Saturday, May 12, 2007

RI Students Must Watch 'Inconvenient Truth' to Graduate

To receive a degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, students are being forced to watch "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary on global warming produced by former Vice President Al Gore. The science class requirement has prompted one conservative student to declare that "we should stop calling these schools 'bastions of knowledge' since they're really bastions of leftist thought."

The controversy at Roger Williams University (RWU) in Bristol, R.I., began the week before Earth Day, when the professors teaching the laboratory portion of "Core 101: Science, Technology and Society" required their students to watch Gore's Oscar-winning film in class. The course is one of 12 that students at the university must take in order to graduate.

However, Dana Peloso, an RWU junior and president of the school's chapter of the College Republicans, sent a letter questioning the course requirement to Jeffrey Hughes, assistant dean of marine and natural sciences. "With the issue of global warming being such a highly politicized topic, with the scientific community unsure if global warming is man-induced or part of the natural cycle of the earth, do you think that it is intellectually honest to only show the alarmist viewpoint?" Peloso asked. "If the movie is still shown, what plans are there to incorporate the ideas of leading global warming skeptics into class discussion?" he added.

In his email response, Hughes stated that "I only recently saw 'An Inconvenient Truth' and have to think that it's an ideal subject for a Core lab," because "the point of Core is to inform students of scientific principles and help them make decisions on issues with a scientific basis in their everyday lives." "After an initial and heated debate, scientists no longer question whether the atmosphere is being warmed due to human activities and instead are increasingly impressed with the speed and impact of the process," Hughes wrote. "I repeat: there is no doubt that we're warming the earth and that a continuation of our activities will lead to profound changes. "Penguins, polar bears and your unborn children have no vote in this. They must live with decisions we make today," the assistant dean said. "As educators, we're charged to encourage your intellectual growth," Hughes added. "That can (actually, will) be uncomfortable at times, and we're also here to help you deal with that discomfort. It's truly what makes being a human such a joy, privilege and challenge."

Peloso told Cybercast News Service on Tuesday that his fellow students have reacted to the situation in one of two ways. "Those who understand that there are multifaceted points of view" are "really troubled by this," he said. But others "are so naive" that they take Gore's position "as gospel, the final word on global warming. They see Al Gore is a former vice president, so it's got to be true." The RWU junior approached other members of the faculty and staff regarding the matter, but "I can count on one hand the number of conservative professors I actually know of" at the university, he stated.

Peloso also sought assistance from the conservative Young America's Foundation, and Jason Mattera, a spokesman for the group who graduated from RWU in 2005, responded that Hughes' behavior amounted to "gross intolerance" at a university that promotes itself as a place that values "collaboration of students and faculty in research" and "appreciation of global perspectives." "That aside, it's a bold-faced lie for him to argue that all scientists agree with Al Gore," Mattera added.

Cybercast News Service previously reported that climate change skeptics have called "An Inconvenient Truth" a "sci-fi disaster" movie, and scientists who do not agree with the former vice president's view claim their perspective is being shunned in favor of trying to attain a "consensus" on the subject of global warming.

Mattera told Cybercast News Service that he "wasn't surprised" to hear about the situation because liberal professors often use their positions of authority to indoctrinate young minds. "This happens all the time, so we might have to stop calling these schools bastions of knowledge since they're really bastions of leftist thought," he said.

However, Susan Rivers, vice president of public affairs for RWU, told Cybercast News Service on Tuesday that this semester is the only time the film has been shown to students and as to whether it will be shown in the future, "the faculty and the deans agree together as a group what the content of these courses will be." Rivers said Peloso was not enrolled in the course and therefore did not see the film. "He had already taken the class," she said, and in fact, "he was not enrolled during the semester in question."

Mattera acknowledged that Peloso learned of the situation from friends taking the course and decided to contact the teacher because of concern for his fellow students and the fact that he had no grade to be affected by the action. "He's just trying to be a good student and continue being part in the educational community at RWU," Mattera added. "Besides, any university should not look to limit information but to expand it and have students come to their own conclusions."


Climate-Controlled Classroom?

Steven Milloy comments on the story above

Should schools teach the global warming controversy by showing students only Al Gore's alarmist movie? Roger Williams University just learned the answer to that question the hard way. One week before Earth Day, the professors of the RWU course, "Core 101: Science, Technology and Society," required their students to watch "An Inconvenient Truth." The students were not presented with any other viewpoint on global warming.

Controversy erupted when the president of RWU's College Republicans club complained to assistant dean Jeffrey Hughes, "With the issue of global warming being such a highly politicized topic, with the scientific community unsure if global warming is man-induced or part of the natural cycle of the earth, do you think that it is intellectually honest to only show the alarmist viewpoint?"

Hughes responded that Gore's movie is an "ideal subject for a Core lab" because "the point of Core is to inform students of scientific principles and help them make decisions on issues with a scientific basis in their everyday lives," according to a report. Dean Hughes continued, "After an initial and heated debate, scientists no longer question whether the atmosphere is being warmed due to human activities and instead are increasingly impressed with the speed and impact of the process. "I repeat: There is no doubt that we're warming the earth and that a continuation of our activities will lead to profound changes. Penguins, polar bears and your unborn children have no vote in this. They must live with decisions we make today. As educators, we're charged to encourage your intellectual growth. "That can (actually, will) be uncomfortable at times, and we're also here to help you deal with that discomfort. It's truly what makes being a human such a joy, privilege and challenge."

But if anyone has learned about how "uncomfortable" learning can be, it is Dean Hughes, who seems to have changed his mind about RWU's one-sided global warming curriculum. An RWU spokesman told me that the backlash against the required viewing of Gore's movie prompted Dean Hughes to "explore alternatives" to teaching global warming. The spokesman said that one alternative includes the presentation this fall of the counter-alarmism movie, "The Great Global Warming Swindle," a Channel 4 (U.K.) documentary that is best described as must-see global warming TV.

As the chastened Dean Hughes learned, while many people have made up their minds about global warming, many others have not. Further, there is evidence that, when presented with both sides of the debate, many believers end up changing their mindset from alarmism to skepticism about the alleged climate crisis.

Last March, the prestigious New York debating society Intelligence Squared sponsored a debate on global warming. On the alarmist side of the debate were the Union of Concerned Scientists Brenda Ekwurzel, NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt and University of California oceanographer Richard C. J. Somerville. The skeptical view of global warming alarmism was presented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen, University of London bio-geographer Philip Stott, and "State of Fear" author Michael Crichton, who is also a Harvard-trained physician and an instructor at Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A pre-debate poll indicated that, by 2-to-1 (57 percent to 29 percent, with 14 percent undecided), the audience believed that manmade global warming was a crisis. But in the post-debate poll, the audience reversed its pre-debate views - the ranks of the skeptics swelled to 46 percent, the believers plummeted to 42 percent and the undecided declined slightly to 12 percent. That's the power of debate. It follows that schools, if they choose to teach the global warming controversy at all, ought to be teaching both sides of the controversy, not just Al Gore's alarmism.

Last fall, the National Science Teachers Association rejected Al Gore's offer of 50,000 free DVDs of "An Inconvenient Truth" for use in classrooms. Recognizing that Al Gore and his global warming viewpoint is just that, opinion rather than undisputed fact, the NSTA expressed concern that other "special interests" might also want to distribute materials and that it didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film, according to a Washington Post report. The NSTA probably made the correct decision at the time simply because it would be egregiously biased to present just one particular viewpoint about a controversy as heated and important as global warming. Now that the counter-viewpoints are available, however, schools ought to show their students "An Inconvenient Truth," "The Great Global Warming Swindle" and the Intelligence Squared debate.

According to a recent front-page Washington Post story, one-sided teaching about global warming is taking a terrible emotional toll on children. "For many children and young adults, global warming is the atomic bomb of today.Parents say they're searching for `productive' outlets for their 8-year-olds' obsessions with dying polar bears. Teachers say enrollment in high school and college environmental studies classes is doubling year after year. And psychologists say they're seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climactic Armageddon." It's time to learn that bias plus teaching does not equal education.


Return of the Thought Police?

The history of teacher attitude adjustment

College campus battles over academic freedom and free speech have become a media staple. One widely publicized 2004 case concerned Ed Swan, an education student at Washington State University (WSU), who openly espoused conservative views, including opposition to affirmative action and permitting gays to adopt. The school's "professional disposition evaluation" required that students demonstrate, along with a professional demeanor, written communication, and problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, an "understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society."

Refusing to consent to the underlying ideology, Swan failed repeatedly. The college threatened to expel him from the teacher training program unless he signed a contract agreeing to undergo diversity training and accept extra scrutiny of his student teaching. After a national civil-liberties group intervened on his behalf, Swan was allowed to continue in the program, and WSU has since revised its evaluation form. The new version requires professors to evaluate students' "willingness to consider multiple perspectives on social and institutional factors that can impede or enhance students' learning." Dean of Education Judy Mitchell explained, "We've changed the format and clarified the words, but we haven't changed the standards."

Advocates of dispositions assessments of the kind in place at WSU defend the screening of pre-service teachers, whether at program entry or later on in the certification process, as standard practice and argue that "dispositions" are merely those attitudes and behaviors necessary to successful teaching. Critics see the combination of program accreditation standards, revised by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in 2000; a growing curricular emphasis on "social justice" issues; and a left-leaning education professoriate as yielding a one-sided approach to teacher education and the certification of teachers based on ideology, rather than teaching skills or mastery of content knowledge.

As a historian, I am most struck by the parallels between the dispositions assessments of today's aspiring teachers and the evaluations of teachers' mental hygiene and personality that began in the 1940s and continued for two decades. As is the case today, from 1940 to 1960 teacher educators sought to protect the interests of schoolchildren by socially engineering "desirable" characteristics in their teachers. What have changed are the personal qualities deemed most important for success in the classroom.

Assessing Teacher Dispositions

What is the purpose of dispositions assessment? What entity or body is in the best position to make this assessment? If the purpose is to ensure that access to children is denied to those who are truly deviant (sexual predators) or those who could harm children (drug dealers, felony offenders, child abusers), then it seems the assessment is best made by the government, which has the resources and responsibility to identify these people. If the purpose is to ensure that potential teachers have basic characteristics like honesty or fairness, existing standards such as university honor codes in higher education should suffice. If the purpose is to see how a teacher acts in a certain environment (be it an urban, suburban, or rural school, with a diverse or homogeneous student body), then perhaps those in that environment can best perform that assessment, taking into account the standards, mores, and preferences of the community. The ultimate employers of teachers, local school districts, can and do screen for the characteristics they want in their employees. Why, then, is it also necessary for teacher educators to assess the personal and political beliefs of aspiring teachers? Perhaps the policing of teacher personality and dispositions is just a way for teacher educators to extend their control even further into the public school classroom.

The harshest critics of dispositions assessment accuse education schools of acting as ideological gatekeepers to employment in public schools. Indeed, web site after web site shows schools of education that list among their teacher-education program goals the inculcation of political views alongside intellectual curiosity and such work habits as punctuality. The University of Alabama's College of Education is "committed to preparing individuals to promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism.." In the teacher education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, students are asked to "act as leaders and agents for organizational change in their classrooms, schools, and society, continually examine their own identities, biases, and social locations, seeking knowledge of students' cultures and communities, and pursuing a complex understanding of societal inequities as mediated through classism, heterosexism, racism, and other systems of advantage." Some program descriptions explain that requiring awareness of these issues and a commitment to addressing them ensures teachers will teach all children. In an October 2006 letter defending the conceptual framework of Teachers College, Columbia University, against accusations of political screening, President Susan H. Furhman wrote, "We believe that responsiveness to the diversity of students' backgrounds and previous experiences are [sic] essential for effective teaching"

Not all universities make the leap from classroom behavior to ideology: The "Teacher Education Professional Dispositions and Skills Criteria" at Winthrop University in South Carolina are only basic indicators of professional commitment, communication skills, interpersonal skills (among them, "Shows sensitivity to all students and is committed to teaching all students"), emotional maturity, and academic integrity; acknowledging social inequities is not mentioned. The difficulty, however, in assessing dispositions, whether they espouse social justice or are seemingly harmless as at Winthrop, arises when the assessors make value judgments rather than encourage academic freedom and respect freedom of conscience. As the Swan case at Washington State University shows, some teacher education programs clearly demand allegiance to a particular perspective on the politics of education.

If schools encourage students to respond honestly to teacher education assignments, and then use any responses that differ from accepted beliefs as grounds for dismissal, that is political screening and a clear denial of academic freedom. A student accused Le Moyne College, a private, Jesuit-run school, of doing just that. In 2004, administrators dismissed the politically conservative graduate student after he wrote a paper on classroom management that questioned the value of multicultural education and expressed limited support for the use of corporal punishment in the classroom.

At the Brooklyn College School of Education, some students complained after a teacher showed the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11 on the day before the 2004 presidential election. The university asked one student to leave, accused two others of plagiarism, and then denied the two students the right to bring a witness or an attorney to their hearing. K. C. Johnson, a faculty member who questioned the accusation of plagiarism and defended the students in Inside Higher Ed, then faced possible investigation by the university. The hallmarks of a professional program of teacher preparation within a university should be the free exploration of ideas. Yet it seems some teacher preparation programs substitute professional socialization, and the political conformity it requires, for a commitment to academic freedom.

The controversy over political screening of prospective teachers by teacher educators came to a head at the June 2006 reauthorization hearing for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) with the U.S. Department of Education. Within the list of dispositions aspiring teachers might be required to possess, the agency had included "social justice," a phrase that, to many, signals a value-laden ideology. Under pressure from a number of groups, NCATE president Arthur Wise announced that the agency would drop "social justice" from its accreditation standards; he maintains that social justice was never a required disposition.

NCATE's definition of "dispositions" and its inclusion of social justice as part of that definition had caused considerable consternation. Among the groups represented at the hearing were the National Association of Scholars, which had filed the complaint, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), founded and headed by civil libertarians Alan Charles Kors, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense attorney. FIRE, an organization dedicated to the preservation of free speech, has accused a number of universities, including Washington State University on behalf of Edward Swan, of evaluating students on the basis of their political views and thereby violating their First Amendment rights.

Arthur Wise has staked out NCATE's position that dispositions are only "commonsense expectations" for teacher behavior and insists that the accrediting agency does not condone the evaluation of attitudes. Whether or not that is the case, most teacher education programs in this country receive accreditation from NCATE and follow its lead. Even though NCATE has now dropped "social justice" as a disposition, the agency stands behind dispositions assessment and institutions' use of "social justice" as a curricular theme. The phrase appears in countless teacher-preparation program and course descriptions. Critics are not hopeful that NCATE's action will curb abuses. In her testimony at the NCATE hearing, American Council of Trustees and Alumni president Anne D. Neal asked that the agency's reauthorization be denied "until it affirmatively makes clear that teacher preparation programs are not expected to judge the values and political beliefs of teacher candidates and asks that its members review and revise their standards accordingly." ....

Learning from History

The screening of prospective teachers for maladjustment 50 years ago and the dispositions assessments going on today have remarkable similarities. As William Damon of Stanford has noted, dispositions assessment "opens virtually all of a candidate's thoughts and actions to scrutiny...[and] brings under the examiner's purview a key element of the candidate's very personality." The same underlying assumption-that scientific means of selection and training could guarantee good teachers-held sway at mid-century with respect to mental hygiene. Teacher educators who guarded entry to the profession used the techniques of science to study, measure, and evaluate the teacher candidate as do those who guard entry today. Only the specific values and attitudes they appraise have changed. Advocates of dispositions assessment claim that their methods are "standards-based" and provide "accountability" -scientific-sounding catchwords that hold considerable weight in the current political climate. Both sets of desirable characteristics-summed up in the terms mental hygiene and social justice-are tied to progressivism and appear as core components of the teacher preparation curriculum, with the effect of de-emphasizing academic knowledge, or at least requiring subject-matter learning and even pedagogy to make room for them. And hard evidence was and still is lacking. Researchers could never link with any certainty particular personality traits with effective teaching. Nor, as Frederick Hess explains, is there any scientific evidence that requiring teachers to have certain views about "sexuality or social class" ensures that they teach all students: "Screening on `dispositions' serves primarily to cloak academia's biases in the garb of professional necessity."

The history of teacher screening reveals how deeply rooted such practices are in American teacher education. Whether the standard is mental hygiene or possessing the proper political and ideological disposition, the elimination of candidates who do not pass muster gives teacher educators the power to determine who gains access to a classroom based on the values the teacher educators prefer. While the courts have permitted certifying agencies to require "good moral character" of teacher applicants, as legal scholars Martha McCarthy and Nelda Cambron-McCabe note, they "will intervene...if statutory or constitutional rights are abridged." Thus, while pledging loyalty to federal and state constitutions is a permissible condition for obtaining a teacher license, swearing an oath to progressivism is not. Given the evidence and the history, there should be real concern, as teacher educator Gary Galluzzo has said, that "students' views and personalities are being used against them" whenever dispositions are assessed. Those committed to academic freedom within higher education should be concerned when professional socialization trumps freedom of conscience in teacher education programs.

Much more here


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


Friday, May 11, 2007

Brooklyn Arabic School

Backers of the proposed Khalil Gibran International Academy are insisting that their plan for a middle school that would teach Arabic is still alive, even though the department of education has decided against situating the school at PS 282 in Park Slope. Others suggest it's a fine moment to put the plan to rest for good. Our own view is that it's a good moment to review yet again the whole idea of parental choice in schooling. If there is a logic to the Khalil Gibran school, there's a logic to a lot of other things, too.

We have no apologies for the skepticism and passion with which some of our columnists have reacted to the school. Its principal, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, accepted an award in 2005 from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. When Mayor Bloomberg in 2002 named a CAIR official to the city's human relations commission, it set off a firestorm of complaints. CAIR had cosponsored an event at Brooklyn College where attendees chanted "no to the Jews, descendants of the apes," and the organization posted a letter on its Web site suggesting that Muslims could not have been responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001.

CAIR is a highly divisive institution in this city and country. It is funded in part by the same Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, whose $10 million donation Mayor Giuliani rejected after the terrorist attacks of September 11, when the prince called for America to rethink its support for Israel. When one of our reporters asked Ms. Almontaser whether she considers Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist organizations and who she thinks was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, she declined to answer, suggesting she shouldn't be singled out for such questions.

Yet if Ms. Almontaser cannot bring herself to address such questions from a newspaper, how is she going to do it in school? We do not believe such skepticism makes one intolerant, or, as some have insinuated, an anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigot. Arabic Islamist terrorism in Brooklyn is a genuine threat. This is a city that saw Ari Halberstam shot to death on the Brooklyn Bridge after his assailant, Rashid Baz, listened to a sermon at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. And more recently saw a clerk at an Islamic bookstore in Bay Ridge, Shahawar Matin Siraj, convicted of a plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station.

Not long ago, a man from Yemen who owned an ice cream shop in Brooklyn was convicted of sending nearly $22 million abroad for use by a sheik with ties to Hamas and Al Qaeda. The "landmarks plot" to blow up the United Nations and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels was hatched on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn by Omar Abdel-Rahman and others. A civil rights lawyer and her interpreter were convicted of aiding Abdel-Rahman by transmitting messages from him to a terrorist organization in Egypt. This is not a time when concern over these issues can be dismissed as bigotry.

The majority of Arab Americans and American Muslims are law-abiding, patriotic, and peace-loving. Ms. Almontaser herself has won many admirers, including some New York Jewish leaders. "She's been a driving force in allowing trusting and really deep dialogues with not only the Jewish community but" with other communities around the city, the Jewish Community Relations Council's director for intergroup relations, Robert Kaplan, said. The New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Joel Levy, has said, "I have a lot of confidence in her and am optimistic she's going to create an appropriate school."

The city's schools chancellor, Joel Klein, starts out with credibility on the issue of Israel and the war on terrorism. He unceremoniously shut down a program in which Columbia's Rashid Khalidi, a professor known for making sloppy accusations against Israel's American backers, was training New York City school teachers. More broadly, he is a partisan of the Americanizing role of universal public education. It's hard to peg either him or Mayor Bloomberg as a Balkanizer. At the same time, growing politicization within the city's public schools — such as Beacon — is an alarming trend they will need to start addressing somewhere.


How to sort all this out? Our own preference is for a system of maximizing parental choice through school vouchers. These columns have long advocated vouchers that would allow students to study in a Catholic school or a yeshiva or an Arab school. It is a step that the mayor, the chancellor, the unions, and the liberal intelligentsia in New York have resisted. A taxpayer-funded Arabic school would only underscore the injustice of allowing one group of parents to educate their own children in a school that elevates their language, civilization, and religion at taxpayer expense, while depriving other parents of the same choices. Our test for whether all of the parties to this controversy are standing on principle will be their position on vouchers.


Australia: A missing option -- school for boys

VICTORIA needs more boys-only government schools to improve boys' academic performance, an education expert says. Instead of having to pay expensive private school fees for a single-sex education, parents should have the option of sending their sons to boys-only state schools just as they can send their daughters to girls-only state schools, according to Ian Lillico, an international consultant on gender and boys' education. "It is a shame that we haven't said: 'Let's give some alternatives to boys'. If you are saying you want to choose single sex, and there are good reasons to do that, then they (parents) have to pay for private education - it doesn't make sense at all," Mr Lillico said. There are eight all-girls state schools in Victoria but only one all-boys alternative, the select-entry Melbourne High, which offers only years 9 to 12.

In New South Wales, where Mr Lillico is an adviser to the Education Department on gender and boys' education, there are 22 all-boys government schools and just five of those are select-entry schools.

Some co-ed Victorian schools that are near girls-only government alternatives have a gender imbalance in their student make-up. For example, Camberwell High has 800 boys enrolled and just 400 girls. Principal Elida Brereton said the school ran up to three all-boys classes in years 7 to 10 to keep some classes co-educational. "We sometimes have parents who complain to us that their boys are not getting a co-education, but have enrolled their daughters at (nearby single-sex school) Canterbury Girls. "You can't help but think, if they sent their girls here, the situation might be different," Ms Brereton said.

Research showed that not all boys thrived in a single-sex school, Mr Lillico said, but those who played team sports did. He said that single-sex education for boys and girls was most beneficial in the middle high school years. "If a boy doesn't play team sports, then going to an all-boys school could be a disaster for him. There is still that underlying thing where he might be thought to be a bit of a 'sis' or 'a wuss' or a 'gay'," Mr Lillico said.

Gentle, bookish and musical boys fared better in coeducational schools, he said. But if boys played a team sport and had an interest in a musical instrument or drama, they often fared well in all-boys schools.

But not all experts agree on the need for more boys-only schools. Ken Rowe, a specialist in gender and education at the Australian Council for Educational Research, dismissed the need for single-sex education. "It has truly got nothing to do with the gender of the kid or the gender of the teacher but it has got to do with the quality of the teaching," Dr Rowe said. He said girls did better than boys educationally the world over, but much of the success of single-sex schools came down to the enthusiasm of parents and school communities for creating boys-only or girls-only schools. "I think it may be in the minds of parents as an issue, but it is not an issue," he said.

A spokesman for Education Minister John Lenders said the Department of Education would monitor demand for single-sex education. "There has been a continuing decline in demand for boys-only schooling options in Victoria in recent years and there is no overwhelming evidence to suggest a change. This trend has not been mirrored in levels of demand for girls-only schools," he said.



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


Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Holistic review" at UCLA exposed

Sounds like blatant defiance of the law. Post below lifted from La Shawn. See the original post for links

As regulars know, I've written about holistic review a few times. In this post from last year, I told you that the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) adopted a holistic review admissions process. I made the simple and obvious point that holistic review, if used consistently across all races, would increase the number of white and Asian students, not black and hispanic, as intended.

Last month, I reported that UCLA indeed had admitted more black and hispanic students under holistic review. I opined that the whole thing was a sham, a thinly veiled disguise for race preferences, which are illegal in the state (so say 54 percent of the voters.) If the school holistically reviewed all applicants, without regard to race, and academics were "given the greatest weight," how in the world did the school end up with more blacks and hispanics? Did high achievers suddenly emerge when they learned about the new process? Of course not.

It was just as I expected. Scores for holistically admitted black and hispanics students were significantly lower than holistically admitted whites and Asians. From The Daily Bruin (emphases added):

And while the number of underrepresented minorities admitted did increase overall, there is still a significant gap between the SAT scores and high school GPAs of black and Latino students compared to white and Asian students.In fall 2006, before UCLA switched to holistic admissions, black and Latino applicants' average SAT scores were 255 and 246 points lower than the average for their white and Asian counterparts.

That gap seemed largely unaffected by holistic review - in fall 2007, black applicants' SAT scores were on average 293 points lower than those of white and Asian students, and Latino applicants' scores came up 249 points short.

You don't have to be particularly smart to see what's going on. Under holistic review, a politically correct label for race preferences, reviewers are putting more weight on black and hispanic applicants' skin color (against the law), so-called leadership skills, hard-luck stories, and other "non-academic" factors than they do for white and Asian applicants. Because the scores and grades of whites and Asians are perennially higher than blacks and hispanics, reviewers are virtually forced to de-emphasize hard numbers and overemphasize non-academic qualities. That's contradictory to the school's claim. "Academic achievement still will be given the greatest weight. But added emphasis will be placed on the school context and the resources available to the student."

If academic achievement had been given the greatest weight, which I don't believe it was for blacks and hispanics, there'd be fewer blacks and hispanics admitted for that admissions cycle, not more, and the score gap between admittees would be narrower, not wider. In a previous post, I argued that since more whites and Asians apply to UCLA than blacks and hispanics, there'd be more whites and Asians admitted under the lowered standard. Again, assuming white and Asian applicants were subject to holistic review to the same extent (if at all) as blacks and hispanics.

The worst thing about PC BS is the way bureaucrats have to engage in double-talk. Anyone of reasonable intelligence knows what's going on, so who, exactly, is buying this holistic crap?

Here's something only an idiot would come up with: Because blacks and hispanics have less access to Advanced Placement classes, good schools, and SAT prep classes, they should be admitted to selective colleges and universities for which they're underqualified and face a rigorous curriculum for which they are woefully unprepared, all in the name of diversity and "social justice." Meanwhile, you've got a score gap you could drive a Humvee through, but the disparity and mismatch give students "a true college experience . where they're learning from each other."

Does that make sense? Of course it doesn't. In order for PC BS to "work," we're not supposed to look at evidence, ask questions, and expect sound and reasoned responses. That complicates things. On the one hand, we're supposed to pretend the academic achievement gap means nothing, while on the other hand accept the caused-by-racism explanation for why it exists in the first place.

You know, it wouldn't be the worse thing in the world to match students to colleges and universities according to their abilities. And the sky certainly wouldn't fall if so-called selective schools ended up with far fewer blacks and hispanics. Where did people get the idea that black and brown faces must be present on a campus at all costs, especially when those costs are borne by the students themselves, as proven by lower achievement and lower graduation rates? Again, we're not to supposed to ask questions, so nevermind

Australia: Gross spelling errors in High School textbook

Our Leftist "educators" are even too dumb to use a spellchecker

A PRACTICE Core Skills booklet widely used by Year 12 students contains seven major spelling errors in two paragraphs. The mistakes, pointed out yesterday by an irate parent, include "dagnerous" for dangerous, "gudance" for guidance, "anddetection" for and detection, "detemrine" for determine, "readio" for radio, "teh" for the and "mehtod" for method. The book, Queensland Core Skills Test Workbook, was written by Peter J. Spence, BA BEd Grad. Dip RE, and B.J. Lewis, BA BEd MEd Admin, and published in Brisbane by Education Support Programmes. This is the fifth year of production of the book, which is compulsory in many Queensland schools.

The company did not return phone calls or emails yesterday. The errors occur on page 116 in a science practice question about small robots known as millibots.

Education Minister Rod Welford said: "I hope the students doing the Core Skills Test check their answers more carefully than the authors of this book." The Queensland Studies Authority, which oversees the Core Skills Test, said it had nothing to do with the book. "The QSA publishes its own QCS Test support materials for schools and students," a spokesman said. "Copies of the QSA publications What About the QCS Test? and All You Need to Know About the QCS Test are provided to schools for distribution to all Year 11 and Year 12 students."

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations executive officer Greg Donaldson said: "Someone has let the side down by obviously not using the spellcheck."

The parent who drew attention to the errors said the students had wondered at first if it was a "correct the spelling mistakes" question, but clearly it was not, as it asked for a calculation to be performed. "What sort of an example do you think this will set for a generation that already struggles to be literate?" she said.

The Queensland Core Skills Test, which will be held on September 4 and 5 this year, is a common statewide test for Year 12 students testing 49 common elements in the curriculum. It gives students individual results from A to E, and group results are used to help calculate overall positions (OPs).



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


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Free to choose, and learn

New research shows that parental choice raises standards-including for those who stay in public schools

FEW ideas in education are more controversial than vouchers-letting parents choose to educate their children wherever they wish at the taxpayer's expense. First suggested by Milton Friedman, an economist, in 1955, the principle is compellingly simple. The state pays; parents choose; schools compete; standards rise; everybody gains.

Simple, perhaps, but it has aroused predictable-and often fatal-opposition from the educational establishment. Letting parents choose where to educate their children is a silly idea; professionals know best. Co-operation, not competition, is the way to improve education for all. Vouchers would increase inequality because children who are hardest to teach would be left behind.

But these arguments are now succumbing to sheer weight of evidence. Voucher schemes are running in several different countries without ill-effects for social cohesion; those that use a lottery to hand out vouchers offer proof that recipients get a better education than those that do not.

Harry Patrinos, an education economist at the World Bank, cites a Colombian programme to broaden access to secondary schooling, known as PACES, a 1990s initiative that provided over 125,000 poor children with vouchers worth around half the cost of private secondary school. Crucially, there were more applicants than vouchers. The programme, which selected children by lottery, provided researchers with an almost perfect experiment, akin to the "pill-placebo" studies used to judge the efficacy of new medicines. The subsequent results show that the children who received vouchers were 15-20% more likely to finish secondary education, five percentage points less likely to repeat a grade, scored a bit better on scholastic tests and were much more likely to take college entrance exams.

Voucher programmes in several American states have been run along similar lines. Greg Forster, a statistician at the Friedman Foundation, a charity advocating universal vouchers, says there have been eight similar studies in America: seven showed statistically significant positive results for the lucky voucher winners; the eighth also showed positive results but was not designed well enough to count.

The voucher pupils did better even though the state spent less than it would have done had the children been educated in normal state schools. American voucher schemes typically offer private schools around half of what the state would spend if the pupils stayed in public schools. The Colombian programme did not even set out to offer better schooling than was available in the state sector; the aim was simply to raise enrolment rates as quickly and cheaply as possible.

These results are important because they strip out other influences. Home, neighbourhood and natural ability all affect results more than which school a child attends. If the pupils who received vouchers differ from those who don't-perhaps simply by coming from the sort of go-getting family that elbows its way to the front of every queue-any effect might simply be the result of any number of other factors. But assigning the vouchers randomly guarded against this risk.

Opponents still argue that those who exercise choice will be the most able and committed, and by clustering themselves together in better schools they will abandon the weak and voiceless to languish in rotten ones. Some cite the example of Chile, where a universal voucher scheme that allows schools to charge top-up fees seems to have improved the education of the best-off most.

The strongest evidence against this criticism comes from Sweden, where parents are freer than those in almost any other country to spend as they wish the money the government allocates to educating their children. Sweeping education reforms in 1992 not only relaxed enrolment rules in the state sector, allowing students to attend schools outside their own municipality, but also let them take their state funding to private schools, including religious ones and those operating for profit. The only real restrictions imposed on private schools were that they must run their admissions on a first-come-first-served basis and promise not to charge top-up fees (most American voucher schemes impose similar conditions).

The result has been burgeoning variety and a breakneck expansion of the private sector. At the time of the reforms only around 1% of Swedish students were educated privately; now 10% are, and growth in private schooling continues unabated.

Anders Hultin of Kunskapsskolan, a chain of 26 Swedish schools founded by a venture capitalist in 1999 and now running at a profit, says its schools only rarely have to invoke the first-come-first-served rule-the chain has responded to demand by expanding so fast that parents keen to send their children to its schools usually get a place. So the private sector, by increasing the total number of places available, can ease the mad scramble for the best schools in the state sector (bureaucrats, by contrast, dislike paying for extra places in popular schools if there are vacancies in bad ones).

More evidence that choice can raise standards for all comes from Caroline Hoxby, an economist at Harvard University, who has shown that when American public schools must compete for their students with schools that accept vouchers, their performance improves. Swedish researchers say the same. It seems that those who work in state schools are just like everybody else: they do better when confronted by a bit of competition.


More on British teacher abuse

Teachers accused of abuse of pupils should be guaranteed anonymity while the allegations are investigated, the Lord Chancellor said yesterday. Lord Falconer of Thoroton said that teachers' reputations were being ruined by the "allegations culture" and an unfair disciplinary process that could leave their careers in tatters even if allegations proved to be completely unfounded.

The Lord Chancellor also called for a more "common sense" approach to human rights. Head teachers were perfectly justified, for example, in refusing unreasonable demands from Muslim pupils who claimed that it was their human right to wear Islamic dress in schools. He cited the decision of a Luton school to stop Shabina Begum wearing a jilbab - a long loose gown - to class.

Lord Falconer told the conference of the National Association of Head Teachers that teachers should not face automatic suspension when an allegation was made against them. False accusations should no longer be automatically reported to the local authority or appear on Criminal Records Bureau checks and job references, he said, and schools should have some means of making public statements of a teacher's innocence as soon as they were cleared of a spurious allegation.

Suspensions and investigations that lasted for years "ruin lives often utterly unfairly", he said. If teachers facing accusations were automatically suspended, regardless of the allegations' merits, that knowledge could spread very quickly, ruining reputations, Lord Falconer said. Nor was it fair that "patently false" accusations should be allowed to follow teachers through their entire career.

Teachers have long complained that allegations against them are recorded by the school and reported to the local authority. This means that the accusations appear on criminal record checks and job references, even when the teacher is cleared, blighting their chances for career advancement. "Where it's demonstrably the case that the allegation is false there should be greater discretion as to whether it's recorded," Lord Falconer said.

Mick Brookes, the association's general secretary, said that heads were sometimes able to protect teachers from false allegations by not reporting them to the local authority, yet there was nobody to protect heads when they fell victim. An accusation against a head would automatically be referred to the authority, which would suspend them at once. "If an allegation is made against a head, the cavalry come out very quickly. Social services are there in squads and there is an immediate, very high escalation," Mr Brookes said.

As a head teacher he had taken the risk of not reporting four cases in which his teachers had been accused of abuse because he had found all the cases to be unfounded. Those teachers were left to get on with their careers. He contrasted this with the case of a head who has been suspended and who attempted suicide as a result, even though the union expects him to be cleared of the claims against him.

Lord Falconer rejected the union's demands for sanctions against those who levelled false accusations against teachers and heads, arguing that this might deter those with genuine grievances from reporting them. He also ruled out changes to criminal investigations of teachers.

Public misunderstanding of human rights legislation partly explained the "allegations culture", the Lord Chancellor suggested. An overzealous interpretation of the Human Rights Act had led to claims in the name of "human rights" that were nothing of the sort.



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


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Weird British school

Another untested theory being imposed on kids

Britain's most expensive state school is being built without a playground because those running it believe that pupils should be treated like company employees and do not need unstructured play time. The authorities at the 46.4m pound Thomas Deacon city academy in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, due to open this autumn, also believe that the absence of a playground will avoid the risk of "uncontrollable" numbers of children running around in breaks at the 2,200-pupil school. "We are not intending to have any play time," said Alan McMurdo, the head teacher. "Pupils won't need to let off steam because they will not be bored."

The absence of play time has angered some parents whose children will attend the school, designed by Lord Foster, architect of the "gherkin" office tower in London. But staff insist that it will have the added benefit of avoiding pupils falling victim to playground bullies. Miles Delap, project manager at the academy, said: "For a school of this size, a playground would have had to be huge. That would have been almost uncontrollable. We have taken away an uncontrollable space to prevent bullying and truancy."

Anne Kerrison, who has three children, said her 14-year-old son Matthew was devastated when he discovered that he would not be able to kick a football around at lunchtime. "All children need fresh air and a chance to exercise during the school day. Break times are the only unstructured time they get," she said.

Another city academy, Unity in Middlesbrough, opened in 2002 without a playground, prompting criticism from government inspectors about poor design. The school later built a playground.

Thomas Deacon, nicknamed "the blancmange" because of its rounded shape, will be one of the biggest schools in Europe. Its features will include a "wetland eco-pool" designed "for rain-water collection" planted with wild flowers. It will replace three schools in Peterborough and is one of the showcases of Tony Blair's academies programme. Academy schools remain in the state sector but are independent of local councils. They are sponsored by private sector firms which have some say in the management.

The academy's timetable will be tightly structured and exercise for pupils will take place in PE classes and organised games on adjacent playing fields. There will be a 30-minute lunch period when pupils will be taken to the dining room by their teacher, ensuring they do not sneak away to run around. McMurdo said refreshments, often taken in break periods at other schools, could be drunk during the school day. "[Pupils] will be able to hydrate during the learning experience," he said.

Other head teachers questioned the wisdom of the playground ban. Ian Andain, head at a comprehensive in Liverpool, said: "There has to be bit of open space to play football. It is important that pupils can have a run around and expend energy." However, Delap, who has run the academy project on behalf of its sponsor, Perkins Engines, and the Deacon school trust, said that playgrounds did not fit into the concept.


FIRE defends campus speech-code survey

An April 20 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education criticized the work of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education after it published a survey of speech codes at colleges and universities across the nation. Jon B. Gould, the author of the article and an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University, challenged FIRE's December 2006 survey of speech codes. The report compiled FIRE's analysis of 330 schools and said more than 68% of them had unconstitutional speech codes.

Calling FIRE "an increasingly ideological organization that exaggerates the facts to make political hay," Gould branded its staffers "ideological opportunists." Gould made a four-fold argument against FIRE's findings, to which the organization responded with a series of articles on its Web site.

First, Gould said that the inclusion of both public and private schools in the report showed inconsistency. Second, he compared FIRE's results with the results of a similar survey that he had conducted and challenged the group's methodology. Third, Gould disagreed with FIRE's characterization of sexual-harassment policies as speech codes. Fourth, Gould accused FIRE of making judgments based on selective quotations from university policies.

Inconsistency: Gould asserted that, by including both public and private schools in its survey, FIRE mixes apples and oranges, enjoying "any opportunity - whether at public or private institutions - to challenge what it considers `thought control' from self-appointed, and not inconsequentially liberal, academic censors." He cited its recent campaigns against Brown University, Pace University and Johns Hopkins University - all three private institutions, which are not bound to provide First Amendment speech protections as public campuses are. Chris Perez, a program officer at FIRE, responded, "We at FIRE believe that when a school, public or private, makes a promise to a student - whether in a student handbook or a brochure or a speech from the president, that school is morally and legally bound to honor that promise."

FIRE included 104 private schools in its survey, evaluating them on the basis of the values listed in their mission statements or handbooks instead of on the Bill of Rights, which binds public universities. FIRE Vice President of Operations Robert Shibley wrote, "When we find a school that professes to value free expression or academic freedom, we evaluate its speech codes to see if its choices reflect those values."

Survey comparison: Gould challenged FIRE's research paradigm by comparing it with his similar survey. Using criteria from a similar First Amendment Center survey, Gould evaluated the hate-speech codes at 100 schools from 1992-1997. He found that 46% of schools had policies that restricted hate speech, but only 9% of them were unconstitutional. In contrast, he said FIRE found that 96% of schools had unconstitutional policies.

FIRE Senior Program Officer William Creeley responded to Gould's methodological critiques. He said that Gould combined FIRE's red- and yellow-light ratings to reach the 96%, whereas FIRE's report said only 69% of schools had unconstitutional policies. (A red-light rating was given to a school with a policy that clearly and substantially restricts free speech. A yellow-light rating was for policies that may be interpreted to restrict speech or prohibit only narrow types of speech.) Creeley said two main factors contributed to the discrepancy in the two surveys' results. First, they used different rating systems and different criteria. Second, FIRE surveyed a larger number of universities - 330 to Gould's 100.

Creeley also observed differences in the policies surveyed. "We [FIRE] review any written policy maintained by the school with an impact on campus speech. . Gould's study, on the other hand, is shockingly vague about what exactly constitutes a `college hate speech code' or a `speech policy,' and proper definitions of either term are never supplied."

Sexual harassment: Gould disagreed with the characterization of sexual-harassment policies as speech codes. The debate between FIRE and Gould centers on the definition of sexual harassment and what speech is protected by the First Amendment. Gould cited Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to define harassment, which according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender."

Gould also noted the Supreme Court's 1992 opinion in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, which says "that sexist or sexually degrading expression could be litigated as `a proscribable class of speech . within the reach of a statute [Title VII] directed at conduct rather than speech.' More recently courts have created a private right of action under Title IX to apply sexual-harassment standards to academe."

In an April 30 column in The New York Times, Stanley Fish, a professor of law at Florida International University, attempted to clarify the differing views on sexual harassment offered by Gould and FIRE. He wrote: "Much of the disagreement between Professor Gould and FIRE turns on the technical question of what does and does not amount to harassment. FIRE follows a 1999 Supreme Court decision (Davis v. Monroe County) in asserting that speech is harassing, as opposed to being merely offensive, if it is `so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit.' Professor Gould's threshold for deeming a form of speech harassing would be lower and would be tied to what he considers to be the prevailing norms of `civil society'."

Gould said the problem with FIRE's criticism of sexual-harassment policies was that they are necessary to defend against Title VII and IX lawsuits. Samantha Harris, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy, said that FIRE's criticism of sexual-harassment policies stems from universities' broad definitions of harassment, which she considers outside of the legal definition. As an example, she cited the Kansas State University policy, which says: "Examples include sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions . facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses or licking lips, spreading rumors . staring, looking a person up and down."

Harris said, "The problem is that a large number of colleges and universities define sexual harassment to include speech that categorically does not meet the stringent legal definition of harassment. . Universities cannot simply make protected speech unprotected by deeming it `sexual harassment'." Creeley also said that from 1989 to 2007, seven federal cases have challenged university speech codes. Six of them overturned unconstitutional harassment policies.

Selective quotations: Gould accused FIRE of evaluating selective quotations from speech codes. He cited the speech code at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as an example. FIRE criticized the portion of the code that reads, "Individuals should not be unwittingly exposed to offensive material by the deliberate and knowing acts of others." However, Gould noted that this was just a portion of the code and that it also says, "Freedom of expression and an open environment for sharing information are valued, encouraged, supported, and protected. . Individuals must be able to choose what they wish to access for their own purposes."

Shibley said the other statements, which FIRE did not include, were modifiers of the original rule. If a student broke that rule, he or she could still be punished in spite of the other clauses. "A public university cannot constitutionally punish one student for merely `offending' other students, via electronic communication or otherwise, and the fact that students have permission to access whatever they like when they are by themselves is immaterial."

The debate between Gould and FIRE has caught the attention of others who have spoken out in support of FIRE. Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, wrote in an email to the Free Expression Network, "By our [SPLC's] measure, colleges could use a lot of improvement when it comes to protecting unpopular expression on both the right and the left. The `ideological opportunists' out there fighting against restrictions on speech are responsible for prompting policy changes that protect the speech of everyone. For that, they deserve to be commended."

David French, former president of FIRE and current senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund and director of ADF's Center for Academic Freedom, wrote on National Review Online, "I will believe that FIRE exaggerates the prevalence of speech codes the day that a federal judge upholds as lawful a code that FIRE labels `red' in the Spotlight database. We can argue about legal interpretations all day long, but federal judges make the ultimate decision, and so far FIRE hasn't gotten one wrong yet."

In response to Gould's claims that FIRE is "increasingly ideological," FIRE president Greg Lukianoff said, "FIRE defends the rights of those from all points of the political spectrum and we take flack from all points of the political spectrum about one case or another - which indicates to me that we are doing something right."



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


Monday, May 07, 2007

Legal predators on British teachers

Lawyers who encourage parents and pupils to make speculative allegations of abuse against teachers in the hope of winning financial compensation risk are destroying the reputation of thousands of teachers, a teaching union has said. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that lawyers working on a "no win, no fee" basis were fuelling a rise in malicious allegations against teachers, made in the knowledge that local authorities would often pay complainants without even investigating their allegations.

Mick Brookes, the union's general secretary, said that "a lottery mentality" prompted children and parents to try their luck by levelling spurious allegations to get a payout. "If it is thought that by using a `no win, no fee' solicitor some payout can be got from the local authority, parents at times don't hesitate to go there," he said at the union's annual conference in Bournemouth.

Another head teacher said that she had been astonished to learn that a parent at her school had been paid compensation by the local authority after complaining that teachers had been negligent in caring for her daughter after an accident during a PE lesson. The head, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the parent concerned, said that the local authority had handed over the money without informing the school or even bothering to find out whether it was true. The school's own investigation later concluded that the accusation was unfounded.

Dame Mary MacDonald, the head teacher of the Riverside Community Primary School in North Shields, Tyneside, who has been the victim of a false allegation, said that she knew of an insurance company that advised local education authorities to settle claims that might exceed 12,000 pounds if they were to reach court. "Parents know they can put in a claim for anything up to 12,000 and it will never go to court," she said. Dame Mary said that nothing in her three decades as a teacher prepared her for the day the mother of a 3-year-old girl nearly destroyed her career by accusing her of slapping the child. Even though both the police and the local authority - who were called in by Dame Mary that same day to investigate - completely exonerated her, a story soon began circulating on the local housing estate that Dame Mary had kicked the child all around the school hall. This was overheard by a social worker and reported to another branch of the police. Soon calls for Dame Mary's resignation were being made.

"No matter what kind of reputation you have, mud sticks. The problem is that the minute you are accused you are assumed guilty," she said. Dame Mary said that schools should have the right to sue parents who make false allegations against head teachers and their staff and to exclude pupils who do the same.

The NAHT wants teachers who are accused of harming a child to be given anonymity while their cases are investigated - a position that has been rejected by the Government, but that is supported by the Conservatives. The union also wants accused teachers who are cleared to have the right to make a public statement clearing their names. Research conducted by the union among 25 local authorities suggested that the problem of false allegations was not as rare as the Government has indicated. One local authority had suspended 50 teachers in the past five years. But the survey also found that, in some areas, in nearly four cases in ten involving a teacher who had been suspended following an allegation, the accused was later exonerated.


New York City Educator Gets 'F' in English After Poorly Written Note is Sent to Parents

Spell-checkers are probably the lifesavers for a lot of NYC teachers but this guy was too dumb even to use one of those. And the guy is a "Dean" -- which sounds rather senior

A New York City educator is in hot water after sending out a scathing note to parents riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Michael Levy, a health academy dean at Markham Intermediate School in Staten Island, N.Y., sent home the letter to around 100 eighth graders on Monday after a rowdy food fight in the cafeteria, the Staten Island Advance reported. In the letter, Levy used "unexcecpable" for "unacceptable," "activates" for "activities" and "caferteria" for "cafeteria."

The letter was also filled with contradictions. Levy wrote that the students would be collectively punished and prohibited from attending the prom and the year-end class trip, according to the Advance. He then wrote that the students' punishments would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The note also promised to bar students from the prom if the letter was not signed by parents and returned to the school.

The school's principal, Emma Della Rocca, said the letter was unauthorized and that Levy would be evaluated at a conference on Friday. But parents are still scratching their heads over the error-filled note.

"I'd be worried that somebody was educating my son that doesn't know how to spell," Lucy Farfan-Narcisse, a parent whose child attends the school, told WCBS-TV. "That would be a great concern."



It is hard to recall a day when our public schools were not in the midst of a funding crisis and desperate for more money. No matter how much money the taxpayers have shelled out "for the kids," it has never been even close to enough. Schools today with their never ending proclamations of "crisis" are worse than the little boy who cried, "Wolf!"

What is most ironic about their incessant demands for more money is that more money would not improve the system in any meaningful way. In fact, if some benevolent billionaire dumped a truck load of $100 bills on the doorstep of every public school in town, most if not all of the real problems plaguing those schools would still be there a year later. Why? Because their problem is not a shortage of money.

I recall a ruling by a liberal judge some years ago, I believe it was in Kansas City, where the judge ordered that the failing local school district be given whatever amount of money was necessary to succeed. As I recall, spending per student skyrocketed to something in the neighborhood of $40,000 per student. Everything was first class. Everything money could buy a school was set before the kids.

The result: Grades dropped even lower and the drop out rate increased. Yet, in spite of this case, which proved once and for all that money is mot the answer, the education bureaucracy across America continues to demand more money "for the kids," and naive voters continue to shell out the dough. And all for naught.

Following are just a few suggestions of things schools could do to make the public education system work far better than it is today. Judge for yourself whether these suggestions make more sense than giving schools more money.

Suggestion 1. Pay teachers based on their performance as teachers, not based on how long they have been there. Currently, approximately 95 percent of a teacher's pay is based on their seniority. The other five percent or so is based on their educational credentials beyond their basic degree. Almost nowhere in America are public school teachers paid based on the quality of the service they provide as teachers.

Suggestion 2. Require that teachers be assigned only to subjects in which they have demonstrated expertise. Did you know that in most cases, when there is a reduction in teaching staff, schools keep the teachers with the most seniority and lay off the newer teachers, even if they are the best teachers in the school. Sometimes that results in the school laying off its Advanced Algebra teacher, because he or she has lacks seniority. The Algebra teacher is replaced by the English Literature teacher, who happened to have failed Algebra as a student, but will now teach Algebra because of seniority and n doing so waste an entire year in the education of hundreds of students. This is not as uncommon a scenario as you might think and shows how seriously off-based the current system is, putting the seniority of teachers before the education of our children.

Suggestion 3. Authorize school administrators to pay higher salaries to high school math and science teachers than they do to first grade teachers, who teach kids to color and spell simple words like "cat." Don't get me wrong. First grade teachers are just as important as high school Trigonometry teachers. However, there are a lot more people with the skills to teach the first grade than there are those capable of teaching higher level high school math and science classes. Thus the salaries of those teaching the more technical subject ought to be high enough to attract people with those rarer skills to the teaching profession.

There is a reason why U.S. students are lagging behind much of the industrialized nations of the world in math and science scores. Regardless of what the teachers union wants, you can't pay math and science teachers the same as P.E. instructors and attract enough highly qualified teachers to fill the positions. The teachers unions demand that all teachers of all subjects be paid essentially the same salaries, but continuing to do so is not only illogical, but in the end will destroy Americas ability to compete in a global economy.

Suggestion 4. Don't allow a high school drop out to get a drivers license until age 18. Want to drive? Stay in school at least through the 12th grade. Drop out and you lose your license to drive a car, something most teenagers value greatly.

Suggestion 5. Immerse all immigrant students in English. Don't teach them first to be proficient in their native language, as most districts do. First teach them to be proficient in English. Then teach them in English and only in English. It is common for non-English speaking students to be taught English one-half an hour per day and then be taught the rest of the day in English. This policy sidetracks immigrant students and prevents their being assimilated into society as Americans. Schools employ their current methods for various misguided reasons, one of which is the fact that they receive close to $3,000 in extra funding each year for each student they keep in their English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

Suggestion 6. Authorize schools to administer the level of discipline necessary to maintain order in the classroom and thus allow teachers to create a classroom environment where learning can take place. Students or outsiders who sell drugs or bring truly dangerous weapons to school, should go to jail. The state and local school districts should abolish any requirement that schools provide expensive, private tutoring to kids who are kicked out for any behavior that warrants dismissal or suspension.

Suggestion 7. Dismiss teachers who are incompetent. I have known many great teachers, who are worth their weight in gold. But I have also known many teachers who were a complete and utter joke. They became teachers because education is one of the easiest majors in college and the major a lot of people gravitate to when they are unable to cut it in tougher, higher paying fields. Until schools are willing to buck the teachers union and remove the dead wood, (the dead wood that everyone from the janitors to the students to fellow teachers to the superintendent knows is dead wood), they should have no credibility to ask for one more dime from the taxpayers than they receive already.

Suggestion 8. Give the principal or superintendent of every school complete authority to make the hiring and firing decisions he or she believes are necessary to make their school excel. Then hold those administrators accountable for the failure or success of their school. Give them bonuses for success or fire them, if they fail. Corporations figured this out a long time ago. The man or woman at the top sets the pace, and if given the authority can right a sinking ship. To be effective, a good administrator cannot be tied down by union contracts that are not designed to help the kids, but to protect teachers.

The current system is not about results. Results are rarely rewarded and failure is rarely penalized in our schools today. In fact, the current system exhibits all of the classic signs of a socialist system where everyone is paid the same and creativity and performance are not rewarded, which is exactly the way the teachers unions demand things remain.

Many have complained that schools spend too much on administration and not enough on teachers. That notion is true and not true. Administrators today are often paid high salaries to manage, but then not given the authority to manage. It would be better to pay good administrators well enough that we attract more of them, give them the authority to make the decisions necessary to turn their schools around, and then reward, dock their pay, or fire them based on the results they achieve. The end result of teachers unions has been to hamstring and neuter school administrators, making no one ultimately responsible for the failure of our schools.

Suggestion 9. Based on my previous comments, you have probably been expecting this one: Get rid of the teachers unions. Even one of the foremost national leaders of the movement back in the fifties and sixties to unionize the teaching profession has repented and announced publicly that the experiment he helped promulgate has been a dismal failure. Teachers unions do not improve the quality of teachers. They do not improve the quality of education. Instead, they dramatically increase the cost of public education and lower the quality by opposing any reform that holds teachers accountable or instills competition into the system. There can be no reform until teachers unions are eliminated.

Suggestion 10. If teachers unions are to remain, at least stop collecting their union dues and union political funds for them via the public payroll system. Make them collect their own money. If unions had to collect their dues and political "contributions" from teachers directly, eight to ninety percent of teachers would not pay up, electing rather to have nothing to do with their unions. It should be obvious to even a casual observer that teachers unions are highly motivated to give campaign contributions to candidates for those public offices that control the purse strings of the schools. Those contributions have a very corrupting effect on public education, increasing the cost and eliminating accountability.

Suggestion 11. Do not allow teachers unions or any other union to donate money to the campaigns of any candidate running for an office that sets school policy, votes on collective bargaining agreements, or the budgets from which those contracts are funded. If a private sector union official was caught giving money to a member of management with which the union negotiates, that union official would likely end up in prison. Knowing that, we continue to allow teachers unions to "purchase" the other side of the bargaining table with their campaign contributions and then wonder why the cost of education is going up at the same time the quality is going down.

Suggestion 12. Let parents send their kids to any school they choose and let the money follow them. If we allow true school choice on an even playing field, competition between public schools and other public schools and competition between public schools and private schools would revolutionize public education within five to ten years, as schools compete for the kids and the dollars that follow them. Nothing improves the quality of a product or service while lowering the cost like competition. Public schools are full of innovative people who would rise to the task in a truly competitive world, if we would just create that world.

My list of suggestions for turning our schools around could go on and on. Can you imagine what would happen to public education if just these twelve suggestions were put into place? Kids would learn from talented teachers in a safe environment. Schools would be staffed with the best employees. Taxpayers would get their money's worth and be happy to shell out even more, if they knew the money was not going into a bottomless pit, but into quality schools that everyday are preparing America's children to compete toe to toe in a global economy.

What I suggest here may seem like a pipedream to some, but I have little doubt that the fulfillment of what today seems like a mere dream would be right before us, if we simply had the courage to make a few critical, systemic changes in the way we approach public education. The system is not failing for lack of talent, but because the system itself is broken. It is designed to fail. Fix a few basic problems, make a few systemic changes, and the entire system would right itself.

In conclusion, public education today is about the following things in the following order: (1) Obtaining more money from the taxpayers; (2) Enhancing the salaries and benefits of school employees; and (3) Teaching kids. Until parents start demanding that school boards and state legislatures put the kids first, the system will continue its downward spiral and all of the money in the world can't change that.



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


Sunday, May 06, 2007

White Privilege

Post lifted from Protein Wisdom

Question: what would happen were an academic to take the actual findings of new AG Cooper's follow-up report on the Duke "Rape" case and write a dissertation based on those findings?

Or, to put it more provocatively: would a dissertation that posited "black, female entitlement"-based, as it is, on a culture of victim politics that rewards group-based grievance narratives and puts the burden of proving a negative on the accused in instances where allegations of sexual offenses against women are proffered-as a society-wide problem, one that underscores the pernicious nature of identity politics and so demands redress through a policy of consciously rolling back weighted legislation benefiting "protected classes," be so readily accepted by media and intellectual "elites"?

And if not, why not?-it being merely the flipside of the kinds of sociological assertions establishment feminists and the faculty 88 championed (and continue to champion, in many cases) before all the facts of the case came to light?

My guess? They'd call such a dissertation "racist" and "misogynistic"-and move to have its writer expelled from the university. Which just goes to show the growing inability of many academics and establishment feminists (and their "progressive" supporters and enablers) to recognize the inconsistency of their views, and to honestly face their own biases and stereotypes.

PostMo Vs MoGo

Post lifted from Democracy Project -- which see for links

Last week I was taken aback by a post by my friend Maimon Schwarzchild, law professor at Catholic San Diego University, about "Civilization, Barbarism, and the Classroom," with excerpts from Professor Steven Balch, National Association of Scholars president. Here's some additional excerpts:

"In order to suppress the new barbarism we should now be refocusing our classrooms on the serious and sympathetic study of civilizations' nature, achievements, and progress - that is to say, of its moral reasons for being.. Our civilization's peculiar misfortune is to be under a double assault, physically by the undercivilized from without, and psychologically by those surfeited with it from within. And these last own the classroom.. [T]he evolution of academic culture has implanted in many a sense of numinous superiority that spills forth in the error-has-no-rights attitude undergirding political correctness, which, in essence, is a claim to rule..

Another term for this anti-anti-barbarism is post-modernism. Balch defines post-modernism as, "the belief that people can have whatever ethics they like, an `anything goes' attitude." NAS contracted a survey that found:

73 percent of the students said that when their professors taught about ethical issues, the usual message was that uniform standards of right and wrong don't exist ("what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity"). It's not news that today's campuses are drenched in moral relativism. But we are allowed to be surprised that college students report they are being well prepared ethically by teachers who tell them, in effect, that there are no real ethical standards, so anything goes. Stephen Balch of the National Association of Scholars, who commissioned the survey, says the results show the dominance on campuses of postmodern thought, including the belief that objective standards are a sham perpetrated by the powerful to serve their own interests.

Comments John Leo:

This notion that disagreement is an assault helps explain the venomous treatment of dissenters on campus--canceled speakers, stolen newspapers, ripped-down posters, implausible violations of hate-speech rules, and many other hallmarks of the modern campus.

I asked Maimon Schwarzchild what he thought of this post-modernist theme on campuses. He wrote me back, "I must say, my own sense is of civilization committing suicide."

Another study points out:

[O]ver the past few decades the prevailing disposition among college students - today labeled Generation Y or Millennials - has slid into full-blown narcissism, according to a study released this week.

The "all about me" shift means much more than lots of traffic at self-revelatory websites such as YouTube and Facebook. It points, says the study's author, to a generation's lack of empathy, its inability to form relationships - and worse.

"Research shows [narcissists] are aggressive when they have been insulted or threatened," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and lead author of the report, called "Egos Inflating Over Time." "They tend to have problems with impulse control, so that means they're more likely to, for example, be pathological gamblers [or] commit white-collar crimes." .

[A]ccording to the study, 30 percent more college students showed "elevated narcissism" in 2006 compared with 1982..

[S]ays Professor Mruk. "You really do need to have both competence and worthiness. The middle point is where the balance would be," he says, "and where well-being would occur, both socially and individually."

In a follow-on interview, Professor Twenge observes:

The younger the generation, the higher their self-esteem. Young people now are much higher in self-esteem than their Baby Boomer parents were back in the 1970s. This has not led to happiness, however - anxiety and depression are also much higher than they used to be. Perhaps young people expect so much out of life that they are often disappointed. .

Generation Me is more likely to believe that things are out of their control - that what they do doesn't matter. They are also more likely to blame others for their problems. This can set them up for depression and low achievement. Adolescents in particular need to learn that their actions have consequences, and that trying hard can pay off.

I asked my psychiatrist friend Steve Rittenberg, blogger extroadinaire at Horsefeathers, for his thoughts:

Re: Post-modernism. Where to start? It's a kind of extreme relativism and is quite perverse. It seeks to undermine the foundations of Western civilization, as expressed, for example in the Old Testament. When God names and differentiates, species from one another, animate from inanimate, male from female, and lays down laws, like the incest taboo, that separate and define difference as the ground of reality.

Fixing our universities is a subject of much discussion, from reinvigorating core curriculum to a more politically open or balanced professorate. That is so. But, many students are taking matters into their own hands. I'll call it the More God alternative to Post-Modernism. The New York Times reports:

At Harvard these days, said Professor Gomes, the university preacher, "There is probably more active religious life now than there has been in 100 years." Across the country, on secular campuses as varied as Colgate University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, chaplains, professors and administrators say students are drawn to religion and spirituality with more fervor than at any time they can remember.

More students are enrolling in religion courses, even majoring in religion; more are living in dormitories or houses where matters of faith and spirituality are a part of daily conversation; and discussion groups are being created for students to grapple with questions like what happens after death, dozens of university officials said in interviews.

A survey on the spiritual lives of college students, the first of its kind, showed in 2004 that more than two-thirds of 112,000 freshmen surveyed said they prayed, and that almost 80 percent believed in God. Nearly half of the freshmen said they were seeking opportunities to grow spiritually, according to the survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Compared with 10 or 15 years ago, "there is a greater interest in religion on campus, both intellectually and spiritually," said Charles L. Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Rev. Lloyd Steffen, the chaplain at Lehigh University. "My theory is that the baby boomers decided they weren't going to impose their religious life on their children the way their parents imposed it on them," Mr. Steffen continued. "The idea was to let them come to it themselves. And then they get to campus and things happen; someone dies, a suicide occurs. Real issues arise for them, and they sometimes feel that they don't have resources to deal with them. And sometimes they turn to religion and courses in religion."

Increased participation in community service may also reflect spiritual yearning of students. "We don't use that kind of spiritual language anymore," said Rebecca S. Chopp, the Colgate president.

Post-Modernism meets its match, More God. Our students aren't so easily manipulated to vacuity as many professors might preach. Their "god", like those similar false ones that came before, fails to meet mankind's sense or needs.

Head Start: Vote to hide failure

Why is this failed program still lumbering on at all?

The House dealt a blow to President Bush's chief early-childhood initiative yesterday, voting to end the standardized testing of 4-year-olds, which was at the heart of his efforts to refocus Head Start. Supporters of the legislation, which would boost spending on the program and includes provisions to improve teacher quality, said it was aimed at ending Republican efforts to shift the focus of the 42-year-old program from nurturing social and emotional development to emphasizing literacy.

"We are back on the right track," said Sarah Greene, president of the National Head Start Association, a nonprofit group that promotes the program. Head Start Director Channell Wilkins said he was pleased that the bill had passed but said he had some qualms, especially about the elimination of the testing. "I'm still concerned that we don't have any kind of assessment tool to show the progress our kids are making," he said.

Democrats said the bill, which passed 365 to 48, signaled a new approach to social and education policy in Congress after control for years by Republicans. "They tried to starve programs like this," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). "We are going to start unstarving them." The bill, which would reauthorize the program for the first time since 1998, would increase spending on Head Start from $6.9 billion for the current fiscal year to $7.4 billion for fiscal 2008 and would require that at least 50 percent of Head Start teachers have a bachelor's degree by 2013. It would also make room for as many as 10,000 more youngsters, reversing a participation decline, from 912,000 in 2002 to 909,000 last year. More money would also be directed to programs for younger children and migrant and Indian students, and the bill requires that 25 percent of the new money be used to raise teacher salaries and benefits.

Head Start, seen as the nation's leading preschool program for the poor, started 42 years ago to help children and their families prepare for school academically as well in the social, psychological and health arenas. Services include sending children to a dentist, doctor or mental health professional and teaching them how to hold a fork or use a toilet. The White House proposed a historic shift several years ago to give states broad control over their Head Start programs, but it never won congressional approval.

It also sought to place increased emphasis on literacy education, and officials created the National Reporting System, a set of mini-tests aimed at measuring verbal and math skills in preschool children. It was seen as a natural follow-up to Bush's No Child Left Behind program for kindergarten through 12th grade, which also emphasizes standardized tests. The administration began requiring in 2003 that tests be given in Head Start programs each fall and spring, saying it was the only way to systematically measure the country's nearly 2,700 programs. Before that, Head Start programs used their own assessments to monitor student progress, and they have continued to do so. Hundreds of thousands of children ages 4 and 5 were given the test annually, despite concerns from early-childhood experts that the exam was given too early in children's development and was poorly designed.

The House voted to end the National Reporting System while calling for a new, more accurate way to gauge student progress. The Senate version also seeks to end the current testing. "The tests that were given were absolutely, at best, useless," said Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-Mich.), the bill's sponsor. "We may go back to testing, but only after we get some scientific information about what to test for and how to test." The Senate is expected to take up its version of Head Start reauthorization within a few weeks, but the measure has some key differences from the House version, including the provision about teacher quality.

Efforts to reauthorize Head Start stalled in the past two Republican-led Congresses in part over proposed rules that would allow faith-based groups to consider religion in hiring for Head Start programs. Democratic leaders refused to allow the amendment to come up for a vote yesterday, and the House beat back an effort, 222 to 195, to force the legislation back to committee to consider the issue.



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