Saturday, December 06, 2008

Poisonous Leftist bigotry in a Canadian university

Carleton University Students' Association's (CUSA) orientation will no longer raise funds for cystic fibrosis, after a vote 17 to 2 at the Nov. 24 CUSA council meeting. The proposal to abandon Shinerama was put forward after it was "recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men," according to the motion.

"We have a diverse community," CUSA vice-president (finance) Kweku Winful said. "We need something that is more representative of the greater student [body] than just one small group . . . we need to appeal to a larger demographic." According to Carlos Chacon, vice-president (internal), CUSA's orientation has raised over $1 million for the charity since the mid-90s.

The motion was proposed by Donnie Northrup, the science faculty representative. CUSA president Brittany Smyth said the idea of switching charities had been discussed with orientation volunteers last year. "There seemed to be a lot of support to try something new," she said.


Reaction (1)

As a Carleton graduate, I was shocked to hear that the Student Association recently voted to stop a fund raising effort for Cystic Fibrosis on the grounds of "racism." This was not the work of one misguided idiot. The vote passed 17 to 2! Apparently they were under the mistaken impression that the disease affects only white people, and mostly males, so it isn't "inclusive" enough.

In fact, the disease is diagnosed in males and females equally and in Hispanics and African Americans, but not as often as in whites. When the association was vilified from coast-to-coast, they abruptly reversed themselves saying they had acted on "mistaken information" and the issue had been "blown out of proportion." Not because it was a profoundly inappropriate judgement in the first place. Imagine if we stopped fundraising for breast cancer because it affects mostly women, or Alzheimer's because it affects mostly the elderly, or Tay-Sachs because it strikes mostly Jews.

What is the principle here? That sick people with only "politically correct" diseases need apply. The Association members have disgraced themselves and embarrassed the university.


Reaction (2)

When Christine Skobe heard about the recent motion to abandon Shinerama, she said she felt "complete disappointment." Skobe is a third-year film and law student who suffers from cystic fibrosis, the disease Shinerama helps support research for.

The motion, passed at the Nov. 24 Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) council meeting, has created a splash with national media and caused dissention amongst the student body. "The executive clearly had no consultation with students because the Carleton community has always been in support of Shinerama," said Nick Bergamini, the journalism representative on CUSA council, and the only councillor to vote against the motion in the 17-2 vote. The other vote against the motion was made by a proxy for Sean Finnigan.

Kailey Gervais, Rideau River Residence Association (RRRA) vice president (programming) and a CUSA councillor for Public Affairs and Management, has also expressed her opposition to the motion. "Every councilor that voted made a serious error," she said, because they had no time, once the motion was unveiled at the meeting, to consult with their constituents or do research. Gervais was not at the Nov. 24 council meeting, and said she apologizes to students for not being there. Her proxy, chosen by CUSA president Brittany Smyth, voted for the motion.

"The fact that the proposition contained false factual information about the [cystic fibrosis] population, shows both immaturity and a lack of research intelligence," said alumni Murray Gale.

Carleton's alumni expressed their collective disappointment in CUSA in an open letter written by Jane Gilbert, president of the Carleton University Alumni Association (CUAA). "The end result has caused significant pain to members of the broader Carleton family including more than 100,000 members of CUAA worldwide," CUAA president Jane Gilbert wrote.

Carleton University President Roseann Runte also addressed the issue in an email to all Carleton students sent out on Nov. 26. However, she did say she is "convinced that our students will do the right thing and take the appropriate course of action." CUSA has released a statement saying the motion will be revisited at an emergency council meeting Dec. 1.

Some students have been calling for the resignation of various CUSA councillors, including Smyth and CUSA science representative Donnie Northrup, who put forth the motion. "I think CUSA has taken a step in the right direction," said third-year journalism student Dean Tester about CUSA's decision to revisit the motion. He said he would like to hear a formal apology. Gervais echoed the sentiment, saying "We need a national apology because this has just gotten out of control."

The original sentiments of the motion, according to CUSA council members, was to open up the opportunity to support a charity of the students' choice. "That's great that they want to [get involved with more charities], but it amazes me that not one person there ever thought of doing two large fundraisers during the school year, one for [cystic fibrosis] and the other for whatever cause they want to engage in," said Gale. "I understand where the CUSA councillors are coming from," Skobe said. "[But] I'm also feeling like it's a slap in the face to cystic fibrosis research."


Bye Bye to any discipline in British schools

British teacher suspended over push-ups -- at a sports college!

A BRITISH schoolteacher has been suspended after making his pupils do push-ups as a punishment for arriving late to class, Britain's main teaching union said today.

Ian Jennison, a representative for the National Union of Teachers, said the suspension could have a negative impact on how teachers dealt with their students in the future. "It's political correctness gone mad. The repercussions are quite far-reaching," Mr Jennison said. "If this man is sacked for this, teachers are not going to take kids on trips, if two kids are having a fight they won't intervene, because they will be too worried." Mr Jennison said different punishments for latecomers had been discussed by the whole class and that it was the pupils who had suggested push-ups.

The Derby Moor Community Sports College, where the unnamed teacher worked, said an investigation was underway and that its "priority is to ensure that students are happy to be in school".



They seem to have taken California seriously. Four current articles below

The red ink saga gets worse

Teachers told to leave wrong answers blank

TEACHERS at a Brisbane school were told to leave wrong answers by students blank, as marking it wrong would have hurt the child's confidence. The case at Algester State Primary School on the southside has emerged in the wake of the red pen controversy this week involving Queensland Health warning teachers to stop using red pens as the colour was too "aggressive".

One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was shocked at the recent directive to leave answers blank. "They didn't want us to write anything," he told The Courier-Mail.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Rod Welford said he was too busy to be interviewed and that he did not comment on "operational" issues anyway. "There's nothing for our minister to say," the spokeswoman said. A one-paragraph statement from Education Queensland issued later failed to discuss issues proposed.

It came after the red pen controversy played out in State Parliament again, with the Bligh Government turning the tables on the Opposition over the source of the red pen advice. It was contained in a Queensland Health kit given to 30 schools to provide a range of tips and hints on dealing with mental health issues in the classroom. The Liberal National Party had claimed the document was "kooky, loopy, loony, Left policy" but the Government yesterday revealed the kit was initially released nationally by the Howard government in 2000.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson lampooned the LNP claims, questioning who the "Marx and Engels of the Howard socialist government" were who devised the kit. "None other than comrade Dr Michael Wooldridge and comrade Dr David Kemp - a couple of loony lefties full of kooky, loony and loopy ideas if there ever were any," Mr Robertson said. [The Federal education bureaucracy is Leftist too. No doubt they slipped this one past the politicians]


Education policy gets an F

EDUCATION systems with no red pens and no wrong answers feed the delusion that our students are doing well. State education gets an F for setting up children for failure. The Queensland Health document calling on teachers not to use a red pen when correcting students' work (it's seen as aggressive and damaging to self-esteem) is so bizarre, it has to be true.

In the Alice in Wonderland world of education - where teachers no longer teach, they become guides by the side, where classic literature is replaced by SMS messaging and graffiti and history is reduced to studying the local tip (it's the environment, stupid) - nothing surprises. Read state and territory curriculum documents from the past five to 10 years and the fact is that no one fails. Learning is developmental, so don't worry if children cannot read or write as, eventually, they will pick it up.

Ranking kids one against the other or giving a test marked out of 10, where 4 means fail, is wrong as each student is precious and unique and being competitive reinforces a capitalist, winner/loser mentality. Failure is redefined as "deferred success" and reports describe student achievement with comments like "consolidating", "not yet achieved" and "establishing". No wonder parents don't have a clue where their children rank in the class. It's also no wonder that so many thousands of primary school children enter secondary school with such poor literacy and numeracy skills and that universities now have remedial classes for first-year students, teaching essay writing and basic algebra.

Fast forward to Gen-Y and the results of this care, share, grow approach to assessment and correcting work are clear to see. Having never been told their work is substandard or that, compared with others, they may have failed, Gen-Y has an inbuilt sense of invincibility and success. Ask employers about working with Gen-Y and the consensus is that this is a generation that expects never to be corrected, that promotion is automatic and that near enough is good enough. After years of being told at school that everyone has a right to an opinion - after all, how we read the world is subjective and teachers are only facilitators - no wonder many young people are incapable of working out the difference between success and mediocrity.

There is an alternative. As every good parent and teacher knows, children need a disciplined approach to learning, and to be told when they have passed or failed. Boys, in particular, need clear and immediate feedback about what's expected and whether they have reached the required standard. Look at the stronger-performing education systems of Singapore, Japan, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, and it's obvious they rely on competitive assessment at key stages and students suffer the consequences of not doing well enough.

It's ironic that Australian students, who are in the "second 11" when it comes to international maths and science tests, on being interviewed express a high opinion of themselves and their ability to do well. Asian students, on the other hand, who consistently rank at the top of the table, say that they need to work harder as they feel there is always room for improvement. So much for the smart state.


Australia: State Premier pisses into the wind

Show us respect, Premier John Brumby tells Melbourne's young. When their Leftist teachers are telling them that there is no such thing as right and wrong and that everything is relative, what chance that the kids will heed propaganda telling them to be do-gooders?

JOHN Brumby has declared war on the "me" generation of out-of-control young Victorians who lack respect and fuel crime. The Premier today will unveil a plan to restore respect throughout schools and the community. "I am concerned about an emerging culture of alcohol and a lack of respect," he told the Herald Sun.

Mr Brumby plans a multi-million-dollar campaign to steer young Victorians into volunteering for key fire, rescue, welfare and community groups. The school curriculum is expected to be changed to teach teenagers right from wrong.

The campaign, aimed at between 15 and 25, comes as crime figures show 33,911 charges were laid against people under under 18 in 2007-08, and one in five of all offences were committed by teens. "Like all parents, I am concerned when I see images of young people writing themselves off on Friday or Saturday nights, getting into fights, or just not treating themselves or other people with respect," Mr Brumby said. "I will be pushing a respect agenda very heavily next year - it's a top priority."

The Premier was speaking after the annual Schoolies Week of drugs, drunkenness and anti-social behaviour hit the nation's beachside resorts. His plan has won the backing of notorious party animal Corey Worthington - who reckons more needs to be done and has offered to advise Mr Brumby for free. Speaking through his manager yesterday, the Melbourne teenager said more amenities and activities were needed for under-18s who are banned from licensed venues. "They need to be entertained or have places to go so that they aren't on the streets where the violence occurs," Worthington said.

The wild child said he was happy to make himself available at no charge to meet the Premier to help develop suitable strategies. Organised street parties, concerts and relaxing laws so some licensed venues can be used for under-18s events were some of his suggestions. The teen became notorious in January after throwing a wild party at his Narre Warren house without his parent's permission.

Crime figures show that juveniles are vastly over-represented in public order offences, arson and car theft. Drunken violence on the streets among the young is changing the face of Melbourne's CBD. Violence and alcohol abuse is rife at elite schools and unruly teenage parties.

Mr Brumby's strategy will dominate the Government's social agenda next year. A round table of experts and parents will meet to carve out a way to teach the young right from wrong. Education ministers today are expected to declare a shared goal in Australia of better values among the young.

A centrepiece of Mr Brumby's agenda will be encouraging volunteering. He wants to lead the way by joining the Country Fire Authority as a volunteer to help protect his family farm. He said young people would be better off if they directed their energies towards volunteer organisations, sporting clubs and soup kitchens rather than trawling the streets. "Parents don't want to be lectured by Government, but I think some would like some advice on helping their kids become solid citizens," Mr Brumby said. "Schools do a great job but we can always look at whether we can do more to teach life skills to young people." He will work with Education Minister Bronwyn Pike to assess whether schools should be more involved in teaching young people to value themselves and others. "I can think of nothing better than joining up to these (volunteer) organisations for young people to learn about community respect and what it means to be part of a team," he said.

Mr Brumby said the respect agenda flowed on from the Government's crackdown on alcohol-related crime. He referred to the night when he went to the Melbourne Custody Centre with the Herald Sun to discover three young drunks being processed by police. "I was shocked when I went to the Melbourne Custody Centre to see the state some young people were in - and it struck me that nobody would get into such a state if they respected themselves and their community," he said.


Islamic school bans national anthem

School reportedly bans the singing of Advance Australia Fair at assemblies.

A BRISBANE school has banned the national anthem at assemblies and sacked the teacher who asked for it to be played. Australian International Islamic College teacher Pravin Chand was sacked in November, four months after his proposal for students to sing Advance Australia Fair was ruled to be against the "Islamic view and ethos". A memo sent to teachers at the Durack school in July and obtained by The Courier-Mail, also said "the singing of the anthem will be put on hold".

The revelations follow an outcry on the Gold Coast this week at a plan by the same college to open another campus at Carrara. A vocal crowd draped in Australian flags accused the college of promoting segregation, anti-Australian values and even terrorism. Muslim leaders slammed the protests as "un-Australian" and claimed religion should not be used as a reason to protest against a school.

School chairman Imam Abdul Quddoos Azhari yesterday denied the anthem ban and said students sang it "at every function". But Mr Chand, whose version of events was backed by a second teacher, said he had not heard the anthem once this year. "No national anthem to me means no integration with Australian kids," Mr Chand said. "Western values (at the school) are a no-no. "It's like a paramilitary camp that place."

Mr Chand's employment was terminated by the college board last month on the grounds he was "not fitting into the school's ethos". Outgoing principal Azroul Liza Khalid, who started at the school in July, said she had not heard the anthem once at assembly, although it was played two or three other times. Ms Khalid said she was told by a board member not to play the anthem or any songs on Friday because it was a holy day. In July, school assembly day was moved from Monday to Friday.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Rod Welford indicated it was unlikely a public school had banned the national anthem. "It's not compulsory for schools to play the national anthem," she said. "There's an expectation it would be played on formal occasions when the Australian flag is being raised."

A Catholic education spokesman said: "I'm absolutely confident that no Catholic school has ever banned the playing of the national anthem and never will."

School trustee Keysar Trad and Imam Quddoos said they had not heard of the ban and supported the playing of the anthem at future assemblies. The future of the proposed 60-student college at Carrara will be decided by Gold Coast City Council next year.


Friday, December 05, 2008


Very similar to UK and US problems. Three current articles below

Academic bias in Australia

This has been going on for a long time. When I was a university student I was an outspoken conservative and was well aware that I was as a result looked at askance by the academics. So I ended up in 1967 with only a lower second class honours degree. Yet the thesis for that degree was eventually published as an academic journal article and I had over 200 journal articles published in a writing career of only 20 years -- something that would put me in the top 1% of academics. The degree I got therefore clearly was not an accurate testimony to my ability.

'Like the characters Winston Smith and Julia in George Orwell's classic anti-totalitarian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, students with non-Left views need to learn to outwardly conform to inwardly remain free." This is how a high school tutor, Mark Lopez, describes the plight of Australian students in his submission to the Senate inquiry into academic freedom, which is due to table its report today. In 18 years tutoring English and the humanities, Lopez has seen a "subtle, unstated pressure for students to ideologically conform if they want to succeed academically".

He said the "beliefs of the politically correct, which are seen by them as so noble and emancipating, especially when . touted by radical students in the 1960s" have become a "means for compromising the intellectual freedom of the young in the 21st century".

Many academics have derided the Senate inquiry, begun in June by the Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield, as a "witch-hunt", an exercise in "mud-slinging", the dying throes of the Howard regime and a "McCarthyist" attempt to curtail the freedom of academics. The National Tertiary Education Union was typical in its submission asserting that bias does not exist.

But the submissions - some anonymous - tell a different story and paint a chilling portrait of an often unconscious academic bias in schools and universities, and of students too intimidated to say or write what they think. Joshua Koonin, a third-year law student, told the inquiry: "I have .consistently felt intimidated that if I express views other than those [of my] tutors and lecturers . my marks will suffer." He told of readings on "the immorality of the United States . with no countervailing position" and a lecturer who said, "nobody in Australia supports John Howard and his crimes".

Professor Brian Martin, of the University of Wollongong and vice-president of Whistleblowers Australia, who researches the suppression of dissent and is hardly what you would describe as a conservative, was among the most powerful witnesses to the inquiry. He told a public hearing in Sydney in October that students have become "strategic" at working the biases of their teachers. "For someone like me, teaching social science, I actually would like the students to be speaking out much more, disagreeing with me . But they are afraid . They are trying to find out what the lecturers are looking for because then they will give it to them. These are strategic students . They want to get good marks, so they are trying to figure out what their lecturers want. That is a far bigger problem, in my mind, than the bias that may exist."

Together, the submissions form a story of an academic world plagued by what the James Cook University academic Merv Bendle described in a public hearing in Canberra as an "intellectual monoculture". "In another age this could be a fascist, far right intellectual monoculture and it would do just as much damage to our society as a left-wing or far left intellectual monoculture. It is not so much the politics of the thing; it is the fact that it is an intellectual monoculture, that it is one voice being heard over and over again unrelentingly."

The inquiry split early along party lines, with a minority report due to be released today by Coalition senators, who are expected to recommend reform of ideologically driven university education faculties, as well as a "charter of academic freedoms".

While the concerns of Young Liberals, who inspired the inquiry with their "Make Education Fair" campaign, are expected to be dismissed in today's Senate majority report as an "undergraduate exercise", the federal president, Noel McCoy, said yesterday the inquiry had established the existence of "a radical orthodoxy which pervades the development of university courses and school curriculums, stifles debate and prevents genuine balance or diversity of opinions". McCoy reserves special scorn for university education faculties, which he says are crucial to the "long march through the institutions", which the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci said was necessary for socialism to take hold.

The inquiry discussed the problem of education being used as a tool for social change rather than to impart skills. One result is that Monash University has just announced remedial English courses for students who arrive "functionally illiterate" after 12 years of school.

And committee member, Liberal Senator Brett Mason, complained about a Brisbane high school he visited in which Mao Zedong was displayed as a "freedom fighter" alongside George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi.

Gideon Rozner, president of the University of Melbourne's Liberal Club, told the inquiry about a course on "contemporary ideologies", comprising 12 lectures, 11 "dedicated to different variations of socialism". The solitary lecture about liberalism and conservatism had as its compulsory reading an article from the left-wing Monthly magazine titled "Young Liberals in the chocolate factory". "The entire liberal or conservative tradition [was] summed up by that article . When students enrol in a contemporary ideology subject and finish it not knowing any of the works of Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill or Milton Friedman or any of the great thinkers of our time, that is a significant quality issue."

A month after Rozner's testimony, on November 4, the inquiry committee received a letter from a "disappointed" University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, who defended the subject. But he said it was to be replaced next year with a "broader introduction to political ideas subject [with readings from such] liberal authors such as John Stuart Mill and Milton Friedman". Chalk up a victory to the Young Liberals, even if no one will ever admit it.


Google generation doesn't need to know facts?

What an addle-headed and destructive Leftist moron! If kids don't have a solid base of knowledge to start with they cannot make good judgments about what is nonsense and what is not. You have got to have that basic grounding. And calling it "rote" or "memorizing" is just abuse

School children no longer need to memorise facts and figures because everything they need is just a mouse click away, an internet educator says. It would be better to teach children to think creatively so they could interpret and apply knowledge they gained online, said Don Tapscott, author of the bestselling book Wikinomics and a champion of the "net generation".

"Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is," Mr Tapscott told Times Online. "Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don't need to know all the dates. It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google," he said.

But Mr Tapscott said he was not rejecting education. The ability to learn new things was more important than ever "in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed," he said. "Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times. So for them memorising facts and figures is a waste of time."

Mr Tapscott, who coined the term "the net generation", based his observations in his latest book, Grown Up Digital, on a study of nearly 8000 people in 12 countries born between 1978 and 1994. He said the prevailing education model was designed for the industrial age. "This might have been good for the mass production economy, but it doesn't deliver for the challenges of the digital economy, or for the `net gen' mind," he said.

He suggested the brains of young people worked differently from those of their parents and said "digital immersion", in which children may be texting while surfing the internet and listening to their MP3 player, could help them to develop critical thinking skills.

Brighton College headmaster Richard Cairns told Times Online that a core level of knowledge was essential: "It's important that children learn facts. If you have no store of knowledge in your head to draw from, you cannot easily engage in discussions or make informed decisions."


Federal education boss has the right ideas but can she deliver?

It was telling that on the Monday morning after the weekend Council of Australian Governments meeting, ABC local radio in Sydney excitedly declared it day one in the education revolution. For ABC broadcaster Deborah Cameron, the revolution was about computers. Was this the Great Leap Forward? she asked rhetorically. Cameron should have googled, if only to remind herself that Mao Zedong's program led to the deaths of many millions of Chinese. Historical quibbles aside, for the next few minutes Cameron and NSW Education Minister Verity Firth applauded the coming revolution for delivering a laptop to every high school student in years nine to 12.

Completely off their inner-city Mao-focused radar is the real revolution cautiously started by Julia Gillard at the weekend. Far more important than the underfunded election gimmick of computers that still excites the ABC is Gillard's grassroots change to education. There was no coincidence to the visit to our shores in the lead-up to COAG by New York City education chancellor Joel Klein. In Sydney late last week, he told me, with a cheeky smile, that he enjoyed being described by 2GB radio broadcaster Alan Jones as Julia's pin-up boy. And it's not hard to understand why Gillard is enamoured with Klein, who has run the largest public school system in the US - more than 1400 schools - for the past six years.

His bold reforms have challenged the status quo, lifting the prospects of thousands of children. Based on accountability, transparency and leadership, Klein's system tests literacy and numeracy, and tracks the progress of students in every school and the outcomes delivered by every teacher. Critics who complain that Klein's reforms teach students to master mindless tests miss the point, he says. Every mark of progress students earn in the tests increases their probability of graduating. And lifting the outcomes of students stuck in the tail of educational disadvantage is Klein's driving focus. Importantly, parents can access all the information on the New York City education department's website. Schools are awarded a grade for student progress, from A to D or F forfail. The D and F schools face restructure or closure unless they improve. Principals and parents are surveyed regularly. That, too, is all public.

As Klein said, transparency means the public becomes your ally in reform, "so that parents can raise hell" about schools that are failing their children. Added to that powerful cocktail of transparency and accountability is competition from small, independent charter schools.

Parents with students at failing schools have the option to move their children to other schools. Underperforming schools stop taking students for granted. "We wanted to be the Silicon Valley for charter schools," Klein told The Australian, so he recruited the great charter school leaders to NYC. People such as Dacia Toll, who is the director and co-founder of the Amistad Academy, came to NYC to open schools that unapologetically use student performance as a factor in student, principal and teacher evaluation.

When Klein took up his post, disadvantaged students had little choice. There were 16 charter schools. There are now more than 100, all in high-poverty areas such as Harlem and central Brooklyn, educating the most disadvantaged black and Hispanic students in NYC.

Klein told me about meeting a child in kindergarten at Excellence Academy, a red-bricked charter school in an impoverished part of Brooklyn. The boy told Klein he was in a University of Pennsylvania program. "Hang on, you're in kindergarten," Klein said to the boy. "What do you mean?" "I'm on my way to college. It's never too young to think about that," replied the little boy.

Klein's key concern is the inequitable distribution of high-quality teachers. So he also encouraged quality school leadership by raising $US70million from the private sector to train what he calls "get-up-and-go, tackle the problem" leaders who, in turn, would attract motivated teachers to their cause. Leaders such as Marc Sternberg, who graduated near the top of his class at Princeton and went on to business and education degrees at Harvard. When, at 29, Sternberg returned to New York, Klein appointed him principal of a small school where every child is black or Latino.

Klein copped the usual criticism about appointing a young guy. Longevity is the key to being a good school principal, said the critics. When Sternberg joined Bronx Lab School in 2004, it had graduation rates of about 35 per cent. Now the graduation rate is 94 per cent. "That's the power of leadership," says Klein. He has also introduced a trial into 200 high-poverty schools of bonuses for teachers where student progress improves, and greater freedom for principals to achieve better outcomes.

At COAG on Saturday, Gillard dipped her toe in the water of a Klein-inspired education revolution by scoring agreement with the states to publish data about the relative performance of schools. The commonwealth can then identify struggling schools and inject further resources into them. "What Labor has never used before is full transparency," Gillard said. Klein said that "once this genie (of transparency) is out of the bottle, it's very hard to put it back in".

But if Gillard is serious about reforming education and confronting the tail of education underachievement, she will need to do more. The model of rewards and penalties that she has previously ruled out will, ultimately, need to be on the table. Handing out money to disadvantaged schools cannot be the end game if student outcomes do not improve. Closing down consistently failing schools, encouraging competition and providing incentives to schools that achieve have proven to be critical reforms in NYC.

Klein's bold agenda is to position education of the most disadvantaged as the civil rights issue of the 21st century. If Gillard can do the same, she will, in the process, position herself as a true leader and Kevin Rudd's natural successor. Sometimes the best reforms are done from within. For all the bluster about reforming education, none of the Coalition education ministers, including most recently Julie Bishop, could win over teachers unions to this cause. Gillard, from the Labor Party's Left faction, is uniquely placed to woo her power base to see the sense of reforms they have long opposed.

For now, unions are mouthing the same old nonsensical objections driven by their vested interests. And Gillard can expect much more feral and misguided criticism. But if, as Klein has done, she can build on the present moves towards transparency with tougher reforms in the future aimed at greater accountability, she will deliver a real education revolution. And she will have earned the thanks of those who count: parents and students, especially those most disadvantaged among us who deserve a quality education. Stirring the pot - and delivering real outcomes - is, as Klein would say, the power of leadership.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.

There is no doubt that many universities and colleges have become bloated with bureaucracy and other inessentials. Maybe Wal-Mart should start up some colleges. It might be another cost revolution

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families. “If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

Although college enrollment has continued to rise in recent years, Mr. Callan said, it is not clear how long that can continue. “The middle class has been financing it through debt,” he said. “The scenario has been that families that have a history of sending kids to college will do whatever if takes, even if that means a huge amount of debt.” But low-income students, he said, will be less able to afford college. Already, he said, the strains are clear.

The report, “Measuring Up 2008,” is one of the few to compare net college costs — that is, a year’s tuition, fees, room and board, minus financial aid — against median family income. Those findings are stark. Last year, the net cost at a four-year public university amounted to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university cost 76 percent of the median family income.

The share of income required to pay for college, even with financial aid, has been growing especially fast for lower-income families, the report found. Among the poorest families — those with incomes in the lowest 20 percent — the net cost of a year at a public university was 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost was 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.

The likelihood of large tuition increases next year is especially worrying, Mr. Callan said. “Most governors’ budgets don’t come out until January, but what we’re seeing so far is Florida talking about a 15 percent increase, Washington State talking about a 20 percent increase, and California with a mixture of budget cuts and enrollment cuts,” he said.

In a separate report released this week by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the public universities acknowledged the looming crisis, but painted a different picture. That report emphasized that families have many higher-education choices, from community colleges, where tuition and fees averaged about $3,200, to private research universities, where they cost more than $33,000.

“We think public higher education is affordable right now, but we’re concerned that it won’t be, if the changes we’re seeing continue, and family income doesn’t go up,” said David Shulenburger, the group’s vice president for academic affairs and co-author of the report. “The public conversation is very often in terms of a $35,000 price tag, but what you get at major public research university is, for the most part, still affordable at 6,000 bucks a year.”

While tuition has risen at public universities, his report said, that has largely been to make up for declining state appropriations. The report offered its own cost projections, not including room and board. “Projecting out to 2036, tuition would go from 11 percent of the family budget to 24 percent of the family budget, and that’s pretty huge,” Mr. Shulenburger said. “We only looked at tuition and fees because those are the only things we can control.” Looking at total costs, as families must, he said, his group shared Mr. Callan’s concerns.

Mr. Shulenburger’s report suggested that public universities explore a variety of approaches to lower costs — distance learning, better use of senior year in high school, perhaps even shortening college from four years. “There’s an awful lot of experimentation going on right now, and that needs to go on,” he said. “If you teach a course by distance with 1,000 students, does that affect learning? Till we know the answer, it’s difficult to control costs in ways that don’t affect quality.”

Mr. Callan, for his part, urged a reversal in states’ approach to higher-education financing. “When the economy is good, and state universities are somewhat better funded, we raise tuition as little as possible,” he said. “When the economy is bad, we raise tuition and sock it to families, when people can least afford it. That’s exactly the opposite of what we need.”


Australia: Muslims say protests over planned school are "hurtful"

Maybe they should stop preaching hate against Israel and the West, then. I think Mr Trad should send his complaint to the Ayalollahs of Iran or the Wahhabist mullahs of Saudi Arabia -- which is where the problem originates

PROTESTERS fighting to stop an Islamic school opening at Carrara on the Gold Coast have been accused of linking young students to terrorism. A board member of the planned school slammed the protesters as "un-Australian". "It's not only upsetting, it's deeply hurtful," school board trustee Keyser Trad said. "To make associations between primary school-aged children and terrorists is just hard to even comprehend. "I've never seen this kind of thing in Australia. It's causing a deep wound in our hearts."

Almost 200 protesters gathered outside the Gold Coast City Council chambers on Monday to demonstrate their objection to the planned Carrara school, with placards, Australian flags, chants and a sound system booming out Aussie rock anthems. Some of the protesters claim the school would foster segregation, or even potential terrorists, comments that angered Mr Trad and disappointed some local councillors.

Mr Trad, who also serves on the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said religion should not be a reason for protesting against the school. "The kids who would go to this school and their parents are normal, everyday people who just happen to be Muslim," he said.

The council's planning committee chairman, Cr Ted Shepherd, deplored aspects of Monday's protest. "I was a little bit disappointed with some of the behaviour," he said. "I don't think people should take to that tone of demonstration over what is really a town planning issue."

Some opponents of the school have expressed concerns over issues such as traffic and parking but Mr Trad said the school was following all council recommendations. "Everything that the council has asked, we have done it signed, sealed and delivered."

Today is the last day for residents to make submissions to the council about the proposal. If approved, the school is unlikely to open until at least the middle of next year.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

President-elect Obama offers poor no `change' on school choice

Barack Obama's historic election victory and eloquence will surely inspire American parents and students alike, but they are likely in for disappointment as well, especially those with limited means. On the issue of school choice, change has not come to America. A gap remains between what the president-elect says and what he does.

Obama's family could have sent him to regular government schools in Hawaii, but instead chose to enroll him at the elite Punahou School. Out of many college possibilities, he chose Columbia University. Out of many law schools, he selected Harvard. With a law degree from Harvard, he could have taught or practiced just about anywhere. He chose to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, another elite school, which was glad to have him.

As a family man, Barack Obama showed he learned the lesson of choice. He and Michelle could have sent their daughters Sasha and Malia to the regular government schools in the Chicago area. Instead, they chose to send them to the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition ranges from $15,000 to more than $20,445 for high school.

Although that was well within the Obamas' pay grade, private school - even those that charge much less - is not affordable for many other parents. But Barack Obama opposes their right to choose the school they believe best suits their children.

Wisconsin has a voucher plan that lets parents of limited income do just that. Polly Williams, an African-American state legislator known as the "Rosa Parks of school choice," was its prime mover. The voucher plan has been upheld by the courts, but the president-elect opposes it. However, he did tell the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February that he had something of an open mind, and that if vouchers were shown to be successful, he would favor "what works for kids."

The Wisconsin choice plan is indeed successful, and so are similar plans around the country, but Obama's mind has since closed up on choice.

In June he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that choice might benefit some kids at the top, but it leaves others at the bottom. There weren't enough openings for every child to go to a parochial or private school. Choice would also be "a huge drain of resources out of the public schools," Obama said, adding, "I think it would be overall bad for most kids."

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Barack Obama has it backward. Those at the top don't need voucher programs. Those at the bottom do, and they have their eyes on the prize. The president-elect opposes their right to choose, and does so in the dog-eared rhetoric of teacher union bosses, which has proved to be bogus. Choice does not drain resources from public schools but instead improves their performance.

There is no educational, social, or legal argument against school choice. There are only political arguments, like those deployed by a president-elect who claims to represent change, but actually backs a government monopoly status quo that traps kids in failing, dangerous schools.

Barack Obama is not the first to showcase that contradiction. During their stay in Washington, the Clintons sent daughter Chelsea to the private Sidwell Friends School, which prompted Polly Williams to say, "Bill and Hillary Clinton shouldn't be the only people who live in public housing who can send their kid to private school." The Obamas also bypassed the D.C. public system and will be sending Sasha and Malia to Sidwell Friends as well.

So it will be interesting to see how the new president deals with the D.C. voucher plan. Like choice programs everywhere, it has proven popular with low-income families, predominately African-American, but has had to fight for its very existence.

An advocate in the White House would help. If he truly wants change, Barack Obama should support full parental choice in education for all Americans as a matter of basic civil rights.


Government Education Is Broken? It Just Ain't So!

New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert is rightfully worried about American education. He's bothered that no one else seems worried. In his article "Clueless in America" (April 22), Herbert notes a lack of concern in coverage of the presidential campaign. He says, "[Education] is much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball." He's disturbed that "no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S."

Mr. Herbert's rant hits hard on the facts of educational failure: "An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That's more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters." More: "A recent survey of teenagers found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900." And so on.

He quotes Microsoft's Bill Gates saying, "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they [the high schools] are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools-even when they're working as designed-cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

Finally, Herbert cites the Educational Testing Service's report, "America's Perfect Storm," which warns of a triad of "powerful forces" threatening our children's future: wide disparity of literacy and math skills, "seismic changes" in the economy, and sweeping demographic changes. He concludes that "we" are not equipping our children to meet these challenges and seems to imply that beating other countries on standardized tests will save us from this Malthusian triad.

Somehow, reading Herbert's article reminded me (Alan) of a story my father used to tell about the old trains on the New Haven line, on which he commuted into New York City each day. Occasionally, these rolling sardine cans would break down or lose power. All of a sudden, some red-faced passenger-an executive about to have a blood-pressure incident-would explode, "Somebody do something!!!" Like the pressured executive on the train, Herbert is right to be alarmed. But like the executive, his reaction is inappropriate for the crisis at hand. In fairness, it's not all Herbert's fault. He doesn't know how the machine actually works. His frustration stems from placing his faith in (and addressing his demands to) the wrong entity.

Herbert is working from two fallacies: that the government school system is a failure and that the government can fix it. You could almost miss the fallacies behind his powerful litany of failures. Everyone, especially the present audience, will nod his head to this litany and think of even more failures to add to the list. The problem is, it just ain't so! It's a fallacy to think government schools have failed. In fact, the problems Herbert lists are not a result of the school system's failure, but of its success. To understand this point, we must stop and consider the true purpose of government schooling. The following passage from John Taylor Gatto just scratches the surface. I hope you will read the rest of this article, "Against School" (Harper's, September 2003):
The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:

To make good people.

To make good citizens.

To make each person his or her personal best.

These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education's mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling's true purpose.

Gatto then quotes H.L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury (April 1924) that "the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim . . . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States . . . and that is its aim everywhere else."

What we observe as the failures of our system of compulsory schooling are actually the inevitable fruits of its true purpose: standardized citizenry. If we are to truly understand what has given rise to Bob Herbert's litany (which is actually modest compared with the full story), we must acknowledge that the government school system actually works too well. The lack of "will to engage" that Herbert laments is a product of this system, a system designed to "put down dissent and originality."

The second fallacy is almost as easily missed. Speaking of presidential candidates in terms of whiskey or bowling is merely a rhetorical device. But although drinking and bowling may be within the right and power of those aspiring to the highest office in the land, fixing education is not. It's quite simple: the federal government's powers are strictly outlined in the Constitution. All other powers "not enumerated" are forbidden. Education is not enumerated. Ergo, it's not the feds' job.

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby in his column of October 17, 2007, puts it succinctly: "[W]e should be concerned. Not just because the quality of government schooling is so often poor or its costs so high. . . . "In a society founded on political and economic liberty, government schools have no place. Free men and women do not entrust to the state the molding of their children's minds and character."

Once exposed, the two fallacies point to one historically stubborn dynamic: Government involvement in schooling is the real "perfect storm." Therefore, to hope that candidates will talk about fixing education-or to think that the federal government should have any say in how we as free people educate our children-is to give the fox the keys to the hen house for another four-year term.

Instead, let's be practical. As parents, let's do everything in our power to take back our children for their protection and prosperity, and for freedom itself. That will make us an example of freedom to our own children and to others. It will open children's lives to the creative thinking and wisdom that will enable them to rise above the challenges they will face. Gatto again: "Children need to know that the ultimate form of private property is full possession of one's own mind and volition." Withholding consent will also further indict the system.

Let's possess freedom and not wait for the ruling powers to hand it to us. Meanwhile, candidates and presidents may talk about education. Let them. But let's not give them our children.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Skewering the Straw Man

Stanley Fish is a verbally clever man but he uses his abilities to obfuscate

In 1892, a Massachusetts court ruled that a policeman's speech rights had not been violated by a law forbidding certain political activities by officers. State Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: "The petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman." That thought is germane to the controversy -- a hardy perennial -- about the rights and duties of college professors. Concerning which, Stanley Fish has written an often intelligent but ultimately sly and evasive book, "Save the World On Your Own Time."

A former dean, and currently law professor at Florida International University, Fish is an intellectual provocateur with a taste for safe targets. While arguing against an obviously indefensible facet of the politicization of higher education, he suggests that a much larger facet is either nonexistent or unimportant.

Some academics, he says, either do not know what their job is or prefer to do something else. He recommends a "narrow sense" of the academic vocation that precludes saving the world, a mission for which academics have no special qualifications. Universities talk about making students sensitive, compassionate, tolerant, democratic, etc., but those bland adjectives often are packed with political agendas. The "focused" academic vocation that Fish favors is spacious enough for actual academic skills involving "the transmission of knowledge and the conferring of analytical skills."

Fish's "deflationary" definition of the scholar's function denies radical professors the frisson of considering themselves "transformative" -- because "transgressive" -- "agents of change." But he insists that his definition would exclude no topic from the curriculum. Any topic, however pertinent to political controversies, can, he says, be "academicized." It can be detached "from the context of its real world urgency" and made the subject of inquiry concerning its history and philosophic implications.

Suggesting bravery on his part, Fish says his views are those of an excoriated academic minority. Actually, it is doubtful that a majority of professors claim a right and duty to explicitly indoctrinate students. But if they do, Fish should be neither surprised nor scandalized -- he is both -- that support for public universities has declined.

Fish's advocacy of a banal proscription -- of explicit political preaching in classrooms -- may have made him anathema to academia's infantile left. The shrewder left will, however, welcome his book because it denies or defends other politicizations of academia that are less blatant but more prevalent and consequential -- those concerning hiring and curricula.

Fish does not dispute the fact that large majorities of humanities and social science professors are on the left. But about the causes and consequences of this, he airily says: It is all "too complicated" to tell in his book, other than to say that the G.I. Bill began the inclusion of "hitherto underrepresented and therefore politically active" groups.

Then, promiscuously skewering straw men, he says, "these were not planned events" and universities do not "resolve" to hire liberals and there is no "vast left-wing conspiracy" and inquiring into a job applicant's politics is not "allowed" and "the fact of a predominantly liberal faculty says nothing necessarily about what the faculty teaches." Note Fish's obfuscating "necessarily."

The question is not whether the fact "necessarily" says something about teaching but whether the fact really does have pedagogic consequences. About the proliferation of race and gender courses, programs and even departments, Fish says there are two relevant questions: Are there programs "with those names that are more political than academic?" And do such programs "have to be more political than academic?" He says the answer to the first is "yes," to the second "no."

But again, note his slippery language: "have to be," which he uses like "necessarily." The political nature of such curricula is why they often are set apart from established, and more academically rigorous, departments of sociology, history, etc. This political nature may not "have to" influence -- may not "necessarily" influence -- teaching. But does it? Fish, who enjoys seeming to be naughty, tamely opts for dogmatic denial.

Genuflecting before today's academic altar, he asserts what no one denies: Race and gender are "worthy of serious study." He concedes that "many of these programs gained a place in the academy through political activism." But he says that does not mean that political activism "need be" prominent in the teaching. Gliding from "necessarily" to "have to be" to "need be," Fish, a timid iconoclast, spares academia's most sacred icons. People who tell you they are brave usually are not.


Australia: University education still beyond the reach of many (?)

The great unmentionable is not mentioned below. As Charles Murray and others have shown long ago, poorer people tend to have lower IQs. So that alone will mean that fewer get to university -- and there's not much you can do about it. My parents were poor and I paid my own way through university, when there was a lot less help available than there is now. Why cannot the "deprived" soul mentioned below do the same? It's just spoilt people whining. There is absolutely no reason why the young woman cannot take a government HECS loan at least

Wealthy students remain about three times more likely to go to university than those from poorer backgrounds, despite more than 15 years of government policy to widen access to tertiary education. While the causes are complex, going back to poverty, family attitudes, aspiration and disadvantaged schooling, data shows that an expensive private school remains the best way to maximise the exam results needed to get into the top universities.

As thousands of school leavers sweat on their exam results, the federal Government is facing a huge challenge to boost the participation of the economically disadvantaged at a time when the Government's capacity to effect change has been hit by the financial crisis punching a hole in future tax revenues.

Adrienne Moore, 18, wants to study biology and genetics and is hopeful she has got into Deakin University in Geelong. But her mother, Christine Richardson, 49, worries how she is going to afford it. "I sit up in bed every night and have that knife turning, wondering how I am going to do it," Ms Richardson told The Weekend Australian. A mother of six who was plunged into bankruptcy and poverty by a marriage break-up and is now battling breast cancer, Ms Richardson has already had to say no to the university ambitions of her three elder children. One of those is now unemployed when a degree is likely to have kept him in work.

Ms Richardson, whose disability pension doesn't cover her rent, is relying on Learning-For-Life scholarships and student mentoring from the Smith Family to try to give Adrienne and her younger brother and sister the opportunities she couldn't give her elder children. "It (university) was just one of those things that couldn't be done. I just couldn't have done any more than I did to keep the family afloat, and I regret that to this day."

Living in Hoppers Crossing in Melbourne's lower-income outer west, Adrienne got through school without a computer and by borrowing books and scientific calculators from her teachers. Earlier this year she couldn't afford to go into Melbourne to attend special exam information sessions that her friends went to. "That was stressful ... but what can you do about it?" she said.

Despite the Dawkins reforms of 1989 creating a mass university system and the introduction of income contingent loans, students from the bottom 25per cent of postcodes ranked according to wealth and education make up only 15per cent of university admissions. In contrast, the wealthiest 25per cent claim a disproportionate 37per cent of places. While the numbers of low-socio-economic students getting into university grew to 43,383 last year from 36,150 10 years ago, there has been little progress in denting their chronic underrepresentation.

Promoting access is set to be central to recommendations from Canberra's Bradley review of higher education that will be released next month. Universities are likely to be given more incentives to widen access at a time when more and more vice-chancellors are also looking to base this access beyond narrow statewide exam results to take into account background and broader achievements.

"Through no one's fault, the universities are complicit with schools and the state Government in running secondary school education tests that necessarily disadvantage sections of the population," La Trobe University vice-chancellor Paul Johnson told The Weekend Australian. Macquarie University vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz has said: 'Unless we believe that students from low-income families lack the ability or the motivation for university-level study, the absence of talented students from our campuses represents not only a loss to them but also to society".


Monday, December 01, 2008

Top British universities not impressed by students with soft A-levels

The stupid (but typical) epidemiological assumption below is that students who take soft subjects are just as bright as students taking harder subjects. But in fact, any reasonable system for selecting students on ability (even an IQ test or the American SAT) would result in students who had taken harder subjects being disproportionately selected

UNIVERSITIES are discriminating against pupils who take “soft” A-level subjects such as media studies and drama, without making the policy public, research has revealed. Top institutions, such as Oxford, Bristol and University College London, admit a far smaller proportion of applicants with qualifications in such subjects than the percentage who take them nationally. The proportion of successful candidates who have qualifications in traditional academic subjects, by contrast, is far higher than the national average. Publicly, universities claim that they give equal weight to each subject, unless specific A-levels are required by certain courses.

The research will be included in a report to be published tomorrow by the think tank Policy Exchange, which obtained data from universities under the Freedom of Information Act. Entitled The Hard Truth About Soft Subjects, the report argues that the policy affects state schools most because many have urged pupils to do softer subjects to boost A grades. Critics say universities should be open about which subjects are treated less favourably.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We need to know what the admissions criteria are two years in advance so youngsters know when they are choosing A-levels.” Anna Fazackerley, senior adviser on universities at Policy Exchange and the author of the report, said: “It is perfectly reasonable for universities to turn their noses up at certain subjects if they think the content isn’t up to scratch. What is not reasonable is that they should keep quiet about it.”

At University College London and Bristol University, biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths account for just under half of A-levels among entrants. Nationally, however, they constitute 24.1% of the exams sat. Just 0.8% of A-levels taken by students going to Nottingham and Warwick Universities are media, film or television studies - nationally the figure is 4%. At Oxford, more ancient Greek than media studies candidates were admitted this year.

John Denham, the universities secretary, said: “Universities are autonomous institutions responsible for their admissions policies. But each should be transparent about its policy.” Some universities, including Cambridge and the London School of Economics, publish “blacklists” of less academic subjects. All of the universities contacted by The Sunday Times this weekend denied any clandestine discrimination.


Which History?

There seems to be the idea that all the affirmative-action history we're feeding kids (black studies, women's studies, black women's studies, etc.) is a supplement to learning the basics, which they'll somehow absorb no matter what. Instead, the ISI civic literacy test suggests that such instruction is actually crowding out the fundmentals of history and civics. Other than the Declaration's reference to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the two highest scores - i.e., the ones the largest number of people got right - relate to Susan B. Anthony and to MLK's "I have a dream" speech.

The 80 percent who got those right compares to fully one-third who didn't know that Germany and Japan were our enemies in WWII, half who didn't know the three branches of government, and nearly 80 percent who didn't know that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" came from the Gettysburg Address. And elected officials scorced even lower than the general public. OK, I shouldn't be surprised, but it seems to me that students shouldn't even hear the words "Susan B. Anthony" until after they've recited the Gettysburg Address from memory and after they've proven they know who was on the losing side of the greatest war in human history.

Oh, and the obligatory immigration point: How can anyone support admitting a million-plus newcomers from abroad each year who need to be Americanized when our schools our doing this badly in teaching about America?


Australia: How to put smart people off teaching

Putting young, inexperienced teachers into sink schools is a sure way to cause them to think of another career. Some of them last only weeks in such a situation. You would think an education boss would know that but when you are a Leftist, you don't need facts. Sounding good is all that matters

Top teaching graduates will be offered extra money to fill difficult jobs and work at "challenging" state schools. State Education Minister Rod Welford will today unveil what he describes as an innovative plan to get elite teachers into tough classroom roles. Mr Welford told The Sunday Mail the graduates would be offered incentives in the form of scholarships to work in specialist subject areas, difficult schools or remote locations.

The minister said he was alarmed at the number of teachers quitting after just four or five years on the job. [So he wants them to quit even faster??] "Recruiting and retaining top teachers is the key to ensuring all Queensland students can access the best possible education, no matter where they live," Mr Welford said.

Mr Welford, who will quit politics after 20 years at the 2009 state election, said there was a shortage of teachers in manual arts and maths B and C. Bonded scholarships would be offered to high-calibre final year undergraduate students to teach in subjects where shortages had been identified. Queensland Health had introduced a similar program for doctors, a bonded medical scholarship to work in areas of "priority service" for six years after graduating from Griffith University.

Mr Welford said other positions that were difficult to fill included schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and in rural and remote locations. "Increasingly we need to recognise that to attract the right talent we need to have incentives and we need to apply our most talented people to the most challenging jobs," he said.

The minister said the State Government would also implement a sister program with universities to provide graduates with initial teaching experience in the location of their choice. "This would be followed by a placement in a difficult-to-staff location with a guaranteed return to their preferred location after an agreed time. "Boomerang transfers will also be offered, with staff supported to undertake short-term placements in challenging locations with a guaranteed return to their preferred location on completion."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan supported the plan but said the teachers must be fully qualified before taking the demanding roles. "We accept that there is a need for a variety of ways in which we can attract teachers to the profession . . . the best way is to make sure they are getting the right salaries," Mr Ryan said. The Government plans to introduce the scheme for 2009.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

California: Advertising on School Test Papers

(Rancho Bernardo, California) Rancho Bernardo calculus teacher Tom Farber came up with the idea of selling space on exam papers to defray school administrative costs.
Farber said he came up with the idea over the summer. He saw ads on public buses and sponsorships at Qualcomm Stadium and decided to promote his idea at Back to School Night in September. He collected $270 from parents at that event.

“I haven't heard any negativity,” he said.

Farber said he has sold about $350 in ads, more than enough to make up what the school budget doesn't pay for. He said he still has ad space for next semester, and whatever extra money he collects will go to the math department for other teachers to use. Checks are made out to the department.
Students have become accustomed to seeing exam headers like "Eat. Gas. Sam and Ella's QuikStop. Central Ave," while other Rancho Bernardo teachers ponder the idea. Ads cost $10 for quizzes, $20 for chapter tests and $30 for semester exams.

Unless someone questions the appropriateness of the advertising, the practice may likely become widespread. In all candor, though, I fear that before long, the ads will cease selling products and services and start propagandizing pupils.
Florida university bans Christmas

Christmas is just 30 days away, but Santa Claus won't be stopping by Florida Gulf Coast University this holiday. He's not allowed on campus. FGCU administration has banned all holiday decorations from common spaces on campus and canceled a popular greeting card design contest, which is being replaced by an ugly sweater competition. In Griffin Hall, the university's giving tree for needy preschoolers has been transformed into a "giving garden." The moves boil down to political correctness.

"Public institutions, including FGCU, often struggle with how best to observe the season in ways that honor and respect all traditions," President Wilson Bradshaw wrote in a memo to faculty and staff Thursday. "This is a challenging issue each year at FGCU, and 2008 is no exception. While it may appear at times that a vocal majority of opinion is the only view that is held, this is not always the case."

Bradshaw's directive struck a chord with FGCU employees. The Staff Advisory Council received 44 anonymous comments on the issue; all were against the ban on holiday decorations. "It says people are very passionate about this," said council president Ruth Rodrigues, who also is director of auxiliary services. "The holidays are a joyous time, and they want to express themselves." The council voted Monday to send administration a letter outlining employees' comments.

In Bradshaw's memo, he said the decision was not an "attempt to suppress expression of the holiday spirit." Staffers will be permitted to display holiday decorations on their desks, but not on their office doors or in common spaces. Traditional workplace Christmas parties are not an issue at FGCU. "We don't generally have Christmas parties here," said Audrea Anderson, associate vice president for community relations and marketing. "There are end-of-the-semester parties or end-of-the-calendar-year parties. They are certainly not related to anyone's beliefs." Bradshaw plans to convene a committee in 2009 to address future methods of sharing traditions throughout the year.

In 2001, then-President William Merwin lit the university's official Christmas tree, a 22-foot Colorado blue spruce. Children from the college's child care center and university choir performed traditional carols. Junior Marilyn Lerner, a 20-year-old resort and hospitality management major from California, said she'll miss seeing Christmas trees in the Student Union. "I think they're pretty," said Lerner, who is Jewish. "It's just a Christmas tree. I don't mind."

Neither does junior Stephanie Tirado, 20, an education major from New York. "Christmas is no longer just a religious holiday. It's commercialized now," said Tirado, who is Wiccan. "Why don't they just add a menorah then?"


Dumbing down of exams leaves students `unable to deal with real problems'

Britain sliding towards mediocrity, says report

The "catastrophic slippage" in the standard of science exams is deplored by leading scientists in a report sent today to MPs. The Royal Society of Chemistry says that the system is failing a generation of school-leavers by setting them undemanding exams. It says: "The record-breaking results in school exam passes are illusory, with these deficiencies having to be remedied at enormous expense by universities and employers."

The society set up an online Downing Street petition that was signed in the first 24 hours by more than 1,700 people, including Susan Blackmore, the psychologist, Adam Hart-Davis, the broadcaster, and the chemistry author Peter Atkins. The petition says: "Science examination standards at UK schools have eroded so severely that the testing of problem-solving, critical thinking and the application of mathematics has almost disappeared. Even bright students with enthusiastic teachers are being compelled to learn to the test, answering undemanding questions to satisfy the needs of league tables and national targets. This system is failing an entire generation, which will be unequipped to address key issues facing society."

The society undertook an experiment by asking schools to nominate their most gifted students to sit an online examination immediately after their GCSEs. Chemistry questions were selected from O-level and GCSE papers from the 1960s to this decade. More than 1,300 pupils took part. The researchers found that many highly intelligent teenagers were unfamiliar with solving the types of questions on the older papers. They achieved, on average, 35 per cent on the most recent papers and only 15 per cent on the exams from the 1960s.

The report said: "Changes to the syllabus and to the language used in examinations since the 1960s may partially explain this progression, but are unlikely to provide a complete explanation. Questions needing multiple mathematical steps, without prompting, were answered least well."

Richard Pike, the society's chief executive, said: "The target of our campaign is a failed education system, not the youngsters it is supposed to serve. There has to be revolutionary change; otherwise, this country will continue to slide down the slippery slope to mediocrity."

The report sent to MPs said that the style of exam questions had changed over the decades. "There is now a greater emphasis on the processes and implications of scientific inquiry. Such changes should be welcomed; however, it is important that this can include stretching talented students and preparing them for a possible career in science," it said. "The 2008 GCSE results for chemistry and science were in keeping with the continuing remarkable performance of pupils."

In this summer's GCSE exams, 94 per cent of students achieved a grade C or higher in chemistry, according to provisional figures, up from 91 per cent last year. More than half were awarded the top grades of A* or A.

The report's authors said that there had been, in recent years, "increased emphasis placed on the context and application of scientific knowledge to problems in the real world". They added: "While this represents an improvement over more traditional education approaches, which relied heavily on recall of isolated chemical facts, the lack of quantitative content in the GCSE curriculum means that an A or A* can be attained with little manipulation of numbers. The inevitable outcome is that pupils will not be able to develop better logic and problem-solving abilities, and their appreciation of the context of science will be, at best, superficial."

Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said: "The Royal Society of Chemistry is only the latest independent body to warn of the devaluation of science education. We've slipped ten places in the international league tables for science, and children are being asked questions that show our curriculum isn't preparing them for the challenges for the 21st century."