iwo Jima, we are not mentioning these or indeed any other notable people or events of meaningful history. Instead we are concentrating on Ramona Hernandez, who has "fast become one of the leading authorities on the Quisqueyana culture."

Next we have Emma Ortega, who "knelt at a shrine adorned with pyramids revered by the utter an unusual prayer. Save us from Wal-Mart." The next hero is introduced as " a forty-nine year-old Hispanic man named Jorge Pagan, who has HIV which causes AIDS and.was a professional boxer." He goes on to punch in a wall and save a kid from drowning. The details of being Hispanic and having AIDS bear no relevance to the narrative. The reference was no slip or failure of literary flair. By subliminal persuasion it carries an impertinent message of pseudo-pertinence. Even in an unlit class, students can see the light.. They can distinguish the bloom of knowledge from the artificial flower of propaganda.

The teaching of anything, including propaganda, is incompatible with a chaotic environment. The Chancellor claims that his Student Discipline Code has been stiffened, is executed without fear or favor, and works. But reality speaks the terrible truth. Said one model teacher whose cry was heard live by an alarmed City Council at a public meeting, "words cannot describe the nonsense and abuse that has to be put up with to just stand in these classes. Forget about teaching!"

How is the Chancellor dealing with this Red Alert? He has created a week of "interactive theater instruction" for bullies. (At least he has not named a star after each of them and registered it in the Copyright Office) .He has instituted "impact schools" where the worst offenders are so regaled that their only regret is being returned to their original school. Recidivism is a certainty. That leaves the law-abiding students up the creek and lost in space. The climate that intractable troublemakers create is plain to any concerned member of the public who walks the halls uninvited, unannounced, and unescorted. Keeping this from happening seems the primary function of the safety agents.

More peace officers are assigned full-time to New York schools than staff the police forces of many medium-sized cities. Not least among the pressures they face is the re-classifying of crimes so that grave violations find their way into the "infractions" column. Such choreographing of the facts makes life easier for managers who equate public relations with education.

Chancellor Klein enjoys the full and blind backing of his master, Mayor Bloomberg, whose immense political and economic clout does the double duty of shielding them both while endangering, indeed cracking up public education. Holding this team accountable is like hitting a moving target that plays peekaboo all over the map. The road to recovery is slick and rocky. Easy street is a blind alley, it's been said. But though it'll take time, my students are eternal optimists and are at least betting it won't be "light" years.



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