Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Post Racial "affirmative action"?

Perhaps it was unfair to expect that the election of Barack Obama would “bend the curve” on hundreds of years of racial attitudes and the politics that developed around those attitudes. Then again, for a man that entered office with a promise to calm the seas and heal the sick doing “post racial” should have been a piece of cake.

Moreover, with all the talk of “hope and change” it was not outrageous to imagine that there might be some positive change in the tone surrounding discussions of race. Certainly it was not unreasonable to imagine that at the very least this President- who was going to win back the worlds respect -- would not stoke the fires of racial enmity here at home. Well, as my mother used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Instead of bringing Americans together, this President is proving to be the most divisive and racially polarizing president in recent memory. And France still isn’t all that crazy about us....

Now comes news that the Obama Justice department has filed an amicus brief supporting a return to the use of racial preferences at the University of Texas at Austin.

Following the 1996 decision in Hopwood v Texas the University of Texas was forced to find race-neutral means to increase the enrollment of minority students on its campus. The school began granting automatic admissions for students graduating in the top 10% of their high school senior class.

In 2003 the Supreme Court in Grutter v Bollinger held that some use of race is permissible only if race neutral methods fail and then they must be narrowly tailored. The University of Texas chose to hold onto the top 10% program and return to the use of race preferences for students falling outside that percentage.

In 2008 Abigail Fisher, the lead plaintiff in Fisher v University of Texas, graduated in the top 12% of her high school class and was denied admission to the university. Her lawyers argue that the race-neutral 10% plan has been successful and therefore any use of race preferences oversteps the dictates prescribed by the Supreme Court and is unlawful.

What is of particular interest is that the administration has gone beyond simply filing a brief in support of existing law. The President has extended the argument beyond what The University of Texas applies and the Supreme Court envisioned in Grutter and endorses the use of racial preferences in all "educational institutions"---K-12, undergraduate, and graduate. As Roger Clegg, president and general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity points out, “The Supreme Court has never found there to be a compelling interest in the former instance---nor, for example, in post-doctorates for chemistry---and it is aggressive and wrong to argue that, because the Court found there to be compelling educational benefits in diversity at the University of Michigan law school, therefore any educational institution can make that claim.”

In the battle against discrimination Obama seeks to take us backward. This administration does not envision an America moving away from preferences, but a nation of increased preferences based on race! Just as unfounded cries of racism lead to an increase in racial enmity, racial preferences create racial hostility.


British teachers threaten industrial action (walkout) to keep troublemakers out of class

Long overdue

School teachers have threatened industrial action to keep dozens of “unteachable” children out of the classroom, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. Staff across England and Wales have refused to teach troublemakers after they were allowed to remain in school despite brandishing knives, attacking staff and disrupting lessons.

In most cases, teachers threaten to take legal action after attempts to expel yobs were overturned by governors or independent appeals panels. Dossiers published by the two biggest classroom unions show staff refused to teach pupils on 37 occasions over a 12 month period.

In one case, a 12-year-old boy was permanently barred from a school in Essex for carrying a knife, but was allowed back into lessons by an appeals panel. Members of the National Union of Teachers balloted for industrial action – refusing to teach – and he was eventually moved to another school.

A seven-year-old in East Sussex was expelled for assaulting a member of staff – the latest in a string of “violent and dangerous behaviour” reported by teachers – but governors refused to ratify the decision.

Staff at a Gloucestershire school threatened to walk out after an 11-year-old accused of “intimidating” pupils with a butter knife was allowed to remain in school by the governing body.

The NASUWT union refused to teach a 14-year-old boy after he sexually assaulted a classroom assistant and attacked a teacher. Governors overturned the head’s attempt to expel the pupil.

Union leaders said the cases constituted a “deeply worrying” assault on teachers’ authority.

It comes as Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, prepares to outline new rules on Monday giving teachers more power to physically restrain violent pupils.

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “If a child has really crossed the line, it is very difficult to accommodate them back in school as it is seen as a challenge to the whole institution. “This is a serious problem because it undermines the authority of a school and potentially harms the education of other children.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Governors seem to be taking the line of least resistance to placate the minority of parents rather than to protect the majority of pupils and their staff. “If governors do not back headteachers' professional judgment in these matters then staff and school leaders cannot manage behaviour with confidence.”

The issue represents the latest in a series of concerns over teachers being undermined. At the weekend, unions warned that pupils were regularly being allowed to rate their own teachers in the classroom and interview staff applying for jobs.

In one case, it was claimed children at a school in Kent had been handed iPhones to enable them to pass instant judgments on teachers' performance to senior staff.

A head's decision to expel pupils is reviewed by governors at each school. If the decision is upheld, children and parents can also appeal to an independent panel formed by the local council. The Conservatives have promised to scrap appeals panels which they claim undermine the authority of schools.

The NUT’s latest annual report – published at its annual conference in Liverpool – show that members refused to teach children on 28 occasions in 2008.

Attempts to expel children were overturned by governors 10 times and by an independent panel on nine occasions. In other cases, the union suggested that headteachers themselves failed to take a firm line against troublemakers. The situation was usually resolved without taking formal action, normally with a “managed move” to another school.

Figures published by the NASUWT show nine children were the subject of a ballot for industrial action in 12 months. Five were expelled by heads only to be reinstated by governing bodies.

On one occasion, the NASUWT said a five-year-old boy threatened to stab a member of staff with a pair of scissors and threw chairs in his reception class.

Incidents reported by the NUT included a 10-year-old expelled from a school in Manchester for a “serious assault” on another pupil, only to be reinstated by an appeals panel.

In another case, teachers at a Cardiff comprehensive threatened to walk out after a 15-year-old was expelled for making false allegations against a colleague, but was allowed back into school following an independent appeal.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “We are absolutely clear that heads should not hesitate to permanently exclude the worst-behaved pupil, when other sanctions have failed. "The vast majority of exclusions don't even go to appeal and where they do, it's clear independent panels are backing heads taking tough action.

"It's difficult to argue that schools are being undermined when just 60 out of over 8,000 pupils permanently excluded in 2007/08 were reinstated to their original schools following appeal - with the proportion halving in the last six years.

"No appeal will make a substantial difference where heads have gone through the proper process. No exclusions should be overturned purely on technicalities and we've told panels that no pupil expelled for violence should ever win an appeal, without very robust reasons.

"We make no apology for having independent appeals panels. Heads associations and our chief behaviour expert, Sir Alan Steer, are clear that heads would end up being dragged through the courts, if parents weren't given a fair right of appeal."


A tribute to many years of "look and see" literacy education in Australia

Phonics was abandoned decades ago -- in a typical act of Leftist destructiveness -- but very recently seems to have staged a partial comeback

An astonishing four million Australian workers [Note: the total Australian population is around 22 million, of whom roughly half would be workers -- so the percentage involved here is enormous] have poor language, literacy and numeracy skills and cannot understand the meaning of some everyday words.

And their inability to following basic instructions and warnings is causing a safety and productivity nightmare. Most are in labour-intensive and low-level service jobs.

Among the terms that are too difficult for some workers are "hearing protection" and "personal protective equipment is required", according to a report by Skills Australia for the Rudd Government.

The words that many do not understand include: immediately, authorised, procedure, deliberate, isolation, mandatory, recommended, experience, required and optional.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout told the Herald Sun 46 per cent of workers had substandard literacy skills and 53 per cent had numeracy below the expected benchmark.

"It's really worrying when people can't read or write," Ms Ridout said. "It contributes to workplace safety problems. You've got to have a lot of pictures to promote safety and it contributes to inefficient practices and mistakes. That means time is wasted and work has to be repeated."

Ms Ridout, a board member of Skills Australia, said some workers could not read and understand standard operating procedures, which led to incorrect use of machinery. They could not read drawings and were drilling the wrong-sized holes or cutting steel incorrectly.

"These people are not able to function successfully in a modern workforce," she said. "But it is not just the workers. One company found a supervisor couldn't read or write properly and got a big shock," she said.

Ms Ridout called on the Government to introduce a national adult literacy and numeracy scheme in next month's Budget to provide resources and teaching support. "This problem is caused by bad education," she said. "These people haven't been picked up when they've fallen."

Other terms that were too difficult for some workers included sheeted material, company policies, gross misconduct and disciplinary action.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has nominated improving productivity as a crucial plank towards coping with the pressures of an ageing population. Ms Ridout said poor workplace literacy and numeracy was a roadblock to that goal.

The Government recently provided $50 million to create more training places for businesses to increase skills that are in high demand.

But Ms Ridout said it did not help workers who had trouble with the basics. "We can't lift skills if some workers don't have the basic skills to build on," she said. "All these people should be given a chance to participate but if they can't read and write and add up, it's going to be very tough for them."


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