Thursday, June 11, 2009

Edu-babble is turning schoolchildren into ‘customers’

Performativity is forcing curriculum deliverers to focus on desired outputs among customers in managed learning environments.

If you struggled to understand that sentence, pity the poor teachers (curriculum deliverers) who are struggling to interpret jargon and management language rather than simply teaching their pupils (customers).

Edu-babble has become so common that it earns censure today in a review of education led by professors at the University of Oxford. Their report criticises the “Orwellian language seeping through government documents of performance management and control that has come to dominate educational deliberation and planning”.

Heads and teachers receive edicts on inputs and outputs, audits, targets, curriculum delivery, customers, deliverers, efficiency gains, performance indicators and bottom lines, it says.

This language of policymakers and their advisers hinders the enthusiasm of teachers and engagement of pupils, it adds. The Nuffield Review report is the biggest independent analysis of education for those aged 14 to 19 in fifty years, taking six years to complete. It was led by Professor Richard Pring and Dr Geoff Hayward, from Oxford, and professors from the Institute of Education and Cardiff University.

It claims that ministers’ micro-management of schools and colleges has resulted in a narrow curriculum, teaching to the test, and a high number of disaffected teenagers not in education, employment or training.

The report says: “The increased central control of education brings with it the need for a management perspective, and language of performance management — for example, levers and drivers of change, and public service agreements as a basis of funding. The consumer or client replaces the learner. The curriculum is delivered. Stakeholders shape the aims. Aims are spelt out in terms of targets. Audits measure success defined in terms of hitting targets. Cuts in resources are euphemistically called ‘efficiency gains’. Education becomes that package of activities (or inputs) largely determined by government.”

It adds: “As the language of performance and management has advanced, so we have lost a language of education which recognises the intrinsic value of pursuing certain sorts of questions, of trying to make sense of reality, of seeking understanding, of exploring through literature and the arts what it means to be human.”

Professor Pring told The Times that policy language was “leading to a narrowing of the curriculum and impoverishment of learning”. He added: “We are losing the tradition of teachers being curriculum directors and developers — instead they’re curriculum deliverers. It’s almost as though they have little robots in front of them and they have to fill their minds, rather than engage with them.”

Bill Rammell, a former education minister, recently told the House of Commons about the establishment of the Centre for Procurement Performance. This had worked “proactively with the schools sector” to “embed principles and secure commitment from the front line” by “working with and through key stakeholders” and “engaging with procurement experts” to “deliver efficiency gains”.

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “We call it edu-babble. It completely denudes education from being a human and social act.”


Online push in California schools

Given a tight budget and many disastrous physical schools, this may indeed be a lifeline for some

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a plan to save money by phasing out school textbooks in favour of internet aids. Gov Schwarzenegger wants to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending each year. He says converting to online study will also help keep pupils more up-to-date.

California is facing a state budget gap of $24.3bn and Gov Schwarzenegger on Monday scrapped funding for contracts entered into after 1 March.

The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani says Gov Schwarzenegger believes internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter and downloading to iPods show that young people are the first to adopt new online technologies, and so the internet is also the best way to learn in classrooms.

From the beginning of the next school year in August, maths and science students in California's high schools will have access to online texts that have passed an academic standards review. The governor says digital textbooks can be updated easily - so learning keeps pace with progress. But our correspondent says the real reason Gov Schwarzenegger wants the change is money. Last year California spent $350m on textbooks and can no longer afford it.

Authorities are making deep cuts to tackle the budget deficit. On Monday, Gov Schwarzenegger signed an executive order to scrap funding on contracts from 1 March and bar state agencies from entering into new ones. He said: "Every state agency and department will scrutinise how every penny is spent on contracts to make sure the state is getting the best deal for every taxpayer dollar."

The Republican governor has ruled out imposing higher taxes to meet the shortfall. Last month voters rejected a raft of Gov Schwarzenegger's proposals to tackle the deficit.


Colleges: Male Science Profs, Buzz Off! We Want Chicks

By Debbie Schlussel

For several years now, I've been documenting how men are vastly outnumbered by women in college and graduate school admissions and student bodies. That's what happens when you have years of affirmative action preferences for vulvas. Now, men are being told they aren't wanted in the sciences--a field where they previously dominated and for which they've shown far more aptitude in test scores, awards, and research.

According to a tax-funded National Research Council study of hiring and promotions in the sciences at 89 universities, women with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering are more likely to be chosen for faculty positions and promotions when they apply.

From a press release abstract of the study:
Although women are still underrepresented in the applicant pool for faculty positions in math, science, and engineering at major research universities, those who do apply are interviewed and hired at rates equal to or higher than those for men. . . . Similarly, women are underrepresented among those considered for tenure, but those who are considered receive tenure at the same or higher rates than men.
The Congressionally mandated report examines how women at research-intensive universities fare compared with men at key transition points in their careers. Two national surveys were commissioned to help address the issue. The report's conclusions are based on the findings of these surveys of tenure-track and tenured faculty in six disciplines -- biology, chemistry, mathematics, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and physics -- at 89 institutions in 2004 and 2005. The study committee also heard testimony and examined data from federal agencies, professional societies, individual university studies, and academic articles.

In each of the six disciplines, women who applied for tenure-track positions had a better chance of being interviewed and receiving job offers than male applicants had. For example, women made up 20 percent of applicants for positions in mathematics but accounted for 28 percent of those interviewed, and received 32 percent of the job offers. This was also true for tenured positions, with the exception of those in biology.

However, women are not applying for tenure-track jobs at research-intensive universities at the same rate that they are earning Ph.D.s, the report says. The gap is most pronounced in disciplines with larger fractions of women receiving Ph.D.s; for example, while women received 45 percent of the Ph.D.s in biology awarded by research-intensive universities from 1999 to 2003, they accounted for only 26 percent of applicants to tenure-track positions at those schools. Research is needed to investigate why more women are not applying for these jobs, the committee said.

Um, no it isn't. Some women want to stay home and have families, raise their kids, etc. This is not a problem. It's a good thing. And get this--here's the money quote:

"Our data suggest that, on average, institutions have become more effective in using the means under their direct control to promote faculty diversity, including hiring and promoting women and providing resources," said committee co-chair Claude Canizares, Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics and vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That's a nice way of saying, we don't care for male scientists. We're trying to get rid of them to promote "diversity."

But that's not good enough for this hypocrite, Canizares.

"Nevertheless we find evidence for stubborn and persistent underrepresentation of women at all faculty ranks."

I say, since he's a male, time to deep six his "stubborn and persistent" career and address "underrepresentation" by replacing him with a chick. It's only fair, after all.

The report also assessed gender differences in . . . [c]limate and interaction with colleagues: Female faculty reported that they were less likely than men to engage in conversation with their colleagues on many professional topics, including research, salary, and benefits. This distance may prevent women from accessing important information and may make them feel less included and more marginalized in their professional lives, the committee observed.

Well, whose fault is that? This whole study is ridiculous in its aim, especially when it's so revealing of what's already happened: that women scientists and mathematicians are being preferred over men based solely on internal plumbing and not on qualifications.

And that--the new sexism--is tolerated far too much. Read the whole study, "Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty."

SOURCE (See the original for links)

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