Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Another Israel-hating Jew in academe

His Leftist colleagues might not be nice to him unless he denounces Israel. Someone should send him to Gaza for a while. He would surely find that educational. If he survived, he would be mighty glad to get back to Israel

A sociology professor at the University of California Santa Barbara is in the center of a heated debate about academic freedom after he sent an e-mail comparing "parallel images of Nazis and Israelis" to 80 of his students in January.

Two of William Robinson's students dropped out of his sociology of globalization class after they received the e-mail. The message also caught the eye of at least two national Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, which has called upon the tenured professor to "unequivocally repudiate" it.

"If Martin Luther King were alive on this day of January 19, 2009, there is no doubt that he would be condemning the Israeli aggression against Gaza along with the U.S. military and political support for Israeli war crimes, or that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians," the 50-year-old Robinson wrote in his e-mail. "I am forwarding some horrific, parallel images of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians." Dozens of photographs followed, depicting Holocaust victims in Nazi Germany and nearly identical images from the Israeli attack on Gaza. Robinson included a note that "Gaza is Israel's Warsaw."

The two students who dropped out of Robinson's class accused him of violating faculty code of conduct by disseminating personal or political matter unrelated to the course. "I felt nauseous that a professor could use his power to send this email with his views attached, to each student in his class," senior Rebecca Joseph wrote. "Due to this horrific email I had to drop the course."

Robinson, who is Jewish and has been teaching at UCSB for nine years, is defending his message. He says the university's ongoing investigation is an attack on his academic freedom. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In a letter to Robinson and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, Cynthia Silverman, regional director of Santa Barbara's Anti-Defamation League chapter, described the professor's comparison as "offensive" and said it "crossed the line well beyond" legitimate criticism of Israel. "We also think it is important to note that the tone and extreme views presented in your email were intimidating to students and likely chilled thoughtful discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Silverman wrote.

But Robinson's supporters, including prominent professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky, say the university's probe is improper and is an attempt to silence criticism of Israel. "Unfortunately, there has been a wave of similar efforts to undermine academic freedom throughout the country in recent years," Chomsky wrote in a letter to Yang. "I hope and trust that the university will take a clear and strong stand in favor of principles that are central to free inquiry and expression, particularly so in a distinguished institution of higher learning such as this one."

A group called the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB, which includes professors and Robinson's former students and teaching assistants, has been formed to back the professor. The group's Web site includes a letter of support and a call for an apology to Robinson from the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, which represents more than 100 professors from 20 colleges. "The right to present controversial material in the context of a course — including opinions that may be deeply disturbing to some students — is an essential element of academic freedom," [as long as they are not conservative opinions, of course] the group wrote. "This includes the right to criticize government actions, whether they be American, Israeli, or those of any other government."

Paul Desruisseaux, a UCSB spokesman, said a faculty committee has been formed to determine whether the case should be considered by school administrators. "Given the nature of this case, there are some aspects of censure that could possibly be imposed that could probably fall short of dismissal," Desruisseaux told "And it's possible that this initial committee could determine it was just bad judgment. We need to let this process run its course."

Whatever the outcome of Robinson's case, a chilling effect will likely follow, particularly on local academics, according to Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors. "Some faculty will take it as an opportunity to exercise their free speech rights while others won't because they don't want calls from 20 reporters," Nelson said. "You'll get a dual effect."

Nelson, whose organization has not announced a formal opinion on Robinson's actions, said the professor appears to be in the clear. "We wait and watch that inquiry," Nelson said. "It's easy to imagine how a course in globalization made some comparisons between different historical periods and different historical events. "If it is related to class discussion, it is almost certainly to be covered by academic freedom."


British schools in poor areas 'fail bright pupils': High fliers at 11 'miss out on up to four GCSE grades'

Bright children who go to struggling comprehensives don't achieve their potential at GCSE [Junior school exam], researchers say. A study shows that those considered high fliers at 11 are significantly less likely to gain top grades at GCSE if they are at deprived secondary schools. The difference could be as much as four GCSE grades - for example, slipping from eight As to four As and four Bs.

These findings made ' uncomfortable reading' for politicians, said researchers from the London School of Economics. The report also found pupils do better if they are taught with high-achieving, middle-class pupils, confirming the link between GCSE performance and mixed-ability classes. [A non-sequitur. It shows the importance of HIGH ability schoolmates] And it warned that the Government's 'gifted and talented' scheme, designed to reassure middle-class parents the state system stretches bright children, appears to have little impact for many. Poor pupil behaviour, mediocre teaching and an over-reliance on vocational courses are likely to be to blame.

'The attainment of otherwise similar pupils in deprived schools lags significantly behind those in the more advantaged schools,' said researchers working on behalf of the Sutton Trust education charity. 'The findings are unequivocal, and make for uncomfortable reading for parents and policy makers alike.'

The study tracked 550,000 pupils who took Sats [grade school exam] at 11 in 2001 until they took their GCSEs. Secondary schools were categorised according to the number of pupils eligible for free meals because of family poverty. At the most-deprived 10 per cent, up to half the children had free meals. And at those schools, half the pupils did worse at GCSE than those with similar ability at schools with little deprivation. They gained two-and-a-half grades less over eight GCSEs, on average.

For those who had been in the top 10 per cent in their year aged 11, the results were even worse. They were penalised twice over - doing worse in their GCSEs, and taking vocational courses when they could have tackled extra GCSEs. On average, those high fliers achieved half a grade less across their GCSEs than those at advantaged schools, dropping the equivalent of four grades over eight GCSEs.

However, since many at deprived schools more likely to take a vocational course, many of these may not have even taken eight GCSEs. They were ten times more likely to take an intermediate GNVQ than peers in better-off schools. GNVQs are being phased out after an outcry over their high weighting in national school league tables even though they require considerably less teaching time than equivalent GCSEs. The report warned that high-achievers were being 'entered for examinations which serve to improve schools' "league table" positions but may not be in the best long term interests of the pupils concerned'.

There was also evidence of a 'peer effect' - suggesting pupils at more advantaged schools benefit from having classmates with higher levels of prior attainment, and lower levels of deprivation. It added: 'Questions will also be raised about whether the Government's current gifted and talented programme is operating effectively in all schools, particularly those with the most deprived intakes.'

The divide in achievement between pupils of similar ability, 'could be due to a number of factors associated with advantaged schools, from better pupil behaviour to more effective teaching', it adds.

Dr Philip Noden, who co-wrote the study, said: 'This is an attainment gap that needs to be closed so that parents know their children will make good progress whatever the social mix of the school.' And it warned ministers are overstating their success in narrowing the gap between poorer and more affluent pupils by ignoring 40,000 'hidden poor' in their calculations.

The study reinforces research in the Mail last month, showing that poorer children are failing to win places at university because of substandard comprehensive schooling - not because academics are biased.


Australia: A great kid

And another lesson for us all from Asia. Odd that "racism" didn't hold her back, though. Racism affects the attainments of American blacks only, apparently

JUST two years after she arrived from Vietnam struggling to speak English, Tram Ngo is one of Queensland's greatest academic success stories. Her story is just one highlight of the 2008 Year 12 results, released by the Queensland Studies Authority and detailed inside The Courier-Mail today. Ms Ngo not only graduated with an OP 1 from Alexandra Hills State High School last year, but won a scholarship at QUT to study engineering.

Ms Ngo admits she had no idea what her teachers were saying for her first three months of Year 11. "I can read and write, but I couldn't understand 50 per cent of what the teachers say, so I take the notes and then when I went home I would read the book again and match what the teachers say to the book," she said.

She credits as her inspiration her teachers and fellow students who spent countless hours helping her. But her teachers say it is the other way around. Alexandra Hills State High School acting principal Jan Jarman said Ms Ngo was an inspiration. "She proves if you want something enough, if you want something hard enough and you are prepared to put in the effort, you definitely can succeed."


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