Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Conservative group looking to aid U of I

Conservative commentator Robert Novak said Thursday that his Washington colleagues were stunned to learn that a group of University of Illinois alumni was setting up an organization to encourage and finance conservative studies on campus. They asked, "Capitalism and limited government at a public university? How can that be?" Novak, an Illinois graduate, told about 250 people gathered for the launch of The Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Fund.

Some U of I faculty members fear that the group's plans to raise money to pay for classes and research on free-market capitalism and limited government would create an undue conservative political influence on campus. They also complain that the new group was formed without faculty input. "The main thing that concerned me is that this was something that was sort of dropped on the faculty," associate history professor Mark Leff said in an interview. "We read about it in the newspaper, and all of the sudden we find out that there's this organization."

Conservative groups, which have complained that universities serve as little more than liberal training grounds, have emerged on and around campuses across the U.S. to press their own ideology. "The left has made the university into a political platform," said David Horowitz, a conservative activist whose California-based Horowitz Freedom Center campaigns for greater conservative presence on campuses. "Of course there's going to be a reaction." The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, for instance, regularly pressures the University of North Carolina about what the group considers "shallow and trendy" teaching that ignores American history and conservative principles such as limited government.


The destructive British class system

Which has become more entrenched under Labour, despite their inflated rhetoric. Why? Because the Labour party has done its best to block the best route to upward mobility -- the Grammar (selective) schools. A Grammar School graduate comments:

I recently met a bright 17-year-old from a working-class background who attended his local comprehensive in London. He was funny and articulate. I asked whether he or anyone at his school had considered applying to Oxford or Cambridge. He laughed: "We don't think it's for people like us." It is a reaction I hear often and helps to explain a sad waste of talent in Britain today. Last week a study showed that just 200 elite schools accounted for one third of admissions to the top dozen universities and half of all places at Oxford and Cambridge. The remaining 3,500 schools and colleges account for the other half. It is neither fair nor sensible.

While others are tempted to pin the blame on biased universities, I believe there is something more deep-rooted at work - a culture of low aspirations shared not just by students, but in many cases by their parents and teachers, too. There are many excellent teachers doing their best for the students, but it is a disturbing fact that some bright pupils are actively discouraged from reaching for the top.

I have long taken a personal interest in this question. Last week's university research was carried out by the Sutton Trust, the educational charity that I founded and chair, in an attempt to widen the circle of opportunity. I know first-hand how important aiming high can be. I grew up on a council estate in Yorkshire where I was lucky enough to pass the 11-plus [Grammar School admission]. Until this point nobody had suggested I might go to university. My parents encouraged me to work hard, but university was a world away from their own experiences. My father found a better job and we moved to a detached house in Surrey and I went to Reigate grammar school where, if you did well, you were encouraged to go on to university. Then, in another upwardly mobile shift, we moved again and I ended up at Cheltenham grammar, where bright boys were encouraged to aim for Oxbridge.

If my family had stayed in Yorkshire I would almost certainly not have gone to university. If we had stayed in Surrey I would not have gone to Oxford. Higher aspirations changed my life. Oxford led on to the London Business School, to a career in consulting and private equity. I never looked back. That was decades ago; I would have hoped that things had improved. But they have got worse. Sadly, in Britain today, aspirations are rooted in class. According to our research, parents in professional and managerial occupations believe that their children will go on to take A-levels, to attend good universities and end up in high-paying careers. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those in lower-paid jobs, by contrast, are likely to think that their children will leave school at 16 and go into routine employment.

You might think the classroom would act as a corrective. But all too often low expectations are reinforced by our socially selective school system. The Sutton Trust has surveyed 20% of the teachers in state schools who advise students on university - and more than 80% of them said they thought their pupils would find it difficult to fit into the top universities, particularly Oxbridge. Hard-pressed teachers face many other pressures and in some cases lack the confidence and know-how. Parents, meanwhile, are frustrated. Some even tell of instances where their children have been told not to bother applying to Oxford or Cambridge, despite being qualified.

That is why the Sutton Trust has announced that, together with its partners, it will spend 10 million pounds over the next five years to expand its sponsorship of outreach programmes such as summer schools to dispel the myths around the top universities. Even then it can be an uphill struggle. There is a shortage of applications from boys (less than a third). Many of those who do come hide it from their peers for fear of being branded a "swot".

This could not be more different from the attitudes of young people from independent schools. Their classmates are aiming to be bankers, lawyers and doctors. These children are articulate and confident. They have every reason to be. They have spent summers travelling overseas and undertaking internships at prestigious firms, not stacking shelves. Going to Oxford or Bristol or Durham is the natural next step.

It is no wonder that social mobility has declined in Britain and we languish at the bottom of the international league table. Also, the relationship between children's educational performance and their family background is stronger here than anywhere else in the developed world. If you are born poor, your qualifications will reflect the fact and you will remain poor.

Raising the aspirations of young people - as well as parents and teachers - is half the battle. The Sutton Trust is trying. We work with children in the early years, through school and into further and higher education, to provide the sort of support and encouragement to nonprivileged youngsters that better-off families and high-achieving schools provide as a matter of course. More is needed. Why not open up leading private and state schools to those from nonprivileged backgrounds, as has been done successfully at the Belvedere school in Liverpool and Pate's in Cheltenham? We should learn from successful schools and extend the opportunities they offer to all.

Children's futures should not be down to luck: we must ensure that all young people have access to real educational opportunities. That is a very modest ambition for a country that prides itself on fair play.


Catholic School Board calls Pro-Family Group "Extremist Hate Group", Board Defends Pro-Gay Manual

Board's family life committee said to have approved homosexual-activist counselor who is raising male child with his homosexual partner

In an attempt to divert attention from a controversial pro-homosexuality resource that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) has approved, the Board has taken to calling into question the motive and character of the Defend Traditional Marriage and Family (DTMF) group that brought the issue to light earlier this year.

At the heart of the issue is a teacher resource book called "Open Minds" that DTMF claims is misleading regarding issues of homosexuality. Also of concern to DTMF are decisions made by the WCDSB regarding numerous recommended resources and workshops being given to school administrators, many of which contradict Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

Statements made by Board spokespersons were published in today's main local area newspaper, The Record, that constitute ad hominem attacks on the DTMF and its members. Board spokesperson John Shewchuk called DTMF "an extremist hate group" as well as "a hate group with their own agenda that's making stuff up and lying." The article went on to state that "The group has an agenda that goes beyond the book to trying to discredit the school board, he charged."

In response to the allegations made by the board spokesperson, the DTMF's spokesperson, Jack Fonseca, told LifeSiteNews that, "Unable to defend his position on this inappropriate teacher resource, the Catholic School Board spokesperson has resorted to character assassination and a drive-by smear campaign against DTMF and the Catholic parents who are concerned about this inappropriate resource."

The assertions of the WCDSB spokesperson seem to be at odds with the published statements of DTMF. On a related issue regarding a Board approved counselor, a Sept. 24, 2007 press release by DTMF stated that: "we agree with the Board that students who experience same-sex attractions indeed deserve support and counselling. In fact, we believe that in this day and age where sex and sexuality have become so confused, that the Catholic community has an obligation to provide support services to affected students. Where we disagree with the Board is in who should deliver the counseling." The Board's family life committee approved of a homosexual-activist counselor who is raising a male child with his homosexual partner.

According to The Record "committee members discussed the book but won't make their decision until their next meeting on Nov. 1." The Board vehemently refused to discuss the other matters of concern to DTMF at the meeting.


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