Saturday, November 10, 2007

Racist UC to turn its back on academic merit?

Anti-Asian and pro-black policy under consideration

Any plan to change the undergraduate admissions system at the University of California is likely to bring charges that it's yet another politically correct attempt to reinstitute race preferences. That applies especially to reforms that de-emphasize grades and test scores. A set of major revisions now proposed by BOARS, UC's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, will be no exception. It would make more high school graduates eligible for consideration for UC but end the virtual guarantee of eligibility that students with high grades and test scores - those in the hypothetical top 12.5 percent of California high school graduates, many of them Asians - now enjoy. Only those in the top 4 percent in their respective schools would still be guaranteed a place in the system.

Yet complex as they are, the proposals and BOARS' analysis of the flaws of the existing system are buffered with enough reasoning to be worth the debate, if not the backlash that could follow if they're adopted.

The UC admissions system is now a two-step process: (1) achieving eligibility for some UC campuses, though not necessarily Berkeley, UCLA or San Diego, on the basis of a combination of SAT or ACT test scores and grades in the UC-required "a-to-g" high school courses, and (2) "comprehensive review" of an eligible applicant's entire record by the campuses to which he or she applies, from grades and test scores to extracurricular achievements, community service and handicaps overcome.

The board, said BOARS chairman Mark Rashid, an engineering professor at UC Davis, would like to loosen the "prefilter" now imposed by the eligibility requirement and put more weight on the comprehensive review of each applicant at the campuses to which the student applies. There would still be minimum requirements - completion of the 15 "a-to-g" courses - English, math, science, social studies, etc. - that UC demands, a GPA of 2.8 or higher in those courses and the SAT Reasoning Test, formerly the SAT I. But the SAT II subject-matter tests would no longer be required. Since the SAT I was revised to include writing and more substantive math items, UC believes, scores on the SAT II tests contribute little additional information in predicting whether an applicant will be successful at the university.

At the same time, BOARS says, because a large percentage of poor, Latino and black students don't take the SAT II tests, that requirement alone - not grades or test scores - has shut out a large percentage of those groups from the pool of eligibles. The largest disqualifying factor among students taking the "a-to-g" courses is students' failure to take the SAT II tests. Moreover, says Rashid, the current guarantee of eligibility for students with a combination of high grades and test scores adds almost nothing in practical terms. Students who are guaranteed eligibility for UC but aren't admitted to the campuses to which they apply are bumped to a campus - inevitably Riverside or Merced - where there is space. But almost nobody takes those offers. "By inviting a broader pool of prospective students to apply and be evaluated under comprehensive review," Rashid says, "campuses can make a better and more fair determination of academic merit by looking at all of the students' achievements in the context of their particular schools and personal circumstances. "This is what our selective campuses do now when they choose among eligible students; every applicant should get the same opportunity."

BOARS calculates that without the SAT II requirements many more students would be UC eligible. The existing system, Rashid maintains, denies the campuses the opportunity to choose students who might contribute more than those admitted now. Obviously, elimination of the SAT II requirement doesn't mean that thousands more applicants will be admitted. But it would enlarge the pool from which campuses can choose. And it's here that the plan becomes vulnerable to criticism and dispute.

Leaving aside suspicions of bad faith by admissions officers - that in applying the more squishy criteria of comprehensive review, they'll pursue diversity and overlook competence by giving blacks and Latinos preferences, either consciously or otherwise - the system will still find it tougher to justify its decisions.

When hard numbers - tests, grades - are used at least to define eligibility for the pool from which campuses choose, decisions can always be defended with "objective" facts. That those numbers sometimes don't mean much doesn't make the alternative criteria any easier to defend. And, of course, the numbers do mean something. There may not be much difference between 650 and 700 on an SAT math test, but there surely is between 500 and 750.

In the decades before (and just after World II), the Ivy League and other elite colleges downplayed tests and grades in order to pick the "whole man," meaning white shoe WASPS from the right social backgrounds. Comprehensive review may never become the black-brown version of that, but UC could still have a hard time persuading the skeptics.


Parents Are Idiots, or So Believes the State

The perils of vouchers. Tax relief for anybody with kids who are not using government schools would be a better start -- but getting government to make its own services completely optional will be a huge hill to climb

Thank goodness parents are idiots. Otherwise, at least half of the current tax-funded bozos - the so-called public servants whose sole mission is to supplant parental rights and decision-making - would be unemployed, taking their aggressive panhandling to the streets nonetheless. And, we can't have that, can we?

Of course, not all parents are idiots. One special class of the omniscient exists; those parents employed by government or associated organizations (can you say teachers unions). These folks are never idiots since they drink from the fountain of enlightenment. The fountain whose source is the never-ending stream of tax dollars, and whose drain is the never-clogged pipeline of bloated salaries.

Parents are idiots. Yes, that is a harsh statement. However, from what I read - from what the state and its minions believe, it is absolutely true. Offensive, but true.

Alright, put up or shut up! Fair enough. A recently published study on public school choice looked at the schools parents chose when they were allowed to select between the various Milwaukee public schools. The study reports that many parents chose schools based on nonacademic reasons; parents chose schools for reasons other than the state's definition of a quality program.

So there you have it, parents are idiots simply because they do not choose the state solution. Moms and dads failed the test of parenting as defined by the state. Remove the children and begin mandatory indoctrination, for parent and child alike.

This is by no means the first study to report such findings. In fact, this study is but one of many that defines the abilities of parents solely on their choosing, or not choosing, the state-defined correct answer.

Let's take a different look at this logic: Consider the intelligence of leaders in the market place. For example: We know that many business are run by idiots. How do we know that? Well, we know for certain that many businesses do not use the government-favored solution for sending documents and packages. That's right. In case you were unaware of it, many businesses owners choose to bypass the US Postal Service when they need to send important, time-sensitive stuff in a cheap, competent manner. Amazing, isn't it? These seemingly intelligent and successful folks actually forgo the government solution in favor of a free market one. Our conclusion is obvious: Based on the logic applied to parents and school choice, these business owners must be idiots. In fact, they are idiots. Call in the bureaucrats to stop the madness.

Here is the rub for all systems of so-called choice under a government-funded - taxpayer-funded - system of education: Parental choice will always fail to meet the arbitrary standards and ends of the political effete . er, elite. No, wait, effete was correct. This will be true whether the system is one which includes choice of schools within a school district, charter schools, or any of the assorted voucher programs or proposal. In all cases, parents will choose UPS and FedEx when the correct choice - in the eyes of the state - is USPS.

It's a rainbow that many like to chase, looking for the pot of gold that is government-funded school choice. But, like any true rainbow, the end - the pot of gold - is over the next hill, just out of reach. Choice cannot exist when the ends are politically defined. And, no market can exist where goods must conform to government standards.

Ardent voucher advocates believe that parents will spend government funds in a manner that provides the best education for their children. Setting aside for the moment the fact that vouchers are theft and can never be associated with a free market solution, it is true that parents will choose what is best for their children. Nevertheless, what is best is never the ends deified by the state; politically-derived curriculum, tests, and standards.

Just as in Milwaukee, parents will opt for something else; something better. And, with each parental choice, government, the teachers unions, and many so-called advocates of school choice, will begin to build a case against the abilities of parents to choose what is best for their children. Regulation upon regulation will appear. The promised land of innovation and entrepreneurship associated with tax-funded school choice will never be reached. Private suppliers of education will be forced to conform to the ends defined by the blobs that suffocate DC and every state capital. And, these ends will never be the ends desired by parents.

The assumed array of educational programs will begin to look like shelves of generic food; cans with white wrappers that read "Education. Caution: contains state indoctrination." The consumers - the parents and students - will not be sovereign under this system. No, only the state will have control. You can paint the pig - government-run education - and dress it up as choice, but it will be the same pig nonetheless. Advocate for vouchers and know for a fact that the end result is more studies claiming that you are an idiot. Advocate for the end of tax-supported, government-run schools and the only thing that you have to fear is the hobo village of educrats searching for handouts. Not too worry, they are neither too bright nor too ambitious.


Friday, November 09, 2007

British private schools may relinquish charity status to escape hostile Leftist bureaucrats

SOME independent schools may voluntarily give up charitable status to escape the threat of "hostile voices" and "sabre-rattling" by regulators at the Charity Commission. Schools exploring the move believe it would have only a limited impact on their finances and would free them from rules that could prove intrusive and bureaucratic. From next year the presumption that all education is charitable and so can enjoy tax breaks will end. Instead, schools will have to prove they provide a "public benefit", for example, access for poor families.

Many head teachers have complained at what they see as threats from some Charity Commission executives. "Someone, somewhere [in the Charity Commission] has got an antiindependent school agenda," said Bernard Trafford, chairman of the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference, which represents more than 250 independent schools. Trafford, headmaster of Wolverhampton grammar school, said that while abandoning charitable status would "go against our heart", the possibility was now being considered by his school and others. "A lot of us will explore this option now these kind of crazy, hostile voices are being floated again," he said.

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission, has said it could freeze bank accounts and "go nuclear" against schools that fail to meet the public benefit test.

Steps being taken by schools to prove public benefit include increasing bursaries for pupils from poorer families and opening sports facilities. Moves such as sponsoring city academies are also being explored. Lord Adonis, the schools minister, will use a speech next week to the Girls' Schools Association of independent schools to promote academies.

Charitable status brings independent schools an estimated 100m pounds in tax breaks a year. But schools have been advised that if they turn themselves into companies, Vat could not under European law be imposed on school fees. They have estimated that the other tax benefits of charitable status could be replaced by a fee increase of 2.7%-5%.

Chris Woodhead, the Sunday Times columnist who chairs the education firm Cognita, said he was in discussions to acquire a number of schools worried about whether they could survive as independent charities under the law. He said: "If the public benefit test means, as it seems it will, that [charity] schools have to devote more and more time and resources to propping up state schools, what does that mean for the education of their own children and how will their parents react?"

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: "The public benefit requirement is not something any charity should fear. It is an opportunity for charities to articulate even more clearly the value they bring."


Israel in the classroom

Much of the discussion on university campuses places Israel in a uniquely hostile and one-dimensional framework, using special criteria and double standards, while erasing the context of terror, war threats of mass destruction. The bulk of courses, guest lectures, conferences, rallies, film festivals, boycott and divestment campaigns, and other activities related to Israel focus on "the occupation", as if history began in June 1967, or, in other cases, with the spontaneous creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948. Palestinians are consistently and patronizingly portrayed as hopeless victims, Israel is painted as the arch villain.

To counter these distortions, courses, lectureships, debates, and other special programs in Israel Studies must confront this false paradigm. These and related activities need to place Israel back into context, if not as an ordinary country, at least as part of history and in a comparative framework among the countries of the world. Israel is not perfect and should not be portrayed in an idealized manner, no more than it should be demonized by boycotts and through terms such as "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing".

While the Arab-Israeli context cannot and should not be ignored, it is important to expand the discussion to include many other dimensions. These include culture, economics, society, politics and law - all standard elements in the examination of any nation. The Jewish cultural renaissance, including literature, art, dance, architecture and film is a central part of the Israeli reality. In this realm, the role of the revival of the Hebrew language and the tension resulting from 4000 years of history placed into a modern secular framework provides important insights that are not restricted to Israel. Different aspects serve as an interesting basis for comparison with other societies attempting to bridge the ancient and modern, such as India, Turkey and China. And while the generations of conflict and violence certainly impact on Israeli culture, and are reflected in the writing of Agnon and Oz, for example, these are not the only significant factors, and should not be over-emphasized.

Similarly, in examining the complexities of Israeli society, there are many aspects that can be analyzed usefully in a wider comparative framework. The tensions over the role of religion in modern Israel can be assessed alongside similar situations in countries with a dominant Moslem context, particularly Iran but also Egypt and the North African nations; or relative to Christian dominated societies in North America and Europe.

In the political realm, Israel provides an interesting and significant case study among parliamentary democracies. The party system, which is a relic from the pre-state period and the Zionist movement, was developed in the context of European democratic movements of the 19th century, and can be compared and analyzed in this framework. The instability of a multi-party system and the influence of these groups on the economy and in social life are often compared to modern Italy and some of the newly democratic countries of Eastern Europe. Here too, Israel is by no means sui generis, and should not be presented as such.

The double standards, myths and singling out of Israel have spilled over to economics, including recent allegation by Naomi Klein and other ideologues that stress and overemphasize the military factors (more demonization). Some of the factors that explain the steady growth in the Israeli economy are relatively unique - such as the Russian aliya that increased the population by one-quarter in a decade. Many olim are well educated and skilled workers, and this contributed to rapid growth. But broader factors are involved, including the ideological transition from a socialist system controlled by political operatives in labor unions to a more open economy, a significant decrease in government control, and increased competition.

Returning to the conflict, the responses of Israel to terror and warfare should be broadened from the simplistic approach in which Palestinians are victims and Israel is uniquely evil. Instead, in this as in other areas of academic research and teaching, a comparative approach is called for, based on examining other ethno-national conflicts and peace making efforts (more or less successful). Terms such as "occupation", demands for a "right of return", a separation barrier (or "apartheid wall") and similar dimensions also apply to the conflict in Cyprus between Greek Christians and Muslim Turks. In Sri Lanka, the majority Sinhalese have been attempting to prevent minority Tamils from forming a breakaway state. As in the Israeli case, this conflict includes suicide bombing attacks and more conventional forms of warfare. Other examples with similarities, as well as important difference, include Northern Ireland and the Balkans (Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia).

The same approach is applicable when dealing with human rights claims and in discussions of Israeli responses to terror within the framework of international law. The vast majority of such discussions on university campuses again treat Israel as a singular case, without context or comparative perspective. Instead of segregation and discrimination based on ideology and interest, the study and teaching of Israel, across the various disciplines, needs to be re-integrated into the general academic discourse. The sooner this happens, the better.


Lessons from India

School choice only helps education

Illinois schools got bad news recently: About 30 percent more schools failed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act this year than last. But to fix these schools, the act first needs to be fixed.

The act's objective is to ensure basic reading and math competency in every child. But it is failing even in this modest task because it is applying a totally backward strategy: Instead of promoting national standards and parental accountability, as is the case in many countries, including India, it is doing the reverse: fostering local standards and federal accountability. This has consigned kids to a low quality education while disenfranchising schools and teachers, the very opposite of what the act set out to do.

Since 2002, the act has required the 90 percent or so of school districts nationwide that receive federal money for at-risk kids to test 3rd- to 8th-graders in reading and math. The schools also are required to report their test results broken down by income, ethnicity, disability status and other categories.

The act mandates what proficiency gains schools must post every year to receive a passing grade or face penalties. For instance, the Illinois schools that passed this year increased their proficiency rate both overall and in every subgroup to 55 percent from 47.5 percent last year. By 2014, all kids in all subgroups have to be proficient for their schools to receive Uncle Sam's blessing. Schools that fail a few years in a row can lose federal funding.

This is nothing to sneer at given that this funding constitutes more than 10 percent of Illinois' $20 billion-plus education budget. But the huge loophole in the act is that it allows states to define what constitutes "proficiency." This has triggered a wholesale "dumbing down" of standards. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that 572 more Illinois schools would have failed this year if the state had not tinkered with its math and reading exams. This means that many Illinois kids are still stuck in failing schools but don't even know it. What's more, given that not all states have lowered their standards equally, it has become far more difficult to tell how kids in one state stack up against another. This is contrary to trends elsewhere in the world.

In India, every kid in every school must take a national board exam after the 10th and 12th grades (before that, schools administer their own annual exams at the end of each grade). The "boards" are far from perfect. But they ensure basic learning and allow apples-to-apples comparisons across schools. For example, students who score 75 percent on a math exam all can safely be assumed to have the same proficiency level regardless of whether they went to a big or small, city or rural, school.

But, unlike the United States, the Indian government does not penalize schools that don't meet its expectations. Parents do. India has a robust private kindergarten through 12th-grade market that almost all middle-class and above families use. James Tooley, an education professor in England, found that 75 percent of children even in some urban slums attend private schools. The upshot is that parents can yank their kids out of substandard schools that don't prepare them adequately for the "boards" and enroll them in ones that do. The exams simply put crucial information in their hands to make comparisons.

This might seem counterintuitive to the American teaching establishment given its legendary hostility to school choice, but parental accountability is actually empowering for teachers as well. Because parents in India pick the schools their children attend, they are far less prone to blame teachers when their children underperform -- and far more to prod their kids to take responsibility. Even when a few disgruntled parents do pull their kids, they don't threaten the financial health of the whole institution. This is in stark contrast to No Child Left Behind, where a few failing kids could jeopardize federal funding for the entire school.

The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal this year. Lawmakers serious about its promise of leaving no child behind ought to look for reforms that give parents a yardstick by which to measure school performance and school choice.

There are many candidates for a national exam that are superior to India's "boards" which, thanks to the ossified federal bureaucracy that administers it, are based on outdated pedagogy. America's private testing industry has produced stellar high school exams, such as the ACT, that give a fairly accurate measure of student knowledge. These can be adapted to lower grades.

Meanwhile, obstacles preventing many states from embracing school choice are federal regulations that bar federal money from flowing to schools that don't meet the gazillion regulations concerning teacher training, lunch programs and so on. Rolling back these regulations should be top on the list of the No Child Left Behind reforms.

None of this will be easy. But legislators can't shirk this assignment if they want American students to compete with their global peers.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Leftist attack on history scholarship continues

History is so pesky for Leftists that they grab any opportunity to distort it

Columbia University's bizarre idea of academic freedom continues as its women's college affiliate, Barnard, voted to grant tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj, who was born in America and is of Palestinian descent:
[She] contended in her first book, "Facts on the Ground," that Israeli archaeologists searched for an ancient Jewish presence to help build the case for a Jewish state. In their quest, she wrote, they sometimes used bulldozers, destroying the remains of Arab and other cultures.

Meanwhile, the Arabs who control the Temple Mount in Jerusalem which not only houses mosques built upon land occupied by synagogues the Arabs demolished over a thousand years ago but many Jewish and some Christian sites, is busily destroying all archeological evidence of Jewish residency there. This continues the religiously destructive practices of the Jordanians who, when they controlled eastern Jerusalem from 1948-1967, did not allow Jews to visit their religious sites despite signing a treaty pledging to do so.

Instead the Jordanians destroyed synagogues and other Jewish buildings, using the stones to pave streets and for urinals, built a hotel on a Jewish cemetery and forbade any Jew from living under their jurisdiction. Naturally the UN or no one else complained about these gross violations of religious rights. And obviously Barnard believes Ms. El-Haj's projecting one's own historical distorted scholarship onto the enemy is worthy of reward:
Tenure, college officials said, "gives scholars the liberty to advance ideas, regardless of their political impact, so that their work may be openly debated and play a critical role in shaping knowledge in the scholar's academic field."

Under this reasoning soon Holocaust denial, flat earth proponents, planets and sun revolving around the earth believers and David Irving's biography of Howard Hughes among others will soon find an honored place in the Columbia-Barnard curriculum. Isn't that what "shaping knowledge" is all about?


The Groves of Academe, or You Can't Make It Up, Episode 8,968

As of now, in the autumn of 2007, it costs $52,202.00 a year to be an undergraduate at New York University. That's Fifty-Two Thousand Dollars, and then some. And what do you get for all that dough? Well, one thing you get are cultural events like today's screening of a 53-minute film called Q2P, followed by a "discussion" with the filmmaker, Paromita Vohra. Larry Craig: listen up! Here's something to get your feet tapping. Sponsored by NYU's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Department of Media, Culture and Communication, the Center for Religion and Media, and the Council on Media and Culture, Q2P, set in Mumbai,

observes who has access to toilets and who doesn't, and how gender, power, and the need to "go" make up public space and bodily well-being.

That's right folks: four separate entities at one of our premier institutions of higher learning got together to bring us a "a day-long conference on Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet: Outing the Water Closet Bringing together pioneering scholars of sex and gender with leading design professionals and activists to consider, critique, and reconstruct the public rest room."

Think about it: "pioneering scholars of sex and gender," "leading design professionals and activists" all under one roof to talk about sex, politics, and public toilets. A load of merde, you say? Quite possibly. An outrageous travesty as well? No doubt. But think of what it means for the art of satire. Who could possibly make this up? Back in the 1950s, Kingsley Amis wrote the splendid academic satire Lucky Jim, wherein he ridiculed that pseudo-scholarship which gloried in a "funeral parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non problems." But how do you satirize "Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet: Outing the Water Closet"? What obloquy is severe enough for these "pioneering scholars of sex and gender," these "leading design professionals and activists"?

I sometimes despair, concluding that these malevolent clowns have forced us to that position Wittgenstein described at the end of the Tractaus: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen": "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." But I cheer up when I remember that, although phenomena like "Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet" are beneath contempt, that doesn't mean we should fail to let the world know about them. The sponsors of this ludicrous exercise in cultural pathology thoughtfully included contact information: the email address is, the telephone number is 212.998.7608. I hope many right-thinking people will avail themselves of that information to upbraid the people responsible for such hogwash.


Britain: A degree is no guarantee of full-time jobs or equal pay for women

A quarter of graduates do not have full-time jobs more than three years after getting their degrees, according to government figures. The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which examined the career progression of 24,000 people, also found that 20 per cent of those who were employed were not working in graduate occupations.

Women were more satisfied with their careers, although they were paid less than men in their first jobs. “There was a 1,000 pound difference in the average salaries of male and female graduates who had studied full-time, although a higher proportion of men were in higher-paid work,” the report said. “There was a larger gender difference among part-time graduates, where the average male salary was 3,133 higher than for females. Women were more likely to be working part-time than men at every level, regardless of their mode of study and qualification.” Graduates are normally questioned by the agency six months after leaving university, but this was its first follow-up survey, looking at their progress after 3½ years. Catherine Benfield, the project manager, said the gender gap statistics were fascinating. She said: “Women said they were more satisfied with their careers to date but when you look at salaries they are behind. Maybe they have lower expectations.”

While 89 per cent of graduates were in some kind of work – including voluntary and unpaid – only 74 per cent were in full-time paid employment. Five per cent were still studying full-time. Graduates in medicine, dentistry, education and agriculture had among the highest employment rates.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Leftist opposition to school choice in Utah

In today's political taxonomy, "progressives" are rebranded liberals dodging the damage they did to their old label. Perhaps their most injurious idea - injurious to themselves and public schools - was the forced busing of (mostly other people's) children to engineer "racial balance" in public schools. Soon, liberals will need a third label if people notice what "progressives" are up to in Utah. There, teachers unions, whose idea of progress is preservation of the status quo, are waging an expensive and meretricious campaign to overturn the right of parents to choose among competing schools, public and private, for the best education for their children.

Utahans next week will decide by referendum whether to retain or jettison the nation's broadest school-choice program. Passed last February, the Parent Choice in Education Act would make a voucher available to any public-school child who transfers to a private school, and to current private-school children from low-income families. Opponents of school choice reflexively rushed to force a referendum on the new law, which is suspended pending the vote.

The vouchers would vary in value from $500 to $3,000, depending on household income. The teachers unions' usual argument against school-choice programs is that they drain money from public education. But the vouchers are funded by general revenues, not the two sources of public-school funds. Every Utah voucher increases funds available for public education. Here's how: Utah spends more than $7,500 per public-school pupil ($3,000 more than the average private-school tuition). The average voucher will be for less than $2,000. So every voucher used will save Utah taxpayers an average of $5,500. Because the vouchers are paid from general revenues, the departed pupil's $7,500 stays in the public-school system

Booming Utah has about 540,000 public-school pupils and the nation's largest class sizes - and expects to have at least 150,000 more than that a decade from now. By empowering parents to choose private alternatives, the voucher program will save Utah taxpayers millions of dollars in school-construction expenses.

School-choice opponents argue that it'll produce less racially and socially diverse schools. But because students are assigned to public schools based on where they live, and because residential patterns reflect income, most of Utah's public schools are either mostly wealthy and white or mostly nonwealthy and nonwhite. Utah's Office of Education reports that the state's private schools - operating one-third below full enrollment - have a higher percentage of nonwhites than do public schools.

The voucher program will enable demand for private schools to match the supply. A privately funded scholarship program, Children First Utah, for low-income pupils can support only 15 percent of applicants. Although most of the total value of the new vouchers will go to low-income families, the program amounts to a reduced government subsidy for such families - at most $3,000 rather than more than $7,500 per pupil.

By September the National Education Association, the megalobbyist for the public-education near-monopoly, had already spent $1.5 million to support repeal of the voucher program. The Wall Street Journal reports that the NEA has approved expenditures of up to $3 million. Teachers unions in Maine, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming had also contributed to the fight against choice.

Intellectually bankrupt but flush with cash, the teachers unions continue to push their threadbare arguments, undeterred by the fact that Utah's vouchers will increase per-pupil spending and will lower class sizes in public schools. Why the perverse perseverance? Two large, banal reasons: fear of competition and desire for the maximum number of dues-paying public-school teachers.

Although among the reddest of states, Utah is among the most supportive states regarding public education: It has the fifth-highest proportion of K-12 students in public schools. Nevertheless, on Tuesday Utah voters can strike a blow against the idea that education should remain the most important sector of American life shielded from the improving force of competition. What will defenders of that idea - former liberals, now known as progressives - call themselves next? Surely not "pro-choice."


Middle school cancels "gender-switch" day after parents object

A Bay Area Middle School has canceled a scheduled cross-dressing or "gender-switch" day after parents complained, according to an Oct. 30 Pacific Justice Institute news release. The Sacramento-based institute is a legal organization that defends parental rights, religious freedom, and other civil liberties. Adams Middle School in Brentwood encouraged students to cross-dress - boys wearing girls clothing, girls wearing boys' clothing - on the last day of "Spirit Week," Friday, Nov. 2. Parents were given little notice of the event, said the Pacific Justice Institute, and only found out about it after flyers were posted at the school.

A parent of a seventh-grader met with the principal, Adam Clark, to voice her concerns about the event, and was told that it would go ahead as planned. Clark told the parent she could keep her son home if he did not want to be part of the event. The parent contacted Pacific Justice Institute, which told her she needed to enlist other parents to contact the school with their concerns. The Institute itself prepared to intervene, if necessary.

On Oct. 30, the school removed the flyers advertising the event and confirmed it had been canceled. Instead, the school encourages students to wear school colors. Clark told Institute attorney Matthew McReynolds, "We want to encourage our students to be free thinkers, [but] we felt that the overall message wasn't coming across clear to some members of the community."

Encouraging student cross-dressing to invite "free thinking" is not unique to Adams Middle School. A 2002 article by the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America reported how the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) encourages cross-dressing through a curriculum developed for Kindergarten through third grade.

The curriculum guide, produced by the Lesbian and Gay Parents Association and the Buena Vista Lesbian and Gay Parents group in San Francisco, Preventing Prejudice: Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Lesson Plan Guide for Elementary Schools, features a book, Jesse's Dream Skirt, by Bruce Mark, about a boy who enjoys wearing his mother's dresses and wants a skirt for himself. The lesson plan accompanying the book says the book's key message is "respect means keeping our minds open. Having open minds means giving people freedom to be who they want to be."

The GLSEN web site still offers the plan as a resource. According to the Network, "Preventing Prejudice is an instructional tool for educators at the K-5 level. It consists of sixteen field-tested lesson plans developed by elementary school teachers, including such topics as: What is a Boy/Girl?; What Makes a Family?; Freedom to Marry; and Coming Out."

The Brentwood School District's web site offers an "East Contra Costa Quick Resource Guide," which lists under "Gay and Lesbian," the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline, the Empowerment Program (which helps women in "disadvantaged positions"), and Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County. The center, according to its web site, "envisions a society that embraces acceptance, safety and equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression."


Grammar schools by another name?

The British Labour party has always done its best to abolish Grammar (selective) schools on the grounds of "elitism" but have now rediscovered the virtues of selectivity. Now they are trying to plant a mini-grammar-school within each "comprehensive" school! But the Grammar schools provided a total environment very much like a private school and that is sadly missing in a rowdy and dangerous comprehensive school. So the new approach is still second-rate

England's million brightest pupils will be targeted by a new champion for gifted and talented children, under plans to ensure that the most able youngsters make it to university regardless of their social background. The first priority for John Stannard, a former director of the National Literacy Strategy, will be to target the 300 secondary schools that up until now have refused to take part in the government's gifted and talented (G&T) programme - often because of ideological opposition to selection.

Mr Stannard's appointment, made under the personal direction of Gordon Brown, is part of a drive to extend massively the reach of the G&T programme by raising the proportion of children selected in each school from 5 to about 10 per cent.

The move reflects government disappointment at progress in the scheme, set up in 1999 amid concerns that middle-class parents were abandoning the state sector for private schools because comprehensives were failing to nurture the most able.

Latest figures show that a significant minority of schools - 9 per cent of secondaries and 35 per cent of primaries - have still failed to identify any G&T children, leaving the number benefiting from the extra tuition offered under the programme stuck at 733,000. The Prime Minister is determined that all schools should take part to bring students numbers up to one million of Britain's eight million state school population.

Mr Stannard told The Times that his appointment should send out an important message that state schools would make every effort to cater for the needs of the brightest pupils. "There is a purpose in reassuring middle-class parents that goes beyond the intrinsic value of doing so. "If you keep depleting the state sector of the more able students then that depletes the sector right across the board. It means that schools that do well have a much greater struggle to do so. With a wider range of pupils, you have a greater pool of ability for raising aspirations," he said.

Mr Stannard is keen to ensure that bright pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from the programme. Previous research has suggested that most participants come from better-off families who can afford fees and fares to the extra tuition offered under the programme. He also wants to ensure that those who may be regarded by teachers as underachievers or even troublemakers are picked up by the scheme.

Current government criteria for identifying G&T children states that they may "not necessarily be well behaved", that they may "be bored by routine tasks" and may "appear arrogant or socially inept". "Kids who are very bored can be very stroppy because they do not have enough to do and they are not catered for by their school. They may not be recognised as gifted, particularly in areas of social disadvantage," he said.

The criteria for identifying children for the programme will include teacher assessments and diagnostic tests as well as national Key Stage tests that children sit at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. The scheme applies to children who are academically gifted or who have a talent in the arts or sport. The scheme will apply to children as young as 4. They will qualify for summer schools at universities, as well as extra online tuition, Saturday morning masterclasses and activities with bright children from other schools.

Lord Adonis, the Schools Secretary, emphasised that there was no hard and fast criteria for identifying G&T children and said that it would be left to individual schools to decide precisely how many children to identify. However, he said that secondary schools should pay particular attention to the Key Stage 2 results attained by children in the last year of primary school. He denied that this would put extra pressure on primary school children, effectively making tests at primary school a university entrance exam. "It is vital we do more to support able pupils in state schools, particularly those schools which currently have low numbers going to university," he said.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Black parents send their kids back to Africa to escape British government school mayhem

African parents know what African kids need, even if white do-gooders do not

Scores of British school children are being sent away to take their GCSEs in Ghana, exchanging truancy and gang culture for traditional teaching and strong discipline, including the cane. "When I was in London I was bad basically," said Abena, 16, from Hackney, east London, with braces on her teeth and a swagger in her step. "I stopped going to school and in my head I was, like, thinking money, money, money."

Dispatched to Africa, far from the world of gangs, theft and knife crime, she found herself at the Faith Montessori boarding school in Accra, Ghana's capital, where the fees are 1,200 pounds a year. Most of the school's expatriate children spend holidays with relatives or guardians in Ghana, returning to Britain once a year. During term time they live in dormitories 10 to a room.

For the parents it is a chance to save their children from the thuggery that has seen 21 teenagers shot or stabbed to death in London alone this year. Abena and three other British pupils at her school now believe they are receiving a rigorous education that was lacking in Britain. "When your friends know that you've gone to Ghana they know that you're going to get straightened up," said Sienam, 17, from Edgware, north London, who has been at school in Accra for three years. "I used to be really bad," he said, muttering about gangs and the kind of playground violence that he has put behind him. "When my friends in London see that I've changed it wakes them up a little bit. I get respect but in a different way."

According to Oswald Amoo-Gottfried, the school's founder and director, the key to the success of pupils such as Sienam is the kind of discipline that has long since fallen out of fashion in Britain. "I believe in caning," he declared. "I tell the parents: if you don't want your child punished, then your child doesn't belong here." His school is quiet, the atmosphere studious. The youngest children sit in neat sailor suits; older pupils wear blue shorts and white shirts, while the senior students dress in smart trousers and T-shirts emblazoned with the school badge. In one classroom 30 pupils are arranged in rows of desks facing their male teacher and the white board. They remain silent until asked a question.

Amoo-Gottfried is a friendly faced disciplinarian who has seen more than 20 London children of African parentage pass through his school in the past five years. "Children must be taught. You don't sit down and discuss directions with a child - you tell them where to go," he said. Children are beaten for misbehaving or failing to do home-work, but not for poor results.

Sienam admitted that he had been caned "many, many times" by his teachers in Ghana. "Any time you do something you know you shouldn't do or step out of line, you get caned," he said. The cane "works to some extent", he conceded.

Isaac, 17, from Norwood, in southeast London, said he became involved in gangs and stealing before his parents sent him to Ghana. After four years at school in Accra he is softly spoken and articulate and hopes to sit international GCSEs at the end of this academic year before returning to Britain for A-levels.

When they first arrive the teen-agers are often "a lot wilder", said Amoo-Gottfried, but with time and discipline they become "domesticated". He puts the troubles of the British pupils down to a lack of good role models - a reason many West Indian families cite for sending their children to school back home. "In London father has run off to work early in the morning, mother the same. So you find the children left to themselves and, as they say, the devil finds work for idle hands. Here they see professional people - lawyers, doctors - whereas in the UK most of the Ghanaians are blue-collar workers."

The list of consistent A, B and C grades on a results sheet pinned to the notice board is a source of pride and several of Amoo-Gottfried's former pupils are now at British universities.

Michelle Asante, 23, attended Archbishop Porter girls' school in Takoradi, Ghana, and went on to complete a sociology degree at Sheffield University before going to drama school. "The school I was attending in Plumstead [southeast London] wasn't great and my mum felt I wasn't being challenged. There was a lot of fighting," said Asante, who is now an actress. "Education is so important in Ghana - people take it as their only means of escaping poverty. With education you can do anything, no matter how poor you are."

The pupils at Faith Montessori agree discipline in Africa can be tough but also see their lives changing for the better. Abena and "the London boys", which includes James, 16, from Edmon-ton Green, north London, also admit that while they are benefiting from a Ghanaian education, they miss home and look forward to going back to A-levels and university.The years of mischief are behind them, Isaac said: "What gets you respect over there is disgrace over here."


"Racist" American Leftist professors

They are so keen to tell everyone else what to do so what do they do themselves? It seems that it is a case of "physician heal thyself". Affirmative action very rarely extends to them welcoming blacks to within their own ranks. And the Left always tell us that such under-representation proves "racism"

A new survey of the top 100 departments in 15 science and engineering disciplines (including the social sciences) finds that "few science and engineering departments have more than a single [underrepresented minority] faculty member." Despite the increased representation of members of minority groups among bachelor's and Ph.D. degree recipients, the analysis finds that the proportion of black, Hispanic and Native American instructors generally drops at every point in the academic pipeline, with the majority of minority faculty members concentrated at the assistant professor level.

"A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities," by Donna J. Nelson, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, differs from previous studies in one key way. By surveying department chairs (and, in a limited number of cases when data were not available through chairs, scanning departmental Web sites and directories), Nelson collected information on the entire population of tenured and tenure-track faculty at every top 100 department in each of the 15 fields (as ranked by the National Science Foundation based on research expenditures), as opposed to just a sample.

"In some cases there are zero people from underrepresented groups" at particular faculty ranks in particular disciplines across all the departments surveyed, Nelson said at a press briefing in Washington Wednesday. Without the entire population represented, Nelson said, it would be impossible to pinpoint some of those prominent zeros. Astronomy, for instance, has no black or Native American assistant professors at any of the top departments (40 departments in astronomy's case because NSF only ranks the top 40 in the discipline). And there's not a single Native American professor at any rank in astronomy or civil engineering. Among the other results:

* The proportion of underrepresented minorities - defined in the report as black, Hispanic and Native American - together made up 28.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2006. But their representation among the faculty ranks at all levels in top departments in 2007 varied from 2.2 percent (astronomy) to 13.5 percent (sociology). Among the engineering disciplines, civil engineering, with 6.1 percent of the faculty identifying as members of the underrepresented minority groups, had the highest representation, and electrical engineering, with 3.3 percent, the lowest.

* Only five of nine engineering and physical science disciplines increased their proportion of minority faculty from 2002 to 2007.

* Nelson found a number of disparities between the number of minority Ph.D. recipients in the hiring pool and the racial distribution of assistant professors (the newly hired). In computer science, for instance, 3.2 percent of Ph.D. recipients between 1996 and 2005 were black, while blacks made up 1.8 percent of assistant professors at top 100 departments in 2007 (and 1.3 percent among the top 50).

* Further up the ranks, the proportion of minorities tends to fall further. Among the top 50 departments, only three disciplines - chemistry, math and electrical engineering - had more minority associate rather than assistant professors. And none had a majority of their minority faculty at the full professor rank (Nelson writes that the opposite can be said for white males).

* As for women, despite the fact that they make up more than 50 percent of bachelor's degree recipients in fields like chemistry and political science, in those fields they represent, respectively, 13.7 and 26.1 percent of all professors at top 100 departments.


Australia: PC warriors serve up a slanted education

IN her address to her union's conference in 2005 the Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne openly acknowledged the ideological bias that dominates the school system. As she put it: "We have succeeded in influencing curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum."

This bias is the consequence of historical factors originating in the politics of the 1960s that led to a domination of school curriculums by the ideology of the politically correct Left. Correspondingly, the majority of high school teachers appear to have many values compatible or consistent with this ideology. This ideological hegemony is one of the salient features of "progressive" education. This means that for the numerous students with non-Left views, the education system presents additional challenges.

Although many teachers are likeable people who generate a pleasant atmosphere in their classrooms, what pervades in the school system is a way of looking at the world characterised by the Left, an outlook presented not as ideological but as normal, correct, legitimate and just. More importantly, in terms of assessment, what also exists is a subtle un-stated pressure to ideologically conform if students want to succeed academically.

It should be noted that most of the teachers exerting this pressure would probably be unaware that they are doing so because they would be unaware of the bias affecting their assessment. From the teachers' perspective, they are simply sharing their enthusiasms with their classes and responding positively to what they prefer to see in students' work. Meanwhile, the politically incorrect arguments presented by some students in their essays would be assessed more severely because, from the teachers' perspective, they are genuinely seen to be flawed.

As a private tutor, what I have noticed by closely observing patterns of ticks and comments made in the assessment of students' papers, is that when students clearly indicate in the introduction of their essay that they share their teacher's politically correct beliefs, the teacher automatically clicks into what I describe as a non-critical frame of mind. Consequently, the teacher is less inclined to notice mistakes in grammar, argument or in the presentation of evidence. Meanwhile, if students cross the teacher's bias, the opposite happens. The teacher clicks into a critical frame of mind, finding every justification in the essay to deduct grades.

Due to the psychological subtlety of this behaviour, it is highly likely that the teachers displaying their bias would not recognise it as such, but rather see the grade solely as the product of their professional judgment. It is human nature to display an affinity for those who appear to be like-minded, and to favour them, and this is as true for the assessment of essays as it is in most human interactions. However, because so many teachers share an ideological disposition, the aggregate effect of this tendency is a politically correct bias that appears to be both systematic and widespread. In addition, this bias is so prevalent and so deep-seated that it has achieved a degree of normalcy or a taken-for-granted quality, thereby being virtually invisible to many involved with the system. This is much like the way we become more aware of the constant hum of an air conditioner when it is suddenly switched off than when it is running.

Consequently, if greater intellectual diversity was introduced into the education system, for example, to reflect the degree of diversity in the mainstream community, it would probably initially appear strange to many people, especially to many of those working in it.

Unfortunately, some teachers are not subtle in expressing their Left-wing bias, being quite militant in the expression of their views and intolerant of dissent. Although evidence of commendable attempts at broad-mindedness and fairness among teachers can be found, evidence of blatant bias is far from rare in the school system.

For example, a student came to me late in his Year 11 to receive early preparations for Year 12. Soon after I commenced helping him in English, he reported to me a recent incident when he suspected that he had experienced ideological bias in the assessment of an essay. He had written an informative piece that appeared to be broadly appreciative of the US in its victory in the Cold War, which the teacher had severely criticised. Concerned, he made an appointment to see his teacher to discuss the matter. Unfortunately, what resulted was a severe haranguing, with the teacher yielding no quarter and even boasting to the student that she was anti-American. To many of the politically correct, the US is perceived as an international villain for being a militaristic capitalist superpower.

When the student renewed his attempt to put his case, her convoluted and uncompromising argument worked its way towards a reference to Pearl Harbor. Initially stunned by this irrelevancy, the student soon realised that this was a cruel dig at his Japanese heritage. It did the trick. The student ceased putting his complaint. Coming to the teacher with what he felt was a legitimate grievance, he left feeling that his efforts were futile. He also found the experience somewhat humiliating.

Teachers responsible for scenes like this are probably likely to forget them minutes later. Unfortunately, the students involved are likely to remember them long afterwards. It is also highly likely that these teachers would not remotely see themselves as politically or ideologically oppressive, or as part of a system that creates an environment where free thought and expression can be compromised. The idea that the beliefs of the politically correct, which are seen by them as so noble and emancipating, especially when they were touted by radical students in the '60s, could have become a means for compromising the intellectual freedom of the young in the 21st century would be unimaginable to them.

As for the student who expressed those moderate pro-American views, upon appreciating the realities of the school system, he produced politically correct essays, perfectly tuned into his teachers' biases, to receive A grades that were (thank goodness) hassle-free. Like the characters Winston Smith and Julia in George Orwell's classic anti-totalitarian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, students with non-Left views need to learn to outwardly conform to inwardly remain free.

Prevailing educational practices suggest that the custodians of the education system, like the teachers' unions, have not realised that they are on the wrong side of a growing desire among Australians for greater intellectual diversity and freedom. There is a need for an education system that would better serve the young in terms of their need for knowledge and acceptance. However, as the president of the Australian Education Union recognised regarding the process of reform, there will be a lot of work to do.


Monday, November 05, 2007

UCLA Bigots

An academic golden anniversary should be celebrated with pride. Pride in past achievements; pride in the excellence of faculty; pride in the quality of their work. It is also the opportunity to reflect on possible shortcomings since critical self-evaluation is the best guarantor of future progress.

Of the many areas of research conducted by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, celebrating its golden anniversary this year, contemporary history -- and especially recent events in the Israeli-Arab conflict -- has been most controversial in the past few years. Perusing a number of articles authored by faculty at the CNES, it is difficult to escape the obvious: there is hardly any instance where Israel is depicted favorably. We are constantly reminded of the "racist Zionist ideology," the "apartheid state of Israel," the "illegal occupation of Palestinian lands," the "brutal oppression of the Arab population" and many other similarly unconvincing statements. Is this the striking consensus of in-depth, impartial research-which all self-respecting academics should pursue-or is it rather what some enlightened French intellectuals would condemn as la pensee unique?

One may argue that the broad consensus reached by the CNES faculty on these issues corroborates the validity of the presented positions. But isn't the university's role to challenge received ideas even when they are wrapped in collective "expert" agreement? Could there be any Galileo emerging today in the CNES without being pilloried by the faculty?

There is, however, an unspoken consensus on a reality so striking that the most vituperative academics cannot dispute. The reality of Israel, a country that after sixty years of relentless attempts at its annihilation has seen its population grow tenfold; a country whose GNP per capita is comparable to Europe's; a country that enjoys a vibrant academic elite, an efficient judicial system, a rich diversity of respected ethnic and religious minorities; a country where peace demonstrators march by the tens of thousands and where dissent is allowed and encouraged; a democratic country that is governed by the rule of law; in a word, a country that stands in sharp contrast to its Arab neighbors who simmer in envy and resentment against what they disparagingly call the "Zionist entity."

But this reality never appears in the work produced by CNES faculty. An examination of the work of a small sample of this faculty, three representative CNES scholar-teachers, is quite telling with respect to the Center's anti-Israel bias.

Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, for instance, would make us believe that "racism is, and has always been, at the heart of what Israel stands for as a state." He condones Palestinian Arabs suicide bombers and calls Israel "a fantasy of the Jews." The idea of a Jewish people entitled to have a sovereign nation in their own ancestral land is anathema to him, while he never questions either the national rights of those Arab countries created by the same mandatory process as Israel or the national aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs-a "people" of whom no one ever heard prior to the late 1960s. Such a blinkered vision of reality is unbecoming of a professor at a prestigious university.

James Gelvin, a full professor at UCLA's History department, who teaches a course in the history and origins of the Israeli-Arab conflict? signed a petition in 2002 calling for the University of California to sell its investments in all companies that do business in the state of Israel. Gelvin was only one of 165 University of California professors, including twelve at UCLA, who signed this infamous petition. It reads in part, "We, the undersigned are appalled by the human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, the continual military occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory by Israeli armed forces and settlers, and the forcible eviction from and demolition of Palestinian homes, towns and cities" (In reality, no "Palestinian towns and cities" have been demolished by Israel). Gelvin told the UCLA student newspaper The Daily Bruin that he had signed the petition because "(Israel) is a government that is now committing an invasion") At the time, Israel was being subjected to a fierce Palestinian terrorist campaign that took over 400 lives in 2002 alone.

When in March 2004, UCLA's law school invited an Israeli diplomat and legal advisor to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alan Baker, to give a brief talk in the Faculty Room of UCLA's law school, Gelvin protested. He wrote to law school dean Norm Abrams that "Many of us in the UCLA community regard the Palestine question as one of the great moral issues of our time and the quest for Palestinian rights equivalent to the American civil rights struggle of the 1960s or the anti-apartheid struggle of the 1980s as a moral imperative. At a time when most of the international community has condemned the separation fence, particularly with respect to the suffering inflicted on over 700,000 residents of the West Bank, the illegal annexation of land by the Israeli government, and the Israeli government's attempt to impose a unilateral solution to a problem which our own government maintains can only be resolved through negotiations, feting an apologist for Israeli actions can only undermine the reputation of UCLA." The murderous rampages of the Palestinian terrorists that have killed over a thousand Israelis since 2000, and which were the sole reason Israel was forced to build the fence, go unmentioned by Gelvin

How could a teacher with such strong prejudices be fair and objective when teaching a course about the history and origins of the Arab-Israel conflict? A number of his former students have complained in their evaluations of his course that Gelvin's teaching of the history of the conflict has not, in fact, been objective or fair. One student has described Gelvin as "not a historian but rather an advocate of the Palestinian cause." Another relates that Gelvin attempted to blame the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's on Israel (in reality, Israel played no role whatsoever in this conflict). Still another recalled that Gelvin's only reference to "terrorism" in the course was to the activities of what he called the "Stern Gang" (whose actual name was Lehi, or "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,"), an underground group that fought for Israel's independence from Britain prior to 1948. According to this student evaluator, when Gelvin was asked why he only discussed Israeli violence against Palestinians, he replied to the effect "that none of the Palestinian terrorism was on as grand a scale as the Stern Gang attack" (not true).

Gabriel Piterberg , an associate professor in UCLA's History department, also signed the 2002 divestment petition. He justified his action by telling the UCLA student newspaper Daily Bruin" that Israel was the "principal culprit" in the conflict. He claims that Israel was created by means of "ethnic cleansing," "massacres," "atrocities" and "rape" of the Palestinians" at its birth in 1948, even though many Palestinians, including Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, have acknowledged that the primary responsibility for the displacement of Arabs during the 1948-49 war lies with Arab leaders and governments. Piterberg says his "facts" about the founding of Israel are derived the writings of such Israeli "scholars" as Benny Morris and Meron Benvenisti, whose work has been shown to be hopelessly biased against Israel by the University of London professor Efraim Karsh, in his groundbreaking study "Fabricating Israel History: The New Historians.

According to Piterberg, 150,000 Jewish "extremists" living in Judea and Samaria must be expelled from their homes in order to create the Palestinian state he desires. The Daily Bruin writes that Piterberg "openly voices his anti-Israeli views,." and "virulently [i.e., poisonously] opposes Israel's government. He is open with his message - going on the radio, appearing on local news and speaking out at campus rallies - that if the suicide bomber is a terrorist, then so is the Israeli pilot who attacks Palestinian civilians" (actually Israeli pilots go to great lengths to avoid harming civilians). According to the Bruin, Piterberg has placed on his office door "a poster of four or five Israeli officials dragging a young Palestinian through the streets with the caption `End the Occupation.' " When the Palestinian terrorist organizations launched a massive "Intifada" against Israel in September and October of 200, killing several Israelis in cold blood, Piterberg's reaction was "the killing of Palestinians will continue." He characterizes the late Yasser Arafat as "a "founding father" figure and `the person who brought back the Palestinian cause' - certainly not the man who was responsible for the violence in Israel"(Bruin, January 11, 2005).

The extremes to which Piterberg carries his anti-Israel prejudice are revealed in "Erasures," a lengthy article that he published in the July-August issue of New Left Review:
The best-known Zionist slogan, `a land without a people to a people without a land', expressed a twofold denial: of the historical experience both of the Jews in exile, and of Palestine without Jewish sovereignty. Of course, since the land was not literally empty, its recovery required the establishment of the equivalent of a colonial hierarchy-sanctioned by Biblical authority- of its historic custodians over such intruders as might remain after the return. Jewish settlers were to be accorded exclusive privileges deriving from the Pentateuch, and Palestinian Arabs treated as part of the natural environment. In the macho Hebrew culture of modern times, to know a woman, in the Biblical sense, and to know the land became virtually interchangeable as terms of possession. The Zionist settlers were collective subjects who acted, and the native Palestinians became objects acted upon.

What utter balderdash! The phrase "a land without a people to a people without a land" was never a "Zionist slogan" and was never said (except to disagree with it) by any Zionist or Israeli leader. Rather it was a phrase used by three nineteenth Christian proponents of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, who wrote before the (Jewish) Zionist movement was even begun by Theodore Herzl (see Adam M. Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase," Middle East Studies, October 1991, for a thorough debunking of the anti-Zionist myth of this supposed "slogan"). Nor did any Zionist or Israeli with any power or influence ever suggest that "Jewish settlers were to be accorded exclusive privileges deriving from the Penteteuch," or advocate "the establishment of the equivalent of a colonial hierarchy-sanctioned by Biblical authority." Most Zionist leaders were, are still are, secularists who opposed any fundamentalist reading of the Jewish Bible. But even religious Zionists, such as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazic chief rabbi of mandatory Palestine, opposed any discrimination against, or hostility to, Arabs. As for the claim that Zionists regarded women as objects of "possession" (an obvious play for feminist support of the anti-Israel cause), it has no historical or factual basis whatsoever.

Once again we must ask: how could an instructor with such an extreme pris partis for one side and against the other in a conflict possibly teach this subject to his students in a fair, balanced, and accurate way?

What is wrong with the CNES faculty, if not la pensee unique, a sclerotic ideological consensus that rejects factual truths when they run against the cherished "theories" to which the professors subscribe? What should be proscribed in academic circles seems to have turned into the norm in Near East Studies. This pens‚e unique has a name: it is called "Palestinianism"-a fig leaf that might be convenient for some to hide darker prejudices against anything Jewish or Zionist.

Is there anything to celebrate in this 50th anniversary? Surely, the CNES can celebrate consistency as the pre-Renaissance Church celebrated the immutability of its dogmatic teachings on science. But this time, the CNES will not have 350 years to finally acknowledge its error as did the church. Many of CNES graduate students will soon be aware of crucial Middle East facts they were never told and they will be incensed for having been subjected to this kind of sustained academic indoctrination.


Flag-burning 'lesson' from shifty Leftist professor provokes UM student

A University of Maine student alleges her former professor offered extra credit to class members if they burned the American flag or the U.S. Constitution or were arrested defending free speech. On the first day of class, associate professor Paul Grosswiler offered the credit to members of his History of Mass Communications class, according to sophomore Rebekah McDade. Disturbed by the comment, McDade dropped the class and intends to take the course again next semester with a different professor. "I was offended," McDade said Friday. "I come from a family of military men and women, and the flag and Constitution are really important symbols to me because of my family background."

In an e-mail responding to a request for comment from the Bangor Daily News on Friday, Grosswiler said he thought McDade misunderstood the class discussion, which was intended to elicit thought about the First Amendment. He said he has held this same discussion for years without incident. "I don't intend for students to burn either the Constitution or the flag, and over the years hundreds of students have understood that," Grosswiler wrote.

The incident was made public recently when The Leadership Institute, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization, distributed a press release detailing the classroom discussion. The Leadership Institute was founded in 1979 by Morton Blackwell and has a mission to identify, recruit, train and place conservatives in politics, government and the media, according to the organization's Web site. A field representative for the institute met McDade on Oct. 1 at UM, when she shared her experience and expressed an interest in spearheading a group "Students for Academic Freedom," Blackwell said Friday.

The group's initial goal would be to convince UM to enact a "Student Bill of Rights," as other colleges have, which would protect students from professors who treat and grade students differently based on religious or political beliefs, McDade said. The institute has assisted McDade in the startup process, she said. "When we heard the story, we said `Hey, this is probably worthwhile our doing a news release,'" Blackwell said. "When you expose leftist abuses, it invigorates conservatives. I am sure that the administration, like most administrations we deal with, is not happy when leftist abuses come to life. They far prefer to have students under their thumb and indoctrinated."

McDade said Friday she was a little uncomfortable with the publicity and that it might have gotten out of hand. She said her intent was not to put the focus on Grosswiler, but to give students an opportunity to voice their concerns. A journalism and political science double major, McDade said the first class of her fall semester at UM began with the typical syllabus introduction and class overview. Despite repeated "liberal" comments made by Grosswiler, McDade said, she was not uncomfortable in the classroom until the flag burning comment. "Everyone is entitled to their own political beliefs, and more power to you if you are passionate about it," McDade said.

When Grosswiler listed the extra-credit opportunities, McDade said the class of approximately 50 students grew very quiet, and some questioned whether he was serious. At first, student Kathleen Dame said she thought Grosswiler was joking, but then he went on to explain to the class that burning the flag was not illegal. While Grosswiler approached the topic in a serious manner, Dame said she felt he used it as a tool to educate the class on the First Amendment. "It was pretty outlandish and [he was] trying to prove a point," Dame said Friday. While McDade said she would not be surprised if students followed through with the flag burning, Dame disagreed.

UM spokesman Joe Carr said Friday that Grosswiler's classroom comments were not intended to be taken literally and that extra credit would not be granted for carrying out such activities. A second person in the class did submit a complaint about the lecture, but Carr did not know in what form it was filed. When asked whether the university would pursue disciplinary action, Carr replied, "No." He said Grosswiler has worked at the University of Maine since 1991, is one of the more veteran professors in the department of communication and journalism, and is a "well-respected member of the faculty."

In his e-mail Friday, Grosswiler, who is a former BDN employee, explained that he refers to provocative examples, such as flag burning, to demonstrate the courage necessary to support free expression. "If they don't tolerate thought that they hate, they don't believe in the First Amendment," he wrote. "I applaud the student's exercise of free expression. If she had stayed in the class, I would have given her extra credit for publicizing her opinions."


Disastrous British schools

The 600 worst-performing secondary schools in the country face being taken over by the best or shut down completely under a new drive by the Prime Minister to improve classroom standards. Gordon Brown laid out his vision for education, saying that he wanted to raise educational aspirations across the board to ensure 100 per cent success for young people and close the social-class gap in school attainment.

His priorities include the introduction of cash incentives worth about 10,000 pounds to attract teachers into the toughest schools and a drive to increase the take-up of apprenticeships. Although he recognised improvements in schools in the past decade, the Prime Minister said that there was still much to do. "This is a determined and systematic agenda to end failure," he said. "We will see it through. We will not flinch from the task."

Mr Brown raised the bar for school performance. Previously the Government expected a minimum of 25 per cent of pupils to get five GCSEs at grade C or above. Now schools will be expected to ensure that at least 30 per cent of pupils do so. The number of schools below this level has declined from 1,600, when Labour came to power in 1997, to 670 today [due to grade inflation], but this was still too many. Schools that fall below this threshold will be given annual improvement targets. The worst among them may face "complete closure or takeover by a successful neighbouring school in a trust or federation, or transfer to academy status, including the option of takeover by an independent school".

Mr Brown said that he wanted to ensure that every 18-year-old was either headed for university with good academic qualifications or ready to go to work with vocational qualifications.

As part of a drive to increase the number of apprenticeships from 130,000 today to 400,000 by 2020, employers will receive o3,000 for every apprentice they take on. A clearing service to match aspiring apprentices with businesses would be introduced and there would be a guarantee of an apprenticeship place in every local authority for everybody who wants one.

A new scheme called Teach Next will be set up to attract leading people from other professions into teaching. Those working in the toughest schools will be given "golden hello" payments that could be worth at least 10,000, and all teachers will be encouraged to update their qualifications.

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham, said that the floor target of 30 per cent good GCSE grades, including maths and English, was not the right approach. "Mr Brown has not addressed the question of how the children in the worst-performing schools get there," he said. "If some schools end up with high levels of children from low incomes, they may be doing a very good job with those children but still not meeting the criteria." John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, agreed: "Improvement trends, not just raw results, must be taken into account when judging the performance of teachers and schools."


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Report: Most public students in South are now poor

A rather silly article reproduced in full below. Why is it silly? 1). Flight from mismanaged public schools by those who can afford it is entirely to be expected -- and therefore says nothing definite about the poverty levels in the State concerned overall; 2). Enrollment in school meal programs is a misleading criterion of poverty. Just about anybody who puts their hand up will be enrolled for meals in at least some of the States concerned

For the first time in more than 40 years, the majority of children in public schools in the South are poor, according to a report released Tuesday. In 11 Southern states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, a significant increase in the number of poor children attending public school has sent district officials scurrying for solutions on how to best educate kids who are coming from economically disadvantaged homes. "The future of the South's ability to have an educated population is going to depend on how well we can improve these students' education," said Steve Suitts, a program coordinator with the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on Southern educational issues and conducted the study.

In places like Memphis, where roughly 80 percent of students come from low-income homes, that has meant adopting models that address teaching children in poverty. In Florida's Miami-Dade County, where 61 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunch, that has meant strengthening efforts to improve all students' math and reading scores and curb dropout rates.

Twenty years ago, Mississippi was the only state in the country with such a high percentage of poor public-school students. However, as textile mills shut down in the Carolinas, Appalachian coal mines cut workers and a recession swept the nation, families in the South were especially hard hit, the Southern Education Foundation report found.

Also hitting the South disproportionately were federal cutbacks in anti-poverty programs, the region's higher rates of underemployment and the increased birthrates of Hispanic and Black children, who are statistically more likely than their White peers to be born into poverty. Now, a majority of public-school students are considered low-income in a total of 14 states, including 11 in the South. The South shows tremendous variability, with 84 percent of students considered low-income in Louisiana, 75 percent in Mississippi, 62 percent in Florida and 49 percent in North Carolina.


British grade inflation unmasked

The millions of pounds spent attempting to raise the standard of English in primary schools has had almost no impact on children's reading skills, according to a devastating critique on the education system. Pupils feel anxious about school tests and are losing their love of reading in the drive to improve literacy levels, according to a review published today by the University of Cambridge.

There was no strong evidence to support the Government's claim that national testing in primary schools drives up standards, the review concluded. It added that the current system could be giving up to a third of children the wrong grades. The researchers, who include some of the country's leading educationalists, called for a significant overhaul of primary school testing and recommended that national standards should be monitored using a sample survey of pupils instead of collecting results for every child in the country at ages 7 and 11.

The research by academics at the universities of Bristol and Durham and the National Foundation for Educational Research represents the latest findings of the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest inquiry into primary education for decades. The Durham University study, led by Peter Tymms, concluded that the National Literacy Strategy, which includes the "literacy hour" daily English lesson, had made a "barely noticeable" impression on reading standards, which had barely improved since the 1950s.

The report said: "500 million pounds was spent on the National Literacy Strategy with almost no impact on reading levels." The apparently dramatic rise in primary school test results "exaggerated the changes in pupils' attainment levels and were seriously misleading". Professor Tymms has in the past criticised ministers for suggesting that tests do not reflect the true nature of rising standards. But the independent statistics watchdog has backed his conclusions.

Wynne Harlen from the University of Bristol gave warning in his report that primary school national tests were too narrow. "There is considerable research evidence that high- stakes tests put teachers under pressure to increase scores, which they do by teaching to the tests, giving multiple practice tests and coaching pupils in how to answer questions," he said. "There is firm evidence that this results in considerable stress for pupils." The report calculated that pupils spend about nine school days in Year 5 and 13 school days in Year 6 practising for and taking tests. "This is time that teachers and pupils could use in other ways," it said.

Despite these concerns, a third report in the series - this time from the National Foundation for Educational Research - found that standards in English primary schools compared favourably with other countries' results. In reading, English primaries are still in the top group of countries, outperforming France, Germany, Italy, and the US. In maths, there has been significant improvement from 1995 to 2003, with England surpassing schools in the United States, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Norway and eight other countries. In science, English schools were also among the top performers in the world. [On the wishy-washy PISA critieria, maybe]

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the testing system must be changed. "There is every reason to act to dismantle a testing system whose only effect seems to be to create stress for pupils and teachers," he said. Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, said: "Millions of pounds have been spent on education but we haven't seen improvements. As a result, many children, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, are not getting the opportunities they deserve." But Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister, rejected the findings, stating that primary standards were at their highest levels. "This is not an opinion, it is fact," he said.


Terrorist supporters at CUNY feel some heat

No one could accuse Sharad Karkhanis of pulling his punches. The emeritus professor at Kingsborough Community College publishes The Patriot Returns, an online newsletter that critiques the leadership of the faculty union at the City University of New York. The overall thrust of the newsletter is that the Professional Staff Congress, which is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, is poorly run, focused too much on leftist politics to be effective on behalf of its members.

By carefully monitoring meeting minutes, newsletters, blogs and the like, Karkhanis acts as a self-appointed watchdog of the union. And he can bark. He mixes his analysis with choice nicknames. Barbara Bowen, the president of the union, is dubbed "Dear Leader," after the North Korean dictator.

One of Karkhanis's other favorite targets has been Susan O'Malley, a professor of English at Kingsborough and a member of the union's executive board. The newsletter has dubbed her "The Queen of Released Time" for her ability to win time off from teaching for her union or Faculty Senate duties. O'Malley is now fighting back - she's sued Karkhanis for $2 million, charging him with libel and defamation. To O'Malley, the issue is one of her damaged reputation. Given that faculty unions normally pride themselves on defending the right of dissenting professors - especially those who poke fun or criticize those in power - some professors see the lawsuit as an attack on academic freedom.

The full lawsuit hasn't been filed yet, but preliminary exchanges have focused on comments Karkhanis made about O'Malley and her push to protect the job rights of Mohammad Yousry, who was fired from CUNY and who was convicted (in a controversial case that some believe was unfair) of supporting terrorist activities and of Susan Rosenberg, a CUNY instructor who served jail time for her role in the Weather Underground. In several references, Karkhanis mocked O'Malley for her efforts on behalf of these individuals, whom he dubbed terrorists, and questioned why she was so focused on them.

In comments he says are satire, he referred to O'Malley's "Queda-Camp," to her desire to "bring in all her indicted, convicted and freed-on-bail terrorist friends" to college jobs, and so forth. He wrote that she "does not worry about the `ordinary' adjunct - but she is worried about convicted terrorists."

Prior to filing the suit, O'Malley's lawyer sent Karkhanis a letter demanding that he retract all of these statements or face a lawsuit. Her lawyer, Joseph Martin Carasso, said in an interview Thursday that the suit that has now been filed does not detail the statements that could be challenged later and that there could be many beyond those noted in the letter.

Karkhanis said that he does not believe O'Malley to be a terrorist (or a queen, which he calls her frequently), and that he is using satire to point to larger issues. He also noted that O'Malley has been a prominent player in union politics in New York City, where she has taken numerous public positions on issues - some controversial. And he said that the factual basis behind the terrorism jabs - that O'Malley went to bat for these individuals - has been demonstrated by e-mail messages he posted on his Web site.

Carasso, her lawyer, said it was "not prudent" to comment on the claim that the Web site's references to O'Malley as a supporter of terrorists are satire. He did say, however, that "falsely accusing or alleging someone is a terrorist or is aiding terrorists in the current year, post-9/11, is a serious charge" and that O'Malley has "suffered as a result." He added: "There are people who know her on campus and in the academic community only as a result of the defamatory statements he's made."

The principles of academic freedom are important and are part of why O'Malley is suing, Carasso said. "What the Web site is trying to do is to silence Susan O'Malley by branding her a terrorist, which is the exact opposite of a free debate." (O'Malley did not respond to e-mail messages seeking an interview and Carasso said he was responding on her behalf.)

Several CUNY faculty members who have been critical of their union have been blogging in defense of Karkhanis, arguing that his blog deserves First Amendment protection and suggesting that leaders of the union are nervous about the popularity of his newsletter, particularly given active opposition that came close to unseating the union leadership in the last election and that is expected to mount another challenge soon.

KC Johnson, a Brooklyn College professor, noted that "PSC president Barbara Bowen has suggested that academic freedom protected" the right of a professor to assert in a blog that religious people were "moral retards." Johnson asked: "Will she now similarly apply her flexible definition of the concept, and rebuke O'Malley's attempt to silence Karkhanis?"

Rina Yarmish, chair of mathematics and computer science at Kingsborough and head of the faculty union there, said that she was concerned about the suit against her colleague. "There is no question that she did try to find them jobs," she said of those for whom O'Malley's assistance was criticized. Yarmish said that she did not see how anyone could have read the newsletter's criticisms, however barbed, as meaning that O'Malley is a terrorist. "I don't think anyone interpreted it that way," she said. What Karkhanis did, she said, was "to make public to the faculty certain items that were not well known."

Of the suit, Yarmish said that "an attempt to silence a person for criticizing another individual really is tantamount to denying him the right to academic freedom, which is a mainstay of academic life." Yarmish led the slate that challenged the union leadership in the last election and her critique of the union is similar to that made by Karkhanis. Both complain that contracts have not won economic gains for faculty members, and both complain that an emphasis on political issues has left the union without political clout.

Dorothee Benz, a spokeswoman for the Professional Staff Congress, said via e-mail that the union "is not a party to Susan O'Malley's lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis. We are unfamiliar with its details and cannot judge its legal merits." As to the newsletter and its author's rights, she said: "The PSC is a strong defender of free speech, and we defend Karkhanis's right to free speech. The PSC itself has been a frequent target of Karkhanis's vitriol, and much of what he has said about us is inaccurate and repugnant, but we have never questioned his right to free speech."

Benz added, however: "Free speech, however, has limits, as any first year law student knows. O'Malley's case concerns one of those limits, where the right to free speech comes up against the harm caused by libelous statements. Whether accusing someone of aiding and training terrorists, in a post-9/11 world, rises to meet the legal standards that define libel is up to the courts to decide."

As for Karkhanis, he said he would not back down, and that he planned to continue his work. His newsletter, he said, "is the only voice to opposition for Barbara Bowen and the union. It is a very strong voice. It is humorous. It has satire. It has pictures. It has news people are not privy to."


Lawyer Mitchell Langbert has a running commentary on the case. He regards the lawsuit as a breach of that "collegiality" which Leftists often proclaim as an excuse for not hiring conservatives.