Saturday, June 07, 2008

"Diversity" And Political Correctness At Brown U

Some info about the deeply embittered Prof. Hoodoo Heart of Brown U. Pic above. She is of Chinese origin but American educated. She has been given all sorts of honours so there is no doubt that bitterness and hatred pay off in academe. Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

In a recent post I discussed a speech criticizing college "diversity" officials by Prof. Evelyn Hu-DeHart of Brown, whose point was that they only gave their colleges the appearance of caring about "diversity" when in fact they weren't doing nearly enough. In an UPDATE to that post I quoted a long and somewhat harsh criticism of my comments from Prof. Hu-DeHart, and added some additional responses of my own. That exchange was read by a recent graduate of Brown, who sent me the following email and has graciously allowed me to reprint it.
I'm a recent graduate of Brown University....

At the beginning of my freshman year, we eager young students (the vast majority of whom were reflexively very liberal on racial issues) were herded into the school Athletic Center for a speech on ending racism and embracing diversity from who we were told was an extremely respected professor of "Ethnic Studies." Not having heard of the term and not yet cynical about the ivory tower, I remember sitting down with my new friends towards the front of the sea of plastic folding chairs and being genuinely excited about having my horizons broadened.

The arrogant and intolerant 45-minute screed that followed, from one Evelyn Hu-DeHart, obliterated my good will and kickstarted my disillusionment with the campus left, especially dogmatic post-modernists who think that saying "truth is relative" automatically makes any of their kneejerk opinions valid. Hu-Dehart's speech was thick with self-important condescension and could be summarized as "We must have a safe space for discussion, and anyone who disputes my views on race and gender is an intolerant bigot who is destroying that safe space, and all white people (and most heterosexuals) are conscious or unconscious racists/sexists/homophobes who must be reeducated by those of us who are sophisticated and have known oppression." Her lecture was followed by "break-out sessions," in which carefully-chosen "discussion leaders" would pressure and cajole white students into confessing their personal bigotry and their shame to be part of a racist culture before those of minority background, who were implictly granted de facto moral superiority and assumed to be powerless victims.

Even some of my most liberal friends were shocked and disheartened by the shallowness and extravagant pettiness of it all, and Hu-DeHart was the target of much derision - none of it racially based, though she would surely insist that it was "unconsciously" so. I wish I could say that her speech was the low point of this kind of nonsense, but in four years at Brown the propaganda and indoctrination are simply unavoidable; even asking questions of the conventional wisdom can get one tarred with all sorts of vicious accusations....

I think this statement is both an eloquent statement of the current, sorry state of political correctness on campus as well as an encouraging reminder that pockets of sanity remain.


Prof. Hu-DeHart objected to the editor of a mailing list to which I (and she) subscribe distributing a copy this post, with the former Brown student's communication, to the list. And she also objected to my quoting her criticism of my original post, which I did in the UPDATE to my original post linked in the first sentence of this post. Oh well, here I go again. Here are her objections and my response:
John: Why do you guys circulate unsigned diatribes like this? Right after you talked about ad hominen attacks! Why don't you practice what you preach? And John, did you ask my permission to post my comment on your blog, as you so kindly asked this anonymous student? Another double standard for those who agree with you and those who challenge you?

Ed: this is absolutely the last time I am going to weigh in on any issue, and this is exactly why so few of your readers dare to make any comments, for fear of their comments being widely circulated in such irresponsible ways!

Who exactly are "you guys"? In any event, I did not and do not regard the email by the former Brown student who related personal reactions to an indoctrination session at Brown to be a "diatribe," but I can understand why you wouldn't want it widely distributed. And it was not "unsigned" when I received it. The sender, now working for a politically correct employer, wanted to remain anonymous, and I honored that request.

My original blog posting discussing your criticisms of "diversity" as practiced today was sent by the editor to readers of this list. Your response was sent to this list - a list, by the way, that includes a number of journalists - which suggests to me that you did not regard your comments about what I said to be privileged and confidential.

Silly me: I would have thought that you'd want your objections to what I wrote to be read far and wide. Since you had sent your comments to a widely distributed list (a list, by the way, that may well have more, and more influential, readers than does my blog), it simply didn't occur to me that you would object to my sharing your objections to my original post with others who had read that post on my blog but who do not have access to the list. Indeed, the only "double standard" here would have been refusing to share with my readers the public criticisms of someone "who challenge[d] me."

Finally, I find it odd that you see a "double standard" in my belief that forwarding a personal communication to a public list must be treated with more care than quoting a communication to a public list on another public forum. But then, as I wrote in the UPDATE to my original post - diversiphiles such as yourself "think a number of odd things."

Tennessee Fights to Keep Open Charter Schools

Tennessee is fighting an uphill battle to save public charter schools from being rolled back, even though a recent survey shows the education option to be popular with parents statewide. House Bill 3935, sponsored by state Rep. Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), would remove a sunset on new charter school authorization currently set to take effect July 1. The legislation, still pending at press time, would also expand student eligibility for charter enrollment.

By law, only students from failing public schools in Tennessee's four largest cities--Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville--may enroll in charter schools. The state currently has 12 charter schools, all located in Memphis or Nashville. HB 3935 would allow any student in the state's four largest cities who meets the federal poverty definition to attend a charter, regardless of their current school's status.

The defeat of HB 3935 not only would prevent new charter schools from forming but also could further reduce the pool of eligible students, if failing schools improve or shut down. "If this bill doesn't pass, and charter schools are not reauthorized, then charter schools in Tennessee will die," said Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

The director of one of Tennessee's most successful charter schools agrees. "As schools get off the failing list, that means fewer and fewer kids and parents get to make choices about where they go to school," said Randy Dowell, school leader for KIPP Academy Nashville. Opened in 2005, KIPP Academy Nashville serves an overwhelmingly poor and African-American student population in grades five through seven. Despite this disadvantaged student body, KIPP Academy had math and reading proficiency testing rates at or above state averages in its first year. "We have really high and very clear expectations for what we want students to accomplish, both for learning and for their character development," Dowell said.

Allowing charter school authorizations to sunset would come at a time when evidence of Tennesseans' support for the public education option is remarkably high. According to a survey of 1,200 likely voters released in March by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, 46 percent of Tennesseans favored allowing charter schools. Support was even higher, 55 percent, among respondents aged 36 to 55. "That's the age group that tends to be the most emotionally and financially invested in schooling," said Paul DiPerna, the Friedman Foundation's director of partner services.

With no exposure to charter schools in many parts of Tennessee, only 34 percent expressed familiarity with the public education option. But of that group, 63 percent had a favorable view of charters. "It suggests that the more people know about school choice options, the more favorable they are," DiPerna said.

Johnson said the primary obstacle to offering parents more choice is the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), which he said is responsible for placing the sunset provision in the 2002 charter school legislation. "The teachers union in Tennessee wants to prevent any sort of option for students because they essentially don't want the competition that would show how badly they are doing," Johnson said. The TEA did not respond to a request for comment.

More than half of Tennesseans in the Friedman survey described their state's public school system as either fair or poor. "Parents are displeased with the current education being offered to their kids in Tennessee's public schools," Johnson said.

Given the choice between four different types of education--traditional public, charter, private, and homeschool--nearly twice as many people chose charters (28 percent) as other public schools (15 percent). The response rate for charters was higher in Tennessee than in Idaho, Illinois, and Nevada, the other three states in which Friedman has sponsored surveys.

DiPerna hopes the survey results will awaken state policymakers to the growing demand for real educational options. "I think legislators, through no fault of their own, can have a misperception of what the public thinks about school choice," DiPerna said. "But this kind of polling can show them their constituents are open to charter schools, vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships."

The Friedman Foundation plans to release survey results from Oklahoma in June, and from Maryland later this year.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Inner-city kids CAN be reached

By Andrew Klavan

I visited a fourth-grade class in a slum school recently. Since I'm a storyteller by trade, the teacher asked me if I'd tell the kids a story. Now I'm a good storyteller and an all-around charming guy, no doubt, but I wasn't prepared for the degree of fascination I inspired. Rambunctious mischief ceased on the instant and resolved itself into riveted attention and awestruck stares. I was awfully pleased with myself by the time I was done. "Don't take it personally," the teacher told me brusquely. "It's just that they've never seen anyone like you before. A man--obviously tough--who's not a gangster."

I don't know how tough I am--they were fourth-graders; I guess I could've taken most of them in a fair fight one-on-one--but that's not what she was getting at. Her point was that you have to take just one look at me to see what, in fact, I am: an unapologetic, because-I-said-so, head-of-household male. They used to call us "husbands" and "fathers" back in the day. That's what these kids had never seen.

The teacher told me that she once had to explain to the class why her last name was the same as her father's. She dusted off the whole ancient ritual of legitimacy for them--marriages, maiden names, and so on. When she was done, there was a short silence. Then one child piped up softly: "Yeah . . . I've heard of that."

I've heard of that. It would break a heart of stone. Beating poverty in America nowadays is largely a matter of personal behavior. Get a high school diploma, don't have kids until you're married, don't get married until you're 21, and you probably won't be poor. It also helps if you work hard, show up on time, act courteously, and avoid anything felonious.

But where are these kids going to learn such things? It's the stuff you just sort of absorb in a healthy, traditional, two-parent home, and that's exactly what they're missing. If they learn what they've lived, they're done for--the girls too likely to "come out pregnant" like their mothers, the boys to be underemployed and maybe even do time. You can't legislate responsibility, either. Personal behavior in a free society has to be a matter of choice--choice without which there is no virtue--virtue without which a society can't be free.

It seems to me that leaves these kids only one recourse: the culture. Where the institution of family is broken, only the surrounding culture can teach people the inner structures required for a life of liberty. Many conservatives often seem to have given up on culture or not to care. There's a strong strain of philistinism on the right. When we talk about "culture wars," we usually mean preventing the courts from redefining marriage or promoting abstinence instead of birth control: culture, in other words, as the behavioral branch of politics.

Culture, in the true sense, is more than that. It's the whole engulfing narrative of our values. It's the stories we tell. Leftists know this. These kids get an earful from the Left every day. Their schools serve up black history in a way guaranteed to alienate them from the American enterprise. Their sanctioned reading list denies boys the natural fantasies of battling villains and protecting women from harm. Any instinct the girls might have that their bodies and their self-respect are interrelated is negated by the ubiquitous parable of celebrity lives. And I hardly need mention the movies and TV shows that endlessly undermine notions of manly self-discipline, feminine modesty, patriotism, and all the rest.

Conservatives respond to this mostly with finger-wagging. But creativity has to be answered with creativity. We need stories, histories, movies of our own. That requires a structure of support--publishing houses, movie studios, review space, awards, almost all of which we've ceded to the Left. There may be more profitable businesses in the short run. The long run, as always, depends on the young. If you want to win their hearts, you have to tell them stories. I have reason to believe they'll listen.


Drop 'middle-class' academic subjects says British schools adviser

Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are "middle-class" creations, a Government adviser will claim today. Professor John White, who contributed to a controversial shake-up of the secondary curriculum, believes lessons should instead cover a series of personal skills. Pupils would no longer study history, geography and science but learn skills such as energy- saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes. He will outline his theories at a conference today staged by London's Institute of Education - to which he is affiliated - to mark the 20th anniversary of the national curriculum.

Last night, critics attacked his ideas as "deeply corrosive" and condemned the Government for allowing him to advise on a new curriculum. Professor White will claim ministers are already "moving in the right direction" towards realising his vision of replacing subjects with a series of personal aims for pupils. But he says they must go further because traditional subjects were invented by the middle classes and are "mere stepping stones to wealth". [And who would want that?]

The professor believes the origins of our subject-based education system can be traced back to 19th century middle-class values. While public schools focused largely on the classics, and elementary schools for the working class concentrated on the three Rs, middle-class schools taught a range of academic subjects. These included English, maths, history, geography, science and Latin or a modern language. They "fed into the idea of academic learning as the mark of a well-heeled middle- class", he said last night. The Tories then attempted to impose these middle-class values by introducing a traditional subject-based curriculum in 1988. But this "alienated many youngsters, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds", he claimed.

The professor, who specialises in philosophy of education, was a member of a committee set up to advise Government curriculum authors on changes to secondary schooling for 11 to 14-year-olds. The reforms caused a row when they were unveiled last year for sidelining large swathes of subject content in favour of lessons on issues such as climate change and managing debt.

Professor White wants ministers to encourage schools to shift away from single-subject teaching to "theme or project-based learning". Pupils would still cover some content but would be encouraged to meet a series of personal aims. The curriculum already states some of these but is "hampered" by the continued primacy of subjects. The aims include fostering a model pupil who "values personal relationships, is a responsible and caring citizen, is entrepreneurial, able to manage risk and committed to sustainable development".

Critics claim theme-based work is distracting and can lead to gaps in pupils' knowledge. Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb said Professor White's view was "deeply corrosive". He added: "In the world we are living in, we need people who are better educated, not more poorly educated, more knowledgeable about the world, not less so. "This anti-knowledge, anti-subject ideology is deeply damaging to our education system. It is this sort of thinking that has led to the promotion of discredited reading methods, the erosion of three separate sciences and the decline of mathematics skills. "I just find it astonishing that someone with his extreme views has been allowed to advise the Government on education policy."


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Top British university ditches meaningless government High School diplomas and sets its own entrance exam

One of Britain's leading universities is to introduce an entrance exam for all students applying to study there from 2010 because it believes that A levels no longer provide it with a viable way to select the best students. Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, London, suggested that grade inflation at A level meant that so many students now got straight As that it had become almost "worthless" as a way of discriminating between the talented and the well drilled. Last year one in four A-level marks was a grade A and 10 per cent of A-level students achieved at least three As.

"We can't rely on A levels any more. Everybody who applies has got three or four As. They [A levels] are not very useful. The International Baccalaureate is useful but again this is just a benchmark," Sir Richard said. He added: "We are doing this not because we don't believe in A levels, but we can't use the A level any more as a discriminator factor." The move will make Imperial, which specialises in science and engineering and ranks third in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge in The Times Good University Guide, the first university to introduce a university-wide entrance exam since Oxford scrapped its own version in 1995.

Some universities, including Imperial, use entrance tests to select students for medical schools and both Oxford and Cambridge use specific subject-based entrance tests for certain degree courses. But there is no other institution in the UK offering a university-wide test.

Sir Richard said that the test would be piloted this summer for use in selecting students for entry in 2010 to Imperial, which has 12,000 full-time students. Apart from candidates for medical degrees, who must sit an entrance test called the BMAT, all Imperial applicants will sit the same exam regardless of which subject they intend to study.

The tests would seek to examine students for their innate ability and problem solving skills rather than subject knowledge. "We are going to have entrance exams that will test ability. We are looking for students who really will benefit from an IC education. The examination will look for IQ, intelligence, creativity and innovation and will not be too dependent on rote learning," Sir Richard said. But he added that students would not be able simply to stop doing A_levels, as the university would still require evidence that they had studied their chosen subjects in depth. Sir Richard said that Imperial had been in talks with other universities about the entrance test and suggested that eventually it may be introduced nationally.

He also told the Independent Schools' Council annual conference in London that many students in state schools were short-changed by the state education system, which educated 93 per cent of pupils. He suggested that the Government should offer scholarships to enable the brightest pupils to attend fee-paying schools. "We have got to do something radical if we are to save the children in our schools who are just not getting the education they deserve. We have in this country one of the best secondary educations in the world, but only a few percentage of people benefit from it," he said.

Imperial's new exam is bound to increase pressure for the introduction into Britain of American-style scholastic aptitude tests (SATs) as the key qualification for university entrance.


Government money failing to get British children to play sport

Can this stupid socialist government do ANYTHING useful? Many schools do not even OFFER the target amount of sport!

Special measures to get children to do two hours of sport each week are failing, Government figures indicate. One in three pupils over the age of 14 does not do the recommended amount of exercise in school each week according to figures released by the Liberal Democrats.

The Government and the National Lottery have dedicated 1.6 billion pounds to combat childhood obesity by boosting PE lessons since 2003 but over half of secondary schools still do not provide time for children to exercise for two hours a week. Gordon Brown recently pledged a further 100 million to get children to exercise for up to five hours during the school week.

Up to 900,000 pupils are missing out on the correct amount of sport causing fears about the future health of the nation the Liberal Democrats say. In 2002 Tony Blair's government recommended that all children should do at least two hours of exercise each week at school.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Billions of pounds of taxpayers money have been pumped into school facilities, so parents are entitled to expect that their children are given a decent opportunity to use them. "With the 2012 Olympics on their way we should be encouraging the next generation of athletes. But these figures suggest the Government is set to squander the sporting legacy it could offer."

The new figures, released in response to a Parliamentary Question posed by the Liberal Democrats suggest that 33 per cent of all school children aged 14-16 do not do two hours of sport a week. Sixty five per cent of secondary schools and 32 per cent of primary schools fail to offer the required amount of sport each week.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Can't-do attitude to mathematics has cost the British economy big

A "lost generation" of mathematicians has cost the economy 9 billion pounds, while GCSE maths has become a "pick `n' mix" test rather than the key staging post it once was, according to a report. The decline in standards threatens the future of the economy, say the authors, and is having a devastating impact on the City [financial district], with some firms recruiting most of their maths graduates from overseas.

The report, by the Reform think-tank, accuses the Government of marginalising the interests of employers, teachers and students. It claims that ministers are focusing on exam results, rather than educational outcomes, and are trying to get pupils to pass any five GCSEs to meet targets, rather than concentrating on the core subjects of English and maths.

A culture shift is needed so that people no longer boast about their lack of maths skills but are instead embarrassed, the authors say. "The UK remains one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable, fashionable even, to profess an inability to cope with maths," they add. "Society needs to build on its new interest in maths-based puzzles such as Su Doku to expel the myths about maths and change the image of the subject from geek to chic."

Holders of an A level in maths earn, on average, 10 per cent more, or 136,000 pounds, over a lifetime than those without it, Reform claims. About 440,000 people have been put off taking A-level maths since 1989, at a cost to the economy of 9 billion.

Explaining this downturn, the report said: "Concerns over poor teaching in the 1970s led to a massive extension of government involvement in the subject since the mid-1980s. "The unintended consequence has been demotivation of teachers, less enjoyment on the part of students and the distancing of employers and universities from education policy." The highest maths achievers are "at the pinnacle of the City hierarchy, making them the new `masters of the Universe' ", the report said, but these are increasingly recruited abroad. China and India are producing hundreds of thousands of science and maths graduates each year.

Maths exams are much easier now than 30 years ago, Reform says, because of efforts to make them more relevant to the workplace. This means that children are not being taught key skills such as problem solving. As a result, it is "now possible to achieve a grade C in GCSE maths having almost no conceptual knowledge of mathematics" and by scoring less than 20 per cent in the top paper. "A coherent discipline has changed to `pick `n' mix', with pupils being trained to answer specific shallow questions on a range of topics where marks can be most easily harvested." The report calls for independence of the examination system and a reversal of the trend towards modularisation.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary, said: "Our education system is too often failing to get the basics right, which risks damaging the national economy."

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said: "GCSE and A-level maths are rigorous qualifications [What bullsh!]. Standards are carefully monitored by a watchdog, which is independent of ministers, and they tell us maths is a nationally important priority."


A Diversiphile Dumps On The "Diversity" Industry

Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

About a year ago, in a post discussing a blistering speech the Chronicle of Higher Education's Peter Schmidt delivered to a gathering of education apparatchiks concerned about "diversity," etc., I noted that "I would like to have had the Tums or Rolaid concession outside the door to that luncheon." Recently Schmidt reported on another blistering speech delivered to another august gathering of education diversiphiles at Disney World's Animal Kingdom.
In a move befitting this wild locale, one of the nation's leading proponents of diversity in higher education turned on her audience in a biting speech delivered on Thursday. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of Brown University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, suggested that colleges let people attend this annual conference-typically held in family-friendly tourist destinations-to reward them for not making waves by pushing for more equity and black and Hispanic representation on campus.

Calling herself "a hard-nosed critic from the inside," Ms. Hu-DeHart said, "Let's face it: Diversity has created jobs for all of us. It is a career. It is an industry." "We do what we need to keep our jobs," she said. "But as long as we keep doing our job the way we are told to do it, we are covering up for our universities." "You all are covering up," she said. "You all are complicit in this."

I'm not sure about the hardness of Prof. Hu-DeHart's nose, but in any event its sniffing ability was insufficient to smell anything fishy about the infamous Ward Churchill, his academic credentials, or the "diversity" that he allegedly brought to the University of Colorado, where as chairman of the ethnic studies program at the time she was influential in securing his tenured appointment.

Prof. Hu-DeHart's problem with the "diversity industry," of course, is that it wasn't engineering enough "diversity." Whether or not one agrees with her about that, it's hard to disagree with her point that "diversity" has indeed become an "industry," employing increasing numbers of academic bureaucrats and accounting for (or not) untold millions of dollars to a largely unaudited and hence unknown effect. As I noted over a year ago (here),
Whether or not "diversity" as practiced on college campuses today has any tangible educational payoffs is unclear, but there can be no argument about the fact that it pays very well indeed

As a mere drop in a bucket example, I referred to Daisy Lundy, alleged victim of a "hate crime" at the University of Virginia five years ago that many suspected, and still suspect, was a hoax. (Search "Lundy" here for my numerous posts on that event.) Hoax or not, the claim secured Ms. Lundy's election as student body president and, after graduation, a plum job as an assistant to William Harvey, the University's Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, at a 2007 salary of $54,500.

Harvey's position itself was created largely as a result of the Lundy affair, and at an annual salary (in 2007; no doubt higher now) of $315,000, "diversity" is doing quite nicely for Harvey. Thus it is clear that the "diversity industry" is thriving in Virginia. Whether or not the taxpayers of Virginia are receiving a worthwhile return on what must be the millions of dollars their University is spending on "diversity" is another matter entirely.


Via a mailing list that reprinted my post, Prof. Evelyn Hu-DeHart sent the following response:
John: If only you were there, so you would have gotten the full measure of my critique. Neither Peter Schmidt nor I used the word "dump," or even implied it; that is an irresponsible inference based on Peter's very brief write-up of a long (almost 2-hour long lively discussion) , but obviously deliberately chosen to put a negative slant on what was a constructive critique on my part. If only critics of diversity like you were not so cynical and sarcastic, and see evil around every corner, we can conceivably have a productive exchange of views some day! You see, unlike most "diversiphobes," I am not a kneejerk "diversiphile," as you derisively label me. I am able to critique the diversity project in higher education if I perceive corruption. You however, cannot see past your deep-seated biases, so you mock everything about diversity and your reactions are totally predictable. The NCORE organizers at Oklahoma are open-minded, and invited Roger Clegg to keynote a major sesssion. Maybe you should make an effort to attend the conference some day. Prof. Vivian Louie of Harvard was also invited to talk about her research on Asian Americans and on immigrant students in general.

You also do not seem to know how tenure is awarded at research universities; it is NOT awarded by the chair of any department, but by several layers of committees and peer review on the home campus as well as by many external referees who are experts in the candidate's field. If you want to take cheap shots, you should at least inform yourself better. I don't know if you have ever held an academic position or gone through the tenure process at a major research university--you should try it sometimes if you haven't had the pleasure.

Of course I wasn't there, and so of course I didn't get the "full measure" of Prof. Hu-DeHart's critique. Perhaps Prof. Hu-DeHart's telling her audience of diversity officials and others concerned about race and ethnicity in higher education that "Diversity has created jobs for all of us," that "We do what we need to do to keep our jobs," but that "as long as we keep doing our job the way we are told to do it, we are covering up for our universities," that "You all are covering up ... You all are complicit in this,"
that those who attend the conference-and work in college offices dealing with diversity and minority issues-help their institutions create the impression that they are far more concerned with diversity and equity than is actually the case

- perhaps all this and more really was not a dump but a "constructive critique." Maybe the diversity officers et. al. even thought this critique was constructive; after all, they think a number of odd things. And of course "dumps" is my characterization, not Prof. Hu-DeHart's or Peter Schmidt's. Did my post leave any reasonable doubt about that?

In any event I'm impressed by Prof. Hu-DeHart's powers of observation. She's never met me, but from afar she can somehow tell that I'm "cynical and sarcastic, and see evil around every corner." This is news to me. Sarcastic? Maybe. But cynical? I don't think so. And I certainly don't see evil around every corner, even in the diversity offices of which she is so fond. I disagree with the existence and practices of what she so aptly (even if "constructively") called the "diversity industry," but I don't think those who are feeding at its teat are evil.

Prof. Hu-DeHart says that she is "not a kneejerk `diversiphile'" because she is "able to critique the diversity project in higher education if I perceive corruption." By her own admission, in other words, the only thing about the "diversity industry" to which she is capable of objecting is "corruption," which does indeed make her a "kneejerk diversiphile." She wholeheartedly accepts "diversity's" premise and its method, i.e., the necessary practice of racially preferentially treatment.

As for myself, I am happy to confess to my own "deep-seated biases" - for colorblind racial equality, treating all individuals without regard to their race or ethnicity.

Moving on, I'm sure the NCORE organizers are indeed "open-minded"; close or even loose readers of my post will find no hint that they aren't, making this a curious observation. Roger Clegg writes, however, that he was invited to appear on a panel, not to deliver a "keynote."

Prof. Hu-DeHart's calling into question my knowledge of "how tenure is awarded at research universities" is also curiously irrelevant, since my only comment about the tenure process was to mention - quite carefully, I thought - that Prof. Hu-DeHart "was influential in securing [Ward Churchill's] tenured appointment" at the University of Colorado when she was head of ethnic studies there. I did not say or imply that she acted alone in awarding him tenure, and in that I was a bit more circumspect than she herself has been on occasion. For example, the Brown Daily Herald has written (April 25, 2005):
Before coming to Brown, Hu-DeHart was head of CU's ethnic studies department at the time Churchill received tenure in the department. She told The Herald that Churchill was "her hire" at CU. She said he went through the standard hiring process, and no special considerations were made on the basis of diversity, but she declined to comment further.

Although I neglected to cite it in my post, I based my observation that Hu-DeHart was "influential" in Churchill's receiving tenure on the following information from the University of Colorado Daily Camera:
In 1988, Kaye Howe, then vice chancellor for academic services, urged that Churchill be given a faculty position despite his lack of a Ph.D. "Ward does not have his doctorate and I fear that may deny him the place his talent, work and quality of mind should give him in the academic community," she wrote to Evelyn Hu-DeHart, then director of CU's Center for Studies of Ethnicity and Race in America.....

Faculty members for the ethnic studies center were required to be housed in an academic department, and Michael Pacanowsky wrote then that Hu-DeHart had asked him to consider rostering Churchill in his communications department with tenure. The sociology and political science departments had rejected the idea, he said.

Pacanowsky expressed his own concern about whether Churchill fit in communications but wrote that "on the plus side, we would be helping out another unit on campus (CSERA), and making our own contribution to increasing the cultural diversity on campus (Ward is a Native American)."

Less than a month later, on Feb. 1, 1991, CU officials granted Churchill a tenured associate professorship in communications with a salary of $45,000.

Prof. Hu-DeHart may or may not be proud of her role in securing a tenured appointment for Ward Churchill, and I can certainly understand her wanting to take what comfort she can from the fact that she didn't act alone, from the "several layers of committees and peer review" of which her influence was a part, but her evident desire to minimize her own role does not give her license to refer to my calling attention to the influential role she played as an uninformed cheap shot. Although it might have been cheap (posting on one's own blog doesn't cost much), it was not uninformed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Unintended Consequences of State Merit-Based Aid

It is by now well-established that the high profile and expensive merit-based financial aid programs that numerous states have established to keep their best and brightest in college within state borders are far from the panacea their supporters envisioned. While the programs have often accomplished the goal of encouraging top-notch high school students to attend local colleges and making college more affordable for state residents, they have been criticized for disproportionately favoring higher-income students over those from low-income backgrounds and doing relatively little to encourage students who might not otherwise have gone to college to do so.

A study presented this week at the annual forum of the Association for Institutional Research suggests that, at least in one case, a state merit-based financial aid program may be working directly at odds with another priority that is near the top of concerns of most state and federal policy makers and educators: increasing the flow of Americans into scientific and technological fields.

The study, by Shouping Hu, associate professor of higher education at Florida State University, looks at his state's "Bright Futures" program, which is one of numerous state programs designed in the image of Georgia's Hope Scholarship Program, the first of its kind. Bright Futures, the second largest such program in the country, provides full-tuition scholarships at public colleges and comparably sized grants to private institutions to students who achieve certain minimum grade point averages in high school, and requires recipients to keep their college GPAs at certain minimum levels to sustain their awards.

Using Florida’s Education Data Warehouse, which is among the most inclusive data systems in the country for tracking the flow of students throughout a state’s educational system and into its work force, Hu examined the distribution of enrollments in various college disciplines before and after Bright Futures took effect in 1997.

What he found is that in 1995 and 1996, the two years before Bright Futures took effect, 47.5 percent of students who enrolled in degree programs at Florida's public colleges did so in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In 1998 and 1999, the two years after Bright Futures took effect, 38.5 percent did, and the numbers appeared to be dropping, from 39.2 percent in 1998 to 37.7 percent in 1999.

Recipients of the Bright Futures scholarships were more likely than other students to enroll in STEM fields; in 1999, 29.3 percent of non-recipients of the merit-based scholarships enrolled in scientific and technological disciplines, compared to 34.2 and 45 percent of students who received the two types of Bright Futures grants, known as Florida Academic Scholars and Florida Medallion Scholars awards. But even the Bright Futures recipients were less likely to enter STEM fields than the average student was before the program began.

What explains the decrease in enrollment in science and math fields? "One plausible explanation," Hu writes, is that students may have sought to "bump up" their college grades to try to qualify for, or increase the size of, their merit awards. "That is, merit-based financial aid using college GPA as a criterion for renewal could provide incentives for students not to choose degree programs in science and engineering" - which are generally seen as more difficult, Hu notes - "so that they have a better chance to qualify for the merit-based financial aid."

Given the intense concern among state and federal policy makers about a perceived undersupply of American scientists and engineers, which has prompted significant new federal financial aid programs and many efforts at the state level, "some modifications of the current merit aid programs may be warranted," Hu concludes.

When 84% Isn't Good Enough

Many a public university might rest on its laurels when 84 percent of its undergraduates earn degrees within six years. But while that graduation rate puts Pennsylvania State University in the upper tier of public universities, its institutional researchers have been immersed in a multiyear project aimed at figuring out why one group of students - those from low-income backgrounds - are so much less likely to graduate. [They couldn't be less intelligent, could they? Oh no!] Only 20 percent of the students who come from the bottom quintile of family income and have low grade point averages in their first semester at Penn State go on to graduate, while comparably performing students from high-income backgrounds graduate at a rate of 36 percent and high-performing, high-income students graduate at a rate of 89 percent.

"Even though we have a really high graduation rate, we realize there's a big disparity for lower-income kids," says Michael J. Dooris, director of planning research and assessment at Penn State and a co-author of the paper, with Marianne Guidos, a quality and planning research associate. "There's a tendency for some faculty to say, `Geez, how much better can [our graduation rate] be?' But when you show them the data, they say, `Yeah, there's a problem here for some of our students.' "

To try to get at that problem, Dooris and his colleagues sought to compare the 20 percent of low-income students go on to graduate after struggling in their first semester with the strong majority who don't, with the hope that the analysis might provide some clues for what Penn State might do to improve the odds for all of them. It's not that Penn State is abandoning its efforts to try to increase access to college for low-income students - far from it, Dooris notes, it has been steadily increasing its financial aid budget - but as many college officials are concluding, "we have to focus on what happens to the kids who come here."

The overall picture that emerges from the comparison of the survivors to those who don't get through is not terrifically heartening, Dooris acknowledges. There are some bright spots: There is "no statistical evidence" that the 20 percent of low-income students who go on to graduate have stronger academic skills than those who do not, which means that "skills deficiencies can be overcome." "The ones who graduate are probably going in and taking remedial English or math and it works for them," Dooris says. While "some faculty believe that some of these kids are hopeless, when you look carefully at it, there's no evidence of that."

Among other characteristics, students with single parents were half as likely as peers with married parents to graduate, and students at Penn State's main campus - where admissions standards are higher - were three times likelier than those at its many branch campuses to earn degrees. Family income was generally not a determining characteristic, suggesting that "while affordability is clearly an issue in general for students at this university, there is not much difference (other things being equal) in the chances of earning a degree between the relatively low-income and the lowest-income students."

In terms of characteristics that appeared in the data to point the way to success, students who participated in work study and the passed most of their first semester course work seemed were more likely to graduate than were their peers. "These are clues, at least, that summer orientation programs, good advising, first-year seminars and similar mechanisms for students to successfully transition to college might be especially valuable for students who are most at risk," the authors write - consistent, they note, with prevailing wisdom in scholarly research on student success.

So far, at least, says Dorris, the research, while useful, has not produced any magic bullets. "We're not solving this problem by a longshot," he acknowledges. "There's a real problem, and to some extent, it's a social and a cultural problem. But this kind of study suggests that if we keep working at it, we can make a difference, and we have no alternative but to do that."


NH Middle School Celebrating `Open Tent' Day - Kids Dress Like Arabs

Only in the west can one see a school that hosts a day when school children are encouraged to dress like, act like, and "learn about" those trying to kill them and all in a day that the country is in the midst of war. And only in the west would the media help celebrate such an outrageous example of support for what, in truth, are our enemies.

On May 9, the kids of the Amherst Middle School in Amherst, New Hampshire, were forced to parade about their school dressed as "Saudi Arabians" so that they could "learn from people around the world" in a happy day of multiculturalism. But, what they ended up being taught was the wholly sanitized version of how wonderful Saudi society is instead of the truth.

Sadly, the Milford (NH) Cabinet, a small newspaper group in the Granite State, is full of uncritical praise and wonder at the multicultural extravaganza forced upon these children unawares. Worse, they didn't do any reporting on how this day of appeasement came to be held.
For one night, on May 9, the quaint colonial town of Amherst, New Hampshire, was transformed into a Saudi Arabian Bedouin tent community, with the help of 80 seventh-graders at the Amherst Middle School. The weather cooperated, providing 85 degree temperatures to give an authentic Saudi feel to the evening.

And what was this exercise in sympathy for our enemies supposed to do for the community?
The "open tent" was created to encourage participants to reach out and learn from people around the world, and to promote curiosity and cultural understanding.

One wonders if Amherst Middle School dressed up their kids like Imperial Japanese soldiers and had them learn about Shintoism during WWII? Somehow, I'd bet not. So, what did everyone learn? They learned that being a Saudi was fun and that it is cool to act like one. But, they didn't really learn much of any use and they certainly didn't learn anything in context. Still, even what they did learn is disturbing. Here are a few of the things the paper outlined.

* During the check-in, guests selected a traditional Arabic name for their name badge and completed an actual Saudi customs form, which warned in bold letters "Death for Drug Trafficking " at the top.

* the traditions of Saudi Arabia at this time prevent women from participating in these public roles.

* Seventh-grade girls hosted the hijab and veil stations, where other female guests learned how to wear the required head covering and veils. An antique trunk full of black abayas worn by women, and white thobes worn by the men, were available for guests to try on.

* An Islamic religion station included a Muslim prayer rug with a compass imbedded in it to locate Mecca, readings on the Islamic faith, call to prayer items and prayer beads.

So, this school taught these children to be accepting and tolerant of excluding women, forcing them to hide behind a veil, and were told that the Muslim religion was something they should try on for fun? Wonderful.

I can't help wondering if these middle school kids learned of the honor killings and the female genital mutilation called "female circumcision" that women are forced to go through in Saudi Arabia? Were these innocent American kids told that the Saudis have thuggish, pseudo "police" that roam the streets that beat people up who seem to be breaking their strict religious dress codes that religious zealots in government force upon the people? Did they learn of the oppressive laws that prevent people of other religious faiths from practicing their religions? Also, did they learn that the Saudis export bin Laden's style of terror all across the world? Did they learn that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis? I wonder, did these impressionable American kids lean any of these facts? Not according to the Milford Cabinet they didn't.

I also wonder where the idea for this obscene multicultural event came from? Were any local Muslim groups responsible for this? Why didn't the paper do any reporting on that? If it was just a wayward teacher's idea, why didn't the paper report that? Why are we left in the dark about who is responsible for this outrageous event? Of course, we do know why. It's because the paper thought the event was a great idea and didn't want to report any info that might cause someone to be exposed to public questioning.

Like I said, only in the weak willed west can we mollycoddle an enemy directly engaged in killing Americans, only in the west can we encourage "understanding" of a people out to see us harmed. Only in the west can we see oppressive cultural ideas that are antithetical to freedom and liberty promulgated as a fun thing for our children to learn about. Only in the west can we sit back and allow our schools and media abuse our children like this. Only in the west can we think nothing of undermining our own basic principles of freedom, equality, and liberty for all and supplant that with the ideas of one of the most oppressive regimes of the world.

So, thanks for helping destroy our culture and country and thanks for helping Americans lower their guard goes out to Amherst Middle School and the Milford Cabinet newspaper. It's so wonderful to "understand" and celebrate people who want us dead.


Monday, June 02, 2008

British universities' witch-hunt against the Jews

Today, the Universities and Colleges Union is discussing whether universities should single out Israeli and Jewish scholars for active discrimination. Yes, you read that correctly. The UCU is debating a motion which not only raises the spectre yet again of an academic boycott of Israel but demands of Jewish and Israeli academics that they explain their politics as a pre-condition to normal academic contact. The motion asks colleagues
to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating... the testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions... Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure.

The implication is that, if they don't condemn Israel for the `occupation', or practising `apartheid', `genocide' or any of the other manufactured crimes laid at Israel's door by the Palestinian/Islamist/neonazi/leftwing axis, they won't be able to work. Their continued employment will depend on their holding views which are permitted. The views they are being bludgeoned into expressing as a condition of their employment are based on lies, distortion, propaganda, gross historical ignorance, blood libels and prejudice. And this in the universities, supposedly the custodians of free thought and inquiry in the service of dispassionate scholarship.

What makes it all the more appalling is that it is Israelis and Jews alone who are being singled out for this treatment. No other group is to be barred from academic activity unless they hold `approved' views; no state-run educational institution controlled by any of the world's numerous tyrannies is to be `grey-listed'. The UCU's own rules state that it
actively opposes all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination.

Well, various Jewish groups in the Stop the Boycott campaign have obtained a legal opinion from two QCs which states that today's motion constitutes harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination on grounds of race or nationality. It says:
If the Motion is passed it would expose Jewish members of the Union to indirect discrimination... Additionally, the Union faces potential liability for acts of harassment on grounds of race or nationality. The substance of the Motion may also involve the Union in becoming accessories to acts of discrimination in an employment context against Israeli academics...No doubt, if such Israeli academics speak in favour of the Palestinian viewpoint they will be immune from further action; if they are against it or possibly even non-committal they and their institutions are to be considered potentially unsuitable subjects for continued association...

The Union will accordingly be adopting a provision, criterion or practice which will put Jewish members at a particular disadvantage compared to non-Jewish members. That is because Jewish members are much more likely to have links with Israeli academics and institutions than non -Jewish members. To require Jewish members to act consistently with the Motion (if passed) would be to impose a professional detriment upon them as Union members which is based on their race. If they acted inconsistently with the Motion, we infer that they would also be subject to disadvantage or sanction under the Union rules or practices -- an alternative detriment. We do not see how any such detriment would be justified as pursuing a legitimate aim. No proper Union purpose is promoted by imposing this detriment on certain members. Thus the Motion will have the effect of indirectly -- and unlawfully -- against Jewish Members of the Union.

The opinion is thus unequivocal. Today's motion breaks the law; it breaks the UCU's own rules; it is prejudiced, discriminatory and unjust towards Israelis and Jews. But the motion also notes
legal attempts to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and legal advice that such debates are lawful

In other words, two fingers to the Jews. Such is the disgusting and terrifying state to which Britain's intelligentsia has now descended.


Britain's UCU: where is your boycott of academics from Cuba, China, Sudan.or the USA?

This sickening tripe, as reported by the Guardian, shouldn't be worth commenting on.
A lecturers' union was last night accused of launching a new academic boycott of Israel after it agreed a policy to call on its members to "consider" their links with Israeli institutions.

The University and College Union voted overwhelmingly at its Manchester conference to call on colleagues to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating"..

Academics argued that it was not a new boycott, but a show of their right to debate the issues facing Palestinian colleagues and, separately, links with Israeli institutions. Tom Hickey of the NEC and Brighton University, which proposed the motion, told delegates: "Being a student or teacher in Palestine is not easy . we are talking about not just impediment but serial humiliation and that's the order of the day in Palestine... In the face of accusations of anti-semitism and legal threats we refused to be intimidated. We will protect the union from legal threats but we will not be silenced.".

In a statement, the vice-chancellors' umbrella group, Universities UK, said: "We believe a boycott of this kind, advocating the severing of academic links with a particular nationality or country, is at odds with the fundamental principle of academic freedom."

...but we have to.

For the sake of brevity, we'll leave aside the obvious: that the double standards in not pursuing a boycott of Chinese, Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Cuban, etc academics shows a tendency to hold said peoples in lower moral and ethic regard than Israelis - i.e. Judeo-Christians.

No, what's interesting is that, when we look at the premise - accusations of human rights abuses of Palestinian-Arabs - for the boycott, we see an emptiness in their beliefs. You see, the repercussions to the threats to boycott products and academics from tiny, almost-friendless Israel, are small in consequence to the boycotters than were they to follow through on their principles. Were they to (a) continue to ignore the aforementioned list of genuine and disgraceful human rights abusers, and (b) aim their anger at some Big Boy offenders, who would they be forced to boycott?

The USA.

After all, who so these same people claim have killed, what, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, Afghans, etc. - numbers that shrink even the most fabulously inflated number of slaughtered Palestinian-Arabs by Israel.

Are they going to live in a world without products, academic papers, medicines, technological innovations, Green Cards, UN funding - not to mention military help every time the peace-loving EU can't handle a field battle in their own back yard involving a country the size of an average sitting room? That, our lovely readers, that is why these moral cowards pick on tiny Israel.


Australia: Government schools falling apart at seams

One-in-three schools across NSW has a serious maintenance problem, despite repeated State Government pledges to address the backlog of repairs. The State Government will this week unveil plans to spend a record $267 million on public school and TAFE maintenance this financial year. The figure represents an increase of $11 million on last year - or just over four per cent, which is almost the same rate as inflation.

A NSW Teachers Federation survey conducted in May and obtained exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph showed 34 per cent of teachers ranked the situation in their school as "very serious". Another 33 per cent saw maintenance issues as "serious".

The State Government will on Tuesday reveal plans to spend a capital works program of up to $15 billion to improve roads and transport infrastructure. Facing growing criticism over the state of NSW hospitals, trains and roads, the Iemma government is desperate to showcase tangible improvements in time for the 2011 election. However, The Sunday Telegraph has learned the move will not be without casualties, with a senior Labor source claiming the State Government plans to cut recurrent spending over the next few years to fund the ambitious works project.

Treasurer Michael Costa is understood to have told Cabinet last week that the increased spending on capital works will mean ministers will be required to cut spending on services. The Government is also relying heavily on securing the estimated $10 billion it wants from the sale of its power industry to pay for the works. Many infrastructure works will also be delivered through partnerships with the private sector.

In education, three new schools in Elderslie, Middleton Grange and Rouse Hill will be built under the arrangement. Mr Della Bosca said a record $733 million would be spent on building and upgrading schools and TAFE facilities - an increase of $116 million on previous years. Among the 16 schools to benefit from new building works will be Carenne School at Bathurst, Casino Public School, East Hills Boys', East Hills Girls' and Kempsey High School. Granville, Hamilton, Macquarie Fields and Temora TAFE will be upgraded as part of 12 major building improvement projects.

The works will also fund the construction of 20 new school halls and gyms and 52 upgrades to school toilets. Food technology units at eight schools would also be improved.

Mr Della Bosca said the spending commitment would vastly improve the state of public schools and TAFE facilities in NSW. School maintenance has been an ongoing issue for the State Government since the damaging Vinson report released in 2003, which found many schools to be in Third World conditions. A follow-up survey by the teachers' union to 5000 principals found the situation had failed to improve. Teachers were asked to rank the seriousness of maintenance issues on a scale of one to five.

The cost of clearing the maintenance backlog is estimated at around $82.6 million. Of the $267 million to be spent on school maintenance, $13.5 million would go towards 1300 urgent repairs. The repairs on the so-called accelerated maintenance program include painting works, new carpeting, playground and roof upgrades.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fire the bitch!

Right and wrong. That's what kids are supposed to learn in kindergarten aren't they? That's what their teachers need to understand if they are to lead by word and deed. So explain this one to me. Forget about politics for one minute. Let's talk about common sense.

A five-year-old kid has a disability. An illness. He hums and eats his homework, not because he's naughty, not because he's trying to hurt or harm anyone, but because he has something called Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. The school knows this. They tell his mother. It's not as if they don't understand what's going on, or think that he's acting out for no reason.

What's the job of the local public school in these circumstances? Easy. Even a five-year old could answer this one. To teach him. To make sure he is safe. To help him, and his classmates, learn to live in this world, with respect, and kindness, and tolerance, for all, especially for those who are different.

There are teachers who have no common sense, no decency and no shame. If the news reports of how Wendy Portillo treated Alex Barton are even partly right, if they contain even a grain of truth, this is a woman with no business in a classroom. What the reports, and his mother, are saying is that Ms. Portillo kicked the five-year-old boy out of the classroom for being himself, and then turned her classroom in Port St. Lucie, Fla. into the set of "Survivor," where the kids got to vote on whether to let their classmate back in. By a 14-2 vote, they gave him the thumbs down.

Here's the amazing part, though. She hasn't been fired yet. You and I are reading about this, but she's still on the payroll. "Ms. Portillo has been reassigned outside of the classroom at the district offices until any further action may be determined," the St. Lucie County School District is reported to have said in a statement. Come again. Tell me what further action needs to be determined. Tell me why it takes them longer to vote thumbs down on her than it did for her to organize the vote against her own student. Tell me what job she could possibly be doing in the district office that can be capably done by a person of such total and complete lack of intelligence, judgment, decency and compassion.

Now, could a mistake have been made? Could all these news accounts be wrong? Could the boy's mother and the school district and all the reporters covering this story have missed some essential point - like it didn't happen, this is all a hoax, there is no such kid as Alex Barton and no such teacher as Wendy Portillo? I'd like to believe that.

But as bad as the media can be, as many mistakes as all of us can make, this has a certain smell about it. The smell of the line between entertainment and education disappearing. The line between teaching a class and hosting a show, between educating and amusing your charges, between standing up for what's right when you're in front of the room and indulging your own fantasies and foibles.

I don't disrespect teachers. Quite the opposite. It's what I do, what I've been doing for decades, and while I'm lucky enough, at the college and law school level, to be paid better than kindergarten teachers are, it is because I realize just how important what we do is that I have no patience at all for those who abuse the privilege of teaching.

Teaching is a sacred responsibility. Public school teachers (the good ones, and most of them are) don't get paid enough, and they don't get enough respect, but one thing you do get, whether you want it or not, is power. You have the power to make a difference in the lives of those who are stuck listening to you, whether they want to or not, for hours on end. You have the power to influence how they think about themselves and each other. You have the power to lead, for good and for ill.

Those who use that power well garner enormous rewards, if not in dollar terms, in the personal satisfaction that comes from doing something important, changing people's lives, forming relationships that last and make life worth living. Those who abuse that power deserve to be fired. Thumbs down. Over and out. WE who are teachers have our fingers on the buttons, not of weapons but of lives. We make mistakes, all of us, but some mistakes are inexcusable, and some wrongs cannot be forgiven.

If what is being said today about Wendy Portillo is true then there are no explanations, no justifications, no second acts for her. She does not have what it takes to be a teacher. She does not deserve the power, or the respect. Let her go work for a game show. Kindergarten is real life.


Skipping Science Class, Continued

Three years ago, I posted about some disturbing trends in UK science education:
Instead of learning science, pupils will "learn about the way science and scientists work within society". They will "develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others' decisions about lifestyles", the QCA said. They will be taught to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the "social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions".

They will learn to "question scientific information or ideas" and be taught that "uncertainties in scientific knowledge and ideas change over time", and "there are some questions that science cannot answer, and some that science cannot address". Science content of the curriculum will be kept "lite". Under "energy and electricity", pupils will be taught that "energy transfers can be measured and their efficiency calculated, which is important in considering the economic costs and environmental effects of energy use".

A couple of days ago, the Telegraph had an article about the Government's new national science test and the unbelievably simplistic questions it contains. For example:
In a multiple choice question, teenagers were asked why electric wires are made from copper. The four possible answers were that copper was brown, was not magnetic, conducted electricity, or that it conducted heat.

This question can of course be answered without knowing anything at all about either electricity or copper. Demonstration:
Why is unobtanium used to summon the Gostak?

1)Unobtainum is purple

2)Unobtanium is not magnetic

3)The Gostak has a strong affinity for unobtainum

4)Unobtanium is attractive to gnomes

It's pretty clear that the desired answer is (3), even if you don't know what unobtainium is or what (who?) the Gostak might be. The question on the U.K. "science test" might be a test of the ability to read and perform very simple logic; it has nothing to do with the measurement of scientific knowledge or the understanding of scientific methods. In my 2005 post, I wrote:
At least in the U.S., the vastly-increased spending on education over recent decades has been driven in large part by the conviction that we are living in a more scientific and technological society, and that schools must provide students with appropriate knowledge in order for them to be able to succeed in the job market and to fulfill their roles as citizens. I feel fairly sure that the same kind of reasoning has been used to justify educational expenditures in the U.K. So, the schools have taken the money on pretext, and are now failing to perform the duty that should go with it.

Melanie Phillips, in her post criticizing the new U.K science program, said "The reason given for the change to the science curriculum is to make science `relevant to the 21st century'. This is in accordance with the government's doctrine of `personalised learning', which means that everything that is taught must be `relevant' to the individual child." To which I responded in my post:
"There are so many things wrong (with the U.K.'s new approach to science education) that it's difficult to know where to start. First of all: it's a natural human characteristic to be curious about the universe you live in. Schools should encourage this curiosity, not smother it in the name of a fake "relevance."

In A Preface to Paradise Lost, C S Lewis contrasts the characters of Adam and Satan, as developed in Milton's work:
Adam talks about God, the Forbidden tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve.Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace `all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.' Satan has been in the heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan. And that "one thing" is, of course, Satan himself.his position and the wrongs he believes have been done to him. Satan's monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Satanic predicament.

One need not believe in a literal Satan, or for that matter be religious at all, to see the force of this. There is indeed something Satanic about a person who has no interests other than themselves. And by insisting that everything be "relevant" and discouraging the development of broader interests, the educational authorities in Britain are doing great harm to the children put in their charge.