Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama to Boost Civil Rights Enforcement in Schools

Trying to get blacks into advanced classes on the basis of their skin color! That's crazy enough. Crazier is the idea that they are going to stop black kids from dropping out. The kids concerned know they can't handle the lessons. What is going to change their opinion about that? Is Obama going to pay them to sit in class?

The federal Department of Education wants to intensify its civil rights enforcement efforts in schools around the country, including a deeper look at issues ranging from programs for immigrant students learning English to equal access to college preparatory courses.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan was to speak Monday in Alabama to outline the department's goals. Duncan was there to commemorate the 45th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" — the day in 1965 when several hundred civil rights protesters were beaten by state troopers on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge during a voting rights march.

"Despite how far we've come as a country over the last 45 years, we know there are still ongoing barriers to equal educational opportunity in this country," Duncan told reporters before his speech.

The department is expecting to conduct 38 compliance reviews around 40 different issues this year, said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department. "For us, this is very much about working to meet the president's goal, that by 2020 we will regain our status in the world as the number one producer of college graduates," Ali told The Associated Press.

Although the investigations have been conducted before, the department's Office of Civil Rights is looking to do more complicated and broad reviews that will look not just at whether procedures are in place, but at the impact district practices have on students of one race or another, and if student needs are being met.

In his prepared remarks, Duncan highlights several jarring inequities: At the end of high school, white students are about six times more likely to be college-ready in biology than black students, and more than four times as likely to be prepared for college algebra. Other statistics he will highlight in Selma:

— A quarter of all students drop out before their graduation, and half of those come from 12 percent of the nation's high schools. Those roughly 2,000 schools produce a majority of the dropouts among black and Latino students.

— Black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled as white students, and those with disabilities more than twice as likely to be expelled or suspended — numbers which Duncan says testify to racial gaps that are "hard to explain away by reference to the usual suspects."

— Students from low-income families who graduate from high school scoring in the top testing quartile are no more likely to attend college than the lowest-scoring students from wealthy families.

"This is the civil rights issue of our generation," Duncan said, adding that the Office of Civil Rights has not been as vigilant as it should have been in the past decade.

In addition to the reviews, the department will also be sending guidance letters to all districts and post-secondary institutions receiving federal funding. Ali said the topics cover everything from food allergies to law enforcement procedures for victims of sexual violence and equitable education spending.

The Education Department will work with districts and states to find a voluntary resolution if a violation is found. In extreme cases, Ali said funds could be withheld or ended.

Duncan's visit sparked some controversy among some black politicians who were upset that the Education secretary picked Robert E. Lee High School — a school named after the Confederate general and where its principal at the time had opposed King and the 1965 voting rights march — to hold his news conference. Democratic Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery had objected, but Duncan refused to move to another location. Agency officials said that the school is now majority black and that its current principal was 2 years old at the time of the march.

Instead, Duncan added a school to his visit — Martin Luther King Elementary School — and met with fifth-graders there. He also met with Holmes and another black lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Thad McClammy of Montgomery. The education secretary did not comment on their discussion, but Holmes said he explained to Duncan that it "wouldn't be right" to visit only Lee and not a school in a predominantly black neighborhood.

McClammy said Duncan asked why Alabama legislators oppose charter schools — a measure by Republican Gov. Bob Riley to create charter schools was killed recently in House and Senate committees. McClammy said he told Duncan, an advocate of charter schools, that more assurance is needed that such schools will be available to all and not become private schools for whites.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, said he has seen more collaboration and communication with civil rights organizations under the Obama administration, along with a renewed focus on ensuring the civil rights tenets of No Child Left Behind are being enforced, among other measures. "They have been very deliberate about enforcing our nation's civil rights laws in the area of education," he said.

Others said they are still waiting for stepped up enforcement to take place. "We haven't seen anything yet," said Raul Gonzalez, director of legislative affairs of the National Council of La Raza. "But I can tell you there's a lot of hope in the civil rights community that we are going to get some really good enforcement around a variety of issues, including education."


Group Work = Group Think

Collaboration, or working in groups, is a favorite pedagogical strategy of hung-over graduate teaching assistants, soviet indoctrinators, educators with advanced degrees, and social studies teachers too dumb to do anything else. Unfortunately, by what I saw at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference here in Atlanta, most social studies teachers are either wicked indoctrinators or too dumb to know that they are carrying out the wishes of the Dr. Evils in education, i.e., those with Ed.D.s who are administrators, curriculum devisers, and education professors.

Teachers seem to love “group work.” It gives them a sense of power over children and allows them to catch up on Facebook or their nails. I have college students coming to class expecting to spend class time sitting in little groups to discuss their “feelings.” Today, students don’t expect to learn—especially from a teacher or professor.

Instead, they expect to “do” as in “doing social studies” as I learned by spending two days at the social studies educators’ annual conference. To demonstrate one way social studies is “done” in Georgia a class of eleventh-graders was marched on stage and divided into little groups. The song “Home on the Range” was played for them and they were asked to answer questions about the “feelings” this song evoked in them, and then in various victims and victimizers associated with the settling of the American West—miners and mine owners, blacks and whites, Native Americans and whites. The young scholars then proceeded to collaborate, and believing themselves “critical thinkers,” came up with the correct answers! Of course, the bright, young geniuses knew that Native Americans would feel “sad” or “angry.”

Glenn Beck should have been at this conference. He would have been able to add a lot to his special last Friday.

While much has been said about politically correct material, little attention has been paid to such emotionally coercive teaching strategies. I saw how it is applied to middle school students as a teacher shared teaching tips for getting tykes to sympathize with illegal immigrants. She used the adult-level propaganda piece Enrique’s Journey in her class to discuss drug abuse, domestic violence, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy. It’s a book that has appeared on reading lists for some of the best private schools in Atlanta—including Christian high schools.

Over the years I’ve seen college students’ ability to reason, analyze, and weigh evidence deteriorate. But this is to be expected when they barely have a minute to themselves, when their material is selected to promote a political agenda, when their teachers bombard them with games and electronic gimmicks, and then put them into groups where the ring leader will cajole them into adopting the correct attitudes. I’ve found college students afraid to think outside the box of “tolerance” and “diversity.”

Educators use group work because it lends itself to promoting “social justice.” The most threatening thing to a teacher would be a teenager who had read the documents of the founders and the documents they had read, going back to the ancients. First, the teacher in all likelihood is too dumb to understand such documents as the Federalist Papers. He has in all likelihood not been required to read them in education school. Instead, he has been required to take classes in emotionally crippling teaching strategies. (There is a reason that the Dr. Evil-educators in North Carolina wanted to eliminate the teaching of American history before 1877 in high school.)

They have to start with the malleable Americans—young children. So see all those kids “doing” social studies? They’re not “engaged” or having fun. They’re doing the bidding of Dr. Evils, who are using them as subjects to take over the world.


French students invade UK universities to get better deal

UNIVERSITIES are facing a Gallic invasion as French students abandon their own institutions for degrees in Britain. More than 13,000 full-time students from France — enough to fill an entire university — have enrolled on British courses. They now make up the largest group of overseas students after the Chinese, with 3,194 freshers accepted on undergraduate courses last September.

The attraction of life across the Channel has been partly driven by dissatisfaction with standards at France’s state universities. However, it appears that England’s “study now, pay later” student loan system for tuition fees has also encouraged take-up. The UK is now the most popular foreign destination for French students, followed by Belgium and the United States. Numbers have risen each year since the introduction in 2006 of tuition fees that do not have to be repaid until after graduation. Last autumn’s intake was up by 18% on the previous year.

Some of the most ambitious students are using prestigious institutions in Britain, such as University College London, Oxford, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics, as a back door into France’s highly selective and independent grandes écoles. “Instead of paying for two years of prépa to prepare for the tough entrance exams to the grandes écoles, some students do a three-year degree in Britain and apply for the small number of places we have for first degree holders,” said Christine Escafit of the Grenoble Institute of Technology. “It takes a year longer but they do not have to reach the same high level to get in, as prépa is very competitive.”

British university courses that include a year at a grande école are also a draw for French students. David Chreng, 20, a Parisian studying chemistry at Imperial College, will spend the final year of his four-year degree at one of France’s leading grandes écoles. “By the end of the year I will obtain a diploma from Polytechnique Paris and a prestigious degree from Imperial,” he said.

The influx of French students at Imperial has had a typically Gallic cultural impact, with regular wine and cheese tasting sessions and organised bakery trips.

In total 8,770 undergraduates from France are studying in Britain and 4,320 postgraduate students. A further 4,000 students are on exchange courses.The University of Kent in Canterbury — one of the closest British institutions to French shores — is particularly popular, with 265 French students enrolling there last year, 165 on politics courses.

Funding issues weigh heavily on some scholars’ minds. Students from Britain and the rest of the European Union can borrow the £3,225 annual tuition fee and do not have to repay it until the April after graduation or until their earnings reach £15,000, whichever is later. Other EU countries have refused to collect repayments through their tax systems. However, court orders for non-payment can be enforced in other member states if the defaulters can be traced by the Student Loans Company.

Roxanne Jourdain, 18, a chemistry student at Imperial who comes from a village in the French Alps, said British universities often had greater international recognition than their French counterparts. “I don’t think it is any more expensive to go to the UK,” she added. “Tuition here is £3,000 a year but the fees at a private prépa are similar and the most prestigious grandes écoles can cost up to £7,000 a year.”

Student unrest and lecturers’ strikes over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposed reforms of French higher education are also fuelling the flight across the Channel. Students at the Sorbonne missed four months of lectures last year because of demonstrations against Sarkozy’s plan to allow the overcrowded and underfunded state universities to seek private finance.

The unrest was a deciding factor for Victor de Buisson, 19, from Lyons, who is studying computing at Imperial. He said: “I just got fed up with the French system. Striking is a big problem. In the Sorbonne last year they decided to make students take the exams without being taught properly. Friends of mine who go there hate it. In France it’s nothing to do with thinking — it’s about cramming facts into your brain.”

Chreng predicts more French students will seek a British higher education as word spreads about the opportunities, especially the links between universities and industry and the chance to do summer internships. “I found it challenging to go abroad, study in another language and have to build a new life in London,” he said. “But I do not regret my decision.”


No comments: