Saturday, December 27, 2008

Standards for teachers: How amazing

Any standards at all have to be welcomed these days. Similar standards for students are too much to expect, of course. Do I sense a double standard there? Do teachers recognize what is needed to gain respect but not convey that to those they teach? "Everything is relative" certainly seems to be often taught. Traditional Leftist double standards, it would seem. Story from Britain below

Teachers must behave as pillars of the community and be role models to their pupils, the industry’s professional body said yesterday. Those who drink heavily and disgrace themselves - even outside school hours – face disciplinary action for bringing the profession into disrepute, whether or not they have broken the law. Some teachers have had to undergo counselling or provide medical proof of abstinence from alcohol to remain on the teaching register, the General Teaching Council admitted.

Yesterday the teaching council presented a draft of its new code of conduct for teachers, on which it is consulting. The wellbeing of children is the main thrust of the code, with an even higher billing than learning. Teachers could be disciplined if they fail to cooperate with social workers or do everything in their power to protect children, the draft code says. They should pick up on and address problems at the earliest possible stage. They must also report colleagues if they have concerns that their practice puts children at risk.

The draft code says that teachers have to demonstrate high standards of honesty and integrity, and uphold public trust and confidence in the teaching profession. This includes teachers “maintaining standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession”.

Keith Bartley, the chief executive of the General Teaching Council, admitted that expectations of teachers had increased significantly in the past few years. He said: “The new code will have to reflect the fact that teachers are working more closely with other professionals. Some of the cases that have had national prominence recently show that, if a teacher has concerns, they have a duty to raise and pass on those concerns.”

Whereas the previous code, drawn up in 2004, set out what teachers should not do, the 2008 draft describes in unambiguous terms how teachers are expected to behave. Sarah Stephens, director of policy at the teaching council, said: “It gives greater clarity about what it means to act as a role model, and about a teacher’s conduct outside the classroom.” Mr Bartley added that, at some of the organisation’s professional misconduct hearings, teachers had been required to agree to undergo therapy. He added that teachers could be found guilty of unacceptable conduct without breaking the law – for example by belonging to a party that held racist views. “We’re saying to teachers that, as individuals, they have to consider their place in society,” he said. “There’s a sense that this [code] has to reflect society’s expectations of the people to whom we commit our children.”

David James, the teaching council’s head of professional regulation, said: “We have the ability to apply conditions to a teacher’s registration. We can say to people, ‘You can remain a teacher but you must undertake retraining, or counselling, or provide evidence of abstinence from drinking’. That happens quite frequently.”

The draft code requires teachers to forge links with parents, and consider their views. It also says they must keep up to date with technology and social changes. The organisation is investigating what schools and local authorities are doing to tackle the problem of incompetent teachers. It will report the findings of its research next year.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Laptops Do Not Increase Academic Achievement in Reading and Writing

With the Texas Legislature almost ready to begin its 81st Regular Session in January 2009, I am sure the technology lobbyists are out in full force. For years, they have been trying to pressure Legislators to pass legislation that would force taxpayers to fund laptops for every student in the Texas public schools. The question is:Do laptops on every student's desk raise academic achievement?

In January 2008 a report entitled Evaluation of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot: Outcomes for the Third Year (2006-07) was released. Based upon four years of solid research, here is the answer to the academic achievement question: "There were no statistically significant effects of immersion on the TAKS reading and Writing."[TAKS -- Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills were the tests used to measure academic achievement for TIP.]It seems that laptops on every desk did not raise student academic achievement in the most important foundational skills a student will ever learn -- reading and writing.

With the downturn in the economy across our nation, it is more important than ever to make sure that our tax dollars are well spent.I hope that Texas Legislators will read the following information about the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot (TIP) and make responsible decisions based upon this scientific research.


The Technology Immersion Pilot was created by the Texas Legislature in 2003.Senate Bill 396 called for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to establish a pilot project to "immerse" schools in wireless laptops. The mandate came without any funding; but through a competitive grant process, the TEA used more than $20 million in federal monies to fund the TIP project. Concurrently, a federal research study has been evaluating whether student achievement improves over time through this immersion in laptops.The Texas Center for Educational Research is a non-profit research organization in Austin that has been working with the TEA for four years (2004-2008) to produce research-based results.

*Since January 2008, two more reports (July 2008 and December 2008) have been produced that emphasize other aspects of laptop immersion; but neither focuses on the lack of academic achievement on TAKS reading and writing.(Please see links posted at the bottom of this article.)

My concern is that the capstone report (December 2008 -- Progress Report on the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020) that has been produced for the 81st Legislature really seems to "dance around" the most important issue which is the academic achievement.Instead the report puts out information on issues of secondary importance (e.g., whether students and teachers like laptops, whether the immersion has been deep enough, whether students' computer skills have improved, whether discipline problems have decreased, whether teachers have received enough technology training, etc.).These may be interesting to study in and of themselves but do not really get to the heart of the matter which is whether laptops indeed improve students' reading and writing skills appreciably - enough to justify the huge expenditure to provide individual student laptops for all students in Texas.Legislators may be prone to read only the December 2008 TIP report and disregard the January 2008 TIP report that holds the real "meat" of the issue.

More here

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Dumbing Down of Academe

Just when you think the folks on the left can't get any goofier, they go and surpass themselves. If silliness were an Olympic event, these lunkheads could be counted on to bring home the gold. The fool's gold, that is.

Actually, they could probably excel in the sprints, seeing as how they're not weighed down with a whole lot of common sense. In case you haven't gotten the word, the religious left, as I like to think of them, seeing as how they live their lives by a certain dogma, have now determined that poor people are terribly under-represented on America's college campuses. It was, I suppose, only a matter of time. After all, if no institute of higher education can justify its existence unless its student population is composed of X-percent of women, Hispanics, blacks, gays and the physically handicapped, some Democrat was bound to notice that there still remained an untapped source of future votes; namely, poor, young whites.

Diversity in the student body is the catch phrase. But, as you may have noticed, there is no parallel diversity along the faculties. In the humanities departments of most American colleges, professors run the gamut from liberal to radical. Given a choice between Ahmadinejad and a Republican, a large majority would vote for the little schmuck in the windbreaker.

Frankly, I see no reason to give preferential treatment to students for no better reason than that their parents are poor. If a mix of humanity is what they're really seeking, I say they should throw open the doors to idiots. And, no, I'm not referring to those aforementioned professors in the liberal arts who get paid a lot of money for doing nothing more than foisting their half-baked politics on a bunch of highly impressionable 18-year-olds. No, I'm talking about the genuine article -- people with subterranean I.Q.s.

I mean, if diversity is of such monumental importance, why limit it to race, gender and national origin? Obviously, members of these groups have far more in common with each other than they have with the intellectually- challenged -- or whatever it is that the P.C. crowd is calling dumb people this week.

Honestly, I haven't a clue why college would be a more exalting experience just because the student in the next seat has different pigmentation or hails from a country where indoor plumbing is optional.

Admittedly, it's been many years since I was a collegian. Still, as I recall, the real value of the four years, aside from learning how to drink and how to talk to women without stuttering, was the enforced proximity to the minds and works of Socrates, Newton, Freud, Shakespeare, Plato, Milton, Michelangelo, Einstein, Da Vinci and Jefferson, and was neither enhanced nor diminished by the color or creed of the other students.

The truth of the matter was that my interest in my fellow scholars, and I don't think my attitude was at all atypical, was limited to wanting to date the more attractive coeds and wanting to eviscerate those brainiacs most likely to raise the class curve.

Inasmuch as smart, poor kids already receive academic scholarships, one can only assume that it's the stupid ones whom the social engineers are trying to cram through the ivied portals. But, inasmuch as once in, they're destined to flunk out, I have a better solution. I suggest we take our lead from "The Wizard of Oz." The Scarecrow, as you may recall, didn't waste four years boning up for final exams. The great and powerful Oz merely handed him a diploma, and just like that, Ray Bolger was squaring the hypotenuse and jabbering away like a young William F. Buckley, Jr.

Why not give diplomas to anybody who wants one? In a day and age when people are wasting their parents' hard-earned money majoring in things like Gay Studies, Sit Coms of the 60's, and Comic Books as Literature, why not do the decent thing and just hand out sheepskins to anyone who says, "Please"? A built-in bonus of my plan is that with all those goobers off the campuses, there would be additional parking spaces for the people studying to be doctors, mathematicians, and scientists. After all, when all is said and done, most college graduates aren't really smarter than other people. They just think they are.


Police called to 10,000 violent cases in British schools annually

Police officers have had to deal with 10,000 violent incidents at schools in a year. Teachers were forced to call them in to deal with attacks on staff and pupils - some involving knives or other weapons. Figures from 25 out of 39 English forces showed that officers were called to deal with school violence more than 7,000 times in a year. Extending the numbers across all forces gives almost 10,000.

The extent of police involvement in school incidents emerged as increasing numbers of heads ask for officers to be permanently stationed on the premises. Official figures suggest at least 450 schools have an officer on site. But increased liaison with police has prompted warnings by children's groups that pupils are being criminalised for playground spats. In one case, an 11-year-old boy spent three hours in a cell after he brandished a plastic toy gun at a schoolmate.

The Tories asked forces how many times they had been called to school premises to deal with an attempted or actual violent crime in the year from September 2007. There were 7,311 incidents tackled by the forces that responded. The Metropolitan Police reported the most call-outs, with 2,698. This was followed by Thames Valley with 697 calls and Kent with 425.

Violent incidents mainly involve offences against the person by pupils, parents or intruders, including threats, physical attacks, sex crimes and robbery. The figures emerged in the wake of a series of school attacks. Shaquille Clarke-Adams, 14, was stabbed three times in the chest and stomach in front of pupils at Allerton Grange High in Leeds. Carrington Mgbeanulu, 15, was knifed just inches from his heart at the gates of Cardinal Wiseman School in Greenford, West London. Meanwhile prefect Darcey Menezes, 16, was stabbed five times in the back while trying to protect younger children from a gang that was terrorising them with a pitbull terrier at Salesian College in Battersea, South London. These incidents follow the killing of Luke Walmsley, 14, in 2003. He was knifed through the heart by Alan Pennell, 16, at Birkbeck School, North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, in front of pupils.

Official figures show that 344 secondary school pupils are suspended from school every day for assaulting other children. Despite this, just 1,350 pupils were expelled in the school year from September 2006 for assaults on students, while 980 were thrown out for attacking teachers. Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said: 'The number of violent incidents in schools that lead to police being called is very worrying. There will always be the odd occasion when teachers need to call on the police for support but at the moment they do not have sufficient powers to nip discipline problems in the bud.'

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers says nearly a third of state school teachers are punched, kicked or bitten by a pupil and one in ten is injured by students. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'The overwhelming majority of schools are safe and behaviour is very good. Head teachers have more powers than ever to deal with discipline problems.'


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jobs for snobs won't make you happy

This post from Australia is a bit light-hearted but the author has a point

My friend Tom has a burning ambition to work on a road gang. Whenever he drives past roadworks, he slows down and beeps his horn at the blokes in hard-hats; waving, smiling, winding down his window to say hello. They don't often wave back. Tom's a solicitor at a big-city law firm. He has spent a decade studying, working overtime and establishing himself in a job he hates with a passion.

He's not alone. Marie's loathing of her insurance firm is so intense she's begun trying to bankrupt the place from the inside, fantasising about the day the liquidators move in. The only thing preventing Kate quitting as a emergency doctor is an occasional illicit blast of pharmaceuticals from the dispensary - and the fact she's eaten so many consolation Tim Tams she's worried her scrubs are the only clothes that still fit.

This is a strange little phenomenon that started in the first few years after we left school. The people who were apparently the brightest - the ones who got the highest marks - soon became the most likely to be hollow-eyed and unhappy. Most of them despised their colleagues only slightly less than they loathed their bosses. They'd lie at parties about what they did for a crust. Everyone had reverse ambition: grand dreams of work at the drive-thru.

These are white-collar people. They're not slitting throats in abbatoirs or mopping up spilt orange juice in shopping malls; they're working in industries of prestige, with opportunities for taxi-charge rorting and other fringe benefits.

Objectively, there's no good reason for them to do jobs they hate. Except for our oddly snobbish system of university admissions. Last week, thousands of NSW kids went through the agony of discovering their marks in the Higher School Certificate. To the students, the scores are desperately important. Those four little numbers will determine the future shape of their lives. And what a shame that is.

This is how it works. A clever kid works as hard as possible for the final two years at school. He'd quite like to be a PE teacher, or maybe a tour guide. He makes it through exams, avoids getting arrested at Schoolies, and learns his university admissions index ranking - let's say it's 97.35. Then he looks at the line-up of university courses he can scrape into - it might be podiatry at the University of New England, or actuarial studies at UNSW.

Tour-guiding and PE are forgotten. Mum and Dad say it'd be mad to waste his time on anything like that, when his marks are giving him the chance to get into such flash degrees. Everyone from teachers and classmates to Nanna's friends urge him to make the most of his potential by entering the highest-mark course he can possibly get into. They say it'd be a terrible thing to waste all those marks by going into a degree that requires a mark of only 70.5, or - horrors! - an apprenticeship. And so our brilliant school-leaver spends the rest of his days removing ingrown toenails or sitting behind a desk worrying about whether his managing partner likes him.

How did we get into this logical cul-de-sac? Instead of considering what will make our kids happy, our collective tendency is to think only about whether their marks are high enough for the most impressive-sounding courses. Off they go to law school or radiology lectures - even if they'd much rather own a tea-shop or wax eyebrows. Any top-scoring student who fails to enter a high-mark course is regarded as a bit thick - or at least ungrateful and in need of a good war. Wouldn't it be better to encourage kids - and educational institutions - to think more cleverly about how they guide students into careers?

A federal review of higher education last week recommended changing the university admission system so a high school mark is not the only criterion for determining entry. The review suggests including interviews and other tests for gauging what suits individual students That's a good start. The next step is a bit trickier - eliminating the ingrained snobbery that shoehorns kids into the wrong careers. Law and medicine might be potentially lucrative careers, but they're no social good if they make Junior miserable.

Tom claims he's seriously considering applying for work as a stop-go man on a road gang. He says he'd be sure to wave back at all the passing cars. I'd love to see it.


9-year-old is called a drug dealer over cough drops

Case prompted when student shared Vitamin C candy with friend

A Florida elementary school accused a 9-year-old student of selling drugs for sharing cough drops with friends. Officials at Patterson Elementary School in Clay County decided, however, not to discipline Khalin Rivenbark, who met with the girl and her father Wednesday.

The accusation arose one day earlier when the child got into trouble after her father put some Halls Defense Vitamin C cough drops in her school bag when she was recovering from a cold, she told Jacksonville's WJXT-TV. She later shared some with friends.

"[A teacher] saw me with the cough drops out and I guess she saw me give it to one of my friends, and then like, 'Oh, I see this good business going on around you,'" Khalin told the station. "She said, 'You're selling drugs.' (I said) 'No, I'm not.'" The 9-year-old said one of her friends gave her $1 for the cough drop.

Her father, Andy Rivenbark, told the station, "It's absolutely crazy." The student said the cough drops were in her bag, and two friends asked for one, so she handed them out. One friend insisted on paying. "She felt guilty taking the cough drop or whatever, so she gave me a dollar. I didn't want to accept it, but she had me take it," Khalin told the Jacksonville TV station.

The student handbook for Clay County Schools says, "If a student must take a prescription or over-the-counter medication during school hours, it must be received and stored in the original container, and be labeled with the student's name, current date, prescription dosage, frequency of administration and physician's name." But WJXT reporter Diane Cho questioned whether the Halls cough drops qualify as a drug, since the ingredients were nearly the same as Lifesavers candy.

Andy Rivenbark said he didn't get a note or call from school administrators about the incident. "It's definitely detrimental to somebody who we teach the whole time growing up, 'don't use drugs because drugs are bad.' To accuse her, it's unnecessary to make a comment like that," Rivenbark said.

The report said the meeting included an admonition from school officials for the child not to bring cough drops again.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Black college students get better grades with white roommate

That living with white work habits rather than more entertainment-oriented black habits might be beneficial for study is no surprise. As we read elsewhere, however, the whites concerned didn't like the experience

A new study of college freshman suggests that African Americans may obtain higher grades if they live with a white roommate. A detailed study of students at a large, predominantly-white university revealed that while living with a white roommate may be more challenging than living with someone of the same race, many Black students appear to benefit from the experience.

For African American students, this could translate into as much as 0.30-point increase in their GPA in their first quarter of college. White students, on the other hand, were affected more by the academic ability of their roommate than by their race. While the study results may seem one-sided, earlier studies by these researchers and others reinforces the value of students' experience with members of different races and ethnic groups.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University found that nearly one in every six interracial roommate relationships failed, meaning at least one roommate moved out, by the end of the first quarter. But African American students who were paired with a white roommate performed better academically than did those with a same-race roommate.

These African American students may be better adjusted to college because they live with someone who can help them learn about the challenges and norms of a different environment, said Natalie Shook, lead author of the study, who started the work as a graduate student at Ohio State. "It's already known that interracial roommate relationships are more difficult than same-race relationships. But despite the problems, we've shown that there are benefits in how well Black students perform academically," said Shook, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She conducted the study with Russell Fazio, a professor of psychology at Ohio State, who has been studying interracial attitudes and relationships for the past 15 years. The pair published the results in the October 2008 issue of the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. The pair collected data on college freshman in more than 2,700 dorm rooms at a large, predominately white university. They studied how successful relationships were for students who specifically requested to live with someone, as well those who were randomly assigned to a roommate. Room assignments were studied alongside the students' SAT or ACT scores, autumn quarter GPA in the fall of 2001 and 2002, and their ethnic background to test for significant differences between students in all room types.

The results showed that randomly assigned roommates were more likely to move to another room, regardless of the students' race. Fifteen percent of randomly paired interracial relationships dissolved, compared to the 8.1 percent and 6.4 percent of randomly assigned same-race white rooms and same-race African American rooms, respectively. But the researchers point out that the number of interracial room dissolutions was much lower than they expected. "The university in the study was experiencing a housing crunch that year, so more students probably may not have been able to change rooms for the first quarter. Some of the previous work showed much higher rates than did our work here. But of the 85 percent of those that did try to work things out, we see real, tangible benefits," Fazio said.

The researchers found that African American students who scored higher on their ACT (24 and above) and SAT (1040 and above) were more likely to be successful in college if they were randomly paired with a white student. Black students who scored lower on their ACT and SAT did not see any improvement in their GPA if they roomed with a white student. The findings suggest that the interaction between a white and an African American student may help orient these minority students to a predominantly white university, Shook said. By living with their white counterparts, the African American students are finding someone with whom they can study and learn from in ways other African American students cannot offer. "Particularly for minority students, there is a lot of added stress to belong and succeed at a predominately white university. This intergroup contact and exposure to diversity may help minority students adjust in ways same-race relationships cannot," Shook said. "And if we can help them adjust more quickly to find their university identity, then hopefully that can also translate into more academic success."

However, white students' grades were virtually unaffected by the race of their roommate. White students earned higher GPAs when assigned to someone who was more successful academically. "It's a predominately white institution, so their roommate is not a means by which they can get integrated into the community. So the race of the roommate proves irrelevant and the day-to-day environment becomes more important. If their roommate is very competent and studious, or less competent, more of a partygoer, that has a larger impact on their success," Fazio said.

Even though the race of their roommate did not affect them academically, the researchers believe that living with an African American benefits whites in another way. Fazio said previous research suggests that many of the automatically activated stereotypes that whites may harbor about African Americans, consciously or subconsciously, dissolve when they interact extensively with someone of another race. This interaction not only helps white students get over their initial fears and prejudices, it also affects comfort level with other minorities in the future. "It is definitely not easy for students at first; it is more stressful and more difficult to live in an interracial situation than in same race situations. But if people stick with it, their racial attitudes improve and it definitely outweighs any initial difficulty. This is just one way we can overcome our misconceptions and biases and learn to appreciate our differences earlier on in life," Shook said.


7 Canadian students suspended for refusing anti-Christian class

Officials are 'veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here'

Seven Christian students in Quebec have been handed suspensions in the last few days - and could face expulsions - for refusing to participate in a new mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture course that, according to a critic, is a "superficial mishmash of trendy theoretical platitudes" with the goal of convincing children that "all religions - including pagan animism and cults - are equally 'true.'"

Canada's National Post has reported on the developing confrontation between educators who have ordered students to take the course and students and their parents who object to what they see as a virtual indoctrination into a social and moral relativism. While seven students already have been targeted for punishment, hundreds more are demanding to be relieved of the obligation to attend the classes, and several parents have begun legal actions over the course.

Diane Gagne's 16-year-old son, Jonathan, is one of those hit with a suspension. He has refused to take part in the two-hour-per-week course because it teaches values that run counter to his religious beliefs. "He told me, 'Mom, I am still standing, and I'm going to keep standing and fight this to the end,'" said Diane Gagne. "We're prepared to go right to expulsion."

Lawyer Jean-Yves Cote is representing the family against the suspension imposed by the public high school in Granby, Quebec, as well as another family with a court challenge to the state demand. Under the course requirements, "it is the state deciding what religious content will be learned, at what age, and that is totally overriding the parents' authority and role," Jean Morse-Chevrier, of the Quebec Association of Catholic Parents, told the newspaper. In 2005, a change in the law eliminated a family's right to choose among "Catholic," "Protestant" or "moral" instruction in classrooms, a change that took effect last summer.

Quebec Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Tremblay told the newspaper school boards have gotten more than 1,400 requests from parents for their children to be exempted from the instruction, which emphasizes feminism over Christianity, and suggests Raelians are centuries ahead of other beliefs. She also confirmed school boards have rejected every request for an exemption. She explained it is not "religious instruction." "It is religious culture," she stated. "We introduce young people to religious culture like we introduce them to musical culture."

Officials at Voice of the Martyrs, who work daily against persecution of Christians worldwide, noted on a blog posting the students are to be applauded for their opposition to state religious teaching. "We believe that the state has no right to mandate religious education, force students to learn the content of other religious and to deliberately seek to undermine the religious convictions of those who refuse to accept a relativistic view of truth. It is the right and responsibility of parents to train their own children according to their own religious beliefs, not those of the state," said the posting. "Religious courses, if offered, should be optional or alternatives provided. But the state must not mandate what religious content will or will not be taught to children, especially against the wishes of their parents."

In the National Post, columnist Barbara Kay took school officials to task for teaching what she described as "a chilling intrusion into what all democratically inspired charters of rights designate as a parental realm of authority." She continued, "ERC was adopted by virtual fiat, its mission to instill 'normative pluralism' in students. 'Normative pluralism' is gussied-up moral relativism, the ideology asserting there is no absolute right or wrong and that there are as many 'truths' as there are whims."

"The program is predicated on the worst worst possible educational model for young children: the philosopher Hegel's 'pedagogy of conflict.' As one of the founders of the ECR course put it, students 'must learn to shake up a too-solid identity' and experience 'divergence and dissonance'. "The curriculum is strewn with politically correct material that openly subverts Judeo-Christian values. In many of the manuals, ideology and religion are conflated. Social engineering is revealed as the heart of the ECR program; in the most recently published activity book, for example, Christianity is given 12 pages, feminism gets 27 pages...."

She continued, "Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches 'are women like any other in daily life;' 'Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us.' And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence."

Cote said the issue could end up before the Supreme Court of Canada soon. He said his second case, in Drummondville, is to be heard before Superior Court in May, and will test if the course infringes guaranteed rights in Canada. Since the course is required for all students, not just public school students, 600 of the students at Montreal's Jesuit Loyola High asked for exemptions and all were rejected. Now the school has started its own court challenge. Principal Paul Donovan told the Post the mandates require relativism. "What it essentially says is that religion is just, 'You like tomato soup and I like pea soup, so don't be all offended because someone likes tomato soup. It's really just a matter of preference,'" he told the Post. "Religion could be Wiccan or Raelian or any of the new movements or atheism or agnosticism."

Sylvain Lamontagne told the Globe Campus education publication the course is religious fast food. "We can't do this to children. It will only confuse them," he said. "Religion isn't a Chinese buffet. You can't just pick one and then another however you want."

Kay cited the course's "gloss" of the Golden Rule: "Christianity's 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Judaism's 'Love thy neighbour as thyself ' and Islam's 'None of you is really a believer if he does not wish for his brother what he wishes for himself.' All are posited in the ERC text as the same acknowledgement of the common humanity of all God's children," she wrote. "But in fact, there is a deep interpretive chasm between Christianity's 'others' and Judaism's 'neighbour' - both of which refer to all people - and Islam's 'brother,' which refers only to fellow Muslims. Here is 'divergence and dissonance' truly worthy of 'le questionnement.' But encouraging real critical thinking is precisely what the ERC course employs duplicity to avoid," she wrote. "Quebec is veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here," she said.

The government requirement for teaching a potpourri of religious concepts as equal is just the latest effort on the part of the Canadian government to put new restrictions on Christians. WND previously has reported on a number of Human Rights Commission cases in the nation that have targeted Christian pastors and others for "hate" crimes for stating their biblically-based opposition to the homosexual lifestyle. Last spring, Pastor Stephen Boisson was ordered by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal to stop expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and pay $5,000 for "damages for pain and suffering" as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt.


Monday, December 22, 2008

British faith school pupils 'outperforming others at every age'

Pupils in England's religious state schools scored significantly better examination results at seven, 11 and 16 than those in community schools, figures show. On average, 85 per cent of children at Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim schools left primary school with a decent grasp of the basics - compared to 79 per cent elsewhere. Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country's 7,000 faith schools.

Critics claim that higher scores are achieved because faith schools use admissions policies to cream off middle-class pupils. Last year, the Catholic Church reported a surge in late baptisms as parents attempted to boost their children's chances of getting into the much sought-after schools. And a recent report by the Runnymede Trust - a multi-cultural think-tank - said they should be stripped of their power to select along religious lines to prevent distortion.

But faith leaders insist schools do well because of their religious ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Service, said: "Our success comes from fulfilling our mission, which is so much more than what Ofsted or the Government says a school must do. When I was a teacher, I remembered that I was not just seeing a child, but was seeing God in that child, and that creates expectations in teachers. "We are charged with developing the whole child."

Faith schools currently make up a third of all state-funded schools in England. Some 4,657 are Anglican, 2,053 are Roman Catholic and 82 belong to other Christian denominations. Another 36 schools are Jewish, eight Muslim, two Sikh and one is Hindu. Most use religion - often gauged by attendance at weekly worship or references from local faith leaders - as a tiebreaker when over-subscribed.

An analysis of GCSE results from 2007 reveals pupils in these schools make more progress at every stage of the education system. Some 51 per cent of pupils in Church of England schools and 52 per cent in Catholic schools gained five or more good GCSEs, including the subjects of English and maths. Scores increased to 63 per cent in Muslim schools but soared to 77 per cent in Jewish secondaries. By comparison, only 43 per cent of pupils made the grade in England's non-religious schools last year.

Faith schools also outperformed the rest based on the Government's favoured "value-added" measure, which compares performance at 16 to results when pupils started secondary school at 11. Scores are also weighted to take account of the number of pupils speaking English and second language and those on free meals - ensuring schools with large numbers of middle-class children do not gain unfair advantage. On this measure, Muslim pupils made the most progress, followed by those at Jewish schools, other Christian schools, Catholic schools and Anglican schools. Again they outstripped secular schools. It suggests that claims faith schools are dominated by children from rich backgrounds may be exaggerated.

Last month, a report by the schools adjudicator found that two-thirds of schools controlling their own entrance policies - most of which are faith schools - failed to follow the code on admissions. A large number were found to have asked for extra information from applicants, prompting critics to accuse them of seeking to discover parents' incomes and marital statuses in order to "cream off" middle-class pupils who tend to do better academically.


Germany against Israel ban

Annette Schavan says Berlin's position against suggested embargo clear, adds maintaining scientific relations between counties can help create peaceful coexistence

German Education Minister Annette Schavan voiced her adamant objection to recent elements in the European academia calling to ban Israeli researchers for political reasons. Schavan, who will visit Israel later this week in order to mark a year of Israeli-German technological cooperation, told Yedioth Ahronoth that Germany's position on the matter is clear, and that Berlin only wishes to strengthen the ties between respective research teams.

Israel, she said, "is one of Germany's most valuable scientific partners. Maintaining scientific relations between Berlin and Jerusalem can help solve some of the biggest questions of our time, as well as find ways for forward peaceful coexistence. "The history of the relationship between Germany and Israel proves that science can help form a diplomacy of trust."

Schavan, who is a member of Germany's ruling party - the Christian Democratic Union, will stay in Israel for three days, during which she and Science, Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele will also mark the 20th anniversary for the foundation of the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. Over the years, the foundation has funded 970 joint research projects preformed by Israeli and German research team. The foundation's capital is equally donated by the German and Israeli governments and currently stands at 21million euros (about $267.5 million).


Sunday, December 21, 2008

School Tax Credit Can Help Kids and the State

New Jersey is in deep financial trouble, and government estimates keep get ting worse. The most recent budget deficit prediction tripled the last one, concluding that the state might be $1.2 billion in the hole. The bad news doesn't end there. The economic slowdown is prompting many families who can no longer afford both taxes and private school tuition to move their children into public schools. Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden, for instance, have lost almost 1,000 students, about 10 percent of their enrollment from last year. And those declining enrollment figures came before the worst of the recession hit.

The accelerating closure of private schools in urban areas will only add to the pressure. Public schools will suddenly need to spend more -- even as tax revenues drop. With this kind of budget problem, lawmakers need to take a look at an important benefit of programs that make it easier for families to choose private schools: School choice means huge savings for state and local governments.

New Jersey spends more than $18,500 a year on every student when you count all local school taxes and expenses like pension and health benefits. That figure doesn't even include huge sums spent on construction. A 1 percent drop in private school enrollment will put New Jersey governments on the hook for about $55 million a year; a 10 percent swing will require $550 million more in school spend ing. In contrast, the national me dian private school tuition is just over $4,000 and a little more than $5,000 when it's adjusted for New Jersey's higher income levels.

There is a way to avoid getting slammed by huge new demands for public school spending while saving money and improving education: A broad-based, moderate-size education tax credit would help families stay in private schools and save their children from burdening taxpayers with the public schools' (much greater) price tag. The credit would also help others make the switch to the private sector, easing the burden on taxpayers even more.

Education tax credits reduce the amount a taxpayer owes the government for each dollar he spends on his child's education or on scholarships for children who need them. That money comes straight off a person's tax liability, so it's a dollar-for-dollar benefit: You can send it to the government or use it on the kind of education you want to support. Tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations help support school choice for lower-income families, while personal-use credits help middle-class families send their children to good schools.

Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly have proposed a donation tax credit plan for New Jersey. Businesses would get tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations that provide school choice for lower-income families. An economic study supporting the Urban Enterprise Zone Jobs Scholarship Act concludes that this tax credit for children in eight underperforming districts would save $72 million over the length of the five-year pilot. A re cent fiscal analysis of Cato's model tax credit legislation shows that New Jersey could save $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years with that larger program based on the savings found for New York and Illinois.

Across the nation, many Democratic lawmakers have embraced education tax credits as a way to offset the persistent educational disadvantage facing low-income children. When Florida's donation tax credit program became law seven years ago, only one Democratic legislator voted for it. This year, a third of statehouse Democrats, half the black caucus and the entire Hispanic caucus voted to expand the program. Arizona, Rhode Island and Iowa all passed education tax credit initiatives in 2006, and Pennsylvania, under Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell, expanded its program. The Arizona and Iowa bills became law under Democratic governors, and the Rhode Island business tax credit was born in a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

The momentum is still building. A government fully controlled by Democrats in Iowa -- governor and both legislative houses -- expanded the tax credit dollar cap by 50 percent in 2007. Just this year, Georgia passed a $50 million program with no family income cap on student eligibility. A bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators, led by Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), supports an education tax credit bill because it will improve education and save children from failing schools. Now they have billions more reasons to support it, and so do New Jersey's overburdened taxpayers.


A Social-Work Housecleaning

Yesterday we noted the case of William Felkner, a student at Rhode Island College's School of Social work who is suing the school claiming that professors discriminated against him because he disagreed with their left-liberal political views. It turns out a similar lawsuit two years ago had impressive results. The Associated Press reported on the suit when it was filed, in November 2006:
A Missouri State University graduate has sued the school, claiming she was retaliated against because she refused to support gay adoption as part of a class project. Emily Brooker's federal lawsuit, filed on her behalf Monday by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, claims the retaliation against her Christian beliefs violated her First Amendment right to free speech. . . .

She said one of her professor's [sic], Frank G. Kauffman, accused her of the violation after he assigned a project that required the entire class to write and each sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature in support of gay adoption. Brooker said her Christian beliefs required her to refuse to sign the letter. . . .

Brooker said she was called before a college ethics committee on Dec. 16, where she was questioned for two hours by faculty members. She alleges they asked her questions such as "Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?" and "Do you think I am a sinner?" She said she was also asked if she could help gay and lesbian people in social work situations. Brooker said she was required to sign a contract with the department pledging to follow the National Association of Social Work's code of ethics, which does not refer to homosexuality. She alleges the contract requires her to change her religious beliefs to conform to social work standards to continue enrollment in the School of Social Work.

It took less than a week for Brooker to get satisfaction. In a press release dated Nov. 8, 2006, the university announced that it had agreed to strike the disciplinary action from Brooker's record, pay her $9,000, and reimburse her for tuition and living expenses for two years' graduate education.

It gets better. In addition to the terms of the settlement agreement, the press release announced that Kauffman had "voluntarily stepped down" as head of the social work program and "had begun weekly consultations" with a provost, "which will continue at least through the spring 2007 semester."

Further, the university's president, Michael Nietzel, pledged to "commission a comprehensive, professionally directed evaluation of the Missouri State Social Work Program" and "appoint an ad hoc committee to recommend ways in which the university can better publicize and more effectively implement its policies regarding freedom of speech and expression on campus." The report came out in March 2007. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education described it:
The report is scathing, citing ideological coercion on the part of the faculty against dissenting students and the chilling effect of such actions and policies on the school's intellectual atmosphere. . . .

MSU's report is encouraging-generally universities try to cover up and excuse their mistakes, and MSU has done neither. MSU should be applauded for expending the effort for some serious self-reflection and its students will no doubt benefit from the overdue recognition that MSU had been providing them with an atmosphere of ideological coercion.

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal noted that a group of state university heads are seeking a $45 billion bailout from Washington. We'd just as soon they not get it, but if they do, why not condition it on an MSU-like commitment to eradicate ideological coercion by the faculty?

Source (See the original for links)