Thursday, January 11, 2007


A lottery is OK to select pupils but evidence of ability is not

Schools will be able to allocate places by “lottery” to ensure fairness between all applicants and to stop middle-class families from dominating the best secondaries, under a new admissions code for England. The mandatory code, which will come into force in September 2008, is being introduced to tackle “back-door selection”, where schools cream off the best students and pick pupils by social background. Many of the best state schools have become largely the preserve of families who can afford to buy homes nearby or expensive uniforms or who can show their commitment to the school through generous donations.

Labour MPs demanded that the code be toughened during the revolt against Tony Blair’s school reforms last year. Alan Johnson, the Education and Skills Secretary, said that the code would create a system where all children, regardless of their background, had a fair opportunity of gaining a place at the school they want to attend. “[It] puts mandatory measures in place to ensure that this is the case at all schools, including the few schools that persist in using unfair or unnecessarily complex arrangements that can disadvantage some families and reduce the life chances of thousands of children,” he said.

Lottery systems, which are already common in countries such as the United States, could be used to counter the house price effect by giving children from all backgrounds a chance to enter a draw for places. “Random allocation of school places can be good practice, particularly for urban areas and secondary schools,” the code states. “It may be used as the sole means of allocating places or alongside other oversubscription criteria. Random allocation can widen access to schools for those unable to afford to buy houses near to favoured schools and create greater social equity.”

However, it adds that the practice might not be suitable for rural areas, where schools draw children from a wider geographical area and where children who did not win a place through the lottery draw might otherwise have to travel a considerable distance to an alternative school. A spokesman for the Department for Education said that lottery systems were most likely to be used to allocate places left over after the use of other admissions criteria, such as distance or membership of a faith group. They could be open to challenge by local parents who lost out for not benefiting the local area, he added.

The code will also ban covert forms of selection such as requirements for expensive school uniforms, sportswear or costly trips, unless arrangements are put in place to ensure that parents on low incomes can afford them. It will also ban admission interviews. Comprehensive schools will still be allowed to operate sibling policies, which allow children automatically to follow older brothers and sisters into the school.

However, in the case of the 39 partially selective state schools, which select more than 10 per cent of pupils, the schools must ensure that their admission arrangements do not exclude families living nearer the school. Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, said: “This new tighter code is welcome, but it will only make a difference if it is rigorously enforced. Heads and governors must realise that they will not get away with ignoring or flouting the new rules.”



In a recent controversy simmering on the Johns Hopkins University campus, university administrators seem to be giving credence to an observation by Abigail Thernstrom, who categorized left-leaning, politically correct institutions of higher education as "an island of repression in a sea of freedom."

Instead of actually functioning as marketplaces of ideas - "to protect the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas," as described in Johns Hopkins' own student handbook - universities continue to punish what they categorize as "offensive" speech and behavior that do not conform to the acceptable, liberal views of politics, race or sexuality.

When posting invitations on, an online social networking site, for a "Halloween in the `Hood" party to be hosted by his Sigma Chi fraternity, junior Justin Park included some racist comments, crude stereotyping and such vivid descriptions as likening Baltimore to a "motherf---ing ghetto" and "hiv [sic] pit" - all of which drew the not-surprising accusation that the party was not only "offensive," as critics of the party put it, but pointed to "institutionalized racism" at Johns Hopkins.

Apparently Johns Hopkins administrators found offense as well: on Nov. 20, Park was suspended from the university for one year and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, read and write thoughtful reviews of 12 books, and participate in mandatory workshops on diversity and race relations.

There are troubling issues here, putting aside the basic question of fairness of punishing a student with a draconian, life-altering college suspension because he exhibited loutish behavior. He received his punishment, not because he participated in actual illegal harassing or intimidating behavior, but because some individuals were "offended" by speech that was not even made directly to them.

Students have a right to be offended by the speech - even hate speech - of their fellow students, but they also have a Constitutionally protected right to be offensive, provided their conduct is within the bounds of the law. When did universities stop teaching students how to think and instead begin indoctrinating them on what to think?

And the Johns Hopkins administration has previously demonstrated its own hypocrisy when dealing with issues of free speech. In May this year, 2,000 copies of the conservative, student-run Carrollton Record were confiscated from parts of campus by University officials who were unhappy with a published story that questioned why students' funds were used for an April lecture by gay pornography director Chi Chi LaRue, an event sponsored by the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance (DSAGA). In the curious world of campus "free speech," a lecture to students by a sexually deviant pornographer is not offensive, but reporting about it somehow is.

Administrators at Johns Hopkins seemingly hold the notion that free speech is only good when it articulates politically correct, seemingly hate-free, views of protected victim or minority groups. But legal scholars, including such jurists as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., have always been dedicated to the protection of unfettered speech, where the best ideas become clear through the utterance of weaker ones.

"If there is any principal of the Constitution," he observed, "that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principal of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."



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

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

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