Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Military academies lack minority nominees largely because of the Leftist hatred of the military

As the nation's military academies try to recruit more minorities, they aren't getting much help from members of Congress from big-city districts with large numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. From New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, lawmakers from heavily minority areas rank at or near the bottom in the number of students they have nominated for appointment to West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Air Force Academy, according to an Associated Press review of records from the past five years.

High school students applying to the academies must be nominated by a member of Congress or another high-ranking federal official. Congressional nominations account for about 75 percent of all students at the academies.

Academy records obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act show that lawmakers in roughly half of the 435 House districts nominated more than 100 students each during the five-year period. But Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez of New York City, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, nominated only four students, the lowest among House members who served the entire five-year period. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, whose New York City district includes Harlem, was second-lowest, with eight nominations. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco district is 29 percent Asian, was also near the bottom, with 19. In fact, the bottom 20 House members were all from districts where whites make up less than a majority.

"It's beyond my imagination how someone that has the ability to nominate doesn't do it," Craig Duchossois said in December at his final meeting as chairman of the Naval Academy's Board of Visitors. He noted what an academy appointment means: a free four-year education and a guaranteed job as an officer for at least five years after graduation. Ms. Velazquez, Mr. Rangel and Mrs. Pelosi, all Democrats, would not comment or did not return calls.

Academy leaders and some on Capitol Hill do not put all the blame on the politicians, pointing out that some districts might have a shortage of qualified candidates, either because students have not received the necessary academic preparation from their struggling schools, they are unaware of the opportunity, or they are not interested.

Although the burden is ultimately on students to apply, academy leaders and others said elected officials should be doing more to publicize the opportunity by doing such things as visiting schools. The academies have approached dozens of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss attracting more minority students. Also, the military recently put together a how-to booklet on minority recruiting and sent it to all congressional offices, said Charles Garcia, chairman of the Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors. In addition, the Air Force Academy has begun flying in congressional staff members from districts with few minority nominations for lessons on recruiting, Mr. Garcia said. "We train them on 'Here are the things other districts have done that is successful,' " he said. "We are hopeful that will have a huge impact going forward."

Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, whose district includes heavily Hispanic and black South Los Angeles and who is among the 20 lowest in nominations, said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made young people in her district question military service. She said her efforts to reach out to high school students have not been successful. "In the olden days, parents would even say to young African-Americans, 'You aren't doing anything. You don't have a job. Why don't you join the service?' " said Ms. Waters, who has nominated 14 students in the past five years. "They don't quite do that anymore."

Academy leaders have struggled to make the racial makeup of the military's officer corps more closely resemble that of its enlisted ranks. The disparity is greatest in the Navy, with minorities making up about 48 percent of the enlisted ranks and just 21 percent of the officer corps.

The academies can cite some recent progress. The freshman class of 1,230 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis includes 435 students who are black, Hispanic, Asian-American, American Indian or part of another minority group. That is about 35 percent, up from 28 percent the previous year.

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., there are 330 minorities in the freshman class of about 1,300, or about 25 percent, up from 22 percent in 2008. The freshman class of 1,376 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs includes 312 minorities, or 23 percent, also a slight increase from the previous class.


Some experiences of a British government school

"The summer term was a period of handover between the outgoing head teacher and her replacement. Just after half term, word reached us that the new head would come to the next PTA meeting. This was very exciting but, unfortunately, an appointment at work meant that I couldn’t make it. Still, I raced up to the chair of the PTA at the drop off the next morning: “How did it go? What’s she like?” I wanted to know, all puppyish enthusiasm and excitement.

The chairwoman looked gloomy. “It didn’t go great,” she admitted. “She was kind of... aggressive”. What had apparently happened was less than encouraging. The new head had started by telling us how much the teachers disliked us and harangued the committee for planning the school fayre on a Saturday . “The teachers are really fed up about that, that’s their day off, you know,” she was reported to have said. Well, yes, we do know, it’s our day off too. She finished by telling them that she didn’t understand why “you lot” had to meet in the school at all and said that in the future she would prefer it if we just went to a coffee shop instead.

“She was quite negative,” said another parent who was there with remarkable understatement.

“But... but... she’s new, why’s she being like this?” I stuttered. I had had five months of fantasising about how the new head was going to wave a wand and make everything alright; I had spent weeks imagining an era of co-operation, of raised standards, of enthusiasm, of openness, of light where there had been dark.

Perhaps we should have known better: although this had been the first formal meeting with the head and there had been clues that all might not be well. When the PTA secretary had asked at the office for the school’s constitution number (necessary in order for us to get raffle tickets printed in advance – who knew there would be so much red tape?), the new head had made excuses and sent her away empty-handed. When we discovered hundreds of expired Sainsbury’s Get Active vouchers, gathering dust in a box, the party line was that it was no one’s fault – except possibly the PTA’s. “We didn’t even exist then” seemed to cut no ice with the top brass.

We were committed to having the school fayre but I can’t say that anyone wanted it to happen – certainly not for the right reasons anyway. The teachers obviously didn’t want to be there and, it was rumoured, had been told to boycott it; the PTA would have backed out of running it altogether if there had been a face-saving way to do that. Instead, it was set to be a fete of attrition. The school wouldn’t ban the fayre but they certainly weren’t going to help: any equipment we asked to borrow, we were told was either lost, broken or had never been there in the first place.

So, on the first cloud-strewn day of the summer, we turned up at the bunting-swagged playground and set up our stalls: parents, parents of parents, uncles, aunts, friends, the odd governor and, much to our astonishment, the outgoing head, her deputy and one other teacher. Oh, and the caretaker. “Looks like rain,” he said, as cheerful as I had ever seen him. “Those gazebos are going to be blown right over if this wind picks up,” he added shaking his head gleefully.

“Why are you so happy about that?” asked one of the helpers. “I’m just saying,” he snapped, stalking off towards the tombola to snatch the gaffer tape from someone trying to stick up a sign (“That costs twelve quid a roll!”).

A slow trickle of parents started to arrive, politely buying cakes, burgers, tickets for the bottle stall and asking, equally politely, where all the teachers were. We shrugged and mumbled. The people who came seemed to enjoy themselves; the children whooping round, boing-ing about on the bouncy castle (“Why didn’t you just borrow the school’s one?” asked one ex-governor innocently), throwing wet sponges at each other in the absence of any teachers willing to go in our newly-built stocks.

Two hours later, we knew the event had come to a close when the caretaker returned and tipped the water out of the “Pluck a Duck” paddling pool (while one puzzled child was still mid-pluck) barking: “Go home!” We poured the takings onto four pushed-together desks and counted: £2,000!. We added up the outgoings - £1,000!

Still, not a bad profit, it had to be worth a few skipping ropes, maybe even some monkey bars or a swing set. We asked the new head to meet us, the following week so we could choose some equipment with her. She was too busy. The week after? The same. The week after? It became obvious that no meeting was going to take place. The chair of the PTA spoke to the “playground co-ordinator” and asked if we could have the telephone number of her equipment suppliers so we could see, at least theoretically, what our money could buy. No, we couldn’t. It was the end of the term, the end of the school year and although we had raised money, we had achieved precisely nothing.

I hate my daughter’s school, I really hate it. I hate it not simply because it is a low-achieving island in a sea of success. A year ago I would have put its failings at least partly down to a lack of interest by the parents of children there – a stupid, snobbish assumption, I admit. The school may be failing the pupils there in a thousand tiny ways but I haven’t met a single parent who doesn’t care about their child’s education. Teachers don’t get an easy press and a lot of the complaints hurled at them are unfair but at schools such as my daughter’s, I can’t help feeling that they have switched off, that “it’ll do” is good enough; that the children are seen as almost getting in the way of their jobs. As the outgoing head said to me at one stage with a rueful sigh: “The problem is we have so many children where English isn’t spoken at home. You can get them up to a reading age of eight but, after that, there’s not much you can do.”

Over the summer holidays, the PTA chair decided to emigrate – “I’m not saying it’s all about the school but, yeah, that’s a major part of our decision”. The rest of us check our positions on waiting lists at other schools on a weekly basis and make plans to move. And in the meantime we hope, really, really hope that things will change.


Australia: Learning to add up by using calculators?

YEAR 2 students are learning to add up on calculators in a Cairns school. Mother-of-four Fleur Nightingall was disgusted when her seven-year-old son Jayden's teacher at Trinity Beach State School asked for him to be supplied with a calculator to learn maths for his year 2 classes next year. "I just shook my head. I was stunned," Mrs Nightingall said. "I didn't start using calculators until year 7, but you had to show you could work out your sums on paper without using a calculator. "My son is still learning how to do sums on paper, let alone getting a calculator. It's disgusting - absolutely disgusting."

Education Queensland maintains the calculators support students' mathematics learning and does not detract from this focus.

Ms Nightingall said she had been disappointed by the standard of numeracy being taught in the early years of school. "I think the education department is letting down my son," she said. "I just can't think of any good reason why he needs to learn this in year 2, he just doesn't need to learn how to use a calculator. "I've spoken to a few people, and they just think it's a joke."

James Cook University academic Professor Peter Ridd, who has been vocal on slipping standards of numeracy within state schools, said it was worrying students were being tempted to use calculators at such an early age. "It is a worry that by giving them a calculator, it's a crutch and then they never learn to do arithmetic properly," Prof Ridd said. He said calculators were banned from first-year mathematics exams at JCU, in order to challenge students' mental arithmetic skills. "Their skills are almost universally woeful at first-year level," Prof Ridd said. "They're a little unhappy to start off with, but they accept it well. By the end of the year, their mental arithmetic is tremendous."

The Tableland-based president of the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, Margaret Black, said she had been assured the school calculators played only a minor role in year 1 and 2 students’ learning. Calculators were taught as part of a national test in numeracy. "Using the calculator is one out of 44 subjects being taught," Ms Black said. "It's a necessity for our children to sit the national testing."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the department placed a strong emphasis on improving literacy and numeracy standards in state schools. "It is important for their future learning that students learn to use appropriate technologies from an early age," she said. "The Australian Association of Mathematics recommends that all students have ready access to calculators and computers to support and extend their mathematics learning."


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