Monday, March 10, 2008

It happens in Ireland too: Free speech successfully repressed in Cork ... again

Post below lifted from Hibernia Girl. See the original for links

Bullies and their threats prevail once again. From
Irving appearance at UCC debate cancelled

The appearance of controversial historian David Irving at a university debate has been cancelled, it has emerged.

The convicted Holocaust-denier had been scheduled to appear on Monday night in favour of the motion "That this house believes free speech should be free from restraint".

However, a representative of the UCC Philosophical Society, the organisers of the debate, revealed on last night's `Late Late Show' that due to security concerns and pressure from college authorities, Irving will not now be speaking at the debate....

"That this house believes free speech should be free from restraint". Pretty ironic, eh?

The bullies, no doubt, come from the left as they did last time round over Irving speaking at UCC:
The society had invited Mr Irving to UCC in 1999 but the lecture was cancelled at the last minute amid security concerns. About 600 protesters gathered outside the UCC venue where Mr Irving was to deliver a lecture, Myths of the Second World War.

Scuffles broke out with garda [police] before reinforcements were called in. Two college security guards and a number of students were injured in the scuffles.

The incident led to the removal of college facilities and privileges from Young Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Society and the Socialist Worker Society, which had all been involved in the protest....

Irving was on The Late Late Show last night but I didn't catch it (did anybody see it?) and there's no video of the interview up on the RTE's site yet (if they do put it up, that is).

Greedy teachers

When you think of Nevada, odds are that you don't think of a battleground state in the public education wars. But an insurgency against the teachers union is underway here. The trouble started last year when the teachers union, the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA), decided it wanted to raise taxes to increase teacher salaries. Faced with the reality that over the past decade their clout had fallen in the state legislature -- and in 2006 Nevada voters put in office a governor determined to stand by his "no new taxes" pledge -- union officials came to the conclusion that the only way they would be likely to get the money is through a direct appeal to the people.

The problem is that "the people" don't want to hike their own taxes any more than Gov. Jim Gibbons wants to hike taxes on them. So the only way to achieve their goal is to stick someone with deep pockets, but who isn't overly popular, with the bill. In Nevada, that's the casino industry.

The NSEA ran some polls and discovered that by a 2-1 margin, voters might favor a ballot initiative that would raise business taxes on the state's largest casinos to 9.75%, up from 6.75%, as long as the additional money was spent on education. Perhaps a little overeagerly, the union drew up an initiative that did more than earmark new funds for education in general. It specifically designated the money for teacher pay raises. "There is nothing more important than increasing educators' salaries, benefits and improving their working conditions," NSEA president Lynn Warne told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The gaming industry sued on the grounds that the initiative violated state rules requiring initiatives be limited to a "single subject." State Supreme Court Justice Mariam Shearing sided with the casinos, ruling that it's OK to have an initiative on raising gaming taxes, but it can't specifically designate the money for raises for teachers.

The union has since refiled its initiative with new language designed to satisfy the judge. While we wait to see if the new language will pass muster with the courts, the clock is ticking. The NSEA only has until mid-May to collect 58,836 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot -- not an easy task in a state with just 2.5 million residents.

Making matters worse for the NSEA, in recent months an otherwise natural ally has become a bitter enemy of the union, thanks to the state's Jan. 19 Democratic presidential caucuses. The teachers backed Hillary Clinton. But the Culinary Workers Union, representing casino workers, threw in behind Barack Obama. Things got nasty between the two unions when the teachers union sued the Nevada Democratic Party shortly before the caucuses, in an effort to shut down caucus locations in casinos which the NSEA considered too friendly to the culinary workers.

Mrs. Clinton won the state's caucuses, but bad blood and hard feelings remain. And since raising taxes on the industry that provides casino and construction jobs would likely force massive layoffs of union workers, don't be surprised to see both the culinary union and the Nevada AFL-CIO coming out to oppose the tax hike.

Taxpayer groups are also opposing the teachers' initiative. Carole Vilardo of the Nevada Taxpayers Association has warned against using the initiative process to put "tax and expenditure policies that are that specific in the constitution," pointing out that this sort of thing is already causing major budgetary headaches in California -- an argument sure to resonate with the large number of California refugees who fled the high-tax Golden State in recent years.

Others normally in the unions' corner are also against the tax hike. The Reno Gazette-Journal recently editorialized that the NSEA should "drop this proposal," calling it a "bad idea" and "unethical" for relying "on a popular and necessary element -- student achievement to get an unpopular part -- teacher pay, benefits and incentives -- passed." Ouch. Jon Ralston, Nevada's dean of political pundits, put it this way: "The teachers have few friends."

Even worse for the union, the public may no longer buy the "everything's great" spin by union leaders over the dismal state of public education. A recent survey by the Friedman Foundation and the Nevada Policy Research Institute found that 89% of Nevadans would send their kids somewhere other than a public school if they had a choice.

The union is also finding itself fighting opposition from within as well as from without. Last spring the Clark County Education Association -- which represents teachers in the Las Vegas metro area -- had to fend off a takeover attempt by the Teamsters, while the nonunion Association of American Educators -- a professional association offering liability insurance and other benefits for a fraction of the dues paid to the union and without the political agenda -- recently opened a chapter in Nevada and is recruiting members from union ranks.

If all this wasn't enough to keep union leaders awake at night, there is a well-funded school-choice ballot initiative being drafted which might, under present circumstances, have a shot at passing in November. And the union knows full well that any proposal that gives parents a real choice in education works against their self interest.

Could Nevada become the first state to approve a statewide, universal school voucher bill? That has about as much chance as the Giants beating the Patriots, John McCain winning the Republican presidential nomination, or Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton.


Australian university forgets that lectures need to be understood

I am sure that the Chinese man concerned is a perfectly fine person but why was he hired for a job he could barely do? It sounds to me that a compulsion to do "diverse" hiring trumped all sense

The University of Queensland's prestigious law school had to sideline a new academic recruit from overseas because of poor English speaking skills. Qiao Liu was hired as a School of Law lecturer last semester but drew complaints from students that they could not understand his classes. Executive Dean Ian Zimmer confirmed Mr Liu, an Oxford graduate, had to be stood down from lectures to be given time to improve his language skills. "The School of Law acted quickly on student concerns," Prof Zimmer said.

Mr Liu began teaching Contract B to about 400 students in a large lecture theatre at UQ last July. After complaints from students, the school's then deputy head Prof Ross Grantham sat in on two lectures. He was accompanied by another law professor during the second lecture. They agreed Mr Liu's accent "seemed to be pronounced by the sound system in the large lecture theatre, creating communication problems," Prof Zimmer said.

Mr Liu agreed he should take time out from teaching in order to improve his language skills. Former Law School Dean Charles Rickett took over Mr Liu's classes for the remainder of last semester. Mr Liu resumed teaching at the start of this semester, on February 25. Under changes to the Bachelor of Law structure, he now takes on about 25 students at a time, as opposed to 400 last year, Prof Zimmer said. "No concern about Mr Liu's 2008 teaching has been raised with Prof Grantham (now head of the Law School), however he plans to sit in on Mr Liu's next class," he said.

Prof Zimmer, who was chairman of the selection committee that hired Mr Liu, said the recruit "came to us with excellent references, presented well during his interview, and was hired as a junior lecturer". At the time of his appointment he was a lecturer in law at the University of the West of England. Since July last year he has published two major articles on the law of contract in one of the world's most prestigious law journals, the Cambridge Law Journal.

The university declined to reveal Mr Liu's salary package, but Prof Zimmer said the lecturer had continued to contribute last semester through tutorials, research and an increased marking load. Mr Liu's university profile says he "teaches and researches in contract law, Chinese law, with a particular interest in comparative study of Chinese and Anglo-Australian private law".


1 comment:

Robert said...

I also note that Nevada is home to the Las Vegas Review Journal, in which Vin Suprynowicz's columns on schooling and education regularly run. Could it be that about 89% of Nevada residents detect resonance of truth in his articles, and have ideas for solutions they would be ready to implement? Nevada may just show us the way.