Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yale "principles" dissolve in money

Though "posturing" would be a better word than "principles"

Yale Law School will end its policy of not working with military recruiters following a court ruling this week that jeopardized about $300 million in federal funding, school officials said Wednesday.

Yale and other universities had objected to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gay men and women to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves. Yale Law School had refused to assist military recruiters because the Pentagon wouldn't sign a nondiscrimination pledge.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Yale on Monday, rejecting its argument that its right to academic freedom was infringed by federal law that says universities must give the military the same access as other job recruiters or forfeit federal money.

"The fact is we have been forced under enormous pressure to acquiescence in a policy that we believe is deeply offensive and harmful to our students," said Robert Burt, a Yale law professor who was lead plaintiff in the case.


School cheating scandal divides N.H. town: Criminal charges too harsh, some say

It would be a most destructive precedent if these kids were let off without significant penalty

Academics is serious business in this well-to-do town, where life revolves around Dartmouth College. Ivy League credentials rank alongside Subaru wagons and restored farmhouses as status symbols, and high school students are expected to excel and land acceptances to prestigious universities.

So, as final exams loomed and pressure built last June at Hanover High School, some students hatched a scheme for acing the tests: One evening after school was out, a group of students entered the school building, authorities say. While some stood sentry in hallways, others entered a classroom and used stolen keys to break into a teacher's filing cabinet and steal exams for advanced math honors, advanced math, Algebra II, and calculus. Five days later, another group stole chemistry finals. In total, some 50 students are suspected of participating in the thefts, either helping to plan them or receiving answers from stolen exams.

Rather than issuing suspensions or grade demotions, school officials notified police. And after a seven-week investigation, the police prosecutor handling the case brought criminal charges against nine students. Last week, the prosecutor notified the nine students' parents that if they chose to take the cases to trial, he could raise misdemeanor charges to felonies, which carry possible prison terms of 3 1/2 to seven years.

Parents of the accused are furious and frantically trying to reduce charges to violations that carry no criminal penalties, penalties they say could harm their children's chances of attending college or securing employment. The scandal has divided the community, with some residents laying blame squarely on the nine accused students - dubbed "the Notorious Nine" - while others have questioned whether the intense competitiveness of 750-student Hanover High forced students into positions of having to cheat.

Some have also questioned the motives of police, suggesting they are using the incident to show that children of privilege - the parents of the accused include a physician, a business school professor, a hospital president, and a columnist at a local newspaper - are not above the law.

Christopher O'Connor, the prosecutor, said in a telephone interview that he is treating the students as he would anyone who had committed a crime of similar magnitude. Although 17-year-olds are treated as adults in criminal cases in New Hampshire, he said he had opted to charge them with Class B misdemeanors, which carry maximum penalties of $1,200 fines, rather than Class A, which carry possible prison terms. "What I look at from my office . . . is whether someone should be held accountable for their actions and whether charges are consistent with the charges of other kids their ages," O'Connor said.

Nancy Gray, the Grafton County attorney who would handle the cases if O'Connor chooses to upgrade them to felonies, said the crimes the students allegedly committed are serious and deserve serious consequences.


Public schooling's divisive effect

Public schooling, we are told, is the linchpin of American unity and democracy. "If common schools go, then we are no longer America," writes Paul D. Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "The original critical mission of the common schools was . . . to be places where the ideals of civic virtue were passed down to the next generation. They were to prepare citizens for our democracy. They were to be places where the children of our democracy would learn to live together."

In a similar vein, Benjamin R. Barber, author of the best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, asserts that public schools are "the very foundation of our democratic civic culture . . . institutions where we learn what it means to be a public and start down the road toward common national and civic identity. They are the forges of our citizenship and the bedrock of our democracy."

These are, without a doubt, very powerful images, and their widespread acceptance long has undergirded Americans' assumption that government-run schools always have been, and always will be, essential to the nation's unity, but "powerful" and "accurate" are far from synonymous. Consider: In the 1840s, disputes over the Bible's place in Philadelphia's public schools sparked rioting that inflicted millions of dollars in damage and killed or injured hundreds of people. In 1925, the Scopes "monkey trial" captured the nation's attention as the legality of teaching evolution in public schools was fought first in a Tennessee courtroom and, then, to accommodate the thousands of people who showed up for the spectacle, on the lawn outside the courthouse. In the mid 1970s, court-ordered busing of children in Boston precipitated constant brawling in the schools and unrest in the streets. Finally, tensions were so high in Miami last year over the removal of books from school libraries that one school board member reported that his colleagues feared that they "might find a bomb under their automobiles."

These and many, many incidents like them reveal deep cracks in the "unity and democracy" argument for public schooling. Moreover, history points to other American institutions as being much more important to the nation's harmony, freedom, and prosperity than government- run schooling. Overall, it has been the nation's commitment to limited government and individual liberty-not public schools' ability to indoctrinate children into some civic religion, or to mold them into "proper" Americans- that has been the key to U.S. success.

Decisions debated literally every day in public schools thrust Americans into political conflict, whether over district budgets, dress codes, the amount of time children spend in art classes, or countless other matters. To see this, most people need do little more than read about school board meetings in their local newspapers. Although schools and districts may confront their own, specific issues, the conflicts those issues produce are driven by the same dynamic: All taxpayers must support the public schools, but only those able to summon sufficient political power can determine what the schools will teach and how they will be run. Because of that, political fighting is inherent to the system.

All public school conflicts have the potential to inflict social pain, but the most wrenching are those that pit people's fundamental values- values that cannot be proven right or wrong, and that deserve equal respect by government- against each other. Whereas most conflicts have unique immediate causes, there are several common refrains that arise time and again.

Below are the general categories of these recent school battles. None, clearly, garnered more national attention than the wrestling matches over intelligent design, with 18 states reporting some debate over it and conflicts in Kansas and Pennsylvania grabbing headlines across the country. Other controversies were almost as widespread, including clashes over students' right to protest government policies without facing punishment from governmental entities (i.e., public schools) and tussles over "abstinence only" sex education. Simply put, forcing diverse people to support monolithic government school systems inevitably causes political and social conflict. What follows are some of the major national flash points:

* Conflicts over the inclusion of intelligent design theory in science classes actually were just the most recent skirmishes in the seemingly endless evolution-creationism struggle, a battle that pits people who want only evolution taught in biology classes against those who want children to learn about perceived flaws in Darwin's Theory of Evolution or alternative explanations-often religious-for the origins of life.

There were two major intelligent design battlegrounds: Dover, Pa., and the entire state of Kansas. In Dover, a school district policy requiring biology students to hear a disclaimer stating that Darwinian evolution is a theory, not a fact, and directing students to the intelligent design book, Of Pandas and People, eventually ended up in a Federal court. There, the policy was declared unconstitutional. The damage, however, already had been done. As ABC News reported a few months after the school board approved the disclaimer, the people of Dover were deeply torn over the school board's actions, and it was not uncommon for townspeople to refuse even to speak to those in their community who came down on the opposite side of the issue.

Kansas, for its part, continued a long-running roller coaster ride that has seen the state board of education change its stance on evolution several times in recent years. In August 2005, the board voted to include greater questioning of evolution in state science standards, returning to a policy akin to one it enacted in 1999, but reversed two years later. This appears to have been followed by yet another reversal: In August 2006, the evolution-skeptic majority on the board was eliminated in primary elections, likely switching the board back to a pro-evolution majority.

Although the focus was on Dover and Kansas, intelligent design provoked conflict nationwide. Pres. George W. Bush even weighed in on the controversy, asserting that "both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about." In all, at least 18 school districts, school boards, or state legislatures debated how evolution should be handled in public schools.

* The fundamental conflict in freedom-of-expression battles is between students' rights to say or wear what they want, and other students' ability to obtain the education to which they are entitled (and for which taxpayers have paid) without disruption or feeling threatened. In these cases, the Federal constitutional prohibition against government choosing what expression is acceptable collides head-on with the schools' obligation to provide children with the education that they are entitled to. Included under this heading are such common grounds for dispute as dress codes, administrator oversight of student journalism, and simple student speech.

By far the biggest cause of free expression fights was the series of immigration protests that swept the nation. Numerous schools and districts struggled with how to discipline students who skipped school to attend rallies, and many others faced challenges maintaining peace on school grounds as students took sides in the highly flammable debate.

A situation that illuminated the quandary school administrators found themselves in last year occurred at Fallbrook (Calif.) High School, where student Malia Fontana had an incident report placed in her file after a school security officer saw an American flag in her back pocket. The district had prohibited students from displaying flags on the heels of a violent student demonstration at the nearby Oceanside school district, in which pupils threw milk cartons and other objects at police, who then responded with pepper spray.

School officials believed that various flags had become powerful-and dangerous-symbols in immigration-related tensions and banned their display to help maintain order. The ACLU, however, threatened to sue the Fallbrook district on grounds that it had violated Fontana's civil rights.

All told, a minimum of 20 states experienced freedom of expression controversies.

* From the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to The Catcher in the Rye, fights over what books should or should not be in school libraries or taught in classes have been a permanent feature of public schooling. The basic problem is this: Government neither has the right to censor speech nor to compel people to support the speech of others, yet public schooling does both. Whenever a school district buys a book with public funds, it forces every district taxpayer to support the speech contained in it, and whenever it removes a book from a library, it condemns that speech.

Nowhere did book banning prove more divisive than in the Miami-Dade school district. There, the school board ordered the removal -from bookshelves district-wide-of Vamos a Cuba, a book charged with portraying Fidel Castro's country in far too rosy a light, as well as all the other volumes in the 24-book collection to which it belonged. The removal did not occur, though, until tempers in Miami had reached feverish levels.

Ethnically diverse Miami, however, was not the only site of book banning conflict. Relatively homogeneous Carroll County, Md., also was beset by a censorship controversy when, at the request of some district parents, Superintendent Charles I. Ecker pulled The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things from school shelves. The award-winning book depicted such things as self-mutilation and date rape that the aggrieved parents thought inappropriate for children. After a great outcry from members of the community who wanted the book restored, Ecker consented to returning the book to high school shelves while maintaining the ban in middle schools. Still, at least one student intends to fight on for a complete ban. "I'm not going to accept a [committee's] decision that is stacked against the values of Carroll County," said 17-year-old Joel Ready.

Book-banning battles were not as prevalent as evolution or expression fights, but they still were common, occurring in at least eight states-and those were just the ones for which we found major media stories. According to the American Library Association, however, book fights probably were much more common than that. In 2004, for instance, ALA Executive Director Beverly Becker said her group received reports of 547 book challenges, and she estimated that to be only onequarter of the likely number.

* Perhaps nothing-not even creationism- has produced as much anger as the portrayal of different races, ethnicities, and cultures in America's schools. What groups should be included in history textbooks? What aspects of their histories? How does a school handle disputed "facts" about different groups? Questions such as these have produced a geyser of vitriol, as states and school districts try to decide what every student under their authority will learn-or not learn-about the myriad groups that make up our society.

California's Hindu uprising

California was the site of perhaps the most fierce dispute, as Hindus expressed great discontent with history books currently approved by the state that they say egregiously misrepresent Hinduism-and, as a result, Indian history- by focusing on the caste system and oppression of women. Those are common smears, they claim, dating back to British rule over India. Many historians, though, have disagreed with their complaints, arguing that right-wing Hindus are trying to whitewash history. Hindu reaction to the dispute has been intense. According to Glee Johnson, president of the state school board, the board received over 1,500 letters and e-mails from the Hindu community in a single week. "To many people, it gets very emotional," Johnson explains. "This is not just about academics, but is tied in to people's view of themselves and their history."

For the year, fires over the inclusion and treatment of different cultures, races, and ethnic groups in school curricula and textbooks burned in at least 11 states.

* Forced segregation by race has been a blot on American society since the nation's earliest days. However, government-mandated integration also has been problematic, often robbing people of control over their own lives in order to atone for past discrimination. At issue in disputes between segregation and freedom often is whether different racial groups, genders, or ethnicities should be allowed to go to schools and classes intended to serve them specifically or whether integration is of overriding importance.

Integration versus self-determination became a very high-profile issue in Nebraska when the state's only black state senator amended education legislation so that it split Omaha's school district along racial lines. "Several years ago, I began discussing in my community the possibility of carving our area out of Omaha Public Schools and establishing a district over which we would have control," Sen. Ernie Chambers said during the debate on the floor of the legislature. "My intent is not to have an exclusionary system, but [one] we, meaning black people, whose children make up the vast majority of the student population, would control." Despite Chambers' intent to give Omaha's African-Americans control over their own schools, many black leaders in Nebraska disagreed with his efforts. "This is a disaster," declared Ben Gray, cochairman of the African-American Achievement Council.

Struggles between integration and self-determination were limited to only about five states but, where they occurred, passions ran high.

* Parents who wanted their children to receive no sex education in schools or just abstinence education were in regular fights with parents who wanted their offspring to be provided more comprehensive sex education. From upper- middle class Montgomery County, Md., to the Kyrene Elementary School District in Tempe, Ariz., the determination of what children should be taught about sex created significant political tension. At a minimum, 13 states saw controversies over this issue.

* The treatment of homosexuals personally, and homosexuality in principle, repeatedly led to clashes between parents and students who opposed homosexuality on moral grounds and those who wanted all students to learn about- and to tolerate-it. Public schooling's mission to unite diverse people came into direct conflict with varying moral and ethical values. In Lexington, Mass., conflict broke out when a teacher read the book King & King to secondgrade students. The book is about a prince who falls in love with another prince, marries him, and at the end it shows the two kissing.

"My son is only seven years old," Robin Wirthlin told the Boston Globe. "By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they're trying to indoctrinate our children. They're intentionally presenting this as a norm, and it's not a value that our family supports." Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash countered that the schools' obligation is to be inclusive and expose students to all types of lifestyles. "Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in and, in Massachusetts, samesex marriage is legal." Moreover, Ash laid bare the heart of the public schooling problem: "We couldn't run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed."

In Utah, the homosexuality debate was a little different from Lexington's, but had the same roots. There, a state legislator tried to ban Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, while club defenders argued that they are entitled to equal protection and, hence, to have their organizations in schools just like any other group. Conservatives like Utah Eagle Forum Pres. Gayle Ruzicka argued, however, that "most of the districts don't want the clubs."

At least eight states suffered disputes over homosexuality's treatment in the public schools.

* Though overlapping several of the other categories, the treatment of religion itself in public education brought Americans into regular conflict. Whether it was dealing with prayer in public school districts, accommodating the holidays of all faiths, giving equal access to religious student groups, or teaching about the Bible, the friction between religious freedom and compelled support of religion in public schools was constant.

By our count, 17 states experienced some sort of religious conflict instigated by public schooling.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Uneducated students

Students don't know much about history, and colleges aren't adding enough to their civic literacy, says a report out today. The study from the non-profit Intercollegiate Studies Institute shows that less than half of college seniors knew that Yorktown was the battle that ended the American Revolution or that NATO was formed to resist Soviet expansion. Overall, freshmen averaged 50.4% on a wide-ranging civic literacy test; seniors averaged 54.2%, both failing scores if translated to grades.

"One of the things our research demonstrates conclusively is that an increase in what we call civic knowledge almost invariably leads to a use of that knowledge in a beneficial way," says Josiah Bunting, chairman of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board. "This is useful knowledge we are talking about."

Failing Our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America's History and Institutions analyzes scores of a test given to 14,419 freshmen and seniors at 50 U.S. colleges last fall on American history, government, international relations and market economy. Freshman and senior scores at the schools, 25 selective and 25 randomly chosen, were compared to gauge civic learning. The report generally echoes the results of a similar study done last fall by the ISI, which promotes civics in higher education. This year:

* Average scores for the 25 selective colleges - chosen for type, geographic location and U.S. News & World Report ranking - were much higher than the 25 randomly selected schools for both freshmen (56.6% vs. 43.7%) and seniors (59.4% vs. 48.4%), but the elite schools didn't add as much civic knowledge between the freshman and senior years. At elite schools, the seniors averaged 2.8 points higher than the freshmen vs. 4.7 points for the randomly selected schools.

* Harvard seniors had the highest average at 69.6%, 5.97 points higher than its freshmen but still a D+. A Harvard senior posted the only perfect score.

* In general, the better a college's U.S. News & World Report ranking, the less its civic literacy gain. Yale, with the highest-scoring freshmen (68.94%), along with Princeton, Duke and Cornell, were among eight schools with freshmen outscoring seniors.

* The average senior had taken four college courses in history, economics or political science and scored 3.8 points higher than the average freshman, a civic knowledge gain of about one point per course.

* Raw scores did not correlate to voting or civic participation, but the more seniors outscored their school's freshman average, the more likely they were to vote and be involved in civic activities.

"Several of the colleges at the lower end of our survey are some of the most prestigious in the country, with average tuition, room and board somewhere north of $40,000 a year," Bunting says. "These are the schools, although their stated mission is to help prepare active citizens, that are the most derelict in their responsibility." While freshmen at elite colleges tended to score higher to start with, there is not much of a "ceiling effect" in which gains get harder to make closer to the top, as their scores are still not that high, says Kenneth Dautrich of the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy, which administered the study.

Still, "in many cases, these students are coming from high schools where the subject matter has already been covered," notes Tony Pals of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "It would be a waste of their tuition dollars to sit through the courses again."

To William Galston, Brookings Institution senior fellow of governance studies, the distinctions between schools aren't as clear as the general decline in the civic mission of high schools and colleges. More students are getting more formal education than students 50 years ago, he says, but today's students have fewer civics requirements as the value of higher education is more often defined in economic terms. "Less is being expected of secondary and post-secondary education in the way of civic education, and because less is expected, less is achieved," he says.

No one would argue that college students know enough about history or the world, but a civics test may not be the best measure of civic engagement, says Debra Humphreys of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, which promotes liberal education. Other studies have shown that college students are much more likely to vote and be civically engaged than non-students, she adds. Says Humphreys: "It would be wrong to conclude from this study that the leadership of these selective schools is not committed to educating their students about these subjects."


Teacher Asks Kids: Renounce Citizenship

One often hears that government schools in totalitarian nations brainwash their children to love the government. People in free nations decry that as oppressing the free will of innocent children, and rightly so. In American schools, however, just the opposite is true as with the case of an anti-American teacher in a public school in Chico, California who hates this country so much that he sent a letter home to his student's parents urging them to renounce their citizenship in the U.S. as he announced he was so doing.

Since the troubling work of the so-called progressives led by John Dewey that has resulted in the near destruction of our institutes of higher learning, American schools have been steadily undermining this country. For a long time, at least, it was isolated mostly in the Universities safely removed from our youngest and most vulnerable students. Now, this pernicious and self-loathing force is commonly seen in even our elementary and high schools all too often. Supposed "teachers" who so hate the United States, its culture, history and ideals that they are willing to cast aside any pretense of teaching and are going straight for political indoctrination of their own hate filled ideology appear everywhere you turn.

This is the case of yet another American hater, another Ward Churchillesque propagandist infesting an American public school, one paid for by public funds, who is advocating the destruction of the United States by teaching things antithetical to our nation.

"Teacher" Mike Brooks is teaching his 14-year-old, middle school children that the U.S. tortures people and that it is better to be a member of "the global community" than to be an American. He is so filled with hate against the U.S.A. that he even sent a letter home to his student's parents asking them to renounce their citizenship in the U.S.

Worse than this, the school's principal is so mindless that she is sticking up for this enemy to our country by saying she is sure Brooks "has no political agenda to advance." Clearly he does with his advocacy that his students turn against their own country.

Parent Michael Hill of Chico tells reporters, "The lesson being taught in class was that the U.S. kidnaps innocent people and takes them to Cuba, where they are kept indefinitely and tortured." Hill went on to say that his daughter, "broke into tears when she talked about Brooks mentioning illegal wiretaps and other surveillance directed against innocent people."

The letter this propagandist for unAmerican ideologies sent out re-imagined the Declaration of Independence in "modern language" and ended with the teacher's postscript renouncing his citizenship in the U.S. "After careful consideration of the facts of our current situation, I have decided to announce to everyone that I am no longer a citizen of the United States, but a free and independent member of the global community," it read. Then he insisted that parents sign this letter so that his children may return it to his classroom. Many of the children felt pressured into having their parents sign it, though this purported teacher claims he meant only to start a "discussion."

I would suggest to the Chico, California schools system that they allow this "independent member of the global community" to go find a job in a Madrassa somewhere where his hate-America ideology will be welcomed with open arms and where he will not have his truly wasted salary paid for by the tax payers of the country he so hates.

This story can be added to another recent and outrageous one from Sampson County, North Carolina. There a local High School banned the U.S. flag from being displayed on articles of clothing. In true, mindless "zero tolerance" style, the U.S. flag was banned along with that of any other nation because too many Mexican kids were wearing Mexican flag items to school.

Not only are schools anti-American, but they are filled with gutless and stupid administrators, as well. Here the U.S. flag was banned so that administrators who "didn't want to be forced to pick and choose which flags should be permissible," could get away from having to make a decision.

That one would have been easy for a true American. Ban ALL but the U.S. flag. This IS America, after all. Fortunately, the ban was later rescinded but the only thing that changed the minds of the weak spined administrators in North Carolina was the monumentally bad publicity the story raised for them. If no one had reported on this one, the ban would still be in place and our own children would not be able to show their love for the flag of the very country in which they live.

Sadly, stories like this are not isolated and few. They happen every day throughout the country. Our government schools are failures through and through and should be dismantled. Instead of places of learning, they have become dens of the unAmerican left skulking around and undermining the very nature of these United States by teaching our children to hate their country. Parents should make themselves very aware of the indoctrination being foisted upon our children and stories like this sound a clarion call for change.

Vouchers are a start, but the elimination of the teacher's unions is about the only thing that will begin to fix this problem. Add to that the elimination of Federal funding and a return to local control and we may yet refashion our schools into places to which we would no longer be afraid to send our children.


Hypocrisy thriving in academe

By Dan Walters

Southern California political, media and legal circles have been in a dither over the selection of liberal law professor Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of UC Irvine's new law school, his de-selection after protests by conservative groups and his re-selection on Monday. Setting aside the demonstrable fact that California needs another public law school like it needs another drought, it has been an unseemly situation at best, raising all sorts of questions about academic freedom.

Conservatives complained that Chemerinsky's initial hiring by UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake was an affront, citing his years of legal and political activism on the left. Even Ronald George, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, became entangled in the uproar, with anti-Chemerinsky forces citing George's pointed criticism of his treatise on death penalty law. Conservative Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who had clashed with Chemerinsky in the past, sent an e-mail to Drake that, his spokesman said, "expressed his dismay with the choice for the dean of the law school and suggested that this was the wrong decision and it should be changed."

Drake then canceled the appointment but insisted -- to wide disbelief -- that it had nothing to do with the backlash. "His exact words were, 'You've proven too politically controversial for this to work,' " Chemerinsky told the New York Times. Predictably, there was a counter-backlash of pro-Chemerinsky sentiment. Hundreds of UC Irvine professors and students signed an open letter to Drake last Friday demanding a reversal of the decision. "You have failed to defend the integrity of the university, its recruitment process and the sanctity of academic freedom," the letter said. Chemerinsky fed the furor himself with an article in the Los Angeles Times, saying, "The whole point of academic freedom is that professors -- and yes, even deans -- should be able to speak out on important issues."

As the counter-pressure mounted Friday, Drake met with Chemerinsky. On Monday, they jointly announced that Chemerinsky will come to Irvine after all. "Our new law school will be founded on the bedrock principle of academic freedom," said their joint statement. "The chancellor reiterated his lifelong, unqualified commitment to academic freedom, which extends to every faculty member, including deans and other senior administrators."

A victory for academic freedom? Seemingly so, but it would appear that among UC faculty members the principle should be applied only to those on the political left, judging by what was happening simultaneously a few hundred miles to the north at another University of California campus.

Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, had been invited by UC Regent Richard Blum (husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein) to address a private Board of Regents dinner at UC Davis. When faculty members objected, Summers was disinvited. Summers, former secretary of the treasury, resigned from Harvard last year after a lengthy clash with its faculty over his remarks about the suitability of women for careers in engineering and other technical fields. Summers said his remarks were misinterpreted and apologized, but was forced out of the presidency anyway.

"I was appalled and stunned that someone like Summers would even be invited to speak to the regents," Professor Maureen Stanton, an organizer of the protest, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The hypocrisy is self-evident. Liberal UC faculty members believe in academic freedom for liberals, but someone deemed to be politically incorrect should be barred from even speaking to a private dinner. And in both cases, those running the university ran for cover.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tenure for an academic fraud?

Ward Churchill again? Details on the writings of the hate-filled liar concerned here

Another controversy involving Mideast politics has erupted on the Columbia University campus, this time over whether to grant tenure to an anthropology professor of Palestinian descent. Critics of Barnard College professor Nadia Abu El-Haj are trying to block Columbia from granting her tenure, while supporters worry that the controversy over her scholarship represent an attempt to stifle academic freedom.

Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology, has been teaching at Barnard, Columbia's women's college, since 2002. Her book, "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," looks at the importance of archaeology in forming Israel's national identity. The 2001 book discusses how archaeological discoveries have been used to defend Israel's territorial claims and contributed to the idea of Israel as the ancient home of the Jewish people. She argues that Israel has used archaeology to justify its existence in the region, sometimes at the expense of the Palestinians. The book has garnered both praise and criticism, with opponents challenging her conclusions and her research. The dispute has also spilled onto the Internet.

A Barnard alumnus Paula Stern, who lives in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank, starting an online petition against granting Abu El-Haj tenure, or a permanent position on the faculty. The petition says her "claim to scholarly recognition is based on a single, profoundly flawed book" that fails to meet the university's standards of scholarship.

Her supporters have an online petition too which claims that the attacks against Abu El-Haj "are part of an orchestrated witch-hunt... against politically unpopular ideas" and expresses the suspicion that "something like simple ethnic prejudice is at issue here."

The outside protests against Abu El-Haj's tenure are "just preposterous," said Laurie Brand, director of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California and the chairwoman of the committee on academic freedom for the Middle Eastern Studies Association. She said tenure decisions should be based on the opinions of other experts in the field, and that opposition to Abu El-Haj was coming from critics trying to silence her. "You don't shut somebody down because of, as a result of honest inquiry, they've come up with conclusions you don't like," she said.

Barnard religion professor Alan Segal said he is against granting tenure to Abu El-Haj based on her work, which he has read. He called the public petitions for and against her tenure "silly," but added that they were unlikely to have any effect on the tenure decision. "I don't believe it's affected the process in any way," he said, adding that the Barnard faculty, by and large, supports Abu El-Haj. Barnard officials said Abu El-Haj was not available for interviews. Columbia officials were not available for comment.

This is not the first time that Mideast politics have roiled the Columbia campus. A few years ago, the school had to deal with accusations from pro-Israel Jewish students that they were being intimidated by professors of Middle Eastern studies. A university report found no evidence to support the accusation, but it did criticize one professor of modern Arab politics and history, Joseph Massad, who is of Palestinian descent, for inappropriately getting angry at a student in his classroom.


The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness on education

"Dangerous" information is suppressed to avoid trouble

It's easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors; their semi-monthly comparisons of Bush to Hitler or indictments of inherent American racism are hard to miss. Universities' deviations from traditional education are far more serious than a few zany radicals, though. Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid "offending" certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does not bark - "safe lecturing" to use the STD vocabulary - and seldom recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives students of a genuine education.

Let me offer some observations from my 35-year academic career but these undoubtedly apply more generally. Some facts.

First, today's students, especially in lecture courses, display rather desultory academic habits. Many arrive late, leave early, doze off, regularly skip classes, eat, drink or listen to iPods, gossip and otherwise ignore the dispensed pearls of wisdom. Even stellar teachers cast pearls. Dreary test results confirm that lectures are disregarded and assignments go unread. Sad to say, many African-American students who should be expending extra efforts to surmount academic deficiencies are particularly guilty though expressing this plain-to-see reality is verboten.

Haphazard attentiveness means that professors can never be sure how one's utterances or even the readings are deciphered. In fact, empirical research shows that less able students are particularly prone to garbling - "some people loved Hitler" becomes "the professor loves Hitler." Alas, little can be done about this mishmash learning save, perhaps, returning to the ancient days when teachers terrified students by randomly demanding instant verbal summaries. Even repeating facts three times and saying that this will be on the exam usually fails to impress denizens of la la land.

Students will thus mistakenly "hear" things they might find objectionable, but, and this is critical, not all enjoy protectors to transform imagined classroom slights into public outrages. The ROTC cadet "learning" that America only fights exploitive imperialistic wars suffers in isolated silence; an African-American student who mangles "blacks disproportionately commit more violent crimes" into "blacks are criminals" can demand that the university itself plus sundry student-based organization rectify this "offense." (Similar helpers exist for women and gays.)

No matter how trivial the alleged wrongdoing, no matter how obvious the misunderstanding, true or not, crimes against racial sensibilities requires action. This is the raison d'etre for these injustice monitors and justifies salaries. To compound matters, certified victims have diplomatic immunity and can never be punished for false accusations or foolish hyper-sensitivity. No calculating administrator can ignore an anonymous letter about some off-hand comment, a joke or wrong terminology (colored people versus people of color), even "demeaning" laughs or facial expressions.

Teaching in any field that might conceivably touch on racial/ethnic/sexual sensibilities thus requires navigating minefields that can never, never be charted. The most obsequious aside or failure to include certain authors on the reading list can insult some sensitive soul whose classroom inattention and limited intellectual background guarantees outrage. Professors now become prisoners to protected students, many of whom are the least academically capable, and soon realize that a few incidents can bring star-chamber proceedings and, ultimately, a ruined career. No university wants professors with reputations for trouble, as decided by those with a well-deserved reputation for making trouble.

What can be done? One option to embrace the PC party line at every opportunity since those who object (i.e., conservatives, Christian fundamentalists) stoically forbear this nonsense and lack the supporting indignation infrastructure. But, for those disinclined to fake it, the only viable option is to avoid anything that might be mangled into offensiveness. Purging the course is hardly fool-proof, but it is relatively undemanding, almost morally painless and students rarely notice the difference.

Let me offer a first-hand example. I once taught the basic American government lecture course and Constitution lecture covered the three-fifths compromise - the Article I, Section 2 provision that counted "other persons" (i.e., slaves and untaxed Indians - blacks are never mentioned by name ) as three-fifths of a person for purposes of House representation. I explained that Southerners wanted to treat slaves as a whole person since this would sharply boost their representation while abolitionist New Englanders proposed counting slaves as zero. Unfortunately, this three-fifths provision has now been interpreted by some black activists (including an African American colleague who stated her misinformed opinion in a public law school lecture) as "proof" of America's racist origins. Black students have probably encountered this historical mistruth elsewhere (Jesse Jackson once endorsed it) and it does appear superficially plausible.

Rather than risk being accused of covering up racism or telling lies, I dropped the topic altogether. I similarly removed all discussion of slavery so students thus never learned that the while the Constitution did not outlaw slavery, it did permit a ban on importing slaves after 1808 and this was, indeed, done - which, in turn, made those slaves already in America exceedingly costly and thus at times too valuable to risk at dangerous labor (I further skipped how the ever-plentiful Irish were instead hired for life-threatening jobs).

And, as one might become carried away in a long-delayed spring cleaning, out went most references to crime (no small accomplishment in a course covering the Supreme Court), the dubious legal use of racial gerrymandering to insure black election victories, the possible downside of affirmative action and anything else that might remotely prove an ideological fire hazard. And this clean up did not end with race-related issues.

My experience is probably typical and thus the fear of giving "offense" consigns thousands of graduates to incomplete educations. Sort of like proper Victorian sex education. A vicious cycle is created - "safe lectures" beget boredom and this only encourages yet more sleeping and more garbling.

This censoring can also have more tragic consequences for those oblivious to awaiting minefields. I had a distinguished colleague - Stuart Nagel - whose tale is worth telling. He taught public policy and one day explained that black businesses in Kenya were uncompetitive against Indian-run enterprises since blacks where too generous in granting credit to friends and family. He had been invited by the government of Kenya to study the situation and suggested better business training for black Kenyans. The topic was indisputably part of the course and thus totally protected by AAUP academic speech guidelines. Stuart was also extremely liberal on all racial issues.

Nevertheless, to condense a long story, an anonymous letter from irritated black students complained of Nagel's "racism" and included the preposterous change of "workplace violence." After a protracted and bungled internal university investigation, two federal trials (I testified at one), he was stripped of his teaching responsibilities and coerced into retirement.

Interestingly, having been charged as "racist," his departmental colleagues, save two conservatives, abandoned him. A few years later, partially as a result of this emotionally and financially draining incident ($100,000 out-of-pocket for legal fees), he committed suicide.

I can only speculate that he believed that years spent being a "good liberal" (including service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division) would insulate him from being denounced as a "racist." Nor would he have anticipated that the university would spend the hundreds of thousands in legal fees to punish a famous tenured faculty member who "offended" two students. Nagel's sad saga undoubtedly provided useful lessons to many others: "stupidity can really be dangerous, even in a university. Better keep quiet.


Australian education pattern different

Leftist State governments fail to teach the basics

AUSTRALIAN school students spend half the time learning reading, writing, maths and science that their counterparts in other industrialised nations do. Australian curriculums devote the least amount of time of the 30 leading industrialised nations to teaching core subjects for 9- to 11-year-olds and for 12- to 14-year-olds, says the OECD report on education released last night. Education at a Glance 2007 says Australia is the only member of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development to decrease public investment in tertiary education, by 4 per cent, compared with an average 49 per cent increase in the 29 other nations.

While public spending on education at all levels is below the OECD average, the level of private spending at the school and university level is among the highest.

The report also notes the lack of financial incentive for experienced teachers, with 31 per cent of wage rises in the past decade going to beginners and only 3per cent to those with more than 15 years on the job. Education Minister Julie Bishop and Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith said the core subjects of reading, writing, maths and science were vital and the OECD results reflected why it was necessary to introduce a rigorous national curriculum in such subjects. Ms Bishop said the report echoed recent concerns made by the Australian Primary School Principals Association that the curriculum was too cluttered and that core skills were suffering as a result. Mr Smith said the core subjects were at the heart of a quality education and fundamental to other learning.

But association president Leonie Trimper disputed the figures, saying Australian primary schools spent about 30 per cent of the week on reading and writing and 20 per cent on maths. The OECD reports that the intended instruction time for the compulsory curriculum in Australia is 13 per cent in reading, writing and literature for primary school students compared with 23 per cent in the OECD, and 9 per cent for 12- to 14-year-olds, compared with 15 per cent. Maths accounts for 9 per cent of instruction time in primary schools compared with the OECD average of 16 per cent, and 9 per cent in high schools, compared with the average of 13 per cent. Primary school science accounts for 2 per cent and a foreign language 1 per cent of teaching time compared with the averages of 8 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

The report notes that Australia has a much lower proportion, 41 per cent compared with the OECD average of 92 per cent, of compulsory core curriculum, or the minimum required time devoted to core subjects common to all students. The majority of the compulsory Australian curriculum is flexible, allowing schools or students to choose where to spend the rest of their time. "This indicator captures intended instruction time ... it does not show the actual number of hours of instruction received by students," the report says. "It nevertheless provides an indication of how much formal instruction time is considered necessary in order for students to achieve the desired educational goals."

In assessing education funding, the report says that based on 2005 figures, public funding of all levels of education in Australia is 4.3 per cent of GDP, compared with an OECD average of 5 per cent while private spending is 1.6 per cent of GDP, more than double the OECD average of 0.7 per cent, and the third-highest level behind the US and Korea.

Public funding of tertiary education institutions fell by 4 per cent compared with an average increase in the OECD of 49 per cent. Half of all tertiary spending is now from private funds.

Mr Smith said the investment Australia made in education compared with other countries was the crucial factor. "The report finds that there has been a significant decline in public investment across all levels of education in Australia under the Howard Government," he said.

Ms Bishop said the OECD's analysis was flawed, and was based on a different definition of tertiary institution than used in Australia. Ms Bishop also said it failed to include large public funding increases since 2004, including the $5 billion Higher Education Endowment Fund. However, she said the report provided further support for the Government's push to introduce performance-based pay for teachers. "The lack of incentive and career prospects is one reason why 40 per cent of teaching graduates do not go into teaching and 25 per cent of new teachers leave the profession within five years," she said"


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DC Area Schools' Success Obscures Lingering Racial SAT Gap

And linger it will

SAT scores at the Washington region's top high schools show an achievement gap between blacks and the rest of the student population -- a gap that is often masked by the overall performance of the schools. White students in the spring graduating class of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda -- the top performer in Montgomery County -- averaged 1893 out of a possible 2400 points on the SAT. The 13 black students tested averaged 1578, more than 300 points lower.

At Yorktown, Arlington County's leader, white students averaged 1804 on the SAT; black students averaged 1470. Black students at Severna Park High, the top performer in Anne Arundel County, averaged 1336, while white students' average was 1646. Despite the gap, black students in the Class of 2007 scored well at some of the region's most prestigious high schools; at a few, black students topped the overall national average, 1511, on the best-known college entrance test. Solid scores on the SAT or the rival ACT are all but essential to students aspiring to competitive universities.

But none of the 47 regular high schools in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, the largest school systems in Maryland and Virginia, yielded a black student SAT average this year that met or beat the average for all students in those counties. The racial achievement gap at affluent schools goes mostly unnoticed by parents, who seldom look beyond the high overall SAT averages. But it vexes black parents, who make the same sacrifices as their neighbors to buy homes in high-performing school districts and have the same aspirations for their children.

"I wanted my children to be in the school where the most people were focused toward higher education," said Pam Spearman, whose son is a junior at Severna Park High. But Spearman said she and other black parents in the Annapolis area suburb have come to recognize "that our kids have issues at school because achievement is not necessarily expected of them by fellow students -- black and white."

Nationwide, white students averaged 1579 on the SAT in 2007; blacks averaged 1287. The gap, 292 points, has scarcely changed in the past 10 years: It has increased by two points each on the reading and math sections, which were joined last year by a new writing assessment. The disparity has endured for decades and is perhaps the classic example of the racial achievement gap in public education. Critics have cited it as evidence of subtle racial bias in standardized testing.

Across the country, black parents have formed groups and set up Web sites to tackle the achievement gap. There are blogs offering advice on how to navigate school systems. Parents hold group study sessions to help prepare their children for the rigor of college-prep classes. Last year, parents of black Severna Park students, who number about 80, formed a group called Falcon Flight. Through meetings with administrators, culturally motivated field trips and career-minded events, Spearman said, the parents hope to "help kids see the connection between their lives, their futures and their education." It's a connection most parents in affluent bedroom communities take for granted.

Teachers, parents and scholars cite several factors in the persistent gap separating blacks' and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics' scores from whites' and Asians' scores on the SAT. [But the elephant in the bedroom -- IQ -- must not be mentioned, of course] Black students tend to arrive at elite high schools inadequately prepared for the SAT, according to directors of the College Board, which administers the test. And even in affluent communities, they don't take as rigorous courses as their white and Asian classmates; the wealthiest black students are no more likely to take calculus in high school, for example, than the poorest whites and Asians, a deficiency that points to a historic lack of access to the classes.

"There are differences in preparation that will take years to erase," said Wayne Camara, the College Board's vice president for research. In Montgomery, for instance, 65 percent of all white 2006 graduates took at least one Advanced Placement exam. The corresponding figure for blacks: 27 percent.....

The disparity between blacks' and whites' SAT scores is larger now than it was 10 years ago [proving that the politically correct theories about what causes it and how to cope with it are WRONG] in Montgomery and Fairfax, although it has shrunk recently in Fairfax. The gap approaches 400 points in Montgomery and 300 points in Fairfax. Test participation, an equally prized goal, has risen in both counties over that time. In both counties, students of all races have scored above state and national averages for their racial categories.....


There are some good reasons to skip university study

Study hard so that you can get into university: this is the message continually fed to students in years 11 and 12 at school. So let's see what people entering university have to look forward to. For starters, today's uni students must put up with higher fees. Those whose mum and dad can't foot the bill will most likely remain in the red for years to come. And don't forget the costs of commuting, textbooks and ever-increasing living expenses.

In a society obsessed with making money, this so-called "invaluable education" doesn't exactly put you ahead in the race. It's going to be three or four years, in some cases longer, before you finish your degree. With so many options available to young people today this can feel like a lifetime. Don't forget this is the MTV generation - brought up in a fast-paced world of convenience - with supposedly shorter attention spans and lower boredom thresholds.

It's no wonder students feel they're not getting places fast enough. Universities are going to insist this length of time is necessary in order to gather adequate levels of knowledge - it has nothing to do with profiting from annual fees.

The material being taught in these institutions shouldn't escape mention either. Students might pay more attention if they could see how the information they're being given is relevant to the direction they want to take. I know I had a ball meticulously studying the ins and outs of micro-economics for an exam, which was clearly necessary for a sport studies degree. That's not what I signed up for. I really should have read the fine print first. Perhaps some questioning directed at the body in charge of writing university curriculums is needed.

The good news is, if you can stick to your course long enough you'll make friends who can collect your lecture notes while you hang out at the nearest uni bar. When it comes down to it, the degree is the main incentive for those at uni. To receive that piece of paper which will get you a terse "very good" during your job interview with a company that was most likely established by someone who had no tertiary education. The bad news is, if it's a worthwhile job, your shiny new resume will get thrown into the pile with those of 15 university graduates who are all in the same position as you.


Australia: Teacher failures spell student trouble

Who will teach the teachers?

Young teenagers could be forgiven for misspelling words such as subterranean and miscellaneous, but what about the nation's primary school teachers? A spelling test of about 40 Victorian teachers, conducted in April this year, provides no grounds for confidence. Not one of the teachers could correctly spell all 11 words, ranging in difficulty from substitute to adolescence. The test was set at the level expected of 14-year-olds but the average score among the 39 teachers was just seven correctly spelled words.

Five teachers correctly spelled 10 words, putting their level at 13 years and nine months. One teacher was unable to spell any of the words while two teachers got only two of the words correct. Overall, 22 teachers misspelled subterranean, 17 couldn't manage embarrassing or miscellaneous and 16 had trouble with adolescence.

The test was held during a two-day course conducted by teacher Denyse Ritchie, who has run programs for the past 11 years giving primary school teachers the basic literacy skills to teach reading. Ms Ritchie, executive director and co-author of THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills), used by thousands of schools around the nation, said the spelling results were typical of the standard she saw.

She said teachers trained over the past few decades had been influenced by the "whole language" method of teaching reading, in which the letter-sound relationship underpinning written language is only one strategy used to teach reading, and not necessarily the first. "Rather than teaching children the 26 sounds of the alphabet, they need to learn the 44 letter-sound combinations that comprise the English language." Ms Ritchie said teaching children the letter 'c' only as the sound in cat made it impossible for them to work out how to read words like chair, chef and face. With the sound 'f', students are taught that the letter f makes the sound but not that the letters 'ph' make the same sound.

Ms Ritchie said the biggest problem was that teachers were not taught how to break words into their composite sounds and so could not explain it to children. "Teachers are ignorant of the 44 sounds in English and all the spelling choices that make up those sounds; they have a very limited understanding of it. "You can learn to read without knowing phenomics (the sounds that make up words), but when you spell, you have to have a good phenomic understanding to help spell words like said. "Unless you're taught that 'ai' as well as 'e' can make an 'eh' sound in words like said and again, you will spell said as 'sed'. "But many teachers don't have that inherent knowledge,"

The teachers' phenomic knowledge was also tested. When asked to break words into the constituent sounds or phenomes - such as how many sounds in 'cat' (c-a-t) - the average score was 4.1 out of a possible 10 correct answers. When asked to identify the third sound in a word like scrunch (r), the average score was 4.5 out of 10 and the average mark for breaking words into syllables was also 4.5 out of 10.

Ms Ritchie said teachers commonly answered that the word scrunch comprised two sounds (scr-unch) when it actually has six sounds (s-cr-u-n-ch). "Teachers and students need to know that letters don't have a sound," she said. "They need to know that letters are only symbols that are used continually in different combinations to represent sounds."

In Britain, the Government has stipulated that from the beginning of this school year, reading will be taught using "first and fast" synthetic phonics, which teaches students the letter-sounds and how they are blended to form words. But the British teachers association persists in arguing that teaching reading using an intensive phonics approach is inferior to an "inclusive reading program" that has children predict words based on the context of the sentence or the type of word it is.

In a position paper on reading and phonics released by the English Teachers Association of NSW in July, it suggests a child reading the sentence "The car drove along the s..... at high speed" could guess it says street because the word starts with s. If the child said road, the paper says, the teacher will "have to weigh up whether to take the student back to the word" to read it correctly. "They may NOT because they recognise that meaning is most important, that we ALL make such mistakes EVERY time we read, and that this mistake shows that the child understands what they are reading," the paper says.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Higher education has been oversold

By George Leef

In one of his New York Times columns earlier this year, David Brooks lamented that "Despite all the incentives, 30 percent of kids drop out of high school and the college graduation rate has been flat for a generation." Brooks, like many spokesmen for the higher-education establishment, worries that the United States is falling behind in the international race for brainpower.

That is why we keep hearing politicians talk about the need to stimulate a higher rate of college attendance and completion. We're in a global "knowledge economy," and whereas America used to be tops in the percentage of workers with college degrees, we have now fallen behind a number of other nations. At a big education conference I attended back in February, former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt called this situation "scary."

Sorry, scaremongers, but there is nothing to worry about. If anything, America now puts too many students into college, and we certainly don't need any new subsidies to get more there.

Here are my reasons for holding that contrarian view.

First, it isn't true that the economy is undergoing some dramatic shift to "knowledge work" that can only be performed by people who have college educations. When we hear that more and more jobs "require" a college degree, that isn't because most of them are so technically demanding that an intelligent high school graduate couldn't learn to do the work. Rather, what it means is that more employers are using educational credentials as a screening mechanism. As James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield write in their book Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money, "the United States has become the most rigidly credentialized society in the world. A B.A. is required for jobs that by no stretch of imagination need two years of full-time training, let alone four."

Second, the needless pressure to get educational credentials draws a large number of academically weak and intellectually disengaged students into college. All they want is the piece of paper that gets them past the screening. Most schools have quietly lowered their academic standards so that such students will stay happy and remain enrolled. Consequently, they seldom learn much - many employers complain that college graduates they hire can't even write a coherent sentence - but most eventually get their degrees.

Third, due to the overselling of higher education, we find substantial numbers of college graduates taking "high school" jobs like retail sales. It's not that there is anything wrong with well-educated clerks or truck drivers, but to a great extent college is no longer about providing a solid, rounded education. The courses that once were the pillars of the curriculum, such as history, literature, philosophy, and fine arts, have been watered down and are usually optional. Sadly, college education is now generally sold as a stepping stone to good employment rather than as an intellectually broadening experience. Sometimes it manages to do both, but often it does neither.

Fourth, it's a mistake to assume that the traditional college setting is the best or only way for people to learn the things they need to know in order to become successful workers. On-the-job training, self-directed studies, and courses taken with a particular end in mind (such as those offered in fields like accounting or finance at proprietary schools) usually lead to much more educational gain than do courses taken just because they fill degree requirements.

"But wait," I hear readers saying, "isn't it true that people with college degrees earn far more than people with only high-school diplomas?"

That is true on average - an average composed to a large degree of very bright and ambitious people who would be successful with or without a college degree, and also of people who earned their degrees decades ago when the curriculum and academic standards were more rigorous. It simply doesn't follow that every person we might lure into college today is going to enjoy a great boost in lifetime earnings just because he manages to stick it out through enough courses to graduate. The sad reality is that we now find many young people who have spent years in college and have piled up sizeable debts serving up Starbucks coffee or delivering pizza for Papa John's.

A perennial trope among politicians is that more education will make everyone better off. Having a more efficient educational system - one that taught the three Rs well in eight years rather than poorly in 16 - would indeed be a benefit. Simply putting a higher percentage of our young people into college, however, makes just as much sense as spreading more fertilizer on a field that's already been over-fertilized.


Far-Leftist recommendations from official British body

Teachers must not teach. Oh No!

Pupils should mark their own class work and decide what their school tests should cover, according to the Government's exams advisers. Teachers should train secondary school children to set their homework and devise mark schemes, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said. Pupils should then assess the results, grading their own efforts and giving "feedback" to their classmates, the latest National Curriculum guidance said.

The QCA, which devised the new secondary curriculum, said such an approach helps children support each other and develop independent study skills. It said: "Peer assessment and self-assessment are much more than learners simply marking their own or each other's work. In order to improve learning, self-assessment must engage learners with the quality of their work and help them reflect on how to improve it. "Peer assessment enables learners to provide each other with valuable feedback so that they can learn from and support each other."

The guidelines suggested teachers in schools that decide to adopt the system would need to train pupils in marking techniques. The suggested "strategies" for developing pupils' peer assessment skills could include:

* Asking pupils in groups to write five questions on a topic and following whole-class discussion, pick the two best questions from each group. "Then ask learners to answer all the selected questions for homework."

* Ask pupils to "analyse mark schemes and devise their own for a specified task".

* Ask learners to "mark each other's work but do not give them the answers. Instead, ask them to find the correct answers from available resources".


How low has academia fallen?

Post below lifted from American Thinker. See the original for links

Very low indeed. I used to wonder how German universities, among the most distinguished in the world back then, fell into lockstep behind Hitler. How could the supposedly the best minds allow that?

I wonder no longer. The signs are very discouraging, and it isn't the outlier marginal campuses where the problem is greatest. Not just the University of California and Duke. Harvard, fresh off the disgrace of hounding Lawrence Summers from its presidency, is embracing the madness. Scott Johnson of Powerline writes today:

At Harvard, President Drew Gilpin Faust is proving herself to be immune to concerns about intellectual standards or racial discrimination. Indeed, she seeks "a different Harvard" -- one with so many black professors and staff that it could fill Harvard's stadium.

Read for yourself the sort of faculty enjoying President Faust's embrace, and follow the links provided by Scott.

I devoted more than two decades of my life to a career in academia, the majority of that time at Harvard. I am quite simply nauseated at the level of anti-intellectualism rampant at America's most elite academic institutions. Harvard, with its age, prestige, and $35 billion endowment is leading the academy into a vortex. The barbarians are not just at the gates or even inside the gates, they are in command.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unqualified teachers want sympathy for handicapping our youth

Tracy Jan’s expose on minority teachers failing certification exams, even in their designated fields, should be more than an eye-opener for those who continue to believe the blind can lead the blind (“Minority Scores Lag On Teaching Test, Panel To Study Failure Rate, Bias Complaints,” August 19).

The usual protectors of the dignity of non-performing minority teachers are quick to reassure us that the validity of the test is to be questioned due to potential for “cultural biases.” As education school deans ask for the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure to be redesigned, they also lament that we should determine “whether the quality of education that minority teaching applicants receive is good enough.”

So a Cambridge attorney drafts a lawsuit alleging cultural bias against the testing company and the State of Massachusetts on behalf of a special education teacher who has failed the test several times since 1998. And a consultant retained by Boston Public Schools offers, “If you take the achievement gap of high school students, you can just project it forward into college and into the teaching ranks.”

Is it possible that poorly educated public school students can become poorly educated college students, and then, poorly educated teachers of the next generation of poorly educated public school students? What a frightening specter of monumental incompetence. Teachers unions should organize to address this dilemma at least as vociferously as they organize against reforms such as school choice, which have shown proven methods for improving public schools through competition.

Massachusetts is certainly not alone in this crisis. This has been festering unrelentingly for the last 10 years. On September 6, 2001, five days before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., another disaster was unfolding in Illinois: Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters Rosalind Rossi, Becky Beaupre, and Kate N. Grossman identified “5,243 Illinois teachers failed key exams” that past spring. “In Elgin District 46, students studied the English language with a teacher who had failed 21 of 21 tests for teachers.... Sun-Times found that teachers who struggled to pass their exams can pop up anywhere. Last school year, those who needed at least four tries to pass a single certification test were teaching children in a North Shore junior high, a Palatine special-education classroom and a Hoffman Estates high school.”

The distribution of “struggling teachers” does not trend toward suburban schools, however. It is the poorer inner-city schools of our nation, with the most educationally challenged academic-achievement-gapped minority students, that inherit the least qualified teachers in their dysfunctional public schools. The Joyce Foundation commissioned research under the Education Trust for the entire Midwest to track this dismal phenomenon:

1.Illinois students in the highest-minority and highest-poverty schools are assigned teachers of significantly lower quality than their counterparts in schools that serve few low-income students and students of color.

2.The Illinois research also demonstrates the clear link between teacher quality and student achievement. In the highest-poverty high schools with high teacher-quality indices, twice as many students met state standards as did students in other similarly high-poverty high schools with low teacher-quality indices.

Researchers determined that “students in Illinois who attended schools with average teacher quality and only completed math up to Algebra II actually were more ready for college than their peers who completed calculus but went to schools with the lowest-teacher quality.” “This research shows once again that good teachers can have an enormous impact on student achievement,” said Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation. It is time that we accept the challenge of reforming non-performing schools which miseducate teachers so they can miseducate students. No more special pleading for those would-be practitioners who are handicapping our children and demanding higher taxes for the privilege.


Fired Leftist teacher claiming injustice

Deborah Mayer, 57, a former Indiania elementary-school teacher, says she lost her job after saying 'I honk for peace' in class. Kissimmee Middle School reading teacher Deborah Mayer said her world has been "devastated" by four words she uttered in an Indiana classroom four years ago: "I honk for peace." Mayer, who now lives in Celebration, was fired from her teaching job in Bloomington, Ind., after that 2003 comment. Now she's appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, asserting that her dismissal for expressing her political views violated her First Amendment rights. It's a case with national implications for what teachers can -- and can't -- say in a public-school classroom.

This has been devastating to me," Mayer, 57, said of her case, which has cost her $70,000 in legal fees. "What's important is that when I decided to stand up for my rights and take this school system to court, the court said teachers have no right of free speech."

But Thomas Wheeler, attorney for the Monroe County Community School Corp., said her real problem is she was a bad teacher. Besides, he said, teachers don't have First Amendment rights in the classroom because they teach a curriculum decided by state and local officials. So far, lower courts have agreed -- and the Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear her appeal.

Martin Sweet, an assistant professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, said Mayer's case has a decent chance of getting a hearing. "The First Amendment does not go away for either teachers or students. But it has to be measured," he said. One measure is subject matter, he said: A teacher discussing current events could more appropriately voice political opinions than, for instance, a biology teacher.

Mayer said her troubles started Jan. 10, 2003 -- the eve of the Iraq war -- during a weekly current-events discussion in her Grades 4-6 class at Clear Creek Elementary School in Bloomington, Ind. A pupil asked if she would participate in a peace rally. "I honk for peace," Mayer, a veteran teacher in her first year at Bloomington, said she told them. She said she also told the students, "People ought to seek out peaceful solutions before going to war."

She said several parents subsequently complained about her comments, leading to the non-renewal of her contract at the end of the year. "I said four little words, and it destroyed my life," said Mayer, whose grown son subsequently served in Afghanistan.

But Wheeler said the peace comments "had absolutely nothing to do with her termination. What happened was, she was a bad teacher." He said parents began complaining in October 2002, and some requested that their children be transferred to another class....

May teachers respond? Mayer said she's not advocating that teachers can say anything they want -- but insists they can respond to students' comments and questions. "Teachers need to know if their in-class speech is ever entitled to First Amendment protection, and if so when," her appeal to the Supreme Court says.

Wheeler, the School Board attorney, said it's clear public-school teachers have no free-speech rights. "We need to keep control of the classroom that's taught in our name," he said. "If they disagree with the curriculum, they can go somewhere else."

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. "The First Amendment does not entitle primary and secondary teachers, when conducting the education of captive audiences, to cover topics, or advocate viewpoints, that depart from the curriculum adopted by the school system," it ruled....


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A New Anti-Semitism Takes Root on Campus

Today, pro-Israel students confront a demoralizing challenge on campus defending Israel's right to exist as a democratic Jewish state, as well as expressing views that would be labeled as "conservative." Some examples:

* Natana DeLong-Bas, a lecturer in theology at Boston College, as well as in the Department of Near East and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, says that she does "not find any evidence that makes me agree that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack on the twin towers. All we have heard from him was simply praise and commendation of those who had carried out the operation."

* Joseph Massad, a Columbia University professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, writes that "all those in the Arab world who deny the Holocaust are, in my opinion, Zionists."

* Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at University of California, Berkeley, states that "it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics in here."

On the Horizon

You might think these statements were made somewhere in the Arab world or perhaps in 1930s' Europe. Yet they are found today in U.S. classrooms. Tellingly, these scholars represent what is happening in the halls of academia and illustrate the type of scholarship used to mold future generations.

Moreover, with the release of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, students face another challenge as it relates to the American-Israeli alliance. The authors contend that that there are no genuine or compelling motives for America's support for Israel, which they refer to as a "strategic burden."

In addition, they argue that U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked by the pro-Israel camps and works against the interests of America itself. They even went as far as claiming that one of the results of AIPAC's work was to start the war in Iraq.

Their narrative recounts every colorful report of Israeli "cruelty" toward Palestinians as an indisputable fact. But conveniently, they leave out the rise of Palestinian terrorism before 1967, as well as the 1972 Munich Olympics, Black September and countless cases of suicide bombings against Jews and Israelis.

In an attempt to defuse this, the Jewish Policy Center has organized a panel of experts -- including Daniel Pipes, Cliff May and David Horowitz, and moderated by radio commentator Michael Medved -- to address "The Fight Against Radical Islam and the New Anti-Semitism on Campus." The event will take place at 7 p.m.Wednesday, Sept. 19, at Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El in Wynnewood.

'A Full-Blown Crisis'

When asked about the reason and the importance for holding such an event, Dick Fox, chairman of the Jewish Policy Center, stated that the center "has been addressing the problem of radical Islam and anti-Semitism on campus for several years. Organizationally, this issue has been a top priority for us. Now, it has become a full-blown crisis."

The brouhaha over the "Israel lobby" as a Jewish conspiracy controlling America has been challenged; unfortunately, that has produced even more virulent rhetoric against Israel.

Academia has unconsciously exposed Jews and Israelis as the canaries in the coal mine. If universities are indicators of social trends, then anti-Semitism is becoming more acceptable in the guise of anti-Zionism. The thesis of Israel-bashers is basically that only Jews are unworthy of having a sovereign state.

These attitudes are pervasive on university campuses and are protected by what's called "academic freedom." But if we are to become better advocates for Israel, then we deserve to hear a balanced representation of Israel and the Middle East in our educational institutions. We can start by seeking out those voices that until Sept. 11, 2001, had been predominantely marginalized by the academy.


Ontario Catholic School Board Approves Referrals to Gay-Activist Therapist, Censors Right to Life Material

Article below reproduced without links. See the original for those

Minutes of meetings of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) Family Life Advisory Committee (FLAC) reveal that the Catholic board has undertaken activities that seriously contradict Catholic teaching. Despite Catholic teaching opposing homosexual acts, the board has approved referral of Catholic students to homosexuality-promoting therapists and organizations.

In the January 25, 2006 meeting minutes, published on the WCDSB website, the FLAC approved the referral of children to an active homosexual therapist for "LGBTTTSIQ sensitivity training/counselling".

The gay therapist, David Vervoot, is an active homosexual who has raised a son with his male partner. According to his website "Rainbow Therapist", Vervoot has offered anti-homophobia workshops in high schools and presented on topics such as "Building LGBT Community Supports in Rural Cities" and "Creating Accessible Health Care Services For Queer Communities". He has been on the committees of Guelph Pride, Guelph's LGBT Lending Library, and co-founded the Waterloo Wellington Gay & Bi fathers peer support group.

During the same meeting, the committee decided that certain Right to Life materials might not be appropriate for students. According to the minutes, the committee "advised that some material seems more appropriate for teachers/adults as opposed to students. Some material may not be appropriate for students."

On March 29, 2006 the same school board committee's minutes document the approval of "OK 2B Me," a three-year project with Family and Children Services to support Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer children aged 5 to 18. The initiative offers "workshops, peer support/connection, mentoring project, group support and a website." The program will offer "free" and "individual" services as well as provide educational groups and crisis counseling.

On April 26, the FLAC committee put forward another brochure entitled, "Hiding Its Face: Homophobia". The pamphlet supported a "National Day Against Homophobia" that would be celebrated on May 17. The pamphlet was approved for staff use each year.

During the same meeting, the committee approved PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), an organization that advocates the full recognition of the homosexual agenda within schools and other areas of society. The committee authorized the use of a PFLAG brochure as a resource for teachers, social workers, YCW's Chaplains and "as a support for parents with GLBTQ students."

Defend Traditional Marriage and Family (DTMF), a local organization, challenged the Catholic school board on the presence of pro-homosexual material in the school system earlier this year.

The group secured a meeting with the FLAC committee to discuss a problematic book, but were refused the opportunity to discuss the book in question in the wider context of the other homosexuality-promoting materials and programs. Instead FLAC said that their discussions must be narrowly limited to the particular book. DTMF asked the Catholic board to explain pro-homosexual programs such as a workshop program for teachers and staff that was entitled, "Understanding and Supporting Transgender Children and Youth". The Catholic school board complained in a June 25 letter to DTMF, however, that the other materials were a "separate and distinct" matter from DTMF's original complaint against the gay-propaganda book found in the system entitled "Open Minds to Equality".

Responding in an August 3 letter, DTMF communications director Jack Fonseca insisted that the book is in fact only part of a larger issue that has "infiltrated" the Waterloo school system and created an air of tolerance towards active homosexuality. Denying the grounds of the WCDSB's complaint, he emphasized the fact that over thirty gay-propaganda books and videos have been discovered within Waterloo schools, teachers have attended transgender workshops and the school board has partnered with homosexual-promoting groups.

Fonseca insisted that WCDSB's Family Life Committee (FLAC) must discuss all these crucial issues at its next meeting on September 26. Fonseca argued, "Offering this secular, homosexual group (PFLAG) as a resource is tantamount to telling confused kids, 'You can't resist same-sex attractions, so don't even try, just embrace the lifestyle, and here's how to get started.'"

The DTMF letter also brings to the WCDSB's attention a Grade 9 Religious Education lesson that uses ambiguous language that DTMF fears may mislead "students into thinking that the Church has no serious moral objection to homosexual acts." contacted Bryan Mahn, Superintendent of Human Resources & Facility Services for the WCDSB, and asked why a Catholic school committee would approve a homosexual activist as a reference for teachers and students. Mahn told that he would look into the matter and provide answers by the end of the week.

Local Bishop Anthony Tonnos was unavailable for comment on this story since he and auxiliary Bishop Gerard Bergie are out of town this week.


Bipartisan recommendation from Australia: Degrees first -- before teacher training

Though whether many teachers in places like NYC and Los Angeles would be capable of getting a real degree remains a question

ASPIRING high school teachers should have to complete arts or science degrees before undertaking specific studies in education, an inquiry into teaching standards has recommended. The inquiry's report, tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday, also called for more rigorous teaching of literacy and numeracy to trainee teachers at university. It backed offering "incentives" to teachers as part of a broader push to improve their pay and raise entry standards. Education Minister Julie Bishop has been promoting performance-based pay to improve teaching standards in schools.

Teaching education as a compulsory postgraduate course for aspiring secondary-school teachers would be a significant departure from current practice, where many students simply complete a straight bachelor of education.

The bipartisan inquiry by the Senate's employment, education and workplace relations committee was chaired by Victorian Liberal senator Judith Troeth. The committee said many new teachers had "insufficient grounding in the actual subject content they are teaching". "That is, they do not know enough history, have limited appreciation of literature through not reading enough of it, and are ignorant of, and frightened of, mathematics and science," it said. "This has a direct effect on the quality of educational outcomes because it can impede student intellectual growth." [Surprise!]

Senator Troeth, a former teacher, said she had studied history and geography as majors in an arts degree at Melbourne University, as well as a sub-major in English, before going on to complete a specialised diploma in education. She then went to teach Year 11 and 12 English and history and middle school (junior high school) geography. "So often these days, teachers have the general experience of the bachelor of education degree which teaches them the skills of pedagogy but it does not instil the subject disciplines into them," she said. "We feel there should be a movement back to that."

In its report, the committee expressed concerns about weaknesses in the training of teachers. "Some of these may be the consequence of factors outside the control of universities, namely the academic quality of school-leavers wanting to become teachers, although it might be argued that entry levels should be raised to keep out those whose literacy and numeracy are of doubtful standard," it said. Too many students were reaching Year 6 yet remained "functionally illiterate".