Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Evidence of Liberal Bias in Our Schools

Post excerpted from Flopping Aces.

Now is it any wonder the youth in this country are so totally lacking in common sense?  Look at the top academia donations given so far for the 2008 election:

A little graph I put together:

And these are the yahoos teaching our youth.  Long ago teachers would not wear their politics on their sleeves, instead they did the job they were hired to do.  Teach!  Without bias.  Not anymore:

Conservative groups cite professors’ growing activism as evidence that education and politics have become muddled. “There’s been a transformation of universities over 30 or 40 years, where what was once an institutional ethic that you leave your politics at home, that your students should never know your personal opinions on controversial topics, has been eroded to the point where it is rarely used,” said Peter Wood, director of the conservative National Association of Scholars.

Click that link and head down to the writers summarization of their findings:

The simplest explanation for the college community's resounding opposition to President Bush, however, may be that professors understand the importance of participating in the political process, are well-versed on issues and—perhaps more so than the general population

Yup, it's all because they are so much smarter than the rest of us.

Stop the NYC Madrassa

When Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser resigned as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy on August 10, her action culminated a remarkable grassroots campaign in which concerned citizens successfully criticized the New York City establishment. But the fight goes on. The next step is to get the academy itself canceled.

The five-month effort to get Almontaser removed began in March with analyses, including one by this writer, pointing out the inherent political and religious problems in an Arabic-language school. By June, a concerned group of New York City residents joined with specialists - among them my colleague, R. John Matthies - to create the Stop the Madrassa Coalition. with the goal of preventing an avowed Islamist from heading a taxpayer-funded school.

The coalition, made up of some 150 people, energetically did research, attended events, peppered public officials - notably Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein - with letters, collared journalists, and spoke on radio shows and national television. The odds seemed impossibly long, especially as the city government and most of the city's press clearly supported the KGIA's opening and Ms. Almontaser as principal, while denouncing their critics.

Unrelenting efforts by the coalition eventually led to the development in early August that caused Almontaser to resign. One of its leaders, Pamela Hall, photographed T-shirts bearing the words "Intifada NYC," which were sold by an organization, Arab Women Active in Art and Media, that shares office space in Brooklyn with the Saba Association of American Yemenis. Ms. Almontaser, it turns out, is both a board member and the spokeswoman for the Saba Association.

The T-shirts' call for a Palestinian Arab-style uprising in the five boroughs, admittedly, had only the most tenuous connection to Ms. Almontaser. She could have maintained her months-old silence, which was serving her well. But the KGIA principal also has a long history of speaking out about politics, and apparently she could not resist the opportunity to defend the shirts, telling the New York Post that the word intifada "basically means `shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic. I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of [violence] in New York City. I think it's pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society ... and shaking off oppression."

This gratuitous apology for suicide terrorism undid Ms. Almontaser's months of silence and years of work, prompting scathing editorials and denunciations by politicians. Perhaps most devastating was a harsh letter from the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who previously had supported Ms. Almontaser. Ms. Almontaser submitted an angry resignation letter just four days after the publication of her statement apologizing for intifada.

"I remain committed to the success of Khalil Gibran International Academy," Mr. Klein insisted after Ms. Almontaser's resignation. Fine, but KGIA's prospects for opening on September 4 remain clouded. Count its problems: The school has only an interim, non-Arabic-speaking principal; it has only five teachers; and it is 25% undersubscribed by students. In addition, it faces the outspoken opposition of politicians such as Assemblyman Dov Hikind and is wildly unpopular; and an unscientific America Online poll of 180,000 subscribers found that more than four-fifths of the public is unsympathetic to the school.

Ms. Almontaser's departure, however welcome, does not change the rest of the school's personnel, much less address the more basic problems implicit in an Arabic-language school - the tendency to Islamist and Arabist content and proselytizing. To reiterate my initial assessment in March, the KGIA is in principle a great idea, as America needs more Arabic speakers. In practice, however, Arabic-language instruction needs special scrutiny.

The city, in other words, could take steps to make the KGIA acceptable by dispensing with the existing set of goals, fundamentally rethinking its mission, appointing a new advisory board, hiring new staff, and imposing the necessary educational and political controls. Unfortunately, statements by the mayor and the schools chancellor suggest that such steps are emphatically not under way. Until and unless the city leadership changes its approach to the KGIA, I shall continue to call for the school not to open until it is properly restructured and supervised.


The British charade continues

Getting top marks in A-level examinations could become harder after the introduction of a new A* and an A** grade, exam chiefs suggested yesterday, after record results showed that more than a quarter of all A-level entries were awarded an A. The pass rate rose for the 25th year in succession, with nearly three in ten candidates achieving three A grades, traditionally enough to secure them a place at a top university. The results meant that a record 316,549 pupils were able to confirm their university places on results day, up from 294,567 last year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said.

Ministers and teaching unions congratulated students on their results, attributing the rises to improved teaching and learning and a greater awareness of the importance of mastering exam techniques. Examination boards insisted that the A level remained the gold standard examination and denied that the number of A grades achieved, which accounted for 25.3 per cent of all marks, was a result of grade inflation. [And all those wishy-washy subjects they do these days have nothing to do with it, of course] There was no escaping the fact, however, that rising grades have made it more difficult for many bright pupils to get into their university of choice. Whereas once a B grade was regarded as a respectable score, it spelled failure for the academic plans of some pupils yesterday.

Most exam boards do accept that the introduction of a new A* grade for the 2010 exams would help universities and employers to identify the very brightest students from among those qualifying for an A. The A* will be awarded to students who achieve 90 per cent in their exams.

Mike Cresswell, director general of AQA, England's biggest exam board, went further. He accepted that a new A** could eventually be required as more pupils get the new top A* grade. "The A* is an eminently sensible response to what is essentially a problem of success," he said. "More and more students are doing better and getting grade A. You can see why a small number of universities at the moment have a problem differentiating between the very, very, very best and the very best. "Were one to find oneself in a situation at some point in the future where things had improved to such an extent that there was now a similar difficulty with an A*, the sensible thing to do would be to repeat the medicine.

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham, described the idea of a possible A** as "just plain daft", saying it would amount to an admission of failure. "For the A* to work it must be based on tougher questions which will sort out those with real understanding of the subject," he said.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said he thought it would be an extraordinary achievement for any student to get three A*s and said the need for an extra top grade at A level was "a long way away". He pointed out that, from this year, universities will be given the percentage mark of all pupils in every A level module to help them to distinguish between those who have scraped through with an A and those who had passed with flying colours.

Michael Gove, the Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said that he agreed that it was important to allow the new A* to bed down before thinking of reforming A levels again. The results for the 310,000 students sitting 806,000 A levels were released yesterday by the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing the exam boards. The pass rate was 96.6 per cent. Girls continued to score better grades than boys in every major subject apart from further maths and foreign languages, although boys did manage to narrow the gap overall by 0.3 per cent.


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