Sunday, February 21, 2010

What union leaders really think

Today’s NY Post reveals a moment of honesty from a NY union official.
Albany Police Officers Union President Chris Mesley says that, regardless of the faltering economy, a no-raise new contract is unacceptable.

And to hell with the public. "I'm not running a popularity contest here," Mesley said. "If I'm the bad guy to the average citizen . . . and their taxes have go up to cover my raise, I'm very sorry about that, but I have to look out for myself and my membership."

Mesley added: "As the president of the local, I will not accept 'zeroes.' If that means . . . ticking off some taxpayers, then so be it."

In the real world, when bubbles pop and markets contract, everyone has to take a haircut. In the world of politicians and unions, political muscle wins, regardless of economic circumstance.

Other unions are just as bad. When mayor Bloomberg proposed to increase teacher salaries by “just” 2 percent last month, the UFT responded, “The Mayor’s proposal is simply unacceptable… The UFT will continue - as we have always done - to work to protect the schools of New York City.”

But the teacher’s union recently turned down $700 million in federal funding for NY schools teachers because the extra money would have been paid based on performance. The NY Daily News reports:
“[T]he union submitted a document stating, "Test score data cannot be used for teacher evaluation or individual compensation." [Union president] Mulgrew also demanded extra arbitration for teachers found ineffective under a new grading system.”

In other words: whatever you do, don’t change our insane work rules, and don’t make it possible to get rid of ineffective teachers.


Tolerating Violence Against Jews on Campus

In a country where multiculturalism has a reverent following and criticism of protected minorities has essentially been criminalized as “hate speech,” it is more than ironic that on some Canadian campuses radical students have taken it upon themselves to target one group, Jewish students, with a hatred that is nominally forbidden for any others. And with a recent incident that took place at the beginning of February, York University in particular, has now revealed a troubling pattern of tolerating physical and emotional assaults by pro-Palestinian radicals against Jewish students and others who dare to demonstrate any support for Israel or question the tactics of Islamists in their efforts to destroy the Jewish state.

At a February 1st event, Hasbara Fellowships at York University, with the permission of the University, had set up a table to inform interested students about Hezbollah-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of Hasbara’s ongoing campaign called “Free Palestinians from Hamas.” Typically, York’s outspoken and volatile pro-Palestinian students were less than willing to let such benign sentiments be aired, and, according to Hasbara’s co-president, Tyler Golden, demonstrated their displeasure by surrounding the table in an angry mob of some 50 activists, spewing forth anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs at the Jewish students.

“At around 4 o’clock,” said Golden, “several known anti-Israel faces on campus came to start questioning us and debate with us . . . Security has asked us, when we come across this type of situation, to call them, which we did. We also videotape so they can see the faces and hear the voices of the people that do it. A few students who were surrounding us were upset that there were cameras in their faces, so they started yelling and screaming. As they were trying to push the cameras out of the way, they actually hit two of our students.” Muslim student groups have consistently attempted to disrupt the speeches of guests whose view are considered “unacceptable” because they might cause discomfort or “intimidation” for students unwilling to face the reality of radical Islam and unable to see any villain in the Middle East except Israel.

And the recent brawling at York University is not the first instance of anti-Israelism gone amuck on that campus. York’s radicalized students had already revealed a rabid anti-Semitic leaning, when in February 2009, some 100 pro-Palestinian students initiated a near-riot, as police had to be called to usher Jewish students to safety after they had been barricaded inside the Hillel offices and were “isolated and threatened” by the physically and verbally aggressive demonstrators.

Parroting the morally-incoherent and factually-defective exhortations of Israel-haters elsewhere of “Zionism equals racism!” and “Racists off campus!” the York mob, members of both the York Federation of Students and Students Against Israeli Apartheid, demonstrated once again that what is positioned as “intellectual debate” on campuses about the Israeli/Palestinian issue has devolved into something that is not really a conversation at all. Rather, it is something more akin to an ideologically-driven shout fest with a new version of pro-Palestinian brown shirts who pretend that they are merely criticizing Zionism but are actually slurring Jews. So York’s supporters of the cult of Palestinianism apparently no longer felt even a bit uncomfortable voicing what was actually on their minds when the subject of Israel comes up: when the York Hillel students were trapped inside locked offices, surrounded by an increasingly violent and aggressive mob, the intellectual “debate” that day included such invidious and raw slurs as “Die Jew―get the hell off campus.”

That thuggery by pro-Palestinian Jew-haters had already become something of a tradition on the York campus. A year earlier in April 2008, Barbara Kay of Canada’s National Post reported, York’s Hillel had invited then-Knesset member Natan Sharansky to deliver an address. Not content with allowing anyone with a pro-Israel viewpoint to shares his or her views on campus, the Palestinian Students Association and Students Against Israeli Apartheid@York (SAIA) used the now common tactic of intellectual bullies on American and Canadian campuses: they jeered at and shouted down Sharansky, spoke loudly among themselves during his talk, and generally prevented anyone in the audience from listening to the content of the speech, but not before they had articulated their own vitriol with such comments as “Get off our campus, you genocidal racist” and “you are bringing a second Holocaust upon yourselves.”

Violence, and threats of violence, against Jewish students during conversations about Israel have occurred at other Canadian universities, as well. At the University of Toronto’s invidious 2009 Israeli Apartheid Week, for instance, the annual event had so devolved into a racist, rabid rally that proceedings were closed to cameras and reporters, and individuals who actually attempted to participate in a dialogue about the issues being raised by the noxious event in the first place were confronted with physical intimidation and threats, encountering the dark side of pro-Palestinianism.

One of these individuals, Isaac Apter, a Jewish alumnus of the University of Toronto, recounted how he and others in the audience of one evening’s events quizzed a speaker about why Hamas had persistently refused to recognize the legitimacy of Israel—did “Israel have the right to exist?”—and when the speaker side-stepped the questioning repeatedly, some audience members shouted out, “Answer the questions!” Apter found himself approached from behind by a member of a private guard retained by Students Against Israel Apartheid, slapped in the head, yanked from his seat, and yelled at with the warning, “You shut the f–k up!” A second Jewish attendee was similarly assaulted that night by one of the hired security team and given a far more chilling warning, particularly in light of the barbaric practice of beheadings in the Middle East: “Shut the f–k up or I’ll saw your head off.” Not only was the Jewish state being attacked and degraded throughout these events, but now Jews themselves were being targeted for emotional and physical assault, an unsurprising outcome of a prolonged, virulent campaign against the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.

University officials regularly proclaim, as they did when they had to defend sponsoring Israeli Apartheid Week, that they have a “commitment to the principles of freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech and freedom of association.” But that empty exhortation has shown itself, repeatedly, to be, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, a masking of their true intention: enabling favored victim groups to utter vitriol and libel against Israel and Jews, with the pretense that they have somehow encouraged intellectual debate and productive political discussion. This is not scholarship at all; it is Jew-hatred dressed up in academic clothes.


Basic sums baffle British grade-school teachers

Primary school teachers have such a poor grasp of basic maths that they struggle to solve sums that 11 year olds should be able to answer

A test of simple maths skills taken by teachers from schools across the country has revealed a "shocking" lack of mental arithmetic ability and basic maths knowledge. Only four out of 10 teachers could work out that 2.1 per cent of 400 is 8.4. Only a third knew that 1.4 divided by 0.1 is 14, and less than 50 per cent could work out that a half divided by a quarter is 2.

The results from 155 teachers in 18 schools, revealed in Channel 4's Dispatches programme, add to growing concerns about numeracy standards and teaching in England. Almost a quarter of children are leaving primary school with a poor grasp of maths, even though spending on the subject is about £2.5 billion a year. Around 135,000 pupils start secondary school unable to cope with their courses.

Richard Dunne, a maths education specialist who set the test, said a generation of teachers did not fully understand the subject. Alison Wolf, professor of public sector management at King's College, London, said: "I am actually horrified by the statistics. "I really think that our obsession with generic teaching skills has crowded out time in which we could be making sure that people actually have the basic content and knowledge of content that they need. "It doesn't mean that anybody who can do maths can teach maths, that is obviously not true - but I don't think you can teach maths if you can't do it."

The findings will fuel a political row over the qualifications needed to become a teacher. At present, the minimum maths requirement to train as a primary teacher is a grade C at GCSE. Many teachers will not have studied the subject beyond that. The Tories plan to raise the grade to B.

The material covered in the Dispatches test is contained in the primary national curriculum, yet the programme found that only 54 per cent of teachers could work out the correct value of 1.12 x 2.2 (2.464), even when told that 112 x 22 = 2,464.

Mr Dunne said: "What we have are tests from 155 teachers which illustrate that probably more than half of them know so little maths that they cannot be conveying mathematics to their children in the classroom."

Failings in maths teaching will also be identified this week by a leading academic in a Royal Institution lecture. Jo Boaler, professor of education at Sussex University, will say the children are being introduced to abstract concepts before they are ready, at age four and five. She attributes Britain's lack of international standing in maths education, in part, to the attempt to teach 'too much, too soon'. "We need to give primary teachers a few concepts so that four-, five- and six-year-olds are given a good base in understanding numbers, shapes, counting and sums," she said. "Instead they are given a massive list of methods. In most EU countries, there is no formal learning of methods until children are age seven. "When children in the UK find they don't understand, they are put in to lower sets and basically told 'You can't do maths.'

"In countries like Japan, China and Finland, which top the international league tables for maths, they believe all children should be able to do maths and are horrified by what we do here."

Fears were also raised last week that pupils at secondary school were not being prepared to study maths at higher levels because the GCSE was too easy. The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee heard that maths papers were being 'dumbed down' and modular courses, which are now the norm, were making the situation worse. Margaret Brown, a professor of maths education at King's College, London, told MPs: "There is competition between exam boards to make exams ever simpler. "More modular exams, which can be taken again and again create a fail-safe and that is a problem."

A National Audit Office report, published in 2008, criticised weaknesses in teachers' knowledge of maths and backed calls for a big increase in the number of specialist primary maths teachers. [Why would anyone good at maths want to be a British primary school teacher? Perhaps Britain is aiming to import teachers from Mars]


Australia: Desperate call for high school teachers in NSW

Not exactly surprising. Teaching was once seen as a noble profession. With today's chaotic schools, sensible people avoid a teaching career

MORE than 1840 high school classes are waiting for permanent teachers. The Education Department is also yet to fill hundreds of vacant positions. According to The Daily Telegraph, 421 teaching jobs are vacant in NSW, including 288 regular teachers and 133 head teachers.

Maths was one of the subjects hit hardest by the lack of head teachers, with 11 Sydney high schools and eight regional schools awaiting senior staff.

Based on the formula that every teacher takes an average of five classes of 25 students and head teachers take at least three classes, more than 50,000 students would be waiting for permanent teachers to replace casuals until the vacancies are filled.

A spokesman for the department said it took an average "five to six weeks" to fill teaching positions, meaning the wait to employ 421 teachers added up to more than 70,000 teaching hours.

Education Minister Verity Firth was clueless on the number of high school teacher vacancies. At a press conference that Ms Firth called on school security, she was asked whether schools would be safer if the state's 421 teacher vacancies were filled to improve supervision. "I'm not aware of that statistic which you are quoting," Ms Firth said. When told the figures were provided by her own department yesterday morning she said: "I need more information on what these vacancies are." The Daily Telegraph can tell her the figure includes 288 teacher vacancies in the secondary system.

After it was revealed this week that HSC students were forced to teach themselves via the internet in the absence of a qualified Year 12 maths teacher, the department revealed there were 52 vacancies for the subject. Apart from Davidson High School, there were 10 other Sydney high schools without head maths teachers including Bankstown Girls, Killarney Heights, Nepean, Parramatta, Punchbowl Boys, Quakers Hill, Rooty Hill, Ryde Secondary College, Sarah Redfern and Seven Hills. The list of regional schools included Boorowa Central, Broken Hill, Callaghan College at Wallsend, Coffs Harbour Senior College and Murwillumbah.

Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said the system of employing teachers was in urgent need of an overhaul. "It reinforces just how out of touch the Government is with priorities in education," he said.


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