Saturday, November 11, 2006

Public school class size doesn't matter

Public-school authorities often complain that classes are too large. They claim that teachers can't be expected to give their students the individual attention they need if there are too many students in the class. On the surface, this excuse seems to have some merit. Common sense tells us that in smaller classes, teachers can give more time and attention to each student.

However, many studies show that smaller class size does not guarantee that children get a better education. The pupil-to-teacher ratio in public schools in the mid-1960s was about 24 to 1. This ratio dropped to about 17 to 1 by the early 1990s, which means the average class size fell by 28 percent. Yet, during the same time period, SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) test scores fell from 954 to 896, a decline of 58 points or 6 percent. In other words, student academic achievement (as measured by SAT scores) dropped at the same time that class sizes got smaller.

Eric Hanushek, a University of Rochester economist, examined 277 published studies on the effects of teacher-pupil ratios and class-size averages on student achievement. He found that only 15 percent of these studies showed a positive improvement in achievement with smaller class size, 72 percent found no statistically significant effect, and 13 percent found a negative effect on achievement.

It seems to go against common sense that student academic achievement could drop with smaller class sizes. One reason this happens in public schools is that when class sizes drop, schools have to create more classes to cover all the students in the school. Schools then have to hire more teachers for the increased number of classes. However, public schools across the country are already having trouble finding qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. As a result, when reduced class sizes increase the need for more teachers, schools then often have to hire less-qualified teachers.

As we might expect, teacher quality is far more important than class size in determining how children do in school. William Sanders at the University of Tennessee studied this issue. He found that teacher quality is almost twenty times more important than class size in determining students' academic achievement in class. As a result, reducing class sizes can lead to the contrary effect of hurting students' education, rather than helping.

Similarly, a study on class size by policy analyst Jennifer Buckingham of the Sydney-based Center for Independent Studies found no reliable evidence that students in smaller classes do better academically or that teachers spend significantly more time with them in these classes. Buckingham concluded that a 20 percent class-size reduction cost the Australian government an extra $1,150 per student, yet added only an additional two minutes of instruction per day for each child.

Reducing class sizes can't solve the core problems with public schools. No matter how small classes become, nothing will help if the teachers are ill-trained or their teaching methods are useless, destructive, or idiotic. For example, if English teachers use the whole-language or "balanced" reading instruction method, they can cripple students' ability to read no matter how small the classes are. If math teachers use "fuzzy" or "integrated" math, they can turn kids into math cripples. Even if classrooms had one teacher for every student, that child's ability to read or do math could still be wrecked if the teacher used these destructive reading or math-instruction methods.

In fact, under these conditions, smaller class sizes could give a teacher more time to damage (not intentionally) each student's reading or math abilities. So if a public school has teachers who are poorly trained or who are forced to use idiotic teaching methods by their supervisors, the ironic situation can occur where the smaller the class, the more damage the teacher can do to her students.

Here's an analogy on this issue of class size vs. teaching methods. Suppose a horseback-riding instructor was teaching one little girl to ride. This instructor's teaching method was to tell the bewildered girl to sit backwards on the horse, facing the horse's rump, hold onto the horse's tail, and say "giddy-yap." Does it matter that the student-teacher ratio in this horseback-riding class is one-to-one if the instructor is an idiot or uses idiotic teaching methods?

When public-school apologists claim that reducing class-size will "fix" the public schools, they are only dragging out the same 40-year old excuse that if, "you just give us more money, we can finally give your kids a decent education." That's because, as I noted above, whenever you reduce class sizes, a school district needs more money to hire more teachers.

The class-size smokescreen issue hides the fatal flaws of a coercive government-controlled education system that, by its nature, will give kids a third-rate education no matter how small the classes are. That is because a government-monopoly public-school system strangles a fiercely-competitive free-market in education, and forces parents to send their kids to schools that have no fundamental accountability to parents.

Smaller class sizes also has a unique benefit that public-school employees and their unions love. When class sizes are reduced, the schools have to hire more teachers. More teachers means more union dues and more power for the unions. Could this be the hidden reason why public-school authorities keep asking for smaller class sizes?

The only way to give our kids a decent education is to scrap the public-school system, permanently. When parents can choose which school, teachers, or teaching methods they think best from a supermarket of education choices in an education free market, then class size won't matter much anymore. Only competence and results will matter.



Final year history undergraduates at the University of Bristol have complained after learning that they will have only two hours of lecture time a week. The students who paid 1,200 pounds each in tuition fees claim that they are not getting value for money as each class they attend will cost the equivalent of 20 pounds an hour.

With students who started courses this year now paying fees of 3,000 pounds, universities are bracing themselves for similar complaints from students and parents, who want to see the extra fee income spent on increased contact time with lecturers and smaller class sizes.

Huge variations in the number of teaching hours of academics in different disciplines were revealed in a report last week by the Higher Education Policy Institute. Students in medicine and dentistry have the highest number of contact hours at 21.4 hours a week, but teaching time is as low as eight hours a week in subjects such as history and philosophical studies.

The University of Bristol claims its new history timetable has been designed to allow time for "independent learning" and says students should be doing independent research rather than sitting in class. But Steven Hayes, 20, from Birmingham, said: "When I saw the two hours on my timetable I was shocked. It really does make one wonder whether to commute for those two hours a week." Another student told the university's newspaper Epigram: "I thought I was paying to be educated by leading academics, not for a library membership and a reading list."

When the 100 students applied for the history degree course they were told there would be a minimum of six hours a week tuition in the final year. They found out that had been reduced by two-thirds when they were handed their timetables last month. In the first two years they received between seven and nine hours of class time but the third year was designated as being "research led".

Teachers at the department claim the changes were made after "considerable consideration with students, staff and leading historians from other universities". Dr Brendan Smith, head of history, said: "The new syllabus has been introduced at a time when pressures on resources are incredible and we have to make decisions about which forms of teaching will be most stimulating and effective."

Students say they chose the University of Bristol because it offered more structured teaching than Oxford or Cambridge.


U.K.: Exams watchdogs bid to remove World Wars from curriculum sparks outrage

Exams watchdogs have been accused of drawing up plans to allow schools to drop the two world wars from history lessons. They want teachers to cut back on world history in a drive to improve pupils' performance in the three Rs. But Government exams chiefs stood accused yesterday of indicating to schools they will be allowed to ditch the first and second world wars altogether.

The proposal from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which emerged just three days before Remembrance Sunday, provoked furious and widespread condemnation from war veterans, historians and politicians from all parties. Education Secretary Alan Johnson said the plan must be "stamped on" immediately. He said he had heard reports that the QCA intended to allow teachers to drop the wars from the syllabus. He went on: "If it is an idea anywhere - and I have heard the same rumours - it needs to be squashed pretty quickly and I will make sure I do that."

However the Government itself faced criticism for ordering the secondary school curriculum to be slimmed down in the first place. Ministers had asked the QCA to trim the content of crucial subjects to give teachers more time to run catch-up classes for pupils still lacking basic skills. Planned changes for history involve specifically highlighting the British Empire to try to reverse years of neglect of the subject. But guidance on other British, European and world events would be slashed.

According to drafts produced earlier this year, studies on six compulsory periods of time would be replaced with an emphasis on themes running throughout time. Pupils currently study mandatory units including one headed "The World after 1900", which covers World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Cold War and the Vietnam War. But the planned guidance shown to some schools failed to specifically mention the world wars. One teacher said: "It is very British-centric. It does not mention world and European history at all."

In designing the shake-up of lessons for 11 to 14-year-olds, the QCA is acting on ministers' concerns that teachers are not left enough time to ensure pupils are mastering English and maths. The QCA has previously said that schools are concentrating too much on teaching about "Hitler and Henry" and should broaden their pupils' knowledge in history.

But now Mr Johnson has moved to slap down the QCA for apparently going too far. Asked about the reports at a Westminster lunch, he said: "I've heard the same thing and if this is an idea that the QCA are developing or anyone else we should make sure that it is stamped on very quickly. "We need to have the two 20th century world wars as part of our curriculum. "We need it not just because we are wearing poppies and coming up to Remembrance Sunday and they need to know what they are remembering, which I think is crucial and very important. "But I think also because it is a crucial part of where we are now...if you think of how the European Union developed out of the conflict of two world wars of the 20th century and it is so relevant to everything that we do in this country now. "If it is an idea anywhere - and I have heard the same rumours - it needs to be squashed pretty quickly and I will make sure I do that."

However veterans' groups expressed dismay and outrage that dropping the two world wars from compulsory studies was even being considered. Bill Bond, founder of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, said: "This is really very, very sad and also very dangerous. You can't learn from mistakes if you don't know about them. "If young people are not taught about mistakes that were made these mistakes will get made again. For example, the rise of fascism. Young people may not even know what the word means. "History is an easy target when it comes to cutting down but this is nonsense. We should be teaching the basics as a matter of course but history with it."

The QCA last night denied planning to drop the world wars from the curriculum. In a statement, it said: "The QCA has not given advice to the Secretary of State on this matter. "The two world wars are a significant part of the curriculum in history and they will always be an important part of classroom teaching. There are no plans to change this. It appears some people have been misinformed." A spokesman added: "The world wars will be in there but it is premature to say exactly where in programmes of study." New draft syllabuses are due out early next year.



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

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

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


Friday, November 10, 2006

AZ: Private tests get kids into gifted classes

Hundreds of parents in Arizona are doing an end-around their neighborhood schools to get their kids in gifted programs. They're turning to a little-known state rule that mandates if a psychologist or other "qualified professional" tests a child and determines he or she is gifted, the school must put the student into a full- or part-time gifted classroom. It applies even if the child failed the school's test for being gifted. Some parents call it "buying in." Private one-on-one testing costs from $250 to $700. In districts where parents are aware of the option and have the cash, they often successfully use private tests to get their kids in gifted classes. Officials at several wealthy Valley districts said about 5 to 10 percent of their gifted students were admitted based on private testing. The alternate strategy reflects several trends:

* Many parents distrust their schools' gifted testing. Some districts test all second- or third-graders, while others test only students referred by parents or teachers. Some parents view the tests, which are approved by the state, as one-size-fits-all and say teachers and tests are not sensitive enough to pick up their child's talents.

* Parents don't have confidence in the quality of regular, non-gifted classrooms. They retest their children privately because they think Arizona schools are underfunded and crowded and because many students score poorly on national tests. They want a more challenging curriculum. Many parents also like the cachet of the gifted label.

* Many teachers don't know about the testing options and don't tell parents. If they knew, potentially thousands of additional kids could be labeled gifted. Schools have a financial incentive to limit the enrollment: The state funds gifted programs for up to 4 percent of a district's students; the district must pay for any more.

Competitive world

About 100 kids in the Scottsdale Unified District used private testing to get into the gifted program. In the Madison Elementary District, about 45 to 75 students tested privately into the program.

Dina Brulles of Paradise Valley Unified's gifted program cautioned that the state has minimal criteria for outside testers and some are not well-qualified. Others are eager to sell parents a battery of tests that can run up a tab of over $1,000. "I've heard parents say, 'I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars and I can't guarantee a score? That's a gamble,' " Brulles said. "That may put undue pressure on testers."

Private Phoenix psychologist Jamie Matanovich tests about 50 children a year for parents who want them in the gifted programs at Madison, Washington, and Tempe elementary districts. Most of them make the cut. "I know there are parents who push for inappropriate placement," Matanovich said. "I think it's the competition in the world we live in." Matanovich said she requires that parents bring her the child's grades, district scores and teacher comments before she does the testing. "That scares away people who just want a score to run down to the district."

Put to the test

Many parents want their kids in a challenging, accelerated classroom, whether their children are gifted or just ambitious. They don't feel that their children will be overwhelmed. Gretchen Hansen's third-grade twins are in the Washington Elementary District's gifted program. If not for a suggestion by her children's doctor, Hansen said it would never have occurred to her to ask the district to test them. But now she is considering having her first-grader tested as well.

Hansen's not confident about the curriculum in her daughter's regular class. Hansen said she comes home with all 100 percents. "Is she gifted or is it a feel-good curriculum?" Hansen asked. "Is the curriculum tough enough? Does no one lose?"

The district test was enough to get Jennifer Wheeler's son into the self-contained gifted program at Phoenix's Madison Elementary District. "I would equate it to a private-school education," Wheeler said. She was so impressed with the curriculum that when her second-grader failed to make the cut after district testing, she took her to a private psychologist. The private report got her second child into the program. Wheeler said she isn't convinced district tests are able to measure all children's talents.

Susan Goltz, a former principal who runs Madison's gifted program, said the district used to be less tough about who got in, and kids came and went. Now, only students who reach the 97th percentile on the school test get in. Privately tested children must have a report showing a minimum IQ of 139. Goltz said most privately tested students do well in the gifted program.

Who is gifted?

Schools across the country do not agree on a definition of "gifted." Only 32 states require schools to identify gifted students. The inconsistencies result in varying statistics. While about 8 percent of students in Arizona schools are labeled gifted, nationally it's 3 to 5 percent. Madison has 17 percent of its students in gifted programs; Scottsdale has 13 percent.

Advocates and educators agree that most gifted tests used in schools favor children who grow up in the United States in wealthier, well-educated families and learned English from birth. "Everyone thinks their child is gifted. The term is thrown around so loosely," Hansen said. She said just about every child on her street has been labeled "gifted" and wonders how one-third of the Moon Valley neighborhood could possible be gifted. "Kudos to us, I guess," Hansen said. "Are we all gifted?"

Not in the west Phoenix neighborhood of the Cartwright Elementary District, where most kids are still learning English and come from lower-income or Spanish-speaking families. At Cartwright, the cutoff score on the same gifted tests is the 85th percentile to make up for students' lack of language skills. About 2 percent of the district's population is in its gifted programs. Curriculum director Cindy Segotta-Jones said no parent has ever sought a second opinion from a private tester.


Bright Britons deserting universities

Universities will be dominated by foreign academics soon unless more British graduates are persuaded to stay in higher education, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge has told The Times. Alison Richard - who has a quarter of her staff and more than half of her postgraduates from overseas - raises the prospect of universities depending increasingly on foreign academics for regeneration.

The situation across the country is most acute in science, technology and mathematics, as fewer British students are recruited to undergraduate courses, which restricts the pool going on with postgraduate study. Professor Richard's comments are echoed by Universities UK, the umbrella group of vice-chancellors, which cautions that the danger of relying wholly on non-British researchers in some subjects is not only that they go home, but also that the lack of home-grown talent spirals downwards into less interest in schools.

While Professor Richard, an anthropologist who has returned to England after 30 years at Yale, delighted in the cosmopolitan make-up of her staff, she said that she was concerned that the brightest students did not want to follow in her shoes. "What does it say about the perception of universities in this country if an ever-falling proportion of really bright British undergraduates is not considering continuing with this as a career?" she said. "We will always be able to staff Cambridge with brilliant people from all over the world, but if you can't get your own students then British universities will carry on, of course - but without their own."

For the past two decades the number of overseas students undertaking postgraduate research at Cambridge has risen each year. Last year 53 per cent of its postgraduates were foreign students. At undergraduate level overseas students made up only 15 per cent of the total, and overall more than one in four (27 per cent) of all its students came from abroad. "Twenty-five per cent of Cambridge's academics are from outside the UK and it's a wonderful cosmopolitan international mix and I think it's quite splendid that we are as international as we are," she said. "Now the question is - if it were 75 per cent from outside the UK would that be a `bad thing'? I don't know how to answer that question. "So should we be troubled if none of our brightest British undergraduates goes on to further studies and PhDs? Actually, if the truth be told, that does trouble me."

Professor Richard says that lecturers' historic poor salaries are partly to blame, as is the old public opprobrium of universities as irrelevant ivory towers. While that has changed, she says universities are still underfunded and competing with a more exciting world. Although it is not a problem for all disciplines, Professor Richard is clearly concerned about the lack of children studying science, technology and maths (STEM) at a higher level at school. Currently roughly 39 per cent of STEM postgraduates at British universities are from overseas.

Drummond Bone, president of Universities UK, agreed that an overreliance on foreign academics in those subjects was a concern. "The long-term issues for UK business, industry and universities are very serious, because some proportion of overseas academics will stay in Britain, but a good number will go home," he said. "In some subjects we can already see this - especially in maths - where we're seeing huge numbers of people from Eastern Europe in the staff. They are very good, but there is a shortage of home-grown talent."

Professor Bone, who is also Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool, said that the danger was that Britain would not generate its own core of academics. He said this problem had already been encountered in Australia, where some universities were dependent on Asian academics. Last week a study found that nearly two thirds of British academics had considered leaving the country to work overseas and that more than half had considered abandoning university life completely for a better-paid job in the private sector. The biggest gripe among lecturers was bureaucracy, with one in three spending at least 16 hours a week on paperwork.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

British fruitcake in charge of education

Children as young as 12 should help to appoint teachers and take a much bigger role in running their schools, the Schools Minister has declared. In a ringing endorsement of pupil power, Lord Adonis said that headteachers should consider following the example of Finland, where children were full members of governing bodies. The former Downing Street adviser said that he wanted to see a cultural change to allow children to interview candidates for teaching posts.

Pupils have been allowed to be associate members of governing bodies in England's schools since 2003. But to date only a handful of schools have taken up the opportunity.

Lord Adonis told the Commons Education Select Committee that he was impressed by how schools were run in Finland. "One of the things I was very struck by is the degree of pupil participation in the schools," he said. "School governing bodies now routinely in Finland have pupils as full members. That is something we don't have here." In England, governors have to be 18 in order to be full members but pupils can take part as associate members, he said. "These sorts of ideas are ones we should be prepared to look at to see whether there's anything we can learn," he said.

Lord Adonis was giving evidence to the committee's inquiry into citizenship education in schools. He said that he had visited a school in England where children were consulted on appointments. He said that some head teachers believed that it was vital that the school council of pupils should express views on appointments, while others were against the plan. He added: "Every school could help children get to grips with the techniques of interviewing and selecting job applicants. Every school has senior staff who are trained in interview techniques," he said. "The issue isn't whether the skills are available within the school, it is whether the school leadership regards this as a sufficiently high priority for them to do it. "My own view is that they should make the effort. That is the kind of cultural change we need to spread over an increasing number of schools."

Citizenship became a compulsory part of the national curriculum four years ago. The subject is designed to give pupils a knowledge and understanding of current affairs, encourage them to question their social and moral responsibility, and render them politically literate. But inspectors claim that it is taught inadequately in a quarter of schools.

Lord Adonis said that schools should develop school councils, promote volunteering and help pupils to promote their debating skills in order to make more of a contribution to their community.


Determined education ignoramuses in Australia

The bureaucrats and their Leftist masters are pushing the hoary old superstition that promotion of gifted children harms them socially. It has been known to be false since the work of Terman in the 1920s

A legal battle between Education Queensland and a gifted schoolgirl will soon resume - this time in Queensland's Court of Appeal. Lawyers representing the state of Queensland have filed notice they intend to appeal against a Supreme Court ruling last month that quashed an earlier favourable finding in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. The case centres on a decision by education authorities in 2003 not to allow Gracia MalaxEtxebarria, then 9 and who had already skipped two grades at school, to advance to high school the following year.

Education Queensland refused the request because they had concerns for her social development, but offered to tailor a program for her. That decision was later separately backed by then education minister Anna Bligh, one of her advisers and a senior departmental figure. The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal - which considered the case in mid-2005 - ruled in April that there was no discrimination by the department.

But in a judgment handed down on October 4, Supreme Court justice John Helman granted Gracia's appeal against the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal's 2005 decision and ordered the tribunal re-hear part of the case. Justice Helman found that while the tribunal could be justified in finding the initial departmental decision had not been discriminatory against Gracia, the question of whether the department had gone on to discriminate against her in their later review of the case had not been adequately considered.

In their notice of appeal, lawyers for the state have asked that Justice Helman's orders be set aside and the original Anti-Discrimination Tribunal finding be affirmed. The pending Court of Appeal matter has meant a scheduled directions hearing of the case this week in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has had to be postponed.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Muslim Propaganda at the University of Chicago

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is Indiana Jones' museum. At least, it is the museum that Indiana Jones would have shipped the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant home to, if only he had been a real person. Not that even the Holy Grail would top the actual collections of the museum by much. Chicago had lots of archaeologists shipping stuff home. Visitors can see the sixteen foot tall human-headed, winged, guardian bull from the palace of Sargon II, the astonishing giant head of a bull made of polished black that guarded the entrance to the Hundred-Column Hall at Persepolis, and an almost equally remarkable bit of Islamic propaganda - written by the museum staff and posted in the section on ancient Megiddo - in which history is rewritten and Mohammed actually travels to Jerusalem. The Muslim propaganda wall plaque is headed:

Land of the Bible. 600 B.C. to the Present. Three Major Religions Grew in the Southern Levant

Right in the headline, the curator mis-states history to satisfy a political agenda. Judaism and Christianity "grew" in the southern Levant (defined by the museum as roughly the territory of modern Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.) Islam did not. It "grew" in the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina,) nor did the scholars who defined the religion after the death of the Prophet live in the Levant. The plaque continues:

Long after the Canaanites and the Israelites, the Southern Levant has continued to play an important role in the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The golden days of Israel and Judah ended at the hands of the Babylonians with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 B.C. and subsequent mass exile of the Israelites. Although many returned to the Southern Levant under the rule of the Persians (529-332BC), they would not soon regain their autonomy. But Israelite religion continued to develop. At the turn of the first millennium AD, several religious sects broke away in response to Roman rule and the local political climate. One of these lines led, ultimately, to the tradition of modern Jewish religion.

Did the curator slip that bit of anti-Jewish sovereignty propaganda under your radar? The Israelites fail to "regain their autonomy" but continue to "develop" as a "religion." This is a standard line of argumentation according to which the Jews cease to be a political community and transition to being a religious community with, consequently, no entitlement to sovereignty.

Written out of history by the Oriental Institute is not only all evidence that the proto-Jewish community in Judea under the Persians at times enjoyed a limited degree of political autonomy, but the entire history and existence of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms. Since one of the strongest arguments that can be made by a national liberation movement is that the group claiming a right to sovereignty has a history of sovereignty, eliminating ancient Jewish kingdoms from the historical narrative reduces the historically based claim to legitimacy of the modern Jewish state, with real political implications.

Having skipped right over two centuries of Jewish political sovereignty in favor of an anti-Zionist story line that has the Jews abandoning political life after the Babylonian exile in favor of developing exclusively as a religion, we come to the advent of Christianity:

Jesus was born into this context, and was hailed by his followers as the Messiah, Son of God.

Fair enough. Scholarly and objective. But when we come to Mohammed, scholarly objectivity disappears.

Six centuries later, the Prophet Mohammed would visit Jerusalem where he would experience his Night Flight and Ascension to heaven.

Only the pious believe that the visit and night flight are actual, historical events. Mohammed's visit and Night Flight is a religious myth or dream, not an actual event. The Prophet never actually visited Jerusalem. The Quran speaks not of a visit to Jerusalem, but of a visit to the "farthest mosque." Scholarly dispute over the event centers around the question of how early the Quranic reference to "the "farthest mosque" came to be interpreted as a reference to Jerusalem. But note the wording of the plaque. Even a museum visitor who does not believe in night flights and ascensions to heaven, will read -- and quite likely accept as fact -- the notion that Mohammed's visit to Jerusalem was an actual, historical event. After all, this is the faculty of the University of Chicago saying that he did.

The assertion that Muhammad actually visited Jerusalem is a political statement which has the effect of making the groundless assertion in the headline -- that Islam grew in the Levant -- appear to be true. If Mohammed did travel to Jerusalem, if he actually set foot on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem becomes one of the places where the religion of Islam "grew." Because one of the arguments made by national liberation movements is that formative events in the history of the group claiming sovereignty took place on the land they are claiming, if we accept that the Prophet visited Jerusalem, the Muslim claim to Jerusalem is strengthened, with real political implications.

The problem with substituting political propaganda for history is that it alters our perceptions of the world, and our perceptions affect the actions we take. Schoolchildren throughout the Muslim world are taught history exactly as it appears on the wall of the Megiddo room in the Oriental Institute. Jesus was a man, not the messiah as his followers believe. The Jews are a religious group, not an historic Levantine nation, (and therefore have no claim to sovereignty.) Mohammed visited Jerusalem, (which makes it Muslim land).

Maybe we need to send Harrison Ford to the University of Chicago in his Indiana Jones hat, to teach the faculty of the Oriental Institute the difference between evidence-based scholarship and political propaganda.


The Reality of School Corruption

The usual carelessness with taxpayer funds

"Don't confuse the issues with the facts," seems to be a principle that governs too many school boards.It is a major reason why school corruption is so pervasive and why it continues its insidious and unrelenting impact on school budgets. The facts are indisputable that there are not sufficient safeguards or effective monitoring of school operations, procedures and practices nor are there adequate school board policies to prevent and detect corruption.It is much easier to be in denial about the problem in order to protect the system rather than protecting the resources provided by the taxpayers for the education and development of the children.

Statements are often heard from school officials and board members that "there is enough oversight" and that "we have checks and balances."These statements are seemingly credible responses and there is no doubt that many board members and even school administrators believe it.However, it does not withstand the process of verification.For example, school audits do not provide sufficient school oversight.The fact is that the typical school audit is not designed to uncover fraud and stealing and it certainly is not designed to uncover waste and mismanagement.Auditors will tell you that fraud audits take far more time and are more expensive and must be contracted separately.

The Roslyn, LI school district where the superintendent and five others embezzled $11.2 million had its books audited yearly (how it was done so easily is revealed in a separate state audit report). It is a lesson for all school boards to learn from, but denial of the problem and belief that it "can't happen in our school district" seems preferable to facing the reality.

Obviously, the yearly audit did not uncover such a massive theft nor did audits uncover other embezzlement schemes not only on Long Island but in districts all over the country and this is documented in my book: School Corruption:Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust. The fact is that even when some boards were given warnings by auditors that there were financial management irregularities, they were ignored.The Roslyn School Board not only ignored such a warning, but also voted not to inform their insurance carrier that a potential problem existed.This action cost the taxpayers dearly because they lost the insurance coverage that would have protected them from the loss. Furthermore, an audit by the State Comptroller found that the auditing firm did not even follow standard auditing practices (they are now out of business).

What are the other checks and balances?Public scrutiny has worked at times but usually against great odds; however, aren't boards elected for this responsibility?Where are the school policies that address prevention and detection?The public has a right to credible and verifiable answers from every school board.

School officials and school board members have a responsibility to see that all the resources provided for the benefit of the children's education should be used wisely, efficiently, effectively, and be protected from any corrupt acts (cheating and deceit, waste and mismanagement, and fraud and stealing).Unfortunately, corruption is allowed to "fester" in school districts because the opportunities that exist to reduce the children's resources are not identified and addressed by prevention procedures and practices, effective oversight, and comprehensive school board policies.In fact, all of these issues have been identified, documented, and supported in a 348-page grand jury report that has just been released:

"Suffolk County (LI) public school districts have recently been plagued by a series of financial scandals unprecedented in their number and diversity. Although these crimes and misdeeds have ranged in nature from credit card abuse by administrators to the disappearance of grant monies received from the federal and state governments to outright theft, they have also had much in common. Each episode involved malfeasance by lone individuals or small groups.

"The Grand Jury finds that many of the school district administrators entrusted with safeguarding these millions of dollars have been lax in taking adequate steps to prevent theft, fraud and other malfeasance." "And most significantly, each episode arose out of an environment where strong internal controls in school business offices had come to be viewed as optional luxuries and the only consistent, independent watchdogs of school monies were determined private citizens.

Evidently, school audits, checks and balances, and safeguards, purported to be in place in school districts have either been absent or ineffective; instead, it finally took a grand jury to do a thorough job.It is also an example that to find such problems, boards must accept the fact that corruption occurs because the system makes it so easy.It is made easy because boards and administrators do not identify where the opportunities exist for corruption to manifest itself.The reason for this is that they are not only ill-informed about the problem, but even when given the opportunity to be informed, they would rather remain in denial.Only if they know how it happens, where in the district it occurs, who does it, etc. can preventiveaction be taken. When the grand jury looked for the problems, it found overwhelming evidence of corruption that could have just as easily been uncovered by local boards and administrators had they been proactive in combating corruption.

To make matters even worse is that too often the information about financial crimes is hidden from public view by the educational establishment; again, this was confirmed by the grand jury report"

"New York State Department B also employs staff auditors but in fifteen years it has never referred a single case of misconduct to the Special Commission."

Any board that believes that they and the school administration have done all they reasonably can to examine their practices and procedures and identified any opportunities that exist for corrupt acts to take place should be willing to prove it publicly.No excuse should be accepted that what happened on Long Island is not a lesson to be learned by all school boards and administrators because similar problems have occurred all over the country from the smallest to the largest school districts, state departments of education, school unions, U.S. Office of Education, and even associations representing school boards.

Stopping School Corruption:A Manual for Taxpayers (free download at lists ten questions that any board should be willing to answer publicly in order to prove that they are fulfilling their responsibilities as fiduciary agents of public funds.Any board that can provide credible and verifiable answers to the questions should be most willing and proud to reveal the results publicly. Why fear to do so when it costs nothing?The fear, of course, is that the results of such a review may reveal facts that may be embarrassing and unpleasant as evidenced by the findings of the grand jury.

For example, is there an asset management program that protects against the loss of school assets?A new study conducted in all 48 contiguous states involving hundreds of school districts revealed that $250,000 in assets is lost each year to theft ($1.5 million in larger districts).In other words, school districts admitted that asset management is a problem; and, obviously, school assets are not being protected very effectively. Finding school assets missing without adequate explanation means that they were stolen and that is an act of corruption.Any school board should be willing to put their asset management program (if they even have one) to a rigorous test (outlined in the Taxpayer Manual). A comparison of the current asset inventory with what was actually purchased (school purchase orders) going back at least five years is a very objective way to prove whether or not corruption has taken place or if the opportunity exists for greedy hands to prevail.Asset management is only the first question to deal with in the Taxpayer Manual.

What training and education have board members received in how to protect school resources and how to maximize school resources?What training and education has been provided to board members for how to review and analyze a school budget?Doesn't the public deserve an answer?In fact, shouldn't board members be asking why they have not received such training and education?

When I suggested in my book that there should be independent auditing committees in every school district, I never thought I would see the day that it would be a reality: "As of January 1, 2006, all school districts (New York State) have an audit committee whose members assist the school board to fulfill its financial oversight responsibilities." This was part of a Five Point Accountability Plan that enacted by legislation and one that should be emulated by every state.

In addition, the grand jury recommended the establishment of an Inspector General Office for Education.The Five Point Plan, the auditing committee requirements, and the IG office are major and monumental steps in preventing and protecting schools resources from corrupt acts.They got it right, but will other states learn from their experience and action?Prevention is certainly preferable to reaction: "School district administrators and boards of education should carefully review the New York State Comptroller's annual reports and apply the lessons therein to their own systems. One of the most frequently cited abuses in these reports involves the reimbursement of employee expenses." School reimbursement expenses are another common source of corrupt acts and this opportunity for corrupt acts to take place prevails in all school districts.

If school corruption were not a pervasive and serious problem, why would New York resort to such drastic and comprehensive legislation?Why should school districts believe that they are somehow immune from similar corruption problems?What would be the results in every state if a grand jury investigated school districts in the same way as it did on Long Island? ........

A serious problem is that the public does not have easy access to information they need and although the information is all-public, and even though there are Freedom of Information requirements, many boards make it very difficult to obtain information:

"The Grand Jury found that taxpayers have no meaningful access to information about the largest school district expenditures - the salaries and enhanced benefits being paid to school district administrators.Remember that this grand jury had subpoena power and a team of auditors combing through thousands of documents, interviewing school officials, all the while clarifying volumes of sophisticated financial data. there has to be a better way to make the average citizen aware of the salaries and perks paid to administrators financed with their tax dollars," said DA Spota."

In conclusion, the following statements from the grand jury report put it all into perspective.

"Many of school districts' recent troubles stem from an overall lack of accountability. Administrators need not vouch for the data they provide to government and private auditors, nor are they held to answer when the numbers do not add up.

"The Grand Jury finds that the presumption that school districts have been in the care of educated professionals selected for their experience and financial knowledge has not stood the test of time.

"Management must show leadership in carefully safeguarding the public resources entrusted to them.To achieve these goals, management must first establish clear policies and procedures that will govern operations, communicate them broadly and then ensure that all employees comply with these policies and procedures."

What is so difficult to understand and what is so difficult to do?It costs nothing to do, not a single penny.What is required is to face the fact that corruption is a systemic and on-going problem so that appropriate actions can be taken. Why don't boards want to know about these problems and issues and how to deal with them?Isn't protecting the children and the resources that are provided for them their most important responsibility rather than protecting the system?Isn't this what they are elected to do? Learning from the mistakes and misdeeds of others, regardless of where they occur, should be a priority of all school board members and school administrators.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006


An interesting email below from a reader:

There is a disturbing trend in public schools concerning free speech that you have addressed many times, but I noticed something in two of your posts that is very concerning. It is no secret that public schools are trying more and more to control what students say in school, whether it is blogged speeches or on a T shirt, but that control is now growing beyond in-school speech. I think you blogged about the high schoolers who were banned, and some even suspended, for wearing T shirts with slogans that protested their displeasure with gay rights events at their schools. One of the principals was quoted, "Living in a free society, people can't feel threatened to live any way they want to be. School districts need to be one of the safest, if not the safest, place for students to expand their thinking".

Controlling what students say in school during school hours isn't enough now. A while back you blogged about a school that suspended a student who posted a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" across the street from his school during the Olympic Torch relay because they claimed it was a school-sponsored event and therefore the students are subject to school policy. Students have been punished for speech on their My Space pages that were created off campus outside of school hours.

I noticed in the Tongue Tied posts that both the Florida principal who had an *offensive* article physically cut out of the school paper and the Michigan principal who banned Huckleberry Finn ordered the students not to talk about the controversy even out of school. According to the St Petersburg Times, the Florida principal, William Orr, ordered the students not to talk about the article, and the Detroit News reported "parent Cyndee Push said school officials in her daughter's 11th-grade class told students not to discuss the decision." Both of these revelations were small throwaway sentences in the articles and not noted as indicative of the larger problem of censorship. (You linked to the St Pete's article, but I had to search for the Detroit article that I quoted) .

It is one thing to restrict speech in school or even at off-campus events, but to tell students not to discuss anything, much less a controversy about free speech, is ridiculous. When you blog about censorship in public schools, I think you should start looking for reportings of school officials telling students and families what to say and what not to say. I know that I'm going to look for that kind of censorship when I read articles about! censorship in public schools from now on, because I find that censorship even more worrisome than the original. It is one thing for a principal to suspend a student for wearing a T shirt that the principal believes is discriminating or a banner that the principal believes promotes a pro-drug agenda at a school-sponsored event, but to tell students not to discuss the event is a direct violation of their 1st Amendment rights. I really hope that this is the extent of this "trend," and it turns out to just be a coincidence. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that I'll be reading about more of these occurrences in the future.


The cadet corps and the "house" system may be considered vestiges of Tom Brown's schooldays, but prefects, sporting societies and communal discipline could soon be making a far more prominent return. State schools are encouraged today to adopt the traditions of the public schools to prevent the gap between rich and poor growing ever wider. An influential left-wing think-tank has taken the rare step of advocating a return to some of the structures associated with public schools - including the house system and forcing young people to take part in structured and uniformed activities - to help the working class to gain personal skills for the 21st century.

The recommendations may be aired commonly in society's more conservative wings, but they have now emerged in a far more surprising quarter. The Institute for Public Policy Research believes that the young can no longer rely on good exam results to get on and that gaining personal and social skills will become more important to self advancement. It says that failing to teach these vital skills will lead to a widening social-class gap between rich and poor and make it more difficult for the working class to move up the social ladder. "We have looked hard at the evidence and children do better in these conditions," Richard Darlington, of the institute, said. He added: "We have to challenge some of the hippy tendencies of the Left on youth activities. Actually what works is structure, discipline, uniform and hierarchy."

All state schools should be encouraged to adopt the "house system" found in public schools and aped in grammar schools. "House systems are a good way to harness peer effects in a positive way. There are three main benefits to this approach: it ensures the pupils interact with older and younger peers, that their identity within school is not solely determined by their year or class and that they are members of structured hierarchies," the report, Freedom's Orphans, says. It adds that the house system would also encourage them to work collectively towards goals while breaking up traditional peer groups. All children aged 11 to 16 should be made to take part in two hours of structured activity in an extended school day under the institute's proposals. Activities could include martial arts, a cadet force or the Scouts - and most would involve wearing a uniform. Parents who failed to ensure their children attended the activities should face fines just as they are punished if their child is a persistent truant.

The report says that activities such as the Scouts and Guides can help to improve educational attainment, behaviour and personal and social skills. Mr Darlington added: "The evidence shows that wearing a uniform, be it in the Scouts or for martial arts, football or sports clubs, helps." The benefits of joining the Scouts or the Sea Scouts or cadet corps are, according to the institute, proven. Those who had participated in structured activities by the time they were 30 were less likely to be depressed. less likely to be single, separated or divorced and less likely to be in social housing. The report found that skills such as communication, self-esteem, planning and self-control had become 33 times more important in determining earnings between the generation born in 1958 and those in 1970.

Nick Pearce, director of the institute, said that there had always been class divides in education, but there was now a personal skills divide that was contributing to a decline in social mobility.


Teachers warned off criticism

Teachers are being warned to watch what they write and say about students because of the risk of being sued for defamation. New South Wales schools have also been urged to closely vet student scripts for theatrical performances and postings on school websites, blogs or electronic bulletins. At least one former Year 12 student complained he had been defamed in the school magazine and threatened to sue everyone involved. Parents as well as students have threatened legal action over comments made by teachers or pupils at school.

Education Department lawyer Wayne Freakley [What an appropriate name!] has issued a warning to 50,000 public school teachers across NSW to be "on the lookout" for potentially defamatory material. Mr Freakley urged teachers to "always be circumspect in relation to comments - written or oral - you make about staff, students and parents".

The advice comes as anger has exploded in schools over new student reports which grade students on a scale of A to E for academic performance. Already some parents have expressed disappointment to their school over their child receiving E grades - a scenario many teachers believe labels the student as a failure.

While student reports carry a qualified privilege giving teachers some protection for the comments they make, serious complaints can be made by angry parents. Sources have told The Daily Telegraph teachers need to think carefully before using words such as "lazy", "grumpy" or "moody" when describing a child's behaviour.

Parents and Citizens' Association president Di Giblin believes words such as lazy or phrases such as "can try harder" should not be used. "It is very important when referring to young people that their self-esteem is not damaged," Ms Giblin said. "Try harder doesn't tell a parent anything . . . it is better to say 'needs motivating' or 'is finding it difficult to be engaged in work'. "Without wrapping kids in cotton wool we need to ensure that young people are given a positive outlook and are encouraged to move forward."

Teachers' Federation vice-president Angelo Gavrielatos said threats to sue meant Australia was "importing the worst of American culture". "It reflects, regrettably, that we do live in an increasingly litigious society and that is sad," he said. "All too often we hear threats of litigation . . . and what we are seeing imported into Australia and into our schools is that litigious environment or mindset that is so prevalent in the United States."



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Monday, November 06, 2006


No apparent appreciation that they are in receipt of huge subsidies from the taxpayers, most of whom have NOT had the privilege of a university education

Student demonstrators gathered in central London last Sunday to protest against the new university top-up fees - up to 3000 pounds per year. You may have missed it; it was upstaged by an anti-war demo a few streets away, and the only live media coverage - on ITV news - noted that `motorists were disrupted today' as a number of students held up traffic. Talking to students over the weekend about why they didn't join the rally, many felt that the protest was `a bit late now' or, according to Daryn McCombe, union president at King's College London, `a bit early,' as the top-up fees policy which the National Union of Students (NUS) hoped to bring down is not up for review for another three to four years.

Daryn and I met up in King's College student union bar, which is called `The Waterfront' because it boasts a beautiful, sun-dappled view of the river Thames. The Waterfront's entry sign is subtitled `student life support', but inside it looks less like a counselling centre and more like a suburban cocktail bar. From the outside, the union is a dirty-looking concrete building with lots of windows, but on the third floor, plush is the word that describes it best. There are canvas photographs of London street scenes bolted to the brown walls, brown leather booths, plasma TV screens, games units, a fluorescent blue juke box, subtle orange lights highlighting the ceiling, and stylish white lamps drooping down from it like large plastic tear drops. The caf‚ sells `delicious gourmet coffee and Covent Garden soup'.

With all this lushness, it's slightly puzzling that students are still demanding more, more, more. But such is life in the brave new dawn of commercialised education. Since top-up fees came to King's, Daryn explains, students are increasingly asking `where's this, where's that? Why aren't there more water fountains?' They're not treating education `as a chance to look beyond themselves' but as a `career step'. As students now pay for their education, they feel entitled to buy themselves the right results. `Students are becoming more and more litigious,' Daryn explains. `They're appealing over and over again against marks. Three years ago the academic board received about 50 appeals for independent adjudication a year. This year, there were 250 appeals.'

One of Daryn's victories as union president has been to defeat an invasive measure to make students who wish to record lectures because of hearing problems prove their disability. This is not because `lecturers were reluctant to be recorded for reasons of copyright or intellectual property', but `because if lectures are recorded and students repeat a point made there in an exam and then has their answer marked "wrong" they can sue'. Although Daryn holds no truck with these sorts of complaints, he does uphold students' rights in terms of living conditions at the King's College student halls, which, he explains, `is a military hospital converted in the 1950s and it hasn't seen much refurbishment since then. There are tiled floors, bad beds, and mismatched furniture. When you're paying for education, that isn't really good enough'.

The turn out from King's at Sunday's demo was around 100. In the presidential office Daryn shows me digital photographs of the day. Before the demo, King's students held a `workshop' to widen participation and make their own personalised banners. Daryn describes the day itself as having `gone really well.' Smiling students flash up, holding banners. He was pleased that the NUS managed to restrain themselves from `wasting money' on placards `that just piss people off', like those saying `Fuck Fees'. He explains that `there are children in central London and it just doesn't help. It just perpetuates what is becoming legend already: that students are just the unwashed masses.'

Daryn was quietly annoyed by the small number of students who staged a sit-in on Parliament Square on Sunday as `they were never going to get any press coverage and all they did was annoy the police'. But why didn't more students from King's man the barricades? `The problem we have at King's is that it's a fairly good uni and it cares about its students. There's not a massive lot for students to protest about, so we're not going to inspire activism.' But if this is the case, why did Daryn go himself? Because, he tells me, he fundamentally believes in free education for all. It's like the war in Iraq, he says. The government has spent `billions and billions' on the war, but the attitude to the army is, `whatever they need, they can have - so why can't that attitude be applied to the public services?'

Although Daryn and many students believe that education should be free, they've thoroughly absorbed the idea that education should be a unit in the consumer economy. For instance, Daryn believes the many problems with science education today are down to fees: `Physics, for example, is good for the economy - but it's an expensive degree and that's putting people off,' he explains. You will find it difficult to find a student who argues that physics should be studied for free and purely for the sake of physics. You just can't sell that sort of line to society anymore. He disagrees with Tony Blair's `arbitrary 50 per cent target' for university enrolment. Instead, you need to `just look at what the economy needs and fill those needs. A lot of degrees, for example David Beckham studies at Birmingham or Norwich or wherever it was, are a pointless waste of time. We need to think about what's best in terms of outcomes.'

Education long ago ceased to be about education. An NUS leaflet, presenting the case against top-up fees, treats the economic facts of the university `market' in much the same way as the Daily Mail discusses house prices. Top-up fees are now a middle class whinge-fest. Did you know, for instance, that `according to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the extra money you will earn as a graduate compared to a non-graduate has gone down by over œ350,000 in the last three years alone! We deserve value for money in our teaching, high quality facilities, and world class resources to help us become better citizens.' But then don't students deserve Goa gap year tans, mummy to buy us a flat, cocktails in the union bar on a Thursday, matching halls furniture, crayfish and avocado wraps each lunchtime and an idiot-proof instruction leaflet on how to get top results too?

The ideal of free education - accessible to all regardless of income or heritage - is a good one. But if higher education is just about equipping people for jobs or making them `fit for society', then why shouldn't they pay for the benefits they accrue? If we understand education as merely `good for the market' then it's only a natural extension for it to be governed by market principles. But talk of education in terms of developing knowledge and critical faculties and then, and only then, do we have a rational argument against fee-dom and a real reason to go out and march.


Science teaching: A breath of realism from Britain

TEACHERS of physics and chemistry should be paid more than those in other subjects so as to attract bright graduates and tackle a severe shortage which threatens Britain's competitiveness, a Lords committee warns today. A report from the science and technology committee says the government needs to act urgently to reverse a collapse in the number of state school pupils taking science subjects. The committee is concerned that the shortage of teachers is being compounded by schools worried about league table positions. The schools push pupils to study "soft" A-level subjects such as psychology, media studies and photography rather than academically demanding "hard" sciences. It calls for "significantly higher" salaries for physics and chemistry teachers.

If adopted, the move would be likely to spark opposition from teachers' unions, but Lord Broers, the former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University who chaired the inquiry, said that increased salaries were vital. "The government has to recognise market forces require them to pay science graduates more than others," said Broers. "The future of British science and engineering is at risk because pupils are not being inspired to study science."

Last Friday Tony Blair called for more young people to take up science to counter "irrational public debate" on subjects such as genetically modified foods and stem cell research. He added that science was "not a life all spent in a laboratory but has the best business and job prospects the modern world can offer".

The Lords committee adds urgency to Blair's call, documenting the steep decline, particularly in physics, in the past 15 years. The number studying the subject at A-level in comprehensives has gone down from 18,000 to 11,000. Across all schools, only 24,600 pupils took physics A-level in 2005. Half the A-grades are achieved by candidates from independent schools, which educate only 8% of the population. About a quarter of state schools for 11-16-year-olds do not even have a qualified physics teacher and 12% have no qualified chemistry teacher.

"Poor quality teaching means pupils do not choose the subject to study," said Broers. The report also accuses ministers of reneging on an election promise to spend 200 million pounds improving laboratories. Some 66% of science facilities in state schools have been assessed as "basic or unsatisfactory". Many schools, the report says, have almost given up practical science lessons. Teachers say science classes are too big or too badly behaved for practicals to be safe. The Lords also believes the government should broaden the number of subjects that pupils study after the age of 16.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Florida School newspaper censored

Everybody knows it but any mention that blacks do poorly at school is forbidden!

There are few issues in American education as widely discussed as the achievement gap, the racial divide that separates the academic performance of white and minority students. But not at Hillsborough High School, where the principal pulled an article detailing the school's achievement gap from the student newspaper. Principal William Orr called the content inappropriate, even though it focused on data the federal government publicizes under the No Child Left Behind Act. Instead of a story and chart, students found a gaping hole Monday in the Red & Black, the school newspaper. "If it's something that has a potential to hurt students' self-esteem, then I have an obligation not to let that happen," he said. "I don't think it's the job of the school newspaper to embarrass the students."

Editor-in-chief Emily Matras wrote the article, which included a chart breaking down Hillsborough High student test scores as reported on the state Education Department's Web site. She wanted to let classmates know what the school administration was doing to address the divide, including a schoolwide reading push. Instead, she learned this lesson: "High school is not the real world," said Matras, a junior. She understood the decision, but doesn't fully agree with it. "I think that we could have made a case that the story could have run, but we thought not to because we respect Dr. Orr."

Students stayed at school until 8 p.m. Friday cutting the article out of Page 3 in the October edition. It was replaced by a stapled note explaining that the administration offered to reprint the edition, but the newspaper's staff didn't want to delay publication. Students were told not to talk about the article. The St. Petersburg Times contacted several after learning what happened. "It did not condone anything immoral. It didn't talk of drug use or pregnancy or teen violence," said Simone Kallett, the newspaper's features editor and a sophomore. "It was a very fact-based article, and we don't understand why it was pulled."

Orr allowed a Times reporter to read the article briefly in his office, but not to quote it. The Red & Black's faculty adviser, Joe Humphrey, declined to answer questions about the article when they came up around campus. "We were told not to publish, and by word of mouth or otherwise we have not published it," he said. "Our primary goal when this happened was to still get the newspaper out." Humphrey, formerly a reporter at the Tampa Tribune and a onetime intern at the Times, said the newspaper staff talked a little about legal ramifications.

In explaining his decision to remove the article, Orr cited a U.S. Supreme Court case giving school administrators broad power to censor student newspapers. But it's not absolute. Mike Hiestand, a lawyer and consultant to the Student Press Law Center, thought the students at Hillsborough High could win a court case. He said they should be able to cover pertinent issues in public education. "If it's a problem, it needs to be solved by addressing it accurately and openly, and it sounds like that's what the students tried to do," he said. "You don't fix a problem simply by putting your head in the sand."

The Red & Black is known as one of the more aggressive student newspapers in Hillsborough County. The latest edition features a front-page article about a junior arrested for bringing an unloaded gun to school.

Orr noted that it was only the second time in more than 20 years as a school administrator that he removed an article from a student newspaper. He had two other school administrators review it. "If it had appeared in the Tampa Tribune or St. Petersburg Times, we wouldn't have thought anything of it," said Bertha Baker, assistant principal for administration. "But a student newspaper has to be a little more sensitive to the feelings of the students."


Government school follies

France, England, Germany, and who knows which other countries are in deep doo-doo because of the impossibility of supporting both multiculturalism and state school policies. The former is in fact a corollary of individual liberty-in a free country one may practice whatever cultural practice one wants, provided others' rights aren't violated. Thus, wearing a black veil-niqab-should not be banned, while, of course, female circumcision should, the former being a peaceful if unusual while the latter a violent practice. The latter are the policies enforced in government schools which simply could not exist in a free country. But since they exist in early all countries, including in the free West, the conflict is unavoidable.

Educational administrators have their idea of what, for example, is proper dress in schools, for a variety of reasons, some of which may be a bit loony, some quite sound. Parents, however, ought to be free to send their children to schools with administration policies of which they approve. Not all children require identical school practices and shopping among them is what freedom is about. A free market in education would make this possible.

What makes educational diversity, along with diversity of school rules, nearly impossible is the policy of government-or "public"-education that is anything but free in the important sense of that term. (Of course, it isn't free even in the sense of being cost-less to those who have to send their kids there; they pay in property taxes and in the loss of other opportunities for educating their kids.) Such education is coercive and imposes extensive uniformity in an area where just the opposite is most fruitful, namely, where alternative approaches to education should be competing and experimenting.

But when government runs something that it should not run, such as education (as well as such obviously diverse elements of culture as museums, concert halls, theaters, athletic competitions), the problem will inevitably surface that some citizens will be put upon while others will want their ways to be imposed on all. Everyone will want to control the "public" turf so his or her way will be the one size that will be imposed on everyone else. This is akin to how in some countries different religions fight for the public square.

In a fully free country there would be innumerable types and kinds of educational institutions. Many would be similar, but quite a few would be unique, different from most. Some would admit children whose parents want them to get mainly religious instructions, others those whose parents would not want this but focus mostly on science; some would go to schools with extensive athletic programs, others to one's where the arts are emphasized. Some would be Roman Catholic, some Muslim, some Hindu, some completely secular-you get the idea.

The same would be the case with various other cultural institutions that have been conquered by government-actually, that are relics of the supposedly obsolete monarchical system or modern tyrannies where the royal head's or dictator's entourage could call the shots about nearly everything. Museums, for example, have to struggle with the artistic sensibilities of those who manage them versus the will of the public being taxed to fund them. And when one side wins, the others becomes alienated and this characterizes much of the cultural and political atmosphere.

Instead education, the arts, and the rest should be dealt with the way religion is, at least largely, in America. Everyone gets to go to his or her own church or temple or synagogue, with no one having to pay for it and encounter unwanted rituals, practices, customs, and sermons. This is, of course, only possible in a society that respects the fundamental right to private property, a right that implies both the exit option and the authority to keep those who are unwelcome outside. But because there are thousands of alternatives to choose from, conflicts can be avoided far more effectively than when government, making policies for all about matters that are highly diverse and involved deep seated human differences, tries to administer matters at everyone's expense.

No doubt, this idea will immediately meet with the lament, "But what will happen to the poor?" No one seems to worry that there are poor people who must confront the issue when it comes to religion-some religions are poorly and some are richly supported and funded in free countries. And despite how important millions of people believe religions is in people's lives, few, at least in American, cry for government funding and administration of their churches.

It is high time to extend the revolution toward a fully free society into the area of education and apply the principle there that is well accepted in religion-the separation of it from government. Aside from according with the principle of individual rights, it would also promote just peace and reasonable tolerance.



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 Pages are here or here or here.