Friday, October 13, 2006


One of their professors summarizes below why affirmative action is unwise and unjust

The new academic year has ushered in a barrage of affirmative-action initiatives at Southern Connecticut State University. One of these is achieving racial and ethnic diversity in the SCSU faculty. The rationale for this is that a diverse faculty is a more competent faculty, better able to teach Black, Hispanic, and female students who would otherwise be taught by white males. They assume that each minority groups has its own viewpoint and that minorities are victimized and being deliberately excluded from specialties dominated by white males. For that reason SCSU faculty must make racial and ethnic diversity a top hiring priority; they should ``borrow'' minorities from other departments for their search committees; and should also consider ``candidates of opportunity'' who are unqualified but possess ``other exceptional qualities.''

Additional requirements imposed by the university include the need to record the race and gender of every candidate we wish to interview. But hiring faculty in the name of ``diversity'' does not help faculty hiring committees bring better scholar-teachers to SCSU. Instead it institutionalizes discrimination against worthy candidates who happen to be white, male, heterosexual or politically conservative while lowering teaching and scholarship standards. Indeed it causes universities to break the laws of the land, including the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and all federal and Connecticut statutes that prohibit discrimination. An article in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that diversity preferences in faculty hiring are very difficult to defend; diversity policies could make Southern far more vulnerable to lawsuits than the supposed unfair hiring standards now in place.

Besides being illegal, such practices hurt minorities by reinforcing prejudice and misconstrue the needs of the most important university population - the students. They know the difference between a member of a preferred group who meets our "minimal qualifications" and the high-quality professors of all backgrounds that SCSU has successfully attracted in the past. These students also know that this affects the quality of the education they receive, the value of their degrees, and their future employment prospects. Hospitals do not hire ``minimally qualified'' doctors for the sake of diversity; don't our students deserve the best professors we can hire?

What motivates all the new rules? The new policy statements suggest a vision of social justice to make faculty resemble the inhabitants of the urban center of New Haven, as it assumes do our students. But the idea that in a just world faculty demographics would necessarily match those of the New Haven community is absurd. A sizable percentage of our students do not even come from the urban center, they are from small, provincial towns in the region. Southern Connecticut admirably helps New Haven address its many social pathologies but any attempt to reflect these realities would help no one. If SCSU were to follow a real policy of non-discrimination, faculty demographics would represent those of the applicants for faculty positions, not those of the community they are teaching in. These are dictated by individual preferences, not race-driven quotas.

Perhaps the worst thing about this obsession with ``diversity'' on college campuses is that its objective is really a political one. Most diversity proponents are pursuing a political agenda that seeks to homogenize not diversify perspectives. It is one designed to attract liberal Democrats who have almost identical political positions despite their racial and ethnic diversity. There is nothing in these policies that promotes one of the most important kinds of diversity in academia - intellectual diversity. The list of recruitment sources we were given does not include a single conservative organization. Discriminating on the basis of race and gender does not guarantee different perspectives. Rather, it is far more likely to produce a group of faculty having similar values, views of human nature, and perceptions of a just society. It is dangerous for any institution, but particularly for an educational institution, to seek a monopoly over the truth.

While academic departments at SCSU may only be encouraged to achieve diversity, institutional pressure to conform will discourage "infidels" on search committees from listing white males as finalists for positions even if they are by far the best candidates. Instead of selecting faculty on the basis of merit, faculty hiring committees in specialties dominated by white males will be looking not for the best-qualified candidates for members of ethnic minorities who are "minimally qualified.''

In the alternative, many departments will start to hire in specialties with a political agenda that have a higher proportion of minorities - feminist and ethnic studies, for example. In time, we will only be able to interview one or two of our best candidates and the rest will have to be minimally qualified or from highly politicized specialties in an effort to meet these unjust and discriminatory diversity goals.

This is not justice, it is injustice. And the result is universities where the students it purports to teach receive an inferior education. If Southern Connecticut would limit its focus to the pursuit of excellence, listed as its primary value, and had a little more faith in minorities and white males, everybody would be better off, especially our students. And diversity would likely be one of the results.


Ideologues hijack High School physics education

Comment by Dr Peter Ridd, a professor of physics at James Cook University

The moguls controlling the education syllabuses in the Queensland Studies Authority should be fearful of the plans of Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop to scrap the state boards of study and introduce a national curriculum. The message to them is simple - fix up the school syllabuses or face extinction.

The Queensland education system, and the QSA in particular, has been hijacked by ideologues applying theories dreamt up by the education faculties of our universities. They have become out of touch with the expectations of the parents. In addition, they have made little effort to address the concerns regarding their syllabuses of academics at universities in disciplines such as English, geography, maths, physics and engineering. In short, they have some of the world's silliest syllabus documents while at the same time claiming that Queensland is at the cutting edge of modern education practice.

Like most people who are concerned with education, but who have left the classroom, they have lost touch with reality. My favourite example of a typical Queensland syllabus is the new physics syllabus presently being introduced. A syllabus is the document that a teacher uses for guidance on what to teach and how to assess. Incredibly, the physics syllabus gives almost no guidance to the teacher of what content is to be taught. Nowhere, for example, does it say that the laws of electricity or gravity should be covered by the teacher.

The statements in the syllabus on copyright, equity and safety are each longer than the section on content. The reason is that according to modern education theory, content and facts are not necessary. In fact, in the world of education relativism, facts do not even exist; they are merely constructs that may vary according to your cultural background and general philosophy. Perhaps in some culture gravity goes upwards?

With the omission of any facts from the syllabus, one might have expected that it would be a short document, but you would be wrong. There is page after page of gory education jargon describing the overcomplicated assessment scheme that forbids the use of marks. Instead, it uses a highly questionable subjective system of "holistic judgments" to come up with a final grade.

Also, in the new syllabus, teachers are now at liberty to remove almost all mathematics from their physics courses. Mathematics is the primary language of physics and removing the maths effectively cripples the subject.

The miserable mess of the new physics syllabus is but one example of a multitude of crazy aspects about our education system imposed by the QSA. We have an English syllabus where the children learn more about gender equity and culture than about writing. We have a junior science syllabus that has removed almost all calculations, causing the subject to be pointlessly descriptive.

Students fail to realise how mathematics is a key aspect in most modern science, engineering and technology. Our mathematics syllabus document has not a single equation in it and introduces key techniques such as algebra far too late. Streaming of students in junior maths is officially frowned upon but most schools do it on the sly because the teachers at least do not have their heads in the clouds.

The junior SOSE (Studies of Science and Environment) syllabus has, in the words of Bishop, become a course that could have been written by Chairman Mao. It is a never-ending morass of trendy left-wing mantra on subjects such as multiculturalism, Aboriginal culture and history, diversity, minority groups and why Western civilisation is the cause of all the evil in the world. They learn little geography or history, and the environmental section suffers from the minor problem that they are not taught enough biology, chemistry, physics or geography to understand the environmental problems about which they learn.

Our assessment systems are dominated by assignments. Exams have been eliminated in many subjects. This is great if you are a child from a comfortable middle-class background with well-educated parents. Parents can either help you with your assignments or hire you a tutor. It is not exactly cheating, but pity the children from lower socio-economic groups who do not get access to this extra help. Continuous assignments do not achieve the aim of improving writing because teachers don't have the time to help the poor writers on an individual basis. Because teachers can never be sure who has actually done an assignment they must not be overused and certainly not become the dominant assessment type.

For the past decade or two, the QSA, backed up by their mates in the university faculties of education, have been going on a rampage through our education system. Finally, in Bishop, we have a person who is willing to take them to task. A national curriculum has the minor advantage that it reduces duplication. The major advantage is that we can start again and purge the country of our present boards of study.


Study sounds mathematics teaching alarm

Mathematics is a subject in crisis, with high school maths teachers increasingly underqualified, unhappy and in short supply. A national study, to be released today, reveals one in five maths teachers did not study maths beyond first year at university and one in 12 did no tertiary maths at all. Half are teaching subjects other than maths at school and more than a third are aged over 50, raising the problem of an ageing workforce.

Commissioned by the influential Australian Council of Deans of Science, the report calls for national accreditation of maths and science teachers to ensure minimum qualifications across all states and territories. As Education Minister Julie Bishop fights for a national schools curriculum, the 38 science deans have stressed "the urgent need to prepare more people for mathematics teaching in schools". "Three in four schools currently experience difficulty recruiting suitably qualified teachers for mathematics classes, and the impending retirement of the baby boomers is set to exacerbate this situation," the study says. The call comes as some universities introduce remedial maths courses for first-year students to help them cope with their degrees.

Overall, 8 per cent of mathematics teachers had studied no maths at university at all. One in five had not studied the subject beyond first year, including 23 per cent of junior school teachers. Teachers younger than 30 were significantly less likely than older colleagues to hold a maths major or to have studied maths teaching methods. "This data, along with the changing face of modern mathematics, explains why 40 per cent of those teaching at the moment were dissatisfied with their mathematics preparation as mathematics teachers," the deans say in a foreword to the study. "Fewer than half of the teachers were confident that they would be teaching mathematics in five years' time."

The research highlights the fact almost every Australian student will do maths at some stage during their schooling. And many fields - such as engineering, agriculture, economics, medicine and business - require a sophisticated understanding of maths and statistics. But many school students are not receiving the high level of maths education required for these fields because just 64 per cent of schools now teach advanced maths, a situation brought about by fewer students wanting to take it up.

Titled "The Preparation of Mathematics Teachers in Australia", the study was conducted by Melbourne University's Centre for the Study of Higher Education and is based on a survey of 3500 teachers and heads of maths departments across 841 secondary schools. It stresses the need for state and territory governments to upgrade the skills of the current crop of maths teachers to keep pace with advances in knowledge. "There's a really urgent task for government if they are going to back a new (national) curriculum to put in place upskilling programs in content for teachers that are currently teaching," said the president of the deans council and dean of science at the Australian National University, Tim Brown. "Students need teachers who have sufficient confidence in their subject knowledge to admit when they don't know the answer and help the students to find out what it is, or what the problem is."

The report reveals considerable disparity between the states: NSW has fewer maths teachers per school while Queensland and Victoria have the most. Queensland finds it hardest to recruit maths teachers. While in Western Australia, curriculum changes were causing widespread "dissatisfaction and concern". It says there is no single way to measure teacher quality, in part because teacher registration is a state issue and graduates can enter the profession by many pathways.

The deputy principal of Catholic girls' school Loreto, in Melbourne's Toorak, and a mathematics teacher for more than 20 years, Elizabeth Burns believes the job must be made more lucrative to attract the next generation of qualified teachers. "Teaching is not a profession that is highly esteemed and there are far more lucrative areas that students who are good at mathematics can go into," she said. "They have to look at better career paths for teachers and higher returns. "It's also about recruiting from other industries. I know people are moving into teaching now from other areas like engineering. Recruitment doesn't only have to come from school leavers or university leavers."



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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