Saturday, April 15, 2006


The lesson of Gideon is obviously lost on them. But they would probably think that Gideon is the guy who puts Bibles in hotel rooms

At Notre Dame, the Lenten liturgical calendar is still observed. On Ash Wednesday, many foreheads are gray with ashes, no meat is served on Fridays in the dining halls and now, during Holy Week, hundreds of students drag an enormous cross around campus while observing the Stations of the Cross.

Yet Notre Dame's Lenten season has taken on a different character during the past several years, since "The Vagina Monologues" and the Queer Film Festival have been added to the extracurricular calendar. Not surprisingly, many find these performances inappropriate at Notre Dame, given their explicit attacks on central Catholic teachings.

The previous president of Notre Dame, the Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy, refused to interfere in these events. But Notre Dame's new president, the Rev. John Jenkins, expressed uneasiness with them after he took office last year. He did not ban them outright, though, saying that he would render his final decision after sufficient discussion had taken place. He convened campuswide meetings for that purpose.

Most campus observers assumed that, given his stated concerns, Father Jenkins would place some restrictions on the play and the film festival. Both Providence College and the Catholic University of America had earlier this year banned "The Vagina Monologues." Father Jenkins's superior in the Holy Cross religious order, to which he belongs, had banned performances of the play at the University of Portland. Bishop John D'Arcy, much respected in the South Bend, Ind., community and much loved by Notre Dame students, had also spoken out against both the play and the festival.

Thus there was a great deal of surprise when, in the days before Holy Week, Father Jenkins announced: "I see no reason to prohibit performances of 'The Vagina Monologues' on campus, and do not intend to do so." As for the film festival, that too will be allowed to continue. Those faculty members who, the week before, had been plotting Father Jenkins's removal from office for even discussing possible restrictions now congratulated him, and his former student critics praised him as a champion of personal freedom.

Although Father Jenkins called his announcement the "Closing Statement," the debate is unlikely to go away. More is at stake than the fairly standard, indeed humdrum, questions about "censorship" and "free speech" on campus. To some of us--and I speak as a Notre Dame professor--Father Jenkins's decision is one more step in a long process of secularization: It has already radically changed the major Protestant universities in this country; it is now proceeding apace at the Catholic ones.

At Notre Dame, this secularization is most evident in the composition of the faculty. While roughly 85% of Notre Dame students are Catholic, the percentage of Catholic faculty has dropped precipitously in the past few decades, reaching its current number of barely 50%, and there is no sign that this trend will be reversed. More important, the debate initiated by Father Jenkins exposed a great deal of hostility among faculty members toward traditional Catholic teachings as well as a confusion about the nature of Catholic higher education itself.

The Rev. Bill Miscamble, a distinguished historian and former rector of the campus seminary, expressed the disappointment that many of us feel at Father Jenkins's decision. He suggested that it had "brought most joy to those who care least about Notre Dame's Catholic mission." He criticized Father Jenkins in an open letter to him: "You were called to be courageous and you settled for being popular."

Such commotion comes 15 years after the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II's encyclical aimed at ensuring the orthodoxy of Catholic theology departments. It is not evident that the encyclical has been properly followed. Very few administrators at Catholic colleges and universities are willing publicly to discuss their conformity with its requirements.

Father Jenkins's retreat on "The Vagina Monologues" and the Queer Film Festival raises questions about whether Notre Dame has the will to retain its Catholic distinctiveness in the face of a hostile culture and whether it can do so with a faculty that seems largely out of sympathy with Catholic tradition. It is a good time to contemplate such questions, the holiest week of the calendar, when Christians celebrate ultimate victory emerging from apparent defeat.



When Ali Hellberg, 19, was in prep school, she said several of her classmates obtained notes from psychologists diagnosing them with learning disabilities, even though they didn't have any learning problems. They faked learning disabilities to get extra time to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in the hopes of getting a higher score, she said. "I had a friend who is a good math student but is no math brain, and she got extended time and got a perfect score on her math SAT," Hellberg said. That friend now attends an Ivy League school.

Some call this scheme the rich-kids loophole. With intense competition to get into Ivy League and other elite colleges, students say they need nearly perfect SAT scores, as well as great grades and impressive extra-curricular activities. A rising chorus of critics say high school students from wealthy ZIP codes and elite schools obtain questionable diagnoses of learning disabilities to secure extra time to take the SATs and beef up their scores.

Hellberg believes that to get into Harvard or Princeton, she'd need to score at least a 1500. The highest SAT score is 1600. "I got below 1400 and I knew I didn't have a shot getting into an Ivy despite my grades and extra-curriculars," she said.

Approximately 300,000 students will take the three-hour-and-forty-five-minute SAT this Saturday; about 30,000 taking the test this year will be given special accommodations, including extra time. For decades, the College Board, which administers the SAT, has allowed up to twice as much time to accommodate students who have legitimate learning disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But with college admissions more competitive than ever, guidance counselors and other educators say privileged kids have gamed the system.

At the elite Wayland High school outside Boston, the number of students receiving special accommodations is more than 12 percent, more than six times the estimated national average of high school students with learning disabilities.



Boring classes help children to grow up and prepare for life in a world that is not always "a Disney ride", teachers said yesterday. Learning multiplication tables or long division might seem tedious, they said, but were vital for developing a child's knowledge. Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Gateshead, Michael Boakes, an English teacher, said that children had to accept that boredom was a fact of life. "It's a necessary part of development to realise that life's not going to be a Disney ride 100 per cent of the time. We're not going to be all-singing, all-dancing all of the time and you'll find that's real life," he said. He called for the review of school inspectors' assessment criteria. Teachers were failed if some children became bored in a class, he said, which was "grossly unfair".

Barry Williams, a teacher at Hertford Regional College, said that he produced lessons to prepare children for life, including watching party political broadcasts, but that some inspectors did not always recognise this. He said: "My lessons are not boring. They are sometimes not wonderful for everybody, sometimes for me. But they are not boring. I am, in fact, producing adults who will be able to watch party political broadcasts."

Zoe Fail, a maths teacher from Kent, added: "Being bored encourages thinking skills and imaginative play. I remember being bored, but I'm not bored now because I know how to deal with it."



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. My home page is here


Friday, April 14, 2006


As if political interference has not done enough to destroy them already. Note that British local councils are often very Leftist

Thousands of apparently successful schools will face the threat of being taken over by their local authorities under powers unveiled by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, today. Schools that are "coasting" or failing to stretch pupils to their potential will be given just 15 days to make improvements spelt out in "warning notices" issued by councils. Failure to respond will trigger intervention by town hall hit squads with powers to take control of a school's budget and appoint new governors.

As many as one in four of England's 24,000 schools could be caught by the rules, which a headteachers' leader described last night as "very worrying". Local authorities will have powers to compel a school to join a federation so that it can be run by a more successful neighbour. They will be able to seek Ms Kelly's permission to sack the entire governing body and replace it with a hand-picked board.

The powers effectively overturn years of policy from both Conservative and Labour governments, which have successively cut the powers of local authorities to intervene in the running of schools. It also casts doubt on Tony Blair's stated goal in the Education and Inspections Bill of creating a new generation of "trust" schools free of town hall interference. Mr Blair has said that the Bill will establish a system of "independent state schools" with heads and governors in control.

Critics will see the latest plans, set out in draft guidance from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), as an attempt to appease backbench Labour MPs angered by Mr Blair's desire to cut out the role of local authorities in schools. The 71-page document on dealing with "schools causing concern" makes clear that the Bill will strengthen dramatically the powers of local authorities to take charge of thousands of schools. They can only intervene at present when standards are "unacceptably low", the safety of pupils is at risk, or there has been "serious breakdown in management".

Ms Kelly intends to rewrite the definition of what constitutes poor performance to include thousands of "coasting" schools, where data suggests that children should be doing better even if their exam results are good in comparison with other local schools. Ofsted has declared that one in four schools is "coasting". "A school where the absolute level of attainment is apparently satisfactory may nonetheless be caught by the definition if pupil performance is persistently below levels expected when pupils' prior attainment and the school's context is taken into account," the guidance says. "This provision is specifically designed so authorities can tackle underperforming schools, as well as those with outright low standards."

Councils will judge performance using data which compares schools' results in GCSE exams and national curriculum tests with prior standards achieved by their pupils. It also takes account of levels of family poverty in a school.

Schools will only be able to appeal to Ofsted if they disagree with the council's assessment. The guidance states that an appeal may trigger an inspection to determine whether the council's action is appropriate. The DfES guidance states that the new powers will target schools in the bottom quarter nationally on "one or more key performance indicators", including exams, attendance and expulsion rates. Schools will also be vulnerable to a council takeover where they are "persistently and unacceptably letting down sizeable groups of pupils".

Local authorities will issue warning notices for schools to address underperformance within 15 days. Local authorities will be free to intervene just one day after the deadline if the head and governors do not respond to their demands or fail to appeal.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, called the guidance "very worrying". "This is very far from the Prime Minister's vision of schools being more independent from local authorities."


British schools 'covering up' attacks on staff

Record compensation payments have been made to teachers this year, but schools have been accused of covering up attacks on staff to avoid negative publicity. Violence and poor behaviour are cited as the most common reasons for teachers leaving the profession. However, far from being supported, most said that they were under pressure to keep quiet about incidents.

"On a good day, some of us are verbally assaulted on an almost hourly basis in our work," Jovan Trkulja told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference in Gateshead. Mr Trkulja, 37, a modern languages supply teacher in Tottenham, North London, told delegates that he had been hit several times in his job, once with a brick to the back of his head, and last year he was knocked down "by a braying mob of Year 9s". He said that when he raised the issue with his employers, they refused to treat the assault as crime. "When someone suffers a violent incident, the school seems to 'deal with it' internally," he said. "Schools don't want to be seen as places where violence occurs, especially not by parents on teachers or, more frequently, pupils on teachers."

In January the ATL recorded 39 cases in the previous year of members suffering attacks from pupils and parents that had resulted in serious injuries meriting compensation. Lesley Ward, a teacher at Intake Primary School in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said children frequently "pushed the boundaries" with their behaviour, seeing what they could get away with. "Occasionally the end result is another adult can't physically or mentally cope because they are beaten literally and not protected, and we lose another good teacher."

Assaults on teachers had contributed to 7.6 million pounds in compensation paid to members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers last year. The NASUWT published the figures at its annual conference in Birmingham, showing that compensation payments for personal injury and employment disputes were 850,000 pounds higher in 2005 than in 2004.

A teacher in Preston, Lancashire, received 129,600 pounds after a child at a neighbouring school threw a brick at her head. Linda Curtis, a design and technology teacher at a school in Bristol, suffered severe shoulder injuries after she was thrown against a radiator while attempting to break up a fight 13 years ago. She received 10,000 pounds compensation this year from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Jim Quigley, the NASUWT's legal officer, said that bad behaviour by pupils was increasing dramatically. Cases that produced compensation payments were the tip of the iceberg. "It is a growing problem, but it is very hard to bring such cases to a successful outcome," he said. "An employer's defence generally is that it was not foreseeable that a child would have assaulted a teacher in these circumstances. "There are lots of cases where teachers are assaulted and they will not report it. They will be dissuaded from reporting it by the school because it doesn't look good."

Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister, said that, according to Ofsted, classroom behaviour was now "satisfactory or better" in 94 per cent of secondary and 99 per cent of primary schools. However, she added that the Education and Inspections Bill would deliver "a new legal right to discipline" children and send a strong message that a culture of disrespect would not be tolerated. [Just empty huffing and puffing and everybody knows it]



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. My home page is here


Thursday, April 13, 2006


There's no question that high school students have a penchant for spending money - and often the faster the better. But unfortunately many have little - if any - knowledge of how to navigate the financial marketplace. In fact, a national survey released last week by the Federal Reserve found that only 52.4 percent of U.S. high school seniors could correctly answer a series of questions about personal finance and economics. These are the very same students who are just weeks away from entering the work force or moving onto college and living on their own.

That's scary to a lot of financial experts who say that financial education is the responsibility not only of schools, but also of parents and personal-finance professionals. In short, it takes a village to eliminate financial illiteracy among young people. In looking for answers, I asked three financial experts for their suggestions on how to increase financial literacy among our nation's teens. Here's what they had to say:

Sacramento financial planner Bob Dreizler, a former teacher, believes there's plenty to learn in school beyond math and English. "It's always been a pet peeve of mine that so many kids come out of school not knowing much about personal finance," he says. "I've always felt that the world would be a lot better off if people learned to manage their money." In a perfect world, the certified financial planner says, schools would beef up their course offerings to include personal finance. "But when you see (schools) having to cut back on music, art and even driver's ed, I just don't think that's going to happen."

Dreizler says the challenge is to teach money management and keep it interesting. "Until you have something that appeals to (students), you're not going to hit the mark," he says. "They won't realize how much they need to know until they get out into the real world and run up $10,000 in credit card debt and wonder what to do next," he notes. The Sacramento financial adviser says that schools can't be expected to handle the full load of financial education. "They have to work in tandem with parents, who have to be involved," Dreizler says.

When his own children were in high school, he took the unusual step of having them get a credit card that was tied to their bank account. "I thought it was better that they learned how to use their credit card while they were at home and had someone to help them learn about saving and spending," he says. Dreizler advises parents to sit down with their teens before they go off to college and run the risk of getting into financial trouble. "Parents have to find some way of connecting with their kids on learning about money," he adds.......

Crosta's concern is that students graduating from high school or college enter the work force with no knowledge about 401(k) programs or using a credit union, for example. She also says schools can enlist help from professional financial experts who could assist classroom teachers in running programs.

More here


They ignore that it is their own mass failure to educate in their government schools that has led to the British government encouraging alternative schools

Teachers called yesterday for a ban on government funding of any further faith schools, amid fears of a rise in fundamentalism in the state system. Delegates of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers yesterday voted to cut off taxpayers’ money to the schools by 2020 and promote integration, as scientists also gave warning of the dangers of teaching creationism in biology lessons. The call reflects a growing concern among teachers about the influence of some religious fundamentalists and in particular their ability to sponsor city academies and trust schools under the Government’s latest reform proposals.

In spite of rejecting calls for laws to ban the teaching of creationism, the conference, led by Hank Roberts, a teacher at Copland Community School in Brent, northwest London, made clear its disapproval of plans to give religious groups a bigger say in education. With a third of all academy schools sponsored by Christian backers, Mr Roberts cited Sir Peter Vardy, the founder of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation in the North East, who has come under fire for allowing the teaching of creationism alongside evolution theories. “No government action has been taken to prevent Sir Peter Vardy, who runs two academies and a CTC [city technology college], from teaching creationism in his schools [actually ours — we pay for them]. Instead of government action to stop this . . . what’s happening? Vardy is putting up a further £2 million to gain control of yet another school,” Mr Roberts said. “The academies programme, now without the 200 limit, means yet more ‘independent’ state-funded schools. The proposed trust schools further open the bag for religious organisations and individuals to take control of state-funded education.”

The Rev Chris Wilson, a minister with the Unitarian and Free Christian Church, agreed. Admitting that his youngest son was “happily settled” in a Church of England primary school, the further education lecturer from Cambridgeshire said that while existing faith schools should remain, serious concerns were being raised about the growth of “single-faith schools”, which were in danger of undermining society as they promoted “one dominant tradition over another”. Mr Wilson, 42, said that established faith schools understood the need to “develop partnerships which celebrate equality and diversity of beliefs”, but that increasingly some faith communities had “agendas which are at odds with the Enlightenment, and with reason and progress and the interests of science”.

Thirty-six of the existing 100 academies are sponsored by Christian groups. The United Learning Trust, an Anglican charity chaired by Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is among the biggest academy sponsors, with 12 open or planned academies. There are 7,000 faith schools in England, of which 600 are secondary.



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. My home page is here


Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Educational experimenters rejoiced when multibillionaire Bill Gates' foundation bankrolled some of their favorite education schemes, but these private sector philanthropists quickly learned what public officials are loathe to admit: social planning will not yield literacy. "At the Gates Foundation, early grants went to utopian and communitarian movements but we moved away from that because it does not work," foundation spokesman David Ferrero said late last month. Ferrero spoke at a conference on high school reform sponsored by the Center for Education at the National Academies of Science.

The conference was cosponsored by the Education Sector and the National Education Knowledge Industry Association. In a paper presented at the conference, Craig Jerald, of Break the Curve Consulting, laid out the Gates Foundation's record.

"The findings were mixed," Jerald writes of studies of Gates foundation grantees. "On the positive side, English teachers in new high schools gave students assignments that were much more demanding and more relevant than assignments given by their peers in traditional high schools." "But math teachers in new schools were no more likely than those in conventional schools to assign intellectually demanding class work. Indeed, fully half of the math assignments collected from both types of schools exhibited `little or no' rigor."

Jerald formerly worked as a senior editor at Education Week. The Gates Foundation invested $1 billion in 1,500 "small learning communities" of fewer than 400 students each. "I visited 100 grant schools and made the observation that they were all small, autonomous, and assumed that was the path to school improvement," Tom Vander Ark, of the Gates Foundation says. "It turns out giving a failing school autonomy is a bad idea."

Vander Ark is executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's education initiatives. In that position, he got to experience the education bureaucracy at its most inert. "With many of our early grants, I encouraged people to fix the architecture," Vander Ark says. "Several years later, many of those same folks are stuck in architectural arguments and never got to the heart of the issue-teaching and learning."

"Overall the evaluators concluded that `the quality of student work in all of the schools we studied is alarmingly low'," Jerald reports. "It's not surprising, then, that except for a slightly more positive trend in reading scores, test-results in most Gates-funded schools generally are no better than in traditional schools, at least so far." "The early structural changes in the foundation-sponsored schools were supposed to lay the groundwork for changes in teaching and learning, but that hasn't happened in many places."



There's lots of politically correct bits in it, of course, or it would not even be considered in Californian public schools

The I.B. program, one of about 1,800 worldwide, is an intense, two-year curriculum that's known for taxing even the most dedicated students. The I.B. Diploma is based on courses in six core disciplines, culminates in a stiff set of exit exams, and counts for course credit at hundreds of American colleges.

Because of its reputation for rigor and adherence to a consistent international standard - it was originally intended for the children of diplomats - I.B. is gaining ground locally. In San Juan Unified School District, Mira Loma's 17-year-old program draws students from five counties. Luther Burbank High in Sacramento started an I.B. program recently targeting neighborhood students, and two high schools in Roseville Joint Union High School District are considering adopting the program as well, in part to bring back district students who attend Mira Loma.

Because of the kind of serious student it attracts, Mira Loma's I.B. program has racked up a long list of academic achievements, especially in science competitions. Next month, the school, along with Arden Middle School, will send teams to the national Science Olympiad - a 23-event science and engineering competition. The high school also will have a team at the national Science Bowl, a Jeopardy-style contest later this month in Washington, D.C. And Mira Loma had two semifinalists, including Griffiths, in this year's prestigious Intel Science Talent Search.

Ask student Joe Antognini why he signed up for the Science Olympiad team, and you'll get a perplexing answer. "It was a chance to take a really hard astronomy and physics test," the 17-year-old said, bouncing a little in his seat. That response, along with Antognini's T-shirt displaying the Milky Way galaxy, might cost him his lunch money at some schools. But not at Mira Loma High.

Doing extremely well in school isn't exactly a social plus, students say, but it's not a liability either. "There's a little less of the geek-nerd label, and there's a little more prestige," said senior Brian Page, another member of the Science Olympiad team. Page will tell you proudly that he helped build a trebuchet - a kind of catapult - for the statewide earlier this month.

In part because of that social climate, students commute startling distances to attend the San Juan district school. While many students from Churchill Middle School's I.B. program continue to Mira Loma, about 250 of the high school's 1,800 students come from outside the district, according to program coordinator Dave Mathews.

Kathy Beasley, a single mother, drives her two daughters all the way from the Little Pocket area of Sacramento every morning - a trip of about 40 minutes. "It's been god-awful," said Beasley, who has memorized the date her older daughter could receive a driver's license. "I don't have time to read the magazines and books I used to read. I get up at 5 a.m. so I can get my exercise in. I tried dating a couple of times, and it's just very difficult to fit any personal life in." Even so, Beasley said, the quality of the training that I.B. teachers must undergo has made it worthwhile. "The quality of the curriculum and the quality of the teachers - you can't beat it, not even if you pay for private school," she said.

Despite the program's upsides, many critics nationwide have questioned whether I.B.'s hefty price tag - from $50,000 to $150,000 per year for each school, depending on the scope - is worth it. Exceptionally capable students may benefit at the expense of those who are average or struggling, critics say. The staff at Mira Loma is well aware of such criticism, and some members, even I.B.'s most die-hard supporters, say it contains some truth. "Having a range of kids at all different ability levels is really the lifeblood of this school," said Principal Chris Hoffman. "If it's too focused on one program, it's not a comprehensive high school anymore."

That's why the staff has taken some innovative steps since the program's inception to bring in new revenue, spread the benefits of I.B. to all students and make sure the fast-growing program doesn't hijack the school's social identity. About eight years ago, troubled by the notion that students outside the I.B. program were slipping through the cracks, the staff designed a humanities curriculum called International Scholars, intended for motivated students who "don't test off the charts," said Hoffman. And just three years ago, they introduced another program called International Passport for at-risk youth who want extra tutoring and mentoring. Today, all but 70 Mira Loma students belong to one of these programs.

About 80 percent of the $140,000 the school spends each year on the I.B. program comes from grants and parents' fundraising efforts. The school has tough entrance requirements for eighth-graders who want to enter the I.B. Middle Years Program - a kind of prep track for the Diploma. But I.B. courses are open to anyone who wants to take them. And all teachers who have I.B. training teach a wide range of students, not just the highest-performing ones.

The remarkable result, students say, is a socially accepting campus where a wide range of students take I.B courses; high-performing students aren't ostracized as nerds; and lower-performing students say they're valued. The staff "appreciates everyone the same," said Will Perez, a sophomore in the school's International Passport program. "One of my best friends is in the I.B. program," said Anthony Borquez, a freshman who's also in the Passport program. "I hang out with them every lunch." Some I.B. students say the school's structure has given them the chance to make friends beyond the program. But the tension between good grades and good times remains. "It's definitely easier if you give up your social life to get good grades," said Kara Stuart, 16, who plans to enter the I.B. program next year. "I have more of a social life now than I did last year, and my grades aren't as good, but it's worth it."

More here


After the California Teachers Association railed against Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special election agenda last year, it was a shock when the group last week endorsed a Republican, Bruce McPherson, for secretary of state. CTA President Barbara Kerr said it was the first time she could recall CTA endorsing a Republican for statewide office. McPherson took over the secretary of state's office last year after being nominated by Schwarzenegger once the embattled Kevin Shelley resigned from the post.

The CTA passed on state Sens. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, and Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey. Bowen did receive the backing of the California Federation of Teachers. Kerr said McPherson did well enough in a CTA interview to receive more than 60 percent support. The group has backed him in past legislative races and considered his performance in office. "We looked at the November election, which was about education, and he ran that well," Kerr said. "He was the bipartisan (official) he was supposed to be."



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. My home page is here


Tuesday, April 11, 2006


DIANE PHILIPSON has started a new blog here and has a lot of interesting posts up already. Here is what Miranda Devine recently had to say about Diane:

"Diane Philipson is a former primary school teacher who spends her days at home in Newcastle coaching children who are struggling to read. This week she had phone calls from two desperate mothers who say their sons, one aged 12 and one aged eight, feel life isn't worth living. "The eight-year-old told his mother he'd rather be dead than have to struggle so much with reading," Philipson said yesterday. Philipson is one of a number of backyard operators across Australia to whom anxious parents have turned to teach their children to read when school has failed. They invariably use a method that involves direct, explicit, systematic phonics. This is the inexplicably politicised way of teaching children that letters in our alphabet are associated with sounds."

The Echo Chamber on Liberal Campuses

Professors are stereotyped as pinko, tree-hugging, world-order globalists intrigued by same-sex marriage, obsessed with the environment and besotted with anything non-Western. Admittedly, I overstate the public image somewhat. Still, when consensus does occur among colleagues at my faculty "lunch table," it generally falls left-of-center, so perhaps there is some validity here.

One study, by a team that included GMU communications professor Robert Lichter, provides more tenable evidence of a liberal inclination among today's professors. Survey responses from faculty members at 183 American colleges and universities show that "liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins" and that liberals generally teach at the so-called better institutions.

There is some variation by academic discipline. English literature professors, for example, turn out to be 88 percent liberal and 3 percent conservative, whereas business professors are 49 percent liberal and 39 percent conservative. Overall, however, 72 percent of professors describe themselves as liberal and 15 percent as conservative. That's almost a 5-1 ratio.

Another interesting point: The percentage of faculty members who are liberal increases with the academic ranking of the school. The study postulates that anti-conservative discrimination in hiring and advancement may push conservative professors out of elite schools. So, if you are looking for a conservative academic, try the business department at an institution not considered top-tier. You will need some luck, however, because the odds are still against finding one. Okay, academic faculties are generally liberal. So? What's a liberal faculty anyway? Well, according to the study, faculty members agree with these statements in the percentages shown:

* Homosexual and heterosexual lifestyles are equally acceptable (67 percent).

* Women have a right to an abortion (84 percent).

* Extramarital cohabitation is acceptable (75 percent).

* Government should guarantee employment (66 percent).

* Government should reduce the income gap (72 percent).

* The environment should be protected even with higher prices and fewer jobs (88 percent).

But I think there's more to this. I would argue that there is an implicit mainstream campus credo. Dissent is heresy, so stay in the mainstream unless you are tenured. Here are the principal tenets.

* Diversity, particularly linguistic and theological diversity, binds and unites a culture.

* Proportionate representation of races within a student body justifies corrective discrimination by race.

* All cultures are morally equivalent.

* Social justice may require unequal application of equal protection laws.

* The dearth of women in science screams gender bias; the dearth of men in nursing does not.

* Diversity promotes classroom learning -- except in English composition, for which foreign-born students must have their own section.

* Hate speech (racial, sexual and religious slurs) has no place on college campuses. Some words should never be spoken.

* No one should ever have to pay for health care -- or condoms.

The American professoriate is sexually tolerant, culturally sensitive, environmentally conscious and socially collectivistic. It leans hard to the left, but that is not the important thing. What is important is that many perspectives on every issue should be presented and examined. Right now, liberal bias is so extreme as to threaten the only campus diversity that matters, the diversity of ideas.

Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell worries that students may be exposed to just one side of issues and that they may graduate with neither skill nor competence in intellectual argumentation. "These 'educated' people will have developed no ability to analyze opposing sides of issues . . . learning only how to label, dismiss and demonize ideas that differ from what they have been led to believe," he wrote. I worry, too, but at least a study has identified the problem and quantified the challenge. Now if we could just hire and retain a few conservative professors, we might expand classroom debates, teach students to evaluate conflicting arguments -- and just maybe tilt my lunch table back toward the center.


Ignorant Australian teachers still holding out against phonics

Reactions to the report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (Teaching Reading, published in December last year) have been mixed. Many teachers and parents have welcomed the report's emphasis on the central role of phonics in the initial teaching of reading, but many educators have either questioned the importance of phonics or are of the view that teachers already employ sufficient phonics instruction within a "balanced" approach to literacy teaching. In Britain, the Rose report, released last month, also strongly favoured phonics, first and fast, for early readers.

Those least convinced by the findings of the two reports are those traditional educators favouring the well-entrenched "whole language" approach to the teaching of reading. "Whole language" advocates believe that reading is acquired naturally, in much the same way as we learn to talk, and that little or no phonics instruction is necessary, and may even be harmful.

Those who support phonics are perceived as uncool at best and reactionary at worst. Whole language exponents, on the other hand, are portrayed as children's champions in the fight for liberty and equality. Yet phonics instruction, rather than subjecting (if not subjugating) students to mindless, robotic drill, is actually powerfully liberating for children.

Those who advocate phonics share the views of whole language supporters on the importance of phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension, and the fact that students need to be able to read fluently and easily, not laboriously. Together with phonics, to which even some whole language advocates pay lip-service in a minor role, these elements have been identified as the five critical components of any effective reading program by the National Reading Panel in the US and reiterated subsequently by the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in Australia. No one, to my knowledge, believes that phonics is the only answer.

So, advocates of phonics and whole language actually agree on far more than they disagree on. The point of departure lies solely in the importance the two camps attach to explicit and systematic instruction in how to decode words. The whole language side says children will discover this for themselves by being exposed to a rich literacy environment (and some children do), while those associated with phonics instruction argue that, to ensure the majority of children learn to read easily and quickly, systematic, explicit instruction in phonic decoding is essential. This is especially important for those experiencing difficulties.

A second misconception is that phonics advocates seriously suggest that once we have learned to read phonically, we continue to read that way. Not so. Phonics instruction provides a self-teaching mechanism by which children can teach themselves an increasing number of new words, initially by sounding them out. With sufficient repetition, and this varies for each child, these words are learned as sight words; they do not subsequently have to be sounded out each time they are encountered in text. Self-teaching is truly liberating because it allows children to learn new words without a teacher or parent even being present.

A focus on reading for meaning alongside systematic, explicit phonics instruction means the self-teaching mechanism also gives children an in-built check on the accuracy of their decoding. This is not to deny for a moment the vital significance of reading for meaning for its own sake.

It is not just educators advocating a whole language approach who want children to read critically. We all do. We all want children to be able to differentiate fact from opinion, and the ironic from the literal, for example. But to do this, students need to be able to read fluently first. If a child cannot read the actual words on the page, there is no possibility of being critical.

So the main point of departure is essentially one of priorities. To become a critically literate member of society, you need first to be able to read fluently and with understanding. To attempt to teach critical literacy before children have learned to read fluently is to put the cart before the horse. In the early years of schooling, the main emphasis should be on teaching accurate, fluent decoding with the aim of the vast majority of students being able to read well by year 3.

Explicit, systematic instruction in phonics is the best way to achieve this so that students can then read by themselves a variety of texts and hence have access to a variety of opinions, views and perspectives: phonics for freedom, in fact.



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. My home page is here


Monday, April 10, 2006


An email from a reader below. To reinforce his points, I might note that I myself did the last two years of High School in one year -- AS AN EVENING STUDENT -- mainly by teaching myself. I had tuition for only one subject

I was for ten years a teacher in one of the worst school systems in the US, the Hawaii Department of Education. Interruptions from on high, as described in the story you cite, did not intrude as often as the writer observed in his encounter with US schools. The conduct of an ordinary class is bad enough, though, with bathroom passes to write, students to shush, points to repeat for the slow kids while the quick ones fidget and wait or wander into dreamland.

Some years ago a Professor of Library Science came to the University of Hawaii for a sabbatical semester. She brought her 15 year old daughter. She had been warned about Hawaii's wretched State schools. She was not about to jump through the hoops necessary to get her daughter admitted for one semester to a decent independent or parochial school. She requested a semester's worth of assignments from her daughter's private East Coast school, hired a Biochem grad to tutor Math and Science three hours per week and a History grad to tutor History and English two hours per week, gave her daughter a set of keys to her office, and gave her dayghter the run of the campus.

At first they had doubts, but by the end of the semester the daughter did not want to return to her plush private school. She oconcluded that school is a waste of time; that she could get her academic work completed between 0800 and 1100, and then had time to read independently or take craft classes at the student center (she was pretty good at pottery).

The author of Evolution's Captain, a biography of Robert FitzRoy, wrote that FitzRoy entered the Admiralty school at age 12 and completed the customary 36 month course in 20 months. This curriculum included Classical and Modern Languages, History, Math through Calculus, navigation, ship handling, gunnery, fencing, and dancing. This implies: 1) FitzRoy was brilliant, and 2) the Admiralty curriculum was self-paced.

Study finds preschool initiative would benefit few

An initiative to pay for universal preschool in California would help some low-income children and English-learners who could benefit the most but also would subsidize thousands of parents who already pay to send their children to preschool, according to a study released Wednesday.

Proposition 82, the "Preschool for All" initiative led by director Rob Reiner, would provide what supporters call high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds by raising income taxes by 1.7 percent for individuals who earn at least $400,000 a year, or couples earning $800,000. It would raise an estimated $2.4 billion a year.

A review of the measure by the Policy Analysis for California Education, a joint research project at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, concludes that the extra funding would boost preschool enrollment by just 10 percent to 15 percent. That means as much as $1.3 billion of the funding would go to parents who already are paying for preschool. "The bulk of benefits really would go to better-off families," UC Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller said in a conference call Tuesday. "Is this initiative about providing income relief for these families or is it about expanding access to preschool?"

Several studies have found that children from poor families and students who are learning English reap the most from intensive preschool programs. Among the findings in the Stanford and Berkeley study:

- About 64 percent of California's 533,000 4-year-olds attend preschool, about 40 percent of them in subsidized programs for low-income families. Results from other states suggest the percentage of students who would enroll in the voluntary program is likely to increase to about 75 percent.

- There's no proof of better outcomes for programs in which all teachers have bachelor's degrees, as the initiative would require. Fuller said benefits have been shown from the two-year training programs Proposition 82 would require for preschool aides.

- Existing community and nonprofit preschools could be squeezed out by school district-operated preschools that would have access to greater resources and training, while preschools that serve disabled students would not qualify for funding because of a legal loophole.

The report's release shows how heated the battle over universal preschool has become. Several Proposition 82 supporters interrupted Fuller's conference call with reporters Tuesday to challenge his findings. They said it was misleading to say two-thirds of California's 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, saying that figure includes thousands of children who attend day care or low-quality preschool programs. "There are very few programs that are comparable in terms of the quality aspirations of Proposition 82," said Karen Hill-Scott, a consultant for the Los Angeles First 5 coalition and an initiative supporter who called into Fuller's press conference. "The vast majority of low-income families do not benefit from the subsidized system."

Fuller acknowledged that the estimated 26,000 additional low-income children who could enroll in preschool under the initiative would likely see benefits. Reiner resigned his position as head of the statewide First 5 coalition last week amid a controversy over the commission's funding of television commercials that touted the benefits of preschool



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. My home page is here


Sunday, April 09, 2006

The kids learned their lesson well

American non-education as seen by an outsider

It has been years since I've seen the inside of an American school. But I was invited to give a lecture on economics to a suburban high school. I didn't know what to expect. Perhaps that was best. The teacher had warned me that students simply never paid attention. I was a bit taken back by that. The first thing I noticed at the school was two armed security guards. Considering that I last lived in New Zealand, where not even the police are armed, this was a bit unnerving.

I went to the office and told them that I was to speak to a specific class. The individual working the main information desk said he would call the teacher. While he was doing that I used the toilet. But when I came out he had still done nothing. I stood there for a few minutes and he finally called the classroom. I was told a student would come for me. A few minutes later a young women came to escort me to the classroom. On the way there she told me not to expect much as the students don't care. Adding her warning to the teacher's had me wondering how bad it could be.

As I started I could immediately see that about half the students were in a walking coma. They could walk, they could talk but they were oblivious to the classroom itself. As I started speaking, trying to get their attention as much as possible, I was surprised to see that now and then a student would simply get up and walk out. Maybe ten minutes later they would come back. Some went out and then came back and then went out again. They didn't have to ask permission or apparently have any real reason for leaving. They came and went as they liked.

I used my best tactics to get some attention from the students. And with a great deal of effort I finally had half of them paying attention. But it was a real chore. And here is what shocked me the most. At least five times the school interrupted the class with announcements over the loudspeaker. If they wanted one student, from one class, to come to the office they interrupted every student in every class . None of these announcements had anything to do with a student in the class to which I was speaking The interruptions made it difficult for me to concentrate and they interrupted the students. Each time they loud speaker went off I had to get the attention of students all over again.

Toward the end of my talk I made it very clear that I would try to answer any question on any topic related to political economy. I told the students that if they only learned what I thought they should learn they would remember nothing. But if we discussed the topics that interested them they would remember. And with a little prodding the questions started coming. And some of them were good questions. One girl, pierced nose, semi-punk look, who had been drifting for the first half had finally become interested. She wanted to know what are the differences between classical liberals and modern liberals. It was a good question.

Things were finally moving along and then the damn loudspeaker went off again. I had tried to speak over it the previous times. But it still created problems each time. And I thought I would do the same thing this time. But the announcement went on and on and on. Some man in the office was making announcements about which class won which game. And he literally meant games. He droned on about a "stick race" and dragged the announcement out. He announced which class came in fourth place. Then he would go "yaaa" and applaud over the loudspeaker. Then he went into third place, cheered again and applauded again. And then second and did it all over again. And then first and did it all over again. Now if you think it was tedious reading what he did you should have heard it live! And he had at least four such game results to announce and each time he cheered and each time he applauded. The students did learn who came in fourth, third, second and first in the all important "nacho macho" contest but what they were not learning was anything about economics.

I was quite angry with the school. I could see in that one period that with some effort one could get through to a fair number of the students. But at least five times I was interrupted for unimportant, inconsequential announcements. All I could think was: "No wonder the kids don't take learning seriously." Why should they? The school itself didn't take learning seriously.

In just that one period. the main school office sent the message to students that a "nacho macho" contest was more important than learning. They got the point across loud and clear that a "stick race" was more important than learning. Two other games, the absurdity of which I do not even remember, were both more important than learning. At least four other times the students were told that having one student come to the office was sufficient reason to stop the teaching of every single student on campus.

And that was only one period. Is it like this throughout the day? I don't know. I hope not. But I suspect that these interruptions are common. So the students have learned what the school went out of its way to teach them: class time is not important and learning is not important. For a good number of these kids that is the one lesson they really got from the administration.



He serves the Democrat establishment, not the people

Capo for Better Representation (C4BR), a group of parents who initiated a recall of their school board for what they say is financial mismanagement, formally filed a Writ of Mandate in Orange County Superior Court today, Friday, April 7th, in an attempt to get their recall campaign certified.

C4BR filed papers in April, 2005 to recall all seven trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) in April, 2005. The group, led by recall organizer Kevin Murphy, a financial executive and CUSD father of four whose wife served as a PTA president in the district, collected the 20,000+ signatures needed for each trustee to place the recall on the ballot. Several hundred volunteers successfully gathered signatures at grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters and in neighborhoods throughout the district.

In early November, the group delivered to (acting) Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley over 177,000 signatures; 25,000+ signatures per trustee. In a surprising move, the registrar informed Kevin Murphy at 5 pm on Friday, December 23rd that the group did not turn in enough "valid" signatures to certify an election. This despite the fact that they delivered over 25,000 per trustee, when only 20,000 were required. The registrar had invalidated an unprecedented 35% of the signatures.

Recall volunteers went to work inspecting the signatures to find out what went wrong. What they found was disturbing. As many as 3,650 signatures per trustee were invalidated because the petition circulators wrote in the address for some of the signers when asked for assistance in doing so. Even though OC Registrar Neal Kelly's office told the petitioners on eight different occasions this was allowed, Mr. Kelley apparently reconsidered at the eleventh hour and decided to disallow these signatures.

In addition, volunteers who reviewed the signatures found that the registrar made errors on roughly 30% of the invalidated signatures. The registrar invalidated voters' signatures because he claimed they were not registered when in fact the recall volunteers discovered that they were indeed registered in the district. Other examples of errors include invalidation of signatures because the "signature does not match" the voter rolls. Many of the signers had registered decades before, so their signature would indeed appear different today. In addition, voters were asked to sign seven times, once for each trustee. By the time they got to the seventh signature page, their signature often varied widely. These voters' signatures were summarily disallowed however. It appears that the benefit of the doubt clearly was not given to the voter in these instances. Murphy also pointed out that the temporary staff hired by the registrar to review the signatures were not trained handwriting analysis professionals.

The registrar appears to have been overzealous in invalidating signatures and in fact, appears to have gone out of his way to invalidate, rather than validate, signatures. This raises the issue of whether the will and intent of the voter was truly respected.

The recall campaign was initiated after several poor decisions made by the trustees. The board voted 7-0 to spend $52 million for a 126,000 sf luxury administration building for only 134 administrative employees, while about half of CUSD's students languish in portable classrooms, many of them 10 to 20+ years old. Local Mello-Roos and redevelopment dollars that should have been spent for classrooms and older campuses are now being used to build the largest, most expensive administration building in Orange County.

The trustees also voted unanimously to spend $130+ million (and climbing) on building the new San Juan Hills High School, which is currently the second most expensive high school ever built in California, after the Belmont Learning Center in LA. According to Murphy, the new high school is being built on 85 to 130 feet of fill on the site of an ancient landslide, next to a dump that services several counties, virtually under high voltage transmission lines, on a road not meant for public use that has 600 daily trips from trash trucks on a steep grade, across the street from a green waste facility. For this, the district paid nearly $1 million dollars per acre. Worse Murphy says, the district (i.e; taxpayers) paid the developer who sold them the property to grade exactly the number of acres the developer needed for his residential development, and used that dirt to fill in the canyons for the school site.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that CUSD Superintendent James Fleming is paid close to $300,000 a year; the highest paid Superintendent in the state. Fleming, the recall group says, regularly turns a deaf ear to parents' and kids' needs, cutting basic programs and services in the district due to "budget cuts" while moving forward with hugely expensive and unnecessary projects. Murphy says Fleming and the trustees had many parents fooled into believing that the district didn't have enough money, until construction began on the beautiful new administration building. When parents complained that their kids were in old portables while the trustees and Fleming got a $52 million building, Board President Marlene Draper's response was "kids can learn in anything". That pretty much sums up the board and Superintendents' attitudes towards the parents and children in CUSD, says Murphy.

The group is asking the court to either validate the signatures based on the errors uncovered by the recall volunteers, or for a recount of those petitions invalidated due to registrar error. They will ask that signatures be allowed where the circulators completed addresses at the signers' request, as the group relied on the registrar's advice regarding the completion of addresses by circulators. C4BR's lawyer anticipates a judicial review will not take more than 30 days.


Minding our manners: "My parents had conflicting views about the nature and origin of good manners. My father took the Romantic view that they were the expression of man's natural goodness of heart and that they therefore emerged spontaneously -- that is, if they emerged at all. If they didn't, it was because of the social injustice that inhibited or destroyed natural goodness. My mother took the classical view that good manners were a matter of discipline, training, and habit and that goodness of heart would, at least to an extent, follow in their wake. The older I grow, the more decisively I take my mother's side."


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. My home page is here