Saturday, September 30, 2006


Suisun City parents Benjamin and Tanya Marshall are part of a new homeschooling movement led by African American families fed up with the public school system. Nine years ago, the couple put their oldest son, Trevaughn, in kindergarten after discussing teaching him at home. When he had a substitute teacher several times in his first six weeks, they pulled him out. "We felt like it wasn't the right environment, especially for an African American boy," said Tanya Marshall, 36. "The teachers were young and nervous. Black males were not being challenged and ending up in special ed."

Trevaughn, now 14, has been taught at home ever since. The couple also homeschools their two younger sons, 11 and 9, and their daughter, 12. "We wanted to be the main and driving influence in our children's lives," said Benjamin Marshall, 37. "We didn't want them socialized with marijuana smokers and pregnant teens." The Marshalls, who had both worked as teachers' aides, feared public school would contradict their Christian beliefs, and they wanted to avoid having their sons labeled as violent or hyperactive or seeing them pressured by peers to drink, do drugs and have sex.

A desire for more rigorous academics and greater emphasis on black history also has led black families into homeschooling, educators say. Although homeschoolers often are stereotyped as white and evangelical Christians, in 2003 about 9 percent of homeschooled students were black, and 77 percent were white, compared with a total student population nationwide that was 16 percent black and 62 percent white. Homeschoolers numbered 1.1 million in 2003, compared with about 49.5 million students in public and private schools, according to the most recent federal statistics from the U.S. Department of Education.

The numbers of black and white homeschoolers rose about a third from 1999 to 2003 to encompass about 1.3 percent of U.S. black students and 2.7 percent of whites. Researchers say the number of black parents who are homeschooling their children may now be growing even faster. More than half the students who are homeschooled come from families with three or more children, and more than one-quarter from families making less than $25,000 in 2003, when the nation's median family income was $56,500. More than half of homeschooled students came from families making between $25,000 and $75,000. Among black, white and Latino students, Latinos are least likely to be homeschooled, at less than 1 percent in 2003; no other ethnic groups are measured.

The growth among African Americans can be seen in the increasing number of networking groups, blogs and Internet sites directed at black homeschoolers -- and in who is showing up at conventions. "There was a time when the conferences were all white," said Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore. "In the '90s, you saw a little more color, and by 2000, a substantial number of black families started showing up. "In some cities, the majority of those attending conferences are African American."

Many say they left public schools because their children weren't expected to learn at an equal pace or being coached on getting into college, the schools were unsafe, or the curriculum lacked black history. "Over the last couple of years, especially in places like D.C. and Cincinnati, there have been a growing number of black homeschooled students," said Michael Apple, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies the issue. "You will find more in areas where the black middle class can afford to do it."

Monica Utsey of Washington, D.C., said she decided to homeschool so she had as much say as possible in 6-year-old son Zion's life. "I didn't want him put on the road to obesity, with junk food, or to be obsessed with commercialized clothing," Utsey said. "I also don't want my son to think that slavery was our only contribution. I want to give him a world view, a cultural perspective, and assure he understands his place and his heritage."

Many black homeschoolers worry that their children will be labeled in a public school. Black public school students are three times as likely as white students to be categorized as needing special education services, a 2002 study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University found. "My son is high-energy, and I didn't want him to end up on Ritalin or feel bad about himself," Utsey said. "There is an assumption that black boys are violent if they are too energetic."

Public schools have been a focus of the civil rights struggle, but many homeschooling parents said they are disillusioned with the system's failure to improve. "Some educators and families think that because blacks fought so hard to get equal access, we shouldn't abandon it," said Jennifer James, a North Carolina mother who in 2003 started the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance, a 3,000-member, nonreligious group that provides information for homeschoolers. "But times have changed. It was a great step, but we have to think about our kids."

Parents say the most common concern about homeschooling -- that their kids will be socially isolated -- isn't a problem. "My children know how to socialize, especially with adults," Benjamin Marshall said. "In the real world, my children are not always going to be surrounded by people their own age."

The Marshalls not only teach their children math, religion and vocabulary, but also take them on field trips to places like the Lawrence Hall of Science, the state Capitol, the San Francisco Symphony and the Museum of the African Diaspora. "It is kind of rough in the beginning, but as time goes on, you learn," said Benjamin Marshall, who works as a dispatcher on the graveyard shift at the Valero refinery in Benicia and teaches his kids during the day. The Marshalls also have started Seeds of Truth Academy in Suisun City, where parents interested in Christian-based homeschooling can bring their children on Tuesdays and Thursdays for counseling, sports and field trips.

Brianna Marshall, 12, said she likes homeschooling but thinks about other options. "I think homeschooling is better than public school because there are no bullies and you don't have to listen to all the stuff your friends say," she said. "But I am curious about what school is like. I have never been inside a school, and sometimes I get tired of being at home."



Alan Johnson displayed his leadership credentials to the Labour Party conference yesterday when he announced plans to restore confidence in school exams and to help children in care. The Education Secretary unveiled an overhaul of GCSE coursework to combat internet plagiarism by pupils. He said that all coursework for maths would be scrapped and that coursework for other subjects would be supervised in classroom-style conditions. "Technology has changed the way we teach, but can also be used by some students to gain an unfair advantage," Mr Johnson said. "We have one of the most rigorous exam systems in the world [Who does he think he is kidding??] - we cannot have it devalued and undermined by the few who cheat by copying from the internet."

He also announced extra funding for children in care, including a 2,000 pound bursary for those who wanted to go to university. "Every child in our society must have access to the educational opportunities that have always been available to a small elite," he said.

The tone of Mr Johnson's speech was crafted deliberately to dampen speculation about his leadership ambitions and instead concentrated on policy, with a theme of using education as a tool to tackle inequality, poverty and injustice. Received politely rather than enthusiastically, it came amidst a heated row over health policy - a distracting backdrop for Mr Johnson.....

Mr Johnson's decision to halt GCSE maths coursework comes after two reviews by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the examination watchdog, which reported last November that there was widespread evidence of cheating. Maths was the subject that gave rise to the greatest concern. Two thirds of maths teachers questioned said that they suspected students had cheated by using the internet or asking parents or siblings for help. However, the authority also expressed concern about science coursework, which Mr Johnson will let continue, but under tighter supervision. The changes may take two years to introduce and enforce.

More here

European Court Rules German Home School Ban Okay

No first Amendment in Germany

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Sept. 18 ruled that German restrictions on religious-motivated home-schooling do not violate human rights, a decision that American religious rights groups fear could influence U.S. domestic policy.

A German family filed a complaint alleging that their freedoms were violated by a German law requiring attendance in public or state-sanctioned private schools. The family's religious beliefs are opposed to some topics addressed in state-sponsored education, including sex education and mythological fairy tales. Instead, the parents attempted to educate their children at home using a Christian syllabus developed by the "Philadelphia school," a Siegen, Germany, institution that is not recognized by the German government as a legitimate private school.

But the ECHR ruled that the objectives of a state-sanctioned education "cannot be equally met by home education" and that the law didn't violate the family's religious freedoms. The court wrote that it was in the "general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society." [Sounds straight out of Hegel (Karl Marx's inspiration) but Hegel and Marx were Germans, after all]

It ruled that the parents were allowed to educate their children from a religious perspective "after school and at weekends. Therefore, the parent's right to education in conformity with their religious convictions is not restricted in a disproportionate manner." Some American religious rights groups worry that the decision could influence U.S. policy on religious home schooling by encouraging liberal-minded judges who increasingly rely on international law instead of American law. "The decision by the European Court of Human Rights opens the door to continued prosecution," said Benjamin Bull, a lawyer with the America-based Alliance Defense Fund, "and should highlight to Americans the extreme dangers of allowing international law to be authoritative in our own court systems."



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 29, 2006


"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." -- Thomas Jefferson

So how is America's modern education system doing in this regard? Are our citizens enlightened enough to exercise the powers of our democracy? Do our colleges and universities provide their students the American history and constitutional understanding needed to make them strong and responsible citizens? A study released this week by the Intercollegiate Studies that the answers to both questions are no. The study concludes that "America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institutions." In a 60-question multiple-choice quiz ,"college seniors failed the civic literacy exam, with an average score of 53.2 percent, or F, on a traditional grading scale." And at many schools "seniors know less than freshmen about America's history, government, foreign affairs, and economy." (Disclosure: I am a member of the ISI's Civic Literacy Board, though I was not involved in preparing this survey.)

In the fall of 2005 ISI worked with the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy to ask "more than 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities across the country"--an average of about 140 each of freshman and seniors on each campus--what they knew about America's constitutional and governmental history and policies. The colleges ran from state institutions--the University of New Mexico and the University of California at Berkeley, for example, to Ivy League schools like Yale, Brown and Harvard, and less-well-known institutions like Grove City College and Appalachian State University.

Some colleges did better than others, but few of them added very much to students' knowledge of America's history or government. College freshmen averaged 51.7%, and the seniors averaged 53.2%, so there was a slight gain in knowledge. But the average senior scored only 58.5% on American history questions, slightly above 51% on government and America-and-the-world questions, and 50.5% on market economy questions. By every college's grading system those are failing grades. Among college seniors, less than half--47.9%--correctly concluded that "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal" was from the Declaration of Independence. More than half did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the governmental establishment of an official religion, and "55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end" (more than one quarter believing that it was the Civil War battle of Gettysburg that had ended the Revolution).

The questions about more recent matters produced more accurate answers. More than 80% of students could identify Franklin D. Roosevelt's programs as the New Deal, 79% knew that Brown v. Board of Education ordered an end to racial segregation, and 69% were aware that GDP was the best measure of output of our economy. But the responses to the survey's 60 questions reflect the students' poor understanding of America's history and our institutions.

As for the 50 colleges that participated in the program, the best-scoring students were not from the institutions one might expect. Rhodes College, Colorado State University and Calvin College were the top three, with senior students averaging between 9.5 and 11.6 percentage points higher than freshmen. At the other end of the scale were 16 schools that showed "negative learning"--that is, seniors scored lower than freshmen. Cornell, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins were the worst three, their seniors scoring between 3.3 and 7.3 percentage points worse than their freshmen. And on the negative list were some other very prestigious universities: Williams, Georgetown, Yale, Duke and Brown.

How did these educational failures come to pass? ISI concludes that "students don't learn what colleges don't teach." In other words, in colleges where students must take more courses in American history they do better on the test, outperforming schools where fewer courses were completed. Seniors at the top test-scoring colleges "took an average of 4.2 history and political science courses, while seniors at the two lowest-ranked colleges . . . took an average of 2.9 history and political science courses." Similarly, higher ranked colleges spent more time on homework, 20 hours a week at fourth-ranked Grove City College and 14 or 15 at low-ranked Georgetown and Berkeley.

Parental education and family discussions of current events contribute to better civic learning as well. The study found that "73 percent of seniors' families at Grove City and Harvard [ranking 4th and 25th, respectively] discussed current events or history on a weekly or daily basis," whereas only half did at low ranked Berkeley and Johns Hopkins.

So what should be done about our colleges' failure to offer sound educational courses on America's constitutional republic? Obviously they must improve the quantity and quality of their teaching, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute recommends building "centers of academic excellence on college and university campuses for the teaching of America's history and institutions."

That would help people become, as Jefferson put it, "enlightened enough to exercise their control" over governmental matters. Many constitutional policy issues are before the Congress, from adding a line-item veto to the president's powers (a proper constitutional question) to regulating how many dollars a candidate for federal office may spend in a campaign or guaranteeing everyone a right to a home (improper ones). Such issues must be understood by our citizens, for as Thomas Paine said after the original constitution was ratified by the states, "Government is only the creature of a Constitution. The Constitution of a country is not the act of its Government, but of the people constituting a Government."



Compulsory citizenship classes covering subjects such as the law, the electoral system, human rights and economics are unsatisfactory in a quarter of all secondary schools - often because teachers do not know what they are talking about, research suggests. A devastating report from the schools watchdog Ofsted has found that gaps in teachers' subject knowledge and an insecure grasp of what the lessons were supposed to achieve, led to dull or irrelevant classes that were counter-productive. The report called for more training of specialist teachers and gave warning that the subject citizenship often strayed into areas such as immigration or racial, religious and ethnic diversity, "where little knowledge can be a dangerous thing".

In one of the worst classes observed by inspectors, a lesson on the principles of decision-making in society drifted into a discussion of the bodily needs of people stranded on a desert island. A more common failing was for lessons on conflict resolution - which should include discussions of the role of Parliament, the UN, nongovernmental organisations, and pressure groups - to turn into discussions on friendships and relationships. Inspectors were also appalled by the lack of written work, which they attributed not to any failing by the children but to the low expectations of their teachers. "Very good and lively discussion can be followed by dismal written activities," the report said.

Citizenship education has been part of the national curriculum in secondary schools since 2002 and is compulsory for pupils aged 11 to 16, but there have long been concerns that teachers are ill-prepared to teach it. The report found that while a minority of schools teach it well, in most the teaching was found to be merely adequate. Provision in a quarter of schools was inadequate.

Although growing numbers of schools are entering pupils for a short GCSE course, the report concluded that too few schools taught citizenship as a subject in its own right, with many lumping it in with classes in other core subjects, such as history or geography. Some schools merely assumed that the good ethos and behaviour of their pupils meant they were "doing it already". Others were wary of engaging pupils in political discussions.

The findings raise important questions about the purpose of citizenship education, which was introduced amid concerns about political apathy among young people and fears that society faced a "moral crisis". These worries have since been overtaken by public and political concerns about immigration, diversity and multiculturalism, raising questions about what the focus of citizenship lessons should be. Sir Bernard Crick, one of the architects of citizenship teaching in schools, said the subject should educate children in how to be politically literate, using real issues.

The Department for Education said that 1,200 new citizenship teachers were being trained over the next two years. "Citizenship has had a positive impact on the curriculum in the majority of schools and we are confident it will continue to improve as it becomes more embedded," a spokesman said.

More here

Greenie propaganda unpopular in Australian schools

School geography aint what it used to be. Now it is mainly Greenie indoctrination

Teaching geography as part of social studies courses alongside subjects such as history, economics and citizenship has overseen a halving in the past decade of the number of students selecting the discipline in their senior years. Figures gathered by the Australian Geography Teachers Association show the extent of disenchantment with the subject among year 11 and 12 students brought up on a diet of Studies of Society and Environment. Even in NSW, the only state to have maintained geography as a stand-alone and mandatory subject from years 7 to 10, students are eschewing the subject.

Teachers and professional geographers fear high school geography curriculums are failing to attract students, particularly in years 9 and 10. Australian Geography Teachers Association president Nick Hutchinson and Sydney University lecturer Bill Pritchard argue for a re-energising of geography curriculums based on the principles of the International Charter for Geographic Education. Under the charter, students should study among other things locations and places, to enable them to set national and international events in a geographical framework, and the major biophysical systems, such as landforms, soils and climate.

The plethora of subjects from which students can choose and the rise in vocational education are cited by geography teachers as major reasons for the discipline's fall in favour. The proportion of HSC students sitting geography has fallen from 14 per cent in 1997 to 7.5 per cent last year. Victoria is reintroducing geography as a separate subject under its humanities umbrella this year after watching the number of students studying the subject fall from more than 4000 in 1992 to just over 2500 in 2004. In South Australia, the decline - from about 2200 in 1996 to 1500 in 2004 - coincided with a rise in the number studying tourism (837 to 1856).

Mr Hutchinson said some of the fundamentals of geographic learning had been lost, with school curriculums instead focused on solving problems. What should return to the classroom was the basics of physical geography, such things as how soils, glaciers, rivers and coasts were formed and their effects on humanity. "We're no longer teaching a fundamental understanding of people and place and how things work, how cities work, the basis of our post-industrial society," he said.

Queensland University of Technology associate professor John Lidstone believes students should be taught the "awe and wonder" of the natural environment, not just its problems. Dr Lidstone, the former secretary of the International Geographical Union's commission on education, said schools should teach geographic thinking by teaching the subject as patterns, such as patterns of happiness, or of wealth and poverty. Also key were enthusiastic and skilled geography teachers who would incite excitement in students about the subject.

The Institute of Australian Geographers has written to federal Education Minister Julie Bishop calling for a national review of the geography curriculum along the lines of the recent history summit. Ms Bishop yesterday said the push by geography teachers and professional geographers revealed the failure of state governments to develop appropriate curriculums.



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, September 28, 2006

Protect students from strip searches

Imagine an America in which school officials could strip search every student in their school based on the unsubstantiated tip that one of them might have a joint. Congress is voting on a bill Tuesday or Wednesday that could make these police state tactics more common. We can stop Congress in its tracks, though. Call your representative RIGHT NOW and tell them to vote against this dangerous bill. If you don't know who your House representative is, simply call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and give them your address. They'll connect you directly with your representative's office. When you get a staffer on the phone, politely say something like: "My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I'm calling to urge [the congressman/the congresswoman] to vote against the Student and Teacher Safety Act (HR 5295) when it comes to the floor this week. This bill would allow schools and police to invasively search large groups of innocent students based on the mere suspicion that just one of them has drugs. It strips Americans of their 4th Amendment rights. Please let me know how [the congressman/the congresswoman] votes."


The Student Teacher Safety Act of 2006 (HR 5295) is a sloppily written bill that would require any school receiving federal funding (essentially every public school) to adopt policies allowing teachers and school officials to conduct random, warrantless searches of every student, at any time, for essentially any reason they want. All they would have to do is say they suspect one of their students might be carrying drugs, and then they could conduct a wide scale search of every student in the building. These searches could be pat-downs, bag searches, or strip searches depending on how far school administrators wanted to go. Although courts would have the power to overturn policies that went "too far", it could take years - possibly decades - to safeguard the rights of students in every school.

Disconnecting searches from individualized suspicion is what led to the Goose Creek scandal in 2003. That South Carolina city sent a machine-gun toting SWAT team into a high school because the principal suspected one of the students might be selling marijuana. 150 terrified students were handcuffed and forced to the floor at gunpoint as drug dogs tore through their book bags. No drugs or guns were ever found.

Searching students without individualized suspicion that they have done something wrong fosters mistrust between adolescents and the adults they should feel comfortable turning to when they do have substance abuse problems. Treating groups of students as if they're guilty until proven innocent sends them the wrong message about what it means to be American citizens, and makes them less likely to seek help and guidance when they need it.

The legislation is supported by senior House Republicans and the National Education Association (NEA). It's opposed by the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the ACLU, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National School Boards Association. The bill wasn't voted on in committee and is being fast-tracked to the floor under a procedure that requires a 2/3 vote to pass. This means there's a chance we can defeat it on the House floor. The offending text of the legislation (which is not officially public yet) is as follows:

(a) In General- Each local educational agency shall have in effect throughout the jurisdiction of the agency policies that ensure that a search described in subsection (b) is deemed reasonable and permissible.

(b) Searches Covered- A search referred to in subsection (a) is a search by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any reasonable suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, of any minor student on the grounds of any public school, if the search is conducted to ensure that classrooms, school buildings, school property and students remain free from the threat of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics. The measures used to conduct any search must be reasonably related to the search's objectives, without being excessively intrusive in light of the student's age, sex, and the nature of the offense.

Source. (The bill has now passed the House so the battle moves to the Senate).


California's ambitious effort to better prepare high school students for college hasn't budged test scores yet, but educators say they believe it will eventually cut the percentage of freshmen who arrive at the state's public universities needing remedial classes. Although some studies suggest the closely watched program will work, test scores released Wednesday to California State University trustees show that only 25 percent of California high school students tested as juniors this spring scored ``proficient,'' or ready for college-level English. Just over 55 percent tested ready for college in math. Last year, 24 percent tested proficient in English and 56 percent tested proficient in math.

Yet three years into the biggest college-readiness effort in the nation, CSU educators say they are optimistic that the system's collaboration with California high schools ultimately will ensure that entering college freshmen can move through the university faster, with a higher percentage earning college degrees. The key is getting more school districts to participate. As it stands, about half the entering freshmen need remedial classes, which don't carry college credit.

In Nancy Galindo's English classroom at Yerba Buena High School in San Jose, the veteran teacher sees the initiative is paying off in reaching students before they leave high school. Galindo praises new teaching materials provided free by the CSU to help high school teachers get students ready for college-level reading and academic writing. They come in 14 different modules covering topics of interest to students -- from racial profiling and fast food to the Abercrombie & Fitch ``look.'' The curriculum was developed by college and high school teachers. ``For years and years, we have been teaching kids literature,'' Galindo said, ``but the colleges are telling us we need to focus on teaching kids to analyze expository pieces. Those are the skills they will need for every college course they take.'' Instead of having students analyze only literature, Galindo frequently asks them to read articles and write researched essays.

In the CSU Early Assessment Program, juniors can opt to take a test that will show whether they have college-level math and English skills. The exam is composed of 15 extra questions tacked onto the English and math parts of the California Standards Test, plus an essay. The statewide test is given in the spring. Juniors who test ``proficient'' are freed from having to take math and English placement exams if they attend a CSU campus. Those who don't still have a year in high school to acquire the needed skills. Working with high school English teachers, the university system developed a senior-year expository reading and writing course, the one Galindo is drawing on for her classes at Yerba Buena. It also is offering free math and English Web sites that students can use and special training for teachers.

Only a small number of districts is using the CSU English curriculum for a senior-year course, but CSU educators think that will grow now that the University of California has said the course meets its requirements for a fourth year of high school English. A small study found that students who had at least two of the English modules scored better than students who didn't, said Nancy Brynelson, co-director of CSU's Center for the Advancement of Reading. Another study, which focused on schools where a large number of teachers had received CSU training, showed that students at those schools showed greater growth than the statewide average. CSU will not achieve its goal of cutting the need for remediation to 10 percent of the freshman class by 2007, ``but we do expect to see movement anytime,'' said Beverly Young, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs. She was not able to provide the cost of running the Early Assessment Program, which includes coordinators at each CSU campus to work closely with local schools.

Young said CSU would like to see UC ``get on board'' and use the early assessment test for placement, and to have the test made mandatory for all juniors. One of the attractions of the CSU English curriculum is that teachers can customize it and use some of the modules, Galindo said. ``I like the fact I didn't have to spend a hundred million hours developing this material on my own,'' she said. Last year, 18 juniors at the school scored proficient in English on the early placement test; 17 were in Galindo's honors English class. The materials and instruction she has received by collaborating with the university ``definitely have been very beneficial to the students,'' she said. ``I have been changing what I teach and how I teach it based on what I hear from the colleges.''


The decline of grammar

Lynne Truss is a professional pedant. Her 2003 book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation sold 3 million copies worldwide. Truss has now followed up with a picture book for kids: Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why commas really do make a difference. But should such a book be necessary at all?

Truss is avowedly fed up with poor teaching - or non-teaching - of punctuation, grammar and spelling in English schools. Her message is as relevant here as it is in Britain. Grammar and punctuation need to be taught well. It cannot be absorbed through the act of reading alone. Truss, in an interview in July with The Times Education Supplement, pithily summed up her frustration: "It's similar to music. You don't just pick up how to play the piano. I feel kids are being let down. In a communications age, knowing how to write is a life skill."

Formal grammar is not a usual part of most English courses in Queensland schools. This has been the case since the 1970s when it went out of fashion and creativity at all costs was the preferred approach. The results have been ruinous. Although it is encouraging that Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford indicated in March that state schools would put increased emphasis on reading, grammar and spelling from prep to Year 9, this will take time.

The problem lies with the way teachers are prepared. In one sense, teachers who have gone through training courses since the 1970s are not to blame. They have not been taught grammar during their school days or in teacher training institutions. They enter the classroom not knowing any. It is, however, their unavoidable responsibility to learn how to teach the structure of language.

The consequences of virtually no grammar instruction for three decades are plain to see. In September 2005, a study of 660 Defence Force Academy students - who had achieved a tertiary entrance rank of 80 per cent or better to gain admission - found that students presented with a poor level of expressive technical accuracy. ADFA associate dean of education Stephen Yeomans noted at the time: "What I particularly notice is improper sentence construction, inappropriate or no punctuation, lack of conjunctives, misuse of apostrophes, poor spelling and so on."

In February, 124 businesses polled by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers highlighted poor communication skills in prospective employees. The lack of grammar featured strongly. "The focus is now on the instantaneous. It's all about speed, it's quick responses and short messages and abbreviations and shortcuts. That's leading to people not knowing how to spell a long word, or writing in text message-speak rather than traditional, grammatically correct English," president Bill Reeves observed.

This is mirrored in Queensland. In May, Commerce Queensland president Beatrice Booth drew attention to employer dissatisfaction with the quality of young employees' English skills. "There are no remedial programs for young people at that age, yet we have a plethora of young people who can't spell, comprehend what they're reading or write a proper sentence," Ms Booth said.

Identifying the problem is relatively easy. There is enough research showing that spelling, grammar and punctuation are in decline in Australian children. To attempt to stem this, Premier Peter Beattie recently announced that children who struggled with English skills would be given up to 15 hours, at a cost of $1000 each, of one-on-one instruction. The students concerned are in the bottom 10 per cent of Year 5 and 7 - about 11,200 children.

In February, the Productivity Commission's report into government services found that one in five Queensland Year 5 students was not a competent reader. Knowing about the extent of poor language skills is one thing, knowing how to successfully manage it is more problematical. One thing is clear. Grammar teaching has to undergo a major rethink. Any student who learns a language other than English learns grammar so why is English any different? Because grammar is not a central part of English teaching in a majority of classrooms, children who are not taught it are being disenfranchised in their communicative skills.

Then there is the quality of the graduates who want to become English teachers. This is not uniformly high. The uncomfortable reality is that there are English teachers who are poor spellers, know little grammar and are unclear about punctuation. How can the incompetent teach children well? How did they get there in the first place? Some teachers who are going to enter Queensland classrooms in the next four years are being drawn from the lowest bands of OP scores. Universities are accepting students to become teachers with OP scores as low as 19. When it is remembered that the OP score bottoms at 25, this is cause for concern. The reality is that there is a significant proportion of English teachers who were low-achieving students in the subjects they are now expected to teach.

There is a solution. English teachers without grammar knowledge need to undergo rigorous professional development. This could take place within schools and be led by teachers who are confident in grammar. Experienced English teachers with expertise in technical elements of expression could be redeployed as in-house grammar mentors. It would be their responsibility to pass or fail their colleagues and offer additional support. Teachers nearing retirement could meet this need. This depends on the assumption that grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence construction still matter. It is clear that for too long grammar has lost its glamour and many children do not know how their own language works. It is, clearly, low-skilled English teaching that is failing 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


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Big is not best in education

Comment by the guided Messel, an eminent Australian educator -- emeritus professor of physics at the University of Sydney

How many students do you have now?" This is the question that is inevitably asked as soon as one mentions university, with the stress on the word "many". The thrust of the question is usually obvious: only large numbers of students indicate success, while small numbers are equated with failure. The insinuation is that a university that does not have, and never will have, large numbers of students, 10 deputy vice-chancellors and 20 pro-vice-chancellors, lecture halls to hold 1000 disenchanted students and so on, must be a second-rate institution. The opposite is usually the case.

Now, I can understand the above reasoning on the part of torchbearers for egalitarianism, for mass education and its concomitant mass mediocrity. In Australia, Canada, the US and more recently in Britain, they have, over the past 20 years, had one victory after the other, bringing tertiary institutions down to a common low standard not witnessed before. They can feel proud that a first degree from many universities is becoming an almost meaningless piece of paper, that they have managed to dupe the parents and betray the scholars into believing that just going to any university and getting a degree will ensure them a meal ticket. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It matters a great deal which university you go to and the quality of the education provided by that institution.

It is accepted generally that mass education and quality are a contradiction in terms, especially in the tertiary field, and normally mass education and mediocrity appear to be natural bedfellows. Yet we see many educational practitioners arguing vehemently to the contrary, extolling the virtues of almost free mass tertiary education for all, with its lower standards and paying lip-service to excellence. Their motto seems to be equal opportunity for all to be mediocre rather than equal opportunity for all to strive for excellence.

My remarks are based on 54 years' experience in university education in Australia. During this period there have been major transformations in secondary and tertiary education which, unfortunately, have close counterparts in Canada, Britain and in an increasing number of European countries. Thus my remarks often apply with equal force to these countries, which have determined that they have the sovereign right to make similar mistakes to Australia. In all instances we are viewing an essentially nationalised, struggling tertiary education sector as it passes from an elitist system to a system of mass education and, finally, a universal one.

It is evident that tertiary education is undergoing dramatic changes worldwide. One should not be surprised by this. The world is in the midst of an information technology revolution, which is proving to be the most dramatic revolution in its history. Governments appear bewildered and at a loss as to how to respond in the information age. One response has been to encourage secondary and tertiary education for all. This has placed enormous pressure upon educational institutions to provide university entrance for all qualified secondary school students, which almost automatically ensured a significant decrease in standards, while increasing dramatically the number of students completing secondary education. This, too, was often achieved at the expense of quality.

Australia must seriously question whether it should continue to spend a couple of thousand million dollars a year on a school system which appears to be turning out an ever increasing number of undisciplined, irresponsible, greedy, often near-illiterate, lawless individuals who don't give a tinker's curse for the country, their mates or anyone else.

It appears that Australia is on the road to turning its school system into poor-quality child minding as both parents, in thousands of households, have been forced to take up jobs in order to eke out an existence. One outcome is that universities now often have to teach what was formerly taught at the senior school level. The value of a bachelor's degree from many institutions has been devalued and often fails to impress employers. Students who wish to get ahead now require a higher degree or several degrees or to go on to a second university.

Education must be deregulated and strong diversity among institutions encouraged. Students must be provided with a wide choice and at varying levels. As an opener, cut the management staff of universities by 50 per cent or more. This would slow - but not stop - the paper war which is going on at present. It should also put an end to all this nonsense about total quality management, quality assessment and various other time-wasting "processes". Let us get back to what universities are best at doing, namely teaching and research.


Education reform: A clarion call for the sake of Australia's kids

There is a sleeping issue at the next election for a political party with intellectual courage-the corruption of the social sciences curriculum in our schools. The article published in The Weekend Australian by Professor Ken Wiltshire from the University of Queensland (In defence of the true values of learning) should become a clarion call for vigorous intervention by the national government on behalf of the interests of parents and children.

There is a golden lesson from the History Summit held in Canberra several weeks ago-once the truth of what is happening in our schools is documented and tabled on the bar of public opinion, the reform is irresistible. There is no substitute for transparency. Most state governments surrendered this responsibility many years ago. In some cases this retreat assumes epic proportions. As Wiltshire says, Western Australia's experiment in outcomes-based education has failed and Queensland has "absolutely no external assessment in the entire preparatory year to Year 12 spectrum". This means they have "no way of knowing what standards their schools are achieving".

The decision from the History Summit was that history should be re-established in schools as a core academic discipline. This is anathema to progressivist education philosophy and the decision will be fought by the progressive lobby. Yet history should be the start not the end of this cultural conflict, pivotal to the way children are taught. Addressing the impact of the critical literacy movement in the English curriculum, Wiltshire says: "Key aspects of their mantra include deconstructing texts; no longer considering texts to be timeless, universal or unbiased; focusing on the beliefs and values of the composer; and working for social equity and change".

In his assessment of what this movement is providing Australian school students, Wiltshire says: "There is not much of a positive nature in this line-up: it is at best negative and at worst nihilistic. School is for basics and knowledge, certainly accompanied by critical thinking, but not in a milieu where all is relative and there are no absolutes for young people who do not have the intellectual maturity to cope with the somewhat morbid rigour of constant criticism and questioning of motives. If you go on deconstructing for long enough you will become a marshmallow or a jelly".

At heart, critical literacy theory is an ideological construct. It is politics disguised as education. It is rationalised as assisting students to become "active participants in a democratic society". The truth about the critical literacy agenda was exposed 18 months ago when the President of the NSW English Teachers Association, Wayne Sawyer, said the Howard Government's 2004 election win showed that teachers were failing in their mission. The issue here is an ideological disposition that has no place in the schools (nor does any conservative agenda with the same rigidity). The reality is that critical literacy theory survives in the English curriculum only because it is not subject to the transparent analysis valued by a democratic society.

Over the past several years the Federal Government has proposed a series of curriculum changes. It needs to redouble those efforts and propose new mechanisms to review and reform school curriculum. The State Governments are the guilty parties and they know this. The discredited defence mechanisms that this is about Canberra's interference or John Howard trying to impose his own values just won't wash anymore. This is about our kids and it should be treated with urgency and on merit.



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, September 26, 2006


College students returning to campus find a familiar scene: closet-size dorm rooms, frat parties, and questionable food in the school cafeteria. But on some campuses something is missing this year: men’s sports teams. Students returning to Rutgers University will find that over the summer the university cut six teams: men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, men’s and women’s fencing, men’s swimming and men’s tennis. Why did men’s athletics take the brunt of what university officials characterize as a necessary cost-cutting exercise? Title IX.

An Associated Press article explained, “Rutgers’ commitment to Title IX guidelines forced it to eliminate more men’s programs. The current female-to-male ratio at the university is 51 to 49 percent, [Rutgers athletic director, Robert] Mulcahy said, adding that the opportunities for women in sports must be within 2 percent of that ratio to comply with Title IX. ‘That means almost all the cuts have to be in men's programs.’”

Title IX was intended to prevent sex discrimination on college campuses, including in athletics. But this well-intentioned law has become a death sentence for many male teams. Colleges and universities see Title IX as a numbers game: The surefire way to avoid costly lawsuits is to have the portion of female athletes mirror female enrollment. Since college women outnumber men, many universities need more female than male athletes. The problem, of course, is that women generally aren’t as interested in sports as men are. This obvious, but somehow controversial, fact is seen in participation in recreational leagues, which are open to all comers, but are predominately male. Men also watch more sports and expressed a greater interest in athletic participation.

Unfortunately, common sense doesn’t cut it for litigation-fearing universities. Last year, in an attempt to stop schools from sacrificing men’s teams at Title IX’s altar, the Department of Education provided guidance on how universities can avoid the numbers game and still comply with Title IX: A thorough survey of student interest can be used to demonstrate that universities are meeting the demand from would-be women athletes. Gender warriors protested the potential use of surveys. They like the numbers game and don’t care about its consequences for male athletes. Universities—perhaps reticent to provoke the ire of the radical feminists that champion Title IX—have hesitated to use surveys and instead try to make the numbers add up.

Universities have two potential strategies: they can try to increase female participation or reduce the number of male athletes. When faced with a tight budget or when unable to turn out more female athletes, universities often eliminate male teams. Rutgers is just the most recent example. Last year, Fresno State eliminated men’s wrestling despite a pledge from alumni to completely fund the team. UCLA cut men’s swimming and gymnastics, teams which had produced more U.S. Olympians in their respective sports than any other school in the country. In recent years, more than ninety universities have eliminated men’s track and field, and more than twenty have cancelled wrestling.

Do men really have such an advantage on campus to justify so many cuts to their programming? A sober review of our educational system reveals that men are struggling. Athletics is one of the few areas in which men are more engaged.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly half of high school senior boys reported participating in an athletic team compared to one in three girls. But twice as many girls contributed to their school’s newspaper or yearbook. Nineteen percent of girls compared to 12 percent of boys participated in an academic club. Thirteen percent of girls compared to 8 percent of boys took part in student council. Nearly one third of senior girls participated in a play or musical performance compared to just two percent of boys.

High school girls are more likely than boys to like school, find their work meaningful, and believe their studies will be useful later in life. Not surprisingly, girls are less likely to drop out and more likely to go to college. As of this fall, women account for 57 percent of undergraduate students.

Canceling another five male sports team won’t make these statistics about men any worse. But certainly it’s a step in the wrong direction, and another sign that university officials are more interested in pacifying the gender police than making higher education appealing to young men


Britain. 'Cool Maths': The sum of all fears

Schoolchildren will never learn to love abstract subjects like maths if teachers are afraid to challenge them

One of the central themes in modern education debates is how to motivate pupils. How do we make learning maths, science, history or English an interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience for pupils? It is widely believed that if we fail to convince pupils that studying a particular subject is both relevant to their personal experience and enjoyable they will never learn it properly. This point was emphasised by Charles Clarke three years and two education secretaries ago: `Enjoyment is the birthright of every child. Children learn better when they are excited and engaged ... When there is joy in what they are doing, they learn to love learning.'

One of the subjects that most worries educationalists and policy makers is mathematics. Being the most abstract subject in the curriculum, maths is almost universally considered a hard subject, which is difficult to make relevant to pupils' lives. Minister for Higher Education Bill Rammell notes that `mathematics is too often seen as difficult or boring' and `we have a curriculum that all too often fails to excite and motivate learners'. Educationalist Adrian Smith, author in 2004 of a major inquiry into the state of post-14 mathematics, Making Mathematics Count, states in his report that there has long `been considerable concern about many young people's perception of mathematics as being "boring and irrelevant" and "too difficult", compared with other subjects'.

For the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), maths is worse than boring. It must be truly terrifying, as `the best teachers' build confidence by `enabling [students] to talk through misconceptions in a non-threatening way'. Ofsted cites as an example of a good lesson one where `the teacher valued and used all answers from students, whether correct or not'. As a result, the students were `highly motivated'. Ofsted wants to see lessons with pace, like stand-up comedy, in order to ensure the full attention of the audience. Yet in 2005 it criticised maths teachers for not slowing down the pace of the lesson when necessary: `In many of the less effective lessons, the teaching moves on before pupils have understood the concept; the pressure to cover new content as quickly as possible results in shallow coverage and lack of depth in learning.' Ofsted also implies that there must be a trade off between serious learning and entertainment: `A stimulating session with hairdressing students struck just the right balance between engaging the learners and keeping their mathematics moving forward.' But why should we strike a balance between engaging the learners and learning maths? It seems that we can only sell learning in an underhand way, as something else.

In June 2006, various newspapers reported as `cool maths' a 4 million pound initiative by the secretary of state for education Alan Johnson aimed at `giving teachers new and innovative ways to engage with pupils at Key Stage 3'. Johnson explained that the programme `will make learning engaging and fascinating [as] the problems will be based around things which appeal to pupils, such as fashion, football, or the Olympics'. But Johnson gave away his real views on serious learning when he stated that `the questions will be open, so that the answers will be found through discussion, activity and ingenuity, rather than sitting in a dark room with a wet towel around the head'. Like a self-conscious teenager, Mr Johnson seems so desperate to look cool that he doesn't hesitate to declare his disgust for swots.

However, the prize for coolest educators must go to the chemistry lecturers at Leicester University, who dressed up as Harry Potter characters to motivate primary school children to study their academic discipline. According to the BBC, `Dr Jonny Woodward is putting on a "Gryffindor gown" to become Harry while Dr Paul Jenkins dresses up as the headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, and Mrs Tracy McGhie is transfigured into Professor Minerva McGonagall'.

We should be more honest and tell children what they already know: that maths has very little to do with fashion, football and the Olympics; that chemistry has nothing to do with Harry Potter. Middle-aged educators who try to jump on to every fashionable bandwagon like a bunch of groupies don't even look cool, never mind motivate pupils to study.

The real problem, then, is not that modern pupils are in any way different from previous generations. The problem is the era these children have been born into. Adults no longer believe that education is a worthwhile thing in its own right. It must always be made `relevant'. They have so little faith in pupils that they believe that children are now incapable of grasping abstract concepts, never mind developing a love of books. Learning necessarily involves hard work and individual effort. Teachers are unlikely to convince children that learning a school subject is worth the effort if we believe so little in our discipline and in our pupils' intelligence.


Fundamentalist Christian schools under attack in Australia

Children at taxpayer-funded schools run by the Exclusive Brethren sect are brainwashed and their basic texts are crudely censored, say former teachers. Several teachers have told The Australian they left Brethren schools in disgust at "excessive control" over what children were allowed to read and study. And they said they were paid $10,000 a year less than teachers at comparable non-government schools because the sect did not allow enterprise bargaining.

The claims have prompted calls from teachers, unions and politicians for tighter conditions on taxpayer funding for Brethren schools, which receive $20.7 million a year in federal money.

A fundamentalist Christian sect, the Exclusive Brethren has created controversy in Australia and abroad for smear campaigns against liberal-minded politicians. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark accused the sect of hiring a private detective to gather dirt on her and husband Peter Davis, who was pictured in a magazine being kissed by a "mystery man", who turned out to be a family friend.

The sect has 31 schools in Australia - in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - teaching 3823 children until the end of high school. As the Brethren do not believe in tertiary education, they must hire non-members of the sect to teach in their schools. A teacher who recently left one of the sect's three Oakwood schools in Tasmania said he did so in disgust at the "complete control" over the children and their education imposed by the Brethren. "I didn't want to contribute to a system in which the control over the children was so complete," the teacher said. "The children are told what jobs they will do and who they will marry. They were not being equipped to live in the outside world. The Brethren were cutting off the children's pathways." Most modern novels were banned, pages were removed even from permitted 19th-century works and entire chapters were censored from science books. "One science book had all the chapters on reproduction cut out," one teacher said. "Most modern texts were banned."

Teachers reported positives, such as excellent reading skills among the children and an absence of violent or abusive behaviour, but said pupils could be difficult to discipline because they did not believe they needed to heed the word of outsiders.

John Saunders, chief executive of the Brethren's Hobart campus of Oakwood School, rejected the criticisms. "'Our school community, including non-Brethren staff and teachers, has an understanding, respect and a commitment to abide by the school ethos," he said. "This ethos upholds scriptural principles, including the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Our school is a Christian fundamentalist school with a secular curriculum. Many modern-day novels are rejected on the basis they are contrary to the truth of scripture. The parents have set up the Oakwood school to protect their children from the rapid moral decline in today's society."

Independent Education Union federal secretary Lynne Rolley questioned taxpayer funding of Brethren schools, saying it was unfair to other non-government schools with full market pay rates.



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, September 25, 2006


Bright pupils are being marked down in their A-level exams for giving "too sophisticated" answers, jeopardising their chances of winning places at their chosen universities. Schools complain that candidates who display originality are being let down by inflexible marking schemes and poorly qualified examiners. In one case a state grammar school was so angry when one of its pupils was given a D grade that it asked Cambridge, where he had an offer of a place, to re-mark the paper. The university judged that it should have been at least two grades higher and awarded him a place.

In another case a teacher at an independent school and a former examiner complained when a pupil was marked down to a D after presenting a carefully argued case that the Vietnam war could be partly explained by decolonisation. The exam board claimed the pupil, who was holding an offer from Oxford that he lost as a result, gave "too much context". When he answered a similar question in a similar way in a re-take, he got an A grade.

The cases underline a growing dissatisfaction among schools that "tick-box" marking schemes are failing to give credit to exceptional work. The number of A-level papers where schools have sought re-marks has risen by 20% in two years. In 2003, schools requested re-marks on 36,000 A-level papers because they judged the grades "unfairly low". By 2005 it had risen to 43,500, with 5,273 resulting in higher grades. At GCSE, re-marks have increased by more than half to 55,400, of which 10,848 were upgraded. Eton College returned 500 A-level papers last year. Exam boards gave higher marks to 299, 113 of them enough to raise grades.

John Bald, an education consultant, said: "Boards are trying to get a grip on the expansion in numbers of pupils getting top grades by using rigid mark systems that do not take account of exceptional intellectual ability."

Adam Bracey, then a pupil at Maidstone grammar in Kent, was awarded a D in one paper, dropping him from an overall A to B in history. He needed three As to take up his offer from Cambridge. "I was devastated," said Bracey, "some of my friends had got into university without the grades they had been asked for, but Cambridge was insistent." The Edexcel board refused to accept the D grade had been mismarked. Neil Turrell, his headmaster, sent the script to Cambridge after two staff concluded the grade was too low. Bracey, 20, got the place after a history don at Homerton College, where he is studying, agreed it was worth a higher grade. Garth Collard, a former history teacher who had been part of the team inspecting Maidstone grammar for Ofsted, also read Bracey's returned script. "I was shocked at the quality of the marking," he said. "The mark scheme was very mechanistic . . . there was no recognition this was a high calibre answer."

Other schools are concerned boards are not employing enough high-quality markers. This year Portsmouth grammar had a number of AS-level papers in English upgraded, including one from D to A. It comes as more than 100 independent schools are planning to ditch A-levels in favour a tougher qualification that places less emphasis on "mechanistic" course work and unlimited resits of exams.

Sophie Garrett, 18, who took A-levels this summer at Tormead, an independent girls' school in Guildford, Surrey, had her music coursework regraded from unclassified to B. Her mother Valerie said: "The original mark meant she failed to get an A. It didn't matter for her place at Surrey University, but she had put hours and hours into it."

Exam boards said their marking schemes did not hold back brighter students. Edexcel said: "Candidates will always receive a fair mark for their work. All examiners must meet certain criteria. Markers are trained and tested to ensure they understand and follow the mark scheme."



By Joseph Farah

It's unusual for me to devote an entire column to an otherwise obscure assistant professor with a less-than distinguished writing career - let alone a second column. But Mel Seesholtz of Penn State University, the subject of my musings Wednesday, has responded in a letter to the editor suggesting I ignored the substance of his argument in favor of "bias free" education and dwelled only on his thinly veiled call for my death, along with James Dobson's. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that I should concern myself with the substance of an argument being made by a nutcase calling for my head. Seesholtz's argument is and was, for me, sort of beside the point.

He employs all of the newspeak of the "GLBT community" to defend an indefensible piece of legislation in California audaciously called "the Bias Free Curriculum Act." Vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the law would have mandated sexual indoctrination of kids from kindergarten on up - in private schools as well as public, or, as Seesholtz himself describes the bill, it "would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in textbooks, classroom materials and school-sponsored activities."

Give me a break. This is not as education. This is homosexual reproduction. Since homosexuals don't reproduce naturally, they need to recruit - not to be their children, mind you, but to be their prey. That's why they care so much about what happens in schools - where they obviously have few of their own children. But I digress.

What I really wanted to deal with is the notion that there can be such a thing as "bias free curriculum." The very idea is preposterous, and even someone as steeped in the moral confusion of academia as Seesholtz should understand that. Surely, Seesholtz, who has turned the vilification of Christians and the promotion of same-sex marriage into something of a cottage industry, does not favor the California law because he thinks it is about being free of bias. If he had an ounce of honesty in his spirit, he would admit he favors the law because it promotes his pro-homosexual, anti-Christian agenda.

Think about this: Is there any such thing as "bias-free education"? Can there be any such thing? Would it be possible? If possible, would it be a worthy goal? I would say no. And, I've got to believe any thinking person would agree. Values are an inherent part of education. You have to teach someone's values. They can be good values or bad values. But they are values nevertheless. They could be my values or they could be values of California Sen. Sheila Kuehl - Zelda, as she was once known on the "Dobie Gillis" show. There is no such thing as an education absent values. It's just a question of whose values will be taught.

It's scary that California came as close as it did to imposing by force the values of the Mel Seesholtzes of the world on innocent little schoolchildren who have no need to hear about what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedrooms, in the bathhouses, in the public restrooms and up on Brokeback Mountain. Let's be honest; there's only one reason to teach kindergarteners about sexual perversion - and that is to raise a new generation of pliable sexual victims of that perversion.

You can couch this immorality in creative public-relations language. You can put any shade of lipstick on that pig you choose. But, at the end of the day, you know what is in the heart, minds and souls of those pushing their sick agenda down the throats of the innocent little schoolchildren.

At Penn State University, they teach the values of Mel Seesholtz, the Ward Churchill of the pro-perversion, anti-Christian crowd. The fact that one so intolerant presses so hard for California's so-called "Bias Free Curriculum Act" strongly suggests Schwarzenegger made the right call when he terminated the bill with extreme prejudice.


Leftist State governments failing Australia's schools

State Labor governments have ceded control of curriculum to individual schools and have failed to monitor the quality of teaching because they are captives of the teachers' unions. In a vigorous attack on the state of the nation's education system, Australia's representative on the executive of the UN education body UNESCO, Kenneth Wiltshire, said the states had relinquished any effective system of measuring the standard of what is taught in schools and the performance of teachers.

Professor Wiltshire, the architect of the Queensland school curriculum under the Goss government, said school inspectors were abolished long ago but an alternative way of monitoring schools had not been introduced. "Current Labor state governments are usually under the influence of the teachers' unions so it is no wonder that teachers remain one of the very few professions who do not have external reviews," he said. He said Western Australia "with its failed experiment on outcomes-based education, and Queensland, with absolutely no external assessment in the entire P-12 spectrum, have no real way of knowing what standards their schools are achieving".

Professor Wiltshire also supported The Weekend Australian's stance against teaching school students critical literacy in English, saying deconstruction belonged at honours level in university. "If you go on deconstructing for long enough you will become a marshmallow or a jelly," he said. "School is for basics and knowledge." He said Shakespeare was studied by "just about every other Western country and many eastern ones as well, despite the claims of the critical literacy movement that he goes in and out of fashion and is 'censored' by curriculum authorities". "If Shakespeare is too difficult for most students in an English subject, would we perhaps create an alternative subject so students could study the comedies in the 'easier' subject and the tragedies in another," he writes in an article in The Weekend Australian today. "Should the Diaries of Anne Frank be replaced with the Emails of Tom Cruise or the Text Messages of Shane Warne?"

Professor Wiltshire said school curriculums failed to detail the key knowledge students should learn, instead listing competencies called outcomes. This was largely responsible for the exodus of students out of government schools into the independent system. "Our school curriculums have strayed far from being knowledge-based," he said. "Indeed, 'knowledge' has been replaced by 'information'. It is little wonder that the Howard Government's attempted reforms of schooling have gained traction with the Australian public."

While state governments could not agree on a common school leaving certificate - largely because of a squabble "over which minister's signature would appear on the certificate" - the federal Government was talking about greater uniformity, improved accountability and comparing standards.

Professor Wiltshire is the JD Story professor of public administration at the University of Queensland. He recently completed a term as special adviser to the Australian National Training Authority and is a former chairman of the Tertiary Entrance Procedures Authority.

The Weekend Australian's support for neutral, apolitical teaching of English is criticised in the current journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, by high school English teacher David Freesmith. He accuses the newspaper of mounting a "political and ideological" attack on critical literacy and of failing to properly understand it. Mr Freesmith holds a masters in teaching, and has been a teacher for five years, all at Adelaide's Prince Alfred College, where he teaches English in years 8-10, English as a Second Language, French and the International Baccalaureat subject Theory of Knowledge. In his article, Mr Freesmith argues that teaching reading and writing is "inevitably ideological at some level and (has) significant political implications". He refers to writers who argue that "a skills approach to literacy can 'generate failure' among minority and working-class students", can "entrench prejudices" and so is inherently political. He also says formulating a canon of valued literature that includes Shakespeare and Dickens "or any other reading list, is ... an ideological act". "The history of English curricula suggests that the notion of a permanent English canon having been taught across generations is dubious," he says. "For example, Shakespeare, the very centrepiece of the canon, has spent considerable periods of time out of favour, and has even, at times, been heavily censored by curriculum writers. "The notion of the canon is in fact a modern invention, tied to the modern cultural function of defining the nation. Advocacy of the canon in the curriculum may therefore be seen to be tied ... to a nationalistic ideology."

But Professor Wiltshire said the critical literacy movement was "at best negative and at worst nihilistic". "This sort of thinking is a recipe for laziness, indifference and unwillingness to identify standards and common values," he said. "It inevitably leads to a dumbing down of curriculum and therefore the students themselves ... School is for basics and knowledge, certainly accompanied by critical thinking but not in a milieu where all is relative and there are no absolutes."

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday the states and territories should listen to the experts and develop "more soundly based" curriculums. She said literacy and numeracy tests revealed an alarming number of students completed their schooling without strong skills in these areas. "There's a need for a greater focus on the fundamentals of subjects like English before students can be expected to deal with more advanced concepts," she said.

Professor Wiltshire said it was not only governments but also the community, including parents and industry, that decided curriculum and the challenge ahead was to define the core knowledge all students should learn. "That's the core curriculum, that's what we should agree upon as core curriculum, certainly the basis of knowledge, what a person needs to function in society, to be a citizen," he said.



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, September 24, 2006

No Teacher Left Behind

A new report shows American educators to be woefully unqualified

Schools of education have gotten bad grades before. Yet there are some truly shocking statistics about teacher training in this week's report from the Education Schools Project. According to "Educating School Teachers," three-quarters of the country's 1,206 university-level schools of education don't have the capacity to produce excellent teachers. More than half of teachers are educated in programs with the lowest admission standards (often accepting 100% of applicants) and with "the least accomplished professors." When school principals were asked to rate the skills and preparedness of new teachers, only 40% on average thought education schools were doing even a moderately good job.

The Education Schools Project was begun in 2001, with foundation funding, to analyze how America trains its educators and to offer constructive criticism. Its report card this week is significant for two reasons. First, it is based on four years of broad and methodical research, including surveys of school principals and of the deans, faculty members and graduates of education schools. In addition, researchers studied programs and practices at 28 institutions. No matter how many establishment feathers get ruffled by the results of these inquiries, miffed educators can't easily brush off the basic findings: There are glaring flaws and gaps in our teacher-training system.

The study also comes at a uniquely challenging moment in American education. The final report was written by ESP director Arthur Levine, a former president of Columbia's Teacher's College. Mr. Levine notes that we're currently facing a national shortage of nearly 200,000 teachers--at the same time that, "to compete in a global marketplace and sustain a democratic society, the United States requires the most educated population in history." Society now demands that teaching success be measured no longer by what children have studied but by what they have actually learned. (A copy of "Educating Teachers" is at

The report's most stunning revelation--to outsiders at least--is that nobody knows what makes a good teacher today. Mr. Levine compares the training universe to "Dodge City." There is an "unruly" mix of approaches, chiefly because there is no consensus on how long teachers should study, for instance, or whether they should concentrate on teaching theory or mastering subject matter. Wide variations in curricula, and fads--like the one that produced the now-discredited "fuzzy math"--make things worse. Compare such chaos with the training for professions such as law or medicine, where, Mr. Levine reminds us, nobody is unleashed on the public without meeting a universally acknowledged requisite body of knowledge and set of skills.

Mr. Levine also outlines many recommendations. Some seem obvious: more in-classroom training, for instance. Some are perennial: The report notes that one way to attract the best and the brightest to teaching would be to pay them the same salaries as other professionals--although it more realistically mentions special scholarships and merit pay as alternative incentives. The report also reveals that many failing teacher programs operate as "cash cows" for universities, which encourage their education departments to admit (and graduate) almost anybody for the sake of tuition dollars. It suggests closing some of these schools and directing students toward more rigorous academic institutions. Some critics in the education establishment already have labeled that idea "elitist," saying that it would deprive many people of a chance to become teachers.

Yet there's one idea that seems more important and urgent than the others. That is the recommendation that all states begin collecting information about how much their schoolchildren have learned from kindergarten through high school so it can be correlated with information about how their teachers were trained. Until this fundamental question is explored and answered--what kind of training produces teachers who get the best results from their children--we'll be holding classes in the dark.



One of the biggest concerns of parents for the new school year is this: What kind of kids are in my child's classroom? The answer to this question is particularly difficult for parents of average students, the most forgotten group today.

All parents want their children to be with the nice kids, the bright and well-behaved types who will pull classes up, rather than with kids who will drag them down. In big, economically and ethnically diverse high schools such as mine, T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va., where there is enormous variation in academic abilities, average kids run the risk of ending up in one of two tracks: in classes full of students with weak skills and lousy attitudes or in so-called advanced courses where they find themselves in over their heads.

A major part of the problem is the anti-tracking movement, which began in the mid-1980s. Since then, tracking has become to education what abortion and gay marriage are to politics - an incendiary topic with fanatics on both sides. So-called progressive teachers and administrators, whose mantra is "every child can learn," want to do away with tracking.

Good teachers, and fancy sounding course labels such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, are supposed to raise the level of all students no matter how varied their skills or abilities. In truth, social engineering - mixing of races and ethnic groups in classes - is what many administrators really prize, while giving lip service to academic rigor.

On the other end of the tracking wars are fanatical parents - usually white, in my experience - who think their kids are geniuses, who must be protected from less talented kids and who are entitled to every advantage and resource the school system has to offer. Parents at a school for gifted children on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, for example, have been outraged by Chancellor Joel Klein's decision to have part of their school share facilities with a new charter school intended to help poor kids. They have filed a lawsuit.

T.C. Williams has seen its share of the tracking wars. In the 1970s there were five "tracks" in English, resulting in a type of de facto segregation with the top tracks virtually all white and the lower tracks virtually all black. But while the five-track system was grossly unfair to low-income minority students who populated the lower tracks, today's two-track system shortchanges average students, who have the choice between regular classes, many of which are in fact remedial, or Advanced Placement classes, which they can't handle.

The reasons the needs of average kids are ignored are many. In the first place, most parents are not going to be too eager to acknowledge that they have an average kid. I have heard teachers in neighboring Fairfax County, Va., joke that every middle-class white kid is labeled either gifted and talented or learning disabled. The LD label goes over with parents because it implies that the kid is brighter than his or her work shows.

School systems ignore the average kids for somewhat the same reason: They don't help confer status on the school system. Schools have become so busy worrying about getting their worst students to pass state exams that they have let the average kid who can easily pass those dumbed-down exams fall through the cracks. Raising the test scores of minority students from low-income families is the surest way for administrators to get recognition and win promotions.

What is happening more and more around the country is that average students are being pushed into Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to make schools appear as though they have high standards. In a sense, average kids have become a pawn of school boards and administrators who want to get good PR for boosting the numbers in supposedly rigorous courses. Administrators here in Northern Virginia boast about the numbers of kids taking AP courses but don't talk much about students' test scores.

What is needed is a middle track for average students - call it college-bound or some other name that will please parents. The fact is that every child can learn, but every child cannot learn as fast as, or learn as much as, every other child. Given the present obsession with raising the test scores of the weakest students, average kids will not get on the radar screens of schools until their parents band together to bring pressure - the same way that parents of the learning disabled and gifted kids have. Until that happens, average students will continue to get a below-average education.



Not even if you spend millions on them

Ten years after the Ridings gained national infamy as "the school from hell", it is once more in serious trouble. The West Yorkshire secondary hit the headlines in 1996 - a year after it was formed by merging two schools - when staff threatened to strike unless 60 pupils were disciplined or expelled. A supply teacher had allegedly been groped and a brick was said to have been thrown at the new head teacher, who resigned.

By 1997, the school was the pet project of the Labour Government. Anna White was appointed head teacher in 1997. The school received o6 million, became the target of various initiatives, had 14 visits from inspectors in two years and a succession of ministers praised its remarkable turnaround.

By October 1998, the Ridings, where 42 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals and 45 per cent have special educational needs, was taken off the list of failing schools. Ofsted praised its "remarkable transformation". Mrs White was appointed a CBE in 2000. Tony Blair visited the next year during the general election campaign. By 2003, 25 per cent of pupils gained five or more A*-C GCSE grades, up from 3 per cent in 1998. But within a year, the GCSE pass rate had fallen to 14 per cent. Mrs White left last year to become an educational consultant.

Ofsted paid a sudden visit last autumn, shortly after a new head teacher had been appointed. The report was damning. The Ridings was given a "notice to improve" and warned that special measures could follow. The school had only recently ended its participation in yet another Labour initiative, the three-year Octet programme under which eight schools joined a research project "to find new and innovative ways to raise standards" in "exceptionally challenging circumstances".



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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