Thursday, March 09, 2006


Post lifted from Betsy's Page

How perfect is it that Howard Zinn's organization, Historians Against War, has a name that lends itself to the acronym of HAW. As historians must be aware, this recalls Lord Haw-Haw, the nickname for the radio announcer of the radio show broadcast by Nazi Germany into Britain during WWII.

The name Lord Haw-Haw is most commonly associated with the Irish-American William Joyce, a former member of the British Union of Fascists, whose on-air style approximated to a sneering mockery of the British military effort against the Germans.

Gee, sneering at your nation's military effort when at war? Is it a coincidence that Zinn's group chose a name with that acronym?

Jacob Laksin looks at what some of these historians were saying at their most recent confab. One historian is upset that some feminists actually had the poor taste to support the war in Afghanistan.

Where Zinn urged a new dedication to the cause of politicized education, the conference's other keynote speaker, Andrea Smith, a radical feminist and a assistant professor in Women's Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan, took aim at those who dared to dissent from academic orthodoxy with respect to the wisdom of military intervention. Smith singled out for opprobrium feminists who supported the U.S.-led overthrow of Afghanistan's Taliban regime. One report quoted Smith sneering that a bombing campaign could never liberate women. Enlarging on that theme, Smith asserted that the real threat to women came not from the governments like the Taliban but from concepts like the nation state.

Yeah, those Afghan women were so much better off under the Taliban. I'm sure they would prefer to go back to that tyranny rather than to have had the U.S. army throw out the Taliban.

Read more of the speeches that these historians were giving praising themselves for their efforts to turn students against America. This is what parents are paying so much so that their kids can hear this sort of propaganda. It boggles the mind.


That the Crusades were a defensive response designed to halt and roll back Muslim conquests of Christian lands is the most basic history but it seems that Australian kids are hearing the opposite

A textbook widely used in Victorian high schools describes the Crusaders who fought in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages as terrorists, akin to those responsible for the September 11 attacks. The Year 8 textbook Humanities Alive 2 says that the Crusaders, like Muslim terrorists, "believed they were giving their lives for a religious cause". "Like the Crusaders ... they were told they would go straight to heaven when they died," the book says. "Those who destroyed the World Trade Center are regarded as terrorists. Might it be fair to say that Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?"

The book, used in about 100 schools around Victoria, is a revised edition of a series of textbooks published by John Wiley and Sons since 2003, all of which have included the section on September 11. The selection of textbooks is at the discretion of individual schools in Victoria and neither the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, nor the state Education Department, have any input into the quality or content of textbooks. A spokesman for state Education Minister Lynne Kosky said schools decided for themselves what was appropriate to be taught and there were no recommended books for the curriculum.

The textbook also portrays the church as a corrupt institution driven by the desire for power and which tortured and killed anyone with opposing beliefs. "It's very out of date, this view of the church as being fiendishly power-hungry," said Dr Collett, a visiting scholar at Oxford University. "The church's activities were far more humane and pastoral than you would guess from reading this." Dr Collett said the textbook presented an oversimplified view of history and the language used suggested a particular point of view rather than asking open-ended questions. Despite popular perception, Dr Collett said those involved in the Inquisition actually spent most of their time working with divided families rather than torturing heretics. Rather than working with government to oppress people, Dr Collett said the church was the principal force against the authoritarian excesses of governments.

General manager of the schools division at John Wiley, Peter van Noorden, denied the textbook makes a connection between the Crusades and September 11. He said the section was intended to encourage discussion and prompt students to think more broadly about history. "It's very specifically put at the end of the section as a challenge for students to consider ... to analyse things from different perspectives," he said.



Ruth Kelly is not the most engaging or charismatic of politicians. Yet when the history of the Blair Labour Government is written, she will probably be remembered not for strings of platitudes or her droning delivery but for her courage and tactical skill. After her brave decision last year to veto the Tomlinson plan for merging academic and vocational A levels, Ms Kelly has again defied the teachers' unions, the educational establishment and the Labour Left - the people whose misguided egalitarianism since the 1960s has steadily debased the quality of Britain's state education and closed off the main avenues of social advancement for bright children from poor homes.

The best arguments for supporting Ms Kelly's reforms come from her opponents. Until this week I was inclined to agree with the Tories that this Bill was so timid as to be almost irrelevant. But then I heard Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, denounce the Bill for promoting "the Government's obsession with so-called choice and diversity". Any educational reform opposed by the NUT probably has something to commend it - and if this Bill really does advance diversity and choice, then it deserves support.

Even more encouraging for those of us inclined to dismiss Ms Kelly's efforts as another tedious, vacuous compromise were these attacks by Frank Dobson and Peter Kilfoyle, two of the Neanderthal Labour Party's most prominent educational thinkers.

In Mr Dobson's view, "the object, not the by-product (of this Bill), is the fragmentation of the education system. Putting more and more emphasis on shopping around benefits the well-off and the informed." The consequence, Mr Kilfoyle says, is clear: "This will lead not just to a two-tier but a multi-tier system, to the benefit of people with the wherewithal . . . of aspirational and articulate parents."

If Mr Dobson, who has spent more time studying this legislation than I ever will, believes that it will "fragment" the education system, and if Mr Kilfoyle, who is an expert on legal niceties, confidently predicts that this Bill will "benefit aspirational parents", then I am converted from lukewarm indifference to enthusiastic support.

For fragmentation is exactly the right approach to reforming a dysfunctional, centrally planned system. And more opportunity for "aspirational parents" to try to improve their children's education without having to spend vast sums of money is exactly what Britain requires.

Educating children raises endless questions to which nobody can claim to have found all the answers. Indeed, almost every country in the world believes itself today to be in the midst of some kind of educational crisis. Under these circumstances, the best hopes for improvement come not from another Stalinist lurch into a new centrally planned educational theory, but from some kind of market mechanism of "bold persistent experimentation", with different schools trying out many different approaches and with successes distinguished from failures through the trial and error of consumer choice.

The standard objection to such choice is that some children will end up with a worse education than others, either because their parents make the wrong decisions or because the most popular schools will not admit everyone who applies. But after 40 years of purporting to deliver educational equality it is clear that the uniform comprehensive system has failed in this objective, as in so many others. This is hardly surprising, since parents can never be prevented from promoting their children 's interests in a free society. Moreover, if parental involvement in education is to be encouraged, as almost everyone apart from the Labour Neanderthals now believes, then "aspirational parents" should be welcomed, not condemned. So in terms of broad objectives, the new education Bill is clearly pointing in the right direction and deserves support. Having said this, the Bill ignores the three really fundamental questions that have dogged British education for decades and are far more important than the great controversies over local authority relations with the new school trusts or even the issue of academic selection at 11.

The first of these is how to improve vocational training for teenagers and young adults without getting education policy sidetracked into a pointless quest for the mirage of "parity of esteem" between vocational and academic education. The second question is how to deal with the bottom 20 per cent of the intelligence and behaviour spectrum. This issue is of great importance to mass education, which can be severely disrupted by relatively small numbers of difficult pupils, yet it has been persistently neglected by politicians and the media, who are obsessed with the much less socially important issue of how to educate the top 20 per cent.

This leads to the third and most mysteriously absent question in Britain's educational debate. Now that the Tories have formally abandoned even the pretence of any interest in restoring the old grammar school system, there is a unanimous consensus in Britain against any kind of academic selection at the age 11 (except, of course, for the rich and successful who maintain their passionate support for this principle in private schools). But what about selection at 13, 14 or even 16? That 11 is too early an age to divide children (especially boys, who tend to be later developers) between academic and vocational streams may be indisputable. But nobody disputes that such a division has to be made at 13, 14 or 16 and indeed is made in almost every school.

By turning selection at 11 into an ideological totem, both the Left and the Right have distracted attention from two much more important issues: establishing the right age to divide children into academic and vocational streams; and creating the right institutions for both types of pupil to have a proper education. These questions are likely to remain taboo for many years, but maybe some answers will come from the diversity and experimentation in the education Bill



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


No comments: