Saturday, December 10, 2005

Report Says States Aim Low in Science Classes

Nearly half the states are doing a poor job of setting high academic standards for science in public schools, according to a new report that examined science in anticipation of 2007, when states will be required to administer tests in the subject under President Bush's signature education law. The report, released Wednesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that the focus on reading and math as required subjects for testing under the federal law, No Child Left Behind, has turned attention away from science, contributing to a failure of American children to stay competitive in science with their counterparts abroad.

The report also appears to support concerns raised by a growing number of university officials and corporate executives, who say that the failure to produce students well-prepared in science is undermining the country's production of scientists and engineers and putting the nation's economic future in jeopardy. Dozens of academic, corporate and Congressional leaders emerged from a meeting on competitiveness here on Tuesday to warn that the nation needs to expand its talent pool in science to stay ahead of countries like China and India that put vast resources into science education. "Many states are not yet serious about teaching science," said Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy of the institute, a group that supports education reform. "The first step is to set higher expectations, and too many states have low or a lack of expectations to respond to the new global competitiveness."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a strong proponent of more testing to measure how effectively schools are teaching, said she was not surprised by the findings. "I'm a what-gets-measured-gets-done kind of gal," she said in an interview. She cited the reluctance of many districts to teach algebra before high school as an illustration of the nation's problem with science and math, adding, "If children are not taking it until the ninth grade or ever, we are in a world of hurt."

The report set out to identify how states set academic standards for science, asking whether their courses include suitably challenging content, whether they are properly organized and whether they incorporate "pseudoscientific fads or politics," a reference to the recent drive to teach intelligent design as an alternative explanation to evolution. The results, a grade ranking for each state and the District of Columbia, serve as a marker for progress as the next phase of the No Child Left Behind law approaches.

Starting with the 2007-2008 academic year, science will become a subject that students will be tested on at least once in grades 3-5, once in grades 6-9 and once in grades 10-12 - although the results will not be used to measure whether a school has made "adequate yearly progress," as is the case with reading and math. Schools that fail to make progress are subject to sanctions.

Ms. Spellings said she favors using testing for additional subjects, like science, to assess progress. The authors of the report analyzed each state and awarded a numerical score that translated to a grade. Only seven states, including New York and California, got an A, with 12 receiving a B, and 8 plus the District of Columbia receiving a C. Seven states got a D, and 15 got an F. Iowa was not included in the report because it does not set standards for any subject.

In a separate assessment of how states are currently teaching evolution, the authors awarded 22 states a D or F, with Kansas winning a special distinction, F minus, for its recent decision to redefine science so that it would not be explicitly limited to natural explanations, and allow for the teaching of alternative theories, an opening to consideration of intelligent design. The report cited mounting "religious and political pressures" over the last five years as undermining the teaching of evolution. But Paul R. Gross, its chief author, said in an interview that a willingness by schools in Kansas and elsewhere to consider alternative theories to evolution was only a small part of a "larger cultural problem."

Mr. Gross said that more critical has been a retreat from an emphasis on all science instruction, which is leaving students ungrounded in basic subjects like biology, human physiology and the environment. "In general," Mr. Gross said, "science education is not good enough now in the context of what people need to know in a reasonably effective way in our culture."


Disturbed Australian children ignored by education bureaucracy

John Nelson is walking through his school playground. A girl walks past and gives him a high-five. He grins. Kids gravitate towards him. Nelson has been principal at Preston Primary in Melbourne's north for the past 15 years. At the end of the school year he will retire, aged 55. It has been a wrenching decision. "I'm really, really sad to be leaving," he says. Working with children as they embark on their education has been "the dream job".

But Nelson is angry about the cracks in the Victorian education system and the children who fall into them. While he is preparing to leave, he is not about to go quietly. With the candour of someone who has nothing to lose, he talks about primary schools in disadvantaged areas being in crisis as they struggle to deal with a substantial and increasing number of children, aged five to 12, with severe social and emotional problems.

Pressing for the establishment of "special settings" for these children, he says teachers and principals are working in situations that are "close to hell", while the system has become so inured to the presence of disturbed children that "the abnormal is accepted as normal". Nelson says the Government is not "fair dinkum" [genuine] about the problem and that requiring schools to deal with it is outside their educational charter and child mental health "on the cheap".

These are not, Nelson says, naughty children who respond to normal discipline and relationship-building but disturbed and violent children who are constantly suspended or expelled, whose behaviour disrupts the education of other children, who don't want to do what's fair and reasonable, who can't be left in the playground for too long because they don't know how to play, who attack other students and their teachers, who "wreck classrooms, punch, spit and act defiantly". "Schools are not trained, and they are certainly not resourced, to deal with it," Nelson says.

His accusations draw a fierce response from Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky. She says principals, including Nelson, who are pressing for special settings are trying to "wash their hands" of troubled children and make them "someone else's problem". "I'm not going to let schools off the hook when students are a challenge," she says. "Frankly, the principals have to take responsibility for all students."

Nationwide, the problem of students with behaviour disorders is growing. In the last NSW budget, the state Government announced a $73.6 million four-year school behaviour and discipline plan. It includes funding for 35 "behaviour schools" (there are presently 28) and 20 "suspension centres" by 2007 catering for students in years 5 to 10. Last month, the Queensland Government announced the establishment of six new centres for disruptive students, on top of the existing five, but the Queensland Teachers Union is pressing for many more. In Victoria, there is a strong philosophical aversion, one government adviser says, to taking troubled children "off-line" and "giving them a tag and putting them in a school for naughty boys".....

It's the second time this year questions have been raised about the treatment of mentally unwell children in Victoria. In August, University of Melbourne psychology professor Margot Prior, formerly director of psychology at the Royal Children's Hospital, and Ric Pawsey, a 25-year veteran of mental health, said the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service was a mess that should be replaced. "It's a basket case," Prior says. "Because I'm now out of it, I can be honest."

Nelson first rang the bell on the problem of disturbed children in primary schools 18 months ago, when he led a group of 21 principals calling for these students to be removed from their schools and taught in separate centres. These special settings, he proposed, would pool the resources and expertise not just of the Department of Education and Training, but also the Department of Human Services, CAMHS, universities and local councils. "In many classrooms, teachers and students work in an environment where, due to the severe emotional and behavioural disturbance of a student, teaching and learning plays second fiddle to surviving," he wrote in one of several papers circulated within the education department.

Schools are being used as "the first line of intervention" when intensive clinical intervention is needed to deal with a group of children on the extreme margins of the community, with problems he suspects are fuelled by family breakdown, violence, neglect, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol problems, mental illness, poverty, unemployment and inter-generational dysfunction.....

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


Friday, December 09, 2005


The San Juan Unified School District is getting ready for open enrollment season, a three-day period in January when parents sign up to place their children in schools outside their own attendance boundaries. The annual ritual, at least 15 years old, is grounded in the notion that parents should have a choice about where their children attend school. About 4,500 San Juan students - roughly 10 percent of the district enrollment - take advantage of the policy every year. The number is close to 5,000 (just under 11 percent of enrollment) in Sacramento City Unified.

Families who opt for open enrollment often scope out campuses as if they're prepping for college admissions season. Some middle schools in the San Juan district offered tours last week to fifth-and sixth-graders. High schools, too, sell their campuses. Rio Americano High in Sacramento is showing off its grounds to prospective freshmen today by appointment. McClatchy High in the Sacramento city school district will have two open-house days next week for its selective Humanities & International Studies Program.

But critics in San Juan say the policy has some less-than-desirable effects. They say it hurts people who can't afford to provide transportation to the new school - a district requirement. And not everyone can spend hours a week volunteering, as some of the more sought-after schools ask parents to do. As a result, some say, neighborhood schools get weaker as they lose involved families to high-powered schools elsewhere. Kids at the 10 district schools that accept students only through open enrollment are more likely to be well-off, white and fluent in English than are students at other district schools. "It's a have/have-not situation," said Sydney Walker, a parent who chairs a district committee that recommends school closures.

Superintendent Steven Enoch said he will address the open enrollment policy when he presents a district redesign plan to the school board next week. In an interview, he wouldn't specify his ideas, saying he wanted the board to hear them first. "We have two all-American values that potentially clash a little," he said. "One is promoting neighborhood schools, and another American value is choice. ... They can indeed bump up against each other a bit. I want good neighborhood schools - that's fundamental to our system - but at the same time I certainly understand and honor parental choice."

Parents who visited Arcade last week said they hoped Enoch wouldn't try anything too drastic. "I would really hate to see the district give up open enrollment," said Sue Akiyama, as her son Max waited for a tour to start in the school lobby. "I just think it gives parents some control over education." Akiyama and other parents said their neighborhood schools were perfectly good options - but most were gunning for Arden, a high-scoring school in Sacramento, and Arcade.

More here

Homeschooled boy wins national science contest : "A 16-year-old, homeschooled California boy won a premier high school science competition Monday for his innovative approach to an old math problem that could help in the design of airplane wings. Michael Viscardi, a senior from San Diego, won a $100,000 college scholarship, the top individual prize in the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Viscardi tackled a 19th century math problem and his new method of solving it has potential applications in the fields of engineering and physics."

Law schools against free speech : "Anyone who has attended law school will attest to the lunacy of interview season, wherein law students trade in jeans and sweatshirts for rumpled navy suits and heroically endure an uneasy session with an uneasy recruiter in an airless room. Imagine how much worse it might be when that recruiter hails from the U.S. Army, the student is met by jeers and catcalls, and the law school has posted a sign outside the interview reading: 'Welcome to Satan's Lair.' Well, that, my friends, is the future of military recruitment on campus."


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, December 08, 2005

Universal preschool is inviting universal disaster

Ideas that seem great in theory are often a disaster in practice. California's Preschool for All initiative being pushed by director-turned-child advocate Rob Reiner is just such an idea. This is not mere ivory-tower doom-mongering. This is what a sober assessment of a similar universal day care program in Quebec suggests.

If Reiner's initiative is approved in June, individuals making more than $400,000 a year ($800,000 for families) will face a 1.7 percent tax increase to raise $2.5 billion to finance three hours of free preschool a day for all of California's 4-year-olds -- even the 62 percent who already attend preschool without universal subsidies.

Reiner's initiative is a statewide version of Proposition H, the universal preschool program that San Francisco voters approved in March and that will be started in 22 preschools clustered in four low-income communities in a few months. It authorizes $20 million from the city's general funds over five years for public schools to offer pre-school services.

The arguments Reiner and San Francisco child care advocates make are identical to the ones made in Quebec eight years ago. They claim that an investment in preschool will pay for itself not once, but many times. A Rand Corp. study estimates that every dollar spent on preschool will yield $2.50 in savings for the state by, among other things, boosting graduation rates and diminishing juvenile crime.

Setting aside the inherent difficulty of accurately quantifying such nebulous and distant benefits, such calculations inevitably underestimate the ultimate bill because they don't take into account the inflationary pressures that the program itself creates. The final price tag for Quebec's day care program is 33 times what was originally projected: It was supposed to cost $230 million over five years, but now gobbles $1.7 billion every year.

With this kind of spending, one would think that Quebec was offering top-notch day care to every tot, toddler and teen. Think again. Much of the increased spending has gone not toward increased access, but increased costs. Day care worker unions, on the threat of strike, negotiated a 40 percent increase in wages over four years. The cost of care has doubled since the program began, with the annual per-infant cost now exceeding $15,000.

Besides unions, the other major reason for the skyrocketing costs is that when people don't pay the full price for a service, they consume more of it -- what economists call the problem of the moral hazard: Quebecois taxpayers pay 80 to 90 percent of the cost of care, requiring parents to pitch in only $7 a day. Such low co-pays have encouraged mothers who might otherwise have stayed at home with their newborns to return to work. But any hope that the program would be able to meet the demand that it created was doomed right from the start, because it banned new centers and barred existing ones from participating, decimating the private day care market. (It has since reversed this policy).

Literally overnight, long lines of desperate parents vying for a "free" day care spot emerged. Parents registered babies yet to be conceived. And when they did land a spot, they paid their $7-a-day to hold it -- even if they were months away from using it.

But perhaps the most shocking part of Quebec's program is that it is reinforcing the very inequities it was meant to eradicate. Many low-income parents, who lost their child care tax deductions in order to finance the program, have been crowded out by middle- and upper-income parents more savvy at negotiating the system. According to research by Peter Shawn Taylor for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, half of Quebec's day care spaces are taken by families in the top 30 percent income bracket.

Is there any reason to believe that California will dodge Quebec-type cost overruns or shortages or inequities? None whatsoever. It is true that California's program will be for only 4-year-olds, somewhat limiting demand. However, this will be offset by the greater moral hazard in the program, because parents won't be required to contribute anything toward their child's care. At the same time that it will fuel demand, the program -- by its very existence -- will shrink supply in the private sector. Unlike Quebec, California's program won't ban new private preschools or bar existing ones from participating. But private preschools that don't participate will be hard-pressed to find parents to pay when competing against fully subsidized schools.

Preschools that do participate will have to pay wages on the K-12 teacher scale negotiated through a mandatory collective bargaining process that the unions lobbied for. They will also face other onerous regulations such as minimum staff-child ratios. All of this will raise the cost of doing business, driving many private day care centers out of the market and leaving fewer affordable options for low-income parents for whom three hours of state-funded day care covers less than half their needs.

Will California's program enhance school readiness of children in its care and improve educational outcomes, one of the main arguments of child care advocates? Not if Quebec's experience is any indication. Pierre Lefebvre, an economics professor at Universite du Quebec, has just completed a study comparing 4- to 5-year-olds in Quebec with kids elsewhere in Canada and found that Quebec kids have no better scores on the Peabody vocabulary test -- the most widely used indicator of school readiness.

California's private day care industry already serves the needs of a majority of parents effectively. In addition, California and San Francisco already offer child care assistance to needy parents through welfare-to-work and myriad other programs. Instead of instituting a huge, new pre-school entitlement, the best way to deal with any remaining need might be to strengthen such programs.

Universal preschool sounds progressive, but actually has pernicious unintended consequences for the parents and children it seeks to help.


Britain: The inspectors who praise bad schools

If Her Majesty's inspectors were to assess the progress of Her Majesty's government in education honestly, they ought by rights to give it an extremely bad report. National literacy strategy - failed. Sure Start programme - failed. Achievements for children in care - very poor indeed. Planning - weak and inconsistent. Spending - ill considered. Two major reports published last week have shown that both the national literacy strategy and the Sure Start programme for young children have proved to be worse than useless. In particular they have failed the most vulnerable 20% of children, whom this government had most intended to help. It is hardly an exaggeration to call this a national scandal.

Unfortunately, however, one cannot rely on Her Majesty's inspectors to give the most objective of reports. One of the many unpleasant facts to emerge last week about the mess the government has been making of our children's lives is that Ofsted has failed to sound alarm bells. On Thursday Jim Rose's eagerly awaited literacy report pointed out that Ofsted has somehow managed to find no fault with some of the country's worst-performing primary schools.

On the contrary, Ofsted inspectors have heaped praise on the dozen primary schools at the bottom of the performance tables. Schools at which only a tiny minority of 11-year-olds achieved the standard expected for their age were described as effective and good value for money. None was listed as seriously weak or in need of special measures - a list that Ofsted has been under government pressure to reduce. As I said, it is hardly an exaggeration to call this a national scandal.

To be fair to the government, it did, presumably when panicked by educational realities and the outrageous cost of the remedial reading recovery programme (2,500 pounds per child), commission this review. The Rose report has overturned 30 years of fashionable and failed orthodoxy, and new Labour's botched attempt to reform it through the much vaunted national literacy strategy. Rose recommends a return to phonics, now rather irritatingly called synthetic phonics, to distinguish it from less effective phonics teaching. It simply means your child learns to read by decoding words, putting each sound together as in th-a-t.

Many people have imagined that the national literacy programme was doing this. No, it was undermined from the first by squabbling, and reduced to a hodge podge of different methods used all together, none of which is teacher-proof or child-proof, and all of which fail to teach the simple, essential skill of decoding words by sounds. Today 30% of children fail to learn to read properly by the age of seven, which almost every child ought to be able to do, if correctly taught, including the very slow learners.

At the same time, reports by various authors at Birkbeck College (coyly sneaked onto the internet at the same time as the headline-grabbing Turner report on pensions) argued that the ambitious Sure Start scheme to provide care and early education for children from conception onwards has harmed more children than it has helped. Either Sure Start has made little difference, or in the case of children from problem families - teenage mothers, single mothers and jobless parents - those who have been through Sure Start scored worse on verbal ability and social competence, and higher on behaviour problems, than similar children who hadn't. It defies belief. More than 3 billion pounds has been spent. Many billions are earmarked for future spending.

Given new Labour's high ambitions and good intentions for children, its failure to "deliver on" its promises - to use its annoying expression - is all the more remarkable. The government is failing in its top priorities and not for lack of spending. Child obesity is worse, truancy is shocking, classroom disruption and bullying are shameful, exam standards are collapsing, the brightest children have been failed as well as the least able, testing is at best dubious and the illiteracy level, masked by years of ill-conceived testing, is simply unacceptable. Nothing could be more disastrous.

To send a poor child into the contemporary world illiterate and ignorant is like sending him naked into a Dickensian storm. It is to push him into unemployment, poverty, rage, crime, drug abuse, Asbos and jail. An illiterate girl might just as easily fall into all that and into single motherhood as well, condemned to breed more underclass babies and antisocial teenagers....

My view is that the problem has been old-fashioned [Leftist] ideology, so long a-dying, and the government's failure to recognise it, or when it has recognised it, its moral failure to stand up to it, not least because various cabinet ministers have shared the ideology. Synthetic phonics was condemned by the "progressive" orthodoxy as regimented, repressive, uncreative, old-fashioned and involving grouping according to progress. In practice it has been almost impossible to fight this orthodoxy. Even now most local authorities are unwilling to accept independent new synthetic phonics programmes with clearly proven success records, because they are "commercial".

Similarly with Sure Start, the need to "target" the most needy was undermined by the terror of "stigmatising" them. As usual, the mothers and children in most need have got least out of it, and indeed have been rather wary of it, whereas the aspirational middle classes have taken full advantage. Sure Start has distracted professionals from the most needy, enticing them into brightly coloured and comfortable Sure Start centres, and away from the hard-to-find families in need in the mean streets.

If the government cannot find ways to bypass left-wing orthodoxy, it is condemned to more of the same disgraceful failure.

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, December 07, 2005


National talent search is being planned to track the brightest 150,000 children through school and into top universities. Thirty thousand children will be invited each year to join the Government's National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth, using results from primary school tests taken by 11-year-olds. The initiative comes as teachers were accused of being ideologically opposed to singling out gifted children for special help after it emerged that 40 per cent of secondary schools had never recommended any child to attend the academy.

The talent search is certain to anger Labour MPs, who are already threatening to rebel against Tony Blair's education White Paper over what they see as plans to introduce back-door selection to secondary schools. Members of the Russell Group of leading universities would be given the names of pupils who were members of the academy so that they could recruit them to degree courses. Advocates say that this would end the imbalance at Oxford, Cambridge and other elite universities between students from state and fee-paying schools. Critics will see it as a renewed attempt at social engineering by giving state students a head start in the race for university places.

The initiative comes after The Times published research by Professor David Jesson, of the University of York, who found that the brightest 5 per cent students were only half as likely to achieve three A grades at A level in state schools as in the fee-paying sector.

Under the new scheme, promising children in state schools would be tracked from the age of 11 and those who fulfil their academic promise in GCSE examinations at 16 would be approached by admissions officers from Russell Group universities in their first year of sixth form. Officials at the academy, which is based at the University of Warwick, are in discussions about the scheme with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) and the Department for Education and Skills. They expect to recruit the first children under the scheme in September.

Until now, the academy has relied on teachers at individual secondary schools to recommend candidates for its "gifted and talented" programme from the most able 5 per cent of pupils. But official figures released to Nick Gibb, the Shadow Education Minister, last month showed huge variations in the willingness of schools to identify bright children. Teachers in 40 per cent of schools have failed to nominate a single pupil since the academy opened in 2002.

Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the SSAT, said that the brightest 11-year-olds would be identified from their scores in national curriculum tests of English and mathematics. Secondary schools would also use non-verbal reasoning tests to confirm the abilities of pupils and to identify any whose potential had not been spotted from the national curriculum exams. Staff at the academy would then contact the children and their parents to invite them to enrol. "There is a commitment in the White Paper for a national talent search using the scores in English and maths and we are going to do it," Sir Cyril said. "The people at Warwick have agreed that, instead of relying on teacher recommendations, they will get 30,000 names of 11-year-olds each year."

This would build over five years to a national register of the country's most gifted 150,000 children aged 11 to 16, whose talents would be nurtured through regular summer schools, short courses and other activities.

Sir Cyril said that children who fulfilled their potential by passing at least seven GCSEs with A* and A grades at age 16 could be identified to Russell Group universities. Admissions tutors could then approach the teenagers to encourage them to apply for places, pointing out to those from poorer families that bursaries and other financial aid was available. "The Russell Group are saying, `give us the names'," he said. " We can't think of a more effective way of getting very able children from comprehensive schools into the better universities."

Mr Gibb said that there was an "ideological opposition" among teachers in many schools towards singling out gifted children for help


British buckpassing about teacher evaluation

What the jury did not hear were comments made by Sharif to a class of young children shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers. "Hands up everybody who has relatives in New York? Well, they're dead," she reportedly announced one morning, making an abrupt change from reading the form register and singing a few verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful. She also reportedly added: "I'm on Osama Bin Laden's team." The school at which she was teaching - Grampian primary - received numerous complaints from parents, and Select Education, the agency which had supplied Sharif, was told never to send the woman their way again.

She denied saying the words and the judge ruled them inadmissible, as being based on the uncorroborated evidence of young children.

We may not be certain of the exact words uttered by Sharif, but we know that she was ticked off and agreed her comments had been "inappropriate". One hopes she agrees it is wrong to exult in mass murder.

It is this business that bothers me. "Parveen's teaching ability has never been brought into question," Select Education said at the time. It hasn't? What precisely would it take a teacher to do in class for such suitability to be questioned then? "Um, that's a very good question," a chap from Select told me. "But we would have no option but to let her apply again if she wished to do so. We couldn't stop her. I mean, ha ha, you can imagine the difficulty we'd have stopping her, couldn't you? It's very delicate. It's a very thin line."

Yes, I understand all too well, I suspect: delicate, difficult, thin line, etc. Luckily, she has not applied to rejoin Select's books (she left two or three years ago). "In any case, final responsibility rests with the school," the chap remarked. But I wonder if it will say on her references "reprimanded for inappropriate comments about the massacre of thousands of innocent people on 9/11". Hands up everyone who thinks probably not.

Derby city council cannot stop her teaching, either. Sharif was never on the local education authority's list of supply teachers - but then she did not need to be in order to gain employment. "She came from an agency," the council told me. "We couldn't stop her teaching. It's up to the schools, really."

Poor schools. I'll bet they think that the deep vetting is done somewhere else and that it is not up to them. Can you imagine these institutions taking a similarly indulgent view if a teacher had championed paedophilia in the classroom? Or suggested that homosexuals were warped and deviant? Or announced that all Muslims should be banged up? Meanwhile, Sharif has expressed a wish to teach in, or even found, an Islamic school. I don't suppose anybody will be remotely inclined to stop her.

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


Recently, an atheist student organization at The University of Texas at San Antonio set up a “Smut for Smut” booth allowing students to exchange their religious scriptures (mostly the Holy Bible) for pornography. Unsurprisingly, they got the idea from another group at The University of Texas at Austin.

If the “Smut for Smut” exchanges begin to spread across the country, many readers will undoubtedly ask why such displays aren’t banned by campus speech codes due to possibly “offensive,” “disrespectful,” or “demeaning” content. Of course, the answer to that question is simple:

Campus speech codes were not designed to preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage through an equal application of rules. They were designed to destroy it through a selective application of rules. And that is why we observe that a) atheist students are free to call the Word of God “smut” and “pornography” in between campus showings of hard-core porn films, while b) religious students are prevented from using offensive terms like “Christmas.”

It almost gets depressing when you look at schools like Auburn University – a school that is preparing for the lighting of a Holiday Tree, instead of the lighting of a Christmas Tree – a term deemed too offensive and “under-inclusive” in the postmodern era of higher education. And this kind of thing is happening at Auburn, not merely at schools like Brown and Harvard.

More here


As an Irish-born writer who lives in both France and the United Kingdom, I believe that the British approach to race relations has been disastrous, fostering disunity, tension, and ethnic strife on a much greater scale than anything that has occurred in France. While cars have been torched in large numbers in French cities, Britain has experienced murderous terrorist outrages committed by Muslim men who were born and bred in England. Thankfully, there was only one fatality in the French disturbances. In the London bombings in July, 52 people were killed and over 700 injured.

Nor has Britain been free of serious race riots. Just before the trouble began in Paris, there were several nights of street fighting between Asian and African-Caribbean gangs in Birmingham, England's second largest city. Two people were killed. And this incident followed years of racial unrest in decaying industrial towns in the north of England, such as Burnley and Bradford, where there are large, radicalized Muslim populations, though the level of disorder is always downplayed by the political establishment and media, anxious not to undermine carefully manufactured images of multiethnic harmony.

In truth, Britain is now a deeply divided land, where suspicion, intolerance, and aggression cast their shadow over urban areas. Only the other day, the government revealed that, in the last twelve months, the number of prosecutions for racial hate crimes had risen by 30 percent. In a courageous recent speech, Trevor Phillips, a black broadcaster who now serves as the chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, warned that the country is "sleepwalking towards segregation," with society ever more fragmented by ethnicity and religion. Using remarkably frank language, Phillips added that parts of some cities will soon be "black holes into which no one goes without fear."

This sorry situation has been created by a deliberate act of public policy. For the last three decades, in response to waves of mass immigration, the civic institutions of Britain have eagerly implemented the ideology of multiculturalism. Instead of promoting a cohesive British identity, they have encouraged immigrant communities to cling to the customs, traditions, and language of their countries of origin. The emphasis is on upholding ethnic and cultural differences rather than achieving assimilation. This is in stark contrast to France, which has taken a color-blind approach to immigration, with newcomers expected to adapt to the culture of the host nation. The recently imposed ban on Muslim girls' wearing the hijab or headscarf in schools is a classic example of the French model.

Britain has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Soon after the French hijab ban was implemented, a British Muslim teenager brought a successful legal action to win the right to wear in school full Islamic dress from head to toe. She was represented in her court case by Cherie Blair, the barrister wife of the prime minister. And Mrs. Blair's action was typical of the spirit of the Labour-led British ruling class, which has elevated dogmatic multiculturalism into a principle of governance.

Racial segregation is woven into the fabric of British public services. Indeed, under the latest race relations legislation, all public authorities have a statutory duty to promote cultural diversity. So inner city local councils and hospitals in urban areas now print all their public documentation in ethnic minority languages, including Kosovan, Hindi, Greek, Swahili, and Turkish, while many provide extensive interpreting services. One doctor who works in east London told me of her outrage at being sent to take a course in Bengali so she could communicate more effectively with her patients.

Bilingualism is common in urban schools, given that almost 12 percent of children have a first language other than English. London is now the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with more than 300 languages spoken by pupils, ranging from Punjabi and Nigerian Yoruba to Polish and Tamil. In addition, the government now provides funds to Muslims to set up their own schools, in which there is a predominantly Islamic ethos, imams are involved in teaching, and Arabic is learned for the study of the Koran. At present there are just five such Muslim state schools, but the government has announced plans to take the number to 150, a move that smacks of appeasement towards Islamic separatism. The police have also been infected with this spirit. In recruitment in London, there is an open bias towards applicants who speak "a community language." And in the Midlands city of Nottingham, the July bombings prompted the chief constable to order his officers to wear green ribbons "to show their solidarity with the Muslim community."

Thanks to multiculturalism, the provision of public housing, the arts, broadcasting, and community grants is now divided on racial lines. The BBC, the main state broadcaster, has its own Asian network providing news and features inside the U.K. in Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, and Gujarati. There are now more than 140 housing associations in England catering to ethnic minorities; one of them, the Aashyana in Bristol, provides special apartments for Muslims with the toilets facing away from Mecca. More than 10 percent of the bodies funded by the Arts Council, such as theaters and dance companies, describe themselves as black or Asian organizations. "British culture is not a single entity. We should rightly speak of British cultures," says the Arts Council.

Yet the diversity enthusiasts want to celebrate every culture but their own. In the self-flagellating climate of modern Britain, the nation's traditions are increasingly regarded as reactionary and prejudiced. Britishness has "systematic, largely unspoken racial connotations," declared the government's Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The commission's report, published in 2000, described the United Kingdom as "a community of communities" and called for British history to be "revised, rethought or jettisoned." The official mood of self-loathing, epitomized by the terror of giving offense to any ethnic group, has become even more pervasive in the last five years. In one typical instance, the English inspector of prisons stated that wardens should not wear badges or tie pins with the red cross of St. George, England's national flag, because this could be "misinterpreted as a racist symbol."

Another extreme episode that was much discussed in the media five years ago illustrates how multiculturalism can undermine the management of social services. At Haringey Council in north London in February 2000, an 8-year-old child from Ivory Coast, Victoria Climbie, died after suffering a catalogue of cruelty, beatings, and neglect by her great-aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, who claimed that Victoria was possessed by the devil. Social workers and the police, alerted repeatedly to Victoria's plight, were reluctant to intervene because they did not want to appear culturally insensitive to Kouao's beliefs or methods of discipline. Indeed, the prevailing mood in the Haringey social work office was one of perverted antiracism, where the woefully incompetent casework manager, Carole Baptiste, held meetings in the dark to discuss African witchcraft and spent much of her time talking about oppression of black women. "It is hard to say how mad it was," recalled one black social worker. "There were some black staff members who would not speak to white people. Aggressive racial politics permeated the office."

The English patriot and maverick socialist George Orwell wrote in 1941, "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their nationality. In left-wing circles, it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution." More than 60 years later, multiculturalism has provided the ideal vehicle for the left, which now predominates in civic Britain, to exercise its destructive influence. The neurotic official obsession with the politics of racial identity has destroyed any shared sense of national belonging. As the Asian writer Kenan Malik has put it, "The problem is not that ethnic minorities are alienated from a concept of Britishness but that there is today no source of Britishness from which anyone--black or white--can draw inspiration."

Britain is fast replacing nationhood with a hierarchy of victimhood, with different ethnic groups living in conflict, each trumpeting its own sense of grievance. Age-old liberties, like freedom of speech, are disappearing; a play in Birmingham was recently closed down because a mob of Sikhs threatened to destroy the theater, claiming to be offended by the content of the production. Meanwhile, the endless British accommodation of Islamic extremism, in the name of racial tolerance, has allowed terrorism to flourish in our midst. According to one recent survey, 13 percent of British Muslims support home-grown terrorism, a terrifying thought given that there are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain.

Multiculturalism is not the road that France should go down. Bomb-scarred Britain proves that integration is not achieved by exacerbating racial division and institutional self-hatred.



Post lifted from Getting Elected

There is much talk these days about the frontal attack on Christmas in all forms. The wild eyed libs led by the ACLU have intimidated cities and towns to rename "Christmas" trees as "Holiday" trees, school boards to replace "Christmas" Carols with "Holiday" songs like Frosty The Snowman, and stores to replace advertising and even greetings to their customers from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays".

My wife and I are fighting back. We are not going to buy presents this year from stores who have shucked Christmas. We even made a recent decision to buy a new washer based on store loyalty to "Christmas".

But then I got thinking. If the Christmas naysayers have their way and blot out Christmas from the public square, they will surely turn elsewhere in their crusade against God. Like the dog chasing it's own tail, the anti-Christmas grinches may turn on the word "Holiday" itself.

Just consider this. Where does the word come from and what does it mean? I found the following explanation of the origination of the word "Holiday" at Holiday is: "...Based on the English words holy and day, holidays originally represented special days of the Christian Church calendar." (emphasis added)

Surely the ACLU will eventually figure this out and an attack on the "Holiday Tree" and everything else "Holiday" will start with the same gusto as the attack on "Christmas". "Holiday", i.e. Holy Day, will have to go. Special Tree? Special Song? Happy Special Days?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Surprise: Feminized education favours females!

A stealth revolution, unplanned and largely unnoticed, is changing the face of American higher education. In a trend that began in 1980, but only recently grew large enough to catch national attention, men now attend and graduate from college in numbers far lower than women. Every year, women increase their presence on campuses nationwide, while men do not. The percentage of young men going from high school to college today has scarcely changed since 1968, hovering around 61 percent. By contrast, the percentage of women enrolling in college increases every year, reaching 72 percent in 2004. Men outnumber women in the 15-24 age bracket by under 1 percent, yet women accounted for about 60 percent of all associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees awarded in the United States in 2004. Michigan's numbers were in line with the national average.

"Women continue to march right along," said Tom Mortenson, a researcher at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education who has studied this shift for 10 years, "and the guys are apparently just looking for the next video game or pickup football match."

Among the state's universities, only the University of Michigan has a nearly even split in its freshman class. The next closest is Michigan State University, where male freshmen constitute 43 percent. This disparity is not the result of any favoritism in admissions. Simply put, far more girls apply to college these days than boys. Jim Cotter, MSU senior associate director of admissions, concedes officials have begun to discuss "in a light-hearted way whether we should look at recruiting strategies that might attract young men."

Experts cite several reasons why men might be underperforming, starting with frustration in school. These experts point to the relative difficulty boys have picking up reading and writing, and suggest that the elementary and secondary educational system simply fits girls better than boys.

William S. Pollack, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School who heads the Center for Men and Young Men, calls schools "some of the most boy-unfriendly places on Earth." Movement and hands-on manipulation, he says, are central to the ways boys learn -- yet it's precisely this tendency to fidget and squirm "that drives teachers crazy." Girls, on the other hand, learn to sit still and pay attention at an earlier age. Pollack also notes that boys learn to put words together and read, on average, "six months to a year later than girls. And their fine-motor skills are less-well developed," affecting their ability to pick up writing.

Reading scores offer the clearest sign of disparity between the genders. In the fourth grade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, boys trail girls by 7 percentage points. By eighth grade, that gap widens to 11 points. The upshot, Pollack suggests, is that boys on average struggle more in elementary school, are more prone to frustration, and therefore are less likely to emerge from school seeking higher education.

Employment realities may also play a role. Many experts note that young men can get jobs right out of high school, such as in construction, that pay far better than entry-level positions for women. Some authorities also speculate that boys still believe their gender will guarantee them success no matter what, while girls feel they must prove themselves. Robert Massa, Dickinson College vice president for enrollment, suggests that boys just seem less motivated than girls. "I say this as a father of both a son and a daughter," he said from Carlisle, Pa. "Boys just seem less interested in proving themselves. I wonder whether there's a safety issue about staying at home and not worrying about your future -- a problem I think is endemic among the male population today."

Once in college, some men seem to have different priorities than women. A 1999 study by the Higher Education Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that women study more and participate more in school activities. Men, on the other hand, excel at exercise, partying, watching TV and playing video games. "We call that the Bart Simpson syndrome," said Stephen Lawton, Central Michigan University's chairman of educational administration.

The gender shift raises other issues as well, notably what women with higher degrees will do when it's harder to find a man who's their educational peer. It's a problem that Courtney McAnuff, Eastern Michigan University's vice president for enrollment, suggests is particularly acute in minority communities. "When you have urban school districts where half the males don't finish," he said, "that's important."

This male-female disparity exists across all racial groups. Among white 18- and 19-year-olds in 2002, women outnumbered men on campus by about 2 percentage points. Among blacks, the figure was 6 percentage points and 5 percentage points for Hispanics. In all cases, the gap widens as the student population ages....

Pollack, in the introduction to his book, "Real Boys," sketches an emergency that goes far beyond academics. American boys, he writes, are "cast out to sea in separate lifeboats, and feel they are drowning in isolation, depression, loneliness and despair."...

"All the studies show that college degree holders earn over a million dollars more in their lifetimes," says EMU's McAnuff. "Maybe we should be selling that to boys -- 'Could you use an extra million?'?" But perhaps men who ditch college are just making rational calculations. Researcher Laura W. Perna of the University of Pennsylvania found that although a college degree raised a young woman's starting salary 45 percent, men saw no initial payoff over what they would have earned right out of high school, further discouraging them from pursuing higher education.....

More here


In the 1990s, I taught for six years at a small liberal arts college in Spokane, Wash. In my third year, I started noticing something that was happening right in front of me. There were more young women in my classes than young men, and on average, they were getting better grades than the guys. Many of the young men stared blankly at me as I lectured. They didn't take notes as well as the young women. They didn't seem to care as much about what I taught -- literature, writing and psychology. They were bright kids, but many of their faces said, "Sitting here, listening, staring at these words -- this is not really who I am." That was a decade ago, but just last month, I spoke with an administrator at Howard University in the District. He told me that what I observed a decade ago has become one of the "biggest agenda items" at Howard. "We are having trouble recruiting and retaining male students," he said. "We are at about a 2-to-1 ratio, women to men."

Howard is not alone. Colleges and universities across the country are grappling with the case of the mysteriously vanishing male. Where men once dominated, they now make up no more than 43 percent of students at American institutions of higher learning, according to 2003 statistics, and this downward trend shows every sign of continuing unabated. If we don't reverse it soon, we will gradually diminish the male identity, and thus the productivity and the mission, of the next generation of young men, and all the ones that follow.

The trend of females overtaking males in college was initially measured in 1978. Yet despite the well-documented disappearance of ever more young men from college campuses, we have yet to fully react to what has become a significant crisis. Largely, that is because of cultural perceptions about males and their societal role. Many times a week, a reporter or other media person will ask me: "Why should we care so much about boys when men still run everything?"

It's a fair and logical question, but what it really reflects is that our culture is still caught up in old industrial images. We still see thousands of men who succeed quite well in the professional world and in industry -- men who get elected president, who own software companies, who make six figures selling cars. We see the Bill Gateses and John Robertses and George Bushes -- and so we're not as concerned as we ought to be about the millions of young men who are floundering or lost.

But they're there: The young men who are working in the lowest-level (and most dangerous) jobs instead of going to college. Who are sitting in prison instead of going to college. Who are staying out of the long-term marriage pool because they have little to offer to young women. Who are remaining adolescents, wasting years of their lives playing video games for hours a day, until they're in their thirties, by which time the world has passed many of them by...

Most frightening, the old promise that schools will take care of boys and educate them to succeed is also breaking down, as boys dominate the failure statistics in our schools, starting at the elementary level and continuing through high school ....

When I worked as a counselor at a federal prison, I saw these statistics up close. The young men and adult males I worked with were mainly uneducated, had been raised in families that didn't promote education, and had found little of relevance in the schools they had attended. They were passionate people, capable of great love and even possible future success. Many of them told me how much they wanted to get an education. At an intuitive level, they knew how important it was.

Whether in the prison system, in my university classes or in the schools where I help train teachers, I have noticed a systemic problem with how we teach and mentor boys that I call "industrial schooling," and that I believe is a primary root of our sons' falling behind in school, and quite often in life.

Two hundred years ago, realizing the necessity of schooling millions of kids, we took them off the farms and out of the marketplace and put them in large industrial-size classrooms (one teacher, 25 to 30 kids). For many kids, this system worked -- and still works. But from the beginning, there were some for whom it wasn't working very well. Initially, it was girls. It took more than 150 years to get parity for them.

Now we're seeing what's wrong with the system for millions of boys. Beginning in very early grades, the sit-still, read-your-book, raise-your-hand-quietly, don't-learn-by-doing-but-by-taking-notes classroom is a worse fit for more boys than it is for most girls. This was always the case, but we couldn't see it 100 years ago. We didn't have the comparative element of girls at par in classrooms. We taught a lot of our boys and girls separately. We educated children with greater emphasis on certain basic educational principles that kept a lot of boys "in line" -- competitive learning was one. And our families were deeply involved in a child's education.

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


Monday, December 05, 2005


A way out now that other forms of discipline are severely restricted?

Bad words are costing Hartford Public and Bulkeley high schoolers $103 each. Police officers assigned to the schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior. The joint effort by school and police officials targets students who swear while defying teachers and administrators. "We're sending a message to the parents and to the teachers," said Sandy Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry. "We are trying to bring back order to the schools."

Parents are required to pay the fines if the students cannot. "Our heads are spinning with that," said Sam Saylor, president of the district Parent Teacher Organization. "The kids are really indecent with their swearing and they're swearing at teachers. This is their way of curtailing it -- making the parents pay."

Keila Ayala, 17, a Hartford Public sophomore, said she was ticketed for shouting an expletive in an officer's face while handcuffed for taking a swing at him. "It'll stop me from swearing," she said. "Well, it won't stop me from swearing, but I won't cuss at the teachers."

George Sugai, who teaches school discipline at UConn's Neag School of Education, is skeptical of the effort. "Research says that punishing kids doesn't teach them the right way to act," he said.

But Hartford Police Officer Roger Pearl said the program is working. "Before, the kids were swearing all the time. It went from many incidents to almost nothing," he said. "It's quiet in the halls."



Post lifted from Betsy Newmark

The Wall Street Journal has been very strong in supporting the charter school movement, particularly in New Orleans. Today they have an editorial about how Louisiana is turning towards charter schools to help them after Katrina. Given the horrible record that the New Orleans public school system had before the hurricane it isn't surprising that the state government wants to take authority away from them. Everyone is happy, except, of course, the teachers union. There is this amazing quote from Walter Isaacson, formerly of CNN, who is heading up a group to raise money for New Orleans and rounding up sponsors for new New Orleans charter schools,
"We discussed whether we could do this with the unions," said Mr. Isaacson, "and it was decided that it was very hard to have the workplace flexibility you need. Charters don't have the same union rules, and that's the biggest thing they have going for them."
Exactly. What makes charter schools successful is that flexibility and teacher unions are anathema to that sort of nimbleness in adjusting to new situations. I've taught in regular public schools and now teach at a charter high school. It is so clear how wonderfully flexible a charter school is. When before a decision in the regular public school would take several months as it got kicked up through various layers of bureaucracy, can now get decided instantly by sending an email to the principal. Bravo to Isaacson for recognizing this and how it works.

Will universal pre-school give all kids a head start? "This is the great danger: the presumption that government can raise children better than parents. If universal preschool is voluntary, then it may merely create another massive and ultra-expensive bureaucracy that accomplishes little. If it is compulsory, then universal preschool will extend the government's usurpation of parenthood so that all 3- and 4-year-olds are under state supervision."


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, December 04, 2005


Yes. "Diverse" schools are BAD for blacks and Hispanics

My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools. It does not allow me to say whose fault this is, the studious youngster or others in his peer group. But I do find that the way schools are structured affects the incidence of the acting-white phenomenon. The evidence indicates that the social disease, whatever its cause, is most prevalent in racially integrated public schools. It's less of a problem in the private sector and in predominantly black public schools.

With findings as potentially controversial as these, one wants to be sure that they rest on a solid base. In this regard, I am fortunate that the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Adhealth) provides information on the friendship patterns of a nationally representative sample of more than 90,000 students, from 175 schools in 80 communities, who entered grades 7 through 12 in the 1994 school year. With this database, it is possible to move beyond both the more narrowly focused ethnographic studies and the potentially misleading national studies based on self-reported indicators of popularity that have so far guided the discussion of acting white.

Even after taking into account many factors that affect student popularity, evidence remains strong that acting white is a genuine issue and worthy of Senator Obama's attention. Figure 1, which plots the underlying relationship between popularity and achievement, shows large differences among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. At low GPAs, there is little difference among ethnic groups in the relationship between grades and popularity, and high-achieving blacks are actually more popular within their ethnic group than high-achieving whites are within theirs. But when a student achieves a 2.5 GPA (an even mix of Bs and Cs), clear differences start to emerge.

As grades improve beyond this level, Hispanic students lose popularity at an alarming rate. Although African Americans with GPAs as high as 3.5 continue to have more friends than those with lower grades, the rate of increase is no longer as great as among white students.

The experience of black and white students diverges as GPAs climb above 3.5. As the GPAs of black students increase beyond this level, they tend to have fewer and fewer friends. A black student with a 4.0 has, on average, 1.5 fewer friends of the same ethnicity than a white student with the same GPA. Put differently, a black student with straight As is no more popular than a black student with a 2.9 GPA, but high-achieving whites are at the top of the popularity pyramid.

My findings with respect to Hispanics are even more discouraging. A Hispanic student with a 4.0 GPA is the least popular of all Hispanic students, and Hispanic-white differences among high achievers are the most extreme.

The social costs of a high GPA are most pronounced for adolescent males. Popularity begins to decrease at lower GPAs for young black men than young black women (3.25 GPA compared with a 3.5), and the rate at which males lose friends after this point is far greater. As a result, black male high achievers have notably fewer friends than do female ones. I observe a similar pattern among Hispanics, with males beginning to lose friends at lower GPAs and at a faster clip, though the male-female differences are not statistically significant......

The patterns described thus far essentially characterize social dynamics of public-school students, who constitute 94 percent of the students in the Adhealth sample. For the small percentage of black and Hispanic students who attend private school, however, I find no evidence of a trade-off between popularity and achievement (see Figure 2). Surprisingly, white private-school students with the highest grades are not as popular as their lower-achieving peers. The most-popular white students in private schools have a GPA of roughly 2.0, a C average.

These data may help to explain one of the more puzzling findings in the research on the relative advantages of public and private schools. Most studies of academic achievement find little or no benefit of attending a private school for white students, but quite large benefits for African Americans. It may be that blacks attending private schools have quite a different peer group.

I also find that acting white is unique to those schools where black students comprise less than 80 percent of the student population. In predominantly black schools, I find no evidence at all that getting good grades adversely affects students' popularity.

That acting white is more prevalent in schools with more interethnic contact hardly passes the test of political correctness. It nonetheless provides a clue to what is going on. Anthropologists have long observed that social groups seek to preserve their identity, an activity that accelerates when threats to internal cohesion intensify. Within a group, the more successful individuals can be expected to enhance the power and cohesion of the group as long as their loyalty is not in question. But if the group risks losing its most successful members to outsiders, then the group will seek to prevent the outflow. Cohesive yet threatened groups-the Amish, for example-are known for limiting their children's education for fear that too much contact with the outside world risks the community's survival....

Minority communities in the United States have yet to generate a large cadre of high achievers, a situation as discouraging as the high incarceration rates among minorities who never finish high school. In fact, the two patterns may be linked. As long as distressed communities provide minorities with their identities, the social costs of breaking free will remain high. To increase the likelihood that more can do so, society must find ways for these high achievers to thrive in settings where adverse social pressures are less intense. The integrated school, by itself, apparently cannot achieve that end.

Much more here

Killing Thinking

You can't judge a book by its cover - but you can tell a lot from the title. Killing Thinking: The Death of the Universities is an uncompromising attack upon the process that has turned the British university from a place of higher education and thinking, however imperfect, into a site of 'battery farming for the mind', where academics and students are enslaved by the principles of audit, assessment, and regulation, and the role of the university is reduced to meeting the needs of the market in Britain's so-called knowledge economy.

When it was first published a year ago, Killing Thinking received acclaim from the academic community. This autumn, Continuum has brought out a new, cheaper paperback version to stimulate discussion among a wider general audience - parents, would-be students and the many others who are perturbed by the concern that a university education ain't what it used to be. Mary Evans' critique remains accessible and fresh, raising some important questions about the value of higher education in a culture increasingly driven by instrumental considerations.

In the introduction to Killing Thinking, Evans, who is professor of women's studies at the University of Kent, explains that the book was 'inspired by the experience of working in a British university in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first' - which 'has not been a happy time'. From the expansion of the higher education system under the Tories in the 1980s to the Blairite goal of getting 50 per cent of young people into university, from the self-conscious introduction of a market ethos into academic life to the spawning of new, all-powerful regulatory bodies such as the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Evans exposes the relentless way in which knowledge, creativity, and education have been drummed out of British universities, to be replaced by 'the painting-by-numbers exercise of the hand-out culture and [the transformation] of much research into an atavistic battle for funds'.

And that's only on the first page. Killing Thinking is a slender book, passionately written and free from jargon, and it pulls no punches in describing the miserable state of the British academy today. The chapter on 'audit and compliance' is titled 'The Heart of Darkness'; the chapter unravelling the democratic-sounding language employed by the regulatory system makes extensive use of comparisons with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Evans is not alone in her objections to the audit culture - as she explains, such complaints frequently appear on the pages of academia's trade journal, the Times Higher Education Supplement. What is refreshing about Evans' critique, however, is that she refuses to pay lip-service to the leftist-sounding justifications that are given to the expansion and modernisation agenda - that it is more democratic and equal than what went before.

Evans makes clear that she is not harking back to some golden age, in which the university was 'a world of intellectual conversation, engaged students and limitless indulgence'. To do so would be 'to depart to the realms of fantasy' - 'we cannot easily defend the past, or invoke that past as an attack on the present'. As a professor of women's studies, Mary Evans can also hope to avoid the caricature of those who criticise the modernisation agenda as fusty old men, bent on preserving their position at whatever cost. Unlike many critics, Evans recognises that a combination of political and cultural agendas has set the modern university on its disastrous course, making it impossible simply to blame the political right, or the cultural left: 'The attack on the traditional 'high' culture of universities has come, in Britain, from a complex coalition: left-wing modernisers, Tory pragmatists and all-party and all-class philistines'.

Whoever instigated this process, its outcome, according the Evans, is no good for anybody - particularly its purported beneficiaries, students from less-than-privileged backgrounds, or women. 'Increasingly students are being asked to pay for the costs of the regulation of higher education rather than the education itself', she argues in the introduction - and as the new universities proliferate, the elite institutions of Oxbridge and London have become more desirable to students, yet less attainable: 'More people are allowed access to higher education than ever before, but the most valuable rewards of higher education are, arguably, more concentrated (and at least as exclusive) as in the past'.

As for women, whose all-but exclusion from the ivory towers has been replaced by a greater number of female than male undergraduates, Evans contends that the sheer burden of regulatory demands means that 'women are not just as disadvantaged in contemporary universities as those of the past but arguably more so'. Women have been given access to the university at the very time that this means conscientious conformity to the tick-box demands of the QAA, regular outputs to the RAE, and generally behaving as 'the "good girls"' rather than creative thinkers capable of great things.

So it has not been a happy time, indeed. What, if anything, can be done to rescue the keen minds and educational resources that still exist in most universities from the mindless conformity of the battery farm? Mary Evans hopes that this is the kind of discussion that will be sparked by the republication of her book. 'The first reaction, when it was originally published, was a lot of recognition from academics and students about what is going on in universities', she tells me. 'The second was: "Yes, it's all terrible, but what can we do?" - a terrible sense of passivity, as if academics didn't own the university, and this was just how it is. That was what I found the most depressing. I hope now that we can have a public discussion about what can be done'.

A little book like Mary Evans' may not tell the full story of the crisis in Britain's universities, but it's enough of a start for a debate that goes beyond the walls of the academy. The government has the regulators, the proscriptions and the financial clout, but when it comes to any kind of vision for the future of high education, it cannot see beyond the next set of A-level results. Instead of putting up and shutting up, disgruntled academics, sold-short students and anyone else with an interest in education should think about adding their own thoughts and writings to those of the unhappy dissenters, and formulating their own vision about what a university should be for.



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