Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Smart young student sues over forbidden study

Smart kids are rarely well-catered for by "equality"-oriented educators

Colin Carlson is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut working on a bachelor's with a double major in ecology and evolutionary biology. So it made some sense that he signed up for a class on the flora and fauna of South Africa. (Watch out for the gogga, bokkie.) The university refused to allow it and Colin's gatvol over it.

He's halfway through university and complains: "They're upsetting the framework of one of my majors." And they are. It's either this year or next and it's unlikely they will allow Colin to take the course next year either. It isn't that there is no space on the course. The issue is that it requires field work in South Africa over the summer and the school won't let Colin go. Almost any other student on campus is allowed to go, provided they are not on probation and have at least a "C" average. Colin is not on probation and has a 3.9 GPA, which is bascially an "A+" average. The school says it is because he is 13-years-old.

Colin says that is age discrimination and is suing.

Colin started taking university classes when he was 9 even though he only finished the Stanford University Online High School until the advanced age of 11. That was when he enrolled at UConn full-time. He taught himself to read when he was 2 and had finished and was deep into the Harry Potter series by the age of 4.

Colin's mother, Jessica Offir, has offered to sign any legal documents needed to remove all legal responsibility from the university, if they allow Colin to take the course. She has even offered to fly there with her son as an escort, at her own expense.

Colin is upset because the course was critical for his particular interests and said that his ban from the class has forced him to change plans for his thesis. He does have a trip to South Africa planned anyway, wieth a National Science Foundation-funded research group.

The university says it is because they are concerned about his safety. Ah, that desire to Nanny others and protect them from themself.

Colin didn't want to sue, but says he was offered no choice. "When people are drawing lines in the sand, you're going to have to cross them. I'm not going back."

I am a bit disappointed with UConn myself. They seemed amazingly flexible as an institution in the past, they allowed me to design my own major. There were only four or five of us on campus allowed to do this, but we determined the course of our studies provided we had a professor acting as our mentor. My mentor taught sociology with an emphasis on criminology and eventually became a libertarian—which pleased me as you might expect.

The reality is that "adolescents" are far more capable than we ever give them credit for. This was well outlined in The Case Against Adolescence. As I see it, adults treat adolescents as if they are children and then can't understand why they are frustrated, angry and moody. Ninety percent of the time problems can be solved with a simple explanation. Ah, but parents don't explain. Why? Because they can't. Too often parents lay down arbitrary, inconsistent rules and when their teen asks them, "Why?" they can't give a rational answer. So the resort to the answer of the bully: "Because I said so."

Instead of using such times to teach reason and logic, too many parents try to teach blind obedience to authority and respect for the ability to use force. I have more confidence in the teens than I do in the adults of this country. Why? Simple: the adults have already proven they are incompetent and capable of screwing things up.

So I applaud Colin for pursuing his dream and his education and applaud him for standing up for himself in the face of UConn's policy. If want teens to act like adults we have to stop treating them like children.


Delaware, Tennessee win “Race to the Top” funding

In an effort to improve America's public schools, the Obama administration has dangled the ultimate carrot -- money. More than $4 billion of stimulus package money was offered through the U.S. Education Department's "Race to the Top'" grant program.

Delaware and Tennessee are the first states awarded millions for schools. Of 41 states that applied, only two -- Delaware and Tennessee -- got a passing grade today. They will receive $600 million total, while the other 39 states will get nothing for now.

"This is about systemic reform really driving change at a state-level and these two states did a spectacular job of that," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The final number came as a surprise to many -- the Education Department originally suggested that as many as 10 of the original 41 applicants could ultimately win.

States were judged on their past success at education reform, as well as their plans to embrace common academic standards, improve teacher quality, create educational data systems, and turn around their lowest-performing schools.

The two winners will receive amounts close to their initial requests. Delaware will receive roughly $100 million and Tennessee $500 million.

Union Support a Contributing Factor

Both Delaware and Tennessee agreed to tie teacher's evaluations to student performance and implement reforms in every school district statewide. Crucially, they also got nearly full support from the teacher's unions.

Experts believed Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana all had strong -- if not stronger -- applications, but what they lacked was the nearly unanimous support from local unions and school districts obtained by Delaware and Tennessee.

"I think this is a win for the unions. What it shows is they have veto power over state application. If they don't sign on, their states are unlikely to get funding," said Michael Petrilli, vice president for National Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

But Duncan said this afternoon that local support was just one of many factors considered in the applications.

"This is a 500-point competition. We looked for the strongest applications overall. Buy-in was a piece of the application. It was by no means the determining factor," Duncan told reporters on a conference call.

More here

British School pupils ‘being used as political footballs’, says Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Schoolchildren are being turned into “political footballs” by MPs, according to a teachers’ leader. They are increasingly made to feel like failures at an early age if they struggle to hit pre-conceived Government targets, said Lesley Ward, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. She told the union’s annual conference that meddling by politicians meant children failed to enjoy school as much as previous generations.

The comments come just weeks after inspectors found that Labour’s £4.5 billion school reforms were failing to improve standards in the three-Rs because schools had been “overwhelmed” by red tape. Ofsted found that progress in English and maths has been “too slow” over the last four years as state schools struggled under the weight of new initiatives and teaching materials introduced as part of the National Strategies programme.

In a speech to the union’s annual conference in Manchester, Mrs Ward said: "I don't think I would like to be a school child at the moment. “I don't think I would like to be a statistic. I don't think I would like to be told, at a very early age, what level I should be at, or that I am not at the right level and despite doing my best I am failing somehow. "I don't think I would like to feel guilty for being poorly during Sats week if my absence brought the school's score down. I don't think I would enjoy being a political football."

Mrs Ward, a primary school teacher from Doncaster, said education policy had become stuck, with the same issues being debated now as they were 40 years ago. "I am on to my 15th Secretary of State for Education and my 29th Minister for Education,” she said. “I have lived through, endured, survived, call it what you like, 54 pieces of education legislation since I started teaching. One more and it would be one for each year of my life."

The union, which represents 160,000 school staff, called for the abolition of Ofsted and league tables and a more trust in “teachers’ professional judgment”.


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