Saturday, November 08, 2008

Prominent UC Professor May Lose Salary for Refusing 'Sham' Sexual Harassment Training

A prominent biologist at the University of California, Irvine could be placed on unpaid leave because he refuses to take sexual harassment prevention training. Alexander McPherson, 64, calls the mandatory training a "sham" and considers his refusal an act of "civil disobedience." He has already been relieved of his duties supervising other scientists in the lab where he studies proteins. McPherson has generated about $20 million in research money since he joined the university in 1997, and has had his experiments aboard the space shuttle and the international space station.

He can attend a training course by November 12 and regain his standing but said he won't, even if it means suspension from his job that pays $148,740 a year. "I have consistently refused to take such training on the grounds that the adoption of the requirement was a naked political act by the state that offended my sensibilities, violated my rights as a tenured professor, impugned my character and cast a shadow of suspicion on my reputation and career," McPherson told the Orange County Register. "I even offered to go to jail if the university persisted in persecuting me for my refusal. We Scots are very stubborn in matters of this sort."

A state law passed in 2004 requires supervisors to undergo sexual harassment training at businesses that regularly employ 50 or more people. McPherson's department chairman declined comment. A university spokeswoman would not comment directly on McPherson, but said 97 percent of the school's faculty have completed the training.


Britain offers high school qualifications in in how to read a tram timetable

Headmistress says drive to make lessons fun is 'cheating our children'

Thousands of students taking English are being asked to study tram timetables as part of dumbed down A-level exams, an adviser to Prince Charles warns today. Bernice McCabe, who is also a leading headmistress, said the drive to make lessons 'relevant' and 'fun' is leaving a generation of children intellectually impoverished. She warned that standards have degenerated so far that the current A-level English syllabus offered by the country's biggest exam board requires the study of a Manchester Metrolink tram timetable. Examiners propose in future to include a bus pass.

In a keynote speech today to the Prince's Teaching Institute, Mrs McCabe will warn that traditional subjects and bodies of knowledge are being sidelined in favour of 'woolly' teaching theories promoted by Government curriculum advisers. Pupils are being robbed of their cultural heritage, and denied opportunities to study great literature and history, because schools are increasingly expected to teach vague 'skills' and make lessons 'accessible'. In fact, pupils enjoy being challenged and often relish problem-solving, she will say.

Mrs McCabe, who is head of North London Collegiate School, a girls' private school which regularly tops exam league tables, will single out an English language and literature AS-level syllabus drawn up by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board. It is accompanied by an anthology of study materials which includes a Manchester Metrolink tram guide, a British passport and a holiday postcard. Pupils are asked to draw on the anthology to answer questions on 'travel, transport and locomotion' in an A-level unit worth up to a quarter of the marks. One contributor to an online teachers' forum said: 'Only just got a copy on Friday and would welcome some ideas. Don't let the Daily Mail see it, huh?'

Mrs McCabe, who was approached by St James Palace in 2001 to help set up summer schools for teachers, said: 'By far the most serious consequence of this emphasis on functionality in education policy is that it may lead to the cultural and intellectual impoverishment of a generation of school children.' She said subject teachers were being 'thwarted' and 'frustrated' by a 'pervasive philosophy' championed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. 'The aim, they state, is to create "successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens",' she said. 'It is hard to quarrel with any aspect of these aspirations except the most important one: their woolliness. They say nothing at all about what children should be learning.'

Mrs McCabe's concerns are known to be shared by the Prince of Wales, who set up the teaching institute to promote effective subject teaching. An AQA spokesman said: 'The purpose of the unit is to allow candidates to study a range of thematically-linked texts. 'The texts cover the three major literary genres and a range of non-literary texts. The tram guide is just one of the non-literary texts and amongst the literary texts are pieces by Samuel Johnson, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.'


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