Saturday, February 14, 2009

The college scam

Taking on heavy debt pursuing a degree is leaving many young people miserable and poor

A college diploma is supposed to be the ticket to the good life. Colleges and politicians tell students, "Your life will be much better if you go to college. On average, during your lifetime you will earn a million dollars more if you get a bachelor's degree." Barack Obama, stumping on the campaign trail, said, "We expect all our children not only to graduate high school, but to graduate college." Rachele Percel heard the promises. She borrowed big to pay about $24,000 a year to attend Rivier College in New Hampshire. She got a degree in human development. "I was told just to take out the loans and get the degree because when you graduate you're going to be able to get that good job and pay them off no problem," she told me for "20/20."

But for three years she failed to find a decent job. Now she holds a low-level desk job doing work she says she could have done straight out of high school. And she's still $85,000 in debt. Last month she had to move out of her apartment because she couldn't pay the rent. The promise about college? "I definitely feel like it was a scam," says Rachele.

Her college wrote us that many of its graduates have launched successful careers. But Rachele's problem isn't uncommon. A recent survey asked thousands of students: Would you go to your college again? About 40 percent said no. "The bachelor's degree? It's America's most overrated product," says education consultant and career counselor Dr. Marty Nemko.

Nemko is one of many who are critical of that often-cited million-dollar lifetime-earning bonus. "There could be no more misleading statistic," he says. It includes billionaire superearners who skew the average. More importantly, the statistic misleads because many successful college kids would have been successful whether they went to college or not. "You could take the pool of college-bound students and lock them in a closet for four years - and they're going to earn more money," Nemko says. Those are the kids who already tend to be more intelligent, harder-working and more persistent.

But universities still throw around that million-dollar number. Arizona State recently used it to justify a tuition hike. Charles Murray's recent book, "Real Education," argues that many students just aren't able to handle college work. Graduation statistics seem to bear him out. "If you're in the bottom 40 percent of your high school class," Nemko says, "you have a very small chance of graduating, even if you are given eight and a half years."

Colleges still actively recruit those kids, and eight years later, many of those students find themselves with no degree and lots of debt. They think of themselves as failures. "And the immoral thing about it is that the colleges do not disclose that!"

For many kids, career counselors told us, it's often smarter to acquire specific marketable skills at a community college or technical school, or to work as an apprentice for some business. That makes you more employable. Vocational education pays off for many. Electricians today make on average $48,000 a year. Plumbers make $47,000. That's more than the average American earns. But some people look down on vocational school. A degree from a four-year college is considered first class. A vocational-school degree is not.

"More people need to realize that you don't have to get a four-year degree to be successful," says Steven Eilers, who went through an automotive program and then continued his education by getting a paying job as an apprentice in a car-repair center. He's making good money, and he has zero student-loan debt.

Eilers' story is no fluke. In the past year, while hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs vanished, the auto-repair industry added jobs. Self-serving college presidents and politicians should drop the scam. Higher enrollments and government loan programs may be good for them, but they are making lots of our kids miserable and poor. For many, the good life can be lived without college.


Australia: Another government school "loses" a child

A girl with a disability is the second student in a fortnight found wandering the streets while her teachers were unaware she had left school.

Jasmine Colman's mother Vickie Liddle is furious that her five-year-old daughter, who suffers from Aspergers-related autism and stress-related epilepsy, was able to walk out of the Harris Fields State School at Woodridge, south of Brisbane, at lunchtime on Tuesday and cross a busy main road. Ms Liddle said a kindergarten teacher who knew Jasmine saw the youngster talking to a stranger on the footpath and took her back to school. "She could have been kidnapped, she could have had a seizure on the road - anything could have happened," Ms Liddle said. "The fact that she wasn't seen and no one noticed, and especially the fact that she has a disability, that was phenomenal. "They didn't even know she was gone." She said her "blood was boiling" over the incident and the fact the principal failed to apologise or talk to her about it.

A statement from Education Queensland said Jasmine became separated at the end of lunchtime when Prep students and teachers were moving back to the classroom. "The Prep student left the group. Teachers were supervising students at this time," the statement said.

"When the mother arrived at the school, she was immediately met by the deputy principal and special education teacher who apologised to her." The principal had rung the mother to apologise yesterday.

At Morayfield State School last week, a five-year-old boy was found wandering the streets while his teacher was unaware he was missing.


Friday, February 13, 2009

De-Programming Students

by Thomas Sowell

Letters from parents often complain of a sense of futility in trying to argue with their own children, who have been fed a steady diet of the politically correct vision of the world, from elementary school to the university. Some ask for suggestions of particular books that might make a dent in the know-it-all attitude of some young people who have heard only one side of the story in classrooms all their lives.

That is one way of going about trying to de-program young people. There are, for example, some good books showing what is wrong with the "global warming" crusades or showing why male-female differences in income or occupations are not automatically discrimination.

Various authors have written a lot of good books that demolish what is currently believed-- and taught to students-- on a wide range of issues. Some of those books are listed as suggested readings on my website (

Yet trying to undo the propaganda that passes for education at too many schools and colleges, one issue at a time, may not always be the best strategy. There are too many issues on which the politically correct party line is considered to be the only way to look at things. Given the wide range of issues on which students are indoctrinated, instead of being educated, trying to undo all of that would require a whole shelf full of books-- and somehow getting the students to read them all.

Another approach might be to respond to the dogmatic certainty of some young person, perhaps your own offspring, by asking: "Have you ever read a single book on the other side of that issue?" Chances are, after years of being "educated," even at some of the highest-priced schools and colleges, they have not. When the inevitable answer to your question is "No," you can simply point out how illogical it is to be so certain about anything when you have heard only one side of the story-- no matter how often you have heard that one side repeated. Would it make sense for a jury to reach a verdict after having heard only the prosecution's case, or only the defense attorney's case, but not both?

There is no need to argue the specifics of the particular issue that has come up. You can tell your overconfident young student that you will be happy to discuss that particular issue after he or she has taken the elementary step of reading something by somebody on the other side. Elementary as it may seem that we should hear both sides of an issue before making up our minds, that is seldom what happens on politically correct issues today in our schools and colleges. The biggest argument of the left is that there is no argument-- whether the issue is global warming, "open space" laws or whatever.

Some students may even imagine that they have already heard the other side because their teachers may have given them their version of other people's arguments or motives. But a jury would never be impressed by having the prosecution tell them what the defendant's defense is. They would want to hear the defense attorney present that case.

Yet most students who have read and heard repeatedly about the catastrophes awaiting us unless we try to stop "global warming" have never read a book, an article or even a single word by any of the hundreds of climate scientists, in countries around the world, who have expressed opposition to that view. These students may have been shown Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in school, but are very unlikely to have been shown the British Channel 4 television special, "The Great Global Warming Swindle."

Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that students are being indoctrinated with the correct conclusions on current issues, that would still be irrelevant educationally. Hearing only one side does nothing to equip students with the experience to know how to sort out opposing sides of other issues they will have to confront in the future, after they have left school and need to reach their own conclusions on the issues arising later. Yet they are the jury that will ultimately decide the fate of this nation.


British single mothers have created a useless generation who are costing taxpayer a fortune, claims deputy head

A deputy head who sat on a Government taskforce aimed at improving behaviour in schools yesterday condemned a generation of modern parents as 'uber-chavs'. Ralph Surman said the parents of today's pupils were themselves the children of the 'first big generation of single mothers' from the 1980s. He claimed they - and in turn their children - have been left with no social skills or work ethic and may be impossible to educate.

Mr Surman spoke out in response to figures unearthed by the Conservative Party, which show that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training - known as NEETs - is rising across Britain. 'We must talk about a class of uber-chavs,' he said. 'They are not doing anything productive and are costing taxpayers a fortune. 'It is very difficult, almost impossible, to take these people now and provide basic social and work ethic skills.

'The offspring of the first big generation of single mothers were children in the 1980s. 'Now they are adults with their own children and the problems are leading to higher crime rates and low participation in the labour force.' Mr Surman, 43, a national executive member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has taught at Cantrell Primary School in Bulwell, Nottingham, for 20 years. Bulwell has been identified as an area of socio- economic deprivation and the proportion of children entitled to free school meals is higher than average at the school, which is rated good by Ofsted.

Mr Surman was a member of the Practitioners' Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, a group of experienced heads and teachers set up four years ago, which helped enshrine in law a teacher's right to discipline a child. As a result of its conclusions, the Government introduced legal powers giving teachers the right to discipline children beyond the gates.

Mr Surman, a father of three, was unavailable yesterday to comment further on his claims, made in a local newspaper. It is not clear if he was referring to the parents of children at his school, in Nottingham as a whole or to modern parents generally. But his attack was criticised by David Mellen, portfolio holder for children's services on the Labour-run Nottingham City Council. He said the number of young NEETs in Nottingham had bucked the trend and fallen. The councillor, who is also a teacher, said: 'We are talking about young people here and (uber-chavs) is an irresponsible term to use. 'The comments are illinformed in light of the reduction in crime in the city and the reduction in young people who are NEET.'

But Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, said that, while many single mothers do an 'excellent job' raising their children, 'we cannot close our eyes to the evidence which shows that, on average, children fare better in terms of health, education and future career prospects when they are brought up by a mother and father who are committed to each other for life in marriage'.

Official figures obtained by the Tories last month showed that the number of people aged 16 to 24 not in employment, education or training had leapt by 94,000 to 850,000 between 2003 and 2007. 'Chav' was a new entrant in the Collins English Dictionary in 2005. A chav was defined as 'a young working class person who dresses in casual sports clothing'. Uber means greatest or most extreme.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said Mr Surman's comments did not reflect the view of the union.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

British fee-paying schools beat the recession: Record applications as parents give up luxuries

This tells you how bad British government schools are

Record numbers of parents are registering their children for private schools despite the recession, a survey shows today. Parents are curbing spending on designer clothes, new cars and eating out to enable them to afford the fees, head teachers said. A survey of 90 schools in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, representing 250 leading day and boarding schools, found that advance registrations and entrance exam attempts for places for 11-year-olds were up 1.7 per cent on last year. For 13-year-olds, they were up 7.5 per cent and for sixth-form places, they rose 8.2 per cent. Meanwhile only 0.2 per cent of pupils have had to be withdrawn from their schools so far this academic year 'for purely financial reasons', which extrapolated across HMC's 190,000 pupils gives just 380.

The survey found that nine out of ten heads believe their schools are in a strong position to withstand the recession. Richard Cairns, of Brighton College, said he would 'eat my hat' if numbers at his school were lower in September than now. 'What we are seeing are families re-evaluating what really matters,' he said. 'Designer clothes, the latest car and meals at expensive restaurants matter not a jot when set against a child's education. 'We saw record numbers attending our open morning on Saturday and we have never had so many applications.'

He added that figures showing increasing demand at schools in the survey may reflect a 'flight to quality' as parents shun lesser-known schools perceived to be financially precarious. 'With all the talk of school closures, parents are avoiding the smaller schools,' he said. 'Many of these were struggling before the recession, a consequence in large part of the mounting cost of Government red tape. 'The recession may well be the final blow that puts them out of their misery. 'One consequence of this will be a severe dislocation in the private school sector as parents send their children in greater numbers to those schools at the top end of the market but shun the smaller, less secure options.'

Michael Punt, head master of Chigwell School in Essex, said applications for both seven and 11-year-olds were up between 5 and 10 per cent. 'Parents are saying to us they are still very keen,' he added. 'We realise life is going to be hard, and get harder. 'A lot of our parents work in the financial sector or have their own businesses. 'They are making sacrifices anyway and are prepared to continue to make sacrifices. Education is one of the last things to go. 'We have had a lot of very good applications from primary school children, if anything slightly more than last year; it is not just those at local prep schools.'

Bernard Trafford, HMC chairman, said: 'Parents remain convinced of the value of a good independent education, with its high academic standards and a full all-round experience, and they will continue to invest in it for their children. 'We all recognise that conditions will probably get worse for some parents and the situation in January is, of course, only a provisional indication of what will happen later.'

A survey of councils before Christmas found that one in ten had been contacted by fee-paying parents asking for places at state schools and one in five said they expected increased demand in the near future. Most areas with large numbers of state grammar [selective] schools have seen an upturn in the number of pupils sitting the 11-plus. Town halls are braced for an influx of 11,000 children to state primary and secondary schools over the next 18 months.


Anger as some British selective schools become more selective

Admissions to the remaining government-funded selective schools are much sought after but the rules for accessing them are in flux.

Two leading girls' grammar schools are cutting back on places reserved for local children. Wallington High School and Nonsuch High School, both in Sutton, southwest London, and among the top in the country, will no longer offer 80 per cent of places to children living in the catchment area. This has infuriated parents, some of whom moved closer to the schools to gain entry. But the schools have defended the plans, saying they will ensure access to all bright children.

The move highlights the confusion surrounding the Government's revised schools admissions code. Schools must ensure admissions arrangements abide by the code in time for school entry in September 2010. But different schools are interpreting the rules differently.

Last week two grammar schools in Dorset were accused of discriminating against the middle classes after The Times revealed they give state school pupils priority in admissions over private sector pupils. In a separate move, the Schools Adjudicator ordered grammar schools in Warwickshire to stop recruiting children from outside their area. The Sutton case contradicts this ruling because the schools are deliberately increasing recruitment from outside their areas.

Under proposals for entry into Nonsuch in 2010, all places would be allocated on the basis of test scores to pupils, wherever they live. At Wallington the number of places for local children would be halved to about 60. Barbara Greatorex, headmistress of Wallington Girls, said her aim was to attract bright girls, including children of families that can't afford to buy a home near the school. “We wanted to be as fair as possible. My philosophy is that I'm open for clever girls, regardless of their background,” she said.


Thousands of South Australian teachers are opting out

If you had to stand up day after day in front of an undisciplined rabble, you might too

MORE than twice as many teachers pulled out of the education system this year compared to last year, latest figures show. Data provided exclusively to The Advertiser by the Teachers Registration Board shows 3530 teachers let their registration lapse at the start of this school year, compared to 1328 last year. While 1235 new people joined the register this year - including more than 800 graduate teachers - there was still an overall drop of 1950 teachers. Last year, 1214 new teachers entered the system.

Public preschool, school and TAFE teachers on Monday were awarded a 3.75 per cent interim pay rise by the Industrial Relations Commission. The Teachers Registration Board, which covers all school sectors, predicted there would be a "significant decrease" in the number of teachers renewing their registrations because of the "age profile" of the workforce.

SA College of Educators president Wendy Teasdale-Smith said a recent 50 per cent rise in registration fees - from $180 to $270 - and a "significant increase in bureaucracy" also could be factors. "When it was easier (to stay registered), people kept their registration going just in case they wanted to teach, but if it gets too expensive and too hard, then they may think, `I can't be bothered'," she said.

Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said workforce projections showed there were "sufficient overall numbers of teachers to fill jobs" in public schools for at least the next five years and there were recruitment schemes in place. Arbitration over the dispute between teachers and the State Government will still be heard in the Commission from May, and this increase will be part of the final wage rise. The Australian Education Union (SA) lodged a claim for a 7 per cent interim pay rise last October.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Religious segregation in British school

Head 'forced out' over ban on Muslim assemblies. If it is a cardinal sin to segregate blacks and whites, why is it OK to segregate Muslims and non-Muslims? Rubbery Leftist principles again, it would seem

A head teacher who was accused of racism after she tried to scrap separate assemblies for Muslim children at her school has resigned. Julia Robinson's departure follows an 18-month dispute over her attempt to hold a single weekly assembly for all pupils at Meersbrook Bank primary school, in Sheffield, regardless of their faith. Although the plan was backed by staff and many parents, some Muslim parents objected and accused Mrs Robinson of being racist.

Sheffield council refused to discuss why Mrs Robinson had resigned but a teacher at the school said that she had been under a lot of pressure, while a parent claimed that she had her hands tied and was forced out. The school's chairman of governors has also quit.

More than 20 per cent of the school's 240 pupils are Muslims. Parents from the local mosque said that the Islamic services started ten years ago after they withdraw their children from the daily service. One said that the split came after a teacher tried to force a Muslim pupil to sing a Christian hymn.

The school and the parents agreed that Muslim pupils would attend four of the five weekly assemblies, which were inclusive in nature, but that on Tuesday, when a more formal act of Christian worship was held, Muslim pupils would take part in an Islamic service led by one of the parents.

When Mrs Robinson joined Meersbrook Bank in 2007 she set up a working group to review the separate practice. A teacher at the school said that Mrs Robinson took careful advice from the local education authority. “She wanted to hold assemblies for all the pupils, which would include all faiths. That is what happens in most schools but some parents wanted things to stay as they were. When she tried to stop them, feeling they did nothing to promote inclusiveness, she was accused of being racist.”

Mrs Robinson was “absent through ill health” for most of last year. She had been due to resume her duties this term, but some parents are understood to have objected to the local authority about her return. A teacher said: “She was under a lot of pressure. The plan was for her to come back but again some of the parents put a stop to that. Many of us here just feel this is all very wrong. Julia was doing the right thing and went through all the right routes. There's no other school we know that has separate assemblies like these. “The buzzword from the authority at the moment is all about community cohesion but there is little cohesion at this school. The staff are very upset at what has happened.”

A mother with three children at the school said that Mrs Robinson was “a marvellous head and loved by the children”. “What she was doing was quite right. The children sit together in class so why shouldn't they share a school assembly?” she said.

A Muslim parent said that the Islamic assemblies, which have been suspended for the past year, taught Muslim children to be good citizens and had “never received negative feedback” before Mrs Robinson's appointment. The parent, who is a police sergeant and a governor, said that the school was a place where children of different ethnic backgrounds “get on fantastically”.

The law in England and Wales states that children at state schools “shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship”, which should be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. The head teacher is responsible for collective worship provision, in consultation with the governors. David Fann, who chairs the primary schools committee of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that he had never known a school to hold separate assemblies for children of different faiths. “Segregating children is not good practice. The whole point is to gather people together to share their views and to learn from other people's viewpoints.”

Some Islamic activists have urged Muslim parents to withdraw their children from school assemblies and to demand the right to hold separate acts of worship. Mrs Robinson was not at her home yesterday and was said to be “staying with friends to avoid the fuss”.


Australia: Careless government school "loses" little boy

A Caboolture mum is furious with her five-year-old son's school after a stranger found him beside a busy road a kilometre away. Stacie Warwick's son Dylan Doelz left his Year 1 classroom at Morayfield State School shortly after school started . without anyone noticing.

Ms Warwick said she was an "absolute wreck'' when the school phoned her at 9.45am last Wednesday to tell her that another mum had found the youngster wandering the streets.

Dylan, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is believed to have left the school soon after his mother dropped him off. She had stayed with him until 8.40am and spoken with his teacher.

She received a call from the school at 9.45am saying Dylan had been found at Morayfield Rd, near Domnick St, and had been returned to the school. He crossed at least three side streets before he was stopped by the other mum, who he didn't know. "He could have been hit by a car. It could have been a psycho who picked him up. There are so many possibilities of what could have happened,'' Ms Warwick said.

Ms Warwick said the woman who found Dylan told her she had to cajole him into her car. "The school definitely did not know he was gone until (the mother) called,'' Ms Warwick said. "It is just appalling. I should know he's safe there.''

After the incident, the school moved Dylan to another class at Ms Warwick's request and he has been moved to a desk near the class teacher. The school has also requested Ms Warwick hand him to the teacher every morning, which she maintains she does already, and offered to place him in "supported play'' at breaks. Here he would be fully supervised but separated from the general school population.

``I've asked that he not be in supported play because he'll feel like he's being punished,'' Ms Warwick said. ``He got quite a scare himself because a stranger pulled over and asked him to get in a car.''

An Education Queensland spokesman said principal Vicky Gahan had met with Ms Warwick over the incident, along with a senior department official. ``While concerned at the incident, the mother has indicated that she is supportive of the actions of the principal in implementing safe practices in the school,'' the spokesman said.

Education Queensland did not respond to the Herald's request to detail the school's procedures on this issue. Ms Warwick said the response from Education Queensland and the school did little to prevent the same thing happening to other pupils.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

British school transforms pupils' behaviour by introducing 'Victorian-style' rules

Discipline works

A school claims to be transforming children's behaviour and results by introducing Victorian-style rules. Pupils at Neville Lovett Community School are encouraged to answer staff with a polite 'yes, Mrs Jones' rather than 'yeah' and stand respectfully behind their desks until the class teacher tells them to sit. They are also required to wait in the corridor in an orderly line before a lesson begins, say 'good morning Sir' as they file into the classroom, arrange their books and stationery neatly on the desk and stand when an adult enters the room.

Headmistress Julie Taylor, who insisted on the revival of old-fashioned good manners and politeness when she arrived in September 2007, says discipline and academic results are improving. Ofsted reported last term that attendance has improved and the number of pupils having to be sent home because of bad behaviour has fallen. Inspectors also said that pupils' progress in key subjects such as maths is improving and that 'attitudes and behaviour around the school and in lessons are good'. Last summer, a respectable 55 per cent of pupils at the school in Fareham, Hampshire achieved five A* to C grades at GCSE or vocational equivalent.

The new school rules are grouped under five headings - working together, following instructions, punctuality, good behaviour and completion of homework. Pupils receive stamps if they abide by the rules. As part of the new regime, pupils have also learnt how to shake hands properly, to take compliments and return them, to keep eye contact and to thank someone for a good turn.

While the school has resurrected some traditional school customs, it has left the harsher side of Victorian discipline to the history books - such as corporal punishment and making pupils wear dunces hats. Mrs Taylor said her emphasis on good manners reflected a fear that politeness was disappearing from society. 'We are teaching our pupils lessons for life because good manners will help them a long way,' she said. 'Good manners are something which was starting to disappear from our society but this school is helping to bring them back.' She added: 'Children line up quietly in the corridor before every lesson and say "good morning Sir or Miss" before they file in.

'Then they put all the things they need for the lesson neatly on the desk and stand and wait before the teacher tells them it's OK to sit down. 'It is all about respect and that is what I am trying to teach here. When any adult comes into the room they have to stand up and we expect them to answer in a clear and concise manner. 'When pupils answer a teacher they don't go "yeah, no or whatever", they answer properly with "yes, Mr Jones or no Mrs Smith". We don't put up with swearing either. 'Pupils have to show respect to teachers and to each other when they speak and it has really improved the learning environment at the school.'

Teachers put stamps in a booklet when they observe that children are following the school's five golden rules. The booklet is then taken home every day so parents can see how their child is behaving in lessons. Mrs Taylor said: 'Pupils know if they don't get enough stamps then they won't be allowed to the end-of-year prom or on school trips. 'When they go on outside excursions we have to be able to trust the pupils to behave in the correct manner.'

Attendance at the school has increased from 89 per cent to 93 per cent and Mrs Taylor believes the insistence on good manners will sson translate into further improvements to GCSE results.


Filed Under "Only in Academia"

Amidst a $2 billion budget shortfall in Georgia, why does Georgia State University employ professors who are self-declared experts in oral sex and male prostitution? That's the question one congressman is asking. Courtesy of the Atlantic Journal Constitution:
A powerful state lawmaker believes Georgia's university system must not be too bad off financially if it can afford to employ experts in such subjects as oral sex and male prostitution. Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) said the university system has resisted accepting the budget cuts that nearly every other part of state government has absorbed as lawmakers fill a $2 billion hole in the budget. Meanwhile, he said, Georgia State University is touting its faculty as experts on issues that are outside what he believes to be the university's mission.

"I'm saying we all need to pull together and when we have things that are extraneous and outrages, which I don't think should be discussed with our tax dollars, maybe some of this will come to mind when we have to make budget cuts," said Hill, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Georgia State, like most colleges and universities, produces an annual guide to its faculty experts. These are professors, instructors, lecturers or administrators with expertise in their particular field. The guide is used by journalists, public policy organizations and governments to find information or experts. Georgia State's 2009 experts guide identifies senior sociology lecturer Mindy Stombler as an expert in oral sex and faculty member Kirk Elifson as an expert in male prostitution.

According to the University's website, Mindy Stombler's latest research explores "the power dynamic embedded in the practices of oral sex, particularly cunnilingus, and connecting conceptualizations of cunnilingus to public discourse." And for the University's defense, enter the gal who probably hates her job right now:
Stombler's work on oral sex has social value, said GSU spokeswoman Andrea Jones. Stombler could not be reached for comment. Stombler, Jones said, "has conducted research to better understand the cultural messages surrounding oral sex and their connection to an increase of such activities among teenagers. This research helps public health officials make policy to deal with this increase."

Isn't this Georgia episode sort of a microcosm of Obama's crap sandwich spending bill? Stupid and uncessary programs that satiate a leftist appetite (with your money), but do nothing meaningful to impact a student's education, or as with the porkulus bill, jolt a listless economy?


Monday, February 09, 2009

UVa Law's Pledge Of Allegiance To Diversity

Prejudice and discrimination is bad -- unless it is prejudice and discrimination against whites, of course

Karin Agness reports (on NRO's Phi Beta Cons) that the Student Bar Association at the University of Virginia law school is encouraging all students to sign the "2009 Diversity Pledge." She quotes the entire Pledge, which I encourage you to read, but I will limit my comments here to its first paragraph:
Every person has worth as an individual. Every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation. Thoughts and acts of prejudice have no place in the UVA Law community.

"Prejudice" is a mental condition - a pre-conceived opinion impervious to facts that don't fit; an idea, value, attitude, belief - and thus it's not clear exactly what an "act of prejudice" would be. No matter, because the budding lawyers would also ban any prejudicial thoughts. Yes, but what is a prejudicial thought? Let us, generously I think, make some assumptions here (assumptions are necessary because the text isn't clear): first, that although what the UVa lawyers-in-waiting actually say is that
Every person has worth as an individual. Every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation...

what they really mean is that every person has equal worth, that every person is entitled to equal dignity and respect, regardless of race, sex, etc. In other words, they seem to be saying no students should be the victim of prejudicial thoughts or acts based on those thoughts because of their class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation (and, if I might make another assumption here, presumably not because of their religion, ethnicity, or national origin as well).

If my assumptions are correct, then this is an impressive pledge (although the attempt to banish even bad thoughts in Mr. Jefferson's University is overreaching a bit). But, alas, my assumptions can't possibly be correct, because if these future lawyers really meant that everyone should be treated without regard to race, etc., they would have to oppose UVa's heavy use of race preferences in admissions, and of course they do not. A 2002 study by the Center for Equal Opportunity found that the UVa law school gives a
massive preference to black applicants over their Hispanic, white, and Asian counterparts. The relative odds of admission of a black over a white applicant for UVA, controlling for other factors, were almost 650 to 1 in 1998 and 730 to 1 in 1999 (the highest in any CEO study).

The practice of rewarding some and penalizing others because of their race or ethnicity is not consistent with the pledge to treat everyone with equal respect regardless of their race or ethnicity.


The more I think about UVa's Diversity Pledge, the more I think of ... Miss Faulk. As I wrote here:
My eighth grade teacher, the formidable Miss Faulk, refused to require (or, as I recall, even allow) students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. She had no problem with "under God," but Miss Faulk was a fiercely unreconstructed Confederate, and she had a great deal of trouble with "one nation, indivisible."

Modern liberals are, of course, much more sensitive than Miss Faulk. They want to extend the borders of "inclusion" so that no one will be or even feel different, isolated, excluded.

Well, maybe not no one. What about the feelings of any students who might be skeptical about this Pledge, who refused to sign because, although they had no problem with the abstract "diverse" thoughts it expressed, they held principled objections to the "diverse" actions that flowed inexorably from these thoughts? Would not such students feel "different," unwanted, excluded if the Pledge were posted or published and their names were conspicuously absent?

Given their devotion to "diversity," it's almost surprising that the UVa Student Bar Association settled for encouraging everyone merely to sign its Pledge. If "diversity" is so important to the law student "community," why settle for a mere paper Pledge? Why not ask (require?) that the day begin with the Pledge broadcast every morning throughout the law school? Students who did not want to be exposed to this daily devotional could be allowed to opt out, perhaps by being supplied with a set of ear plugs (paid for, of course, out of student activity fees).


Snow-phobic Britain: The health and safety rules that closed many schools

And with all that marvellous bureaucratic Leftist "planning" they could not even provide as much gritting salt as they needed

The stringent health and safety rules which forced thousands of schools to close following heavy snowfalls can be revealed for the first time. Diktats issued to head teachers specify in precise detail the width of paths that must be cleared and the amount of grit to be laid. They are even asked to consider the weight of the shovel provided to caretakers in order to prevent overexertion.

Travellers faced another day of difficult conditions yesterday , when plunging overnight temperatures created treacherous conditions on many roads as melted snow turned into sheet ice. Forecasters warned that more bad weather is on its way, with more snow expected to fall in the North and Scotland today and tomorrow , with rain and sleet across southern England.

More than 2.5 million children at over 8,000 schools across the country were forced to stay at home for parts of last week, keeping millions of parents off work and costing the economy billions of pounds in lost business. But a Sunday Telegraph investigation has found that it was often not the snow that paralysed schools, but health and safety guidelines which demand that heads eliminate almost all risk.
* In Kent, the county council told head teachers that they have no power to direct staff to turn up if a teacher decides that the weather conditions are dangerous. The head must also make allowances for nervous or new drivers and even take account of the kind of car they drive. "Take in to consideration disability, nervous or new drivers, four-wheel drive and other things that affect ease of journey," its guidance says.

* Gloucestershire County Council, where more than 90 schools were closed, said head teachers needed to take account of the effect of the snow on caretakers whose job it was to clear the snow. The advice says heads must even "consider the size of shovel provided" to ensure it does not place extra strain "on the stomach, back and abdominal muscles and helps prevent overexertion". Heads are also told that they are responsible for ensuring "frequent breaks are taken when snow clearing" and that those clearing snow "go inside and warm up".

* In Hertfordshire, the health and safety policy specifies that a "one metre wide path" must be cleared from the site entrance to the school. Heads were also asked to carry out "moving and handling" assessments to determine whether wheelbarrows are needed to move grit.

* The Isle of Wight told its staff that precisely "6mm of rock salt and grit sand mix" must be used on surfaces that are prone to get icy.

* In Leicester, teachers were sent a missive entitled "A gritty issue" which warned them that "the general use of salt is not an automatic defence to a claim if someone is injured by a slip or a fall".

* Walsall Council told its staff: "The safety of pupils on their journey to and from school and the nature of that journey will need to be considered. The safety of pupils once they reach home will also need to be considered."

Chris Hassall, the head teacher of Taylor Road primary school in Leicester, which remained open while other schools in the city were shut all week, said: "Heads are damned if they do and damned if they don't. "The local authority is warning you might get sued and parents are risk averse. Heads are thinking 'What's in it for me if I break ranks and open? Absolutely nothing.'"

Motoring organisations yesterday warned of dangerous road conditions as councils struggled to cope with shortages of grit. Police forces across the West Country advised motorists to only make journeys if they were essential as many roads were covered in black ice. Roads across Wiltshire were particularly badly affected, with several closures on Friday night and Saturday morning. Local authorities in some areas gave up trying to clear minor roads after running out of gritting salt and are concentrating only on main routes.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Chicago's Daley the Younger says charter schools keep the system honest.

Richard Daley is rarely sick, and he doesn't believe in snow days. Sitting in an office high above his frozen city this week, the über mayor is fighting a flu and talking about Chicago's image. The city has been under the klieg lights lately as the hometown of President Obama, and because of its bid for the 2016 Olympics. Then there's Rod Blagojevich, who, when I sat down with Mayor Daley, had just become the first governor in Illinois history to be impeached....

Mr. Daley has just made what many considered a big sacrifice for Mr. Obama and the new administration, sending them Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan to be education secretary. Mr. Duncan is considered by many as a reformer in the same echelon as New York Schools chief Joel Klein and Washington, D.C., Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and his time in Chicago was marked by a strong commitment to charter schools, as well an improbable ability to work with both teachers' unions and reformers. But he wouldn't have had the opportunity if it weren't for Mr. Daley, who took direct control of the schools, making himself politically accountable for fixing what was widely seen as a broken system.

He laid out a series of goals in the citywide Renaissance 2010 plan, including closing 70 failing schools and opening 100 new ones. The move wasn't popular with neighborhoods and administrators who were losing schools. But Mr. Daley asks: "How long can they fail? Thirty, 40, 50 years?. . . We have to be able to save this generation and other generations"

Mr. Daley believes the goals of public education should be global competitiveness. "When children in America go to school six hours a day, that's 30 hours a week they get 25 hours of instruction." That's only about three full working days, he says, far less than kids are getting in other rising countries, especially in Asia.

Mayor Daley also sees an important role for charter schools. "You can't have a monopoly and think a monopoly works. Slowly it dissolves. And I think that charter schools are good to compete with public schools." Nobody says there's something wrong with public universities facing competition from private ones. "I think the more competition we have, the better off we are in Chicago."

But the mayor won't support vouchers. "School choice is hard. You're going back to arguing," he says, trailing off without making clear whether he means the politics. But he does think it's notable that, while federal money and Pell grants can be used to finance an education at a private college, federal money can't be used to help students get a private education at the K-12 level.

Ron Huberman, Mr. Daley's former chief of staff and head of the Chicago Transit Authority, is anything but an education bureaucrat, and that's just what the mayor wants in the man he named to replace Mr. Duncan as chief of Chicago schools. Too often in the past, before the mayor took over, the city would bring in schools chiefs who seemed to be riding an education lazy-susan from school to school. "We'd give them big bonuses to come here and then when we'd fire them they'd go to other school systems." Mr. Huberman's selection may have caused consternation in the education bureaucracy but, "this is a manager, this is a CEO," says Mr. Daley. He means an accountable leader.

More here
Arrogant British schoolteachers

Last week, before the snow, I received a distinctly snotty letter from one of my youngest son's school mistresses, rebuking me for my failure to attend a parents' evening at his comprehensive. 'I was disappointed that you were unable to attend,' she wrote. She went on: 'Attendance at the annual Parents' Meeting is part of the Home-School agreement that you signed on your child's admission.' But it was the last sentence that really irritated me: 'If you have not already notified the school in writing of the reason why you were unable to attend, please return the reply slip below so that it can be recorded in the student file.'

Blimey! I hadn't been ticked off like that since I was a schoolboy myself, summoned to the headmaster's study to account for the appearance of a frog in the matron's room. I can understand how teachers get into the habit of addressing everyone like children. But at the age of 55, I rather resent being treated like a delinquent teenager for my failure to attend a meeting arranged for the school's convenience, not mine. I remembered, too, that her original summons had been just as bossy, telling me it was 'essential' that all parents should attend and that we should make sure to arrive before 5.30pm so that we would have time to meet all our son's teachers before the meeting ended at 8.30pm.

Well, I don't finish work until 9.30pm at the earliest. I wondered how this teacher would feel if I summoned her to my office on the other side of London at a time she couldn't manage - and then demanded a written explanation and apology. Besides, I've always found these evenings a complete waste of time for teachers and parents alike. Yes, I know that my boys are intelligent, and I know that they could work harder. Why should my wife and I have to queue for three hours to be told that, by one teacher after another?

Fizzing with indignation, therefore, I seized the reply slip - headed in bold type 'Non Attendance at Year 11 Parents Meeting' and beginning 'I/we were not able to attend the Year 11 Parents Meeting because. . .'. I wrote: 'In these desperate times for job security in the private sector, I simply cannot afford to take time off in the middle of my working day to accommodate your desire to get home early and your unwillingness to hold parents' evenings at the weekend. I am disappointed that you seem unable to appreciate what is happening in the world beyond the school gates.' I reckoned that if she could be snotty, then so could I.

My poor son was horrified. 'You just can't send that,' he said. 'You can't!' He told me it made me sound disgustingly pompous and arrogant. Oh, all right, what he actually said was that it made me sound like a 'd***head'. He wouldn't be able to show his face in school ever again if his teacher read it. In fact, he would have to kill me.

Still indignant, I stuck to my guns and gave the reply slip to my wife to post in the morning, since our boy was obviously not going to hand it in himself. She put it in her handbag. The following day, it had disappeared. Somebody had got up in the middle of the night and disposed of it. If truth be told, I was quite glad. In the cold light of dawn, I could see that what I'd written was indeed a little hoity-toity and unfair, and that the moral ground on which I stood was not quite as high as it had seemed the night before.

After all, journalists' working hours are unusual, and probably most parents would have been able to make it to the school by 5.30pm without too much disruption. I supposed, too, that with its very mixed catchment area, my son's school must have problems with feckless parents who don't really care about their children's education. Perhaps his teacher's hectoring language was understandable - and, yes, perhaps I could have made more effort to find someone to cover for me so that I could attend the wretched meeting. Then there was the fact that my son had said he particularly liked this teacher. I suspect that, with her strong disciplinarian streak, she is also very good at her job. The last thing I wanted was to stir up ill-feeling.

But that was last week, before Sunday night's snowfall. On Monday morning, when my son arrived at school, he found it closed for the day - and it was shut on Tuesday, too. (His elder brother's school, further out of town, was also shut on Wednesday.) For heaven's sake, why? Almost all the pupils at my youngest's school live within walking distance of its gates - and I suspect most of the teachers do, too. Is there really a law which makes schools financially answerable for falls in the playground, when everywhere for miles around is covered in ice? If so, it's a damned silly one, which should be repealed immediately.

As I trudged to work through the snow on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while my sons' teachers snuggled up under their duvets, I found myself wishing that I had indeed posted my hoity-toity reply slip. The moral high ground was mine once again!

I haven't managed to lay my hands on that 'Home-School agreement'. But if it really obliges me to attend parents' evenings, shouldn't it also have a clause suggesting that teachers should turn up to work in term-time - even when it's a little parky? The closures weren't so bad for me because my young are just old enough to be left at home alone. But what about those hundreds of thousands of working parents of younger children, who had to take time off work themselves if they couldn't make alternative childcare arrangements?

There's a public sector mentality at work here - both in the casual assumption that we can all abandon our factories and offices to attend parents' meetings and in the failure of so many schools to make any effort to stay open in the snow.

Of course, there are many thousands of dedicated teachers in this land, who constantly put themselves out for their pupils and who often don't get the recognition they richly deserve. But I can't help remembering, too, that every day of the school year, an average of 15,000 teachers in Britain are off sick - whatever the weather. It's the same in the police force, where absenteeism is endemic, and in almost every other area of the public sector. I notice, for example, that my newsagent managed to deliver my papers yesterday, whereas the postman hasn't called all week. They have the same hill and the same ice to contend with. The difference is that one works in the private sector, while the other works in the public, where there's much less need to bother.

Indeed, I find this increasing divide between the two sectors of our economy even more worrying in its implications for social cohesion than the row over foreign workers. Only this week, we learned that a quarter of our council taxes now go to financing gold-plated, final-salary town hall pensions which are now all but unavailable in the private sector. Meanwhile, state-sector workers are paid on average 62 pounds a week more than their private-sector counterparts.

As the recession bites harder, I see trouble ahead - particularly since the public sector goes on expanding, while jobs in private industry are disappearing at a terrifying rate. Schools Secretary Ed Balls's latest wheeze, I notice, is to set up 20,000 public sector apprenticeships - including jobs for school-leavers as assistant teachers. I can tell you that if I get any snotty letters from a 16-year-old, with three GCSEs, admonishing me for failing to attend a parents' evening, I won't be answerable for my actions.