Saturday, November 03, 2007

Britain: Teachers' Muslim dress order

A SCHOOL was yesterday accused of MAKING teachers dress up as Asians for a day - to celebrate a Muslim festival. Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians. The morning assembly will be open to all parents - but dads are BARRED from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men. Just two members of staff - a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant - are Muslim.

Yesterday a relative of one of the 39 others said: "Staff have got to go along with it - or let's face it, they would be branded racist. "Who would put their job on the line? They have been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy."

The day aims to belatedly mark Eid, the end of Ramadan. Sally Bloomer, head of Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands, insisted: "I have not heard of any complaints. "It's all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism."


Islamic bias in textbook

The parents of children at Houston Elementary School plan to complain to the school board about concerns they have with a seventh-grade history textbook, which they feel pays an undue amount of attention to the teachings of Islam. When Jim Self asked his son last week what he was learning in school, he was surprised to hear his 12-year-old boy say that he was learning about the Prophet Muhammad. That night Jim Self and his wife, Korina, flipped through their son's textbook, "History Alive!: The Medieval World and Beyond," and found at least three chapters dedicated to the Islamic faith, including an entire chapter dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad.

Since then, the couple has started a campaign to remove the textbook from their child's classroom. The book is used in classrooms throughout the district. "I don't think we would have an issue about it if (it wasn't so) in-depth," said Jim Self, who fought in Iraq as a Marine from 2003 to 2004.

Among the Selfs' concerns about the textbook is its definition of the word "jihad," which is described in the book as "the human struggle to overcome difficulties and do things that would be pleasing to God." Other concerns stem from a passage on page 86 of the textbook, which quotes the angel Gabriel's words to the Prophet Muhammad. The Selfs said the textbook mentioned Jesus only twice, and other major religions were only given a paragraph of explanation.

One of the Selfs' biggest concerns, though, is that such detailed explanation of Islam is a violation of the separation of church and state. "If he was in college and he was studying world religions, fine," Jim Self said. The Selfs, who are Christians, worry that their reaction to the textbook will cause people to label them as religious "wackos." "We're just regular people," Jim Self said.

The Selfs don't have an issue with their son learning about other cultures, but said that each culture should be represented equally. "They want to take the Ten Commandments off the steps of the Supreme Court, but you're going to teach my 12-year-old son how to pray?" Jim Self asked.

In fact, the Selfs' asked that their son not be named to avoid unwanted repercussions. But that didn't stop them from telling Houston Elementary's administration that their son will not be participating in history class, a request with which the school has complied. "I was very clear that my son will not be studying these next few chapters," Korina Self said.

However, Anne Cecchetti, curriculum coordinator of instructional media services at Lodi Unified School District, had a different take on the textbook, which she said has been approved by the state board of education. "We're just explaining something. That's education," Cecchetti said. "When you start espousing a religion, that's when you have a problem with the separation of church and state." Cecchetti was surprised that the Selfs had not been informed of Lodi Unified's school board policy that allows any resident or employee to challenge a textbook if they feel the book is inappropriate. Forms for requests for formal reconsideration are on hand at each school site, according to board policy.

Korina and Jim Self have been encouraging other parents to look at the textbook and make their own conclusions. Korina Self said she would be collecting signatures of parents who disapproved of the textbook during the next few days. She also said she would bring the matter to the attention of the school board during its next meeting on Nov. 6.

Parents in Arizona requested that the same textbook, which was being used on a trial basis, be pulled from classrooms in Scottsdale Unified School District because they felt the book contained Islamic propaganda, according to an article in the East Valley Tribune newspaper. TCI, the book's publisher, ended the trial period before the school district could act, saying that the book did not match with new state standards. Natasha Martin, spokesperson for TCI, said the book does comply with California's state standards and it was thoroughly reviewed by the state before being approved. "It is common for parents in the state to raise concerns about the teaching of Islam because they do not know that it is required by the state standards, and they don't understand that all major religions are taught as part of the sixth and seventh grade world history courses," Martin wrote in an e-mail.

Denice Shigematsu, principal at Houston Elementary, also said the book complies with a California state standard requiring students to learn about diverse religions. Shigematsu said she has only received one complaint about the book this year. Shigematsu said she had received two separate complaints about textbooks in previous years, but the complaints were resolved once the parents met with the teacher and discussed how the curriculum was being taught. However, that information isn't comforting to parent Jordi Domenech, who said the text should cover all religions equally, or none at all. That's something, Domenech said, that should be taught at home.


University of Delaware Dumps Brainwashing Program

Late Thursday, University of Delaware President Patrick Harker released on the school’s website a Message to the University of Delaware Community terminating the university’s ideological reeducation program, which FIRE condemned as an exercise in thought reform. He stated, “I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted.” Harker also called for a “full and broad-based review” of the program’s practices and purposes. While concerns remain about the University of Delaware’s commitment to free expression, FIRE commends President Harker for his decision to immediately terminate the Orwellian residence life education program. FIRE will have more on this development tomorrow. President Harker’s message is reproduced in full below.
A Message to the University of Delaware Community

The University of Delaware strives for an environment in which all people feel welcome to learn, and which supports intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, free inquiry and respect for the views and values of an increasingly diverse population. The University is committed to the education of students as citizens, scholars and professionals and their preparation to contribute creatively and with integrity to a global society. The purpose of the residence life educational program is to support these commitments.

While I believe that recent press accounts misrepresent the purpose of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, there are questions about its practices that must be addressed and there are reasons for concern that the actual purpose is not being fulfilled. It is not feasible to evaluate these issues without a full and broad-based review.

Upon the recommendation of Vice President for Student Life Michael Gilbert and Director of Residence Life Kathleen Kerr, I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted. Vice President Gilbert will work with the University Faculty Senate and others to determine the proper means by which residence life programs may support the intellectual, cultural and ethical development of our students.


Friday, November 02, 2007

More proof that America's universities are mini-Soviets -- complete with brainwashing

ALL whites are racist -- and deny it at your peril

A mandatory University of Delaware program requires residence hall students to acknowledge that "all whites are racist" and offers them "treatment" for any incorrect attitudes regarding class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality they might hold upon entering the school, according to a civil rights group.

"Somehow, the University of Delaware seems terrifyingly unaware that a state-sponsored institution of higher education in the United States does not have the legal right to engage in a program of systematic thought reform. The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of conscience - the right to keep our innermost thoughts free from governmental intrusion. It also protects the right to be free from compelled speech," said a letter from Samantha Harris, director of legal and public advocacy for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to university President Patrick Harker.

The organization cited excerpts from the university's Office of Residence Life Diversity Education Training documents, including the statement:

"A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. 'The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination..'"

The education program also notes that "reverse racism" is "a term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege." And "a non-racist" is called "a non-term," because, the program explains, "The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift the responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called 'blaming the victim')."

The "education" regarding racism is just one of the subjects that students are required to adopt as part of their University of Delaware experience, too, FIRE noted. The "shocking program of ideological reeducation," which the school itself defines as a "treatment" for students' incorrect attitudes and beliefs, is nothing less than "Orwellian," FIRE said. The school requires its approximately 7,000 residence hall students "to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy and environmentalism." "FIRE is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students' rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech," the organization said.

On a foundation blog, a student noted that one residence assistant told students, "Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!!" And the training program for those who indoctrinate students includes the order: "A researcher must document that the treatment/intervention was faithfully applied (ex: specific lesson plans were delivered to every student, etc.)." Further, the school requires "a systemic change" as a result of the program, FIRE noted. As one RA told students: "Like it or not, you all are the future Leaders, and the world is Diverse, so learning to Embrace and Appreciate that diversity is ESSENTIAL."

"The University of Delaware's residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students' private beliefs," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional."

According to university materials, RAs are instructed to ask students during one-on-one sessions questions such as: "When did you discover your sexual identity?" "When were you first made aware of your race?" and "Who taught you a lesson in regard to some sort of diversity awarness? What was the lesson?" "Students who express discomfort with this type of questioning often meet with disapproval from their RAs, who write reports on these one-on-one sessions and deliver these reports to their superiors. One student identified in a write-up as an RA's 'worst' one-on-one session was a young woman who stated that she was tired of having 'diversity shoved down her throat,'" FIRE said. This particular student responded to the question, "When did you discover your sexual identity?" with the terse: "That is none of your damn business," FIRE said.

Requirements for students include: "Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society," "Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression," and "Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality," FIRE said.

The foundation said students even are "pressured or even required" to make social statements that meet with the school's approval. "The fact that the university views its students as patients in need of treatment for some sort of moral sickness betrays a total lack of respect not only for students' basic rights, but for students themselves," Lukianoff said. "The University of Delaware has both a legal and a moral obligation to immediately dismantle this program, and FIRE will not rest until it has."

A spokesman for the school, contacted by WND, said he was not ready to make a statement about the situation right away. But the foundation's letter to Harker noted, "we have never encountered a more systematic assault upon the individual liberty, dignity, privacy, and autonomy of university students than this program," which "requires students to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues." "Such utter contempt for the autonomy and free agency of others is the hallmark of totalitarianism and has no place in any free society, let alone at a public university in the state of Delaware," the letter said.

Especially alarming, Harris told WND, is that the school defines learning specifically as "attitudinal or behavioral changes," not acquiring any sort of knowledge and ability. Such thinking "represents a distorted idea of 'education' that one would more easily associate with a Soviet prison camp than with an American institution of higher education," FIRE said. "As another example, after an investigation showed that males demonstrated 'a higher degree of resistance to educational efforts,' the Rodney complex chose to hire 'strong male RAs.' Each such RA 'combats male residents' concepts of traditional male identity,' in order to 'ensure the delivery of the curriculum at the same level as in the female floors.' This language is disturbingly reminiscent of a pivotal scene from George Orwell's '1984,' in which the protagonist's captors tell him that 'The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.'"

No small danger, FIRE noted, is being presented to the university through such apparent constitutional violations. "Simply put, the residence life education program is a legal minefield," the group said.

One student reacted to the indoctrination with rebellion. On the FIRE blog, he wrote: "Take the issue of homosexuality, and the rights that should or should not be associated with it. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, and is a sin against God. As such, I cannot accept it as a legitimate lifestyle. While I accept homosexuals as people, I do not accept their choice as right, and subsequently I do not think that homosexual couples should be given marital rights. I accept that others do not hold the same views as me. But it is wrong that under the Residence Life curriculum and school mandated curriculum that I should made to feel guilty for my views. . It is not the school's right to try to convince me to embrace the values that Residence Life has chosen. Essentially, if I do not change my views, I will be labeled by my RA as not embracing diversity, and not accepting of certain groups, and thus my RA will try all the harder to change me. This is not the school's job, or right."


The Nanny State (the Ninny State?)

Post below lifted from Russ Wilcox. See the original for links

Almost every week I see an article about a school being sued by stupid parents because a teacher or a coach has done something to upset a child's self-esteem. Today in my local Florida newspaper is another story - this one about a volleyball coach who has been fired for "grabbing a student's shirt". In Rhode Island, where I live in the summer, there is an ongoing case about a parent suing (of course, with the help of the ACLU) the principal of a high school for his objecting to the female student wearing a tee shirt that contained an obscenity relating to the President. My goodness, who are these babies that need such protection from slights in life, and how are they going to handle some real problems they will face as adults?

Not only are these parents creating adults who will be perpetual children who fly into tantrums when everything doesn't go just right (and we all suffer the consequences of these adult brats - especially road rage), but they are robbing their children as well. I had a high school track and football coach who threw a baton at me when he thought I was slacking in a race, and who picked me up and hurled me into my practice opponent to show me what the result of a proper block should be. When I got over it, I was proud to receive these harassments; most of my team members had similar experiences, and I was now one of them. Even now, more than 50 years later, my friends and I still remember these incidents involving me and them and that coach with great amusement and affection. (I'm sure that this causes feelings of horror among liberal do-gooders.)

In graduate school and in the Army, group solidarity was built by subjecting the group to some wearisome and, sometimes, humiliating experience. It worked, we became a team, and we got over it, but I shudder to think of what would happen to such a coach, a teacher or a platoon sergeant in today's silly, liberal, mush environment.

There is an excellent book about this phenomenon and its consequences called "The Nanny State" by David Harsanyi , and many others have also noticed this state of affairs; here is an interesting 2002 article on the subject:

Homeschooling growing in Australia

As government schools deteriorate both behaviourally and educationally

THOUSANDS of students are being pulled out of Queensland state and private schools to be educated at home by their parents. The home schooling revolution is being driven by parents looking to shield their children from bullying and undesirable teenage peers. Home education is a "lawful alternative" for students of a compulsory school age, but Education Queensland sets out strict guidelines. Those wishing to go to university have to sit a special tertiary admissions test.

Homeschooling Association of Queensland president Robert Osmak estimates more than 22,000 children are now being home schooled in the state. This is double the figures obtained through a government working reference group in 2002. "I'd say the majority of parents are moving to home schooling out of despair," Mr Osmak said. "Their children have been terribly brutalised. They've been beaten up in the school yard on a regular basis."

Mr Osmak said the mother of a teenage Brisbane student had contacted him this week after her son was hit from behind, pushed to the ground and had his head smashed against the concrete at a state school. "The thug was only suspended for three days. Nothing is being done to protect the children who are being hurt," he said. Mr Osmak said he had written to Education Minister Rod Welford seeking a meeting to discuss some of the complaints by parents to him and streamline access to home schooling.

Mr Welford declined to meet with Mr Osmak, but indicated Education Queensland was providing information to the families and recognised home schooling was a "legitimate option" which parents could apply for on behalf of their children. In a lengthy letter to Mr Osmak, Mr Welford wrote: "Please be assured that my department takes issues of bullying, harassment, violence and discrimination seriously. Schools have codes of student behaviour and behaviour management programs for developing respect and safety towards others."

Mr Osmak, a former teacher with 23 years' experience in the state and private system in Queensland and overseas, has home schooled his nine children. "Two of them are in business, one of boys is employed and three of the girls are at TAFE. The two youngest are still being schooled," he said.

Valma Cronau, who heads a Gold Coast support group, said hundreds of home schooling families met regularly for social functions. She said one of the reasons for home schooling her children was to teach them Christian values. Other factors included removing them from peer pressure, and contact with drugs and "political correctness". To ensure students are being taught properly, EQ requires parents to apply for home schooling on behalf of their children and be granted registration. For continued registration, a parent is required to provide an annual report.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

New Zealand school incriminates mother for slapping son's hand

Post below lifted from NZ Conservative. See the original for links

There were several interesting aspects to this case:

1. The mother says her family feels traumatised after a visit from CYF and later (for a separate incident), by three policemen. The policemen questioned (interrogated?) her child separately. I wonder if that was without a third party witness? She feels she has been labeled a "child abuser" for a simple smack on the hand.

2. The mother was in favour of the changes to s59. Obviously, she bought the line that this law change was around stopping violent abusers from getting off serious abuse by a legal loophole. It wasn't.

3. She did not want to be named because she 'fears losing her children'. There were a few notable cases in Sweden where parents said they had been threatened with losing their children if they made any aspect of the case public. It is likely that those that will speak out are going to be in the minority. We can expect this theme of blackmailing parents by threatening to remove their children for unfavorable public attention will continue here.

4. We can see that it will not take much for people to 'dob in' parents for a minor smack, and this in turn will create the climate of fear. She was dobbed in by a school teacher when the child said he got a smack, and a neighbour. Had the child been 'educated' that a smack is a bad thing, so he thought he could use it to gain attention, or as an excuse, not realizing the implications?

5. Ruth Dyson, Associate Social Development Minister believes the CYF intervention was not a result of the law change, but 'reflected greater community sensitivity to child abuse'. Firstly, note how a smack on the hand, that leaves no mark, is equated to child abuse by Dyson. Also, reflect that the law change encourages zealots to report such infractions.

Over time, there will be an increase in cases where the punishment of removing children from basically good families will far outweigh the "crime" of physical discipline. Will we learn of these cases however? Will parents be forced to remain silent for fear of never getting their children back?

Update and related link: Dave at Big News has the Mother's side of the story in the form of a letter to Family First.

11:00PM - As usual, scrubone weighs in with a worthy post on this topic, by reminding us how hard Sue Bradford [of the NZ government] tried to sell us that this is all about the violent abusers, not a little smack

Australia: Grammar comeback?

GRAMMAR will return to Queensland classrooms in Years 11 and 12 under a revised English syllabus requiring that students be taught grammar, spelling and punctuation. The Queensland Studies Authority, which is responsible for school curriculums, says a new senior English syllabus to be taught from 2009 will remove the "over-emphasis on critical literacy" used to analyse literature. Critical literacy is a theory used to analyse texts which holds that language is never neutral and should be dissected to reveal how the writer is manipulating the reader.

The changes are based on a report by the executive dean of arts at the University of Queensland, Richard Fotheringham, which recommends the syllabus be more specific about the novels, plays and poems that students should study. The report was commissioned last year by Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford, who has called for "plain English guidelines" and criticised the "post-modern mumbo jumbo" in the state's English syllabus.

In an article in the QSA journal, director Kim Bannikoff said the revised syllabus would encourage teachers to use a range of approaches to texts. "The narrow focus on 'socio-critical elements' will be reframed so students are assessed on their evaluative thinking skills and decision-making in the reading and writing of texts," he says. Mr Bannikoff refused to elaborate, but a QSA spokesman said socio-critical elements were what developed students' ability to critique texts. "The narrow focus in the past refers to the over-emphasis on critical literacy," the spokesman said. Mr Bannikoff said the syllabus would ensure students studied a range of classic and contemporary novels, poems, plays, films and other works. Teachers can expect more specific advice about what to study and assess.

The QSA spokesman said the syllabus would specify the range and balance of texts to be studied rather than setting mandatory reading lists. The changes were greeted with suspicion by the English Teachers Association of Queensland, whose president, Gary Collins, said teachers would resist plans to remove critical literacy from the syllabus. "We certainly believe a critical literacy approach shouldn't dominate all teaching and assessment tasks," Mr Collins said. "But it would be a decidedly retrograde step if it were to be removed entirely."

A spokeswoman for Mr Welford said the minister was considering the report.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1 in 10 Schools Are 'Dropout Factories'

Showing a complete failure to tailor black education to black characteristics. There have been very successful black schools in the past -- and all had high levels of discipline. But blacks kids get just the opposite of that these days -- with predictable results. For decades there have been the bright-eyed reformers who get passable results for a while by giving selected student huge amounts of individual attention but they always have been and always will be an ungeneralizable model for education as a whole -- as the immovably low level of overall performance reported below shows. Learning to shut up, sit up and listen is of itself one of the most valuable lessons these "dropout" kids could learn

It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America. "If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago. While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, says Balfanz. The data look at senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures aren't to blame for the low retention rates.

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones - the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.

Utah, which has low poverty rates and fewer minorities than most states, is the only state without a dropout factory. Florida and South Carolina have the highest percentages. "Part of the problem we've had here is, we live in a state that culturally and traditionally has not valued a high school education," said Jim Foster, a spokesman for the South Carolina department of education. He noted that residents in that state previously could get good jobs in textile mills without a high school degree, but that those jobs are gone today.

Washington hasn't focused much attention on the problem. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, pays much more attention to educating younger students. But that appears to be changing. House and Senate proposals to renew the 5-year-old No Child law would give high schools more federal money and put more pressure on them to improve on graduation performance, and the Bush administration supports that idea. The current NCLB law imposes serious consequences on schools that report low scores on math and reading tests, and this fallout can include replacement of teachers or principals - or both. But the law doesn't have the same kind of enforcement teeth when it comes to graduation rates. Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma. For Hispanic and black students, the proportion drops to about half. The legislative proposals circulating in Congress would:

_Make sure schools report their graduation rates by racial, ethnic, and other subgroups and are judged on those results. That's to ensure that schools aren't just graduating white students in high numbers, but also are working to ensure that minority students get diplomas.

_Get states to build data systems to keep track of students throughout their school years and more accurately measure graduation and dropout rates.

_Ensure that states count graduation rates in a uniform way. States have used a variety of formulas, including counting the percentage of entering seniors who get a diploma. That measurement ignores the obvious fact that kids who drop out typically do so before their senior year.

_Create strong progress goals for graduation rates and impose sanctions on schools that miss those benchmarks. Most states currently lack meaningful goals, according to The Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for poor and minority children.

The current law requires testing in reading and math once in high school, and those tests take on added importance because of the serious consequences for a school of failure. Critics say that creates a perverse incentive for schools to encourage kids to drop out before they bring down a school's scores. "The vast majority of educators do not want to push out kids, but the pressures to raise test scores above all else are intense," said Bethany Little, vice president for policy at the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group focused on high schools. "To know if a high school is doing its job, we need to consider test scores and graduation rates equally."

Little said some students pushed out of high schools are encouraged to enroll in programs that prepare them to take the GED exam. People who pass that test get certificates indicating they have high-school level academic skills. But the research shows that getting a GED doesn't lead to the kind of job or college success associated with a regular diploma.

Loretta Singletary, 17, enrolled in a GED program after dropping out of a Washington, D.C. high school that she describes as huge, chaotic and violent. "Girls got jumped. Boys got jumped, teachers (were) fighting and hitting students," she said. She said teachers had low expectations for students, which led to dull classes. "They were teaching me stuff I already knew ... basic nouns, simple adjectives." Singletary said a subject she loved was science but she wasn't offered it, and complaints to administrators went unanswered. "I was interested in experiments," she said. "I didn't have science in 9th or 10th grade."

A GED classmate of Singletary's is 23-year-old Dontike Miller, who attended and left two D.C. high schools on the dropout factory list. Miller was brought up by a single mother who used drugs, and he says teachers and counselors seemed oblivious to what was going on in his life. He would have liked for someone to sit him down and say, "'You really need to go to class. We're going to work with you. We're going to help you'," Miller said. Instead,"I had nobody."

Teachers and administrators at Baltimore Talent Development High School, where 90 percent of kids are on track toward graduating on time, are working hard to make sure students don't have an experience like Miller's. The school, which sits in the middle of a high-crime, impoverished neighborhood two miles west of downtown Baltimore, was founded by Balfanz and others four years ago as a laboratory for getting kids out on time with a diploma and ready for college. Teachers, students and administrators at the school know each other well. "I know teachers that have knocked on people's doors. They want us to succeed," 12th-grader Jasmine Coleman said during a lunchtime chat in the cafeteria.

Fellow senior Victoria Haynes says she likes the way the school organizes teachers in teams of four, with each team of teachers assigned to a group of 75 students. The teachers work across subject areas, meaning English and math teachers, for example, collaborate on lessons and discuss individual students' needs. "They all concentrate on what's best for us together," Haynes said. "It's very family oriented. We feel really close to them."

Teachers, too, say it works. "I know the students a lot better, because I know the teachers who teach them," said 10th-grade English teacher Jenni Williams. "Everyone's on the same page, so it's not like you're alone in your mission."

That mission can be daunting. The majority of students who enter Baltimore Talent Development in ninth grade are reading at a fifth- or sixth-grade level. To get caught up, students have 80-minute lessons in reading and math, instead of the typical 45 minutes. They also get additional time with specialists if needed.

The fact that kids are entering high schools with such poor literacy skills raises questions about how much catch-up work high schools can be expected to do and whether more pressure should be placed on middle schools and even elementary schools, say some high-school principals. "We're at the end of the process," says Mel Riddile, principal of T.C. Williams High School, a large public school in Alexandria, Va. "People don't walk into 9th grade and suddenly have a reading problem."

Other challenges to high schools come from outside the school system. In high-poverty districts, some students believe it's more important to work than to stay in school, or they are lured away by gang activity or other kinds of peer or family pressure.

At Baltimore Talent Development, administrators try to set mini-milestones and celebrations for students so they stay motivated. These include more fashionable uniforms with each promotion to the next grade, pins for completing special programs and pizza parties to celebrate good attendance records. "The kids are just starved for recognition and attention. Little social rewards matter to them," said Balfanz. Balfanz says, however, that students understand the biggest reward they can collect is the piece of paper handed to them on graduation day. Without it, "there's not much work for you anymore," he said. "There's no way out of the cycle of poverty if you don't have a high school diploma."


Australia: Bureaucracy choking universities too

Three new bureaucrats for every new teaching position

Universities had increased administrative staff numbers by nearly 300 per cent in 10 years because the federal Government had swathed them in red tape, a sector union said yesterday. National Tertiary Education Union policy analyst Andrew Nette scoffed at Education Minister Julie Bishop's comment on ABC radio that universities did not need more money but rather better management, more academics and fewer administrators. "It's a simplistic argument to say that universities should employ less general staff and more academics, given the demands of her own Government that have been a significant factor in the increase in general staff," Mr Nette said.

Education Department figures show that full-time academic staff increased by 85 per cent between 1997 and last year, from 21,787 to 40,216. In the same period, general staff numbers increased by 293 per cent, from 17,665 to 51,792. The Group of Eight largest universities released a report at the weekend saying that because of a fall in public funding, university standards were falling as students paid more to attend.

In response, Ms Bishop told ABC radio: "The administration costs of universities are increasing at the expense of teaching and research. I believe the universities should be employing more lecturers and fewer administrators ... they should be changing that balance."

National lobby group Universities Australia said that since 2004, increases in academic staff were higher than in administrative staff. UA chief executive officer Glenn Withers said: "We are prioritising teaching."

Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith agreed that universities had to be efficient. "When the commonwealth hands over money, it needs to be satisfied that sufficient and appropriate governance and accountability procedures are in place," he said. "My criticism is there is not enough invested. The Government has tried to micro-manage the inputs and not stand back and focus on the outputs. There is no doubt some of the regulatory red tape-burden can be relieved."


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Antisemitism at Columbia Teachers' College

I am inclined to think that the noose incident was a "plant" -- as I have said before. I am inclined to believe that the incident below is genuine, however. There are a lot of Leftists in the universities and the Left today seems to be as Jew-hating as it was in Hitler's day

Two Teachers College faculty members received "anti-Semitic materials" yesterday, according to an e-mail sent to TC students by Provost Tom James. In his message, James wrote that TC reported the incidents to the New York City Police Department and have consulted the Anti-Defamation League. In order to protect the privacy of the faculty members involved, James wrote that TC will not release their names. "As always, Teachers College deplores these hateful acts and takes them extremely seriously," James wrote.

The incident comes during a time of turmoil in Teachers College, two-and-a-half weeks after a noose was found on the door of a TC professor and anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a bathroom stall in Lewisohn Hall.


Oxford University students stirring the pot again

They have a long tradition of it -- but some understandable concern is voiced below

Less than a month after Columbia University gave Holocaust denier, Iranian president Ahmadinejad, a platform in the name of freedom of expression, the Oxford University debating society has contacted Holocaust denier David Irving using the same argument and asked him to participate in one of the society's forums in November. The club also wants to invite Belarus dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, and chairman of the British Nationalist Party (BNP), Nick Griffin.

Debating society president, Luke Tryl, told the British Guardian newspaper that the Oxford Union debating society "is famous for is commitment to free speech" and that the three had been invited despite their "awful and abhorrent views" He argued that the students at Oxford are intelligent enough to challenge and ridicule them.

Tryl's weak rationale for the invitation has failed to convince various groups of students and anti-fascist campaigners in Britain. In a joint statement the co-presidents of the Oxford Jewish Students Union said it would be a disgrace if the three were allowed to address a forum on free speech, and that it would leave a black mark on the reputation of the Oxford Union. Students at the university said that their appearance would encourage right wing extremist groups which have become increasingly arrogant.

Irving, who until recently was serving a three year prison sentence in Austria after being convicted of Holocaust denial, told the Guardian that he had not received a formal approach but if he did he would like to speak to the students. He said that he had received many invitations to appear at Oxford but most had been withdrawn due to public pressure, threats, and intimidation even though he thinks "there are a lot of students who would like to hear what I have to say".

Last month Irving told the Guardian that his views on the Holocaust have not changed at all and that his views have become stronger over the years. In several books he plans to publish soon, Irving maintains that "the Jews are the architects of what happened to them in the Second World War" and that the "Jewish problem" has been the cause of most wars in the past hundred years. Irving also claims that the gas chambers in Auschwitz never existed and that the camp was not an extermination camp and has only been publicized because it was well preserved.

Besides offering further proof of growing activism (such as the call to boycott Israeli universities which went into the garbage bin of history) by the extreme left in Britain, Europe, and the United States, the problem with inviting loathsome Holocaust deniers like Irving and Ahmadinejad and asking them to address forums, is that it offers legitimacy to the very discussion of whether the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewish people actually took place. If not prevented, discussions on this subject may pave the way for a future debate on Israel's status as the home of the Jewish nation and the right of the Jewish People to exist.

Israel's political leadership must face it that the world does not take for granted the right of the Jewish People to live as a free nation in the land of Israel, and that there are some who question this. Consequently, they must do everything possible to stem the growing phenomenon of hiding behind academic freedom of expression to lend legitimacy to the debate on the destruction of the Jewish People. Given the doctrine preached by Ahmadinejad and his like, the Israeli government must be more pro-active and not be indifferent in its policy on Iran, which seeks to destroy us.

Iran is more problematic for Israel than it is for the rest of the world, and Israel must act accordingly with regard to Iran and anyone else who challenges its existence. If Irving is invited to speak to students others will follow and it will become legitimate to discuss the right of the Jewish People to exist. The Israeli government together with the Jews of the Diaspora must specifically challenge Ahmadinejad and David Irving and all those who want to question the right of the Jewish People to live in Israel and ensure the Jewish People keeps its promise of "Never again".


Monday, October 29, 2007

Dropouts cost state more than $850M

This is not very good cause-effect thinking I am afraid. Many of those who dropped out would probably have been dysfunctional regardless

A group favoring school vouchers says high school dropouts cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars each year. A new report from the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation says the 716,000 working-age dropouts in North Carolina cost the state $712 million in tax revenue every year. That's based on research that says dropouts make less money and are less likely to have jobs than those who finish high school.

The report also says that dropouts use Medicaid disproportionately and cost the state $155 million in extra expenditures for the government-backed health insurance program. And dropouts cost the state at least $6 million in prison costs, the report states, because they're more likely to be incarcerated.

The Friedman Foundation's report was commissioned by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a group favoring vouchers that would give families public money to help send their children to private school. Added competition, the organization says, would also improve public schools, increasing the graduation rate and saving money. Currently, only about two of every three North Carolinians finish high school.


Some people will complain about anything

Silence is a religion?

A 14-year-old girl and her outspoken atheist father filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging a new Illinois law requiring a brief period of prayer or reflective silence at the start of every school day. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional, said attorney Gregory Kulis, who represents Dawn Sherman, a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School, and her father Robert Sherman, a radio talk show host.

Kulis said the law is an attempt to inject religion into public schools in violation of the First Amendment. The suit also seeks a temporary restraining order to halt schools' obeying the law until the case is decided. A judge will consider that request at a hearing Monday. The lawsuit names Gov. Rod Blagojevich and officials of Township High School District 214 as defendants. School district spokeswoman Venetia Miles said schools will continue to comply with the law.

Blagojevich spokesman Abby Ottenhoff said the law was passed over the governor's veto. "We don't believe requiring time for reflection is the role of government," Ottenhoff said.

Sherman said he went to court after he asked the school board to ignore the law and was rebuffed. The school district informed him it would carry out the moment of silence during third period, beginning Tuesday, the lawsuit said. "What we object to is Christians passing a law that requires the public school teacher to stop teaching during instructional time, paid for by the taxpayers, so that Christians can pray," Sherman told The Associated Press.

An Illinois law called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act already allowed schools to observe a moment of silence if they wanted. A new measure changed just a single word: "may" observe became "shall" observe. The Illinois law originally passed during the spring legislative session, but Blagojevich vetoed it, saying he had doubts about its constitutionality. Lawmakers overrode the veto this month.

It's not Sherman's first church-and-state lawsuit and not the first to involve his children. He has sought removal of religious symbols from city seals and a ban on Boy Scout meetings at public schools. Some school administrators have complained the law is too ill-defined and puts many teachers and some students in an awkward position.

The Shermans may have legitimate concerns, but they are suing the wrong party when they target the school district, said Brian McCarthy, an attorney for the district. "The General Assembly -- for better, worse, foolish or wise -- passed this law and it's not up to school districts to pick and choose which laws they follow," McCarthy said. "He needs to go after the entity that enforces that law."


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Don't make public schools a state church

Americans would revolt if the government forced them to join a state-established church. They guard too fiercely their liberty of conscience, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet when some parents choose not to submit their children to the government-operated school system - whose curriculum and culture embody beliefs and values with which they disagree - they still must pay taxes to support the system. Even then, they often face opposition.

We contend that the conduct of schooling in the United States should be determined by the rights of conscience of parents, in accord with the democratic nature of our society and our confessional pluralism. Parents who choose not to send their children to public schools should not be subject to harassment. Nor should they be forced to support the state system as well as their preferred educational arrangement.

Contrary to popular belief, the US has never had one universally accepted system of public education. American history is full of dissenters who acted on conscience - and faced opposition for it. In the mid-19th century, Americans created what was then called the "common school." Allegedly free of the evils of sectarian educational institutions, the common school, supported by mandatory taxation, was touted as the bastion of republicanism, guarantor of liberty, and avenue of equal opportunity for all Americans. Advocates claimed it would abolish crime and poverty, and establish morality on a universal scale.

As was the case with prior government-established ecclesiastical institutions in Europe and early America, for example, Congregationalism in Connecticut and Anglicanism in Virginia, the "inclusive" common school was not common to all. Like its predecessors, it bred dissent. The leading educational dissenters in the 19th century were Roman Catholics. Their religious conscience clashed with the "nonsectarianism" of the common school, which in reality was a form of Unitarian pan-Protestantism. At considerable sacrifice, and despite their poverty, Catholics established their own schools and were confronted by opposition that sometimes turned violent.

As the 19th century progressed, others, most notably German Lutherans, joined Catholics in their conscience-based dissent from state-sanctioned educational orthodoxy. As had been the case with the established churches, those advocating the state system of education attempted to quell the "uprising" by regulating the dissenting schools.

In the 1960s, new groups joined the ranks of dissenters. A minority of evangelical Protestants were outraged by Supreme Court declarations that state-sanctioned prayer and devotional Bible reading violated the "no establishment" clause of the First Amendment. They felt discouraged by what they perceived as the establishment of secularism as the de facto religion of government-sponsored education. Consequently, they created Christian day schools to educate their children according to the dictates of conscience. Like Catholic and Lutheran dissenters, these schools, and some of their leaders, were harried at times by the state.

Most recently, a small but rapidly growing number of parents, a majority of whom are conservative Christians, have chosen to educate their children at home. Holding to the proposition that parents have the primary right to direct the education of their offspring, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court several times since the landmark Pierce v. Society of Sisters decision of 1925, they are the most radical dissenters yet. Like earlier dissenters, most home-schooling families believe the public school system transmits an orthodoxy alien to their belief system. As a matter of conscience, they feel bound to provide an education congruent with their worldview. And like other dissenters from earlier state churches and the current functional equivalent, the public school system, these parents have had to pay taxes to support a government-privileged institution as well as the costs of the education they prefer, been occasionally harassed, and sometimes hauled into court.

Any government establishment, ecclesiastical or educational, breeds dissent. Unfortunately, dissenters have often been subjected to legal prosecution, unjust financial burdens, and sometimes outright persecution. Such actions have often been justified as necessary for the "common good," while the "unorthodox" have been demonized as "divisive" or, in the case of 19th-century Catholic schools, "un-American." Today, home-schoolers are sometimes accused of being "selfish" or "undemocratic."

For those wanting a secular education for their children, as it currently exists in public schools, that is their choice and their right. Parents desiring a different kind of education should not have to pay twice as the price of liberty of conscience. The role of government in a democracy should be to see that the public is educated, not to mandate, directly or indirectly through financial policies, one particular form of education. When the government privileges a specific set of propositions of knowledge and dispositions of value and belief, it has established the educational equivalent of a state church. Such an arrangement is just as incompatible with liberty of conscience, as were the established churches of America's early history.


This poor sod thinks the world owes him a living

His "ideals" require him to sponge off others rather than doing something useful. A good Leftist, in other words

I am 24, live with my parents, can't find work and am floundering in a sea of debt five figures high. I think of myself as ambitious, independent and hardworking. Now I'm dependent, unemployed and sleeping under the same Super Mario ceiling fan that I did when I was 7. How did this happen? I did what every upstanding citizen is supposed to do. I went to college. I took out loans so I could enroll at Alfred University, a pricey private school. The next year, I transferred to the more finance-friendly University at Buffalo, where I could commute from home and push carts part-time at Home Depot.

I related my forthcoming debt to puberty or a midlife crisis - each an unavoidable nuisance; tickets required upon admission to the next stage of adulthood. But as interest rates climbed and the cost of tuition, books and daily living mounted to galactic proportions, I realized this was more than some paltry inconvenience. Upon graduating, I was helplessly launched headfirst into the "real world," equipped with a degree in history and $32,000 in student loans. Before ricocheting back home, I would learn two important lessons: 1) There are no well-paying - let alone paying - jobs for history majors. 2) The real world is really tough.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, and I had no intention of living in a society that was as unfair as this one. To seek a haven devoid of the ruthless 9-to-5 ebb and flow of contemporary America, I moved to Alaska. As a liberal arts major, I dreamed of making a profound difference in people's lives. Instead, for a year, I lived in Coldfoot, a town north of the Arctic Circle that resembles a Soviet Gulag camp. My job as a tour guide for visitors temporarily alleviated my money woes because it provided room and board, but when the season ended and I moved back home, I was again confronted with the grim realities of debt.

Desperate, I browsed through insurance and bank job descriptions. I had hit an all-time low. Could I surrender my soul for health coverage and a steady income? Could I sacrifice my ideals by falling into line? Suddenly, living at home didn't seem nearly as degrading as selling out. But sadly, other graduates don't have any choice but to work for temp agencies and retail stores to eke by.

That's the tragedy of student debt: it doesn't just limit what we do, but who we become. Forget volunteering. Forget traveling. Forget trying to improve your country, or yourself. You've got bills to pay, young man. Unfortunately, the recent passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act doesn't portend that times are a-changin'. The act reduces interest rates on Stafford Loans and increases Pell Grant awards. Whoopty-do.

There's no question that this is a step forward. But we're still talking pennies and nickels when we need to completely revolutionize the government's role in financing post-secondary education. College is a wonderful experience and something every young citizen should pursue. But without help, a college education is becoming an unaffordable rite of passage and a privilege of the affluent.

My loan payments can't wait much longer, and soon I must leave home to find work that doesn't compromise my integrity. Although I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had declared as an accounting major and got a cushy job punching numbers somewhere, I'll take my history major, my debt and my mom's cooking any day of the week.