Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Preschool for all? No thanks

Both in Australia and California there is a strong political push in that direction. Well-researched comment below from an Australian homeschooler

Politicians are calling for compulsory preschool and there is a lot of rhetoric around about ensuring all children have the benefits of a preschool education so they are not left behind when they begin school. But is compulsory preschool something we really want? Education Minister, Julie Bishop's argument in favour of compulsory preschool is: "many studies and research and analysis show that investment in high quality, large scale, early childhood programs find that early learning experiences, including pre-literacy and numeracy skills make the transition to school easier for children, and it increases the chances of school success."

University studies are often quoted to support the perceived academic benefits of preschool. What is not often mentioned is that, while these studies demonstrate preschool in a favourable light when compared with an impoverished home environment, preschool does not compare favourably with the average home environment.

Even Professor Edward Zigler, credited as "the father of Headstart" a widespread American preschool program admits "there is a large body of evidence that there is little to be gained by exposing middle class children to early education . (and) evidence that indicates early schooling is inappropriate for many four-year-olds, and that it may be harmful to their development".

If preschool were truly beneficial in terms of giving children a head start, those places with some form of compulsory preschool should do demonstrably better academically. The evidence does not bear this out. For example, the two states of America which have compulsory preschool, Georgia and Oklahoma, have the lowest results for fourth grade reading tests in the country.

In 2000, the Program for International Study Assessment (PISA) compared the academic scores of children from 32 industrialised nations in reading literacy, maths and science. The results showed that in countries where schooling starts at a young age they do not consistently outperform those who start later. Finland, which has a compulsory schooling age of seven, held the top ranking in all test subjects of the Third International Mathematics and Science (TIMS) results in 1999. Singapore, which also scored highly in the PISA and TIMS assessments, has no publicly funded early education programs.

By contrast, Sweden, which has one of the most comprehensive early child-care programs in Europe, was one of the lowest scoring nations. Hungary and Czechoslovakia, cut their day-care programs significantly in the 1990s after studies determined that institutional care damages preschool-aged children.

Perhaps most tellingly of all, the longitudinal studies often quoted to argue an academic advantage provided by preschool for lower socio-economic groups, actually also show that this "advantage" disappears by grade three.

But what about the much-touted social benefits of preschool programs? Here again, there is research to refute this. A 2005 Stanford University study reported: "We find that attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinder the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage in classroom tasks, as reported by their [prep] teachers."

In 1986, Tizzard and Hughes compared the language environments at home and in preschools in the UK. Their method involved tape-recording the conversations of four-year-old girls at preschool in the morning and again at home with their mothers in the afternoon. They reported:

We became increasingly aware of how rich this [home] environment was for all the children (working-class and middle-class). The conversations between the children and their mothers ranged freely over a variety of topics. The idea that children's interests were restricted to play and TV was clearly untenable.

At home the children discussed topics like work, the family, birth, growing up, and death; they talked with their mothers about things they had done together in the past, and their plans for the future; they puzzled over such diverse topics as the shape of roofs and chairs, the nature of Father Christmas, and whether the Queen wears curlers in bed.

Many of these conversations took place during recognisably educational contexts - such as during play or while reading books - but many did not. A large number of the more fruitful conversations simply cropped up as the children and their mothers went about their afternoon's business at home - having lunch, planning shopping expeditions, feeding the baby and so on.

When we came to analyse the conversations between these same children and their [preschool] teachers, we could not avoid being disappointed. The children were certainly happy at school, for much of the time absorbed in play. However, their conversations with their teachers made a sharp contrast to those with their mothers.

The richness, depth and variety which characterised the home conversations were sadly missing. So too was the sense of intellectual struggle, and of the real attempts to communicate being made by both sides.

The questioning, puzzling child which we were so taken with at home was gone: in her place was a child who, when talking to staff, seemed subdued, and whose conversations with adults were mainly restricted to answering questions rather than asking them, or taking part in minimal exchanges about the whereabouts of other children and play materials.

In all this research, it is difficult to sort out to what extent there is a difference between compulsory preschool programs and optional preschool but it seems that there is enough evidence both to question the push towards compulsory preschool and to throw doubt on the theory that preschool is beneficial for all. Children at home with their families are not disadvantaged. Indeed they are very likely better off. So if your child does not wish to go to kindergarten, or you do not wish to send them, rest assured that you are not depriving them.

Relationships are the most important part of life. For small children especially, the time spent in the secure home environment is invaluable. Contrary to popular opinion, forcing children to separate from their parents before they are ready to is not necessary.

Preschool should remain optional so that parents are in control of the amount of time their children spend there. For some families this will be full time, for others, no time at all, but as a society we should stop pressuring families into thinking that a decision not to preschool their child is somehow irresponsible and will disadvantage the child. The evidence just does not support this view.

Throughout history small children have always been nurtured by their parents. Parents talk, read and sing to their preschoolers; they answer questions; they play games; they provide stimulating experiences and the security of cuddles and they accompany their children out into the world as mentor guides who interpret and explain new sights and experiences. Some families wish to supplement this rich rewarding education with a preschool experience. By all means make preschool freely available to all who wish to use it but why make it compulsory?


CAIR Reacts To Dose Of KIMO

Post lifted from Riehl World

CAIR has filed a complaint which will likely get a school teacher disciplined, if not fired, for allowing Kamil International Ministries Organization (KIMO) to address some NC high school students on the potential dangers of Islam.

The AP defines KIMO as a Christian organization, which it is, but a little elaboration can't hurt. We wouldn't want people to think KIMO is a bunch of Southern rednecks, now would we?

Kamil Solomon, from Bany Ady town in Assiout Province, Egypt, became a Christian at the age of five in this intensely Islamic nation when his mother shared Jesus with him. Kamil became an apologist for the faith as he got older. Persecution in the Middle East became worse after Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. He preached in numerous churches in Cairo and throughout Egypt teaching the truth about Islam. The state police followed him, and after hearing his remarks about Islam, they arrested him in 1993. They confiscated all his belongings including his library and Ph.D. dissertation on "Church History in Arabia Prior to Islam." His dissertation was basically an argument against Islam and was later destroyed. He was tortured in numerous ways for Christ, which included being blindfolded, beaten, and enduring electric shock.

Kamil endured by God's power, and eventually, American Christian agencies worked together to get him released in 1994. His ministry was banned, and he was placed under house arrest. The American Embassy in Cairo granted him an asylum. In February 1996, he came to the United States and formed Kamil International Ministries Organization, through which he travels the country to teach the truth about Islam, including their desire for jihad on American soil. "Muslims are converting black men, white women, students and prisoners," says Kamil.

Kamil came to Providence because he was attracted to the college and international ministry here. "There are many Muslims coming to the area, and we should share Jesus with them while they are here as students." He also hopes to help plant desperately needed churches in Egypt.

Humbly, Kamil pleads for Providence members to put Jesus first and urges us to be ready to sacrifice what it may cost to evangelize. He encourages us to use money judiciously and spend it on people overseas or on the poor among us. Kamil's ministry also offers various tracts on Islam and Christianity. If you would like to receive this free literature, e-mail him at kamil@kimo4jesus.org

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A high school teacher allowed a group whose declared mission is to "raise an awareness of the danger of Islam" to distribute literature in his class, including a handout titled "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man," according to an advocacy group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says a representative from the Kamil International Ministries Organization, based in Raleigh, spoke to a ninth-grade world history class at Enloe High School and distributed the literature, which also discussed Jesus.

The father of a Muslim student reported the incident, said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. The council wrote to Wake County schools Superintendent Del Burns asking that the incident be investigated and that the teacher be disciplined.

Burns had not received the letter, but an investigation is under way and officials will take appropriate disciplinary action, district spokeswoman Kristin Flenniken said.

Censoring students at Oxford? That is so gay

Welcome to the Oxford college where students can use the word gay to refer to a homosexual man but not to describe a rubbish pool shot.

In the quad at Merton College, Oxford, scruffily-clad students scurry to their lectures. But behind this everyday student scene, there lurks a rather bizarre controversy. The trendy college is renowned for its LGBT-friendly ethos (that’s LGBT as in ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender’), yet it has become a rather unlikely setting for a university-wide controversy over homophobic remarks. Recently, fourth-year Merton student Andrew Godfrey complained about some of the language being used by his fellow students. This led to official action by the executive of the Junior Common Room (JCR) warning the student body to refrain from ‘unacceptable and extremely offensive’ behaviour ‘even if you are not being intentionally malicious’. Students were reprimanded for contributing to ‘an uncomfortable atmosphere in college’.

What was the ‘unacceptable and extremely offensive’ behaviour? It consisted of limp-wristed impressions and the use of phrases such as ‘Oh don’t be such a poof!’ and ‘You missed that shot, you big gay!’ during a heated game of pool in Merton’s swanky Games Room.

In response to Godfrey’s complaint about this behaviour, the college’s JCR president, Laura Davies, sent out the following email to students (drafted by Godfrey in collaboration with student welfare and LGBT representatives): ‘JCR members have raised concerns after groups have been overheard in the Games Room and other communal areas of college using terms like “gay” and “poof” as joking insults. Please be aware that using language like this is unacceptable and extremely offensive, even if you are not being intentionally malicious and think you are being ironic or witty in some way. It creates an uncomfortable atmosphere in the college.’

Can students not take a joke anymore? Can they not handle the use of words such as ‘gay’ or ‘poof’ in a slang context, in a setting as informal as a Games Room? Both Davies and Godfrey admit that the students probably were not expressing anti-gay prejudice when they made these comments while making their wrists go all limp. As Godfrey himself says: ‘I never maintained that this was deliberately malicious homophobia because I didn’t feel like I had been harassed; otherwise I would have turned to the college authorities. They were basically acting the way guys do.’

And yet guys ‘acting the way guys do’ has now been redefined as ‘unacceptable and extremely offensive’ behaviour that apparently warrants a stern official warning. Davies tells me she had no qualms about sending an official admonishment to the entire student body in response to behaviour that she admits was not purposefully malicious or offensive. ‘One of the JCR members raised the fact that he was quite unhappy with someone using the word “gay” and that he personally found that very offensive’, she says. This is a world away from John Stuart Mill’s argument that opinions ought only to ‘lose their immunity’ when ‘the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act’ (1). His point, made in On Liberty in 1859, was that only in instances where words and actions might directly lead to violence could one make a case for curtailing freedom of speech. Fast forward 150 years and we have the new Merton rule – where JCR officials recognise that students saying ‘gay’ to mean rubbish and swinging their wrists around was not intended maliciously, much less was it likely to lead to violence; and yet because these antics offended the sensibilities of a single student they took it upon themselves to chastise all students in a hectoring missive about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

This points to a worrying level of sensitivity among today’s students, and a lackadaisical attitude towards words, arguments and freedom of speech. The JCR’s aim seemed to be, not to protect students from harm, but to protect the college’s reputation for being caring and accepting from the ‘unmannered’ behaviour of some students playing a game of pool.

Apparently the term ‘gay’ is now in common usage among young people to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’. This has caused some controversy, especially among gay rights groups who don’t like the idea that being called ‘gay’ is now seen as something negative. Last year Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles was the subject of an internal BBC inquiry after he described a ringtone on air as ‘gay’. Leaving aside the question of why there has to be an inquiry every time a broadcaster says something un-PC, it is reasonable to ask: where could young people have got the idea that ‘gay = rubbish’?

How about from another term, very closely associated with gay culture: ‘camp’. ‘Camp’, as Stephen Bayley argued in his scratch-their-eyes-out book on New Labour, Labour Camp, is just a synonym for rubbish. Or, as Susan Sontag observed in Notes on Camp, first published in 1964, ‘The ultimate Camp statement [is] it’s good because it’s awful...’ Sontag noted that Camp culture tends to emphasise ‘texture, sensuous surface, and style at the expense of content’; and that ‘homosexuals, by and large, constitute the vanguard - and the most articulate audience - of Camp’.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to re-work ‘camp’ as ‘gay’, especially when so many gay celebrities tend to wallow in kitsch. If you, like many people both straight and gay, think Graham Norton and Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (now there’s a show that emphasises ‘style at the expense of content’) are pretty dreadful, then surely no one could blame you for associating ‘gay’, at least in its cultural sense, with ‘rubbish’.

The self-censoring attitude of Merton’s JCR reflects a broader view taken by many today: that free speech is something that can be easily sacrificed in the name of protecting people from utterances they might find offensive. The idea that students should behave according to some predetermined college ethos stands in stark contrast to the old idea of universities as places where young people should be free to experiment, to think, to argue, to learn, to say what they please in a student common room…. Enforcing an official dogma about words, phrases and actions betrays an elitist view of what sort of behaviour is appropriate, and what is not.

Worse, it treats students as children who either must be reprimanded for saying naughty words or who must be protected from the jokey words of big ‘bully boys’ by student officials posing as social workers. This infantilises students – which is hardly conducive to creating an atmosphere where students can grow, both educationally and personally.

Some students have reacted against the JCR’s illiberal telling-off. Merton student Ben Holroyd created an online group called The Gay Appreciation Society, which argued that: ‘The word “gay” has several definitions, only one of which is “homosexual”. Others include merry, licentious and wanton. When I miss a pot at the pool table, I sometimes refer to said shot as “gay”. Obviously, I do not consider the shot in question to be homosexual. Having said that, I rarely miss, so I seldom offend the minority of pedantic, over-sensitive fools at Merton.’

Perhaps the most pernicious thing about the Merton ruling on when it’s okay to say gay is that it represents almost an attempt at thought control. According to the JCR officials, it is okay to say ‘gay’ to refer to a homosexual man but not to describe a ‘rubbish’ pool shot. What is being monitored here is not just the use of language, but thought itself, the meaning behind one’s use of the word gay. We are presented with a two-tiered attitude to the word gay, where it’s okay to use it responsibly to mean homosexual but not irresponsibly to mean rubbish. It seems the JCR wants to get into Merton students’ minds to see what is really going on when they speak.

Even if some students had been expressing anti-gay prejudice in their use of words such as ‘gay’ and ‘poof’, then censure would be no solution. The idea that monitoring student language can have an impact on certain people’s prejudicial views, or on discrimination in the real world, is ridiculous. It merely brushes issues under the carpet, seeking to silence certain arguments rather than challenging them. Prejudice – which is a more serious matter than banter around a pool table – can only be effectively challenged in open debate, through reasoned argument.

University should be a place where we are free to experiment and to express ourselves in whatever way we deem fit. Disagreements can and should be settled between students themselves. Official sanctions telling us how we should behave only thwart the advance of genuine tolerance, which is based, not on intolerant censorship of uncomfortable views, but rather on establishing through open discussion which ideas are good, valuable and useful, and which are not.

The campus thought-police have no right to tell us how to think, speak or behave, and certainly not when we are just hanging out with friends and playing pool. They should bugger off and stop being so gay.



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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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oxford is only now catching on to "gay" being used to mean "lame", etc.? I can remember when I was in middle school in the early 1980's comments such as "That's the gayest game around!" and "No, that's totally gay." Heck, even a South Park episode from a few years ago used the word that way. I wonder where the complaints were about that usage of "gay" 25 years ago.