Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Academic freedom under severe assault in Australia

Conservatives are not allowed to criticize disgusting work emanating from Leftist colleagues???? The critique that was so "offensive" can be read here. On TONGUE-TIED I give more details of what this is about and what you can do about it

TWO QUT academics who objected publicly to a PhD thesis called Laughing At The Disabled have been suspended without pay for six months. Creative industries faculty senior lecturers John Hookham and Gary MacLennan criticised the thesis in a newspaper article in April. Late Friday afternoon they were suspended, had their work emails disconnected and were barred from the university premises. Six months salary effectively amounts to a fine of $35,000 to $40,000 each.

QUT vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake, said yesterday he was responsible for the penalty after a committee, chaired by former Industrial Relations commissioner Barry Nutter, unanimously upheld complaints made against the two men. These had come from thesis author Michael Noonan and two academics.

Professor Coaldrake said controversial research needed to be balanced with legal obligations and ethics. "Academic freedom is a great privilege and it should not be used to denigrate or ridicule people with vastly different ideas," he said.

UQ disability expert Lisa Bridle also criticised the thesis. Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham were reluctant to speak publicly yesterday, other than to admit they had needed medical help to cope. "I'm gobsmacked at the level of brutality," said Dr MacLennan, 64.

Queensland Advocacy director Kevin Cocks said the penalty "seems quite severe for two people who have tried to express concerns around vulnerable people".

In their article in The Australian, the two academics objected to a film part of the thesis, which put two disabled men in social situations "in which they could only appear as inept".

Dr Bridle, the mother of a 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome, said it appeared the two men were used as "props". Dr Bridle and Mr Cocks wrote to Professor Coaldrake in April that they were alarmed by the project. "This project is a very ethically sensitive one and it should not proceed without external scrutiny," they wrote.

Mr Noonan confirmed yesterday that the name of the project had been changed to Laughing With the Disabled.


California oldsters to be retrained as teachers

If they reintroduced effective discipline, they might retain more of the teachers they already have. Even oldsters are not going to want to deal with student disruption and thuggery

The former head of Paramount Pictures and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a new program aimed at luring retirees into teaching math and science. The program called EnCorps seeks to recruit those who can fill voids expected to be left by some 100,000 teachers who will retire over the next decade. Education officials said math, science and special education teachers are at a premium and California schools will need more than 33,000 new science and math instructors in that same time period. If funded by the state Legislature, the private-public partnership would provide $12 million on top of the $31.7 million the state allocates to pay tuition and other costs.

Baby boomers "are going to redefine retirement, and they are going to redefine aging," said former Paramount head Sherry Lansing, who helped unveil the program at Roosevelt High School, where she worked as a substitute teacher.

Several corporations have signed on to pay teacher training costs for their retiring employees. The companies will pay up to $15,000 per person in education costs. "The more we have the private sector involved, the faster we can move forward," Schwarzenegger said. "I think that's where the action is."

The emphasis on paying for training is helpful, said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. "But the part about how now these retirees can afford to teach broke my heart," she said. "We need to seriously look at making salaries competitive and making sure schools are a great place to work."


Druze PhD student defends Israel, but bigoted British academics uninterested

As a holder of two degrees from the University of Haifa and a PhD student at the University of London, I traveled to Bournemouth for the meeting of the BritishUniversity and College Union (UCU) as an Israeli delegate on behalf of the Israeli Council for Academic Freedom. The discussions at the meeting regarding the imposition of a boycott on Israeli academia took place in a hostile environment while ignoring all the facts we presented regarding freedom of expression and academic freedom at Israeli institutions of higher learning.

Evidence that Israeli lecturers who hold pro-Palestinian views are able to express their positions uninterrupted both in their research work and lectures, as well as in the media, had no effect whatsoever on the discussions. Even when we presented a list of organizations and research centers that operate in the framework of Israeli universities and boast Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab cooperation, with the promotion of ties between the peoples their top agenda, it did not make a difference.

The same was true when it came to calls by Palestinian lecturers and figures, including al-QudsUniversity President Sari Nusseibah and Minister Raleb Majadele urging the UCU to refrain from boycotting their Israeli colleagues. Boycott leaders in Bournemouth ignored the figures I presented to them regarding the University of Haifa and the fact that close to 20 percent of students there are members of minority groups in Israel - apparently, we will also be subjected to the boycott.

They were uninterested in the fact that Arab students, who view themselves as a national minority in the State of Israel, are represented by a separate student committee and enjoy the freedom to act politically and on the public relations front. They were also uninterested in the fact that Professor Majid al-Haj is the deputy president of the research university, or that the Jewish-Arab center headed by Dr. Faisal Azaiza is considered one of the university's most prestigious bodies.

The truth is that it is clear to this group of lecturers that Israeli academia is least at fault for what is happening in our region, certainly when compared to the freedom of expression at our neighbors' academic institutions. After all, the English know full well that the technological, academic, and cultural achievements in the State of Israel stem first and foremost from the freedom of expression and research in every field in Israel.

Therefore, the figures we presented were futile, because all they cared about was their one and only objective: De-legitimizing the State of Israel with no relation to its academia; presenting it as an apartheid state that deprives its minorities of elementary rights such as education and the freedom of expression.

They were particularly bothered by the fact that a student like me, a member of the Druze community, appeared in the meeting and defended Israeli academia. They protested the fact that I even agreed to study at institutions that are associated with the country's majority population group and teach in its native tongue, Hebrew. I wonder how they would have reacted had I protested the fact that her majesty Queen Elizabeth is the patron of the University of London, and now I am studying in their native tongue, English.



Research councils in the UK said this afternoon that they would still allow collaboration on projects with Israeli institutions despite the decision by the university lecturers' union to back calls for an academic boycott. Research Councils UK, the umbrella organisation for the seven councils, which between them hold the purse strings for œ2.8bn of funding, said it would only get involved in an Israeli academic boycott if it was decided by the government. A spokeswoman said: "We would not stop any collaboration unless it was government policy."

Funding for research from the seven research councils only goes to UK institutions, but does allow for universities to forge collaborative academic links outside the UK.

This afternoon, the impact of an academic boycott on present or future UK and Israeli research remained uncertain. But Research Councils UK was calculating the number of current collaborative projects and how much UK funding it attracted.

Israeli universities have an enviable reputation for research, especially in science, and today the influential Royal Society - the independent academy which promotes natural and applied science - reaffirmed its opposition to blanket academic boycotts. Five years ago, the society's council signed a statement by the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (IHRNASS), affirming its support for the free exchange of ideas and opinions amongst scientists and scholars in all countries in order to stimulate collaborative educational research. The statement opposed any "moratoria on scientific exchanges based on nationality, race, sex, language, religion, opinion and similar factors", because they thwarted the goals of the network.

Any Israeli academic boycott by the UK could, however, have a damaging impact on academic ties with institutions outside of Israel. It emerged today that on the eve of the UCU's boycott decision, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) wrote to the union expressing concern on behalf of its 160,000 higher education members. According to the higher education website InsideHigherEd.com, the president of the AFT, Edward J McElroy, wrote in a letter to the UCU: "The AFT strongly opposes boycotts of universities and faculty, considering them a grave threat to the democratic values of academic freedom and free speech. "The one-sided nature of the proposed resolution demonstrates that the motivation is to express support for a political position rather than advance the principles of free and open scholarship."

Meanwhile, MPs from across the political divide this afternoon added their voices to the growing opposition to a boycott. Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the boycott decision was a "pathetic attempt by politically motivated people to destroy the balanced ethos on university campuses and use their privileged position to further their own ends." Liberal Democrat MP and panel member of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism, Chris Huhne, said: "Two wrongs do not make a right, and it is wrong in principle to try to make individuals responsible for the actions of their government. This boycott is misconceived and should be dropped."

Labour MP Denis MacShane, who chaired the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism, said the UCU decision was "completely deplorable and counter productive". He said it was "foolish" because "Israeli academics have been amongst the strongest critics of the Israeli government." He said: "The motion will do nothing to help Palestinian students who are keen to study in the relative oasis of Israeli universities and will exacerbate the position of Jewish students in the UK who already feel harassed, intimidated and uncomfortable on campus."



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 INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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