Saturday, July 07, 2007


A Leftist critique of the recent SCOTUS decision below. They may well be right in saying that the decision leaves it open for education authorities to use proxies for race rather than race itself in manipulating the composition of their student bodies but they fail to acknowledge that many of the possible proxies would not only fall foul of the 14th Amendment too but also have hilarious results. The best proxies for negritude are income and IQ and a school that kept out most students from high income and high IQ families would be shooting itself in the foot anyway. They might be thanked by the families concerned, though! And making a good school take in a quota of students from poor backgrounds would be more likely to draw in grateful poor whites than blacks. Far-Left school administrations will probably just lie about what they are doing but the threat of exposure should keep most administrations pretty close to the strait and narrow

But despite appearances, the school integration decisions represent something of an exception to that trend. In those cases, the Court invalidated the Seattle and Louisville plans, which used race as one factor in promoting inclusive and diverse schools. The outcome of these cases was disappointing, to be sure. But much of the news reporting on the cases has gotten it wrong, describing the outcome as a 5-to-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts against voluntary school integration. In fact, the outcome of these cases was a 4-to-1-to-4 decision in which Justice Anthony Kennedy (the "1") controlled the outcome and wrote a careful opinion with both positive and negative implications for the future of educational opportunity and our Constitution.

Justice Kennedy voted with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas to strike down the specific policies used by the Louisville and Seattle school districts. But he agreed with Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer that educational diversity and combating segregation are compelling governmental interests that governments may pursue through careful efforts that consider race. Unlike the Roberts group, Justice Kennedy made clear that his disagreement was with the specifics of the plans at issue, and not with their motives or the limited consideration of race to accomplish them. Kennedy concluded, for example, that

[i]f school authorities are concerned that the student-body compositions of certain schools interfere with the objective of offering an equal educational opportunity to all of their students, they are free to devise race-conscious measures to address the problem in a general way and without treating each student in different fashion solely on the basis of a systematic, individual typing by race.

More clearly than in any of his past decisions, Justice Kennedy (and therefore a majority of the Court) firmly rejected Chief Justice Roberts' position (typically articulated in past cases by Justices Scalia and Thomas) that considering race in a careful way to promote inclusion inflicts the same constitutional harm as the hateful segregation laws that Brown v. Board of Education legally overturned. While Chief Justice Roberts' opinion quips that "the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Justice Kennedy's careful opinion explains that

[t]he enduring hope is that race should not matter; the reality is that it too often does," and notes that "as an aspiration, Justice Harlan's axiom [that our Constitution is "colorblind"] must command our assent. In the real world, it is regrettable to say, it cannot be a universal constitutional principle.

What Justice Kennedy says is unconstitutional is considering the race of individual students in determining their school assignment. That element, and the ambiguous nature of the Seattle and Louisville plans, Kennedy said, made those programs insufficiently narrow in their tailoring to meet constitutional muster.

Justice Kennedy's ruling misapprehends how difficult it is to overcome residential segregation, disparate school resources, and other barriers to inclusion without modest mechanisms like the "tie breakers" used in these cases. In other words, he is wrong to conclude that the Louisville and Seattle plans were not "narrowly tailored" to achieve the compelling goal of a diverse and equal education. But while the Court's ruling will make it harder to bring our kids together across lines of difference, it's important to acknowledge the victory for the principles of integration, inclusion and diversity that Justice Kennedy's opinion represents. Justice Kennedy's opinion also makes clear that numerous options for promoting inclusion remain, many of which include explicit consideration of race. His opinion says:

School boards may pursue the goal of bringing together students of diverse backgrounds and races through other means, including strategic site selection of new schools; drawing attendance zones with general recognition of the demographics of neighborhoods; allocating resources for special programs; recruiting students and faculty in a targeted fashion; and tracking enrollments, performance, and other statistics by race.

School districts and their allies are already hard at work crafting innovative approaches within the Court's parameters that work on the ground. Congress, too, has an important role to play in promoting inclusion and combating segregation in the wake of last week's decision. For example, Congress should allocate significant resources for communities that want to pursue diversity efforts in line with the Court's ruling. Federal support for school construction and expansion should be allocated, in part, based on whether school locations and attendance zones will foster or stymie integration.

And the U.S. Senate must give far greater scrutiny of judicial nominees than it has done to date. It's deeply disturbing that four members of the Court would have outlawed almost all effective efforts to promote inclusion in our nation's schools. And their view that the modest voluntary integration efforts at issue in these cases are constitutionally tantamount to Jim Crow-era segregation is nothing short of outrageous.

While a majority of the Court correctly rejected that extreme position, the Chief Justice's opinion-joined by Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas-fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of our Constitution and highlights the importance of exacting questioning of the President's judicial nominations by the U.S. Senate.


Official graduation rate to get a bit more honest

The official 2006 graduation rate for Montgomery County public schools is 92 percent. But that number and the formula by which it was calculated are falling out of use in public education. For years, public educators in Maryland, Virginia and the District have measured graduation rates based on the number of students known to have dropped out, and many dropouts are never counted. Education leaders long defended the method, but increasingly they are agreeing with researchers that it yields inflated graduation rates. Now, educators are taking a closer look at attrition, the winnowing-down of a high school population over time, as the basis for a new and more accurate -- and less flattering -- way of calculating the graduation rate.

All 50 governors have agreed to a new method for calculating the graduation rate. Their proposal, which will be adopted in Virginia by 2008, in the District by 2010 and in Maryland by 2011, is fairly simple: Divide the number of freshman in one year by the number of graduates four years later, adjusting for students who transfer in or out or repeat grades. Applying the new math depends on an accurate count of transfers and students who repeat grades. State education officials say they are working on that and intend to go even further by applying a unique identifier to each student.

To illustrate the extent of student attrition at different county high schools, The Washington Post analyzed attrition data for the class of 2006 using a method similar to the formula embraced by the governors. The analysis of head counts from 23 schools, provided by the state education department, found that the class shrank from 11,589 students to 9,743 between freshman year and graduation day. That suggests a graduation rate of about 84 percent, eight points lower than the 92 percent reported by the Maryland State Department of Education.

The Post estimated graduation rates by comparing the number of freshmen enrolled in fall 2002 with the number of diplomas awarded in spring 2006, the latest count available. The result is only an estimate -- it doesn't account for the comings and goings of students, those who repeat grades or the growth and decline in school populations over time. But it may give a more accurate picture of student attrition than the state can provide at present. Parents seeking out such data from the state education department at will find the old rates, based on dropouts.

In contrast, the graduation formula adopted by the National Governors Association should yield a more accurate count. The Post's findings are similar to those of a report released last month by Editorial Projects in Education, publisher of Education Week. That study, embraced by the Bush administration, estimated attrition rates for school districts nationwide and painted a bleak picture: Just over two-thirds of students graduate.



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, July 06, 2007

Do Away With Public Schools

Here's a good question for you: Why have public schools at all? OK, cue the marching music. We need public schools because blah blah blah and yada yada yada. We could say blah is common culture and yada is the government's interest in promoting the general welfare. Or that children are the future. And a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Because we can't leave any child behind.

The problem with all these bromides is that they leave out the simple fact that one of the surest ways to leave a kid "behind" is to hand him over to the government. Americans want universal education, just as they want universally safe food. But nobody believes that the government should run nearly all of the restaurants, farms and supermarkets. Why should it run the vast majority of the schools - particularly when it gets terrible results?

Consider Washington, home of the nation's most devoted government-lovers and, ironically, the city with arguably the worst public schools in the country. Out of the 100 largest school districts, according to the Washington Post, D.C. ranks third in spending for each pupil ($12,979) but last in spending on instruction. Fifty-six cents out of every dollar go to administrators who, it's no secret, do a miserable job administrating, even though D.C. schools have been in a state of "reform" for nearly 40 years.

In a blistering series, the Post has documented how badly the bureaucrats have run public education. More than half of the District of Columbia's teenage kids spend their days in "persistently dangerous" schools, with an average of nine violent incidents a day in a system with 135 schools. "Principals reporting dangerous conditions or urgently needed repairs in their buildings wait, on average, 379 days ... for the problems to be fixed," according to the Post. But hey, at least the kids are getting a lousy education. A mere 19 schools managed to get "proficient" scores or better for a majority of students on the district's Comprehensive Assessment Test.

A standard response to such criticisms is to say we don't spend enough on public education. But if money were the solution, wouldn't the district, which spends nearly $13,000 on every kid, rank near the top? If you think more money will fix the schools, make your checks out to "cash" and send them to me.

Private, parochial and charter schools get better results. Parents know this. Applications for vouchers in the district dwarf the available supply, and home schooling has exploded.

As for schools teaching kids about the common culture and all that, as a conservative I couldn't agree more. But is there evidence that public schools are better at it? The results of the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress history and civics exams showed that two-thirds of U.S. high school seniors couldn't identify the significance of a photo of a theater with a sign reading "Colored Entrance." And keep in mind, political correctness pretty much guarantees that Jim Crow and the civil rights movement are included in syllabi. Imagine how few kids can intelligently discuss Manifest Destiny or free silver.

Right now, there's a renewed debate about providing "universal" health insurance. For some liberals, this simply means replicating the public school model for health care. (Stop laughing.) But for others, this means mandating that everyone have health insurance - just as we mandate that all drivers have car insurance - and then throwing tax dollars at poorer folks to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

There's a consensus in America that every child should get an education, but as David Gelernter noted recently in the Weekly Standard, there's no such consensus that public schools need to do the educating. Really, what would be so terrible about government mandating that every kid has to go to school, and providing subsidies and oversight when necessary, but then getting out of the way?

Milton Friedman noted long ago that the government is bad at providing services - that's why he wanted public schools to be called "government schools" - but that it's good at writing checks. So why not cut checks to people so they can send their kids to school?

What about the good public schools? Well, the reason good public schools are good has nothing to do with government's special expertise and everything to do with the fact that parents care enough to ensure their kids get a good education. That wouldn't change if the government got out of the school business. What would change is that fewer kids would get left behind.


No easy higher educational choices in Britain

I suspect that the circumstances described below may generalize well beyond Britain. I must say that I always dreaded the thought that my son might want to follow me into the social sciences -- so I was quite delighted when he decided to become a mathematician

The news that one in four lawyers wants to leave the profession because of the stress and long hours reminded me of the (rather grand) party I attended recently where the partner of a law firm confided earnestly that his biggest fear was that his children would decide to follow him into his career. The very important media person I was with said he was rather worried because his son was toying with the idea of going into journalism. The MP who had joined our conversation said that he certainly intended to discourage his own children from entering politics. And my husband, a doctor, said he was grateful every day for our daughter's stated intention never to go into medicine. So there we had it. Four successful professionals, hard-working, well-educated, all of whom thought so little of their own careers that they were determined their own children should not go into them.

We pointed out to the lawyer, not without spite, that he lived in a vast house and enjoyed fabulously expensive holidays. Ah yes, he said glumly, but the hours are relentless, the people dismal and the work very dull. Besides, he added, money isn’t everything. His gloom is echoed by the survey this week of 2,500 lawyers, who say that despite record levels of pay (coincidentally, another survey this week revealed that top lawyers in big City law firms now charge £1,000 an hour), there is widespread unhappiness at their poor work-life balance.

There is no doubt that journalism has its drawbacks, and so, obviously, has politics. Both professions madly envy the lawyers their oodles of dosh, and while we would never go so far as to agree that money isn’t everything (it tends to be people who already have plenty of money who agree with that proposition; you won’t hear it from someone whose stomach is acid with the fear of not paying the mortgage or the electricity bill), we can comfort ourselves that at least our careers have their moments of fun and occasional glamour.

The professionals with real grounds for grievance are doctors. The current jobs fiasco, presided over by the newly resigned Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, means that with less than a month to go before new training posts start on August 1, 11,000 junior doctors don’t know whether they have a job. The term junior doctor refers to anyone not yet a consultant. Of those who do have posts, hundreds will have to relocate to take them, moving homes, uprooting children from schools and forcing spouses to change jobs – all for a position guaranteed at most for one year and often only six months before the merry-go-round begins again.

These are people who were the brightest and hardest working at school; you don’t get to study medicine with much less than three A* these days. They then endured six years of medical school before taking their first bottom-rung jobs, working relentless hours with little sleep. They are now embarking on their chosen speciality, for which they will have to pass two or three stages of gruelling and demanding exams, and for which they must study while also working long and antisocial hours.

Those who survive will then be told by the chattering classes and the media that they should be grateful to have a “job for life” (until they make one mistake and kill someone, that is) and that they earn ludicrously “good” money (although not by lawyers’ standards, obviously). In most other countries in the world, a child’s ambition to become a doctor is greeted with pleasure and, frequently, proud rejoicing. The fact that the same cannot be said of Britain owes much to our increasingly cynical attitude.

How many of us can imagine a normal working day that might include, as my husband’s did not long ago, treating two horrifically burnt children who die despite your best, most sustained, efforts? Which ends with your having to tell their mother, who is incoherent with grief, that her children are dead? Where the purpose of showering, when you eventually get home, is to rid yourself of the lingering smell of burnt flesh? I happen to think that’s worth the £70,000 a year a new consultant earns.

But back to our unhappy lawyers. Of the one in four who wished they had other jobs, the majority wanted to be journalists or writers (only 2 per cent fancied working for the NHS). The most popular reason for not switching careers? “The possible drop in salary.” Not daft, these lawyers, are they? Meanwhile, journalism continues, against all the doomsayers’ odds, to be one of the most popular career choices for teenagers, while in politics Gordon Brown and David Cameron have just assembled teams of unprecedented youth.

And my 11-year-old daughter has been giving the matter of her future career some thought. She arrived home yesterday to tell us: “I still want to be a guitarist in a rock band, but only while I’m at secondary school. After that, I’ve decided to become a doctor.” I assumed that she’d come up with this plan solely to annoy her father (she succeeded, brilliantly), but it turned out she’d been inspired by watching Scrubs, the US TV medical sitcom.

Which all goes to prove the point: the more you obsess about your children, the more they will confound you. Which is just as it should be. Those of us lucky enough to have careers and families should be doubly grateful: first, that we have them at all; and secondly, that the next generation take such little notice of us



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, July 05, 2007

Competition or Monopoly?

Are consumers better off with a competitive or monopolistic provision of goods and services? Let's apply that question to a few areas of our lives. Prior to deregulation, when there was a monopoly and restricted entry in the provision of telephone services, were consumers better off or worse off than they are with today's ruthless competition to get our business? Anyone over 40 will recognize the differences. Competition has provided consumers with a vast array of choices, lower and lower prices and more courteous customer care than when government had its heavy hand on the provision of telephone services.

What about supermarkets? Would consumers be better off or worse off if one or two supermarkets were granted an exclusive monopoly in the provision of grocery services? The average well-stocked supermarket carries over 50,000 different items, has sales, prizes and pursues many strategies to win customers and retain their loyalty. Would they have the same incentives if they were granted a monopoly?

The government gives poor people food stamps. Would poor people be better off or worse off if, instead of being able to use their food stamps at any supermarket, they were forced to use them at a government store?

There's abundant evidence that suggests consumers are better off when providers of goods and services are driven by the profit motive where survival requires a constant effort to get and keep customers. Under what conditions can businesses survive, providing shoddy services, fewer choices, at higher and higher costs, without pleasing customers? If you said, "Where there's restricted competition and a government-sanctioned monopoly," go to the head of the class. There's no better example of this than in the case of government education.

ABC News anchor John Stossel produced a documentary aptly titled "Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids" that gives a visual depiction of what's often no less than educational fraud. During the documentary, an international test is given to average high school students in Belgium and above-average New Jersey high school students. Belgian kids cleaned the New Jersey students' clocks and called them "stupid." It's not just in Belgium where high school students run circles around their American counterparts; it's the same for students in Poland, Czech Republic, South Korea and 17 other countries.

The documentary leaves no question about the poor education received by white students, but that received by many black students is truly disgusting and darn near criminal. Stossel interviewed an 18-year-old black student who struggled to read a first-grade book. ABC's "20/20" sent him to Sylvan Learning Center. Within 72 hours, his reading level was two grades higher.

"Stupid in America" included one story where a teacher sent sexually oriented e-mails to "Cutie 101," a 16-year-old student. Only after six years of litigation was the New York City Department of Education able to fire the teacher, during which time the teacher collected more than $300,000 in salary.

The solution to America's education problems is not more money, despite the claims of the education establishment. Instead, it's the introduction of competition that could be achieved through school choice. Most people agree there should be public financing of education, but there is absolutely no case to be made for public production of education. We agree there should be public financing of F-22 fighters, but that doesn't mean a case can be made for setting up a government F-22 factory.

A school choice system, in the form of school vouchers or tuition tax credits, would go a long way toward providing the competition necessary to introduce accountability and quality into American education. What's wrong with parents having the right, along with the means, to enroll their children in schools of their choice?


Religious Education by Parents is "Child Abuse": Center for Inquiry Proposal

Religious education is a form of child abuse and violates the rights of children, contends a thesis to be considered by secular humanists at the Center for Inquiry's congress in Beijing this October. The Center for Inquiry, an organisation recently awarded special consultative status as an NGO at the United Nations (UN) will consider the proposals of Innaiah Narisetti, the chairman of the Center for Inquiry's India chapter, that portend the next stage in the assault on the rights of parents to educate their children.

Nasiretti called the influence of religion a "severe shortcoming in the global campaign to protect children" and a contributor to child abuse saying, "In one form or another, all religions violate the rights of children." "Such abuse begins with the involuntary involvement of children in religious practices from the time they are born," says Narisetti. "All religions, through ritual, preaching, and religious texts, seek to bring children into day-to-day religious practice." "This gives holy books and scriptures, as well as those who teach them, an early grip on the developing minds of young people, leaving an indelible impression on them," said Narisetti, calling Sunday schools, madrassas, or Jewish or Hindu temples, centers of indoctrination for children.

Nasiretti's proposal would reject the long-recognized inherent rights of parents to educate and provide for their children's religious instruction in favor of regulating children's exposure to religious influence by world governments abiding by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. "The time has come to debate the participation of children in religious institutions," continues Narisetti. "While some might see it as a matter better left to parents, the negative influence of religion and its subsequent contribution to child abuse from religious beliefs and practices requires us to ask whether organized religion is an institution that needs limits set on how early it should have access to children."

The UN forum proposed by Narisetti would debate the "pros and cons" of religion on children and determine whether religion contributes to global child abuse. "The UN must then take a clear stand on the issue of the forced involvement of children in religious practices; it must speak up for the rights of children and not the automatic right of parents and societies to pass on religious beliefs, and it must reexamine whether an organization like the Vatican should belong to the UN," stated Narisetti. "Until this happens, millions of children worldwide will continue to be abused in the name of religion, and the efforts made by the UN will continue to address the symptoms but not the disease."



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, July 04, 2007

The dysfunctional University of California system

They think they are little tin gods with no accountability to the taxpayers who fund them

At last count, California had slightly more than 200,000 practicing lawyers and a slightly higher number of registered nurses. The California Postsecondary Education Commission, in a critical report on the University of California's plans to establish a new law school at its Irvine campus, found that the state has no shortage of qualified attorneys. The CPEC staff declared that "the current growth in the number of Bar-certified lawyers will keep pace with or exceed legal demand between now and 2014," and California's "knowledge needs in the domain of legal education can be met by existing public and independent law schools." Heeding that conclusion, the CPEC voted in March to oppose the UC Irvine law school.

Nursing is another story. Even though there's been a significant increase in training programs in recent years, the state has an estimated 17,000 qualified nursing applicants on schools' waiting lists. The Legislature's budget analyst, Elizabeth Hill, issued a report on the state's looming shortage of nurses in May, noting that the University of California, in a study by its San Francisco medical school, forecast a demand for registered nurses in 2014 that's 40,000 higher than the current forecast of supply, given retirement and other factors. Demand will continue to outpace supply, at least from in-state sources, as baby-boom generation nurses retire and they and other members of that immense cohort require more nursing care.

Hill recommended several steps, including supplemental funding to expand nursing education programs and removal of artificial barriers to expansion. The issuance of her report was virtually simultaneous with another event -- a vote by UC regents to authorize UC Irvine to hire a founding dean for its proposed law school at an annual salary of $233,200 to $364,300. It was the regents' figurative thumb of the nose to CPEC and its position.

Why is UC stubbornly plowing ahead with the new law school at Irvine? UC Provost Rory Hume provided one rather arrogant answer. "CPEC's view is there are enough lawyers in California," Hume told the regents. "Our view is there are not enough good lawyers in California."

So here's the situation in a nutshell, as if the events cited above were not self-evident: California has more than enough lawyers now and plenty of public and private law schools to supply whatever we may need in the way of legal beagles in the future, but UC wants to spend many millions of dollars to build a new law school at Irvine. Meanwhile, we have a large and growing shortage of nurses and desperately need more investment in nursing education to alleviate the shortfall. CPEC member Evonne Schultze captured the anomaly perfectly as she voted with the majority to oppose the UC Irvine law school. "If you were going to build a nursing school, I would come and help you lay the bricks, because we need nurses desperately," she said.

It's another illustration of the fundamental dysfunctionality of California's government, its chronic inability to relate to real-world issues and prioritize its limited resources. UC's regents and administrators want to establish a new law school at Irvine because it would, in their view, enhance the school's prestige and, by extension, their own, not to meet any true educational or societal need. It's the same syndrome that drives the state Senate to, as it did a few weeks ago, dump another $5.5 million in precious transportation funds down a bottomless pit called the North Coast Railroad Authority.

As those in political office waste our money on unneeded law schools and inoperable railroads, thousands of would-be nurses are being turned away and vital transportation projects are going unfunded. Go figure.


Muslim prayers at school OK?

A San Diego public school has become part of a national debate over religion in schools ever since a substitute teacher publicly condemned an Arabic language program that gives Muslim students time for prayer during school hours. Carver Elementary in Oak Park added Arabic to its curriculum in September when it suddenly absorbed more than 100 students from a defunct charter school that had served mostly Somali Muslims. After subbing at Carver, the teacher claimed that religious indoctrination was taking place and said that a school aide had led Muslim students in prayer.

An investigation by the San Diego Unified School District failed to substantiate the allegations. But critics continue to assail Carver for providing a 15-minute break in the classroom each afternoon to accommodate Muslim students who wish to pray. (Those who don't pray can read or write during that non-instructional time.) Some say the arrangement at Carver constitutes special treatment for a specific religion that is not extended to other faiths. Others believe it crosses the line into endorsement of religion.

Supporters of Carver say such an accommodation is legal, if not mandatory, under the law. They note the district and others have been sued for not accommodating religious needs on the same level as non-religious needs, such as a medical appointment. Islam requires its adherents to pray at prescribed times, one of which falls during the school day.

While some parents say they care more about their children's education than a debate about religious freedom, the allegations - made at a school board meeting in April - have made Carver the subject of heated discussions on conservative talk radio. District officials have been besieged by letters and phone calls, some laced with invective. The issue has drawn the attention of national groups concerned about civil rights and religious liberty. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Anti-Defamation League, American Civil Liberties Union and the Pacific Justice Institute are some of the groups monitoring developments in California's second-largest school district.

Among the critics is Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel with the nonprofit, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center devoted to "defending the religious freedom of Christians." He said he's "against double standards being used," such as when there is a specific period for Muslim students to pray and not a similar arrangement for Christians. Carver's supporters noted that Christianity and other religions, unlike Islam, do not require their followers to pray at specific times that fall within school hours, when children by law must be in school.

Amid the controversy, the district is studying alternatives to the break to accommodate student prayer. Capitalizing on what it considers a precedent-setting opportunity created by the Carver situation, the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute has offered to help craft a districtwide "Daily Prayer Time Policy." In a letter, the religious-rights organization urged the district to broaden its accommodations to Christians and Jews by setting aside separate classrooms for daily prayer and to permit rabbis, priests and other religious figures to lead children in worship on campuses.

A lawyer representing the district said those ideas would violate the Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion.

The uproar over Carver comes as schools across the country grapple with how to accommodate growing Muslim populations. In recent weeks, the University of Michigan's Dearborn campus has been divided over using student fees to install foot-washing stations on campus to make it easier for Muslim students to cleanse themselves before prayer. "These things are surfacing more and more in many places where large communities of Muslims are coming in and trying to say this is our right," said Antoine Mefleh, a non-Muslim who is an Arabic language instructor with the Minneapolis public schools. His school allows Muslim students to organize an hour of prayer on Fridays - Muslims typically have Friday congregational prayers - and make up class work they miss as a result. During the rest of the week, students pray during lunch or recess.

The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations supports the Carver program. "Our country is transforming demographically, religiously," said Edgar Hopida, the chapter's public relations director. "Our country has to now accommodate things that are not traditionally accounted for before."

Carol Clipper, who is the guardian of two grandchildren enrolled in the school's Arabic program, said she believes students should be "given the freedom" to pray. Clipper is Christian, and her grandchildren are being raised in both Islam and Christianity. "I take them to the mosque and they go to church with me," she said. Another parent, Tony Peregrino, whose son is not in the Arabic program, said he's OK with the Muslim students praying. What he cares about, he said, is that teachers are doing their job, and his son's education is not affected.

Courts have ruled on a series of school prayer cases over the past half-century, but legal scholars say a lack of clarity remains. "This is an area where the law is notoriously erratic," said Steven Smith, a constitutional law professor at the University of San Diego. Voluntary prayers by students are protected private speech, the courts have said. That means students can say grace before a meal and have Bible study clubs on campus, and several San Diego schools do. Public school employees, however, cannot lead children in prayer on campus. Students also can be excused for religious holidays, such as Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and Good Friday during Holy Week. The federal Equal Access Act requires that extracurricular school clubs, religious and non-religious, be treated equally.

San Diego Unified was sued in 1993 when it denied a University City High School student's request to hold lunchtime Bible fellowship. The court found the district discriminated against religion, because it allowed secular clubs to meet during lunch. Brent North, a lawyer retained by the district to address concerns related to the Carver program, said the district learned from the University City High case to be "careful about restricting students' right to their own private religious expression, including when it's on campus."

The district cites Department of Education guidelines on prayer: "Where school officials have a practice of excusing students from class on the basis of parents' requests for accommodation of non-religious needs, religiously motivated requests for excusal may not be accorded less favorable treatment."

The midday prayer for Muslims here generally falls between 1 and 2 p.m., North said, and that is before the school day ends. "What is unique about this request is the specificity of the religious requirement that a prayer be offered at a certain time on the clock," he said. North went on to say, "The district's legal obligation in response to a request that a prayer must be performed at a particular time is to treat that request the same as it would treat a student's request to receive an insulin shot at a particular time."

Mefleh, the Minneapolis Arabic instructor, said he allows his Muslim students to pray at the end of class during the monthlong observance of Ramadan, Islam's holiest period. "Some accommodation has to come from both sides," he said. "I just tell them prayer is good. Class is good, too. Your time is precious. You have to come to an agreement with them without making a big fuss. If you want to pray, I understand, but I don't want to interrupt the class too much."



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, July 03, 2007

NYT Attacks Anti-PC Documentary, Defends College Censorship of Conservatives

Joseph Berger's column on education doubled as a film review. "Film Portrays Stifling of Speech, but One College's Struggle Reflects a Nuanced Reality" criticized an anti-PC documentary, "Indoctrinate U," by bringing in an incident that occurred at Vassar college that was not even featured in the movie. Berger actually defended Vassar punishing a conservative campus publication by defunding it and shutting it down for a year.

"A new documentary is making the rounds that argues, with vivid examples, that the nation's colleges are squelching freedom of expression and are no longer free marketplaces of ideas. "The film carries the striking title 'Indoctrinate U,' and was made by Evan Coyne Maloney, who describes himself as a libertarian and is looking for a national distributor. "The film borrows the technique of ambush interviews from an ideological opposite, Michael Moore, and tells how at California Polytechnic State University, a student underwent a daylong disciplinary hearing for posting a flier publicizing a black speaker whose talk was titled, 'It’s O.K. to Leave the Plantation.' "

The Times certainly likes Moore's films more than they do Maloney's.

"Does the film offer a fair picture of campus life in 2007, or is it just a pastiche of notorious events? One answer might be found here at Vassar, which faced its own dispute over what some called hate speech and others 'political correctness,' and emerged with its integrity more or less intact."

Why is "political correctness" in quote marks and "hate speech" not?

"The Imperialist, a publication of the school’s Moderate, Independent and Conservative Student Alliance, published a contributor's article in 2005 that criticized social centers for minority and gay students. The article called such centers 'ghettos' and said they turned Vassar into a 'zoological preserve.' "Students complained that the language was insulting and called for banning The Imperialist. For weeks, the issue was debated by the student association, which finances the publication. Ultimately, the group withheld its money for one year and publication was suspended."

Berger ludicrously defended the college's censorship.

"What was notable was that Vassar, a college of 2,360 students founded in the 19th century on progressive ideals -- and a place where conservatives remain a distinct minority -- hashed out the matter without violence and did not trash or burn newspapers as has happened at other campuses. "The Imperialist is publishing once again. Vassar seems to have made a distinction between forbidding publication of an idea and not allowing gratuitous racial insults to be hurled while examining that idea. 'Ultimately, free speech was respected,' said Mark Goreczny, 20, a student. 'There was a dialogue, polarized as it may have been.'"

Filmmaker Maloney doesn't understand the Times' treatment of his movie.

"Most of the article was spent addressing cases that weren’t in the film, rather than addressing what was in the film. The author also claims that 'professors, administrators and students say the national picture is far more complicated than that pictured in "Indoctrinate U,"' although I don't know how they could know that, because none of those people actually saw the film.

"One of the examples cited in the article (but not the film) was the case of a student paper published by Vassar's Moderate, Independent and Conservative Student Alliance. It was an odd selection of cases if the point was to argue that there's more 'nuance' to reality than what is shown in Indoctrinate U, because a close inspection of this case shows that it actually backs up the thesis of my film.

"The paper was de-funded and shut down for a year after publishing a piece criticizing the school’s funding of special 'social centers' for minority and gay students. But because the paper was eventually allowed to start publishing again -- the following year -- the Vassar case is presented as one in which '[u]ltimately, free speech was respected.' Sorry, but shutting down a paper for a year is not a benign event, and it is certainly not one in which we can say ;free speech was respected.' If Homeland Security shut down the Times for a year after exposing ways that we track terrorist financing, I'm sure they’d understand my position on this."

Heh! Maloney continued:

"Rather than address the multiple cases in the film where people were told to see school psychologists because they had the wrong set of views, rather than address the fact that people's academic careers were put in jeopardy for things like being registered in the 'wrong' political party, this piece ignores the evidence presented in the film to set up an alternative straw man to knock down. "And when the author finally gets around to discussing cases that are actually in the film, he minimizes them by leaving out the most vital information.”

Back to Berger's criticism of "Indoctrinate U":

"A spectrum of professors, administrators and students say the national picture is far more complicated than that pictured in 'Indoctrinate U,' a point the dust-up at Vassar illustrates. Yes, periodically there are embarrassing incidents, like the disruption of speakers at Columbia last October who opposed illegal immigration. But most colleges are still places where unorthodox ideas are explored and debated."

Many conservatives would settle for a place where "orthodox ideas" are debated -- opposition to illegal immigration is quite mainstream and popular, as shown by today's defeat of Bush's immigration bill.


British school admission policies severely handicap younger children

Babies born in the summer are at least 20 per cent less likely than those born in winter to go to university, research suggests. An analysis of university admission by month of birth indicates that 10,000 young people each year fail to go to university because they were born late in the school year. Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that although it had long been known that summer babies, who were the youngest in their class, tended to perform less well at school than winter babies it had long been assumed that the summer babies “caught up” with their peers by their teens.

Figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England suggest that this is not the case. Boys born in August are 25 per cent less likely to go to university than those born in September. Girls born in August are 20 per cent less likely to attend than those born in September. Mr Bekhradnia said: “There can be a 20 per cent age difference between a five-year-old and a six-year-old in the same class at school. The younger child may be far behind in developmental terms and may simply not know what is going on. This can have the effect of turning them off.”

When the disadvantages of birth month are combined with the performance of students by gender, the results are more startling. Girls born in September are 50 per cent more likely to attend university than boys born in August.

Mr Bekhradnia said that disadvantage caused by birth month was easily avoidable because it was the direct result of the “administrative convenience” demanded by local authorities and schools when admitting children into reception classes at age 5. The solution, he suggested, would be to make it easier for summer-born children to be held back a year if they were struggling to keep up with older children in their class — a practice used successfully in other countries.

Chris Saleh, of the Institute for Education, said that whereas summer babies of high ability tended to catch up with their peers, less able children often failed to gain parity. “Summer babies who are less able are often less mature and, as the years go by, they do less of the curriculum than other, older children in their class. That makes it harder and harder for them to catch up,” Ms Saleh said. But she rejected the suggestion of allowing children to repeat a year of school. A better solution, she suggested, may be to give schools, families and local authorities more flexibility over when to admit children.


Western Australia clinging grimly to its "postmodern" school assessment system

Thus giving teachers a useless extra workload

The State School Teachers Union says teachers are struggling to meet the conflicting demands of a federally-imposed marking system which requires students to be graded from A to E. The union's President Mike Keely says teachers are being forced to combine conflicting directives from the Federal and State Governments which are simply incompatible. Under the Federal system teachers are forced to award students traditional A to E grades, while the State Government requires levels-based assessment through grading charts.

Mr Keely says in many cases politicians are enforcing systems without any idea of their implications. "We are now coping with the Federal Minister's A-B-C and D system and E system, even for students in year one which is absurd, and we are also coping with a levels system which for many teachers in the state is still problematic," he said.

He says the two systems are simply incompatible and the union is doing all it can to change them, but teachers are working hard to overcome the challenges within the marking system. "I have a great deal of trust in teachers. Teachers have always been able to say to students look you will do well if you pick up this course, this course and this course, in year 11 and on to year 12, we are very good at that, we have been doing it for a long time, we will tell students and parents if necessary that grade doesn't give a good indication."



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, July 02, 2007

American kids being robbed of their history

Tens of millions of Americans are about to celebrate our nation’s Founding. The worrisome question is, will future generations take to this celebration the way we have for the past 231 years if they do not know the first, second, or third thing about their country?

Two years ago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough told the U.S. Senate that American History was our nation’s worst subject in school. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (a.k.a., “our Nation’s Report Card”), released last month, bears that out again. Our children do worse in American history than they do in reading or math. McCullough testified we were facing the prospect of national amnesia, saying, “Amnesia of society is just as detrimental as amnesia for the individual. We are running a terrible risk. Our very freedom depends on education, and we are failing our children in not providing that education.” McCullough is right, and it is a double tragedy: a) our children no longer know their country’s history and b) the story they do not know is the greatest political story ever told.

It is not our children’s fault. Our country’s adults are expected to instill a love of country in its children, but the greatness and purpose of that country are mocked by the chattering classes: Newspaper columns and television reports drip with a constant cynicism about America while doubts about her motives on the world stage are the coin of the realm. Too many commentators are too ready to believe the worst about our leaders and our country, and our children’s history books — and even some of the teachers — close off any remaining possibility of helping children learn about their country.

Many of our history books are either too tendentious — disseminating a one-sided, politically correct view of the history of the greatest nation that ever existed; or, worse, they are boring — providing a watered down, anemic version of a people who have fought wars at home and abroad for the purposes of liberty and equality, conquered deadly diseases, and placed men on the moon.

Today, we have textbooks that give several chapters to Bill Clinton’s “reinventing government” theme but dismiss Dwight Eisenhower’s support of the Interstate Highway Act in 1956 with a single sentence. Young Americans are likely to learn more about Eisenhower’s impact on the country by actually driving with their parents on an Interstate and seeing the signs by the roadside than by reading biased textbooks.

The National History Standards team completely missed the moon. They called for standards which emphasized Soviet gains in space in the 1960s and the American Challenger disaster in 1986, but they completely omitted any reference to the U.S. landing on the moon.

Historians of greater standing, like the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pointed to the moon landing as the greatest event of the 20th century. It happens also to have been JFK’s greatest success. Schlesinger is right and the standards are wrong. Yet none of the drama of the race to the moon is captured in textbooks today. Students are more likely to know about the failed Apollo XIII mission from the truly excellent Hollywood movie than they are to know that Astronaut Jim Lovell was also on the very successful Apollo 8 mission of 1968. President Johnson, alerted that the Soviets might try a loop-around the Moon and claim to have beaten us, ordered Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders to make the hazardous journey. NASA told the astronaut wives their husbands’ chances of a safe return were only 50-50. Our astronauts circled the moon that year and read from the Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve! The Soviets had bragged that their earlier victories in space proved that atheist Marxism was true. Isn’t John F. Kennedy’s legacy worth a more dramatic and compelling treatment than students are given today?

At least when a textbook is one-sided, however, it could give a student something to argue about; but boredom in our curriculum promises only the death of the subject matter as well as any interest in it. What a shame that great men and women like George Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King Jr, and so many others should be consigned to brief mentions only, and then to the sighs of uninterested study. Their stories are just not told.

The textbooks are not the only indicators of the growing national amnesia that begins in childhood. Almost every young citizen’s first introduction to George Washington is a boring, snaffle-mouthed picture on our main currency, the dollar bill. Is this the appropriate depiction of the man once known as the “the fiercest chieftain in the forest?” Who would know he was in his early forties during the Revolution he led, and not guess that he was destined for a convalescent home?

Who knows that America’s war against Islamist terror did not begin on September 11, 2001, but that Thomas Jefferson fought our first war on terror, against Muslim slave traders in North Africa who had enslaved some 1.25 million Europeans some 200 years earlier? Children are not taught this.

Not so long ago, we knew our history as the inscription atop the National Archives in Washington declaring what is contained beneath: “The Glory and Romance of Our History.” How to preserve, how to recapture and re-teach, that glory and romance when over one-third of our eighth graders and over fifty percent of our twelfth graders perform below even “a partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work” at their given grades according to the Nation’s Report Card in History?

Let us call for a renewal. Begin with the texts. Let us have a national contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Department of Education for better history textbooks, and grant the winners emoluments and recognition. Judges should be award-winning teachers, tour guides, National Park Rangers, and parents — all of whom are known to love their subject. There really is no good reason for a dulled down history. As McCullough put it, to take what was once “a source of infinite pleasure” and make it “boring,” “is a crime.”

While speaking of money, let us start with a child’s first introduction to George Washington — the dollar bill. We should replace the picture of him now, which represents nothing and nobody anyone would want to study, much less respect, with an engraving based on Jean-Antoine Houdon’s magnificent 1785 sculpture of Washington. It is the most accurate depiction of Washington in life that we have, depicting a virile man at the height of his physical and mental powers. In this sculpture Washington is the man old men respected and young men wanted to ride with. He is also the gallant hero all the young ladies wanted to dance with. But he is more, much more.

As commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, Washington in 1775 firmly ordered his soldiers not to celebrate Pope’s Day. It had been a New England tradition for 150 years to set afire effigies of the pope. These straw men were filled with live cats whose screams were said to be those of the popes in Hell. Washington knew that the Continental Army “swarmed with Roman Catholic soldiers” and he wisely put an end to such bigotry. He not only ended Pope’s Day in the Army, he ended it in America.

King George III in 1783 said that if General Washington resigned his commission to Congress, then meeting in Annapolis, he really would be “the greatest man on earth.” Washington did that. What does it take to get that kind of praise from your enemy? Go to Annapolis today, and you are likely to be told that “someone told Washington he had to resign.” Similarly, several popular history textbooks simply edit down George Washington (and other greats like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt) to less than greatness; or, they insist on giving equal time to presidents like John Tyler and other figures like Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani.

There’s little sense that textbook writers have taken to heart the criticisms of the rejected National History Standards of 1994. These Standards totally neglected Washington’s role as the first president. For example, Professor Harry Jaffa notes that Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, written in 1790, was the first time in history that any national leader addressed the Jews as equal fellow citizens. Isn’t that remarkable fact worth favorable attention?

These stories about our greats like Washington are accessible in excellent biographies by writers such as Walter Isaacson, David McCullough, and Joseph Ellis. Why don’t high schoolers get them in their texts?

Frederick Douglass is almost forgotten in history, or, as Howard Zinn treats him in his A People’s History of the United States, he is a bitter and harsh critic of the U.S., not the hopeful, humorous, full-blooded reformer crying out for justice. Douglass — a one time slave — was once so popular (and supportive of our leaders) that he turned down a run for president of the United States on a third party ticket in order to campaign for the now historically maligned Ulysses S. Grant. History has been unkind to Grant as well, but Douglass knew him as “the great chieftain whose sword cleft the hydra-head of treasons,” who helped give the black man the vote with his “true heart and good right arm.”

Young Fred knocked down the slave-breaker Edward Covey when his owners on Maryland’s Eastern Shore wanted him beaten into submission. Frederick later wrote the fight was his “resurrection as a man.” Later, he held onto the seat in the first class section of a Massachusetts train. The white conductor enlisted several toughs to beat up Frederick and throw him out of the whites-only section. Frederick protested that he’d purchased his ticket. He wound up on the train platform, bruised and rumpled, but still clutching the seat he’d paid for. Riveting details like these show Frederick Douglass as a man with a passion for justice, a man of courage and combativeness. He was not a potted plant nor was he just another bitter critic of America and her ideals.

While speaking of Douglass, let us re-teach who this man was. He and Lincoln were the greatest political thinkers of their day. Douglass was the greatest Marylander of all time. We should put up a great statue of him in front of Maryland’s Historic Old State House. We can make room for Douglass by moving the statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to the front of the State Archives Building in Annapolis, where he belongs.

While speaking of moving, parents are our children’s first teachers and constitute the single-best Department of Education. While looking for summer vacations and road trips, consider taking your children to some of our great historical sites and monuments where the magic of “once-upon-a-time” can be touched and seen with children’s own two hands and own two eyes: Antietam; Gettysburg; Mt. Rushmore; the Lincoln, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials; the Alamo; Pikes Peak — these are all great vacation destinations, and children will love and know what happened there, what is taught there, the stories there.

In his farewell address to the nation, the large-minded amateur historian President Ronald Reagan warned of what we see in our nation’s report card today, saying “If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.” How much more dangerous is this now, as we fight a war for our very existence and expect young Americans to sign up and fight for a country and way of life worthy of their own lives? In the long run, why will future Americans want to stand up and fight for a country they do not even know — a country in which they are born aliens? How do we ask them to fight, and perhaps die, for a country they do not know?

Our history is full of controversy, suffering, struggling, overcoming, and winning. There is no reason to elevate its failings at the expense of its successes, nor is there reason to ignore its failings or, worse, turn it into a snooze-fest. The task is to tell the truth — but can we not do so in an interesting, lively, and glorious way — the way I know and have seen some teachers do?

The great adventurer Bernard DeVoto once wrote to Catherine Drinker Bowen about why her task as a historian was so important:

If the mad, impossible voyage of Columbus or Cartier or La Salle or Coronado or John Ledyard is not romantic, if the stars did not dance in the sky when our Constitutional Convention met, if Atlantis has any landscape stranger or the other side of the moon any lights or colors or shapes more unearthly than the customary homespun of Lincoln and the morning coat of Jackson, well, I don’t know what romance is.

Indeed. Our history is all that and more, much more. America was, is, and — we hope — will continue to be the place where, more than anyplace else, dreams actually do come true. It is, as Abraham Lincoln described it, “the last best hope of earth.” But to live that dream, to know what hope we convey, and to teach it from generation to generation, we must describe it, appreciate it, and learn to fall in love with it all over again. Thankfully, historical amnesia still has a cure. Let us begin the regimen now.


British boycott call expanded

Delegates of UNISON, UK's largest trade union decided on Wednesday to declare "an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott" on Israel. UNISON said it supported "a campaign of sustained pressure to end Israel's occupation of Palestine." However, Wednesday's decision was only a watered down version of the original proposal. Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said the current boycott was "less harsh but still problematic."

The sanctions that were not approved include a call to boycott products of Israeli companies as well as those produced by UK firms that trade with Israel. Another measure that was dropped was a call to cease investments in Israel.

Meanwhile, UK Minister of State for Higher Education Bill Rammell said this week that the British government was opposed to any academic boycott of Israel. At a meeting with MP Louise Ellman (Labor) and members of the Jewish Labor Movement (JLM), he pledged to help develop relations with Israeli and Palestinian academics.

There was "no justification for singling out Israel" with a campaign of boycotts, Rammell said, adding that such a campaign was inherently discriminatory and threatened to undermine social cohesion. "Education is a tool for increasing awareness and drawing people together," he said. "An academic boycott would drive people further apart and would not assist the peace process." Rammell said his department was prepared to host a seminar of Israeli, Palestinian and British academics. He invited the input of the JLM.

Universities UK (UUK), the executive of all UK university institutions and some colleges of higher education, had clearly opposed a boycott, Rammell said. UUK president Drummond Bone had made that clear on a recent visit to Israel, he said. Rammell said his department would continue to build better community cohesion through antiracist and multi-faith education and by working with other government departments.



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, July 01, 2007

Colleges Score Perfect Grade In Liberal Bias

I was cautiously optimistic that my quest to move from a community college to a four-year school might succeed this time. The gatekeepers at the annual conference of the American Historical Association, where thousands are interviewed but few are chosen, had seen fit to let me pass, and I was now on the campus of a large state university for round two. Everything had gone well: my 75-minute PowerPoint lecture to a class studying early Islamic history, subsequent interviews with the department chair and dean - I was on a roll.

Then I was outed. During a meeting with the search committee, a professor produced irrefutable evidence that I "appeared to be more conservative than others in my field." Worse, the evidence gave him the weapon he needed to deliver the coup de grace: "You sounded like Daniel Pipes!" Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia, a think tank that seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, and a widely published scholar on Middle East issues.

The professor had in hand a two-year-old article, titled "7 Myths about Islam," that I wrote for the History News Network, a Web site run by George Mason University at which professional historians and history buffs read, write and debate myriad topics. In the article, I argued against seven pious falsehoods about Islam that the mainstream media treat as historical facts: Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion; Islam was spread only through peaceful means; poverty produces Muslim terrorists; jihad does not mean holy war.

The committee member took particular offense at another myth I described as "a politically correct mendacity," namely Tony Blair's statement that on 9/11 Islam had been "hijacked by terrorists." He even delivered a brief lecture on the definition of "mendacity" for my edification.

I pointed out the Quranic roots of violence and jihad and insisted that jihadists have firm Islamic roots for their lionization of violence. And I stated plainly (as I had in my lecture earlier that day) that the vast majority of Muslims don't support a seventh-century interpretation of jihad.

In response to the offended academic's demand that I fess up and call Christianity violent, I answered that Christians had indeed practiced violence throughout their history, but that to do so they had to contradict their founder, whereas Muslims had only to emulate theirs. Further, I adduced my Middle East Quarterly article, "Beheading in the Name of Islam," which traces the Quranic, Hadith and historical precedents for jihadist decapitations of non-Muslims.

Challenged by me to refute my work, the objecting professor sidestepped academic evidence - further indication that he lacked the ability to disprove my research. He did, however, betray his political agenda when he said, "Most of our students are conservative Christians who already hold a view of Islam and Muslims similar to yours." Was he suggesting that the role of the history professor is to disabuse his students of their religious beliefs - to transform them into reliable fellow travelers - rather than to engage them with solid research and teaching? If so, he needn't look far for allies.

For another committee member objected that my research into Mahdist (Islamic messianic) movements presented Muslims as imperialists - never mind that the Ottomans were seen as such by co-religionists in Africa and Arabia. Her worldview, shaped by Edward Said's notorious book "Orientalism," would admit of only one kind of imperialism: Western.

No one involved in the selection process objected to the accusations that I was too conservative - too much like Daniel Pipes - to join their faculty. At this university, as at so many others, such charges are seen as rational objections to professional weaknesses, not as politicized protests against candidates who fail to pay proper obeisance to reigning pieties.

Before heading home I met again with the search chair, who tried in vain to assure me that the ideological litmus test I'd just failed in fact had never occurred. I asked her if she had ever heard a committee member accuse a candidate of being "more liberal than others in the field." Of course she answered "never." When the rejection letter arrived, it was hardly a shock.

I now have a personal story that backs up all the empirical studies documenting the bias against conservatives in the academy. If getting a Middle East or Islamic history job at a college or university means converting from following Bernard Lewis to the false messiah Edward Said, I won't be changing jobs anytime soon. I only wish search committees would stop pretending that the diversity they seek is anything other than skin-deep.


Study: Black students lag in success on AP tests

Big surprise!

Participation in the Advanced Placement program has more than doubled in 10 years, but this surge in college-preparatory testing has not reached most black students, according to an analysis of 2006 exam results in 30 school systems with 5,000 or more black high school students.

The Washington Post reviewed AP data from nine of the 10 school systems in the nation with the largest black populations -- from New York City, with 115,963 black students in grades 9 through 12, to Baltimore City, with 22,225. The analysis considered 20 other school systems, all among the 80 largest for black high school populations, that are known for their rigor. The analysis considered the number of passing exams by black students and weighed it against black student enrollment .

Participation among black students has tripled in 10 years. But the numbers were so low 10 years ago that by 2006, none of the largest school systems could meet the goal of having 1,000 passing tests from black students.

The College Board, which administers the AP program, has repeatedly noted a dearth of black students in the courses. Many are reluctant to enroll in AP courses, particularly if it means being the only minority student , said Trevor Packer, AP program director


Failure is an essential part of learning

The denial of failure in classrooms leads to lower expectations among teachers and reduces the intellectual challenge to students: A comment from Australia

In a submission to the Senate inquiry into academic standards of school education, the Council of Professional Teachers of Victoria argues that failure is part of the learning process, and claims it is missing in the 21st-century classroom. The council defends teachers against charges that the profession is the cause of any perceived decline in standards, saying the constant change in curriculum and pedagogies compromises the quality of teaching.

"Teach, from an early age, that some failure can be formative," the submission says. "Failure can help to develop resilience. Do not endorse inadequate effort. Encourage self-knowledge for the most effective teaching and learning strategies. This must be the very essence of community teaching."

The council is the peak body representing more than 40 professional teaching associations with more than 30,000 members in Victoria. After appearing before the Senate inquiry this week, the council's executive officer Olwyn Gray said students were being let down by the lack of intellectual challenge in their classrooms, and that the notion of intellectual risk was increasingly foreign to parents and students.

Ms Gray said students had an expectation they would always succeed, which was not how the real world worked. "Life isn't a level playing field. I don't want to condemn children to an underclass of underachievers but they need to strive, to say I did well this time and this is the next hurdle," she said. "If teachers work successfully with students who fail a particular task, you're helping these children develop resilience. "When a child fails, they go back and say, 'OK, I'll try another tack', and find they learn better a certain way. With a stronger degree of self-knowledge brought about by failure, you're not so depressed when you can't do something; you go back with resilience and it helps you take further intellectual risks."

Ms Gray said Australian students performed well on international assessments of competence in different subjects, but did less well in tests placing greater emphasis on rote learning, particularly compared with their counterparts in Asia.

So many reforms were imposed on teachers, she said, and these were often viewed as being change for change's sake and left no time for teachers to contemplate and refine what they did: "Teachers are just reeling from it -- you get used to the vocabulary and methodology of one thing and then you're on to the next. People get cynical."

Ms Gray said her belief was that the problem started in teacher training courses, which were too theoretical, emphasising different theories of learning rather than providing a range of strategies for different students. "Teachers need to learn a variety of methods for a variety of students because students learn in different ways," she said. "Rote learning is one way -- you need to learn phonic combinations of letters and sounds that way, and the times tables. "But they're the basics, just building blocks."



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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