Sunday, April 29, 2007

Brown University Outrage:

Anti-Israel Academics Organize Conference To Attack Pro-Israel Critics, Shut Out Pro-Israel Speakers and Students

We long ago resigned ourselves to institutional academics getting together in their sandboxes, building their little castles, and defending themselves from the evil Israel Lobby that's trying to "exclude their voices". The irony, of course, is that it's actually pro-Israel advocates who routinely get excluded from academic discussions. But what's happening at Brown reaches new lows of brazen hypocrisy. Middle East scholars have organized a workshop to attack the Israel Lobby, national security specialists, and people like Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer - except they didn't invite defenders of the Israel Lobby, national security specialists, or Dr. Pipes and Dr. Kramer. The punch line? The workshop is about "open discourse and academic freedom". This tip got dropped into our inbox late last night:

Today, at a meeting of [pro-Israel] groups on [Brown's] campus, we found out that... Brown's Middle East Studies Department (which currently offers no courses...) and what is essentially the IR department, with the support of the Muslim Students Association, organized an "academic" conference called "The Study of the Middle East and Islam: Challenges after 9-11," featuring (among others) Juan Cole and Stephen Walt. There are no pro-Israel speakers, and neither Hillel nor Brown Students for Israel were even asked for input on a conference about the future of Middle East Studies. Needless to say, this is not the kind of thing we want on our campus.... We're determined not to let this conference go by without making it clear to the University that this disregard of academic standards/norms and disrespect for Brown's Jewish community is not acceptable.

The conference was organized by Marsha Pripstein Posusney and Elliott Colla. The goal is to "foster a greater understanding in this country of the Middle East and Muslim world." And wouldn't you know it, the people who are preventing greater understanding are security specialists and pro-Israel academics: "new national security regulations", "pressures from concerned citizen groups", "Congressional oversight of college courses pertaining to the Middle East and Islam", "independent efforts to monitor such courses and publicly vilify instructors deemed to be promoting 'dangerous' views in the classroom". You can get the full agenda off our server here.

Here's the thing though: this conference is bait. No one is actually coming here to learn anything. Walt is the most conservative academic on the monitoring panel, and he's published that Campus Watch is a neoconservative extension of the Israel Lobby. They're trying to be so absurd that people like Pipes and Kramer will protest their rank academic bias. If there's a student-led outcry about how they deliberately insulted pro-Israel undergrads, all the better. One way or another, Cole, Walt, and their ilk will be screaming about how they're being monitored and publicly vilified. Clever, clever.

Except none of these scary sounding "challenges" have been strong enough to stop the workshop participants - which is so brave of them, since criticizing Israel and the Bush administration in academia is so risky. And except this workshop actually is a hypocritical outrage. Just because they're going to use legitimate public outcry to scream about "censorship" is no reason not to call their "open discourse" bluff and put their hypocrisy on public display. This is how children behave - throwing fits to get attention and then complaining about how they're always being disciplined. The problem with this conference isn't that it's dangerous, it's that it's mendacious.

Contact information for Brown University officials is below. Get in touch with us if you want to coordinate with some of the pro-Israel Brown student leaders. We're not going to publicly out them, lest the Brown IR professors are as vindictive as the UC Irvine ones. Usual warnings about being productively circumspect apply: their fantasies of persecution notwithstanding, the goal is not to silence Cole, Walt, et al. What we'd like to see is genuine public discourse - to see the American academy restored to the status it once had as a genuine site of reasoned deliberation and careful scholarship. In addition to being a perfectly reasonable position, this also has the benefit of making their inevitable screams of "censorship" sound really stupid.

At a minimum, the University should be made to understand that this nudge-nudge wink-wink of unbalanced "balance" is unacceptable in any institution that has pretensions toward higher learning. We know that some of our readers are reasonably distinguished Brown alumni, and one or two of you are not insignificant donors. You should feel free to express your opinion about the one-sidedness of this workshop - a workshop that is, in turn, being used to set the future direction for classes, scholarship, and ideology at your alma mater. But this travesty isn't limited to Brown students - this echo chamber of a workshop will hurt everybody. Universities of Brown's caliber help set the tone for the rest of the academia and the rest of the country, and "open discourse and academic freedom" can't be allowed to mean "America and Israel bashers getting together to tell each other how smart they are".


Do-gooder MIT bigshot found to be a liar

She downgraded the importance of academic qualifications -- what one might expect considering her own concealed deficiencies in that departmenmt

Marilee Jones was an inspiration to students, using her position as the dean of admissions at one of America's most prestigious universities to reform its bruising application process and telling high schools and parents across the country not to place unrealistic pressures on their children. But there was one thing she didn't mention: that she lied to get ahead.

Ms Jones, known for her red hair and admired for her blunt, refreshing views, resigned yesterday from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, three days after the university discovered that her own CV, submitted with a job application 28 years ago, had "misrepresented her academic degrees". According to The Tech, MIT's campus newspaper, Ms Jones was confronted in a meeting on Monday after an anonymous caller had contacted the university about her false credentials. In her CV and subsequent biographies, Ms Jones had claimed to have received degrees from Union College, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Albany Medical College. None of which turned out to be true.

"This is a sad and unfortunate event," wrote Daniel E. Hastings, MIT's dean for undergraduate education in an e-mail to the university. "But the integrity of the Institute is our highest priority, and we cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour." In her own statement, Ms Jones, the co-author of Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond, said that she had resigned "because very regrettably, I misled the Institute about my academic credentials". "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since. I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the MIT community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities."

Ms Jones joined MIT's admissions office in a junior, administrative role in 1979. The university said yesterday that her job did not require a master's and a bachelor's degree, as she claimed to have, but those qualifications helped her rise to the position of dean, overseeing an admissions process that attracts more than 11,000 undergraduate applications each year, of which around 13 per cent are successful.

From the moment she became dean, in 1997, Ms Jones set about reforming MIT's application process, rewriting the form to place more emphasis on students' personalities and passions rather than their academic data and the relentless lists of extra-curricular activities that American high school students are encouraged to amass to impress prospective colleges. In her book, she and Kenneth Ginsburg wrote: "As we prepare these paper-perfect students for higher education, are we undermining their ability to succeed in life? The most worrisome thing about this generation of driven students may be the fear of imperfection that's being instilled in their psyches.''

And in an address to other college admissions staff in Boston last year, Ms Jones said the quest for perfection in adolescent students was "making our children sick", and described the increase in suicides, ulcers and anxiety disorders among high-achieving teenage students. "Kids aren't supposed to be finished," she said. "They're partial. They're raw. That's why we're in the business." ....

The resignation of Ms Jones comes as students in their penultimate year of high school will be considering whether to apply to MIT in the autumn and less than a year after another Massachusetts' institution lost its a director for a similar reason. John J. Schulz, the dean of Boston University's College of Communication, resigned after admitting that he embellished his academic record at Oxford University.....


Australia: Brave words, but the Labor Party's policy offers no improvement to corrupted State education

A conservative facade hides destructive Leftism

THE exact moment it happened is hard to pinpoint, but the reality is that the Australian Labor Party, at both federal and state levels, has captured the education territory that was once the preserve of conservative governments and it now controls the debate. By scrapping former Opposition leader Mark Latham's hit list of so-called elite, private schools, endorsing parents' right to choose non-government schools, arguing for a collaborative approach to a national curriculum and, this week, placing subjects such as history and geography back on the school timetable, Kevin Rudd and the ALP have moved to the centre of the political spectrum.

As with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his mantra of education, education, education, Rudd knows that to win the support of aspirational voters in marginal seats the party has to eradicate the vestiges of its socialist past and adopt education policies based on conservative values, such as strong academic standards, parental choice and holding schools accountable for performance.

As always, though, the devil is in the detail and no amount of rhetoric can disguise the fact the ALP is beholden to key players such as the Australian Education Union, which regularly supports Labor by donating thousands of dollars during elections and organising campaigns in marginal seats in opposition to Liberal governments. If a Rudd government is elected this year, there is a danger that Australian education will continue to suffer from a dumbed down, politically correct curriculum and provider capture, where the education system, instead of meeting the needs of parents and students, is run for the benefit of the teachers unions and bureaucrats.

Take Labor's plan to develop a national curriculum. Arguing for higher standards and placing academic disciplines centre stage are beyond reproach. On reading Labor's policy paper more closely, though, it is clear the party intends to give the job of developing a national curriculum to the Curriculum Corporation and the Australian Council for Educational Research, two organisations responsible for Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education and the present parlous state of the school curriculum.

Based on Rudd's performance as a key bureaucrat during the years of the Goss government in Queensland and his first speech to parliament as Opposition Leader, it is clear that while he mouths platitudes about the importance of choice and accountability in education, he is still Comrade Rudd. Under Wayne Goss, Queensland earned a reputation for being a bastion of a new-age, cultural-left approach to curriculum. Indeed, as publicly stated by academic Ken Wiltshire, under the Goss-Rudd partnership education in the state was dumbed down, with a curriculum characterised as "weak and insipid".

In his first parliamentary speech as Opposition Leader, Rudd entered the "battle of ideas for Australia's future" by outlining his vision for the nation and the role of government and society. Once again, although the rhetoric is soothing - nobody can disagree with values such as equity, sustainability and compassion - a close reading shows that Rudd is an unreconstructed statist of the old order. Recognising the importance of a strong economy and of families as a social institution, Rudd argues that education is a public good - the same expression used by Pat Byrne, president of the Australian Education Union - and that families must be protected from the market, but commits himself to the present centralised, bureaucratic approach to education.

There is an alternative. If Labor is serious about raising standards, supporting parental choice in education and ensuring that schools are accountable, then why not embrace, as Blair has done in Britain and George W. Bush has done in the US, what are termed charter schools and vouchers? As argued by Blair, when opening schools to increased competition, there is a need "to escape the straitjacket of the traditional comprehensive school and embrace the idea of genuinely independent non-fee paying state schools. It (the British white paper's goal) is to break down the barriers to new providers, to schools associating with outside sponsors, to the ability to start and expand schools; and to give parental choice its proper place." Instead of being centrally controlled and managed, charter schools, within broad guidelines, have the freedom to hire, fire and reward better performing teachers. Control rests at the local level, in the hands of the school community or the principal, and charter schools are free to enact their own curriculum.

Vouchers represent a second way to open schools to market forces by giving more parents the financial means to choose between government and non-government schools. Unlike the present situation, where state schools are funded by government via a top-down centralised system, with vouchers, parents receive the money directly and they are free to spend it where they will.

Vouchers, especially those directed at students from under-performing schools or students who are educationally at risk because of their socio-economic background, have existed for years in countries such as the US and Chile, and the benefits are many. Research suggests that increased parental choice and competition between schools leads to higher standards, as there are strong incentives for schools to succeed in what they do. Put simply, the money follows the child and failing schools lose market share while successful schools attract more students. As parents are best placed to make decisions about their children's education, giving more parents the ability to choose between government and non-government schools is an inherent social good, and overseas research shows that vouchers and charter schools lead to increased social stability and cohesion.

On the level of rhetoric, Rudd and Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith argue that teachers should be made more accountable, that parental choice must be supported and that the days of the Australian Education Union controlling what happens in schools are long gone. If they are true to their word, the ALP would also embrace innovations such as vouchers and charter schools. Now that would, indeed, represent an education revolution.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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