Thursday, February 05, 2009

British universities told to ignore apparent merit

The new grade of A* was introduced as a way of detecting high ability. Now there is a fear that it might actually do so. British logic

Top universities are being advised to ignore the new A* grade A-level on application forms – to avoid recruiting more pupils from middle-class backgrounds. Ministers yesterday unveiled plans to conduct a three-year study into teachers' use of the new supergrade when making predictions of pupils' performance. Universities make conditional offers on the basis of predicted grades and other information and there are fears in the Labour party that pupils from 'non-traditional' backgrounds will lose out because they will not be forecast A*s in sufficient numbers.

The Government created the A* to help top universities choose the brightest candidates from the growing numbers winning As. It will be awarded to the first candidates in summer 2010. But a report published by Higher Education Minister David Lammy has said the study will evaluate the accuracy of teachers' predictions against pupils' achievements. Universities are likely to wait for the results of this study, meaning they will ignore the new top grade until at least 2013. Cambridge said it would go further and support a 'prohibition' on schools and colleges predicting the A* in its first few years because the grades will be 'very difficult' to forecast with accuracy.

Top universities are reportedly divided over the A*, with some believing it should never have been introduced amid fears that it will come to be seen as a passport to a university place. Universities are under pressure to widen the social mix of students and reduce the domination of pupils from private schools and good state schools. Some universities may use A*s in conditional offers but the practice is likely to be rare in the early years.

Monday's report acknowledged that universities have raised concerns over whether teachers will be able to predict A* grades with any consistency. It said: 'Such concerns go to the heart of issues of fairness and openness, where an able and talented student can be sifted out of an application process on the basis of inaccurately-predicted grades. 'There are concerns that this could disproportionately impact on students from non-traditional backgrounds.'

Sixth-formers now pass more than a quarter of A-levels at grade A – a sharp rise in the space of a generation. Independent school leaders said it was 'a shame' that leading universities may not consider predicted A* grades for several years. They said bright students will immediately start working towards the grade – awarded to those who achieve 90 per cent of marks – only to find their efforts may not count in the admissions process.

Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said: 'We would agree that in the early years it will be very difficult for anyone to predict A*s with any accuracy and would support a prohibition on schools being allowed to do so. 'This is subtly different, however, from prohibiting universities from asking for A*s in conditional offers.'

Geoff Lucas, secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, representing leading boys' and mixed fee-paying schools, said: 'I believe our schools are able to spot high-fliers and will be able to predict with considerable accuracy. If universities are not going to use predicted A* grades, I think that's a shame. Time will tell. 'The Government accepted the recommendation for the A* and once students know it is there they are going to aim high.'


Jew-Hate at UCLA

A "Gaza and Human Rights" symposium hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Center for Near Eastern Studies instructed attendees on how best to spread anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism. Attendees advocated for many unrelated leftists, from Lenin to Che Guevara, while students were busy texting, Twittering, and checking Facebook.

Moderator Susan Slyomovics, the director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies, offered typical leftist academic condescension. "I have done extensive research on Israel and Palestine. After all, this is not Fox TV. This is UCLA." She must have meant the Fox News Channel, unless she was comparing her research abilities to Homer Simpson.

UCLA history professor Gabriel Piterberg followed. He described an "Israeli onslaught on Gaza Palestinians" and labeled IDF soldiers "war criminals." He alleged the "forced removal of the indigenous people in favor of the settler nation-state," with Palestinians supposedly being the former and Israelis the latter. He cited Karl Marx, referencing popular revolts in China and India and the Algerian struggle against France as examples of the proletariat overthrowing oppressors. Palestinians would rise up next, he predicted. He repeated the debunked charge that Israel has killed Gazans using white phosphorous.

Lisa Hajjar, University of California, Santa Barbara Law and Society Program Chair, was up next. Considering her biases, Hajjar’s eloquence made her the most dangerous speaker. She falsely claimed that "Israel violates the Fourth Geneva Convention." Moreover, like al-Qaeda, the Geneva Conventions don't apply to Palestinians. Neither are nations.

Israel was repeatedly labeled an "occupier" of "occupied territories," the Gaza Strip and West Bank, when the proper terminology is "disputed territories." The fact that Israel left Gaza in 2005 didn’t seem to register either. She conceded, to the audience’s consternation, that, "War is permissible. Not all war is illegal," and later, "Collateral damage alone is not necessarily a war violation." Yet, she went on to state, "Civilians have a right to immunity. Intentionality is key." She repeated the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians, as well as the white phosphorous falsehood. As she put it, "Israel should only target what’s necessary."

"Denying food and water is inhumane. It’s a war crime" and Israelis, Hajjar added, "are war criminals." She concluded her nonsense about "proportionality" with the bizarre, irrelevant statement: "Dick Cheney is the enemy of all mankind."

Next came Richard Falk, University of California, Santa Barbara Professor of Global and International Studies and 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Falk is the newly created UN "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories" and was recently denied entry into Israel for his biased and morally repugnant statements. He declared Gaza an "unequal war," as if Hamas’s ineptitude should be treated as the war equivalent of affirmative action. He claimed Hamas initiated the Egyptian-mediated June 2008 cease-fire to avoid cross-border violence. He called the ineffectual cease-fire "a diplomatic initiative that would have ended the conflict." He seemed to think that because Hamas’s attempts to violate the cease-fire failed to murder Israelis, Israel had no retaliation rights.

Falk described Hamas’s daily firing of into Israel as "wrong, imprudent, and immoral," but added that "the rockets did little damage, and were not a significant threat." He alleged "Israeli aggression against a defenseless society," moments after justifying rockets. Falk’s litany culminated with the outlandish statement: "America and Israel are most addicted to reliance on moral superiority. They practice genocidal geopolitics."

UCLA English professor Saree Makdisi, who spoke last, peddled numerous fallacies. He stated that "dropping ordinances is not okay," neglecting to mention that Israel also drops evacuation warnings in order to save civilian lives. He declared Gaza a "child prison" and said that, "the goal of Israel is to deliberately starve children." Makdisi later thundered, "If you want to stop rockets into Israel, Israel must end the occupation!"

Audience questions demonstrated a complete and utter disinterest in Gaza. "Democracy Now," the "Leninist Workers Revolutionary United Party," Dennis Kucinich, and even Kitty Dukakis were mentioned. Ludicrous ramblings included the statements, "Iran needs nukes to protect itself against America and Israel," and "Israel has violated norms of civilized behavior. Palestinian resistance is the non-violent alternative."

I then calmly asked my question. "When are any of you going to ask Palestinians to take personal responsibility for their own corruption and failures, and admit they’re entirely responsible for their own miserable lot in life by choosing suicide bombings and terror over protecting their own children?"

Lisa Hajjar replied that it's pointless to argue about "who started it." "Occupation was the issue. Oppressed people must fight oppressors." I interrupted her by asking, "What about suicide bombings?"

Forgetting the event was being filmed, Hajjar lost her cool and retorted, "If you think I favor suicide bombings, then that Zionist hat on your head is screwed on way too tight!" I replied that my hat was a Fedora, not a Chasidic hat. An "educated" woman would know the difference, although her lack of knowledge about hats was secondary to her bigoted statement. I told her "Your comment was out of line, bigoted and racist."

She acknowledged such comments hurt "her cause" from a public relations standpoint, employing the same tacit language used to describe suicide bombings as "not helpful." She backed down, apologizing twice, yet reiterating that everything else she had said was justified.

The final incredulous moment came when Makdisi, asked to condemn Iran for supplying Hamas with weapons, claimed, "Hamas is a political group. I have no idea where they get their weapons."

This symposium sent a pair of clear message: Hamas and the Palestinians are identical. The academics involved absolved them both while blaming Israel alone. They neither distinguished self-defense from murder, nor disavowed murder. No mention was made of Israel’s right to exist.

Luckily, the students on hand appeared to be more indoctrinated by Blackberry video games than the apologists for terrorism on the podium. Then again, those games also involve blowing stuff up.


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