Saturday, April 19, 2008

UC's research 'paradise' draws ire of lawmakers

The Leftist elite are very good at looking after themselves -- as in Soviet times. Amusing that they can't spell "Celsius", though. So much for the high intellectual standards allegedly involved

The University of California has created a little-known South Pacific station it calls a research "paradise" on what some travelers consider the most beautiful island in the world. Surrounded by clear waters white-sand beaches and covered by forests topped by jagged peaks, it's "UC Berkeley's best-kept secret," declares the Berkeley Science Review. Real estate agents call it "Fantasy Island." The problem is, critics say, UC has developed Gump Station on Moorea Island near Tahiti as a sweet deal for academic insiders while, at the same time, hiking already high tuition due to state budget deficits. UC officials dismissed criticism, saying study of the tropics is important to the fight against global warming and that the station is a bargain.

Students and professors pay a UC-subsidized price of about $40 per person nightly for a waterfront bungalow, according to a facility Internet site. Nearby five-star resorts on Moorea, which is a popular destination for honeymoons, charge up to about $900 a night for an over-water bungalow on poles. Sen. Jim Battin, a Palm Desert Republican who has long fought for retention of only essential state land, said "subsidizing resort life is not an appropriate use of public funds." Looking at an aerial picture of the station, Battin added sarcastically, "Look at all those research vessels down there — those little canoes." Battin, other GOP lawmakers and taxpayer groups have long fought for retention of only essential state land, saying cash-strapped California can't afford anything else.

California Taxpayers' Association spokesman David Kline said, "There should be serious scrutiny of this facility" by the Legislature to determine "if the research is benefiting taxpayers. "Most Californians would be shocked to find out they are subsidizing a South Pacific getaway for UC professors at a time when government should be economizing and scrutinizing every penny spent," Kline said. Critics cite the potential high value of the donated 35-acre island parcel. The seller of a small, nearby parcel with three thatched cottages, for example, wants $1.9 million.

Battin and other Republican lawmakers, who backed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's push four years ago to sell unneeded state land to reduce the multibillion-dollar deficit, included Gump Station on their list. Follow-up legislation failed, due to lawmakers' opposition to sale of particular parcels in their own districts. But critics haven't changed their views of the South Pacific site. "This year, we're giving pink slips out to teachers while we have a piece of property in French Polynesia," said Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. "It makes no sense."

Information about the station emerged during a MediaNews analysis of California's largely failed effort to sell surplus, under-used or unneeded land to lower persistent, multibillion-dollar state deficits.

University officials said the facility is funded mostly by user fees, along with grants from the federal government and private foundations. The Schwarzenegger administration said the station is receiving about $250,000 in UC support this year....

There is also a UC staff. The station has four full-timer workers and three part-timers. The property was donated to UC in 1981 by wealthy department store magnate Richard Gump of San Francisco. In recent years, grants have been used to expand it to the size appropriate for hosting conferences. It now includes labs, dorms, a library, waterfront and hillside bungalows with kitchens, several vehicles and boats. Food can be purchased from nearby stores or catered for $25 daily....

The station is open to professors, long-term researchers and graduate students from any university or research institution for field-based scientific projects in an array of academic fields, according to the station's Internet site. The station also hosts undergraduate courses, ranging from archeology field school to environmental economics within the tropical environment of French Polynesia. Professors and others must apply for access to the station and be accepted, then follow standardized rules and policies for research....

The university makes it clear, however, that the station isn't just about work. Its Internet site carries information about recreation: Station equipment, such as vehicles and boats, are available for trips. Student blogs carry advice for free time. One rates the "bests" — events not to miss, drives, views, "funnest" places to eat, pizza, ice cream. And the best party spot: Manhattan Club, in Papeete, on nearby Tahiti.

More here

Massive rise in unqualified foreign teachers in Britain

You would have to be desperate to teach in many of Britain's "sink" schools

The number of unqualified teachers taking classes in state schools has risen fivefold since Labour came to power, figures suggest. Two thirds of these teachers were hired from overseas, prompting fears that schools are being forced to look abroad to recruit staff as many British teachers quit the profession. Data released by ministers to the Conservatives yesterday shows that there were 16,710 staff teaching in England’s state schools without qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2007, up from 2,940 ten years earlier. This includes 10,970 teachers trained overseas, up from 2,480 in 1997. In addition 1,562 teachers from the European Economic Area are teaching in Britain after being awarded QTS last year, including 707 teachers from Poland.

Michael Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary, said that the fivefold rise in teachers without QTS was surprising as the Government’s advice was that everyone teaching in state schools “should have the official qualification”. He said that many qualified staff were “being put off teaching” by increasing problems with discipline and bureaucracy.

The figures follow data obtained by the Tories showing that there were more than 250,000 qualified teachers in England under 60 who are not currently teaching and 91,000 qualified teachers who have never taught.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that the vast majority of teachers from overseas were qualified in their home countries. And he said that all teachers from overseas had to convert their qualifications to QTS within four years of arriving. “We are clear that schools should only employ teachers from overseas if they can demonstrate they have the skills, experience and qualifications relevant to the post,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the Training and Development Agency for Schools said that there had been a small short-fall in the number of teacher training recruits this year. But she said: “It is worth noting that around 10,000 people return to teaching every year.”


Proposed Australian baby farms not great for kids

Little children need the security, understanding and tolerance of a loving home, not institutionalization

Kevin Rudd's big idea for this weekend's 2020 Summit is a plan to help working families by setting up a national chain of government-run parent-and-child centres. Let's call them PC centres, for with universal child care at its core, this is a very PC idea. The Community Child Care Association's national secretary Barbara Romeril could hardly contain herself when she heard the news: "It's very exciting to finally have a government that gets it," she told the ABC. "We know this is what parents want and we know this is what's good for children." This is classic PC rhetoric, based on shaky evidence but repeated so often that people now assume it must be true.

Rudd wants these PC centres up and running by 2020, although he has no idea how much they will cost. While their core business will be child care, they will offer an all-encompassing range of services to all parents with children under five. There will be health checks on babies, child vaccinations, advice for mothers, counselling for parents, long hours day care for infants, and preschool early learning programs for toddlers. All of this will be underpinned by national quality standards, so every centre will be run in the same way and will be staffed by experts with lots of certificates and diplomas to their name.

Rudd assures parents they won't be compelled to use these PC centres, although they will be compelled to pay for them through higher taxes. This extra spending is OK, though, because it is an investment. As Maxine McKew, the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Child Care, explained to Sky News: "All the experts tell us this is the way to go. You provide that intervention early on, through the early years, and that's how you get healthy children and, I think, less stress for parents as well."

But is there no downside to this idea? Perhaps Rudd, his ministers and the childcare cheer squad should take time to reflect on some of the problems before they plough ahead. There are at least seven to consider.

* The core business of these centres will be long hours child care, but despite what McKew and the Community Child Care Association claim, it isn't true that this is necessarily good for children. McKew suggests parents' stress levels can be reduced by long hours care, but she ignores evidence that cortisol (stress hormone) levels among young children spending long periods in institutional care are often disturbingly high, and this is surely what should concern us more. It is true that older children from very disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from good quality formal care, but this is because the care they get at home is so appalling. Most very young children are better off raised by their parents, and the Government should look seriously at the evidence on this before spending billions of dollars herding them into government institutions.

* The new PC centres will destroy social capital (something the Rudd Government claims it wants to strengthen). At the moment, most of these services are already available to parents, but they are scattered rather than concentrated in one place, and they are unco-ordinated rather than being organised according to a single centralised formula. People get help from neighbours, family members, community clinics, churches, local play schools, and when they use these local resources it strengthens the social ties that create strong communities. Concentrating services in government centres may be more efficient, but it will erode local relationship networks.

* These centres will weaken the third sector and strengthen the power of government. There is a worrying trend for government to enlist voluntary organisations as its agents and then emasculate them. Welfare charities, for example, now depend on money from government contracts to run employment services, and the recently established Family Relationship Centres have effectively nationalised family counselling services previously run by groups such as Relationships Australia. The proposed new PC centres will likewise absorb existing community-based and commercial childcare providers. Open, democratic societies rely on a strong and vibrant third sector as a check and buffer against government power. In Australia, this is fast disappearing.

* These centres will further erode the autonomy of the states within our federal system. Many of the services they will provide are presently the responsibility of the states. As in health care (where the pressure is to nationalise hospitals), so too in child care, Canberra is shifting more power to itself in the name of efficiency.

* Rudd says these new centres will save money and avoid duplication. This is another way of saying they will be big, and there won't be many of them, in which case they will create more inconvenience for users. When your neighbourhood childcare centre has gone bust and you are strapping your toddler into the car for the daily commute across town to your nearest PC centre, remember this change was supposed to make life easier.

* The PC centres will redistribute income from poorer to richer parents by making the former contribute to the childcare costs of the latter. A couple sacrificing some of their joint income by having one parent stay home to look after the kids will now have to pay more tax to subsidise other couples who choose to keep working and earning while parking their kids in the PC centre. This violates the principle that government should remain neutral between parents who stay home and those who go out to work, as it represents an extensive intervention in favour of the latter at the cost of theformer.

* These centres are going to be expensive. Even Rudd doesn't know how much they are going to cost, but Crikey estimates a horrific annual bill of about $12 billion. Based on past experience, we can be sure they will get even more expensive over time as people's expectations and demands continue to rise. For a government that says it has inherited a budget blowout and needs to trim expenditure, this seems an odd way to cut costs. Before it commits to a huge expenditure such as this, the Government should take a deep breath and tell us the ultimate objective of its family strategy. Is it to get more mums back into work to ease the labour shortage? If so, government-run baby farms may be a good plan.

But if the objective is to give parents real choice about how to balance work and family, to support a vibrant community sector, or even to improve long-term child wellbeing, this PC proposal may not be the best way to achieve it.

Source. See here for how a similar Canadian scheme did a lot of harm.

Friday, April 18, 2008

British universities being "bought"

Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, has warned the government that donations of hundreds of millions of pounds from Saudi Arabia and powerful Muslim organizations in Pakistan, Indonesia and the Gulf Straits have led to a "dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses". Eight of Britain's leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted more than 236 million pounds sterling, about $460 million, in donations from Muslim organizations, "many of which are known to have ties to extremist groups, some have links to terrorist organizations." The bulk of the donations have come in the past five years during a period when terrorist activities in Britain have increased. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced over the weekend that MI5 was now investigating "42 current terror threats and the possibility of attacks is increasingly real."

Universities that have accepted the money also include the London School of Economics, the City of London, Exeter and Dundee universities. All have a growing number of Muslim students. A major donation has included 20 million pounds sterling from the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to help establish the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, which will be affiliated to the university when it opens next year.

The MI5 claims follow a lengthy investigation that revealed 70 percent of political lectures at the Middle Eastern Center at St. Anthony’s College in Oxford were "implacably hostile to the West and Israel." The MI5 claims are reinforced by Prof. Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University's Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, a think-tank with close links to the Intelligence Services. "Up to 48 universities in Britain have been infiltrated by fundamentalists financed by Muslim groups. The potential threat this poses is obvious to the security of the country," Glees said.

However, Prime Minister Gordon Brown insists it is strategically "important to study Islam." He has authorized one million pounds sterling to be spent at the campuses on a counter radicalization drive.


Homeschooling -- not just for "fundies" anymore

Homeschooling is still stereotypically depicted -- by people who don't have a clue what they're talking about -- as an education option largely reserved for white, conservative religious fundamentalists. I'm fortunate to live in an area where it's a common and accepted means of teaching children, but in much of the country, proud ignorance prevails.

Nevertheless, homeschooling continues to grow in popularity, especially among people not traditionally considered to be prone to pulling their kids from the government schools and trying the DIY approach to education. Take, for example, this interesting article from the Village Voice about African-American homeschoolers in New York City:
Robinson, like a small but growing number of black parents, has chosen to take her son Tau out of the public-school system and teach him on her own (Deion is a cousin's child she's also teaching).

In the 2006–2007 school year, the city's Department of Education says that 3,654 students in New York were homeschooled. Most are white, but a growing number are African-American. Black parents tend to take their children out of the schools for other than religious reasons, and homeschooling groups say black children taught at home are nearly always boys. Like Robinson, some of New York's parents have concluded that the school system is failing the city's black boys, and have elected to teach them at home as an alternative.

That's no surprise. The same arguments for homeschooling that originally appealed to religious Christians and educational progressives can be equally convincing to any parents dissatisfied with what the schooling establishment is inflicting on children. The more people who take their childrens' education into their own hands -- whether by taking on the responsibility themselves or by actively choosing another option -- the stronger the constituency for truly decentralized education will become.


Australia: Useless school response to bullying leads to bigger problems

A QUEENSLAND couple so fed up with their 14-year-old being bullied at school have narrowly avoided jail after bashing their daughter's tormentor. Stephen Lester Baker and Suzane Maree Baker took justice into their own hands when they believed Queensland police and Beenleigh High School failed to act on their complaints about the bullying. The Beenleigh District Court was told yesterday how the pair confronted their daughter's tormentor and repeatedly punched her in the head. The attack - condemned by Judge Ian Dearden - reveals how quickly schoolyard bullying can spiral out of control.

A recent survey of Year 11 students found more than 70 per cent considered bullying a problem in their schools. Education Queensland, teachers' unions and the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens do not keep statistics on school bullying, but most agreed the problem was on the rise as teenagers turned to the internet and mobile phones to target victims.

An Education Queensland spokesman said the department took bullying very seriously. "Every state school must implement a responsible behaviour plan [Wow! a "plan"! Whoopee! No mention of any actual action?] that follows the department's guidelines and policies on bullying, harassment and other discrimination," he said.

Parents and Citizens Metropolitan West president Charles Alder said respect, tolerance and simple defence mechanisms needed to be taught to today's youth. He said victims should ignore unwanted phone or internet messages, and advise parents, teachers and police of any physical attacks.

The court was told the Bakers' attack, which took place in a park on April 3, 2006, came after the parents notified the school and police over the repeated bashing and bullying of their daughter. Prosecutor Nicholas McGhee said the Crown conceded the couple's daughter had been subjected to violent bullying by the girl identified only as Rachel, including an attack in which she bashed the girl's head against a school toilet wall. But Mr McGhee said Baker, 44, and his wife, 41, had acted like disgraceful vigilantes by attacking their daughter's assailant rather than pursuing the matter through police. [But the police were no help!]

He said the issue came to a head when Rachel and the Bakers' daughter became involved in an after school argument, which involved taunts and pushing. After the incident in the park, the Bakers and their daughter drove around the area looking for Rachel and a group of her friends in a bid to resolve the bullying problem. Mr McGhee said Stephen Baker punched Rachel in the head up to four times. "(Baker told Rachel) 'no one hits my daughter'," Mr McGhee told the court. "(Baker) stated he would kill them if they touched her again." Suzane Baker then grabbed Rachel by the hair and punched her in the head up to four times, he said.

Barrister Paul Brown, for Stephen Baker, said his client had become frustrated when neither the school or the police appeared to act on the family's complaints. Barrister Geoff Seaholme, for Suzane Baker, said the mother was also frustrated by the situation and had been the subject of an alleged revenge attack by members of Rachel's family. Mr Seaholme said one of Rachel's family had been charged over an attack on Suzane Baker, during which she received two black eyes. The attack allegedly occurred the day after the assault on Rachel. Rachel and members of her family made a number of disapproving grunts and groans during yesterday's sentencing hearing.

Judge Dearden, in sentencing the Bakers, said the actions of all concerned - the Bakers, Rachel and her family - could best be described as disgraceful and appalling. He said it was clear the actions of Rachel, the Bakers and anyone responsible for the attack on Suzane Baker were criminal and as such should, if they had not already, be referred to police. "Instead of putting (your daughter) in the car and looking for the bully, you should . . . (have been) driving to the police station," he told the Bakers. "The 14-year-old (Rachel) could/may (still) be subjected to criminal offences (if reported to police)." Judge Dearden also gave a forceful warning to both families to try to resolve their differences to avoid establishing a long-term feud between them.

Stephen and Suzane Baker were given wholly suspended jail terms of six and three months respectively.


Kids from poor Australian families still unlikely to go to university

The deadening government schools the poor have to go to are a major reason for that

THOSE from poor families appear to be no more likely to reach university, despite a vast expansion of the sector during the past 15 years, and the reason is social class and weaker school performance feeding low expectations, rather than the rising cost of higher education. This is the conclusion suggested by a 149-page Universities Australia report on equity and participation released today.

Lead author Richard James, from the University of Melbourne, said it was vital to maintain scholarships and other financial measures but added that "money allocated at the point of transition to university isn't going to fix the problem on the larger scale". "To fix the problem we have to fix schooling and improve school achievement levels for people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, their lower rates of school completion and lower academic results at school, which in the early stages makes people start to think going to university is not for them because they won't have the grades," Professor James said.

Students from low SES backgrounds held about 15 per cent of places and this had remained nearly unchanged for 15 years. The expansion of the university sector had lifted the absolute number of these students. They were especially under-represented in the most competitive professions, such as law. As a group, low SES students comprised less than 10 per cent of postgraduate students, the UA study says. The rising cost of higher education, however, did not seem to be a disincentive.

Census data suggested university attendance rates were stable for young people in all socioeconomic groups between 2001 and 2006. "The increased cost of attending university since 1997 does not appear to have had net adverse effects on any of the socioeconomic groups," the report says. "For blue-collar families, household income appears to have little effect on the likelihood that their teenage children will attend university. School results are the major influence on university attendance."

University of Wollongong vice-chancellor Gerard Sutton said he agreed with the James assessment that lack of money was not the main barrier to university. "Universities are doing all we can to encourage people and provide scholarships. It's aspirational," Professor Sutton said. That universities had to hand back more than 1700 places this year showed there was no effective unmet demand.

Professor Sutton said the Government's appointment of Labor MP Maxine McKew to tackle the issue of early childhood development was a significant development. His university was revamping its early childhood program to improve the number and quality of teachers. Professor Sutton said he and his counterparts in the sector remained concerned about student poverty and the amount of paid work students had to do, which kept them away from their studies.

Professor James backed a policy response that would allow students to reduce the time they had to spend in paid work.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Desperate British parents to give up their daughter for adoption so she can go to a better school

More testimony to the appalling state of many British government schools

A desperate couple are willing to give their daughter up if it means that she can go her first choice of secondary school. James and Stella Coils say they'll let their 10-year-old daughter Rebecca live with a relative if it means she can go to her favoured school. The Coils are considering transferring guardianship of their child to their daughter's great-aunt, Mary Holland, after being denied a place at Manor College of Technology in Hartlepool.

Holland, lives only half a mile from the Owton Manor Lane school - directly in its catchment area. She is happy to go along with plans and be Rebecca's carer, saying that she feels Hartlepool Borough Council has let her family down. The family has been left distraught after the council allocated Rebecca, a year-six Eldon Grove Primary School pupil, a place at St Hild's C of E Secondary School in Hartlepool. The school is more than five miles away from their home in Seaton Carew.

The couple filled in the selection form around two months ago listing in order of preference the town's six secondary schools. But they were stunned when not only did they miss out on their first choice but were offered a place in their fourth choice school. Mr Coil, 34, said: "We only picked St Hild's because we had to pick schools on the form, we never wanted her to go there. "The school is on the other side of town and it is five miles away. She would have to get two buses to get there."

The parents have appealed against the decision but Holland, who works for Orange, said that if she is not allocated another place he would take the drastic action. He said: "We have considered putting her in the guardianship of Stella's aunty who lives in the catchment area for Manor, or we would home-school her. "That would be worst case scenario but we would do it. Her education will shape her into the person she becomes and we are not happy with the choice of school that we have been given."

Mrs Holland, 54, who lives with her husband Brian, 49, said: "It's a big ask but her education is very important so I would do it. "I'm gobsmacked, It would be a shame that four or five days out of the week her parents would miss out on her upbringing."

A council spokesman said: "Under the allocations process, parents are asked to list a minimum of three schools in order of preference and we do our very best to meet one of those preferences based on the number of places available. "However, if there are more applications for a school than there are places as there are this year in the case of Manor, English Martyrs and High Tunstall, we make allocations for community schools and foundation schools in accordance with the published admissions arrangement. "As with every application we have tried to do our best for Mr and Mrs Coils within the terms of the published admissions arrangements, and we have also advised them of their right to appeal."


Racial discrimination flourishing at the University of California

As we know from the Jim Crow days, it is marvellous how effective a nod and a wink can be. Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

The new University of California admissions statistic are now out, and UCLA is pleased as punch to announce that the "holistic" system it devised to admit more blacks and Hispanics (and, correspondingly, fewer Asians and whites) actually admitted more blacks and Hispanics and fewer Asians and whites.

The University of California system as a whole released a truck load of data, including the number of admits by ethnicity. Unless I missed it, however, no data was released revealing the ratio of admits to applications by race and ethnicity. That is, from this massive data dump it is still impossible to compare (unless I missed it, in which case someone will quickly set me straight) the percentage of white or Asian applicants who were offered admission to the percentage of black or Hispanic applicants who were offered admission. I wonder why?

Nevertheless, the information contained in this data is sufficient to dispel a number of myths. For example, take a look at this chart showing the freshman admits at each campus of the university system from Fall 1997 (the last class admitted under the racially preferential system barred, in theory, by Prop. 209) through the class just admitted for Fall 2008.

It reveals, contrary to what supporters of race preferences argue in each state where they are threatened with extinction by civil rights initiatives, that the number and proportion of "underrepresented minorities" is greater now than it was in 1997 at seven of the nine campuses of the university system (not counting Merced, which did not exist in 1997). At UCLA, along with Berkeley one of the two most selective, the Fall 2008 proportion of "underrepresented minorities" is 19.4%, compared with 21.2% in 1997. At un-holistic Berkeley, the Fall 2008 proportion is 17.7%, compared to 25.2% in 1997.

Now take a look at this chart showing the freshman admits by race and ethnicity for the system as a whole. It may have the most surprising data of all. Again comparing 1997, the last classes admitted under preferential admissions, with Fall 2008, we find the following:
* the proportion of white admits fell from 40.8% to 34.4%
* the proportion of Asian admits rose from 33% to 34%
* the proportion of URM admits rose from 18.6% to 25.1%.

These statistics do raise at least one question they don't answer: Since whites are now 43% of the California population but only 34.4% of the entering freshmen in the University of California system next fall, why are they not categorized as an "underrepresented minority"?

Major Australian media outlet supports Leftist thought control

SINISTER (adj) 1. Suggestive of evil; looking malignant or villainous. 2. Wicked or criminal. 3.An evil omen.

"Sinister" was the word chosen by The Sydney Morning Herald to describe the campaign launched by the Young Liberals at university campuses under the slogan "Education, not indoctrination". Remove the SMH filter and here's the story: a group of Young Liberals is concerned that students are sometimes forced to endure indoctrination by university academics. Their aim is to encourage freedom of thought and intellectual pluralism on campus. Some may say their goal is naive. Universities have always been bastions of left-wing thought. But sinister?

The problem, says the Herald, is that the campaign "is a sinister echo to one waged by conservatives on the other side of the world". Now we get to the heart of it. The other side of the world is, of course, the US. Ergo, any US export - save Al Gore propaganda - is inherently suspect. It is a shame the Herald did not provide more facts. The pursuit of academic freedom in the US over the past four years makes for riveting, not sinister, reading. And it's not a peculiarly American problem.

In the spring of 2003 David Horowitz, a prominent conservative writer, founded Students for Academic Freedom, a group committed to the simple idea that "academic freedom is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech". He proposed an academic bill of rights to promote intellectual diversity at universities. As The Wall Street Journal said, Horowitz was asking campus hierarchies to foster "something it is already supposed to believe in: academic freedom".

Hundreds of chapters of the group sprang up on campuses across the US as thousands of students began to rebel against the ideological monoculture they confronted at universities. Examples of bias poured in: course lists comprised solely of radical left texts; essay assignments asking students to explain why "President Bush is a war criminal"; a history professor at Duke University professing "I don't have a bias against anyone ... except Republicans"; another professor informing a Kuwaiti Muslim immigrant that he would need "regular psychotherapy" for writing an essay that defended America's founding fathers and the US Constitution; another student whose economics professor demanded he drop out of his introduction to micro-economics class or face harassment charges for praising Milton Friedman and free market ideals.

Horowitz blindsided the critics by also supporting Michael Weisner, a former student at a California university who complained about a conservative professor. This was no purge of left-wing academics. As Horowitz wrote in 2006, the campaign was "about intellectual diversity, about respect for students who dissent and about protecting their right to draw their own conclusions on controversial matters".

Back in Australia, on a much smaller scale, the Young Liberals and their "Education, not indoctrination" campaign is under way. And it's not hard to find examples of the latter occurring at universities and in schools. Laura (not her real name) is a 50-year-old academic who has spent 15 years teaching trainee primary school teachers at a university in Sydney. She told The Australian she worked side by side in a classroom with an academic who tried to indoctrinate first-year students. She won't name names for fear of recriminations. She says that her colleague, who teaches social science in the education faculty, is intent on changing his students' attitudes to society. He encouraged them to go on demonstrations. Each week, his office door would feature a new anti-Howard cartoon. He voiced anti-government views in the classroom, all the while ignoring the content of the syllabus.

"Some students came to me complaining about exams because they were concerned that if they didn't answer the question with this person's viewpoint, they would be penalised," Laura says. Whereas Laura was teaching her young charges to keep their political views out of the classroom, her colleague believed it was his role "to change their views and promote politics in the classroom".

Jamie, an 18-year-old student at the University of Sydney, saw teachers doing precisely that last year during her HSC. She told The Australian her legal studies teacher at her school in northern Sydney "found it very difficult to give an unbiased perspective, especially when we were studying Work Choices. And I was told if I didn't write an essay that was anti-WC, it would not do very well. One day (the teacher) walked into the classroom saying: "I love Kevin Rudd." I said to her a couple of times: "But, Miss, you shouldn't be putting so much of your opinion into this." Her teacher told her it was impossible to keep opinion out of legal studies. Says Jamie: "I don't think that's correct. Whatever (the teacher's) opinion, it should not be brought intoteaching."

The same thing happened in her HSC English class. At election time last year, when her HSC class studied George Orwell's 1984, Jamie says her teacher "would frequently compare John Howard to Big Brother and say liberal policies were aimed at mind control". Jamie (she won't reveal her surname because she maintains close ties with her former school) is now a Young Liberal. She says: "I understand the bias my teachers had for their own reasons. And it doesn't offend me. But I think education should be about giving students the skills to come to their own conclusions."

If the US is any guide, such examples of intellectual bias are not uncommon. They deserve to be aired. Unless you are a Green, in which case you kind of like the cushy status quo. Perhaps that is why John Kaye, the NSW Greens education spokesman, described the Young Liberals campaign for an academic bill of rights as akin to McCarthyism. Notice how the same fellows who are vocal supporters a wide-ranging bill of rights for the rest of the community are horrified at the notion of an academic bill of rights on campus. What are they afraid of?

By all means, let's push for an academic bill of rights. The results in the US speak for themselves. Legislative inquiries in state after state exposed the lack of intellectual pluralism on campus. But the aim should be, as it was in the US, to get university administrators to take this issue seriously. Horowitz says that legislation was never the real aim. His purpose was "to wake up" university administrators so that they would "promote respect for intellectual diversity in the same way they now promote respect for other kinds of diversity". It has happened in the US. It should be happening here. Hardly sinister stuff.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

'Blasting Bush OK, but don't criticize terrorists'

A college in Michigan has decided to allow harsh criticisms of President Bush to be posted on university property, but has banned criticism of violent terrorists and abortion, according to an educational rights group that is challenging the school's practice. The issue involves Lake Superior State University in Sault St. Marie, which has ordered Professor Richard Crandall, a nearly 40-year veteran of teaching, to remove the expressions of opinion from his office door and practice his academic freedom with "responsibility."

"LSSU is displaying serious disrespect for faculty rights by demanding that Professor Crandall remove materials about public concerns from his office door," said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "The political double standard in this case is striking."

Crandall has been teaching at LSSU since 1969, and has adorned his office door – as have other professors – with various political cartoons and postings. His, however, were all of a conservative leaning, FIRE noted.

A cartoon showing comparing the number of abortion deaths in the U.S. to the population of the blacked-out states

His postings have included a photograph of President Ronald Reagan, a cartoon mocking Vice President Cheney's hunting accident in 2006, cartoons addressing Islamic terrorism and abortion, among others.

But the university said it had received a complaint about the postings, and while keeping details about the concern secret, on March 12, 2007, ordered Crandall to take down the display, threatening him with "insubordination" if he failed to comply with the censorship. Crandall acquiesced to the restrictions imposed by Provost Bruce Harger, but then turned to FIRE for help in restoring his right of free expression.

FIRE wrote to Betty Youngblood, who was president of LSSU at the time, suggesting that such actions constituted viewpoint discrimination since other professors were allowed their cartoons. "An outside law firm responded to FIRE on behalf of the university, insisting that LSSU has not infringed on Crandall's First Amendment rights and absurdly declaring that Crandall's displays would somehow threaten the civil rights of LSSU community members," FIRE said.

A listing of the conservative's point of view on the U.S. military

"LSSU's embarrassingly poor grasp of the law and its obvious viewpoint discrimination against Professor Crandall are clear indicators that, like too many of America's universities, LSSU is ready to abandon fundamental rights in the name of making some students or faculty feel 'comfortable.' Yet the right to free expression exists to allow people to challenge the beliefs of others – even if this leads to discomfort," said Robert Shibley, vice president for FIRE. "It's time for LSSU to acknowledge the Professor Crandall has the same right to express himself as any other LSSU professor," he said.

A cartoon noting the violence of radical Islamists

The school had warned the professor: "The materials that you posted were inappropriate and you are not to post these materials or any similar materials on university property, including both the door and the wall surrounding the door... Removal of materials followed by replacement with new materials at a later date constitutes insubordination."

But FIRE noted such actions are common, "including at LSSU." "Other professors on Crandall's floor have posted materials such as a Far Side cartoon, a bumper sticker reading 'Honor Veterans; No More War,' and a twelve-point list outlining how President Bush's election was a result of corruption, among many other expressions of personal beliefs. As those professors have been granted the right to post materials as they see fit – most of which are not germane to the subjects those professors teach – so should Crandall, a political conservative, be allowed to post items reflecting his ideological viewpoints," FIRE said.

Another professor's posting that criticizes President Bush and Vice President Cheney

"The speech in question here – a form of political commentary comprising the very heart of the expression the First Amendment exists to protect-simply does not meet the exacting demands of this precise and well-established legal standard," FIRE said.


Randy Principles: First Grade outrage

By Mark Steyn

Is American public education a form of child abuse? A week ago, the Washington Post's Brigid Schulte reported on a student named Randy Castro who attends school in Woodbridge, Va. Last November at recess he slapped a classmate on her bottom. The teacher took him to the principal. School officials wrote up an incident report and then called the police.

Randy Castro is in the First Grade. But, at the ripe old age of six, he's been declared a sex offender by Potomac View Elementary School. He's guilty of sexual harassment, and the incident report will remain on his record for the rest of his schooldays - and maybe beyond. Maybe it'll be one of those things that just keeps turning up on background checks forever and ever:

Perhaps 34-year-old Randy Castro will apply for a job and at his prospective employer's computer up will pop his sexual-harasser status yet again. Or maybe he'll be able to keep it hushed up until he's 57 and runs for governor of Virginia and suddenly his political career self-detonates when the sordid details of his Spitzeresque sexual pathologies are revealed. But that's what he is now: Randy Castro, sex offender. The title of the incident report spells out his crime: "Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive." The curiously placed comma might also be offensive were it not that school officials are having to spend so much of their energies grappling with the First Grade sexual-harassment epidemic they can no longer afford to waste time acquiring peripheral skills such as punctuation.

Randy Castro was not apprehended until he was six, so who knows how long his reign of sexual terror lasted? Sixteen months ago, a school official in Texas accused a four-year-old of sexual harassment after the boy was observed pressing his face into the breasts of a teacher's aide when he hugged her before boarding the school bus. Fortunately, the school took decisive action and suspended the sick freak. By the way, is that the first recorded use in the history of the English language of the phrase "accused a four-year-old of sexual harassment"? Well, it won't be the last: In the state of Maryland last year, 16 kindergartners were suspended for sexual harassment, as were three pre-schoolers.

School officials declined to comment to the Washington Post on Master Castro's case on the grounds of student confidentiality. However, they did say that the decision to call the cops was "the result of a misunderstanding." And it's not like he was Tasered or anything.

When school officials call 911 because of a "misunderstanding" with a six-year-old, the fault is theirs: He's a kid; and they're school officials who are supposedly trained and handsomely remunerated to know how to deal with children. Incidentally, the phrase "school officials" isn't quite as rare as "37-year-old teacher's aide accuses four-year old of sexual harassment" but it would still ring foreign to your average old-school schoolmarm in a one-room schoolhouse. Back then schools had schoolchildren and schoolteachers and that was pretty much it. But now grade schools are full of "officials," just like the Department of Homeland Security.

So who does get a little breast and butt action in American schools these days? Obviously not your four-year-old gropers and six-year-old predators: The system's doing an admirable job of cracking down on those perverts. No, if you want to get up close and personal with body parts you've got to be a "school official." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recently heard oral arguments in the case of Savana Redding. Back in 2003, Savana was an Eighth Grader at Safford Middle School in Safford, Arizona, when the vice principal, Kerry Wilson, "acting on a tip," discovered a fellow student to have a handful of ibuprofen tablets in her pocket. The other girl said she got them from Savana, who denied it. She had no tablets in her own pockets or in her backpack.

Vice Principal Wilson, whose mind works in interesting ways, then decided that Savana might be hiding the ibuprofen in her cleavage or her crotch. So, without contacting the girl's parents, he ordered a school official to strip-search Savana. She was obliged to expose her breasts and "her pelvic area." If Vice Principal Wilson were a four-year old pre-schooler who'd been involved in a stunt like that, he'd now be a registered sex offender for life. But fortunately he's a "school official" so if he decides to apply search techniques associated with international narcotics traffic he pretty much has a free hand to do so. After all, ibuprofen is serious stuff. As Reason's Jacob Sullum put it, "It's a good thing the school took swift action, before anyone got unauthorized relief from menstrual cramps."

The policies of these "school officials" are dignified by the name of "zero tolerance." "Zero sanity" would be a more accurate description. One day we'll look back at this period of government-instituted madness and wonder why those entrusted with the care of minors (or, to be more accurate, those who enjoy a de facto state monopoly over the care of minors) were unable to do what teachers in civilized societies have been able to do throughout human history - exercise individual human judgment. This week Michelle Obama called for Americans to pony up even more dough for their public school system. The United States already spends more per student than any other developed nation except Switzerland, and at least the Swiss have something to show for it. By any reasonable measure, at least a third of the cash dumped into American schools is entirely wasted. And, if we simply shipped every youngster to boarding school in the Alps instead, the kindergartners might have a sporting chance of making it to Second Grade before being designated as sexual abusers.

But I don't expect Michelle Obama to see it like that. Last week, an Obama delegate was revealed to have told her next door neighbor's kids to come down from the tree and quit playing "like monkeys." Unfortunately for her, they were African American, so she was "ticketed" for racist speech by the Carpentersville police, and, after issuing the usual solemn statements deploring such decisive remarks, Senator Obama removed the delegate from his campaign, had her encased in a cement overcoat and lowered into the Chicago River. He, too, operates a "zero tolerance" policy. Amid the debris of human lives caught up in these idiocies, you can also find the ruins of an indispensable element of civilized society: a sense of proportion.


Australia: Desperation to find teachers

The article below uses the rather implausible excuse that many potential teachers would rather be miners. What they omit to mention is the unattractivesness of teaching politically correct rubbish in undisciplined classes

Before he has even finished his university degree, Michael Briggs is signed up for a six-figure salary in his new job - not as a lawyer or dentist, and not in the mines, but as a high school science teacher. Under a scholarship program unveiled by the West Australian Government, Mr Briggs will receive a $60,000 lump sum on top of his regular teaching salary. In exchange, he will teach in a country school for four years, receiving half his bonus payment now, and the rest at the end of his contract.

The bonus $60,000 is paid on top of a first-year teaching salary that is worth more than $50,000, and any other allowances, which can be worth almost $20,000 depending on the posting. The bonus can be paid in a lump sum or, as in Mr Briggs's case, as a fortnightly payment. This brings his starting salary to at least $110,000, an amount few teachers in government schools achieve. The $19million teaching scholarship program is the latest scheme launched by the state Government to attract teachers into its schools, particularly in rural and remote areas.

While all states and territories are suffering from a shortage of teachers, the problem is worse in Western Australia, with prospective and even practising teachers giving up school-work for the big salaries in mining.

Mr Briggs, 32, said his decision to enter teaching was prompted by having children and wanting a secure career and job satisfaction rather than the enticement of extra money. "I could have done a six-week course and become a crane driver or similar on six figures in the mines but it is just not challenging intellectually," he said. "This is the job I want to do. I would be doing it anyway, without the extra money." ...

State Education Minister Mark McGowan said the teacher scholarship program had received 346 applications to date, with 32 signing up for country service and the $60,000 bonus. Mr McGowan said the scholarships were designed to attract final-year teaching students to regional schools and to attract teachers into areas of serious shortages, such as maths, science, design and technology.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Prof to student: Keep the faith, lose the grade

Teacher thinks it's his job to get class to change personal beliefs

A community college in New York has been presented with a demand letter from the American Center for Law and Justice to halt a professor's classroom practices that allegedly have damaged at least one student - so far. The letter from the ACLJ targets Suffolk County Community College and will be the prelude to a federal lawsuit if the issue isn't resolved, the organization said. At issue is a professor's demand that students "change their own personal viewpoints or state that they are unsure of whether their own personal beliefs are correct" on religious issues, according to the letter. That is an expression of hostility to religion, the letter explains.

The ACLJ said it is representing Gina DeLuca, a student who has been punished with lower grades and has been labeled "closed-minded" by a professor, who remained unidentified in the letter, because he demands that students acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist in order to participate in his philosophy class, which is required for graduation.

"The ACLJ has sent a letter demanding that the school end its discriminatory actions against DeLuca or face a federal lawsuit," the organization's announcement said. "This is another terrible example of how some in the academic world believe it's acceptable to violate the First Amendment rights afforded to all students, especially students who hold Christian beliefs," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.

"The actions by this professor clearly reflect hostility toward religion. To require students to acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist in order to participate in a class is not only wrong, but clearly violates the constitutional rights of students who hold religious beliefs," he said. "Unless this school takes corrective action, we will go to federal court to protect the rights of our client."

In the letter to Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi, the ACLJ explained the problem started when DeLuca took the required philosophy class. She's been a student at the school for two years, and holds a 3.9 grade point average. She even got good grades in the philosophy class "until her religious beliefs became known," the organization said. "The grades she received on class assignments dropped significantly once God and religion became prominent topics of class discussion and her refusal to compromise her Christian faith became apparent," the ACLJ said. "This is because the course goes beyond merely requiring knowledge of prominent philosophers and their arguments or ways of thinking, which Gina does not object to."

In addition to the lower grades, the ACLJ said, the professor has called the student "closed-minded," "uncritical," "hurtful," and "blinded by belief." "While a college professor may encourage students to be informed about viewpoints and arguments that differ from their own, it is inappropriate - and unconstitutional - for a public college professor to make passing a required course (and thus graduation) contingent upon a student's willingness to express agreement with philosophical viewpoints that conflict with her religious beliefs," the ACLJ said.

The school now has a deadline of April 14 to meet the requirements of the letter, the ACLJ said. The law firm that specializes in constitutional issues also has launched an online petition to demand the college discontinue its denial of the student's First Amendment rights.


American missionaries in Germany forced to move

Blasted for refusing 'to give their children over to the state school system'

A resolution has been reached that will allow a homeschooling family of missionaries from the United States to continue their work planting new Christian churches across Europe, although they won't be allowed to remain in Germany, according to a human rights group working on the case of the family of Clint Robinson. German officials had ordered the family deported because they chose to homeschool their children, which is not allowed in that nation, but officials with the International Human Rights Group now have told WND a resolution has been reached.

"What they've done is this: they've given the family a quasi-legal status. They don't have a visa as they would typically, but they have an assurance they can stay until the end of the year and homeschool, and they're not going to have a black mark on their record," said IHRG spokesman Joel Thornton. He said the family expected to be at the German location only two years anyway, and that would be up in March of 2009, so plans already are being made for them to establish residency in another country where homeschooling is allowed.

German officials had ordered the family deported because of their homeschooling. Officials with the IHRG both in the United States and Germany worked on their case through administrative channels during 2007, and eventually the case went to court. There, the judges ruled that the administrative procedure hadn't been followed properly, and the case was returned to administrators, who eventually reached the agreement for the Robinsons to remain through 2008 and then leave Germany, Thornton said. The family had moved to Nurnberg in 2007 to expand a German church's services in the English language, and that has been accomplished, Thornton said.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, the world's largest homeschool advocacy organization, earlier had documented the story of Clint Robinson, his wife Susan and their three children, who arrived in Germany in March 2007 after they sold their possessions in the U.S. and took on an assignment as missionaries. When they arrived, they applied for a residency permit, required by the government. But local authorities immediately reacted to the family's plans to homeschool their own children, noting, "they were already aware that these missionaries refuse to give their children over to the state school system."

"German officials appear to be more determined than ever to rid their country of influences that may contribute to the rise of what they call 'Parallelgesellschaften,' parallel societies," the HSLDA said in a statement at the time. "Never mind that Germany has hundreds of thousands of genuinely truant youth hanging around street corners; school officials have determined that parents diligently educating their children at home are a greater danger to German society."

As WND reported earlier, a German judge had refused to give permission for the Robinsons to remain unless their children were enrolled in the local public schools. But the Christian family could not accept that. "The German education system is very hostile to devout Christian faith," Thornton said. "Their health education in public middle schools is very explicit regarding human reproduction. It is often nothing short of pornographic, even in the lower grades. Their science curriculum is very heavily weighted in its discussions of evolution. Also, there is a lot of teaching on occult practices."

Homeschooling has been in illegal in Germany since the days of Hitler, but the crackdowns seem to be tightening. In recent months homeschoolers have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, had custody of their children taken away, had their homes threatened with seizure and in one case, that of Melissa Busekros, had a team of SWAT officers arrive on a doorstep with orders to seize her, "if necessary by force."

The Robinsons had been given a Dec. 20, 2007, deadline to leave, but that later was extended. The family's original deportation order was handed down in August, with a deadline 45 days out. Then in September, a Germany organization launched by HSLDA filed an appeal on behalf of the Robinson family, delaying the deportation. "The behavior of German authorities against families who homeschool goes against the very fiber of what free and democratic societies stand for - that governments exist to protect the rights of people not to take them away," Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the HSLDA, said earlier. "In Germany it appears that the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government do not care to protect the human right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children which includes the right to homeschool - a view shared by nearly all other western civilized countries."

WND has reported on several families who fled Germany because of issues over homeschooling, including one family whose members fled to Iran for the relative freedom they would have there.

Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole." Drautz said homeschool students' test results may be as good as for those in school, but "school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens."


Surge in children taught at home in NSW (Australia)

Given the low standards and bullying at many government schools, it is a wonder that there are so few homeschoolers. I guess most parents don't have a choice

The number of students registered for home schooling has jumped by 15 per cent in the past 12 months as more parents desert the NSW Government education system. More than 1630 students were registered for home schooling in 2007, up from 1417 the year before and 1419 in 2005. However, experts say the real number of students being home schooled across the State is more than 3000 as thousands of families are unwilling to register and join the State Government's teaching syllabus.

Home Education Association vice-president Cathy Chisari said she estimates the real number of students being home educated could be double the official figure. She said parents didn't want the State Government involved in the education of their children, so they refused to sign up. "A lot of parents don't want the NSW Department of Education involved," she said, "so they just don't register."

Ms Chisari, whose two children are home schooled, said parents involved in home education were dissatisfied with the State's school system. She said some parents refused to register their children as they don't want to have to follow the Department of Education's curriculum.

Ms Chisari's lessons don't involve a classroom and often include a trip to the park, the local library or the city's museums and galleries. "The biggest reason parents do this is because they're not happy with the school system," she said. "People are feeling like they want to be in charge of their children's education. They feel they can home educate without the State Government telling them what to do. They don't want someone controlling when and where things are taught."

State Opposition Education spokesperson Andrew Stoner said parents had lost faith in public education and were turning to private schools or home education as an alternative. "The main problem is that public schools have been starved of funds for infrastructure and resources," Mr Stoner said.

Ms Chisari, who withdrew her son from a government school after he was bullied. said home education had lost its stigma and was no longer associated with "hippies".

The above article by ANDREW CHESTERTON appeared in the Sydney "Sunday Telegraph" of 13 April, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Corrupt Mexican education

During a five-day visit to the United States in February 2008, Mexican President Felipe Calderon lectured Washington on immigration reforms that should be accomplished. No doubt he will reprise this performance when he meets with President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New Orleans for the annual North American Leaders Summit on April 20-21, 2008. At a speech before the California State Legislature in Sacramento, the visiting head-of-state vowed that he was working to create jobs in Mexico and tighten border security.

He conceded that illegal immigration costs Mexico "a great deal," describing the immigrants leaving the country as "our bravest, our youngest, and our strongest people." He insisted that Mexico was doing the United States a favor by sending its people abroad. "Americans benefit from immigration. The immigrants complement this economy; they do not displace workers; they have a strong work ethic; and they contribute in taxes more money than they receive in social benefits."

While wrong on the tax issue, he failed to address the immigrants' low educational attainment. This constitutes not only a major barrier to assimilation should they seek to become American citizens, but also means that they have the wrong skills, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Ours is not the economy of the nineteenth century, when we needed strong backs to slash through forests, plough fields, lay rails, and excavate mines. The United States of the twenty-first century, which already abounds in low-skilled workers, requires men and women who can fill niches in a high-tech economy that must become more competitive in the global marketplace.

Most newcomers from south of the Rio Grande have had access to an extremely low level of education, assuming they have even received instruction in basic subjects. Poverty constitutes an important factor in their condition, as well as the failure of lower-class families to emphasize education in contrast to, say, similarly situated Asian families. These elements aside, Mexico's public schools are an abomination - to the point that the overwhelming majority of middle-class parents make whatever sacrifices are necessary to enroll their youngsters in private schools where the tuition may equal $11,000 to $12,000 annually.

The primary explanation for Mexico's poor schools lies in the colonization of the public-education system by the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE, according to its initials in Spanish), a hugely corrupt 1.4 million-member organization headed by political powerhouse Elba Esther Gordillo Morales. Rather than lecture American lawmakers on what bills to pass, Calder¢n would do well to devote himself to eliminating this Herculean barrier to the advancement of his own people within their own country.

This Backgrounder will (1) examine Mexico's educational levels, (2) discuss the enormous influence of the SNTE's leader Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, (3) focus on corruption in the educational sector, and (4) indicate reforms that the administration of President Calder¢n should consider.

Mexico's educational system teems with ugly facets, none more alarming than the high dropout rate. Roughly 10 percent of those who finish elementary school never complete middle school, either because their families cannot afford to send them, they drop out to earn money, or there is simply no room for them. "There is a bottleneck in the system," says Eduardo V‚lez Bustillo, education specialist on Latin America at the World Bank. "Quality is bad at every level, but middle school is a crisis point because that's where the demand is highest," he adds. Although Mexico has made significant strides in recent years by increasing overall enrollment and boosting investment in education, the country still trails other developed nations in most proficiency standards.

In 2006 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted its triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among ninth-graders. As indicated in Tables 1, 2, and 3, Mexican students placed at the bottom in reading and mathematics among youngsters in the 30 OECD member nations. Of the 27 non-OECD countries assessed, Mexico fell below Chile, China (Taipei), Croatia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Israel, Romania, Russia, and Slovenia in three areas. Other measures, including student hours in class, show Mexico as an underachiever.

The elementary school day provides for only four hours of instruction in an outmoded curriculum that has been handed down from generation to generation and is zealously guarded by the change-averse SNTE. In lieu of creative approaches to stimulate students, teachers stress rote learning and harsh discipline as evinced in their mantra: "Be Quiet, Pay Attention, and Work in your own seat!" In indigenous areas, instructors sometimes use students to perform menial chores for them. This same ethos of submissiveness to strong, hierarchical control characterizes the teachers' relationship to their union.

Much more here

"What We Have Here Is A Failure To Educate" And Other Kinds Of Child Abuse

One of the most accurate reflections of the state of health and fitness of a nation, culture or society is the state of health of it's educational system. The more education a nation, culture or society affords it's students, the more healthy that nation, culture or society. The more a nation, culture or society demands good education, the more advanced that society and culture are. Education is also a barometer of the state of freedom within a a nation, culture or society. The more freedom a citizen has to learn and explore, the freer that society is.

Education is not about ideologies or specific beliefs. Education is about the freedom to explore, be it of the armchair or field variety. In a healthy society, education exists along side ideology and specific beliefs. There are Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Jewish universities where religious beliefs and instruction go hand in hand with the experience of learning and the exploration of new ideas. This is no small distinction. Religious institutions have contributed mightily to the great body of knowledge that has benefited all mankind. Conversely, in an unhealthy or undeveloped societies, education devolves and becomes becomes less about learning and exploration and more about indoctrination. Dr Sanity, in The Evolution Of Education Into Indoctrination:
Hegel, building on Kant, Rosseau and Fichte, would go on to write, "It must be further understood that all the worth which the human being possesses-all the spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State."

If you can convince children that objective reality is an illusion; that A does not equal A; that black is white; and that good is bad; if you can make them accept that everything is subjective and relative; then you have successfully breathed new life into doctrines that by all objective measures and standards led to the death and misery of millions of people. Through the careful manipulation of language, everything can be distorted, without the messy need to resort to facts, logic, or reason.

For the children of postmodernism, what matters is not truth or falsity-only the effectiveness of the language used. Lies, distortions, ad hominem attacks; attempts to silence opposing views-all are strategies that are perfectly satisfactory if they achieve the desired effect-i.e., furthering the collectivist agenda. Ideas and reason make way for reification of feelings; and freedom is replaced by thought control and preservation of "self-esteem" at all costs.

The postmodern assault as it is used by the new totalitarians of the 21st century is a four-pronged attack to undermine

- Objective reality
- Reason and the rational debate of ideas
- Individual freedom and freedom of thought and speech
- Progress and capitalism

The strategies used are:

- The distortion of language and meaning to undermine the individual's perception of reality;
- The use of direct or threatened physical violence to suppress speech and individual freedom;
- Politically "correct" thought control and cultural relativism to undermine reason and rational debate;
- The promotion of environmental hysteria to undermine progress, industrialization and capitalism

Most of `who we are,' as a nation, society and culture is determined by the kind of education we receive. If the education we receive serves freedom and equality, then we are a free people. If the education we receive undermines freedom and equality, then were are slaves, no more than chattel for those who would use and abuse us for their own needs and agendas.

Freedom cannot coexist with conditions that reinforce or tolerate oppressive and repressive behaviors, ideologies or beliefs. It is because we have allowed for and tolerated behaviors that are abhorrent, all in the name of pluralism, that we find ourselves in a `clash of behaviors.' What was once unacceptable in our society has now become tolerable because we have created conditions where oppression and repression are considered acceptable forms of political expression, equal to our own. See also Dr Sanity, The Corruption Of The Curriculum:

Make no mistake about it, what many teachers today are doing is indoctrinating their students minds into an unquestioning obedience to the collective. This they cannot do unless they also can manage to corrupt even the hard sciences with their dogma.

There can be no area where a child is allowed to think freely and without the proper political perspective.

While our popular culture refrains sensitively from portraying Islamofascists as villains in movies out of political correctness (yet another aspect of socialism's quest for "social justice"); it does not hesitate to make businessmen evil and malignant oppressors of the innocent. Individualism, the pursuit of profit, and private property is always bad and everyone must bow to the will of the collective.

One very harmful result of this sorry educational situation is that there are few people-even among those who stalwartly defend the free market, who understand and appreciate the essential morality of capitalism. Certainly our children, taught by ideological purists like the ones above who are leftover from the 20th century debacle of socialist/communist tyranny-never even have a chance to rationally consider any ideas not approved by their aggressively collectivist teachers, so intent at quashing those aspects of human nature they don't like.

This is child abuse, pure and simple. It is indoctrination. It is the willful manipulation of young minds which cannot never be allowed to develop even the capability of thinking for themselves. And these perverts call it "social justice."

The snowball effect has led to the inevitable. There exists now have a class of people who share the same views and ideologies as those we find repulsive, going as far as to call for renunciation of the very things that make us free. They openly offer vociferous support of those who call for our destruction.

Immigration is redefining the kind of society we live in, That is not necessarily a bad thing. This nation was built by immigrants and would not be what it is today if were not for the `wretched refuse' that blessed these shores.

It is also true that the immigrants that came before are very different than the immigrants who are arriving today. This is very true of Europe and that truth is often played out on the nightly news. The mass influx or Arabs world immigrants has changed the Continent forever.


British education boss on ropes over entry to faith schools

Ed Balls, the children's secretary, has been forced to soften his demands that faith schools change their admissions policies. Jim Knight, Balls's deputy, moved to defuse the row when he told a delegation from Jewish schools that ministers would consider changing the legal code governing admissions to "maintain the concept of equity whilst meeting the need to clarify how we define the ethos of [a religious school]". Religious groups claimed they were unfairly singled out by Balls when he accused dozens of schools of breaching the code, which is designed to prevent "backdoor selection" of middle-class children.

Those at the meeting last Thursday said Knight also talked of changing laws that prevent oversubscribed schools from admitting children only of their own faith, saying: "It is important that you [Jewish schools] preserve your ethos" and "are able to promote strong family values". The hour-long meeting, held at the offices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London, was described by Winston Pickett, a spokesman for the board, as a "frank and open interchange".

Michael Gove, the shadow children's secretary, described the concessions by Balls and Knight as "not a total retreat, but definitely a climb-down". "There was a miscalculation and an acknowledgment they had to retreat because they did not have their facts straight," he said. "For ideological reasons, though, they are still intent on making schools the villains in the admissions process."

The row erupted earlier when Balls accused dozens of schools from Manchester, Northamptonshire and Barnet, north London, of breaking the code. He claimed some were "asking parents to commit to making financial contributions as a condition of admission", putting off poor families. Ministers said the abuse was a national issue and "shocking", although they were able to name only six schools that linked payments to admissions. Most of the accused schools turned out to be religious and Balls was accused of a "witch hunt" to pander to the left, many of whom see faith schools as middle class strongholds.

The attack on Balls was joined last night by Frank Field, the reformist Labour MP, who called the criticism of faith schools "incomprehensible ... near-criminal" and "a rant" designed to position the schools secretary for the next leadership contest. He called on Gordon Brown to "rein him in".

Parts of Balls' claims came unstuck last weekend when it emerged that only about a third of parents at some of the schools made the voluntary payments. They are intended to subsidise religious education, security and refurbishments, but it is illegal to link them to admissions. It also emerged that many of the admissions criteria criticised by Balls's officials had been drawn up before the code came into force last year and had already been amended.

Although most schools have now changed their codes to meet the deadline on Tuesday, religious groups are particularly angry that they are not allowed to ask parents whether they support a school's ethos. They argue that this information is vital to preserve a school's distinctive character. Labour's code bans it as it may be interpreted as a request for financial support. It is also seen to favour articulate parents. "It has become absurd, it has come down to arguing over one person's interpretation of the word `support' against another's," said one Catholic head teacher, adding: "They should think hard before they pick a fight with us over angels dancing on pin-heads."

Knight said yesterday: "The Board of Deputies and the government are committed to ending unfair admissions practices . . . we look forward to working with them."

The government is not relaxing its approach to enforcement of the code. Philip Hunter, the schools adjudicator, has written to every education authority demanding signed assurances that they will force schools to comply with the code. Hunter has also taken on a team of barristers to vet policies and told councils "we will expect you to use your powers to object" to any policy deemed noncompliant by the lawyers.

Paul Barber, education officer of the Roman Catholic diocese of Westminster, called Hunter's approach " heavy-handed", but a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times suggests that many voters are sympathetic to Balls. It finds 38% believe that faith schools are being undermined by government statements, but these are outnumbered by the 50% who agree with the statement: "[Balls] is right to get tough on schools that erect hidden barriers that discourage poorer families from applying".


Sunday, April 13, 2008

NC State law, school policy clash over guns

For Robert Lumley, the decision to bar his East Wake High School club marksmanship team from a statewide shooting tournament was as arresting as a shotgun blast. Less than a day before the March 15 district round of the decades-old N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission competition, one of East Wake's principals, with the support of the area superintendent who oversees that school, stopped the team from participating. The reason: Ammo and students don't mix, the school officials said.

Like districts across the nation, Wake County bans deadly weapons from campuses and prohibits students from carrying them on school trips. But the decision to bar the East Wake team from the tournament extends that prohibition to students participating in an off-campus event sponsored by a state agency and supervised by adults certified in firearms safety.

That call pits school policy against state law that allows firearms education at schools. The decision also runs counter to the efforts of wildlife agencies, hunting organizations and gun groups to recruit youths to replenish the dwindling number of hunters. It also underscores the tension between the fear of school massacres and the traditions of rural Wake, where hunting is still common. "I can appreciate the fact they may have a policy, but all the government agencies need to remember, they're there to serve the public," said Wes Seegars, chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. "There is something lost in a policy that does not serve the needs of the community."

The East Wake decision nullified months of practice by Lumley, a 17-year-old senior, and the rest of the 16-member marksmanship and orienteering team -- an offshoot of the school-approved FFA club, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America. Lumley was riding with a team member the day before the tournament when he got the call that the principal "had put the red light on it," he said. "If we had more time, we could have done something about it," Lumley said....

The participation of Lumley's team in the shooting tournament came to the attention of school officials when another Wake school sought permission to participate. That request drew the attention of Danny Barnes, area superintendent, and Sebastian Shipp, one of four principals at East Wake, and prompted them to review the status of Lumley's marksmanship team. This led to East Wake not being allowed to compete because of district policy....

The Wildlife Commission tournament, now in its 30th year, is an incentive for middle school and high school students to participate in the hunter education course and is part of a larger effort to attract youths to hunting.


Charter Schools To Receive Multimillion-Dollar Boost

Charter schools that have been struggling to find homes in New York will receive a boost today from the Bush administration, in the form of a multimillion-dollar grant. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is presenting the award to a local group that finances, constructs, and renovates charter school buildings, Civic Builders, Inc. The money will be used to aid building efforts in New York City and Newark, N.J., charter schools, according to sources familiar with the grant.

Both the New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein, and the Newark mayor, Cory Booker, will be on hand at today's announcement. The grant comes as charter schools in the city face what officials at Civic Builders have termed a space "crisis." Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed, and state laws often do not guarantee them space in public school buildings. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg and his Department of Education have worked to help secure space for charter schools, welcoming them into public school buildings with some extra space, where the charter schools usually get a hallway or floor and part-time access to the cafeteria and gymnasium.

They are becoming more and more common, but these sharing arrangements are politically perilous, with parents and teachers at existing schools crying foul and enlisting elected officials to back their protests. One school's protest has migrated to the Internet, where a Red Hook mother started a Web log, Charter-Free PS15. Another protest planned for this Wednesday is also expected to draw attention to the issue.

Civic Builders helps charter schools construct and lease buildings that are separate from public facilities. With the help of private philanthropy, it has transformed a Bronx parking garage into a 43,000-square-foot school and a kosher salami factory in Hunts Point into a school with an arts specialty, and built a 90,000-square-foot school complete with a 10,000-volume library, a climbing wall, and a rooftop athletic area in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The grant is part of a federal program aimed at making it more attractive - and less risky - for philanthropists to invest in charter school construction projects. The Bush administration has already awarded more than $175 million in grants to similar projects across the country, according to Education Department grant lists.


Australia: Schools to get report card, too

The conservative Howard agenda lives on under a centre-Left government

The Federal Government will push the states to give parents unprecedented information on how schools perform, renewing fears about "league tables" that would name and shame schools. The Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will use her first education ministers' meeting in Melbourne next week to discuss plans for a more comprehensive reporting system.

Ms Gillard said she wanted all schools to be accountable for their results, and raised concerns parents were not getting enough reliable information on how their schools perform. "I think we need to understand in a much more sophisticated way what's going on in schools," Ms Gillard said. "And I think the more information that enables people to understand it in a sophisticated way, the better."

The Government plans to publish the annual results of individual primary and secondary schools on national literacy and numeracy tests, which begin next month, for students in years 3, 5, 7, and 9. It will also talk to the states about measuring how schools "add value" to students, and is keen for a reporting system that reflects the challenges faced by each school, for instance through socio-economic data, or trends between "like" schools (schools with similar groups of students).

But principals and teachers are worried that giving parents more information could result in controversial league tables - comparative data that could be used to name and shame the underperformers. The federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, yesterday said league tables were a "political construct that served no educational value", while the president of the Victorian Primary Principals Association, Fred Ackerman, said he would oppose any system that "unfairly stigmatises schools".

Asked if the reporting could lead to league tables, Ms Gillard said: "I don't think that's what's being discussed. What is being discussed is people getting appropriate and reliable information about the education system."