Saturday, February 02, 2008

Student punished for "Confidential" survey remarks at University of Georgia

I have some comments on this on today's "Tongue-Tied" posts

A student who wrote disparaging comments on an anonymous course evaluation now finds himself facing University sanctions. Brian Beck, a landscape architecture major from Gordon, was found in violation of three University Code of Conduct regulations in a decision announced last week by University Judiciary. Beck was found in violation of the code due to:

* Disruption of the teaching evaluation process

* On grounds of multiplicity

* Harassment based on presumed knowledge of the associate professor's sexual orientation

Beck's violations stem from comments made on two course evaluations in Joseph Disponzio's History of the Built Environment course sequence. On the first course evaluation, Beck was asked "What aspects of the course could use improvement or change?" Beck wrote: "Joe Disponzio is a complete asshole. I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!"

During a phone interview with The Red & Black, Disponzio said, "As always, there were good comments and bad comments. I am a difficult professor. After receiving the comment [in January] I went to my dean about it. I was not amused by it."

College of Environment & Design Interim Dean Scott Weinberg said he told Disponzio, "He probably needs to go see people in Legal Affairs." According to an e-mail sent from Disponzio to Kimberly Ellis, associate dean for Student Affairs-Office of Judicial Programs, Weinberg "essentially said that since the evaluation was anonymous, there was little he could do. [Weinberg] does nothing to address the situation among the staff and faculty of the (College of Environment & Design)."

After consulting Legal Affairs, Disponzio said he did not pursue the matter because of academic responsibilities. The University did not take action. "Ultimately, I let the whole thing drop," Disponzio said, but "at the end of the spring semester, I received a similar comment."

Beck answered the evaluation question "What were the most helpful/useful aspects of the course?" with "Joe Disponzio needs help with his issues dealing with homosexuality. Fags are not cool and neither are ney [sic] yorkers."

After comparing the two evaluations to exams from the class, Disponzio said he was able to identify the student he thought made the comments. "I am a New Yorker and a gay man ... but I have no idea what the student's issues were," Disponzio said. "Systematically you go through this, then I realized that I found the culprit."

On June 11, Disponzio went to Weinberg's office and left copies of the two evaluations along with copies of the exams he believed to be those of the offending students. No action was taken at this point because Weinberg was out of town. On. Aug. 21, Weinberg referred Disponzio to Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity. Disponzio and Dozier met the next day and the matter was referred to Ellis. Two days later, an official complaint was filed with the Office of Judicial Programs.

A letter was mailed to Beck's home address on Sept. 6 stating "it is alleged that Mr. Beck wrote threatening comments on course evaluations that were directed to a faculty member. Such comments indicated that he wanted the faculty member to die. Also the comments may have violated the University's anti-discrimination and harassment policy in that comments made may have been discriminatory regarding sexual orientation." Beck was directed to contact the Office of Judicial Programs and a hearing was set for Oct. 15.

The University retained a handwriting document examiner to confirm the author of the evaluations. Roy Fenoff, a 2004 graduate of the University and forensic document examiner, was faxed the evaluations in question and Beck's class exams. He "concluded that the questioned writing was indeed authored by Brian Beck." Fenoff came to this conclusion by examining "ink patterns, slant, size, fluidity of movement, entry strokes, final strokes, spacing of letters, the connections, letter form, punctuation, numbers, and abbreviation," according to judical programs' records.

Beck's punishment includes writing a 1,200-word essay on how his remarks affect the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community and interact with a greater intolerance of the campus LGBT community, a letter of apology to Disponzio including constructive criticisms of his teaching style, and meeting with Michael Shutt, assistant dean of students, to discuss completion of SafeSpace training or other programs deemed appropriate. Beck received a reprimand/warning and was told he is expected to follow University Conduct Regulations in the future.

Disponzio wrote in a letter to Weinberg: "Though the evaluations are 'confidential'; such pointedly directed hate removes all rights to confidentially. Whether it is the student I suspect, or another, I will do whatever is necessary to find [him or her]."

Members of the LGBT community say they are not satisfied with how the University handled the case. "Lambda is going to be up in arms. [We're] upset it took almost a year," said Moira Gillis, an anthropology major from Richmond and the director of public relations for Lambda Alliance, a group whose purpose is creating a safe and supportive environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.


New Report: Asians, Not Whites, Gain When AA Ends

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

This morning the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on yet another study that confirms Asians benefit much more than whites when racial preference policies are eliminated. In fact, the proportion of whites admitted often decreases when race preferences are curtailed. An earlier study, discussed here, found that
when one group loses ground, another has to gain - in this case it would be Asian applicants. Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students, with an acceptance rate rising from nearly 18 percent to more than 23 percent.

Similarly, a Dan Golden article in the Wall Street Journal, which I discussed here, also found that
Asian-American enrollment at Berkeley has increased since California voters banned affirmative action in college admissions. Berkeley accepted 4,122 Asian-American applicants for this fall's freshman class -- nearly 42% of the total admitted. That is up from 2,925 in 1997, or 34.6%, the last year before the ban took effect. Similarly, Asian-American undergraduate enrollment at the University of Washington rose to 25.4% in 2004 from 22.1% in 1998, when voters in that state prohibited affirmative action in college admissions.

The University of Michigan may be poised for a similar leap in Asian-American enrollment, now that voters in that state have banned affirmative action. The Center for Equal Opportunity study found that, among applicants with a 1240 SAT score and 3.2 grade point average in 2005, the university admitted 10% of Asian-Americans, 14% of whites, 88% of Hispanics and 92% of blacks. Asian applicants to the university's medical school also faced a higher admissions bar than any other group.

The new study, which will be published next week in InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, also finds, according to one of its authors, that
Asian Americans' share of enrollment has shot upward at selective public universities that have been forced to abandon affirmative-action preferences, he said, and the Asian-American population has not increased nearly enough to explain the trend. Meanwhile, a report on the study's findings says, white enrollments, as a share of the student body, actually declined slightly at the universities examined.....

It sounds as though this new study largely confirms the findings of earlier ones, but, based on the Chronicle's summary, it also sounds as though the authors are uncomfortable with their findings. Whether for that reason or simply in an attempt to convince readers they are not racist, right-wing Republican meanies (sorry for the redundancy here), they engage in some wholly gratuitous and unsupported insults to critics of race preferences.

The report says, for example, that its findings that Asians, not whites, benefit from the demise of race preferences "`can hardly be satisfying' to `those who campaigned for the elimination of affirmative action in the belief that it would advantage the admission of white students.'"

And who, exactly, are "those who campaigned for the elimination of affirmative action in the belief that it would advantage the admission of white students"? Do the authors assume that all those who oppose race preferences do so because they believe whites will benefit? It would be nice to have some names of who the authors have in mind, or perhaps they are afraid of libel suits.

Not only did those who "campaigned" against race preferences do so in a mistaken effort to benefit whites. In the future, now that the facts are known, those who continue to campaign against preferences will no doubt do so in order to deprive Asians of the benefits they receive when they are nt longer victims of double-standard discrimination.
The report predicts that white people might begin actively opposing race-neutral admissions policies if Asian Americans continue to make gains. "Whites are still too influential in politics and in the private sector to sit quietly while this trend continues," it says.

Such comments are not only dumb - where is the evidence? - but offensive.

I was just about to post the above comments when I saw Roger Clegg's comments on the same study. If I'd only read his first, I could have saved myself some trouble and posted what I usually feel like saying after reading something Roger has written: "What he said." Anyway, here's a part of what he said:
I'm prepared to believe that Asians may be discriminated against more than whites by PC admissions policies, but the evidence is overwhelming - in, among other places, the dozens of studies done by the Center for Equal Opportunity - that both groups are discriminated against (and sometimes Latinos as well). I have a sneaking suspicion that this is just another desperate effort by the proponents of such discrimination to stem the tide that is running against them, this time by trying to persuade whites that they shouldn't care about colorblind principles, since it is only those darn Asian kids who benefit from them. It's an ugly tactic, and it won't work. Those of us "who campaigned" against racial preferences did so not because we care about white kids and not Asian kids - we're doing so because we don't like discrimination against anyone. I think the overwhelming majority of those supporting these initiatives feel this way.

The grand inquistion: destroying teens to save them

It appears the entire student body of Parkland High School ought to be registered sex offenders, if the law were applied. But the local police and district attorney are not going to apply the law because virtually the entire school is guilty of possession of child pornography.

State police have been sent to the school to scare the bejeesus out of the students into co-operating. Apparently images of two girls were distributed by cell phone from one student to another. In one case the girl involved had taken a photo of her breasts herself. District Attorney James Martin said of this girl, "she's a victim and she's not a victim." There's a clear legal standard.

Another girl was photographed having oral sex with an unidentified boy. Police can't, or won't, say if this is was done with her knowledge. So we don't know if she too is "a victim and not a victim".

Police have gone to the school to ensure that every student erases any such images from their cellphones or the students face prosecution for child pornography. In fact, the district attorney is being very careful with his wording. He said: "Our thrust has been to get the kids to come forward and we've indicated we will not charge them for possessing the images." Please note that that the word indicated is one of those lovely weasel words. It doesn't mean "promised" it merely means that the district attorney has said this is possible. It is a sign of something not a confirmation.

The real reason that they are hedging and hawing over this is that if they actually applied the laws as they stand they would have to prosecute most the teens at this high school and many in other schools who also saw the images. Samantha Smith, a junior at the school, clearly noted the problem: "The school isn't going to get everybody because it is everybody. I don't know anybody who didn't get the pictures." And in this case the everybody includes about 3,200 students.

Now to prosecute 3,200 students means around 6,400 angry parents. It means outraged grandparents and cousins. It means pissed off neighbors. In other words it means the district attorney would be toast in the next election. So here the law will be selectively enforced to save the DA's ass.

But as noted the DA only "indicated" that there won't be prosecutions. He hasn't promised it. And he's also being very political here. He wants to have the option to prosecute someone just in case the anger goes the other way. He said: "I'm not sure what we're going to do with the participants at this point." Actually that should have been what he was going to do "to the participants" not with. With implies they are happy participants in the DA's actions and I doubt that is the case.

The DA refers to the participants which, I assume, includes the girl who took a photo of her own breasts, that's the girl he said was "a victim" and "not a victim" at the same time. So the DA is implying that they face a real possibility of being prosecuted as child pornographers even though they were the children in question.

This wouldn't be the first time. The courts have backed up the sex panic laws that apply to kids as much as adults. Teens who stupidly record their own sex lives, in any way, can be, and have been, prosecuted as child pornographers. The Florida state appeals court has ruled that this legit. In the case they heard a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy took some sexual photos of themselves. These digital photos were then sent from the girl's computer to the boy's e-mail. At no time did they distribute the photos to anyone else. Court records are unclear but somehow the police learned the photos existed and both teens were arrested for victimizing themselves. And the boy was charged with possessing child pornography (the photo of himself and his girlfriend) as well.

Now the courts have ruled that the teens can have sex without facing prosecution. But if they photograph those acts then they become heinous criminals, a threat to Western Civilization, cause Jesus to weep bloody tears, and encourage terrorism. Well, not quite but damn close.

The robed morons in Florida had some unique arguments in the case. Judge James Wolf though it fine to ruin the lives of these kids in order to not ruin their lives. He argued, in the majority opinion, that it didn't matter that these "victims" hadn't shown their own photos to anyone. He said they could still sell the photos to child pornographers (someone should let this moron know that because one is a minor in the law doesn't make one a child -- teens are not children. They may not be adults yet but neither are they children.) Apparently the judge imagined that these two kids would be able to find child pornographers. Perhaps they are listed in the Yellow Pages. And he assumed these pornographers, who didn't exist in the case, would actually want to buy these photos.

But this ignoramus said "the statute was intended to protect minors like appellant and her co-defendant from their own lack of judgment..." Even if one accepts that premise how does turning these teens in sex offenders protect them? They face a life time of harassment because they did something silly as teens. Apparently the judge is like the Inquisitors who were willing to execute someone in order to save them.

He also wanted them convicted because the "mere production of these videos or pictures may also result in psychological trauma to the teenagers involved." If it were a crime to be stupid this man would have been jailed long ago. Does this "judge" actually think that these photos, taken by the teens themselves, are actually more traumatic than being arrested, hauled before idiots in robes, and convicted as child pornographers? Talk about irrationality in the courtroom.

The reality is that pornographers who want photos of teens of that age can find them legally and easily because that is the age of consent in most of Europe. The U.S. is unique in having a much higher age of consent than other countries when it comes to such matters. The age of consent for porn used to be 16 in the United States: so it is unlikely any of the teens we are talking would have been criminals under the old law. The law was changed by one of the worst attorney general's in U.S. history, Ed Meese. Meese was a professional panic-monger when it came to sex and he was doing his level best to eradicate the "porn menace".

Meese had the federal law changed to 18-years-of-age. He argued that while 16-year-olds might be able to consent that teens younger than that can't. But some teens who are 14 appear to be 16 so to protect them he had the law raised to cover all teens until they turn 18. The idea was supposedly to protect teens younger than 16, not teens older than 16. Of course once Meese got his way things really took off. In fact, at that time the U.S. government claimed there was a massive increase in child porn. Duh! What they didn't tell the public was that the porn in question had been legal until a few days earlier. The increase was entirely due to the change in definition. But with the increase in arrests the sex panic industry got rolling.

From that point, until today, the police and prosecutors, under both Democrats and Republicans, have been expanding their ability to arrest and incarcerate Americans for having consenting sex lives and sometimes for less. During the reign of Attorney General Janet Reno, a real sexaphobic monster, things got worse. Some of the cases I remember include a university student arrested for owning a video of teenaged girls, fully dressed, using a mink's tail to pretend to whip each other. A grandmother who went to take a bath decided to bath her infant granddaughter at the same time. The husband thought it was beautiful and took a photo. They were prosecuted as child pornographers and the grandmother accused of "imminent lesbianism". In another case a man was convicted for owning a photograph of a teenaged boy who was shirtless. The courts ruled that since the man allegedly found the photo appealing it qualified as child pornography.

No one questions the necessity of the law to protect children. But there is plenty of reason to think the law defines child far too broadly. And there is plenty of evidence that prosecutors are doing more harm to the alleged "victims" in these cases then they are doing good. The reality is that the legal system is exploiting a common fear among parents and that fear is being used to harm lots of teens in the process. When teens are traumatized by police, courts and being registered sex offenders, in order to protect them from themselves then things have really gotten out of hand.


Friday, February 01, 2008

British education failing at the basics

To develop skills requires a basic level of education. And while some skills require no reading and writing ability, would it not be helpful to be able to read an instruction manual, or understand written instructions from a client? Yet according to official government figures, 20% of pupils leave primary school unable to read or write. And going into secondary education unable to understand what they are looking at or listening to is hardly likely to grab the attention of the attention-deficit-disorderly queue lining up to be excluded at the first possible opportunity.

The reason for this abject failure, we are told by the education experts, is that targets and administrative burdens are getting in the way of teaching that class sizes are too big pupils too unruly and wanting to fail facilities sub-standard. Then there's the issue of pay and motivation.

People are not drawn to teaching by the stratospheric salaries, in much the same way that doctors are not lured into their seven-year induction to the world of patient abuse by thoughts of great pay (although it obviously helps). And, like medicine, teaching can be a very rewarding occupation. Trouble is, it can also be totally frustrating, intimidating and virtually impossible to do well. But unlike the medical profession, society sneers at teachers, as though they are somehow getting away with it - big holidays, short days, etc - and somehow seems able to begrudge them a not unreasonable 2.4% pay rise.

But lurking beneath the public sneers, there is a real concern that seems to be sidelined whenever teaching becomes the latest hot topic of conversation: the quality of teaching. There are certainly plenty of inspirational individuals within the system who do an amazing job turning uninterested youths on to the concept of learning and driving those with talent to go as far as they can. But for every great teacher, there seems to be at least a couple of out-and-out duds, backed up by a bulk of 'adequate' under-performers.

Of course, this charge could be made about any job in any profession. The difference is that only teaching has the opportunity to shape minds when they're at an impressionable age, apart, that is, from religion - which is one good argument against faith-based schools.

So where is the quality control in the teaching system? The schools inspectorate, Ofsted, is doing its level best to turn schools into hotbeds of beancounting - forcing otherwise successful, but perhaps slightly shambolic schools to toe the line on the admin front. But Ofsted somehow misinterpreted the government mantra as 'targets, targets, targets', and seems to be more concerned with the performance of the school, rather than the performance of the individuals within it. And wherever there are targets, there are small-minded individuals trying to get around the criteria, fake a way through the system.

And while the beans are being counted, inspirational teachers are leaving the profession in their thousands (more than 90,000 between 2000 and 2005), driven out by the mad rush for statistical and administrative excellence, and paving the way for administratively gifted but perhaps educationally challenged individuals to rise to the top. It seems that people who can't teach... teach.

Bad teachers struggle with class discipline, struggle to get their lessons planned and to hit the targets set by the inspectors. But by working ridiculously long hours, they manage to get their paperwork done. As a result, it looks like they're doing a fine job.

So who's been appointing these poor miseducators? And who lets them get away with it? HR must take its share of the blame. And while the profession will no doubt point to a lack of talent among applicants and the fact that families should be demanding more from their children's teachers, sadly for HR, parents don't appoint the useless ones.

Of course, we have a two-tier education system and one half - the privately funded half - is doing fine, thanks very much. Now, I'm no fan of public schools, but if they failed to deliver at the same level as state-run institutions, they'd soon go out of business. They cannot afford to fail, as people are paying directly for the privilege. And despite the fact that all our taxes are paying for the rest of the schools, the current state of affairs suggests that the state education system may be the last vestige of the old-style nationalised world of unaccountable public sector working - where failure is the norm, and possibly even encouraged where cash is poured down the drain, lining the pockets of no-one in particular and educating hardly anyone.

So, as laudable as the government's skills drive might be, it will be virtually impossible for businesses and government agencies to deliver as long as one-fifth of the working-age population cannot read or write. And it's that fifth who will be required to step into the breachif the government ever hits its 50% degree-educated target. So it definitely is time to get back to basics: the basic task of employing the right people to do the right job. The nation's children deserve a better service. And the nation will be better served by a properly educated workforce. It's not rocket science.


Deal would save Wisconsin virtual schools

Virtual schools in Wisconsin would remain open under new regulations forged in a compromise announced by state lawmakers Jan. 24. A court ruling had threatened to close a dozen Wisconsin virtual schools starting as early as next school year. But lawmakers say those schools would be allowed to stay open with few changes and receive the same level of state aid as they do currently under their bipartisan plan.

Virtual-school teachers would have to be certified in their subject matter and receive at least 30 hours of training in online teaching. Schools would have to offer a certain number of hours of instruction per year. State Sen. John Lehman of Racine, Wis., says those measures would ensure high-quality instruction and increase accountability. The schools allow students to learn from home under the guidance of their parents and instructors who teach over the internet. They are growing in size and number.

The state's largest teacher's union says lawmakers should analyze whether virtual schools divert money from traditional public schools before passing the bill. Lawmakers, however, are predicting both houses will soon move to pass the compromise.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gay Policy in Brit Schools Announced

As a timely warmup to next month's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month celebration, the British Department of Children, Schools and Families has issued a new policy to combat homophobia in the education system. Homosexuality apparently now is considered a race and homophobia is racism.

Announced today by Schools Secretary Ed Balls, the new policy includes the following:
1) Teachers don't assume that students have a "mum and dad,"

2) Teachers indoctrinate students on the idea of same-sex couple,

3) "Parents" should replace "mum and dad" in correspondence to students' homes,

4) Classes on marriage should include civil unions and gay adoption rights,

5) Children who call classmates "gay" are to be tagged as racists under the zero tolerance crackdown.

Below are two responses to a story I covered yesterday

Realistic education priorities

The online forums were afire. "Thought this was an early April Fool... McEducation... lowering standards... glad I have left the UK... how on earth can a qualification in basic shift management at mcdonalds which will involve taking payment, flipping burgers and making children obese be equilavent [sic] to an a level?"

It doesn't take much to rile the education harrumphers, but their barks are directed up the wrong tree this time. They'd do better to join the outcry against the sneaky plan to close village schools. For, of all the educational faffs and fiddles we have suffered, the latest is the most sensible. This is the decision to let companies - starting with Flybe, Network Rail and McDonald's - award nationally accepted qualifications, of GCSE and A-level standard, to those they train.

The harrumphers should calm down. This is about teaching employees: nobody is suggesting that schools will promptly offer their best and brightest a chance to do A2 burger-flipping instead of Further Maths. Given that you can already get national vocational qualifications from a holiday pottery course or a scuba-diving week, it is not so big a jump.

Note also that the body that is ceding this tiny bit of power is the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which some may mischievously argue does not boast an immaculate track record itself. It is responsible for accrediting exams and regulating awarding bodies, and quite apart from the dog's breakfast of AS/A2 levels and the scandals of doctored A-level results, we have had plenty of concerns about its fiefdom. There have been questions about coursework marking, leaked papers, howlers embedded in questions and unqualified teachers working as markers. It is perfectly well known in the education world that large numbers of GCSE and even A-level papers are marked at high speed by people who are not specialists in the subject, and that when schools appeal against grades, one in four GCSEs and one in ten A levels prove to have been wrongly assessed. Some of the multiple-choice questions have also been dumber and more agenda-laden than would be tolerated by anyone struggling for profits in a real marketplace.

I would rather my offspring could name safe cooking temperatures for burgers or maintenance intervals for rails than merely decode questions like this one from a GCSE physics paper. A newspaper cutting is shown saying: "A recent report said that children under the age of 9 should not use mobile phones except in emergencies"; and the question is: "Below which age is it recommended that children use a mobile phone in emergencies only?" Doh!

I am not out to rubbish the QCA and exam boards. Plenty of good work is done and properly marked. I am just pointing out that hard-headed training executives with beady-eyed shareholders may prove more focused than some exam boards. If a failure in your pupils' procedures and understanding causes rails to break or customers to keel over with E.coli, expensive trouble ensues. Whereas if an Eng Lit exam goes dumb and trendy or a history paper is marked by someone who only knows the set answers, it doesn't create real-life chaos. Or not right away.

In other words, a McQualification, Rail-Level or FlybeCertificate might be more respected than some of the subjects and examiners that already have the blessing of the QCA. This might not be exactly the message that Gordon Brown wants us to take from the initiative, but it might cheer up the doubters.

Academically capable children will (if properly guided by their schools, which is another story) always go for more universal and theoretical academic subjects. Meanwhile, the crying need of drifting youth is to learn things that they can associate with real pay, responsibility and results. There have always been young people who longed to get out of the schoolroom's vapouring cloud of formulae and theories and lists. Some became apprentices, some took menial jobs and after looking around with sharp ambitious eyes simply worked their way up. Others hated their first jobs, yet learnt routine and thoroughness from them and carried them into a better field. I was probably classifiable as academic, but when I started my first dream job as a BBC studio manager, I mainly used the skills I had acquired as a barmaid. Not those that got me D in Latin.

The fact is, some thrive better in work than school. We all know children who groaned through A levels - or dropped out - only to find new vigour in a job. I can think of one right now who, to his parents' consternation, abandoned the sixth form after a period of feeling constantly ill and tired, took a counter job in a bank and is now being rigorously trained, forming high ambitions, and feeling physically well.

But workplace training - with allied certificates and grades - does matter. It removes the dead-end quality from a job, proves that the employer believes in you and, incidentally, reduces the likelihood that supervisors' strictures will be wetly interpreted as "bullying" or victimisation. Equally, in an uncertain economic world it matters that workplace qualifications should be portable.

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University (itself, ironically, a private company that gives highly valued degrees) has cast doubt on the idea that the new qualifications will be valid outside the company that gives them. He fears that employees might get "locked in" to McFlybeRail. I doubt it. Business people may not be saintly educationists, but they are practical. They'll soon get to know which of their rivals' certificated staff are worth poaching.


Flipping burgers taught me more than A levels

Anyone who believes that a McDonald's A level is an easy option should come to the Friar Street branch on the third day of the Reading Festival. I worked there for two summers during my sixth form. It was dirty and tiring, at times humiliating, but it taught me more about how to work and how to deal with people than all my A levels combined.

On festival days the first order of battle was to secure the toilets. Two employees were posted at each door where, mustering all the authority of their checked shirt and golden arches hat, they collected receipts before letting people use the lavatory. A third employee policed the cubicles themselves: no alcohol, no sex and no drugs. By evening the latter would be relaxed to just Class A substances. Meanwhile the kitchen was frying a burger a second, struggling to cope with the demands of the nation's rockers. Under those conditions if you slacked off, or decided that a task was beneath you, you were out of a job.

McDonald's should not just be allowed to give out A levels, they should become a full degree-accrediting body. It is not that I do not value my A levels. Intellectually, they were thrilling. It is just that, in contrast to my Saturday job in McDonald's, it would be difficult to argue that they were useful. At sixth form I studied maths, maths and extra maths, with a little bit of English for balance. Such a rigorous grounding in the foundations of calculus prepared me for my degree, an advanced grounding in the foundations of calculus, and then perhaps for a master's. But I didn't do a master's. The ability to shovel s***, whether literally (the day the plumbing broke, my worst McDonald's shift) or metaphorically, is, however, a skill that stays with me to this day.


Australia: Bigoted far-Left educational "resource"

Hate-speech against those evil white people again

A taxpayer-funded program suggests Barbie may be Italian and asks whether she likes Spider-Man in a bizarre bid to tackle racism in childcare centres. But the move may have backfired with the radical blueprint telling teachers the Government itself is a racist institution run by white Anglo-Saxon men. The federally funded childcare resource warns early childhood teachers to be wary of "government policy" that expect "all cultures to conform to a white Anglo Australian way of living".

The book even compares citizenship to the White Australia Policy and attacks the Australian Government whose policies have "been formulated by political parties who historically and even today are in the majority white Christian Anglo middle class men". "Like the White Australia Policy, current government policies of 'citizenship' set out an official framework of what it is to be Australian," it reads.

The 'Exploring Multiculturalism, Anti-Bias and Social Justice in Children's Services' project is funded by the Federal Government and put out by Children's Services Central, a network of children service bodies in NSW. Designed to assist early childcare workers in NSW, the document gives advice on dealing with racism.

It comes after The Daily Telegraph revealed the State Government has funded an anti-racism program in a NSW pre-school for the first time. The pilot scheme at the Auburn Long Day Care Centre involves teaching children the national anthems of different countries and celebrating ethnic festivals such as Chinese New Year and Muslim holidays.

In contrast, the wacky teaching resource uses the Cronulla riots as a case study in an anti-racism lesson entitled "All the Lebs Are Bad Guys". Excerpts from another lesson relays a conversation about Barbie's ethnic origins between a group of young children from different cultural backgrounds.

A spokeswoman for federal Early Childhood Parliamentary Secretary Maxine McKew did not comment on whether the Government would consider withdrawing the resource.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Locking a nation into permanent childhood

By Vin Suprynowicz

A letter-writer recently objected that I used great libertarian Rose Wilder Lane as a "sole source" for the fact that American schooling was taken over, in the late 19th century, by statists enamored of the Prussian compulsion model, aiming to create a docile peasant class by crippling the American intellect -- making reading seem real hard, for starters, by replacing the old system in which delighted kids learned to combine the sounds of the Roman letters, with a perverted "whole word" method better suited to decoding hieroglyphics.

In July 1991, John Taylor Gatto, New York's Teacher of the Year, quit, saying he was tired of working for an institution that crippled the ability of children to learn. He explained why in an essay published that month in The Wall Street Journal. Let's look at that essay, and see if we can find our "second source":

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history," Mr. Gatto begins. "It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.

"Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be 're-formed.' It has political allies to guard its marches, that's why reforms come and go without changing much. ...

"David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can't tell which one learned first -- the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel 'learning disabled' and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, 'special education' fodder. She'll be locked in her place forever. "In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths. ..."

These are not the words of some sour-grapes loser who "couldn't make it" as a teacher. Testimonials from Gatto's former students fill a whole book. Citing the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey, Gatto in his book "Underground History of American Education," reports only 3.5 percent of Americans are literate enough today "to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today." This month, that majority is choosing our presidential candidates based on who looks better on TV.

"During the post-Civil War period, childhood was extended about four years," Gatto's research shows. "Later, a special label was created to describe very old children. It was called adolescence, a phenomenon hitherto unknown to the human race." This "infantalization" continues, as "Child labor laws were extended to cover more and more kinds of work, the age of school leaving set higher and higher. ..."

"After I spoke in Nashville, a mother named Debbie pressed a handwritten note on me which I read on the airplane to Binghamton, New York," Gatto continues: 'We started to see Brandon flounder in the first grade, hives, depression, he cried every night after he asked his father, "Is tomorrow school, too?" In second grade the physical stress became apparent. The teacher pronounced his problem Attention Deficit Syndrome. My happy, bouncy child was now looked at as a medical problem, by us as well as the school. 'A doctor, a psychiatrist, and a school authority all determined he did have this affliction. Medication was stressed along with behavior modification. If it was suspected that Brandon had not been medicated he was sent home. My square peg needed a bit of whittling to fit their round hole. ...

'I cried as I watched my parenting choices stripped away. My ignorance of options allowed Brandon to be medicated through second grade. The tears and hives continued another full year until I couldn't stand it. I began to homeschool Brandon. It was his salvation. No more pills, tears, or hives. He is thriving. He never cries now and does his work eagerly.' "

You can read John Taylor Gatto's entire "Underground History of American Education," detailing just how Mann and Dewey and their gang imposed on us a Prussian system of coercive schooling, so ill-suited to a free people, at


A rather stunning move from the British Left

Anything to minimize academic knowlewdge and critical thinking, I guess

McDonald’s and other big businesses will award their own qualifications equal to GCSEs, A levels and degrees, in subjects such as fast-food restaurant management, the Government will announce today. Network Rail, Flybe and McDonald’s will become the first companies to be given such powers by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Gordon Brown will announce the move today as he seeks to regain the initiative over the issue of the unskilled unemployed from the Conservatives. “The biggest barrier to full employment now is not the shortage of jobs, but the shortage of skills among the unemployed and inactive,” he will say.

The QCA announcement gives the three companies official “awarding body” status, allowing them to confer nationally accredited certificates. The qualifications will not be finalised or fully endorsed until the autumn, but some trials are beginning this month. McDonald’s will train employees for a certificate in basic shift management, recognised by the QCA as equal to an A level. Trainees will learn about the day-to-day running of a restaurant, including finance, hygiene and human resources.

The budget airline Flybe will be able to award certificates up to the equivalent of degree level. Its airline trainer programme will confer qualifications from level 2 (GCSE at A*-C) to level 4 (degree) on its cabin and engineering staff.

Network Rail will introduce track engineering qualifications as high as PhD (level 8), covering technical issues and health and safety. It said its entire 33,000-strong workforce would take the course eventually, as well as contractors. Most trainees would receive certificates at level 2 and level 3. The company was criticised for its standards of track maintenance in a report into the Cumbrian train crash last February in which an elderly passenger was killed. It described the failures of Network Rail’s maintenance operation, with some track inspectors having lapsed accreditation, meaning that they were not certified to carry out such work.

Critics question the worth of “McGCSEs”, claiming that they could devalue academic qualifications and casting doubt on whether they would be recognised outside the companies concerned. Educational experts said that it would become increasingly common for private institutions to award qualifications, rather than it being the preserve of publicly funded colleges and universities. In September a private outfit, BPP College, became the first allowed to award law and business degrees. John Denham, the Universities Secretary, wants to introduce the scheme in companies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He said: “This is an important step towards ending the old divisions between company training schemes and national qualifications, something that will benefit employees, employers and the country as a whole.”

The move was welcomed by business leaders. John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Today marks a significant milestone on the road to reforming qualifications so that they better reflect the skills employers and employees need.”

But Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, cast doubts on the validity of such qualifications outside the companies in question. He said: “Employees may find they are locked into that business because these awards don't have credibility outside the company, like GCSEs, A levels or NVQs do. The qualifications would be more valuable to holders if they were awarded by an independent body.”


Australia: Setting standards in schools

The details are not ideal but more attention to standards is welcome -- and long overdue

CHILDREN will be taught essential subjects such as English, Maths and Science no matter where they are enrolled in the state when they start a new school year today. The Bligh Government yesterday unveiled details of its new "essential learnings" program, aimed at ensuring greater consistency in the subjects Queensland children are taught. The program, which cost more than $8 million to develop, will specify what all students need to know and be able to do at key points in their school lives.

Other milestones for the state's school sector this year include the first full intake of prep children and the introduction of the Queensland Certificate of Education for senior students. Premier Anna Bligh said the program would especially benefit the thousands of students and a quarter of the state's teachers who change schools every year. It will specify the things that all students - whether they go to public or private school - need to learn and will be assessed on.

For example, under the new system, students at the end of Year 5 would be expected to know about the colonisation of Australia including the concept of terra nullius [Leftist crap. The doctine of terra nullius had never been heard of when Australia was colonized by the British], the basics of physics and biology and how to read a map. By the end of Year 7, they would be expected to understand how gravity affects the Earth and other planets, the different roles of local, state and national governments and how to represent and compare data in pie charts and graphs.

The new program will use an "A to E" system of reporting and assessment, where an "A" means a student has demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of a subject and "E" means they have only a basic knowledge of concepts and facts related to a subject.

Ms Bligh said the program heralded a "new era" in school education in Queensland. Education Minister Rod Welford said it still allowed schools the flexibility to organise their curriculum while setting out those things all students needed to learn.

About 480,000 students are expected to enrol in government primary, secondary and special schools this year, while the Catholic and independent student body in Queensland is expected to number about 220,000. About 54,000 children will enrol on the first full intake of prep. Mr Welford will also introduce a scheme which requires all primary school children to take part in physical activities for at least an average of 30 minutes a day.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Arizona Illegals Denied In-State Tuition

(Phoenix, Arizona) I almost became weepy after reading this soap-opera reporting by the New York Times. It's the boo-hoo story about Mexicans and other foreigners not getting cut-rate tuition and financial aid because of Arizona Proposition 300.
One of several recent immigration statutes passed by Arizona voters and legislators frustrated by federal inaction, the law also prohibits in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Administrators at several campuses fear that the provision has priced some out of their classes, particularly at the state's popular community colleges.
The worry is that illegal aliens won't be able to afford a college education without financial aid and in-state tuition. Apparently some students are even thinking of returning to Mexico for college but, "It's expensive going to school in Mexico," said one student.

And now the option of sneaking into the U.S. to get a cut-rate education is being denied by Prop. 300. "I see it as a very cruel law," said Teresa Guerra, a student at Phoenix College.

It's difficult to comprehend the attitude of the illegals and their supporters. Apparently, the U.S. is viewed as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and people from any country who successfully jump the border are automatically entitled to all the benefits of being American citizens. Jumping the border is a criminal act. Giving benefits for a criminal act doesn't make sense.
Backing the Wrong Horse: How Private Schools Are Good for the Poor

Last fall the High-Level Plenary Meet-ing of the UN General Assembly brought together more than 170 heads of state-"the largest gathering of world leaders in his-tory"-to review progress toward the Millennium Devel-opment Goals. It was, we were told, "a once-in-a-gen-eration opportunity to take bold decisions," a "defining moment in history" when "we must be ambitious." One of the internation-ally agreed-on development goals the heads of state reviewed was the achieve-ment of universal primary education by 2015. The UN was not happy with progress. There are still officially more than 115 million children out of school, it reported, of which 80 percent are in sub? Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. But even for those lucky enough to be in school, things are not good: "Most poor children who attend primary school in the developing world learn shockingly little," the UN reported.

Something had to be done. Fortunately, the UN could call on Jeffrey D. Sachs, special adviser on the Mil-lennium Development Goals to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and author of The End of Poverty. He's also director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He proposed as the way forward "Quick Wins," which have "very high potential short-term impact" and that "can be immediately implemented." Top of his list is "Eliminating school fees," to be achieved "no later than the end of 2006," funded through increased international donor aid. To the UN it's as obvious as motherhood and apple pie.

But the UN's "Quick Wins" are backing the wrong horse. For the past two and a half years I've been directing and conduct-ing research in sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana) and Asia (India and China). And what I've found is a remarkable and apparently hitherto unnoticed revolution in education, led by the poor themselves. Across the developing world the poor are eschewing free disturbed by its low quality and lack of accountability. Meanwhile, educational entrepre-neurs from the poor communities themselves set up affordable private schools to cater to the unfulfilled demand.

Take Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya, reportedly the largest slum in Africa, where half a million people live in mud-walled, corrugated iron-roofed huts that huddle along the old Uganda Railway. Kenya is one of the UN's showcase examples of the virtues of introducing free basic education. Free Primary Education (FPE) was introduced in Kenya in January 2003, with a $55 million donation from the World Bank-apparently the largest straight grant that it has given to any area of social serv-ices. The world has been impressed by the outcomes: Former President Bill Clinton told an American prime-time television audience that the person he most want-ed to meet was President Kibaki of Kenya, "because he has abolished school fees," which "would affect more lives than any president had done or would ever do." The British chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, visiting Olympic Primary School, one of the five gov-ernment schools located on the out-skirts of Kibera, told the gathered crowds that British parents gave their full sup-port to their tax money being used to support FPE. Everyone-including Sir Bob Geldof and Bono-raves on about how an additional 1.3 million children are now enrolled in primary school in Kenya. All these children, the accepted wisdom goes, have been saved from ignorance by the benevolence of the international community-which must give $7 billion to $8 billion per year more so that other countries can emulate Kenya's success.

The accepted wisdom, however, is entirely wrong. It ignores the remarkable reality that the poor in Africa have not been waiting helplessly for the munificence of pop stars and Western politicians to ensure that their children get a decent education. The reality is that private schools for the poor have emerged in huge numbers in some of the most impoverished slums in Africa and southern Asia. They are catering to a majority of poor children, and outperforming their government counter-parts, for a fraction of the cost.

I went to Kibera to see for myself, with a hunch that the headline success story might be concealing some-thing. In India I had seen that the poor were not at all happy with the government schools-a recent study had shown that when researchers called unannounced on government schools for the poor, only in half was there any teaching going on at all-and so were leaving in huge numbers to go to private schools set up by local entrepreneurs charging very low fees. Would Kenya be any different? Although the education minister told me that in his country private schools were for the rich, not the poor, and so I was misguided in my quest, I perse-vered and went to the slums. It was one of Nairobi's two rainy seasons. The mud tracks of Kibera were mud baths. I picked my way with care.

Within a few minutes, I found what I was looking for. A signboard proclaimed "Makina Primary School" outside a two-story rickety tin building. Inside a cramped office Jane Yavetsi, the school proprietor, was keen to tell her story: "Free education is a big problem," she said. Since its introduction, her enroll-ment had declined from 500 to 300, and now she doesn't know how she will pay the rent on her buildings. Many parents have opted to stay, but it is the wealthier of her poor parents who have taken their children away, and they were the ones who paid their fees on time. Her school fees are about 200 Kenyan shillings (about $2.80) per month. But for the poorest children, including 50 orphans, she offers free education. She founded the school ten years ago and has been through many difficulties. But now she feels crestfallen: "With free education, I am being hit very hard."

Jane's wasn't the only private school in Kibera. Right next door was another, and then just down from her, opposite each other on the railway tracks, were two more. Inspired by what I had found, I recruited a local research team, led by James Shikwati of the Inter-Region Economic Network (IREN), and searched every muddy street and alleyway looking for schools. In total we found 76 private schools, enrolling over 12,000 students. In the five government schools serving Kibera, there were a total of about 8,000 children-but half were from the middle-class suburbs. The private schools, it turned out, even after free public education, were still serving a large majority of the poor slum children.

Was Jane's experience typical since the introduction of free primary education? Most of the 70- odd private-school owners in Kibera reported sharply declining enrollment since the introduction of FPE. Many, however, were reporting that parents had at first taken their children away, but were now bringing them back-because they hadn't liked what they'd found in the government schools. We also found the ex-managers of 35 private schools that had closed since FPE was introduced, 25 of whom said that it was FPE that had led to their demise. Calculating the net decline in private-school enrollment, it turned out that there were many, many more children who had left the private schools than the 3,300 reported to have entered the government schools on Kibera's periphery and who were part of the much celebrated one million-plus supposedly newly enrolled in education.

In other words, the headlined increase in numbers of enrolled children was fictitious: the net impact of FPE was at best precisely the same number of children enrolled in primary school-only that some had trans-ferred from private to government schools.

I discussed these findings with senior government, World Bank, and other aid officials. They were sur-prised by the number of private schools I had found. But, they said, if children had transferred from private to state schools, then this was good: "No one believes that the private schools offer quality education," I was told. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa agrees: conceding that mushrooming private schools exist in some unspecified parts of sub-Saharan Africa, it reports that they "are without adequate state regulation and are of a low quality."

But why would parents be as foolhardy to pay to send their children to schools of such low quality? One school owner in a similar situation in Ghana, where we later conducted the research, challenged me when I observed that her school building was little more than a corrugated iron roof on rickety poles and that the gov-ernment school, just a few hundred yards away, was a smart, proper brick building. "Educa-tion is not about buildings," she scolded. "What matters is what is in the teacher's heart. In our hearts, we love the children and do our best for them." She left it open, when probed, what the teachers in the government school felt in their hearts toward the poor children.

Exploring further in Kenya, my team and I spoke to parents, some of whom had taken their children to the "free" government schools, but had been disillusioned by what they found and returned to the private schools. Their reasons were straight-forward: in the government schools class sizes had increased dramatically and teachers couldn't cope with 100 or more pupils, five times the number in the private-school classes. Parents compared notes when their children came home from school and saw that in the state schools pupil notebooks remained unmarked for weeks; they contrasted this with the detailed atten-tion given to all children's work in the private schools. They heard tales from their children of how teachers came to the state school and did their knitting or fell asleep. One summed up the situation succinctly: "If you go to a market and are offered free fruit and vegetables, they will be rotten. If you want fresh fruit and veg, you have to pay for them."

Perhaps these poor parents are misguided. Certainly that's what officials believe. But are they right? We test-ed 3,000 children, roughly half from the Nairobi slums and half from the government schools on the periphery, using standardized tests in math, English, and Kiswahili. We tested the chil-dren's and their teachers' IQs and gave questionnaires to pupils, their parents, teachers, and school managers so that we could control for all relevant back-ground variables. Although the gov-ernment schools served the privileged middle classes as well as the slum chil-dren, the private schools-serving only slum children-outperformed the government schools in mathemat-ics and Kiswahili, although the latter had a slight advantage in English. But English would be picked up by privi-leged children through television and interaction with parents. When we statistically controlled for all relevant background variables, the private schools outperformed the government schoolchildren in all three subjects.

But there was a further twist. The private schools outperformed the government schools for considerably lower cost. Even if we ignore the massive costs of the government bureaucracy and focus just on the classroom level, we find the private schools are doing better for about a third of teacher-salary costs: the average month-ly teacher salary in government schools was Ksh. 11,080 ($155) compared to Ksh. 3,735 ($52) in the private schools.

Free primary education in Kenya, a showcase exam-ple of the UN's "Quick Wins" strategy, has simply transferred children from private schools, where they got a good deal, closely supervised by parents, with teachers who turn up and teach, to state schools, where they are being dramatically let down. One parent was clear what the solution was: "We do not want our children to go to a state school. The government offered free education. Why didn't it give us the money instead and let us choose where to send our children?" For this parent, a voucher system was the obvious way forward, putting her right back in control.

Much more here

LA teacher battles opponent tougher than gangs

Migdia Chinea, a Cuban-American screenwriter and actress who has writing credits for the TV series "The Incredible Hulk" and "Superboy," recently documented how she was attacked and injured by students while she served as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Now she's reporting that the students who attacked her, body-slammed her to the floor in front of witnesses who documented the attack, and left her with a concussion and possibly long-term injuries were the easy ones to deal with; the system that is supposed to provide care for injuries on the job is a harder opponent to beat. "Despite my being injured by students while working, with a teacher as a witness and a police report, Sedgwick, the LAUSD's insurance has not yet 'accepted' my disability claim, and perhaps won't pay in the end, until a deposition is taken three months from now. Meantime, as a woman alone, I wonder how am I going meet my financial responsibilities without incurring further debt?" Chinea told WND. "How am I going to pay my mortgage and eat?" she asked.

In an earlier commentary for WND, she described how, as a UCLA-educated graduate with a "Googleable" career as a professional screenwriter, economic conditions forced her to seek employment as a substitute teacher in order to obtain health insurance benefits. She described the violence in the L.A. schools, how there was no teaching at the school to which she was assigned, only "confinement." She told of the classrooms being left in shreds, teaching materials stolen, vandalism to her car, and the verbal and physical assaults.

One such school, she said, "is surrounded by criminal street gangs and is widely considered one of the most dangerous campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The South Side Village Boys, South Side Watts Varrio Grape, Grape Street Crips, East Side Village Bloods, Hacienda Bloods, Circle City Piru and Bounty Hunters street gangs all claim turf in that area, and frequent flare-ups of gang violence are common."

She also told about being hurt on the job, with witnesses and a police report that documented the circumstances. "On Oct. 5, 2007, at another notorious middle school, I was deliberately body-slammed on the head by two to three large young men in a P.E. class of 53 students, while another teacher (someone I had never met before) was decent enough to give a formal declaration to school and police authorities of what he had witnessed. I sustained a concussion and sciatica nerve damage as a result of this personal attack intended to 'terrorize [me].' I have memory lapses and continued head and leg pain. I'm told by the local police that this sort of physical abuse on teachers occurs with disturbing regularity. The LAUSD case nurse assigned to my case labeled my attack 'boys will be boys.'" she wrote.

In going through the process of seeking to have her medical claim paid and her injuries addressed by a district that lists local police station telephone numbers on its website, she has discovered something even worse than a body-slam. The district for which she worked, and left her injured, is the one deciding on her treatment and ultimate disability, since the school district is exempt from state-mandated worker's compensation requirements and provides its own coverage.

"I've been told by another teacher (still working as such) who has been through this hell, that LAUSD will be willing to 'kill me' to protect and cover-up their corruption - which is, in turn, not reported nor investigated by the press. I have reported this 'murderous intent or potential' to the LAPD and I'm supposed to get a call from their organized crime unit - but not so far," she told WND. "Meanwhile, the LAUSD continues to call me three times every morning and as I hear the names of the schools to which they wish to send me to 'substitute,' they're the worst schools in the district. Therefore, I believe they want to finish me off," she said.

Officials with the school district declined to answer messages left by WND requesting a comment on Chinea's allegations. The district now is being run by David L. Brewer III, who was appointed a little over a year ago to replace former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who ran the district for several years. She also reported that neither school officials nor the school district's physician will have a conversation with her, even though she's continue to try to obtain information about her situation, including an unanswered e-mail just days ago.

The district had her "released" to return to work, but the doctor who made the decision didn't notify her, then "refused my phone calls," she said. "I have requested a meeting with the LAUSD Board of Education, to no avail. I have asked them to, please, explain to me what constitutes an 'act of violence' because only a small percentage of teachers who are seriously assaulted qualify under their own definition. But there's no response," she said.

"On Jan. 5, 2008, the same day that the city held a conference hailing a citywide drop in crime, an L.A. Times columnist wrote that 60 LAUSD schools were vandalized while grim-faced teachers swept up the mess," she continued. "To be in this situation, after having achieved certain things and pulled myself up by my bootstraps and have my own home, is horrible," she told WND.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Universities overproduce Ph.Ds

College students are getting a raw deal, a recent New York report asserted. The problem is they're taking too many classes from part-time, or adjunct, professors. But that same report unwittingly revealed something about how higher education is more culpable than it likes to admit when it comes to creating the problem.

The issue is a huge one in higher education far beyond New York, with about half of the nation's college faculty now on part-time contracts. Adjuncts are cheaper for colleges, but they often lack the time and resources for focused teaching, and research shows students' performance suffers if they are taught by part-timers too often. In its report last month, a 30-member commission called for New York's state (SUNY) and city (CUNY) systems to alleviate the over reliance on adjuncts by hiring 2,000 more full-time faculty for their 87 campuses. But just one page away, the report also called for adding at least 4,000 new doctoral students.

There's a connection between those numbers that deserves more attention. In many fields, there are already too many Ph.Ds awarded for the full-time academic posts available, creating a surplus of likely jobseekers. That pool becomes adjuncts, who command wages and benefits so low that universities find them irresistible hires. "It's not uncommon to have a disconnect like this in higher education, in which people are both concerned about the difficult career prospects being faced by recent Ph.D. graduates and concerned there aren't enough Ph.D. students," said Michael Teitelbaum, of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The ideas, he said, "often don't get connected. It's puzzling."

Adds Jeff Crane, an adjunct who teaches two art courses at SUNY-New Paltz: "There's this tendency to turn a blind eye to things like that and not make those kinds of equations."

Of course, some adjuncts have other jobs and like working part-time. But many are adjuncts by necessity. Crane, an artist, says he likes working part-time so he can paint, but thinks he should be paid equitably. He earns about $5,200 per semester for teaching two courses. The national average for full-time assistant professors is about $60,000, and $100,000 once they get tenure. Crane says many of his colleagues work mostly for the health insurance, which, unlike many places, New Paltz offers to adjuncts.

Teitelbaum is quick to point out New York may have good reasons to add doctoral students. They will help improve the state's standing in the research sector, and of course, many may find work in the private sector. But if they come seeking full-time professorial jobs, some will be disappointed.

It's well known that jobs in, say, philosophy, are rare. Even at the very top doctoral programs, only one in 10 who start will end up teaching at an elite research university, according to Brian Leiter, whose blog "Philosophical Gourmet" tracks the field. In fields like history, recent numbers show the market improving, and there will be more jobs as baby boomers retire. But some fields like American and European history still have such a surplus that even community colleges now commonly look only at candidates with a doctoral degree.

It's not just humanities. Groups such as the Business Roundtable have grabbed headlines with urgent warnings about the need to ramp up production of American scientists. In fact, Teitelbaum testified to Congress last year, there is no evidence of a shortage of scientists and engineers - particularly on the Ph.D. track. In the life sciences, the U.S. is awarding twice as many doctorates as two decades ago, but has no more faculty jobs, according to one recent study that prompted the journal Nature to editorialize that "too many graduate schools may be preparing too many students." A 1998 National Research Council made much the same warning.

Nonetheless, universities keep flooding the academic pipeline. The latest federal data show about 45,600 Ph.Ds were awarded in 2005-2006, 5.1 percent higher than the year before. It was the fourth straight increase and tied for the highest percentage gain since 1971.

Faculty like having graduate students around. They're good intellectual companions, and they bolster a professor's research efforts. Particularly in the sciences, they also often come with funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health, which doubled its budget between 1998 and 2003. But funding usually leads to more slots for graduate students, not for professors. That's why the percentage of science Ph.D.s moving on to "post-docs" (temporary university posts where they do research while continuing to apply for faculty jobs) is surging - from 43 percent to 70 percent in physics, for instance, in just a few years.

Of course, universities could cut back on using adjuncts and pony up for better wages and more full-time jobs. Some, like Rutgers in New Jersey, have agreed to add tenure-track positions, and the American Federation of Teachers is pushing for legislation in 11 states to require more teaching come from full-timers. But with universities already under fire for skyrocketing prices, it's probably unrealistic to expect most will pay more than the going rate for a captive labor pool.

Saying "no" to students definitely isn't easy. If education is good, it seems to follow more is better. And when qualified students come to a university - particularly a public one - it can be hard to justify refusing them the education they say they want. But if public universities (and really that means legislatures and taxpayers) won't pony up for more full-time faculty, higher education will have to take more responsibility for its role in creating the oversupply problem. "We have flooded the labor market with Ph.Ds who can't get jobs doing what they've been trained to do," said Cat Warren, a North Carolina State English professor and state American Association of University Professors leader, who recently gave a talk to graduate students at nearby Duke warning them to be realistic. "I think we have to think very hard about that."


Researchers' Assessment of NCLB Shows Need for Improvement

With the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act looming on the horizon this year, the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) at UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies recently completed a collection of essays containing several critiques of the law as well as proscriptions for change.

CRP/PDC K-12 senior researcher Gail L. Sunderman edited the 280-page book, titled Holding NCLB Accountable: Achieving Accountability, Equity, and School Reform, which was published by Corwin Press. "We not only looked at the problems with No Child Left Behind, but we came up with ways to make it better," says Sunderman, the project director on a five-year CRP/PDC study examining implementation of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act and the co-author of NCLB Meets School Realities: Lessons from the Field. "It's time to reauthorize the bill, so we kind of geared the book toward coming up with research-based ideas of what needs to be addressed and what needs to be done to improve the law."

The essays were written by several noted education scholars, including Stanford University's Linda Darling-Hammond; Robert Linn of the University of Colorado; Johns Hopkins University's Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters; Boston College's Walter Haney; Goodwin Liu of the University of California, Berkeley; and Russell Rumberger of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The collection analyzes the law's accountability and assessment system, the capacities of states to implement the law, and the impact of school reform.

Harvard University's Daniel Koretz asserts that the accountability system is not research based. "We know far too little about how to hold schools accountable for improving student performance," says the testing expert. Jaekyung Lee, an associate professor of education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, compared the nation's report card - the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - to state assessment results. He found that, since the implementation of the law in 2001, federal accountability measures have not improved educational levels and narrowed achievement disparities. "Based on the NAEP, there are no systemic indications of improving the average achievement and narrowing the gap after NCLB," Lee says.

Three researchers from Harvard - Michael Kieffer, Nonie Lesaux and Catherine Snow - revealed what needs to be done in terms of adequately assessing English-language learners. And Mindy Kornhaber of Pennsylvania State University described how to develop a system of multiple measures. "What we have now basically relies on standardized assessment," Sunderman says.

In terms of school reform, the researchers found that many of the law's measures - such as the definition of highly qualified teachers, the design of testing and accountability regulations, and the reliance on mandates - actually retard school reform and have made it even more difficult for high schools serving low-income students to do their jobs.

In the section on the capacity of states to implement the law, Sunderman and CRP/PDC co-director Gary Orfield wrote in a chapter together about how states are responding to problems they are having due to their limitations, and University of California, Berkeley's Heinrich Mintrop looked at the ability of states to intervene in low-performing schools. "He finds that states are able to intervene in about 2 to 4 percent of the total number of schools in a state," Sunderman says. "And, if you compare that to the percentage of schools being identified as low performing under the No Child Left Behind Act, there are a lot more."

Some of the prescriptions that the researchers presented include: the creation of a fair accountability system that informs the goals of students and improves instruction; the adequate support of low-performing schools and districts; and the complementing of in-school reform in low-income schools with out-of-school reform of housing, poverty, and health care.


Australian parents make big sacrifices to avoid government schools

HALF the Australian parents who send their children to private school are finding it a financial strain, and one in 10 families spend more than half their take-home pay on their children's education. Research has also found that about a third of parents who send their children to independent (private) and Catholic schools allocate more than 15percent of their household income to their children's education. Close to 12percent of parents with children at independent schools, and 1.3percent of Catholic school parents, reserve up to half their income for school fees, the report, commissioned by BankWest, found. Some parents - Catholic school (4percent) and private (1.3percent) - dedicate between 50 and 75percent of their household income to school fees.

The report said that 53percent of independent school parents and 47percent of Catholic school parents found paying for their children's education was financially tough. A BankWest spokeswoman said the survey dispelled the myth that only the well-off were educating their children at private schools. Figures show more than 369,000 students attended private schools in NSW in 2006. About 739,000 students attend public schools.

The report found that the average cost of sending a child to an independent school was $14,201 a year, more than double that of Catholic schools. It also found that, on average, independent school parents spend an extra $2300 a year on uniforms, extracurricular activities, textbooks and stationery. Parents had to find $1600 for Catholic schools and $1200 for public schools.

Executive director of the Council of Catholic School Parents Danielle Cronin said she was not surprised by the research, and that while Catholic schools tried to keep fees down, they were a strain on some families. "I think Catholic schools have a very diverse population in terms of socio-economic statistics," she said. "I believe that Catholic schools probably aren't enrolling financially needy families simply because the fees are prohibitive, even though some of the fees are quite low compared to independent schools."

In the report, parents cited the standard of education, discipline, better academic record and resources as the main reasons for sending their children to private schools. They also said the better focus on social values, networking opportunities for their children when entering the workforce, religious education and social opportunities for the parents were important.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vouchers not enough

A rigorous curriculum is more important

Looking back from today's vantage point, it is clear that the school choice movement has been very good for the disadvantaged. Public and privately funded voucher programs have liberated hundreds of thousands of poor minority children from failing public schools. The movement has also reshaped the education debate. Not only vouchers, but also charter schools, tuition tax credits, mayoral control, and other reforms are now on the table as alternatives to bureaucratic, special-interest-choked big-city school systems.

Yet social-change movements need to be attentive to the facts on the ground. Recent developments in both public and Catholic schools suggest that markets in education may not be a panacea-and that we should reexamine the direction of school reform. One such development: taxpayer-funded voucher programs for poor children, long considered by many of us to be the most promising of education reforms, have hit a wall. In 2002, after a decade of organizing by school choice activists, only two programs existed: one in Milwaukee, the other in Cleveland, allowing 17,000 poor students to attend private (mostly Catholic) schools. That year, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court ruled that limited voucher programs involving religious schools were compatible with the First Amendment's establishment clause. The 5-4 decision seemed like school choice's Magna Carta. But the legal victory has led to few real gains. Today, fewer than 25,000 students-compared with a nationwide public school enrollment of 50 million-receive tax-funded vouchers, with a tiny Washington, D.C., program joining those of the other two cities.

Voucher prospects have also dimmed because of the Catholic schools' deepening financial crisis. Without an abundant supply of good, low-cost urban Catholic schools to receive voucher students, voucher programs will have a hard time getting off the ground, let alone succeeding. But cash-strapped Catholic Church officials are closing the Church's inner-city schools at an accelerating rate [see "Save the Catholic Schools!," Spring 2007]. With just one Catholic high school left in all of Detroit, for instance, where would the city's disadvantaged students use vouchers even if they had them?

But sadly-and this is a second development that reformers must face up to-the evidence is pretty meager that competition from vouchers is making public schools better. When I reported on the Milwaukee voucher experiment in 1999, some early indicators suggested that competition was having just that effect. Members of Milwaukee's school board, for example, said that voucher schools had prompted new reforms in the public school system, including modifying the seniority provisions of the teachers' contract and allowing principals more discretion in hiring. A few public schools began offering phonics-based reading instruction in the early grades, the method used in neighboring Catholic schools. Milwaukee public schools' test scores also improved-and did so most dramatically in those schools under the greatest threat of losing students to vouchers, according to a study by Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby.

Unfortunately, the gains fizzled. Fifteen years into the most expansive school choice program tried in any urban school district in the country, Milwaukee's public schools still suffer from low achievement and miserable graduation rates, with test scores flattening in recent years. Violence and disorder throughout the system seem as serious as ever. Most voucher students are still benefiting, true; but no "Milwaukee miracle," no transformation of the public schools, has taken place. One of the Milwaukee voucher program's founders, African-American educator Howard Fuller, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I think that any honest assessment would have to say that there hasn't been the deep, wholesale improvement in MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] that we would have thought." And the lead author of one of the Milwaukee voucher studies, Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, told me: "The research on school choice programs clearly shows that low-income students benefit academically. It's less clear that the presence of choice in a community motivates public schools to improve."

What should we do about these new realities? Obviously, private scholarship programs ought to keep helping poor families find alternatives to failing public schools. And we can still hope that some legislature, somewhere in America, will vote for another voucher plan, or generous tuition tax credits, before more Catholic schools close. But does the school choice movement have a realistic Plan B for the millions of urban students who will remain stuck in terrible public schools?

According to Hoxby and Peterson, perhaps the two most respected school choice scholars in the country, no such plan is necessary. In their view, the best hope for education improvement continues to be a maximum degree of parental choice-vouchers if possible, but also charter schools and tuition tax credits-plus merit-pay schemes for teachers and accountability systems that distinguish productive from unproductive school principals.

That "incentivist" outlook remains dominant within school reform circles. But a challenge from what one could call "instructionists"-those who believe that curriculum change and good teaching are essential to improving schools-is growing, as a unique public debate sponsored by the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education revealed. Founded in 1999, the Koret Task Force represents a national all-star team of education reform scholars.

While the arguments about school choice and markets swirled during the past 15 years, both Ravitch and Hirsch wrote landmark books (Left Back and The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them, respectively) on how the nation's education schools have built an "impregnable fortress" (Hirsch's words) of wrong ideas and ineffective classroom practices that teachers then carry into America's schools, almost guaranteeing failure, especially for poor minority children. Hirsch's book didn't just argue this; it proved it conclusively, to my mind, offering an extraordinary tour d'horizon of all the evidence about instructional methods that cognitive neuroscience had discovered.

If Hoxby and Peterson were right in asserting that markets were enough to fix our education woes, then the ed schools wouldn't be the disasters that Hirsch, Ravitch, and others have exposed. Unlike the government-run K-12 schools, the country's 1,500 ed schools represent an almost perfect system of choice, markets, and competition. Anyone interested in becoming a teacher is completely free to apply to any ed school that he or she wants. The ed schools, in turn, compete for students by offering competitive prices and-theoretically-attractive educational "products" (curricula and courses). Yet the schools are uniformly awful, the products the same dreary progressive claptrap.

A few years ago, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a mainstream public education advocacy group, surveyed the nation's ed schools and found that almost all elementary education classes disdained phonics and scientific reading. If the invisible hand is a surefire way to improve curriculum and instruction, as the incentivists insist, why does almost every teacher-in-training have to read the works of leftists Paolo Freire, Jonathan Kozol, and William Ayers-but usually nothing by, say, Hirsch or Ravitch?

For a good explanation, look to the concept of ideological hegemony, usually associated with the sociological Left. Instead of competition and diversity in the education schools, we confront what Hirsch calls the "thoughtworld" of teacher training, which operates like a Soviet-style regime suppressing alternative perspectives. Professors who dare to break with the ideological monopoly-who look to reading science or, say, embrace a core knowledge approach-won't get tenure, or get hired in the first place. The teachers they train thus wind up indoctrinated with the same pedagogical dogma whether they attend New York University's school of education or Humboldt State's. Those who put their faith in the power of markets to improve schools must at least show how their theory can account for the stubborn persistence of the thoughtworld.

Instead, we increasingly find the theory of educational competition detaching itself from its original school choice moorings and taking a new form. Vouchers may have stalled, but it's possible-or so many school reformers and education officials now assure us-to create the conditions for vigorous market competition within public school systems, with the same beneficent effects that were supposed to flow from a pure choice program.

Nowhere has this new philosophy of reform been more enthusiastically embraced than in the New York City school district under the control of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein. Gotham's schools are surging ahead with a host of market incentives, including models derived from the business world. Many of the country's major education foundations and philanthropies have boosted New York as the flagship school system for such market innovations, helping to spread the incentivist gospel nationally. Disciples of Klein have taken over the school systems in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and Bloomberg's fellow billionaires Eli Broad and Bill Gates are about to launch a $60 million ad campaign to push the market approach during the presidential election season.

Don't get me wrong: market-style reforms are sometimes just what's necessary in the public schools. Over the past decade, for instance, I often called attention in City Journal to the destructively restrictive provisions in the New York City teachers' contract, which forced principals to hire teachers based solely on seniority, and I felt vindicated when negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers eliminated the seniority clause and created an open-market hiring system. Similarly, the teachers' lockstep salary schedule, based on seniority and accumulating useless additional education credits, is a counterproductive way to compensate the system's most important employees. The schools need a flexible salary structure that realistically reflects supply and demand in the teacher labor market.

Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration and its supporters are pushing markets and competition in the public schools far beyond where the evidence leads. Everything in the system now has a price. Principals can get cash bonuses of as much as $50,000 by raising their schools' test scores; teachers in a few hundred schools now (and hundreds more later) can take home an extra $3,000 if the student scores in their schools improve; parents get money for showing up at parent-teacher conferences; their kids get money or-just what they need-cell phones for passing tests.

Much of this scaffolding of cash incentives (and career-ending penalties) rests on a rather shaky base: the state's highly unreliable reading and math tests in grades three through eight, plus the even more unreliable high school Regents exams, which have been dumbed down so that schools will avoid federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind act. In the past, the tests have also been prone to cheating scandals. Expect more cheating as the stakes for success and failure rise.

While confidently putting their seal of approval on this market system, the mayor and chancellor appear to be agnostic on what actually works in the classroom. They've shown no interest, for example, in two decades' worth of scientific research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that proves that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness is crucial to getting kids to read in the early grades. They have blithely retained a fuzzy math program, Everyday Math, despite a consensus of university math professors judging it inadequate. Indeed, Bloomberg and Klein have abjured all responsibility for curriculum and instruction and placed their bets entirely on choice, markets, and accountability.

But the new reliance on markets hasn't prevented special interests from hijacking the curriculum. One such interest is the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project-led by Lucy Calkins, the doyenne of the whole-language reading approach, which postulates that all children can learn to read and write naturally, with just some guidance from teachers, and that direct phonics instruction is a form of child abuse. Calkins's enterprise has more than $10 million in Department of Education contracts to guide reading and writing instruction in most of the city's elementary schools, even though no solid evidence supports her methodology. This may explain why, on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests-widely regarded as a gold standard for educational assessment-Gotham students showed no improvement in fourth- and eighth-grade reading from 2003 to 2007, while the city of Atlanta, which hasn't staked everything on market incentives, has shown significant reading improvement.

One wonders why so many in the school reform movement and in the business community celebrate New York City's recent record on education. Is it merely because they hear the words "choice," "markets," and "competition" and think that all is well? If so, they're mistaken. The primal scene of all education reform is the classroom. If the teacher isn't doing the right thing, all the cash incentives in the world won't make a difference.

Those in the school reform movement seeking a case of truly spectacular academic improvement should look to Massachusetts, where something close to an education miracle has occurred. In the past several years, Massachusetts has improved more than almost every other state on the NAEP tests. In 2007, it scored first in the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading. The state's average scale scores on all four tests have also improved at far higher rates than most other states have seen over the past 15 years.

The improvement had nothing to do with market incentives. Massachusetts has no vouchers, no tuition tax credits, very few charter schools, and no market incentives for principals and teachers. The state owes its amazing improvement in student performance to a few key former education leaders, including state education board chairman John Silber, assistant commissioner Sandra Stotsky, and board member (and Manhattan Institute fellow) Abigail Thernstrom. Starting a decade ago, these instructionists pushed the state's board of education to mandate a rigorous curriculum for all grades, created demanding tests linked to the curriculum standards, and insisted that all high school graduates pass a comprehensive exit exam. In its English Language Arts curriculum framework, the board even dared to say that reading instruction in the early grades should include systematic and explicit phonics. Now a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, Stotsky sums up: "The lesson from Massachusetts is that a strong content-based curriculum, together with upgraded certification regulations and teacher licensure tests that require teacher preparation programs to address that content, can be the best recipe for improving students' academic achievement."

The Massachusetts miracle doesn't prove that a standard curriculum and a focus on effective instruction will always produce academic progress. Nor does the flawed New York City experiment in competition mean that we should cast aside all market incentives in education. But what has transpired in these two places provides an important lesson: education reformers ought to resist unreflective support for elegant-sounding theories, derived from the study of economic activity, that don't produce verifiable results in the classroom. After all, children's lives are at stake.

More here

Britain: Parents using desperate measures to get kids into a good school

Parents who pretend that they have Christian beliefs in order to win places in church schools are doing the best for their children, David Cameron believes. The Tory leader refuses to criticise the "middle-class parents with sharp elbows". Asked for his views on the families accused of playing the system, he says: "I think it's good for parents who want the best for their kids. I don't blame anyone who tries to get their children into a good school. Most people are doing so because it has an ethos and culture. I believe in active citizens." Mr Cameron will learn this year whether his own daughter has won a place at a state-funded Church of England school in Kensington, West London.

This month The Times reported a surge in late baptisms into the Catholic Church, further evidence that some parents may be finding religion at a convenient moment in their children's education. Fears that middle-class parents are adopting religion to get their children into popular schools have led some Labour MPs to call for an end to the expansion of faith schools.


Georgia schools to pay students to study

Sounds rather pathetic

Learning is supposed to be its own reward, but when that doesn't work, should students get paid to do it? That's the question two Georgia schools are asking in a 15-week pilot program that is paying high-schoolers struggling in math and science $8 an hour to attend study hall for four hours a week. The privately funded "Learn & Earn" initiative, an idea from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is touted as the first of its kind in the state and one of a few similar programs nationwide. "We want to try something new," said Jackie Cushman, Gingrich's daughter and co-founder of the group funding the initiative. "We're trying to figure out what works. Is it the answer? No. Is it a possible idea that might work? Yes."

Forty students at Bear Creek Middle School and Creekside High School, both in the Atlanta suburb of Fairburn, began participating in the program Tuesday. The eighth- and 11th-graders chosen had to be underperforming in math and science, and many are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. The hope is that the bribes will boost students' motivation to learn, attend class and get better grades. Aside from the hourly wage, eighth-graders will get a $75 bonus, and 11th-graders $125, if they improve their math and science grades to a B and achieve certain test scores. For the older kids, that adds up to $605 for a semester of studying.

Cushman said the initiative is aimed at math and science because many student struggle in those subjects even if they excel in others.

The offer could help poor students who need the money and otherwise might choose a minimum-wage job over studying, said Jerome Morris, an associate professor at the University of Georgia's College of Education. He also noted that parents who have the means to reward their children for performing well in school have done so for decades. "Poor families just can't do that," Morris said. "They have to tell their children, 'You have to go to school just to learn.'"

The director of a private center aimed at improving motivation, however, said plying kids with cash is a desperate move by school officials. "They have not figured out a way to self-motivate these kids," said Peter A. Spevak, director of the Center for Applied Motivation in Washington, D.C. "What really drives a person is the desire to do well and the good feeling you have after doing your best every day." Paying children to learn may work in the short term, but before long, the luster could wear off and they may look to up the ante, Spevak said. Ultimately, it could become a losing game. "When you take the money away, assuming it has been effective, people sometimes get angry or disillusioned," he said. "They may start to wonder where the next prize is coming from."

The $60,000 initiative is being funded by Atlanta businessman Charles Loudermilk, founder of Aaron Rents, through the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit that funds innovative education programs and was founded by Gingrich's daughters.

Alexis Yarger, one of the Fairburn program's participants, is eager to try anything to improve her grades. The 16-year-old Creekside junior plans to attend Spelman College, and says that although she's doing OK in science, "Math is not my best." Yarger, who has a part-time job at Burger King, said she was interested in the program even before she heard about the financial incentives. She would have taken part even without the money, she said, but her father said the cash doesn't hurt. "It's a good motivational tactic," Anthony Yarger said. "Whether it's a dollar or a candy bar, if it's helpful, I support it."