Tuesday, September 01, 2009

American parents should demand public school refunds

And now, from the tortured and twisted logic department, comes this little tidbit from an activist opposed to vouchers being used to send D.C. students to private schools. Last week, about 100 supporters of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program held a rally outside the U.S. Department of Education headquarters. According to news reports, about 200 students were awarded vouchers this past spring. Then our federal government double crossed the kiddies and yanked the vouchers.

The voucher program gives parents who are unable to afford to send their children to private schools the same choice the ones who can do, and that's why Robert Vinson Brannum, the activist in question, opposes vouchers. "Not every choice can come on a public dollar," Brannum said in one news report. "I should have to pay for my child to go to private school. If it's acceptable for those who oppose abortion not to have their dollars used to pay for abortions, I should have that same choice."

And, by comparing the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions to the use of taxpayer money to send a kid to private school, Brannum wins the twisted, tortured logic award for 2009. His reasoning is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin to pick his argument apart, but I'll start with this one. Government doesn't compel anyone to have sex. Government doesn't compel women to get pregnant, either.

Having sex is strictly a private matter, one that should be the most private. In fact, when the so-called "pro-choice" crowd supported Norma McCorvey - the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade - in her case that went to the Supreme Court, they used the "right to privacy" argument. They went rooting around in the "penumbra" of the Constitution and just yanked the right out. The "right to privacy" is the ball field the "pro-choicers" chose to play on. Later, they decided that they didn't really mean a "right to privacy" at all, but the right to an abortion at any stage of a woman's pregnancy. And they insisted that poor women should have the same right as rich women, and advocated for public funds be made available for abortions for poor women.

Realizing that they were asking the public to foot the bill for the consequences of a very private act, the pro-choicers completely abandoned their "right to privacy" language. These days they say "a woman's right to choose."

Public education isn't even a different pew in the same church. Heck, it's an entirely different religion. Government makes education compulsory for children up to a certain age. That means those parents who don't have the money to send their children to private school or the time to home school them have to send them to public schools. Once the government has compelled parents to send their children to public schools, it has entered into a contract with those parents.

Government has promised not only to educate children, but also to do so in a safe environment. If the school either provides little to no education or isn't safe, or both, then the government has reneged on its promise. At that point, parents have the right to demand that government provide them with an alternative. I've gone so far as to say those parents have the right to demand the government cut them a check for whatever the per-pupil expenditure is in their district for public education. With that check they should be able to pick between another public school, a charter school, a private school or even a parochial school.

I developed my refund philosophy some years ago, after I learned one Baltimore public high school was so bad that it had a section called "The Level of Death," where the hoodlums smoked pot and played craps and where no serious student or even faculty member dared to venture. Why, I asked myself, are taxpayers required to even fund a public school with a "Level of Death"? What kind of education could possibly go on at the school? Why, none, of course. Maryland taxpayers, I concluded, would be perfectly justified in demanding a refund of any tax money that went to fund "Level of Death" High.

Vouchers aren't about choice. They're about government refunding our tax dollars misused for public education.


Meddling with Britain's final High School exams has hit standards, says top head

The head of the top school for A-levels yesterday condemned ministerial meddling in exams for putting academic standards at risk. Bernice McCabe, head of the North London Collegiate School, warned that syllabuses increasingly required schools to solve social problems instead of promoting rigorous education.

She spoke out as her £11,925-a-year girls' day school topped the Daily Mail's A-level league table for independent schools. Pupils passed 99 per cent of exams at grades A and B, with more than 90 per cent at A.

But Mrs McCabe said political interference was 'skewing' the curriculum in favour of fashionable causes such as encouraging pupils to lead 'healthy lifestyles' and giving them an awareness of poverty. She accused the Government of a knee-jerk reaction to problems in wider society. 'That is inappropriate political interference in education,' she said. 'I would love an exam system separate from Government interference. 'I'm not sure that it's helpful to have such central control. It doesn't seem to have worked particularly well over the last 20 years.'

She added: 'Healthy lifestyles is a sort of criteria that's dominating it in a way that skews things and feels non-educational. 'It's very easy for the Government always to take the moral high ground, and say "how could you possibly disagree with that?" 'Naturally these things are important. But to put that right up there as a top priority brings everything down to it.' Education policy should be inspired by 'a proper education philosophy' and not in response to problems of society-she said.

Mrs McCabe's remarks came as the head of a second high-performing school said top A-level grades had become easier to come by. The availability of examiners' marking schemes and sample papers mean it is 'not hard to get a good grade', according to Cynthia Hall, head of Wycombe Abbey School in High Wycombe. She said: 'A-levels are still an appropriate challenge, but there is much more information for students about what is expected of them.' Pupils can 'see what the job is' and get on with it in a 'methodical' way, she added.

A-level results from 400 independent schools, published today, show that pupils passed 53.6 per cent of exams at grade A, compared to just over 20 per cent at comprehensives. But many schools including Eton, Winchester and St Paul's refused to allow their results to be used in tables for the second year running.

Perse School for Girls, in Cambridge, said the tables were a 'flawed beauty parade'. However, Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said: 'It is patronising to suggest that parents are confused by league tables and that therefore they should not exist. 'Fee-paying parents have the right to know our results.'

Rising numbers of parents are paying up to £2,000 in legal fees as they fight for places at sought-after state schools. A BBC survey of legal firms found that nearly all have been bombarded with requests for help winning school admission appeals. Parents who can no longer afford private education and wish to give their children the best chance of getting into a state grammar school or good comprehensive are said to be fuelling the trend. An initial meeting with a legal firm to discuss an appeal can cost more than £80.


Some British university graduates now working in call centres

“HELLO, I’ve got a 2:1. How may I help you?” Call centres, once seen as the sweatshops of the British economy, are being flooded with job applications from university leavers who have found that traditional career opportunities wither in a recession. Hays, a recruitment agency for call centre staff, said the number of new graduates seeking jobs as operators had trebled in the past year. Thousands of this summer’s graduates are now thought to be applying for jobs through Hays and other firms.

Those which have seen a surge in graduate applications for call centre jobs include O2, the mobile phone provider, and Denplan, the dental health insurer. Cambridgeshire county council has reported a similar trend.

Vacancies for degree-level jobs have fallen 25% in the past year, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, while some economists have warned that those aged 18-25 risk becoming a “lost generation” with nearly 1m of them already unemployed.

The fear of joblessness has led growing numbers of university leavers to enter careers not traditionally seen as suitable for those with a degree. The call centre industry, which employs more than 900,000 people in Britain, insists that the boom in graduate interest is not simply a result of the recession but shows that being a phone operator dealing with customers is seen as a possible route to a high-flying career.

It has also continued to expand throughout the recession, despite the trend in recent years for companies to locate call centres in countries with cheap labour, such as India.

Peter Mooney, head of operations at Holiday Extras, which specialises in selling pre-booked airport car parking and hotels, said he had had 250-300 applications for 17 vacancies at the company’s telephone sales centre near Hythe, Kent. They have included graduates from universities such as Leeds and York. He added that the quality of applicants would mean a highly educated call centre workforce.

“It is partly because of the recession,” said Mooney. “But we expect some of the graduates to stay with us. A lot will go via the call centre for a couple of years and will then be poached by other departments.”

Elspeth Hutchinson, 22, a Holiday Extras employee, graduated from Christchurch Canterbury University this summer with a psychology and history degree. “When I first graduated, I was initially thinking I wasn’t going to stay here long and I would go elsewhere and the recession wouldn’t hold me back, but since then I’ve changed my mind.”


No comments: