Saturday, October 20, 2007

Some good no-degree jobs

Sure, college is a good idea. Over a lifetime, a college graduate makes, on average, $1 million more than someone who only has a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But despite what parents and teachers would like teenagers to believe, college is not essential to making a decent living.

Indeed, some no-degree jobs will have you earning more, and earlier in your career, than your average college grad with a liberal arts degree. If you're focused enough to know what you want to pursue, you can get on a non-college career track at 18 and earn more than your contemporaries--and keep out-earning them 10 years down the line.

We've compiled a list of 10 jobs that can pay more than $85,000 a year at the top end, no degree required. But beware, just because no college is required doesn't mean you'll be able to slack off. Many of these jobs require extensive training, either on the job or in a vocational school.

Take being an elevator mechanic: With mean earnings of $61,930 a year and a possible annual income of $87,660, these jobs are more secure and pay better than many in construction. But new elevator mechanics, who install and repair elevators, escalators and moving walkways, have to undergo a four-year training period. And that's after being admitted to an apprenticeship program, run jointly by the International Union of Elevator Constructors and employers. Getting in is competitive, and the field has low turnover.

On the other hand, some of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S. have no barriers to entry other than hustle. Plenty of billionaires have made it on talent and entrepreneurship alone, perhaps most famously Microsoft's Bill Gates, a college dropout.

For many sales jobs, technical knowledge is less important than powers of persuasion. Sales reps for wholesale and manufactured goods, not including technical and scientific products, make a mean of $58,540 and $101,030 at the top end. Real estate brokers--who must be licensed but don't necessarily need a college degree, make a mean of $80,230, with their earnings at the high end limited only by effort, salesmanship and the hours in the day.

In fact, there are very few jobs that require a bachelor's degree. You can even become a lawyer without ever setting foot on a college campus, though you still have to pass the bar exam. But official requirements are one thing, and career reality another. In many competitive fields, recruiters use a college degree to filter applicants. Even aspiring artists and writers usually get master's degrees these days. Nobody cares about your diploma when you're selling a manuscript or a piece of art. But at the beginning of your career, when you're trying to develop your talents and make connections, school can be a useful pit stop.

Most career paths have multiple entry points. If you want to become a talent agent, you'll probably need a college degree if you want to start out with a big company. On the other hand, plenty of actors' agents were one-time actors themselves, who built up contacts among casting directors and others in the industry. In the end, the mean annual income of all agents and managers for artists, performers and athletes is $84,070 a year. Among the top 25% of earners, the average income is $114,400 a year. At the top end of the wage scale, the sky is the limit. And once you get to the top, no one cares whether you went to school.


Britain's hopeless "NEETs"

No discipline means no education for the less able

More than 200,000 young people aged 16 to 18 have virtually no hope of getting a foot in the door to the world of work after leaving school with no qualifications, the Chief Inspector of Schools said yesterday. Christine Gilbert, head of Ofsted, said the fate of these young people, known as Neets (not in education, employment or training), highlighted the enormous challenge facing society in closing the gap in educational attainment between rich and poor.

Publishing her annual report yesterday, Ms Gilbert said the barren prospect facing these young people, who represent more than ten per cent of all 16 to 18-year-olds, was “alarming and unacceptable”. Her predictions for their immediate future were even more gloomy. It was hard, she said, “to find encouragement from inspection evidence” that things would get better for young people on the cusp of adult life.

In a bold attempt to widen the public debate about educational standards beyond the school gate, Ms Gilbert focused her attention on the “stark” relationship between poverty and educational achievement. “It cannot be right that people from the most disadvantaged groups are least likely to achieve well and to participate in higher levels of education and training,” she said.

Overall, Ofsted reported that just 51 per cent of secondary schools were judged to be good or outstanding, up from 49 per cent last year. Ten per cent of secondaries were classed as inadequate, down from 13 per cent. In primary schools, the proportion of good and outstanding schools rose from 58 to 61 per cent.

Ms Gilbert said that a large proportion of failing schools were in the most deprived areas and that poorer children still had the “odds stacked against them” in education. The road to recovery would be a long one with “no quick fixes”, she added. On the gap between rich and poor, the figures show that only 12 per cent of 16-year-olds in care and just 33 per cent of pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM, the proxy measure for poverty) gained five or more good GCSEs last year, compared with 61 per cent of nonFSM children and a national average of 56 per cent. Among primary pupils, 61 per cent of FSM children achieved the expected level in English, compared with 83 per cent of nonFSM pupils. For maths the figures were 58 and 79 per cent respectively.

Ms Gilbert said that failures in leadership and management and poor practice in the classroom were the primary causes of school failure. But she was critical, too, of the lack of aspiration often displayed by teachers when it came to vocational education. Students often seemed far more enthusiastic about such opportunities than their teachers, she said, blaming this divide on a misguided tendency among teachers to associate vocational teaching with the least able students. Ms Gilbert added that she hoped that Ofsted, having taken over the inspection of children’s services and adult education in the last year, would now have greater leverage across a wide range of services to effect change.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, hoped that Ms Gilbert’s comments on the “poverty gap” would act as a rallying cry to those working with young people. “No child should be held back because of poverty and disadvantage, or deterred from going to the best school because of where they live or their family background, their ethnicity or their disability,” he said.

But teachers’ leaders said it was “totally unrealistic” to think that schools could tackle socio-economic disadvantage on their own. Martin Johnson, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Schools cannot compensate for a child’s family background - financial or aspirational poverty – or a local culture of unemployment.” John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that it would not be easy in a society as divided and diverse as England for schools to overcome social inequality on their own. “It requires action from central and local government in areas much wider than education to make this task feasible,” he said.

The report also highlighted concerns over behaviour, which was “just satisfactory” in 29 per cent of secondary schools, and about the failure of schools to give children a clear understanding of “what it means to be British”.


Australia: Government school unable to stop bullying

Good at bulldust, though

Dale Fitzhenry was a happy grade 4 student until he was picked on by a vicious school bully last term, his family says. Over 12 weeks Dale, 10, said he was repeatedly kicked, punched and pushed by a classmate. He claims he was assaulted so badly he suffered concussion one lunch time. His glasses were shattered in another playground attack at River Gum Primary School in Hampton Park.

His attacker, who was in Dale's 3/4 composite class, received a suspension, Dale's mother said. The school said the accused bully was moved to another class. It said every effort was made to settle a dispute between the students.

Dale now attends another school. His mother said her boy suffers nightmares and his doctor has recommended that he see a psychologist. Mum Melissa Fitzhenry believes the school did not do enough to protect her son. "I was going up to the school every second day, begging them to do something, telling them my son is coming home terrified," she said. Ms Fitzhenry said the school's decision to keep the bully in Dale's class made no sense. "I am so angry that I have had to pull Dale out of school while the bully remains in class," she said. "I think the bully should have been pulled out of the school."

Acting principal Joan Johnston said the school put strategies in place to deal with the situation and kept Ms Fitzhenry informed with letters and offers of further help. "Any bullying is taken very seriously at River Gum Primary School and is simply not tolerated," Ms Johnston said. "If any students or their parents have any concerns they are always encouraged to come and see me and we will take immediate and appropriate action. "I can assure parents that it was taken very seriously at the time by the school and dealt with promptly and appropriately."

Dale said he was disappointed with the school. "They just told me to stay away from him, but he kept coming after me," Dale said. "It made me very sad and angry, and I just wished they would have made him stay inside at lunch time like I asked, or I wished they expelled him." Bullying expert Evelyn Field said the school had failed Dale. "The situation always seems to end with the bullies staying and the victims leaving," said Ms Field, a psychologist.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Law fails to make dummies smart

As the director of high schools in the gang-infested neighborhoods of the East Side of Los Angeles, Guadalupe Paramo struggles every day with educational dysfunction. For the past half-dozen years, not even one in five students at her district's teeming high schools has been able to do grade-level math or English. At Abraham Lincoln High School this year, only 7 in 100 students could. At Woodrow Wilson High, only 4 in 100 could.

For chronically failing schools like these, the No Child Left Behind law, now up for renewal in Congress, prescribes drastic measures: firing teachers and principals, shutting schools and turning them over to a private firm, a charter operator or the state itself, or a major overhaul in governance. But more than 1,000 of California's 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading. "What are we supposed to do?" Ms. Paramo asked. "Shut down every school?"

With the education law now in its fifth year - the one in which its more severe penalties are supposed to come into wide play - California is not the only state overwhelmed by growing numbers of schools that cannot satisfy the law's escalating demands. In Florida, 441 schools could be candidates for closing. In Maryland, some 49 schools in Baltimore alone have fallen short of achievement targets for five years or more. In New York State, 77 schools were candidates for restructuring as of last year. Some districts, like those in New York City, have moved forcefully to shut large failing high schools and break them into small schools. Los Angeles, too, is trying small schools, along with other innovations, and David L. Brewer III, its schools superintendent, has just announced plans to create a "high priority district" under his direct control made up of 40 problem schools.

Yet so far, education experts say they are unaware of a single state that has taken over a failing school in response to the law. Instead, most allow school districts to seek other ways to improve. "When you have a state like California with so many schools up for restructuring," said Heinrich Mintrop, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, "that taxes the capacity of the whole school change industry."

As a result, the law is branding numerous schools as failing, but not producing radical change - leaving angry parents demanding redress. California citizens' groups have sued the state and federal government for failing to deliver on the law's promises. "They're so busy fighting No Child Left Behind," said Mary Johnson, president of Parent U-Turn, a civic group. "If they would use some of that energy to implement the law, we would go farther."

Ray Simon, the deputy federal secretary of education, said states that ignored the law's demands risked losing federal money or facing restrictions on grants. For now, Mr. Simon said, the department is more interested in helping states figure out what works than in punishment. "Even a state has to struggle if it takes over a school," he said.

A federal survey last year showed that in 87 percent of the cases of persistently failing schools, states and school districts avoided wholesale changes in staff or leadership. That is why, Mr. Simon said, the Bush administration is proposing that Congress force more action by limiting districts' options in responding to hard-core failure.

In California, Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of schools, calls the law's demands unreasonable. Under the federal law, 700 schools that California believed were getting substantially better were counted last year as failing. A state takeover of schools, Mr. O'Connell said, would be a "last option." "To have a successful program," he said, "it really has to come from the community."

Under the No Child law, a school declared low-performing for three years in a row must offer students free tutoring and the option to transfer. After five years, such schools are essentially treated as irredeemable, with the law prescribing starting over with a new structure, new leadership or new teachers. But it also gives schools the option of less sweeping changes, like reducing school size or changing who is in charge of hiring.


"Associational Preference" And The Rationale For "Diversity"

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

I have criticized more than once the, for lack of a better term, hypocrisy of higher education institutions whose lofty statements of principle trumpet their devotion to fundamental principles of non-discrimination, including the "without regard" principle, while other statements and a myriad of policies proudly proclaim exactly the opposite, that they are committed to using race, ethnicity, and gender to produce "diversity."

As I discussed several years ago, in a post that I invite you now to re-read (or read), Preferences, Principles, And Hypocrisy In Higher Education (Hey, I just had to re-read it; why shouldn't you?), the University of Pennsylvania is a typical example. Its Policy of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination states (or least it did in 2004 when I first quoted it):
Penn adheres to a policy that prohibits discrimination against individuals on the following protected-class bases: race, color, sex (except where sex is a bona fide occupational qualification), sexual orientation, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, age (except where age is a bona fide occupational qualification), disability (and those associated with persons with disabilities), or status as a special disabled, Vietnam era veteran or other eligible veteran.....

Penn is committed to ensuring that all academic programs (except where age or sex are bona fide occupational qualifications), including social and recreational programs, and services are administered without regard to an individual's protected-class status.

Penn is also committed to ensuring that its personnel and other employment decisions are made without regard to an individual's protected-class status.

Penn, of course, is permeated with policies that explicitly violate the "without regard" principle, and my post went on to mention some of them. Now take a look at this initially similar statement of principle at the University of Iowa, as quoted in this fascinating column in the Des Moines Register (HatTip to RealClearPolitics):
The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination ... on the basis of race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preference.

If you note that somewhat opaque "associational preference" at the very end of the string of protected categories that are off limits to discrimination, you will see why I said the Iowa statement was only "initially similar" to others of its ilk.

What is "associational preference," you ask, and what does it actually protect? Good question. Nobody seems to know, including officials at the University of Iowa, although there is evidence at Iowa that political affiliation comes under its somewhat leaky umbrella. As a result, a controversy has been ignited by a complaint filed by Mark Molar, an unsuccessful applicant for a position in the history department noting that the department contains 27 registered Democrats and 0 registered Republicans. The Des Moines Register column describes Molar as
a[n] historian with an impressive record: bachelor's degree from Harvard, doctorate from Cambridge; two books, one with Cambridge University Press; laudatory recommendations from distinguished historians; and a growing record of public commentary in national periodicals.

The point of his complaint is not that he wasn't hired but that he was more qualified that all eight candidates who were selected for a final screening. His problem?
He is also a conservative, and his thesis about the Vietnam War - that it was a noble cause that could have triumphed had the United States supported its allies more vigorously - falls well on the right side of things.

Molar himself has an article today on National Review Online going into greater detail about his complaint, and it is well worth reading. He makes, not surprisingly, a variation of the familiar "diversity" (in this case, however, real diversity) argument, noting that
the University's own hiring manual states that search committees must "assess ways the applicants will bring rich experiences, diverse backgrounds, and ideology to the university community."

Molar proposes, in effect, that universities spend as much time delving into the ideology of applicants as they do in determining skin color and, presumably, weigh it as heavily on the "diversity" scale. I have reservations about this approach - would, should, it for example, encourage the creation of "Conservative Studies" programs on the model of the Blacks Studies and Womens' Studies programs that were and remain a primary means of promoting race and gender "diversity"? One of their initial functions was to funnel black and women that traditional departments would not hire onto faculties. That seems to be what Prof. Molar (now a professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University) suggests, calling on universities "to create new faculty positions for conservatives beyond the reach of other professors' tentacles, as other schools have started doing."

But I don't want to argue remedies today; I want to discuss the nature of the problem. Or I should say, the nature of the problem if there is one, since Iowa, and other universities, maintain there is no problem, that they cannot assess the ideology of applicants and, even if they could, they should not. If there's no problem, of course, no remedy is needed.

Whether we are still in a post-modern era or have progressed (or regressed, if you prefer) into a post-post-modern era, it remains powerfully true that fields like history are much more enthralled by interpretation than fact. Graduate students spend as much (usually, quite a bit more) time mastering the various and conflicting interpretations of the past than they do on the pedestrian and mundane details of what actually happened. ("Actually!" they might exclaim aghast. "Actually? Don't tell me you still believe in the correspondence theory of truth.") If point of view takes precedence over what is viewed, if it takes a black to teach black history and a woman to teach womens' history, then ... well, you can see where this leads.

What interests me, however, is not what (if anything) should be done about the ideological imbalance in humanities and social science faculties. What interests me is how a whole generation of academics appears to have so little difficulty reconciling irreconcilable principles and behaviors: professing a commitment to treating people "without regard" to race, ethnicity, and gender while proceeding flagrantly and proudly to "take race [and ethnicity and gender] into account," favoring some and disfavoring others on the basis of characteristics they continue to promise not to regard; professing a profound commitment to the fundamental indispensability of "diversity" while remaining cavalierly unconcerned about an ideological conformity in many departments that would make forced re-education camps green with envy. At first I though the answer might lie in cognitive dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by [Stanford psychologist] Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

But this, on reflection, doesn't work, since our esteemed faculties don't seem to experience any dissonance at all, cognitive or otherwise. If they did, they'd at least revise all their statements of civil rights principles to reflect what they actually do in their affirmative action policies. But they don't.

In any event, for whatever reason I'm simply not very interested in hearing about (much less proposing) cures to this conformity. But I do confess one keen interest: I would dearly love to hear a learned exposition of exactly why the fate of the university and indeed of the western world as we know it rests on our success in achieving pigmentary "diversity" - what, for example, does it contribute to the life of the mind? - while ideological diversity appears to be of no concern whatever.

Low expectations won't help anybody

Full disclosure: My wife got good grades in law school. She graduated third in her class. She practices law with a firm downtown that only hires lawyers with good grades, just like every attorney there. Full disclosure: I got good grades in graduate school (though I was nowhere near third in my class). That helped me get on the faculty at one of the most selective institutions in American higher education. There, I give out grades. Good ones to those who master the material, bad ones to those who do not. That is my job. It is, I think, an important one.

So when it comes to today's topic, I might be biased. I actually believe in things like academic excellence and intellectual merit. I believe that right answers are better than wrong answers, that people can differ in their ability to distinguish between the two, and that identifying those who can do that well, is an important social good.

Grades, professional careers, and academic excellence are in the news thanks to the President of the National Urban League. In an interview that made national news, Marc Morial talked about law firms and diversity. It turns out that lawyers at the best firms want to hire only applicants who got good grades in law school. This, apparently, is bad.

Grades in post-secondary education exist to solve an important social problem: discovering who is good at what. It is highly beneficial to society to identify individuals with intellectual ability and professional skill, so that people can find them when they need them. That's how things like "reputation" and "prestige" work. It's also important for smart people to find and work with other smart people. Professional ability is best when leveraged. No one is suggesting that grades are the only thing professional firms should consider. There are plenty of straight-A law school and medical students who have no business being around people. That's why law firms and residency programs conduct interviews. Where you went to school is important too. Some places are tougher than others. Grades aren't perfect, but they're a pretty good indicator of whether or not you can do what you trained for and how you compare with your peers.

Morial's comments were particularly insulting to the minorities he claims to defend. The comments imply that minority law students can't achieve the same grades as white students. Since he doesn't claim discrimination by a conspiracy of racist law professors (good thing too, since there's no evidence for it), I can only assume that he's given up the fight. He seems to imply that the only way non-whites will ever be proportionally represented in American law firms is if lawyers with good grades stop asking for the same in the associates they hire.

Let's do a little thought experiment. Suppose you were accused of a crime, or your kid got into trouble, or someone decided to sue you. Whatever it is, you need a lawyer. You've heard good things about Smith & Jones, so you stop by their office. On their front door you find a newly painted sign: "The law firm of Smith and Jones now supports the hiring policies of the National Urban League. We are proud to announce that, in support of the visual diversity of our professional staff, we have reduced the emphasis we place on the academic performance of applicants for positions with the firm." Would you want them to represent you?

The National Urban League is right when they declare that urban black America is in crisis. They are right in that the standard "solutions" of modern politics have not worked. At the risk of stating the obvious, they are also right in that racism in America has not gone away. But they are wrong if they believe that lower academic standards for law firms, or medical practices, or any professional organization, are the answer. That would be unfair to those who use professional services, unfair to everyone who meets high standards, and unfair in the long run to those it supposed to help. If you ever have wondered what the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" means, look no further.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Criticism and censorship in academe

Leftists whine but it is they who are doing the censoring

Fears are repeatedly voiced about dangers to academic freedom. But these expressions of concern exhibit a great deal of hyperbole. In essence, there is a common mischaracterization. It treats criticism as though this were tantamount to censorship. To be sure, criticisms can be shrill and they may be warranted or unwarranted, fair or unfair, and serious or unserious, but they simply do not amount to the banning or suppression of scholarly ideas. Those of us who venture to express our views about matters of public policy and engage in debates about domestic and foreign affairs should expect that at times our ideas will evoke vigorous and even caustic disagreement. And even under the best of circumstances our words may come back to haunt us. Our written and spoken words are fair game, and we can hardly complain when these are subjected to comment and criticism.

In Middle East studies and among much of the academic left, denunciations of U.S. foreign policy, past and present, and sweeping condemnations about America's world role are common. This has been evident for a considerable period of time, beginning at least as early, for example, as the debates about the 1973 Middle East War and Arab oil embargo, and continuing through the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Rushdie affair, Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 9 ? 11 terrorist attacks, war and insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Not surprisingly, a good deal of professorial writing and speaking on these subjects has been subject to strong criticism, some of it from within the academy and a considerable amount from outside. In response, a number of Middle East scholars have complained about what they consider to be intimidation and threats to academic freedom. Their alarms are expressed in various ways. For example, an established Middle East expert, writing in a book for a top university press, voices such concerns in earnest but hyperbolic language: ``The last several years of often vicious attempts to intimidate members of the academy, particularly the Middle East Studies community, have been both disturbing and angering.'' The author refers to ``grim'' circumstances and declares a determination to pursue her scholarship, ``as a protest against those who seek to curb the polyphony of the academy'' in ``saying `no' to the trampling of free speech.'' (Brand 2006:xiii). Still others add to the complaints about infringement of academic freedom by alleging a prohibition on criticism of Israel.

It is not at all evident, however, that anything like intimidation, the ``trampling of free speech,'' or the curbing of the ``polyphony of the academy'' has occurred. Indeed, much of the alarm about censorship is a reaction to having one's words held up to critical scrutiny, both inside and outside the academy. For example, Martin Kramer's (2001) thoughtful critique of Middle East Studies has elicited angry reactions among those he has identified for what he describes as analytical deficiencies in their work. But one need not agree with every single conclusion he draws to note that a very large part of his monograph consists of copious quotations from the words of the academic figures whom he critiques.

As for any prohibition on criticism of Israel, the opposite is far more prevalent in the majority of academic Middle East studies programs and departments. Indeed, even while citing examples of what he considers to be inappropriate efforts to protest or even forestall Israel's critics from expressing their views, Wolfe (2006) concedes that ``none of those cases resulted in suppression of ideas.'' And he adds that ``even Walt and Mearsheimer, despite the factual errors and sometimes hysterical tone of their working paper, received a very lucrative offer from Farrar Strauss to publish a book based upon it.''

A much earlier case in point concerns assessments of the Iranian revolution. In 1979, a prominent international relations scholar wrote in a New York Times op-ed about Ayatollah Khomeini that, ``.the depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.'' The author ventured the prediction that ``Iran may yet provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a third-world country,'' and weeks later he responded to a rejoinder from a Times columnist by writing, ``To single out Iran for criticism at this point is to lend support to that fashionable falsehood embraced by Mr. [Anthony] Lewis that what has happened in Iran is the replacement of one tyranny by another'' (Falk 1979a, 1979b). In light of subsequent events in Iran, the writer of those words has come in for periodic and even strident criticism, so that nearly three decades later his words are still recalled and quoted.

Criticism of such judgments is fair game, as is the give and take in debates about 9 ? 11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, radical Islamism, and the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Indeed, such criticism can even be unfair, but cases in which moderate, conservative or right-wing criticism has led to genuine infringement on academic freedom-through censorship, punitive action or dismissal- are very hard to find.

Moreover, an alleged case involving University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill does not constitute a breach of academic freedom at all. Churchill, who gained notoriety for likening some of those killed in the 9 ? 11 attacks to ``little Eichmans,'' became the subject of an academic investigation which determined that he had committed research misconduct. A report by the University's Privilege and Tenure Committee ``found, by clear and convincing evidence, three instances of evidentiary fabrication by ghost writing and self citation, two instances of fabrication of material, one instance of falsification, two instances of plagiarism, and one instance of failure to comply with established standards on the use of author names on publications,'' according to a letter from the President of the university to the Board of Regents recommending Churchill's dismissal (Monastersky 2007). In other words, the actions taken by the University of Colorado against Churchill have been for serious violations of academic principles and do not constitute suppression of academic freedom.

Others have pointed with alarm to David Horowitz's controversial book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. His criticisms come from outside the established academic and think tank community and are at times polemical, though they do include copious and sometimes damning quotations and endnotes. Whatever the merits or lack thereof in his critique, Horowitz's book is not taken seriously within the academy, and there exists little evidence that academic freedom has been infringed by his condemnations

There are threats to academic freedom, though they are almost entirely the opposite of those cited by some contributors to this forum. In practice, it is scholars who do not share the dominant sympathies, ideologies, and beliefs that characterize the current Middle East studies community who are marginalized, often excluded, and thus isolated and even stigmatized. The response to their work takes a variety of forms, some of them subtle, others less so.

One form of bias involves marginalizing serious scholars. Distinguished academic authors who do not conform to the dominant Middle East studies worldview, and whose work has elsewhere been recognized and honored, are subjected to ad hominem attacks and their important writings are often absent from the syllabi of courses on the Middle East, the Arab world, and Islam. For example, two of America's most distinguished authorities on the Middle East, Princeton University Professor Emeritus Bernard Lewis and Professor Fouad Ajami of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, are virtually ostracized in vast swaths of the academic world because they do not attribute the region's ills mainly to America, Israel, and ? or Western imperialism. Other serious scholarly authors, such as Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, and Michael Doran, are similarly slighted-when they are not being attacked ad homine.

What is insidious about this marginalization is that the ideas and writing of these scholars are less subject to critical engagement. Because dissenting authors are treated in this way, those who disagree with them only rarely take part in the genuine debate and dialog that are essential to any discipline, and students who study these subjects risk missing the opportunity to think about, explore and assess competing ideas.

An even more overt problem concerns campus speakers programs. Lectures by such authors are relatively infrequent compared with those who articulate the conventional wisdom, and when such invitations are extended, the speakers may face the prospect of hecklers who seek to disrupt their lectures or the presence of groups who aim to prevent them from speaking altogether.[2] One obstructionist tactic includes making claims of racism or hostility to Islam. Another involves creating such a prospect of disorder that university authorities have become reluctant to see the event take place and have even gone so far as rescinding invitations tendered to these scholars.

For example, consider the reactions to Daniel Pipes, a serious and widely published scholar, albeit one who has been the subject of controversy for his website, Campus Watch. Pipes has been a frequent critic of radical Islamism and his aim has been to foster balance in Middle East studies. He does so by scrutinizing the discipline and commenting about courses, conferences and writings, though he has not sought to intervene in cases of hiring and promotion. There is certainly room for debate about Campus Watch, but Pipes has been subject to misquotation, virulent ad hominem attacks, and spurious allegations of Islamophobia. His campus appearances have been marked by threats and disruptions and there have been repeated attempts to prevent him from speaking.[3]

Still another real infringement on academic freedom involves the process of faculty hiring. Here, the issues and pressures are complex and the context highly subjective. Nonetheless, there is reason to infer that subtle and not so subtle political considerations affect hiring in Middle East studies and in certain other disciplines, and that those who express ideas that do not conform to the prevailing ethos face an uphill struggle. One recent applicant for a faculty position recounts a promising interview experience that turned sour when he was accused of being too conservative in his assessments of the Islamic world. He notes, ``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.''' The writer concludes by observing, ``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'' (Furnish 2007).

An egregious assault on academic freedom has been taking place in Britain, where there have been repeated attempts to organize boycotts of Israeli universities. The most recent of these was a May 2007 resolution of the University and College Union, calling on its branches to debate the withholding of cooperation from Israeli institutions. The anti-Israeli bias and the anti-intellectual bigotry on display is quite striking.[4] Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East, its colleges and universities enjoy academic freedom (a feature altogether absent among its neighbors), they are open to students and faculty of other ethnicities and faiths, and they host an extraordinary range of scholarly and political views (some of these extremely critical of Israel). Moreover, Israel is the sole country subject to such exclusion, while countries with appalling human rights records and in which academic and intellectual freedom is routinely abused or nonexistent are subject to no such sanctions.

Challenges to academic freedom are not limited to Middle East studies. Comparable problems exist in some other fields of study. These difficulties are most evident for those whose work or writing does not share many of the pieties of political correctness, particularly in regard to such topics as gender, race, diversity, and sexual orientation. A dismaying example can be found in campus speech codes, some of which have attempted to curtail free speech not because it is obscene, racist or risks inciting violence, but because it might be perceived as hurtful or insensitive. Given the historic patterns of robust and raucous free speech in American public life from the time of the founding of the republic to the present day, such restraints on speech are excessive and unwarranted.

Although strictly speaking not a matter of academic freedom, one problem that does exist is the often truncated range of discourse now tolerated on many college campuses. Here too, it can be useful to invoke another fundamental AAUP statement on academic freedom. This one dates from 1915, and includes the words, ``The university teacher.should cause his students to become familiar with the best published expressions of the great historic types of doctrine'' and ``should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves'' (quoted in ``Anne Neal vs. Roger Bowen''). But in many universities, students are not being exposed to the ``best published expressions of the great historic types of doctrine.'' This stems from the fact that the professorial political spectrum ranges mostly from moderate left of center liberalism to the farther reaches of sparse or missing altogether. As one thoughtful (nonconservative) observer notes, ``The absence of conservative minds from the liberal arts curriculum and the off campus ignorance of them.are standard features of intellectual life'' (Bauerlein 2006).

Data for the political affiliations of college faculty provide evidence of this. One study has shown that Democrats outnumber Republicans by huge margins: 21:1 among anthropologists, 9:1 among political and legal philosophers, more than 8:1 among historians, and nearly 6:1 among political scientists (study by Dan Klein, cited in Neal 2006). A study by Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte, published in 2005, found that 72% of faculty self-identified as liberals and 15% as conservative (Rothman et al. 2005). Another authoritative survey, this one by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, found that 5.3% of faculty identified as far left, 42.3% liberal, 34.3% middle of the road, 17.7% conservative, and 0.3% far right (study cited in Neal 2006).

One consequence of this politically tilted environment is that some faculty members are tempted to inject their personal political preferences into their teaching in ways that are completely extraneous to the subject matter at hand. This evokes complaints from off-campus, for example by Anne Neal, the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (a right of center group critical of what it considers political imbalance in academia). She offers a litany of complaints about the campus atmosphere: ``disinviting politically incorrect speakers; mounting one-sided panels, teach-ins and conferences; sanctioning speakers who fail to follow the politically correct line; politicized instruction; virtual elimination of broad-based survey courses in favor of trendy, and often politicized courses.; reprisal against or intimidation of students who seek to speak their mind; political discrimination in college hiring and retention; speech codes and campus newspaper theft and destruction'' (Neal 2006). One need not accept the entire list, nor assume it applies to all or even many universities, in order to recognize that there is some merit in these complaints.

The relative paucity of conservative scholarly voices and literature in the universities deprives all of us of the opportunity to incorporate intellectually serious traditions and ideas as we and our students contemplate not only the debates of the past, but the great issues of our era. Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English at Emory University, has addressed this shortcoming by observing that, ``We need to subject it [conservatism] to the full analysis-critical and appreciative-of the academy.It would be healthy for everyone if the academic curriculum broadened its scope, if the lineage of conservatism were consolidated into a respectable course of study-that is, if Hayek won one-tenth the attention that Foucault receives'' (Bauerlein 2006).

Bauerlein's observation comes from a discipline outside the field of international studies, but another more subtle concern has been expressed by Robert Jervis, one of the leading scholars within our discipline (and certainly not a conservative), who cautions about the potential unintended consequences of truncated discourse:

An intriguing complication is that our explanations here may of necessity be strongly influenced by our own policy preferences. The political science profession is dominated by liberal Democrats, which means that most of us feel that the country is harmed by the conservative tendencies that are so powerful now and have operated throughout most of American history. Our preferences may drive us toward explanations involving forms of false consciousness because it is otherwise hard to explain why so many of our compatriots act against what we believe to be their own interests (Jervis 2005:316).

Jervis's remark is well worth contemplating, and his caution about invoking explanations of ``false consciousness'' is insightful. A recent article in Perspectives on Politics appears to succumb to exactly this temptation. In their essay entitled, ``Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy: A Study in Weberian Activism,'' the authors recount how in October 2004 they and a number of prominent international relations scholars signed a letter critical of existing policy in Iraq and calling for a major shift in American foreign policy. The letter received little attention in the media and none by television news or in the major national newspapers. The authors address what they term ``the Failure of Weberian Activism,'' and in so doing appear to attribute this to the media's failure to distinguish between ``political partisanship and scientific scholarship'' ( Jackson and Kaufman 2007:100). In short, they take it as self-evident that their position represents a ``scientific consensus,'' blame the public and the media for being unwilling or unable to assess the worth of competing claims, and nowhere appear to consider the possibility that foreign policy assessments other than those in their own letter may have any validity.

In summary, the problem of truncated discourse is not, strictly speaking, a matter of academic freedom, but it comes at a cost in terms of intellectual breadth and rigor. What is needed is greater intellectual pluralism, which would serve both the ideal of ``fearless sifting and winnowing'' called for by the University of Wisconsin Regents and the ``free search for truth and its free exposition'' invoked by the AAUP Statement.


Pope Benedict Urges Government Subsidy of Faith-Based Schools

Pope Benedict XVI said today that governments are morally obligated to fund faith-based schools. His remarks were made in greeting Francis Kim Ji-young, the new ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See. "Faith-based schools have much to contribute," said the Pope in ensuring young people receive a sound education. "It is incumbent upon governments to afford parents the opportunity to send their children to religious schools by facilitating the establishment and financing of such institutions." "Insofar as possible," he added, "public subsidies should free parents from undue financial burdens that attenuate their ability to choose the most suitable means of educating their children."

The Pope specified that he was referring not only to Catholic but also other faith-based schooling, and also insisted that governments allow faiths freedom in terms of curricula. "Catholic and other religious schools should enjoy the appropriate latitude of freedom to design and implement curricula that nurture the life of the spirit without which the life of the mind is so seriously distorted," he said.

In the same address, the Pope condemned research which threatens the human embryo. "The destruction of human embryos, whether to acquire stem cells or for any other purpose, contradicts the purported intent of researchers, legislators and public health officials to promote human welfare," he said. "The Church does not hesitate to approve and encourage somatic stem-cell research: not only because of the favorable results obtained through these alternative methods, but more importantly because they harmonize with the aforementioned intent by respecting the life of the human being at every stage of his or her existence."

See the Pope's full address to the Ambassador here


Minneapolis Catholic College Requires Reading of Sexually Explicit Anti-Catholic Novel

Catholic parents of students at a Catholic college in Minneapolis are outraged that their children will be forced to read the sexually explicit and anti-Christian novel, A Handmaid's Tale by Canadian author and far-left feminist Margaret Atwood. The English Department's faculty at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minneapolis, has voted to use the book in all sections of freshman English as this year's "common text".

Catholic columnist Matt C. Abbott has reported that concerned parents have informed the university of their objections and been ignored. The group has formed to convince the university administration to drop the "sexually offensive" book and reform its English curriculum in favour of more serious literature.

Atwood is known in Canada as a major figure in the ultra-feminist, anti-religious and largely state-funded literary establishment. When it was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985, the book was heavily criticized, largely outside Canada, as an anti-Christian screed relying for its appeal on the titillation provided by its frequent expletives and graphically depicted sex-acts, and a heavy-handed feminist ideology.

Despite this, the book remains at the top of charts in literary circles and has received and been nominated for numerous literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize. It is featured as part of the high school literature curricula in the UK, the US, Germany and Australia. It has been listed as No.37 on the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000" by the American Library Association, as parents continue to object to its anti-Christian and sexual content.

The parents' group, UST Class Action, says the book has no place on the curriculum of a Catholic university. They are seeking not only to have the book removed from the curriculum, but for the university to apologise and review and reform its policy. They accuse the university of deliberately choosing the book for its "anti-Christian/anti-Catholic indoctrination value".

UST Class Action calls the book "insultingly vulgar, boorish and obscene." The story of A Handmaid's Tale revolves around an oppressive right-wing Christian totalitarian state in which women are forbidden to be educated, work, hold property or vote. They are separated, according to their fertility and social status, into three classes: wives, domestic servants and "handmaids" who are used as breeding stock for the ruling class of white Christian men. The story follows the adventures of "Offred" a handmaid who is given as a state benefit to a member of the elite and ritualistically raped to produce a male heir. Handmaids who attempt to resist or escape are publicly excuted as enemies of the state along with abortionists and homosexuals.

UST Class Action says, "Reading and analyzing this book is a profligate waste of the parent's or student's money, and a waste of the student's time. It cheats the students of a truly quality education that includes great Western literature by Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, [and] Chesterton".

The group wrote to the chairman of the English Department, Andrew Scheiber, on September 4, 2007. They were told that the objections were brought to the attention of Father Dennis Dease, the President of St. Thomas University who "said he would not intervene". The group is taking their concerns to the university's Board of Trustees.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ideological coercion in social work education

Very reminiscent of Mao's China

In 1943, the Supreme Court, affirming the right of Jehovah's Witnesses children to refuse to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag in schools, declared: "No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." Today that principle is routinely traduced, coast to coast, by officials who are petty in several senses.

They are teachers at public universities, in schools of social work. A study prepared by the National Association of Scholars, a group that combats political correctness on campuses, reviews social work education programs at 10 major public universities and comes to this conclusion: Such programs mandate an ideological orthodoxy to which students must subscribe concerning "social justice" and "oppression."

In 1997, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adopted a surreptitious political agenda in the form of a new code of ethics, enjoining social workers to advocate for social justice "from local to global levels." A widely used textbook -- "Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skill" -- declares that promoting "social and economic justice" is especially imperative as a response to "the conservative trends of the past three decades." Clearly, in the social work profession's catechism, whatever social and economic justice are, they are the opposite of conservatism.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the national accreditor of social work education programs, encourages -- not that encouragement is required -- the ideological permeation of the curricula, including mandatory student advocacy. The CSWE says students must demonstrate an ability to "understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination."

At Arizona State University, social work students must "demonstrate compliance with the NASW Code of Ethics." Berkeley requires compliance as proof of "suitability for the profession." Students at the University of Central Florida "must comply" with the NASW code. At the University of Houston, students must sign a pledge of adherence. At the University of Michigan, failure to comply with the code may be deemed "academic misconduct."

Schools' mission statements, student manuals and course descriptions are clotted with the vocabulary of "progressive" cant -- "diversity," "inclusion," "classism," "ethnocentrism," "racism," "sexism," "heterosexism," "ageism," "white privilege," "ableism," "contextualizes subjects," "cultural imperialism," "social identities and positionalities," "biopsychosocial" problems, "a just share of society's resources," and on and on. What goes on under the cover of this miasma of jargon? Just what the American Association of University Professors warned against in its 1915 "Declaration of Principles" -- teachers "indoctrinating" students.

In 2005, Emily Brooker, a social-work student at Missouri State University, was enrolled in a class taught by a professor who advertised himself as a liberal and insisted that social work is a liberal profession. At first, a mandatory assignment for his class was to advocate homosexual foster homes and adoption, with all students required to sign an advocacy letter, on university stationery, to the state legislature.

When Brooker objected on religious grounds, the project was made optional. But shortly before the final exam she was charged with a "Level 3," the most serious, violation of professional standards. In a 2 1/2 -hour hearing -- which she was forbidden to record and which her parents were barred from attending -- the primary subject was her refusal to sign the letter. She was ordered to write a paper ("Written Response about My Awareness") explaining how she could "lessen the gap" between her ethics and those of the social-work profession. When she sued the university, it dropped the charges and made financial and other restitution.

The NAS study says that at Rhode Island College's School of Social Work, a conservative student, William Felkner, received a failing grade in a course requiring students to lobby the state legislature for a cause mandated by the department. The NAS study also reports that Sandra Fuiten abandoned her pursuit of a social-work degree at the University of Illinois at Springfield after the professor, in a course that required students to lobby the legislature on behalf of positions prescribed by the professor, told her that it is impossible to be both a social worker and an opponent of abortion.

In the month since the NAS released its study, none of the schools covered by it has contested its findings. Because there might as well be signs on the doors of many schools of social work proclaiming "conservatives need not apply," two questions arise: Why are such schools of indoctrination permitted in institutions of higher education? And why are people of all political persuasions taxed to finance this propaganda?


The dumbing down of Britain's teachers

The only real qualification required is willingness to stand up in front of a mob of undisciplined hooligans

A STUDENT was allowed to become a teacher even though it took 28 attempts to pass a basic numeracy test that included questions such as "what is 6.03 multiplied by 100?". Figures released in parliament show that many students retake the basic maths and literacy tests required to join the profession several times. In both 2005 and 2006, there was at least one teacher who needed 28 attempts at the numeracy test; for literacy it was 20 and 19 respectively. In each of the last six years, there was at least one student who had to re-take the basic numeracy test more than 20 times, and the literacy test as many as up to 25 times.

Questions from the tests, which are set by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, included: "A pupil scores 18 marks out of 25. What was the score as a percentage?" In the literacy test, candidates are asked to choose the right answer from four alternative spellings for words such as preference, acknowledge and relieved. Options given included releived, releaved and realived.

The tests were introduced in 2000 and, initially, candidates who failed after four attempts were not allowed to qualify as teachers. This rule was relaxed in 2001 after complaints from the profession and students are now allowed unlimited re-takes. "If they have to do the test nearly 30 times, it's clear they can't read and write and add up. They shouldn't be allowed to teach," said Chris Woodhead, a former chief inspector of schools and a Sunday Times columnist.

Last year the tests were taken by 34,000 aspiring teachers; 700 failed to pass the numeracy test. Students must pass in numeracy, literacy and information and communications to qualify. A spokeswoman for the agency said: "We don't want to deny potential good teachers the opportunity to re-take tests. If you don't pass first time, it does not necessarily make you a bad teacher."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nervous atheists fear exposure of their bigotry

Atheist scientists who have become famous for attacking those who disagree with them are now loudly complaining about supposedly being mistreated in a film -- EXPELLED -- that they haven't seen. The point of the movie is not to prove or disprove evolution or intelligent design. The purpose is to report the personal attacks on anyone in academia who does not toe the line on evolution

Oxford zoologist, Richard Dawkins, has made a lot of money and fame calling people who believe in God "delusional." Yet he is now grumbling that the producers of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed "tricked" him into doing an interview. EXPELLED exposes the intimidation, persecution and career destruction that takes place when any scientist dares dissent from the view that all life on earth is the mere result of random mutation and natural selection.

"Some of these people -- especially Mr. Dawkins -- spend a lot of time insulting the millions of folks who disagree with them, so you would think they would have a little tougher skin," said Mark Mathis, one of the film's producers. "The funny thing is they are whining about the fact that the film is going to allow them to insult people on a much larger stage."

Other notable scientists who claim they were "deceived" by the producers of EXPELLED include Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education and PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who devotes much of his time to his popular science blog. Myers has attacked the film several times on his blog since EXPELLED announced its arrival in theatres in February 2008.

EXPELLED's producers say they aren't surprised by the academic uproar over the film because it is consistent with what happens on university campuses when students or professors question atheistic materialism. "There is some serious mistreatment and downright reprehensible behavior going on here, but I can assure you it's not coming from us -- we're just the ones exposing it," said Executive Producer, Walt Ruloff. "When our audience sees the stories of the real victims of scientific malpractice they're going to be outraged."

The producers of EXPELLED are particularly amused by Dawkins's complaint that the name of the film was changed from "Crossroads" to "EXPELLED" suggesting that this re-naming was a deception. Dawkins is well aware of the fact that movie titles change. When he was interviewed for EXPELLED he made the comment that the title of his anti-religion documentary, "Root of all Evil?" was chosen as a replacement for the original title late in the process.

Additionally, Dawkins participates in the documentary "A War on Science," which is an attack on Intelligent Design (ID). Producers of that film presented themselves to the Discovery Institute as objective filmmakers and then portrayed the organization as religiously-motivated and anti-scientific. "I've never seen a bigger bunch of hypocrites in my life," said Mathis, who set up the interviews for EXPELLED. "I went over all of the questions with these folks before the interviews and I e-mailed the questions to many of them days in advance. The lady (and gentleman) doth protest too much, methinks."

"Both Myers and Scott say they would have agreed to be interviewed under any circumstances, so why are they complaining?" said Ruloff. "In fact we had a second interview set up with Eugenie Scott, which she cancelled once rumors about EXPELLED began to circulate."

The legal releases all of the interviewees signed were quite explicit in regards to editorial control and transferability, something that is standard in the film business. Dawkins, Myers, Scott and many other scientists were paid for their interviews (Scott's check went to her organization, the National Center for Science Education).

EXPELLED's producers have made it clear the film will portray the scientists interviewed in a way that is consistent with their actual viewpoints or other public statements.

EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for release in February 2008. See the Ben Stein video about the film here and more details and commentary here


All schools are equal according to British government socialists

Oxford and Cambridge universities are unlikely to reach their targets for recruiting more students from state schools, analysis of admissions data suggests. Last year the two universities signed agreements with the Office for Fair Access pledging to increase the proportion of students they take from state schools by 2011. But a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research indicates that, at current rates of progress, their targets will not be met at Cambridge until 2012 and at Oxford until 2016.

The institute's analysis suggests that 36 per cent of students who got three A grades at A level went to independent schools, but the independent sector takes up 46 per cent of Oxford places and 43 per cent of Cambridge places.

Lisa Harker, co-director of the institute, said: "Oxford and Cambridge need to be more pro-active. Students getting three A-grade A levels at state schools are significantly under represented at both universities. Oxford and Cambridge must stop blaming a lack of applications for failure to make progress."

Oxford takes 54 per cent of its students from state schools. Its target is for 62 per cent of applications to come from state schools in five years. Cambridge takes 57 per cent of its students from state schools. Its target is for 60 to 63 per cent by 2011.

Admissions officers at both universities said that the analysis was flawed as it wrongly assumed that all A grades were equal and took no account of what subjects students had studied or what courses were on offer at Oxbridge. Geoff Parks, head of admissions at Cambridge, said: "Independent and grammar school students are more likely to have the right subject combinations that we are looking for at Cambridge."

The figures come days after John Denham, the Universities' Minister, said that he wanted the question of bias against pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds settled before a review of university tuition fees in 2009.


Attempting to revive history education in Australia

AS expected, Prime Minister John Howard's intervention in the culture wars, represented by the proposed Australian history guide for years 9 and 10 of high school, has drawn a chorus of criticism from the usual suspects. State Labor education ministers are one in the argument that each of their history curriculum documents represents best practice and that the guide is superfluous and a political stunt. Historians such as the University of Melbourne 's Stuart Macintyre, author of The History Wars and a vocal opponent of the Howard Government's education polices, have criticised the guide as well meant but overly detailed, solipsistic and difficult to implement in the classroom.

As a result of a 1991 meeting of Australian education ministers, the school curriculum was divided into eight learning areas and history was re-badged as "time, continuity and change", disappearing into the amorphous and politically correct stew represented by the subject known as studies of society and environment.

While the secondary school curriculum in NSW, and more recently Victoria, gives history special status, treating it as a stand-alone subject and detailing significant events, people and historical forces that must be taught, the subject has not fared as well in other jurisdictions.

The more conservative view - where students are taught a narrative associated with significant historical events, individuals and historical forces that shaped Australia's growth as a nation - has been jettisoned in favour of an inquiry-based issues approach that emphasises what is local and contemporary. Teaching what US academic Jerome Bruner has termed the structure of a discipline has given way to so-called generic skills, dispositions and competencies. This is largely as a result of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, otherwise known as Essential Learnings.

The Tasmanian and the South Australian Essential Learnings approach defines curriculum in terms of broad and vacuous categories such as futures, identity, interdependence and thinking and communication. In Queensland, the main SOSE values are defined as peace, ecological and economic sustainability, social justice and democratic process, all with a politically correct slant. The West Australian Curriculum Framework document describes history as "time, continuity and change" and, instead of detailing what should be taught, provides teachers with generalised outcome statements, such as: "They (students) can identify the constructive and destructive consequences of continuity and change and describe examples of both evolutionary and revolutionary change."

Unlike the approach associated with SOSE, Howard's new Guide to Teaching Australian History in Years 9 and 10 treats it as a stand-alone subject, and its authors bite the bullet and stipulate in detail a series of topics, milestones and essential content that all students need to learn if they are to understand and appreciate the nation's past. Although it's being attacked as the product of a conservative ideology, it should be noted the new guide is inclusive when it suggests students should study history through a range of perspectives, including those of gender, the environment, and indigenous and everyday life.

History teaching, and education more broadly, was once based on a belief in essential content, and that some interpretations are closer to the truth than others and that evidence should be weighed impartially. But the SOSE curriculums argue that interpreting the past is subjective and clouded by each person's ideological baggage and that it is wrong to stipulate what must be taught about it.

In 1992, the new history within the Victorian curriculum was celebrated on the basis that "there is no single version of history that can be presented to students. History is a version of the past (that) varies according to the person and the times ... each generation reinterprets the past in the light of its own values and attitudes." The 2000 edition of the Queensland SOSE document says students should be told "knowledge is always tentative", that they should "critique the socially constructed elements of text"and understand "how privilege and marginalisation are created and sustained in society".

Instead of providing a clear narrative detailing Australia's unique cultural and social growth and valuing what we hold in common, the SOSE approach emphasises diversity and difference. The Tasmanian curriculum, in explaining what is meant by social responsibility, emphasises the need to endorse "multiple perspectives" and "diverse views".

The South Australian curriculum, in outlining the importance of students having an understanding of cultural and global connections, also emphasises diversity and difference, as does the ACT curriculum, under the heading "Australian perspectives", in saying that students should experience the "diversity of Australian life".

The way studying Australian history is described in the Victorian curriculum also stresses diversity and multiple influences. Significant is that the new federal guide, in opposition to the idea of cultural relativism, acknowledges under the perspective "beliefs and values" the importance of "the influence of Christian churches and the liberal democratic philosophies" that underpin and safeguard our unique way of life.

A 1999 report, The Future of the Past, funded by the federal Government and written by historian Tony Taylor of Monash University, concludes that "Australian history in schools is characterised by lack of continuity, topic repetition and lack of coherence". The national history report also includes an observation by Monash University historian Mark Peel that many students enter university with a fragmented historical understanding.

Peel observed that while they might be strong in terms of questioning interpretations and appreciating the contribution of those voices normally excluded, such as Aborigines and women, undergraduate students lacked an understanding of the larger picture or the ability to place isolated events and issues within the broader context. Peel states: "Students seem anxious about the absence of a story by which to comprehend change, or to understand how the nation and world they are about to inherit came to be. They do have maps of the past. Their maps are more likely than mine to focus on particular visual images, those snatches of documentary film or photographs (that) increasingly encapsulate the past. Indeed, their sense of the world's history is often based on intense moments and fragments that have no real momentum or connection."

In a speech given at the Queensland Teachers Union conference in 2005, Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne effectively argued that the cultural Left had extended its influence in and through the education system. Byrne said: "We have succeeded in influencing the curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum." Although yet to be translated into classroom practice, the new guide to Australian history suggests that Byrne should not be overconfident.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Girl did not know she was fat

More fallout from the stupid and academically discredited self-esteem gospel that tries to shield kids from information about their own limitations. Kids need to get used to the idea that they are not always going to be a star

In an effort to combat the problem of childhood obesity, the Denver Public School District is sending home student health reports to keep parents informed. However, one parent says it should not have been sent home in her daughter's backpack because she read it. "The part that upset her the most as she started reading it, there it stated that she was overweight and she started to cry saying, 'Mom, that school tells me I'm fat.' So, it was very heart wrenching," said Flaurette Martinez.

Her daughter Isabel was sent home from the Centennial K-8 School on Monday with the health notice. It listed her height, weight and body mass index – a measure of body fat. Underneath the listing it had a marking next to the status "overweight." "My daughter is big boned," said Martinez.

Isabel's mother does not have a problem with what the schools are trying to do. She says that type of sensitive information should be mailed directly home to parents, because kids are prone to reading letters sent home by the schools. "If she would have dropped this letter, a student may have found it and may have exposed it to other students," said Martinez. "Anything specific to the child should be mailed. It should not be given to the child." However, DPS Spokesperson Alex Sanchez says schools do that all the time. Report cards, disciplinary notices and letters from the principal are commonly sent home with students. Sanchez says it is cheaper for the district to send these things home with students instead of by mail.

Martinez says that decision is causing her daughter emotional distress. "Most of the information that we get sent to us through the kids is basically newsletters, but nothing this sensitive. This is a sensitive issue for everybody," she said. "It's real upsetting for me to see her worried so much about her weight issue when it's not really that big of a deal. She's not that overweight."

DPS issued this statement Thursday afternoon: "In an effort to help ensure our students' health, Denver Public Schools provides parents with their child's hearing, vision, and body mass index (BMI) results in a sealed envelope that is sent home with the students. DPS feels compelled to inform parents about these very important health screening results and provide information about making healthier choices. The health of our students is very important to us and we wish to be part of the solution, given the nation's childhood obesity epidemic."

9NEWS asked Martinez repeatedly if sharing Isabel's identity and her health information will make things worse. Martinez wanted people to see her picture so they would know Isabel is not that big. She also says the damage was already done when she read the notice and she's talked to Isabel about addressing this issue of sending the notices home with students. Martinez says her daughter is OK with this information being released.


Ivory Tower Decay

By Michael Barone

I am old enough to remember when America's colleges and universities seemed to be the most open-minded and intellectually rigorous institutions in our society. Today, something very much like the opposite is true: America's colleges and universities have become, and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and intellectually dishonest institutions in our society.

Colleges and universities today almost universally have speech codes, which prohibit speech deemed hurtful by others, particularly those who are deemed to be minorities (including women, who are a majority on most campuses these days). They are enforced unequally, so that no one gets punished when students take copies of conservative alternative campus newspapers left for free distribution and dump them in the trash. But should a conservative student call some female students "water buffaloes," he is sentenced to take sensitivity training -- the campus version of communist re-education camps. The message comes through loud and clear. Some kinds of speech are protected, while others are punished.

Where did speech codes come from? There certainly weren't many when I was in college or law school. So far as I can tell, they originated after college and university administrators began using racial quotas and preferences to admit students -- starting with blacks, now including Hispanics and perhaps others -- who did not meet ordinary standards. They were instituted, it seems, to prevent those students from feeling insulted and to free administrators from criticism for preferential treatment -- treatment that arguably violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (although Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in the 2003 Supreme Court case on the subject, said they could continue another 25 years).

Racial quotas and preferences continue to be employed, as a recent article on UCLA makes clear, in spite of state laws forbidding them, and university administrators seem to derive much of their psychic income from their supposed generosity in employing them. This, even though evidence compiled by UCLA Professor Richard Sander suggests they produce worse educational outcomes for their intended beneficiaries and even though Justice Clarence Thomas makes a persuasive case in his book "My Grandfather's Son" that they cast a stigma of inferiority on them.

Of course, college and university administrators insist they aren't actually using quotas when in fact they are, as O'Connor's decisive opinion in 2003 invited them to do. The result is that one indispensable requirement for being a college or university administrator is intellectual dishonesty. You have to be willing to lie about what you consider one of your most important duties. So much for open inquiry and intellectual rigor.

This is not the only way the colleges and universities fall far short of what were once their standards. Sometime in the 1960s, they abandoned their role as advocates of American values -- critical advocates who tried to advance freedom and equality further than Americans had yet succeeded in doing -- and took on the role of adversaries of society. The students who were exempted from serving their country during the Vietnam War condemned not themselves but their country, and many sought tenured positions in academe to undermine what they considered a militaristic, imperialist, racist, exploitative, sexist, homophobic -- the list of complaints grew as the years went on -- country. English departments have been packed by deconstructionists who insist that Shakespeare is no better than rap music, and history departments with multiculturalists who insist that all societies are morally equal except our own, which is morally inferior.

Economics departments and the hard sciences have mostly resisted such deterioration. But when Lawrence Summers, first-class economist and president of Harvard, suggested that more men than women may have the capacity to be first-rate scientists -- which is what the hard data showed -- then, off with his head.

This regnant campus culture helps to explain why Columbia University, which bars ROTC from campus on the ground that the military bars open homosexuals from service, welcomed Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government publicly executes homosexuals. It explains why Hofstra's law school invites to speak on legal ethics Lynn Stewart, a lawyer convicted of aiding and abetting a terrorist client and sentenced to 28 months in jail.

What it doesn't explain is why the rest of society is willing to support such institutions by paying huge tuitions, providing tax exemptions and making generous gifts. Suppression of campus speech has been admirably documented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The promotion of bogus scholarship and idea-free propagandizing has been admirably documented by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. It's too bad the rest of America is not paying more attention.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stupid Ph.D. credentialism

The never-ending process of inflating the qualifications that people need in order to get a good job is getting really absurd. We read a plaintive story below about how many Ph.D. students have great difficulty in completing the dissertation that is (so far) essential to getting that degree. All it shows is that the students concerned are not really Ph.D. material and should never have been encouraged to try for a Ph.D. If you are a born academic -- as I am -- there is no problem. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in six weeks towards the end of the first year of my Ph.D. program and then had to wait another year to submit it because the rules said "Two-year minimum program". Stupid rules and stupid credentialism! And, unlike many dissertations, most of mine was eventually published as a series of academic journal articles. All men are NOT equal. Abilities DO differ

Many of us have known this scholar: The hair is well-streaked with gray, the chin has begun to sag, but still our tortured friend slaves away at a masterwork intended to change the course of civilization that everyone else just hopes will finally get a career under way.

We even have a name for this sometimes pitied species — the A.B.D. — All But Dissertation. But in academia these days, that person is less a subject of ridicule than of soul-searching about what can done to shorten the time, sometimes much of a lifetime, it takes for so many graduate students to, well, graduate. The Council of Graduate Schools, representing 480 universities in the United States and Canada, is halfway through a seven-year project to explore ways of speeding up the ordeal.

For those who attempt it, the doctoral dissertation can loom on the horizon like Everest, gleaming invitingly as a challenge but often turning into a masochistic exercise once the ascent is begun. The average student takes 8.2 years to get a Ph.D.; in education, that figure surpasses 13 years. Fifty percent of students drop out along the way, with dissertations the major stumbling block. At commencement, the typical doctoral holder is 33, an age when peers are well along in their professions, and 12 percent of graduates are saddled with more than $50,000 in debt.

These statistics, compiled by the National Science Foundation and other government agencies by studying the 43,354 doctoral recipients of 2005, were even worse a few years ago. Now, universities are setting stricter timelines and demanding that faculty advisers meet regularly with protégés. Most science programs allow students to submit three research papers rather than a single grand work. More universities find ways to ease financial burdens, providing better paid teaching assistantships as well as tuition waivers. And more universities are setting up writing groups so that students feel less alone cobbling together a thesis.

More here

Until Proven Innocent

By Thomas Sowell

Some of the most depressing e-mails received over the past year and a half have been those that asked why I was worrying myself about three rich white guys at Duke University. Neither those three students accused of rape nor the District Attorney who accused them are the ultimate issue.

If all District Attorneys in this country were like Michael Nifong, the United States of America would become the world's largest banana republic. Such levels of corruption in the law itself would make the American standard of living impossible. A steady diet of the racial polarization that Nifong promoted would make it only a matter of time before we would see in America the kind of violence seen between Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad. The "rule of law" is not just a pat phrase. It is the foundation on which everything else is built.

Nor is "innocent until proven guilty" just a throwaway line. The opposite notion -- guilty until proven innocent -- is a more poisonous import from the totalitarian world than the toys with lead paint imported from China.

"Until Proven Innocent" is the title of a devastating new book by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson about the rape charges against the Duke lacrosse players -- and about so many in the media and academia who treated them as guilty until they were proven innocent. Even those of us who followed the case from the beginning will learn a lot more about what went on, both on the surface and behind the scenes, from this outstanding book.

More important, we will learn some chilling facts about how deep the moral dry rot goes in some of the fundamental institutions of this nation that we depend on, including its leading universities and its leading media.

"Until Proven Innocent" also tells us about one of the forgotten victims of the Duke rape case -- the African cab driver who cast the first doubt on the indictment, by saying publicly that one of the accused young men was with him in his taxi at the time the rape was supposedly happening. A flimsy charge against that cab driver from three years earlier was suddenly resurrected, and District Attorney Michael Nifong had him picked up by the police, indicted and put on trial -- where he was quickly acquitted by the judge. Could this country survive as a free nation if every District Attorney used the power of that office to intimidate any witness whose testimony undermined the prosecution's case?

How long will we in fact survive as a free nation when our leading universities are annually graduating thousands of students each, steeped in the notion that you can decide issues of right and wrong, guilt or innocence, by the "race, class and gender" of those involved? That is what a large chunk of the Duke University faculty did, while few of the other faculty members dared to say anything against them or against the Duke administration's surrender to the lynch mob atmosphere whipped up on campus.

In much of the media as well, the students were treated as guilty until proven innocent, and those who said otherwise were often savaged. Members of the women's lacrosse team at Duke who expressed their belief that the male lacrosse players were innocent were viciously attacked in the sports section of the New York Times. Nor was that the only place where the guilt of the players was virtually taken for granted, on either the sports pages of the Times or in other places there or in other newspapers.