Saturday, October 07, 2006


The state's community college system, which has long positioned itself as a port of entry for unconventional students, is bracing for an enrollment boom, and building a stronger academic safety net of tutoring and counseling services for those students. State researchers say community colleges will serve more than 2.1 million students in California by 2014, a 27 percent increase from today. The surge is not from more kids coming out of high school -- that population is expected to remain flat over the next decade. Instead, the two-year colleges are ramping up for what's become known as the "hidden tidal wave" of students who find that they are simply not ready for the work force.

"How can you be a nurse if you can't compute a dose? In today's world, you can't be a welder if you can't read a safety manual," said George Caplan, president of the statewide community college board. "You don't need political science, you don't need history or economics. But you have to be able to read analytically; you have to write cogently."

A proposed systemwide budget for the 2007-2008 school year includes an extra $47 million to hire more tutors and counselors to better guide students through a traditionally hands-off college system. The Legislature will be asked to sign off on the plan next year. Education leaders involved in the effort say it's a "cultural awakening" to the fact that many community college students are having trouble with college-level classes and need help before transferring to a California State University or University of California campus. Most students have to take remedial classes when they get to community college, according to statewide figures. Of incoming students, only about 12 percent make it into math classes rigorous enough for the state university systems to accept as transfer credit. It's slightly better for English -- 25 percent.

"We're not looking to blame the high school; we're not looking to blame the students; we're looking to the job at hand," said Laura Hope, an English professor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga. Hope coordinates the Southern California college's "success centers," or tutoring clinics that are required attendance in some courses -- and a model program for the state community college system. Since the centers opened in 1999, transfer rates from Chaffey to four-year colleges have jumped to 25 percent from 7 percent, she said. "It was never that those students were incapable of the work," she said. "We just weren't helping them achieve the skills to help them move through the system."

Community colleges accept anyone over 18, with a high school diploma or not. It's too early to tell whether California's new exit exam for high school seniors is sending droves of high schoolers without diplomas to community colleges. The Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, the state's second-largest with 76,000 students, has counted only 66 first-time college students this fall who enrolled without a high school diploma. That's only 11 more students than last year, before the exit exam was implemented. The exit exam requires students to meet eighth-grade-level math and algebra and 10th-grade-level English. Students need to get a little over half of the questions right on the test to pass it, which has community college leaders stressing that even those who pass may not be college-ready.

More here

Payoff for phonics revival in England

Primary school children today are 12 to 18 months ahead in spelling compared with children of the same age 30 years ago, new research suggests. In tests completed by 4,000 children last year, pupils of all ages at primary school did better than their peers who took the same test in 1975. A score of 26 or more out of 40 was achieved last year by the top 50 per cent of children aged eight to eight years, two months. In 1975 the same percentage success was not achieved until pupils were aged nine to nine years, two months. In 1975, only the top 25 per cent aged eight to eight years, two months achieved 26 or more.

The findings suggest that the introduction of key stage testing and the National Literacy Strategy has helped more children to focus on spelling. Colin McCarty, of the Test & Evaluation Consortium, who compared the results of tests completed by 4,000 pupils in England in 1975 and 2005, said that a return to the teaching of phonics might also be responsible for the change by providing the tools to build words. That children now started school earlier had also probably helped, Dr McCarty said. “Children are now starting school in the reception year as the norm and this is likely to have increased the exposure to spelling and reading.”

The Graded Word Spelling Test, which was devised by the educationist Professor P. E. Vernon in 1975, uses 80 words that are a close match with the vocabulary and phonic structures in the National Literacy Strategy. The test has been revised by Dr McCarty and his colleague Mary Crumpler and is reissued this week by the publisher Hodder Murray. The spellings get increasingly difficult, starting with “in”, “am” and “see” and ending with “erroneous”, “abscess” and “menagerie”.


Australia's Feds to seize syllabus from states

A national board of studies with control of a uniform school curriculum is being proposed by the Howard Government in an attempt to wrest back control of schools from "ideologues" in state and territory education departments. Education Minister Julie Bishop will attack state education bureaucrats and accuse them of hijacking school curriculums, distorting them with "Chairman Mao" type ideologies in a speech to the History Teachers Association of Australia today. "Some of the themes emerging in school curriculum are straight from Chairman Mao. We are talking serious ideology here," she will say. "Ideologues ... have hijacked school curriculum and are experimenting with the education of our young people from a comfortable position of unaccountability. "We need to take school curriculum out of the hands of the ideologues in the state and territory education bureaucracies and give it to a national board of studies, comprising the sensible centre of educators."

Ms Bishop is calling for a national debate on the need for a common national school curriculum, saying there is widespread community concern about the content being taught in schools. In her speech today, she will say that the commonwealth has to take the lead in fighting for a "back-to-basics approach" across curriculums and that parents are rightly concerned by educational standards. "How is that we have gone from teaching Latin in Year 12 to teaching remedial English in first-year university?" she says. "The community is demanding an end to fads and wants a return to a commonsense curriculum, with agreed core subjects, like Australian history, and a renewed focus on literacy and numeracy. "The curriculum must be challenging, aiming for high standards, and not accepting the lowest common denominator. "It seems we are lowering the educational bar to make sure everyone gets over it, not raising it to aspire to excellence."

Ms Bishop's attack comes after The Australian highlighted education bureaucrats who have failed to monitor effectively curriculums and the quality of education and who have become captive to teachers' unions. Last month, The Australian published the views of professor Ken Wiltshire, Australia's representative on the executive of the UN education body UNESCO and the architect of the Queensland curriculum under the Goss Labor government. Professor Wiltshire argued that state Labor governments had relinquished control of any system that effectively measured the standard of what was taught in schools and teacher performance.

"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."

In April, The Australian reported how literary study in Australia had been declared "dead" by Harold Bloom, one of the world's leading authorities on the works of William Shakespeare. After learning that a prestigious Sydney girls school had asked students to apply Marxist, feminist and racial analysis to the play Othello, the internationally renowned critic said: "I find the question sublimely stupid. "It is another indication that literary study has died in Australia," the Sterling professor of humanities at Yale and Berg professor of English at New York University told The Australian.

A spokesman for Labor education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin accused Ms Bishop of contradicting John Howard and others in her party. "Julie Bishop has contradicted both the Prime Minister and the former education minister Brendan Nelson in her attempt to impose mediocrity on our school system," the spokesman said.

Ms Bishop says a national curriculum would be subject to greater public scrutiny and so would be more accountable to the community. This would also remove the duplication of effort and resources currently spent by states developing individual curriculums. She says the states and territories collectively spend more than $180 million running their boards of studies and curriculum councils to develop very similar curriculums in identical subjects. "There are currently nine different year 12 certificates across Australia, each backed by separate curriculum developed by eight different education authorities," she says. "Is it necessary for each state to develop a separate curriculum? "Do we need to have a physics curriculum developed for Queensland, and another, almost identical physics curriculum for Western Australia? "My comments are not directed at teachers. Our teachers are a precious national resource. "Rather, I am critical of the social engineers working away in state government education authorities."


Even the basics seem beyond present-day Australian teachers

A South Australian mother despairs at the lousy state of school education -- and the illiteracy of teachers

It is the last week of term three and the first written assessment of my youngest child's schoolwork for this year has come home. She is in a years 3-4 class with children ranging from eight to 10. Her entire assessment is based on one piece of work, a modest project on Greek mythology. It includes a "critical question: is Greek mythology still relevant today?" and a "rich task: create a poster that shows the roles that Greek gods, heroes and creatures would be seen doing today".

The work is assessed with a rubric that, among other things, is said to examine my child's ability to "analyse history ... and relate this to present possibilities" and "write texts ... which show awareness of different audiences and purposes". The rubric is defined as a scoring guide, but my dictionary does not provide this definition.

Apparently this form of assessment "compliments" the teaching strategies the school uses and encourages the students to "explore a topic deeper". It also leads a parent to despair. I know that I am supposed to work out that Greek mythology is only a "vehicle" for assessing areas of competence, but within minutes of receiving this assessment (and choosing to ignore the numerous inconsistencies therein) I concluded that it was nonsense. There is no mention of maths, reading and spelling, which are my main concerns.

My other child's assessment (sorry, rubric) considers a series of "strands" and came home with a CD-ROM that had to be viewed to work out what the rubric was assessing. Well, I can do that, but what are people without computers supposed to do?

I am one of an army of bewildered and frustrated parents who do not understand how teachers, or the ex-teachers who produce school curriculums, think. How can they produce this form of assessment and believe it is useful and valid? Unfortunately, I suspect that the increasingly bizarre forms of student assessment are not designed to reveal achievement but to disguise the lack of it. Parents are aware of their children's learning deficiencies and vague methods of assessment will not conceal them.

Most parents are clear about what they want their children taught - the basics - and they've been screaming about it for years. The failure of schools to deliver the basics is seen, increasingly, as bloody-mindedness on the part of education departments. But is it? Perhaps all the waffle, political correctness and esoteric rhetoric are used to hide the fact many teachers are no longer capable of teaching the basics.

It is not unusual to wander into a classroom and find spelling or grammatical errors on the whiteboard. (Correct them at your peril.) One of my children was taught by a teacher who never used apostrophes. I have seen a teacher with 30 years' teaching experience misspell nineteen (ninteen) and, when I assumed she'd made a simple mistake, she assured me that she'd checked it in the dictionary and it was correct.

Many children in my eldest child's Year 6 class cannot hold a pencil correctly, do not start sentences with capital letters or use full stops and do not read at their chronological age. When I discussed this with the teacher I was told: "Hardly any of them are reading at their correct reading age: we may have to do something about the tests."

If children are not taught the basics, they cannot perform well in tests on them. Poor test results do not look good for any school, ergo don't test or report on the basics. Give us a rubric about Greek mythology instead. Entrance requirements for teaching courses have always been low and continue to decline. I don't know how this decline can be arrested but I do know that teachers, however well meaning, are often unaware of their own limitations and never blame themselves for children's failure to learn.

From a parent's perspective, there are solutions: change the curriculum to emphasise basic skills; eliminate all-day sports clinics, visits from TV, radio or football personalities and so on; allow principals to sack underperforming teachers or insist that they attend courses to improve their skills; give good teachers large bonuses (with good teachers being determined by the parents, not their peers); and provide a simple, graded reporting system. Is this really too hard?

Meanwhile, there may be some hope at my children's school because "next term their will be opportunities to provide feedback on the new reporting format in various different formats". Parents will spend the holidays formatting various forms of complete rubbish.



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, October 06, 2006


Comment by Neal Boortz

OK .. now think back on the lessons you learned from your parents and those you admired when you were young. Just what would you do when you got knocked on your keister? Would you give up? Would you just grab your ball and go home? Well ... I'm not so sure about you, but I learned differently. I was taught that you built character by getting up, dusting yourself off, repairing the damage, and wading right back into the fight.

How many times was Abraham Lincoln defeated in his quest for public office? As I remember, Lincoln lost at least four elections before he finally was elected President of the United States. But you don't have to look as far as Abe Lincoln to understand the value of perseverance. Your own parents, especially if they were part of the World War II generation, could also give you a lesson or two; and hopefully they did.

Well .. that brings us to the Oscoda, Michigan high school football team. The Oscoda Area High School is, according to Rexford Hart, the principal, the "home of the mighty Owls." Mighty? If you will look at the athletics page on the Mighty Owls website you will see that there is no mention of football. And just why would that be? Well, that would be because the school officials have decided to cancel the football season. The Owls, it would seem, weren't so mighty on the playing field.

The Oscoda Owls played four games, lost badly, didn't score a point, and then gave up. That's it ... they just gave up. Well ---- to be fair --- they were TOLD to give up. After the first four games the Oscoda School Board decided to cancel the remainder of the football season. They forced these young guys to quit. The football players didn't like it, and either did their parents, but the school board decided that they just weren't going to win, so they needed to quit. Forfeit the remainder of the games. Besides, they might get hurt.

Maybe they could just get the football players to play soccer! That's the ticket! Soccer is the athletic refuge for mommies and daddies who don't want their precious little children to play a sport where they might get hurt! That ought to satisfy these disappointed football players.

So .. what is the lesson learned by the members of the Oscoda Owls football team? In fact, what is the lesson learned by virtually all of the members of the Oscoda Area High School student body? This is one of the easiest lesson plans in history. So simple. One word. QUIT. Don't' get up. Don't come back fighting. Don't dust yourself off and wade back in. When the going gets tough, quit. When the road gets rough ... forfeit! No more sucking it up around here! We're the not-so-mighty Owls! Beat us and we'll stick our tails between our legs and slink off.. High school is a learning experience. The students at Oscoda high school have just learned to give up.


Geography: Another school subject is hijacked by politics and fads

(An editorial from "The Australian" newspaper below)

It's been decades since borders, bays and capes were the sole questions covered in geography class. Which is as it should be. When properly taught, the subject should, as the world's first geography professor, James Fairgrieve put it, "train future citizens to imagine accurately the condition of the great world stage and so help them to think sanely about political and social problems of the world". Yet far from reaching this lofty ideal, in geography classrooms around Australia the subject has become little more than a stalking horse for hard-green ideology. And with the exception of NSW, which has always treated geography as a separate subject, and Victoria, which has recently reinstated it as such, geography has been folded into the same broad umbrella of Studies of Society and the Environment that has ripped the teaching of other disciplines such as history from its moorings. This shift opened the door to faddish politics and greatly reduced the chances that a trained geography teacher would actually teach the subject. Even in NSW, where geography is a separate required subject, students are taught to view mining, development and land clearing in an entirely negative light. (A more balanced approach would note that such activities generate wealth for Australia, give a growing population places to live and provide food for domestic and foreign markets.) Human rights and reconciliation are also taught in NSW's geography classrooms.

It is bad enough that Australia's geography curriculums have been so blatantly politicised and that students are encouraged to translate their lesson plans into political activism. Inaccuracies abound as well. Water is described as a "finite resource" in a draft curriculum for Year 11 and 12 students in South Australia - despite there being a more-or-less stable amount of the stuff on the planet. And as in history and English classrooms, a warmed-over Marxism, with its stultifying obsession with power relationships, dominates. In Queensland, the curriculum is charged with educating students about social justice, sustainability, peace and "environmental justice". Education Minister Julie Bishop is concerned that geography "does not fall victim to the same fate as that of history teaching, (which) has become an exercise in political indoctrination". Unfortunately, in much of the country this has already happened.

The decline in geography teaching mirrors a similar descent into the standard-free swamps of postmodernism and political correctness that has already devastated the teaching of English and history. Rather than grounding students in the basics of the discipline and giving them a foundation from which to explore more advanced theories later in their academic careers, teachers leapfrog the essentials and indoctrinate students with theories that will very likely be out of favour by the time their charges enter university. Which is a shame. A solid grounding in the location and behaviour of the world's rivers and resources goes a long way towards helping one grasp the history of human conflict. True understanding of the science of natural processes allows students to evaluate urban sprawl and climate change for themselves and come to their own conclusions - not just be spoon-fed them. And answers to timeless questions, such as why some societies succeed while others fail, can be found within geography. Polluting the discipline with such nebulous concepts as "social justice" and "ecological sustainability" encourages students to turn their brains off and instead parrot the approved, politically correct answers demanded by the curriculum. As with history and English, geography teaching desperately needs to be returned to its roots.


Court victory for gifted student

The mother of a child genius who was denied the opportunity to start high school at age nine - three years ahead of her peers - has beaten the Queensland Government in the Supreme Court. Up against the state's top legal minds, including Crown Solicitor Conrad Lohe, mother of four Robyn Malaxetxebarria - an "amateur" to the law - convinced Queensland's Supreme Court the Government might have discriminated against her daughter on the basis of her age.

Twelve-year-old Gracia Malaxetxebarria, who is on track to enrol in a university medicine degree by the time she is 14 after finishing Year 10 this year, welcomed the finding yesterday. "If you are able to do the grades, then you should be able to sit the grades," Gracia said, citing maths as her favourite subject.

In 2004, the then nine-year-old told her mother she was bored with primary school subjects and asked to advance to Year 8. Despite Gracia having an IQ of 147 -- the average score is 100 -- the Department of Education refused her request, saying she needed more time to develop socially. Her mother then removed Gracia from the public system, enrolled her in Year 8 at a private school 70km from their home and took her case to the anti-discrimination tribunal. She asked for a new home, a car and $500,000 in compensation for age discrimination, but lost in a decision in April. But Supreme Court judge John Helman yesterday quashed the tribunal's decision and ordered that the case be reheard.

Justice Helman found the tribunal had failed to consider a further request to the Department of Education by the family, in June 2004, to allow Gracia unconditional acceleration as a gifted child. This was despite a school report from the private Brisbane Adventist College that showed Gracia had performed well during the first semester of Year 8, receiving As and Bs for all her subjects. Justice Helman found the report, which said Gracia should go directly into a state high school, should have been given "careful consideration and analysis".

State Education Minister Rod Welford refused to comment on the ruling. "It is not appropriate for us to comment -- we have to be very careful when the matter is still before the courts," a spokesman for the minister said.

Ms Malaxetxebarria denied she had been a pushy mother to Gracia. "This was her need," she said. "I am trying to be a bit of an Atticus Finch here to see her human rights are looked after." University of Queensland professor of clinical psychology Matt Sanders said the public school system needed to be more attentive to gifted students' needs. Gracia said she had adjusted well to high school, despite her age, and was proud of her mother for having supported her through the courts. "It's good in Year 10," she said. "I've got my friends and everything, and I seem to be doing well."



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, October 05, 2006

Howard Zinn and Dennis Prager

Post lifted from Betsy Newmark

Dennis Prager is using his column to publish a dialogue with Howard Zinn, the socialist and activist historian. It's an illuminating discussion because it gets at the heart of Zinn's beliefs that the United States has been a force for ill throughout history. From the first part of the discussion, here is a taste,
Dennis Prager: I think a good part of your view is summarized when you say, "If people knew history, they would scoff at that, they would laugh at that" -- the idea that the United States is a force for the betterment of humanity. I believe that we are the country that has done more good for humanity than any other in history. What would you say . . . we have done more bad than good, we're in the middle, or what?

Howard Zinn: Probably more bad than good. We've done some good, of course; there's no doubt about that. But we have done too many bad things in the world. You know, if you look at the way we have used our armed forces throughout our history: first destroying the Indian communities of this continent and annihilating Indian tribes, then going into the Caribbean in the Spanish-American War, going to the Philippines, taking over other countries, not establishing democracy but in many cases establishing dictatorship, holding up dictatorships in Latin America and giving them arms, and you know, Vietnam, killing several million people for no good reason at all, certainly not for democracy or liberty, and continuing down to the present day with the war in Iraq . . . .
I know that many, many history teachers, particularly Advanced Placement U.S. history teachers use Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States, as a supplementary text for their classes. Often they assign the entire book as summer reading (My students read Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, a much different text). Just that paragraph gives you a sense of what so many advanced students are being given to read. I've used a paragraph or two from Zinn as part of a general historiography lesson to show them what kind of views of history there have been and how they've changed over the years. His views are very prevalent in the hate-America first crowd. Matt Damon even thought he was being erudite by throwing Zinn's name into his movie, Good Will Hunting. Colleges across the country assign his book and there's a whole series of books by other authors to look at a "A People's History of..." more specific events from American History, It's a whole industry.

If you want a more balanced view of Howard Zinn's book, try this article from Dan Flynn.
. For readers who prefer their history to be an accurate retelling of the past rather than marching orders for the present, Zinn's writings disappoint. While every historian has his biases, Zinn makes no effort to overcome his. What is considered vice by most historians-politically motivated inaccuracies, long-winded rants, convenient omissions, substituting partisanship for objectivity-is transformed into virtue by Zinn.

"Objectivity is impossible," pop historian Howard Zinn once remarked, "and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity."
In fact, if you see your child being assigned Zinn's book, you could print out Flynn's essay and go in and meet with the teacher. At the very least, find out if a contrasting more conservative historian is being assigned. Most times, Zinn is used as the supplement to the textbook as if his views will enrich what they're getting. I think his influence on the teaching of American history has been pernicious and I wouldn't want my own daughters or students being assigned his reading for their first in depth exposure to American history.


How much simpler, fairer and more useful it would be to rely on SAT scores alone!

When Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Virginia announced the elimination of their early decision programs last month, it marked the most recent chapter in the growing frenzy surrounding the college admissions process (see, 9/27/06, "Early Admissions: On Its Way Out?").

It's a frenzy that has been starting earlier and lasting longer as competition continues to build. Today, families are increasingly turning to admissions consultants who specialize in counseling students on all aspects of choosing and getting into colleges. "It's insane what's happening. The anxiety about college admissions is ratcheted up every single year as it gets harder to get in. Parents are getting desperate. They're seeing this need to get real information from someone who knows," says Rachel Toor, an independent admissions consultant in Spokane, Wash.

Mark Sklarow, the executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Assn. (IECA), a nonprofit association for experienced consultants, estimates that there about 3,000 firms in the admissions consulting business nationwide.

A NEW YOU? He says a few of them continue to feed the college frenzy instead of working to cure it, often broadcasting their staff's experience working on Ivy League admissions committees. It's not uncommon for these high-profile consultants to charge more than $30,000 for help on everything from choosing a student's summer activities to how to spin those experiences in an essay to help him or her stand out (see, 6/19/06, "What Price College Admission?").

But high-priced consultants who promise to repackage a kid for the Ivies are not the norm. In fact, the majority of consultants charge relatively moderate fees and are trying to help students by finding them the right fit in a school, not changing them or rewriting their essays.

NOT JUST ANYONE. Most IECA members charge closer to $3,000 than $30,000 and their businesses are booming. The number of consultants registered with the IECA, established in 1976, has doubled in the past two years, from 300 to 600, and the requests keep pouring in. "We now get 100 inquiries per month, but we accept a very small percentage," says Sklarow.

IECA accepts such a small percentage in order to encourage best practices in an industry that has the potential for abuse. To earn the nonprofit's seal of approval requires three years of experience, 100 campus visits, a master's degree in a related field, reference checks with three admissions directors, and a review of the Web site and marketing materials.

The association estimates 22% of the freshmen at private, four-year colleges this year-or between 95,000 and 100,000 students-have used some kind of consulting services. "Two years ago, it would have been less than half that," says Sklarow. "There's been incredible growth in our field," he says.

PLENTY OF DEMAND. Adding to the growth is the epidemic of overworked guidance counselors. According to research from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), an advocacy group for counselors, admissions officers, and private consultants, the average student-to-counselor ratio at U.S. high schools is 315:1. At public schools, counselors only spend an average of 28% of their time on college searches, applications, and paperwork, compared with 60% at private schools.

Despite the increased number of consultants vying for students, demand continues to more than keep pace. Independents often compete with large companies such as Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, and they've been holding their own. "They're certainly not taking business from us, but there is enough demand out there in the market that we certainly welcome competition," says Brandon Jones, the director of college-prep programs for Kaplan.

Some of the demand comes from parents who are starting the admissions process earlier. "When I started doing this 11 years ago, it was most usual for parents to think about it in the spring of junior year; now I'm finding increasing numbers of sophomore parents and even occasionally freshman parents, who want guidance through the whole process," says Robin Abedon, a counselor in Wellington, Fla.

SLIDING SCALES. Many independent consultants are also dedicated to spreading their services to clients of all socioeconomic backgrounds. "Most of us are looking to assist families that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it," says Virginia Vogel, a counselor in Washington, D.C. who works with several clients for free per year. Others will work out alternative pay strategies for families in need.

"Most small, independent consultants have a strong commitment to serving students, and that often includes sliding scales, occasional pro bono work, and a general acknowledgement that they'll help in any way they can," says David Hawkins, director of public policy at NACAC. Responses to last year's survey of IECA members showed that 92% had performed pro bono work.

Though they perform much the same role as a high school guidance counselor, independent consultants bill themselves as a more specialized expert who can simplify the process, decrease stress, and introduce students to schools they never even knew existed.

NO SLACKING OFF. "The guidance counselor is a student of students; they're someone who really knows kids well. My focus, as a student of colleges, is on learning about colleges. So, when you get to the front of the line, you have to ask if the person has the expertise that you need and want," says Steven Antonoff, an independent consultant based in Denver.

Antonoff says growth has been steady for the past 21 years his firm has been in business but recently he has been unable to meet all the demand. Tim Lee, a consultant with 24 years experience based in Sudbury, Mass., says his small firm has experienced the most growth in the past three to five years. They both expect more substantial growth as long as the admissions process keeps getting tougher.


Backdown: Australian university to put qualifications before Leftist bigotry

Adelaide University has been embarrassed into changing how it selects medical students and will focus more on brains rather than its institutional dislike of private education

The university will try to enrol more locals and reduce the emphasis on interviews, after being stung by the disclosure that interviewers had blackballed students from private schools and the children of doctors. Executive dean of health sciences Justin Beilby told The Australian the university would equally balance the Tertiary Entrance Ranking with interview results, placing a lesser importance on the university's medical admissions test results. "Previously the key determinant of getting into medicine was the interview and what we've done now is balance the Tertiary Entrance Ranking with the interview," Professor Beilby said. "The principal changes are not because of political pressure but on the review of the analysis. But you can't ignore the criticism."

Highly regarded Adelaide obstetrician Christopher Verco - whose daughter Lucy scored a TER of 99.3, but was rejected after her interview - said it was "gratifying" the university had listened to repeated concerns. "They have taken note of the concerns expressed by a large number of the public and the profession and one hopes that there will be processes in place toassess the equity and the utility of theassessment process," Dr Verco said.

The school will also reintroduce biology in the first year and add extra science subjects in the second and third years from 2008 as a result of the review. The university has received an extra 40 federally-funded places for the 2007 intake and the Rann Government last week announced it would fund five annual scholarships for local students. Country students will also be awarded bonus entry points.

Professor Beilby said the university would financially support the department to decrease its international student intake and enrol more local students. Australian Medical Association state president Christopher Cain supported extra weighting being placed on tertiary scores. "We still have some concerns on the UMAT as being a determinant in whether you get an interview," Dr Cain said. "If you don't perform well you don't get an interview."



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, October 04, 2006

More Anti-Christian bias

Last Friday, the University of Wisconsin at Madison notified the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation that it would be denied recognition and student fee eligibility for the current school year. The reason? The Foundation allegedly does not meet the university’s requirements for “student leadership” (even though its student programs are run by students and its student fee awards are managed by students). The Foundation now joins the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Wisconsin-Superior(derecognized because its leaders must be Christian), the Knights of Columbus at Madison (derecognized because its members must be male Catholics), the Christian Legal Society (derecognized because its voting members and leaders must be Christians), and the Calvary Chapel, a Lutheran group (derecognized because of alleged lack of “student leadership” and its exclusively Lutheran membership), in the ranks of banished student organizations. Interestingly, the student leadership issue applied to Calvary Chapel in spite of the fact that students are a majority of its governing board.

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund is receiving word from multiple sources that the university has a “hit list” that includes several other Christian groups and that university officials are calling and asking Christian members of those groups some quite intrusive questions about their faith practices. These actions — as egregious as they are on their own merits — are made even more outrageous by the fact that they come mere weeks after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which governs Wisconsin) ruled that a university cannot use its religious nondiscrimination rules to prevent Christian organizations from limiting leadership and membership to Christians. It appears that the university is choosing to intentionally defy the law.

If an entire university system was defying controlling precedent to systematically eliminate African-American or Hispanic organizations from campus, there would not only be demonstrations in the streets but also hearings in the halls of Congress. But the university world supports systematic discrimination against religiously orthodox Christians (both Protestant and Catholic), and too many political leaders simply shrug at the violations of fundamental liberty committed by institutions that they fund and (allegedly) ultimately control. Individual lawsuits can address individual injustices, but faced with systematic abuse and universities that choose to ignore governing legal decisions, there may very well need to be a comprehensive legislative response. Should federal dollars subsidize religious persecution? Should the nation’s taxpayers continue to fund discrimination and exclusion? Our nation’s public universities belong to all of us — not just the radical, secular left.


Leftist educators care about "correctness", not knowledge

Is the campaign against political correctness in education and the destructive influence of critical literacy and postmodern theory on subjects such as history, literature and science justified? In the past two years, The Australian has provided example after example of the way the cultural Left has taken the long march through the education system in its attempt to change society by overthrowing the traditional academic curriculum. As revealed early last year, Wayne Sawyer, then editor of the national English teachers journal English in Australia, argued the re-election of the Howard Government was evidence that teachers had failed to properly teach students how to think, since many young people, according to Sawyer, made the wrong decision by voting for John Howard.

The solution? Sawyer argued that English teachers must redouble their efforts to teach critical literacy, an approach to reading that analyses texts in terms of power relationships, especially through the politically correct prism of sex, ethnicity and class. As a result, instead of valuing the moral and aesthetic quality of literary greats, students are instructed, in the words of the Queensland curriculum, to deconstruct Wordsworth's poetry from an "eco-critical" perspective and Shakespeare's Macbeth in terms of "patriarchal concerns with order and gender".

With history, students are told that interpretation is subjective and relative to one's cultural and social position, and the subject is reduced to studying issues or themes. No wonder many students leave school with a fragmented and disjointed understanding, knowing more about feminism, peace studies and multi- culturalism than they do about the narrative associated with Australia's birth as a nation.

Even the hard sciences have fallen victim to postmodern claptrap. Advocates of outcomes-based education say that Western science cannot be privileged, as science - you guessed it - is a socio-cultural product, putting faith healing and astrology on the same footing as Euclidean geometry and Pythagoras's theorem.

Given the public's right to know and the billions invested in education, one may think the debate about curriculum is one we have to have. Not so, according to the cultural Left brigade controlling Australian education. Marxist-inspired Melbourne-based historian Stuart Macintyre describes The Australian's criticism of post- modernism and moral relativism as pernicious and recently attacked the newspaper for what he sees as its "denigration of teachers".

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English, in a book entitled "Only Connect. English Teaching, Schooling and Community" bemoans what is described as "one of the most motivated by a neo-conservative agenda and are interested only in creating a crisis where there is none. A recent edition of "English in Australia" contains a paper written by David Freesmith entitled The Politics of the English Curriculum: Ideology in the Campaign against Critical Literacy in The Australian. Freesmith defends Sawyer's argument that critical literacy equals a healthy democracy equals not voting for the Howard Government and condemns The Australian for promoting a cultural heritage view of literature, one that prefers Shakespeare to Australian Idol. He also condemns writers such as Luke Slattery and me and editorial comment in support of the literary canon as advancing arguments that are disguised as neutral when they are ideologically driven and based on a world view that is - the worst of sins - "conservative, Eurocentric and nationalistic".

Post Bali bombings and 9/11, one may be forgiven for thinking that being conservative, valuing continuity as well as change, being Eurocentric, valuing the Western tradition with its commitment to a free and open society, and being nationalistic would be seen as good things. Not so, according to the cultural Left.

The AATE and Macintyre are not alone in their attacks on conservative education warriors. Alan Reid, co-author of the proposed outcomes-based South Australian senior school certificate, argues that Brendan Nelson, when education minister, was guilty of creating a manufactured crisis. Geoff Masters. head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and given the job to carry out the Howard Government's review of Year 12 subjects across Australia, also says Australia's education system is at world's best standard. Not only is Masters an advocate of outcomes-based education, he also argues the crisis is manufactured.

So concerned are the educrats about the bad press education is getting that the Australian Curriculum Studies Association convened a conference earlier this year to address what was termed the "black media debate". Given those attending, bureaucrats from various boards of studies responsible for Australia's outcomes-based education and like-minded teacher academics and union officials, it should be no surprise that the consensus was that standards are high and all is well. At the conference, Masters' contribution was summarised as: "The simple point for Geoff Masters, in his response, was the need as a profession to ensure our voice is being heard in relation to curriculum issues; because at the moment it is not. Our voice is not heard above those who seek to manufacture a feeling of crisis in education."

The first stage in remedying a problem is to admit there is something wrong. Not only are the so-called experts in control of Australia's education system in denial but - given many are responsible for the mess - without further public scrutiny and action there appears little likelihood that anything will change.

The above article by Kevin Donnelly appeared in "The Australian" on 23 September, 2006

Top Australian research students can't write

Elite students at one of Australia's best science research institutes have rushed to sign up for remedial English classes. It follows concerns by world-leading researchers at the poor English contained in some Australian-born and educated students' PhD theses and articles for scientific journals. The problem is so bad that the Queensland Institute of Medical Research has hired a lecturer to teach remedial English to its PhD students. One QIMR professor has even declared that he had "students from countries like Portugal and Holland whose written English is better than that of our own students".

So popular is the course to be run next week by University of Queensland English lecturer Dr Joan Leach that it has had to be moved to a larger venue. The program includes two 90 minute lectures and individual clinic-style workshops will cover basic issues including grammar, clear expression and sentence construction. QIMR Director Professor Michael Good, who is one of the world's leading immunologists and malaria researchers, initiated the move after senior staff became concerned at the level of English expression students were displaying in their written work. The QIMR has 700 scientists and support staff and about 120 PhD candidates researching in fields including cancer, malaria, genetic influences on illness, asthma and epidemiology. As one of Australia's leading research institutes it selects only the best first-class honours science students. Only about one in 10 of those who approach QIMR are taken on.

Acting director Professor Adele Green said excellence in English was paramount for scientists, who published their findings in prestigious international journals and had to write long, detailed scientific papers which could run to tens of thousands of words. Professor Nicholas Martin, head of QIMR's Genetic Epidemiology Group has strongly supported Professor Good in establishing the program. He said PhD students who came to the institute from all over Australia after at least 16 years of formal education recognised the deficiencies in the way they had been taught English at school and were keen to improve their writing. "I regularly recruit European PhD students from countries like Portugal and Holland whose written English is better than that of our own students," Professor Martin said.

He said the aim of the course was not to cover the finer points of English but the basics, such as correct punctuation, including a verb in every sentence, varying sentence length and construction and clear expression. "At the clinics the researchers will be able to bring along their written work and discuss it with Dr Leach," he said.

Leading Queensland educationalist Professor Kenneth Wiltshire said remedial English for Australian-born and educated students was common at universities all over Australia and was one sign that school English programs were not catering for the top third of students. "There are not enough challenges and not enough literature and not enough emphasis on good writing," Professor Wiltshire said.

Education Minister Rod Welford said teachers should not neglect the importance of well-structured written communication, while at the same time striving to ensure students were competent with newer means of communication such as digital media and video



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, October 03, 2006

Parents Right; Math "Experts" Wrong

It took parents 17 years to overturn the tragic 1989 curriculum mistake made by the so-called education experts who demanded that schools abandon traditional mathematics in favor of unproven approaches. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics finally reversed course on September 12 and admitted that elementary schools really should teach arithmetic, after all.

The new report called "Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics" is a back-to-basics victory that rejects the type of math curricula that parents had derided as "fuzzy math" or "rainforest math." The experts preferred such hoity-toity titles as "New New Math," "Connected Math," "Chicago Math," "Core-Plus Math," "Whole Math," "Interactive Math," or "Integrated Math." Whatever the title, these curricula imbedded the notion that estimates are acceptable in lieu of accurate answers to math problems so long as students feel good about what they are doing and can think up a reason for doing it. Fuzzy curricula were big on discussion, coloring, playing games, and early use of calculators.

The 1989 report (which gives the word "standards" a bad name) flatly opposed drilling students in basic math facts, taught that memorization of math facts was bad, and failed to systematically build from one math concept to another. Children were encouraged to "discover" math on their own, construct their own math language, and flounder around with their own approaches to solving problems. This silliness is based on the false notion that children can develop a deeper understanding of mathematics when they invent their own methods for performing basic arithmetic calculations.

Despite widespread parental opposition, in October 1999 Bill Clinton's Department of Education officially endorsed ten new math courses, based on the 1989 "standards," for grades K-12, calling them "exemplary" or "promising." Local school districts were urged to adopt one of them, and were baited with federal money inducements. One of these department-approved "exemplary" courses, "MathLand," directed the children to meet in small groups and invent their own ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide. It's too bad the kids weren't told that wiser adults have already discovered how to do all those basic computations rapidly and accurately.

It wasn't only parents who quickly sized up fuzzy math curricula as subtracting rather than adding to the skills of schoolchildren. On November 18, 1999, more than 200 prestigious mathematicians and scholars, including four Nobel Laureates and two winners of the Fields Medal (the highest math honor), published a full-page ad in the Washington Post criticizing the "exemplary" curricula. But Clinton's Education Secretary Richard Riley refused to back away from the Department's endorsements and the 1989 "standards" adopted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. With such vague parameters for courses in math, trendy instructors began advancing their political agenda by injecting ethnic studies into math textbooks. Some taught what Diane Ravitch calls "ethnomathematics," the far-out notion that traditional math is too Western-civ and therefore students should be taught in ways that relate to their ancestral culture. The diversion of math into the teaching of political correctness was illustrated by the "anti-racist multicultural math" curriculum adopted by Newton, Massachusetts. It's no wonder that test scores dropped after this "math" curriculum's top priority became "Respect for Human Differences."

Fortunately, during the Fuzzy Math era, a few students were fortunate enough to have teachers who dared to be heretical. Some 300 public schools adopted Singapore Math and those students are turning in good scores. Homeschoolers are very successful with Singapore Math, too.

The new National Council report tries to finesse its dramatic switch back to memorization by recommending that the curriculum focus on "quick recall" of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes, and an understanding of decimals. It takes a pompous expert to avoid admitting that memorization of multiplication tables is the best way to have "quick recall."

Before the 1989 mistake, U.S. students ranked number-one in international mathematics tests. Since then, U.S. students have dropped to fifteenth, far behind the consistently high performance of Singapore and Japan and behind most industrialized countries. Added to the humiliation of international tests is the appalling percentage of college students who must take remedial math before they can enroll in college courses. That means the taxpayers have been paying twice to teach students the same material.

Another dirty little secret that has finally emerged as front-page news is the small number of college students who graduate even after six years. Graduation rates at 50 four-year public universities are below 20 percent, and below 50 percent at many more universities. Since it's likely that nearly all these students attended college using financial aid, the obvious conclusion is that the taxpayers are being ripped off by the racket of colleges pretending to teach and students pretending to learn



Seniors at UC Berkeley, the nation's premier public university, got an F in their basic knowledge of American history, government and politics in a new national survey, and students at Stanford University didn't do much better, getting a D. Out of 50 schools surveyed, Cal ranked 49th and Stanford 31st in how well they are increasing student knowledge about American history and civics between the freshman and senior years. And they're not alone among major universities in being fitted for a civics dunce cap. Other poor performers in the study were Yale, Duke, Brown and Cornell universities. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore was the tail-ender behind Cal, ranking 50th. The No. 1 ranking went to unpretentious Rhodes College in Memphis.

The study was conducted by the University of Connecticut's department of public policy and the nonprofit education organization Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Researchers sampled 14,000 students at 50 schools, large and small. The aim was to determine how well the colleges are teaching their students the basics of government, politics and history -- the bedrocks of good citizenship. Beyond the rankings, the study found that across the board -- from elite universities to less-selective colleges -- the typical senior did poorly on the civics literacy exam, scoring below 70 percent. This would be a D or F on a basic test using a conventional grading scale. That shows, the researchers said, that the students don't have -- and the universities generally aren't teaching -- the basic understanding of America's history and founding principles that they need to be good citizens. It is a crisis, the report warns.

"It is at a point in history in this country where it has probably never been more important," said Eugene Hickok, a former U.S. deputy secretary of education and a member of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. "The study tells us we have a rising generation of bright, intelligent citizens that won't have the knowledge they need to be informed citizens. We are really only a generation or two away from a republic in pretty big trouble."

The study was conducted in 2005 by asking freshmen and seniors to answer 60 multiple-choice questions in the subject areas of American history, government, America and the world, and the market economy. It then compared the averages from the two classes at each school to determine how much more seniors knew than freshmen -- indicating how well the university was doing in increasing student knowledge. The survey found that more than half of students could not correctly identify the century (the 17th) when the first American colony was established at Jamestown. A majority of students also could not identify the Baath party as the main source of Saddam Hussein's political support in Iraq.

At UC Berkeley, the results showed freshmen knew more than soon-to-graduate seniors. Freshmen scored an average of 60.4, and seniors scored an average of 54.8. That earned Cal a failing grade, the researchers said. At Stanford, freshmen scored an average of 62.2 percent, and seniors scored an average of 63.1 percent. The difference between the freshmen and seniors was minimal, which the study's authors say shows they are not being taught the content during college. In comparison, at Rhodes College, the freshman average was 50.6 percent and the senior average 62.2 percent. Even though the Rhodes seniors scored lower than Stanford's, the researchers concluded Rhodes was doing a better job because of the percentage of improvement shown. "This is something that if the colleges and universities teach it, the students will learn," said Professor Christopher Barnes, director of project development for the University of Connecticut's department of public policy.

Barnes said that one encouraging finding of the study was that knowledge of civics was closely tied to voting and community engagement. But that is also alarming, he said, if the nation's students do not learn more about history and politics. History and political science leaders at UC Berkeley and Stanford took issue with the methodology of the study and its rankings but agreed that students weren't learning enough of the important basic historical and civics lessons. "There may be real issues here about how universities should organize their curriculum, but there is a scandal-mongering aspect to the way this survey has been presented," said Professor David Hollinger, chairman of the UC Berkeley history department. "I would not assume that this is a credible survey without more scrutiny." Still, he said, UC Berkeley -- like most large universities -- has relatively few requirements for undergraduates, even within the College of Letters and Science. He believes that should change. "I do not doubt that Americans would be better off knowing more history than they do,'' Hollinger said. "And I do not doubt that Berkeley would be wise to consider requiring more history than it does."

The study found that civics learning was greater at colleges and universities that required students to take courses in American history, political science and economics. For example, seniors at the institutions ranked the highest for increase in knowledge -- Rhodes College and Colorado State University -- took an average of 4.2 history and political science courses, while seniors at the bottom two, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins, took an average of 2.9 such courses.

Professor Terry Moe, chairman of the political science department at Stanford, also questioned the study's methodology, saying that many factors can affect the outcomes, including the fact that many students at schools like Stanford specialize in areas such as science, engineering and math. In addition, he said, less-selective schools lose a lot of students after their freshmen year, leaving a pool of higher-quality students who make it through all four years and thus may score better than the more diverse pool of freshmen. But he said, it is true that Stanford focuses more on teaching theory and critical-thinking skills than facts. The teaching of facts and historical dates is considered "old-fashioned" in academe, he said. "There is a basic knowledge that students should learn, and I think that universities don't think that way,'' he said. "My view is that they should."

Among the key recommendations in the report are that colleges and universities increase the number of required history, political science and economics courses, improve their assessments of what students are learning, and build academic centers on campus to encourage and support the "restoration" of teaching American history and civics.


More on Australia's geography wars

As a former High School geography teacher who was employed to teach geography despite having NO tertiary qualifications in the subject, I can attest to the reality of the "de-skilling" of geograpphy teaching described below

As part of a geography assignment studying the effects of pollution on the environment, a group of primary schoolchildren from Brisbane headed off to photograph the damage to Moreton Bay. But when they arrived, the waters of the bay were relatively pristine and there was no pollution to be seen. Undeterred, the children carefully set about creating their own polluted part of Moreton Bay, photographed it and just as carefully cleaned up the mess they had made. "Those kids knew what answer they were supposed to come up with," says geographer John Lidstone, associate professor at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. "And when kids know what answers they're supposed to reach, they stop thinking."

Students in geography classrooms across the nation are being asked to devise strategies to manage scarce water resources, for sustainable use of resources, to minimise the degradation of our coastline or environment from farming, mining or other human activities. Often, the answer is in the politicisation of the topic or with the data they are provided, and time pressure precludes them making their own investigations.

Geographers are concerned that missing in the examination of some of society's most intractable issues is fundamental teaching of the basic processes behind these problems: the rainfall cycle, the theory of longshore drift of sand along the coastline, the formation of physical landforms and resources. Also missing is the breadth of the discipline, the wider look at human society, its relationship with the Earth it inhabits and interaction within itself. "If you look at issues like environmental sustainability, it's essentially about how societies come to terms with managing and living in their environment," says Clive Forster, associate professor at Flinders University school of geography, population and environmental management in Adelaide.

"If you want to understand what we may need to do to live more sustainably in the future, you don't need to know solely about environmental issues. You also need to have an understanding of how societies operate and to be able to put together the economic, social and environmental perspectives. Traditionally, that was the strength of geography; it produced people who had an appreciation of the three perspectives and how they needed to be seen in relation to one."

Geography teacher Sue van Zuylen, from Tara Anglican School for Girls in northwest Sydney, agrees the lack of specialist geography teachers is critical. "The biggest impact in the classroom is the way the curriculum is delivered by the teacher and it's going to be delivered with greater passion and interest and enthusiasm by somebody expert in the subject than someone (for whom) it isn't their first love," she says.

In the first half of the 20th century, school students were taught "capes and bays" geography, with its emphasis on naming the world; being able to draw maps of countries, knowing the names of capital cities, river systems, the highest mountains. During the 1960s came a rise in regional geography, with students writing profiles of countries based on subheadings such as population, climate, land use and vegetation, or writing about the industrialisation of particular countries.

Geography teachers critical of merging the subject into the new-vogue "studies of society and environment" argue that it undermines the integrity of geography and does not serve the interests of social studies, either. SOSE becomes a mish-mash and makes it harder for syllabus consistency between states. The SOSE syllabus encourages state parochialism instead of encouraging understanding of global trends. Underplaying physical geography robs children of interesting inquiry into how volcanoes, mountains, rivers and glaciers are formed.

Teachers lose confidence when teaching SOSE because they studied to specialise. The mish-mash of SOSE is less likely to inspire enthusiasm in teachers, a key to passing on passion to students.

The argument is whether the focus should be on developing a disciplinary understanding or whether it should be an integrated studies approach based on contemporary issues. Eventually, the rise of SOSE in schools will remove teaching expertise in geography. Geography is fundamental to understanding the society in which we live and issues from water usage and environmental sustainability to population trends, migration and Australia's links with the world.

Since the late '80s, geography has been dominated by environmental studies, a trend sparked by the rise in the green movement and entrenched with the move in the '90s to teach geography as part of an integrated social studies course. The model originated in the US and was adopted in school systems across the world, including Australia, predicated on the idea that as no single discipline had all the answers, it was better to teach children skills and knowledge in the integrated way they would need to apply them in the real world.

In Australia, the integrated social studies movement occurred at the beginning of the push for a national curriculum, which created a key learning area called studies of society and environment. Adding to the pressure to integrate geography into one colossal course with history, economics, civics and citizenship and legal studies were timetabling pressures. School curriculums are overcrowded, forced to include an ever-expanding list of topics from sex education to vocational subjects. So teaching a little bit of geography, with a little bit of this and that, seemed a good compromise, as well as providing a way of trying to make the curriculum more relevant to students.

And so the phenomenon of what high school geography teacher Steve Cranby, a member of the Australian Academy of Science's national committee on geography, calls SOSE-ification of geography. Only NSW stood alone, continuing to teach geography and history as separate, compulsory subjects in years 7 to 10. Victoria in recent years reintroduced an identifiable geography course, with a new one taught this year under its humanities umbrella.

Lidstone, who was secretary for 10 years of the International Geographical Union's education commission, points out that while the US started the trend of integrated social studies, it has recently undergone a resurgence in geography with a bill before Congress to make it compulsory in schools. "An American once said that God invented war to teach Americans geography," he says. But Lidstone prefers the vision outlined by the first man to hold the title professor of geography, James Fairgrieve of the University of London, who said in 1926: "The function of geography in schools is to train future citizens to imagine accurately the condition of the great world stage and so to help them to think sanely about political and social problems of the world around."

Says Lidstone: "The two phrases, 'to imagine accurately' and 'to think sanely' still represent for me the essence of the enterprise." But much of what passes for geography in schools today is what Lidstone describes as "naive environmentalism". Phenomena such as global warming are presented as unquestioned facts, with no real examination of the debate. In part, that's a result of not having geography teachers in charge of teaching geography.

The main consequence of the SOSE-ification of geography was a de-skilling of geography teachers. It's pot luck whether the teacher in a SOSE classroom is trained as a history teacher, economics teacher or geography teacher. Obviously, teachers are most comfortable with their own discipline. A history teacher forced to teach geography is going to struggle with the often complex science behind some geographical ideas, such as climatic cycles.

Before Cranby starts a topic with his students, he spends a couple of weeks teaching the theory underpinning the theme. One of the core topics for his Year 12 class is the Murray-Darling basin and the issues surrounding its use and management. Cranby spends four weeks teaching his students about rivers, their formation and processes, how they work and operate, the definition of a sustainable resource and the theory behind it before embarking on the specific issues of the Murray-Darling.

The problem is that not enough new geographers are being trained. SOSE students don't study anything called geography and the minority who do take on geography into their final years of school, or even university, come out with generalist training or specialising in an environmental study rather than disciplinary skills in geography. "We are not producing our kind," Forster says. "There's not that degree of breadth that people had 25 years ago. They'll go on to become the new generation of academics but they won't be teaching as geographers, they'll be teaching as someone who has done an environmental management degree."

Alaric Maude, secretary of the Institute of Australian Geographers, who was involved in writing the South Australian school syllabus 20 years ago, says the environmental thrust of geography has also splintered the subject. Not only is geography forced to compete with the plethora of subjects offered in schools today, it also has to compete against specialisations of itself: environmental studies, natural resource management, sustainable futures. "Geography seems to have become narrowed down," he says. "It's become very heavily environmental geography with not much emphasis on the core topics of human geography, such as people and cultures, regional development, divisions between regions such as who's wealthy and who's poor or why Western Australia is growing. Somehow the environment has become a major part of what teachers seem to see geography as, but it's only part of our inheritance."

Maude imagines a geography curriculum that sets out questions students can investigate, including indigenous knowledge and use of the environment; land clearing and its consequences; water sources and their management; the coast and its place in Australian life; Australia as a highly urbanised country; and migration, settlement and identity.

Lidstone would like to see students acquainted with some of the "awe and wonder" of the natural environment, how mountains are formed, the population and settlement patterns of communities who live on mountains. "Geography is the study of patterns," he says. "You can have patterns of homosexuality, there's a cultural geography of things like food and wine or the geography of bird flu. "There's a geography of the internet. It's fascinating when you sit on the internet and suddenly notice different countries coming on line. It's connected to the Earth's rotation and as people come to work or go home, the people on chat sites change. "At 8pm in Australia you get a whole different group of people than early in the morning in the US. Internet providers employ geographers to work these things out on the time zones because they target advertising according to who's going to be online at any particular time. "Yet I don't know that many schools teach time zones, despite more of us travelling than ever before. I learned about time zones when I was at school and I didn't expect I would ever be able to go on an aeroplane. Everyone can fly around the world today and we don't teach time zones."

Lidstone says the focus of geography curriculum on issues, to make it relevant and more exciting, is counterproductive. Students can find it depressing to focus on problems so big that adults and governments cannot fix them, and instead of appreciating the wonder of the world are taught only about the Earth's problems. "There's not much room for the geography of laughter, the geography of fun," he says. "Where are people happiest on the Earth? What does it look like? Is it to do with a pristine environment, workloads? "If you want to live a happy life, where would you go to live? These are very nice geography questions."

Taught a discipline and the skills of geographical thinking, Lidstone believes students will find the relevance for themselves. He tells the story of students at a girls school where the "very feminist geography teacher" was appalled to find her students were using computers to identify where in Australia was the greatest concentration of young professional men with high incomes who owned their own home. "That's where they wanted to go to university, so they could find wealthy husbands. The teacher was so appalled that she banned them from the computer room. We might not agree with the topic but these girls were using geography and geographical skills to find the answer to a question that was important to 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


Monday, October 02, 2006

Battling the education hydra

Research proves that effective reading teachers know how students learn to read (acquisition), how to teach students to read (instruction), how to judge how well students read (assessment), and how to strengthen students' reading skills (remediation). Despite this, only three out of sixteen Reading First Education Network States require their licensed elementary school teachers demonstrate proficient knowledge of the essential components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness; phonics; vocabulary development; reading fluency; and reading comprehension strategies.

While tests specifically designed as reading licensure tests, such as: the California Reading Instruction Competency Assessment (RICA), the Virginia Reading Assessment (VRA), the Massachusetts Foundations of Reading test, and the ETS Praxis 0201: Reading Across the Curriculum: Elementary) are aligned with the five components of effective reading instruction as defined by scientifically based reading research (SBRR), general tests commonly used for initial licensure of elementary teachers, are not aligned with SBRR. States that depend upon these more generic licensure tests do not have a good measure of the knowledge or skills of new teachers in terms of reading instruction. Indeed, state licensure test questions are more often reflective of ideology. The Language Arts standards set by these states do not necessarily specify any or all five components of proven effective reading instruction be utilized in adopted reading curriculum. Although Title II requires teachers pass licensure tests, the content tested in the general tests does not assure "best practice" in teaching.

Certainly, "the data from state licensing tests, the alignment of those tests with standards, and the alignment of specialty professional association standards with knowledge from research and practice-are all significant considerations for accreditation,"1 yet one must question how schools of education, state boards of education, accrediting agencies and test manufacturers are actually being held accountable for what eventually takes place in the classroom? Isn't that part of NCLB? Instead of offering tutoring or restructuring individual schools, shouldn't the "housecleaning" start from the top?

As was explained by Reid Lyon, in Developing an American College of Education, "Colleges of education are not accountable for what their graduates know and how that knowledge affects students in their graduate's classrooms... You only have to look at the billions of dollars that states and districts are spending on professional development for teachers already teaching to understand the gravity of this situation. Why in the world would schools have to re-teach concepts to teachers that they should already know?"

Sadly, my own personal experience has been that classes providing teachers continuing professional development often end up being based on more of the same non scientific ideology. Is it fair, then, to fault an individual teacher, principal, or even an at risk environment for students' failure to make adequate yearly progress in reading when teachers are not required to demonstrate proficiency in "best practice" to begin with?

In a recent report, Educating School Teachers, the National Council for the Accreditation of School teachers (NCATE) is seen as "more a part of the problem than the solution." The author of the report, Arthur Levine writes that, "Teacher education is the Dodge City of the education world.. Like the fabled Wild West town, it is unruly and chaotic.Anything goes and the chaos is increasing." One of his conclusions is that students seem "to be graduating from teacher education programs without the skills and knowledge they need to be effective teachers." His recommendations include changing accreditation standards and making student achievement the primary measure of teacher preparation programs.

An established illustrator/artist and old friend of mine once asked me why I thought so many adults drew the exact same way as when they were kids. She went on to explain that no one had taught them how to "see". Her students were wonderful artists because she used direct teaching strategies. Best practice in reading includes direct teaching, as well.

Recently, the mainstream media reported on a government audit that accused the Reading First program of being "beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use." The director of Reading First was accused of repeatedly using, "his influence to steer money toward states that used a reading approach he favored, called Direct Instruction, or DI."

Anyone who knows anything about effective reading instruction should understand that a large percentage of students require direct instruction in order to learn how to read. This type of knowledge is.well., elementary. However, judging from the most recent reports about accreditation and licensure, it doesn't appear that very many people in the field of education are aware of or have been made to demonstrate proficient knowledge of the essential components of reading instruction. As for the mainstream media, they need to turn in some extra credit or they receive an "F" for not doing their homework on this subject before defaming some in the education community and trying to sell it to the American people.


They're all federal educators now

For decades, conservatives stood against big-government intrusions into American education. They defended local control of schooling, championed parental choice, and pushed to abolish the federal Department of Education. But then, tragedy struck: Republicans took power in Washington, and conservatives suddenly learned to love big government. Indeed, some are now so enamored of it that they are proposing what was once unthinkable: having the federal government set curricular standards for every public school in America.

A few weeks ago, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a leading conservative education group, launched a major campaign to get this done. In the report they released to kick off their initiative - titled "To Dream the Impossible Dream" - the Fordham folks pointed out that states have proven incapable of imposing high standards on themselves, and that the federal No Child Left Behind Act has precipitated a standards "race to the bottom." Fixing these problems, they argue, will require uniform federal standards.

Thursday, their idea got two huge endorsements. In a Washington Post op-ed, former U.S. secretaries of education William J. Bennett and Rod Paige seconded Fordham's call for national standards and tests, paradoxically arguing, like Fordham, that because current federal policy is broken, we need much more federal control. Unfortunately, perhaps because they are desperate for change, Paige, Bennett, and Fordham are all wearing massive political blinders. Quite simply, national standards - or government-imposed education standards at any level - are at best doomed to mediocrity. The way government shapes policy preordains failure.

For one thing, the compromise demanded by democratic politics will always require that the nation's numerous ethnic, religious, pedagogical, and other groups be accommodated in the creation of standards. This is perhaps as it should be, but it inevitably pushes standards to lowest-common-denominator levels. Education historian Diane Ravitch - another conservative supporter of national standards - shows this brilliantly in her book The Language Police, which demonstrates how textbooks adopted by state governments are hopelessly politicized and, as a consequence, hopelessly banal.

Even more debilitating, however, is that government standards always have to pass through vested interests like teacher unions and education administrators, who have strong incentives-and heaps of political power - to keep standards weak. Indeed, if there's just one lesson that decades of failed big-government education should have taught conservatives, it's that groups like the National Education Association have almost endless time, money, and incentives to get their political way, while parents, children, and conservatives do not. In light of that political reality, greater federal control over schooling is a hopeless solution to our education problems. Bennett and Paige almost admit as much in their Post piece, conceding that they are "painfully aware that national standards and tests are hard to get right-and even harder to get through Congress."

Perhaps that pain needs to become a little more acute, because no matter how much conservatives wish it weren't so, decades of monopolistic public schooling have proven that government will never provide desirable standards. Indeed, the numerous inherent problems of government are among the many reasons that the framers of the Constitution gave Washington no authority over education. They are also good reasons why Paige and Bennett should not simply dismiss the Constitution, as they did in their op-ed, on the grounds that, even though "the Constitution says nothing about education, in a world of fierce competition we can't afford to pretend that the current system is getting us where we need to go."

Of course the current system isn't getting us where we need to go. But government control isn't the solution, it's the problem. Thankfully, we can still get high standards, but to do that conservatives will have to give up on doing good through government, and return to fighting for the principles they once championed. School choice - giving parents the ability to take education money to schools that work, and away from those that don't - is the only hope. Only choice will obviate the need for constant political compromise, avert the gate-keeping power of special interests, and impose real accountability on schools by forcing them to attract and keep customers.

As Congress moves inexorably closer to next year's scheduled reauthorization of NCLB, conservatives must reject calls for federal standards and tests, and remember the principles that they once held dear. Politically compromised, big-government policies will simply never provide the education our children need and deserve. Only pulling government out of education, and empowering parents and families with school choice, will do that.


Decaying public schools in the Australian State of Victoria

Sandringham College is well known for its performing arts program and broad range of VCE subjects. But to some students, it's simply the "pov school". Principal Wayne Perkins says it's disappointing to hear the term, but he is the first to admit facilities on the school's three campuses are not up to scratch. Problems include rotten window frames, a leaking heating system, and worn-out electrical wiring that is a potential fire hazard. At the Beaumaris campus, where buildings are in their 50th year of service, a boys' changeroom has holes in the walls and a staff toilet has no hot water. "We don't need a swimming pool. What we do want are good, modern, safe facilities," Mr Perkins said. "This college has not seen a significant amount of money for a long time. We are operating in a set of facilities which are totally inappropriate and physically run-down, to the point of being dangerous and unhealthy."

In the most recent statewide audit of school maintenance needs, reported by The Age yesterday, the bayside school's total repair bill was recorded at $1.86 million - the second highest in the state behind Bendigo's Flora Hill Secondary College, with $2.54 million. Since the audit in late 2005, Sandringham has received $160,000 in extra maintenance funding for items deemed urgent, and $320,000 for toilet upgrades. But Mr Perkins said more repairs were needed. "If you can't open a window to a building for ventilation because the frame is rotten . . . to me, that's urgent."

The total maintenance bill for Victoria's public schools was $268 million, of which $252 million is the responsibility of the Education Department. The figures prompted former Melbourne University dean of education Brian Caldwell to repeat his call for Victoria to pursue public-private partnerships. "The kind of commitments that the Government has made in recent years . . . (are) nowhere near adequate," Professor Caldwell said. "They are just patching up existing buildings rather than large scale redesign or replacement of schools."

The Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals said Victoria's public schools were the worst in the nation, but Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan rejected the claim. "We are certainly not denying that Victoria's schools do have maintenance needs, but making these sort of comments is not keeping it in perspective and it's really putting down state schools." Ms Allan said some of the highest repair bills were at large, multi-campus schools, schools with excess space, or schools on the planning list for capital works.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said impending building works should not be seen as an excuse. "They are earmarked for capital works because they have been run down by a lack of maintenance." At Ballarat Secondary College, planning is under way for an upgrade to the East campus. "We are very pleased," said principal Paul Rose. "But the campus should have been rebuilt 30 years ago." Yesterday, the Government announced an increase in the maintenance funding provided as part of annual school budgets, up from $34 million to $41 million, which brings total Government investment on maintenance since the audit to $141 million.



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, October 01, 2006

California bill to let schools land good teachers

A strange idea for California

It can take years to fire a bad teacher. So some principals don't even bother trying. Instead, they make a deal. The principal asks the teacher to look for a job elsewhere in the district. In exchange, the teacher gets a good evaluation. Now here's the rub. Since there's plenty of competition for plum jobs at affluent schools, the bad teacher gets funneled to a struggling school serving a needy population.

School administrators call it the "dance of the lemons," and it's surprisingly common. More than a quarter of the principals surveyed in San Diego Unified School District, for instance, admitted to coaxing an underperforming teacher to transfer elsewhere, according to a national study released last year by the New Teacher Project, a New York-based nonprofit organization. A whopping 47 percent confessed they had hidden vacancies to avoid accepting such teachers. Meanwhile, 65 percent of the district's schools had no choice, or limited choice, in filling at least one position.

New legislation could change that in California. Senate Bill 1655 may be the first in the nation to alter union contracts that protect experienced teachers but don't give low-performing schools enough freedom to hire the people they want. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, would help districts snag promising new teachers early in the year. It also would give struggling schools the right to refuse bad teachers whose seniority otherwise might guarantee them a spot on the faculty. "I think this is very, very much a precedent- setter," said Michelle Rhee, chief executive officer of the New Teacher Project. "This could have a positive impact, not only in California, but nationwide."

The bill sailed through the Democrat-dominated Senate and Legislature with enormous majorities, despite opposition from two party allies: the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. It now awaits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature. A spokeswoman for the governor said she did not know how likely he is to sign it.

Several groups representing low-income and minority communities supported the bill -- a factor that won over legislators despite union opposition, said Russlynn Ali, director of the advocacy group Education Trust-West. "That's really unprecedented, isn't it?" she said. "You had a group of advocates that represent poor kids and kids of color saying, 'Enough is enough. We've got to make some headway on closing the teacher quality gap.' "

The bill contains the seeds of drastic change. For one, all districts would be allowed to hire new candidates as early as mid-April without considering their seniority. Currently, many urban districts must give their tenured teachers the first crack at vacancies well into the summer. By that point, many of the best novices have received job offers from suburban districts with less restrictive contracts, proponents say.

In a 2003 survey of four urban districts across the nation, The New Teacher Project found aggressive recruitment yielded a glut of job applicants from outside the district -- many of them new teachers who wanted to work with low-income students but "were left hanging in limbo for months." Between 31 percent and 60 percent withdrew their applications and went elsewhere, the majority citing the late hiring cycle as a cause. "The longer you wait, the poorer the quality of the pool is," Scott said. "The suburban schools really are able to pick off better candidates."

The bill also would give principals in very low-performing schools -- schools that are ranked 1, 2 or 3 on the state's 10-point scale -- the ability to turn down teachers who want to transfer from elsewhere in the district. Not all teachers who want to switch schools are lemons, to be sure. "But when you are a school that is low-performing and you are trying everything you can possibly try, you need to be able to build a staff that will work well together," said Vernon Renwanz, principal of Creekside Elementary in north Stockton.

Over the past six years, Creekside, a high-poverty school, has seen a steady rise in test scores. Renwanz credits his teachers' willingness to work together on schoolwide reforms. It's hard, he said, when the union contract forces him to accept a teacher who isn't interested in change. "If you have someone who's uncooperative, it makes everyone uneasy," he said. "It doesn't promote the good teamwork that is essential for good performance."

Not everyone is a fan of the legislation. Barbara Kerr, president of the CTA, called it "premature and unnecessary," saying it would keep veteran teachers out of needy schools that disproportionately lack experienced faculty. "The idea that a school administrator would have the power to block transfers of highly qualified and senior teachers -- that's very troubling, since many of those schools need experienced teachers," she said. Kerr said a CTA-sponsored bill -- Senate Bill 1133 -- would do more to get veterans into those schools by offering incentives such as smaller class sizes.

Even proponents of Scott's bill acknowledge it's no panacea. The legislation deals only with teachers who seek to switch schools. Teachers who lose their jobs involuntarily -- say, because the district closed their school -- could still be given priority in hiring at any time and placed at schools over a principal's objections. As for delays in hiring, the bill wouldn't do anything to speed up districts that are mired in inefficiency. "I can't make bureaucracies more effective," Scott said. "This is not a magic bullet that will solve every problem. ... But this allows students to get the best teacher, not the teacher who has been subtly forced out of another school."

No analysis exists showing how many districts would be affected. But large, urban districts such as San Diego, Los Angeles and Fresno would see changes in some of the hiring policies spelled out in union contracts, Rhee said. Locally, both Sacramento City Unified and San Juan Unified school districts have teacher labor contracts providing schools limited choice in hiring, with some priority given to candidates with experience in the district. The bill would allow those provisions to last only until April each year. The legislation would take effect as existing union contracts expire


California bill to water down academic standards even further vetoed

Governor refuses to lower criteria for complying with No Child Left Behind law. Leftist hatred of standards stymied

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation Wednesday that proposed an instant fix for students failing to meet California's standard for proficiency: redefine proficiency. Schwarzenegger concluded that changing a few words won't solve academic woes. "Redefining the level of academic achievement necessary to designate students as 'proficient' does not make the students proficient," his veto message said.

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, called the governor's veto of her Assembly Bill 2975 a "missed opportunity" that ultimately will hurt students. "Schools will be labeled as failing schools even if they are making progress and improving their test scores," she said.

AB 2975 argued that California's definition of proficiency was unrealistically high. The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires every student to be proficient in English and mathematics by 2014, but every state can define proficiency.

Thus the rub: States that set the bar low academically have a distinct advantage. In recent years, fewer than 50 percent of students have met California's standard for proficiency, which basically requires standardized test scores that show grade-level competence and, thus, skills necessary to attend college. "While that's a good goal, it's an unrealistic requirement for all students," Hancock said.

Under NCLB, sanctions are imposed on schools that receive federal funds for disadvantaged children and fail two consecutive years in meeting annual targets for the number of proficient children overall and in ethnic or other subgroups, such as English learners. Penalties increase in severity over a five-year period, from allowing students to transfer at district expense to restructuring the faculty or administration of a targeted school.

AB 2975 proposed a lower standard for proficiency. Students would have met it by acquiring adequate skills, year by year, to pass the California High School Exit Exam. The exit exam measures English-language arts at about the ninth- and 10th-grade levels, and mathematics at about the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, officials said.

The California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association supported AB 2975, but the bill was opposed by Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction. "Young people need higher-level skills than ever before to succeed in the competitive global economy," O'Connell said in a prepared statement.

The Republican governor vetoed two other bills Wednesday relating to academic standards:

* Senate Bill 1546 would have allowed community college districts to concurrently award an associate degree and a high school diploma, without passage of the High School Exit Exam.

* Assembly Bill 2937 would have required the state Department of Education to determine what performance levels on a California Standards Test would equate to passage of the exit exam.

"California has made tremendous strides toward achieving world-class academic standards and testing for our students," Schwarzenegger said. "I will continue my vigilance in protecting these high standards."


In Australia too, it's free speech for Leftist professors only

And definitely no free speech for ones who mention racial differences

An extraordinary intervention by a senior federal minister has forced Sydney's Macquarie University to publicly defend the academic freedom of its staff. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has written to Macquarie vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz after one of his constituents complained of "left-wing" bias in a history subject. A spokesman for Dr Nelson said yesterday that the Defence Minister was just passing on a complaint from a constituent.

But in a copy of the letter, obtained by The Weekend Australian, Dr Nelson has penned a note at the bottom of the letter that says: "I am very concerned about this and would appreciate your personal attention to these issues which I find disturbing." The move comes after another senior minister, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, recently warned a South Australian academic that his research could breach new terrorism laws.

The situation is awkward for Julie Bishop, who, since succeeding Dr Nelson as Education Minister in January, has been outspoken about her desire to ease government intervention in universities. In a veiled swipe at her colleague, Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian yesterday: "It is not feasible for university courses to be designed to match the personal biases of individual students. "Students should argue all course content and argue alternative points of view."

The complaint came from a postgraduate student, Douglas Brown, enrolled in the Master of Arts subject Rights and theEvolution of Australian Citizenship. He demanded the university rewrite the unit guide and delete half the articles because the readings were so left-wing the course was an attempt at "indoctrination". Senior academics who investigated the complaint rejected the claim. Mr Brown said one of those academics, Tom Hillard, argued that it was hard to find suitable scholarly writings about Australian citizenship from the conservative side. But Mr Brown said articles from Quadrant magazine or from the Centre for Independent Studies would be appropriate. All university courses and degrees are approved independently by the peak academic senate, a self-accrediting status that institutions guard jealously.

Professor Schwartz would not comment on the Nelson incident but moved to quell growing fears in universities about the erosion of academic freedom in the post-September 11 environment. "It's absolutely fundamental ... that we safeguard academic freedom ... if we're going to have a lively and effective university sector and if we're going to have a fair and lively society as well," he said. There were few instances, if any, where "we would want to stifle an academic's freedom to teach whatever they felt was fair".

Last year, the issue of academic freedom came to a head at Macquarie when law lecturer Andrew Fraser created uproar with his comments about African migrants in Australia. [And the university banned him from teaching as a result] Since then, the university's academic senate has scrutinised the issue and devised a statement, which was being finalised yesterday. It says that academics must be able to teach and research without undue interference from government, university administration, the media, private corporations and other organisations.



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