Saturday, November 26, 2005


The Carson City (NV) school district says 11th-grade history teachers should start teaching American history at the Civil War period and move forward. But one experienced, award-winning teacher is standing up to this History-Lite policy and is insisting on teaching about our nation's colonial and Founding eras. And he might lose his job over it. Citizen Outreach is asking people to sign an online petition to save his job.

What is the historian's version of the Hippocratic Oath? Herodotus as "The Father of History" has not left us one as far as I know. Given the disturbing trends towards disparaging the teaching of historical facts in public schools, we may want to consider writing such an oath regarding the sacred duty history teachers have to impart our heritage to the next generation. Perhaps it could read, "I will not water down history content or the methodology of teaching history to conform to any given educational fad or political correctness that slashes and burns through our subject. Our foremost duty is to the integrity of history facts and the best interests of our students."

In addition to our new oath, we could consider forming the history police to investigate pressures put on history teachers in public schools to cut corners lest they rock the boat. I am only half joking. One has only to watch The Tonight's Show "Jaywalking" where Jay Leno asks people on the streets the most basic of history questions to concur our graduates of public schools do not know historical facts.

In reality and to the astonishment of many, teachers are told not to be "fact-fixated" when teaching of history. The word "facts" is almost used as an expletive in modern education. We are told students need to have a "feel" for the period and jump right into critical thinking and dialog with each other. "Facts" we are told only promote lower order thinking and are a waste of time as facts change in an ever changing world. Wow! What nonsense.

Whisper the nonsense part if you are a history teacher in a public school. Those of us fixated on facts are labeled "Neanderthals" and "dinosaurs" in American public education's version of the Cultural Revolution. Today's educational Young Turks are taught to look with disdain on the factual dinosaurs by the schools of education that control the licensing of teachers.

Another disturbing trend in modern education is the focus on social history to the point that students can receive good grades on a historical topic and never learn or cover the major events. Jay Matthews, in the Washington Post (May 28, 2004) article: "Students Don't Know Much About WW II Except the Internment Camps," gave such an example. Teachers are pressured to cover these issues at the expense of the dates, battles, and leaders to the point that many of the history teaching staff have weak backgrounds in these basics. This in turn reinforces the trend not to cover the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact, Pearl Harbor, and Stalingrad in any detail or with real meaning.

I currently find myself in a rather interesting predicament of resisting the cutting of U.S. history content and being forced to apply questionable educational methods. I have been told to "play ball or else" by school district authorities. I rock the boat of public school history education in my little part of the world because I know how to swim. I understand others in the boat resent it being rocked, but wonder where compromise begins and selling out ends. We all have different beltlines. Mine has been reached.

I pointed out serious errors of my school district in addressing the state history standards (which I helped author) . In retaliation school officials have rated me unsatisfactory and are intent on making me an example of what happens when a teacher steps out of line. My years of experience including being a Fulbright teacher and Madison Fellow have been denigrated by district administration as not relevant to being a good teacher in their attempt to marginalize me and my objections. The two history textbooks I have written in the last two years are dismissed as simply having to do with "content" and are also considered irrelevant to what they call education.

While this appears backwards and rather confusing to most, it makes perfect sense in the minds of too many in public education. It is a fundamental ideological struggle for the control of the teaching of history, a struggle between content-oriented historians versus the educational methodologists that are set to apply their process style of teaching that manipulates content at will. They have the tail wagging the dog with the allure of not having to bother with the years of historical study required to be (formerly) fully competent to teach history.

The premise of traditional historical education is to learn the key people, places, and events and only then build upon these solid foundations toward "real" critical thinking regarding the topic. This teacher-centered model of instruction is considered "bad" teaching by student-centered theorists. With student-centered teaching, students "share" their ideas and feelings in groups, as Heather MacDonald wrote in her 1998 work, The Flaw in Student-Centered Learning:

In such a classroom, the teacher is not supposed to teach, since teaching is considered too hierarchical and authoritarian. Worse, traditional lecturing presumes that the teacher actually knows something the students don't, an idea that is anathema to ed-school egalitarianism. The ideal student-centered classroom lacks a fixed curriculum. The student's own interests determine what he or she learns, with the teacher acting as mere "facilitator."

The use of the word "facilitator" exposes the key ideological difference of the methodology. While states still issue "teaching" licenses, the new teachers are not being trained to teach, rather facilitate. I can assume the people on the streets interviewed by Jay Leno were facilitated and not taught history.

Admittedly, forming a history police may be too far-fetched. They would be unnecessary if we had historical ethics and stood by them. Let's toy with the idea of a historian's oath. We should definitely look towards taking the power of licensing history teachers from schools of education and require them to obtain the stamp of approval from hard core history Neanderthals like us, assuming there are any of us left.



The educational apartheid dividing state and independent schools was laid bare yesterday by new research into the achievements of bright children. The most able children are only half as likely to achieve top grades at A level in state schools as they are in the fee-paying sector, a government adviser told head teachers. Pupils in private schools who were among the country's brightest 5 per cent at age 11 were virtually certain to get three A grades in their A levels at 18, putting them in contention for places at Oxford and Cambridge. But only a third of the most able 5 per cent went on to achieve the same results in state schools.

The research was presented by David Jesson, an education evaluator based at York University, who said that the state system was suffering a "severe talent drain". He told heads at the annual conference in Birmingham of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), which represents 2,422 state secondary schools, that Britain's future economic success depended on identifying and nurturing such children.

The findings present a huge challenge to Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, as she fights to win Labour support for reform of secondary schools. Many backbench MPs are suspicious that plans to turn comprehensives into independent trust schools will lead some to introduce "backdoor selection" of bright children.

Professor Jesson's findings came from research that tracked the progress of the brightest 5 per cent of pupils between 1999 and 2004, based on scores in national curriculum tests of English, mathematics and science at age 11 in primary schools. He was given access to the data by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). Professor Jesson said that it was a myth that the brightest children attended private schools. In fact, of the 37,500 children in the top 5 per cent, 30,000 went on to state secondaries and 7,500 were educated privately. By the age 16, all 7,500 in fee-paying schools had achieved at least five GCSE grades A* or A. But only 20,000 of the original cohort in state schools reached this standard.

The professor said that 13,000 students in state schools achieved three A grades at A level. In independent schools, the number was 7,600. "At age 11, 7 per cent of all pupils are in independent schools. By age 16, 25 per cent of those achieving five A* or A grades are in independent schools. At 18, 33 per cent of those with three As at A level are in independent schools, and 44 per cent of Oxbridge entrants," Professor Jesson said. "There is the evidence not merely of a state-independent school divide, but of a state-independent divide on pupils who are similar. This is evidence of a severe talent drain."

Oxbridge admitted 3,500 candidates from the state sector in 2004 and 2,600 from independent schools. Bright children in independent schools therefore had a 1-in-3 chance of getting into Oxbridge compared with a less than 1-in-8 chance for students in the state sector


Australia: Music plays second fiddle to other subjects

The majority of Australian children are deprived of adequate music education at school, according to a damning national report that political leaders say reveals a crisis in music teaching. The National Review of School Music Education found that two-thirds of schools rate their music classes as variable to very poor, and about one in 10 schools - or more than 900 across the country - offer no formal music classes at all. The review, commissioned by the Federal Government last year, also reported that a third of schools had great difficulty finding teachers who were properly trained in music. Only 6 per cent of schools made any effort to nurture students gifted in music.

The federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, conceded yesterday that his Government was partly responsible for the "inconsistent and inequitable" way music was taught to young Australians. But he also hit out at states and universities for treating music as "some kind of desirable add-on in school education rather than being a foundation of it". Dr Nelson, who described the review as "disturbing at best", will convene a national music education summit early next year to debate recommendations in the review, which calls for strict benchmarks in all school music curriculums. "There will also be major reform in the way in which Australian teachers are trained in universities," he said. Dr Nelson said he would refer the report to Teaching Australia, which is developing an accreditation system for education faculties.

The chairwoman of the review's steering committee, Professor Margaret Seares, who is also deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Western Australia, lamented the fact that governments had been ignoring reviews of music education since the 1970s. She said that for too many years schools had been allowed to treat music as a diversion for tired teachers and bored students. Research cited in the review showed that music tuition engaged all students, lifted their self-esteem and improved their academic achievements, she said.

But a spokeswoman for the NSW Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, cited a 20 per cent rise in enrolments in HSC Music 1 since 2001 as evidence that the state was taking music seriously. "All students between kindergarten and year 6 do it and high school students must study 100 hours of music above the national average," the spokeswoman said. "Education in music is no less important than learning how to read, write, count and communicate."

The Federal Opposition spokeswoman for education, Jenny Macklin, and the Opposition spokesman for the arts, Peter Garrett, said Dr Nelson should stop blaming the states and work with them. "The federal Education Minister's response to this $346,000 report is to organise a summit next year to discuss the issues in music education. Nearly 1200 submissions and 4700 petitions should be enough for Brendan Nelson to take action now," the pair said in a statement.

Dr Nelson, a Slim Dusty devotee and amateur guitar strummer, declared that every Australian child should have an opportunity to learn an instrument and be given the "courage to express [their] emotions". "It is extremely important that all of us appreciate that [this is] the way in which we will pass the soul from our generation to the next." Dr Nelson has allocated $400,000 to the Australian Society for Music Education over four years to set up an award system for outstanding music teachers. A further $500,000 will be committed to improving curriculums.



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, November 25, 2005


Some straight-shooting comments on American higher education lifted from Stephen Karlson, who is in a position to know. Lots of links worth following

University Diaries recommends this Neal McCluskey column in National Review. Mr McCluskey is skeptical about the Spellings Commission on Higher Education doing anything substantive.

In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the formation of a commission tasked with designing a "national strategy for higher education" to prepare us for the 21st century.

The commission is composed entirely of people in academia, government or big business, all of whom benefit when taxpayer money is shoveled into higher education. Its recommendations are therefore almost a foregone conclusion: The federal government should spend more on student aid supposedly to ensure, as Spellings demands, that we have a workforce for the 21st century, and on "basic" research that businesses want done but on which they would rather not risk their own money.

Of course, with a unified national strategy two more things will come: federal control of academia and an end to the competition for students that has driven innovation in American higher education and made it the envy of the world. It's the worst thing we could do according to a recent analysis by The Economist, which concluded that for a higher education system to succeed, it must "first: diversify [its] sources of income" and "second: let a thousand academic flowers bloom. Universities. should have to compete for customers."

Unfortunately, we are heading in the opposite direction. Think No Child Left Behind for the Ivy League. "Many people don't realize that federal dollars. make up about one-third of our nation's total annual investment in higher education," Secretary Spellings declared as she announced the formation of her commission. "By comparison, the federal government's investment in K-12 education represents less than 10 percent of total spending. But unlike K-12 education, we don't really ask many questions about what we're getting for our investment in higher education."

If the commission is going to be anything other than an exercise in public choice, it behooves interested parties to suggest courses of action and point out omissions.

The academy is broken, and the commission ought to understand why.

The commission ought to know, for example, about universities diversifying their sources of income by rescheduling football games to suit the broadcasters at ESPN and competing for customers with climbing walls, coreless curricula, and nonexistent admission standards. A post at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni lays down a marker.
As part of her ongoing investigation into American higher education, Margaret Spellings ought to consider the incuriousness of contemporary college students alongside the decline of liberal education and the spiralling costs of a bachelor's degree. It's a difficult, perhaps impossible, thing to quantify, but it is nonetheless a phenomenon that is every bit as current as the declining quality of higher education, and every bit as troubling. If we are to reform American higher education in a meaningful way, it will not be enough simply to reshape curriculum and costs along idealized lines. It will be necessary to envision this reshaping in the context of the modern undergraduate's intellectual sensibility. It cannot be taken for granted that this sensibility is inherently curious, inherently interested in learning, or inherently responsive either to the spirit of inquiry or to the more mundane spirit of intellectual respectability. Liberal education, in its tradition conception, is predicated on the idea that those engaged in it care deeply about questions, about exploring ideas, about discovery; it also presumes that those engaged in it want very much to acquire a breadth and depth of general knowledge that will save them from personal and professional embarrassment later on; it also assumes implicitly that a desire to avoid shame animates on some level students' quest for cultural literacy. Students must bring a certain type of determination, as well as a certain horror of ignorance, to their studies if liberal education is to be successful. In the absence of that determination, it's a real question whether liberal education may properly be said to exist.
The commission ought to know that a conclusion satisfactory to everybody may not be possible. There are two posts at SCSU Scholars that bear on workforce preparation and the future of higher education. One focuses on the continuing difficulties businesses face in finding skilled workers.
Firms are spending more in making investments in their own workforce. This demand for skilled labor will quite possibly also lead to increased demand for older workers, which would soften the blow raising retirement ages or the age at which one qualifies fully for Social Security. Indeed, what sense does it make to give skilled labor an incentive to not work?
What does that say about the academy's efforts at workforce development, all those business majors notwithstanding?

Another post links to a temporarily free Chronicle of Higher Education article on the battle between the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Legislature.
Along with paying a price for some political and management decisions that its own administrators concede were ill advised, the Wisconsin system appears to be feeling a backlash from broader higher-education trends. Those include rising tuition and admissions requirements, which have left many Wisconsinites feeling shut out of the system; tight state budgets and escalating costs, which have brought its expenditures under intense scrutiny; and a growing divide between the culture of colleges and the way the rest of society thinks and operates.
You think?

Much of the article touches on Culture Wars topics where the university appears to have done everything possible to be as transgressive as possible. But focus on this:
The system's enrollments from working-class and poor families have dropped substantially, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers say taxpayers complain that many campuses have shut out their children by raising their tuition and admissions standards too high.
Herein lies a conflict the commission ought to be aware of. To the extent that university degrees augment human capital, those degrees are private benefits, and it makes economic sense for the beneficiary to bear the burden. To the extent that more rigorous curricula augment human capital, it makes economic sense for the university to avoid enrolling "clients" whose primary interest is getting wasted. And perhaps the local common schools have failed at their job of preparing Wisconsin's children for college.

Finally, the commission ought to know that the academy's common practice of admitting the unprepared and calling it "access" is sapping the morale of the faculty. Although each of the following sites is anonymous, allowing the poster to get away with characterizations of students that I consider impolitic, the frustration, irritation, and attempts at grim humor brought about by the antics of the unprepared, who nonetheless consider themselves entitled, are clear enough


If it weren't for brave teachers from overseas -- particularly Australia -- lots of London schools would be very short of teachers

The Government has missed its target for the recruitment of trainee teachers in priority subjects despite millions of pounds spent on "golden hellos" and other incentives. Graduates in modern languages, science and mathematics are continuing to reject teaching as a career, according to official figures released yesterday. The target set by the Department for Education was missed by nine per cent in the seven subject areas designated as "priority" because too few young people were willing and qualified to teach them.

The least successful recruitment was in modern languages, where the target was missed by 17 per cent, or 323 trainee places. In maths, the target was missed by 12 per cent, 292 recruits, and in science it was missed by seven per cent, 214 recruits. Trainees in these priority subjects receive special payments of between o2,500 and o5,000 after their first year and can command higher salaries.

Competition from other sectors for a dwindling number of graduates in these key areas was a factor, said the Teacher Training and Development Agency, which oversees recruitment and training. In addition, the trend towards "studies" and combined degrees, such as French with business studies or degrees in forensic science instead of chemistry or physics has led to fewer graduates with sufficient knowledge to teach the subjects, the agency says.

It is to provide 14-week "booster" courses next year for a total of 700 graduates with science and language-related degrees where the amount of subject knowledge required is insufficient to meet the entry requirements for post-graduate teacher training courses.

Ed Davey, for the Liberal Democrats, said young people were being discouraged from teaching by Whitehall's "micro-management" of the classroom. "This Government spews out initiatives, strategies and White Papers but can't get the basics right," he said. "More teachers in maths, science and modern languages are critical to improving secondary education. "This ought to be a far higher priority than structural change."


Disillusioned Australian mother opens own school

A mother of four disillusioned with the Victoria's primary schools has opened her own. Elisa Russell began the primary school, called Hypatia, last month after being unhappy with her children's progress. "We have had experiences with alternative and mainstream education but it just didn't work for us," Mrs Russell said. "We pulled the kids out and I home-schooled them as we started looking around, but we just didn't find anything that suited us as a family. "So we decided we would open a school and try a pilot program with our kids."

Mrs Russell said her three eldest children - Eleanor, 6, Fionnbarr, 5, and Greer, 4 - are the school's only students and are taught by one teacher. But she is hoping to enrol another 15 students next year and hire another two teachers. Mrs Russell said the school is based on Socratic education - treating children as thinkers rather than empty vessels, and allowing them to find the truth for themselves. "The most ground-breaking thing about the school is that it is one teacher to five students," she said. Mrs Russell, 33, also said the school would group students and teach them based on academic level, not age.

Annual fees would start from $9000 for three days a week and $12,000 for five days a week. Mrs Russell said the school was also family friendly, with more flexible hours than traditional schools. She said she has had huge interest in the school, with more than 50 calls from interested parents. The school is renting classrooms from Alia College's secondary campus in Hawthorn.

Mrs Russell said her children were loving it. "For the children it is going fantastically," she said. "Academically they are doing very well, but any child would excel in that environment where there is one-on-one learning with teachers."

Mrs Russell said she was applying to register the school with the Registered Schools Board of Victoria but it was expected to take some time. She said until the registration came through they could teach up to 15 students because it was classed as a home schooling environment.



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, November 24, 2005


It is the Davidsons' other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called "Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds" (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. "By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities," Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, "we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward." Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious - and imperiled - resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the "supportive, advocating parent" they endorse.

The youths have their chance to engage in advocacy, too, and the Davidsons had selected very personable prodigies to visit Washington to publicize the don't-hold-children-back message. (Video presentations are part of the fellowship application process.) "Rounded like an egg" is the simile John Zhou used in the SAT-prep classes he taught (though he himself, a perfect scorer, didn't take any), where he recommends blending a well-honed talent with other interests to "erase the image of the nerd or the geek" - a balanced profile the Davidsons would surely endorse. Their fellows fitted it and proved ideal ambassadors of well-tended youthful brilliance. Admirably poised, they were getting precocious practice for the future eminence that, they were told more than once that day, awaits them.

The Davidsons are not the first Americans dedicated to cultivating early promise and dismantling the popular image of highly gifted children as misfits, an affront to a nation founded on egalitarian principles. More than three-quarters of a century ago, the Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman, armed with his newly minted I.Q. test, set out to challenge the myth that unusually intelligent and talented children are "puny, overspecialized in their abilities and interests, emotionally unstable, socially unadaptable, psychotic and morally undependable." His longitudinal "Genetic Studies of Genius" aimed to prove the opposite: highly gifted youths tended not only to enjoy more wholesome childhoods than ordinary kids but also to become extraordinary adults. His labors have since helped spawn a rich field of research and outreach devoted to exceptionally gifted children - though you might not guess it from the embattled rhetoric employed by gifted-child advocates in general, not just the Davidson Institute.

The lament uttered half a century ago that in philistine America "there are no little leagues of the mind" could not be made in our turn-of-the-millennium meritocracy. Thanks precisely to programs like those run by the Davidson Institute, there is what you might call a farm system devoted to finding talent and developing it, and though the process isn't streamlined, it has become ever more extensive. You merely have to look at the r‚sum‚s of the Davidson Fellows, which list a stunning array of distinctions - from music and Intel competitions to math and science olympiads to participation in highly selective summer programs. Even as they sound the alarm, prominent advocates themselves celebrate the widening span of resources. Consider, for example, "A Nation Deceived," the Templeton National Report on Acceleration issued last year and subtitled, "How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." In its brief for more grade skipping and subject acceleration, it indicts an educational system that indeed gives talented students short shrift. (Federal money for the "gifted and talented" is minuscule compared with the quarter billion in this year's No Child Left Behind budget, and state and local efforts, though often better, are uneven.) Yet in the course of promoting the benefits of leaping ahead, "A Nation Deceived" also extols "a whole host of outside-of-school opportunities, including award ceremonies, summer programs, after-school or Saturday programs, distance-learning programs and weekend workshops and seminars," to which the talent search serves as a "gateway" for the topmost students, who also have a variety of early college options to consider, like California State University at Los Angeles's lively early-entrance program. Julian Stanley, a Johns Hopkins psychology professor and a pioneer of the gifted-child movement, marveled not long before he died last summer at age 87 at how a dearth of opportunities had given way to a "wealth of facilitative options."

More here

Cash incentives for university study in Australia

And I know it's true: My son got a small scholarship to study mathematics at university level after he got good grades in an advanced placements class during his final High School year

Thousands of university scholarships are on offer to this year's Queensland school leavers as the wheel turns full circle. Scholarships were last offered on a large scale in the early 1970s before the Whitlam Labor Government abolished university fees. While a record number of students have nominated for full-fee courses next year, thousands of others will apply for financial-hardship scholarships offered by the Federal Government and individual universities to defray costs for lower-income families. Students can also apply for an increasing number of academic excellence scholarships offered by universities and industry this year.

Since the introduction of financial hardships scholarships last year, the Federal Government has awarded in Queensland more than 1850 Commonwealth means-tested Education Costs Scholarships worth $2080, and almost 1600 Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarships, valued at $4161 open to rural and remote students. Applications for next year's Commonwealth scholarships close in February. A University of Queensland spokeswoman said yesterday the university offered additional needs-based scholarships under the same criteria as the Commonwealth. "We are recognising the fact that with the increase in costs in attending university, more and more students are requiring assistance," the spokeswoman said.

The University of Queensland will offer for the first time Fee-Pay Scholarships to offset the new Student Contribution, formerly known as HECS debt. It also offers means-tested Excellence Scholarships, valued at $6000 a year, UQ Link Residential Support Scholarships for students nominated by their school, as well as scholarships offered by individual faculties and schools.

For the first time, the Queensland Resources Council will offer four $40,000 scholarships to entice school leavers into an approved engineering, earth science or environmental science degree at any Queensland university. At the Queensland University of Technology, OP1 and OP2 students can apply for 50 new Vice-Chancellor Scholarships, worth $5000 a year. In the QUT Science Faculty, a Dean's Scholars Accelerated Honours Program, valued at $9000, will be open to OP1 students. Engineering scholarships for high achievers and law scholarships for financially disadvantaged students are among 90 different scholarships and bursaries being offered at QUT next year. Griffith University will award 15 Academic Excellence Scholarships and six sports scholarships, each valued at $15,000 to $25,000, as well as hardship and faculty scholarships. The University of Southern Queensland is offering accommodation scholarships, at $1000 a semester, to students attending its new Springfield campus near Ipswich.



And this in the country where Rutherford first split the atom

Physics is fast disappearing from schools in England and Wales, with only a quarter now having a teacher with a degree in the subject, according to a study. The number of pupils taking physics has fallen by almost 40 per cent in the past 20 years. To make matters worse, almost half of the country's physics teachers will be retiring in the next decade. As a result the Institute of Physics is preparing to offer 300 bursaries to prospective students of the subject.

The findings, from the University of Buckingham, have alarmed academics and scientists. "The science community is in danger of sleep-walking into the loss of one of the greatest branches of knowledge that we possess," Alan Smithers, one of the report's authors, said. "The challenge is to secure physics for the future and educate everyone in science as a whole." Professor Smithers says that the dramatic decline in physics is directly linked to the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988. Since then pupils at state schools have had to study all three sciences at GCSE or take the combined science exam, which imparts only a little of chemistry, biology and physics. In independent schools, where pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum, they may choose to study only one science.

While 60 per cent of biology students are women, they comprise only 20 per cent of physics students. However, with more women than men attracted to teaching, science teachers are frequently not experts in physics. As a result they have less enthusiasm for the subject. The study also shows that a teacher's expertise in a subject is the second most powerful predictor of pupil achievement in GCSE and A level physics, after pupil ability.

"Independent schools have the freedom to offer any combination of sciences and that should be extended to maintained schools," Professor Smithers said. "But many physics graduates don't want to teach biology." The result is that the number of pupils taking physics A level has fallen from 46,606 in 1985 to 28,698 last year. Professor Smithers also says that better-qualified teachers are attracted to working in independent schools. That claim has been borne out in his latest research, with the disclosure that nearly a quarter (23.5 per cent) of 11 to 16-year-olds have no teacher who has studied physics at university, while two thirds of physics teachers at independent schools have a joint honours in the subject.

He concludes that "pupils from low-income homes tend to be concentrated in those schools least likely to offer GCSE physics and with the least well-qualified teachers". Robert Kirby-Harris, the chief executive of the Institute of Physics, blames part of the decline on league tables, and the tendency for some schools to pick only the brightest to study physics, in the fear that others may fail. "Physics is seen as a hard subject so average students are often dissuaded from taking it. I really think the dysfunctional element of league tables is a factor in putting young people off studying physics," he said.

Between 1994 and 2004, more than 30 per cent of the physics departments in Britain disappeared. Last year Newcastle became the first member of the elite Russell Group of universities to announce that it would no longer accept applications to study undergraduate physics. In order to boost the number from lower income backgrounds, the Institute of Physics is offering 300 bursaries of 1,000 pounds each next year to budding physicists.

More here


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

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

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


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

California: Contracts hold back schools

Imagine you're a manager and you have to fill two of every five openings with specific candidates or candidates from a predetermined pool, regardless of their qualifications and fit for the job. That's what principals in the nation's public schools are asked to do, according to a new report that faults union contracts for preventing administrators from hiring the best teachers.

The San Diego Unified School District was one of five studied by the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit organization that works with urban districts to improve teacher recruitment, training and support. The report was praised by California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin, San Diego Unified's former superintendent, for bringing to light a bureaucratic issue that he said hurts student achievement. But it also drew fierce criticism from union leaders, who see it as another attempt at union bashing. They contend that the report unfairly blames teachers for failures in public schools, when many other factors are responsible for student achievement.

"I know what we need. We need smaller class sizes. We need safe working conditions in urban schools. We need to make sure we have abundant supplies, materials, and microscopes for our students, and we need strong administrators who are supportive of learning environments," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. Terry Pesta, president of the San Diego Education Association, agreed. And San Diego school board member John de Beck said principals sometimes are the problem, not teachers. He has heard of cases where principals harass or arbitrarily remove teachers. "You can't fix something wrong by giving the principal more power to do wrong," he said.

Union contracts in urban districts commonly include seniority provisions that guarantee incumbent teachers first dibs on job openings. In San Diego, for example, teachers who lose their jobs when low enrollment or academic underperformance prompts a campus closure are guaranteed placement elsewhere. Contracts also typically give teachers who are cut from their campuses because of an enrollment drop or budget reductions high priority to fill vacancies. Teachers who voluntarily seek transfers are also given priority over outside candidates, regardless of their qualifications. These contract provisions, the report says, hurt students, principals and fellow teachers by forcing teachers onto campuses that may not be right for them.

Robin Stern, principal of Hearst Elementary School in Del Cerro and president of the Administrators Association of San Diego, said that this year she was assigned two teachers from King Elementary, a school that closed because of underperformance and reopened as a charter. Stern said she did not have a chance to interview the teachers. Fortunately, she said, the teachers turned out great.

Other principals are not so lucky. According to the study, 26 percent of San Diego principals surveyed said that all or almost all of the surplus teachers foisted on them have been unsatisfactory. Twenty-one percent reported that more than half of the voluntary transfers were unsatisfactory. The reason, the report said, is some principals get rid of undesirable teachers by putting them on transfer and surplus lists to avoid the time-consuming process of terminating them. Last school year, 880 San Diego teachers were on the voluntary transfer and surplus list. This year, there were 1,615. In San Diego, a quarter of the principals reported that they either had encouraged a poorly performing teacher to transfer or placed one on the surplus list.

Firing a teacher can take a few years because a principal must document deficiencies and provide opportunities to improve. A teacher can contest the dismissal at a trial-like hearing. From 2003 to 2005, only six San Diego teachers were dismissed out of 38 recommended for removal, mostly because of professional incompetence. Those not dismissed either resigned, retired or settled with the district. Nearly half of San Diego principals also reported that they tried to hide vacancies from the district's human resources department to avoid filling them with voluntary transfers or surplus teachers.

Stern of Hearst Elementary believes it's rare for principals to try to circumvent contract provisions, but she acknowledges they do limit hiring choices. "We are very much bound by the contract," she said. A particular concern, she said, is when declining enrollment and budget reductions force teacher cuts. Principals are required to remove the least senior teacher, regardless of their performance, unless someone else volunteers to leave. "Schools all over the district are suffering from declining enrollment, and they are losing wonderful teachers they'd love to keep," she said.

The contract provisions are unfair to principals, because they are held accountable for student achievement when they don't have full control over hiring, said Julie White, director of communications for the Association of California School Administrators. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, principals can be removed if their school consistently fails to make adequate progress. "Today's principal is not like today's CEO," White said. "They don't have the discretion to come into a situation, rearrange and reconfigure. It's not like that in public education, and it never has been."

However, some school districts across the nation are beginning to negotiate changes to their teacher contracts for more staffing flexibility. The New York City public school system recently adopted a contract that eliminates seniority transfer rules and the placement of surplus teachers into jobs without a school's consent.

The report noted that principals need to be held accountable if they are given more hiring power. It recommends that a formal process be created so teachers can provide annual feedback to the district's superintendent about their principal's performance. Another recommendation is to involve teachers and other school staff in hiring decisions. The report further acknowledges that fixing staffing problems will not by itself cure all the ills in public education. But they believe it will go a long way toward improving teacher quality.

Research has consistently shown the quality of instruction determines to a large extent whether students succeed or fail. "The fact of the matter is kids who have three or four strong teachers in a row will soar no matter what their family background is, whereas kids who have two weak teachers in a row never recover," said Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, which has done studies on how teacher qualifications affect student achievement.



As if already low standards were not enough

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, demanded a wholesale review of coursework in A levels and GCSEs yesterday after the examinations watchdog found evidence of widespread cheating. A two-year review of more than a dozen subjects carried out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has revealed a virtual free-for-all among students, teachers and parents in carrying out assignments. Coursework is an integral part of A levels and GCSEs, making up between 20 and 60 per cent of the marks allocated. The revelations cast doubt on the continually rising grades for both sets of exams and raise questions about the credibility of vocational qualifications.

In one of the most fundamental rethinks to public examinations in a generation, Ms Kelly has called for the QCA to reconsider coursework on a "subject by subject basis" and for it to be used only "where it is the most valid way of assessing subject specific skills". In a letter to Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, Ms Kelly clearly hinted it should be dropped from maths and science GCSEs, saying coursework should not be "the favoured approach where its primary purpose is to assess knowledge and skills which can equally well be assessed in other ways".

During the review, two thirds of maths teachers told the QCA that coursework - which is often done from home - was "sometimes problematic" as students could easily find answers on the internet or get siblings and parents to do the work for them. The in-depth investigation into subjects from English to history, maths and religious studies, revealed that plagiarism via the internet, collusion and "coursework cloning", where teachers give students too much help, were some of the ways pupils attempted to improve their grades.

At GCSE level, one in 20 parents admitted to doing their children's coursework, with fewer doing the same at A level. But it was the use of the internet that posed the greatest threat, according to Dr Boston. "In a very small proportion of cases there is deliberate malpractice," he said. "The availability of the internet is a powerful aid to learning but carries risks of plagiarism."

As well as issuing advice to exam boards, the QCA has appointed a taskforce to clear up confusion about how much help is allowed. Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, which has been a strong critic of coursework, said that Ms Kelly's decision was "a step in the right direction". "Coursework is obviously open to cheating and there should be much more emphasis, and more marks, on proper invigilated exams. Most youngsters can get well on the way to achieving a decent pass before they even take an exam, so coursework must have played a part in grade inflation over the years," he said. Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the review was very sensible



American institutions - documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the concepts of checks and balances, separation of powers, federalism and subsidiarity - make the United States a novus ordo seclorum, new and a perpetual source of renewal, precisely by conforming to the great tradition of political philosophy. Our culture is rooted in a realization that history is a conversation in which not only are we but one voice, but in which we are obliged to earn our right to speak. This requires that we listen and then, since silence means death to a culture, contribute something of value. It is this outward focus, this adherence to tradition, that is the lifeblood of our culture. And to be traditional is essentially to look beyond the given moment - not only to learn from the past, but to plan for the future.

This is why each generation must conserve those things that are essential - for us, the institutions that define our nation - and pass them on to its youth. A culture must continually unfold, as it were, to impress each subsequent group of people who are to become responsible "carriers" of the nation's symbols and so the preservers of true American culture. This unfolding and passing on is our charge - it is the charge to educate our youth.

Liberal education, a philosophy of education interested in objective and abiding truths about mankind that attempts, essentially, to teach the student how to learn, battles the propensity a culture has to turn in upon itself by drawing the student out of himself. Liberal education strives to free the student of that which is unecessary - to free him from the trite, the perverse, and the banal. This is an emptiness most readily found by measuring the world, not by standards set by objective reality, but by man's own ego. And yet, this is the emptiness found in most universities - indeed, it is occassionally their ideal. Behind the veil of self-discovery and multi-culturalism, as well as the lure of various student activist organizations and extra-curricular activities, all most run-of-the-mill universities seem to offer students today is the opportunity for the student to discover that his opinions bear as much weight, not only as those of his fellows at university, students and professors alike, but as all the great tradition of thinkers, most of whom he may never confront in his studies, as they've been replaced in the curriculum by the opus of a twenty-four year old feminist vegan who just last week won the Nobel Prize for Multi-Diverse Cultural Sensitivity. And why? It would seem to be because she's so "outside the box," but the truth is, it's because she spouts the exact same thing that everyone else does. She's what you read when you lack boldness as a student - she's for the comfort seekers who want nothing more than to rail against traditionalists while staring in the mirror.

It is this incestuous tendency toward narcissism that threatens the American ideal, and its destruction is nowhere more apparent than in our colleges and universities - places of learning through which our culture is meant to be preserved. The belief that there is no greater moment than the present spoils the mind of the student more than almost any other, by shutting the student off from the past and so making it impossible for him to contribute to the future. To be enamored of only the present moment is truly a fruitless enterprise, and yet it is the narcissism of the "given moment" that is passed on in university today.

Milan Kundera lends us a great term to describe this sterile egotism: kitsch. Kitsch is the essence of the modern crisis of narcissism. It is "the need to gaze into the mirror of the beautifying lie and to be moved to tears of gratification at one's own reflection." This, too, is the narcissistic plight of Tate's Alice, an image of modern man plunging into himself, to the abandonment and denial of the objective and transcendent reality of the cosmos - that is, anything and everything that is other than himself.

University students need not, contrary to popular belief, be learning to more fully appreciate themselves and value their own opinions. They require, rather, to be free of themselves and their own opinions for a time in an attempt to inform themselves - not only to amass information, since, indeed, that is not really what is important anyway, but to learn how to view the world, how to view reality. They ought to be receiving that education that will allow them to be worthy carriers of our culture's symbols, and more practically and to the same end, able participants in the political community.

More here


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

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

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


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Post lifted from Anti-Protestor

Political writer, blogger and Rockville High School Teacher Michael Calderon has apparently declared war on Justin Raimondo and his gaggle of neo-fascist pseudo-intellectual hacks at

Calderon recently set up a new feature on his blog called Guttersnipe Alley and it appears that the ever-entertaining Raimondo is its main topic.

Earlier this year, Raimondo defamed Calderon by repeatedly misrepresenting a provocative piece Calderon had posted on the now-defunct Moonbat Central blog run by Raimondo's nemesis, David Horowitz.

Raimondo penned a misleading response to Calderon's article and posted Calderon's employer's phone and email numbers on the website. He then urged's readers to contact Michael's employer to voice displeasure with the Moonbat Central article. When, according to Raimondo, people had trouble contacting Calderon's employer, Raimondo then posted additional contact numbers to Calderon's employer. (Can you say deliberate tortious interference?...)

As a result of the controversy caused by the barrage of phone calls and emails sent by readers at Raimondo's direction to Calderon's principal, Dr. Debra Munk, Calderon was recently suspended without pay from his teaching position in the Montgomery County, Maryland school system.

A recent article in the school newspaper, The Rampage, describes Calderon as a popular and exemplary History teacher. "I felt he was an excellent teacher...he always encouraged his students to express their point of view," said retired Rockville High School social studies teacher Rita Brill in defense of Calderon.

In spite of Calderon's competency and popularity, Rockville High School has apparently taken the cowardly route by suspending him due to the controversy caused by Justin Raimondo. For what it's worth, based on Calderon's political writing, it's obvious that he's a Conservative. The Montgomery County School Department is considered by many to be among the most left-wing school districts in the country.

A Dope-smoking mullet afficianado edits and it's normally a very strange scene at the fun-house, as a graphic, in-depth San Francisco Weekly article shows. Justin Raimondo has a well-deserved reputation as a mendacious, petty jerk--a kind of prissy miscreant who delights in personally attacking and throwing low blows at his intellectual superiors, which are everyone and every thing above the planaria on the intellectual food chain.

Nevertheless, the Montgomery County School Board has seen fit to punish one of its star teachers based on attacks that emanated from the disreputable Raimondo and the nutters orbiting him.

The SF Weekly, a paper normally sympathetic to anti-Bush anti-Israel types like Raimondo, portrays him as a power-mad attention freak, and a blog comment on the Protein Wisdom website implies that Justin was once a gay prosititute. An anonymous source personally acquainted with Raimondo confirms this to be a well-known fact within the San Francisco area, where Raimondo lives. That bit of information is significant because Raimondo once actually had the nerve to publicly excoriate "outed" journalist Jeff Gannon for having once worked as a gay prostitute.

What I'm hearing through the blog grapevine is that, this time, Raimondo has bitten off more than he can chew by directly messing with Rockville High School teacher Michael Calderon's livelihood. As a result, for Justin Raimondo, it looks like a new and exciting career might just be in the works.

The New White Flight: In Silicon Valley, two high schools with outstanding academic reputations are losing white students as Asian students move in. Why?

By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation's top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges. But locally, they're also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% -- this in a town that's half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.

Whites aren't quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they're leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests. The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

Cathy Gatley, co-president of Monta Vista High School's parent-teacher association, recently dissuaded a family with a young child from moving to Cupertino because there are so few young white kids left in the public schools. "This may not sound good," she confides, "but their child may be the only Caucasian kid in the class." All of Ms. Gatley's four children have attended or are currently attending Monta Vista. One son, Andrew, 17 years old, took the high-school exit exam last summer and left the school to avoid the academic pressure. He is currently working in a pet-supply store. Ms. Gatley, who is white, says she probably wouldn't have moved to Cupertino if she had anticipated how much it would change.

In the 1960s, the term "white flight" emerged to describe the rapid exodus of whites from big cities into the suburbs, a process that often resulted in the economic degradation of the remaining community. Back then, the phenomenon was mostly believed to be sparked by the growth in the population of African-Americans, and to a lesser degree Hispanics, in some major cities. But this modern incarnation is different. Across the country, Asian-Americans have by and large been successful and accepted into middle- and upper-class communities. Silicon Valley has kept Cupertino's economy stable, and the town is almost indistinguishable from many of the suburbs around it. The shrinking number of white students hasn't hurt the academic standards of Cupertino's schools -- in fact the opposite is true.

This time the effect is more subtle: Some Asians believe that the resulting lack of diversity creates an atmosphere that is too sheltering for their children, leaving then unprepared for life in a country that is only 4% Asian overall. Moreover, many Asians share some of their white counterpart's concerns. Both groups finger newer Asian immigrants for the schools' intense competitiveness.

Some whites fear that by avoiding schools with large Asian populations parents are short-changing their own children, giving them the idea that they can't compete with Asian kids. "My parents never let me think that because I'm Caucasian, I'm not going to succeed," says Jessie Hogin, a white Monta Vista graduate.

The white exodus clearly involves race-based presumptions, not all of which are positive. One example: Asian parents are too competitive. That sounds like racism to many of Cupertino's Asian residents, who resent the fact that their growing numbers and success are causing many white families to boycott the town altogether. "It's a stereotype of Asian parents," says Pei-Pei Yow, a Hewlett-Packard Co. manager and Chinese-American community leader who sent two kids to Monta Vista. It's like other familiar biases, she says: "You can't say everybody from the South is a redneck."

Jane Doherty, a retirement-community administrator, chose to send her two boys elsewhere. When her family moved to Cupertino from Indiana over a decade ago, Ms. Doherty says her top priority was moving into a good public-school district. She paid no heed to a real-estate agent who told her of the town's burgeoning Asian population. She says she began to reconsider after her elder son, Matthew, entered Kennedy, the middle school that feeds Monta Vista. As he played soccer, Ms. Doherty watched a line of cars across the street deposit Asian kids for after-school study. She also attended a Monta Vista parents' night and came away worrying about the school's focus on test scores and the big-name colleges its graduates attend. "My sense is that at Monta Vista you're competing against the child beside you," she says. Ms. Doherty says she believes the issue stems more from recent immigrants than Asians as a whole. "Obviously, the concentration of Asian students is really high, and it does flavor the school," she says.

When Matthew, now a student at Notre Dame, finished middle school eight years ago, Ms. Doherty decided to send him to Bellarmine College Preparatory, a Jesuit school that she says has a culture that "values the whole child." It's also 55% white and 24% Asian. Her younger son, Kevin, followed suit. Kevin Doherty, 17, says he's happy his mother made the switch. Many of his old friends at Kennedy aren't happy at Monta Vista, he says. "Kids at Bellarmine have a lot of pressure to do well, too, but they want to learn and do something they want to do."

While California has seen the most pronounced cases of suburban segregation, some of the developments in Cupertino are also starting to surface in other parts of the U.S. At Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md., known flippantly to some locals as "Won Ton," roughly 35% of students are of Asian descent. People who don't know the school tend to make assumptions about its academics, says Principal Michael Doran. "Certain stereotypes come to mind -- 'those people are good at math,' " he says.

In Tenafly, N.J., a well-to-do bedroom community near New York, the local high school says it expects Asian students to make up about 36% of its total in the next five years, compared with 27% today. The district still attracts families of all backgrounds, but Asians are particularly intent that their kids work hard and excel, says Anat Eisenberg, a local Coldwell Banker real-estate agent. "Everybody is caught into this process of driving their kids." Lawrence Mayer, Tenafly High's vice principal, says he's never heard such concerns.

Perched on the western end of the Santa Clara valley, Cupertino was for many years a primarily rural area known for its many fruit orchards. The beginnings of the tech industry brought suburbanization, and Cupertino then became a very white, quintessentially middle-class town of mostly modest ranch homes, populated by engineers and their families. Apple Computer Inc. planted its headquarters there. As the high-tech industry prospered, so did Cupertino. Today, the orchards are a memory, replaced by numerous shopping malls and subdivisions that are home to Silicon Valley's prosperous upper-middle class. While the architecture in Cupertino is largely the same as in neighboring communities, the town of about 50,000 people now boasts Indian restaurants, tutoring centers and Asian grocers. Parents say Cupertino's top schools have become more academically intense over the past 10 years. Asian immigrants have surged into the town, granting it a reputation -- particularly among recent Chinese and South Asian immigrants -- as a Bay Area locale of choice. Cupertino is now 41% Asian, up from 24% in 1998.

Some students struggle in Cupertino's high schools who might not elsewhere. Monta Vista's Academic Performance Index, which compares the academic performance of California's schools, reached an all-time high of 924 out of 1,000 this year, making it one of the highest-scoring high schools in Northern California. Grades are so high that a 'B' average puts a student in the bottom third of a class. "We have great students, which has a lot of upsides," says April Scott, Monta Vista's principal. "The downside is what the kids with a 3.0 GPA think of themselves."

Ms. Scott and her counterpart at Lynbrook know what's said about their schools being too competitive and dominated by Asians. "It's easy to buy into those kinds of comments because they're loaded and powerful," says Ms. Scott, who adds that they paint an inaccurate picture of Monta Vista. Ms. Scott says many athletic programs are thriving and points to the school's many extracurricular activities. She also points out that white students represented 20% of the school's 29 National Merit Semifinalists this year.

Judy Hogin, Jessie's mother and a Cupertino real-estate agent, believes the school was good for her daughter, who is now a freshman at the University of California at San Diego. "I know it's frustrating to some people who have moved away," says Ms. Hogin, who is white. Jessie, she says, "rose to the challenge."

On a recent autumn day at Lynbrook, crowds of students spilled out of classrooms for midmorning break. Against a sea of Asian faces, the few white students were easy to pick out. One boy sat on a wall, his lighter hair and skin making him stand out from dozens of others around him. In another corner, four white male students lounged at a picnic table.

At Cupertino's top schools, administrators, parents and students say white students end up in the stereotyped role often applied to other minority groups: the underachievers. In one 9th-grade algebra class, Lynbrook's lowest-level math class, the students are an eclectic mix of whites, Asians and other racial and ethnic groups. "Take a good look," whispered Steve Rowley, superintendent of the Fremont Union High School District, which covers the city of Cupertino as well as portions of other neighboring cities. "This doesn't look like the other classes we're going to." On the second floor, in advanced-placement chemistry, only a couple of the 32 students are white and the rest are Asian. Some white parents, and even some students, say they suspect teachers don't take white kids as seriously as Asians. "Many of my Asian friends were convinced that if you were Asian, you had to confirm you were smart. If you were white, you had to prove it," says Arar Han, a Monta Vista graduate who recently co-edited "Asian American X," a book of coming-of-age essays by young Asian-Americans. Ms. Gatley, the Monta Vista PTA president, is more blunt: "White kids are thought of as the dumb kids," she says.

Cupertino's administrators and faculty, the majority of whom are white, adamantly say there's no discrimination against whites. The administrators say students of all races get along well. In fact, there's little evidence of any overt racial tension between students or between their parents. Mr. Rowley, the school superintendent, however, concedes that a perception exists that's sometimes called "the white-boy syndrome." He describes it as: "Kids who are white feel themselves a distinct minority against a majority culture." Mr. Rowley, who is white, enrolled his only son, Eddie, at Lynbrook. When Eddie started freshman geometry, the boy was frustrated to learn that many of the Asian students in his class had already taken the course in summer school, Mr. Rowley recalls. That gave them a big leg up.

To many of Cupertino's Asians, some of the assumptions made by white parents -- that Asians are excessively competitive and single-minded -- play into stereotypes. Top schools in nearby, whiter Palo Alto, which also have very high test scores, also feature heavy course loads, long hours of homework and overly stressed students, says Denise Pope, director of Stressed Out Students, a Stanford University program that has worked with schools in both Palo Alto and Cupertino. But whites don't seem to be avoiding those institutions, or making the same negative generalizations, Asian families note, suggesting that it's not academic competition that makes white parents uncomfortable but academic competition with Asian-Americans.

Some of Cupertino's Asian residents say they don't blame white families for leaving. After all, many of the town's Asians are fretting about the same issues. While acknowledging that the term Asian embraces a wide diversity of countries, cultures and languages, they say there's some truth to the criticisms levied against new immigrant parents, particularly those from countries such as China and India, who often put a lot of academic pressure on their children.

Some parents and students say these various forces are creating an unhealthy cultural isolation in the schools. Monta Vista graduate Mark Seto says he wouldn't send his kids to his alma mater. "It was a sheltered little world that didn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to what the rest of the country is like," says Mr. Seto, a Chinese-American who recently graduated from Yale University. As a result, he says, "college wasn't an academic adjustment. It was a cultural adjustment."

Hung Wei, a Chinese-American living in Cupertino, has become an active campaigner in the community, encouraging Asian parents to be more aware of their children's emotional development. Ms. Wei, who is co-president of Monta Vista's PTA with Ms. Gatley, says her activism stems from the suicide of her daughter, Diana. Ms. Wei says life in Cupertino and at Monta Vista didn't prepare the young woman for life at New York University. Diana moved there in 2004 and jumped to her death from a Manhattan building two months later. "We emphasize academics so much and protect our kids, I feel there's something lacking in our education," Ms. Wei says.

Cupertino schools are trying to address some of these issues. Monta Vista recently completed a series of seminars focused on such issues as helping parents communicate better with their kids, and Lynbrook last year revised its homework guidelines with the goal of eliminating excessive and unproductive assignments.

The moves haven't stemmed the flow of whites out of the schools. Four years ago, Lynn Rosener, a software consultant, transferred her elder son from Monta Vista to Homestead High, a Cupertino school with slightly lower test scores. At the new school, the white student body is declining at a slower rate than at Monta Vista and currently stands at 52% of the total. Friday-night football is a tradition, with big half-time shows and usually 1,000 people packing the stands. The school offers boys' volleyball, a sport at which Ms. Rosener's son was particularly talented. Monta Vista doesn't. "It does help to have a lower Asian population," says Homestead PTA President Mary Anne Norling. "I don't think our parents are as uptight as if my kids went to Monta Vista."



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, November 21, 2005


Hard to believe it's possible

At their Dec. 14 meeting, Merced Union High School District trustees will have a tough decision to make: How will seniors who fail the California High School Exit Exam be treated at graduation time. Trustee Cappi Quigley, on her final night as a trustee after 20 years of service, does not want students who have worked hard at school and satisfied district course requirements but still fail the exit exam to suffer. The state says no diplomas without passing the test.

Quigley favors giving these students a certificate of completion allowing them to participate in June's commencement ceremonies. District Superintendent Robert Fore also favors "erring on the side of the kids where we can."

On the exit exam issue, Weimer said the board's direction must be clear-cut and precise to avoid future nightmares. State education officials leave graduation participation and certificate decisions to local districts and Weimer doubts if the state will intervene.

Golden Valley High School Principal Ralf Swenson said the state exit exam is insensitive to the needs of special education students, many who have failed it several times. He said there are ways at graduation rites to handle issuance of both certificates of completion and diplomas gracefully.

Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Smith said 223 students at six district schools failed the exit exam last March. Some of these students took the test again earlier this month and Smith is working to get the test given next February instead of March so results will be known by April.

Counselor Wayne Denno said the Merced High counseling staff does not believe students should take part in graduation if they don't satisfy all requirements, including passing the exit exam. He said there ultimately would be consequences if the graduation ceremony is perceived as less meaningful.


Calls for overhaul of Australian State-run preschool systems

Preschools should operate under a national system to ensure uniform standards, parents should be issued with vouchers and social workers should be on hand to help those mothers who are dumping their children in childcare because they cannot cope. The demands have been made by Liberal backbenchers who say some state-run preschool systems are so poor that parents opt for long daycare, which fails to provide children with the basic literacy skills they need for primary school. The MPs claim the problem is exacerbated by subsidies which are provided for the commonwealth-run childcare system, but not preschool, which is operated by the states. "That preschooling year is so critical for a child's development ... so they can start their first year in primary schooling not having those early social adjustments," Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary Sharman Stone told The Weekend Australian. "A voucher system would mean that the parent would make a choice. "We give subsidies to childcare for a four-year-old but we don't for the same four-year-old in preschool." Ms Stone said the subsidy issue was having a "perverse outcome", with parents opting for childcare and children not receiving crucial education.

Former Howard government minister and western Sydney MP Jackie Kelly has also entered the debate, suggesting a large number of women who are not working are using childcare. She has called for social workers to help those mothers who see childcare as little more than respite. "Why is a mother at home not coping and needing respite from her own children? If it's respite childcare that you're seeking then let's include into those childcare centres some intervention, some parenting guidance and skills." She backed Ms Stone's call for a national approach to preschooling. "Long daycare basically makes sure your kid's fed, clothed and his nose is wiped but it isn't preparing them for school," Mrs Kelly said. "We need to look at a national preschool program because while in some states they have a very vibrant preschool program, in other states it's absolutely woeful so everyone opts for long daycare. "Some deal should come together at COAG about how we are going to progress in the future with the zero-to-fives in a more comprehensive Australia-wide system. "Childcare is national and that's why it's really taken off, but the preschool program, there's huge disparities between the states."

A spokesman for Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said preschool education was being reviewed. "The minister is currently reviewing what access families have to preschool education. She believes that families should expect to receive the same access to preschool care wherever they live," he said. Mrs Kelly last week told the Liberal partyroom the Government needed to look at more innovative ways to provide care. She said the federal Government should provide more incentives, including tax deductions, for employers to set up childcare centres in workplaces. "I don't think we are being as innovative as we can be if the reality is, with an ageing population, we are going to need more women in the workforce for longer."



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, November 20, 2005


Students at Yale University's School of Music--and aspiring musicians hoping to go there someday--must have been jumping for joy two weeks ago when the school announced that it had received an anonymous $100 million endowment gift that would guarantee them all free tuition. A few days later Tufts University, not to be outdone, announced that it had received its own $100 million gift. This one was from Pierre Omidyar, alumnus and founder of eBay, who did not specify how his money was to be used, only that the principal must be invested in "micro loans" to small business enterprises in poor countries in Asia and Africa.

It all sounds high-minded and worthy. But is it a good idea? Foundations, corporations and rich individuals have long given generously to colleges and universities. Some of our most distinguished--Duke, Vanderbilt, Stanford and the University of Chicago--were originally endowed by entrepreneurs or wealthy families. In a recent study, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research reported that nearly 60% of all gifts of more than $10 million are donated to academic institutions. And the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Americans last year contributed some $25 billion to colleges and universities. Is it any wonder that many academic institutions are sitting on vast repositories of endowed wealth? Today there are more than 50 institutions with endowments exceeding $1 billion.

Yet this explosion of money has been accompanied by a steady erosion in the quality of education, especially in the humanities. Many research organizations, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the National Association of Scholars, have documented the elimination of the traditional core curriculum at most of our leading universities. We can no longer assume that college graduates possess even a rudimentary knowledge of history, for instance, or that they understand basic concepts like federalism or the separation of powers or, indeed, that they know about the ideas and events that have shaped our institutions. All this great wealth, donated with the best of intentions, appears to have had the perverse effect of liberating academic institutions to do a less than admirable job of educating the young.

And what do the young learn when they do learn? Entrepreneurs may give generously, but college faculties are today awash in antibusiness and anti-free-market prejudices, with scholarly publications beating the drum against globalization and the supposed depredations of capitalism. Not many faculty members would agree precisely with Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who said that the victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center deserved their fate because they were working on behalf of the capitalist system. But, terrorism aside, his low opinion of America's economic system does not wildly diverge from that of professors everywhere. Meanwhile the diversity ideology so common on campuses today holds that the history of the U.S. is primarily one of exclusion and oppression, another Ward Churchillian theme.

All this is roughly quantifiable. A recent national survey of college faculty showed that 72% of professors held liberal and left-of-center views, while just 15% held conservative ones. This imbalance, surveys show, has grown worse since the early 1980s. It is a strange paradox indeed that academic opinion should have moved so far to the left in a period of unprecedented wealth and prosperity for colleges and universities themselves--let alone in a period of capitalism's triumph and communism's defeat.

Here is where the charitable giving comes in. These trends have taken hold in academia in part because too many donors have failed to exercise appropriate care when signing over their funds. Most donors have little understanding of the intricate workings of academic budgets or of the subterfuges that permit money to be spent on programs unrelated to intended purposes. (A little Economics 101 might help.) The anonymous donor to Yale earmarked the income from his gift to support student tuitions, but of course money is fungible: The gift will have the unintended effect of allowing Yale to move the substantial funds it now devotes to financial aid and to spend them on other purposes, possibly unrelated or antithetical. Many gifts to universities have this money-shifting effect.

Donors are often unaware that they are entitled to set aside their money for purposes of their own choosing, not just established categories. As former Yale provost Frank Turner has said: "Donor restrictions can call institutions of higher education to fulfill their highest ideals." A few diligent philanthropists, like publisher Philip Merrill and investor Sir John Templeton, craft careful agreements with universities before any checks are signed and then monitor their gifts regularly.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has published a short book, "The Intelligent Donor's Guide to College Giving," that lays out some basic ground rules for donating to higher education. These include placing clear restrictions on gifts, working with a particular professor (and, if possible, bypassing the development office) and avoiding endowments in perpetuity. As Sir John Templeton wisely said: "If you're giving while you're living, you're knowing where it's going."

Obviously, this sort of due diligence does require time and effort on the part of the donor, But if even a few more philanthropists were watching where their funds ended up, college officials would surely monitor their programs more carefully. There have been a few celebrated cases in recent years in which donors have asked for their funds to be returned after discovering that they were misused, and these cases have sent a shudder though the academic community.

In 1991, for example, Lee Bass donated $20 million to Yale to support a curriculum in Western Civilization but asked for (and received) his money back four years later when he discovered that Yale's faculty had little interest in teaching such courses. Princeton University may be ordered to return nearly $600 million to the Robertson family, which endowed a program a generation ago to train students for public service. In recent decades, it is alleged by the family, the university lost interest in this purpose but continued to spend the money anyway.

Just last week, a professor at Florida State University, Robert Holton, sued to get back some of the tens of millions of dollars that he earned from a drug patent and donated to the school for a new synthetic chemistry laboratory. The university simply scrapped plans for the building. "We're filing this lawsuit to save the university from itself," said Mr. Holton in a recent interview. Words for every donor to live by.


Wanted: graduates who can teach children to read

And they spend 4 years allegedly learning how to be teachers!

Australia's universities are failing to deliver graduates who can teach children to read and are spending less than 10 per cent of lectures on basic literacy skills. A national survey of teacher education institutions has found that half of faculties devote just 5 per cent of course time to teaching reading, with students graduating without enough hands-on classroom experience. The inquiry, Teaching Reading, also says every child should be tested for literacy and reading skills when they start school and again twice yearly during their first three years. And it recommends that school results travel with the estimated 100,000 school-age children who moved interstate each year so teachers can track their progress. A confidential student identifier could be used to keep a record of their results.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson is expected to announce a shake-up of teacher training in universities in response to the report, prepared by a panel of experts including Ken Rowe, when it is released on December 1. His report finds the preparation of new teachers to teach reading is "uneven across universities" and that an evidence-based approach, including greater instruction on phonics and vocabulary knowledge and text comprehension, is required.

"The literacy competency of student teachers was raised as an issue in all focus group discussions," the report says. "In general terms, the reputation of effectiveness of teacher preparation among new graduates is not high. "Increasing time on reading instruction, improving the content of teacher preparation courses and school practice arrangements, together with improvements in new graduates' personal literacy, should be examined." School experience was also lacking, varying from between just 50 to 100 days in the classroom over the four-year degree.

Booming enrolments in teacher training, which have increased by 38per cent since 1996, have also created new pressures on teaching degrees. "There is anecdotal evidence that during this time there was a decline in the numbers of staff employed in universities to support these students," the report says.

Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said yesterday the report had identified an "alarming" rise in student-to-staff ratios in universities. "This is a direct result of the Howard Government slashing higher education funding," she said. "This is clearly having an impact on the quality of teaching in our universities."



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"

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