Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Australian writer Christopher Pearson comments on the American figures headlined here yesterday

What, apart from rage, is the most appropriate response to the American data and emerging evidence of similar trends in Australia? I suppose it's to acknowledge the official confirmation of what most of us have long suspected. The jig is up. Thirty-odd years of curricular experiment and faddish methods of teaching reading have demonstrated their true worth. Thirty-odd years worth of students have been increasingly denied the most powerful means of meritocratic advance, of general self-betterment and, most importantly, of access to the canon of great works which are the core of Western civilisation.

The French have a phrase to cover betrayals of this order. They call it le trahison des clercs, the treason of the clerical classes. Implicit in it is the notion of conscious delinquency, of knowing better and still behaving irresponsibly. That is the charge that the subliterate young, here as well as in America, are entitled to level at many of their teachers, lecturers and the vast armies of education bureaucrats.

The rot set in when primary school teachers abandoned conventional methods of teaching reading in favour of more fashionable trends which involved less drudgery and less tiresome assessment of outcomes. The drift away from measuring skills and relative competency covered a multitude of pedagogical failures. And how natural it was that, as measurable outcomes began to decline sharply, Australian teachers' unions should have begun to echo their American counterparts and mounted the case that the process of measurement and notions of success and failure were inherently anti-educational and elitist.

It's important to acknowledge that not all teachers deserve to be tarred with the same brush. The loopy policy of automatic promotion through primary school meant that very often problem students suddenly became the responsibility of overworked teachers with no remedial reading experience and all sorts of other responsibilities. The prevalence of remedial reading courses at university level about a decade later suggests the dimensions of the dilemma.

By the time teenagers reached the second year of senior school, it would have taken a fair amount of courage in the early '80s to buck the system and refuse to promote them just on account of reading difficulties. It might well have been viewed as a vote of no confidence in colleagues and the system as a whole, a kind of whistle-blowing. No doubt many conscientious primary and secondary teachers dedicated time out of school hours to discreet remedial reading lessons, well before their principals began to acknowledge the existence and extent of a literacy crisis. Things would also have been much worse had it not been for the efforts of countless unpaid volunteers, belatedly doing the work that primary teachers should have performed years earlier.

Primary and secondary systems once served to certify not just adequate attendance but the acquisition of prescribed levels in certain skills. As the certification process began to fail, the universities ought to have intervened more effectively to preserve the value of their own currency. Instead they have presided over its gradual debasement. There are honourable exceptions in some of the sciences and engineering. But few first degrees are as demanding now as they were 30 years ago and, despite the unprecedented rate of growth in most domains of knowledge, very few are more onerous. In the humanities and social sciences, the dumbing-down process is at its most obvious and debilitating.

The Australian education sector as a whole is inclined to put a lot of the blame on external factors such as political interference. It's certainly true that Robert Menzies' sudden expansion of universities was a benignly intended catastrophe. Had he been more of a conservative, he might have realised the truth of Kingsley Amis's line: "More means worse." Again, a fuller account of the local literacy crisis would take account of the state government policies, especially those of politically correct Labor administrations, which sanctioned and concealed declining standards. The Dawkins era of philistinism triumphant - and the collapse of the distinction between vocational training and a liberal education - no doubt helped to ensure the emergence of the worst educated and also perhaps the dimmest generation of trainee teachers in the span of a century.

However, even making allowances for all the external factors, most of the blame for the present state of the teaching profession must lie with teachers themselves, especially but by no means exclusively with those in the public sector. Had they acted more like a body of professionals, it's far more likely they would have been treated as such. Instead there has been a burgeoning vicious circle. When 40 per cent of senior secondary students in Victoria enrolled in private schools last year, they and their parents may not all have known what they were buying into but we can be reasonably confident that they knew what they had spurned.

Some calculations from the Australian Scholarships Group, an education investment fund, were released on Thursday. The cost to parents of putting a child born in 2005 through the public system to matriculation is reckoned at $110,000. The price of a three-year first degree was estimated at an average of another $140,000. Brendan Nelson, the federal Minister for Education, should be monitoring levels of literacy throughout the cycle to give parents a better idea of just what they can expect to be getting for their money.

More here


Protecting criminals and pedophiles is more important than protecting children in socialist Britain

Hundreds of blacklisted teachers, including paedophiles, are being allowed into schools so long as they avoid certain types of pupils, The Times has learnt. Headteachers are having to accept supply staff into classrooms without knowing if they are on the blacklist or have criminal records. As a picture emerges of a child protection system in chaos, the Government is preparing to strip ministers of their power to let sex offenders work with children. Police will receive a new advisory role. The practice of giving convicted paedophiles permission to work in schools with pupils of a different age or sex from those they desire was disclosed by The Times this weekend.

Yesterday a former teaching agency official who had access to List 99 confirmed that this procedure was widely known among companies providing supply teachers. Yet it appears to have come as a surprise to teachers’ leaders and parents. There are about 15,000 on the blacklist compiled at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). Gerard Connolly, who held the names of all problem teachers on a computer in his office from 1996 to 2004, said that many had “caveats”. Most forbade teachers from working with one gender of pupil, or children above or below a particular age. Some had geographical restrictions placed upon them. A few were banned from individual schools. “You used to see them every other page or so with a restriction on,” Dr Connolly said. He estimated that between 700 and 1,000 names on the blacklist had permission to teach particular categories of pupil. “I have no way of knowing how many were working in schools but they were certainly free to do so,” he said.

Last night an Education Department spokesman said: “The list is held by the department and the criminal records bureau. We certainly don’t recognise that figure. Dr Connolly was puzzled by the Government’s delay in telling the public about the number of sex offenders who are entitled to work in classrooms. “It surprised me, people coming on television saying they don’t know,” he said. “All they have to do is count them.”

The unexpected scale of the problem added to the woes of the DfES, which has struggled to keep up with the pace of disclosures about paedophile teachers. Ruth Kelly told the Commons last Thursday: “List 99 covers those barred for life from working in schools.” On Friday her officials were still claiming that List 99 was an “absolute bar” on teaching. Then The Times reported that in 2001 Estelle Morris had allowed Keith Hudson — who was placed on the sex offenders register after compiling scrapbooks containing pictures of boys masturbating — to work in girls’ schools. A convicted molester who was fixated on boys in white underpants has permission to work with children aged 14 and over. Both are on List 99.

Officials changed their story. A spokesman said: “In 2000 we introduced regulations to make sure that barring someone convicted of sexual offences against a child was absolute.” But that explanation imploded yesterday when it emerged that in January 2005 Ms Kelly allowed William Gibson to work in schools. He had a conviction for indecently assaulting a 15-year-old female pupil. Mr Gibson’s case highlights that teacher-supply agencies are a weak link in child protection. After being removed from three schools in the North East he found a position teaching mathematics in Bournemouth.

The job came via Step Teachers, an agency aware of his conviction in 1980 for indecent assault and his imprisonment in 2000 for deception, forgery and theft. Mr Gibson has been suspended. James Newman, the agency’s director, said: “Step Teachers undertakes not to discriminate against an application on the basis of a conviction or other information. It is unfortunate that the teacher is still very much in shock over the circumstances and the way he is being treated.” The agency had provided Mr Gibson without alerting the head that he was a convicted child molester. Agencies bear responsibility for checks of criminal records and List 99 entries. Step Teachers claimed it was forbidden from telling schools about convictions. “Under the terms of the agreement with the Criminal Records Bureau, we would not be able to tell the school,” Mr Newman said. “We would have to destroy all that documentation because of data protection laws.”



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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: