Monday, January 04, 2010

Latino numbers increasing at public universities

University officials say Latinos are an increasingly important group of students to attract, retain and graduate - not only to keep tuition rolling in, but also to ensure that tomorrow's workers have the highest possible chances of earning a good living and becoming productive citizens.

Erika Bahamon, born to Colombian immigrants in southern Texas, had never seen so many white faces as when she showed up for classes at Iowa State University. "So many blond people - I didn't know it was so common," recalled a laughing Bahamon, now a 21-year-old senior majoring in pre-med.

It probably won't always be that way. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group on the campuses of ISU, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa, as they are in Iowa and the nation. At this rate, there could be more Latinos on Iowa's college campuses than African-Americans or Asians within a few years.

University officials say Latinos are an increasingly important group of students to attract, retain and graduate - not only to keep tuition rolling in, but also to ensure that tomorrow's workers have the highest possible chances of earning a good living and becoming productive citizens. "This is an obligation we owe to the state of Iowa and to our own future," U of I Provost Wallace Loh said.

The wave of Latino students has already been seen in Iowa's elementary, middle and high schools. Their numbers have increased nearly 150 percent in the past decade, becoming the schools' largest minority group in 2001, according to the Iowa Department of Education. That compares to a 63 percent increase in African-American students, now the second largest minority group, a 26 percent increase among Asian students and a 24 percent increase in American Indian students. The number of white students fell 11 percent in the same period, although they still make up 85.6 percent of all students.

Now the wave is showing up at Iowa's public universities:

• At ISU, the number of Latinos increased 33 percent to 595 between 2004 and 2008, while the number of African-Americans and Asians remained relatively steady. Latinos now account for 2.8 percent of undergraduates. International students are counted separately.

• At the U of I, Latinos have been the second largest minority group among students since at least 2005. In 2009, they numbered 936, which is 3.2 percent of enrollment. And their numbers are increasing at twice the rate of Asian students, still the largest minority group on campus.

• At UNI, the number of Latino students more than doubled in 10 years, from 105 in 1999 to 282 in 2009. They are now the second largest minority group on campus, with 2.2 percent of students, and growing faster than all others.

"The future of higher education in Iowa is becoming much more diverse," said ISU Professor Laura Rendón, a Latina and chairwoman of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. The benefits of more minorities on campus are not for the minorities alone, she said. By being exposed to people of many backgrounds and ethnicities, white students learn in college what it's like in an increasingly diverse world. "We cannot continue to work in silos - whites with whites, African-Americans with African-Americans, Latinos with Latinos," Rendón said. "The new world order is calling for a new global consciousness on the part of individuals."

Making a campus more diverse is not without challenges, however. Recruiting Latinos has its own obstacles. National studies have shown that Latinos typically attain less education than others, and surveys have found that the number of young Latinos who plan to go to college is well below average. In Iowa, many Latinos came to the state to work in agriculture, as well as meat-packing and chicken-processing plants, Rendón said. Students and university officials say many of those parents did not go to college, so they struggle to coach their children toward college, if they do at all....

But just getting the students to college is not enough. "The main issue is retention - it's a problem," said ISU senior Brian Casto, 21, a civil engineering senior from Puerto Rico and president of Sigma Lambda Beta. He said the learning environment at ISU is good, and that Ames residents try to be open to other cultures. But he said minority students new to Iowa State often find themselves with no one to relate to.

For him, it was the fraternity - not one with a house, just a tight group of friends. "If I never met the fraternity, I probably would have been out of here a long time ago," he said. "It's a culture shock."

He didn't blame white students, however. He said they are usually glad to become friends with minority students - if they connect with each other in the first place. Casto said minority students too often stick together....

More here

British universities: seats of learning – and loathing

Many British universities are breeding grounds for Muslim extremism. Islamic specialist Ruth Dudley Edwards explains why financial need and government interference have rendered academics oblivious to this threat to democratic society

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “never gave his tutors any cause for concern, and was a well-mannered, quietly spoken, polite and able young man”, explained University College London, as it busily seemed to wash its hands of any responsibility for fostering a suicide bomber who attempted to down a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. While of course, said Provost Malcolm Grant, the authorities would be reflecting very carefully, students were admitted on merit and there could be no vetting “of their political, racial or religious background or beliefs”.

What Abdulmutallab’s parents must be wondering is what happened to the college’s duty of care towards their son. Did no tutor talk to him about his life outside engineering? Did it concern no one that this lonely boy had taken to wearing Islamic dress? Wasn’t anyone worried about the radicalism of the “War on Terror Week” Abdulmutallab organised as president? Did anyone know he had asked a “hate-preacher” to address the society? Or did UCL think their job was simply to teach the boy engineering in exchange for his father’s large cheques?

As a writer on Irish terrorism, who knew how easily idealistic teenagers could be transformed into ruthless terrorists, I became fascinated by what was happening on a much larger scale in Islamist circles. Years of studying the religion and politics of Islam have given me an insight into young people like Abdulmutallab which his tutors seem to have lacked.

It’s not that universities haven’t had enough warnings. Sheikh Musa Admani, an imam at London Metropolitan University, pleaded with both the Home Office and academic leaders to supervise and control Islamic societies. He spoke eloquently of vulnerable, friendless first-year students, confused about the conflict between Islam and hedonistic secular values, who are natural prey for Islamist evangelists offering companionship, brotherly love and a clear sense of identity.

Admani’s common-sense advice – for instance, that prayer rooms should be open to all, not just Muslims, and that speakers should be vetted – were seemingly ignored by most academics and officials. So what he had observed continued: university after university provided Muslim prayer rooms that were all too often taken over by extremists who changed the locks, showed innocent freshers heavy-duty propaganda films of Muslim suffering at the hands of wicked Jews, Americans and Brits, and brought to the campus inspirational speakers who encouraged the young to sacrifice themselves for Allah.

Then there was Professor Anthony Glees who, four years ago in his book When Students Turn to Terror, named more than 30 universities where “extremist and/or terror groups” were to be found. He was denounced by the National Union of Students and met with hostility from the academic establishment. The following year, when an all-party parliamentary commission reported on the rise in anti-Semitism that was accompanying increasing support for Islamism on campuses, in the words of its chairman, the respected Denis MacShane, “university vice-chancellors and the university lecturers’ union pooh-poohed our concerns”. And when the Government finally became alarmed, its suggestion that academics should keep an eye on their students and report signs of extremism was angrily rejected by the same union (University and College Union), which boasts a substantial minority who want an academic boycott against Israel.

And all this denial has continued, despite a steady stream of evidence about the university background of notorious jihadists like Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the murderer of Daniel Pearl (London School of Economics), the London bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan (Leeds Metropolitan), Kafeel Ahmed (Cambridge), who blew himself up at Glasgow Airport, and Omar Rehman (Westminster) now serving 15 years for conspiracy to blow up several UK and US targets. There are close to 100,000 Muslim students in the UK, and extremists are swimming among them. In the work of radicalisation, the agents of the controversial Hizb ut-Tahrir – which works to set up a global caliphate – infest the campuses of Britain unchecked.

The truth is that a mixture of greed, knee-jerk Left-wingery, anti-Semitism and pusillanimity have combined to make our universities breeding grounds for Islamism. The greed is two‑fold. Starved of funds and bullied by the Government into dropping standards in the name of social and ethnic diversity, universities court more foreign students than they can cope with and do nothing to upset them. Equally alarmingly, they woo benefactors from such rotten societies as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In A Degree of Influence: the Funding of Strategically Important Subjects in UK Universities, the Centre for Social Cohesion revealed how universities have been seduced by vast sums of money from Arabic and Islamic sources. At Cambridge and Edinburgh, for instance, appointees of Prince Alwaleed, the Saudi principal donor of the Islamic Studies centres, sit on the management committee. The Al-Maktoum Institute, which has its degrees validated by the University of Aberdeen, exists to disseminate the political and religious vision of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London ordered the removal from an exhibition of a photo taken by a Saudi artist lest it insult Muslims.

The anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda emanating from some SOAS academics and students has made a once-great institution a joke. The editor of its student newspaper assures us that because of its wicked past as a facilitator of colonialism, the school has gone through a process of intellectual reorientation. Its “mentality and values”, we are told, “now seem to reflect an acute awareness of the subtle forms that racism can take.” That seems to mean that anyone with a claim to be an underdog can do and say anything they like.

Academics tend towards the Left and, for a variety of perverse reasons, the Left has allied itself with radical Islam, choosing to ignore the brutality, the oppression of women, the stifling of dissent and many of the other repellent aspects of countries ruled by Sharia law. There will always be a substantial body of students who are idealistic, radical and hot-headed, but all too many academics seem incapable of grasping that the Islamist variety is a threat to the very foundations of democratic society: even the worst of the small number of student lunatics in the late Sixties were not suicide bombers intent on random mass murder.

Worse still, fearful of being accused of racism and cultural insensitivity, the academic establishment is running scared of Islamic bully-boys. Supporters of the BNP would be run off campuses where there are no rebukes for proponents of Islamic fascism and murder.

Society has always laughed at the unworldliness of ivory towers, but the times are too dangerous now for such indulgence. If vice-chancellors of universities that contain festering ideological cesspits do not clear them out, they should be replaced.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was by all accounts a decent, virtuous teenager who wanted to do good but, lost and alone in London, he fell into a malign embrace. Indifference, cowardice and neglect on the part of those who should have protected him may have contributed to the causes that turned him into a would-be agent of death. Rather than producing mealy-mouthed defensive statements, it is my personal opinion that Provost Grant should seriously reconsider his position. And the heads of all those universities who are duty-bound to prevent the corruption of confused young men in their care should have the decency to admit their failures and follow suit.


The lasting guarantee of a decent education

Britain owes its national curriculum to Matthew Arnold. It would be folly to lose it, says David Conway

Critics of the national curriculum – and they are legion in our classrooms and teacher training colleges – seem curiously unaware that the first person to propose such a curriculum for England was Matthew Arnold. Today, Arnold is best known as a leading Victorian social and literary critic, as well as a poet. But education was in his blood. His father, Thomas, was the famed headmaster of Rugby School and for 35 years Arnold was also an elementary schools inspector. It was in that capacity that, on several occasions, he was asked by parliamentary commissions to tour Europe and inspect educational arrangements there, reporting back with recommendations on how schooling in England might be improved.

The foreign schools that most impressed Arnold were those of France and Prussia. Both had started to subsidise their secondary schools in ways England had not. Additionally, both had introduced into them strikingly similar curricula which, and not by accident, bear striking resemblance to both the 1904 Regulations for Secondary Schools – the first ever attempt at prescribing classroom subjects in secondary schools – and the present national curriculum introduced in 1988.

Arnold unhesitatingly recommended that England should introduce generous state subsidy to secondary schools as well as a common curriculum similar to those that he had seen in France and Prussia. Writing in 1868, he proposed that, during the junior years of secondary school, pupils should study, "the mother-tongue, the elements of Latin, and of the chief modern languages, the elements of history, of arithmetic and geometry, of geography, and of the knowledge of nature."

Arnold believed such a curriculum would be "the first great stage of a liberal education". He did not invent the idea of such a form of education. Its roots go back to classical antiquity, when it was widely recognised that, to use Aristotle's words, "there is a form of education which we must provide for our sons, not as being useful or essential but as elevated and worthy of free men."

Arnold believed liberal education should be the prime aim of all schooling beyond the most elementary and crudely vocational. His reasons have great contemporary relevance, given how increasingly less focused on traditional subjects state-schooling is becoming: "The aim and office of instruction… is to enable a man to know himself and the world… To know himself, a man must know the capabilities and performances of the human spirit… [which is] the value of the humanities… but it is also a vital and formative knowledge to know the world, the laws which govern nature, and man as a part of nature."

For Arnold, and all who followed him, the principal value of such knowledge was not vocational, however useful such knowledge might be. Its main value was thought to reside in its providing a sound basis for action, as well as the means to appreciate and derive insight and solace from "the best which has been said and thought". This was Arnold's term for culture whose canonical literary and artistic works, he believed, it should be the aim of schooling to make the patrimony of everyman.

Arnold's educational ideas proved hugely influential in England. All subsequent major educationists there proposed variants of his curriculum as national curricula. These proponents range from Robert Morant, responsible for the 1904 Regulations, to the members of the Hadow Committee, which included Richard Tawney, and those of the Norwood Committee. Really, it is as a result of Arnold's influence that England can be said to have the national curriculum it acquired.

Yet ever since it was introduced two decades ago, teachers and those who train them have complained it is hopelessly outmoded and overly academic. As a result of the influence such critics have had in recent years, the national curriculum has undergone steady erosion. Its original subjects have increasingly been squeezed to make room for non-subject approaches, greater vocational emphasis, as well as a raft of new, less traditional subjects such as citizenship.

But a liberal education is too edifying and unifying to be allowed once more to become the exclusive preserve of only those children with parents sufficiently affluent to be able to purchase one at an independent school. Neither misplaced child-centredness, nor excessive concern for greater parental choice and supply-side diversity –however desirable these last two goals might be – should be allowed to sacrifice the liberal education that is alone provided through a broad subject-based curriculum.

The case, then, for retaining the national curriculum remains compelling. That being said, in its current form, it does need to be made less prescriptive and constraining of schools and teachers. That is an easy enough reform for any incoming administration dedicated to ensuring that every child enjoys the benefits of a liberal education.


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