Saturday, June 16, 2007


As in Britain, some researchers in America have just rediscovered some old truths -- that that race, gender and family income affect academic success. That poor people and blacks tend to be dumber makes that exactly what one must expect but we are not allowed to mention that, of course. It's "racism" that produces differences in educational achievement, I tell you!

The slight advantage that females have is also what is to be expected from the gross feminization of education that has happened in recent years. But we must never mention the obvious, of course

Huge gaps in academic success separate students in Milwaukee Public Schools not only by race, but by income and gender, according to an extensive analysis of standardized test scores released Wednesday.

Compared across several demographic features - for example, reading scores of African-American males from low-income homes vs. scores of white females from middle-income homes - some groups of students are, on average, years behind others at the 10th-grade level, the study says.

Conducted for the conservative-oriented Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the study by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Sammis White calls for strong action by state officials to insist on better results from MPS, but it does not give detailed recommendations. "If measured against the average student in the state of Wisconsin, at eighth grade, the average African-American male in MPS is approximately two years behind in math and almost two years behind in reading," White wrote. "Those are huge gaps that should be totally unacceptable to the citizens of the state."

The analysis of test-score data also shows major gaps involving other groups. White males from low-income homes fared worse than white males from higher income homes by significant amounts, for example. "Low-income whites should be included in the target groups for new initiatives," White recommended.

In general, gaps by race and income, and to a lesser degree by gender, showed up clearly at third grade and increased as students got older. By 10th grade, some of the gaps represented several years of learning. Girls scored better than boys, overall. Whites scored better than Hispanics, whose scores were somewhat better than those of African-Americans, the analysis shows. White analyzed scores on the state's standardized tests in reading and math for more than 13,000 students in the Class of 2008 and the Class of 2011 in MPS as those students moved from grade to grade, starting at third grade.

White recommended steps such as creating more 3-year-old kindergarten programs, offering better training for principals, promoting more parental participation in education and using body-movement exercises every day in school. He called for a greater sense of accountability both within MPS and from outside the school system. "The state must step up and take greater responsibility for the outcomes," White wrote. He called it "irresponsible" that the state provides most of the annual funding for MPS and does not insist on better outcomes.

"The pressure to really succeed has not been sufficient to bring the degree of change and commitment that is necessary for success," White wrote. "The key is to focus on these gaps and take explicit actions to raise both test scores and graduation rates of all minorities." On the Web To read the full text of the study, go to


Some realism comes to British High Schools

Coursework [take-home assignments] is to be scrapped from most GCSE examinations in response to fears that it has allowed students to copy from the internet or to get their teachers, siblings or parents to complete projects for them. It will be replaced by work supervised in strict conditions at school, to be known as "controlled assessments".

Pupils will still be able to consult the internet and other source material, but teachers will be on hand to ensure that all work is suitably referenced and not simply "cut and pasted" by students claiming it as their own, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said yesterday.

The QCA said that traditional coursework completed by pupils at home will be scrapped in English literature, foreign languages, history, geography, classical subjects, religious studies, social sciences, business studies and economics for courses starting in 2009.

No final decision about English language and information technology has yet been made. Only practical subjects such as art, music, design and technology and home economics will retain a nonsupervised coursework element, which can be worth 20 to 60 per cent of the marks in certain subjects. Under the new regime controlled assessments will account for 25 per cent of marks in most subjects. [Only 25%? Why not 75%?]


Merit pay for Australian teachers is coming

Schools should trial a new teacher salary system

In the face of near hysterical opposition from teacher unions and state Labor governments, the federal Education Minister Julie Bishop is pushing ahead with a plan to introduce merit-based pay for teachers, and so she should. As The Australian reported yesterday, Ms Bishop has asked teams of expert consultants to develop different models for merit-based pay. It may be that good teachers get a cash bonus for lifting the grades of an entire class; or that the principal recommends a pay rise for a particularly outstanding individual; or that parents and students push for a rise for a teacher who has tamed a particularly unruly bunch of students. With some luck, there will be a host of schools jostling to sign up to trial the new models before the system can be rolled out across the nation.

Merit-based pay is obviously good for teachers, but there is evidence it is good for students, too. In the US, where teachers can get a cash bonus if they lift their student's scores, literacy and numeracy has improved. Australian teacher unions say they would rather use any extra money to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes. But there is no evidence that smaller class sizes automatically or even necessarily lead to better results.

Unions are likewise wary of competition among staff, complaining that it could erode the pleasant, collegial atmosphere of a school. The argument does not make sense. In most workplaces, there are talented high flyers and flat-footed time-wasters. There are juniors, seniors, big bosses and trainees. They get paid on merit, and they are required to work towards common goals. They don't kill each other over the fact that some earn more than others. Also, it is standard practice in most professions that if you work hard, you can ask for a pay rise. If you don't get one, you can take your labour to a different workplace that will give your pay packet a boost.

Recent reports have proved beyond doubt that teaching no longer attracts as many bright students as it did in the 1980s, in part because women, who make up the bulk of teachers, have more career options. But the problem with teacher pay obviously has an impact. In NSW, a teacher reaches the peak salary after nine years, which usually means, by the age of 31 or 32, they are earning as much as they will ever earn. By the age of 50, their morale must be completely shot.

It is often said that nobody goes into teaching for the money. Some go in for the short days and the generous holidays, for a love of children, or to perform public service. But greater financial rewards will make teaching a more attractive profession for smart people, who might otherwise drift to economics, medicine or the law, or indeed any job where their performance is recognised with one thing we all need, money.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 15, 2007

More US students go abroad for their MBAs

When Christine Chang was looking to get her MBA, she wanted to take as little time away from her family-run business in Florida and at as little cost as possible. That brought her all the way to London. "I could do it in a year instead of two in the United States," says Chang, 26, of Fort Lauderdale. Plus, she says, "You get an international flavor of business." And the bonus: "You go to school, and you get a vacation." Chang is among a growing number of Americans crossing the Atlantic to get postgraduate business degrees, as the global economy continues to erase borders and as the demand for the degrees and graduates who earn them explodes.

"You're seeing more and more students from the United States studying overseas," says Robert Ludwig of the Graduate Management Admission Council, a McLean, Va.-based organization that tracks business school admissions and enrollments. The reasons for the growth, Ludwig says, are what brought Chang here:

* A master's in business administration usually takes half of the two-year time it traditionally takes at U.S. business schools. One-year programs compress courses into intense quarters or trimesters.

* The compressed study time usually means less cost, despite a higher cost of living aggravated by a weak dollar on international currency exchanges. However, one-year programs can reduce a student's ability to work while going to school.

* Students gain a broader perspective of foreign business culture, not just from professors but from fellow students who come from a more diverse international background.

And if you want a career in a particular country, then getting the degree there is a plus, says Arthur Francis, dean of the Bradford School of Management in northern England.

The number of students around the globe who are applying to schools outside their native country is growing, according to figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council. Three-quarters of the 147 business schools across the world responding to the council's survey last year reported that international admission applications were up. That compares with 33% of the 129 schools that said applications from foreign students were up in 2005.....

Adding to the attraction for U.S. students, he says, is business programs at big foreign schools are offered in the international language of business: English. Well-known U.S. schools have tapped into students' demand for international experience. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, offers students programs through an alliance with Insead, a leading business school in France, and through exchange programs with schools in Beijing and Israel. The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business offers an executive MBA program in London. Even the stodgy English institutions of Oxford and Cambridge now offer programs. "They didn't exist 10 years ago," says Francis, a former chairman of Britain's Association of Business Schools.

Americans like Chang aren't the biggest foreign contingent studying at British business schools. The ranks of students from China, India and even Greece way outnumber Americans studying here now. "If you go to a (British) business school, you will discover that 75% to 90% of the other students are from international backgrounds," Francis says. The international makeup of her classes was a big part of the learning experience for Chang, who attended Huron University of London all of last year. "I could get the German perspective, the Asian perspective and the British perspective from my classmates," she says.

The different backgrounds really came out when the class worked on business models, says Chang, vice president of Florida Engineering and Testing, a firm her mother started about 30 years ago to provide pre-construction testing to builders. "The Germans expect a return on investment in seven years, the Asians 15 to 30 years," she says. "The Americans want it in two or three."

Chang, who largely runs the company now, says that had she not come to London for her MBA, she'd still probably be studying for it - having to take courses part time while continuing to work. She returned here last month to pick up her degree, which she says cost about $30,000, not including the cost of living, which is high in London. The average cost of an MBA in Britain is 16,000 pounds, just less than $32,000 at current exchange rates, according to Association of MBAs (AMBA) in London. But, she says, that's less than the $70,000 to $120,000 she would have spent on tuition if she had gotten it over two or more years in the USA. "And," she says, "you do get all the advantages of London."



The school curriculum has been corrupted by political interference, according to a new report from independent think-tank Civitas. The traditional subject areas have been hi-jacked to promote fashionable causes such as gender awareness, the environment and anti-racism, while teachers are expected to help to achieve the government's social goals instead of imparting a body of academic knowledge to their students.

The contributors to The Corruption of the Curriculum show that no major subject area has escaped the blight of political interference. Michele Ledda shows how issues of race and gender ('external criteria that have more to do with biology than literature') trump the love of language in the works of literature that students are given to study.

The anthology of poetry produced by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) divides poetry into two groups: poetry from different cultures (16 poems) and a further 48 poems from British poets, of which 32 are post-1950: 'The whole tradition of English poetry from its origins to 1914 is represented by 16 poems while modern poetry has three times as many... A British pupil can go through the school system and get the top marks in English and English Literature without knowing that Spenser, Milton or Pope ever existed, but having studied Carol Ann Duffy twice, both at GCSE and A-level. With all due respect to Carol Ann Duffy, she is on the syllabus, not because she is a greater poet than Milton, but because she is more "relevant", dealing as she does with very contemporary issues such as disaffected learners.' (p.18)

Educational apartheid: David Perks reveals, in his chapter 'What Is Science Education For?', that, whilst professing to want to encourage more pupils to study science, the DfES has introduced a new science curriculum that will probably have the opposite effect. The new approach, introduced last September, conflates the three disciplines of chemistry, physics and biology into 'scientific literacy', which has more to do with media studies than hard science. Students are asked to discuss issues such as global warming and GM crops, based on media coverage, and to consider whether or not scientists can be trusted: 'We don't need to flatter young people by asking them what they think about these issues. We do need to help them learn as much as they can about science, so that they can understand what science tells them about the natural world and their place in it... Asking teenagers to make up their minds about anything is pretty daunting. But if you try to ask them to decide if we need to replace the UK's nuclear power stations, you are far more likely to get the question: "Sir, what is nuclear power?"' (p.121)



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 14, 2007

Connecticut teacher to get retrial over Internet porn popups

A US judge yesterday ordered a retrial of a schoolteacher found guilty of computer porn charges after a sustained campaign by internet specialists proclaiming her innocence. Julie Amero, 40, was convicted in January of being responsible for a series of sex advertisements that popped up on a classroom computer and were seen by pupils, in a case that has caught nationwide attention and raised important questions about content control on computers.

The prosecution at the trial in Connecticut had claimed she must have clicked on the websites for the adverts to begin appearing. But after the trial, 28 computer science academics in the state sought to prove that the rapid-fire sequence of pop-up sex advertisements could have appeared automatically. Sympathetic campaigners argue such pop-ups are one of the scourges of the internet and claim she is the victim of a witchhunt.

Ms Amero appeared in court yesterday for sentencing on charges that carry a 40-year jail sentence. But Judge Hillary Strackbein told the court in New London that she was ordering a retrial. The computer was sent to a state laboratory after the trial, and Judge Strackbein said the lab report might contradict evidence presented by the state computer expert, a police detective. "The jury may have relied, at least in part, on that faulty information," she said. In the face of the nationwide campaign, the prosecution service backed off and did not oppose the defence motion for retrial.

Neither the prosecution nor the jury appear to have been fully aware of the extent to which computers can be infiltrated, especially old ones - as used by the school - which do not have "firewall" protection.

Outside the court, Ms Amero said: "A great weight has been lifted off my back." Her lawyer, William Dow, commended the prosecutors for acting responsibly. "The lesson from this is all of us are subject to the whims of these computers," he said.

Ms Amero, who was pregnant at the time of the incident on October 19 2004, was a supply teacher at the Kew middle school, Norwich, Connecticut. She denied clicking on the sex websites. The defence argued the computer was used by pupils while she was out the class, and that, on her return, the screen began showing the sex scenes. Pupils, some of whom were as young as 12, told the police that the computer was left on for several hours and they had seen men and women engaged in oral sex.

The prosecution said Ms Amero was too slow to close the computer down, though she argued she had been told earlier in the day by another teacher that the computer had to be left on. She was found guilty of four counts of risk of injury to a minor or impairing the morals of a child.


No friend of the family

They pose as the chummy cohorts of mums and dads. Yet family liaison officers in British schools are undermining teachers and keeping a suspicious eye on parents.

The first time I heard mention of the school family liaison officer was when, in the morning rush of dropping our children off at school, a close friend tearfully confided that she had been `asked' by the headteacher to `have a chat' with the family liaison officer. Two days later and another friend revealed exactly the same news. Who was this family liaison officer to make two of my friends, both with bright, healthy, much-loved children, somehow feel they had `failed' at being good parents?

British parents are going to have to get used to them. If your local school doesn't have a family liaison officer, it will soon. The exact job description of officers is difficult to pin down; they are often presented in recruitment adverts as neutral mediators between teachers and parents, helping families in `accessing relevant information' (1). Allison Shepherd, the family liaison officer at a school in Thanet, Kent, describes her role as being `to provide support, help, friendship and act as a link between families and school' (2). Jo Green from a primary school in Folkestone is similarly friendly: `My job is to help you. Should you be having personal problems or school related problems I am here as your listening ear.' (3)

Behind the chummy `I just want to be your friend' image, the role of the family liaison officer is to work with the parents of children considered to be at risk due to child protection concerns or at risk of social exclusion. They will work with the parents of children who truant or misbehave as well as parents with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

The aim of providing `parenting and family support' was first raised in the UK government's Green Paper, Every Child Matters, which was published in September 2003 in response to the investigation into the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbi, by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend in London in 2000 (4). Every Child Matters argues for the need for `specialist parenting support', involving a range of home visiting programmes to teach parents how to best support their child's development, and parent education programmes to provide training in `behavioural techniques'.

The message to emerge from Every Child Matters is that parents need to be monitored and taught how to behave if they are not to be a potential risk to their own children. Rejecting the friendly advances and offers of support from the family liaison officer may be enough to mark your child out as being `at risk' in which case `compulsory action' could be taken in the form of Parenting Orders.

The role of the family liaison officer may be presented as a means of protecting children considered to be at risk through supporting families, but the effect of such liaison serves only to undermine families at every stage. By stressing so emphatically that families need help to carry out the everyday demands of parenting (the word `support' appears 176 times in Every Child Matters), the implication is that families do not do a good enough job when left to their own devices.

Both of my friends were asked to chat with the family liaison officer after their children got into fairly minor playground scraps. The very fact of being asked to discuss these incidents with a professional suggests, firstly, that children kicking each other in the dinner queue is something shockingly bad that requires intervention from at least five adults and, secondly, that it is something parents cannot be trusted to deal with on their own.

Presumably, within the context of much agonising as to why the child should demonstrate such behaviour, the family liaison officer will make some clich,d suggestion such as `reward their good behaviour' or `put them on the naughty step'. At issue is not the value of the advice but the fact that by not allowing parents to work out these things for themselves, their confidence is undermined and the autonomy of the family unit is called into question.

Furthermore, having family liaison officers based in schools undermines the authority of teachers in dealing with unruly pupils. In the not-too-distant past, such a trivial incident as kicking a child in the dinner queue would have been dealt with by the class teacher, if it were actually deemed worthy of being dealt with at all. Go back a couple of years further and any sensible adult would have laughed at the notion of getting involved. Parents trusted teachers to deal with such minor offences.

Parents also trusted teachers to get on with the job of educating their children. Far from family liaison officers freeing up more time for teachers to spend on education, they will require paperwork referrals to be completed and formal mediation meetings to be attended. Teachers are no longer limited to the role of educating children but are expected to extend their responsibilities to an assessment of how well the children in their class are being brought up. The purpose of the school becomes renegotiated away from the academic education of the child to the social (re)education of the whole family.

Family liaison officers suggest teachers cannot sort out minor breaches of discipline by pupils and that parents and teachers cannot communicate with each other without the need for someone else to `mediate'. Formalising relationships between parents and teachers with the presumed necessity for third party mediation does nothing at all to help protect children. Far too much time is taken up with the dinner-queue-kickers who are neither a risk to others or at risk themselves. The informal end-of-the-day conversations in the school playground, where teachers and parents can pass on any concerns to each other, suddenly take on a new complexion if the parent fears anything they say may be reported to the family liaison officer.

Let's not forget that the role of the family liaison officer originated from the police service where their aim is to mediate with families in order to better secure convictions. (5) The introduction of such policing techniques in schools heralds unprecedented interference into the autonomy of families - rather than supporting families this serves only to undermine them. Parents, when asked to meet with the family liaison officer, will only become less confident in their own ability to bring up their children as they see fit. This cannot possibly be to the benefit of the child. The best way for schools to support families is to leave them alone and concentrate on the job of educating their children.



The never-ending campaign by the Left to prevent kids acquiring any depth of knowledge (so that voters are less likely to see through their deceptive claims) is very advanced in Britain

I am a physics teacher. Or, at least I used to be. My subject is still called physics. My pupils will sit an exam and earn a GCSE in physics, but that exam doesn't cover anything I recognize as physics. Over the past year the UK Department for Education and the AQA board changed the subject. They took the physics out of physics and replaced it with... something else, something nebulous and ill defined.

I worry about this change. I worry about my pupils, I worry about the state of science education in this country, and I worry about the future physics teachers - if there will be any. I graduated from a prestigious university with a degree in physics and pursued a lucrative career in economics which I eventually abandoned to teach. Economics and business, though vastly easier than my subject, and more financially rewarding, bored me. I went into teaching to return to the world of science and to, in what extent I could, convey to pupils why one would love a subject so difficult.

For a time I did. For a time, I was happy. But this past academic year things changed. The Department for Education and the AQA board brought in a new syllabus for the sciences. One which greatly increased the teaching of `how science works.' While my colleagues expressed scepticism, I was hopeful. After all, most pupils will not follow science at a higher level, so we should at least impart them with a sense of what it can tell us about our universe. That did not happen. The result is a fiasco that will destroy physics in England.

The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations - the very soul of physics - are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.

I want to teach my subject, to pass on my love of physics to those few who would appreciate it. But I can't. There is nothing to love in the new course. I see no reason that anyone taking this new GCSE would want to pursue the subject. This is the death of physics.

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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 13, 2007

Frankenstein Finkelstein misses out on tenure

His biased approach to the facts is an insult to every academic virtue

Norman G. Finkelstein, the controversial political scientist who has been engaged in a highly public battle for tenure at DePaul University, learned today that he had lost that fight. In a written statement released to The Chronicle, the university confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein had been denied tenure. Mr. Finkelstein's department and a college-level personnel committee both voted in favor of tenure, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wrote a memorandum against it, and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure voted against granting tenure. The final decision rested with the university's president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, who said in the statement that he had found "no compelling reasons to overturn" the tenure board's recommendation.

"I played by the rules, and it plainly wasn't enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict," Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview. "This decision is not going to deter me from making statements that, so far as I can tell from the judgment of experts in the field, are sound and factually based."

Mr. Finkelstein's case has excited widespread interest, in part because of the involvement of Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. The two scholars have sparred repeatedly in public. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul's law and political-science faculties what he described as "a dossier of Norman Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions." Informed of the news this evening, Mr. Dershowitz said, "It was the right decision, proving that DePaul University is indeed a first-rate university, not as Finkelstein characterized it, `a third-rate university.' Based on objective standards of scholarship, this should not have even been a close case."

In the DePaul statement, Father Holtschneider decried the outside interest the case had generated. "This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."


British class divide hits learning by age of three

The heritability and importance of IQ rediscovered (but not admitted): Disadvantaged children lagging a full year behind before they start school

By the age of three, children from disadvantaged families are already lagging a full year behind their middle-class contemporaries in social and educational development, pioneering research by a London university reveals today. A "generation Blair" project, tracking the progress of 15,500 boys and girls born between 2000 and 2002, found a divided nation in which a child's start in life was still determined by the class, education, marital status and ethnic background of the parents. The results are likely to disappoint ministers committed to improving the life chances of disadvantaged children, notably through the Sure Start programme to develop potential in pre-school years. But the research could not establish how much more stark the divisions might have been without Sure Start's introduction in 1998.

In a series of vocabulary tests, the three-year-old sons and daughters of graduate parents were found to be 10 months ahead of those from families with few educational qualifications; they were 12 months ahead in their understanding of colours, letters, numbers, sizes and shapes. Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education in the University of London found girls were three months ahead of boys on both measures. Less predictably, Scottish children were three months ahead of the UK average in language development and two months ahead in "school readiness".

Mothers in Scotland were more likely than those in the three other countries to have jobs and set clear rules governing the child's behaviour. Similarly, Scottish fathers were more likely to read to their children, perhaps assisting early years development.

The programme - called the millennium cohort study - began tracking the children soon after they were born, recording the circumstances of pregnancy and birth, parental background and progress in the early months of life. Professor Heather Joshi, director of the programme, said previous research had showed that children from deprived homes were less educationally advanced at five and seven years old. The millennium study was the first using a big national sample to measure the attainment gap at three. The results will be used in the government's evaluation of the Sure Start programme to establish whether it is helping working class children narrow the gap.

Prof Joshi said: "Children from poorer homes are less likely to have working mothers and so they do not get so much out-of-home childcare." She could not tell how much wider the attainment gap might have been without Sure Start. She added: "These children are on a marathon. They should not be written off if they come through their early years and are not ahead in the race. The families into which they were born did not provide a level starting point. They are not leaping out of their diverse backgrounds unmarked by their early experiences."

The survey found Bangladeshi children were about a year behind their white contemporaries in "school readiness" tests. Pakistani children did slightly better. A quarter of black children from African and Caribbean backgrounds were delayed in their development, compared with 4% of white children. These results may have been linked to family income. Two-thirds of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani three-year-olds were from families living below the poverty line, compared with 42% of black children and less than 25% of white and Indian children.

Across all ethnic minority communities, 72% of children with single mothers were growing up in poverty. The study set the poverty threshold at 60% of national average family income. A Department for Education spokesman said last night: "Closing attainment gaps between different groups of children is a massive priority for us. We are working hard to provide support such as catch-up lessons, one-to-one tuition and wraparound support for children and families - for example the Sure Start programme." [Translation: Fanatical Leftist belief in equality impels us to keep pissing into the wind despite all the evidence that it does nobody any good. Jensen and Murray gave them the facts on class, IQ and education many years ago but facts are no match for ideology]



Post lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

"Thousands of 3- and 4-year-olds in Pittsburgh are at greater risk of eventually becoming criminals because not enough money is being spent on pre-kindergarten programs, according to a report released Thursday by a group urging the Legislature to fund such programs," reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

OK, so suppose you've just been convicted of a crime in Pittsburgh. You're facing hard time, and you're hoping to catch a break on the sentence, so you're looking for mitigating factors. But darn it, you went to nursery school! So much for that!

Not so fast. Check out this article from Scotland on Sunday:

Evidence is mounting that young children who spend significant periods of time in daycare while their parents work are more prone to developing aggressive and antisocial behaviour. A new study from the United States suggests that children who went to nursery during their pre-school years rather than staying at home were more likely to be disruptive once formal education began.

This ought to make life easier for parents of toddlers. Since their kids are more likely to turn into criminals whether they to go preschool or not, there's no need to stress out over the decision.


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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 12, 2007

Academic freedom under severe assault in Australia

Conservatives are not allowed to criticize disgusting work emanating from Leftist colleagues???? The critique that was so "offensive" can be read here. On TONGUE-TIED I give more details of what this is about and what you can do about it

TWO QUT academics who objected publicly to a PhD thesis called Laughing At The Disabled have been suspended without pay for six months. Creative industries faculty senior lecturers John Hookham and Gary MacLennan criticised the thesis in a newspaper article in April. Late Friday afternoon they were suspended, had their work emails disconnected and were barred from the university premises. Six months salary effectively amounts to a fine of $35,000 to $40,000 each.

QUT vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake, said yesterday he was responsible for the penalty after a committee, chaired by former Industrial Relations commissioner Barry Nutter, unanimously upheld complaints made against the two men. These had come from thesis author Michael Noonan and two academics.

Professor Coaldrake said controversial research needed to be balanced with legal obligations and ethics. "Academic freedom is a great privilege and it should not be used to denigrate or ridicule people with vastly different ideas," he said.

UQ disability expert Lisa Bridle also criticised the thesis. Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham were reluctant to speak publicly yesterday, other than to admit they had needed medical help to cope. "I'm gobsmacked at the level of brutality," said Dr MacLennan, 64.

Queensland Advocacy director Kevin Cocks said the penalty "seems quite severe for two people who have tried to express concerns around vulnerable people".

In their article in The Australian, the two academics objected to a film part of the thesis, which put two disabled men in social situations "in which they could only appear as inept".

Dr Bridle, the mother of a 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome, said it appeared the two men were used as "props". Dr Bridle and Mr Cocks wrote to Professor Coaldrake in April that they were alarmed by the project. "This project is a very ethically sensitive one and it should not proceed without external scrutiny," they wrote.

Mr Noonan confirmed yesterday that the name of the project had been changed to Laughing With the Disabled.


California oldsters to be retrained as teachers

If they reintroduced effective discipline, they might retain more of the teachers they already have. Even oldsters are not going to want to deal with student disruption and thuggery

The former head of Paramount Pictures and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a new program aimed at luring retirees into teaching math and science. The program called EnCorps seeks to recruit those who can fill voids expected to be left by some 100,000 teachers who will retire over the next decade. Education officials said math, science and special education teachers are at a premium and California schools will need more than 33,000 new science and math instructors in that same time period. If funded by the state Legislature, the private-public partnership would provide $12 million on top of the $31.7 million the state allocates to pay tuition and other costs.

Baby boomers "are going to redefine retirement, and they are going to redefine aging," said former Paramount head Sherry Lansing, who helped unveil the program at Roosevelt High School, where she worked as a substitute teacher.

Several corporations have signed on to pay teacher training costs for their retiring employees. The companies will pay up to $15,000 per person in education costs. "The more we have the private sector involved, the faster we can move forward," Schwarzenegger said. "I think that's where the action is."

The emphasis on paying for training is helpful, said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. "But the part about how now these retirees can afford to teach broke my heart," she said. "We need to seriously look at making salaries competitive and making sure schools are a great place to work."


Druze PhD student defends Israel, but bigoted British academics uninterested

As a holder of two degrees from the University of Haifa and a PhD student at the University of London, I traveled to Bournemouth for the meeting of the BritishUniversity and College Union (UCU) as an Israeli delegate on behalf of the Israeli Council for Academic Freedom. The discussions at the meeting regarding the imposition of a boycott on Israeli academia took place in a hostile environment while ignoring all the facts we presented regarding freedom of expression and academic freedom at Israeli institutions of higher learning.

Evidence that Israeli lecturers who hold pro-Palestinian views are able to express their positions uninterrupted both in their research work and lectures, as well as in the media, had no effect whatsoever on the discussions. Even when we presented a list of organizations and research centers that operate in the framework of Israeli universities and boast Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab cooperation, with the promotion of ties between the peoples their top agenda, it did not make a difference.

The same was true when it came to calls by Palestinian lecturers and figures, including al-QudsUniversity President Sari Nusseibah and Minister Raleb Majadele urging the UCU to refrain from boycotting their Israeli colleagues. Boycott leaders in Bournemouth ignored the figures I presented to them regarding the University of Haifa and the fact that close to 20 percent of students there are members of minority groups in Israel - apparently, we will also be subjected to the boycott.

They were uninterested in the fact that Arab students, who view themselves as a national minority in the State of Israel, are represented by a separate student committee and enjoy the freedom to act politically and on the public relations front. They were also uninterested in the fact that Professor Majid al-Haj is the deputy president of the research university, or that the Jewish-Arab center headed by Dr. Faisal Azaiza is considered one of the university's most prestigious bodies.

The truth is that it is clear to this group of lecturers that Israeli academia is least at fault for what is happening in our region, certainly when compared to the freedom of expression at our neighbors' academic institutions. After all, the English know full well that the technological, academic, and cultural achievements in the State of Israel stem first and foremost from the freedom of expression and research in every field in Israel.

Therefore, the figures we presented were futile, because all they cared about was their one and only objective: De-legitimizing the State of Israel with no relation to its academia; presenting it as an apartheid state that deprives its minorities of elementary rights such as education and the freedom of expression.

They were particularly bothered by the fact that a student like me, a member of the Druze community, appeared in the meeting and defended Israeli academia. They protested the fact that I even agreed to study at institutions that are associated with the country's majority population group and teach in its native tongue, Hebrew. I wonder how they would have reacted had I protested the fact that her majesty Queen Elizabeth is the patron of the University of London, and now I am studying in their native tongue, English.



Research councils in the UK said this afternoon that they would still allow collaboration on projects with Israeli institutions despite the decision by the university lecturers' union to back calls for an academic boycott. Research Councils UK, the umbrella organisation for the seven councils, which between them hold the purse strings for œ2.8bn of funding, said it would only get involved in an Israeli academic boycott if it was decided by the government. A spokeswoman said: "We would not stop any collaboration unless it was government policy."

Funding for research from the seven research councils only goes to UK institutions, but does allow for universities to forge collaborative academic links outside the UK.

This afternoon, the impact of an academic boycott on present or future UK and Israeli research remained uncertain. But Research Councils UK was calculating the number of current collaborative projects and how much UK funding it attracted.

Israeli universities have an enviable reputation for research, especially in science, and today the influential Royal Society - the independent academy which promotes natural and applied science - reaffirmed its opposition to blanket academic boycotts. Five years ago, the society's council signed a statement by the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (IHRNASS), affirming its support for the free exchange of ideas and opinions amongst scientists and scholars in all countries in order to stimulate collaborative educational research. The statement opposed any "moratoria on scientific exchanges based on nationality, race, sex, language, religion, opinion and similar factors", because they thwarted the goals of the network.

Any Israeli academic boycott by the UK could, however, have a damaging impact on academic ties with institutions outside of Israel. It emerged today that on the eve of the UCU's boycott decision, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) wrote to the union expressing concern on behalf of its 160,000 higher education members. According to the higher education website, the president of the AFT, Edward J McElroy, wrote in a letter to the UCU: "The AFT strongly opposes boycotts of universities and faculty, considering them a grave threat to the democratic values of academic freedom and free speech. "The one-sided nature of the proposed resolution demonstrates that the motivation is to express support for a political position rather than advance the principles of free and open scholarship."

Meanwhile, MPs from across the political divide this afternoon added their voices to the growing opposition to a boycott. Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the boycott decision was a "pathetic attempt by politically motivated people to destroy the balanced ethos on university campuses and use their privileged position to further their own ends." Liberal Democrat MP and panel member of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism, Chris Huhne, said: "Two wrongs do not make a right, and it is wrong in principle to try to make individuals responsible for the actions of their government. This boycott is misconceived and should be dropped."

Labour MP Denis MacShane, who chaired the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism, said the UCU decision was "completely deplorable and counter productive". He said it was "foolish" because "Israeli academics have been amongst the strongest critics of the Israeli government." He said: "The motion will do nothing to help Palestinian students who are keen to study in the relative oasis of Israeli universities and will exacerbate the position of Jewish students in the UK who already feel harassed, intimidated and uncomfortable on campus."



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 11, 2007

Commencing Courtesy

If you go to a football game, a rock concert or a fraternity kegger, you will not be surprised to find people screaming, laughing, bumping chests, ringing cowbells, baying at the moon and generally shedding their inhibitions. If you attend a wedding ceremony, a funeral or a confirmation, however, you may expect those around you to comport themselves in a polite and restrained manner.

School commencement exercises used to fall into the latter category, but they have been moving-make that descending-toward the former. The question being addressed in Galesburg, Ill., is whether to surrender to that slide or try to reverse it. And I'm happy to report that school officials there not only favor reversal but have actually managed to bring it about.

A couple of years ago, the graduation ceremony at Galesburg High School had come to resemble a circus, but without the calming influence of elephants. Students crossing the stage were dancing and flashing hand signs; friends in the audience were jumping up, whooping and raising a racket with air horns. Deluged with complaints from parents and others who couldn't see or hear at crucial moments, local officials decided a change was in order.

They adopted several reforms, the most important of which was to establish clear rules and require students and parents to sign forms listing forbidden conduct-such as yelling, dancing, making gestures, using noisemakers and other "disruptive behavior."

The school also spelled out the consequences "should the graduating student and/or family/friends admitted to the ceremony" misbehave: The student would be barred from the school party and would not get an actual diploma (though he or she would still be considered a graduate). An insert went into the commencement program in case anyone needed one last reminder.

Administrators say the new policy produced a huge improvement. But this year, a few recalcitrants had to test the limits, and the school decided to withhold diplomas from five students. They were offered the chance to get their diplomas by performing eight hours of community service. On Wednesday, though, school officials relented, saying it was time "to move on."

In the enforcement phase, the students perceived racial bias, noting that four of them are black and the other is Hispanic. At other schools, there have been complaints that imposing commencement decorum amounts to forcing nonwhites to abide by stuffy white conventions.

There is no infallible way to define and detect "disruptive behavior," but the school did its best by stationing four observers around the auditorium, and all four wrote down the same five names during the ceremony. Are the educators racist? When I called one of the kids who were punished, Nadia Trent, she said that during her student days, she had never encountered racial bias from school officials.

In any event, bad behavior is not a product of skin color. Well-to-do white schools have their share of people who feel entitled to do whatever they want regardless of how it affects others. Back in 1999, an outdoor venue in suburban Chicago banned a local high school from holding commencement exercises there after students and parents threw marshmallows, trampled flowers, ignored no-smoking signs and insulted employees. This is a high school that is less than 1 percent black.

In the aftermath, the superintendent acknowledged the problem in terms that would have worked equally well for Galesburg: "We should talk about these things: civil discourse, courteous demeanor, following and obeying rules, refraining from unnecessary interruptions."

At a typical graduation, most people don't need to be told to show courtesy and respect for others. But there are always some attendees who insist on calling attention to themselves. And all it takes is a handful of the unruly to spoil the experience for everyone else.

Some people think that a commencement is a celebration, and that celebrations by definition should be unrestrained. By that logic, wedding guests should be blowing noisemakers during the recitation of vows. Modern America does not lack for parties. What it increasingly lacks is rituals that treat landmarks in life with a sense of solemnity.

School officials in Galesburg may have fallen short of a perfect solution, but they at least are trying to preserve a tradition their community values. They understand that a society which treats every happy occasion as a frolic is a society in danger of forgetting that some moments are worthy of dignity, respect and even awe.


Comeback for "progressive" education in England

I once taught at a "progressive" school so I know how little many students learned there

Katie Harris, 11, is telling me that she recently spent a lesson making paper aeroplanes and measuring how far they flew. What did she learn? "It was really enjoyable. It wasn't just about one subject like maths, there was science in there as well," she replied. Katie is a pupil at Bursted Wood primary in Bexley, southeast London, one of eight schools in the borough at the forefront of a stampede back to "creative learning" and progressive teaching methods that were popular more than a decade ago. Despite the bad press such methods got back then, when they were blamed for turning out thousands of children who couldn't read or write properly, a survey of 115 primary schools last week revealed that four out of five are returning to teaching based around "topics" such as chocolate.

At Bursted Wood, traditional secondary-school style classes in subjects such as history, geography and maths have been ditched for topics planned out on "creative learning wheels". I look at one wheel, laid out on a card, with the school's head teacher, Ely Prynne (pictured). The topic is The Groovy Greeks: children are encouraged to learn about maths, for instance, by studying patterns and right angles in Greek art and analysing graphs showing their favourite Greek gods.

Prynne is evangelical about the changes. "I find our children's knowledge is being deepened," she says. "Instead of doing half an hour of history, half an hour of geography, we take a theme. For example, one topic was called Time Travellers. "It took an idea a bit like the Tardis and Dr Who, with the children travelling through time to visit the Tudors. We went to a local building where the children made candles and learnt Tudor dances."

Like thousands of primary school teachers Prynne started her career, 30 years ago, teaching young children through themes and topics. It was all the rage at the time. But in 1992 a report commissioned by the then Tory education secretary, Kenneth Clarke, pinned blame for declining standards on such methods. The report followed the introduction of a national curriculum in primary schools prescribing which subjects had to be taught. Jim Rose, Robin Alexander and Chris Woodhead, dubbed "the three wise men", were the report's authors. They discouraged the "playschool" approach and recommended more traditional teaching methods. Later in the decade a literacy and numeracy hour was introduced and English and maths standards started to rise. Now it seems another wave of reform is taking place and the traditional methods are being jettisoned.

"The national curriculum was very constricting. Teachers felt they did not have ownership, now they do," says Prynne, whose school is held up by government agencies as an example of good practice. The change started, she says, four years ago when teachers were encouraged to break out of the straitjacket of the national curriculum and make lessons more imaginative.

The only problem is that test results for 11-year-olds at Bursted Wood, while still above the national average for maths and English, have fallen since 2003, when Prynne introduced the new timetable. Last week she said that the innovations had "nothing at all" to do with the dip in results, which compared two different groups of children. Meanwhile, 25% of 11-year-olds nationwide are still leaving school unable to read or write properly. "It is not just about results," she says. "It is also about things like confidence and a love of learning." She adds that the "creative wheel" covers the content of the national curriculum and the school also still provides a literacy and numeracy hour.

However, David Hart, a former head of the National Association of Head Teachers, has warned: "Theme-based schooling will disadvantage pupils . . . and make the secondary teacher's task much more difficult." Blair Chandler, 11, has been taught both ways. When he started at Bursted Wood there were separate traditional subject lessons. But in the last four years he has been on a "creative learning journey". "This is much funner," he says. Perhaps. But is it more educational?

How much history or geography do your children know? Go on, ask them. Ruin the family Sunday. It isn't their fault. Our children leave primary school in pitiful ignorance because teachers remain committed to half-baked notions. According to a survey, four-fifths of state primary schools have abandoned traditional subject teaching in favour of what is known as "topic" work. Boring old history and geography have been replaced by exciting projects on, say, "chocolate".

Time and again, back in the 1980s, I'd listen to a primary school teacher tell me that he or she "taught children not subjects". Children don't, the argument went, think in terms of history and geography. They experience the world in all its buzzing confusion, and, if school is to be "fun", the artificial boundaries between subjects must be broken down to allow the child to experience the full interdisciplinary richness of human experience. The fact that the boundaries are not artificial did not seem to cut much ice. Neither did the fact that children are unlikely to make much progress in, for example, science, if they are forever encouraged to think about how chocolate is made.

The national curriculum, improved things for a while, but now teachers seem to be slipping back to their old ideological ways. Prep schools will, of course, still teach history and geography and the gap between standards in state and private schools will widen further.


Foreign doctors to learn Australian

It is a tremendous indictment of Australian medical education that Australia does not train enough of its own doctors -- despite the fact that there is great competition from young Australians to get into medical schools

FOREIGN doctors are having speech lessons in a bid to improve communication with Australian patients and avoid medical mishaps. A pilot program is aiming to make doctors whose first language is not English easier to understand for the average Australian. The 10-week course tackles pronunciation, understanding of slang or colloquial "ocker" expressions, language attitudes and speech patterns.

A growing number of overseas-trained doctors are filling hospital and GP positions in Australia amid a national shortage of medical workers. Many take jobs in rural or remote areas, where they are more likely to struggle with cultural and language barriers.

Gai Rollings, director of speech pathology at Toowoomba Base Hospital, has started the program with doctors from Africa, India and South America. "I don't think they have trouble understanding our accent but they might have trouble understanding some of our expressions," she said. "We are looking at how they are actually pronouncing their sounds and how they put stress on words." She said the doctors' speech would be rated by members of the public before and after the course. "If (a doctor) asks a nurse to help putting this solution into an IVF, that could be a really risky situation if the nurse doesn't understand what he is asking," Ms Rollings said.

Andrew Schwartz, president of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association, said the program was "a fine idea" but would not achieve much in practical terms. "We have got a drastic shortage of doctors so Australian people are going to have to accept they have got to listen and make sure they are getting their message through at the same time."

The above story by CLAIR WEAVER appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 10, 2007


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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 10, 2007

Vouchers for the children

Environmentalists want to reduce suburban sprawl. Progressives want to reduce the wealth gap. Conservatives want to teach their children traditional values. Libertarians want to cut taxes. Guess what, we can do all these things at once, using an idea that has already been tested in places like New Zealand and Sweden: school vouchers. School vouchers would have limited impact in rural areas and low-density suburbs. In the inner cities, however, the impact would be huge.

The U.S. public school system was designed for a different era, when people lived on farms or in small communities -- that were often segregated by race, class and/or religion -- and children walked to school. Because children walked and people lived far apart, education was a natural monopoly. And because the schools were small, and the parents of similar backgrounds, democratic management worked well.

Democracy does not work so well as the number of voters grows. The impact of each vote diminishes, so people have less reason to put much effort into making a good decision. Also, it is harder for those running for school board to get to know the parents. Power devolves from the parents and taxpayers to the bureaucrats and teacher’s unions. Furthermore, democracy works poorly where communities are deeply divided. Just look at the history of the Third World countries containing multiple tribes.

One possible solution for America’s cities would be to have more than one school district per city. Let each high school have its own school board, which oversees that school along with its feeder schools. Layers of bureaucracy would be removed, and each neighborhood could set its curriculum and standards of student behavior. Do this, and the city schools would have a chance at being competitive with the suburban schools.

But we can do better. There is no need for the school board approach in cities. Where children live close together, competition works! Implement a program of school vouchers and the inner city schools would become better than the suburban and rural schools. Upper middle class families would move back into the cities in order to have better opportunities for their children. Interstate highway traffic would lessen, as people move closer to work. Pressure to turn farms and wild lands into subdivisions would weaken. Children in the slums could get a good education should they so desire. No longer would a poor family have to afford a nice house in order to qualify for a good education. The wealth gap would narrow substantially over time.

So, why aren’t progressives and environmentalists jumping on board this opportunity? Two problems come to mind: First, vouchers raise the ugly specter of segregation. Some parents would choose schools based upon race, ethnicity, class or religion. This is a legitimate concern, but I think it is way overblown. Many inner city schools are segregated already, since people moved apart after the public schools were desegregated. School vouchers would likely cause a net reduction in segregation, as more people become comfortable living in mixed race neighborhoods. More importantly, ethnic minorities would benefit the most from a system of school vouchers. Giving inner-city minority children a better education would do more to dispel the remaining bits of racism than any amount of propaganda or social engineering.

The second problem is political. The teacher’s unions have been reliable allies to the environmental and progressive movements. Going against their wishes would be hard – just like it has been hard for the Bush Administration to go against the wishes of Halliburton.


Vouchers are the way to go for Australian schools

They are the logical next step in improving education outcomes and would be a winner for the politicians who back them, writes Kevin Donnelly

WHAT is the best way to strengthen schools, raise standards and, in an increasingly competitive and challenging international environment, ensure that more Australian students perform at the top of the league table?

One approach, favoured by those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo, such as the Australian Education Union and the educrats responsible for the present parlous state of Australian education, is centralised and bureaucratic. Schools, especially government schools, are forced to conform to a top-down and inflexible system of command and control management where there is little, if any, room for autonomy at the local level, or flexibility in curriculum and developing more effective ways to meet the demands of parents and the marketplace.

The alternative, based on research identifying the characteristics of "world's best" education systems (as measured by international tests) and overseas innovations such as vouchers and charter schools, is to free schools from provider capture and to increase parental choice. Vouchers involve parents receiving an agreed amount of funding from government that they can then use to send their children to either government or non-government schools. The money follows the child and, as a result, good schools prosper and grow while underperforming schools face the consequences of falling enrolments and reduced demand.

Related to school choice is the need to ensure that how well schools perform, or underperform, is made public. When school effectiveness is clouded in secrecy, it is impossible for parents to make informed decisions about where their children go to school. At the minimum, all schools should be made to release details about educational performance, staff morale, absenteeism, student behaviour and, where relevant, indicators such as Year 12 results and post-school destinations.

Compare this to the present situation in Australia where, notwithstanding the rhetoric about identifying and turning around underperforming government schools, there are few, if any, consequences for failure and, as a result, thousands of students receive a substandard education.

Vouchers can either be universal or targeted at particular disadvantaged groups, such as children with disabilities or children educationally at risk because of their socioeconomic background. Vouchers can also either provide the full cost of educating a child, measured by the per-student cost of educating a child in a government school (about $10,000), or they can be set as a percentage, for example, by being means tested.

However, increasing educational choice by giving parents the right to choose where their children go to school is ineffectual if all schools, government and non-government, are forced to follow the same industrial-age management regime and dumbed-down, politically correct curriculum. The other side of the voucher equation is what in the US are termed charter schools. If schools are to be in a position to respond to community expectations, they need the autonomy and flexibility to meet parental demands. Charter schools, within general guidelines, fashion their own management style and curriculum, freed from the constraints of an intrusive and insensitive government-controlled bureaucracy.

As outlined in a 2006 paper prepared by the Australia Institute, titled School Vouchers: An Evaluation of their Impact on Education Outcomes, those associated with the cultural Left side of politics are staunch critics of freeing up schools and increased parental choice. The authors of the paper argue there is no evidence increased competition and autonomy improve educational outcomes.

An argument is also put that Australian society will become less cohesive as vouchers will lead to "greater segregation on the basis of race, religion, academic ability and socialeconomic status" and, based on the assumption that choice will lead to more parents choosing non-government schools, that state schools will be seen as second-rate and the least preferred option.

As might be expected, given that its continued survival depends on a centrally controlled, compliant state system of education, the AEU is also opposed to vouchers and the existence of non-government schools more generally. After criticising the federal Government's introduction of literacy vouchers, the AEU, at its 2005 federal conference, attacked opening schools to market forces by stating "the introduction of the voucher system of funding ... will ensure that much-needed government funding is directed away from those public schools with the greatest need into private pockets without any accountability requirements whatsoever". According to Pat Byrne, the AEU president, the Howard Government's policy of supporting parental choice is a ruse to destroy the state system.

It's ironic that supporters of state schools, such as the AEU, spend thousands of dollars on campaigns talking up government schools, under slogans such as "state schools are great schools", while arguing that introducing vouchers will lead to increasing numbers of parents fleeing the state system. Logic suggests that if state schools are as successful as their advocates make out, despite the introduction of vouchers many parents will still prefer state schools. The popularity of selective government schools in NSW and the fact that Victorian parents, if they can afford the real estate, are buying into areas with highly regarded state schools, proves that given a choice, parents will not necessarily "flee" the government system.

In his book Education Matters: Government, Markets and New Zealand Schools, Canberra-based economist Mark Harrison, in opposition to arguments about lack of effectiveness, details research showing that voucher-related choice and competition improve educational outcomes. Common sense also suggests this would be the case. If nothing else, the collapse of communism and the success of capitalism proves that the old days of statism have long since died and the most effective approach to government policy is to allow responsibility and decision-making to rest in the hands of those most affected, ie, at the local level. Harrison cites research undertaken at Harvard University into voucher schemes implemented in Washington and New York as concluding that "the academic achievement of voucher students who attended private schools grew faster than the similar students who did not receive a voucher and attended public schools".

Research evaluating the Milwaukee scheme arrives at a similar conclusion about the benefits of vouchers; instead of lowering standards or creating social fragmentation, there is evidence that not only are students' test scores improved, in addition, as Harrison states, "parents are highly satisfied, there was no creaming, parental involvement increased, the program targeted disadvantaged students successfully and reduced segregation".

Caroline Hoxby, a US-based academic and author of School Choice: The Three Essential Elements and Several Policy Options, on examining the results of the Milwaukee scheme, also argues that increasing choice and competition lead to improved results, as measured by improvements in students' mathematics scores.

Those supporting vouchers also make the point that improved standards are not restricted to schools enrolling students with vouchers; nearby government schools, given the reality of competition and the consequent incentive to improve, also register stronger results.

On identifying the characteristics of those education systems that achieve the best results in international mathematics, science and reading tests, Ludger Woessmann, from the University of Munich, reinforces the importance of choice and competition, especially as the result of a strong private school sector and decentralisation of management. Woessmann argues the market provides strong incentives for schools, as institutions, to provide a better service by meeting the expectations of parents and raising standards. If parents are not satisfied, they go elsewhere, and there are clear consequences and rewards for performance. While acknowledging the central role individual teachers play in successful learning, Woessmann also makes the point that those education systems suffering from provider capture, especially where teacher unions have an undue influence, underperform in terms of international test results.

While critics of vouchers, such as the AEU, emphasise that increased diversity and competition will only benefit so-called wealthy, elite, non-government schools, it is significant that American voucher schemes focus on supporting disadvantaged groups such as Hispanics and African-Americans. Such is the success of these schemes in addressing educational disadvantage, as noted by Terry Moe, a researcher at the Hoover Institution, that "in poll after poll, the strongest supporters of publicly financed vouchers are blacks, Hispanics and the poor, especially in urban areas".

As the 30 to 40per cent of Australian parents who send their children to non-government schools are well aware, debates about vouchers are of more than academic interest. Not only do these parents pay taxes for a system they do not use, thus saving state and federal governments millions of dollars each year, hard-earned cash has to be found to pay school fees. The reality is that parents who, as a result of the perceived shortcomings in government schools, choose non-government schools are financially penalised. While state and federal governments support such choice by partially funding students attending non-government schools, the amounts provided are well short of the costs involved and the system lacks the preconditions necessary for an effective voucher system.

On the grounds of equity and social justice, it makes sense if more parents, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to choose between government and non-government schools. Ideally, such a voucher would be set at $10,000 and the money would follow the child. Vouchers and charter schools, reflecting a commitment to choice, competition and accountability, present new territory in the education debate. At first glance, such initiatives are a natural fit for the Howard Coalition Government and, given the cultural Left's antagonism, something traditionally opposed by the ALP. As such, vouchers and charter schools provide one policy area where there are clear differences between the two parties and fertile ground for public debate.


Vouchers are the way to go for Australian Universities too

Comment by Steven Schwartz, the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University

The Group of Eight universities has launched a far-reaching higher education policy statement and, again, educational vouchers have been thrust into the spotlight. Ever since the Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman suggested funding education with vouchers in 1955, the idea has surfaced periodically in Australia only to be met with howls of rage from education unions and yawns of apathy from everyone else.

There are three reasons this time could be different. First, educational vouchers can no longer be dismissed as impractical. School voucher systems operate successfully in several countries and a university voucher system has been introduced in Colorado. Second, both sides of politics are committed to a diverse system of higher education. By forcing universities to find a competitive niche, vouchers foster diversity more effectively, and certainly more efficiently, than the present system of centralised formula funding. Third, it has previously been taken for granted that vouchers would be politically unpopular because they would have to be rationed. It was feared that promising everyone a voucher would lead many extra students to enrol, thereby causing a budget blowout. But times have changed. There is no longer any need to worry about hoards of frustrated students queuing for vouchers because, the Government says, there is no longer any unmet demand.

Everyone who wants to attend university is already being admitted. Unless it decides to be uncharacteristically generous, a universal voucher entitlement would cost the Government no more than the block grant system. Vouchers would overcome anomalies inherent in the present funding arrangements by introducing rudimentary market forces into a system that operates according to Government fiat. At present, universities have little ability to respond to student demand. The quota of Government-subsidised student places at any university each year is determined by history: universities get about the same number they received the previous year, with small adjustments.

We know that students prefer some universities to others. However, even if they wanted to, popular universities are prohibited from expanding their intake to meet student demand. Indeed, like plant managers in the old Soviet Union, university managers are punished if they enrol "too many" students. As a result of quotas, many qualified students are turned away from their university of first choice. They are forced to try their second, third or even fourth choice, until they finally find a university that will admit them. By limiting the number of places in any university, the Government makes it impossible for universities to expand their intake in response to student demand. It is a way to protect less popular institutions whose students might go elsewhere if given the chance.

Giving funding to students in the form of vouchers and eliminating quotas would allow universities to adjust supply to meet demand. But vouchers would not be enough. To ensure the highest levels of excellence, they would need to be combined with the deregulation of university fees.

At present, the amount students pay through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme is largely determined by the Government; universities have limited leeway to charge more. Yet, they are in competition with generously funded competitors from around the world. If we want to compete in the premier league, we have to direct resources to those institutions that achieve the highest standards of excellence. Lifting the cap on student contributions would allow our best universities to raise their fees; this would bring them the additional resources they require to compete with the world's best. To ensure that access to elite higher education institutions is not limited to the rich, universities that raise their fees should be required to spend some of their new wealth on income support for needy students.

In reality, however, only a small number of institutions would be able to charge premium fees and provide exceptional services. Many would go for low price and high volume. Other models would also develop. Some universities would offer vocational and technical types of education. Others would focus on distance learning. Some would deliberately focus on a small number of programs that met student needs.

Under a voucher system, universities would have to be attractive to students because that is the only way they would receive any resources. Students would benefit because they would control the purse strings and would therefore be able to influence what was taught, by whom and when. Institutions would benefit by being able to adjust their offerings to meet student demand. Most of all, Australia would benefit from having stronger world-class universities to produce the graduates we will need to ensure social and economic progress.



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"

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