Saturday, December 17, 2005

For Professors' Children, the Case for Home Schooling

If you want to bring a conversation to a dead stop on the academic cash-bar circuit, just mention casually that you are home schooling your children. You might as well bite the head off a live chicken. Most professors are likely to be appalled, and those who are not will keep their mouths shut. Still, all indications are that the number of families who home school is growing rapidly - somewhere between 5 percent and 15 percent per year, according to the U.S. Department of Education -- and the number of home-schooled children now hovers somewhere between one and two million. A recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll indicates that 41 percent of families had a positive view of home schooling in 2001, as opposed to only 16 percent who did in 1985. By almost every measurable outcome, home schoolers in general outperform their public-educated peers, and many colleges are beginning to rework their admissions procedures to accommodate the growing numbers of home-schooled applicants.

Nevertheless, I have spoken with more than a few professors who say that home schooling is dangerous: It is a threat to public education, it is anti-feminist, it isolates children, it is a form of religious fanaticism, it is a means of avoiding diversity, and - most withering of all - it is an instrument of ideological conservatism. They sometimes joke about home education by mentioning horror films such as Carrie and Children of the Corn.

I'm an English professor, and my spouse used to work in academic administration. We have three daughters, ages 6, 4, and 2. And we have been home schooling them for two years now. If all goes well, we plan to continue teaching them at home at least until they are old enough for high school. We always planned that one of us would stay home while our children were young, but the idea of home schooling only developed recently in the context of our present circumstances. Teaching our daughters to read and write, beginning around the age of 4, seemed like a natural thing for us to do. Along with potty training, it was just part of the ordinary business of being a parent. Being avid readers ourselves, we have about 4,000 books in our house, which now includes a children's library. I suppose it was inevitable that we would spend a lot of time reading to our children, and they would have an early desire to learn to read for themselves and for each other.

We live surrounded by woods and farmland, so our daughters are constantly asking us to look up plants and insects in the Audubon field guides. We have a reasonably well-supplied children's science lab and art studio. And, in the course of routine travel and shopping, it's easy to cultivate our daughters' curiosity about the world by visiting museums, zoos, libraries, schools, factories, and farms. These are things that most parents do, though they may not regard their activities as part of some kind of curriculum.

In a typical day, our 6-year-old daughter will study phonics, spelling, writing, history, geography, and math. She may perform some elementary science experiments, or she may work on an art project in emulation of Seurat or Pollock. On some days other children - not necessarily other home schoolers - will come to our house to play. Sometimes they'll open our costume chest and dramatize something they've been reading, such as The Hobbit. Other times they'll go outside and play hide-and- seek or go on an "expedition" to find specimens for the family museum. Even though our younger daughters have not yet started their formal schooling, they are eager to imitate their oldest sister, and the pace of learning seems to accelerate with each new child. On good days, home schooling seems like the most natural method of elementary education one could imagine.

We are not ideologically committed to home schooling any more than we are opposed to public education. And we are aware of the limitations of home schooling under some circumstances, just as we are aware of the difficulties faced by many public schools, even in relatively well-financed school districts. Ultimately, we want the best education for our children, and, on the whole, home schooling seems like the best option. It is also one that our daughters seem to desire, and, if any of them wanted to go to the nearby public school, we would certainly consider it.

Nevertheless, my spouse and I do feel the sting of criticisms that we hear in academe from people who don't know that we are home schoolers - or, worse, from those who do. Of course, we agree that these criticisms apply in some cases. But we also think it is unfair to judge a diverse range of home-schooling practices by associating the movement - if it can be called that - with its most extreme and marginal practitioners.

In search of some reassurance, I have had many discussions with other professors who home school, primarily at my home institution but also with a number of faculty members in other parts of the country. From those conversations I have noticed a number of common motives, circumstances, and beliefs among faculty members who educate their children at home:

They are rarely religious or political extremists. Many professors observe that it is difficult to achieve consistent moral training in public education. They sometimes state that private education in religious schools is too doctrinal or resistant to modernity, particularly in the sciences. Some lament that public and religious education seem to have become battlefields for activists for whom the "vital center" has been abandoned, along with a spirit of civic responsibility.

They want the best education for their children, but they are not wealthy. Professors are usually well informed about what constitutes a good education in terms of methods and resources. The experience of small classes and one-on-one tutoring inevitably convinces teachers of the effectiveness of methods that can easily be replicated in the home, though they are prohibitive for all but exclusive private schools that are usually beyond the reach of academics with more than one child. Home schooling, therefore, becomes a logical choice when the costs of private education and day care become greater than one parent's income.

They enjoy learning. For nearly all professors, the chance to review and expand their own youthful education in a variety of fields is a treat that almost transcends the educational needs of their children. Mathematicians, for example, relish the chance to reread the literature they half-missed when they were mastering geometry, and English professors, like me, enjoy the chance to relearn the astronomy they once loved before calculus crushed their hopes for a scientific career. They often see themselves as learning with their children rather than simply teaching them.

They are confident in their ability to teach. Professors often see teaching their own children as part of a continuum of pleasurable obligations to the next generation; they seek to integrate the values of their profession with the values they live at home. Since professors often teach the teachers, they tend to believe - perhaps with some hubris - in their ability to teach effectively at all grade levels. But more often, they recognize their limitations and seek collaboration with other parents - often professors themselves - with different areas of expertise.

They benefit from flexible schedules. Academics tend to work about 50 hours per week during the academic year, but they also have control over their schedules and long periods of relative autonomy. Most professors have a co-parenting ideal, but in practice one partner - usually the mother - becomes the primary home educator, while the father assumes a secondary role with some seasonal variation. Some express discomfort with this circumstance because they recognize the sacrifices that each partner requires of the other.

They value unstructured learning. Professors know how much time is lost by learning in an institutional setting. A large portion of the time spent in school is devoted to moving students around, dealing with disruptions, health problems, different amounts of preparation, and unequal rates of learning. Without all the crowd control and level seeking, the formal requirements of education can be completed in only a few hours a day, leaving lots of time for self-directed learning and play. As a result, home-schooled children generally learn faster and with less boredom and less justified resentment.

They see the results of public education. Every professor seems to complain that most high-school graduates are not really prepared for college, either academically or emotionally. More and more, our energies are devoted to remedial teaching and therapeutic counseling. Most believe that something is wrong in public education, or the larger culture, that can only be dealt with, in part, by selective withdrawal. Home-schooled students are not always perfect, but they seem more respectful, attentive, mature, and academically prepared than their peers. And they do not automatically perceive teachers as "the enemy" out of peer solidarity.

They privilege the family over peer groups. Professors often celebrate diversity as a value in education, and, among those who home school, many mention the value for their children of cross-generational experiences instead of identifying only with a peer group. In large families, children also benefit from teaching their younger siblings, who are generally eager to keep up. Home-schooled students are less likely to become alienated from their families as a result of antisocial, anti-intellectual peer conformity. They develop a set of values that enable them to resist the negative socialization that outweighs, by far, the benefits of segregation by age.

They have negative memories of their own education. Although it takes some probing, nearly every professor with home-schooled children mentions traumatic childhood experiences in school. Professors, as a group, tend to have been sensitive, intelligent children who were picked on and ostracized. They foresee the same treatment for their own children, and they want to do everything they can to prevent the children from experiencing the traumas they experienced. Professors recognize how many of our most brilliant students have been emotionally or physically terrorized for a dozen years before they arrive at college. School sometimes teaches otherwise happy and intelligent children to become sullen and secretive and contemptuous of learning.

It is hard to overemphasize this last point as a motive for home schoolers. In my own memory, the difficulty of school was never the work; it was surviving the day without being victimized by students whose violence was beyond the capacity or desire of adults to control. My spouse remembers the cruelty of girls in cliques, who can be even more cunning at the infliction of pain and permanent emotional scarring than any of the boys who sometimes sent me home with torn clothes and a bloody nose.

No doubt, my spouse and I have had to forgo some career options for our present way of life. Home schooling our children means we have to live on an assistant professor's salary. It also means living in a small town in the Midwest instead of an expensive city on one of the coasts. It means living in an old farmhouse that I am, more or less, renovating by myself. It means not eating out or going on vacations very often. It means driving older American cars instead of shiny new Volvos. But the big reward is the time we get to spend with our children.

I suppose, on some level, my spouse and I are rebelling against an academic culture that tells us we should both be working at demanding professional jobs while our children are raised by someone else. But we value this time with our children more than career advancement for its own sake. We don't regard ourselves as conservatives. We feel like we're swimming against the mainstream of a culture that has sacrificed the family for economic productivity and personal ambition. We don't think home schooling is right for everyone, but it works for us, for now. Of course we will make some mistakes, but on the whole, we think home schooling our children may be the most important thing we will ever do.


Lucky North Carolina taxpayers

A massive influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, into North Carolina has thrust thousands of non-English speaking students into the public school system, leaving local teachers and administrators with a daunting task in their efforts to educate this expanding population. "In the last 10 years, 1.4 million new residents settled in the state," concluded a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C. "The equivalent of adding five Raleighs.[t]his large-scale population growth is bringing traffic, pollution, overcrowded schools and lack of affordable housing in the state, decreasing quality of life and straining vital natural resources."

FAIR's Immigration Impact Report also said the trend was seen some years ago when, in 2002, statistics showed attendance in the Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning instruction programs jumped 494 percentage points within 10 years. And the numbers keep climbing. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the Latino population increased by 138,654 in North Carolina between the 2000 Census and July 1, 2004, from 378,963 to 517,617, a gain of nearly 37 percent, with an estimated 300,000 of those being illegal immigrants.

The problem has become so acute that officials have named it one of the major challenges facing county government across the state. "Hispanic and Latino residents are transforming county services," said a report taken from the Long-Range Planning and Visioning Project after the N.C. Association of County Commissioners School of Government met in Chapel Hill in August 2004. "Hispanic and Latino populations present social, cultural and fiscal challenges for county health and public education services. Counties are asked to help educate and assimilate the growing Hispanic population who come from different parts of Mexico, South America and Central America."

The 1982 Supreme Court decision of Plyler v. Doe forced public schools to provide both documented and undocumented youngsters a primary and secondary education. This "don't ask, don't tell" policy has overwhelmed school systems throughout the state and left them searching for solutions. North Carolina State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee says dealing with the huge numbers of immigrants coming into the state is extremely challenging. "It's very overwhelming," he said. "I get a lot of complaints from superintendents and principals from all over the state that tell me these children are interfering with the education process of the other children."

Jack Martin, Special Projects Director for FAIR said the children of illegal immigrants degrade instruction to American kids. Not only do the children of undocumented workers put a strain in the classroom, Martin said, but these children also empty the pockets of valid North Carolina citizens who are responsible for footing the enormous bill. "[The illegal immigrants] are breaking the piggy bank," he said. "In North Carolina it costs $450 million for educating children. It's a big expense and the taxpayers are picking up the cost." Martin's assessment isn't off base. In 2004, the United States General Accounting Office estimated the per-pupil expenditure for illegal alien children was $6,000.

Chairman Lee said there are also additional costs associated with educating immigrant children, including the support staff and social workers needed at individual school sites to help the children. "It's a tremendous financial burden," he said. "It's being borne by the taxpayers who underwrite the cost of them."

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 16, 2005


How sad to tamper with one of the world's most successful educational systems. The personalized nature of an Oxford education is widely held to be the secret of its success and that is precisely what is being undermined

College tutors will lose their historic right to select students for admission to Oxford University under plans for sweeping reform announced yesterday. Students will apply to Oxford, not individual colleges, as part of proposals to centralise admissions. A working party on reform said that the changes could be agreed within six months and implemented in 2008. It admitted in a report that the present system left Oxford vulnerable to accusations that bright students, particularly from comprehensive schools, were being rejected unfairly because they did not know how to play the college game. There was a "widespread perception" that candidates could boost their chances of success by choosing the right college, because of differences in the size of different colleges and the number of applicants in each subject. "It is the view of many - both inside and outside Oxford - that we still fall short in terms of having systems in place that can ensure that the very best who apply to Oxford are admitted, irrespective of college choice," the report said.

A central admissions system, in which groups of subject tutors, rather than colleges, chose students, would ensure that Oxford admitted only the best applicants. "Eliminating the perception that college choice can make a difference would also help to encourage more applications from good candidates at schools and sixth-form colleges where there is limited knowledge and experience of Oxford," the report said. It acknowledged that college tutors might object to the loss of their freedom to select the students they wished to teach, but said that this had to be weighed against "the enhanced equality of opportunity for all candidates that should result". "Without central ranking and high levels of co-ordination, colleges are more likely to fill their places from their own cohort of first-choice applicants than to look outside that cohort for candidates of higher quality," it said.

The report was published as Oxford released figures showing that the number of admittances from state schools fell by 1.4 percentage point from 2004 to 46.4 per cent this year, and those from fee-paying schools rose by 1 percentage point to 43.9 per cent. The initiative is the latest by John Hood, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, to modernise procedures. He has already clashed with dons over plans for performance management of academics and to transfer control of Oxford to a board of governors. The working party set out two models for change. Under the first, colleges would tell departments how many places they had available for each subject. Students would apply without naming a college and subject tutors would rank them and conduct interviews. Candidates would be asked if they had a preferred college once they had been offered a place. Under the second model, students would be able to nominate a college but subject tutors would decide whether they were ranked highly enough to merit an interview. Students would be interviewed by the preferred college and one other college before subject tutors decided whether to offer a place.

The working party, chaired by Sir Tim Lankester, President of Corpus Christi College, said: "The aim is to provide further assurance that - with more and more good candidates relative to the available places - the colleges and subject departments and faculties are doing all they reasonably can, together, to select the very best." It acknowledged that the reforms were also driven by a need to show the regulator, the Office for Fair Access, that Oxford was doing all it could to encourage applications from able state-school students


Australian Liberal students celebrate end of 30-year campaign to rescind compulsory unionism for students

Note that in Australia the major conservative party is called the Liberal party. Unlike American "liberals" they really do believe in liberty

Triumphant Liberal students spent the weekend celebrating the enactment of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Up-Front Student Union Fees) Bill 2005 - better known as voluntary student unionism. Australian Liberal Students Federation president Julian Barendse and ALSF treasurer Rohan D'Souza watched the event live on the internet at Melbourne's Treasury Place. When the result came, they reacted with extreme elation, Mr Barendse said. It had been a tense afternoon; Mr Barendse knew the bill was going to be put, but said there were no guarantees. "It was a very nervous moment," he said. "Anyone watching it would have had butterflies in their stomach." He said it was a sweet victory on a number of levels: for those who had fought for VSU for 30 years; because it came despite Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce's opposition ("he has been shown up with egg on his face"); and because the result came during the annual conference of the National Union of Students. One Liberal student immediately jumped on a plane to fly from Sydney to Melbourne to join the party.

Mr Barendse said he and about 30 other VSU supporters went out in Melbourne on Friday to restaurants and pubs. Later in the weekend he travelled to Ballarat to visit Liberal delegates at the NUS conference. Monash University Students Union president Michael Josem said all students owed pro-VSU campaigners "a debt of gratitude for saving them from these fees". He watched the event live on the internet. "It's excellent," he said. "It vindicates all the efforts people have put in." Mr Josem celebrated the win with a few beers in a restaurant ("nothing outrageous") with friends on Saturday night. He said students would not notice much difference in the short term, but in the long term they would see that services would continue and even improve. "The world will keep spinning," he said. In a statement, the ALSF said students across the country would be "celebrating being released from the shackles of compulsory unionism".

He praised Liberal senators Mitch Fifield and Sophie Panopoulos for fighting for an uncompromised version of the legislation. Mr Barendse said he had been asked to help federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson draft the legislation because "the Government recognised our expertise". "I have no sympathy for the universities and the vice-chancellors who failed to reform themselves; it took the Government to impose VSU on them when they had the opportunity over 30 years to do it themselves," he said.

University of New England Students Association president Samantha Aber praised members of her council who had fought for VSU. "I believe that I could not have delivered a better Christmas present than providing external students who rarely, or even never, visit our campus with the right to chose whether they will fund student union services," Ms Aber said in an email forum.

Outgoing NUS president Felix Eldridge said the union's national conference at the University of Ballarat was stunned by Friday's result. "Things became a lot more positive a couple of hours later after the conference resumed," he said. "We were happy to have it resolved. We suddenly realised what we have to do to save the NUS and other organisations." Mr Eldridge scoffed at claims by Mr Barendse that Left attacks on Liberal students forced the early closure of the conference.



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 15, 2005

Britain: The Trojan horse of sex education

From Melanie Philips

When this government falls into a hole it knows exactly what to do. It digs even faster and deeper, burying more and more victims in the process. All the evidence suggests that its sex education policy is a disaster. Britain has the highest rate of under-age teenage pregnancies in Europe. The proportion of 13- to 15-year-olds who are getting pregnant is rising. Sexually transmitted diseases among young people are going through the roof. Even the apparent drop in under-18 pregnancy rates is no more than a statistical sleight of hand, since the number of 16 year-olds using the morning-after pill has doubled since it was made available over the counter in January 2001.

Faced with the egregious failure of the strategy, government advisers have now proposed a brilliant remedy. Apply it even more widely! Their solution is to make sex lessons compulsory for all children starting at the age of five, so that detailed knowledge about sex should become a routine part of their education. No sooner will a child have found his or her coat-peg and be measuring up the competition for the climbing frame than some teacher will be rattling off where babies come from. So while many children are not taught to read properly at five - indeed, a disgraceful number can barely read and write when they leave primary school at the age of 11 - they will be given `more rounded' lessons on sex and relationships. Is this not grotesquely inappropriate?

The assumption behind compulsory sex education is that not enough of such information is reaching children to promote responsible behaviour. On the contrary - children can hardly move for this stuff, and it is the message that it carries which is irresponsible. During the past decade, school sex education programmes promoting a `safe sex' message have hugely expanded. Government-funded services advise on how to have sex, where to get the morning-after pill and how to spot sexually transmitted diseases. Girls as young as 13 are even being offered sex advice by text message; they tap in questions on their mobile phones and receive answers from sexual health workers.

Yet all this has not brought down the rate of sexual activity; far from it. The more such value-free sex education and contraceptive advice is given to children, the more their sexual activity increases. And the earlier in their lives this encouragement is provided, the earlier their sexual activity takes place. This is because adult values are being loaded onto children who are too emotionally immature to cope with them. Teaching children that premature sex is permitted, appropriate and fun encourages them to try it out. This is hardly rocket science.

To believe that teaching them to link sex to `relationships' will make them behave responsibly is simply risible. A `relationship' is a concept that is so slippery as to be meaningless. It belongs to the world of TV soaps, which is about the level of reality that defines so many teenage - and a dismaying number of adult - sexual encounters to which the notion of permanent commitment is entirely foreign.

The increase in sexual promiscuity among children and teenagers is not due to ignorance but to the deliberate destruction of the notion of respectability. Not only are official blind eyes turned to enforcing the legal age of consent, but sex education actually targets under-age children. Moral guidance is nowhere. Instead, sex education seeks to `clarify' the child's own values. But children need clear boundaries of behaviour. Treating them as if they have adult values is to abandon and even abuse them.

According to these government advisers, sex education for five year-olds would be confined mainly to `relationships and friendships'. But who can trust even this anodyne formulation, given the wildly inappropriate sex `education' materials used in some schools? One such video shown to nine and ten year-olds enlightens them about different positions for heterosexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian sex. Other programmes require children to act out sexual behaviour. Such material looks like propaganda for sexual license; some is so exploitative it verges on the predatory. Is it surprising that more and more children are acting out sexual behaviour, a common response to sexual abuse?

The worst of it is that such materials are not shown to parents who, on the rare occasions when they do stumble across it, are invariably aghast and furious at this abuse of both their children and of their own role. But then, the state is increasingly undermining parents and usurping their responsibility to guide their own children in the most private and personal areas of life. Schools dish out contraceptives and pregnancy tests to 11 year-olds, and provide abortion services to under-age children without telling their parents. When Susan Axon challenged this abortion practice in court, the Family Planning Association said in evidence that the idea that `parents know what is best' for their children was out of date and the views of health professionals should take precedence.

According to the Government, parents increasingly cannot be trusted to impart to their children qualities such as self-worth, restraint, friendliness, empathy and resilience, so schools must now teach `emotional literacy'. Accordingly, 14 separate emotional areas are to be taught, under titles such as `getting on and falling out', `relationships' and `good to be me'. This is nothing less than a state grab for control over the way children think about the world - a creeping nationalisation of childhood that is steadily destroying the independence of family life. What's more, guidance on behaviour cannot be taught. It is learned by example, by being brought up in a loving, stable environment where identity and moral values are forged. Children brought up by their two parents are far less likely to have sex under 16 than those who are not.

More and more families are becoming unstable and fragmented. Yet instead of shoring up the married family - the best antidote to irregular behaviour - the government is ruthlessly undermining it by promoting the idea that all lifestyles are equal. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says primary schools need to cover a wider range of relationships than the traditional nuclear family, and must teach children that families include same-sex couples, single parents and children in local authority care.

Ministers have progressively loaded the dice against marriage, making it ever more meaningless. Now they are undermining it still further with gay civil union, which comes into force today. Contrary to the claims being made for this measure, it is not about equal rights or greater self-discipline. It is part of a wider onslaught on the whole notion of moral norms by separating sex, marriage and procreation and destroying the unique place of marriage in our society as the institution that best safeguards the healthy regeneration of human identity. Both adults and children are being funnelled instead towards a sexual free-for-all. This is surely why the government is so opposed to sexual abstinence education.

All the evidence is that abstinence works in preventing irregular sexual activity. But the government doesn't want to prevent such activity. On the contrary, it wants to promote it in order to produce `equality' between lifestyles - while tidying away any inconvenient consequences such as teenage pregnancy. Sex education is therefore not a means of protecting this country's fundamental values. It is a weapon in the war being waged against them.


Despite Big Labor's success in defeating California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's reform initiatives last month, a few brave officials are still willing to challenge the public employee unions at the local level. Take the burgeoning charter school movement, which now has 570 schools in the state serving about 3% of the state's public school enrollment. They are about to be joined by one of the state's largest high school districts, fast-growing Grossmont in San Diego, which wants to convert all 10 of the high schools serving its 25,000 students into self-governing charter schools.

Charter schools are a halfway house between traditional public schools and the use of vouchers. Schools remain public, but can ditch the state's massive rulebooks and have control over their own hiring and firing. In exchange, they must show gains in student achievement or risk the loss of their charter. It's performance-based education, and most parents love it.

But school bureaucrats do not. Bruce Seaman, the president of the local teachers union in Grossmont, calls the idea "the first step toward the privatization of public schools." Nonsense, says Ron Nehring, the chairman of the local elected school board and a booster of charters. "The schools would be governed by a board elected by the parents which would report to the school district's trustees," he told me. "What can be more democratic and sensitive to what parents actually want?"

The proposal has been praised by Grossmont Superintendent Terry Ryan, who told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Mr. Nehring "is calling for a full discourse on charters, and that's really what should be happening." In fact, even the supporters of the status quo are pushing a plan to convert one local high school in the district to charter status, although half of the seats on the board governing that school would be guaranteed to be filled by teacher union representatives.

The debate over reforming public education in California is increasingly between those who want real reform and those who recognize the public is demanding change but still want to have the new system controlled by the status quo behind the scenes.



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 14, 2005


When Denise Armstrong decided to teach her daughter and two sons at home instead of sending them to public school, she said she did so thinking she would do a better job than the school of instilling her values in her children. At the time, Ms. Armstrong was the only black parent at gatherings of home-education groups. But she said that has been changing. "I've been delighted to be running into people in the African-American home-schooling community," said Ms. Armstrong, who lives in Chesterfield County.

The move toward home schooling, advocates say, reflects a wider desire among families of all races to guide their children's religious upbringing, but it also reflects concerns about other issues like substandard schools and the preservation of cultural heritage. "About 10 years ago, we started seeing more and more black families showing up at conferences, and it's been steadily increasing since then," said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, a national advocacy group.

Nationwide, about 1.1 million children were schooled at home in 2003, which was about 2.2 percent of the school-age population. That was up from about 850,000, or 1.7 percent, in 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics in the Department of Education. The center said a racial breakdown of students being schooled at home was not available. But Michael Apple, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin who tracks home schooling, said the numbers were still very low.

Professor Apple said much of the increase was in cities where there were histories of racial tension and where black people felt alienated and marginalized. He said some families chose home schooling because they were concerned that the public schools were not adequately teaching African-American history and culture, others taught their children at home to protect them from violence, and, "for some, it's all of this and religion."

Ms. Armstrong said she wanted her children to have a "moral Judeo-Christian foundation" that public schools could not provide. "I felt that my husband and I would be able to give more of a tutorial, individual learning situation than a teacher trying to address 40 kids at one time," she said. To help guide black families though home schooling, Joyce Burges and her husband, Eric, started the National Black Home Educators Resource Association in 2000. Ms. Burges said many black families were unaware that home schooling was a legal option. But she said that she and other blacks who school their children at home had been considered turncoats by people who think they have turned their backs on the struggle by blacks to gain equal access to public education. Still, she said, when schools are not teaching children to read, or are failing to provide a safe place to learn, the children should come first. "You do what you have to do that your children get an excellent education," she said. "Don't leave it up to the system."

Professor Apple said improvements in public education depended on the mobilization of parents. By home schooling, parents are "trying as hard as they possibly can to protect their children," he said. "For that," he added, "they must be applauded. But, in the long run, protecting their own children may even lead to worse conditions for the vast majority of students who stay in public schools, and that's a horrible dilemma."



For the UC to be rejecting textbooks because of "bias" is a huge joke. What about all the Leftist bias that they DO accept?

In a small room at the University of California's headquarters in downtown Oakland, UC counsel Christopher Patti sat beside a stack of textbooks proposed for use by Calvary Chapel Christian School in Riverside County -- books UC rejected as failing to meet freshmen admission requirements. Biology and physics textbooks from Christian publishers were found wanting, as were three Calvary humanities courses. "The university is not telling these schools what they can and can't teach," Patti said. "What the university is doing is simply establishing what is and is not its entrance requirements. It's really a case of the university's ability to set its own admission standards. The university has no quarrel with Christian schools."

The Association of Christian Schools International, which claims 4,000 member schools including Calvary Chapel and 800 other schools in California, disagrees. On Aug. 24, it sued the university in federal court for religious bias. The lawsuit marks a new front in America's culture wars, in which the largest organization of Christian schools in the country and the University of California, which admitted 208,000 freshmen this year, are accusing each other of trying to abridge or constrain each others' freedom.

Unlike recent court cases -- such as the challenge to the school district's decision in Dover, Pa., to teach intelligent design (a ruling from the federal judge is expected soon) or the decision by the Kansas Board of Education to teach that such things as the genetic code are inadequately explained by evolutionary theory -- the suit against UC does not pit Darwinism against creationism and its intellectual offspring. Rather, by focusing on courses that Calvary Chapel planned to offer this fall -- in English, history and social studies -- courses that were turned down by UC, it sets competing interpretations of academic merit against each other. "The university is in a way firing a shot over the bow," said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., "saying to Christian schools that they may have gotten away with this in the past, but no more. And that will have a chilling effect across the country."

In its suit, the association and its co-plaintiffs objected "to government officials ... dictating and censoring the viewpoints that may and may not be taught ... (in) private schools. ... (They) have rejected textbooks and courses based on a viewpoint of religious faith, for the first time in the University of California's history." The rejections, the suit asserted, "violate the freedom of speech of Christian schools, students and teachers."

On Oct. 28, UC asked U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to dismiss the suit. The university was not "stopping plaintiffs from teaching or studying anything," it argued. "This lawsuit is really an attempt to control the regents' educational choices. Plaintiffs seek to constrain the regents' exercise of its First Amendment-protected right of academic freedom to establish admissions criteria."

A hearing is scheduled today on the motion to dismiss. "I think there's a good chance the judge may take (the suit) very seriously," Haynes said. "The implication is now all religious schools have to clean up their act if they want their students to get into the university."

Hollyn Hollman, a church/state attorney for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., said the plaintiffs face "a high burden ... to prove they are being discriminated against," based on the rejection of a handful of courses alone. But Wendell Bird, lead attorney for the schools, believes, "This is a liberty case, the right of nonpublic institutions to be free. I'd be bringing the same case if the clients were Jewish or Buddhist. It's very troubling to the largest Christian school organization in the country because it restrains freedom and could spread. Many trends tend to start in California." ......

"The question here," Haynes said, "is whether a public university can disadvantage students from these schools because the science or English they took is not up to par. I wouldn't teach Emily Dickinson in a Christian context, but the point is they have the right to put it in the context of their faith."

Calvary Chapel students have been successful in gaining admittance to UC. In the last three years, said Patti at university headquarters, 18 of 25 of its applicants have been admitted. He said he did not know how those students were faring in college. Calvary Chapel says their students score better on standardized tests than California public school students. The school, in Murrieta (Riverside County), describes itself on its Web site as, "first and foremost a Christian school, which seeks to provide our student population with a Biblical world view." The plaintiffs include six Calvary Chapel students. One is the president of the school's national honor society, another the quarterback of the football team. They were chosen, said a school lawyer, because they all had the grades and scores to qualify them for admittance to UC. ....

Among the courses turned down were a history class, "Christianity's Influence on America"; a social studies class, "Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic"; and, most contentiously, an English course, "Christianity and Morality in American Literature." None is being taught because of the dispute. The English course would have included reading material from many major authors, from Hawthorne to Tolkien. The syllabus called it, "an intensive study in textual criticism aimed at elevating the ability of students to engage literary works." The primary text, published by A Beka Press, of Pensacola, Fla. -- whose biology text also was rejected -- was to have been "American Literature: Classics for Christians."

In turning down the English course, Sue Wilbur, the director of UC undergraduate admissions, checked two categories as "inadequate" on a standard form: "Lacking necessary course information," and "Insufficient academic/theoritical [sic] content." She added a note that said: "Unfortunately, this course, while it has an interesting reading list, does not offer a nonbiased approach to the subject matter." And she also commented that "the textbook is not appropriate." During the interview, Patti said the textbook was an anthology and that UC demands some full texts be read.

But Bird scoffed at the explanation in his soft Southern accent as a "post-hoc rationalization. Unless I can't read, there's no objection to its being an anthology." In their suit, the schools argue that UC has accepted courses in "The Jewish Experience" and Islam, and also allowed courses in "Military History and Philosophy," "Gender, Sexuality and Identity in Literature" and "Children's Literature." These acceptances, they claimed, undercut the university's rationale in rejecting Calvary's history course as "too narrow/too specialized." ....

Ravi Poorsina, a university spokeswoman, disputed the criticism. "Their (students') ability to enter UC is not hindered," she said, explaining that other Calvary Chapel courses in the same academic fields did pass muster.

Another of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Robert Tyler, who has a son at Calvary Chapel, said the issue was simple fairness. "This is America. We have the right to send our kids to private schools, and have them study from a Christian perspective," he said. "The university has no right to tell any person of any faith they're not going to accept courses because they're taught from a Christian perspective. They have every right to look and see if it's sufficiently rigorous, sufficiently analytic.

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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, December 13, 2005


Tony Blair and David Cameron may be on opposing sides at the dispatch box, but both belong to the same elite club in the House of Commons, according to a study published today. The Labour and Conservative leaders are among the one in three MPs who were educated at private schools, nearly five times the national average. The research by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, also found that one in four MPs is a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge. Mr Cameron was educated at Eton and Oxford, and Mr Blair went to Oxford from Fettes College in Edinburgh, often described as the "Eton of the North".

The trust, which promotes social mobility, said that its report showed that our parliamentary representatives were unrepresentative of the public. Just 7 per cent of Britons were educated privately, yet 32 per cent of MPs went to fee-paying schools. A further 25 per cent attended selective grammars, and 42 per cent went to comprehensives. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the trust, said: "This is symptomatic of a wider issue - the educational apartheid which blights our system and which offers the best life chances to those who can afford to pay for their schooling."

Mr Cameron deflected comments about his privileged upbringing during the Tory leadership campaign, but most of his Shadow team seem to have had a similarly fortunate start in life: 19 of the 35 MPs appointed last week were educated privately, including the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne (St Paul's). Oliver Letwin, Director of Policy, Hugo Swire, Shadow Culture Secretary, and Boris Johnson, Shadow Higher Education Minister, are all old Etonians, like their leader. Of the sixteen members of Mr Cameron's team educated at state schools, only six went to comprehensives and ten to selective grammars.

The Government is unrepresentative of the population and of Labour MPs as a whole, according to the trust. A quarter of ministers enjoyed a private school education, compared with 16 per cent of backbench Labour MPs. Ministers and shadow ministers are also more likely to be Oxbridge graduates than their backbench colleagues. The proportion from public schools is 62 per cent in the House of Lords. Almost a third of the 391 privately educated peers went to just five schools, with 82 from Eton, 11 from Winchester, and 10 each from Harrow, Westminster, and Stowe.



Excerpt from Miranda Devine

Either Mem Fox's comprehension skills are impaired or she hasn't read the report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, which was released last week. But the celebrated children's author didn't let ignorance get in the way of damning the report as "extreme phonics" and "back-to-the-'40s nonsense", and suggesting the inquiry may have been corrupted by "vested interests".

As Mark Latham's Read Aloud ambassador, Fox was supposed to be Labor's secret weapon in the last election. The ploy backfired because, unlike Fox, most people know it takes more than reading Possum Magic aloud to teach children how to read. For all her claims about wanting to improve children's literacy, Mother Fox just seems intent on fanning the flames of the Reading Wars: the destructive four-decade ideological battle between two methods of teaching reading, the phonics approach and the whole-language approach.

I was one of 12 members of the committee that produced the Teaching Reading report after a year of careful examination of the reading research. There is nothing "extreme" about finding that the most effective way to teach children is to show them how to link sounds with letters and break the code of reading. This is called explicit phonics instruction. It is not the only element of teaching reading but it is essential.

The whole-language approach, which once held sway in Australian schools, assumed that learning to read is natural and that all children will learn by osmosis, by being immersed in a "literature-rich" environment. At the beginning of the year, even some members of the committee (which included teachers, parents and deans of education) thought the inquiry was an unnecessary exercise because Australia had few literacy problems.

But the fact is, as many of the 453 submissions to the inquiry pointed out, there is a problem. Up to 20 per cent of Australian adults have "very poor" literacy skills. One in 10 students in years 5 and 7 is failing to meet the minimum national benchmarks for reading. Universities are forced to provide remedial reading courses for students who have left school barely literate.

But in Fox's Pollyanna world, if parents just read aloud "a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation". Reading aloud to children is lovely, and the report encourages it, while stressing that "schools have the main responsibility to teach children to read and write".

But for up to 30 per cent of children no amount of reading aloud is going to be enough to teach them to read proficiently.

Pretending otherwise just lays unfair burdens of guilt on parents and offloads responsibility for teaching reading from schools. It also makes second-class citizens of children whose parents are unable or unwilling to read to them.

As for vested interests, Mem Fox sells millions of books because the education establishment endorses her. She is no Roald Dahl, and yet wildly enthusiastic teachers, unions, school librarians and journalists never miss an opportunity to thrust her unremarkable picture books down children's throats. So she is hardly likely to alienate her best salespeople by suggesting there might be a better way of teaching children to read....

Perhaps there is a clue in an interview she gave Andrew Denton this year: "I haven't got time for self-doubt. The job is too important for self-doubt. You can't. You just have to say, 'I know what I'm talking about. I'm 59' . . ."

Even 59-year-olds can be wrong, no matter how many books they sell.

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 12, 2005


They try to pretend that money grows on trees

California's perennial angst over financing education was the nucleus of the just-concluded ballot measure battle, with the California Teachers Association accusing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of shorting schools by $3 billion as part of a successful strategy to undermine his public standing and thus destroy his four measures.

While the CTA emerged victorious from this latest clash, the years-long debate over school finance is far from resolved. The union and its Democratic allies will be pressing Schwarzenegger to pony up more school money. More than likely, he'll accede with a to-the-victor-belong-the-spoils gesture, even though it would enlarge the state's chronic budget deficit. And as long as the deficit continues, which is indefinitely, school financing will remain central because it's the largest single portion of the budget.

With state school aid protected by a unique constitutional lockbox (Proposition 98, enacted by voters in 1988), the state budget has become a three-cushion billiards game - school money vs. money for prisons, health care, colleges and other programs vs. the perpetual deadlock over raising taxes. One example: Schwarzenegger reneged on his vague school aid promises - thereby incurring the CTA's wrath - on the rationale that to protect the economy, taxes shouldn't be raised and giving educators what they wanted would require draconian cuts in health care and other non-school spending.

Californians never face the three-sided question directly. They are occasionally presented with one of the three, often as a ballot measure, and express their opinions in ignorance of interaction with the other two. Most voters might agree if asked only whether schools need more money (they did so directly by passing Proposition 98 and indirectly by rejecting Schwarzenegger and his measures last month), but they might also say they don't want spending on health care or colleges to be reduced, or prison inmates to be released, and probably would reject major new taxes that they would pay.

Even without the other two fiscal facets, the school money debate breaks down to two competing world views: Whether more money would lead to improvements in educational achievement or whether school performance hinges on other factors, such as academic standards and parental involvement.

The CTA and its allies, of course, argue the former, incessantly noting that California ranks rather low among the states in per-pupil spending and implying that academic results would soar were we to emulate high-spending states. But to do so would require substantial increases in taxes. Matching New York's per-pupil spending (raising it from about $8,000 a year to more than $12,000), for example, would cost about $25 billion more a year, as Children Now notes in its "assessment of children's well-being." That's the equivalent of increasing the state's general fund budget by more than 25 percent, or doubling the state sales tax....

Could it be that despite all the propaganda, money is not central to educational success? Perhaps it's how we spend the money (California's teacher salaries are among the nation's highest, nearly 50 percent higher than those in Texas), or demographics (California has the highest percentage of English-learning students, nearly 40 percent), or the lack of parental and civic involvement (Texas is particularly known for the latter). Rather than casting envious glances at New York, perhaps we should be finding out whether Texas is doing as well as its test scores indicate, and if so, why?



That better disciplined schools might encourage people to want to work there is not mentioned

California will face a shortage of up to 100,000 teachers in the next decade as retirements crest even while schools cope with tougher federal requirements for student learning, according to a report released Wednesday. At the same time, enrollment has been dropping in teaching-preparation programs in the state - from 76,000 in 2002 to 67,500 in 2004, according to the report from the nonprofit Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, based in Santa Cruz. Center director Margaret Gaston said the 2005-06 school year could be one of the last in a long time when the supply of teachers meets demand.

California schools have about 306,000 teachers and hire about 22,000 a year just to cover normal attrition, Gaston said. But the baby boomers, about one-third of the current teachers, are expected to retire within 10 years - meaning the state is going to have to step up recruitment. "There is a very narrow window of opportunity," Gaston said. "So it really is incumbent upon the policy community to act now to mitigate this situation." While struggling with short staffing, schools with the most students from minority and low-income families will also get unevenly large shares of the least-experienced teachers.

California sends 85 percent of intern teachers to these schools, Gaston said. Schools that rated lowest in the Academic Performance Index were five times more likely to have underprepared teachers than higher-performing schools, according to the report. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has faced sharp criticism this year over education funding, plans to focus on the issue next year, according to his education secretary, Alan Bersin. "This is a huge and critical infrastructure need that the governor understands as we experience this generational shift," Bersin said. The governor this year added $49 million in incentives for school districts to attract teachers into the lowest-performing schools, Bersin noted, and an agreement was made with the University of California system to train an additional 1,000 math and science teachers over the next five years.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said they have been working hard to recruit new teachers and to reduce the number working with only temporary or emergency credentials. "We never stop recruiting. We are already two months into recruiting for next year," said Deborah Ignagni, the LAUSD's director of certificated recruitment. Most of the recruiting is done within California, with some nationwide and in Canada, she said. In the past, the district has also recruited in the Philippines, Spain and Mexico, and it might do so again this year. The district hired 2,376 teachers this year, bringing the total to 34,610, although the biggest need for new teachers is in math, science and special education. The district has also reduced the number of emergency credentialed teachers from 3,749 in 2002 to the current 249......

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


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Surprise! Teachers who are paid by results 'do a better job'

Performance-related pay awards have inspired teachers to raise their game and achieve better results for GCSE pupils, according to a study of the scheme. In spite of initial hostility to the idea among teachers, researchers from the University of Bristol have found that children whose teacher had received a financial performance reward, achieved half a grade higher in each subject at GCSE.

The Performance Threshold scheme was introduced in 2000 to give an incentive to experienced teachers, who had been previously paid on a unified basic salary scale and could only raise their wages by taking on extra administrative duties.

Five years ago, the concept of bonuses for individual teachers was condemned by unions for being divisive and unfair. But in Paying Teachers by Results Simon Burgess and Carol Propper, of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, found that the introduction of the scheme achieved "on average half a GCSE point more than equivalent pupils taught by the same teachers before the scheme was introduced". The academics, who assessed the results of 181 teachers at 25 schools from the Midlands to Bristol, tracked the average progress of their 14-year-old pupils at Key Stage 3 and later at GCSE level, before and after the reform.

By looking also at the scores of those staff who were not eligible for the increased pay awards and comparing both sets of results, they concluded that higher pay did achieve better grades. They also found that the less achieving 14-year-olds made more gains in their tests than higher-scoring pupils The Performance Threshold system resulted in the scrapping of a nine-point pay scale, under which five years ago teachers could be paid anything from 14,658 to 23,193 pounds

Passing the threshold leads to an annual 2,000 pound bonus per year until the end of their careers. The Government allocated 908.5 million pounds funding last year to schools on the basis of the number of "threshold and post-threshold teachers". The increases, which can take a teacher's pay up to 30,000 pounds, are assessed against rigorous criteria and annual targets. They are paid for out of the schools' funds and have marked a sea change in how children are taught.

Marcia Twelftree, head teacher of Charters school in Ascot, has 104 teachers to about 1,600 teenagers. She insists that good schools have always rewarded hard-working staff members. "I pay teachers what they are worth. I believe that a good school can only be a good school if you pay the teachers properly."

In the past, the Bristol team said, many heads claimed that they would have liked to reward staff but could not afford to. Nowadays they are bound to do so, if their teachers have met the strict criteria.

The National Union of Teachers, which opposed the scheme, found little praise for it yesterday. Arguing that the vast majority of staff who applied for the extra money were granted it, a spokesman said: "It shows the daftness of performance- related pay because the majority of children are taught by good teachers. They are not be granted performance-related pay if they have taught for less than five years, so it's not a valid comparison."


School Considers A Religious Holiday For Muslims

To be fair, no doubt Greeks will now deserve a holiday to celebrate the heroic stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae; The Hindus must of course be allowed to celebrate Diwali; atheists will want a holiday to celebrate the birth of Charles Darwin and Russians will want to celebrate all their holy days according to their own Julian calendar ..... I could go on...

Muslims may get a religious holiday recognized by a public school in the Hillsborough County school district. Terrace Community School, a charter school housed at the Museum of Science & Industry, is considering changing its school calendar to give a day off for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. The school's board will vote on the proposal at its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The proposal came from Principal Gary Hocevar after controversy erupted in the Hillsborough County school district. Last month, the Hillsborough County school board decided to eliminate all days off coinciding with religious holidays except Christmas, which falls during winter break. The move came after a group of Muslims asked for a day off for Eid al-Fitr. After receiving thousands of e-mails and phone calls and much national news media attention, the board reversed that decision but still did not add a day off for the Muslim holiday. The issue raised questions by Terrace Community students, and Hocevar proposed changing his school's calendar at November's board meeting.

Hocevar expected the proposal to be controversial, so Terrace Community board members decided to delay the vote until December. But Hocevar said he has received only one phone call in opposition to the change. "Most of our parents were really supportive of the idea since our school is so diverse," Hocevar said.

About 5 percent of the school's 352 students are Muslim. Charter schools operate as public schools but without many district restrictions. They are free to create their own calendar, but most operate on the district's schedule to accommodate school services and parents who might have children in other schools. If the charter school board approves the new calendar, it will be the first time the school's schedule will differ from the district's. The school's calendar still would include days off for Yom Kippur and Good Friday.



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