Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grounds For Optimism: Sandra Day O'Connor Is Pessimistic!

Post below lifted from Discriminations -- which see for links

Peter Schmidt reports on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog that former Justice O'Connor acknowledged in a recent speech that "she is not confident the court had preserved affirmative action in higher education for much longer." The former Justice would obviously prefer "the people" (my quotes, not hers) to leave constitutions to the courts, and not take matters into their own hands by amending their state constitutions in an attempt to clean up messes made by the Supreme Court.

Speaking at Washington's National Press Club at a symposium on diversity at colleges, Justice O'Connor said, "The future of affirmative action in higher education today is certainly muddy." As the basis for her observation, she cited Michigan voters' adoption last fall of an amendment to that state's Constitution banning affirmative-action preferences, as well as the passage of similar measures in California in 1996 and Washington State in 1998, and current efforts to place preference bans on several states' ballots in 2008.

Several of her other comments were equally interesting. For example, she stated that in Grutter she and the court's majority "had tried to be careful in stressing that affirmative action should be a temporary bandage rather than a permanent cure." Should be? Was that friendly advice, wishful thinking, or a constitutional command? Alas, her opinion wasn't careful enough to answer that question. She was also quoted as saying:

"It probably would be better if we could remedy the racial gap in academic achievement long before application for college admission," by finding ways to improve elementary and secondary schools enough that race-conscious admissions policies will no longer be necessary.

Probably? No matter. The good news, which is what worries Justice O'Connor, is that substantial majorities of the pesky people believe that racial discrimination (politely if euphemistically known as "race-conscious admissions") is not necessary now.


John Fund has an excellent, longer piece on Justice O'Connor's speech in today's Wall Street Journal. You should read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

Justice O'Connor continued to defend her original position. She lamented statistics that showed that as a result of California's Proposition 209 (passed in 1996) only 2.2% of UCLA freshmen were black, and a fifth of those were on athletic scholarships. (California's overall population is 6.1% black.)

She seemed strangely unaware, however, of the growing evidence that racial preferences might have actually decreased the likelihood that blacks and Hispanics will graduate from college. Put differently, if the body of evidence is correct, the whole affirmative action enterprise has been deeply and tragically flawed from the beginning, failing to achieve its most basic aim: increasing the number of minority college graduates, doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

Moreover, Justice O'Connor's comments about UCLA obscured an important and promising real story. While it's true that black and Hispanic enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley went down after Prop 209, these students simply didn't just vanish. The vast majority were admitted on the basis of their academic record to somewhat less highly ranked campuses of the prestigious 10-campus UC system, which caters only to the top one-eighth of California's high school graduates. In the immediate wake of Proposition 209, the number of minority students at some of the nonflagship campuses went up, not down.

This "cascading" effect has had real benefits in matching students with the campus where they are most likely to do well. Despite what affirmative action supporters often imply, academic ability matters. Although some students will outperform their entering credentials and some students will underperform theirs, most students will succeed in the range that their high school grades and SAT scores predict. Leapfrogging minority candidates into elite colleges where they often become frustrated and fail hurts them even more than the institutions. It creates the illusion that we are closing racial disparities in education when in fact we are not. While blacks and Hispanics now attend college at nearly the same rate as whites, only about 1 in 6 graduates.

Affirmative action often creates the illusion that black or other minority students cannot excel. At the University of California at San Diego, in the year before race-based preferences were abolished in 1997, only one black student had a freshman-year GPA of 3.5 or better. In other words, there was a single black honor student in a freshman class of 3,268. In contrast, 20% of the white students on campus had a 3.5 or better GPA.

There were lots of black students capable of doing honors work at UCSD. But such students were probably admitted to Harvard, Yale or Berkeley, where often they were not receiving an honor GPA. The end to racial preferences changed that. In 1999, 20% of black freshmen at UCSD boasted a GPA of 3.5 or better after their first year, almost equaling the 22% rate for whites after their first year. Similarly, failure rates for black students declined dramatically at UCSD immediately after the implementation of Proposition 209. Isn't that better for everyone in the long run?

These are more examples that the recent study by two Princeton professors, discussed here, can't explain.

School Renames Easter Bunny 'Peter Rabbit'

Since the Easter Bunny was originally a pagan fertility symbol, this ban has its amusing side -- but the anti-Christian intention is clear nonetheless

A Rhode Island public school has decided the Easter bunny is too Christian and renamed him Peter Rabbit, and a state legislator is so hopping mad he has introduced an "Easter Bunny Act" to save the bunny's good name.

"Like many Rhode Islanders I'm quite frustrated . by people trying to change traditions that we've held in this country for 150 years, like the Easter bunny," Rhode Island State Rep. Richard Singleton told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."

The Easter bunny was scheduled to make an appearance at a craft fair on Saturday at Tiverton Middle School in Tiverton, R.I. But the district's schools Superintendent William Rearick told event organizers to change the bunny's name to Peter Rabbit in "an attempt to be conscious of other people's backgrounds and traditions."

Singleton struck back this week by proposing a bill, nicknamed the "Easter Bunny Act," to stop all local municipalities from changing the name of popular religious and secular symbols like the Easter bunny. "The underlying theme here is serious," he said. "I don't think a superintendent of schools should have the authority to change something we've held so deeply for 150 years."

Not everyone in Rhode Island, however, believes the Easter bunny is worth fighting for. "As a Christian symbol, I would say [the Easter bunny] is not one of those that I would go to the barricades to defend," Rev. Bernard Healy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I., said in a statement.

Singleton, however, said the perceived religious symbolism versus its actual religious significance is why it shouldn't be banned. "The Easter bunny is not a religious symbol," he said. "Why it's being banned doesn't make sense."

The American Civil Liberties Union has also spoken out the issue. "Public schools should not be promoting Easter celebrations, and to the extent that the school districts try to avoid that problem they are to be commended," Steve Brown, the executive director of the ACLU Rhode Island affiliate, said in a statement.

Singleton, however, dismissed the ACLU's comments. "I don't pay a lot of attention to what the ACLU says quite frankly," he said. This is "political correctness gone wild. 'It's crazy." Singleton said the bill is meant to protect all traditional and religious symbols for example, if someone wanted to change "the name of the menorah to the candelabra." The politician isn't positive that Peter Rabbit would have been the right replacement anyway. "By the way, Peter Rabbit stole cabbages and that's not a good role model for our kids," he joked.


Britain: Discipline crumbles in large schools

A marked increase in the number of supersize secondary schools has led to an erosion of discipline, as teachers try to keep control of children they cannot identify even by year group, let alone by name, research suggests. Expulsions from the largest secondaries, with 1,500 or more pupils, have risen by 28 per cent since Labour came to power in 1997, leaving 730 pupils a year permanently excluded from school. Temporary exclusions are now running at nearly 10 per cent of pupils in schools with more than 1,000 children, compared with 3 per cent in schools with 1,000 or fewer pupils.

David Willetts, the Shadow Education Secretary, obtained the figures as the result of a parliamentary question. He said the problem was not to do with class size, but with the creation of giant, anonymous institutions. "Maintaining discipline is now becoming very difficult in the biggest schools. This is partly because the pupils and teachers in a large establishment are anonymous to each other, making it difficult for staff to tell pupils off and follow up with the appropriate action. If head teachers don't know who all their pupils are, it becomes difficult for them to identify the ones who may cause problems and to intervene early to stop these from escalating," he said.

His comments come after a report last year from the schools watchdog, Ofsted, which found that schools with the most discipline problems were the ones that were unable to detect and deal with potential troublemakers early. Ofsted also noted that schools where teachers did not get to know their individual pupils well, because of high staff turnover, tended to have the biggest problems tackling poor behaviour.

Mr Willetts said the emergence of a new breed of giant comprehensive had been achieved by stealth. Since 1997 the number of secondaries with more than 1,500 pupils has more than doubled to 315. The number of secondaries with 1,000 or fewer pupils has dropped by a fifth to 2,119. "Partly by accident and partly by design, we have created powerful incentives for schools to get bigger and bigger. Students now do a wider range of subjects and schools need to be bigger, with bigger staffs, if they are to offer the full range now expected of them. Also, the way capital is allocated to schools means that it often makes more sense for local authorities to sell off one school site and rebuild others," he said. The doctrine of parental choice had also led to the expansion of the most popular schools. A more considered approach towards school size was needed, Mr Willetts said, before discipline problems spiralled out of control.

Chris Keats, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said it was simplistic to equate large schools with poor discipline, but accepted that the biggest schools did face particular issues with behaviour. "If you have a large school, you have to put in smaller units, such as year groups, or upper and lower schools, to make sure that the teachers know the pupils they are dealing with."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Large schools can of course face additional challenges, but with strong leadership and good staff they can also use their size to benefit their pupils and the wider community by offering out-of-hours clubs and community facilities." He added that the expansion of the most successful and popular schools was part of the Government's commitment to increasing choice and diversity.



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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