Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teaching that America is a 'hellhole' called 'creative' at the University of Minnesota

'Hate-filled' would be more like it

A lawyer for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus has confirmed to an educational rights organization that a plan described by a critic as teaching America as a "hellhole" hasn't been adopted, and came about because of brainstorming efforts by the education department.

The issue of the program at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was raised by officials with The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The group questioned President Robert Bruinicks about the legality of the program. The proposal included the suggestion of examinations of teacher candidates on "white privilege" as well as "remedial re-education" for those who hold the "wrong" views.

The FIRE today announced that in response to its pressure on the university, officials there are backing away from their plans "to enforce a political litmus test." "The plans from its College of Education and Human Development involved redesigning admissions and the curriculum to enforce an ideology centered on a narrow view of 'cultural competence," the FIRE announced. "Those with the 'wrong' views were to receive remedial re-education, be weeded out, or be denied admission altogether," the group said.

However, a letter to FIRE from General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg said those plans, while recommendations, were not adopted. "Neither the university nor CEHD has adopted or implemented any 'new policies' discussed in the particular … task force report submitted in July 2009 from which you quoted extensively," his letter to the organization said. "The task force report at issue was one of seven separate task force reports; none of them has been adopted as CEHD policy…

"The various task group reports reflect the creative thinking of many faculty members charged with exploring ideas to improve P-12 education and student achievement," he continued. "CEHD Dean Jean Quam has characterized the various task froup reports as 'faculty brainstorming' on how best to accomplish this curricular redesign." Further, he said, "no university policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs.'"

"We are relieved that the University of Minnesota has finally committed itself to upholding the freedom of conscience of its students," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "Prospective teachers will keep the right to have their own thoughts, values, and beliefs." He promised FIRE would continue to watch the university's actions. Adam Kissel, director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, said the college's next version of the plan "must reflect" the school's newest commitment.

The plan from the college's Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group had suggested requiring every future teacher to accept theories of "white privileges, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity and internalized oppression;" "develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity;" and "recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism ... but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation," according to the documentation...

More here

British private schools hampered by incessant government regulation

Private schools are losing their independence because of endless government regulation and a tick-box culture, according to a leading headmistress. Gillian Low, the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association, warned that a barrage of rules from Whitehall was diverting teachers away from education. Such rules were counterproductive and robbed independent schools of the idiosyncrasies that were the key to their success, Mrs Low said.

She added: “Each school is a bit different and demands a slightly different approach.” The problem was that the Government started from the point of not trusting people, she said.

Head teachers and teachers in the majority of schools were experienced professionals who knew how to deal with issues such as bullying and parental complaints, according to Mrs Low. “The problem is [that] the regulations keep changing. We are on our third variation of regulation guidance this year, and the fourth is coming.” Mrs Low, who is head of Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, southwest London, said: “It is a very difficult way to operate when faced with that frequency of change.”

She said the danger was that overregulation and micromanagement created a “tick-box culture” that rarely led to school improvement. Success was gained by giving people responsibility and ownership, she said.

The Department for Schools said: “The Government is keen to support the delivery of high-quality education by schools in the independent sector. “But it is right that parents and the wider public are assured that all schools — whether in the maintained or independent sector — provide their pupils with a suitable education in a safe and secure environment.” [Blah, Blah, Blah]


Policies for Britain in 2010: Free schools

Assuming the Conservatives win the upcoming General Election, it looks like Britain will finally get a fully fledged school choice scheme in 2010 – something the Adam Smith Institute has been pushing for ever since it was founded. Under Michael Gove’s planned reforms, parents would be free to choose which school their children attended, with government funding following that choice. Crucially, Gove also aims to liberate the supply-side of education, by allowing charities, companies, groups of parents and so on to set up new schools, which would compete with existing state sector ones.

The policy is not perfect: with the Conservatives saying they would not allow schools to make a profit, how many private companies would get involved in providing education? In Sweden, where a similar school choice scheme was set up in 1994, for-profit companies have been the dominant providers of new school places, and have often been the most innovative and successful market entrants. But regardless, school choice is a great idea that could have a transformative effect on British education. As well as empowering parents (itself a valuable objective), the competition it unleashes will drive up standards as good schools prosper and bad ones go out of business, and will also encourage schools to innovate, specialise, and tailor their services to their pupils.

But it is vital that the Conservatives understand that an effective school system needs more than just parental choice and voucher-style funding arrangements. Schools must also be freed from a whole raft of red-tape if the benefits of competition are really to be felt. Firstly, starting a new school needs to be made much easier – planning laws need to be radically altered, and bureaucratic processes dramatically streamlined. Secondly, schools need to be given far more freedom about how and what they teach – that means getting rid of the national curriculum and compulsory standardized tests, and allowing schools to pick whichever exam system they think best (be it GCSE/A-Level, iGCSE/Pre-U, the IB, or whatever). Thirdly, the teaching profession needs a big shake-up. Teachers should be employed by schools, not the government, and should have individually negotiated contracts, not nationally collective-bargained ones. Just as importantly, the route into the teaching profession should be liberalised, with schools themselves taking greater responsibility for teacher training and certification. Finally, these freedoms should not just be for new schools, but should be extended to schools currently in the state sector, all of which should become independent – perhaps as trusts, perhaps as parent-teacher co-operatives, or perhaps under some other management structure.

Ultimately, what needs to be realized is that school choice involves the wholesale rejection of the comprehensive ideology – that one size, determined by Whitehall, fits all – and the adoption a completely new outlook: let a thousand flowers bloom.


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