Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brits fleeing disastrous government schools

If they are lucky enough to be able to afford to do so. The cost is a considerable burden for many families but keeping their children safe and in an environment where they can learn is a huge priority. Would YOU want your kid to go to a school where some of the black kids are armed with machine pistols?

The middle-class exodus from state schools in London is speeding up, with nearly half of children in some parts of the capital now privately educated. An analysis of government figures suggested a widening of the social class divide in education since the turn of the century. Some of the highest levels of child poverty, as measured by the proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM), were found in areas with the greatest proportion of children in independent schools. The figures followed concern from Christine Gilbert, the Chief Inspector of Schools, who said that the school system was dividing children along social and economic lines.

The finding was most striking in [largely black] inner-London boroughs. In Kensington and Chelsea, 45.3 per cent of children are educated in independent schools, yet the borough has the sixth-highest rate in the country for FSM [poor] children, at 37.7 per cent. [What a coincidence!] The national average for FSM is 12 per cent.

In Hammersmith & Fulham, which has the third-highest rate of FSM children in the country at 42.2 per cent, a quarter of children are independently educated. In Westminster, 26.4 per cent go to independent schools, and yet the borough has the eighth-highest rate in the country for FSM children, at 35.8 per cent. Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, obtained the figures from the House of Commons, amid concern about the flight of middle-class families from state schools in his borough. In 2000 22.6 per cent of children in the borough were educated independently. Now the figure is 25.6 per cent. Other inner-London boroughs have seen similar shifts. In Wandsworth, the proportion in independent schools has risen from 15.1 to 18.7 per cent.

These figures come against a nation-wide long-term demographic decline in the number of young people and steady increases in independent school fees to an average of about 11,000 pounds a year.

Mr Hands said: "In Hammersmith & Fulham, we have one of the fastest-rising rates of private school attendance in the country and one of the highest rates of surplus places in [state] secondary schools. "Part of that can be explained by changing demographics in that we now have more parents who can afford to go private. But there is more to it than that. Middle-class parents concerned about standards are opting out of the state system and it's my objective to get them to opt back in. Our local state schools are making themselves better, but the missing element in their bid for improvement is the professional classes."

Sam Friedman, head of the education unit at the Policy Exchange think-tank, said the social divide in education was particularly acute in London [which is now 50% black]. The phenomenon could be attributed in part to its population, which is extremely socially mixed. "In more rural areas, populations tend to segregate naturally. In London, there are pockets of advantage and disadvantage right next to each other and one way they segregate themselves is through school choice."



On Monday night, Columbia University's pro-Israel student group played host to the latest installment in a lecture series aimed, at least partially, at rebutting Nadia Abu El-Haj, whose work has been critical of the traditional narratives of Israeli archeology. Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard since 2002, first gained notice with her 2001 book "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," in which she argued that Israeli archaeologists use their research to validate a national origin myth. The book was praised in some quarters - it won the top award from the Middle East Studies Association - but was slammed by others as poor scholarship motivated by ideology. Columbia is currently deliberating whether Abu El-Haj should be given tenure, and the university has received petitions from her opponents and supporters.

"If you get real live archaeologists on campus who know the material, they're naturally going to contradict her," said Alan Segal, a professor in Barnard's religion department who delivered the first lecture in the series. The bottom line, Segal said, is that Abu El-Haj "hates Israelis." Abu El-Haj could not be reached for comment.

On the academic level, the debate about Abu El-Haj has drawn out a conflict between those scholars who believe archaeology has the potential for objectivity, and others - particularly younger scholars in disciplines such as anthropology - who see archaeological practice as inextricably tied to ideology.

On Monday night, the featured speaker was William Dever, a retired professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Arizona who is a critic of Abu El-Haj. Although he never referred explicitly to Abu El-Haj in his lecture, Dever challenged notions advanced by some academics about archaeology's inherent biases. "Archaeology has never been edited," he said. "When we dig these things up, they are pristine."

Judith Jacobson, a member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, made the opening remarks at Dever's lecture. She said that the lecture series, titled "Underground: What Archaeology Tells Us about Ancient Israel," was conceived partly to remind the community that good Israel archaeology exists in abundance. Asked if she thought the series served a political purpose, Jacobson answered carefully. "Only to inform the community," she said. "It's all we can do."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the series continues

Professor Aren Maeir of Bar Ilan University will speak November 19 on: The Archaeology of the Philistines: Findings Relevant to Ancient Israel and the Development of Biblical Text.

Professor Jodi Magness of Duke University will speak February 4 on: Jerusalem in the Time of Herod.

Remember that according to Abu El Haj Jerusalem in the time of Jesus was not a majority Jewish city.