Saturday, September 02, 2006

States "fall short" on educational standards

Having missed one deadline already, states still face an enormous challenge in putting qualified teachers in all major classes, a federal review says. Some states are in much better shape than others, the Education Department said Wednesday. Most meet only some criteria in required new plans. Four fail altogether. Under the No Child Left Behind law, states were supposed to have highly qualified teachers in every core academic class by the end of the last school year. None made it.

So the Education Department demanded new state plans. They were to include details on how states would improve their teaching corps and ensure fairness for poor and minority children. The federal analysis of those plans yields a mixed picture. Most states got credit for showing serious effort. Yet a few were ordered to start over. Every state was given specific recommendations and told to follow them. Overall, most failed to provide all the answers the department asked for. Still, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said she was encouraged. "Many states took this very seriously, recognizing that good teachers make all the difference in whether or not our children succeed in their studies," she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, for parents and students, more patience will be required. The new goal is 100 percent compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year, but some states may be years away. Most of the states - 37 of them, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico - met only some of the criteria. They must submit new data or plans this fall or risk facing penalties. Four states failed altogether: Hawaii, Missouri, Utah and Wisconsin. They must submit new plans and undergo monthly auditing of their teacher quality data, the department says.

The remaining nine states got favorable reviews for handing in complete plans and creative ideas about how they will improve. Those nine are Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota. South Carolina, for example, was praised for paying incentives to teachers in high-need schools. Louisiana was credited for collecting clear, meaningful data on teacher quality.

All the plans were examined by outside review teams, mainly state officials. "We're pretty hopeful that if states seriously implement these plans - and we intend to monitor that - then change will happen," said Rene Islas, chief of staff for the department's elementary and secondary education office.

The promise of better teachers is a huge part of President Bush's education law. Every new development, though, underscores how daunting the mission is. The law defines "highly qualified" teachers as those who have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach. It is often regarded as a minimum qualification, because it requires teachers to know what they teach. Many teachers find the edict to be well intentioned but poorly defined. It does not measure attributes parents like, such as a teacher's creativity or ability to reach students. The law also orders equity, a point gaining more attention of late. Poor and minority kids are not supposed to have an unfair share of unqualified, inexperienced teachers.

The Education Trust, which advocates for underprivileged children, says states largely ignored the provision in their new plans. The group issued its own analysis last week. It found that most states are doing little to fix inequities in the teaching force. Department officials acknowledged Wednesday that equity was the biggest snag for states. Many states couldn't provide data on the quality of teachers serving poor and minority kids.

The department can withhold money from states that fall short on teacher quality. Based on a separate review earlier this year, seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico face the loss of federal aid if they don't improve their compliance. Those states are Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington.


UK: More As in math as courses dumbed down

The sharp rise in students getting the top grade in maths A-level was welcomed last night in spite of concern among some teachers that the subject had been dumbed down. Yesterday's A-level results revealed that 43.5% of candidates got an A grade - up almost 3% on last year. The subject, traditionally seen as the preserve of the brightest students, also witnessed an increase in the number sitting the exam - up almost 6% for maths and 23% for further maths, although there were still fewer candidates than in 2000.

Ellie Johnson Searle, the director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, welcomed the results, which follow a series of curriculum reforms designed to make the subject "more accessible". "The turnaround in mathematics - both in overall numbers and in achievement - is encouraging in the first year of the new specifications," she said.

However, a report from the government's exam watchdog this year found that the changes had left some teachers "shocked and appalled" at the "unacceptable dumbing down" of the course. Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said it was a mistake to try to attract more students to maths A-level "by making it more accessible, in other words, easier".

Schools minister Jim Knight said the reforms had not diluted the exam, adding that the changes were made in consultation with teachers and maths experts. Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, welcomed the jump in the number of students taking maths after a slump at the start of the decade. "It was necessary to make changes to A-level maths to encourage greater participation and progression on to higher education and employment, and we hope that trend will continue," he said. "The changes came about after we listened to the views of the mathematics profession by giving students and teachers a more flexible and manageable A-level course." Tony Gardiner, an academic specialising in maths education at Birmingham University, said the rise in A grades was evidence that the exam was now easier than ever.

But Roger Porkess, the chief executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry, rejected the claim that the exam had been dumbed down. "These results are excellent news and a step towards being able to run a competitive economy."

Yesterday's results also revealed that the number of students taking physics dropped by 2.7% this year and around 17% over the past decade. Daniel Sandford Smith, the education manager at the Institute of Physics, said the trend was worrying and would have an impact on a wide range of degree subjects and careers.

Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society, said that physics "remains on the critical list" with no sign of improvement. He was more optimistic about the other sciences. "Chemistry is showing some signs of recovery with the highest number of entries since 2000. This is 3.1% higher than last year, but 9.8% lower than in 1991. Biology looks healthy with 1.7% more students taking the subject than last year and 17.8% higher than in 1991."

There was a slight rise in the numbers taking A-level French, and a bigger increase in those taking German and Spanish. However, the number of students taking French and German has dropped by 47% and 42% respectively over the past decade, according to figures published by the University of Buckingham. The number of students taking modern community languages such as Russian, Portuguese, Punjabi and Chinese continued to rise, this by year by around 9%. The number of students taking media, film and television studies increased by 10%.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said last night that the "bottoming out" of entries in traditional modern languages was a serious problem. He called on ministers to make them compulsory in secondary schools as part of the education bill going through parliament.



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, September 01, 2006

School District Claims Individualism is Racism

CEI Responds with Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has filed an amicus brief in support of a challenge to a Seattle school district's race-based student assignment plan. In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the school district argues its decision to use race is entitled to deference, a presumption of correctness before the law. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

"CEI argues that the district isn't entitled to deference, because, among other reasons, the district made false and offensive statements on its website regarding racial matters, statements that also contradict its explanations in court briefs on why it uses race," explained Hans Bader, CEI legal counsel. "For example, on its website, the district has stated that individualism is racism, that only whites can be racists, and that `future time orientation' - planning ahead - is a stereotypically white characteristic that minorities shouldn't be expected to exhibit," Bader said.

In the amicus brief, CEI also points out that since the Supreme Court has said that prisons don't get deference to use race (in spite of a tradition of giving prisons such leeway in almost every other context), then K-12 schools shouldn't get it either. The case is scheduled to be argued before the court by the end of the year, with a decision expected in 2007.



Wotta laugh!

A pioneering comprehensive known for progressive, liberal policies has upset parents by seeking to fingerprint every one of its 1,500 pupils when they return from their summer holidays next week. Holland Park school wants to build a database so that children turning up late can be identified and their time of arrival recorded in a "live register" by pressing a finger on an electronic pad. The school has spent 4,500 pounds on technology to build the database of pupils' prints.

Parents and local councillors, however, have complained that the system to control truancy may breach the pupils' human rights because the information could be passed to the police. Voluntary fingerprinting has become widespread in schools, especially for taking out library books. Eton college introduced a fingerprint system last year to identify pupils old enough to drink in its Tap bar. Pupils aged 17 can drink one pint of beer if they buy food but they have to register with a fingerprint.

Holland Park school, which opened in 1958, was one of the first comprehensives in Britain and was once dubbed the "Eton of comprehensives". Many of its pupils come from rough council estates, while others are drawn from the liberal elite in the expensive streets of Holland Park and Notting Hill, for whom the school became a magnet in the 1960s. Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, was sent there by his father Tony. Other celebrity parents have included Lady Antonia Fraser, the historian, and the late film director John Huston.

However, the school's latest move is seen as far from progressive. It is believed to be one of the first schools to seek to fingerprint every pupil in an effort to monitor their whereabouts. If late arrivals fail to press a pad at the gates or in a classroom, they will be recorded as absent.

Marianne Alapini, a local Labour councillor, said she had spoken to 15 worried parents. "We cannot understand the rationale behind this," she said. "It raises all sorts of questions about human rights, data protection and child protection." Mohammed Abdul-Saaka, vice-chairman of the borough's police consultative group, who has raised the issue with Liberty, the civil rights organisation, said: "This has been done without any consultation and has opened a Pandora's box of complications."

Renate Stewart, 16, a pupil leaving the school after taking her GCSEs, said: "I think that the school does so many things to try to improve its image but they should be spending this money on things which inspire the students. That might make the students feel better about being at school. "It does make you feel as if you are some kind of criminal."

Conservative-led Kensington and Chelsea council, which runs the school, said pupils would have one finger scanned and this information would be converted into a code number that would be recorded and registered when a pupil placed a finger on the reader. A council spokesman said: "This is not fingerprinting of the type associated with the police. The ability to record student attendance enhances the school's efforts to ensure a safe and secure environment for all students and staff." He said no records would be kept of the scan and the data would not be shared. However, if the police asked if a pupil was in school on a particular day, the school would tell them.



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, August 31, 2006


SF caters to the odd kids of its odd citizens

Park Day School is throwing out gender boundaries. Teachers at the private Oakland elementary school have stopped asking the children to line up according to sex when walking to and from class. They now let boys play girls and girls play boys in skits. And there's a unisex bathroom. Admissions director Flo Hodes is even a little apologetic that she still balances classes by gender.

Park Day's gender-neutral metamorphosis happened over the past few years, as applications trickled in for kindergartners who didn't fit on either side of the gender line. One girl enrolled as a boy, and there were other children who didn't dress or act in gender-typical ways. Last year the school hired a consultant to help the staff accommodate these new students. "We had to ask ourselves, what is gender for young children?" Hodes said. "It's coming up more and more."

Park Day's staff members are among a growing number of educators and parents who are acknowledging gender variance in very young children. Aurora School, another private elementary school in Oakland, also is seeing children who are "gender fluid" and hired a clinical psychologist to conduct staff training. Children with gender variant behaviors feel intensely that they want to look and act like the other sex. They prefer toys and activities typical of the opposite gender. Signs usually start appearing between the ages of 2 and 4.

For some children, it's a passing phase. Some grow up to be heterosexual, some gay. Some children insist they are the opposite sex although they might have a hard time explaining it. One nurse therapist said a boy once told her, "I think I swallowed a girl." "The point is we don't know the outcome and don't need to know," said Catherine Tuerk, who runs the gender variance outreach program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., considered a leader in the field. "What we need is a place where children can express what they want to," said Tuerk, who has been working on gender variance for three decades.

Kids have always explored gender roles, but precisely how many exhibit gender variance has not been estimated, said Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, associate professor of psychiatry with the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "What is new is how parents and educators are addressing it and being open to it at earlier ages," said Taneika Taylor of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, an organization in Washington, D.C., that is trying to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes. This increased awareness, Taylor said, is fueled partly by the availability of information on the Internet and television. As the school year begins, new Web sites, e-mail support groups, educational materials and conferences offer support and education for parents and teachers of kids who defy gender stereotypes.

Their common message is not to try to change who these kids are, though mainstream mental health professionals are not unified. Some believe such feelings can and should be extinguished through therapy; others believe that can destroy children's self-esteem. "If you are forced to be something you don't want to be as a kid, you are miserable," said Carla Odiaga of Boston, the consultant hired at Park Day. Odiaga speaks from a decade of experience counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens who she says are scarred by early memories -- a daughter forced to dress like a girl or a son whose dad hit him when he refused to play sports.

In the worst cases, children pushed by parents and picked on by peers grow depressed, suicidal or physically ill, said Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University who is conducting a long-term survey of gay youths and their families. She said many adolescents she talked to were picked on from kindergarten age -- long before they knew their sexual identity -- for looking or acting "too feminine" or "too butch."

Gender variance is an especially touchy topic when young children are the subjects. The Traditional Values Coalition calls efforts to accommodate these kids "normalizing the abnormal." The group's executive director, Andrea Lafferty, said gender variance is a Bay Area phenomenon. "If you talk to your typical person across America, they would be appalled," she said. "God made us male and female, and God makes no mistakes. To teach a child at an early age self-hatred, and that's what this gender variance is, is very sad."

Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania known for his work in the so-called ex-gay movement, agrees that some gender-variant children could be redirected to their birth sex. "I've treated kids who were quite sure they were the opposite gender and are now are quite consistent in their behavior and their feelings with their biological sex," said Throckmorton. But he warned against dogma on either side of the debate. "It's so individual. I don't want to say there's one answer."

Dr. Herb Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland who leads a gender variance support group, said studies show children's feelings about their gender are "hardwired" at birth. "It's really important that the public be aware this is not something parents can turn their kids into. The data is very clear on this," Schreier said.

More here

Educational racism in California?

State legislators want to put ESL kids in a corner with different textbooks, and are willing to punish Board of Education members who don't want to revisit the bad old days

California was suposed to have learned a sad but important lesson from its years of experimenting with bilingual education: When you isolate a group of largely poor, minority students and give them different instruction from what other students receive, they tend to get a dumbed-down, second-rate education. Unfortunately, that lesson hasn't fully sunk in. Nor has the idea that playground politics and retribution are not in the best interests of schoolchildren.

This spring, the Assn. of California School Administrators and more than 30 school districts presented to the state Board of Education a flawed proposal to offer English-language learners a simpler language-arts curriculum, with separate textbooks. The plan, called Option VI, would require those students to devote 2 1/2 hours a day learning from texts with shorter words and bigger pictures. Either teachers would have to somehow teach two curriculums at the same time ­ one for English speakers, one for the rest ­ or the English learners would have to be separated out. Either way, students lose.

The board, which is responsible for setting standards and choosing curriculum and textbooks, rightly rejected Option VI as a regressive return to the days of lower expectations for children of color. That's when Sacramento got silly. In a fit of pique, the Legislature stripped all funding for board members' support staff. That triggered the resignation of board President Glee Johnson, and other members considered following her lead. Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) introduced a measure to restore the money but still override the board's decision. This is a juvenile way to deal with an adult problem.

California has embarked on a steep and difficult climb ­ one that is far from complete ­ to set higher standards, adopt strong curriculum and apply those standards and curriculum evenly so that inner-city students get the same education as their more affluent peers. It is true that the state's core English curriculum is, in many ways, a tough fit for the 1.6 million children in California who can't yet speak the language. Teachers have been scrambling to bridge the gaps, and they are pleading for help. The Board of Education did approve an extra hour of English instruction for those students, but that's not enough to make up for the 2 1/2 hours each day in which children feel lost amid material they don't comprehend.

Extra help is a valuable thing, but a wholly different curriculum for English learners reopens the door to the days of lower standards for the nation's immigrant children. Escutia's bill should be dumped, the Legislature should stop playing petty politics with the budget, and both sides should work out a solution that gives teachers the tools to help all students learn the same rigorous curriculum.


Australia now educating lots of Brits

That their own government cannot afford to educate

For most British youngsters, Australia and New Zealand are unbeatable places to while away a gap year. But now increasing numbers are being lured Down Under to further their education. Since 2002 the number of British students seeking to study at under and postgraduate level there has risen by more than a third, with more than 6,250 studying there last year alone. This year, as 53,000 students look unlikely to gain places at British universities, five leading antipodean institutions are offering scholarships to encourage them to look farther afield.

Sports sciences, health sciences and Asian studies have attracted British students in the past, but now people who want to study medicine or veterinary science but have failed to gain a place at a university in Britain are considering the move, says Kathleen Devereux, from the Australian Trade Commission. "You'd think of the UK market as being a fairly mature market, but we have had 12 per cent year-on-year growth from 2002 to 2005, which is extraordinary," she said.

With Australian fees averaging between 4,800 and 10,000 pounds a year, payable each term, the courses are more expensive than those in England, which has 3,000 pound fees payable on graduation. Fees for degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences are higher still. But with lower living costs, a strong pound, and thirteen Australian and three New Zealand universities in the world top 200 universities, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, they are a big draw. "Tuition fees bring into parity the cost of going to a British or Australian university at undergraduate level. The fees in Australia are higher, but the living expenses are much less, so it's an attractive alternative," Ms Devereux said.

Of the 3,888 British students in Australia last year, more than half were undergraduates. By June this year 3,328 students had registered.



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, August 30, 2006

Berkeley Chancellor wants students and faculty to look different, but think alike

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau is creating a top-level position in charge of developing a more diverse faculty and staff and a more open social climate throughout the campus. He told reporters Wednesday that he'll lead a national search for a new Cabinet-level vice chancellor for equity and inclusion -- one of the first such executive jobs in higher education. Birgeneau said he doesn't see evidence of systemic discrimination on campus but wants to make sure opportunities are equitable at all levels of the organization regardless of religion, sexual orientation, race, gender or whether someone has a disability or not.

The move is the result of the work by a committee Birgeneau organized a year ago. As a result of the discussions, Birgeneau said he decided it would be best to create a new leadership position with an independent staff and the power to make changes. "This is a person who will have a large organization under him and act as an authority on these matters," he said, adding that the new vice chancellor will be responsible for accessibility, climate and inclusion for faculty, students and staff.

Birgeneau said his goal is to make sure everyone associated with the campus feels a sense of belonging regardless of identity. He stressed that his initiative covers not only ethnic group status but also sexual orientation and physical capacity. "I'm a strong believer that every single person feels this is a place where they belong and they're fully respected for their individuality, for what they represent, for their background and for their values," he said. "They're not required to homogenize and assimilate into one set of identical people."

Birgeneau also announced an academic project focusing on diversity in society as a whole. The six Cal faculty members initially assigned to the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative will study diversity in health, democracy and education. "We should have to understand multiethnic and multicultural societies in the same way that as a physicist I want to understand the fundamental physical laws that govern our universe," said Birgeneau, a physicist who spent 25 years as a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university also announced it raised $347.6 million from private donors during the 2005-06 fiscal year, beating the previous one-year record by almost 10 percent. The largest project funded by private support is the proposed new varsity athletic center at Memorial Stadium. Other large grants include $25 million from Ann and Gordon Getty for teaching and research in biomedical science, $25 million pledged anonymously for the Haas School of Business, and $15 million from Richard C. Blum for the Richard C. Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Birgeneau said he's working on an initiative combining gift money and state support to provide the neediest students with additional financial aid. Most students on financial aid must provide more than $8,000 a year in self-help funds, typically from loans and work.


Headteacher who never taught again after daring to criticise multiculturalism

Early yesterday afternoon, Ray Honeyford was listening with unconcealed delight to the radio commentary from the C&G Cup final at Lord's cricket ground as the Sussex batsmen, already 68 for 5, battled to find some form. Lancashire, Mr Honeyford, noted cheerfully, were doing rather well, as he watched through the window while his wife, Angela, and a friend tended to the garden. "My wife does all the gardening," Mr Honeyford says, "partly because I'm too lazy, partly because she doesn't want my help." He motions towards the potted flowers that sit on the polished table in the centre of his living room. He says he cannot name them, this by way of proving his horticultural ignorance.

The plants are Angela's, as are the prints of the Cezanne paintings and the black and white family pictures that line the walls of the living room of their modest house in Bury, Manchester. There are some framed medals of Mr Honeyford's uncle, a "Manchester lad like me", who was killed in the First World War, but nothing that reflects his own career as a teacher. No qualifications behind glass to recall the achievements of the boy from the large impoverished family who had initially failed his 11-plus, but nevertheless managed to become a Bachelor of Arts by correspondence and then a Master of Arts.

There are no photographs of him pictured with his students. But that was all a long time ago now. Mr Honeyford, 72, "retired" more than 20 years ago as the headmaster of a school in Bradford. Or, at least, that was when he was vilified by politically correct race "experts", was sent death threats, and condemned as a racist. Eventually, he was forced to resign and never allowed to teach again.

His crime was to publish an article in The Salisbury Review in 1984 doubting whether the children in his school were best served by the connivance of the educational authorities in such practices as the withdrawal of children from school for months at a time in order to go ''home" to Pakistan, on the grounds that such practices were appropriate to the children's native culture. In language that was sometimes maladroit, he drew attention, at a time when it was still impermissible to do so, to the dangers of ghettoes developing in British cities.

Mr Honeyford thought that schools such as his own, the Drummond Middle School, where 95 per cent of the children were of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, were a disaster both for their pupils and for society as a whole. He was a passionate believer in the redemptive power of education, and its ability to integrate people of different backgrounds and weld them into a common society. He then became notorious for, among other things, his insistence that Muslim girls should be educated to the same standard as everyone else.

Last week, 22 years on, he was finally vindicated. The same liberal establishment that had professed outrage at his views quietly accepted that he was, after all, right. Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, made a speech, publicly questioning the multiculturalist orthodoxies that, for so long, have acted almost as a test of virtue among "right-thinking" people. As Miss Kelly told an audience: "There are white Britons who do not feel comfortable with change. They see the shops and restaurants in their town centres changing. They see their neighbourhoods becoming more diverse.

Detached from the benefits of those changes, they begin to believe the stories about ethnic minorities getting special treatment, and to develop a resentment, a sense of grievance. We have moved from a period of uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism, to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness. These are difficult questions and it is important that we don't shy away from them. In our attempt to avoid imposing a single British identity and culture, have we ended up with some communities living in isolation of each other, with no common bonds between them?"

Miss Kelly's speech comes two decades too late to save the career of Mr Honeyford. And asked last week whether the minister's speech would change anything, Mr Honeyford shrugged resignedly and said it was too late for that, too. He remains, understandably, bitter about the whole episode. He had been striving to do his best for very disadvantaged pupils, and was branded racist for doing so, and made to live like a fugitive for many years. Asked whether he was impressed by Miss Kelly's recent speech, he said that she was only a politician, a bird of passage, minister of education one day and minister of communities the next, and like all politicians liable to say whatever was fashionable or useful to her career at the moment.

The fact that we have a Communities Secretary at all, more than 30 years after the Race Relations Act was passed, is testimony to failure, as well as to the bureaucratic instinct for survival. Official attempts to guide our racial and intercultural relations having apparently achieved very little so far - Miss Kelly's speech was made at the launch of yet another quango, this one called the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. For those who want to establish new quangos, nothing succeeds like failure: the more failures, the more quangos.

Her speech comes about a year after that of Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who wondered whether the nostrums of multiculturalism had done more harm than good, and suggested instead that immigrants and children of immigrants needed to be given some means of becoming British. The constant emphasis on the worst possible interpretation of British history would, in the end, lead to a society not merely of separate communities, but of antipathetical ghettoes. In his speech last September, he said: "Residentially, some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettoes - black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation and from which no one ever escapes undamaged. We are sleepwalking our way to segregation."

Around the same time, the man who was then mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, is adamant that he did the right thing in calling for Mr Honeyford's dismissal. Mr Ajeeb recently said: "I had no doubt in my mind that the man was a racist and I insisted he must go." Yesterday, Mr Ajeeb told The Sunday Telegraph that he felt that his decision was the right one at the time, because the tone of Mr Honeyford's article was inflammatory, and showed "an inclination to demonstrate prejudice against certain sections of our community". He was afraid that if Mr Honeyford stayed, there might be riots because the two races in Bradford at the time were very polarised.

Mr Ajeeb's own views of the means by which education might serve to integrate people have changed in the past 20 years. Previously, he was against the idea of dispersing Muslim children throughout other schools (bussing, in effect, such as had been done in the United States), which is now his preferred solution, so that no school in Bradford's inner city should have more than 70 per cent of any one race. He thinks that most of the Muslim parents would approve of this solution, though he concedes that implementation would be fraught with political difficulties. But 20 years ago, wouldn't he have considered such an idea, and anyone who proposed it, as racist?

Mr Ajeeb received death threats at the time of the Honeyford affair. So did Mr Honeyford, who had to live for a time under police protection. His school was constantly picketed by activists, and eventually burnt down in an arson attack. The situation was explosive, though, even to this day, interpretations vary as to who was to blame.

There are slight grounds for optimism for the future, however. An apocalyptic conflict may not happen after all. Manningham, the area in which the Drummond Middle School is situated, has come up in the world in recent years - or, at least, parts of it have. Gentrification is pushing its green shoots into the area; Bradford was once a very grand city, its grandeur ruined as much by the depredations of 1960s and 1970s town planners as by those of economic decline. Manningham is now less segregated, or mono-racial, than it was a few years ago. This is because of an influx of immigrants from other parts of the world, particularly Eastern Europe. One of the benefits of migration from many countries might be the dilution of populations so that ghettoes become less ghetto-like. New immigrants always gravitate to cheaper housing, encouraging the dispersal of previous immigrants. To all appearances, the people of different races rub along well enough in an area that had once been startling by the uniformity of its Muslim population.

Moreover, the people willing to speak - among them Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovakians, people of Pakistani origin - said last week that what they wanted for their children was a British education, so that the children would integrate themselves fully in society and secure good jobs. No one wanted to be Balkanised into competing and antagonistic communities, preserving their customs in pristine perfection, unaffected by the fact that the communities now lived in Britain.

Mr Honeyford's school has been rebuilt at great expense. It is still predominantly Muslim, with a 15 per cent Somalian intake; in an act of what some view as outstanding multicultural political correctness, it has been renamed Iqra, though it is still known locally as the Drummond. Shanaz Anwar-Bleem, the new headmistress, speaking in a personal capacity, said that the withdrawal of children from school to return to Pakistan or Bangladesh for months at a time was still a problem, but the authorities were trying to clamp down on it.

The school is twinned with another in Bradford, which her pupils, who would otherwise grow up solely among their own ethnic and cultural group, visit so that they can learn about the way other children live, and even make friends there. Religious education is not monolithic: the children go to mosques, but also to churches and even to synagogues. Mrs Anwar-Bleem, the daughter of immigrants, says that the parents of the pupils are clear about the essential role of English in the education of her pupils and of knowledge of British culture. She blames Government policies for the de facto segregation that still exists in Bradford.

This does not seem so very different in spirit from what Mr Honeyford said in the mid-1980s. The fact that he published his article in The Salisbury Review, seen as so Right-wing as to be completely off the scale of respectability, was part of the problem; if he had published it in an equivalently Left-wing journal, it would have been very much less objectionable. The article also included asides, not strictly relevant to the subject matter in question, about the political style of the Indian subcontinent, and particularly Pakistan, that could hardly have been pleasing to some of the people in the area, even if true. In so delicate a situation, these asides were perhaps impolitic. Yet those people in Manningham who still remember Mr Honeyford seem to do so with fondness. They do not think of him as a racist, much less a BNP type. Amit Shah, 65, said, "It was all political what happened to him. He was a very nice headmaster, and the children liked him." It is hard not to conclude that a terrible injustice was done him.

Mr Honeyford had made the mistake of espousing anti-multiculturalism before it was socially acceptable to do so, just as it was once wrong to be an anti-communist before everyone became one. He lost his career because his tone was wrong, and he did not subscribe to the then "correct" views of a very thorny subject. Hell hath no fury like a bien pensant contradicted.

So why has the Government finally come round to a point of view that is, at least by implication, a little like Mr Honeyford's? Miss Kelly was forced to act after months of mounting public concern, and increasingly hostile headlines, about the value of multi-culturalism and immigration. The prospect of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the new EU countries, Bulgaria and Romania, entering Britain on January 1, 2007, has focused minds, as have official figures showing the true extent of the numbers coming to Britain - 427,000 have registered to work here since 2004, it emerged shortly before Miss Kelly's announcement.

The debate has been given added urgency by the shock of the recent alleged terror plots hatched by British citizens to blow up airliners. Miss Kelly is no doubt aware of the deep anxiety and even anger in the country that politicians have hitherto failed to acknowledge, and that threatens one day to erupt through the relatively calm surface of daily life. The recent refusal of passengers to allow an aircraft to fly until two Asian men (who appeared to be speaking Arabic) were taken off the flight was possibly a harbinger of far greater nastiness to come.

As for Mr Honeyford, were he not suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's, he could have been forgiven for celebrating his long-awaited victory with a jig around his Manchester living room yesterday, before leaving to watch his beloved Bury football team achieve a similar resounding result against Grimbsy at Gigg Lane. But neither time, nor Miss Kelly's admission, can heal the scars for this martyr to multiculturalism.


The current education system is hard on teachers too

The quality of teaching has seriously deteriorated in the most critical areas of literacy and numeracy. As a school head I have seen for myself that teachers are not as literate as they used to be. I have given up as teachers continually make errors in written communications to students and parents, and in school newsletters. In speech, fuzzy thinking results from their confusion of subject and verb, illogical prepositions and no longer amusing malapropisms. Vocabularies bled and logic was wounded.

Now we have evidence I am not just a boring old pedant. Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan's welcome research, which appeared in these pages yesterday, has done education a great service by providing an evidence base for what school heads and employers already know: the quality of teaching has seriously deteriorated in the most critical areas of literacy and numeracy, and therefore in primary education, science, technology and other subjects.

Let me defend teachers. They too are victims of deteriorating school systems. Only a handful remains whose school education predates the 1960s and '70s, when teaching was overcome by a fashion for coddling children. Don't correct errors: you might damage their little psyches and destroy their self-esteem. Don't tell them what to write about: it's undemocratic. Let them express themselves. We call their efforts creative.

The distinction between self-expression and communication was lost. Self-expression can take place without an audience. Communication requires compliance with the niceties of spelling, punctuation (including apostrophes) and diction that are also understood by the audience. The ability to structure a line of thought is gained through lots of writing practice to establish clear thinking: it requires knowledge about the subject. That is, communication requires discipline, academic and personal. Today's teachers cannot teach what they have not been taught.

Younger teachers also copped postmodernism. Before they had learned to read thoroughly and carefully and to love reading (whether fiction, history or science), they were taught to be sceptical of everything and wary of giving it value in their own lives. They were made to see literature, history and science through "frames" of feminism, Marxism, racism and who knows what else. The frame mattered but there was not much of a picture in it as syllabuses lost content and no longer required students to have substantial knowledge of facts, names, dates and events.

A young person's search for vicarious human experience and understanding was distorted by the views of others before they learned to follow story and character development effectively. The view was through adult frames rather than the framework of childhood or adolescence. Teachers cannot now teach what they do not know. Many complain of the difficulty of finding a "good secretary like we used to have". Teachers, like secretaries, are traditionally women. I celebrate that women now have the full range of career choices but one consequence is that we no longer can rely on a large enough supply of talented women to populate our teaching positions.

Leigh and Ryan have shown the impact of what is otherwise a welcome social change. And men? Men are a valuable but rare species in education; it takes courage to be a male teacher. A closed door can ruin a career. An adolescent girl might make allegations that will never wash away. Suspicion lurks. Can a male teacher comfort a crying child? How do you teach gymnastics or tennis without touching? It is difficult enough for women in this climate of lewd suspicion. Wouldn't you rather be an accountant?

Schools are no longer havens. Guns and knives are not common, but regrettably they are far from unknown in schools, whether brought by students or by invaders of the premises. Students who threaten teachers directly or by innuendo prevent effective teaching and obliterate the teacher's motivation. Almost any reaction from the teacher or school head will be wrong by the time it gets to the front page. Failure to break up a fight is a failure of duty of care. If a teacher physically separates two warring children, they might reap a charge of assault with the possibility of never working with children again. After victory in court, who will resurrect the career and reputation of the teacher? Wouldn't you rather be a lawyer?

Teachers are increasingly powerless and vulnerable. Some parents defend their children no matter what the allegation and the evidence. It is extraordinarily time-consuming, emotionally taxing and increasingly difficult to help children in trouble or investigate alleged misbehaviour. The school can't search lockers or school bags, can't question students without parents being present and can't separate presumed malefactors. By the time action is taken, the problem has blown out of all proportion and parents have called in lawyers. It is easier to avoid the challenge; behaviour in schools gets worse. Wouldn't you rather be a doctor?



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, August 29, 2006

Flags forbidden in geography lessons

This sort of pettiness is what substitutes for a focus on real education these days

A seventh-grade geography teacher at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood was suspended with pay Wednesday after he refused to take down foreign flags displayed in his classroom. Eric Hamlin, 36, said the flags of China, Mexico and the United Nations were relevant to the unit on the fundamentals of geography he teaches in the first six weeks of the semester. He's used the same display for most of the nine years he's taught in Jefferson County, Hamlin said. The 3-foot-by-5-foot nylon flags are in addition to the U.S. flag found in all classrooms.

"Since flags are symbols of a nation and the people who live in that nation, if a flag of a foreign nation in a geography class can't be displayed, and only the U.S. flag can be displayed, we're sending the message that America is number one, everything else is below that," Hamlin said.

Hamlin received a written reprimand Tuesday. Principal John Schalk escorted Hamlin from the building when the flags were still up on Wednesday morning. Schalk referred questions to Jefferson County Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer. Setzer said Schalk believed Hamlin was in violation of a state law barring display of foreign flags on public property. Schalk interprets the law as allowing display of foreign flags as part of a specific lesson, but not for the duration of a six-week unit, Setzer said. Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said Hamlin could have removed the flags, then appealed the principal's decision to higher administrators. By refusing to remove the flags, Hamlin was insubordinate, Stevenson said. "He defied a direct, reasonable request from a principal. That's what's at issue here," Stevenson said. Stevenson said it's possible Hamlin and the district could work out an agreement short of firing Hamlin.

Hamlin said, "There's no question I was insubordinate . . . I did directly tell my principal that I would not follow what he told me that I had to do. "It's the background, the basis of what he told me to do that I disagree with," he said. Hamlin did, in fact, remove the flags before he was escorted from the building. He put them in a file cabinet rather than let the custodian store them.

Whether Hamlin was actually in violation of a state law is another matter. The 2002 law bars the display of foreign flags on state buildings. Among the exceptions are foreign flags used as "part of a temporary display of any instructional or historical materials not permanently affixed or attached to any part of the buildings or grounds . . .." Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that exception would appear to cover Hamlin's display. Hamlin said he's begun drafting a written request for ACLU representation. "We'll read the letter and decide what action, if any, to take," Silverstein said. Hamlin has more than 50 flags that he uses during the course of the year.



The Government is facing an investigation by the statistics watchdog over claims that it tried to "bury" bad news of poor primary school test results. Figures showed last week that the number of seven-year-olds who were competent in reading, writing and maths had fallen, and all the Government's key targets for 11-year-olds were missed. But the primary school results were published at exactly the same time - 9.30am on Thursday, August 24 - as GCSE results, which dominate news bulletins every year. The timing was a break from tradition. In recent years primary school figures have been released on the Tuesday, two days before GCSEs. The change led to allegations that ministers were trying to bury the damaging story of falling standards in primary schools and missed targets.

The Statistics Commission has now called for a formal explanation from the Department for Education and Skills. A formal investigation could follow. Richard Alldritt, chief executive of the Statistics Commission, said: "A concern was expressed to us that the timing of the release changed for reasons of political advantage or news management. "Having had a verbal assurance from the DfES that that is not true, we have asked them for something in writing. We will consider whether to pursue the matter." It was understood that the commission had received a letter from the head of statistics at the DfES but had not yet been able to consider it.

The code of practice on government statistics states that figures should be released as soon as they become available. Holding back primary school results - even for two days - in an attempt to gain political advantage would risk breaking the spirit of the code, if not the letter, according to sources at the commission. If the commission found against the Government it would revive the damaging charges of "spin" laid against ministers since 1997 and which they have been desperately trying to counter. Perhaps the most damaging example was when Jo Moore, who was a special adviser at the Transport Department, sent an e-mail to colleagues in which she suggested that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, made it a good day to bury bad news.

David Willetts, the Shadow Education Secretary, told The Times Educational Supplement that people might suspect that ministers were trying to "bury" the bad news of the primary school results. "If so, it would not be the first time the Government has sought to bury bad news in this way," he said. But a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills rejected the suggestion. "The Statistics Commission has not launched an inquiry and we do not believe there is any reason for them to do so," he said. "The publication of the data was carried out in accordance with the rules governing the publication of national statistics."


Australian teachers getting dumber

Teachers are not as smart as they were 20 years ago, an Australian-first study concludes in a finding that will reinforce concerns over declining classroom standards. An analysis of literacy and numeracy tests confirms the standard of student teachers has fallen substantially and that dwindling numbers of the nation's brightest students are choosing teaching as a career.

The academic calibre of teachers has been shown to have a direct effect on students' results, with US research finding that a shift to smarter teachers raises student performance. The Australian study by economists Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan from the Australian National University finds the failure of teachers' pay to keep pace with other professions and the fact that teachers are not paid on merit are key factors in the decline of standards.

The biggest change has been in the number of smart women becoming teachers. The study says the academic achievement of women entering teaching has declined substantially. While 11 per cent of women who scored in the top 25 per cent of literacy and numeracy tests in 1983 chose to become a teacher, this had dropped to 6 per cent in 2003. The average woman entering teaching in 1983 was in the top 30 per cent of test results and this dropped to the top 49 per cent by 2003. Overall, in 1983 the average teaching student was drawn from the top 26 per cent of the nation's students but this had widened to the top 39 per cent by 2003.

Dr Leigh said using literacy and numeracy tests was the best proxy available for assessing teachers' academic abilities. "Academic results aren't everything in a teacher; we all know good teachers who aren't academic," Dr Leigh said. "But if all else is equal, you'd rather have the people standing at the front of the classroom being the ones who did well in literacy and numeracy tests. If they do very badly on these tests, it's hard to see how they can teach children the same things."

Dr Leigh said teaching had lost its status as one of the best paying careers for women. While 49 per cent of female university graduates became teachers in the 1960s, by the 1990s only 12 per cent chose it as a career. The rise in salaries of high-ability women in alternative occupations is believed to account for about one-quarter of the decline in teacher quality. The study says that over the 20-year period, the average starting salary of a teacher fell in real terms and compared to other professions. Teachers' pay fell 4 per cent for women and 13 per cent for men in real terms but relative to graduates entering other professions, starting teachers' pay fell 11 per cent for women and 17 per cent for men.

The study suggests that the solution lies in introducing merit-based pay for teachers, which would be more cost effective than across-the-board pay rises to make teaching a more attractive career. Dr Leigh said that the rest of the labour market paid according to ability and was further away from uniform pay schedules than ever before. "Governments have grasped that when it comes to paying senior public servants. They created SES (Senior Executive Service) because government had to compete with businesses for the best management talent and they understood what businesses were doing had an impact on government," he said. "We haven't grasped the same parallel with teaching."

National president of the Australian Education Union Pat Byrne said women had less scope for careers 20 or 25 years ago, when teaching was one of the best paid jobs open to women. Ms Byrne said the answer was to raise teachers salaries across the board rather than introduce merit-based pay.



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, August 28, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Rape of Alma Mater

A novel by Wells Earl Draughon. Review by "Ken"

Wells Draughon (I assume that the middle name is a patronymic) has recorded an important first-hand history in this fictionalised account of the "dumbing down" and "lefting" of the American collegiate system.

Draughon personifies the "Left" and "Right" viewpoint of campus politics in his fictional colleagues, while leaving his main character, Ray, to balance precariously on the left edge of the political tightrope while juggling his own academic aspirations with his conscience.

Ray is sympathetic to the left but is quietly disapproving of its methodology. He is, however, afraid of losing his tenure in the overcrowded field of English Literature and thereby hangs the classical conflict.

The story starts during the Vietnam War, when many students enrolled in tertiary education in order to avoid the draft. These borderline academics leant towards the "soft" subjects like the arts and literature, where right and wrong are less well defined than in the sciences. Draughon's contention is that these subjects slowly lost definition as logical deconstruction was replaced with jargon, political correctness and sexist/racist sensitivities that were applied backwards to classical literature in order to discredit it and its authors.

When logic and objective analysis were labelled "male thinking" and were therefore sexist, the whole idea of structured learning became untenable and the inevitable collapse of classical education was underway.

Draughon leads us through each decade up to the modern day, documenting the not-so-subtle methodology of a sub-culture determined to neutralise a decidedly polarised society.

Ray's insouciance allows him to believe that the left's dominance over American universities is a product of correct-thinking having led to a quagmire of unforseen outcomes. "Most of them, their hearts are in the right place.." He is heard to say in the dying sentences of the novel

Although it is cleverly constructed and intelligently unfolded, the novel fails as a piece of fiction because the characterisation is subservient to the plot. The story cries out to be character driven but, despite an obvious effort to round out the personalities, they remain shallow, two-dimensional and stereotypical. The book also fails as a piece of history because of the fictional setting. The reader is never sure whether the critical moments are actual events or merely devices to move the plot forward. The attempts to get us to empathise with the characters by introducing irrelevant domestic scenes only succeed in distracting us from the salient point of the story because they are inconsistent and seem to have been slotted in as an afterthought.

This is not an easy novel to read; the sentence construction is often confusing and unintentionally complex because of the author's propensity for expressing more than one idea in a sentence and often mixing tenses and inadvertently referring to the wrong subject. This may simply be poor editing but it constantly detracts from the text and forces the re-reading of paragraphs and sometimes whole pages.

I would like to see a more academic rendering of this important subject (which I am sure the author could provide). His insights are both valid and frightening in their overview of the last forty years of American academia and are well worth listening to.

Top British schools discard dumbed-down government exam system

Some of Britain's most academically successful schools will sink to the bottom of this year's official league tables because they have abandoned "too easy" GCSEs. The schools, including Harrow, Rugby and Manchester grammar, now put their pupils through the international GCSE (IGCSE), which is considered more academically stretching, in subjects such as maths, science and English.

Many experts believe that rather than damage the reputation of the schools, the move will call into question the credibility of the league table system by placing some of the country's best-performing schools near the bottom. The government will this year for the first time publish a national ranking based on the proportion of 16-year-olds gaining five GCSEs at grade C or above that include maths and English.

IGCSEs are not counted as part of the official results because they are not approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the government's exam regulator. Many independent schools are dropping the state-approved GCSEs in favour of the international versions because the latter are viewed as more challenging and as a better preparation for A-levels. The exams have mainly been developed for schools overseas and are closer to the former O-levels, scrapped in 1987, rather than to ordinary GCSEs.

Schools offering the IGCSE in maths and English will see steep drops in the number of their pupils getting ordinary GCSEs in these core subjects, pushing them down the rankings. The Department for Education and Skills has no intention of overhauling the league tables to take IGCSEs into account.

Concerns over the academic usefulness of the rankings will be compounded by the high marks given to GNVQs - vocational qualifications. Many state schools have boosted their rankings by encouraging pupils to take GNVQs - vocational qualifications which are rated by the government as equivalent to good GCSE passes.

Ministers have refused to allow IGCSEs to be included in results because the exams do not have official approval. State schools, even the highest achieving, cannot switch to the IGCSE because the government will fund only officially approved courses. The IGCSE is growing in popularity among private schools. Cambridge International Examinations, one of two boards that sets the IGCSE, said that 100 schools offered at least one exam this year.

Independent school heads believe that the decision not to include the IGCSE will make a nonsense of the national school league table. Tim Hands, headmaster of Portsmouth grammar and chairman of the universities committee of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), said: "It is extraordinary that schools like mine will be listed as getting 0% for maths GCSE, yet (the IGCSE) is an exam that is highly rated by universities." The highest take-up of IGCSEs is in maths. It is preferred to the state GCSE because it includes calculus and does not include course work.

More here


Teachers have told a bright GCSE student she would have to dumb down in order to pass her exams, prompting concerns that examiners are unqualified to mark some papers. Katie Merchant, 16, was marked down for giving a sophisticated answer in her mock Latin exam. She achieved an A* - the highest mark possible - but lost marks on one question because her answer was too sophisticated. Teachers warned the girl she would be similarly penalised in the real exam, prompting her to express her disappointment in a letter to her Brighton college headteacher, Richard Cairns.

Speaking today, Mr Cairns said examiners often marked papers in subjects they knew little about and that he warned his pupils they would often know more about the subject than the marker. He said: "The very brightest are definitely constrained by the exam marking schemes." He said exam boards awarded the highest marks for prescriptive answers containing key words, meaning a pupil who displayed originality was penalised. Mr Cairns said the problem affected all exam boards. He said markers rewarded children for thinking "mechanistically" rather than "outside of the box". "We're getting very good at teaching children to pass exams but less and less good at teaching them to think laterally," he said.

After consultation with Oxford and Cambridge universities, Brighton college is reducing the maximum number of GCSEs students can take from 10 to nine and making time in the curriculum for critical thinking. Mr Cairns said: "Through league tables, teachers [have] become accountable to their pupils. As a result, [they] want more and more information about how to achieve an A*, which has encouraged exam boards to be more prescriptive and killed off independent thought."

He went on: "I tell my students, 'You must expect the examiner to know less than you. He or she will be working to a rigid marking scheme and they need to look out for key things whether or not they're actually relevant." The independent college was the first school in England to introduce the mandatory study of Mandarin for all Year 9 pupils earlier this year.



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, August 27, 2006

More political bias in the college classroom

Post lifted from Betsy Newmark

One of my former students has been attending freshman orientation at UNC Chapel Hill. He sent me a note yesterday all excited about getting push-polled and to tell me about a couple of offhand comments that the professors leading the discussions threw out there. The students had to read The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, in which the main character's name is an important plot point. Here is what my former student wrote me about that discusson:
Secondly, professor bias anecdotes (and this before classes have started). The first happened during our summer reading discussion. I enjoyed the faculty facilitator; he was enthusiastic and prone to excited outbursts such as declaring us all "flowers in the garden of humanity"....But our discussion about the significance of names began with a viewing of George Allen's "macaca" comment, which prompted the professor to declare "Go to hell George Allen. Makes me think of Nazis."

I know how you love Nazi references.

Then later today, at a Carolina Scholars meeting, a professor mentioned reporters who spoke with his class following the invasion of Iraq. He commended his political restraint and complimented himself for not saying "ill-fated." Both professors made their remarks offhandedly but clearly meaning to be heard.
Just think of a professor who refers to kids as "flowers in the garden of humanity." Blech. And then on the first day of orientation to jump in with the Nazi reference to George Allen. That takes the prize. George Allen has set himself up to be an endless supply of jokes and I guess he deserves it. But the Nazi reference betrays such a lack of perspective that this professor should be forced to go to the Holocaust Museum and learn what the Nazis did.

Then the gratuitous remark about not saying referring to the Iraq war as "ill-fated" is typical liberal self-congratulatory behavior. Look how noble I am by not telling you what I really was thinking while I make sure that you all know what I really think.

Remember, these are professors speaking to freshmen at a state university in North Carolina, a state that went for Bush over Kerry by 12 points. These professors have no idea of these kids' political persuasions, but the likelihood is that a significant segment of the students in that room come from families that supported Bush and are Republican. And, yet totally out of the context of the orientation discussions, these guys had to make such off-topic political statements. They're so sure of their own rectitude that they don't mind just throwing in a comment here and there to share their political views. It would be one thing if they were leading discussions about politics, but these were two totally off-topic comments. At least these orientation workshops didn't involve classes that kids receive grades in. But I can't imagine that professors who say these things on the first day of orientation keep mum all year long in their classrooms.

Can't these guys restrain themselves? I teach about politics every day in my classes and I constantly work to balance every anecdote about one party with one about the other and to seek to have the kids be the ones who are expressing their own political opinions, not me. And y'all know that I have definite political opinions, but I don't need to inflict them on my students. Sometimes, I have to bite my tongue sharply, but I would be so disgusted with myself if my students were going home and telling their families similar anecdotes about me that my former student just wrote me. I know this stuff goes on all the time, but it still really ticks me off.


GCSE exams in English and maths are to be made harder as part of a major government crackdown on schools that are failing to teach basic educational skills. Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, has introduced the tough new measures in one of the biggest shake-ups of the exam system in a decade. 'Every single young person must have a good grasp of the basics,' Knight told The Observer. 'We are changing the way we measure performance and toughening up the English and maths GCSEs to ensure that young people master the three Rs.' In addition, coursework, which counts towards GCSE grades, will be overhauled in a bid to eradicate pupils cheating by using the internet, helping each other or receiving parental help. More work will be done under exam conditions at school.

Knight said the main change to exams would be to build in 'the functional' skills in English and maths that employers required. There would be more rigorous testing of grammar, for instance in the context of writing a clear, coherently presented letter, and of mathematical concepts like percentages in the context of real-life problems. While the present system allows pupils to get a pass in English or maths without mastering such skills as long as an overall points total is reached, that will no longer be the case. 'In the future, employers will have a guarantee of the quality of the school-leavers they are taking on. A good pass will mean that young people are equipped with the basics. That means being able to write and speak fluently, carry out mental arithmetic, give presentations and tally up a till at the end of the day', Knight said.

The tougher new courses will be piloted this autumn. The move has been announced before Thursday's publication of this year's GCSE results, which are expected to show a further sharp rise in the number of pupils achieving an overall 'benchmark' pass. The existing system requires at least one C-grade in any five GCSE subjects. Under the new measures, an overall pass will require at least a C in both English and maths.

There has been a growing clamour in recent years from education experts and businesses against what they see as the poor standard of literacy and maths skills of many school-leavers. In a report to be released tomorrow, the Confederation of British Industry will warn of widespread levels of dissatisfaction among employers. The CBI says the economy is losing up to 10 billion pounds bn a year through staff not being able to read, write or perform basic arithmetical exercises to a sufficient standard.

In today's Observer, the philosopher and educationist Baroness Warnock issues a scathing critique of the government's education policies for having left many school-leavers 'unable to write intelligibly, read critically or think analytically'. She predicted that one result would be that the country could soon find itself without any world-class universities.

As well as tougher exams, league tables of GCSE results are to be overhauled to include separate rankings based on English and maths, in the hope of bringing pressure on schools to raise their game. 'Alongside the usual five good GCSEs measure, every parent will be able to see how well their school is doing in securing the basics of English and maths', Knight said.

Ministers will receive fresh evidence this week of problems among pupils when results of standard assessment tasks (SATs) taken by 11-year-olds in English, maths and science are published. Sources say these will show that the government has failed to reach its self-imposed target that 85 per cent of the pupils should have demonstrated competence in the subjects by 2006. But the proportion attaining the required standard has risen from 60 per cent to more than 75 per cent since 1996. This year's GCSE results are also likely to show a drop in the number of pupils taking French and German, after the government two years ago abandoned the requirement for 14- and 15-year-olds to study a foreign language.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have indicated they may scrap AS-levels, which pupils take at the end of their lower-sixth form year, in order to relieve the pressure of repeatedly preparing for and sitting exams throughout pupils' careers. Students now spend so much time concentrating on exams that their basic education is suffering, said David Willetts, the Tories' education spokesman. He said there was a 'very strong argument' for scrapping AS-levels and restoring the break from having to take exams in the year between GCSEs and A-levels. The current system, whereby teenagers take SATs at 14, GCSEs at 16, AS-levels at 17 and then A-levels a year later, was leading to a situation in which schools 'teach to the test'. 'The whole process of examining is in danger of getting in the way of real education,' said Willetts.



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