Saturday, July 05, 2008

New drive to ban race preferences

Initiatives in three states would prohibit affirmative action in public realms

Tensions are running high in the latest affirmative-action battlegrounds. In Arizona, Nebraska, and Colorado, supporters of ballot initiatives that would ban "preferential treatment" are counting up petition signatures - and opponents are scrutinizing their validity - to see if there's enough support to bring the issue to voters in November.

The American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), led by Ward Connerly, is pushing the initiatives, which would change state constitutions to prohibit preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the public realms of employment, education, and contracting. Similar ballot measures have succeeded in only three states: California in 1996 and later in Washington and Michigan.

Proponents of affirmative action learned from those votes not to wait until the fall election to make their case to the public. So they've been mustering volunteers now to wage "decline to sign" campaigns.

The initiative fight is one area where race and politics intersect in this election cycle. Some backers of the initiative cite Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic primary as evidence that people of any color can succeed in today's society - though the candidate himself recently stated his opposition to such ballot initiatives. In Nebraska, a pro-initiative radio ad opens with a clip from an inflammatory speech by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, followed by a voice-over noting that "colorblind government" is a way to "reject the politics of race and hate."

The polarization sparked by these battles "makes it difficult for people to think about what's at stake in a more practical way," says Carol Swain, a law and political science professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. It "continues to politicize the discussion of issues that should be on the table ... given where we are demographically." Examples she'd like to see more dialogue about include immigration reform and class-based, rather than race-based, affirmative action, an idea she supports.

ACRI, a nonprofit in Sacramento, Calif., backed initiatives in five states this year. The efforts in Missouri and Oklahoma came to a halt without enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. In Colorado, the validity of signatures has been challenged in court - a scenario that appears likely in both Arizona and Nebraska after the signature deadlines, July 3 and 4 respectively.

"It's not only morally wrong, but ... often counterproductive for the question of someone's skin color or race to be a factor ... when the government interacts with an individual," says Mr. Connerly, founder and president of ACRI. A former member of the University of California Board of Regents, he championed passage of that state's 1996 ballot measure, and he also led the efforts in Washington State and Michigan.

Connerly acknowledges that there is still discrimination but says society has changed to the point that whites can no longer always be presumed to be the "oppressors." In some cities, whites feel discriminated against by majority-black governments, and in others, blacks feel shortchanged by Hispanic leaders. "Nobody has a monopoly on being able to discriminate," he says. Connerly sees the direct appeal to voters as the best hope for changing laws.

His opponents believe just as strongly that affirmative action is still an important tool to promote equal opportunity for minorities and women, as well as to reach goals such as diversity in higher education. When they explain to people that the initiatives would threaten scholarships and efforts to hire women and minority faculty, many decide not to sign the petitions, they say.

Still, once the matter is before voters in the privacy of the ballot booth, "if an overwhelmingly white electorate is given an opportunity ... to uphold white privilege, the majority are going to do it," says Donna Stern, coordinator of a Detroit-based group called BAMN: Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary.

Opponents have accused Connerly's campaigns of hiring paid signature-gathering groups that show a pattern of violating rules and misleading voters. Some opponents have videotaped petition circulators to try to prove their claims. "Paid signature-gathering isn't inherently bad ... [but some] organizers don't feel accountable to the rules," says Kristina Wilfore, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive group in Washington that helps document fraud and pushes for reforms. (Ballot initiatives are allowed in 24 states.)

Connerly and state initiative organizers deny such allegations. They fault their opponents for giving voters incorrect information - by saying, in Nebraska for instance, that the proposal would threaten breast-cancer screenings.

Despite activist "blockers," Connerly and state initiative organizers say they expect to turn in signatures in Arizona and Nebraska beyond the minimum needed to qualify. At press time, they were not ready to state how many they had gathered.

In Arizona, universities generally don't use race as a factor in admission. What's at stake are programs such as one to help Hispanic women improve their college graduation rate or another to support women studying engineering, says State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), chair of Protect Arizona's Freedom, a coalition against the initiative. Other programs that could be affected include state and local goals for getting bids from minority and woman-owned businesses.

The policies that would be subject to change vary state by state, but higher education is where the debate over affirmative action, or preferences, has played out most strongly in recent years. In 2003, the United States Supreme Court struck down a University of Michigan undergraduate admissions policy that assigned points to race, but it upheld the law school's more narrowly tailored policy. The law school considered race as one element in efforts to promote the educational value of diversity.

In 2006, the Connerly-backed initiative passed in Michigan with 58 percent of the vote, making the law there more restrictive than what the high court allowed nationwide. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor revamped its admissions policies to promote diversity while complying with the law, says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs.

This year's freshman class is projected to be about 10.5 percent African-American, Hispanic, and native American, down slightly from 10.9 percent last year. In 2003, these groups made up about 13 percent of undergraduates.

Mr. Monts says he's glad the declines are not as strong as what the University of California experienced after the change there in 1996. But, he says, educators in other states are right to believe their diversity efforts are threatened by such initiatives: "We've had to increase our admissions staff [and] our financial-aid budget. Other universities may not be in a position to do those kinds of things."


More Driver Drivel

One of the downsides of my "job" (I use the term loosely) providing your peephole/telescopic/microscopic view into the wonderful world of discrimination (not to mention my filter/sieve service, separating the chaff from the really bad chaff) is that I have to read so much offensive, militant nonsense from know-nothings like Shanta Driver, national chairpersonwoman of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the battering ram used by the Democrats to do the dirty work of supporting racial preferences, such as disrupting meetings and sending out threatening "blockers" to intimidate petition-signers.

She's still in Arizona (where we encountered her only last week, here), and still spouting angry, duplicitous nonsense. One saving grace of having to read her, however, is being reminded that she's so far around the bend that she doesn't realize how offensive she sounds to most people, such as when she unblushingly reveals her disdain for democracy and the blighted, racist Americas who struggle to make it work.
The head of a group opposing an initiative to end affirmative action and other preferential programs said she wants to block the measure from getting on the ballot in part because she fears a majority of Arizonans will vote for it.... Driver said putting this measure before Arizona voters, even in 2008, would be like asking Alabama residents in the 1950s to vote on equal rights for blacks.

I'm sure Arizonans will appreciate being compared to racist white Alabamians in 1950, but that comparison makes as much sense as describing a measure that would prohibit discrimination as discriminatory. Nor does Driver seem to recognize that her opposition to colorblind equality depends upon a definition of "civil rights" that is distorted beyond all recognition.
Shanta Driver, national chair of By Any Means Necessary, said it is improper to push the measure as a "civil rights" initiative. She said that term connotes something to help minorities

There is no control over what "connotes" what to Ms. Driver, but "civil rights" denotes the right to be free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, etc. As if Driver's distorted connotions weren't enough, for some reason she thinks a supporter who admits that she didn't read the petition she signed strengthens her case.
"Civil rights applies to all people, regardless of their race or their sex," [director of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative Max] McPhail said. "To give someone preference based on something like a characteristic like race goes against what civil rights really means."

But Pamela Brown, one of the people who signed the petition, said there is no question that the use of the words "civil rights" was designed to mislead. Brown, who is black, said she grew up in the 1950s and 1960s watching TV coverage of fire hoses being turned on civil rights protestors in the South. "When you say `civil rights' to a person of my era, that's what we go back to," she said.

McPhail said anyone who actually read the text of the initiative, which legally must be attached to the petition, would see that it bans preferential treatment. Brown, who signed the initiative, conceded that she did not look at the language.

Driver and her un-reading supporter, Brown, thus believe that discriminating against many Asians and a few whites to help blacks and Hispanics is what "civil rights" is all about. Well, that must be the case, since that's what Brown learned watching TV.


Britain: Leading Jewish state school is cleared in race bias case

A leading Jewish state school was cleared yesterday of racially discriminating against the son of a convert in a ruling that shores up the whole faith school system. JFS, formerly the Jewish Free School, refused a place to an 11-year-old boy whose mother had converted to the faith. His father took legal action on the ground that the school's admissions code breached race laws, by favouring children with Jewish-born mothers over religiously observant families who had converted. A High Court judge decided, however, that the school had not discriminated on racial grounds and said that Jewish status could not be determined by secular courts.

Mr Justice Mumby recognised that, if the case had succeeded, it would probably have rendered unlawful "the admission arrangements in a very large number of faith schools, of many denominations". He said that members of a religion did not necessarily have to practise that faith. Judaism is passed on through the maternal line, or through conversion. Religious state schools are allowed to use faith-based criteria to decide which children to admit.

The father of the boy, known as M, was seeking a judicial review because he said that the school in northwest London used ethnic rather than religious reasons for refusing his son a place. Children from two other families who consider themselves Jewish have also been turned away from the school, which achieves high results and is very oversubscribed.

One was the daughter of the school's head of English, Kate Lightman, whose husband David is an Orthodox Jew. She converted more than 20 years ago under Israel's Chief Rabbi, but her daughter was not deemed to be Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi in Britain, which controls JFS's admissions.

Dinah Rose, QC, representing M, said that the school would accept a child of Jewish-born "committed atheists" but exclude others who are "Jewish by belief and practice" because of their mother's descent.

Rejecting the legal challenge, the judge said the admissions policy was "not materially different from that which gives preference in admission to a Muslim school to those who were born Muslim, or preference in admission to a Catholic school to those who have been baptised". He said such policies were a "proportionate and lawful means of achieving a legitimate end". The judge said the school had the right to give preference for those from a certain religion, even if they had fallen away from that faith. Russell Kett, chairman of governors at JFS, said: "The school abhors all forms of discrimination and welcomes the judge's express finding that JFS does not racially discriminate."

Simon Hochhauser, president of the United Synagogue, said: "We are pleased that JFS's admissions procedures and policies have been so fully endorsed. We acknowledge the judge's ruling that Jewish status can only be defined by Jewish law."

Philip Hunter, the chief schools adjudicator, ordered JFS last year to scrap admissions criteria designed to be used if it were ever undersubscribed.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Nutty British schools honcho

Deception is a stock in trade of the Left so I guess we should not be surprised that he wants more of it

Head teachers have expressed their astonishment after Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, suggested that the best way to prevent six and seven-year-olds from getting stressed about exams was simply not to tell them they were being tested. Mr Balls said that he was angry with schools that had informed parents in advance when children in primary school would sit their compulsory Key Stage 1 tests, sometimes known as SATs. “I cannot believe they are doing that. They should not be doing that,” he said in an interview published today in the New Statesman.

“The best head teachers will ensure that no six or seven-year-old knows they are doing SATs. If you are telling pupils in Year 2 that they are doing SATs then that’s the wrong thing. You should not be stressing the children.” He added: “They don’t need to do the SATs in a sit-down environment. It’s something that can be done as part of the school day. Honestly. And there are loads of schools doing that.”

But his remarks drew an angry response from head teachers. David Fann, head of Sherwood and Broughton primary schools in Preston, and chairman of the Primary Committee of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said Mr Balls had very little idea of the daily realities of running a school. “Children very soon work out when the national tests are going on. Parents hear rumours from parents of children at other schools so it makes no sense to keep the dates a secret. That would add to the stress,” he said. “At my schools we invite in the parents in April to explain the procedures. We do it in a relaxed manner. “When the tests do happen, it is in the usual classroom with a teacher the children know, so it feels normal to them,” he added.

Other head teachers said that they routinely informed parents about the Key Stage 1 testsbecause a warning ensured that children were not taken on holiday that week, were given plenty of sleep and were in school on time. Mr Fann said that a little bit of stress could be good for children, if it was well managed. “Head teachers want to keep stress to reasonable levels, but we also want to motivate and challenge children to do their best,” he said.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said he was glad that Mr Balls had admitted that children found tests stressful. Mr Balls will announce an ambitious expansion of the newly formed children’s trusts today. The trusts, which are designed to act as a focal point for integrated service, will become a statutory requirement in every area, placing a legal duty on police, youth justice officials, social workers, and health agencies and other children’s services to include at least one representative from local schools on their board.

Mr Balls will argue that schoolchildren are still being let down by the failure of different parts of the public sector to communicate properly. “Many schools still find it more difficult than they should to get support and specialist help when they need it,” he will tell a conference in London organised by the children’s charity NCH. Mr Balls will also announce powers for central government to force local councils to take over underperforming schools. “It’s important these powers are used appropriately, which is why we are going to bring in legislation to require local authorities to consider formal warning notices when these are clearly justified,” he will say.


How our Marxist faculties got that way

It's August 1968. Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators have just wrecked the Democratic national convention in Chicago and ruined Hubert Humphrey's chances to become President. So what did these Marxist demonstrators and their cohorts elsewhere do next?

They stayed in college. They sought out the easiest professors and the easiest courses. And they stayed in the top half of their class. This effectively deferred them from the military draft, a draft that discriminated against young men who didn't have the brains or the money to go to college. That draft also sparked the wave of grade inflation that still swamps our colleges. Vietnam-era faculty members lowered standards in order to help the "Hell No, We Won't Go" crowd.

In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon ended the war and Congress ended military conscription. So the Marxist anti-war activists -- activism is now a full-time profession -- had to do something else. Most of them went to work in the real world. But a meaningful number remained in school and opted for academia, especially the humanities and the social sciences. If they got a Ph.D., they might even become university teachers, and many of them did. They then climbed academia's ladder, rising from instructor to assistant professor, from assistant professor to associate professor, and from associate professor to full professor. These last two ranks usually carry tenure, which means a guaranteed job until one decides to retire or is fired for raping little children in the streets.

Forty years have passed since the 1968 Democratic national convention. During that time, American academia has been transformed into the most postmodernist, know-nothing, anti-American, anti-military, anti-capitalist, Marxist institution in our society. It is now a bastion of situational ethics and moral relativity and teaches that there are no evil people, only misunderstood and oppressed people. American academia is now a very intolerant place, As Ann Coulter, who has been driven off more than one campus podium because of her conservative views, has put it, "There is free speech for thee, but not for me."

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Marxism collapsed in Russia and in Eastern Europe. But it survived in U.S. universities, where politically-correct feelings are now more important than knowledge, and where politically-correct emotions are now more important than logic and critical thinking. Our students and graduates are well trained, but badly educated. Outside of what they must learn to make a living, they don't know very much. But they have been taught to feel sad, angry or guilty about their country and its past.

In the main, our students and graduates, no matter where they went to school, don't understand that China, in return for Sudanese oil, is supplying the weapons used to commit genocide in Darfur. But they feel bad about the Drfurians. They don't now that the Palestinians have rejected every opportunity to have a state of their own. But they feel sorry for them and they blame the Israelis for their plight. They aren't familiar with the Koranic verse "the Infidel is your inveterate enemy." But they keep searching for the "root causes" of Muslim hatred and many of them believe that terrorism is the result of what the United States and Israel, obviously the two worst countries on this planet, do or do not do.

Deficient in history, geography, and economics, our college-trained citizens cannot fathom that the main reasons for high gasoline prices are the speculation in oil futures and the continuing industrialization of Japan, China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other countries. Instead, they blame the "greedy" U.S. oil companies, whose "obscene" profit margins are not as high as many other industries. Nor do they understand that their simultaneous and illogical opposition to nuclear power, coal, liquified petroleum gas, on-shore and off-shore oil drilling, and new refineries guarantees that we will have energy shortages and high energy prices.

Their professors don't make the big bucks in America. What their professors do earn, however, are huge psychological incomes in the form of power -- the power to shape the minds of their students and the power to influence their colleagues who want raises, sabbaticals. grants, promotions, and tenure. One of the best ways to influence students, colleagues, and the citizenry at large is to hire, promote, and tenure only those people who agree with you. Duke University is a case in point. Some time ago, its psychology chairman was asked in a radio interview if his department hired Republicans. He answered: "No. We don't knowingly hire them because they are stupid and we are not."

If I were a psychologist, Duke would never hire me, for I am a Republican, and a Jewish one at that. Moreover, when I was an active academic during and after the Vietnam War, I audaciously taught politically-incorrect courses: civil-military relations and the politics of national defense.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

State frees teachers to criticize evolution

Global warming, origins of life, cloning also may be scrutinized. Genesis was written around 3,000 years ago. If the theory of evolution cannot withstand a challenge from a 3,000 year old book it is not much of a theory

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows school districts to permit teachers to present evidence, analysis and critique of evolution and other prevalent scientific theories in public school classrooms. The law came to the governor's desk after overwhelming support in the legislature, including a unanimous vote in the state's Senate and a 93-4 vote in the House.

The act has been criticized by some as an attempt to insert religion into science education and hailed by others as a blow for academic freedom in the face of pressure to ignore flaws in politically correct scientific theories.

Robert Crowther, director of communications for The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank on science and culture, called the act necessary. In an article posted on The Discovery Institute's evolution news website, Crowther wrote, "The law is needed for two reasons. First, around the country, science teachers are being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for trying to present scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory along with the evidence that supports it. Second, many school administrators and teachers are fearful or confused about what is legally allowed when teaching about controversial scientific issues like evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act clarifies what teachers may be allowed to do."

Specifically, the act allows teachers in the state's public schools to present evidence both for and against Darwinian theories of evolution and allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials that may open critical discussions of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, human cloning and other scientific theories.

Teachers are still required by the act to follow the standardized science curriculum, and school districts are required to authorize both the teachers' classes and additional materials. The state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials it deems inappropriate, and the act prohibits religious instruction. Section 1D of the act states that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

Despite section 1D, many national voices, including the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a New York Times editorial, and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the measure. Marjorie Esman, state director of Lousiana's ACLU told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "To the extent that this might invite religion in the public school classroom, we will do everything we can do to keep religion out."

John West, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, however, said opponents of the bill are misunderstanding it. Rather than being about infusing intelligent design or creationism into the classroom, he contends, the bill is about giving teachers the freedom to talk about the debates that already exist in science, even among evolutionists themselves. "This bill is not a license to propagandize against something they don't like in science," West told the Times-Picayune. "Someone who uses materials to inject religion into the classroom is not only violating the Constitution, they are violating the bill."

Gov. Jindal released a statement at the time of the signing that read, in part: "I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and (the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."


British faith schools undermined by 'Government witch hunt'

Faith schools are being undermined by a Government-backed "witch hunt", according to a new report

Ministers have exaggerated claims that Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools cherry-pick the best pupils to justify a series of "plots and threats" against the religious sector, it is claimed. Key changes to school admissions rules - including a ban on interviewing families - have been introduced despite a lack of real evidence that faith schools discriminate against poor pupils, the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank said.

Earlier this year, the Government caused controversy by claiming a "significant minority" of faith schools were breaking new laws designed to make the admissions system fairer. Jim Knight, the schools minister, said it was "shocking" that schools were using banned policies to weed out children from poor homes, including charging parents up-front fees for free education and failing to give priority to children in care.

But it provoked a furious response from faith schools who accused the Government of basing its claims on flawed evidence. "The witch hunt is on," said the latest study. "A Government obsessed with phoney egalitarianism and control freakery is aligning itself with the strident secularist lobby to threaten the future of faith schools in Britain. "Faith schools know that they are at the mercy of the current administration. They were in with Tony Blair - but they are out with Gordon Brown."

Some 7,000 primaries and secondaries in England - around one-in-three - are faith schools, with many performing above the national average. Two-thirds of the top-rated primaries in recent league tables were Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools.

The latest report, by the writer and broadcaster Cristina Odone, said parental fears over education standards coupled with concerns over discipline meant they were "sending their children to faith schools in increasing numbers". She also said faith schools are good for Muslim girls as they give their parents the confidence to keep them in school for longer and sharply raise the chances of going on to higher education.

But the report claimed the growing popularity of faith schools had created "suspicion" in Whitehall, inspiring a series of anti-faith school measures. Under a new admissions code, children in the care of social services are given priority places, schools are banned from asking for evidence of parents' employment, marital status or education - and rules prohibit schools asking for voluntary contributions from parents until their child has been accepted.

Richard Gold, of Stone King Solicitors, a firm specialising in education and charities, told researchers: "Over the past four or five years the admissions team of the [Department for Children, Schools and Families] have been steadily whittling back the freedom of faith schools... It is in my mind an attempt to shoe-horn the faith schools into a one size fits-all admissions policy."

The report said that rules banning interviews and application forms had removed the "checks that a faith school relies on to ensure that applicants subscribe to its distinctive ethos". It also said a clampdown on voluntary contributions risked hitting Jewish schools, which saw it as the "only way" to pay for Jewish studies, which are not on the National Curriculum, and additional security.

The study - based on interviews with headteachers and surveys of local councils - also claimed the Government's case against faith schools was flawed. Figures from 80 local authorities showed 1,517 children in social services care made the transition from primary to secondary school last year, but only 15 were turned away by faith schools. It also said rejected claims that faith schools take fewer children eligible for free meals - seen as evidence that they skim off middle-class pupils. The study said that "in tight-knit faith communities parents often turn to extended families or neighbours rather than the state and see free school meals as a loss of face".

But Mr Knight insisted: "The Government agrees that faith schools are inclusive, offer a good education and are popular with parents. "Faith based schools are assured a secure future in the state system under this government, with parents from all backgrounds being offered an equal chance to get their children in to these popular schools. To suggest otherwise is nonsense and a distortion of the truth."


Australia has the latest school tyranny: Obsessive Principal tries to impose his odor hangups on little kids

Little children do have a faint but distinctive smell. You can smell it if you walk into any primary school. This principal obviously doesn't like it. The school's website makes a point of not giving the Principal's name but the Qld. Education Dept. advises that it is Mr Keith Graham. He should get a job where he does not come in contact with those pesky kids. Kids are harassed enough already with "obesity" campaigns etc without adding this latest hatred of normality to their burdens

Children as young as five have been told to wear deodorant to school -- and re-apply once a day. The edict was in Chatswood Hills State School's June 13 newsletter under the title "personal hygiene".

"Please remind your children that, although it is winter. it is still necessary to apply deodorant in the morning and reapply once during the school-day," the newsletter read. "Aerosols are not permitted but rollon brands are encouraged."

The Albert & Logan News spoke to parents, who found the request "odd" and 'weird", while Queensland University of Technology child psychology lecturer Dr Marilyn Campbell said it was "laughable". Dr Campbell, a teacher for 20 years, was shocked. "I haven't heard of such rubbish in my life," she said. "You have to be joking, asking them to reapply during the day. "I don't need to do that and I doubt children would."

Dr Campbell said she had concerns about anxieties such a request could bring. "Will this lead to pretend shaving for the boys, or make-up for the girls?" she said. "I don't think it is right; totally unnecessary. "It's making (pupils) super clean, restricting them from their normal experience."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said in a statement that the health and wellbeing of staff and students at all Queensland state schools was the department's priority at all times. "Students wearing deodorant is a parental decision and Education Queensland has no policy enforcing its use," she said. "Schools may become involved if there is an issue related to student hygiene or if the issue is impacting on students' social and emotional development, but this is done at a local level, as the need arises." She said schools may also offer reminders to deal with the issue "holistically and sensitively", so individuals were not singled out.

What did Chatswood Hills State School parents think of the statement requesting them to make sure their children wore deodorant? The Albert & Logan News asked 20 parents if they were "comfortable" or "uncomfortable" with the edict. Fourteen said they were uncomfortable, while six said they were comfortable. Only a few of the parents polled were willing to comment publicly. Mother Ali Richards said she agreed with the advice in the newsletter, but thought the school could have worded it better. "It makes it sound like every kid is smelly -- it is generalising every kid," Ms Richards said. "It is up to the parents to teach kids that stuff, not the school." She said she would not instruct her child to reapply during the day, leaving the decision up to the child.

Parent Mitko Kostovski said he thought the school's request was a "bit weird" "If they (children) do wear it, they won't reapply -- they are too busy playing," Mr Kostovski said. One mother, Jaimie Byrne, said she supported the idea and had no problems with the Chatswood Hills school's request. "It is a good thing I think," Ms Byrne said. "I think it could help the kids to stop some getting bullied if they do have body odour." Ms Byrne said her child, who was in Year 5, was given a hygiene talk, which she understood was more for the comfort of the class.

The article above by DANIEL TANG appeared in the "Albert & Logan News" of Friday, June 27, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

British school segregation increases over ten years

Schools are now more segregated by poverty than 10 years ago when Labour had just come to power, Government figures indicate. Most areas saw an increase in the division of pupils, by school, depending on whether on not they took free school meals. The data also shows that, by race, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils are the most segregated between schools.

A report released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, analysed statistics on school composition. It found: "Grammar schools have a lower than average incidence of pupils eligible for free school meals and pupils classified as special educational needs. "But they have a higher than average incidence of ethnic minority pupils, largely due to higher than average number of Indian pupils."

Some local authorities which had grammar schools saw a huge influx of secondary school pupils from neighbouring areas, the report said. In four council areas which had selective schools, more than 60 per cent of the secondary school intake came from other authorities. The report added: "On average, selective local authorities gained above-average attaining pupils in Year 7 and lost low-attaining pupils."

The research considered the extent to which children from deprived backgrounds were concentrated in particular schools. It found: "The level of segregation by free school meal, in primary and secondary schools, increased for most local authorities between 1999 and 2007. "Nationally, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils were the most segregated between schools. However black African and black Caribbean pupils were more segregated between local authorities."


A hostile environment -- for learning how to write well

The recent focus on the AoA lawsuit against Dartmouth (which has been dismissed at the request of the AoA) caused me to neglect reporting on a piece of threatened litigation against the college pertaining to a different, though perhaps not entirely unrelated, matter. A few months ago a former Dartmouth writing instructor, Priya Venkatesan, informed some of her former students that she was planning to sue them, along with Dartmouth.

Dartmouth inflicted Venkatesan on an unlucky set of Writing 5 students (most Dartmouth freshmen are required to take one of the seminars that comprise Writing 5 in order to improve their expository writing). Venkatesan in turn inflicted her post-modern views of science on the students. As Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal reports, she taught them that "scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth," inasmuch as "scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct." Her goal, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. As if we don't have enough problems.

Showing clear signs of life, some of Venkatesan's students reacted by taking issue with her theses during class. Venkatesan deemed this pushback "very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful." She responded by accusing the students of "fascist demagoguery," consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," and canceling classes for a week. Later, as noted, she threatened to sue some of her students for creating a "hostile work environment," and to sue Dartmouth itself for countenancing the "harassment." To her credit, however, Venkatesan has apparently reconsidered her decision to sue.

Venkatesan has moved on to Northwestern. She leaves behind some questions, especially this one: how could Dartmouth have hired her? Dartmouth's answer likely would be that employers make bad hiring decisions from time to time. A good case can be made, however, that this bad hiring decisions was the product to some extent of weaknesses in Dartmouth's approach to the teaching of writing (whether similar weaknesses extend to other courses at Dartmouth is the subject for another day).

There were three problems with hiring Venkatesan to teach expository writing. First, learning how to write well is difficult enough without the distraction of a wacky ideology -- i.e., that scientific knowledge is, in essence, a fraud perpetrated by the white male hierarchy -- or indeed any ideology. Second, Venkatesan does not appear to be a good writer. Third, given her over-the-top reaction to disagreement by her students, she does not appear to be very stable.

Dartmouth certainly can be excused for not having anticipated the third of these defects. But unless the missives collected here are an aberration, the college probably should have been able to discern that Venkatesan's writing falls short of what is expected of a college writing instructor. And Venkatesan has made no secret of her bizarre post-modern views.

Unfortunately, these views might have made Venkatsesan more, not less, appealing to Dartmouth. For I'm told that Venkatesan's seminar was hardly the only one in the Writing 5 program with a left-wing ideological bent. I'd like to be able to demonstrate this by sharing the subject matter of past and current seminars with our readers, but this does not seem to be possible because Dartmouth apparently elects not to provide descriptions on its website (or maybe my computer search skills are inadequate; I'll accept help here). One student reports having combed through the Writing 5 offerings several terms ago in the hope of finding an indoctrination-free seminar. According to this student, he thought he had finally succeeded, but once he took the course found himself locking horns with his instructor over politics and making very little progress with his writing.

Nor is this an isolated case. Although my daughter did not take Writing 5, the reports of the students I've spoken to about the course range from lukewarm to strongly negative. In fact, several expressed to me how fortunate my daughter was not to be saddled with it.

In theory, writing about contentious matters may seem like a good way to improve one's expository writing skills. And given an able, fair-minded professor, this theory can be transformed into practice. For example, Walter Sinnot-Armstrong's Philosophy 3 course (Reason and Argument) teaches, in essence, argumentation. Students must write a final paper on a controversial subject, such as race-based preferences for minority group members. Sinnot-Armstrong, moreover, is an unabashed liberal. Yet based on what I've heard, the course is an excellent one in which conservatives freely write what they think about these highly-charged subjects and pay no price for doing. That's because Sinnot-Armstrong apparently brings no agenda to the classroom other than teaching the methodology of argument.

But it seems the same cannot be said consistently about the instructors of Writing 5 (who are not professors). In a course whose subject matter is avowedly ideological (which is not really the case with Philosophy 3), the temptation to exalt the ideology over the writing is inherently difficult to resist. It may even be the case (though I don't know for sure) that some post-modern ideologues view the two things -- ideology and writing -- as inextricably linked. In any case, the prospect for mischief is great; the prospect for improving one's writing is not. And so it too frequently plays out.

The college appears finally to have recognized that its writing program is flawed. Unfortunately, as I'll discuss in a follow-up post, Dean Folt's plan to redress this problem is, to put it kindly, counter-intuitive.

UPDATE: Priya Venkatesan came to Dartmouth from the University of California at San Diego where she was a teaching assistant. UC San Diego is the home of a notorious mandatory freshman program called Dimensions of Culture, which lasts a full year. As I described here, this program is, apart from the underlying "hate whitey" indoctrination, largely incomprehensibe to students. As one student put it:
I had no idea what was going on in that class. And even the TA said she had no idea what it was about. . . .Everyone hated the class, and they know it, and even at the end of the year they gave out these pins that said, "I survived DOC." And the lecturers [asked] "Aren't you so glad it's done?"

Given the scope of DOC at UC San Diego, it must be a magnet for TAs. However, I don't know whether Venkatesan taught in the program. If she did, this would tend to make her hiring less excusable, and to reinforce the view that her odd post-modern leftist views made her more, not less, appealing to Dartmouth.


A Call to Fund the Young and Risky

A coalition of researchers on Tuesday strongly urged a greater commitment among policy makers, universities and private donors to support scientists early in their careers and encourage potentially "high-risk, high-reward" ventures, offering a series of recommendations that would alter longstanding federal funding and peer review mechanisms.

The recommendations, published in a white paper released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, are mindful that stagnating funding tends to favor more "conservative," incremental projects that entail lower risk and lower potential rewards. Instead of spending their time as "serial grant writers," said Keith R. Yamamoto, the executive vice dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, young scientists are eager - and should be encouraged - to work on bold new ideas.

They "want to do research that's not paradigm-extending but paradigm-breaking," he said at a panel announcing the report, ARISE: Advancing Research in Science and Engineering. Yamamoto is part of the group at the American Academy that finalized the paper's recommendations, the Committee on Alternative Models for the Federal Funding of Science. Its chairman, Thomas R. Cech, recently stepped down as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he spearheaded a new grant program aimed specifically at early-career scientists.

"Taxpayer dollars have already been invested in perhaps 30 to 35 years in education for these scientists, after which they compete with perhaps 100 to 200 others" to obtain faculty positions, Cech said. Once there, he continued, "they instead are squirreled away in their offices serving as" - using the same phrase - "serial grant writers." He called the state of affairs a "waste" and said that instead, funding mechanisms should promote "transformative research."

The report stresses that the two prongs of its policy focus - scientists early in their careers and high-risk research - are tied together. "The experiences of researchers at the beginning of their careers color and shape their subsequent work," it says. "Researchers who achieve success early gain the confidence, professional reputation, and career commitment that enable them to continue to make important scientific and engineering contributions as their knowledge and skills mature."

Two of the major policy proposals put forth in the report target grants and tenure policies. One-time grants of five or six years, similar to the National Science Foundation's CAREER program, the group concludes, would carry young scientists through their tenure decisions, alleviate the pressure to constantly apply for support and encourage longer-term and higher-risk work. Meanwhile, the report urges research universities to revise tenure policies to keep in mind the merits of well-designed research programs that might not necessarily produce expected or immediate results.

At the same time, researchers on the panel noted that peer review processes should sufficiently recognize collaborative work. The report also points out that scientists starting out their careers would benefit from mentoring, and that institutions should "undertake rigorous self-examination" of cultural barriers that could impede women and minorities from advancing in their research careers.

It also suggests boosting support for program officers at funding agencies so that they can better immerse themselves in the scientific fields through conferences, campus visits and in-depth research.

One recommendation is especially likely to attract resistance from research universities: The suggestion that they eventually cover more (or all) of their faculties' salaries, rather than relying on grant funding, further straining federal agencies. Cech called for "a bit of a rebalancing," arguing that universities needed "more institutional buy-in" to support their researchers.

Among the other policy recommendations in the white paper is for federal agencies to improve their data collection procedures so that researchers can track what happens to investigators who do and do not receive funding for specific proposals.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

British markers award students for writing obscenities on examination papers

How low Britain has sunk: Write `f*** off' on a GCSE paper and you'll get 7.5%. Add an exclamation mark and it'll go up to 11%

Pupils are being rewarded for writing obscenities in their GCSE English examinations even when it has nothing to do with the question. One pupil who wrote "f*** off" was given marks for accurate spelling and conveying a meaning successfully. His paper was marked by Peter Buckroyd, a chief examiner who has instructed fellow examiners to mark in the same way. He told trainee examiners recently to adhere strictly to the mark scheme, to the extent that pupils who wrote only expletives on their papers should be awarded points.

Mr Buckroyd, chief examiner of English for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), an examination board, said that he had given the pupil two marks, out of a possible 27, for the expletive.

To gain minimum marks in English, students must demonstrate "some simple sequencing of ideas" and "some words in appropriate order". The phrase had achieved this, according to Mr Buckroyd.

The chief examiner, who is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners, told The Times: "It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for - like conveying some meaning and some spelling. "It's better than someone that doesn't write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank."

Mr Buckroyd says that he uses the example to teach examiners the finer points of marking. "It elucidates some useful points - it shows some nominal skills but no relevance to the task." He also acknowledged that the language was inappropriate - but added that using the construction "different to" would also be inappropriate language.

The choice phrase, given in answer to the question "Describe the room you're sitting in", on a 2006 GCSE paper, was not punctuated. "If it had had an exclamation mark it would have got a little bit more because it would have been showing a little bit of skill," Mr Buckroyd said, "We are trying to give higher marks to the students who show more skills."

The AQA, which as the largest of the three examination boards awards half the full-course GCSEs and 43 per cent of A levels, distanced itself from Mr Buckroyd's comments, saying: "If a candidate's script contains, for example, obscenities, examiners are instructed to contact AQA's offices, which will advise them in accordance with Joint Council for Qualification guidelines. Expletives in a script would either be disregarded, or sanctioned."

Ofqual, the Government's examinations regulator, refused to condemn Mr Buckroyd's approach. "We think it's important that candidates are able to use appropriate language in a variety of situations but it's for awarding bodies to develop their mark scheme and for their markers to award marks in line with that scheme," it said.

Other examining bodies said that their marking schemes would not reward such language. Edexel said: "If the question was `Use a piece of Anglo-Saxon English', they may get a mark, but if they had just written `f*** off', they may get sanctioned. If it was graphic or violent they may get no mark for that paper."

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, said that examiners were required to report instances of "inappropriate, offensive or obscene material" in exam scripts, and the awarding body must investigate. "If malpractice is identified, the awarding body will decide on the appropriate sanction, which could include loss of marks or even disqualification," a spokesman said.

Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said of Mr Buckroyd's strategy: "It's taking the desire for uniformity and consistency to absurd lengths."


Schools handing over discipline to the police

Sounds very costly and inefficient but buckpassing is constant these days

Denver Public Schools plans to launch a discipline policy that at least one civic group feels will be too broad and bring unnecessary police involvement. The plan, to be introduced tonight to the school board, includes rules that require authorities to be called for specific student-on-student incidents, including those involving sexual behaviors and witness intimidation. "When you think about its application, we think it's frightening," said Marco Nunez, organizing director for Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a parents advocacy group in northwest Denver. "We are advocating there should be a common-sense approach. Calling the police and mandatory reporting should not be the default position."

Last year a middle school principal was taken to court for failing to immediately report a student-on-student incident to authorities. Nicole Veltze, the principal of Skinner Middle School, says she was following district rules when she meted out punishment for two male students who inappropriately touched a female seventh-grader. Veltze did not notify the authorities immediately, which the district attorney's office said violated state law. Veltze was handed a misdemeanor summons. A judge in May threw out the case.

The school district's proposed policy defines rules for student-on-student incidents, saying authorities must be contacted on specific cases of suspected child abuse, unlawful sexual behavior or contact, and witness intimidation or retaliation. The definitions for what constitutes those types of incidents are too broad and will result in confusion and police being called too often, said Jim Freeman of the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, which has worked with Padres y Jovenes Unidos on the discipline policy. "What they are proposing is to codify the status quo in which all these low-level offenses would be reported to law enforcement," he said. Incidents such as bras being snapped and buttocks being pinched will launch a child's inevitable spiral into the legal system, he said.

Not true, said DPS attorney John Kechriotis. Those types of low-level incidents will not warrant calls to police under the new policy, he said. And if there is any confusion on whether a case is a more serious child-abuse offense, officials from the district attorney's office say they will be available for consultation. "The DA doesn't want to be placed in the position to prosecute a DPS administrator. Neither of us want that type of situation, so we are very much aligned to develop a type of discipline policy to make a Veltze case happening again nearly impossible," Kechriotis said.

In 2003-04, there were 1,399 referrals to law enforcement from the district, Freeman said. In 2006-07, with an emphasis on restorative justice and means of discipline other than calling the police, referrals dropped to 504.

District officials and a representative from Denver's district attorney's office say principals and teachers will be trained on what types of incidents fall under mandatory reporting. "First and foremost, we're concerned about the safety of the students," said Steve Siegel, director of the DA's special program unit. "We are not out looking for an increase in cases. Our approach is not about the numbers, it's about the appropriateness of each circumstance. We're very committed to keep kids out of the criminal justice system."


Australia: Stupid Federal attack on technical colleges

I guess they are not Leftist enough. To attack the most practical part of Australian education is madness

Australian Technical Colleges have urged the Rudd Government to rethink plans to abolish their funding, arguing the states have shown little interest in supporting an apprenticeship program devised by the former Howard government. The colleges claim their model of delivering apprenticeship training to students is more efficient than the federal Government's replacement scheme in which secondary schools can apply for funding to offer their own training centres.

"Our preference would be to remain funded at a commonwealth level because the state response has been less than desired," Nigel Hill, chairman of the Australian Technical College Association told The Australian.

At a time when 40 per cent of first-year trade apprentices are dropping out and exacerbating skills shortages, the Rudd Government has allocated $2.5billion over 10 years for schools to establish trade training centres. The Government is also spending $1.9billion over five years to provide 630,000 new training places, including 85,000 apprenticeships.

But Mr Hill believes the approach of the colleges in attracting students while they are still in school and having them work closely with industry is the key to improving retention rates. An example is the ATC at Sunshine in Melbourne's west, whose chairman Barry McCarthy is also the manager of car giant Toyota's training and development planning centre. Enrolments at Sunshine have this year doubled to 120. "We think this is a good model going forward, but we need to ensure that industry connection," he said.

About 3000 school students are enrolled in the technical colleges, federal funding for which will cease at the end of 2009. The Government is working to integrate the colleges on a case-by-case basis into the existing training education system, which is largely a state responsibility.


Monday, June 30, 2008

America's Universities Are Living a Diversity Lie

Thirty years ago this past week, Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. condemned our nation's selective colleges and universities to live a lie. Writing the deciding opinion in the case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, he prompted these institutions to justify their use of racial preferences in admissions with a rationale most had never considered and still do not believe – a desire to offer a better education to all students.

To this day, few colleges have even tried to establish that their race-conscious admissions policies yield broad educational benefits. The research is so fuzzy and methodologically weak that some strident proponents of affirmative action admit that social science is not on their side. In reality, colleges profess a deep belief in the educational benefits of their affirmative-action policies mainly to save their necks. They know that, if the truth came out, courts could find them guilty of illegal discrimination against white and Asian Americans.

Selective colleges began lowering the bar for minority applicants back in the late 1960s to promote social justice and help keep the peace. They felt an obligation to help remedy society's racial discrimination, even if they generally weren't willing to acknowledge their own. And with riots devastating the nation's big cities, they saw a need to send black America a clear signal that the establishment it was rebelling against was in fact open to it – and that getting a good college education, not violence, represented the best path to wealth and power.

In the mid 1970s, when colleges talked about the educational benefits of race-conscious admissions, what they had in mind were the benefits reaped by minority students. And tellingly, the University of California had said nothing about the educational benefits of diversity in defending the UC-Davis medical school's strict racial quotas against the lawsuit brought by Allan P. Bakke, a rejected white applicant. When the U.S. Supreme Court took up that decision on appeal, however, the educational diversity argument was tucked into a few of the many friend-of-the-court briefs submitted in the case.

Justice Powell would come to rely heavily on one of those briefs, in which Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania joined in arguing, without any empirical evidence, that diversity "makes the university a better learning environment." Like the four other conservatives on the court, Powell rejected the social-justice rationale for such policies, arguing that the government should not be in the business of deciding which segments of American society owed what to whom for past misdeeds. Nevertheless, he did not want the court to be radically changing how colleges did business. Looking for a way out, he ended up saying the four elite colleges had convinced him of the educational benefits of treating some applicants' minority status as a "plus factor."

Most selective colleges interpreted Justice Powell's controlling opinion in the case as a green light to keep doing what they had been as far as racial and ethnic-group admissions preferences were concerned. At the same time, they fretted little about how their campuses were actually becoming less diverse in socioeconomic terms as they jacked up tuitions and increasingly favored applicants from families wealthy enough to fatten endowments and pay their children's full fare. And despite a professed concern with viewpoint diversity, some colleges adopted rigid speech codes aimed at squelching statements that made minority students uncomfortable.

Academe got a rude awakening in 1996. Californians passed a ballot measure in that year barring public colleges from considering race and ethnicity in admissions. And a federal appeals court rejected Justice Powell's diversity rationale in a lawsuit, Hopwood v. Texas, involving the University of Texas law school. In his book, "Diversity Challenged," Gary Orfield, a staunch advocate of affirmative action, says people in higher education looked around and suddenly realized "no consensus existed on the benefits of diversity" and "the research had not been done to prove the academic benefits."

Over the next several years, education researchers scrambled to find such proof and repeatedly met with college leaders to discuss their progress. Their work took on a sense of urgency, on the expectation the Supreme Court would soon be revisiting Bakke. Yet again and again, their studies were shown to have gaping holes and deemed too weak to hold up in the courts.

Fortunately for affirmative-action advocates, the Center for Individual Rights, which coordinated the legal assault on race-conscious admissions, made a tactical decision not to seriously challenge such research – out of a belief it could win on legal principle. When the Supreme Court waded back into the controversy, it reaffirmed Justice Powell's diversity rationale in a 2003 decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan law school. The opinions revealed that the majority of justices had been swayed by a barrage of friend-of-the-court briefs spinning and exaggerating what the research said about the alleged educational benefits of diversity.

Proponents of race-conscious admissions policies have yet to produce a study of their educational benefits without some limitation or flaw. Many focus only on benefits to minority students. Others define benefits in nakedly ideological terms, declaring the policies successful if they seem correlated with the adoption of liberal views. A large share relies on survey data that substitute subjective opinions for an objective measurement of learning. The University of Michigan's star witness, Patricia Gurin, a professor of psychology and women's studies, presented studies showing the educational benefits of classes and campus programs that promote interracial understanding. Those may exist at colleges that don't consider an applicant's race.

Affirmative action advocates argue that it is unreasonable to expect more of the research, because no education policy has incontrovertible proof of effectiveness. But affirmative-action preferences are not just any education policy; they require some students to suffer racial discrimination for the sake of a perceived common good. In grounding his definition of that good in the shifting sands of social science, Justice Powell may have left colleges legally vulnerable for decades to come. The courts, after all, are known for diverse opinions.


Attack on British university standards

Universities told to favour poor schools

Universities are to be told to give preferential treatment to pupils from poorly performing state schools in a move that is likely to anger independent schools. The government is to endorse proposals that admissions staff should tailor offers to candidates according to the quality of school they attended. The report, commissioned by Gordon Brown, is intended to devise ways of increasing the number of pupils from the poorest families reaching top universities. Only 29% of university students come from the poorest socio-economic groups. At Oxford and Cambridge the percentage is even lower – 9.8% and 11.8% respectively.

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and John Denham, the universities secretary, are expected to give public backing to the report from the National Council for Educational Excellence on Tuesday. It will say that universities should take into account all available “contextual data” about the performance of a school’s A-level candidates and the number of pupils it sends to university.

The effect is likely to be an increase in the number of pupils from poor schools who are required to get lower A-level grades than those from grammar or independent schools. Last month freedom of information requests by The Sunday Times showed seven top universities had already introduced versions of such schemes.

The report will argue that pupils from the poorest families are being let down by the state school system. It will present new research showing that 11-year-olds from poor families with the best test results are only half as likely as those from better-off households still to be high achievers when they reach the age of 14. It will be presented to Balls and Denham on Tuesday by Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, Alison Richard, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, and Les Ebdon, the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University. The council will present its findings to Brown in the autumn.

“There is a massive gap in your chances of going on to higher education depending on what socio-economic group you belong [to] and there has hardly been any improvement in the situation. That is what we have to put right,” said Smith, who has drawn up the report. He has been helped by Sir Michael Barber, a senior Downing Street aide under Tony Blair.

Independent schools will also regard as hostile a recommendation for a delay until at least 2012 before universities make offers based on the new A* grade at A-level. The grade, which will be awarded for the first time in 2010, was intended to help universities distinguish between the surging numbers of students gaining three As. Last year more than a quarter of A-level exams taken were given an A grade. Cambridge turns away more than 5,000 candidates a year with three As and is one of the universities planning to use the A* in its offers.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckinghamshire University, was critical of the proposals. He said: “Discrimination of that kind will undoubtedly weaken our universities and make it harder for them to compete in the world league. It introduces institutional unfairness.” Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington college, said: “I think there’s always danger where you artificially prop up a system. The real effort ought to be to bring up the standard of state schools to independent schools.”


Australian school has a "plan" to deal with bullying (but does nothing)

As long as the paperwork is in order, who cares about anything else?

A high school student accused of bullying may be legally banned from going near his 12-year-old victim. In a landmark court case, the 13-year-old Year 8 student is facing an application for a peace and good behaviour bond, which could prevent him attending his school on the Darling Downs. In the Children's Court last week, the parents of his alleged victim said the Education Department failed to act to protect their son from daily attacks. They are considering suing the State Government for neglect, arguing the department failed in its duty of care. "The department has been treating (the accused boy) with kid gloves, yet he is running riot," said the alleged victim's father, who cannot be named for legal reasons. "When we complained to the school, we were told our son had anger-management problems. The school is 100 per cent liable, yet will not admit any liability."

The case will be considered at a hearing early next month. The court could ban the student from going within a certain distance of his alleged victim, which could keep him out of the school grounds. The father told The Sunday Mail: "Thousands of parents would go through this every day, and the schools don't want to get involved."

The alleged victim, who has been put on detention himself over the conflicts, says he is subjected to regular threats of assault, including blows to the back of the head.

The mother of the alleged bully has defended her son, despite admitting he had a history of schoolyard violence which included being suspended from primary school for bullying. She said he was recently suspended for five days following an attack. "He is not totally out of control," the mother said. "I am not saying he is 'a home angel and a street devil'. I have had a lot of contact with the principal since the incident and (the boy) has been removed from the class. There is not much more the school can do." She said she would fight a court order, on the grounds her son was too young.

A check of court records shows there is no case in Queensland of a student being granted such a bond over another student for bullying. However, in the New South Wales city of Newcastle, a 13-year-old school bully was placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond in September 2003 after grabbing a small boy by the neck and demanding he give him $5 the next day.

Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford last week defended Nerang State High School, where an alleged bully has avoided suspension despite attacking a former fellow student at a bus stop.

Education Queensland has declined to comment on whether it has breached a duty of care to the alleged victim in the Darling Downs case. A spokeswoman for Education Queensland said only: "Under common law, teachers owe to all students a duty of care to adhere to a reasonable standard of care to protect them from foreseeable harm. The department respects the process of law and will respect the terms of any decision made by the court." [Big of them!] She said the school had a responsible-behaviour plan in place as part of last year's introduction of the state-wide Code of School Behaviour.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Elizabeth Fraser said if students were not satisfied with a school's response, they could raise concerns with the commission's complaints team, which could be an advocate for them.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

All parents deserve the right to choose

State lawmakers should approve pilot program to allow 4,000 kids in poor communities to escape failing schools

Opponents of school choice in New Jersey -- mainly teachers unions -- build their case like a house of cards, stacking each individual argument carefully so the whole thing doesn't collapse.

They say school choice -- i.e. vouchers -- drains money from public schools. They say private schools can't do a better job than public schools. They say public tax dollars shouldn't go to private and religious schools.

Piled up, it may look to some like a solid argument until you consider this fundamental principle of what school voucher opponents are saying -- parents and kids should not have any control or choice over their own education. They're telling parents, "Hey, we know what's best for your kids, not you, and your kids have to go to the assigned public school we say and that's it."

You can spin the debate a million different ways, and the New Jersey Education Association and now the Camden Education Association are trying to do just that, but the bottom line remains the same. These teachers' unions lobbying so hard on this issue are determined to make sure kids and parents in eight of the state's worst school districts don't have a basic American freedom, the freedom of choice, when it comes to education.

In this country we can choose what we say, where we worship, what we eat, where we go and what we wear. It's the American way.

When it comes to using public facilities, everyone has a choice. If one public park is cleaner, nicer and has a bigger playground than another park, people go to the better park. If one road is wider and better paved than another potholed road, people use the better road. It doesn't matter what town or neighborhood that road or park is in.

But with schools, we don't allow for choice, at least for those without economic means. Middle- and upper-class families can move where they want for the schools they want. The poor cannot move so easily. Thus, they have little or no choice with schools.

So why are the teachers unions so afraid of giving families in our poor, urban areas a choice? Fear, perhaps. The fear of failing schools being exposed when parents start yanking their kids out. The fear of jobs being lost. The fear that parents will suddenly have power and school officials will lose power. The fear of minority students coming to mostly white schools.

Those peddling such fears are aligning right now in Trenton. They're determined to kill bill S-1607, a pilot program that would give 4,000 kids from the state's poorest and worst public school districts scholarships of $6,000 for K-8 kids and $9,000 for high schoolers to attend better public or private schools in their town or elsewhere.

Our lawmakers, always looking for a campaign donation, need to stop cowering to the NJEA, which has made itself a champion of the status quo on this issue.

Guess what, the status quo for kids in Camden, Newark and Trenton stinks. Most of the public schools there aren't working. It's sad but true.

This pilot program, sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, is far from a panacea. It will not magically turn around failing public schools in poor communities. What it will do is offer a lifeline for 4,000 kids and open the door just a crack to a freedom that most parents in this state have, but those in poor communities do not, the freedom of choice. Far more than 4,000 poor families should have this freedom, but at least this plan represents a start.


The War on Abstinence

The Los Angeles Unified School District doesn't want Karen Kropf talking to its students. District leaders fear that what she says isn't "balanced" and that she's not a certified "expert" in the field. Really, though, they just don't like her message about teenage sexual self-control and the limited protection of condoms. That, and they're worried about what the ACLU might say, especially given California's law against "abstinence-only" education.

Investigating Kropf's situation, I was startled to discover an alarming trend that has gone unreported: The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have teamed up in an aggressive campaign over the past several years-a campaign to pressure states to eliminate abstinence education and to reject federal funding for these programs. And though their work hasn't drawn much attention, it has been remarkably successful. A year ago, only four states refused federal abstinence-education funding. Today the number is seventeen. The goal is to get enough states to refuse the federal abstinence-education funding to the point where the ACLU and Planned Parenthood can convince Congress to eliminate such funding entirely.

All this is happening, by the way, as fresh reports arrive almost every month about the benefits of teen abstinence and the effectiveness of abstinence programs.

But first, back to Karen Kropf. For ten years now, she has been speaking at local schools and community centers. When she was invited to speak at an L.A. public school, she was always brought in as a supplement to the official comprehensive sex-ed programs. Planned Parenthood frequently provides the official version, so you can imagine why teachers were eager to invite Kropf.

Kropf would share her story of how she became pregnant at eighteen and had an abortion. Of how the child she aborted would be her only chance, her multiple Chlamydia infections having eventually left her infertile. Her husband would come to the classes as well, warning the students that he had contracted genital herpes despite consistent condom use.

By telling these stories, Kropf brought the statistics about condom failure to life. But her message was more than a scare tactic or a command to "Just Say No." She would clear away the common rationalizations that teenagers use when they begin to feel the pressure to become sexually active.

More important, she would paint an appealing picture of what the alternative could look like-sexual self-control, resilience against passing temptations, better avenues of communication, a wider range of interests, and, ultimately, the ability to make a complete gift of self to another in marriage. As Kropf told me that she would tell the students, for her husband and her, this all "led to the only gift we had to give when we married, . . . proof that we could be faithful." It's a message that students respond to.

Scott Cooper, a teacher at James Monroe High School, where Kropf spoke, first heard her nine years ago. He told me that, "in my twelve years of being involved in educating high-school students, Karen Kropf's presentation is the most effective abstinence presentation I have seen. Students listen, students are shocked, students are moved by the emotional pain Karen has felt, and students respond. Every time I have seen Karen present in a classroom (at least twenty-five times now), easily 80 percent of both male and female students choose to accept Karen's charge that they are worth waiting for." He was so impressed by her presentation, that he joined her board of directors a year ago.

Kropf doesn't ask for any compensation for her programs. Relying on community support, she charges schools nothing and has never received government funding. Still, some were not happy with her message-though notably not the teachers who invited her, the students who appreciated her, or the parents who wanted their kids to wait until marriage (80 percent of American parents, according to a 2007 Zogby study).

But in 2006, with the ACLU attacking abstinence programs, the Los Angeles school district told Kropf that although she had been invited by teachers to public schools for eight years, she had to stop speaking until she wrote a curriculum and received approval.

She complied and submitted a curriculum. And this past December, the district notified her that she was not qualified to share her experience because she lacked a degree in the field-and, perhaps more decisively, she didn't promote condom use and birth control. It appears that the district was afraid of violating a California law that prohibits abstinence-only education. The California Department of Education reports that state law "prohibits `abstinence-only' education, in which information about preventing pregnancy and STDs is limited to instruction on abstinence from sexual activity."

Of course, the school district had someone else coming in to teach about contraception-couldn't Kropf continue as a supplement? No, because all "classes that provide instruction on human development and sexuality . . . shall include medically accurate, up-to-date information about all FDA-approved methods for: 1) reducing the risk of contracting STDs, and 2) preventing pregnancy." Even a supplementary speaker to a "comprehensive program" must be comprehensive, as California understands the term.

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British government schools killing off literature

A shake-up of GCSE [middle school] English will allow pupils to study travel brochures or biographies rather than novels, the qualifications regulator announced yesterday.

Exams in English, maths, and information and communication technology (ICT) will undergo a transformation in two years' time. The draft syllabuses were released yesterday by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which is seeking feedback from the public.

Pupils will be able to choose between three English GCSEs, rather than the traditional two. As well as English and English literature, there will be a new qualification in English language.

Although this includes assessment of reading, pupils will be able to pass the exam without studying any plays, poetry or classic novels.

The QCA says: "The aim is to develop students' understanding of language use in the real world, through engaging with and evaluating material that is relevant to their own development as speakers, listeners, readers and writers."

It describes the qualification as an "attractive stand-alone course" for students who have English as a second language. This reflects developments in the school population, and indicates that the exam system is changing to embrace the influx of immigrant families in some areas.

The QCA guidance adds that the English language exam would be suitable for "those needing a language qualification at this level but who are not required to fulfil the range of reading stipulated [in English literature]". It adds: "It provides an opportunity for students to extend their own skills as producers of spoken and written language in contexts that are both practical and challenging."