Saturday, September 20, 2008

Britain: Must condemn creationism at all times

"On the word of no one" is the Royal Society's motto. Authority, it contends, is nothing: evidence everything. Scientific papers, even by the most distinguished thinkers, should live or die by the facts alone. This week senior members of the society forced the resignation of Michael Reiss, its director of education, after a speech in which - parts of the media implied - he advocated teaching creationism in schools. On the word of no one.

His speech is online, so let us assess the evidence. The first thing you notice is that, if this were a scientific paper, it is no Principia Mathematica. Its conclusions seem obvious: almost truistic. Professor Reiss, while strongly defending evolution, says that teachers should be respectful to creationist students and not ridicule their views - because it is counter-productive, and puts them off science. He concludes: "A student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one's world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson."

But take one sentence out of context, "creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view", prefix it by explaining that Professor Reiss is a clergyman, and suddenly he is a creationist.

The strangest thing is that the Royal Society accepts that he has been badly treated. "Professor Michael Reiss's recent comments... were open to misinterpretation," it says. "While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society's reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately." So he resigned not because he was wrong, nor even because he was particularly controversial. He resigned because others ascribed to him beliefs that were not his own.

He is not the first. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave a 6,000-word lecture about Sharia in the UK, it was summarised in headlines implying that he advocated public executions and the stoning of women. When Patrick Mercer, the Conservative defence spokesman, talked about the use of the word "nigger" while he was in the Army, he was sacked - not for being racist, but for allowing people to think he might be.

In an odd pact between journalists who want to write sensation, and readers who want to buy it, we choose cartoonish half-truths over complex reality. Professor Reiss is the victim of a culture where all arguments must be expressible in a sentence, and all sentences able to stand on their own. But don't take my word for it: read the speech.


Australia: Teacher overhaul report stresses standards for pay rises

TEACHERS would qualify for pay rises only after meeting performance standards under an overhaul of the profession's salary system recommended in a federal government report. The report, obtained by The Australian, recommends a comprehensive restructure of the way teachers are paid that would end the system of awarding pay rises based on length of service.

It outlines a model of performance pay that restructures the pay scale into bands reached by performance thresholds, with a level for accomplished teachers at the top. At present, teachers are paid according to an incremental scale that rises with years of service and reaches the maximum wage in about eight years, after which they must enter administrative or leadership positions to gain any further salary increase. The report will be considered as part of deliberations by the Rudd Government, and state and territory governments, over ways to improve teacher quality and reward good teachers.

The productivity working group of the Council of Australian Governments, chaired by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard, is developing a national partnership with the states on ways to improve teacher quality, including performance pay. The report -- Rewarding Quality Teaching, by Perth-based international management consultants Gerard Daniels -- was commissioned by the former federal minister Julie Bishop. In July 2006, Ms Bishop, now federal Deputy Opposition Leader, first floated the idea of paying teachers more based on their performance but the idea was universally rejected the following year by state Labor education ministers. The states have since agreed to work with the Rudd Government to investigate ways to reward quality teaching. A ministerial meeting in May agreed to research ways of rewarding teachers for performance and skills.

The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Education Union have since released models for paying teachers based on their performance. Western Australia has a limited scheme paying bonuses to teachers reaching a high standard, and the NSW Institute of Teachers launched earlier this year its system of accrediting teachers against standards of accomplishment and leadership. But the NSW Government, which is embroiled in a pay dispute with the NSW Teachers Federation, is yet to allocate any extra pay to teachers accredited as accomplished, which the federal report argues is crucial.

The report's recommendations are based on an examination of other merit-pay schemes for teachers worldwide and in analogous professions. It says the most effective systems exist within a national framework but aim to improve performance locally by linking pay to specific outcomes set at an individual, group or institutional level. The report says that, ideally, the performance-pay system should: use an evidence-based approach to demonstrate teacher performance; make the reward or recognition meaningful to teachers; and provide a clear career structure.

It also recommends a performance-management system be developed to support the pay model, focusing on regular reflection and feedback about teaching practices assessed against standards. It cautions about linking standards to pay. "The process of assessing teachers is most fraught," the report says. "Some independent schools reject any external assessment of their employed teachers. However, most stakeholders expect that for critical performance-based assessment -- between performance bands or for accomplished teacher programs -- there will be a mix of internal and external assessment."


Friday, September 19, 2008


It's difficult to overstate the political and social currency that a Yale degree carries. A Yale student basically walks into just about any job he/she chooses. So to say that the students of Yale are going to be the high court judges, politicians and C.E.O.s of tomorrow is to state the obvious. No wonder the `Progressives' have well and truly got their hands round the throat of this institution and others like it.

This week, a group of Yale students voted to `end' America's relationship with Israel in a protracted debate. "An undergraduate debating society at Yale University has voted 44-25 in favor of ending America's "special relationship" with Israel." (SOURCE)

This echoes the results of a similar debate in Oxford back in January. Interestingly and heartening in its implications though, over two thirds of the 300 who turned up for the Yale debate walked out. Disgusted maybe? So they should be.

It's ludicrous that we are driving Israel to self-destruct while elevating the Palestinian Authority to the status of ally. America is over 75% Christian. Why are we behind an entity which supports the torture and abuse of Christians?
Under the Palestinian regime Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim fundamentalists. Some have been murdered.

Christian Arabs also fall victim to the chaos and anarchy typical of PA rule. This situation is fostered by societal rigidity, criminal gangs, lack of education, absence of due process, incitement, unreliable courts, and the denial of these problems-all running counter to Israel's desire for a prosperous and stable neighbor. (Read the rest at ICJS)

Why then is the U.S. government pushing for a Palestinian state?
The U.S. is planning to issue a letter guaranteeing the country will back agreements reached during current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state before President Bush leaves office in January<.> The move is intended to ensure any agreements reached by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, and spelled out in a joint document, will be recognized by the next U.S. administration and binding for Israel and the PA.

Bush is driving a move to set up the Palestinians BEFORE he leaves office. His position is already sullied. The next president, whoever he/she may be can walk in and not have to make any unpopular decisions. How convenient.

This is a predictable tactic of current politics. BE FOREWARNED. The test will be if the new leader seeks to overturn the decision of Bush. I'm positive he/she won't. This destruction of Israel is being directed from entities WAY BEYOND BUSH. As a matter of fact, I wonder who is driving this; the all-powerful Saudi dollar, maybe? Globalist manipulators? All of the above perhaps?

The influx of enemy refugees and the giving away of key neighborhoods in Jerusalem is designed to destroy Israel from within no doubt.
According to a report by the Qatari Al-Sharq, the new agreement taking form between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will include the admittance of 20,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel, as well as the annexing of a number of east Jerusalem neighborhoods to the new Palestinian capital. (SOURCE)

I wonder which Yale and Oxford students were willing to sell their souls for the destruction of Israel. If-you-want-a-promising-career-in-this-town.and all that. And who really cares about Israel anyway? The agenda must march on and it seems that no-one will stand in the way. Dirty and low. Shame. Shame. Shame.

We can't rely on political designations any more it seems. Bush did some things right, but in many ways he was NO CONSERVATIVE. We have to look at the individual this time round.

If it's Obama who wins the next election, Israel hasn't got a chance. He's given plenty of clues about that. Sarah Palin is, once again, the only person in this race who has shown real support of Israel.

Meanwhile, hats off to Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatle who will not be deterred from playing in Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations despite the fact that he has been threatened with being made the target of suicide bombers and being declared an enemy of Islam. Read that story at Woman Honor Thyself.


Children are best educated at home

Britain: It is back-to-school this week. All over the country, stressed parents made last-minute dashes to the shops to force children to try on clumpy school shoes. Then they got up early, hurried their children into cars or on to buses, got stuck in jams, arrived later than intended and said a rushed goodbye. Then they found that the children had gone. Relief may have been mixed with melancholy, loss and a hope that the children were all right behind those high windows, told what to do by strangers.

The return to school is a well-established part of the journey of life. It seems normal, right and inevitable. But actually it is none of these things. Yes, it is normal in the early 21st century. But if modern civilisation started about 10,000 years ago, this way of treating children has been "normal" only for the last 2 per cent of the time. It is a new, artificial construct designed to provide education at low cost. It certainly was not created to provide a pleasant or socialising experience for children.

Schools are not clearly "right", either. People tend to think that what everyone does and what they themselves experienced must be right. But there is nothing obviously ideal about delivering your children to other people who do not love them as you do, and who are likely to teach them things with which you may disagree. And sending children to school is not inevitable. Under the law, children must be educated. But they do not have to be educated at a school. There is another way.

Home education is not for everyone - not even a large minority. It is a luxury in most cases. The parent who becomes a home teacher earns no money. There have to be savings, or partners, husbands or wives must be willing to pay the bills. But lots of well-educated wives do not work and could save money by home educating. For those who can find a way, home-educating is a glorious, liberating, empowering, profoundly fulfilling thing to do. Far more people should try it. At present it is estimated that about 50,000 children are taught this way. The number has jumped from a decade ago but is still very few compared with America.

I have just finished two years of teaching my younger daughter, Alex, now 11. We have become very close. Many fathers see their children at supper time and a bit more at weekends. Alex and I were with each other all day, every weekday, in all sorts of places and circumstances. We knew and shared thoughts, ideas and feelings. I believe the closeness that we developed will benefit our relationship for the rest of our lives.

We had enjoyable educational trips to France, Italy and China. Instead of learning about the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius from a text book, Alex and I climbed up to the rim and peered into the still-smoking crater. We visited Pompeii and Oplontis to see the parts of Roman civilisation that had been preserved by the most famous of its eruptions.

One of the beauties of home education is that you can teach children things that you want them to know - some of which are not taught in most schools. I wanted Alex to know something of the origin of the Universe, and astronomy. We studied far more history than schools do, including overviews of Rome, China and Britain. We looked at the Second World War, using DVDs of the superb Channel 4 series on it. We started learning Italian. But all parents would have different ideas of what they want their children to know. You can go for whatever you think important. This is freedom, thrilling freedom. You don't have to teach just what some civil servant in Whitehall has lighted upon and stuck in the national curriculum.

It is strange that children all over the country study the same bits of history - all knowing certain periods and hardly studying outside them. It verges on the totalitarian. With home education, there can be enormous diversity. At the same time, there is nothing to stop one's child taking the same GCSEs and Alevels that others are taking.

But some of the greatest gains from home education are not easily measured or tested. They come from the daily flow of conversation - the times when your child asks you a question and a conversation follows.

You may make an observation, or your child may see something and become interested in it. If that happens, you can encourage the interest. This is developing the ability to think and discuss. It is a big contrast with what happens at school where it is impossible in a class of 25 to chase the individual interests of everyone present or to enter separate conversations. It may even be the case that schools can damage a child's curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. I have seen children totally turned off education and making no attempt to hide how bored they are.

The widespread concern is that a home-educated child misses out on "socialisation". But I have never heard anyone offer any evidence for this. As far as I know, the evidence from America is rather the other way - home-educated children are better socialised. We know that young children left in inferior nurseries and not given much attention can get withdrawn or aggressive. It is possible, to put it no higher, that being left at school and not given much attention can, in some cases, have a similar, if milder, damaging effect on older children.

You don't have to educate a child for all his or her years of learning. It could be for just one or two. Several teachers have told me that they would love to take their children on a round-the-world journey, perhaps when their offspring are aged somewhere between 11 and 14. I would recommend it.

Home education, however you structure it, can bring you and your child closer together. You can both learn. You will have shared experiences that will enrich your relationship for ever. Yes, there will also be arguments and tears. But children and parents who never experience it are missing out badly.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lower Education Blues

With another school year just under way, parents understandably wonder how well their children are advancing. Perhaps parents' real concern should be whether their children are actually falling behind. From a comparative viewpoint, they clearly are. America spends the most on education and gets less than virtually any developed nation. The failure of America's "lower education" system bears witness to competition's absence. Without fundamental reform, future generations will pay an increasing cost for this absence.

The National Center for Education Statistics compared 15 year-old public school students in several countries in several subject areas. Released in 2006, their study of 2003 results (their latest figures) shows the U.S. below the OECD average in math (483 to 500) and science (491 to 500) and just slightly above average (495 to 494) in reading. Only five nations scored below the U.S. in all these categories -- Greece, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, and Turkey.

Perhaps these results would be understandable, if not acceptable, if the U.S. spent less on education, but the reverse is true. The U.S. spent $8,900 per pupil. France spent $7,200; the U.K. $6,800; Japan, $6,800; and Germany, $6,500. As recently as the last school year, the U.S. spent $9,969 per pupil and $489 billion nationwide on elementary and secondary public education.

The difference between America's higher education and "lower education" -- its elementary and secondary systems -- is dramatic. While "lower ed" under-performs other developed countries', graduates from those systems flock to America's higher education institutions. This may convince some that everything equalizes over the long-term -- what's lost in the beginning is recouped at the end. Such thought is as shortsighted as it is wrong.

This is especially true for lower income students. Many such students begin the education race behind the starting line. It is little surprise that too many never reach the finish line at all. This slow start virtually requires additional education will be needed by those least able to afford it, or its absence. For lower income families, a self-replicating cycle threatens.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN America's primary and secondary public schools and its higher education system has been noted before; however, the defining difference of competition is too often overlooked. The performance gap is instead attributed to other factors -- colleges and universities' large endowments and that these institutions attract only the most motivated and talented students (while public primary and secondary schools take all comers).

Yet, the fact remains that on a global basis, U.S. higher education out-performs while U.S. elementary and secondary public education under-performs. Why? Competition. Competition is not the result of our higher education excellence, it is the cause. Students do not simply compete to get in, they do so because colleges compete with each other.

Competition is the very thing from which our primary and secondary public schools have so assiduously insulated themselves. America's "lower education" is literally locked in place. While American colleges attract students on a global level, our primary and secondary public schools trap students at the local level.

Thoroughly unportable, elementary and secondary public school students are forced to attend where they live -- unable to go across town, let alone across country. College students go wherever they wish (grades permitting). Because of it, colleges strive to attract dollars and students wherever they are -- locally, nationally, and internationally. Lower education neither wants nor needs students from beyond its local area. It defines a monopoly: many buyers facing a single supplier.

In contrast, the absence of competition drives out resources. Competition attracts them because, whether money or students, they know they will be rewarded in a competitive system. Of course American colleges excel. Students are willing to pay more to go to the better ones and colleges in turn are willing to make the investment to attract them -- ironically both are able to do so because federal education aid at the college level is completely portable.

THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION is to raise our "lower education" system as much as possible. To do this, our public schools must compete as much as possible and to do that, federal aid needs to be as portable as possible. Despite the laudable reforms of No Child Left Behind, portable federal school aid at the elementary and secondary level remains the exception, not the rule.

While our "lower education" system may imagine itself insulated from competition, America itself is not. To compete globally, we must start at the beginning. One look at the global competition dynamic explains why. Undeveloped nations compensate for worse education with lower wage and operating costs. Developed nations can compete, but only with higher productivity, which requires greater education. Where then is America's advantage? If it cannot compete with undeveloped nations' lower wages and is falling behind its developed competitors in the basic educational skills for the majority of its workforce, it finds itself in a particularly unattractive position. As the school year begins, perhaps what is most in need of education is our "lower education" system itself.



Three articles below:

Australian teachers oppose more Australian literature teaching

For once I am partially in agreement with a teachers' organization. I think kids should be introduced to the best literature in the language -- regardless of where it came from. Broadening the definition of "literature" to mean anything written or displayed is just a way of evading study of the classics, however. If parents really want their kids to be given lessons in cornflake packaging, let the kids do a separate course in that

ENGLISH teachers oppose moves to strengthen the study of Australian literature in schools, with their professional association arguing it confers a superiority over the literature of other cultures. In a submission to a review of the New South Wales syllabus, the English Teachers Association of NSW says its members also object to giving privilege to print literature above other forms, including film, television and websites.

"A definition of literature with a restriction to the print medium is imprudent, reductive, short-sighted and, most importantly, undermines the integrity of current English syllabuses," the submission says. "The ETA opposes the selective nomination of some types of text as this implies hierarchies in generic form and medium rather than in the quality of the texts themselves."

The ETA's submission, sent to the board late last month, is in response to proposed changes to the English syllabus for all years of school requested by former state education minister John Della Bosca in May. Mr Della Bosca asked the board to explore ways to improve the presence of Australian literature in school English courses and ensure the study of more Australian books, poems and plays.

The ETA says schools are committed to the "notion and practice of diversity and do not want to see a narrow or exclusive interpretation of 'Australian' and Australian concerns". "Any definition of 'Australian' needs to see Australia in a global context, and to take account of indigenous and multicultural perspectives," the association says.

In particular, it opposes the introduction of a mandatory module on Australian literature in the extension English course for Year 11. It argues that most students do not take extension English so the module is a limited response to moves to strengthen the study of Australian literature.

The main criticism was that by narrowing the study to print literature, it reduced the syllabus's focus on comparing different types of texts, effectively "dumbing down" the curriculum. "It also signals an insularity and lack of confidence about the place of Australian achievement in world literature reminiscent of the 'cultural cringe' that we thought had been laid to rest," the ETA says.


Many school drop-outs enjoy life at the top

REPORTS of the death of the self-made man or woman have been greatly exaggerated. Research to be published today shows that despite the widespread perception that a good education is a prerequisite to a good income, many Australians with relatively modest levels of education still push their way into the top bracket of the nation's money earners.

The study, in the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research's third annual report on its longitudinal HILDA survey, finds personality traits, such as a willingness to take risks, and social networks also play a significant role in determining financial success. "Without wishing to cast doubt on the value of education ... it is still worth pointing out that many people who lack much formal education still make good money," the report says. Among men who were working in 2005, 24.8 per cent of those with less than a Year 12 education were in the top half of the male earnings distribution. Among women the figures were even more remarkable; 29.2 per cent of those with less than Year 12 education were in the top half of the distribution."

The numbers were slightly skewed, the study admits, in that those with low levels of education were more likely not to be working at all, and therefore not included in the above figures. The report says factors outside education can influence earnings, in particular personalities that take risks. "For both men and women, not being financially risk-averse was quite a strong determinant of high earnings," it finds.

Also choosing particular industries could help those with lower levels of education earn more money. "Men working in the mining industry were paid well above what is usual for people with their level of education," the report says.


Smutty teacher: Another regulatory failure

A TEACHER who sent smutty messages to students and propositioned one to a skinny dip in a school pool has had his registration suspended. Sean David Grady, 27, has admitted his sex chats with young girls "scarred" a small Victorian country town.

But questions have been raised over why a Victorian watchdog took two years to formally punish him - and how he secured a teaching job interstate despite concerns about his character. A Victorian Institute of Teaching inquiry has heard Mr Grady had graphic phone or computer conversations with four pupils while working as a rookie at the college. The wayward government school teacher admitted he:

SENT messages to a year 10 girl, including words to the effect, "I want to get you into bed", called her and said he was "horny", and asked her to sneak out of her home.

PROPOSITIONED a year 11 student to a naked swim in the school pool and suggested he climb in her window.

BOUGHT a year 12 girl a glass of wine for her 18th birthday and kissed her in a hotel foyer.

INVITED a year 11 student to his flat and pushed her on to his bed.

USED a school computer to email sexual material to another teacher.

Mr Grady told a hearing earlier this year he was suffering personal problems and was drawn into a culture of heavy drinking when he landed in the isolated town as a young graduate. He argued he was now a changed man who had learned from his actions and would keep getting help through counselling.

Mr Grady was found guilty of serious misconduct. He cannot reapply to teach in Victoria until January 2010 and will require a mentor if returned to the classroom.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon attacked the time taken to investigate the teacher. The Education Department advised the teaching watchdog in July 2006 that Mr Grady had been blocked from working in state schools. Despite this and the VIT's separate inquiry, it emerged Mr Grady worked as a teacher interstate this year. His interstate registration was frozen when the Victorian hearing came to light. VIT president Andrew Ius partly blamed workload pressures for the disciplinary hearing delay.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

British faith schools `will hinder fight against terrorism'?

Lumping all faith schools together is deliberately obtuse. Faiths that are hostile to Western civilization and faiths that support it are DIFFERENT! Islam and Christianity are NOT the same

The expansion of faith schools in Britain will hinder the fight against terrorism by fostering a belief in separate identity, says a psychologist who has studied the causes of violent religious extremism. Professor David Canter, director of the Centre for Investigative Psychology at Liverpool University, said: "Faith schools are terribly dangerous. Setting up these divisions based on faith is the starting point for people thinking of themselves as separate, and identifying an 'out-group' that you are not part of. "Identifying yourself as part of a group with power is a well-established notion in social psychology - social identity. Social identity is in part defined by an out-group distinct from yours."

A division of schools based on religion fostered separate identity between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and expansion of faith schools in England and Wales is likely to do the same, Professor Canter said. "It will create the possibility of people considering their significance in terms of religion."

Professor Canter has overseen psychological interviews with 49 convicted terrorists in India. "They seem to [have] got really hooked into a very intensive religious framework early on," Professor Canter said at the British Association's science festival in Liverpool. "Schools with a mixture of faiths seems psychologically more healthy."


Australian far-Leftist professor under fire over his attack on free speech for a conservative professor

STUART Macintyre can run from one prestigious appointment to another, but he just can't hide from the Blainey affair. Macintyre, who is at a conference in Canada, will return to Melbourne University and a post on the new National Curriculum Board later this month, after a 12-month stint at Harvard University as chair of Australian studies.

Awaiting him are damaging allegations that he played a role in destroying historian Geoffrey Blainey's academic career. The event, which some regard as the most squalid in Australian intellectual history, if not the opening shot in the history wars, is reprised in a forthcoming essay by Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle. It relates how Macintyre and fellow academic staff at Melbourne University's history department turned on Blainey in 1984, after he had made public statements about the high volume of Asian immigration amid a bruising economic recession.

Blainey made the comments at a Rotary International meeting in Warrnambool, Victoria, and they were quoted in the Melbourne press. A mild-mannered scholar and elegant writer, Blainey became a controversialist overnight. A fortnight later, 23 staff, including Macintyre, signed a letter of protest against Blainey, then the Ernest Scott Professor of History. This set in train a series of events, including student protests and pickets, that led to Blainey's resignation from his tenured post: an extraordinary move for a mid-career scholar of high repute. Macintyre succeeded him in the post.

The letter of protest began: "As historians at the University of Melbourne, we wish to dissociate ourselves entirely from the widely publicised attacks which Professor Geoffrey Blainey, an eminent member of our profession, and a professor in our department, has recently made on the Government's immigration policy with regard to Asians."

In his forthcoming essay on the history wars, Windschuttle alleges Blainey was the victim of a "calculated move to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible within his own department, to generate hostility towards him among the wider university community, and to sanction the actions the signatories expected students to take". "In short, it was done to get rid of him," Windschuttle writes. He points out that Macintyre was the "greatest beneficiary" of Blainey's resignation.

Soon after the staff letter was published in Melbourne's The Age newspaper in May 1984, Blainey ceased teaching. He became dean of the arts faculty and retired officially four years later.

Macintyre has discussed the events in his book The History Wars, in the guise of an observer rather than a participant.

In an email conversation with The Weekend Australian yesterday, he said: "The claim that I led the attack on Geoff out of malice or ambition was propagated by (former publisher at Melbourne University Press) Peter Ryan, who repeatedly elided four years that passed between the Warrnambool speech and Geoff's decision to retire after his second term as dean."

In a 2006 interview, Blainey, who went on to a successful career as a freelance historian, said he would have stayed at Melbourne University if not for the hostility on campus. "Why should you leave an institution you've been in for a long time, where you are close to a very good library, are well paid and have a lot of time to write after doing your teaching and administration?" Blainey said. "Compared with writing as a freelancer, the university is infinitely preferable. It was a great disappointment having to leave but there was no future for me there."

Windschuttle describes the protest letter as an authoritarian action and its signatories as enemies of free speech. The event was a crux moment in Australian intellectual history, helping to shape the identities of Left and Right.

Former Treasury secretary John Stone regarded Blainey as "a brave man set upon by various political and intellectual thugs", while former prime minister John Howard thought for a time that Blainey, who became his administration's favourite historian, had been hounded out of office.

Left-wing historian Henry Reynolds has argued that Blainey "lost the respect of practically the whole profession" through his intervention in the immigration debate.

In Macintyre's view, the letter's primary purpose was "to declare that he (Blainey) spoke for himself and not for us". "Over the preceding two months he had been regularly identified as a professor of history at Melbourne University and dean of the faculty of arts," he said. "There is a loose convention that academics should reserve use of their university title to commentary on matters of professional expertise and our letter therefore said that he spoke as an individual."

Windschuttle describes this as "dissembling ... the members of his own staff sent a very clear message that they found him unwelcome ... It certainly ended his university career."

Gerard Henderson, executive director of the Sydney Institute and former Howard speech writer, said the impression he had gained from conversations with Blainey was that he resigned not because he was hounded out but because he wanted to go. He also pointed out that Macintyre had declined to join Blainey's critics in a subsequent book on the events of 1984, titled Surrender Australia.

Historian Ross Fitzgerald said the history wars of recent years began with Blainey's 1984 speech and the reaction of his colleagues, who later "slammed his academic work as a way of slamming him". He added that recent criticism of Macintyre, including references to his past as a Communist Party member, amounted to a campaign of vilification "almost as reprehensible" as the attacks on Blainey. Blainey could not be contacted for comment.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

British government's neo-Marxist education policy punishes excellence

By Simon Heffer

When I went up to Cambridge University almost 30 years ago, I didn't think I was going to spend three years in a laboratory staffed by social engineers. I thought I was about to have the privilege of getting a world-class education, with no hidden agenda. Happily, the university's vice-chancellor, Alison Richard, takes the same view, and this week, thanks to some welcome and outspoken remarks on this subject, she has entered into a confrontation with the Government over its neo-Marxist education policy.

I can think of few greater hypocrisies than Labour criticising our old and great universities for taking, in its view, too few people from "disadvantaged" backgrounds. Every time someone from a public or grammar [selective] school gets into Oxbridge, the Leftists (many of whom went to one of these universities from just such a school) wince at the "inequality" that has been perpetuated. They cannot bear to acknowledge the truth: that more people from "their" comprehensive schools would get to Oxbridge, beating the competition in a fair fight, if "their" comprehensive schools were better.

Thanks to the determination of Labour to stick to Marxist educational practices in these schools, with their emphasis on anti-elitism and their fear of stretching pupils, children who go through them have at least one hand tied behind their back from day one. Some are lucky to live in areas served by one of our 164 grammar schools, but with all the main political parties now opposed to these magnificent institutions, that lifeline will not be made available to a wider clientele. This is sad, not least because if there were grammar schools in every town, everywhere - even the meanest council estate - would be in a catchment area.

Having put these obstacles in the way of children whose parents cannot afford to have them privately educated, or to live in a grammar-school catchment area, the Government compounds the nightmare. It has in many cases made an education at the best universities financially beyond the reach of students from poor families.

My college at Cambridge is currently raising funds to offer financial help to those from poor families who feel they cannot afford the education they have earned by merit, so low is the family income above which one qualifies for no state help.

As Labour wastes money on poor universities with vacuous degree courses in order to boast that more people get into higher education, some students are too intimidated by the size of the debt they would have to incur to take up places at Oxbridge. In fact, because of subsidised college rents, Oxbridge can be less expensive than other universities. However, some students feel their only option is to attend a university near home, cutting costs by living with their parents. How a government that brings about this situation can turn round and lecture Oxbridge on elitism is beyond me.

Cambridge has a point only if it continues to be a university for very bright undergraduates who can benefit from the teaching of often brilliant dons who work there doing research. Admitting people on a quota system based on social class can only drag down Cambridge's standards, driving quality elsewhere, and ultimately harming the future of the country. There is no snobbery about class at Cambridge. There is a desire to give the best education to those best equipped to benefit from it.

If the state schools could produce more suitable candidates, and if the funding system enabled them to afford to go to such a university, there wouldn't be a problem. That one exists is not Cambridge's fault. It is the Government's. And until its education policy ceases to serve the outdated ideological obsession of the Left, and starts instead to serve the best interests of our children, that will remain the case.


Some Australian schools still using discredited literacy teaching method

With predictable results

OUTDATED methods for teaching children to read were the cause of Queensland's dismal performance in national tests, a literacy expert claims. Smart State students came seventh out of eight states and territories in the first national literacy and numeracy tests, released last Friday. Only the Northern Territory, where absenteeism and social disadvantage rates are highest, fared worse.

Private literacy consultant Carol Christensen blamed the state's dire literacy test scores on Education Queensland bureaucrats who were obsessed with "whole language" reading philosophies. Ms Christensen, who co-ordinates school reading programs based on the rival phonics method of reading, said it was time the bureaucrats stopped "covering their butts" and start worrying about their students. "You wouldn't believe the amount of (Queensland) children in Years 9 and 10 who can't read simple, three-letter words," Ms Christensen said. "It breaks your heart. "(The department's) practices are the cause of the misery of our children, compromising their whole life opportunities."

Education Minister Rod Welford downplayed the claims, saying academic opinion on the best reading techniques was diverse. "There are a number of academics with varying views," he said. "(Ms Christensen) has one perspective and Professor Ken Rowe, who wrote the national literacy inquiry report, has expressed another that encapsulates world's best practice."

He said the Government was spending $35 million over four years to target literacy blackspots and millions more in one-to-one tuition for struggling Years 5 and 6 students. "Every (Queensland) teacher is being brought up to speed on how to teach literacy and numeracy successfully and effectively," he said.

While he admitted to being surprised at the gap between the state's results and performance in NSW and Victoria, he was confident recently introduced measures would lift future performances. The national test results released last week showed Queensland students in all year levels tested were below average competency in reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.


Monday, September 15, 2008

British middle school graduates with the spelling skills of seven-year-olds

Pupils can gain a good GCSE in English despite being unable to spell basic words, according to a report. Many were awarded at least a C grade - considered a decent pass - even though scripts were littered with errors, it is claimed. Some teenagers were unable to spell there and where - words the average pupil is expected to master at the age of seven. Pupils were also awarded B grades despite spelling words such as finally with one "l" and failing to appreciate the difference between woman and women.

Researchers from Cambridge Assessment - one of the country's biggest exam boards - analysed spelling in 60 English papers. Three per cent of all words were wrong, rising to one-in-14 among teenagers awarded a G grade, they said. Some words were so badly spelt that researchers had problems working out what they meant. In one script, gorgeous was spelt "gourges", anxious came out as "angshuse" and familiar became "formiler". In other examples, nervous was spelt "nufse", thought became "faunt" and talk "torck".

The disclosure comes just days after a leading academic called for an overhaul of the English spelling system to allow irregularities to be accepted. Professor John Wells, from University College London, said that forcing pupils to memorise irregular spellings was holding many back in the classroom.

But Ian McNeilly, of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said too many schools were forced to ignore bad spelling in tests to inflate pupils' overall marks. "I am not saying that we make spelling a huge priority over understanding, analysis and interpretation," he told the Times Educational Supplement. "But students should be able to spell securely. It's an ongoing battle that isn't helped by wider society."

In the latest study - presented to the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association - academics analysed papers taken by students in 2004. They were able to present a detailed breakdown of the number of spelling mistakes by grade. Around four per cent of all words in papers graded an F were incorrect and more than two per cent of spellings by C-grade candidates were wrong.

Most common mistakes surrounded uncertainty over double letters. Spellings such as "allways", "quiettly", "untill" and "stoped" were common errors. Many pupils confused new and knew - and failed to spot the difference between too and to. Some teenagers were unsure about when "h" followed "w", using phrases such as "I whant", "he whas" and "we where".

Basic rules of primary school spelling were also forgotten by GCSE candidates. This led to misspellings such as "slightley", "angrey" and "comeing". Researchers said many errors came down to pupils' speech patterns, with some substituting -ing for -ink, producing words such as "somethink" and "nothink".

It comes amid on-going concerns over spelling standards among young people. Last month, one academic said that standards of spelling among university students were now so bad that lecturers are being urged to turn a blind eye to mistakes.


Girls at British single-sex schools outperform co-education pupils

There have been a lot of findings elsewhere to this effect but socio-economic differences might be part of the explanation

GIRLS attending single-sex schools far outperform their contemporaries in mixed education, an analysis of government data have found. The research by the independent Girls' Schools Association (GSA) shows that this year 56.7% of their member schools' A-level results were at grade A, compared with 48.9% at coed independent schools. At GCSE the margin was wider still, with 68.5% marked A or A* compared with the mixed figure of 54%.

The research, based on figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, reflects a trend that has been apparent for at least the past four years. In recent decades single-sex education has declined in popularity, with the number of schools falling from nearly 2,500 30 years ago to about 400. In the past decade alone, some 120 independent schools have gone co-educational.

Some of the best-known former boys' schools, such as Wellington and Uppingham, are now mixed, although others, including Eton and Winchester, have remained boys-only.

Girls' schools have been more likely to resist going co-educational. Advocates of the system believe that in mixed classes girls are more likely to be inhibited and reluctant to voice their opinions openly. Girls in single-sex schools are also more likely to take A-level subjects which in mixed schools have traditionally been seen as the preserve of boys, such as science and maths.

Last year, 72.5% of pupils in the GSA schools won A grades in maths A-level while the figure was 64.9% for girls in their mixed equivalent. The national figure was nearly 30 percentage points lower. Separate research by the Girls' Day School Trust, an independent chain, has found that the proportion of their pupils taking science subjects at A-level is more than double the national average. Vicky Tuck, president of the GSA and principal of Cheltenham ladies' college, said girls schools "have a brilliant track record in helping pupils attain".

However, Richard Cairns, headmaster of the mixed Brighton college, said boys and girls complemented each others' learning. "Boys will focus on what's going on in the killing fields, and girls will think, `What's the impact [over] the next 40 years when there's no father at home?' "

Rebecca Ogilvie-Smith, from Oxfordshire, who last month scored top grades in all her AS-levels at Cheltenham - while also winning top grades in her French A2- said attending a single-sex school had taken off "a certain pressure" which the presence of boys can bring. "There is a very intense feeling of community and it is not judgmental," said Ogilvie-Smith. "Your focus is not on how you look."


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spelling correctly is a bridge to a better and more respected life

In a cheery letter to her son John, Margaret Paston wrote: "Yor sustere recomaundyt hyr to yow, and thankyt yow hertyly that ye wyll remembyre hyr." What? The problem in understanding The Paston Letters is not that they are written in Old English (their period is early modern) but that their authors' spelling was so haphazard.

Now Professor John Wells of University College, London, is egging on the Spelling Society in its attempts to dissuade children from mastering spelling. "It's time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal mark of being educated," he says. The Spelling Society needs no egging. Its prime objective is: "To publicise the unnecessary difficulties of English spelling and the benefits that its simplification would bring." That sounds all right, and so does the name Spelling Society. The trouble is that it is an anti-spelling society. It used to be called the Simplified Spelling Society, but it simplified the name, rather misleadingly.

While it is slightly unfair to characterise members of this society as the kind of people who recoil at a lamb chop, shudder at beer and insist on wearing wool next to the skin, one should remember that a stalwart of their cause was George Bernard Shaw - never happier than when sitting in his Jaeger underwear in an ABC cafe, toying with a nut fritter and a glass of milk.

Shaw it was who came up with the tired joke of spelling fish as "ghoti" (gh as in laugh; o as in women; ti as in motion). He left money in his will to fund spelling reform, which caused endless squabbling between rival beneficiaries.

There is no difficulty in devising an alphabet that reflects English pronunciation. The 40 or 50 symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet do a tolerable job. It would expand the minds of schoolchildren to learn it. But that is entirely beside the point.

To limit education by using only reformed spelling would be a great betrayal because it would cut off children, later adults, from reading old books. They'd soon tire of trying to make out the words, just as Germans today puzzle over books printed in their old gothic type. A new elite would be born. In the same way as the knowledge of Latin used to distinguish the educated, so in future anyone who knew only reformed spelling would be stigmatised as being educated to a rudimentary level.

Quite apart from this fatal flaw in spelling reform, the spelling single-issue mob completely misunderstand the function of spelling in English society. It is a pons asinorum, a donkeys' bridge that anyone who learns to read or write must cross. On it depends all future employment. Employers are confused by school qualifications: GCSEs, A-levels, pre-Us, IBs, new diplomas.

Every prospective employer is swayed by spelling in a letter of application or CV. I know someone who almost failed to get an interview because she lived in Guilford Street, London WC1, and the interviewer thought it was her mis-spelling for "Guildford". Spelling does count. Not only does it make communication possible without the headaches of Paston peculiarities, it reflects a stocked and ordered mind. One of the glories of 19th century reform was the banishing of corruption in public appointments by the Northcote-Trevelyan report, which in 1854 recommended competitive examinations.

These did not, like the Mandarin examinations of the sixth-century Sui dynasty, demand that candidates be locked in bare sheds for three days to show flawless knowledge of 10,000 characters. They did expect a modest ability to spell plain English. Learning to spell may be dull at times, but anyone who can learn to speak English and read it should be expected to get it right.

What Thomas Gaisford, the Dean of Christ Church, once said in a sermon about the study of Greek, applies today to accurate spelling: "It not only elevates above the vulgar herd, but leads not infrequently to positions of considerable emolument".


More insane British bureaucracy

Twin girls born either side of midnight to be split up in school - because they fall in different academic years

As twin girls, the parents of one-week-old Lexus and Amber Conway expected them to share everything as they grew up. But the possibility they will be separated for much of their formative years is already hanging over the pair - and all because they were born either side of midnight. The girls were born just 45 minutes apart on the the night of August 31, but one arrived before it officially became September 1 and one after. A matter of minutes means they are now facing being separated at school because their official birthdays fall either side of the division for academic years.

Under the current rules, Lexus would be able to go to school aged four but because she was born slightly later, Amber would have to wait until she was five. Their parents, Sarah Conway and Ian Caldwell, however, are determined they will not be split up and plan to fight for the next four years to prevent it. Miss Conway said: 'Doing everything together is what being a twin is all about. How could I keep one at home and send one to school? 'I've been told this is a really unique case and I'm going to fight to make sure they go to school together even if it takes me the next four years.'

The 37-year-old administrator gave birth to Lexus naturally at 11.40pm on August 31at the Barratt Maternity Unit in Northampton. Amber was delivered by Caesarean section just 45 minutes later but by that time, it had become September 1. 'The midwife said it was the first time she had ever heard of this happening to twins,' Miss Conway, from Northampton, said. 'It's such a shame for the girls, especially as Amber only missed the cut-off point by a matter of minutes. 'We tried to persuade the registry office to give them both August 31 as their birthdays but they said there was no leeway.'

Mr Caldwell, who is also a twin, said they would teach the girls at home or move to Spain if they cannot start school together. 'My family live in Spain and they have a different academic year so we'd rather move out there than split up the twins,' his girlfriend added.

Keith Reed, chief executive of the charity The Twins and Multiple Births Association, said this was the first case of its kind he had ever heard of. 'It's highly unusual for twins to be born in separate school years and I hope the local authority gives due regard to the individual needs of the children and family involved,' he said.

Northamptonshire County Council, the family's local authority, have also never encountered such a scenario before. A spokesman said: 'We will need to look into this nearer the time Lexus and Amber are due to start school as part of their overall application for a school place. 'Any decision made will be in the best interests of both children as well as taking into consideration the wishes of the parents.'