Saturday, January 28, 2006


I must say I am on the side of the Hindus here. But I must admit a bias: I am so pro-Indian that I have four Indians living with me in my own house! Many British "old India hands" developed a great affection for India and I fall squarely into that tradition. It is however undoubtedly true that what most Westerners believe about the oppressed state of women in India is just about the reverse of the truth. I would much rather argue with an Indian man than an Indian woman!

For the first time, Hindu organizations are pushing to change the way their religious history is taught in California schools. While Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups have long spoken up during the Department of Education's textbook revision process, Hindus are new on the scene. Their efforts to alter sixth-grade textbooks about ancient history have inspired vitriolic, all-too-personal debates among scholars and community groups vying to see their versions of history in print.

The debate is noteworthy not just for its contentiousness, but for its far-reaching effects. Many states follow California's lead in textbook adoptions, so any decision about what children learn here will likely affect public schools across the country. The state education board is now faced with questions that are difficult to answer: Who gets to tell the story of a civilization? What happens when even the scholars don't agree? "History is probably one of the most emotional and difficult subjects to sort out," said Glee Johnson, president of the California Board of Education. "People care about these issues. It's their blood. But it's not always easy to tell what's factual in this arena, and when you're trying to distill world history to sixth-graders you need to be really careful."

California adopts new social studies textbooks every six years. The state requires students to learn about ancient civilizations, including the origins of Hinduism, in the sixth grade. In September, several religious groups proposed hundreds of changes to history textbooks the state board was considering adopting. The vast majority of the proposals came from two Hindu groups: the state chapter of the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation of Austin, Texas. Most of the proposed changes would erase or alter passages dealing with caste and gender discrimination in ancient South Asia. The changes also were aimed to dispute the notion that Aryan peoples from outside India played a key role in the formation of Hinduism.

In one case, the original text read, "Men had many more rights than women." The Hindu Education Foundation offered to replace that sentence with, "Men had different rights and duties than women." The group called for the deletion of another passage that said people in the lowest tier of society "performed work other Indians thought was too dirty, such as collecting trash, skinning animals or handling dead bodies."

In November, Michael Witzel, a professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, entered the process with a letter signed by nearly 50 other professors. The Hindu groups' proposals were "unscholarly," and adopting them, he wrote, would "trigger an immediate international scandal." Armed with citations from scripture and academic texts, the two sides went to war. Witzel and his supporters said the Hindu groups were promoting a cultural nationalist agenda that had recently led to controversial textbook rewrites in India. The Hindu groups termed Witzel a racist with leftist leanings and demanded that Harvard shut down his department.

Hindus who support the proposed changes say they have no agenda beyond fair representation of their culture, pointing out that the textbooks don't always mention discrimination in other ancient civilizations. They also say that detailing a culture's failings may not be appropriate in a textbook designed for children. "We're talking about sixth-graders, who are very impressionable," said Suhag Shukla, legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation, which has thrown its support behind the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation. "There are so many positives to every world religion. Sixth grade is not the right arena to pull out all the garbage." Further, while the California guidelines state that content standards should "instill in each child a sense of pride in his or her heritage," some Hindus say the current textbooks make their children ashamed. "My son came home from school one day and told me he didn't want to be a Hindu anymore," said Milpitas resident Madhulika Singh. "There were comments in the playground about men beating up their wives and he was very distraught."

On the other hand, opponents, including other Hindu groups, say the textbook changes promote an inaccurate point of view and conceal discrimination that persists today. "They're completely whitewashing history and sanitizing Hinduism," said Anu Mandavilli, a volunteer for the Bay Area-based group Friends of South Asia. "It's like saying slavery is hurtful to white children, so let's not talk about it. ...These are extreme ideologies. This is not my Hinduism, it's not the way my parents brought me up."

In the face of conflicting information, the state board charged its advisory panel on curriculum in November to evaluate each proposed change on the basis of historical accuracy. But the scholars don't always agree on what constitutes accuracy. "The proposed edits come out of a very sectarian approach to history," said Witzel, the Harvard professor. "They view all of Hinduism through one narrow lens. ... It's people on the very fringe who want to dispute these points." "I don't think you could find a single scholar of Indian history in the entire United States who teaches at a research university who would support (the Hindu groups') position," said Vinay Lal, a history professor at UCLA. "Most people on their side are Indian engineers, physicists, chemists, who think their opinion is just as good as those who have spent a lifetime studying these subjects."

But Shiva Bajpai, a California State University, Northridge, historian who was hired to evaluate the changes and recommended many of them, said he's aiming to avoid viewing ancient cultures according to "modern concerns." "We should be judging people by the values they held at the time, not the values we hold now. ... Inequality is a modern concept, whereas now it's a burning issue for us," he said.

In December, an advisory panel to the state board recommended most of the changes that Bajpai had endorsed, even though another state panel of scholars that included Witzel suggested otherwise. In a move that departs with standard procedure, members of the state board then met with Witzel and Bajpai in a closed session earlier this month to get information on each point of view. The two scholars debated the changes for nearly five hours. Witzel found Bajpai to be "religiously minded;" Bajpai found Witzel to be "close-minded." Confronted by what then-board President Ruth Green called a "barrage" of mail from every side, the state board voted on Jan. 12 to create yet another panel, this one consisting of five board members, to conduct a new analysis of the proposed changes. The board could vote on the changes as early as March.


Leftists protest over call to teach a balanced Australian history

Australia's national day of celebration was marked by a renewed outbreak of the culture wars as education experts debated the way Australia's story is taught in schools. The latest hostilities were provoked by John Howard's comments at the National Press Club on Wednesday, where he claimed the teaching of history had degenerated into a "fragmented stew" of post-modernist ideas with no clear narrative thread. His comments renewed the longstanding dispute between those who oppose the so-called "black armband" view of Australian history and those who argue that any single, authorised account of our story only serves to marginalise the powerless.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley yesterday agreed with the need for "decent narrative history" but dismissed the Prime Minister's comments as coming "straight out of the right-wing playbook of the US".

Education expert Kevin Donnelly backed Mr Howard's concerns about the history curriculum being taught in schools but lamented the lack of change in history teaching after a decade of conservative government in Canberra. He pointed out that many currently fashionable ideas about the subject had taken hold under conservative state governments.

But history teachers attacked Mr Howard's emphasis on Australia's British heritage. Australian Education Union secretary Andrew Gohl told The Australian: "We know that John Howard says we shouldn't have a black armband view of history, but what does that mean? Does it mean we can't talk about the invasion of Australia, or the appalling treatment of indigenous Australians?"

State education ministers were also on the counter-attack yesterday, with South Australia's Jane Lomax-Smith saying politicians should not "dictate details of the curriculum". Victorian Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton backed Mr Howard, saying history courses were "all slanted against the European settlement of Australia". But acting Education Minister Jacinta Allan said history should be taught in a way that "encourages healthy debate".

A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said NSW had a well-established curriculum of traditional Australian history and said the subject was compulsory from years seven to nine. However, the NSW curriculum for younger students shows that, as in the other states, history is being taught as part of "human society and its environment" rather than as a free-standing subject. The NSW curriculum also stipulates seven "perspectives" that should be applied to the subject matter: Aboriginal, civics and citizenship, environmental, gender, global, multicultural and work.

Mr Donnelly argues the relativist approach, in which no single perspective dominates, is inherently contradictory. On the one hand curriculum documents point to the subjectivity of historical understanding, while on the other mandating approaches such as feminism and environmentalism as templates for students' understanding. The difficulty with reforming the system, he said, was that changes mandated from above were implemented by state-based education bureaucrats and professional associations with their own agendas.



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, January 27, 2006


And that will do as much good as it has done in NYC and Washington D.C.

Modern politics - and the media coverage of it - is all about conflict, so the biggest news in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal hasn't received much notice beyond the first-day headlines. Since few in the Capitol are seriously upset about his proposal to dump an astounding amount of new money on the public schools, the issue has gotten only a fraction of the attention it received a year ago, when the governor was accused of shortchanging education. Schwarzenegger's proposal would give the schools $1.7 billion more than is required by the state constitution, an 8 percent increase that represents $600 more per student than the current year's $7,427 in state and local tax dollars. Counting federal aid and other sources of revenue, the schools would be getting $11,000 per student next year.

The increase the governor proposes would come on top of the $400-per-child boost that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature gave the schools this year. What will all that new money buy? That's the big question, and how the money is spent, not the total amount, will probably be the subject of the most debate in the Capitol as the budget is hammered out this spring.

The good news is that Schwarzenegger is mostly resisting the temptation to meddle in local school policy. He is proposing to give the lion's share of the new money to local districts with no strings attached. The biggest chunk - about $2.3 billion - would pay for a 5 percent cost-of-living increase for every district, plus enough money to accommodate higher enrollments in those districts that are still growing. Another $400 million would make up for past inflation that wasn't covered by the budget and help reduce historical inequities in general purpose revenue between various districts. More good news: The governor proposes nearly $300 million to reimburse the schools for mandated programs the state imposed on them but didn't pay for. This includes $133 million in ongoing funding.

But Schwarzenegger, like past governors, can't completely keep himself from trying to micromanage the schools. It's natural, apparently, for people in power to think they know better how to spend the money than do the people on the front lines. Plus, some people within the education lobby itself, and some Republicans in the Legislature, do not want to give all the new money to the schools without restriction because they fear that most - if not all - of it would go to higher teacher salaries.

More here


"Philosophy of Education" professor Douglas Kellner is something of a buried treasure on the UCLA campus. While in public not much of a fire-starter, especially compared to the roustabout behavior of his more active radical colleagues, Kellner is an absolute tiger on paper. A close look at Kellner's personal history and theoretical background reveals a professor whose political views are a witch's brew of worldwide conspiracy, Marxoid theory, "critical pedagogy," and an overwhelming dose of anti-Bush hatred.

In Kellner's brief memoir titled "Philosophical Adventures," he describes his fairly stable middle-class upbringing and subsequent adolescence. The tale, predictably enough, is narrated in an ironic tone full of retroactive progressive insights. In one instance, Kellner puts a radical spin on random childhood anecdotes. Through these red-colored lenses, his youthful attempt to buy candy for all his fellow neighborhood children becomes a nascent exercise in communism. Kellner likewise feels obligated to highlight every stereotypical point in his transformation from boomer kid to young radical. Kellner tells of discovering the big city, Little Italy in particular, which was where he "bought [his] first ounce of grass." Like so many of his counterparts, Kellner ended up taking a long sojourn through Europe, where "A bad flu and free medicine taught [him] the rationality of socialized medicine." As if that weren't groovy enough, Kellner also "learned the emancipatory possibilities of free love." All this leads to the logical question: could Kellner's youthful rebellion possibly be more clich,d? In a word, yes. Kellner returned to the United States and by 1968, "was studying continental philosophy at Columbia University when the student uprising erupted." While "unprepared for the explosiveness and impact of the student rebellion," Kellner caught on quickly and "became active in New Left politics, participating in major anti-war demonstrations."

While many baby-boomers were radical during their college years, Kellner's political extremism never faded. The first reason is that by becoming a professor, Kellner never had to actually leave the theory-based fantasy world of college to pursue a real job. Second, Kellner didn't catch on with just any school. No, after earning his Ph.D., Kellner took a position at the University of Texas-Austin, home of one of the loopier, more extreme faculties in the country. While nominally in the heart of conservative cowboy country, Austin is really in a countercultural world unto itself. Kellner contributed to the scene in his own freaky way by joining a "University of Texas Progressive Faculty" group, and by co-hosting, with fellow radical Frank Morrow, a public access cable television show called "Alternative Views." The views were indeed alternative. The show, which ran from 1978 to the mid-1990s, was a true piece of black helicopter conspiracy madness. "Alternative Views," investigated everything from "The Elites Who Govern Us" (apparently the Trilateral Commission, The Bilderberg Group and the Council on Foreign Relations), to supposed links between Nazis and Republicans, to the more pedestrian white supremacist threats like the Ku Klux Klan.

Most inflammatory of all was a number of "Alternative Views" episodes which aired allegations of connections between the CIA, the Mafia, and George H.W. Bush; between the Bush family and the Nazi party of Germany; and, for good measure, the Bush family's intersections with the savings and loans scandals of the early 1990s. This obsessive lunacy would form the bedrock of Kellner's later preoccupation with President George W. Bush, a man who in his mind represents evil incarnate.

Kellner's mania against Bush was only reinforced by the murky circumstances under which Kellner left his comfortable, tenured position at the University of Texas. As Kellner tells it:

"The Austin adventures came to an end in the mid-1990s when George W. Bush became Governor of Texas and a rightwing cabal took over the UT-Philosophy Department. Austin had been a great place to live with a vibrant counterculture and political culture and for decades the University of Texas had been an excellent location to teach. But as the University became more rightwing during the Bush years, many of us saw the (w)righting-on-the-wall, saw Austin and UT drowning in the sewer of corruption and mediocrity that distinguished Bush family politics, and decided to move on, leaving Texas to the Bushites."

While Keller's story seems instructive, there's clearly just as much not being said. Even Kellner's devotees, always alert to the distant thump of black helicopter rotors, must have experienced a certain amount of doubt at his suggestion that newly elected Texas Governor George W. Bush concerned himself with the ideological composition of one state school's philosophy department. Even California Governor Ronald Reagan, elected in 1966 on explicit promises to "clean up the mess in Berkeley," took only broad actions in all but a very few cases. While Reagan did oversee the ouster of card-carrying Communists like Angela Davis and Blas, Bonpane, his control was typically higher level, as in his role in the dismissal of UC President Clark Kerr. No doubt there is some sort of story behind Kellner's careful phrasing, but it's far more likely to have the stench of sour grapes.

For that matter, UCLA's decision to hire Kellner, especially in the post in question, has the stench of politics about it. Kellner, from the time that he was hired to his departure in 1997, was a philosophy professor at UT. But at UCLA, Kellner came nowhere near the philosophy department. Instead, he was installed into the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS) Education Department, with an inscrutable specialization in "Philosophy of Education." The situation has the inarguable appearance of a position being created for Kellner, not of Kellner filling a pre-existing job opening. Fitting a position around the academic is a rare courtesy extended only to true academic superstars. By normal standards, Kellner would not qualify. But to the GSEIS faculty like Peter McLaren and Daniel Solorzano, a fellow extremist like Kellner was valuable property, and someone well worth the professional courtesy.

MUCH, much 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


Thursday, January 26, 2006


Spend a few minutes on the phone with Danny Frankhuizen and you come away thinking, "What a nice boy." He's thoughtful, articulate, bright. He has a good relationship with his mom, goes to church every Sunday, loves the rock band Phish and spends hours each day practicing his guitar. But once he's inside his large public Salt Lake City high school, everything seems to go wrong. He's 16, but he can't stay organized. He finishes his homework and then can't find it in his backpack. He loses focus in class, and his teachers, with 40 kids to wrangle, aren't much help. "If I miss a concept, they tell me, 'Figure it out yourself'," says Danny. Last year Danny's grades dropped from B's to D's and F's. The sophomore, who once dreamed of Stanford, is pulling his grades up but worries that "I won't even get accepted at community college."

His mother, Susie Malcom, a math teacher who is divorced, says it's been wrenching to watch Danny stumble. "I tell myself he's going to make something good out of himself," she says. "But it's hard to see doors close and opportunities fall away." What's wrong with Danny? By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind. In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. The number of boys who said they didn't like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses. Thirty years ago men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they're a minority at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of Education, "has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy."

With millions of parents wringing their hands, educators are searching for new tools to help tackle the problem of boys. Books including Michael Thompson's best seller "Raising Cain" (recently made into a PBS documentary) and Harvard psychologist William Pollack's definitive work "Real Boys" have become must-reads in the teachers' lounge. The Gurian Institute, founded in 1997 by family therapist Michael Gurian to help the people on the front lines help boys, has enrolled 15,000 teachers in its seminars. Even the Gates Foundation, which in the last five years has given away nearly a billion dollars to innovative high schools, is making boys a big priority. "Helping underperforming boys," says Jim Shelton, the foundation's education director, "has become part of our core mission."

The problem won't be solved overnight. In the last two decades, the education system has become obsessed with a quantifiable and narrowly defined kind of academic success, these experts say, and that myopic view is harming boys. Boys are biologically, developmentally and psychologically different from girls-and teachers need to learn how to bring out the best in every one. "Very well-meaning people," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a Houston neurologist who advocates for troubled kids, "have created a biologically disrespectful model of education."

Thirty years ago it was girls, not boys, who were lagging. The 1972 federal law Title IX forced schools to provide equal opportunities for girls in the classroom and on the playing field. Over the next two decades, billions of dollars were funneled into finding new ways to help girls achieve. In 1992, the American Association of University Women issued a report claiming that the work of Title IX was not done-girls still fell behind in math and science; by the mid-1990s, girls had reduced the gap in math and more girls than boys were taking high-school-level biology and chemistry.

Some scholars, notably Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, charge that misguided feminism is what's been hurting boys. In the 1990s, she says, girls were making strong, steady progress toward parity in schools, but feminist educators portrayed them as disadvantaged and lavished them with support and attention. Boys, meanwhile, whose rates of achievement had begun to falter, were ignored and their problems allowed to fester

Boys have always been boys, but the expectations for how they're supposed to act and learn in school have changed. In the last 10 years, thanks in part to activist parents concerned about their children's success, school performance has been measured in two simple ways: how many students are enrolled in accelerated courses and whether test scores stay high. Standardized assessments have become commonplace for kids as young as 6. Curricula have become more rigid. Instead of allowing teachers to instruct kids in the manner and pace that suit each class, some states now tell teachers what, when and how to teach. At the same time, student-teacher ratios have risen, physical education and sports programs have been cut and recess is a distant memory. These new pressures are undermining the strengths and underscoring the limitations of what psychologists call the "boy brain"-the kinetic, disorganized, maddening and sometimes brilliant behaviors that scientists now believe are not learned but hard-wired.

When Cris Messler of Mountainside, N.J., brought her 3-year-old son Sam to a pediatrician to get him checked for ADHD, she was acknowledging the desperation parents can feel. He's a high-energy kid, and Messler found herself hoping for a positive diagnosis. "If I could get a diagnosis from the doctor, I could get him on medicine," she says. The doctor said Sam is a normal boy. School has been tough, though. Sam's reading teacher said he was hopeless. His first-grade teacher complains he's antsy, and Sam, now 7, has been referring to himself as "stupid." Messler's glad her son doesn't need medication, but what, she wonders, can she do now to help her boy in school?

For many boys, the trouble starts as young as 5, when they bring to kindergarten a set of physical and mental abilities very different from girls'. As almost any parent knows, most 5-year-old girls are more fluent than boys and can sight-read more words. Boys tend to have better hand-eye coordination, but their fine motor skills are less developed, making it a struggle for some to control a pencil or a paintbrush. Boys are more impulsive than girls; even if they can sit still, many prefer not to-at least not for long.

Thirty years ago feminists argued that classic "boy" behaviors were a result of socialization, but these days scientists believe they are an expression of male brain chemistry. Sometime in the first trimester, a boy fetus begins producing male sex hormones that bathe his brain in testosterone for the rest of his gestation. "That exposure wires the male brain differently," says Arthur Arnold, professor of physiological science at UCLA. How? Scientists aren't exactly sure. New studies show that prenatal exposure to male sex hormones directly affects the way children play. Girls whose mothers have high levels of testosterone during pregnancy are more likely to prefer playing with trucks to playing with dolls. There are also clues that hormones influence the way we learn all through life. In a Dutch study published in 1994, doctors found that when males were given female hormones, their spatial skills dropped but their verbal skills improved.

In elementary-school classrooms-where teachers increasingly put an emphasis on language and a premium on sitting quietly and speaking in turn-the mismatch between boys and school can become painfully obvious. "Girl behavior becomes the gold standard," says "Raising Cain" coauthor Thompson. "Boys are treated like defective girls."

Two years ago Kelley King, principal of Douglass Elementary School in Boulder, Colo., looked at the gap between boys and girls and decided to take action. Boys were lagging 10 points behind girls in reading and 14 points in writing. Many more boys than girls were being labeled as learning disabled, too. So King asked her teachers to buy copies of Gurian's book "The Minds of Boys," on boy-friendly classrooms, and in the fall of 2004 she launched a bold experiment. Whenever possible, teachers replaced lecture time with fast-moving lessons that all kids could enjoy. Three weeks ago, instead of discussing the book "The View From Saturday," teacher Pam Unrau divided her third graders into small groups, and one student in each group pretended to be a character from the book. Classes are noisier, Unrau says, but the boys are closing the gap. Last spring, Douglass girls scored an average of 106 on state writing tests, while boys got a respectable 101.

Primatologists have long observed that juvenile male chimps battle each other not just for food and females, but to establish and maintain their place in the hierarchy of the tribe. Primates face off against each other rather than appear weak. That same evolutionary imperative, psychologists say, can make it hard for boys to thrive in middle school-and difficult for boys who are failing to accept the help they need. The transition to middle school is rarely easy, but like the juvenile primates they are, middle-school boys will do almost anything to avoid admitting that they're overwhelmed. "Boys measure everything they do or say by a single yardstick: does this make me look weak?" says Thompson. "And if it does, he isn't going to do it." That's part of the reason that videogames have such a powerful hold on boys: the action is constant, they can calibrate just how hard the challenges will be and, when they lose, the defeat is private

When Brian Johns hit seventh grade, he never admitted how vulnerable it made him feel. "I got behind and never caught up," says Brian, now 17 and a senior at Grand River Academy, an Ohio boarding school. When his parents tried to help, he rebuffed them. When his mother, Anita, tried to help him organize his assignment book, he grew evasive about when his homework was due. Anita didn't know where to turn. Brian's school had a program for gifted kids, and support for ones with special needs. But what, Anita asked his teachers, do they do about kids like her son who are in the middle and struggling? Those kids, one of Brian's teachers told Anita, "are the ones who fall through the cracks."

It's easy for middle-school boys to feel outgunned. Girls reach sexual maturity two years ahead of boys, but other, less visible differences put boys at a disadvantage, too. The prefrontal cortex is a knobby region of the brain directly behind the forehead that scientists believe helps humans organize complex thoughts, control their impulses and understand the consequences of their own behavior. In the last five years, Dr. Jay Giedd, an expert in brain development at the National Institutes of Health, has used brain scans to show that in girls, it reaches its maximum thickness by the age of 11 and, for the next decade or more, continues to mature. In boys, this process is delayed by 18 months.

Middle-school boys may use their brains less efficiently, too. Using a type of MRI that traces activity in the brain, Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, director of the cognitive neuroimaging laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., tested the activity patterns in the prefrontal cortex of children between the ages of 11 and 18. When shown pictures of fearful faces, adolescent girls registered activity on the right side of the prefrontal cortex, similar to an adult. Adolescent boys used both sides-a less mature pattern of brain activity. Teenage girls can process information faster, too. In a study about to be published in the journal Intelligence, researchers at Vanderbilt University administered timed tests-picking similar objects and matching groups of numbers-to 8,000 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 18. In kindergarten, boys and girls processed information at about the same speeds. In early adolescence, girls finished faster and got more right. By 18, boys and girls were processing with the same speed and accuracy.

Scientists caution that brain research doesn't tell the whole story: temperament, family background and environment play big roles, too. Some boys are every bit as organized and assertive as the highest-achieving girls. All kids can be scarred by violence, alcohol or drugs in the family. But if your brain hasn't reached maturity yet, says Yurgelun-Todd, "it's not going to be able to do its job optimally."

Across the nation, educators are reviving an old idea: separate the girls from the boys-and at Roncalli Middle School, in Pueblo, Colo., administrators say, it's helping kids of both genders. This past fall, with the blessing of parents, school guidance counselor Mike Horton assigned a random group of 50 sixth graders to single-sex classes in core subjects. These days, when sixth-grade science teacher Pat Farrell assigns an earth-science lab on measuring crystals, the girls collect their materials-a Bunsen burner, a beaker of phenyl salicylate and a spoon. Then they read the directions and follow the sequence from beginning to end. The first things boys do is ask, "Can we eat this?" They're less organized, Farrell notes, but sometimes, "they're willing to go beyond what the lab asks them to do." With this in mind, he hands out written instructions to both classes but now goes over them step by step for the boys. Although it's too soon to declare victory, there are some positive signs: the shyest boys are participating more. This fall, the all-girl class did best in math, English and science, followed by the all-boy class and then coed classes

One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an increasing number of boys-now a startling 40 percent-are being raised without their biological dads

Psychologists say that grandfathers and uncles can help, but emphasize that an adolescent boy without a father figure is like an explorer without a map. And that is especially true for poor boys and boys who are struggling in school. Older males, says Gurian, model self-restraint and solid work habits for younger ones. And whether they're breathing down their necks about grades or admonishing them to show up for school on time, "an older man reminds a boy in a million different ways that school is crucial to their mission in life."

In the past, boys had many opportunities to learn from older men. They might have been paired with a tutor, apprenticed to a master or put to work in the family store. High schools offered boys a rich array of roles in which to exercise leadership skills-class officer, yearbook editor or a place on the debate team. These days, with the exception of sports, more girls than boys are involved in those activities.

In neighborhoods where fathers are most scarce, the high-school dropout rates are shocking: more than half of African-American boys who start high school don't finish. David Banks, principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, one of four all-boy public high schools in the New York City system, wants each of his 180 students not only to graduate from high school but to enroll in college. And he's leaving nothing to chance. Almost every Eagle Academy boy has a male mentor-a lawyer, a police officer or an entrepreneur from the school's South Bronx neighborhood. The impact of the mentoring program, says Banks, has been "beyond profound." Tenth grader Rafael Mendez is unequivocal: his mentor "is the best thing that ever happened to me." Before Rafael came to Eagle Academy, he dreamed about playing pro baseball, but his mentor, Bronx Assistant District Attorney Rafael Curbelo, has shown him another way to succeed: Mendez is thinking about attending college in order to study forensic science.

Colleges would welcome more applications from young men like Rafael Mendez. At many state universities the gender balance is already tilting 60-40 toward women. Primary and secondary schools are going to have to make some major changes, says Ange Peterson, president-elect of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, to restore the gender balance. "There's a whole group of men we're losing in education completely," says Peterson.

For Nikolas Arnold, 15, a sophomore at a public high school in Santa Monica, Calif., college is a distant dream. Nikolas is smart: he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of weaponry and war. When he was in first grade, his principal told his mother he was too immature and needed ADHD drugs. His mother balked. "Too immature?" says Diane Arnold, a widow. "He was six and a half!" He's always been an advanced reader, but his grades are erratic. Last semester, when his English teacher assigned two girls' favorites-"Memoirs of a Geisha" and "The Secret Life of Bees" Nikolas got a D. But lately, he has a math teacher he likes and is getting excited about numbers. He's reserved in class sometimes. But now that he's more engaged, his grades are improving slightly and his mother, who's pushing college, is hopeful he will begin to hit his stride. Girls get A's and B's on their report cards, she tells him, but that doesn't mean boys can't do it, too


Australian schools: Basics missing in 'sandpit science'

Science curriculums in Australian schools are becoming dangerously unscientific as education departments bow to the politically correct dogma of cultural relativism. Teachers and academics claim students are being taught "sandpit science" dictated by a dumbed-down syllabus that ignores basic scientific teaching. They say so-called "outcomes-based education" portrays science as subjective and culturally determined, and encourages students to treat established scientific principles with scepticism and disdain.

The South Australian curriculum describes Western science as "the most dominant form of science but it is only one form among the sciences of the world", while in the Northern Territory science is treated "as a way of knowing ... constructed in a socio-cultural context". While the traditional view of science is based on absolutes that can be empirically tested, the West Australian curriculum says truth is culturally determined. "(Students) recognise that aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective," it says.

As education expert Kevin Donnelly points out in The Weekend Australian today, supporters of the relativist approach to science ironically include many who oppose the teaching of "intelligent design" creationism in schools.

Perth-based senior science teacher Marko Vojkovic said the foundations of science were not being properly laid in many secondary schools. "Last time I checked, Newton's theories of motion hadn't changed, the periodic table hasn't changed, the basic atomic theory hasn't changed and I don't think it's going to either," he said. "In a lot of primary schools the kids are getting no hard science. They are drawing holes in the ozone layer and saying that's why we've got global warming." Mr Vojkovic, a co-founder of the West Australian education lobby group PLATO, lamented the push towards activity-based learning, which often failed to provide content. "I call that sandpit science. Just let the kids into the box, let them play around and investigate. They learn absolutely nothing."

Australian Science Teachers Association president Paul Carnemolla yesterday defended constructivism, arguing against a return to a traditional, "transmissional" approach. "Trying to pump knowledge into an empty vessel has proven ineffective because it ignores the fact that students come into the classroom with all sorts of preconceptions, and if those are not dealt with appropriately, learning cannot take place," he told The Weekend Australian.



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, January 25, 2006

Sham neo-Nazi finds himself between a Reich and a hard place

Jacques Pluss has accomplished the impossible. He has managed to get himself hated by everyone. Nazis, socialists, lefties, righties, academics, nonacademics -- if they have any feeling about Pluss, those feelings are negative. I may be the only person in America who appreciates what he has done. And what he has done is to single-handedly expose the myth of academic freedom in America.

Pluss did this with an unprecedented -- some would say nutty -- piece of guerrilla theater that just came to light the other day. At this time last year, Pluss was a quiet and otherwise unremarkable part- time history teacher at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus in Teaneck. Then in March, the student newspaper received a mysterious letter postmarked from a small village in Ireland. The letter alleged that Pluss was a member of a neo-Nazi group in America and was also, among other things, an Irish Republican Army member who was being investigated concerning a recent drive-by killing in Belfast.

The neo-Nazis and the IRA generally don't move in the same circles, so that should have tipped off the college kids that something about the letter was a bit fishy. But then a bit of investigation turned up the curious fact that Pluss had been holding forth on an Internet radio station hosted by the National Socialist Movement.

Before long, Pluss was summarily booted from his teaching post and told not to show up on campus again. Fairleigh Dickinson officials said the firing had nothing to do with his politics. The dismissal was, they said, the result of some absences that had, coincidentally enough, come to their attention at the same time they learned of his tendency to march around in a brown shirt wearing black boots.

Having gotten that bit of legalese out of the way, they then went on to denounce Pluss for his political views. "It's not politics; it's hate mongering," a dean by the name of John Snyder told the Bergen Record. "It's just hatred directed at the very students he taught."

When I phoned Pluss at the time, he protested the hypocrisy of the FDU faculty. Murderous leftist movements of all types are welcome on campuses all over America, he told me, but their right-wing equivalents are repressed. Back when he was a professor at William Paterson University some years ago, Pluss told me, a fellow professor had a huge hammer-and-sickle banner on her office wall. Che Guevara's a big hit among college kids these days, and Chairman Mao's not far behind, he noted.

I agreed with Pluss on that point. But when he launched into a spiel about the subtle but overlooked charms of that Austrian politician formerly known as Adolf Schickelgruber, I began to think he was a few Stukas short of a squadron, if you know what I mean.

It now turns out Pluss is not a Nazi; he's just a post-modernist. The other day, Pluss posted an article on the History News Network Web site ( titled "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi." The episode, he writes, was inspired by the great French deconstructionists Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault, who had insisted on "the need for the historian to 'become' her or his subject."

When I phoned him yesterday, the 52-year-old Pluss said his experience, which he expects to turn into a book, has brought him even more hatred from the academics who had hated him already. "I had thought there would at least have been some more academically and intellectually oriented responses," said Pluss, whose Ph.D. in medieval history is from the highly respected University of Chicago.

Meanwhile, the storm-trooper wannabes he had befriended want to do to him what Hitler did to the Danzig Corridor. They've been phoning him with death threats, he said. "They're a real bunch of misfits," Pluss said. But they're good material for a historian. And Pluss said he couldn't have gotten that material without immersing himself in the movement. "The theory behind my actions came from legitimate scholarship," Pluss said. "I thought to myself, 'Let's do a method-acting approach to the study of history and see how it works.' I chose the Nazis because they were absolutely the most obnoxious, whacky group I could find."

The academics were a close second, however. Pluss wanted to test their reactions as well, which is why he mailed off that nutty letter when he was vacationing in Ireland. The FDU officials took the bait. So much for academic freedom. Pluss was not only booted from the campus but shunned by all of his former colleagues. "I knew them to be a bunch of jerks," he told me. "If they wanted to dump me for my political views, why can't they just come out and say it?"

Pluss plans to write up the whole experience in the form of a historical novel. That gave me an idea. I had just read "A Million Little Pieces," that bogus memoir of drug rehab by James Frey that became a million seller. If hanging out with a bunch of bored druggies makes for a best seller, how about hanging out with a wacky bunch of nutty neo-Nazis? "I've got just one more question," I said to Pluss before he had to go. "Have you had your people contact Oprah?"


Unscientific science teaching is now normal in Australian High Schools

Last year, a group representing Australia's leading scientific bodies signed an open letter arguing intelligent design is unscientific and should not be taught alongside the theory of evolution. The scientists argued that whereas evolution can be tested, teaching science students that a supernatural being was responsible for creation "would be a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon-bending, the flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions".

Unfortunately, for those who oppose ID by arguing that science should only deal with what can be proved or disproved in a rational way, by being tested and open to the rigours of scientific explanation, the horse has already bolted. The reality, as a result of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, which includes such fads as whole language, where children are taught to look and guess, and fuzzy maths, where memorising tables and mental arithmetic go out the window, is that Australia's science curriculum is already unscientific.

One of the defining characteristics of outcomes-based education is that learning is no longer based on the traditional disciplines associated with an academic curriculum and the belief that knowledge is impartial and objective. Now, for example, the time available to teach geology may be reduced to accommodate teaching about the environmental damage that mining can cause, a different concern unrelated to basic science knowledge. Applications of science can be given priority over that basic knowledge. Tertiary academics in subjects such as physics and chemistry lament the way first-year courses have been watered down over time and that school science is more about sociology than teaching the structure of the discipline.

Even Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and a strong supporter of experiments such as outcomes-based education, accepts that Australia's approach to curriculum is far from perfect. "During the 1990s, considerable effort went into reform of the curricula for the primary and middle years of schooling, resulting in new state curriculum and standards frameworks," he says. "It is not clear that these efforts have improved levels of mathematics and science performance in Australian primary schools."

As noted by the South Australian academic Tony Gibbons in his book On Reflection, much of Australia's school curriculum adopts a relativistic view where science, instead of being based on an objective view of reality, is considered subjective and culturally determined. The South Australian curriculum states: "Viewing experiences, ideas and phenomena through the lenses of diverse cultural sciences provide a breadth and depth of understanding that is not possible from any one cultural perspective. Every culture has its own ways of thinking and its own world views to inform its science. Western science is the most dominant form of science but it is only one form among the sciences of the world." The Northern Territory science curriculum adopts a similar approach; described as a "social-constructivist perspective" and one where "science as a way of knowing is constructed in a socio-cultural context".

While the more traditional view of science is based on the belief that there are some absolutes that can be empirically tested - water boils at a certain temperature, the air we breathe is constituted a particular way - the West Australian curriculum also argues that our understanding of the world is subjective and culturally determined: "People from different backgrounds and cultures have different ways of experiencing and interpreting their environment, so there is a diversity of world views associated with science and scientific knowledge which should be welcomed, valued and respected. "They [students] appreciate that when they make observations, they do so from their own point of view and way of thinking. They recognise that aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective."

Those familiar with the culture wars in the US, where new-age, politically correct academics argue that Galileo, Newton and Einstein are simply dead white European males and there is nothing superior or privileged about Western civilisation, will be familiar with the argument. As noted by Gibbons: "The implication is that Western science is a limited social construction and that other cultural sciences can make up for the limitations of Western science."

In addition to arguing that science is culturally determined, Australia's curriculum embodies a postmodern, constructivist view of knowledge. Constructivism places the student centre stage by arguing that learners construct their own learning and that more formal, explicit methods of teaching are unwarranted. Constructivists also suggest that learning is subjective as there is no external reality and each one of us constructs our own intensely personal and idiosyncratic view of the world. The result? Learning is defined as engaging and entertaining students and process takes precedence over content. On reading state and territory science curriculum, it is also obvious that Australia's approach is based more on teaching politically correct ideas and values than giving students a rigorous and objective grounding in science as a subject. Whether Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Queensland or South Australia, science as a subject disappears in favour of so-called essential learnings such as: personal futures, social responsibility, world futures and the inner, the creative and the collaborative learner.

Beginning with the national science statements and profiles, developed during the mid '90s, and continuing with current curriculum documents, teachers are urged to make science more girl-friendly, environmentally sensitive, contemporary and activity-based. The combination of ignoring the central importance of Western science, by arguing that it is culturally relative and simply one view of science among many, and defining science by what is politically correct has led to a dumbed down curriculum. As a result not only are boys disadvantaged, as science activities and tests are now more a measure of literacy skills, in which girls do better, but many teachers and academics argue that standards have fallen and that students are scientifically illiterate.

John Ridd, a retired Queensland secondary schoolteacher, whose PhD thesis examined maths teaching at the secondary level, argues: "Syllabi for both maths and science up to year 10 are long on fashionable educational theory, short on content and are pitched at a low academic level." Further evidence of low standards is the performance of Australian students in the 1994 and 2002 Trends in International Maths and Science Study. While Australian students always perform above the international average, they are consistently outperformed by countries such as The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Of greater concern is that at the year four level, based on a comparison of the 1994 and the 2002 results, Australia's performance remained static and many countries we once outperformed are now above us. Unlike Singapore, where 25 per cent of year four students achieved at the advanced level, there is a related concern that only 9 per cent of Australian students achieved at the same level. Debates about intelligent design and its place in the curriculum are important. Of greater significance is the broader question of how science is taught, or not taught, in our schools and the question of standards.



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, January 24, 2006

What Colleges Forget to Teach

Higher education could heal itself by teaching civics-not race, class, and gender

The university is worth fighting for. No other institution can carry the burden of educating our young people. That's why we must redouble our efforts to restore integrity, civility, and rigorous standards in American higher education-particularly in the area of civic education.

I'll be the first to admit that the situation is dire. I sympathize when critics throw up their hands in despair. I sometimes feel that way myself. Darkness often prevails in places where the light of learning should shine. I often trade horror stories with my friend Hadley Arkes, a distinguished scholar of jurisprudence and political theory at Amherst. On one occasion, I explained that the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton was sponsoring a viciously anti-Catholic art exhibit-one that it would never even permit were some favored faith or cause, such as Islam or gay rights, its target. Every year, some outrage along these lines seems to prove that anti-Catholicism really is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals, though anyone familiar with academic life today knows that anti-Semitism itself is making a run at being the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals.

Professor Arkes listened sympathetically and said, "Things have gotten pretty bad here at Amherst, too: we've granted tenure in political science to a guy promoting a theory explaining the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush by reference to his alleged homoerotic attraction to Ronald Reagan." "Well," I replied, "Princeton has topped that. We've given a distinguished chair in bioethics to a fellow who insists that eating animals is morally wrong, but that killing newborn human infants can be a perfectly moral choice." (This professor has since gone on to say that there would be nothing wrong with a society in which large numbers of children were conceived, born, and then killed in infancy to obtain transplantable organs.)

And so we go back and forth with each other, in a macabre game of one-upmanship.

Still, teaching at Princeton is in many ways a joy. I have the privilege of instructing students who actually know when the Civil War took place. Even before arriving at Princeton, they know that Lee surrendered to Grant, not to Eisenhower, at Appomattox Court House. Most know that Philadelphia, not Washington, D.C., played host to the constitutional convention. Few would list Alexander Hamilton among the most important presidents, because they know that he was never president. Some can identify the cabinet office that he held and even give a decent account of his differences with Thomas Jefferson. Speaking of whom, all my students know that Jefferson owned slaves-but then, everybody seems to know that, even those who know nothing else about him. My students, though, also know that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt, not his cousin Teddy, or Harry Truman, or JFK, who promised Americans a New Deal. Some can even tell you that the Supreme Court invalidated some early New Deal legislation and that FDR responded with a plan to pack the Court. Yes, my students and students at elite universities around the country come to campus knowing American history pretty well-and wanting to know it a lot better.

Many of these young men and women value historical knowledge not merely for its own sake but because they want to be good citizens. More, they seek to be of genuine service to fellow citizens. Many hope to be legislators, judges, even president. They know that knowledge of American history is vital to effective citizenship and service. But they also need an understanding of American civics-particularly the principles of the Constitution. For all their academic achievement, students at Princeton and Yale and Stanford and Harvard and other schools that attract America's most talented young people rarely come to campus with a sound grasp of the philosophy of America's constitutional government. How did the Founding Fathers seek, via the institutions that the Constitution created, to build and maintain a regime of ordered liberty? Even some of our best-informed students think something along these lines: the Framers set down a list of basic freedoms in a Bill of Rights, which an independent judiciary, protected from the vicissitudes of politics, would then enforce.

It's the rare student indeed who enters the classroom already aware that the Framers believed that the true bulwark of liberty was limited government. Few students comprehend the crucial distinction between (on the one hand) the national government as one of delegated and enumerated powers, and (on the other) the states as governments of general jurisdiction, exercising police powers to protect public health, safety, and morals, and to advance the general welfare. If anything, they imagine that it's the other way around. Thus they have no comprehension as to why leading supporters of the Constitution objected to a Bill of Rights, worried that it could compromise the delegated-powers doctrine and thus undermine the true liberty-securing principle of limited government.

Good students these days have heard of federalism, yet they have little appreciation of how it works or why the Founders thought it so vital. They've heard of the separation of powers and often can sketch how the system of checks and balances should work. But if one asks, for example, "Who checks the courts?" they cannot give a satisfactory answer. The students' lack of awareness flows partly from the conception of the American civic order that they have drunk in, which treats courts as if they aren't really part of the government. Judges, on this view, are "non-political" actors whose job is to keep politicians in line with what elite circles regard as enlightened opinions. Judicial supremacy, of the kind that Jefferson and Lincoln stingingly condemned, thus winds up uncritically assumed to be sound constitutional law. The idea that the courts themselves could violate the Constitution by, for example, usurping authority that the Constitution vests in other branches of government, is off the radar screen.

Lacking basic knowledge of the American Founders' political philosophy and of the principles that they enshrined in the Constitution, students often fall prey to the notion that ours is a "Living Constitution," whose actual words matter little. On the Living Constitution theory, judges-especially Supreme Court justices-serve as members of a kind of standing constitutional convention whose role is to invalidate legislation that progressive circles regard as antiquated or retrograde, all in the name of adapting the Constitution to keep up with the times.

It doesn't take much to expose the absurdity of this theory. The purpose of enshrining principles in a constitution is to ensure that the nation's fundamental values remain honored even if they fall out of fashion. As for adapting the nation's laws to keep up with the times, legislators can-and should-take care of that task. The proper role of courts when they exercise the power of judicial review is essentially a conserving (you could even say "conservative") one. It is not to change anything but rather to place limits on what one can change.

More here

A small but significant revival of liberal arts teaching in Australia

Last week's column was a series of bleak reflections on the declining levels of literacy in Australian schools and universities. This column, in contrast, is about some welcome developments in tertiary education - the opening for business of Campion College in Sydney and its new degree course in the liberal arts. What difference will a private, Catholic college with an initial intake of only 30 students make to the Augean stables of the local humanities establishment? Time will tell, of course, but my guess is that it will make a difference out of all proportion to its size and sooner than many expect.

Campion is an overdue and welcome addition to the tertiary sector in Australia. It takes as its models the American and continental liberal arts colleges - Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and indeed secular - and a modified version of the Great Books Program. The core of the course, amounting to about 70 per cent of the units, is compulsory. It involves close reading of demanding, seminal texts. Classes are small and the tutorial system is geared to ensure more than just a nodding acquaintance with the canon.

It will be the only humanities course of studies in which Google won't more or less guarantee that you pass. Corporate employers and headhunting firms, who tend to be familiar with American liberal arts courses and the calibre of the graduates they produce, will be taking a keen interest in Campion's first cohort. I expect that word of this will get out very quickly among arts students, and that many of them will be wondering whether their degrees from sandstone institutions are overpriced by comparison.

The deans of the various arts faculties will be inclined to sneer at a small, fledgling institution, and to be especially disdainful of its connection with the Catholic Church. Academe in Australia tends to take its own Enlightenment assumptions and particularly its secularism for granted as self-evidently good things. But many of the great universities of the West, including Oxford and Cambridge, were essentially monastic foundations and the idea that contemporary ecclesiastical affiliations could compromise the character and functions of a university would cut very little ice among America's Ivy League.

Campion promises to be a rather more Catholic institution than the Australian Catholic University. Its staff will be expected to swear an oath of fidelity to the Pope and the teaching magisterium of the church, for example. However, the college recognises, as John Paul II expressed it in Ex Corde Ecclesiae: "The right of individual scholars to search for the truth, wherever analysis and the evidence lead them." Relatively unfettered scholarship within the context of a campus dedicated to the ideals of Christian humanism may strike some as strange, particularly if they haven't read John Henry Newman on the subject.

To my mind it is no stranger - and far less inimical to intellectual liberty - than the politically correct pieties and Left-conformity of Australian public universities in general and their humanities departments in particular. What's more, Campion's emphasis on engaging with primary texts means that students will read ancient historians and Renaissance playwrights in their own words, rather than mostly seeing them through a fog of Marxist commentary or a filter of Michel Foucault.

It is only natural that many university lecturers should be appalled and confronted by this sort of back-to-basics educational fundamentalism. After all, it challenges their own pedagogical methods, their scholarship and much of what they stand for as teachers. Still, just imagine how captivating many parents will find it. Campion is designed primarily, though not exclusively, for Catholic undergraduates. They and their parents are likely to have had to live hard, sub-optimal choices all the way to matriculation. For example, many thoughtful Catholics regard the parochial system as at best a second-rate scholastic option and a proven failure when it comes to cultural maintenance and the transmission of faith.

They quite often prefer to send their children to conservative Anglican or Lutheran establishments, where theological modernism is less rampant, or to state schools where the agenda is merely secularist rather than noisily heretical. Many more have gone to endless trouble home-schooling their children and are now on the lookout for a comparably nurturing tertiary environment. For the thousands of parents in those sorts of predicament, Campion will stand out like a good deed in a naughty world. They will note with pleasure that the college offers Latin as an option, that it has hired one of Sydney's foremost church musicians for the chapel and prefers conservative liturgies and traditional devotions.

It's also just about the only place where students might still be encouraged to mount a Gilbert and Sullivan production - The Pirates of Penzance, perhaps - or where there'd be the enthusiasm and expertise to stage Henry Purcell's English opera, Dido and Aeneas.

Traditionally minded parents with no strong religious ties and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans who can't afford American college fees may well be tempted by Campion. More to the point, perhaps, they may feel moved to follow suit and start liberal arts colleges of their own. The establishment of a few more of them would have a cascading effect, akin to the reintroduction of the gold standard.

Reading the course outline for the three-year program, it's hard not to be consumed with envy of the 30 lucky little blighters about to be chosen for the first intake. Six semesters of history, concentrating on religion and culture from antiquity to the present, sounds just the sort of grounding that educated people need. The same goes for the core sequences in literature, philosophy and theology. It's hard to imagine coming out the other end of such a course without a good grasp of the best that's been thought and said since Plato.

Liberal arts has also tended to emphasise the importance of hard science in the curriculum. At Campion you can opt to undertake up to four units of maths and history of science, but biology is compulsory (and a creationist-free zone) along with a course on science and society. Another elective which is likely to prove popular is human bioethics.

It's all a far cry from the chaos of the summer of '68 - ground zero of the revolution - when I matriculated and enrolled at Flinders University. There the arts students had to belong either to the school of language and literature or the school of social sciences. Inspired by some once-modish theory, the system forced us to choose between English or other modern languages and the competing attractions of history as a major. It was almost impossible to manage a joint honours degree straddling the two schools. It was an obvious barbarism and I've heard similar horror stories about other Besser brick universities both at the time and more recently.

Apart from having an admirably integrated classical curriculum, Campion will be a qualitatively different experience from mainstream campus life in other ways. The most striking is class sizes. In many universities these days it's common for first-year lectures to be delivered to 500 students and for tutorials to comprise 20 people. At Campion, in the third year of operation, after a planned influx of international students, there won't be many more than 150 undergraduates. Everyone will know one another and tutorial sizes will never be over 15. The benefits of such an arrangement are obvious. The potential dangers are a tendency to group-think and a claustrophobic atmosphere in which young people can become inordinately focused on the dynamics of a small group.

Campion has residential facilities, but students are also free to make their own arrangements and live off-campus, which should help minimise those risks. Parents of prospective students can go to the web for more information. Before they do, I suppose I should warn them that tuition fees per semester are $6000, or $12,000 a year. For purposes of comparison, it's in the same league as a full-fee place in the arts faculty of the better sandstone universities. FEE-HELP, a Commonwealth student tuition loans scheme, will be available and it works along similar lines to HECS. Students repay their loans through the tax system once they're earning above a threshold income of about $36,000 a year. It's heartening to note in conclusion that Catholic dioceses throughout the country have also come to the party and begun to endow scholarships.



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, January 23, 2006

Legislatures Fight Perceived Left-Wing Bias in Colleges

Christian DeJohn returned from a National Guard tour in Bosnia only to fight his own war with academics at Temple University who he says have held up his master's thesis because of political conflicts in the classroom.To some conservatives, the case represents a national trend by some liberal professors to infringe on conservative students' right to free speech at public colleges and universities.

The debate has reached more than a dozen state legislatures, which dole out the taxpayer funds to those schools, but so far there's been more talk than action. Legislation modeled after an "academic bill of rights" advocated by conservative activist David Horowitz, founder of Students for Academic Freedom, was introduced in at least 15 states last year, but none has passed it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among other things, the document exhorts professors to present a wide spectrum of intellectual views in the classroom and discourages them from basing students' grades on their religious or political beliefs.

Julie Bell, the conference's education program director, said legislatures have not forced the issue because even public universities typically enjoy considerable autonomy in setting academic policies and procedures. "Most legislatures have backed away because they really do acknowledge that separation," Bell said. An Ohio state senator suspended his push for legislation last year after state universities approved a resolution requiring them to ensure students are not graded based on political opinions.

In Pennsylvania, legislators investigating whether their state's public colleges are hospitable to divergent intellectual and political views traveled to Temple for a hearing last week where a small number of students including DeJohn voiced their complaints. DeJohn, who entered graduate school four years ago, said he suspects that approval of his thesis is being delayed partly because of conflicts he had with a military history professor who, DeJohn said, often criticized the Iraq war and the Bush administration during class. DeJohn contends the delay is also retaliation for a critical response he sent to a professor after he received an e-mail invitation to a campus war protest while he was serving six months in Bosnia. "These are people who are sitting in judgment on whether I graduate," DeJohn told the lawmakers. The student's professors both said their decision was based on academic reasons and not on DeJohn's military status, according to Rep. Lawrence Curry, a committee member who said both testified during the public-comment portion of the hearing.

Pennsylvania's inquiry was authorized by the state House at the behest of Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong, who says he merely wants the committee to assess whether political orthodoxy is a widespread problem and whether a legislative remedy is warranted. "I don't think anyone on this committee is interested in seeing the government ... interfere in what happens in our state college classrooms," the Republican said at the hearing.

William E. Scheuerman, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said universities fear the prospect of government micromanagement. "Merely the threat of government intervention is enough, believe me, to frighten college administrators and some faculty so they are less likely to raise tough questions," he said.

Advocates for tighter controls are trying other strategies, as well. At the University of California, Los Angeles, a conservative alumni group offered students money to police professors accused of pushing liberal views - a move that sparked a former congressman and two others to quit the group's advisory board, saying Wednesday that the tactic was extreme.

Horowitz said verifying the accuracy of every bias complaint is difficult. But he told the lawmakers at Temple that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found last year that half of students surveyed said professors frequently comment in class on politics - even when it is not relevant to the course. "I would not be here if I weren't persuaded by 20 years of walking around campuses and seeing this," Horowitz said.


Myth: Schools Need More Money

The NEA says public schools need more money. That's the refrain heard in politicians' speeches, ballot initiatives and maybe even in your child's own classroom. At a union demonstration, teachers carried signs that said schools will only improve "when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." Not enough money for education? It's a myth.

The truth is, public schools are rolling in money. If you divide the U.S. Department of Education's figure for total spending on K-12 education by the department's count of K-12 students, it works out to about $10,000 per student. Think about that! For a class of 25 kids, that's $250,000 per classroom. This doesn't include capital costs. Couldn't you do much better than government schools with $250,000? You could hire several good teachers; I doubt you'd hire many bureaucrats. Government schools, like most monopolies, squander money. America spends more on schooling than the vast majority of countries that outscore us on the international tests. But the bureaucrats still blame school failure on lack of funds, and demand more money.

In 1985, some of them got their wish. Kansas City, Mo., judge Russell Clark said the city's predominately black schools were not "halfway decent," and he ordered the government to spend billions more. Did the billions improve test scores? Did they hire better teachers, provide better books? Did the students learn anything? Well, they learned how to waste lots of money. The bureaucrats renovated school buildings, adding enormous gyms, an Olympic swimming pool, a robotics lab, TV studios, a zoo, a planetarium, and a wildlife sanctuary. They added intense instruction in foreign languages. They spent so much money that when they decided to bring more white kids to the city's schools, they didn't have to resort to busing. Instead, they paid for 120 taxis. Taxis!

What did spending billions more accomplish? The schools got worse. In 2000, five years and $2 billion later, the Kansas City school district failed 11 performance standards and lost its academic accreditation for the first time in the district's history.

A study by two professors at the Hoover Institution a few years ago compared public and Catholic schools in three of New York City's five boroughs. Parochial education outperformed the nation's largest school system "in every instance," they found -- and it did it at less than half the cost per student.

"Everyone has been conned -- you can give public schools all the money in America, and it will not be enough," says Ben Chavis, a former public school principal who now runs the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, Calif. His school spends thousands less per student than Oakland's government-run schools spend.

Chavis saves money by having students help clean the grounds and set up for lunch. "We don't have a full-time janitor," he told me. "We don't have security guards. We don't have computers. We don't have a cafeteria staff." Since Chavis took over four years ago, his school has gone from being among the worst middle schools in Oakland to the one where the kids get the best test scores. "I see my school as a business," he said. "And my students are the shareholders. And the families are the shareholders. I have to provide them with something."



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, January 22, 2006

The problem with Boehner

More on the student loan ripoff

Rep. John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, wants to be House majority leader. The job is open with the departure of Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican now sinking into the Abramoff scandal, and amid calls for campaign-finance reform. Let's talk about Boehner and the financing of campaigns — specifically, his. Boehner raised $172,000 from student-loan companies during 2003 and 2004. What made him worthy of that healthy sum? The answer can be found — but not easily — in the budget reconciliation bill now awaiting final approval from Congress.

Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, Boehner had orders to find $13 billion in cuts from the student-loan program. The bankers were initially worried, but Boehner reassured them. "Know that I have all of you in my trusted hands," he told the annual meeting of the Consumer Bankers Association, adding, "I've got enough rabbits up my sleeve."

The federal student-loan program has been an open-pit gold mine for banks. The taxpayers guarantee the companies against both deadbeat borrowers and risks posed by rising interest rates. Uncle Sugar even offers a free hedge against changes in interest-rate spreads that could harm the lenders' bottom line. (Other businesses must go to Wall Street and pay for such services.) "In American history, this is the most outrageous giveaway ever extended by the federal government to private lenders," says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The king of the student-loan business is Sallie Mae. Once a quasi-government agency, Sallie Mae is now an independent, publicly traded company — SLM Corp. The company's stock price has risen 1,900 percent over the past 10 years. And from 1995 to 2004, former CEO Al Lord raked in $225 million. Lord now leads an investors group trying to buy the Washington Nationals baseball team. Who would have thought there was that kind of money in a government program designed to help working-class kids pay for college and trade school?

Boehner and friends could have saved billions by just taking some honey out of the lenders' subsidies. They did eliminate a "floor" on the guaranteed interest rates — and put on a big show about how they were taking money out of the banks' hides. But actually, they more than made up for that setback with fine-print changes that will let lenders rake in more money than ever.

For example, Boehner's legislation gives banks the power to stop certain borrowers from leaving their clutches and entering a federal program for people who can't earn enough money to pay off their loans. (They make money whether their captives pay or default.) The Clinton administration started a program that provides loans directly to students, cutting out the private lenders. The Direct Student Loan Program is also cheaper for taxpayers. Boehner has written into the bill a subtle plan to kill it off: Move the administrative account for student loans out of the entitlement category and into a discretionary budget. That makes it easier for Congress to chop funding for the account. When that happens, the private lenders win in two ways: There's less money to oversee their activities, and the direct-lending program that competes with them is undermined.

As we can see, license to abuse student borrowers is as important to building the banks' fortunes as outright taxpayer subsidies. In a hard look at Sallie Mae, Fortune magazine reported on a $38,000 student loan that ballooned to $100,000 after the borrower had been out of work for a while. It found that the annual cost of credit for another person still in school was an astounding 28 percent. That happened after Sallie Mae tacked its exorbitant fees onto its predatory rates.

The Fortune piece questioned what might happen to Sallie Mae's stock price if taxpayers and students got wise to the game. Boehner makes sure they don't, by writing complex laws that only insiders can understand. It should surprise no one that Sallie Mae is Boehner's most generous benefactor. Boehner is now on the Fox News Channel insisting that the campaign-finance laws don't need to be changed, just better enforced. And his prospects for becoming House majority leader? That would depend on how self-destructive Republicans are feeling at the moment



Yesterday, a New York appeals court ordered Le Moyne College to reinstate Scott McConnell in its graduate education program. The school took first prize in the Collegiate Network's 2005 Campus Outrage Awards (the "Pollys") after the administration expelled McConnell for writing a paper rejecting multiculturalism and advocating light spanking in elementary school classrooms. Despite receiving an "A-minus" on the paper and earning exemplary grades in all his coursework, McConnell received a letter from the Director of his program stating: “I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the LeMoyne College program goals…. You will not be allowed to register for any additional courses. Your registration for Spring 2005 courses has been withdrawn.”

The NY appeals court ruled, however, that Le Moyne had failed to respect McConnell's due process rights. The college's own handbook states that a student may not be disciplined or expelled simply for expressing unorthodox views. Terry Pel, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the group that represented McConnell during the legal proceedings, commented on the appeals court decision: "Institutions that claim to believe in academic freedom cannot selectively protect only the speech they happen to favor."

Stephen M. Klugewicz, Executive Director of Collegiate Network, which sponsors the Polly Awards, declared: "This court victory again proves the old adage, 'sunlight is the best disinfectant.' It also highlights the impact of the Campus Outrage Awards. Scott's case would not have garnered so much attention had it not been for the fact that we awarded Le Moyne College first place for its outrageous attempt to squash free thought on its campus."



The beginning of the end of the exit test

Approximately 25,000 California high school students with disabilities in this year's graduating class will not have to pass the state's exit exam under an agreement announced Thursday by leaders of the Legislature, the state Department of Education and the governor's education office. After several weeks of negotiation, officials agreed to fast-track a bill by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that will free high school seniors in special education from passing the controversial math and English exam that is a graduation requirement for the first time this year. The deal is backed by the disabled-rights group that brought a suit challenging the exit exam.

Only students who meet certain criteria would be able to graduate without passing the test. They must have an active special education plan, take the exam at least twice after 10th grade and at least once during 12th grade, attend exam preparation classes offered by their school and fulfill all other graduation requirements of their school. The bill, SB 517, "will uphold the integrity of the high school exit exam and at the same time give our schools more time to provide special education students with the skills necessary to pass the exam," said Jack O'Connell, superintendent of public instruction, in a conference call with reporters.

While test supporters described the agreement as the only reprieve that would be created, test opponents hailed it as the first of many steps toward undoing the harsh consequences of the exam. Romero said "the debate is really just beginning" over the regular education students who are still being held to the test in order to graduate in June. "I am disappointed that there isn't a solution yet for the other 100,000 students who may be denied a diploma this year, who may meet all the requirements for graduation and not pass the exam," she said.

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