Saturday, October 23, 2010

Schrecker and Me at Brandeis

By David Horowitz

I spoke last night a Brandeis University, as usual under the auspices of College Republicans and with no institutional or faculty sponsorship. As fate would have it, there were two other events with speakers that evening, one an anti-Israel activist named Hedy Epstein, who was sponsored by the Peace, Conflict Resolution and Co-existence Department, and the other a radical professor from Yeshiva University, named Ellen Schrecker. Schrecker, who in the past has gone out of her way to attack me for objecting to the injection of political agendas into academic classrooms, was speaking about her new book, The Lost Soul of Higher Education, which is a defense of indoctrination (the “lost soul” in the title refers to the alleged “corporatization” of the university and its interests). While my talk was a faculty orphan, Schrecker’s was sponsored by the following Brandeis departments: Education, History, Women’s and Gender Studies, Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Sociology, Anthropology, English, Legal Studies and Journalism.

This little disparity tells you all you really need to know about the intellectual orientation of academic faculties and their disrespect for conservative students. For the failure of any academic department at Brandeis to sponsor the talk of a well-known university critic who has written five books presenting a conservative view response to authors like Schrecker was not an oversight. My student hosts had approached these or similar departments and asked them to sponsor my talk and been rebuffed. Nor is this an unusual occurrence. I have spoken at roughy 400 universities in the last 20 years and at only two have I been invited by members of the faculty, and only one by a department. This is one – and only one -- of the reasons it grieves me to see conservatives refer to their antagonists, whose deepest passions are censorious and totalitarian as “liberals.”

As a matter of fact, I would have welcomed the opportunity to share a platform with Professor Schrecker, who despite her intolerant attitudes and collectivist prejudices sits on the academic freedom committee of the American Association of University Professors. This would have been a special pleasure because her new book confirms everything I have written or said about the contemporary university, although when I do, I am condemned by Shrecker and her colleagues as a liar who has made up the facts and a witch-hunter –- “worse than McCarthy,” as a story by Schrecker described me on the cover of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For nearly a decade it has been my claim, which I have documented in four books -- The Professors, Indoctrination U., One Party Classroom and the recently published Reforming Our Universities -- that entire academic fields, newly created in the post-1960s era, are not in fact academic but are political parties, now entrenched in our universities, whose mission is the indoctrination and recruitment of students to left-wing political agendas. I have identified these fields as Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Peace Studies, Cultural Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, and similar inter-discipinary subjects, and have deplored how they have spread their malign influence into other academic areas including all the Brandeis departments that chose to sponsor Schrecker’s talk and withhold support from mine.

And here is how Ellen Schrecker in her book describes the creation of the two new academic fields that pioneered the debasement of the university curriculum: “What women’s studies did have in common with African American studies, however, was its connection to a major social movement. The field grew directly out of second-wave feminism; it was, one scholar noted, ‘the educational arm of the women’s liberation movement.’ As such, it had a strong political agenda, one that was readily embraced by its early practitioners, former New Left activists who viewed their teaching and research as part of the broader feminist struggle against the patriarchal oppression of women. ‘From the beginning,’ historian Marilyn Boxer explained, ‘the goal of women’s studies was not merely to study women’s position in the world but to change it.’ There was thus a ‘continuing commitment …. to advocacy – that is to political action….”

This, in a nutshell, is the Orwellian universe we now inhabit, where totalitarians and character assassins are referred to as “liberals” and where defenders of political indoctrination sit on academic freedom committees and call their critics “McCarthyites.”


British Muslim teacher banned for life for being useless

After he had been teaching for 13 years!

A teacher who is judged to be incapable of ever improving his work has become the first to be banned for life from the classroom due to incompetence. Nisar Ahmed will never reach 'requisite standards' of teaching and cannot work in state schools again, a panel ruled.

The General Teaching Council for England found the 46-year-old guilty of serious professional incompetence and said there was a risk that pupils would be seriously disadvantaged if he was ever allowed to return to lessons.

Mr Ahmed was head of business studies at the John O'Gaunt Community Technology College in Hungerford, Berkshire, from September 2007 to January 2009. He had taught for a total of 13 years at schools across the South-East. His management of lessons was 'invariably' below standard, the GTC disciplinary panel was told.

The school, which has more than 450 pupils, aged 11 to 18, gave Mr Ahmed 'extensive formal and informal' support for more than a year but he failed to improve. Just 13 teachers have been banned from the profession for fixed periods for incompetence since 2000. Mr Ahmed is the first to receive a prohibition order without time limit.

His organisation of classes was deemed 'persistently poor', with class registers regularly left uncompleted and student work folders 'poorly managed' and sometimes left at home or in his car when they were needed in lessons.

Marking was persistently not done or delayed and feedback to pupils was inadequate, GTC committee chair Rosalind Burford said. She added: 'You regularly failed to undertake proper lesson plans. This resulted in a lack of pace and challenge in your lessons and a lack of clear learning objectives.'

These 'fundamental' failings had a significantly adverse effect on his students, she said, adding: 'We could not be satisfied that you have an appropriate level of insight into your shortcomings. 'Thus, we felt you posed a significant risk of repeating your actions.'

Two years ago, GTC chief executive Keith Bartley said there could be as many as 17,000 'substandard' members of staff among the 500,000 registered teachers in the UK. The small number banned for incompetence will spark fears these teachers are simply being recycled.

Mr Ahmed had been placed under a formal capability process in December 2008. He resigned shortly after learning his case would be considered by governors.

Michael Wheale, the school's former headteacher who gave evidence at the hearing, was unavailable for comment. Its current head Neil Spurdell said: 'Under a capability process, teachers do have the opportunity to improve against certain targets and many do. 'The bottom line is you can't have pupils disadvantaged by inadequate teaching. They only have one chance at this.'

Last night Mr Ahmed, who lives in Reading with his wife and their two children, said he would be appealing the GTC decision. He added: 'They have made a scapegoat out of me. I'm deeply unhappy about it and don't deserve to be the first to be struck off for life.'


One in four British employers say exam system doesn't prepare students for work

One in four employers believe the national examinations system is not doing a good job and should be reformed, according to a study. They lack confidence in the reliability of GCSEs and A-levels and are increasingly bringing in their own tests to measure applicants' ability.

Exams watchdog Ofqual surveyed 210 employers, 314 A-level teachers and 358 students to gain their opinions about exam reliability. It found that 23 per cent of employers think the exam system is not up to scratch and needs to be reformed, 48 per cent believed it was doing a good job but wanted improvement and only 18 per cent had no reservations.

Just 14 per cent of employers admit to turning to candidates' exam results when filling jobs. However 65 per cent 'sometimes' use their own tests to assess their skills. Overall, 61 per cent of employers say they are not confident in the exams system, along with six in ten students (58 per cent) and nearly four in ten (38 per cent) teachers.

The report said: 'It would be expected that teachers would be more confident in the examinations system than students and employers as they use the system more than students and employers and are more familiar with the system.'

About 89 per cent of teachers felt their pupils got the grades they deserved, compared to 66 per cent of employers. Only 17 per cent of students believed they got the correct grades.

The survey also shows that significant numbers of those questioned believe that differing proportions of candidates are getting the wrong grade at GCSE, depending on the subject.

Maths and science were perceived to have fewer 'grade misclassifications' than English, where over a third of employers thought at least 30 per cent of candidates had unreflective grades in this subject.

Some 22 per cent of employers believed that more than half of pupils had the wrong grade in English.

The publication of the report comes as Ofqual has set out details of its inquiry into the incomplete marking of Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) GCSE, AS-level and A-level papers this summer.

This resulted in 615 pupils across the country receiving lower grades than they should have. The regulator will identify 'precisely what went wrong' with initial findings expected by mid-December.


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