Saturday, February 09, 2008

The "boy parent dilemma"

As we send our young sons back to school, millions of boy parents are apprehensive, dreading the pain of the "boy parent dilemma." Modern schools are not suited to boys' personalities and learning styles. This can be seen from the time boys enter school, when many of them are immediately branded as behavior problems. The line of 10 kids who had to gather every day after school in my son's first grade class for their behavior reports-all boys. The names of kids on the side of the chalkboard who misbehaved and would lose recess-all boys. The kids as young as five or six who must be drugged so they will sit still and "behave"-almost all boys.

By any measure, our schools are failing our sons. Boys at all levels are far more likely than girls to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. By high school the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, and is less likely to graduate high school, go to college, or graduate college than a typical girl.

Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet, and complete work which is presented in a dull, assembly-line fashion. The boy parent dilemma is that as parents we must support the authority of our sons' teachers and schools, while at the same time it is obvious to us that the methods and structure they employ are not suited to our sons' needs. Boy parents agonize and doubt every step of the way. We punish our sons when they "misbehave" (i.e., act like boys) because we want them to fit in and do well in school. Yet in the back of our minds-as we cajole, demand, offer, threaten, reward, and punish-we wonder, "what is this doing to my little boy?"

Helping our sons will require a conscious, national effort to retool our schools and create boy-friendly classrooms and teaching strategies. Since many boys are bodily kinesthetic learners, lessons need to be more physical, hands-on, and energetic. Teachers should use the physical and visual spheres as a bridge to the verbal and written ones. Employing boys' imagination also helps, as does using boys' tendency to learn by exploration.

Cooperative learning is useful in moderation, but educators also need to use boys' natural competitiveness and individual initiative to their advantage. Lessons in which there are no right or wrong answers, and from which solid conclusions cannot be drawn, tend to frustrate boys, who often view them as pointless.

Also, boys in particular need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with a good-natured acceptance of boyish energy. Concomitantly, a sharp increase in the number of male teachers is also needed, particularly at the elementary level, where female teachers outnumber male teachers six to one. Same-sex classes can also be helpful, and schools should have the power to employ them when appropriate.

Administrators, school districts, and, ultimately, the taxpayer will also need to realize that creating boy-friendly classrooms can be time-consuming and expensive. Most teachers are competent and dedicated but they are weighed down by paperwork and secretarial labor which limits the amount of time they can spend planning and delivering creative, hands-on, boy-friendly lessons. In addition, large classes often make it difficult for teachers to have the time to determine each student's learning style and how best to connect that student with the teacher and the lessons. To help boys, both of these will need to change, and while it will cost money, the cost to society of uneducated, disengaged boys is far greater.

In addition, we need to rethink the current focus on testing, which has exacerbated boys' problems by forcing teachers to narrow their methods in order to prepare students to take the required tests.

This afternoon, millions of us will pick our little sons up from school and hope to hear that it was a good day. Yet many of our boys will have spent much of the day being scolded and punished, often for doing nothing more than being boys. And with each of these mistreated little boys-waving their arms and running toward us across the yard, happy to be away from that place where everything feels so unnatural and they somehow always seem to be doing something wrong-comes the boy parent dilemma.


Bob Parks comments on the college scene

Bob is a black conservative

While Republicans are scurrying to galvanize the conservative and Latino vote, they neglect one group of the new electorate at their peril: the youth. The left has made great gains at creating little liberals. One need only watch the responses of younger voters, while being stereotypically flaky, these young people are today caught up in the trendy winds of "change". The word "Republican" is a dirty word, and they efficiently recite the obvious sentiments of their progressive professors. Let me give you a couple of examples of how this works..

Let's say a college was to hold a forum on obese people. One would figure they'd have a panel of five or six fat people all giving examples of how it is to be living large in America. I'd be willing to bet there'd be no one on that panel who'd play Devil's Advocate, calling them whiners and giving an opposing point of view. THAT would be "mean-sprited".

A few years ago, I was invited by a student to be a guest panelist for a discussion on "The Rise of Black Conservatism" at Stanford Law College. Judging from the name of the topic alone, I assumed that the panel would be made up prominent Black conservatives who would proudly articulate our positions. I was deeply flattered to be included in such a panel. But what was I thinking.?

As it turned out, I was the ONLY Black conservative invited to speak at the C-SPAN-televised discussion. Instead of explaining my conservative views, I found myself having to defend them against liberal and Marxist professors. I think I held my own.

After the forum, I was invited to a reception in one of the dormitory lounges. The two professors split, and I found myself surrounded by very curious students who had never heard someone who looked like myself, saying what I was saying. For the next 90 minutes, I fielded questions and debated issues with students who were starved for opposing points of view as to come to more informed conclusions.

Let's look at the gay marriage debate. Many students believe Republicans are anti-gay. Why is this? While running for Massachusetts state party chairman, I warned conservatives what would happen when you let the opposition define your positions. I know of NO Republican who is against "gay marriage", but it depends on what your definition of "marriage" is.

When two people in America want to get "married", what's the first thing they do? They apply for and get a "marriage" license. That is the law. With license in hand they are, for all intents and purposes, "married". In many states, gay couples are granted "civil union" status for all purposes legal. Conservatives have no problem with that. However, "marriage" is another thing.

If two people were to go to a church and get married, without a state-issued marriage license, that "marriage" wouldn't be legally recognized. "Marriage" is purely a religious ceremony, and I contend, the gay activist push for "marriage" is simply their way of giving that trendy middle finger to the church. Thus, the conservative opposition to "gay marriage."

There are always two sides to every story, yet students (and their parents who are paying good money for their education) are only getting one side: the liberal side. I've made concerted efforts, from Day One, to tailor my written, verbal, and video presentations to a younger demographic. I understand the need to make sure that young people are not all Republicans. However, if we sit back, they will all become liberals and it's never a good thing to only have one side of an issue.

You Republican candidates had better wake up and recognize the youth vote for what it is. This year, we're not dealing with unreliable Rock The Vote types. These kids today are motivated, will be counted, and are proudly progressive. An appearance with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert isn't the answer. We are not welcome on most college campuses, but through the print and video windows of the Internet, it is possible to reach thousands of young voters every day.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Educational bias against military veterans

When Sean Lunde enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 2005, he expected his four years of training and experience as an Army medic in Kosovo, Germany, and Iraq would earn him as much as 50 college credits, or about a year and a half of courses. He received none. "I went to medic school for 12 hours a day, six days a week, for four months," he said. "None of that was accepted."

When recruiting, the military highlights its educational advantages, promising young men and women that service will give them a leg up toward a college degree and a better career. But many of the thousands of veterans who attend college after tours of duty are denied credit for military courses and specialized skills despite an accreditation system set up to award it, veterans' advocates and students say. That forces students to take more courses than they expected to, straining already thin GI Bill benefits.

In response to veterans' criticism, colleges say they are fairly evaluating military courses and that a good deal of service training does not match with academic subjects. But in the minds of veterans, the denial of credits casts doubt on the academic qualifications of their military training, coursework, and specialties. That leaves many feeling bitter and disillusioned. "When I went into the military, they told us we would get credit for military experience," Lunde said. "But hardly anyone I know that served gets the credits they thought they deserved. So it hasn't worked out like I expected."

The issue is an increasing point of tension on campuses as waves of veterans return from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and enroll in college, taking advantage of a range of public benefits and hoping to build on skills acquired during their service. The military offers a wide range of educational opportunities to service members, and has created a comprehensive, if complicated, system that translates military courses, training, and occupations into potential college credit. The American Council on Education, the chief coordinating body for higher education institutions, acts as a kind of accrediting agency for the armed forces. It assigns civilian academics to evaluate military courses and duties and make recommendations for how much credit should be awarded.

Veterans also contend that military training and jobs that correlate to academic subjects deserve as much credit as coursework, just as many college students receive course credits through internships. For example, veterans say a stint as an Army cook should earn credit for a culinary arts program; and a sergeant supervising 100 soldiers should receive credit in business management.

That evaluation process, which military officials describe as rigorous and fair, documents soldiers' skills and responsibilities and recommends how much college credit they should receive. While colleges widely recognize the transcripts, they are not bound to honor them, and those who work closely with veterans say many colleges award the credits arbitrarily. "Many people handling transfers aren't aware of it and don't know how to do it, so they just don't accept it," said Louis Martini, director of military education at Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and president of the Council of College and Military Educators. "It's a problem that comes up a lot."

Such hurdles lead many veterans to attend colleges known to be "military friendly" to maximize their credits, military education specialists say. These colleges usually belong to Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, a Washington, D.C., consortium of 1,800 schools dedicated to helping service members receive college degrees.

Surveys by the American Council on Education found that 14 percent of colleges and universities do not award any military credit, and 30 percent do not award credit for occupational experiences, just for coursework. Colleges that do not award credit for military training contend that most service-related experience is incompatible with academic programs. "We don't have a process for evaluating [military service] for credit," said Kathleen Teehan, vice chancellor for enrollment management at UMass-Boston. "I think that's fairly standard." The school does consider giving former service members credit for academic classes taken while in the military that were offered through accredited colleges.

Jeffrey Cropsey, director of Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, which oversees education in the Department of Defense, said that while some veterans are frustrated by colleges' denials, overall they saved an estimated $141 million last year in tuition costs through credits earned during service. "The devil is in getting the information out," he said. "Some academic advisers are fairly junior people who are not totally conversant with the system, especially if they aren't near a military base."

But Jack Mordente, director of veterans' affairs at Southern Connecticut State University, and a former president of the National Association of Veterans' Programs Administrators, criticized the military for exaggerating the amount of academic credit veterans will receive. "Students have the expectation that they are going to walk into college and get all sorts of credit, and it just doesn't happen," he said. "I really think the problem is in what they are being told." Mordente and other college administrators said a good deal of military training is too technical to transfer to a college program.

Bill Blanchard, 26, a Framingham State College business student, left for basic training just before his senior year at American University. While in the Army, he took intensive classes in Army psychological operations, which American later refused to accept for credit. "A marketing student would be very jealous of our training, and yet I didn't get a single class. They told me I was misinformed." Unwilling to continue at American, he transferred to Framingham State, which accepted most of his military classes toward his degree. Blanchard completed his degree and returned to active duty.

Donald Morrison, 28, an Army reservist from Brookline who worked in logistics during a 2004 tour in Iraq, said UMass-Boston rejected his request for transfer credit, although the American Council on Education contends that his training should count toward a management or business administration degree. "Veterans assume they are going to get taken care of when they get back to school, and so does the general public," he said. "But they're not."


Democrats find history awkward

Last month, I received a handwritten letter from George W. Bush. He had read my book "A Magnificent Catastrophe," on the race that put Thomas Jefferson in the White House. "I think you did a magnificent job capturing the 1800 election," Mr. Bush wrote. "I appreciate your contribution to history." It turns out that Mr. Bush isn't only a student of history, he also sympathizes with Jefferson, a president the Democratic Party traditionally counts as one of its own. I envisioned Mr. Bush identifying more with the conservative incumbent defeated in 1800 -- John Adams. From his comments, though, Mr. Bush had closely read the book.

I shared this letter with a historian at Yale, the president's alma mater, who told me that Mr. Bush regularly reads history and has invited historians from Yale and elsewhere to the White House for informal discussions. Apparently, Karl Rove introduced the president to the joys of history.

This episode reminded me of an inquiry posed last fall by a respected public radio producer. After interviewing me for a program on campaign history, he asked me to suggest prominent Democrats who might comment for the show. He wanted the views of a few politicians to compliment those of historians, but he could only think of Republicans who knew much about history.

Having once worked for Congress, I started running through its members in my head. Various Republicans sprang to mind, but no living Democrats. Finally I hit on former Sen. George McGovern as probable and a couple of others as possible, but it was tough.

A few days later a journalist asked me this question: Why do conservatives like history more than liberals? Most historians vote Democratic, I assured him, but I realized that there might be something to his query. The current Republican candidates for president often refer to past presidents from both parties, he noted, while the Democratic candidates rarely do. (Barack Obama has expressed admiration for Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln and the inspirational leadership of John F. Kennedy.)

At one time, Democrats everywhere staged Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners to honor their party's founders much like Republican still hold Lincoln Day Dinners. Democrats now keep their founders at arm's length. Jefferson may have written that all men are created equal, but he owned slaves and allegedly sired children by a black woman he never freed. Even worse, although Andrew Jackson personified popular democracy and battled the national bank, he not only owned slaves but ordered the massacre and removal of Native Americans. Last week, I attended a performance in Los Angeles of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," an edgy rock musical clearly not written by conservatives. The printed program posed the question implicit throughout the show, "Was Old Hickory a great president or an American Hitler?" If this is how they view it, no wonder liberal Democrats don't dwell on their party's past.

For the party faithful, there are a lot more blemishes on the Democratic record. The spokesman for the modern Democratic reform impulse, William Jennings Bryan, ended his life battling the teaching of evolution. The progressive standard-bearer Woodrow Wilson was also a notorious racist who led the country into World War I. Franklin Delano Roosevelt instigated the internment of Japanese Americans as well as the New Deal. Lyndon Johnson brought us the Vietnam War in addition to Civil Rights legislation and Medicare. In a liberal historian's tableau of American history, these are the party's jewels whose half steps forward marked the nation's democratic progress.

Liberal Democrats have always looked to the future with hope and embraced marginalized groups. When they look back, even to the deeds of their own former leaders, they see trails of tears like the one over which Andrew Jackson drove out the Cherokee. Blemishes on past presidents, even those who pointed the way toward future progress, tend to stain them wholly for at least some key elements within the Democratic coalition.

In contrast, conservative Republicans look to the past for inspiration but often to the future with trepidation. Originalists at heart, they tend to see only the shining city on a hill of earlier times and not its darker neighborhoods. George Washington's slaves are forgotten along with Adams's Alien and Sedition Acts. For some Republicans, both Lincoln and Robert E. Lee become models of Christian virtue as if they never ordered millions of men into battle against the other. As his letter to me suggests, even Mr. Bush can embrace Jefferson by selecting aspects of the third president's character and career. Our political leaders can best learn from history by appreciating its rich complexity. We are served neither by its neglect nor by its uncritical adulation.


Farting follow-up

Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Yesterday's Zero-Tolerance Watch highlighted a story in the Knox County (Maine) Times about a school that had banned "intentional farting." Reader Bruce Kyle writes to tell us the Times got the story badly wrong:
As the father of an eighth-grade boy at Camden-Rockport Middle School, I regretfully report that your Zero Tolerance Watch entry yesterday regarding a ban on intentional flatulence is in error. The source for the Knox County Times story, Fire Cracker, is not the school newsletter, but a gag sheet written by eighth-grade girls, published and distributed around school for the first time last week. While their intention (civilizing future prom dates) was good, their attempt at advocacy journalism blew up in their faces, so to speak.

CRMS Principal Maria Libby addressed the national attention this story has received with good humor and a touch of seriousness regarding ethics for budding journalists yesterday in the school's actual newsletter, Tuesday Times.

According to my son, what happened is this: A boy cut the cheese with considerable volume in science class. This resulted in extended hilarity, followed by mimicking (hand in the armpit, etc), and--when the conditions were right--real farts delivered with much bravado. The teacher merely informed the boys that this sort of intentional disruption would, like all intentional disruptions, earn a detention.

What's interesting at this point is that Knox County Times continues to trumpet the impact their story has had as a triumph, without acknowledging the absurd source and the fact that it simply isn't true. Apparently, 13-year-old boys aren't the only ones who take pride in their stinkers.

But there is a saving grace to this embarrassing story. Kyle writes: "I forwarded your comment to Mrs. Libby. She tells me that your 'students are discouraged from trying to pass' is among her favorite one-liners to come out of this episode."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My own experience with Leftist bias in the academy

My personal comments on this blog generally consist of little more than an introductory sentence or two. I basically let the articles I have collected speak for themselves. So I think it is about time that I said a bit more about my own experiences in academe:

I had a small grumble recently about the fact that I have not been awarded a D.Sc. (Doctor of Science) even though my academic publication record would normally warrant it. I also pointed out however that a D.Sc. is an honoray degree that is awarded as a result of approval from one's peers and that my conservative views do NOT get approval from most other academics in the social sciences. Psychologists are nomally Left-leaning and I am the rare maverick who rejects such views. So the situation there is simply no surprise.

The surprise is that I DO have another doctorate -- the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) -- which is a degree awarded as the result of a formal process of study and writing. But I very nearly did not get that degree either. The major component of that degree is a dissertation -- which is a book-length research report of some kind. And a doctoral dissertation is normally "marked" by academics who are expert in the field concerned -- and that means that they are normally "external" -- i.e. they do not work at the university from which the dissertation emanated.

And my Ph.D. dissertation contained findings which called some popular Leftist theories into question. So that was a high-risk strategy, given the known biases of psychologists generally. And the riskiness did show. Of the three referees who agreed to mark my dissertation, one praised it highly as an exceptionally comprehensive body of work on the matters it discussed, one simply threw it in the bin and the other one rejected it on grounds that would have disqualified almost all psychological research.

The first referee -- the one who praised the work -- was John Western of the University of Queensland, who had himself done similar work. I had in fact consulted him personally about his work before beginning my own. I imagine that his views tended Left but he was far more interested in careful research than anything else. The second referee -- who would appear simply to have thrown the dissertation in the bin, and who certainly failed to reply to all letters from my university about it -- was Seymour Martin Lipset -- a highly praised American sociologist who seems to have been a fairly moderate Leftist but whose theories my findings directly contradicted. He apparently could not even consider the possibility that he might be wrong and did his best to sabotage me. My work was much more methodologically thorough than his own so ignoring it was the only way he could deal with it, I guess. In good Leftist style he was basically an armchair theorist rather than a rigorous researcher.

The third referee was Fred Emery from the Australian National Univesity in Canberra and he obviously did not like my work either. But it was very thorough and careful work by the normal standards in the field so he had difficulty in finding reasons to reject it. The reason he eventually gave was that I had used parametric statistics. But something like 99% of psychologists do use such statistics so his criticisms were rightly regarded as eccentric and were ignored. Other markers was turned to who gave my dissertation the nod.

So it was a close-run thing and the whole process ended up taking four years -- mainly due to Lipset's obstructionism. The university where I submitted my dissertation (Macquarie university) would give him many months to reply to each letter that they sent him but they never received a single reply. The only letter they ever got from him was his initial agreement to mark the dissertation -- before he actually saw it.

So Leftist bias very nearly denied me my doctorate. How childish most Leftists are, though. They know how poorly-founded their views are but they are also unable to retreat from those views -- so disagreement threatens them to a point where they just cannot respond in any kind of mature way.

The dissertation did subsequently generate rather a large number of published academic journal articles (proof that Prof. Western was right) but the article which best encapsulates what the dissertation as a whole had to say is a book chapter here.

I once had a chat with the administrator at Macquarie University who handled the whole matter and he remarked that it was the most difficult dissertation assessment he had ever managed. He particularly remarked on the completely opposite assessments given by Western and Emery.

Getting my doctorate was of course not the end of my experiences of bias. Getting journal articles published is difficult at any time but I had extra hurdles to surmount. See here for a paper which I once presented on that very topic. In the paper I spoke of "personal factors" being held against me and of my being a "norm violator" but everybody present knew what the norms were: political ones. That I did surmount the hurdles I had before me you can see here

The Presidential education budget

More School Vouchers, Fewer Programs

President Bush would freeze the Education Department's discretionary spending at $59.2 billion, cutting or consolidating dozens of programs while expanding school vouchers and restoring funding for a No Child Left Behind reading initiative that Democratic lawmakers slashed.

The budget would add $300 million for Pell Grants for Kids, a new voucher program aimed at giving low-income students in struggling schools aid to help them switch to private schools. It also would provide $1 billion for Reading First, up from the $393 million that Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year. The reading program has been beset by allegations of conflicts of interest.

Some Democrats and education groups contended that the budget would shortchange schools of money needed to carry out the six-year-old No Child Left Behind law and such other priorities as career and technical education. Democrats also attacked the voucher proposal.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the budget would cut "ineffective" and duplicative programs to allow a nearly 3 percent increase in funding for poor schools. The budget would nearly double, to $200 million, funding to help states and localities develop teacher merit-pay plans. It also would add $2.6 billion to Pell Grants for low-income college students, raising the maximum award to $4,800.


Kids to be punished for farting

The Merriam Webster Dictionary definition for flatulence is brief: "flatus expelled through the anus." And while it's a natural bodily function, it seems some Camden-Rockport Middle School eighth-grade boys are taking it to new heights and making a game of seeing who can expel the loudest and grossest flatus. According to this week's Fire Cracker school newsletter though, the joke's on the boys as the penalty for "intentional farting" is now a detention.

"Strange, but true, thanks to a bunch of 8th grade boys, intentional farting has been banned from CRMS," the newsletter said. "It started out as a funny joke and eventually turned into a game. This is the first rule at CRMS that prevents the use of natural bodily functions. The penalty for intentional farting is a detention, so keep it to yourself!"

According to a group of seventh-grade students milling around downtown following Friday's storm-related early release, the eighth-graders' escapades are well known in the school. "They would do it in science class and other places," said Jordan Tyler. "It's a natural occurrence and we all do it 16 times a day." When questioned where he learned that information, Tyler and the other students all said it was true, though they couldn't remember where they heard it.

One of the other students, Kyle Ruger, said the act by the boys was funny, but he had mixed feelings about whether it was appropriate. Jordan Knowlton minced no words when she expressed how she felt, saying, "It's gross." Remy LeVine said he was in the class when CRMS science teacher Brad LaRoche talked to all the eighth-grade boys about the issue, as well as the consequences.

Attempts to reach CRMS Principal Maria Libby Friday afternoon were unsuccessful and school Superintendent Patricia Hopkins said she had not heard anything about the issue or the alleged suspected result, though she did get a good chuckle out of the news.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Both Judeophobes and Judeophiles agree that Jews are smart, but when it comes to thwarting anti-Semitism, Jews can be pretty dumb.

In 2004, Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky attempted to convene the heads of Israeli universities to devise counter-strategies to the then-temporarily subdued movement to boycott their scholars and campuses. Immured in their ivory towers, they were so oblivious to the gathering threat that it took Sharansky six months to facilitate the meeting, where they insouciantly dismissed his concerns: "When [the boycott movement] gets stronger again, we'll get organized."

By contrast, rabid enthusiasm always dominates the annual internationally co-ordinated Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the fourth of which unfolds on six Canadian university campuses Feb. 3-10. Jubilant promotional material informs us that IAW 2008 will be "celebrated" for the first time at Palestinian universities. More ominously, IAW 2008 will include the founding conference of "High Schoolers Against Israeli Apartheid." Toronto's Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid pronounces itself "a proud participant in the global movement."

Tonight, I am speaking to the Jewish community of London, Ont., about academic bias against Israel. I will have with me my review copy of Academics Against Israel and the Jews, for which Sharansky wrote the foreword, including my column's opening anecdote. Holding it aloft, I will declare, "Everything you need to know about global campus anti-Zion-ism and how --and how not -- to fight it is contained in this book. If this Jewish community cares about Israel's survival, you will read it and act on it now."

A collection of essays by knowledgeable scholars and pro-Israel activists, Academics Against Israel and the Jews is an important new information resource, for it is the first comprehensive analysis of this subject extending beyond a single country.

Case by case, and with rigorously documented thoroughness, knowledgeable insiders offer their respective forensic analyses of the activism and the intellectually corrupt ideologues fueling it in various academic hotspots as familiar as Canada's York University and as unfamiliar as the Universities of Utrecht and the Australian National University in Canberra.

The essays are sobering but reader-friendly, and written with a view to education, not retaliation. Amongst other fascinating facts, we discover in these pages why only one university in Spain (Navarre) is friendly to Israel; why United Kingdom academics are particularly boycott-obsessed; and why Jewish students in North America are far better placed to combat anti-Zionism than those in Europe.

In a particularly distressing probe by Palestinian Media Watch directors Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, we see scarifying evidence that revisionist history and open anti-Semitism of the vilest kind is common currency amongst "scholars" in Palestinian universities. If only shameless historical lies and routine classroom incitement to hatred were criteria for collegial shunning -- the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a standard "text" for Palestinian students -- rather than trumped-up charges of a non-existent "apartheid," Palestinian universities would be instant pariahs. Alas, thanks to our postmodern intellectuals' weakness for moral inversions, it seems even university-sanctioned incitement to literal genocide is no barrier to acceptance in the West's Islamophilic groves of academe.

Canada holds the dubious honour of providing material for two chapters: an overview of the Canadian campus scene in general, and a chapter on the ferment leading to the 2002 Concordia Netanyahu riot, an often-cited case study in appeasement and a primer in how not to deal with ideological scofflaws.

Manfred Gerstenfeld, the book's editor and chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a prolific, authoritative writer on the subjects of anti-Semitism and world Jewish communities.

Gerstenfeld is also a canny activist. If the cumulative effect of so much of the book's bad news is demoralizing, Gerstenfeld's bullish emphasis on remedies, and abundant proofs that the smart activism of a few can be effective in pushing back, are re-moralizing. A particularly absorbing narrative chronicles Gerstenfeld's own successful tide-turning intervention at the notoriously anti-Zionist School of Oriental and African Studies in London (known to the cognoscenti as the "School of Orchestrated Anti-Semitism").

Gerstenfeld's summary chapter is an education in itself. Here, an uninformed reader can assimilate the essentials: how to distinguish criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism; the nature and effectiveness of various present and past boycotts; contemporary Arab anti-Semitism and the recycling of old motifs; anti-Semites' contradictory images of the Jew; and Israel's plight as a paradigm for the West's future.

As universities are a feeder system into the elite cultural ranks of the general population, campus anti-Semitism is more than a threat to Jews alone. Widespread anti-Semitism is always a symbol of decline in a society, as the sorry situation in Europe makes clear (Sharansky calls North American universities "little islands of Europe"). Cultures in which anti-Semitism becomes the reigning ideology, like Nazi Germany and most Arab states since 1917, are by definition failed cultures.

At York University in 2003, a Jewish student told Sharansky, "For me as a Jew, the existence of Israel is a big problem. I want to be a normal person... If Israel did not exist, I would feel much easier." If a Jewish student can't feel "normal" on a university campus because Israel "exists," is he not already studying in a failed culture?


Social class bigotry in British education

Good state schools are being barred from choosing pupils from middle-class families by the government's education watchdog on admissions. The schools have been hit by a series of rulings which block them from doing anything that might be seen as giving preferential treatment to middle-class applicants. The policy is being forced through by the government in a drive to use admissions to tackle "segregation" in society. The judgements, which set a precedent extending throughout the state school system, include:

- Banning headteachers from asking parents why they want to come to the school, in case this puts non-English speakers at a disadvantage;

- Barring schools from asking for children's birth certificates in case this identifies the parents' jobs, which might give professional families a competitive edge;

- Forbidding a discussion with parents of the school's Ofsted inspection report as this might discriminate against parents who "do not understand bureaucracy";

- Stopping schools asking parents whether they support its ethos because this might be considered "patronising" to less well-educated or ethnic minority parents.

This weekend the moves were attacked as "social engineering" by opposition politicians who said they were likely to make parents feel guilty for taking a close interest in their children's education. "Schools should not be about social engineering, they should be about providing the best education," said Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary. "The determination of the government to micro-manage the admissions process reflects the fact that they don't have enough places in good schools. They are trying to find more and more interventionist ways of rationing access to good schools."

It follows a government-commissioned report last week which called for the greater use of lotteries to award places at popular schools to stop middle-class parents colonising catchment areas and monopolising entry.

The rulings have been issued by Philip Hunter, the chief schools adjudicator, who decides if councils and schools policies comply with the government's code on admissions. He said: "Parental choice in the market leads to segregation." [An explicit refusal to allow parental choice! What a Fascist!] He is acting in line with demands by Jim Knight, the schools minister, that a new law on admissions be firmly enforced to prevent "pushy" middle-class parents from dominating places at the best schools.

Hunter, who denies that he is pursuing a policy of social engineering, said that local authorities and schools were involved in delicate judgements. "At some stage when the market is travelling in that direction someone has to say that level of segregation is OK but that one is not. That is a very difficult decision to make," he said. "Local heads and admissions forums and local authorities have to make that decision. That is not easy. They have been asked to make it in the code, they have got to address it.

"Everyone has got to understand that it is a very difficult judgement. Even more difficult is if they decide it is an unacceptable level of segregation and they are going to do something about it. At that point you say to parents that their parental choice is being denied." Jim Knight, the schools minister, last month warned councils that they had to work harder to enforce the code which was passed into law last year. "No ifs or buts," he warned them. "There is absolutely no excuse not to comply with the law to stamp out unfair and covert admission practices," he said.

But Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham university, special adviser to the Commons schools select committee, said the code was "untenable" as it tried to stamp out covert selection by intervening in "minor matters", but at the same time still allowed schools to retain catchment areas and faith-based allocation of places, both of which tend to favour middle-class families. "It just encourages game-playing ," said Smithers. "We are stuck with this fudge of a code and the result is these adjudicators dancing around on the head of a pin."


Australia: Teacher unions balk at any suggestion of teacher merit

All teachers are equal, apparently

NSW schools will now be able to appoint teachers under a State Government shake-up of staffing arrangements, a move which has angered the teachers union. School principals will be able to advertise positions and select their own teachers from the second term in 2010, under changes announced by NSW education minister John Della Bosca. The Department of Education will have to sign off on appointments, but schools need no longer accept the teacher at the top of the department's transfer list.

School principals say the move will give them greater freedom, but the union has threatened industrial action over concerns the plan would leave schools in disadvantaged areas worse off and the transfer system would be dismantled.

Mr Della Bosca said the changes would not affect the number of positions or teacher tenure. "While the department will retain its obligation to ensure every class has a qualified teacher, we are giving principals the option of choosing the right teacher for their school from a larger number of qualified applicants," Mr Della Bosca said in a statement. "More schools will now have the option of either having a teacher centrally allocated or choosing their own through open advertisements." Mr Della Bosca said open advertisements had been used at schools in regional NSW and south-west Sydney, which had attracted large numbers of applicants. "Under the old system, fewer than 3 per cent of vacancies are open to all qualified teachers and a transfer can take many years," he said.

NSW Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said principals believed they could be more effective leaders if they had the right to select teachers. "Principals for years have been saying they would like a greater say in the staffing of their schools," he told Fairfax.

But NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran said the move would benefit some school communities and disadvantage others. "We are taking this extraordinarily seriously," she told The Daily Telegraph. "It will result in unqualified teachers and larger class sizes." Teachers federation senior vice-president Gary Zadkovich also slammed the move, saying the statewide transfer system "provides security of employment ... and also ensures teachers are supplied to schools in western Sydney and country areas where teachers are less likely to want to work".

Mr Della Bosca said the incentive transfer system to attract teachers to remote and difficult to staff schools would continue. He said 50,000 teachers and principals were being briefed on the changes this week.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Segregation comes to Canada

I am sure that Leftists will want to bus some whites into these schools -- or am I missing something? "Diversity" IS good for education, isn't it?

Toronto's school board is expected to vote over harsh opposition tomorrow to approve Canada's first "Afro-centered" high school, which likely would open next year. Black parents have been central in pushing for the institution, which is touted as a solution to dropout rates that range between 25 percent and 40 percent among Toronto's black students, many of whom are of Caribbean heritage.

Critics have reacted viscerally, calling the plan a step toward the sort of segregation that once troubled U.S. schools but has seldom been an issue in Canada. "The majority of Torontonians are against it," said school trustee Michael Coteau, who added that he had never seen such a strong reaction. Many of his constituents have condemned the idea, he said, but "when there were reports of skyrocketing dropout rates among black students, no one called."

Since 1991, studies have shown dropout rates of more than 40 percent among the city's black Caribbean students, and of 25 percent to 30 percent among the children of recent immigrants from Africa. This compares with rates of 25 percent among white students and 18 percent for Asians.

One of the strongest advocates of the school is Donna Harrow, one of two black women who approached the school board in 2003 to petition for an alternative, special-needs school. Toronto has schools for other "at-risk" student groups, including homosexuals and American Indians. The United States has a few schools specifically for blacks, including in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Mrs. Harrow said the Canadian press had wrongly presented the project as a form of segregation, or suggested that students who attend would be seen as unable to survive in the real world. "Any student - whether white, black or Chinese - who wants to celebrate the unity of people as part of being prepared for postsecondary education and opportunity is welcome," she said.

After months of study and community input, the school board released a 156-page report recommending the creation of one alternative school for 150 to 200 students, along with black-focused streams in three other schools at a total cost of about $800,000.

Despite the public opposition, the measure is expected to be approved when the board votes tomorrow. Although the school would be open to all students, it is not clear how many non-blacks would apply.

Trustee Josh Matlow opposes the plan. He fears the school for black children will start a domino effect that will splinter the city's 558 public schools into ethnic and racial educational ghettos. "It's a Pandora's box," he said, while quoting Martin Luther King's dream of all-inclusiveness. Even if the black-focused school doesn't fracture the school system, Mr. Matlow said, its success cannot be measured until "after my lifetime."

Three private schools in Toronto serve black students up to the sixth grade. Zakiya Tafaria, who teaches at the Umoja Learning Circle, said that in the 12 years since the school's inception, 90 percent of its graduates have been put forward a grade when evaluated for admittance to mainstream middle schools. Mr. Tafaria called the alternative school a good idea, but warned that many families will not want to participate if it is placed in an area stigmatized as a black crime zone.

Education in Canada is a provincial responsibility, and the country's early schools often were segregated by law. In the 1800s, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario schools were established to segregate black students. In Nova Scotia, the last separate school for blacks closed in 1986, said Angela Wilson, who joined Mrs. Harrow in pushing for the Toronto school.

During slavery in the United States, public schools were integrated in Toronto, but many Ontario communities enforced segregated education. In 1853, Ontario's chief justice ruled that no matter how poor the quality of the school, blacks must attend. Yet during this same period, William Hubbard, the son of refugee slaves and a graduate of the city's integrated schools, was elected to 14 consecutive terms as a Toronto alderman and served as acting mayor.

The proposed school will teach the basic Ontario curriculum along with some black history that is not taught in mainstream schools, Miss Wilson said. It also will provide a culturally sensitive environment where teachers don't react with hostility to black students who use slang or wear dreadlocks. Miss Wilson said her teenage son and daughter attend mainstream schools but they understand the need for this alternative. "This is about choice," she said.


Britain: Special favours for Muslim schools

Even I, who have written constantly about the British government's lethally flawed strategy of appeasing Islamism, am left breathless by today's story in the Telegraph:
Private Muslim schools have been given the power to police themselves, despite widespread fears over religious segregation, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. In a controversial move, they have won the right to appoint their own Ofsted-style inspectors. A new independent watchdog has been set up to be more `sensitive' toward Islamic education. The decision comes despite concerns some private Muslim schools are already failing to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, told MPs last month local councils were finding it `difficult to know what is going on in some faith schools - particularly Muslim schools'. But religious leaders defended the move, saying the curriculum and religious traditions in faith schools demand specialist knowledge. Under present legislation, most state and private schools are inspected by Ofsted, the Government's standards watchdog. The Association of Muslim Schools and the Christian Schools' Trust applied to the Government to set up a separate inspectorate for a small number of private faith schools. The Daily Telegraph has learned the Department for Children, Schools and Families [DCSF] approved plans for the Bridge Schools' Inspectorate last week, giving it the power to inspect about 60 private Muslim schools and 50 Christian schools.

It really is hard to believe this. There is a crying need for much more rigorous state inspection of Muslim schools. Ofsted, which is supposedly going to police this new Muslim/Christian inspectorate, is hopeless; having progressively emasculated its inspection processes generally, it has already failed to identify Islamic extremism in the Muslim schools it inspects (see the evidence revealed in the recent Policy Exchange report of the bigoted teaching materials used at the King Fahad academy in west London, to which Ofsted gave a clean bill of health). The only way to address Islamic extremism is to take the toughest line possible against the dissemination of hatred and incitement. That means that the state must make it its business to find out where children are being thus indoctrinated and stop it. And that means the state must inspect all Muslim teaching institutions and take action against them where it finds that this is happening. To withdraw instead, as the government is now doing, and allow these schools to police themselves is to give a green light to the extremist production line.

Furthermore, it also bows to the Islamist insistence that British Muslims must develop parallel institutions to the British state, a fundamental element of their strategy to Islamise this country. For although this is presented as a Muslim/Christian initiative, no-one can be in any doubt that the main thrust comes from British Muslims. The website of the Christian body involved, the Christian Schools' Trust, is being rejigged so information on it is sparse; but it appears to be a marginal fundamentalist body. Certainly there is no indication that Christian schools in general, or Jewish schools for that matter, are pressing for their own inspectorate.

Many people still think that the idea that Britain could ever be `Islamised' is just too preposterous and silly to be taken seriously. It is not. It is well advanced. What it relies upon is three things: the refusal of the British public to take it seriously; the Islamists' ability to manipulate moral and intellectual liberal confusion and the resulting paralysis over `Islamophobia', `discrimination' and `minority rights'; and the craven desire by the British government to buy off the implicit and explicit threats of Muslim social unrest and yet more terrorist attacks by giving in to the Islamists' demands. Truly moderate British Muslims who want to live under the umbrella of British laws and institutions are thus grievously undermined, and the entire country is put at ever greater peril from the pincer movement of cultural and terrorist attack. Members of Parliament with an elementary sense of national self-preservation simply must not let this pass.



These guys would get the boot for the poor performance of the system that they supervise if they were employees of a private company -- but in government failure just gets more money thrown at it

School superintendents in the Washington area will collect salaries ranging from $157,200 to $279,340 in the fiscal year that ends June 30. Factor in benefits and perks, however, and the average annual compensation package swells to $351,730.

Compensation for the school chiefs goes well beyond the salaries reported to the public, according to a review of contracts for 12 superintendents in the District and its suburbs. Contracts routinely allow superintendents to collect tens of thousands in deferred compensation and to cash in weeks of unused leave annually. Superintendents enjoy supplemental insurance policies and retirement plans on top of the benefits available to all public school administrators.

In Montgomery County, the $242,686 salary paid this year to School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast represents not quite half of a total compensation package valued at $489,763. John E. Deasy in Prince George's County will receive $424,080 in total compensation, with less than two-thirds coming from salary, according to figures provided by the school system.

The compensation packages help school boards attract quality educators to a job that is becoming increasingly hard to fill. Superintendent salaries nationwide have increased by almost half in the past decade, in an ongoing bidding war for talented candidates. Superintendent tenures are declining, and the lengths of superintendent searches are growing, as top educators leave the field for jobs with less stress and better pay, according to the American Association of School Administrators.

There are "not enough qualified superintendents," said James E. Richmond, superintendent of Charles County schools, adding that there are "plenty of openings all over the country." Superintendent contracts are structured with layers of benefits and perks, allowing school systems to minimize taxpayer outcry.

Information about superintendent contracts was first reported in The Washington Post on Dec. 25. The above chart presents details of the compensation packages, including salary, cost-of-living adjustments and bonuses; deferred compensation; health, life and disability insurance; pension contributions; compensation for unused vacation time and for job-related expenses; a car and, in the case of the Prince George's and D.C. superintendents, someone to drive it.

The figures were supplied by school systems and represent actual or projected earnings. One superintendent included in the Dec. 25 analysis, Rebecca L. Perry of Alexandria, left the job this month. Before her departure, she was drawing an annual salary of $226,243 as leader of the city's 10,570-student system. In the 2006-07 school year, she received total compensation of $285,765.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Girls who threw french fries face 'missile' charges

What pathetic worms these school administrators are for involving the police in such a minor disciplinary matter

Three 13-year-old girls accused of throwing french fries during lunch at their school in Wyoming have been cited by police for "hurling missiles".. The principal of Laramie Junior High and a police officer warned students during assembly the day before the french fries' launch they would suffer consequences if they threw food, Laramie police chief Bob Deutsch said. The warning came after school officials heard rumours of an impending food fight. "They saw it as really the planning of a riot, when you think about it," Deutsch said.

The girls decided to test the warning, he said. "It wasn't a spontaneous thing - a couple of kids giggling, throwing a french fry at each other," Deutsch said. "They intended on getting everybody involved in this and starting something that no doubt would have the potential of getting out of control."

Some observers are saying police and school officials went overboard, and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) weighed in. "It certainly seems that this was an overreaction to a situation that could have been handled differently," said Linda Burt, Wyoming director of the ACLU. The girls were also suspended for three days.

City prosecutor Ashley Castor didn't return phone messages. Principal Steve Hoff declined to comment, and schools Superintendent Brian Recht did not return messages.


"Training" is replacing education in Britain

`Black Monday', with its economic chaos and confusion, was nothing compared with British PM Gordon Brown's self-inflicted educational disaster of `McMonday'. Yesterday, 28 January, Brown announced the New Labour government's latest educational wheeze: a proposal to allow the fast-food chain McDonald's, the low cost airline Flybe, and Network Rail to award qualifications at school level. These were immediately dubbed `McA-levels', `McGCSEs'; Network Rail is even thinking of offering doctorates in railway engineering: McPhDs, if you like. This is the first substantial move by the government to allow private companies to award British educational qualifications.

Brown introduced and defended these new awarding powers on GMTV early on Monday morning. He argued that the government was not dumbing down its qualifications, and companies like McDonald's would ensure that standards would not fall and even ensure that the 51 per cent non-completion rates for apprenticeships would be tackled. John Denham, secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, said it was an important step towards ending the division between company training schemes and national qualifications (1). Nick Gibb, the opposition Conservative Party school spokesperson, was enthusiastic, too, arguing that: `They may well be better vocational qualifications. because they relate to the real world of work.' (2) Even the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) considered that `employer-led qualification routes with a specialised vocational background may prove a valuable route into higher education' (2).

A proposal to offer qualifications with about as much intellectual nourishment as a Big Mac should have upset public sector unions, teachers and educationalists. However, initial criticism has been muted and technical. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), expressed some concern about giving private companies the power to award educational qualifications and demanded that they meet stringent requirements. Others questioned the new qualifications' academic rigour; their transferability to other workplaces; whether they would be accepted by other employers; and whether they could devalue traditional qualifications.

The muted criticism is easily explained: ever since the government commissioned the Tomlinson Committee report in 2005, there has been a broad base of support for its proposed radical overhaul of qualifications for 14- to 19-year-olds, and for the aim of eventually replacing A-levels with a personalised `Diploma' (3). Careful readers of the Tomlinson report would have noted that Carmel Flatley, the director of human resources and training at McDonald's, worked for a time as a member of the committee (4). The Tomlinson report suggested vocational routes for children as young as 14 to allow those with vocational rather than academic interests to follow their inclinations. Educationalists have accepted the government's argument that Britain faces a major skills gap and needs to ensure that young people have the skills, often `learning to learn' skills, that would serve them well in the new world of work. However, Tomlinson's much-heralded reform proposals were not implemented. The New Labour government, then under Tony Blair, seemed to lack the confidence to bring in such sweeping changes; instead it kept the `gold standard' of A-level qualifications, which were seen as academically respectable.

One of Gordon Brown's first acts when he became prime minister in June was to split the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) into the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The missing word in the titles of these reorganised departments was `education'. This was more than trendy re-branding. It showed how the government has undermined the idea and the essence of Education, of knowledge and learning, and replaced it with Skills instead. When the emphasis is on can-do skills rather than abstract ideas and thinking, it makes sense to transfer `educational training' over to the business world and to transform universities into `training institutions' for the world of work.

Following `McMonday', the newspapers were full of references to `McQualifications'. `What a joke!' commentators proclaimed; or as one union official put it: `Nothing is stranger than life!' McDonald's is, of course, the brand that every member of the chattering classes loves to hate. And it helps that it is easy to play the McDonaldisation Game by adding the `Mc' prefix to everything one dislikes about modern life. Yet in reality, the fundamentals of the McDonaldisation thesis - of applying efficiency, calculability, predictability and control to education - have already been accepted by almost everyone in the worlds of government, teaching and unions. Mocking McDonald's and its new role in education is a way of avoiding the profound denigration of education that has already occurred, and which has brought us to this situation.

From seeing that fewer pupils are excluded from schools to ensuring that 50 per cent of the population go on to higher education: efficiency in education goes unchallenged today. Often this means making examination and assessment varied, or to be truthful, making them easier. Calculability, in terms of league tables, is questioned by some educationalists, but not by those who perform well in the tables. Predictability, in terms of common learning outcomes and standardised degrees, is now accepted by educationalists across the board. And the most threatening form of McDonaldisation - control, through the standardisation of teacher training in all sectors - is universally celebrated. This serious McDonaldisation of the education system has severely undermined the unpredictable, creative and exciting process of education, reducing it to a list of dull, predictable skills. It was the government that made education the equivalent of learning how to flip burgers - signing up McDonald's was the next logical step.

There is no real opposition to the skill-crazy philistinism within education. Further Education (FE) lecturers have always taught skills, of course; but in the past they argued for something called `vocational education'. Now even former radical educators in Britain sneer at the idea of `education for its own sake'. This, too, is a product of the post-Tomlinson consensus. One of Tomlinson's stated aims was to overcome the academic/vocational divide. This brought everyone on side as it seemed, particularly to radical educationalists, to provide parity for working-class children who might be more practical-minded and hence vocationally orientated. In truth, the removal of the academic/vocational divide looked more like a cover for the fact that many working-class children are not being provided with a first-class, gold-standard education; it was a way of selling out these children, effectively giving up on their educational aspirations, but it was dressed up to look like a radical move in favour of the `vocationally minded'.

It is the consensus over the need for a skill system that is bringing about the McDonaldisation of education. The irony is that the academic/vocational divide is being overcome: parity will finally be achieved when there are only vocational qualifications left.


Small classes labelled a waste of money

Decades of research finally heeded

AUSTRALIA'S new education tsar has surprisingly come out in support of large classes. Barry McGaw, charged with co-ordinating a new national curriculum, said reducing class sizes was a waste of money and more specialist teachers should be hired to help struggling students instead.

The decorated academic and policy maker argued that slow learners slipped through the cracks just as easily in smaller classes as they did in larger classes. "Teachers unions have pushed for reduced class sizes but I think it's not the most important thing," he said. "It's a waste of money, you don't get the best bang for your buck."

Finland, with the highest literacy rate of 15-year-olds in the world, invested heavily in the early years of education, Mr McGaw said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Mr McGaw as chair of the National Curriculum Board this week. The 12-member board will include representatives from all state and territories and public, Catholic and independent schools. Expert consultants will be employed to develop a nation-wide curriculum from kindergarten to Year 12 in English, maths, science and history.

The Howard Government's Australian history curriculum for Years 9 and 10, which was developed before the coalition's defeat in the November election, would also be considered in the new plans.

But Mr McGaw's comments on class sizes have outraged Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett. [They would!] The powerful union boss labelled the remarks as absurd and said smaller classes were the best way to improve academic results and school retention rates. "There's no substitute or alternative to getting class sizes down," Ms Bluett said. She said studies had shown students in smaller classes had stronger friendships and also had more respect for their teachers. [But don't learn any more]


Sunday, February 03, 2008

No law broken but kid charged and punished

Fanaticism about drugs gets out of hand again. The slightest reference to guns or drugs causes American school administrators to lose their marbles

Denton County prosecutors decided Friday to wash their hands of a case against a Lewisville middle school student accused of trying to get high by sniffing his teacher's hand sanitizer. Three days after filing delinquency charges against the youth, prosecutors did a turnaround and decided that the common cleaning gel is not an abusive inhalant under the Texas Health and Safety Code. "It's not a crime. Hand sanitizer does not fall within that statute," said Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney in Denton County. "The police agency brought it up mistakenly thinking it was."

Richard Ortiz, the father of the seventh-grader, welcomed the news late Friday but expressed frustration that the case, which began in October, went as far as it did. Mr. Ortiz, who asked that his 14-year-old son's name not be published, said the boy was embarrassed and humiliated by the charge. He described his son as a well-behaved teenager who makes good grades. "They were going to prosecute my son," Mr. Ortiz said. "He still has that stigma. People know him as a drug user, and he's not."

Mr. Ortiz's attorney, J. Michael Price II of Dallas, said he believes that the Denton County prosecutor's office acted quickly to drop the case once he brought the matter to the attention of Ms. Beck on Friday morning. "I told her I didn't think a law had been violated," Mr. Price said. "She made the appropriate decision without a lot of delay."

Mr. Ortiz said the family's ordeal began Oct. 19, when his son picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer from the desk of his fifth-period reading teacher at Killian Middle School in Lewisville. He rubbed the gel on his hands and smelled it. In the view of school officials, the boy "inhaled heavily," according to Mr. Ortiz, who said his son sniffed the cleanser "because it smelled good." The youth was sent to the principal's office, and the Lewisville police officer assigned to the school began investigating.

"The event happened at the campus," said Dean Tackett, a spokesman for the Lewisville Independent School District. "But once the police took it over, it was a police investigation. They decide if there are charges and what kind of charges."

The teen was required to serve a brief in-school suspension and was also fingerprinted and photographed at the Lewisville Police Department. He returned to regular classes at the school, including one with the teacher whose sanitizer he sniffed.

Mr. Ortiz said he believed the matter was over until Tuesday when he was served with a petition charging his son with delinquency for inhaling the hand sanitizer to "induce a condition of intoxication, hallucination and elation." He said he couldn't believe that his son would have to go to court for smelling hand sanitizer. "I think it's ludicrous," said Mr. Ortiz, who blames overzealous police and prosecutors for initially pursuing the case.

Joni Eddy, assistant police chief in Lewisville, said Friday that hand sanitizer has become a popular inhalant. "That is the latest thing to huff," she said. She said officers felt they were acting properly when they pursued the case against Mr. Ortiz's son under a complex state statute governing volatile chemicals that could be abused. "The charge said he was using the product other than its intended use," she said. "Huffing hand sanitizer is certainly using it for something other than its intended use." Hand sanitizers usually contain a high percentage of ethyl alcohol, a flammable liquid used in a wide range of industrial products and alcoholic beverages.

Shirley Simson, a spokeswoman for the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington, said in an e-mail that the agency had no data about hand sanitizers being abused as inhalants. She noted, however, that there have been news reports of some people drinking hand sanitizers for their alcohol content.


British white working class boys failing

Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs [intermediate High School qualification] including maths and English last year. Among white boys from more affluent homes - 45% achieved that level of qualification. Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better - with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.

Ministers say they are narrowing the gap between affluent and poorer pupils. The national average for all pupils in England achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths (A* to C) was 46% last year.

Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said: "We should be ashamed to live in a country where there is such a huge gap between rich and poor children. "To have 85% of white boys from poor families failing to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths is truly shocking. "The government has failed to tackle the chasm that exists between the opportunities of most of the poorest and the richest in our society. "We need a massive targeted increase in funding for deprived young people, to allow more catch-up classes and additional support to give every child a chance."

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: "The government's failure to improve standards in education has hit the poorest hardest. We need a school system that allows bright children to succeed regardless of their economic background. "We can only achieve this by focusing on the basics like getting all children reading after two years of primary school. Instead we still have a system where the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils grows as they progress through their school careers."

GSCE performance data released by the government in November did not include details of pupils receiving free school meals - an indicator of poverty. Those details have now been published.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "Closing the attainment gap in education remains a top priority, and we have made encouraging recent progress. "There has been good news on our efforts to address social mobility, with pupils eligible for free school meals improving faster than average. "Between 2003 and 2007, pupils eligible for free school meals who achieved 5 good GCSEs rose 11.1 percentage points from 24.4% to 35.5%. For non-free school meals pupils, the increase was 7.6 percentage points, from 55.2% to 62.8%. "Alongside pupils on free school meals, previously disadvantaged groups are also doing better. Over the last four years, black pupils have made the biggest improvement, at almost twice the national average." Policies had been introduced to try to help underachieving boys, he said.


The ability to look at pictures is just as good as being able to read

That seems to be the nutty idea of education put forward by a very mixed-up Australian Leftist below -- as far as one can tell

An academic and former high school teacher has returned fire in the literacy wars, claiming that universal skills tests advantage "certain groups of students and marginalise others". Monash University's Ilana Snyder accuses The Australian of running an ideological campaign against outcomes-based education. In a new book, The Literacy Wars, Dr Snyder questions the motives of those favouring a return to a more rigorous and literature-based senior English curriculum. And she questions this newspaper's advocacy of correct grammar and basic literacy skills, labelling it as a push to restore "something resembling the cultural heritage model associated with Matthew Arnold at the end of the 19th century".

"Some students possess the cultural and social capital that helps them to understand the particular language associated with testing and to decode the questions, but for others there are no such advantages," Dr Snyder argues. "As a result, differences in literacy achievement as measured by standardised tests need to be approached with caution." If a test measures print-oriented skills, for instance, this might disadvantage children "who prefer digital forms of literacy". [Meaning pictures? Or does she mean that reading words in a book is different in kind from reading the same words on a computer screen? Wacky, however you look at it] Dr Snyder goes on to argue that literacy itself is a "highly contested word". It is not a notion like 'car' or 'holiday' which demand a reasonable level of agreement about their meaning," she writes.

Macquarie University Professor of Education Kevin Wheldall said such theories were "barking mad". "Many middle-class children will learn to read and to appreciate literature in spite of what happens at school," he said. "I am concerned about the children who are not surrounded by books at home and whose parents are not able to help them with reading and writing. "If I was cynical, I would say those who oppose teaching phonics and giving all children the chance to appreciate literature are out to keep Aboriginal children, poor white kids, and migrants for whom English is a second language, in their place. To use the awful jargon, the current approach privileges those who have help at home.

"I come from a working-class family in England and had it not been for the 11-plus exam (a test taken at the end of primary school in England) getting me into a grammar school I would probably be a baker like my father rather than a professor of education."

Dr Snyder, an associate professor of education who taught high school English for 10 years, repeatedly singles out this newspaper's reports, editorials and columnists -- including Kevin Donnelly, Luke Slattery and Christopher Pearson -- for her criticism. She admits it was "the Murdoch paper's crusade against contemporary approaches to literacy education" that motivated her to write the book. "It is time to hold them to account."

Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian and The Weekend Australian, said he was more than happy to be "held to account" and the literacy wars were not about a conservative versus leftist political agenda. "A good grounding in reading, writing and maths, followed by a broad, traditional liberal education gives children, especially the poor, the best chance to do well in life," Mr Mitchell said. "Dumbing down the curriculum hurts everyone, but it hurts disadvantaged children the most." He said The Australian had run a wide-ranging debate on a very important subject, covering all points of view.

Yesterday, Dr Snyder said that she had written the book because she was "irritated by the polarisation of the debate" and by what she regarded as "misrepresentations of what is taught in English and in teacher education at universities". In the book, she is critical of The Australian for embracing the findings of the Teaching Reading report from the national literacy inquiry, which called for a return to phonics as part of the mix in teaching reading. The inquiry, headed by Ken Rowe, found that trainee teachers needed to be taught how to teach reading through phonics as well as whole-word recognition.

Yesterday she said that, like the inquiry, she favoured students being taught to read with a combination of phonics and whole word recognition. "It's not a case of either/or," she said.

Describing herself as a "book lover", Dr Snyder -- who enjoys Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Shakespeare and the Greek playwrights -- said she had no objections to students studying Shakespeare from modern perspectives such as Marxism. She also said it was essential that students studied popular culture such as teenage magazines and films so they were able to be critical of it. "Fights over a Marxist interpretation of Shakespeare or a text message on an exam miss the point," she writes. "At their core, the literacy wars are the result of competing views and beliefs about society -- what it is, what it has been, and what it should become."

Dr Snyder now wants the debate to move to the issue of extra funding for state schools. In her book she accuses The Australian of a "particularly ferocious campaign" against outcomes-based education, introduced as "a way of increasing social justice" and in response to the quest for greater accountability. Dr Snyder says the push by "conservatives" for a return to more traditional English literature in secondary school is "related to deeper political discussions about the moral ordering of life and the regulation of people".

Ensuring students study "books from the Western canon" can "also train students to be governed by an aesthetic and moral code associated with the cultural heritage model, an approach that originated in Victorian England with little relevance to Australia at the beginning of the 21st century."

Dr Snyder said research showed that working with computer games in literacy classrooms "provides students with additional means of expression and communication to those dependent on print skills". [So kids need to go to school to learn how to play computer games? The woman really is barking mad]

University of Queensland professor Ken Wiltshire said the critical literacy movement offered nothing positive to the education debate. "It seeks to destroy the fundamentals and principles of sound curriculum development as practised in all countries of the developed world and most emerging ones as well," he said. "Make no mistake, this author is part of a sinister assault on Australia's educational standards and values. Her approach, like the movement she represents, is an elitist one, since the only students who are really competent to handle critical literacy are the ones who already have an excellent grounding in the basic literature."


Australia: "Expert" on America not Leftist enough

A POLITICAL scientist who insists that globalisation is not the enemy of the Left will be the first leader of the controversial United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Geoffrey Garrett, an Australian-born academic who has made his mark in the US as an analyst of global politics and economics, is expected to take up the post as chief executive inMarch.

The centre's stated rationale is to remedy a lack of serious study of the US at a time of rising anti-American sentiment. Critics on the Left dismiss it as a propaganda vehicle. Former prime minister John Howard and News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose company owns The Australian, were both instrumental in setting up the centre.

Professor Garrett, president of the Los Angeles-based Pacific Council on International Policy, said the Sydney centre offered "an almost unique opportunity" to study the overlapping roles of Australia and the US as "the Asia-Pacific century" unfolded.

He said globalisation was more complex than implied by leftist critics and boosters on the Right. For example, in the developing world, globalisation had helped China but not Latin America. "Twenty years ago, everyone on the Left believed that globalisation was the death knell of traditional Left intervention in the economy," he said. "(Yet) there is smart government involvement in the economy, which helps you compete. A classic example of that would be education, where the market tends to undersupply." [The man is a fool if he believes that. The world is suffering from OVER-credentialization. And that has been known for years to be so.]