Tuesday, February 02, 2010

St. Louis U’s Inverted Values

by David Horowitz

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week I was in Washington, where I visited with three U.S. Senators and three Congressmen, including the whips of both houses. I was meeting Eric Cantor for the first time, but all the others had appeared at events I had hosted or provided blurbs for my political books. Jon Kyl, the Minority Whip in the Senate invited me to a lunch to address the Republican Senate leadership lunch on my next trip to Washington. I mention this because while I was waiting for my return flight in Dulles airport I received a call from my office informing me that a speech I had been invited to give at St. Louis University two weeks later would be cancelled because of conditions that had been set by university administrators that could not be met.

In particular, the administrator in charge, Dean Scott Smith, had told the student whose group had invited me that “Horowitz would never be allowed to speak on a platform alone at Saint Louis University. He could be invited only if there was another speaker on the program to oppose his point of view.” Moreover, the dean continued, while my speaking fee had to be paid by the College Republicans who had invited me, my designated opponent would have his fees and expenses paid by the university. The clear message was that the St. Louis University would not allow its own funds to be tainted by such an unwelcome speaker.

This was the second attempt by the students to invite me, and the second time Dean Smith had thrown a roadblock on their invitation. In October, he had said I could not speak unattended because I would “insinuate that all Muslims are fascists,” something I have never done. In fact, there are videos of my speeches all over the web in which I say just the opposite.

It should be said that while administrators apply these restrictions to critics of radical Islam, no such rules are invoked for Holocaust deniers or supporters of communist genocides. Both Norman Finkelstein and Angela Davis have been invited as standalone speakers at St. Louis University, without anti-communists and defenders of Israel on stage to refute them.

I decided to call Smith’s bluff and suggested that I debate Cary Nelson, the well-to-the left president of the American Association of University Professors, on the subject of academic freedom. I called Cary and he agreed. Smith didn’t like this because he was aware that Nelson had responded to his attempt to bar me from speaking by saying that St. Louis University was a “university in name only.” So Smith asked the student host Dan Laub why the subject had changed from Islamo-fascism to academic freedom. Why indeed!

But again I decided to test his mettle and told Dan that the subject we would debate would be Academic Freedom and Islamo-Fascism. Curve ball. Smith came back with a new caveat. There would have to be a third speaker to mind Cary and me and put our discussion in the framework of “Catholic Values.” Some joke. What Catholic Values did the communist Angela Davis or the atheist Norman Finkelstein express when they spoke alone?

Better yet, this weekend Dean Smith and the Catholics at St. Louis University hosted a three day conference put on by the Muslim Student Association, a well-established front for the Muslim Brotherhood. The conference dealt with religious themes such as why requiring two women to be a witness or letting them inherit only half of what a man does or requiring them to submit to their husbands represents “the perfection of our religion.”


A brilliant British pupil -- by State school standards

I often mention posts from other blogs, as there is so much out there worth reading. But I recently read one which I wanted to share in more detail. It is a brilliant read - and extremely thought provoking.

Miss Snuffleupagus is a black teacher in London who's never scared to speak her mind. She writes a fantastic, honest, blog, To Miss With Love , about teaching in the inner-city. She's a talented writer and it really is worth reading what she says - often about the frustrations of pupils who don't care about learning and don't take it seriously.

A few months ago, I mentioned one of her posts because it tied in so beautifully with another piece I had just posted. The topic was Oxbridge, and whether colleges were now discriminating against private school applicants. Just a few days after posting on this, I read an article by Miss Snuffleupagus where she said, as a state school teacher, that the universities must be discriminating - otherwise all the places would go to the privately educated....

It's ironic that this topic has now reared its head again, in a beautifully written, heartfelt post, entitled the best they've ever seen. Here Miss Snuffleupagus and the head of her school are in shock. A pupil she calls Brilliant didn't get into Oxford. "Brilliant is one of the brightest girls I have ever known," she writes. "She is also kind, determined, responsible and utterly superb in every possible way. We thought for sure she’d get in. If she doesn’t get in, then who does?" The school has been told that the Oxford college took six pupils and that Brilliant was number seven. Miss S thinks it's "unlucky."

"My Head winces at my statement," she writes. "‘Well, no, I just wish I could be like the old boys and ring up someone and say Hello, this is Mr Contacts here, I’m just wondering ahem, about you know, well, I understand there isn’t a place for her at your college, but might we not find her a place at another college?’

I draw my eyebrows together demonstrating disagreement.

‘Well that’s what they say in the books about how it’s done!’ My Head shouts.

‘Yes, but that was ages ago… I don’t think that now…’

My Head laughs. ‘You know they said that her essays were the BEST essays that they have ever seen from a state school student before!... The BEST! What does that mean? She’s the best but we won’t have her?’

I nod, thinking lots of things, and not saying any of them.

My Head shakes his head. ‘Well, I won’t go into it, we all know there are issues with Oxbridge taking state students and well, I won’t waste time talking about it.’"

Why didn't Brilliant get in? Was it because of her school? Was it because she actually wasn't good enough? Or wasn't she prepared properly for the interview. We all know that Oxbridge is incredibly over-subscribed. Not everyone can get in. Everyone who applies is extremely clever and the interviews do really matter - private schools make sure their pupils are extremely well prepared. But one phrase haunts Miss S. She writes:

‘From a state school applicant’… the words reverberate around my head as I walk down the hall. If Brilliant is the best that we can produce and all that means in the grand scheme of things is that her essays are only good by state school standards, then what on earth are they doing in private schools?

What must they be teaching in private schools? What are they able to do with their kids that we cannot do? I guess they aren’t chasing loads of bad behaviour. I guess they’re actually able to teach for an entire lesson. I guess they plan their lessons according to what would make for good learning, as opposed to what will keep them in their seats. I guess they can teach their children whatever they want and are not bound by the national curriculum and influenced by the madness that all lessons must be ‘fun’. I guess they simply live in a different world."

The state school/private school divide continues and we shouldn't expect universities to pick up the pieces. I am not at all convinced that the top universities discriminate against state school pupils. I think they want to teach the best overall and will make their decision to reflect that. But I feel sorry for Brilliant and the school.


Australia: Incompetent teachers must be given the boot

More power for principals to hire and fire would help

THE suggestion that poor children will not do well at school is both offensive and misguided. Anyone who knows much about education and teaching understands this simple fact: quality educational outcomes are directly related to quality teaching. It is the sleeper in the My School website.

Research has persistently shown better teachers mean better results. Do you think I am overstating the case? Well, consider this. According to the findings of the benchmark 2005 Department of Education, Science and Training's national inquiry into the teaching of literacy: "Highly effective teachers and their professional learning do make a difference in the classroom. It is not so much what students bring with them from their backgrounds, but what they experience on a day-to-day basis in interaction with teachers and other students that matters. Teaching quality has strong effects on children's experiences of schooling, including their attitudes, behaviours and achievement outcomes.

"Thus there is need for a major focus on teacher quality, and building capacity in teachers towards quality, evidence-based teaching practices that are demonstrably effective in maximising the developmental and learning needs of all children."

Even so, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chairman Barry McGaw, in The Weekend Australian, trotted out the tired and irresponsible argument that governments need to do more to "reduce the impact of demography on school results".

The demographic argument has been used by state governments for years to justify low school achievement. No matter that before the My School website indicated performance nationwide, the Australian Council for Education Research could demonstrate that it was not a question of where you lived but who taught you that affected educational outcomes.

If this was not the case, why then are the Teach for Australia flying squads of super university graduates targeting underperforming schools? While the Teach for Australia idea is significantly flawed in terms of adequate classroom preparation of teachers, it has identified that good teachers make a difference. McGaw cites evidence that, on the basis of comparable OECD data, in Australia "poorer schools and schools in poorer communities struggle to a greater extent". However, the answer is not physical resources or postcodes but who is in front of the class. I am a secondary teacher. I came from a poor family, lived in a working-class area and was superbly taught in Victorian state schools. My father was a storeman and bought me a desk, on hire purchase, so I could do my schoolwork. There were many children just like me. I owe my tertiary education to gifted teachers.

Why does the Australian Education Union cover for incompetence? What the AEU fails to address with any kind of serious intent is working co-operatively with governments to get rid of poor teachers. Education Minister Julia Gillard is savvy on the question of quality assurance in the classroom. This is why she can say: "A poor child can get fantastic results." How? Teacher quality must improve.

National primary and secondary principals associations have recognised that there is a direct correlation between a principal's ability to select staff and school results. Leonie Trimper, president of the Australian Primary Principals' Association, pithily noted last December: "Name any company that sits back for Centrelink to ring and say, `Here's your 10 staff.' "

In Victoria, taking a leaf out of Queensland's approach, there are $50,000 golden goodbyes on the table for poor teachers.

While the AEU can recite the mantra that the My School website - as federal president Angelo Gavrielatos did on ABC radio on the morning of the launch - is "inaccurate, incomplete and invalid", the question every parent in the country should be asking is: Does my school have quality teachers? If not, why not?

Those who link demographics with student performance are simply not facing reality. Poor children deserve quality education. If they do not get it, then look to the teachers.



Anonymous said...

The comment about the flying squads of super graduates got me thinking.

Why do we need teaching qualifications at all? Especially at secondary level. If someone has a good degree in a sensible discipline (which rules out social work and wimmins studies) and can be given a short course on classroom control, lesson prep, curriculum and how to shuffle govt paperwork then let them at it.

Screw the essays on social studies, pedagogy and other time wasting rubbish. Give a good overview of what they need for the job. The rest can come through professional development.

Too many teachers are timeservers and follow the maxim "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"

Anonymous said...

Watch and read mohammed T-shirt art from Sweden at,

Robert said...

Any person knowledgeable in a subject should make for at least a decent teacher, if not a good or great one. For example, I feel confident I could teach math, and maybe figure out a way to teach it that would keep the interest of kids. No teaching credential necessary. Maybe some day I could make an offer to a state in dire financial straits that is looking to save money on education - "Give me half of what you're spending on this school now, and I'll teach all the kids in the area who want to attend it."