Saturday, May 19, 2007

Black boys' culture works against school, study says

A rare public recognition that blacks are different

The achievement gap separating black boys from just about everyone else springs from a powerful, anti-education culture rising in the black community, a local black think tank argues in a new report. Parents who undervalue education, and a mass media that peppers youth with the quick, shallow rewards of hip-hop lifestyle, are steering alarming numbers of boys down a dead-end path, PolicyBridge contends.

The report calls for public recognition of a phenomenon crippling the black community and the civic will to fight it. It's to be released today via mailings to civic leaders and on the group's Web site, "In our community, family culture has changed, and street culture has changed," said Randell McShepard, 42, an executive at RPM International and the secretary of PolicyBridge. "But the headline now is, Those changes are dragging down the education system.' "

McShepard, Timothy Goler and Mark Batson, all local black professionals who attended Cleveland and East Cleveland public schools, founded the nonprofit research center in 2004 to explore issues critical to the black community. They wrote the report with guidance from university researchers and public policy makers, as well as from teachers, principals and Cleveland school students, who are liberally quoted.

Some education experts are skeptical about the report's broad conclusions, but they said the topic is critical to Cleveland. "The Rap on Culture: How Anti-Education Messages in Media, at Home, and on the Streets Hold Back African American Youth" starts from a well-known premise. Black youths, and black boys in particular, perform more poorly in school and on standardized tests than white and Asian youths, regardless of income.

Almost half of black children attending Cleveland public schools fail to graduate, and only a fraction will ever finish college. What's new is the identification of a leading culprit. The report argues that no amount of money or strategy will close the gap as long as black children are raised in an environment that devalues education. "School is life, and that is the message our kids are not getting, and a lot of this is culture," said Goler, 41, a former schoolteacher who is PolicyBridge's executive director. "We have to reverse this anti-education mind-set that our kids have."

The authors trace underachievement to the breakdown of the black family, a trend Daniel Patrick Moynihan publicized in 1965, when he reported that 25 percent of black children were born to single mothers. Today, more than 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Absent fathers, and with families weakened, corrupting influences gained power and prestige, the report argues. Rap music, poverty and pop-culture celebrities combine to create an alluring "cool-pose culture of self-destructive behaviors." The report cites research by a social psychologist who found that black youths enjoy the highest self esteem of any ethnic group, regardless of their grades. It quotes a Cleveland boy who said he ceased to be taunted at school when he let his grades fall. And it includes the observations of a youth mentor, who said he has been told by children he is the only adult in their lives excited to see their report cards.

"This is sort of a silent killer," McShepard said. "Every day, our community is being chipped away at. And because there's no one big horrible event, no one pays a lot of attention."

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the leader of Cleveland schools from 1998 to 2006, said she has not yet read the report but that its conclusions sound a bit extreme. The black achievement gap results from "a number of variables," she said. "I'm not sure I would classify it in such strong language as anti-education culture." Former Ohio Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss, who is the governor's special representative for closing the achievement gap, also worries the report is too critical of black parents. "That's a piece of it," she said. "How about the role of the churches, the business community, the teachers?"

The report indeed calls for multifaceted action. It recommends that the federal No Child Left Behind Act be amended to treat black boys as a distinct category deserving of special attention, including a longer school year. It calls upon black parents and civic leaders to raise their expectations of black pupils. And it urges black men to "step up" as role models for fatherless youths. "We've reached crisis proportions," McShepard said. "We need to do something different."


Australian Students resent 'guilt' in Leftist history teaching

HIGH school students resent being made to feel guilty during their study of Australia's indigenous past and dislike studying national history in general. The History Teachers Association called yesterday for a rethink of the type of Australian history being taught in schools and the way in which it is taught.

History Teachers Association of NSW executive officer Louise Zarmati said her experience teaching in western Sydney was that students were resistant to learning about Australian politics and, in particular, indigenous history. "This is a somewhat delicate subject but they don't like the indigenous part of Australian history," she told a hearing of the Senate inquiry into the academic standards of school education in Sydney yesterday. "The feedback I get is they're not prepared to wear the guilt. They find it's something that's too personal, too much of a personal confrontation for them. "I think it sparks a lot of racism; it certainly did in my classroom. It makes it an unpleasant learning experience."

Australia's indigenous history has been a contentious issue in the ongoing "history wars" over the interpretation of European colonisation. Historian Geoffrey Blainey brought the phrase "black armband view of history" to prominence in 1993 to describe the portrayal of European colonisation as shameful. The description was picked up in 1996 by John Howard, who later launched an offensive on the teaching of Australian history in schools. The Government is now in the process of developing a national curriculum for Australian history.

Until this year, NSW was the only state in which Australian history was a compulsory stand-alone subject for students in years 7 to 10. In years 9 and 10, students study 20th century Australian history focusing on the workings of government and the history of politics, and the subject is examined in the Higher School Certificate.

Ms Zarmati said more than 20,000 students studied history for the HSC last year, of whom more than 11,000 studied ancient history, making it the most popular history course in the English-speaking world.

Ms Zarmati said history teachers constantly struggled with the unpopularity of Australian history in years 9 and 10. "They don't really enjoy it and feel forced to do it; they don't like the politics all that much," she said. "My personal opinion is that it's the nature of the beast. "Teenagers at that stage aren't mature enough to understand the concepts but when they get to years 11 and 12, they really enjoy Australian history because they're looking at problems and issues and debates."

In other evidence to the Senate inquiry, literacy expert Max Coltheart said the federal Government's budget initiatives to improve literacy and numeracy standards with programs costing more than $500million over four years was a "waste of money". The budget included a scheme granting up to $50,000 to schools that showed a significant rise in literacy and numeracy standards, and vouchers worth $700 to provide one-on-one tuition for students failing to meet minimum national literacy and numeracy standards. Professor Coltheart, professor of psychology and head of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science at Macquarie University, said the commonwealth should stipulate the type of reading tests schools had to use to qualify for the grants. He said children who struggled to learn to read were labelled as having a learning difficulty but they actually suffered a teaching difficulty. The budget funding would be better spent on training primary school teachers how to teach reading properly.


Australian school science courses 'pre-Newtonian'

SCIENCE in years 8 to 10 in Queensland is essentially descriptive, with courses failing to recognise the scientific revolution triggered by Isaac Newton in 1687, leaving students woefully unprepared for senior study. Submissions to the Senate inquiry into the academic standards of school education argue the calibre of maths and science taught is low by international standards, the quality of teaching is poor and the courses fail to stretch bright students.

A submission from a maths teacher of 40 years' standing, who co-authored a series of textbooks and worked with the Queensland Board of Senior Secondary School Studies, said that maths to the end of Year 10 "fails abjectly" to provide students with the skills to progress to more rigorous maths or the physical sciences. "That this has been allowed to go on for decades is a scandal," John Ridd said. Dr Ridd said the standard of algebra taught in Queensland schools was poor and there was "now no numerical science in years 8/9/10". "It is a sad fact that science in the years up to the end of Year 10 in Queensland is essentially all descriptive. It is non-numerical, pre-Newtonian," he said.

Dr Ridd said the "awful gap" between the standard of maths at the end of Year 10 and the start of Year 11 had required a lowering in the standard of maths taught. "Maths has had to be softened, weakened, by a large amount," Dr Ridd said. "Work that used to be done in years 8/9/10 now appears in the first sections of the Year 11 maths B texts. "Naturally the longer-term effect of that is that the standards reached by the end of Year 12 have declined -- with implications for the next stage -- university maths, physical science and engineering. There is a gap there too."

Dr Ridd's concerns are echoed in a submission by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics, which says the long tail among Australian students "of under-achievement and failure is apparent well before the end of secondary education". The AMSI and ICE-EM submission argues that the OECD maths skills test often quoted as showing Australian 15-year-olds perform highly "is not a valid assessment" of maths knowledge, with some of the questions "effectively general aptitude tests rather than mathematical ones".

The submission says that a better guide to the standard of students is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study of Year 8 students, which tests curriculum content. Its results show that by the early years of high school, a large proportion of students already lack the background skills necessary for intermediate and advanced level maths courses in years 11 and 12.

The Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers agrees that students are failing to reach their full potential in maths, and attributes this to poor teaching, modelled on methods used in the 1960s that "foster memorisation as opposed to deep learning". But the association says Australian students compare favourably with their international counterparts and the achievement standards in courses compared well to those expected of overseas students. "We believe there is a disproportionate focus on comparisons between the states and territories, particularly through the media, which is not helpful to improving standards," it says.



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 18, 2007

Arizona clears the way for Leftist propaganda in schools

Public schools can invite speakers to talk about past and current events, even if a topic deals with a pending ballot measure, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has concluded. But the schools can't try to influence an election. In a legal opinion stemming from a Tucson incident, Goddard also said Monday that candidates for office can speak to students. But the same restriction against advocating for or against someone's election applies.

Goddard also said schools should consider advising speakers of the legal restrictions. And if someone does go over the line, it's up to school officials to determine what action - if any - is appropriate to undo the damage and to make sure that those in attendance understand the school is not endorsing the speaker's political views. But he said school officials have no legal responsibility to do anything if a speaker does go over the line and tells students how he or she thinks people ought to vote.

The formal opinion comes in response to an incident last year in which labor activist Dolores Huerta spoke to students at Tucson High Magnet School. Her comments included a claim that "Republicans hate Latinos," criticism of the war in Iraq and support for Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela. Huerta also urged students to get involved in the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Ra£l Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat.

But the opinion - which was sought by House Minority Leader Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, in response to the Huerta incident - has broader statewide implications for schools when they invite speakers. It suggests that school officials won't be prosecuted for breaking the law if they don't knowingly allow people to use their facilities to promote candidate campaigns or ballot measures - even when a speaker ends up doing either.

State law makes it a crime to use the resources of a public or charter school to influence an election. It also is illegal for school employees to use the "authority of their position" to influence the vote. Violators are subject to a fine of $500 plus the amount of misused funds involved in an incident.

Goddard said only statements that "clearly and unmistakably present a plea for action" are considered items that would influence an election. He said Arizona Supreme Court decisions conclude that there is no violation if "reasonable minds could differ" on the message. He was not asked - nor did he say - whether he believes Huerta's speech crossed that line. The attorney general also said it's not illegal merely to invite elected officials or candidates to speak to students, as long as they don't advocate one way or another on an election. And Goddard said "age-appropriate education" about pending issues, including ballot measures, also is legal - again, with the same restriction.

Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, had planned to ask Goddard the more specific question of whether allowing Huerta's speech to remain on the Tucson Unified School District's Web site for some period of time amounted to illegal use of school resources to influence the election. But an aide to Goddard said he never got such a request, and Paton conceded he may never have submitted it.

Goddard's opinion comes less than a month after TUSD administrators unveiled a new policy on guest speakers, one that appears to be in line with what the attorney general said are the requirements of the law. The draft policy, which has yet to be adopted by the board, says speakers and statements must be not just age-appropriate but "relevant to the enhancement of the students' education development." It also asks speakers to "refrain from messages intended to promote hatred, bigotry or animosity between groups of people." It does not involve pre-clearance of speeches - only that school principals explain the guidelines to speakers.


Texas school bars the thuggish look -- so it's "racism"

7th grader Derek Jackson says he is back in his normal classes today following his placement in in-school-suspension for having a haircut that was too short; something the school says was both a violation of the school dress-code and a distraction. Derek's mother, Amanda, says she met with Bailey Middle School Principal Dr. Julia Fletcher, and Dr. Fletcher told her that the issue was "not worth the fight".

Leaders of Austin's NAACP are convinced the suspension of Derek Jackson is racially motivated. Nelson Linder with the NAACP says there's no other reason he can think of why a 7th grader would get in-school suspension for having hair that's too short. "We think that Derek is just a metaphor for how people are treated," he said. "For whatever reason, African-Americans are put under very high scrutiny...gang issues, all kind of what I call 'racist projections'. So I think when a black kid has a haircut that they might think is inappropriate, you're seeing phobias from people.

Linder has sent a letter to AISD announcing that the NAACP is conducting its own investigation into the incident. Linder is also calling on AISD officials to change what he says is unfair treatment for African-Americans. "Number one, revoke the suspension for this kid and apologize to the family. Number two, hire people in the district who respect black people and who understand them has human beings," he said.

Jackson's mother, Amanda, tells KLBJ that her son was given in-school suspension for violating a portion of the district's dress code prohibiting hair styles that are "disruptive". She says her son has had other run-ins with the school's principal.


Australia: Bureaucratic hatred of private education

An accreditation body is accused of hounding the colleges it's meant to be monitoring, writes Elisabeth Wynhausen

THESE days Jo Coffey sleeps in a caravan she has borrowed from her son or stays with friends in Newcastle, in regional NSW. Her house is gone and Coffey, the former owner of a vocational training college in the Newcastle suburb of Broadmeadow, says she has lost everything. By January this year, when she declared bankruptcy and closed down her college, Coffey, 59, had spent two years under siege from the Vocational Education and Training Accreditation Board, the agency that accredits vocational training colleges and courses in NSW.

Its critics suggest that instead of merely monitoring their standards, VETAB is hounding these training organisations until some close down. "VETAB dangles its authority over the industry like the sword of Damocles," says a consultant who helps vocational colleges deal with the regulator.

There are legitimate concerns about the burgeoning industry. Most vocational training colleges cater to international students. There are students who abuse the system as a way to get permanent residency, and so-called visa factories that aid and abet them: teaching "cooking" without ovens, for instance, or faking attendance records. This is precisely the sort of abuse VETAB is supposed to stampout.

Critics claim that the regulator goes about its business in a heavy-handed and obstructionist manner. "They make it as difficult as possible for colleges to open up at all, it's easier than closing them down," says Chris Stephens of Phoenix Compliance Management, one of many people to suggest that VETAB's operations are provoking a crisis in the industry in NSW.

According to National Centre for Vocational Education Research figures for 2005, the most recent available, the operating revenues of the vocational education sector were a fraction under $5 billion that year, when there were 1.64 million students enrolled in the publicly funded VET system, 562,100 of them in NSW.

The growing clamour about the operations of the regulator led the VETAB board to commission a review in NSW, which was announced late last year by the then education minister, Carmel Tebbutt. The operations of any regulator create tensions, but its critics emphasise that the essence of their problem with VETAB results from its culture. "I feel they treat us like criminals," says Darryl Gauld, the principal of Macquarie Institute, a Sydney college for international students.

College administrators met most recently at workshops held in Sydney last month as part of the review into VETAB. Many used the occasion to accuse VETAB of paralysing the industry. Gauld says most seemed to feel the regulator was exceeding its rightful role. "At these meetings, TAFE directors responsible for thousands of students expressed grave concerns about VETAB's (use) of power," he says.

Few were willing to talk to the HES on the record. "They're frightened to speak to the media," Gauld says. He says he isn't scared, because he's doing the right thing. Other educators, acutely aware of how long it can take for VETAB to grant approval for courses, are reluctant to speak out. "People wait for eight or nine months for courses to be approved. One person at the workshop spoke of waiting for 11 months," says the chief executive of a string of training colleges catering to international students. "If they take many months to approve a modification to the course, you can't recruit students, you can't print the brochures that have the courses in them. You're just stuck."

Tim Smith is the chief executive of the Australian Council of Private Education and Training, the organisation that represents private education providers. "It's fair to say there's a strong provider concern about VETAB's delays and strange decision-making processes," he says.

At a breakfast meeting with ACPET members last October, NSW MP Brad Hazzard, then state Opposition spokesman on education, vowed that if elected the Coalition would overhaul VETAB. While education is the nation's fourth-largest export earner, Hazzard said, "private training organisations report extraordinary delays in getting their organisations registered and new courses scoped".

VETAB is part of the NSW Department of Education. A departmental spokesman says such criticism of the body is inconsistent with the fact that "the number of VETAB-registered training organisations has risen 7.1 per cent annually since 2000". Industry insiders disagree, suggesting that VETAB regularly fails to meet the standards it imposes on the industry. VETAB auditors demand that colleges meet standards above and beyond those that have been published, Stephens says. "There's a standard that says you have to have a plan for the business. One of my clients was told he had to have a full business plan, a marketing plan and a strategic plan if he wanted to be accredited. "But the standard is very clear: it says you have to have a plan for your business. "And you know how many (employees) he has in the company? Two: himself and a director."

Vocational colleges are regularly forced to spend thousands of dollars in complying with Australian Quality Training Framework standards that may be inconsistently applied. "The problem is that each of the VETAB auditors has their own interpretation of many of the 133 standards," Stephens says. "Things that are acceptable in one situation aren't in another. The power is with the auditor and there is no one else to go to." The departmental spokesman says colleges wishing to challenge VETAB decisions can go to the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, or approach the Ombudsman or the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Despite official talk of "procedural fairness and natural justice", providers who attended the workshops complained that VETAB auditors seemed intent on lumbering them with the largest possible number of non-compliances. "Here at this college we're trying to do the right thing," Gauld says. "Yet we are constantly challenged. This is a typical instance. Even though I sent VETAB a letter advising them of the appointment of a compliance manager, they claimed not to have been advised. "They make a mistake like that, then they blame you, then it becomes a compliance issue."

Meanwhile, the so-called visa factories running Clayton's courses somehow continue tooperate. "There's a college ready to graduate 40 students for hairdressing: teachers from that college told me they've never set eyes on those students," says the owner of another hairdressing college.

In contrast, Coffey was driven to the wall while trying to play by the rules. She set up her college in 1999, building up the courses in beauty therapy until there were about 80 students. When she was audited in 2003, she had just five non-compliances. With things going well, Coffey took a second mortgage on her home, invested thousands of dollars in the equipment required to teach hairdressing, and tried setting up a second training school in another town in NSW, with a person she knew. There were some problems and Coffey ended the association.

Later a student from the other town complained that Coffey was supposed to help her get a diploma. Coffey received a phone call from a VETAB auditor. Let's call him Flock. She insists he told her, "You are in so much trouble." "He said, 'You know what's going to happen to you ... you're going to have a complete audit."' Coffey's solicitor showed the auditor documents proving that at the time of the supposed promise to the student there was no longer any connection between the two colleges. "My solicitor said to (the auditor), you can now see Jo Coffey Training is clear on this ... and he agreed," she recalls. Even so, the audit lasted for two days, with the auditors going over everything with a fine-tooth comb while making disparaging comments. At one point, she recalls, Flock "walked in and said there's nothing wrong with the hairdressing department, it's incredibly well stocked, but she could have got that stuff in yesterday, just for the audit". "They got me into a state of complete stress. I was shaking like a leaf," Coffey says. Their report said there were 109 non-compliances. Flock phoned her about it; according to Coffey he suggested she get herself a good compliance officer, and recommended a fellow VETAB auditor.

Some might see a conflict of interest. He identified a bunch of supposed problems ,then recommended a colleague as a consultant. The department says: "Conflicts of interest among VETAB auditors are inappropriate." In the event, Coffey hired someone else. The process of fixing the non-compliances took six months and ate up another $16,000, but months after VETAB had been supplied with the evidence, Flock phoned her again. Coffey recalls him saying that the compliance officer she had hired had sent them so much material, they hadn't looked at it. Instead they proposed to audit her once again. This time they found 56 non-compliances.

Between the two audits, Coffey suffered a breakdown. She went on as long as she could, to ensure her students completed their courses, then declared bankruptcy. "I couldn't go on another day," she says. The HES sent a detailed list of questions to the department, asking that these be sent also to Flock.

A departmental spokesman said: "Complaints about the operation of VETAB are taken seriously. VETAB auditors are required to behave consistently and fairly when dealing with RTOs (registered training organisations), and a claim that this has not occurred would be of concern to the board."

Since the HES asked about Coffey's case, the spokesman says, the board has referred the allegations about its auditors to the employee performance and conduct unit, the internal body that investigates the behaviour of departmental employees. Coffey says: "It's a relief to know they're doing something about it, and I'm not alone."



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 17, 2007

British university allows Leftist goons to prevent free speech

The leader of the British National party, Nick Griffin, has been barred from speaking at Bath University amid fears the event would bring chaos to the campus. Earlier this week the university had said that Monday's meeting, which Mr Griffin was due to address, would go ahead because of the institution's commitment to freedom of speech.

But as the scale of the opposition became clear yesterday the university backed down. In a statement published on its website it said many students had expressed fears for their safety if the BNP leader was allowed to appear. It added: "The university has now learned that a very large number of protesters intend to arrive on campus. This creates the likelihood of substantial public order problems and real possibility of disruption ... making it impractical for the university to allow the event to go ahead. In the light of all these considerations the university has decided to refuse permission for the event to take place."

Mr Griffin was invited to address the meeting by first-year politics student and BNP youth leader Danny Lake, who told the Guardian he wanted Mr Griffin to visit the university to explain the BNP's policies to lecturers and students. However, others said the meeting was part of an wider campaign by the BNP, which failed to make a breakthrough in this month's local elections, to establish a foothold on university campuses.

Last night Mr Lake described the university's decision as "a knee-jerk reaction to threats made by the undemocratic left - namely the unions and Unite Against Fascism who care not a jot for people's right to hold opinions". Earlier student leaders and union officials said the initial decision to allow Mr Griffin, who has a conviction for inciting racial hatred, to address the meeting was naive, describing the BNP as dangerous and divisive.

Bath students' union passed a motion at an emergency meeting condemning the BNP and criticising the university. Earlier 11 union general secretaries wrote to the university's vice-chancellor, Glynis Breakwell, calling on her to reconsider her decision. Last night Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the University and College Union, welcomed the university's U-turn: "We feel this is the correct decision. Allowing the BNP to speak would have compromised the safety of staff and students and sent out a very worrying message about Bath University's commitment to diversity. "The millions of staff and students who cherish academic freedom ... deplore the presence in an institution of learning of Nick Griffin." Paul Jaggers, president of Bath Student Union, said the decision "sends a clear message that students do not want the BNP on university campuses".


Australia: Science study falling behind

SCHOOL science courses have failed to keep pace with changes in science and society over the past 50 years, leading students to consistently bypass the subject. In a paper released by the Australian Council for Educational Research today, the nation's chief scientist, Jim Peacock, and dean of science education at Deakin University Russell Tytler argue the way the subject is taught in schools is doing a disservice to science education and say a radical "reimagining" of the curriculum is required. It warns fewer students are studying science at a time when Australia and other industrialised nations most need them.

Professor Tytler says science education in Australia is in a state of crisis, as students turn away from a subject they view as irrelevant and unconnected to their lives. "This flight from science is occurring in societies that are in increasing need of science and technology-based professionals to carry the nation into a technologically driven future," he says. "It is the pipeline into this pool of expertise that seems in danger of drying up." A shortage of qualified scientists and science teachers is exacerbating the problem.

The paper argues for science education to be refocused to spark interest and excitement in the field, rather than train future generations of scientists. Dr Peacock says it is time for a paradigm shift in science education and that traditional courses are "not fruitful" in a modern world where students send instant messages around the globe.

Professor Tytler says there is a mismatch between science as taught in schools and as it exists in the "real world". Research scientists say school science does not reflect the way they work and that "the focus should be on engaging young people, not on developing future scientists". "Science education has not kept up with either the changing nature of youth and their expectations or the changing nature of science," Professor Tytler said. "It's still dealing with knowledge as a fixed and delivered thing rather than a practical way of thinking and problem solving."

Dr Peacock said the science he learned at school did not meet the needs of today's students, and scientific research was no longer an individual pursuit but a collective, collaborative effort. "Traditional science education is not fruitful in such an environment," he said.

Professor Tytler said scientific knowledge changed so quickly the focus of schools should be on teaching students to think scientifically, learning to investigate, find information and assess it based on examples from their own lives and communities. The paper argues that one of the reasons for the failure of school curriculums to change with the times was "the silent choice of teachers for the status quo; one which supports and reflects their identities as knowledgeable experts". "The knowledge explosion significantly challenges the traditional model of the teacher as expert who delivers significant and stable science concepts to dependent students," the paper says.



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 16, 2007

British education failure

After 10 years of `education, education, education', Britain's teachers are drowning in paperwork, targets and banality - and the very idea of a liberal education is under threat

For over a decade, New Labour has been awash with soundbites. The party was `tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'; there would be `an end to boom and bust'; we'd have `strong Britain, strong leadership'. And then there was the soundbite that stuck better than any, Tony Blair's 1996 pledge that the three priorities of his government would be: `Education, education, education.'

Nowhere has Blair's Orwellian approach to society been writ larger than in his translation of that bare word `education' into Newspeak. For what he has achieved during his decade-long reign has been a narrowing of the very concept of education: the abstract ambitions of pupils have been worn down, and the love and passion some teachers felt for their job have been undermined. We are left with a conveyer-belt process of tests, targets, objectives, goals, tickboxes and paperwork. The idea of the liberal education is under threat at the end of Blair's Britain, as horizons are narrowed and the classroom reduced to a bulletin space for government initiatives. Schools have become a place where the new conformism is taught and enforced.

`Go to your local school', Blair urged after his victory in the 2005 General Election. `You can see the progress in the buildings, in the computers and in the results.' To mark 10 years of education, education, education, I did just that. It's a dreary morning, in an idyllic setting. The neat school building (which I will not name, in order to protect the identity of its staff) rests on a slope, overcast by a vast country church and next to a plantation with great green trees, some of which have been cleared to make way for a playground. The children play there, building small dens and hanging off the various items of play equipment. Smatterings of pink blossom coat the grass. The church bell rings in 9am, and the children, already a little untidy in their bright, blue school uniforms, rush inside. In one classroom, the kids sit on a mat and poke at a hamster called King Alfred; they chatter above the din of an aerated fish tank.

The children's poster paint artwork is pasted on to the walls; the room is a jumble of primary-coloured equipment, books, guides and measures. The children are miniature pots of enthusiasm, fidgeting and clapping their hands and shuffling about on their bottoms until called to attention. Filing into assembly minutes later, they get on with singing hymns and learning a new story about Jesus. `Team points' are given when a child answers a question about the moral of the story correctly.

In this school, as in so many others, the various demands of Blair's Britain have been imposed, by school inspectors, county advisers and the constant tide of new guidelines, new programmes, new initiatives, new glossy booklets - which often contradict last year's glossy booklets - and new schemes for the betterment of the children within the school walls. The teachers inside tell me they feel under siege: unable to teach with freedom, many distrust themselves and their abilities. They are the fag end of Blair's education revolution. Let us consider, then, what `education, education, education' has wrought in Britain's schools.

Under Blair, the public eye has pried into the private world on an unprecedented level. Turning Thatcher's `there's no such thing as society' into `there's no such thing as a private life', schools have become one of the principal instruments for manipulating a new generation into new thought patterns. This week it was announced that schools must foster positive race relations or face closure. Fruit is provided at breaktime in order to improve children's diet because, of course, parents cannot be trusted to feed their kids well. And, under the new Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning scheme (SEAL), teachers are now responsible for shaping the emotional and social lives of the children in their care.

Increasingly, children are taught the correct ways in which to express their feelings. In some schools they participate in group massage sessions, in which they must knead each other's shoulders and send their own positive `toxins' into the air to help the emotional wellbeing of those recalcitrant youngsters who don't want to be group-massaged, or whose parents have denied permission.

This approach permeates a whole new approach to teaching, in which children (especially in the early years) must actually not be taught at all. In fact, in policy circles, teachers are teachers no more: they are `practitioners'. In indoor PE, children are not to be taught how to do a roly-poly anymore; rather they are supposed to `experiment travelling in and through'. (At the school I visited, one teacher, a worried look flickering across her face, told me: `I'm not sure I was ever supposed to teach them how to do a roly-poly..')

To try to teach a child, via the tried and tested `talk and chalk' method that has successfully educated children for generations, is now considered to be wrong. It is too elitist and judgemental apparently.

In the school I visited, the early years teacher seemed to have lost confidence in her own ability to teach, following a negative Ofsted inspection. Her paperwork had been found wanting, and then she had been found actually teaching children as she saw fit.which is the greatest crime under today's inspection regime.

Teachers, like every other public sector worker under New Labour, now drown in paperwork. There is an incessant flood of forms that need filling. They are given `PPA' time, cutting out half a day's teaching, in order to help them cope with the forms and documents. In 2006, the Education and Inspections Act revolutionised the inspections system: it brought in a system where schools have to be prepared for an inspection at any moment (only two days' notice is given) and where schools are assessed on their own internal assessment systems.

It is now all about the paperwork. Like a Soviet Five-Year Plan, if it's down on paper, it happened - if it's not, it didn't. So this school was hauled up for a `culture of bullying' - not because it had a bullying problem (it didn't), but because it did not have a government-advised system of `playground angels' and `buddy benches' to deal with any potential bullying that might arise or have already arisen without the teachers noticing.

The sheer detail in which a child's education is now charted is breathtaking. As Helene Guldberg has shown elsewhere on spiked, under New Labour infants now have `69 early learning goals' (see A tick-box attitude to toddlers, by Helene Guldberg). In this school's classrooms, as in most others, there are now 44 goals in the teaching of literacy. One teacher tells me that striving to achieve such goals often detracts from fundamental lessons that teach children how actually to read. These days while they read, young children have to explain whether a particular character is `good' or `bad', and why they are good or bad. `Instead of concentrating on what really matters, they'll be given a target, something specific, that's disembodied from enjoying reading. It doesn't lead anywhere', the teacher told me. What New Labour seems to have done is to break down reading into a set of meaningless facets, effectively `quantifying the unquantifiable', as the teacher put it.

An Ofsted report cited recently in the Daily Telegraph outlines the new teaching culture that Ofsted wishes to inculcate in our schools: `Too often, the teacher does most of the talking. It is frequently restricted to explanations and predominantly closed questions which ask for recall of previous learning.' Teaching in such a way (explaining a principle, demanding `right' or `wrong' answers to questions) is now looked upon as heresy. Instead `Ofsted prescribes "lively debate", "buzz groups", exercises in "empathy", "scope for pupils to make choices", working in groups, and "drama techniques" such as "hot seating", in which teacher and pupils exchange roles.'

As Ofsted says: `A key characteristic of the best lessons is the opportunity they provide for pupils to talk and collaborate.' This is not just a silly PC idea that we can laugh off; it fundamentally undermines the idea that teachers have something important to impart to children in favour of allowing children themselves to set the agenda by talking and playing and thinking out loud in class. It is little wonder that some teachers feel devalued.

If a teacher asks for advice on how they are supposed to do all this new stuff - how they are meant to reach their targets through drama and buzz groups - they are not likely to find any officially endorsed answer. The paperwork and the new ideas are foisted on schools from on high, and the schools are expected simply to get on with it all by the time of their next inspection.

This imposition of new rules and methods distances children from their own education. Learning programmes for individual kids are now planned out without the adviser who does the planning ever having met the children in question. `I get certificates for going to all these seminars', a teacher explains to me. `I've got them all for my portfolio. But what do they mean? We go, and when we have listened to all the new ideas, we ask for specific methods. And the advisers turn to us, and they say, "You can just do it. You're the professionals - you know how." And yes I did know. Or I thought I knew.'

Children are supposed to be au fait with all the terms their practitioners now use. So instead of `letters' and `sounds' they are encouraged to talk about `graphemes' and `phonemes'. `Tricks' that help young children to learn how to read are definitely out. Today explaining about the magic or silent `e' - which many spiked readers will understand from their own childhood education - is held to be detrimental because `you're giving them a trick to use instead of getting them to understand how various graphemes can make phonemes', the teacher explains. Imagine how baffling it must be for a young child instantly to learn about graphemes and phonemes rather than about magic letters that do certain strange things to words? `Children understand "magic" things. It's part of their world. It's much more understandable to them to see a magic thing coming along and changing a sound rather than a phoneme holding hands and pushing a grapheme out of the way', the teacher says. But no `magic' is allowed in classrooms these days.

Teachers' scepticism about new teaching methods is not appreciated. As in so many other professions today, bureaucrats have been trained up to counteract doubts among those at the frontline of teaching the nation's youth. Legions of school advisers, in every county of the land, come up with a succession of great new examples from other schools that have better Ofsted outcomes, schools that have put all the New Labour theories into practice and achieved great results: the advisers hold these schools up as models in order to force other schools to change and accept the new way of doing things.

A big buzzphrase today is `outdoor learning'. The teacher tells me that at one seminar she attended, `An early years adviser was raving about how wonderful a certain class of children had been, because they had a lesson outdoors in which they were picking up sticks and making graphemes out of them. I couldn't help thinking it would be far better for them if they had done that on paper, with a pencil. It's almost like going back to cave-man times..'

Of course, there is nothing wrong with learning outdoors, investigating and getting to know more about wildlife and the natural environment. But words and language and grammar are surely better taught indoors, in a classroom - unless that, too, is too old-fashioned an outlook for the constantly churning education system.

Attendance is paramount in New Labour's new education system. You can find the attendance stats for any school in the land, simply by typing the name of the school into a portal on the BBC's education website. Under the Blairites' target-obsessed learning system, parents are constantly warned not to take their kids on holiday during school time or to allow them to have many (if any) day absences, because the child might fall behind and prevent the class from reaching its targets.

The obsession with attendance can lead to a culture of snooping. At the school I visited, one of the pupils had a condition called `slap cheek'. It is infectious to other children, but it is not very debilitating for the child who has it and it is easily cured. The child's mother took her daughter out of school while she had the affliction, and on one of the days off school mum took her daughter to the supermarket; there was no one else to look after her at home and the shopping needed to be done. In this sleepy rural town, the child was spotted by a Community Support Officer, who reported the mother to the school. The school was instructed to keep a special eye on the child in future.

Behaviour has to be managed within schools, of course. And as you might expect, new approaches have also been brought in for this area of school life. Today teachers are advised never to be negative towards children; they should not tell a child off, but rather encourage him or her, through incentives, to behave well. In some schools, there is a new behavioural system called `golden time': this is a period of time at the end of the week where all the good children are allowed to do fun tasks but those who have been naughty are excluded. So instead of reprimanding bad behaviour when it happens, and explaining why it is a problem, schools are encouraged to reward all children except those who have done something bad.

In certain schools, `golden time' actually plays into the hands of children who misbehave. After all, the only thing that happens to them is that they miss out on golden time. In schools with big behaviour problems, it is apparently now cool to miss golden time. In this rural school, Year Six children (10- and 11-year-olds) were rewarded with a golden time of `hammer beads', which a teacher described as a `glorified colouring-in exercise, fine for Year Two children but not Year Six'. Any self-respecting 11-year-old, especially of the naughty variety, would not be overly concerned about missing out on such an exercise.....

After a decade of `education, education, education', it is surely time for the government and its myriad minions to get out of the classroom. Government should fund education and direct it, but it should not interfere with absolutely every aspect of school life, teacher-pupil relations, playtime, and children's eating habits, behaviour, weight and so on. Teachers must be allowed to refer to themselves as `teachers' again, not practitioners - and they must be allowed to `chalk and talk' if they want to. In short, they should have the freedom to teach in ways they see fit, and to invigorate the young minds in their trust with enthusiasm and ideas that are not rigidly defined by government targets and health, social, emotional and wellbeing messages.

To paraphrase another New Labour motto, which they borrowed from pop group D:Ream and danced to, excruciatingly, in 1997: `Things in teaching can only get better.' And they will, once we teach ourselves to trust our teachers once more and allow schools to go back to being centres of knowledge and learning rather than outlets for government posturing and social engineering.


Australia: Teachers rewarded for incompetence

EDUCATION Queensland will spend $2.5 million to jettison 500 under-performing primary school teachers. Under the voluntary program, dubbed the "burnt out bonus", eligible classroom teachers can apply for a grant of up to $50,000 by May 25 to help them make the transition to study, business or another career.

Education Minister Rod Welford said the move would open the way for new, enthusiastic teachers to take their places. "We are aware there are some primary teachers who would like to leave the profession and do something different," he said. "This program recognises the service provided to Queensland by these teachers and supports their goal of moving to a new career. "It's a positive for the teachers seeking change - and for the new primary-trained graduates waiting in the wings."

About 1200 teachers have already left Education Queensland since the Government first offered the controversial Career Change Program in 2002. Mr Welford said the program was self-funding through the savings made from the salary difference between senior teachers and new graduates. He said principals and regional officers would decide who was eligible for the bonus and he had made it clear the department was to be proactive in ensuring top performing teachers were not lost as part of the scheme.

While the teachers are not encouraged to seek work in non-government schools, Education Queensland cannot prevent them doing so. However, to obtain the $50,000, they must show details of how the $50,000 will help them establish a new career.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the payout scheme would allow teachers "to change careers with dignity" and open opportunities for unemployed primary teaching graduates. Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations executive officer Greg Donaldson also welcomed the move. "If Education Queensland is going to look at rejuvenating the teaching workforce with all the new initiatives that have been talked about lately, then we would certainly support this scheme as it is all about getting the best for our kids," Mr Donaldson 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.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


What makes these weirdos tick? Hatred of kids?

A Norfolk middle school student suspended over a tablet of Tylenol gets to go back to school, but has to attend drug and alcohol counseling. 13-year-old Gabriella Nieves has missed two days of class already over the tablet of Tylenol she says a classmate gave her for a headache. While she's eager to hit the books, she doesn't think she needs counseling.

"I think it's unfair that I have to go to a drug and alcohol counseling, even though it was over an aspirin. I mean, they're making it out like I brought a gun to school," said Gabriella. Gabriella is worried the drug program will mark her future with a giant red flag. "When they look at my record, when I try to apply for college and they see that I went to drug and alcohol counseling, a drug offense in middle school, they're going to reject me," she said.

"She's not going to no drug and alcohol program," remarked Gabriella's mother, Dawn. Her mother wants Gabriella to have a talk about drugs and alcohol with their family doctor, and not a juvenile delinquent counselor. She feels Northside Middle School administrators are making an example out of her daughter for no good reason. "It wasn't a narcotic. It was not a joint. It was not a little small bottle of alcohol. This was an aspirin for a headache," said Settles.

On Monday, May 7th, Gabriella and her mother will find out if she will be able to get counseling from her doctor. Either way, Gabriella, who's an eighth grader, won't be going to high school in Norfolk next year. She and her family are moving to Hampton.



I dread Tuesdays. It is the day that my daughter Olivia comes home from school with a poem that she has to learn by heart. She normally has until Friday to get it right and so for the intervening days the poem is with us wherever we go. She recites it in the car, at breakfast, at the playground. By Friday her younger siblings can recite it, even the cat purrs along. I think it's a formidable discipline and sure to make her extremely clever in the long run, but if you ask her what the poem is about she'll reply: "I've no idea, I just have to learn it."

If Sarko wants to change the way French people think (and therefore act, in terms of work ethic, claiming benefits, etc) he has to start with the schools. Don't get me wrong, I love the French system, it is one of the reasons we moved there, but it does produce more intransigent and less imaginative adults than we have in the UK. This is partly because children are not taught to think for themselves to the same extent as we are. An 18-year-old half-English boy I met in France told me he was asked to produce a literary criticism of a poem. He told the teacher what he thought of it. "I don't want to know what you thought of it," said the teacher. "I want to know what the critics thought of it."

And although French schools are brilliant at teaching good behaviour and what is right and wrong (to my delight the children all stand up in class when a teacher walks in) there is a somewhat blinkered view that often makes the French less flexible than the Brits. The phrase "c'etait pas prevu" (it was not organised or planned) is a concept that I had never heard before moving to France. Now I hear it a lot, mainly from my child minder.

I could go out every night of the week if I wanted to, as long as I had booked her to babysit at least a week in advance. If I suddenly get a dinner invitation (unlikely, because anyone French will have planned their dinner in advance) and I call her up to see if she can babysit I get the "c'etait pas prevu" response and a sigh of horror on the other end of the phone. Similarly, if I change my plans she gets very edgy.

Another phrase you hear a lot is "c'est pas normal", which loosely translated means it's not right. This is something Sarko will be hearing a lot as he tries to overhaul the French social security system. My children already use it. The other day they had a girlfriend over for lunch. I served a salad. As my children don't eat vinaigrette I didn't put any on. But to the young Clemence this was "not right". She was also astounded to see that on the short school run back after lunch I didn't make the children sit in their allocated car seats. I can imagine she went back home relating the "wild ways" of "les Anglais" on the hill.

Intransigence and an inability to see how something different can be good are going to be Sarko's worst enemies. But if I were him I would begin in the schools. If you put a frog straight into boiling water it will jump out; but if you put it into cold water and slowly heat the water up it won't realise what's going on until it's been cooked. If he wants things to change, he needs to start slowly, so that the French don't notice until it is too late.


Australian PM to reshape schools

JOHN Howard will today outline a new push to "reshape the nation's education and training landscape" and force public schools to provide more information for parents on bullying and violence in the classroom. In a major speech outlining the Government's agenda if it wins the next election, the Prime Minister will sharpen his attack on Kevin Rudd's "education revolution" with a pledge to deliver a new era of accountability for parents. He will warn that principals need more support to enforce discipline in the nation's schools and parents must be given report cards on violence and disruptive behaviour.

In his speech to the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, he will also touch on the Government's proposals to place new compliance requirements on the next four-year $40 billion schools funding deal for the states. It is the second in a series of speeches titled Australia Rising, the first of which was delivered last month in Brisbane when Mr Howard warned that only the Coalition could be trusted to deliver targets to cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions without wrecking the economy.

The new schools funding deal that is being prepared by federal officials will include demands for greater autonomy for principals to hire and fire teachers and requirements to publish more information for parents on academic performance and attendance rates. The outcome is expected to deliver defacto league tables for parents, ensuring school performance is transparent on a range of measures.

"While the states and territories have primary responsibility for government schools, my Government is determined to lay a platform for high academic standards, good teachers, principals with real power and proper accountability," Mr Howard said. "Like all Australians, I am very concerned at reports of school violence and disorder. Parents would be well- served by more information about school discipline, bullying and disruptive behaviour in the classroom. "Parents are entitled to expect that their child is safe at school and that teachers and principals have the authority to ensure a strong learning environment. We want to provide teachers and principals with the necessary support for their essential work."

Mr Howard ignited a schools values debate before the 2004 election when he blamed "politically correct" teachers for an exodus to private schools. In the latest salvo, he will warn that the rise of violence in schools must be tackled.

Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair last night said teachers needed more protection against violent students and parents. "We've got examples of kids bringing knives and weapons to school," he said. "I know of one case where very authentic-looking replica pistols have been brought in. I know of cases when students have got up in class and pointed these replica pistols at teachers. "Teachers are dealing with more young people with serious social and emotional problems who are in some cases arriving at school without any food. It varies from cases of parents coming in and physically attacking teachers and principals. "Unquestionably, there needs to be much greater support given to schools via legislation to give schools more power to remove trespassers and when we have violent parents and violent students."

However, Mr Blair also warned there was a continuing problem with private schools dumping difficult-to-manage students on the public sector. "All schools in this country receive government funding, so in my view there's got to be mutual responsibility for taking students who are troubled," he said.

The reforms Mr Howard will outline today are also expected to require the states to offer teachers performance-based pay and to lift literacy and numeracy standards. "School teachers are an important but undervalued profession. Teachers work hard in the interests of their students and my Government's role is to provide further support in their crucial work shaping the lives of future generations," Mr Howard said. "My Government is dedicated to promoting choice, quality and strong values in Australia's education and training system. "Education is crucial to Australia's future. Quality education will lift workforce participation and productivity, helping to maintain today's prosperity," he said.

In separate reforms, the Howard Government is also planning to unleash the same market reforms embraced by universities to shake up the TAFE sector and ensure training is more responsive to the needs of business. Mr Howard will highlight a range of measures in the budget, including summer schools for teachers, a bonus pool of up to $50,000 for principals to award to teachers and reforms to increase philanthropy and business donations to the nation's universities. "The $5 billion Higher Education Endowment Fund deservedly attracted many of the headlines, but new programs to improve literacy and numeracy, more Australian Technical Colleges, summer schools for teachers and reforms to fast-track apprentices will also enhance the quality and diversity of our education and training," Mr Howard said. "For some years now, my Government has aimed to restore prestige to vocational education. The broad community support for Australian Technical Colleges, dedicated centres of trade excellence with incentive structures, including flexible workplace agreements and links to local industry, indicates we are on the right track."



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 14, 2007


Less than fifteen years after the last Soviet troops pulled out of the Baltic States, a new survey has shown that young Swedes are still in the dark about the fate of its neighbours behind the Iron Curtain. A poll carried out by Demoskop on behalf of the Organization for Information on Communism (Foreningen for upplysning om kommunismen - UOK) found that 90 percent of Swedes between the ages of 15 and 20 had never heard of the Gulag. This can be contrasted with the 95 percent who knew of Auschwitz.

"Unfortunately we were not at all surprised by the findings," Ander Hjemdahl, the founder of UOK, told The Local. "We had a strong hunch that this would be the case having spent a few years travelling around to various schools," he added.

Of the 1004 young Swedes involved in the nationwide poll, 43 percent believed that communist regimes had claimed less than one million lives. A fifth of those surveyed put the death toll at under ten thousand. The actual figure is estimated at around 100 million. The poll also found that 40 percent of young Swedes believed that communism contributed to increased prosperity in the world; 22 percent considered communism a democratic form of government; 82 percent did not regard Belarus as a dictatorship.

This information gap has roots that date back many years, according to Anders Hjemdahl. "There were strategic reasons. For example, I think the Social Democrats only won one absolute majority in the post-war years. Therefore they had to rely on the support of smaller parties, one of which was the communist party. "Another reason is that a large majority of Swedish journalists are left-wingers, many of them quite far left," he said.

Hjemdahl speculates that some historical ignorance may also be explained by the fact that Sweden accepted Stalin's takeover of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. "Sweden expressed its de jure recognition of the Soviet Union's World War II annexation of the Baltic States. Nazi Germany and Franco's Spain were the other countries to grant such strong recognition," he said.

The organization has provoked a strong reaction in the few short hours it published its findings in Dagens Nyheter. "We have had lots of responses over the course of the morning. Some aggressive communists have called us to voice their opinions. "But we also had two victims of communism crying on the phone, explaining that they had waited fifty years for this," said Hjemdahl. He also added that the organization has plans to make its effort international and is currently working on translating its material into English.


John Lewis and the Battle of George Mason University

There appears to have been only one media report of this event and that was to play down what happened. I thought therefore that I should draw attention to detailed accounts of what happened emanating from a libertarian who was there. He was NOT a member of the sponsoring Republican Club but is a member of the Randian objectivist club. Of the two reports from him below, the first below seems to have been his initial reaction and the second his extended comment

Now that's it's done, that's how I frame John Lewis' talk tonight at George Mason on the need to confront Islamic totalitarianism. There were probably 250 people in attendance to hear Lewis speak (although I use the word "hear" loosely, for a re-invigorated "Students for a Democratic Society" turned their backs in protest the second Lewis took the podium, and even more were simply closed to any of the arguments presented, whatever they may have been).

Never in my life have I been witness to such a seething display of hatred and bile in response to a calm, sober and rationally presented argument. All this for a man who argues for religious and philosophic freedom and against religious tyranny. Lewis is a hero just for having been willing to speak before such a rude and hateful audience.

At the same time, the GMU College Republicans who hosted the event conducted themselves with such grace and class that I haven't the vocabulary to express how grateful I am to them for all their efforts. I'm also grateful to the campus police and local law enforcement who gave Lewis the VIP treatment and were probably all that stood between the mob and an all-out riot. I'm utterly drained by the evening, so I offer this following account of the night that was posted earlier on the blog:

I just got back tonight from Dr. John Lewis' lecture on state-sponsored Islamic-Totalitarianism at George Mason University. There were countless police officers around the building providing security. Needless to say an entire mob mentality broke out as "demonstrators" in the audience disrupted the entire event. Islamofacist groups and their Marxist dhimmi associates hurled invectives, howled, and spat as if in a possessed frenzy. The professor and his supporters, much to their credit, behaved with complete restraint and respect for different viewpoints during the Q&A session. The same absolutely cannot be said of his opponents. So much for tolerance and diversity. Their attempts to disrupt and shut down the talk were a disrespectful, uncivilized display of hate that supported the argument that you cannot reason with or appease this kind of enemy.

I'd be hard pressed to disagree with this assessment. It was not a great night for the civil discourse of controversial ideas. I'll have more to say when I can put my thoughts together tomorrow.


Crass and Class at George Mason University

Dr. John's Lewis' lecture last night at George Mason University on Islamic totalitarianism was one of the most surreal public experiences I have witnessed in all my years as an activist and advocate. It evidenced in no uncertain terms that rationality and common decency are under assault at even our most distinguished forums. Academic freedom means tolerating opposing views and countering them with reason and facts in an atmosphere of respect and civility. It is not an orgy of rude and abusive mindlessness-a description that defined the conduct of many in the audience that evening.

The philosophic theme of Lewis' talk was that individual freedom is a value and that the free have the right to protect themselves from the initiation of physical force. Lewis defended religious freedom on explicit grounds, including the freedom of those in attendance who stood up, turned their backs to him and attempted to shout him down to peacefully practice their respective creeds without fear of threats or physical coercion. Lewis contrasted the exercise of freedom in America with life in the totalitarian Islamic regimes, where there is no distinction between the power of the state and the practice of religion.

Quoting various Islamic theocrats in power today, Lewis showed how these theocrats define themselves as advocates for the initiation of force, including one chilling quote from the leader of the Indonesian Islamic fascists that called for Islamic control of the government and the ruthless imposition of Islamic law upon non-believers. Drawing upon the same right of self-defense that allows a woman to defend herself from her would-be rapist, Lewis argued that a free America has an unassailable right to defend itself by destroying the connection between Islam and the state. Lewis pointed to the example of post WWII Japan to show how fighting for such an enemy's willful surrender led to an era of peace, happiness and freedom, for both us, and the peaceful people who had previously suffered under totalitarianism's boot. War may be hell, but a quick and decisive war is far, far better than living in a state of permanent terror.

For this, Lewis was decried as a racial bigot and murderer, and was taunted with endless interruption, bile and obscenities. That Lewis was even able to keep his focus and not throw his hands up in despair was testament to his moral courage and his unwillingness to concede the floor to any heckler's veto.

The lowest point of the evening came during the Q&A, when a GMU campus administrator took the podium in an effort to settle the audience down. He chose his words poorly though, for he ultimately thanked the audience for their behavior, which was little more than failing to engage in an all-out riot. It is one thing to be thankful that there was no riot; it is another thing altogether to thank people for obeying the law and for (barely) respecting the rights of others in attendance. Furthermore, by thanking rude and abusive students for their thuggish behavior, this administrator all but guaranteed that the next controversial speaker will face a similar rude treatment from those who may happen to disagree with him.

The questions asked during the Q&A could hardly be described as that; rather then even attempt to challenge Lewis by a thoughtful or revealing question, many "questioners" simply grandstanded and repeated non-sequiturs that reflected their own refusal to consider any aspect of his thesis. And in a disgusting and contemptible display of arrogance and hypocrisy, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations frothed to Lewis that he was "too angry" and needed to "lighten up" a bit; it was this same gentlemen who had worked to press the university into denying Lewis a venue when his talk was originally scheduled for February.

Yet the most telling event of the evening was when Lewis, after being pummeled with interruptions and derogatory remarks implying that he was a lackey for the political status quo, simply noted that he did not support the current political administration in Washington on the grounds laid out in his speech. He was not without interruption long enough to be able to fully explain why he disagreed with Washington's war fighting-strategy, but knowing Dr. Lewis, his position can be distilled as follows: the President's religious sympathies have blinded him to fully realizing the pernicious threat caused of the union of religion and state, thereby weakening his resolve to defeat the cornerstone of religious intolerance today, which is the political union of Islam and the state as seen in nations such as Iran. Rather than propel him to lead America to victory against religious tyranny, Lewis argues that the President's philosophy undercuts his very ability to identify the enemy and fight him accordingly.

Such a statement criticizing the President's philosophy and policies may have challenged the ideas and comfort zone of many of the College Republicans in attendance, yet these College Republicans neither screamed nor howled, nor did they interrupt Dr. Lewis and yell that he didn't understand the president and his creed like others in the audience had done. Instead, the College Republicans were nothing but polite, respectful and thoughtful, even as their own thinking was being challenged by their guest before them and under less than ideal circumstances.

The politeness and thoughtfulness of the GMU College Republicans evidenced the key difference between the civilized and the savage in attendance that night. The civilized can tolerate differences of opinion and they seek to understand why these differences exist in the first place. In contrast, savages are simply unable to tolerate any thinking other than their own emotion-laden opinions. If the police had not been there to preserve order with their overwhelming presence, I am convinced that Dr. Liewis would have easily been strung up from the nearest tree. That from students at my alma mater.

It was not lost upon me, the event's organizers or Dr. Lewis himself that our men and women on the battlefield have it far, far worse than anything we may have experienced last night. Our defiance and refusal to yield to any form of intimidation or heckler's veto is an act of solidarity with these men and women; it is our determined effort to say that we will fight for them just as they fight for us.

And bravo to Dr. Lewis and the GMU College Republicans for standing fast in the face of intolerance. More than anyone last night, they earned the title of GMU Patriot.



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 13, 2007

Deranged attempt to pass the buck for negligence

Look at this quote today from a newspaper in Indiana about a cheating scandal at the Indiana University Dental School in which nine students were kicked out of school and 16 were suspended and 21 more were reprimanded. That means that 46 students out of a student body of 95 were involved in the cheating - more than half of IU's dental school.

So what do the academics who are teaching these students have to say for such a high rate of cheating in their institutions? They blame George Bush, of course. Here's what Dr. Anne Koerber, associate professor of dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an expert in dental education had to say: "When you have persons in high places who clearly lie about what's happening with weapons of mass destruction... I think the general public gets the idea that anything that makes money is what's right."

Students cheat on a dental college test and the reason is Bush lies about weapons of mass destruction? You can argue about WMD all you want, and even after you reject everything that George Tenet has said and Bob Woodward and Bush himself - as well as the heads of foreign intel services - but when you blame cheating dentists on George Bush it shows you have come off the rails.

What this shows to me is that the left lie machine is very good. People do actually believe everything - everything - is Bush's fault. And I think if they would kill our enemies abroad as effectively as they kill political opponents at home, this country would be much better off.


What I have been taught in college

Today I finished my third year of college. This time next year I will graduate with a degree in history in secondary education. What have I learned over the past 3 years? Well, I'll tell you.

* I've learned that Iran isn't a big threat to Israel or the United States, and that it's all right for them to have nuclear bombs simply because we do. It's only fair. I've learned terrorism is overrated, and that it really isn't a big threat. Bush, on the other hand, uses the same tactics as Hitler and is just as evil and dangerous.

* Universal health care will be successful in America if the mean, evil conservatives would just allow the ideal to prosper. Cuba has full health care coverage and 100% literacy. We should model ourselves after them. Fidel is just a good idealist and if it weren't for the embargo they would be a success.

* Of course, Bush lied, people died. Bush, Cheney and his lackeys went into Iraq for oil and disregarded the fact that that every federal department and the international community knew he didn't have them. He created terrorism, 9/11 was an inside job, and he is profiting off the death of US soldiers, who are rapists and murderers anyway.

* The US is a torturing nation, and we treat prisoners so inhumanely. Never mind the beheading of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl; we are the ones who are barbarians. The only reason why the terrorists did that is because we torture. It was their way of responding. We should understand their grievances.

* I've learned the media is a mouthpiece of the Bush administration. Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Murdoch are the biggest threat to the airwaves. PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC, and NPR are all on the lap of the neo-cons.

* Global warming is 100% real and it is Bush's fault that it has gotten this bad. The air sucks, the water is no better than drinking dirt, and polar bears are dying off faster than the ice caps.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of what I have learned over the past 3 years in academia. These people who live in the prism of liberalism, which don't see anything but their sick isolated worldview. God forbid you have a different opinion; you are some kind of criminal.

If you believe in God you're a delinquent, but if you believe in Marx you are noble. If you believe in conservatism you're on the fringe, but if you're a liberal you are just what is. If you say the word terrorist you're an Islamophobe, but if you say freedom fighter you're being courageous.

I thought liberals were supposed to be open minded and tolerant. I see more and more each day that it is not the case. So long as academia indoctrinates students in to believing socialism, neo-liberalism, and Marxism is all right and should be tolerated, I am nervous for the future of this country. These people sieve power so to indoctrinate and we need a conservative movement to let them know they are wrong, and radical anything is never justifiable.


The Idea of a University

"Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the gentleman. It is well to be a gentleman, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life." John Henry Newman

When considering university reform, it is important to keep in mind what the purpose of a university is so that we may know how far we have strayed from it and what we can do to return to it.

During the Dark Age following the barbarian invasions that toppled the Roman Empire, monasteries served as the centers of culture. They were kept in a loose affiliation with each other through the Church's structure and traveling Irish monks. These monasteries served as centers of learning where monks would study and preserve manuscripts, mostly consisting of the Bible and writings of the Church Fathers.

The ninth-century Frankish king Charlemagne sought to educate the largely illiterate clergy in his kingdom. This revival in learning spawned an interest in scholarship for its own sake. Latin classics and the Latin language were studied once again. Charlemagne established learning centers in every monastery and cathedral. Intellectual growth in Europe developed from these schools. The tenth century saw the collection of a number of classical works and new manuscripts into libraries. The Crusades brought the re-conquest of Iberia and Southern Italy, which gained for European scholars access to classical manuscripts lost to Christendom for centuries. New learning caused a revival of Roman jurisprudence, which spurred further interest in learning.

Those who could read and write were restricted almost entirely to the clergy. Thus the new cathedral schools, replacing monastic ones, attracted students who came to study for the priesthood. Through the eleventh century, students sought teachers to instruct them. The twelfth century saw the establishment of what could be considered the first universities. Instead of the school following the teacher and students gathering where one could instruct them, the teacher followed the school and moved to an institution where other scholars and students had congregated.

In a town there might be a number of different schools for different disciplines, such as medicine and law. These schools formed guilds with other schools of the same discipline and developed standards requisite for teachers. In the early thirteenth century, schools in Paris and Bologna were recognized as bodies of scholars and they gained legal standing as a universitaset societas magistrorum discipulorumque ("a learned society or society of masters and scholars") from both the king and the Pope. The present form of the university finds its origin in these societies.

Dorothy Sayers described a university education during the Middle Ages in "The Lost Tools of Learning", a 1947 lecture delivered at Oxford University. The curriculum was composed of the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium, the first part of the learning process, was divided into three categories to be mastered successively: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Sayers describes them thusly: "The student would then be required to write and to defend an essay. He should be able to speak clearly and intelligently and defend his position against heckling and intense questioning. The goal was to provide the student with the tools of learning, that when he encountered new knowledge and situations, he would be able to understand the problem and devise a solution. The Quadrivium consisted of subjects learned with the skills provided by the Trivium."

In The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman describes the purpose of a university as a liberal education, the acquisition of knowledge. He defines an educated mind thusly: "something intellectual, something which grasps what it perceives through the senses; something which takes a view of things; which sees more than the senses convey; which reasons upon what it sees, and while it sees; which invests it with an idea." This requires the medieval conception of the Trivium for the tools of learning, and the Quadrivium for the content.

Practical reasons for acquiring knowledge and becoming an educated mind are obvious. But, as Russell Kirk said, the university should not be a place to learn simple practicalities "as a means to material ends." It should exist as "an intellectual means to an ethical end", to impart to the student virtue, the skills of the Trivium, and the knowledge of the Quadrivium. Ultimately the goal of this education should be ethical, that the student acquires a sense of "right reason, humane inclinations, and sound taste"-ultimately that the student may be made a gentleman. I think it's quite reasonable to say our universities are failing in this regard.



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.