Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Quality child care" unmasked in Wyoming!

Proponents of HB-92, The Quality Child Care bill will tell you that its goal is to create a "quality rating" system to allow childcare facilities to receive "incentive" payments from the Wyoming State Government. This sounds very innocent and worthy of the Wyoming Citizens' support until you truly see this program for what it is, universal preschool. The first time I read this bill, it became apparent that this was a tactic being used by the "It takes a village to raise a child" crowd, in a stealth effort to introduce universal preschool into Wyoming through deception and masking it as "Quality Child Care."

A web search on "universal preschools" yielded numerous similarities between universal preschools implemented in other states and Wyoming's HB92. A number of "battles" are currently taking place in other states over similar programs. These fellow anti-universal preschool soldiers have agreed that HB92 is universal preschool in disguise and have stated that HB92 is nothing more than an expansion of the Wyoming public schools into the preschool level. The proponents of this bill are masking their agenda of "universal preschool" because they know that the good people of this state would never stand for a Vermont/California-like universal preschool bill. Therefore their strategy is to hood-wink well intentioned legislators into believing their only concern is for the "quality" of childcare in Wyoming.

An article entitled "Universal Preschool," dated July 20, 2006 appearing on the Democratic Leadership Council web site lists the qualifications in detail for the Georgia and Oklahoma universal preschool programs. These qualifications are extremely similar to those of the Wyoming Quality Child Care Program. Both require teachers to work toward a CDA or Associates Degree in Childhood Development. Higher level "teachers" must acquire a Bachelors Degree in Education with Birth through eight year-old w/ early childhood endorsement or a Bachelors Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences w/ Childhood Development option. These CDA, Associate Degrees, and Bachelor Degrees are similar qualifications for Universal Preschool programs. This information draws only one conclusion, which is that Wyoming's "Quality Child Care" bill is indeed a masked version of Universal Preschool.

The most noteworthy member of the Democratic Leadership Council is former first lady and now Senator Hillary Clinton. Remember, she is behind the notion that "It takes a village (the government) to raise the children". The Democratic Leadership Council would have us to believe that Georgia's and Oklahoma's universal preschool programs are thriving. Yet numerous studies refute such a claim. Current studies show this type of program has not helped children gain anything beyond the third grade. Georgia and Oklahoma have had 4 year old preschools in place since 1993 and 1998 respectively. To their detriment, Quebec has also implemented universal preschool.

Georgia: Georgia's universal preschool program started out being funded by the state lottery. A Goldwater Institute report states that, after 10 years, Georgia's universal preschool program has served over 300,000 children at a cost of $1.15 billion, and children's test scores are unchanged according to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which is considered the nation's report card.

Oklahoma: The NAEP also found that since Oklahoma implemented their Universal preschool Kindergarten that Oklahoma's test scores have not only not improved, but they have actually lost 4 percentage points and become the worst performer of all states at the fourth grade reading level between 1992 and 2005.

Quebec: According to the Reason Foundation Report, Quebec's attempt at a universal preschool program was originally supposed to cost $230 million over five years, but now gobbles $1.7 billion every year. Pierre Lefebvre, an economics professor at Universite du Quebec, has just completed a study comparing 4- to 5-year-olds in Quebec with kids elsewhere in Canada and found that Quebec kids have no better scores on the Peabody vocabulary test -- the most widely used indicator of school readiness.

The proponents of this bill are trying to implement and fund a program that has already been proven to be a failure elsewhere. Texas looked into a similar bill and requested The Texas Public Policy Foundation to do a feasibility study. This study, titled "The Early Bird Misses the Worm," January, 2006 concluded the following: "Commonly cited cost-benefit calculations result from flawed experiments that included only the most disadvantaged children, have never been replicated, and would be impractical for large-scale implementation. Positive `investment returns,' while questionable even for disadvantaged children, would be even less positive for children as a whole."

"Existing universal preschool programs have failed to demonstrate significant benefits, and some even exhibit adverse consequences." "An expanded government role would force many private providers out of the market, thereby limiting choices for consumers."

The Wyoming Quality Child Care Task Force is also basing its advocacy of their masked universal preschool program on a study prepared by the Rand Corporation. Recently the "Reason Foundation" did an analysis of the Rand Corporation's study and identified some major flaws. Quoting the Reason Foundation, "Using RAND's own data and alternative assumptions based on the studies they reference, it is easy to demonstrate that universal preschool generates losses of 25 to 30 cents for every dollar spent. And these losses are calculated before including any of the additional universal preschool program costs that RAND ignored in its analysis."

So now we have the evidence from previous attempts in other parts of the nation that implementing universal preschools or expanding public schools to 4 year olds or younger is not only not cost efficient, but is also not progressive or helpful enough beyond the third grade.

The proponents of Quality Child Care in Wyoming want the citizens to believe that their program will benefit our children well beyond the fourth grade and into their adult lives. This assumption is also based on faulty data used in the Rand Corporation's report. The Wyoming proponents fail to report that the reason the Rand's study seemed to offer such a positive result is because it was done in Chicago's inner city and included basic parenting classes. Therefore, the study does not give enough credit to the children doing well as a result of parental involvement, which in turn is due to the parenting classes provided to them. Rural Wyoming and inner city Chicago have very little in common. It is highly suspicious to use such data as validation for Wyoming's "Quality Child Care" program.

As a result of liberal social activism, the Universal Preschool trend is moving across the nation. In June of 2006 the people of California voted down Rob Reiner's Proposition 82, which was an attempt at just such a program. Recently, Massachusetts' Governor Mitt Romney vetoed a universal preschool program. And in 2002 the District of Columbia attempted to pass a mandatory pre-school bill for all three year-olds. The bill failed.

The costs of Universal Preschool are consistently and significantly underestimated, and the long-term saving "estimates" are based on irrelevant studies and purposefully refuse to take into account offsetting increased costs to the economy. It is safe to say that Wyoming should not expect to benefit at all from implementing such a program. In fact, this program for universal preschool, masked as "Quality Child Care" represents a potentially crushing, rapid expansion of the state's financial liability.



Only a quarter of pupils obtained good GCSEs in the core subjects that many employers now regard as essential, according to figures released yesterday. The proportion of pupils achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C this summer jumped by 1.8 percentage points to 58.1 per cent, the second biggest rise since 1997, the Department for Education said. But the figures also show that, after 11 years of compulsory schooling, just 45.1 per cent of pupils obtained five good GCSEs when English and mathematics were included, a rise of less than one percentage point on last year's figures. Only 41 per cent of pupils achieved grades A* to C in English, maths and science and just 26 per cent got good grades in English, maths, science and a language - a fall of four percentage points from 2002.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, conceded that more needs to be done to boost attainment. "One child not reaching their full potential in one school is one too many," he said. Mr Knight also expressed "deep frustration" that the gap in performance between boys and girls had hardly narrowed. Although exam results for both sexes had continued to improve, "boys are now where girls were in 1999", he said.

The results, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, show that 53 per cent of pupils failed to get good grades in maths and English at GCSE. This rises to nearly 57 per cent among boys. However, Mr Knight added that the number of schools failing to equip at least a quarter of their pupils with five good passes in any subject had been cut to about one tenth of the rate of 1997. He also said that entries for a single science were now rising, with rises of 7 per cent each in chemistry and physics.

Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools spokesman, welcomed the increase in the headline figure for five or more good GCSEs, but expressed concern that the rise was being fuelled by schools entering more pupils for easier, or "softer", subjects such as sociology. "Because they want to reach the target of getting pupils through five or more GCSEs, some schools appear to be manipulating the results by focusing less on the essential subjects such as English and maths and putting more emphasis on softer subjects, where they think they can get higher grades," he said. "Most concerning of all is the drop in the proportion achieving good GCSEs in English, maths, science and a modern foreign language for the fifth year running, a proportion which has now reached a record low of just 26 per cent."

Anthony Thompson, head of skills at the employers' organisation CBI, said that employers remained frustrated by the lack of progress at GCSE level. "The recent action to try and increase take-up of foreign languages is a positive step, but the Government must ensure the science curriculum encourages further study," he said


Australian teachers to get even dumber

A bare High School pass will soon make you eligible for training as a teacher

OP entry scores for teaching courses are set to fall further with a 10 per cent drop in applications for teaching courses at universities in the past year. Interest in nursing is up, however, with a 27 per cent increase in first preference applications for tertiary places in 2007.

The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre announced yesterday that applications were stable. Almost 44,000 people had applied for 2007 places to date, similar to last year. QTAC Public Relations and Information Services manager Pat Smith said health courses were in strong demand. First preference applications were up 8.9 per cent in professions such as physiotherapy, optometry, speech pathology, occupational therapy and pharmacy.

The message about a skills crisis in engineering also appears to be getting through, with applications up more than 8 percent. Business and architecture applications were also slightly higher, up 2 per cent and 1.8 per cent.

"The biggest downward trends so far this year, following on a fall in interest last year, has come from food and hospitality, down 20 per cent, creative industries down 15.6 per cent, information technology down 14.1 per cent, and education down 10.5 per cent," Ms Smith said. People can apply well into December, but late fees apply.



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 20, 2006

Business school ethics confusion

Over the past few years, and in reaction to high-profile corporate scandals, many MBA programs have added additional courses on business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR). But for people outside of the universities, the content of these courses remains obscure. What are future corporate managers being taught under the heading of `business ethics'? In what context are students instructed on their "social responsibilities" as businessmen and women? Is a good dose of Milton Friedman all that is required or is there a need for something more?

Consider Harvard Business School. The main CSR course at HBS, "Business Leadership and Strategic Corporate Citizenship" is an optional course offered during the 2nd year of the MBA program. The syllabus for this year's version is instructive. The professor introduces CSR by explaining the three reasons why corporate leaders ought to act in a socially responsible manner: (i) it helps the world and is simply the right thing to do; (ii) corporations have an obligation to "give back" to society because it is society that has given business the license to operate and to make profits in the first place; and (iii) it increases profits in the long run. "We endorse all three reasons for corporate social responsibility," says the professor, "but we will largely ignore the first two" because, well, because this is a university, not a high school debating club.

Now consider London Business School. The United Kingdom is arguably "ahead" of the U.S. in terms of adopting CSR policies (they have their own government website and minister responsible for CSR). So how does the UK's pre-eminent business school compare to Harvard in this regard? First, the LBS course, "Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility", is a required course that one takes at the very beginning of the MBA program. Second, as the title indicates, this course combines CSR with business ethics. As outlined in a 2004 syllabus, `business ethics' focuses more on the decisions of an individual manager with respect to the corporation, whereas CSR focuses more on the relationship between the corporation as a whole and the rest of society.

Like the Harvard course, the London course asks students to examine cases in recent business history in which CSR has been front and center, such as Nike and the sweatshop debate, or Shell oil and human rights in Africa. And while the readings generally support the `doing good is good business' view of CSR, students, at both institutions, are also exposed to the Milton Friedman view, as well as the conflict between being responsible to shareholders vs. being responsible to all of "society". So what's missing?

One problem is that this type of MBA course - and there are many others out there - attempts to deal with a political subject in a non-political way. For instance, the corporate campaigns waged by non-government organizations are a key reason why corporations come to embrace CSR in the first place: think McDonald's or Wal-Mart. Yet the technocratic point of view favored by business schools does not equip students with the ideological perspective that is necessary to understanding either CSR's supporters or its opponents.

In the case of the Harvard course, the professor endorsed an ideological position - I believe CSR is good because it helps the world - but would not allow that position to be examined. Instead, a student is to assume its validity from the start, and focus on how a business leader can most effectively manage its various "stakeholders", that is, shareholders, employees, suppliers and NGOs. The usual response, then, is that the professor should offer the Friedman position - the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits - as an alternative and to stress the role of the manager as agent of the owners of the corporation (the shareholders). But this, too, is insufficient. Under the Friedman view, a corporation can use every means within the law to increase profits for its shareholders, such as lobbying the government for special favors or to support new industry regulations that will fall most heavily on the competition.

Perhaps what is needed is to rethink the way `business ethics' is taught; such that an ethical businessman is one who is responsible not to shareholders or stakeholders, but to the free market system and its components, including private property rights, voluntary exchange and competition. Generally, this is the Friedman view, but broader. It suggests that the role of business is not only to follow the rules of the game, but to not use the law to alter the rules of the game in ways that impede the functioning of the market. Isn't this the true social responsibility of business?


Is diversity enough?

An interesting Marxist article below. The argument is that preoccupation with affirmative action distracts from pursuit of economic equality and that affirmative action for the poor, not blacks, is needed:

The University of Illinois at Chicago, a struggling but ambitious public university in the heart of the city, celebrates its ethnically diverse student body as a great achievement. But Walter Benn Michaels, chairman of the university's English department, is unimpressed. The commitment of universities, corporations and other institutions to such diversity is "at best a distraction and at worst an essentially reactionary position," he argues in his new book, The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality.

Right-wing academics and pundits have built careers taking potshots at affirmative action, multiculturalism and identity politics-pursuits that some postmodern leftists see as the heart of radical politics. Michaels criticizes diversity politics from the left. His argument represents a fundamental and constructive challenge to conventional thinking about the most important issues facing our society. But it is also easily misunderstood. "I've been called a liberal racist more often than anything else in my life," he says, sitting in his office at the university's one towering office building, stylishly dressed in black jeans and t-shirt under a black window-pane jacket. He argues that the pursuit of diversity is based on a flawed understanding of humanity and stands as a roadblock to confrontation with the most basic injustices in society: "The trouble with diversity . is not just that it won't solve the problem of economic inequality; it's that it makes it hard for us to even see the problem."

Race, as virtually all modern anthropologists and geneticists agree, is not a scientifically valid concept. Obvious physical differences exist among humans, but the genetic variation within conventionally defined races is often greater than the variation among those races. Still, "race" is a concept that people use all the time with profound consequences, even if they can't define it. Race gets defined in ways that vary by time, geography and situation. Why, except for the peculiar American notion of blackness as being determined by one drop of "blood" of African ancestry, would a person of half African and half European genetic heritage, like Sen. Barack Obama, be called "black" rather than "white"-the latter a supposedly racial category that has grown more inclusive over many years?

People may talk instead about belonging to different ethnic cultures, borrowing the notion that anthropologists developed to describe the shared symbols and understanding of a distinct group of people, like the Navajo or Mbuti. But as valuable, if elusive, as this idea may be in studying tribal societies, Michaels contends that in our society it is another way to create biological categories that don't exist and thereby perpetuate an inaccurate and racist view of the world. In his zeal, however, Michaels unnecessarily jettisons entirely, rather than reformulates, the notion of culture.

As Michaels sees it, the social focus on achieving diversity diverts attention from the most fundamental injustice in our society-economic inequality. Moreover, the pursuit of diversity, especially in universities, gives legitimacy to the growing economic inequality of American society, because it protects the inheritance of economic privilege and does little to create opportunity for the poor, whether black or white.

Michaels, author of Our America and a writer about both literary theory and American literature, became interested in contemporary ideas of race and identity when studying American novels of the '20s. During that era, many public figures argued for the supremacy of what was seen as America's Anglo-Saxon or Nordic character. But by the '80s, Michaels notes, it was no longer publicly acceptable to advocate racial supremacy. Today, at a time when liberals and conservatives alike profess to abhor racism and prejudice, a new free-market fundamentalism-dubbed neo-liberalism-also claims that racism inefficiently interferes with the workings of a free labor market.

"The question is," Michaels says, "once we've given up the racism, and once we've given up to some degree the idea that races are a biological reality, why are we so attached to races? The first answer is that American society as a whole loves race. What I mean by that is that generally both right and left are-in neo-liberal terms-conservatives. The fundamental precepts of neoliberalism-the sense that in American society, effort and hard work are rewarded, that there's a rough justice in the distribution of wealth, and that inherited inequality is not a fundamental problem-are widely held views in American society. The two sets of ideas go together because one supports the other. "The vision that the primary problems of America are intolerance-sexism, racism-is completely compatible with the view that if we could just get rid of that intolerance and hatred and fear of the other, we'd be living in a fundamentally just society."

That has not happened. Economic inequality, increasing for decades, has accelerated in recent years. As a new edition of the Economic Policy Institute's The State of Working America points out, productivity has grown for the past four years but the median American family income has fallen. According to recent Commerce Department figures, wages and salaries (which include soaring executive paychecks) took the smallest share of national income since records started in 1929, and corporate profits took the largest share since 1950.

Blacks still fare worse on average than whites, but Michaels argues that the central problem here is exploitation of workers, not discrimination against blacks. And diversity is not the solution. He writes, "If you're worried about the growing economic inequality in American life, if you suspect that there may be something unjust as well as unpleasant in the spectacle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, no cause is less worth supporting, no battle is less worth fighting than the ones we fight for diversity."

The obligation of diversity is to be nice to each other, Michaels writes, but the obligation of equality is to give up some money. Given the choice, diversity has the advantage of appearing to be morally righteous while at the same time preserving economic self-interest.

The notion of diversity took off after 1978 when the Supreme Court ruled in Bakke v. Board of Regents that the University of California could, as part of its legitimate interest in maintaining a diverse student body, take race into account when admitting students. According to Michaels, the response to the decision fostered the idea that universities should encourage students to appreciate the differences among races (or other identities more or less modeled on race). But it did not address the issue of economic inequality, which retards achievement for blacks proportionally more than for whites. Economic inequality makes it harder for poor (including poor black) students to be able to afford to go to college. What's more, inequality-in education or family social capital-also makes it harder for poor students, once they reach college age, to compete academically with students from affluent families.

Michaels asserts that diversity gives legitimacy to higher education as a supposed meritocracy, which is important in an era when everyone is told that a college education is the key to success. Admitting a diverse student body, especially for the most elite schools, helps to create the impression that upper middle-class and rich students have won this educational ticket to higher incomes fairly, not because they come from families that are well off.

"The problem with affirmative action is not (as is often said) that it violates the principles of meritocracy," he writes; "the problem is that it produces the illusion that we actually have a meritocracy. . Race-based affirmative action . is a kind of collective bribe rich people pay themselves for ignoring economic inequality." If class-based affirmative action replaced racial affirmative action at Harvard, and its student body reflected the country's income distribution, he calculates that more than half the students would be gone, most of them rich and white.

More here

More politicized "history" teaching

A group that believes the Howard Government could have prevented the deaths of 353 asylum-seekers in the sinking of the Siev X in 2001 is on the verge of selling a case study to schools for use in modern history classes. Year 11 students would be asked to answer whether the drownings were the result of the federal Government's policies as part of the case study, prompting allegations that students were being steered towards a "politically correct" conclusion.

Modern History students would study a number of disputed claims, including whether or not the Australian navy sabotaged the boat before it left Indonesia, if the Siev X Secondary School's Case Study Committee does sell the case study to schools.

The principal of St Aloysius College in Sydney, Father Chris Middleton, told The Australian yesterday the school was considering using the program, to be launched in federal parliament today by child psychologist Steve Biddulph.

Students at schools that decide to use the case study will view primary source documents and be asked: "Was the sinking of the Siev X and subsequent loss of life preventable?" Students would also be asked to describe how statements by a former immigration officer and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer about whether the government officials sabotaged boats "contradict each other". The case study relies heavily on the documentary film Punished not Protected and two books - A Certain Maritime Incident and Dark Victory - which are highly critical of the Government, prompting criticism that the proposal is biased.

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said the material was "an outrageous attempt to disguise a political agenda as school curriculum". "It is a bizarre mix of unfounded allegations and rumour presented as fact, and is clearly intended to influence the opinions of school children rather than educate them with a factual version of events," Ms Bishop said. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said students should be "presented with the facts as we know them rather than any biased presentation".

Siev X Case Study spokesman Don Maclurcan, who is studying for his PhD in nanotechnology, said the case had polarised people and so would sharpen students' analytical skills. "I hope that students would come out of this with a greater knowledge of how government works, what our policies are in terms of immigration and refugees, and a knowledge of things that have happened in relation to our borders in the last five years," Mr Maclurcan said. He said the organising committee had "made every effort to set aside our own conclusions in order to assemble a balanced set of reading materials that present the many viewpoints offered". He said the material was developed "in consultation with the NSW Boards of Studies" but the board denied this yesterday.

The director of the National Centre for History Education at Monash University, associate professor Tony Taylor, said recent events were difficult to tackle in the classroom. "These debates can become more emotional than rational. Skilled teachers can deal with this successfully but it does take a lot of experience," he said. "As for conspiracy theories, it's always difficult to prove a negative; that is, to prove that there isn't a conspiracy."

Education critic Kevin Donnelly slammed the case study, saying it implied a "predetermined answer" about the tragedy. "Students are being directed towards a politically correct response that it could have been prevented and that the Government is responsible," he said. "This is just another attempt at an issues or theme approach to history which quite rightly has been condemned as failing to give students a comprehensive understanding of the background and overall narrative."

But Nick Ewbank, president of the History Teachers Association, backed the case study. [He would] "All history is about the weighing of evidence and the interpretation that can be placed on the given facts. Obviously, this particular case is fairly controversial but we shouldn't be shying away from controversial issues," he said.



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

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

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Thursday, October 19, 2006

A skeptical report on charter schools

A year ago I resigned from teaching in a local high school to accept a position at a new charter school. Charter schools seemed to promise the greatest chance of fostering market reform within public education. I believed that if given the power, a few very dedicated and talented teachers and a small administrative staff could bring about innovative educational changes and create an outstanding school.

Though I have never worked with a more dedicated group of well-intentioned people, I have become skeptical that charter schools can bring systemic change to public education. While I do not claim the ability to predict the outcome of any particular charter school, I now realize that at best only marginal change within public education is possible through charter schools.

A charter school is defined as a semi-autonomous, publicly funded school operated by a group of parents, teachers, and/or community members under a charter with a local school district board of education and/or an outside group, such as a university. At present, 12 states have passed many variations of charter-school legislation, some granting more autonomy than others. Each charter sets forth the school's goals and philosophy, the basic curricular structure, governance, and operational procedure, and is intended to ensure less bureaucratic tethering to state and federal regulations.

Proponents of charter schools claim that the power base of schools must shift from government to parents as consumers of their children's education. Comparing charter schools to private schools as examples of consumer choice, advocates hope that democratically administered, site-based charter schools can offer greater choice in learning environments with little outside interference. Voluntary enrollment should be designed to attract "customers," thus introducing competition into the system.

On the surface, then, the vocabulary of the market (customers, autonomy, competition, choice) draws those who view state education as needing reform and who favor market allocation of educational resources. But just because a list of market vocabulary words can be applied to charter schools doesn't mean that the grammar and syntax of the market are present and operational. I have discovered in my short charter-school career that many of the basic limitations of regular public schools are also inherent in charter schools.

The Attitude of Compliance

Most people can't imagine what "school" would be like if it weren't public. Acceptance of "the way things are" reflects a pervasive attitude of compliance in our state-run educational system. Just as this attitude has plagued market-reform efforts in former Communist countries, so it hampers educational reform efforts in the United States. Dismantling our bureaucratic system of education will be difficult because the power structure has been in place for so long.

The attitude of compliance, subtle and covert, has created passivity among parents in the way they view their role in change. The gradual evolution of bureaucratized educational practices in the United States has fostered the abdication of the family's sense of responsibility to educate its own and has led to the general dependence on the state as the primary educational care-giver.

In a recent conversation with a fifth-grade parent at my school, I discovered that her daughter's teacher was reluctant to allow the girl to be moved into a higher math class because she had missed too much school. Even though the youngster had an "A" recorded in math, and even though the parent and the student wanted a more challenging math curriculum, the parent hadn't considered that she could question an "educational expert." When I asked what she thought her role in the situation was, she paused and stumbled over the words, "I hadn't realized I had a role."

Nuances of this submissive stance appear in one of the major admission requirements of our charter school. Parents must show that they are ready for already defined responsibility by signing an agreement supporting homework policies of all teachers, a minimum 18-hour school volunteer service, and other school-determined policies. In other words, if parents want their students in our school, they are expected to sign an agreement of compliance. Being forced into this position ultimately leaves parents resistant or defensive. What's equally devastating is that parents next year will be expected to "police their own" by deciding on a "policy of consequence" for parents who do not live up to their agreements.

Teacher Knows Best

Just as the attitude of compliance has created passivity in the way parents view change, so it has created a certain arrogance on the part of teachers (and administrators), especially in their expectations of parents. In a discussion at a faculty meeting, several of the teachers were confused by the apparent lack of interest by parents to serve the 18 pledged volunteer hours. Two teachers wondered if we could "force them to do what they are supposed to do for us."

A few weeks ago, I spoke with one of our elementary teachers who had just finished coordinating the school's book fair. I asked her if parents had been involved. She said that she had phoned almost all of the parents in her class, but that they had either already contributed their mandatory service hours or they were too busy to do so now. She convinced one parent to work for part of a day, but that parent said that she preferred to volunteer for her other child's Head Start school (a federally funded preschool) because she earned "volunteer bucks," redeemable at a local home supplies warehouse. If she were compelled to volunteer, she preferred tangible reward. Like many parents, this mother saw no relationship between doing mandatory volunteer work and taking an active role in her child's education. The teacher involved was disgusted that, once again, parents were letting the school down. I realized that no one has seriously challenged the paradigm that those who "know best" for parents, children, and for schools are the members of the educational bureaucracy.

The pervasive but subtle attitudes regarding role expectations permeate almost everyone's assumptions about reform. These attitudes play out in predictable ways in my charter school, just as they do in regular public schools; parents and students get what they get and teachers are surprised that they aren't happier about it than they are.

Often unrecognized, these attitudes mask their causes, which are the constraints that hold charter schools firmly in the government-controlled education bureaucracy. These constraints involve (1) the source of charter school funding, (2) regulations inherent in government control, and (3) the lack of market accountability.


The first bureaucratic constraint pertains to the funding of public and charter schools. Through taxes, parents and non-parents alike pour money into government coffers, and that money is pooled into funds not specifically earmarked for education. No one can say how much education costs any given taxpayer, but generally the taxpayer knows that her dollars will not count as votes in the way her child is educated. State funding perpetuates the compliant parental attitude. Not surprisingly, parents aren't as closely involved in their children's education as they most likely would be if their dollars went directly into a specific school of choice rather than into taxes, and if, because of that direct payment, they could assume more responsibility as customers. Surely, as responsible customers and parents, they would be more than homework monitors, overseers of their children's attendance, or school volunteers.

Even if a family knew what it was paying for education, it is too costly at the margin to protest a policy or philosophy of a school. If one family or a small group of parents came into my school claiming that they didn't want their children to be a part of, nor did they want to pay for, "multi-age," "interdisciplinary," and "untracked" classes, they would be pacified and sent away with a promise that a multi-age, interdisciplinary, and untracked curriculum is beneficial to their children. Parents do not demand nor expect customer sovereignty, and ultimately leave the major decisions to the educational bureaucracy.


The second major constraint of public/charter schools relates to these funding-source problems. Because funding comes from the state, all public and charter schools are regulated by various levels of government, though charter schools may apply for waivers from certain types of regulations. For example, non-certified people are allowed to teach some classes in my charter school. But the heavy-handed state regulations remain. For example, in Colorado all public schools are required to apply the state curriculum standards, and soon will need to meet specified requirements in the assessment of those standards.

Probably the most binding regulation is that of universal mandatory education for all students aged 16 and under. This is the ultimate sanction for government knowing what is best. It means that parents have little say in what "school" is going to mean, nor do they get to decide how much or what kind is enough or appropriate for their own children. In practical terms, what compulsory education means is that many kids are in school who do not want to be. This necessarily affects educational programs negatively because those forced to go to school obstruct the learning of those students who do want to perform.

These two limitations have severely hindered teachers in the upper grades at our school who held high expectations and grand plans to deliver our seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade students a quality education. Many parents brought children who previously had performed poorly to our school with the hope that they would be cured of their non-performance. Those very students have demonstrated clearly that they can continue their non-performance in their new setting, and can interfere with the education of those who want to be there. Bound to the idea that school as we know it must be administered to students in measured doses makes parents, teachers, and students unable to imagine what a true market in education could be like.

Not only do a myriad of other types of regulations still bind charter schools tightly to the category of "public schools," but also local micromanagement by school boards create even more discretionary power for those boards as public education trustees. In another city in Colorado, a new charter school was warned by the school board that its start-up problems had to be corrected in specific ways within 30 days or its charter would be revoked. Rather than allowing parental or even school discretion in determining the seriousness of the problems (one of which was that no textbooks were being used), the particular school board intervened and imposed an arbitrary solution in the matter. Efforts to create market incentives through deregulation could only be successful if sources of funding were private rather than public.


The third constraint of public/charter schools is that of the lack of accountability. All tenured teachers and the dean at my school are guaranteed same-salaried jobs back in the regular system should any of us decide to return. No job security risk is involved, nor do we have to compete to retain a certain income. Though we all face pressure to be innovative, our jobs do not depend on whether the charter school succeeds or fails. Other than being scolded for "being too much in the box of the old ways," no real penalty exists if results are not produced. The risks associated with failure are present only in the marketplace.

Also, because merit pay is viewed by teachers as disharmonious, monetary incentives offered for innovative behavior are deemed inappropriate. Not only did the majority of the faculty at my charter school vote to make our professional evaluations as "threat free" as possible, they also plan to implement self-designed, personalized evaluations to "equalize" faculty, hoping to promote an environment of trust and respect. Ironically, though we are not tied to a union contract at the charter school and most teachers have given up union membership, the tendency to protect our own interests is just as strong as it is in those who protect their interests by being union members. Teachers who are having obvious difficulty performing are protected by lengthy procedures for dismissal. We tend to see ourselves, rather than parents and students, as the rightful decision-makers in employment decisions.

A second accountability issue relates to the unlikely possibility that school district administration will allow charter schools to fail if these schools have been publicly endorsed. Because our school district and the university (our charter holder) have forged an official "alliance," pledging support for K-16 education, both benefit by any claim to success we make. Thus, it is in both the university's and the district's interests to prevent failure, or the public admission of it.

However, assuming that parents decide to "vote with their feet" and leave a charter school, the effects will be different than if education were bought and sold in the marketplace. In the market, failure is necessary for resource allocation. But if it occurs in the public education arena, resources will be rechanneled right back into the bureaucracy from which it was intended to break free. To make matters worse, teachers' unions will politicize the failure as a vote in favor of "regular" public schools.

A third accountability problem stems from the belief in teacher empowerment. In our school, teachers are jacks-of-all-trades, all with consensual say, taking on such administrative tasks as scheduling, writing curriculum, and designing all policies. Empowerment has been the goal of all of us for years. "Just free us from the administrative stranglehold and we will be able to make a school run right!" But I have learned that the empowerment philosophy assumes that well-meaning teachers can manage a school resourcefully, and at the same time teach effectively. It assumes that teacher creativity should be unharnessed without administrative restraint. Because public educators don't face the real world threat of possible failure and loss of employment, their creative and entrepreneurial efforts are not bound to the rules of the marketplace. When teachers are empowered, what can stop a bad idea?

Charter schools, like their sister public schools, will not break education open to market forces. But as more and more private groups find ways to crack open the educational monopoly to offer educational substitutes, a new group of schools will enter the scene. Schools that operate for profit will begin to offer new products and services that may differ dramatically from those of public and non-profit schools. In other words, as new schools for profit enter the picture, with some failing and some succeeding, new methods of educating children will emerge. The successful schools may or may not be multi-aged, interdisciplinary, standards-based, or whatever present educational fad dominates. The faculty may or may not be consensually involved in site-based decision-making, and may or may not be restricted to classroom teaching only. It all will depend-on the market.

For the time being, many charter schools will emerge, vowing to make great improvements in public education. And just as pockets of program success and outstanding individual teachers can be found within many public schools, so they will be found in many charter schools. Time will tell whether the charter school in which I teach will make marginal improvements in our educational community; certainly I hope that it does. Charter schools will temporarily cast the appearance of consumer choice, but it must be remembered that they are publicly financed, which guarantees burdensome regulation. This prevents market feedback, including reward for entrepreneurial achievement, or failure and loss for unworkable ideas and poor management. Real competition with public education is yet to come, but in the meantime, the cosmetic change currently on display at charter schools will be passed off as systemic change


Universities see sharp drop in computer science majors

Computer science majors make some of the highest starting salaries for college graduates in the country, at about $50,000 a year. Computer science and computer engineering jobs are some of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So why are university computer science departments watching their enrollments slide?

This fall, Vanderbilt University's computer science department is less than half the size it was in 2001. This year, enrollment fell again, to 61 students from 78 a year ago. Computer engineering has dropped as well. At universities across the country, the picture has been similar. Fewer and fewer people are enrolling in university computer science programs, just at a time when employers say they can't find enough qualified employees. "We're going crazy trying to find candidates,'' said Sridevi Movva, the managing partner of Nashville IT consulting firm Optimum Technologies Solutions.

This is a change from the peak of the dot-com era from roughly 1997 to 2001, when tech companies with big plans, wild ideas and investors willing to take a big risk flooded the marketplace. Students showed up for jam-packed computer classes with dollar signs flashing in their eyeballs. Then, the bottom fell out of the boom and a national recession entered the picture.

Some university professors feel students and their parents are still scared off from computer science because of the dot-com bust, combined with a fear that an increasing number of jobs, especially programming jobs, are being sent offshore to places such as India. Others think universities haven't done a good job offering the latest skills and that students are turning to technical schools and career colleges as an alternative. Career college enrollment almost doubled between 1998 and 2003, according to data compiled by the Career College Association.

"It's not one university that's doing a bad job, they're all doing a bad job,'' said Andy Orr, a recruiting manager at employment agency Robert Half Technology in Nashville. There is a perception that you don't need a four-year degree to get an IT job, said Beth Hunter, the branch manager of the Robert Half office. Many students can bypass universities and pick up certifications, perhaps in the latest programming language or as a database administrator, she said.

One of the exceptions to the general downward trend among universities is Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, which didn't see a spike during the dot-com era and has simply been growing steadily over the past few years. Computer science department chairman Doug Talbert speculated his department never saw the boom and bust in enrollment because students who pick Tennessee Tech already know they want technology careers. Plus, the school added a popular information technology major this year. Tennessee Tech has seen a high demand for graduating computer science majors. "We have companies who call us and say, 'Do you have any graduates who haven't found work?' '' he said. "And we say, no."

But employers continue to send technical jobs to other countries, which professors worry is scaring students away from computer science programs. Beth Hunter, the Nashville branch manager for Robert Half, said she lost an account last week because a local employer was outsourcing 13 jobs to India. She wouldn't name the employer. "We're losing some of our positions to offshore staffing,'' she said. "We just are. But there are jobs out there, and the market is growing." ....

Vanderbilt professors are worried about the perception that jobs aren't out there. The department's Web site includes a plea from the chairman to prospective students that says: "Contrary to what you may be reading in some publications, there are jobs. . "The jobs are out there, but the perception is that they're not,'' said Richard Detmer, the chairman of the computer science department at Middle Tennessee State University.

Jonathan Waite graduated with a bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt in May. But he says the job market is saturated with computer scientists. He feels that way even though he got three job offers in three months of looking for a job. The 22-year-old is a programmer for health-care technology company Pathfinder Therapeutics, creating a program to help surgeons use laser images to perform liver surgery. Waite said some fellow programming grads had a tough time finding work and decided to go to graduate school. The prospect of computer science jobs being sent overseas is something he thinks about, too. "I feel as long as I work hard, and I'm willing to learn new things, I'll be able to find work,'' he added.



Measures to make all faith schools open their doors to children from other religions are to be considered in an attempt to break down barriers between communities. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, will announce today that he plans to look at the intakes of existing religious schools as part of a review of the admissions code for schools. He will tell a conference that plans to require new faith schools to admit a quarter of pupils from a non-faith background are "a start". The next step by the Government will be to apply the principle behind this move to the much larger number of existing church and other faith schools, he will say.

In remarks likely to alarm supporters of faith schools, Mr Johnson will say in his speech: "Young minds are free from prejudice and discrimination, so schools are in a unique position to prevent social division. Schools should cross ethnic and religious boundaries, and certainly not increase them, or exacerbate difficulties in sensitive areas."

Last night the Government confirmed its intention to require new faith schools to ensure that 25 per cent of their intake is made up of pupils from a different religious denomination or none, where there is local demand for this.

Mr Johnson will go farther today in a speech to the National Children and Adult Services Conference at Brighton, according to advance extracts of his speech released by a government source. Mr Johnson will refer to the 25 per cent target for all new faith schools. But he will then add: "This important principle is a start. Through the consultation on the new admissions code, we should explore whether there is more we can do by encouraging existing faith schools to further promote community cohesion, as I know they themselves are keen to do." Ideas he will propose are exchange programmes for teachers, under which they would go into schools of different denominations, to expose teachers and children to the "ethos and approach of different faiths".

A review of citizenship classes as part of the national curriculum, which is due to report in December, will also form part of this process. But Mr Johnson will indicate that he expects independent schools, too, to do more to co-operate with non-faith schools in their area as a condition of charitable status.

His remarks come amid signs of growing opposition to the Government's approach among faith schools, which account for about one third of state schools in Britain, with the great majority, 6,400 out of 7,000, in the primary sector. The Church of England, whose schools teach 940,000 children, has already announced plans to give priority to non-Anglican children for a quarter of places in any new schools, but it said that government action on existing schools was unnecessary. "Church of England schools are already deliberately inclusive, as well as distinctive," a spokesman said. "The provision of church schools across the country is fairly patchy. The local conditions and communities they serve can be quite different from one part of the country to the next. A one-size-fits-all solution would not be appropriate."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, chairman of the Catholic Education Services, said: "We are vehemently opposed to the imposition of quotas on Catholic schools. It will mean turning away Catholics and could well lead to more division." The Board of Deputies of British Jews has expressed similar concerns that a quota could prevent Jewish children from attending Jewish schools



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 18, 2006


After an hour of hearing fifth-grade teacher Erin Rygielski teach about Christopher Columbus and his crew enslaving Arawak Indians, burning them and lopping off limbs, Shyanne Horner said she was shocked. "The Indians had their own opinions and Columbus had his; why couldn't he just go back (to Europe)?" said Horner, 10, of Norwich, a student at John B. Stanton Elementary School. "Columbus changed everything."

Across the country, some teachers are shifting away from the notion Columbus discovered America and are teaching about the explorer as a pioneer of imperialism, according to local educators, scholars and American Indians. But the shift has been slow and sporadic, educators say, since new interpretations of Columbus are mired in controversy between historical evidence and ethnic pride. "Many Italian people today consider Columbus Day as the antidote to 'The Godfather' and 'The Sopranos,' " said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor and pop culture expert. "The traditional Columbus story is a natural, easy way to organize history, but history is really one big complicated mess."

These days, some children's teachers say Columbus brutally tortured Indians at what today is the Bahamas Islands and Haiti with a violent, disease-filled gold expedition that wiped out the native populations. "Columbus was the first Western imperialist and to celebrate that imperialism is to prepare us to celebrate subsequent imperialism," said Howard Zinn, author of "A People's History of the United States," which has sold more than 500,000 copies. "Society does not want to recognize the crimes of people who, for a long time, have been looked upon as heroes," Zinn added. "To face the truth about ourselves and begin to re-examine Columbus means maybe some of our other heroes should be re-examined."

Schoolchildren throughout the country, meanwhile, have a holiday today for Columbus Day, thanks to a 1934 joint resolution by Congress, marking the second Monday of October to honor Columbus' purported discovery of America in October 1492.

"How do you think it feels to be 'discovered'?" said American Indian Trudie Richmond, director of public programs at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket. "How can you discover a place when people are already there?"

At the Stanton School, Rygielski, 24, of Norwich, is among a new wave of educators who use the latest sources, including American Indian accounts of Columbus' visit, in an effort not to sugarcoat the explorer. "One of my college teachers said (being a teacher) is about just presenting the facts to the kids and letting them form their own opinions," said Rygielski, who was influenced by the book "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years." "Once kids get older, like by the fifth grade, it's easier to do that."

Frank Demicco is offended by the kind of Columbus lessons taught by teachers such as Rygielski. The 78-year-old Norwich resident is a former trustee of the United Italian Society of Norwich and an organizer of local festivities to honor Columbus annually. "I hate revisionists that rewrite history, because we have no more facts about Columbus than the facts that have been used for the last 500 years," Demicco said. "Every immigrant family should have pride in their heritage. Italians have done an awful lot of good for the community and brought over a lot of culture and arts, not just pizza and pasta."

But not all teachers address Columbus' purported brutality. Colchester Elementary School teacher Kim Waltmire said many of her colleagues just teach simple songs about Columbus' voyage. Waltmire said teaching about Columbus "is a very difficult bridge to walk." But as a second grade teacher she doesn't have to delve into the debates surrounding Columbus. Norwich Free Academy Social Studies Department Chairman Bruce Donahue said high school teaching on Columbus varies widely and depends partly on the age of the teacher. "Younger teachers teach what they've been taught in college, which is the point of view widely held now that Columbus was the first agent of imperialism," Donahue said.

Sociologist James Loewen, who spent two years examining 12 leading high school textbooks of American history to write "Lies My Teacher Told Me," said accounts of Columbus as a barbaric conqueror are more accurate. "I think we're still dealing with a white supremacist view when it comes to Native Americans," Loewen said. "The truth about Columbus is not such a pretty picture when you get to the details, which include the complete annihilation of the native population of Haiti within 60 years of his arrival." [But did Columbuis do that? NO!]



Almost a million children in England are being let down by poor teaching and inadequate leadership in hundreds of under-performing schools, according to an influential committee of MPs. In spite of the Government spending almost 900 million pounds on schemes to raise achievement levels, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) estimates that last year as many as 1,557 schools, including one in six secondaries, were failing to provide a decent education.

The report comes as Ofsted figures reveal today that the number of schools judged to be failing or requiring "significant improvement" had risen by more than 11 per cent in the past year, from 587 schools in August 2005 to 654 schools this year. At the same time, double the number of inadequate schools were closed in August compared with last. Head teachers and teaching unions reacted angrily to the "misleading and damaging" report, which they said did not give a true reflection of education in today's schools.

With almost one in seven schoolchildren being denied a quality education, Edward Leigh, chairman of the PAC, said that the long-term consequences for Britain's future were severe. "Nearly one million children in England attend schools that, according to government definitions, are providing a poor standard of education," he said. "To waste so much potential in this way is a tragedy." The Tory MP insisted that the "signs of decline" needed to be picked up early and dealt with swiftly. He voiced concern, too, over the lack of data by which to judge primary schools, amid fears that poor performers were slipping through the net.

Having examined trends in poorly performing schools over 2004-05, the 59th PAC report identified strong leadership, honest self-evaluation and collaboration with successful schools as key to raising standards. While accepting that fewer schools are weak or failing than were six years ago, the committee noted that more schools are missing the Government's baseline GCSE targets.

In 2004, the Government denoted "low-attaining" secondary schools as those where less than a fifth of children achieved five A*-C GCSEs. In 2005 40 schools failed this GCSE benchmark. While the MPs agree that poor-performing schools should receive more attention than high-performers, they give warning that weak heads often fail to give an honest assessment of their performance. "Of the schools inspected during the autumn 2005 term, only three judged their leadership and management to be `inadequate'. However, 85 schools were placed in special measures, indicating that Ofsted judged leadership and management to be weak in a much higher number," the report said. While leadership is clearly key to raising morale and the ethos of a school, the MPs also note that in spite of offering salaries of up to 100,000 pounds, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to replace them.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister said the report had exaggerated the number of failing schools. "A significant proportion of these schools are not failing. In some, 60 to 70 per cent of pupils get five good GCSEs and many others are improving very quickly," he said. John Dunford, general-secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders denounced the report as "misleading and damaging". He said: "Let us be clear about the current situation. Even though Ofsted has raised the bar for inspections, only 54 secondary schools out of 3,500 are in special measures. "Of the other schools cited as `low attaining', many have good value-added scores for very weak intakes. They are certainly not failing."


West Australia education chief quits over sex 'cover-up'

A far-Left organization show its non-existent principles

The head of Western Australia's Eductation department has resigned after a damning report that found sexual misconduct is not being properly handled in the state's schools. In a scathing report, the state's Corruption and Crime Commission said the Department of Education and Training repeatedly covered up allegations of sexual abuse of children by teachers, and was more concerned with protecting the welfare of staff than students. Department of Education and Training (DET) director general Paul Albert has agreed to leave the job after a meeting overnight with Premier Alan Carpenter.

Mr Carpenter has said that while he accepts the CCC did not make any specific adverse findings against Mr Albert, "we both agreed that public confidence in our education system was paramount". "It is with regret that, during our discussion, we came to an agreement that it was in the best interests of all parties for Mr Albert to leave the public service under a Management Initiated Retirement."

The state Opposition has called for Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich to resign. After the release of the report, CCC spokesman Roger Watson said the department had resisted the efforts of the CCC to get it improve procedures. He indicated the report had been released publicly in a bid to force change, saying the commission had thought hard before taking that action. The CCC revealed that in one case where a teacher was convicted of indecently dealing with a child under 13, the department had responded by transferring him to another school. The department believed the facts that the child was not one of his students and the conduct did not occur in school hours were mitigating factors.

In another case, a school principal and deputy principal were found to have covered up a relationship between a teacher and student after the teacher agreed to resign. The CCC said the deputy principal was aware the teacher had been investigated for inappropriate conduct with an under-age girl at another school five years earlier but he was allowed to resign before an investigation was conducted into the latest allegation.

The department also failed to investigate repeated allegations about a teacher engaging in sexual contact with female students at school camps over a number of years, and decided not to investigate allegations against a school gardener. It also allowed a teacher with a history of sexual contact with students while on overseas excursions to attend another overseas trip where he was seen engaging in inappropriate conduct.

Ms Ravlich said yesterday she had no knowledge of the explosive allegations until she was briefed by the CCC on Thursday night and received the report on Friday. Yesterday, she labelled it "extremely serious" and that she was extremely angry. "There's no doubt about it, the department has got it wrong," she said. "I think it would be fair to say that the department probably does need a shake-up." But Ms Ravlich had said she was "very disappointed" in Mr Albert. She said she could not act against other staff exposed by the CCC because she had no capacity to do so under the Public Sector Management Act.

Mr Albert claimed he was unable to keep the minister informed because the CCC had instructed him not to disclose any information. Under pressure from the media, he later indicated the actions of staff involved in the incidents would be reviewed. This included the decision by human resources executive director Alby Huts to return a convicted child abuser to the classroom.

Mr Watson said the cases were not isolated examples of the department's handling of sexual misconduct matters. Ms Ravlich said all six recommendations of the CCC would be implemented immediately. The state Opposition has said the report highlights the latest in a series of crises for the minister who has come under fire over Western Australia's controversial "outcomes-based" education system.



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 17, 2006

Counting down to a colorblind Constitution

Three-and-a-half months ago, as U.S. Supreme Court justices were wrapping up their first term together as the Roberts Court, we noted that the next term would present "Another Chance for a Colorblind Constitution." The justices had just agreed to hear two cases challenging the practice of some public school districts to use race in deciding whether students can choose to attend the elementary or high school of their choice. And, we predicted that "[m]aybe America's next generation of students will get to see a colorblind Constitution after all -- at least through their high school graduation."

Our unstated reference, of course, was to the High Court's decision three terms ago allowing the University of Michigan to prefer certain students for admission to law school based on their skin color. The justices decided to uphold race-based affirmative action by the barest of majorities, 5-4, with perennial swing voter Justice Sandra Day O'Connor being the margin of victory.

In fact, the highest court in the land -- and by that we mean Justice O'Connor -- had come exceptionally close to ending racial preferences once and for all back then. After all, there were two University of Michigan cases decided that day, and Justice O'Connor had split her votes, upholding the law school's "individualized" affirmative action program while striking down the undergraduate college's rigid racial formula. But, just as in so many other areas of law, Justice O'Connor was either unwilling or incapable of painting a clear line on the constitutional canvas when presented with the opportunity to clarify the blurry Equal Protection picture.

The same is not likely to be true this term. Indeed, if we had waited just a few more weeks before publishing our thoughts last June, we would have had some hard evidence to bolster our prediction that the Roberts Court will reverse course when it comes to affirmative action this term. That is because the two new justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- gave us a crystal clear indication of what their legal thinking is on the issue of government-mandated racial distinctions in a contentious and fractious voting rights case decided at the end of the last term.

Specifically, in an opinion that only Justice Alito joined, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, "It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race." It is true the comment from the two new justices was penned as an objection to five justices' willingness to engage in racial balancing of an electoral district. But, despite the opportunity to limit the rhetoric to that arcane and narrow area of the law, Chief Justice Roberts chose not to do so, and Justice Alito decided to sign on.

In other words, by our count, there are now five votes to do what Justice O'Connor never could -- shut the door on state-sponsored racial discrimination regardless of whether it comes in the form of the past (forced segregation) or the present (affirmative action). We already knew about the first three votes, since Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas had voted consistently in both University of Michigan cases to reject any consideration of a student's race in the admissions decision. Now there is every reason to believe that two more votes, those of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, will be just as principled in ensuring the "equal protection of the laws" for everyone. If we are correct, it might have taken more than two centuries too long, but the colorblind Constitution will still be better late than never.


A Higher Education Lesson from the Nobels

This year, in all but literature and peace, United States researchers took home the Nobel. From economics, to physics, to medicine, to chemistry, US researchers are bar none the best in the world. This is on top of the Times Higher Education Supplement that ranks US universities as the best in the world. Why then, do conservatives complain of liberal indoctrination?

A key thing to notice is that the only "soft" academic field in the Nobels is for literature, a prize an American hasn't won since 1993 (Toni Morrison). This should hardly come as a surprise as American "culture" is saturated with insipid nudity and mindless entertainment.

However, something deeper is also true. While academics may be left-ward tilting in academia, in the "practical" fields those biases rarely come into play (if they exist). Is there a conservative or liberal way of looking at cosmic background radiation? The bias is prevalent in the "soft" sciences and liberal arts. No economist worth his salt seriously debates that socialism works, they all on some level or another accept the free market. The conservatives have all but won the fight in economics.

In engineering and business schools, the students are cultured into achieving results. It is in the liberal arts schools where a majority of students end up where the curriculum can be bent and tilted any which way. The entire field of sociology has bought into the liberal agenda leaving students without exposure to any other trains of thought. Thus all our sociological experts, whom we turn to for advice on sociological issues, have a narrow-minded view of the world.

It is in these soft sciences where liberal bias is most damaging, particularly when it shuts down any dissent. Instead of presenting all points of view and engaging in a "war of ideas", students are indoctrinated into one train of thought without any ability to engage in any serious debate. The same can be said of philosophy departments, some political science departments, some history departments, and the myriad of "culture-based" departments.

The result is a political culture that is unable to look at the world around itself and pigeon-holes itself into firmly held doctrines and unquestioned ideas. Bias here is the most damaging to society.


South Australia's public schools in deep doo doo

Private schools with problems like these would have the pants sued off them

Dilapidated South Australian schools are turning to the Federal Government for financial help, with students having been forced to use "disgusting" toilets, 90-year-old chairs and unsafe play equipment. Two schools said they had waited 15 years for outdated chairs to be replaced, another said it had been concerned about dangerous play equipment since 1995 and yet another had been raising concerns about decrepit carpet since 1998. The number of federal funding applications from South Australia's 605 public primary and secondary schools has tripled in the past 12 months, with almost 1000 requests for help this year.

Parents are also being increasingly called upon to raise their own repair funds, with primary school principals saying this was now "essential" to maintain schools. Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop yesterday blamed the State Government for the maintenance backlog.

The Advertiser applied to the Education Department, under Freedom of Information laws, for the reasons behind South Australian schools' applications for funding, but this was denied on the grounds that providing that information would cost $20,904. However, The Advertiser is aware that SA schools requesting financial assistance include:

A NORTHERN suburbs primary school where students said the toilets were so "disgusting" and hard to keep clean they avoided using them;

A HIGH school in Adelaide's northwest with 90-year-old chairs in its school hall;

AN inner-city school where junior primary students were "too frightened" to use the toilets;

A SOUTHERN suburbs primary school where an uneven surface on the school's hard court was causing student accidents;

A COUNTRY school where a playground audit found the equipment was "largely non-compliant and unsafe", leaving junior primary students with no equipment;

A WESTERN suburbs primary school where the outdated air conditioning was so noisy that teachers could not speak to students unless it was turned off; and

A PRIMARY school in Adelaide's north-east where the smell of toilets was "unbearable" and pervaded classrooms in the same corridor.

The Investing in Our Schools program provides grants of up to $150,000 to government and non-government schools for infrastructure projects. SA schools made 339 grant applications in round one and 492 grant applications in round two last year. However, the demand for financial assistance has increased significantly this year, with the number of grant applications for round three this year climbing to 984.

Ms Bishop said the poor standards shown in some of the state's public schools were due to State Government neglect of maintenance problems. She said the $26.5 million that had been provided to SA schools by the Federal Government under its Investing in Our Schools program should have come from the state. "It is a disgrace that state Labor governments are not supporting their schools," Ms Bishop said.

However, state Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said the Federal Government's $26.5 million contribution was a "drop in the ocean" compared to the $550 million the state had spent in public school building improvements in the past five years. This included a $300 million school building program in this year's Budget to fund six new schools, as well as many capital projects and school facility improvements. "The Rann Government has instigated Education Works, the biggest school building reform program in three decades, and we would be delighted if the Federal Government backed it with funding," Dr Lomax-Smith said.

SA Primary Principals Association president Glyn O'Brien said yesterday fundraising by governing councils was "essential" as "schools have never got enough money".



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 16, 2006

Pay More, Learn Less

Whatever the Ivy League is good for, it is not good for civic awareness

Many parents believe that where their children attend college is the most important decision a family will make. So where would you rather send your child: Rhodes College in Memphis, or Johns Hopkins in Baltimore? Colorado State, or Cal-Berkeley? Before you answer, you may want to read a new report titled "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship" from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. (Full disclosure: I serve on ISI's board of trustees.)

The report, conducted by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy, is the first to ask whether our institutions of higher education are preparing students for lives as educated and involved citizens of a republic. Researchers asked some 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors multiple-choice questions about America's history, government, foreign relations and economy.

The report paints a bleak picture. It found that many of our best-known colleges are failing their students. On average, seniors scored just 1.5 percent better than freshmen did. And had the survey been graded as a test, seniors would have failed; they averaged 53.2 percent. Even worse, "at many schools, seniors know less than freshman about America's history, government, foreign affairs and economy," the study found. Many students are actually regressing while on campus.

Plus, in higher education you don't necessarily get what you pay for. "Students at relatively inexpensive colleges often learn more, on average, than their counterparts at expensive colleges," the report says. ISI found that Rhodes College does the best job teaching about American citizenship. Seniors there answered 11.6 percent more questions correctly than freshmen did. Colorado State was number two, with a 10.9 percent gain. Meanwhile, students at many supposedly top-flight schools seem to lose knowledge while on campus. At Berkeley (49th on the list) seniors scored 5.6 percent worse than freshmen, and at Johns Hopkins (dead last) they were 7.3 percent worse.

Unfortunately, those last two weren't the only leading schools that failed their students. "Our analysis shows that institutional prestige and selectivity are strongly related to lower civic learning," the study says. In fact, "colleges that rank high in the U.S. News and World Report 2006 ranking were ranked low in the ISI ranking."

Overall, of 50 schools surveyed, students regressed at 16 of them. Seniors there "apparently either forgot what is known by their freshman peers or -- more ominously -- were mistaught by their professors." All of this matters because the study also found that young adults who understand American history and institutions are more likely to vote, volunteer for community service and join political campaigns. Thus, if we want the young people of today to become the leaders of tomorrow, we'll need to change our approach to civic education.

ISI's report suggests some simple ways to do that. Universities, it recommends, should increase the number of history, political science and economics classes students must take. Not surprisingly, students don't learn what they're not taught, and at too many schools students slide through without really studying our history and politics. At the same time, students, parents and alumni need to be more involved. If those who pay the bills demand more and better classes, schools will provide them.

Finally, universities should create departments dedicated to teaching our history and institutions. For years the buzzword on campus has been "multiculturalism." Schools have emphasized, among other things, women's studies, gay and lesbian studies and African-American studies. With universities failing to teach old-fashioned "American studies," though, it's time to insist they build academic centers to do so.

Those who don't know history, it's said, are doomed to repeat it. We need to make sure today's young adults learn about America's great history, so they can not only avoid its mistakes, but more importantly, continue and emulate its successes -- and make the history to come even better than our past.


Why More Class-Size Reduction is a Bad Idea

There's no more popular education program among politicians and teachers than reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. No other program, however, has spent more tax dollars for less result. Now [California] lawmakers are pushing a bill that would fund class-size reduction (CSR) for additional grades.

SB 1133 would spend nearly $3 billion over seven years to decrease class size in fourth through eighth grade down to 25 students. California's current CSR law has spent around $16 billion over the last 10 years reducing class size to 20 students per K-3 classroom. The ultimate goal of the program, says the state Department of Education, is to "increase student achievement, particularly in reading and mathematics." Under this criterion, CSR comes up short.

A state-sponsored consortium of top research organizations analyzed the program and found no association between the total number of years a student had been in reduced size classes and differences in academic achievement. Further, there's no evidence that CSR helps at upper grade levels. Stanford education professor Michael Kirst says that research has focused on elementary grades, not middle-school levels, as SB 1133 would do. Also, that research has examined reducing class sizes to 20 students or fewer, not to 25 students as the bill would require. Says Kirst, "This is really a dark continent in terms of any research."

In spite of this lack of evidence, some top state education officials believe that SB 1133's minor provisions aimed at improving teacher quality in low-performing schools make the bill worthwhile. Unfortunately, teacher-quality problems in California plunge to a much deeper level. Consider the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) given to prospective teachers in California.

The CBEST was designed, "to test basic reading, mathematics, and writing skills found to be important for the job of an educator," according to the official CBEST website. While teachers should be proficient in these areas, the CBEST sets such low standards that it proves nothing.

One Bay Area teacher who took the test in 2003 described the experience as "a joke" and said: "Compared with other standardized tests like the SAT and GRE, the CBEST is laughable. The math section tests maybe for a fourth-grade skill level, and the verbal sections are hardly better."

As an example, one question from the math section of the online practice test asks: "Which of the following is the most appropriate unit for expressing the weight of a pencil?" Possible multiple-choice answers are: pounds, ounces, quarts, pints, and tons.

Easy test questions are only part of the problem. Low passing standards mean that teachers do not even have to master simple questions like the one above. Scaled scores range from 20 to 80 points for each section, and a paltry score of 41 or higher is considered passing.

Further, the test can be taken repeatedly until a passing score is achieved, and test takers can take one, two, or three sections at any given test administration. Since each session is four hours long, potential teachers have twelve hours to complete the test. And then, of course, if they still fail, they can always take it again. And again. And again.

Good teachers are an essential element of good education. With a smart and effective teacher, students will learn regardless of class size. With an ignorant or incompetent teacher, students won't learn even if there are only five in a classroom. Teachers can't teach what they themselves don't know.

Rather than class-size reduction, Californians should focus on how we educate and produce our teachers. There are plenty of careers available to people who want to weigh pencils in tons or quarts. Teaching should not be one of them.


Australian school passes 'illiterate' boy

A schoolboy will soon start Grade 11 despite failing almost every test he has sat for the past four years. The father of "Anthony", 15, who struggles with basic literacy and numeracy, says education officials have ignored repeated pleas to keep his son back. He said it was an indictment of Queensland's state education system that his son was elevated each year despite his failing grades. Anthony would finish senior school at Albany Creek State High with little or no understanding of what he had been taught. "He should have been held back in Grade Seven. He was not ready for high school. I pleaded with the school . . . but they pushed him up," the father of four said. "It has been the same every year since. He does not understand what he has been taught in 8, 9 and 10, yet the school is happy he is going to 11 next year." Anthony recently sat the Grade 10 literacy and numeracy benchmark exams and scored five out of 40 in each.

The school contacted his father but the news was not what he expected. "I thought they might be telling me it was best he repeats Grade 10. But, no, they said he would be going up to Grade 11 next year. I could not believe it," the father said. "He doesn't know his times tables. His spelling is shocking. He is totally lost." The boy's father said he had asked school officials for remedial help but was told to get private tuition. "I am a single dad bringing up four teenagers. I can't afford private tuition. The school says it doesn't have the funds to help me," he said.

Anthony told The Sunday Mail he enjoyed being at school with his mates and would like to get higher marks than his usual D, E, and F scores. "I have a problem with school work. I just find it difficult," he said. "I like school, it's better than sitting around at home. I just wish I was better at it. "It's going to be tough next year. I don't know what subjects I am going to do."

His father said Anthony wanted to work with cars when he finished Grade 12. "But I don't know if he will ever get the chance. I don't blame the school. I know they are under a lot of pressure, their hands are tied. "I blame Education Queensland. The system has failed Anthony. "In my day, we learned everything by repetition. Today, they tell me repetition is bullying. I think they need to get back to basics."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the school had made every effort to help Anthony. Mr Ryan said that while Anthony was in Grade 10, he was doing a modified program that included work from a much lower grade. "The school has quite a specific amount of work in terms of supporting this student . . . the school has done the caring thing in providing a modified program," he said. Mr Ryan said parents could insist on their child being held back a year, but there were other factors taken into consideration, including a student's age, size and maturity.

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the school would work closely with the father and son to help Anthony through his final years, including the possibility of a school-based apprenticeship. "Given the parent's strong views, the school will arrange to meet with the parent to further discuss his concerns and options for the future," the spokeswoman said. "The school is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for this student." She said Anthony had been part of a learning support program since Year 8, with particular focus on literacy. "The school strongly believes he has made progress through the years and they have faith in his abilities to continue."

Opposition education spokesman Stuart Copeland attacked the State Government for failing students. "We are seeing far too many people come out of school barely able to read or write. We are hearing about university students who have to take remedial English courses," Mr Copeland said. Education commentator Christopher Bantick said schools were promoting students beyond their ability. "Students are promoted, regardless of results because schools are number crunching," Mr Bantick said. "A student who fails year after year is not benefiting from this promotional policy. The problem is compounded." He said parents had every right to ask for their child to be held back - although it sometimes led to peer pressure and ostracism.



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 15, 2006

Choosing education

America's system of public education has earned an extraordinary distinction in comparison to the public schools of our international competitors. Only in America do we commit such egregious malpractice against our children that they actually get dumber every year they remain trapped in the public school monopoly. Public schools suffer the same defense as members of Congress: "They're all terrible except for mine." As I am a candidate for Congress and a product of American public schools, I feel I have an obligation to speak truth to power. Your public school and your Congressional representative are - statistically speaking - probably both dismal failures, and for the same reason: neither is truly accountable to constituents. The similarities are striking, if not terrifying:

* Political forces largely outside the control of citizens and voters establish districts that rarely have anything to do with serving the public, but frequently have everything to do with maintaining monopoly power.

* In Congress, members gerrymander their districts to insulate themselves from competitive elections.

* In public schools, bureaucrats set neighborhood school boundaries that prevent competition among schools.

* We measure inputs rather than results.

* In Congress, increasing budgets are the most important measure of a program's power and success, regardless of whether the program accomplishes anything, whether it's necessary, or even if the program is counterproductive.

* In public schools, supporters equate greater quality with increased funding, despite the absence of any statistical correlation between increased budgets and improved outcomes.

* Failure results in more funding.

* In Congress, failed programs are never the result of bad ideas, implementation, or employees. They are always the result of too little funding.

* In public schools, illiteracy, dropouts, declining test scores, and the inability to match wits with our international peers are never the result of bad curricula, bad teachers, or bad instruction methods. They are always the result of bad parents, unreasonable expectations, and too little funding.

* The leaders follow fads without any evidence that their path will take them where they want to go.

* In Congress, legislators and committees use the rule of magpies - they find something bright and then they land on it. This is why Congress holds endless hearings about issues that belong on "Entertainment Tonight" and "Dateline" rather than about issues that really matter to citizens.

* In public schools, the curriculum is so dedicated to political correctness, new math, and whole language learning that it has escaped the attention of professional educators that our children do not know whether the phrase, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," comes from Thomas Jefferson or Karl Marx; how to read a food label, make change, or balance a checkbook; and, how to read, spell, and write.

* Our best and brightest flee with alarming speed and regularity.

* In Congress, voters commonly complain that they rarely have the opportunity to choose among candidates that excite or enthuse them.

* In public schools, teachers with the highest ratings for generating positive educational outcomes among their students rarely work more than five years before leaving the field entirely.

* When we are unsatisfied with the outcomes, we have few alternatives and very little recourse.

* In Congress, because of gerrymandered voting districts, earmarking, and the financial and promotional advantages of incumbency, lawmakers are virtually guaranteed re-election.

* In public schools, our only option is to move our children to private schools, at our own expense, because parents have virtually no influence over institutions that serve bureaucrats, politicians, and unions rather than students. To add insult to injury, even if we can afford private school tuition, we still have to pay property taxes for a service we found so dissatisfying that we abandoned it.

I believe that universal public education is essential. Universal public education is essential for developing engaged citizens, critical thinkers, and an advanced economy. It's an investment in our children, our country, and our future. But, like any investment, we can make wise or poor decisions about where to allocate our resources. Today, and for a generation or more, we make very poor decisions.

This is not unusual in a socialized system - a system in which public servants allocate investments on behalf of a public they supposedly represent. In reality, the central planners who control education investments respond to politics rather than the needs of our children. The reason is simple and understandable: the public education system survives on the largesse of a political system, rather than on the dollars and needs of its customers.

The bureaucrats in the federal and state departments of education are as hopelessly out of touch as the bureaucrats who tried to centrally plan the economies of the failed communist countries. Without any information about which outcomes are actually relevant, they rely on the only information they have - how much money they spend. The Federal government made an effort at remedying this bizarre situation with mandatory testing in the tragic "No Child Left Behind" law. Unfortunately, NCLB allows each state to decide how to conduct that testing. The result is entirely predictable: state political and education leaders manipulate the tests and their definition of "passing grades" to comply with the Federal mandates and secure the Federal funding. So, rather than finding out whether our children are learning anything, we find out how bureaucrats have to adjust the "passing grade" each year to make sure that it reflects "adequate yearly progress."

The solution to this Kafkaesque comedy of manners is simple, radical, and painfully controversial: allow parents and children to decide which school they want to attend. Only by allowing this kind of choice - using the public funds we already allocate to universal education to permit families to choose the right school, the right teachers, the right instruction method, and the right curriculum - will we be able to convey to schools the infinite range of variables necessary to make wise investments. In the same way that entrepreneurs strive to build better mousetraps, to deliver better products at lower costs, to respond to the unique demands of 300 million Americans - entrepreneurs will respond to educational choice with a veritable mall of choices that meet the needs of the real consumers of universal public education.

Putting more money into a system that doesn't work will not make the system work. The incentives to perform in today's public education system are set by people who have an interest in securing more power and more money, and the people responding to those incentives are accountable to the politicians and bureaucrats who set them. Only educational choice will make schools accountable to the constituents who matter - our children.



In my book "Capitalism", I explain a root cause of the collapse of contemporary education in terms of its essential, guiding philosophy. Here is my explanation. It begins with a quotation from W. T. Jones, a leading historian of philosophy. The quotation describes the philosophy of Romanticism, which appeared as a hostile reaction to the Enlightenment:

To the Romantic mind, the distinctions that reason makes are artificial, imposed, and man-made; they divide, and in dividing destroy, the living whole of reality-"We murder to dissect." How, then, are we to get in touch with the real? By divesting ourselves, insofar as we can, of the whole apparatus of learning and scholarship and by becoming like children or simple, uneducated men; by attending to nature rather than to the works of man; by becoming passive and letting nature work upon us; by contemplation and communion, rather than by ratiocination and scientific method. (W. T. Jones, Kant to Wittgenstein and Sartre, vol. 4 of A History of Western Philosophy, 2d ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1969), p. 102.

The Romantics held that "we are nearer to the truth about the universe when we dream than when we are awake" and "nearer to it as children than as adults." (Ibid., p. 104.) The clear implication of the philosophy of Romanticism is that the valuable portion of our mental life has no essential connection with our ability to reason and with the deliberate, controlled use of our conscious mind: we allegedly possess it in our sleep and as children.

In its essentials, the philosophy of Romanticism is the guiding principle of contemporary education. Exactly like Romanticism, contemporary education holds that the valuable portion of our mental life has no essential connection with our ability to reason and with the deliberate, controlled use of our conscious mind-that we possess this portion of our mental life if not in our sleep, then nevertheless as small children.

This doctrine is clearly present in the avowed conviction of contemporary education that creativity is a phenomenon that is separate from and independent of such conscious mental processes as memorization and the use of logic. Indeed, it is an almost universally accepted proposition of contemporary pseudoscience that one-half of the human brain is responsible for such conscious processes as the use of logic, while the other half is responsible for "creativity," as though, when examined, the halves of the brain revealed this information all by themselves, perhaps in the form of bearing little labels respectively marked "Logic Unit, Made in Hong Kong" and "Creativity Unit, Made in Woodstock, New York." Obviously, the view of the brain as functioning in this way is a conclusion, which is based on the philosophy and thus interpretative framework of the doctrine's supporters.

Now, properly, education is a process by means of which students internalize knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student's mind-to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student. Seen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain.

Yet, under the influence of the philosophy of Romanticism, contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education. It draws a distinction between "problem solving," which it views as "creative" and claims to favor, and "memorization," which it appears to regard as an imposition on the students, whose valuable, executive-level time, it claims, can be better spent in "problem solving." Contemporary education thus proceeds on the assumption that the ability to solve problems is innate, or at least fully developed before the child begins school. It perceives its job as allowing the student to exercise his native problem-solving abilities, while imposing on him as little as possible of the allegedly unnecessary and distracting task of memorization.

In the elementary grades, this approach is expressed in such attitudes as that it is not really necessary for students to go to the trouble of memorizing the multiplication tables if the availability of pocket calculators can be taken for granted which they know how to use; or go to the trouble of memorizing facts of history and geography, if the ready availability of books and atlases containing the facts can be taken for granted, which facts the students know how to look up when the need arises. In college and graduate courses, this approach is expressed in the phenomenon of the "open-book examination," in which satisfactory performance is supposedly demonstrated by the ability to use a book as a source of information, proving once again that the student knows how to find the information when he needs it.

With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student's mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources-books and libraries-which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but "how to acquire knowledge"-not to teach them facts and principles, which it holds quickly become "obsolete," but to teach them "how to learn." Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach "Johnny"-to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.

The results of this type of education are visible in the hordes of students who, despite years of schooling, have learned virtually nothing, and who are least of all capable of thinking critically and solving problems. When such students read a newspaper, for example, they cannot read it in the light of a knowledge of history or economics- they do not know history or economics; history and economics are out there in the history and economics books, which, they were taught, they can "look up, if they need to." They cannot even read it in the light of elementary arithmetic, for they have little or no internally automated habits of doing arithmetic. Having little or no knowledge of the elementary facts of history and geography, they have no way even of relating one event to another in terms of time and place.

Such students, and, of course, the adults such students become, are chronically in the position in which to be able to use the knowledge they need to use, they would first have to go out and acquire it. Not only would they have to look up relevant facts, which they already should know, and now may have no way even of knowing they need to know, but they would first have to read and understand books dealing with abstract principles, and to understand those books, they would first have to read other such books, and so on. In short, they would first have to acquire the education they already should have had.

Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being "simple, uneducated men."


Educating illegal aliens drains money from American kids

PTA parents: welcome to America 2006. Your child wants to play football or play in the school band or on the soccer team. Well you already know you have to dig a little deeper into your wallet due to school budget cuts. While the cost to parents handling out cash in order to keep their children in these extra curricular activities keeps going up, another part of state educational budget is actually exploding because those dollars are being diverted to educating illegal alien children because of an ill-conceived and little known 1982 U.S. Supreme Court Case called Plyer v. Doe.

What would a poll of parents in small towns, urban or rural elementary schools, middle schools or high school meeting rooms across America's Heartland find? What do you think they would answer if asked about having to pay out of pocket for more school programs for their kids while normal tax dollars go toward skyrocketing educational opportunities for illegal aliens? Illegal aliens - people who are in this country ILLEGALLY but whose children our tax dollars are supporting.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court decision is overturned it may not even matter. The Supreme Court Plyer v. Doe decision created a U.S. Constitutional Equal Protection right for illegal aliens that is not found in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By fabricating a right for illegal aliens - the court's own language eliminated - a right of our own children's equal protection which is now being obliterated. The U.S. Supreme Court held "The deprivation of public education is not like the deprivation of some other governmental benefit. Public education has a pivotal role in maintaining the fabric of our society and in sustaining our political and cultural heritage; the deprivation of education takes an inestimable toll on the social, economic, intellectual, and psychological well-being of the individual, and poses an obstacle to individual achievement"

Does it not stand to reason that the Plyer v. Doe decision has caused grievous harm to American children in what the U.S. Supreme Court said would be the exact result if public education dollars were withheld from illegal alien children? After 24 years with illegal aliens and their children (whose numbers are growing exponentially) crushing our state and local education budgets we must correct this misdirected and misapplied constitutional decision by the U.S. Supreme Court by going to the heart of the Plyer v. Doe decision. It seems clear that a new call to arms should be blaring loudly in PTA meetings everywhere that are dotting the landscape of our nation.

America, it must happen now because the economic impact of this decision is staggering! Billions of educational dollars from local school programs are stealing opportunity from American kids and their families and it is simply not just. According to the Federation for Immigration Reform, "The total K-12 school expenditure for illegal immigrants costs states nearly $12 billion annually, and when the children born here to illegal aliens are added, the costs more than doubles to $28.6 billion." For example, children of illegal immigrants in California - who represent nearly 15% of the kindergarten through 12th grade public school students - are costing PTA parents and other taxpayers $2.2 billion annually to educate illegal immigrant students in those grades. That's enough to pay the salaries of 41,764 teachers or 14% of California's teachers!

Our American educational budget is not simply on a slippery slope it is in an avalanche from the crush of paying for illegal alien children. The educational budget deficit free fall has to stop and the knee jerk budget give-away bonanza has to cease. That is not the American way nor is it the American Dream that our children should be forced to accept. True, we are a nation built upon immigrants - people who came here legally and are proud to have sacrificed much to do so. They abided by the rules so that the nectar of the American Dream would be that much sweeter, that much more meaningful, and that much more satisfying. The legal immigrant followed the rules and proudly swore allegiance to his or her new nation. Many legal immigrants fought against all odds in many ways, came to this country to escape crushing poverty, and to make a better life for themselves and their families. And they did it legally.

The noble concept of the American Dream has been hijacked in plain view of every American who takes the time to see that our laws that protect legal citizens should be stretched and compromised to fit the illegal alien who boldly crosses the border with his pregnant wife and children in tow who does not understand - or care - that there is a double standard in play. This double standard allows the illegal alien from Mexico to be fed, clothed, educated, employed and even defended because our nation of laws and rules don't apply to him and his fellow Mexican illegals. The exception, of course, is if the immigrant has the misfortune to be originating illegally from countries like Haiti, China, Africa, India, Italy, or any other nation.

But this protected class of illegals gladly expects our nation to use its city budgets to take money away from our kids' classrooms, take housing dollars away from our own poor. This double standard is not fair to our own hard-working single-parent households who live from paycheck to paycheck and who also have a dream, yes, a legitimate American Dream backed by the Constitution and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. American citizens understand that if their American-born or legally naturalized son or daughter studies hard enough, works hard enough, and keeps his or her grades high that he may have the opportunity to go to college or to a trade school or own and build a small business. The protection of this dream is why we have immigration laws designed to accommodate only a certain number of immigrants from other countries.

The solution is in Section One of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." It must be fully litigated now. In addition the U.S. Supreme Court must overturn the 1982 U.S. Plyer v. Doe decision. The outcome will allow for the renewed preservation of America's educational integrity. The new result in Plyer v. Doe would erase the Burger Court surrender of the U.S. Constitution to political correctness at the expense of American children's educational future.



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