Sunday, February 26, 2006


If Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers was worried about how the undergraduates would greet him Wednesday night at his first scheduled event since announcing his resignation, those fears quickly were put to rest. He got a standing ovation after he walked in. He got a standing ovation before he left. A row of students with red letters painted on their chests spelled out "Larry."

Sarah Bahan, 22, was wistful as she left the meeting. She had kind words to say about Summers' emphasis on hard sciences. Mark Hoadley, 21, said Summers' monotone speaking style was balanced by a "dynamic mind." Troy Kollmer, 21, said "a lot of students feel bad for him and think he got a raw deal."

The show of student loyalty has come as a surprise to many faculty members and administrators at Harvard, who grew to loathe Summers during a five-year tenure that brought a raw blast of politics to the 370-year-old institution.

In the past, it had been Harvard's students who forced change. In the spring of 1969, amid unrest over the Vietnam War, students angered by a campus ROTC program raided University Hall and threatened to burn the card catalog at Widener Library. The turmoil hastened the resignation of then-president Nathan Pusey, a classics scholar who had little patience for such activism.

This time, students held back while the faculty fumed. Undergraduates were well-insulated from the tempestuous management issues between Summers and top administrators; and Summers had endeared himself to students by showing up at early morning rugby matches and by gamely boogieing at school dances.

But somewhere in the controversy surrounding Summers is evidence of a change in campus politics, one professor said: These days, it is not unusual for students to be to the political right of their professors. "This is a sort of 'I'm-not-a-feminist-but' generation," said J. Lorand Matory, a professor of anthropology and of African and African American studies. "I don't know if the word is 'conservative' as much as 'careerist.' "

The move to oust Summers began in earnest last year after he gave a speech that questioned whether "issues of intrinsic aptitude" explained the shortage of female professors in Harvard's math and science departments..... Many students, meanwhile, thought the "intrinsic aptitude" flap of last spring had been resolved. "Our complaints ended when there was a reasonable dialogue," said Jonathan Blazek, 21.....

Since Summers announced his resignation Tuesday, his most vocal defenders have been students. On a blog called "Summersville," students have placed memorial posters of their soon-to-be-departed president and floated plans for a protest at an upcoming faculty meeting. "I don't think everybody on campus loves him, but there is sort of a general sense the situation was handled poorly," Harry Ritter, 21, said. Ritter worries, he said, that the initiatives Summers began — the expansion of Harvard's campus, study-abroad programs and beefing up of the life sciences, among others — will founder. "If the faculty now feels it has the power to kick a president out … what precedent does this set for the university? How well will the next president deal with the climate?" Ritter said. "There are students really angry about what has happened."

Michael Broukhim, 21, an editorial chair for the Harvard Crimson, said some students grew to admire the same qualities in Summers that alienated professors — such as his clear enthusiasm for subjects with real-world applications, like stem cell research and globalization. "The fact that Summers worked in politics [as Treasury secretary] is indicative — he wants the university to be oriented, very practically, toward the public good," Broukhim said.

More here


Three reports:

Militant Islam invades NSW school curriculum

A radical Muslim thinker who inspired al-Qa'ida is being served up as subject matter for high school students in NSW. Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian militant hanged in 1966 but still a powerful influence on violent Islamists, and the Pakistani fundamentalist Sayyid Maududi are the only two modern Muslim thinkers on a revised syllabus for studies of religion.

Experts this week condemned the prominence of political Islam in the new syllabus, and especially the inclusion of Qutb. "I am surprised and dismayed that the NSW religion syllabus narrows modern Islamic thinkers to its totalitarians," said Daniel Pipes, whose US-based Middle East Forum agitates against Islamic extremism. "Islam has a rich intellectual tradition. To pick these two writers is like representing modern German culture with Marx and Hitler."

Under the revised Higher School Certificate syllabus, students can choose to examine the "contribution to Islam" of Qutb and Maududi. Others they can study include two wives of the prophet Mohammed, legal scholars and Sufi mystics. Qutb figured as a "teacher and interpreter" in the old syllabus.

NSW Board of Studies president Gordon Stanley said experts and community leaders had had plenty of opportunity to comment on the syllabus. He was surprised to hear of criticism and offered a parallel: "If you study the Holocaust you've got to know something about Hitler, but that doesn't mean people are concerned about students becoming Nazis."

Catholic educationist John McGrath defended the syllabus, which he helped write: "Qutb was a significant figure in 20th-century Islam. "(His writings are) one expression of Islamic revival. We're not suggesting that he's representative of all Muslims."

But Ahmad Shboul, chair of Arabic and Islamic studies at Sydney University, said political Islamists did not fit easily within the study of religion. "Qutb has contributed to modern commentary on the Koran, but the influence of (Qutb and Maududi) has turned out to be more on the political side," he said, adding that Qutb was simply too controversial and complex a figure for study at school.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, commentators have pointed to Qutb as the intellectual inspiration for violent campaigns against the West and Muslim states seen as corrupted by modern values. Among those influenced by Qutb's writings is Ayman al-Zawahiri, seen as the intellectual force of al-Qa'ida. But Professor Shboul doubted Qutb would have approved of al-Qa'ida's violence.

In Pakistan, Maududi founded an Islamic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, with the aim of making society and state wholly subject to Islamic law. His critics say he left a legacy of extremism; his followers say he opposed violence. Abdullah Saeed, director of the centre for the study of contemporary Islam at Melbourne University, said Muhammad Abduh, an Egyptian reformer, would have been a safer choice for the syllabus than Qutb. "Especially in the current political climate and context, the inclusion of Qutb presents more problems than it solves," Professor Saeed said. "When this becomes public I guess there would be various groups - Muslim and non-Muslim - who would feel very strongly about this."


NSW report card ban challenged

Far-Left teachers resist the requirement to identify differences in achievement. All kids are equal, don't you know?

A ban by teachers on new report cards which grade students from A to E will be challenged by the Government in the courts on Monday. Premier Morris Iemma yesterday pledged to take public school teachers to the industrial relations commission. He accused teachers of "holding parents to ransom" over the issue, saying every family was entitled to performance data on their children. He also claimed that the NSW Teachers Federation was putting $3.7billion in Commonwealth funding at risk by breaching the National Schools Funding Agreement, which includes the new reports.

About 430,000 primary school students should have received an A to E grade for academic performance this year. But the Teachers Federation has advised its 50,000 school-based members to "continue to use their own reporting system". General secretary Barry Johnson [Stalin was a General Secretary too] said in a memo to members: "Many of the reporting requirements being foisted on schools are professionally and educationally unacceptable."

But Mr Iemma said the Government would protect the right of parents to receive clear and concise information. "The NSW Government will take the issue to the Industrial Relations Commission to have it resolved as a matter of urgency," he said. "I absolutely reject the position put by the federation. "It is the right of every parent to have this information and we will not allow this to be compromised by a blinkered and politically correct over-reaction. "We will not allow NSW parents to be held to ransom."

In August last year, the Government released the format of the new reports which provide detail on:

* A CHILD'S overall achievement rated in bands from A to E;

* MORE detail on how they are performing in English and Maths; and

* SIMPLER information identifying strengths and weaknesses and details of their social skills and development.

"The reports make it easier to track the progress of students and provide greater consistency," Mr Iemma said. "Every parent has a right to information that tells them in plain English whether their child is progressing well or falling behind and in need of help."

The federation said it had grave concerns about the philosophical underpinnings of the new report cards. Mr Johnson said it opposed the Federal Government's imposition of "simplistic and regressive" student reporting requirements as a pre-condition for continued federal funding. Mr Johnson said the new reports also had potential to greatly increase teachers' workload.


Australian private school student numbers soaring

Australia's private schools have recorded record enrolments with an exodus of 200,000 students from the public education system in the past decade. The trend is strongest in Year 11 and 12, where 41 per cent of teenagers now attend private schools. Despite rising fees of up to $20,000 a year, new figures confirm a shift towards private schools since the election of the Howard Government in 1996. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' School Census yesterday revealed the number of children enrolled in private schools has jumped by 22 per cent in the past decade. The growth continued last year, with enrolments at independent and Catholic schools jumping by a further 20,000 students, to 1.1 million students.

John Howard, who once blamed the exodus from the nation's public schools on the "politically correct" attitude of the public system, last night welcomed the figures. Despite challenging the "university or bust" culture in Australia and urging teenagers who are offered a job or an apprenticeship to consider taking up the opportunity, he also welcomed an increase in retention rates. The census data also show the proportion of 17-year-olds enrolled as full-time students increased and the number of indigenous students enrolled increased from 87,200 to 135,100. "The figures show a strong increase in retention rates," the Prime Minister said. "I am particularly pleased with the very significant increase in the number of indigenous students. That is something to be very warmly welcomed."

Since 1996, the Howard Government has doubled spending on private schools, from $2.3 billion to $4.7 billion last year. Private schools now secure more taxpayer-funded grants than Australia's publicly funded universities. However, the proportion of male schoolteachers has continued to decline over the past decade. Almost 80 per cent of teachers in primary schools are now women. [I am surprised that ANY male teachers risk it] Despite recent data suggesting a surge in enrolments in public high schools in NSW, the figures confirm the 10-year trend away from public schools.



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

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

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