Saturday, July 17, 2010

The True Face of Campus Progress

A Report from the Conference

This last week, Youth for Western Civilization dropped by the left-wing "Campus Progress" conference here in Washington D.C. It was held in the Omni Shoreham hotel, with the main portion of the conference taking place in an ornate ballroom filled with a massive stereo system and two giant projection screens. The conference was headlined by big name speakers like Samantha Powers, John Podesta, Van Jones, and dozens of other presenters and panelists flown in with all expenses paid for the weekend. At least George Soros isn’t lacking for money in the Obama Recession.

All our favorite leftist archetypes were in attendance:

The advocates for the re-distribution of wealth – You know the type. The angry scowlers of the Al Sharpton strain who demand affirmative action and blame white people for black and Hispanic economic disparities, directing a constant barrage of eye-daggers at anyone who appeared to represent "the man".

Illegal aliens and their apologists – They were there in force. Their main objective is the so-called DREAM Act which would give illegal alien minors the ability to become permanent residents if they go to college. According to these law breakers, borders and sovereignty are a thing of the past... for Western countries. It's of course essential that Mexico, Honduras, Vietnam and all the other places these illegals hail from maintain their sovereignty, culture, and identity, while the United States is transformed from a “melting pot” into a “tossed salad” in the never ending pursuit for diversity and inclusion.

The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender advocate) legions – These were the most prominent groups there. We were unable to guess the gender of many of them. A number of them were wearing shirts advocating a "marriage boycott" until all states begin issuing "gay marriages". Good luck with that.

Even the restrooms were not safe from social engineering. Each men's restroom was designated as a "multigender restroom." However, for the women’s restrooms, there was no transgender symbol. Only females were allowed in female restrooms. The irony of this "discrimination" seemed to escape them entirely.

David Cho, the winner of one of the organization’s awards, took to the stage to proclaim that he was an illegal alien. His speech consisted of complaints that even though he had gone through the California educational system (no doubt at significant taxpayer expense) he had difficulties finding jobs due to his "status," which he felt was "discriminatory."

"We now have SB 1070 brewing in Arizona, a state that’s sweltering under the heat of oppression, and we now live in a society which restricts young children and students solely on the basis of their status," he proclaimed. This is the Arizona that recently decided to dismantle the speed cameras in the state, hardly a move consistent with "a state that’s sweltering under the heat of oppression." Left unmentioned was the nefarious discrimination against convicted felons, drunk drivers, and sex offenders "solely on the basis of their status."

Although he was proud to announce that he was "undocumented", and list the jobs he and his family illegally work (many of which are the type in which one is commonly paid under the table), no federal agents showed up to arrest him, nor is there any sign that any legal or law enforcement action will be taken in the future to restrain him from continuing to break the law. One can easily imagine this would not be the case had an American citizen proclaimed "I don’t pay my taxes," "I drive without a license," "I sell marijuana for a living," or any other proud announcement of ongoing and purposeful law violation. Rather than living "in the shadows," criminals like Cho can flaunt their illegal status confidently because they know they have the American Establishment on their side.

David Cho has high ambitions for someone who isn’t even an American citizen: "I ultimately want to become a U.S. Senator, because I want to make changes in this country," he announced. Of course, we want to make changes too, though probably something far removed from the kind of "Change" we’ve been suffering through the last two years. Cho concluded, "Let us rededicate ourselves to the commitment and the involvement in the common effort to create a new society, and a new nation." One wonders who this "us" is, what "new nation" he wants to create, and why he has to do it here. As Americans, we generally like the nation we have now and don’t want it to be replaced.

The various sessions on specific issues were predictable. Granting amnesty to illegal aliens was the subject of one of the morning sessions, entitled "Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets." The main argument put forth by this panel was that with millions of illegal aliens leeching off the institutions and taxpayers of our republic, "it only makes sense" to give them citizenship. As stated above, their foremost goal is the ludicrously named DREAM Act, which would give young adults illegally residing in the United States the opportunity for permanent residency. Americans who do not have access to a college education or law abiding immigrants who are trying to obtain permanent residency would be ignored. One of the requirements for the law would be "good moral character." Voluntary deportation and legal entry into the immigration process would be a good test of that, but we are pretty sure that’s not what the panel meant.

The mantra of "multiculturalism" was everywhere at the event, even in areas seemingly entirely unrelated. For example, another morning panel we attended on "The Force of Food" was ostensibly organized to discuss organic and sustainable food movements. A number of YWC members and supporters have recently become intrigued with ideas about backyard gardens and getting away from corporate-produced, processed food (which often relies on huge numbers of illegal workers to produce). Therefore, we actually expected some practical help from this panel. Instead, rather than advice on how to build and organize such movements, the focus was on "getting minorities involved."

The panel centered on complaining that there was a "lack of access" to organic and healthy foods in "minority areas," without addressing the underlying culture of this demographic that creates the market forces that generate this pattern. A self-described "Native American tribal activist," Terrol Dew Johnson, complained that there was only one grocery store on his Tohono O'odham reservation, and that "the largest aisle is soda pop and junk food." Another panelist lamented that the supermarkets have departed Los Angeles, and the new tenants in these buildings are liquor stores.

The federal "Superfund" law which mandates clean-ups of polluted "brownfields" even drew a part of the blame, as one of the panelists said that McDonalds was the only company able to pay for such cleanups before building on certain urban sites. However, one would think that large organic and health food chains such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s would just as easily be able to afford such cleanups, were there any demand for such stores from the people who live in these areas. Of course, since the CEO of Whole Foods publicly opposed the Obamacare bill, he might be persona non grata in the eyes of the extreme Left.

One questioner, who appeared to be a middle-to-upper class white girl, asked the panel what could be done to bring organic and healthy foods to her area in Philadelphia, which she described as predominantly black. She talked about how she saw no interest whatsoever from the black community in organic or healthy foods. The panel was unable to come up with any answers, saying that the process would be "slow" and could "take a decade or more" to come up with any noticeable shift. One panelist said that he would be speaking at Swarthmore within a few months, but the questioner replied that "unfortunately" she would be on a month-long vacation in France during that time. It’s doubtful that the Eurotripping activist Left will actually be making changes in inner city dieting anytime soon.

One of the afternoon panels we was called "Race and the Recession." The general theme of this panel was that regardless of the ebb and flow of our global economy, white people are responsible for black and Latino disparities in wealth and income. The most recent evidence was President Obama's stimulus bill which was supposedly intended for minorities. However, some of the money ended up going to whites. This, of course, is "stealing the money from people of color," and "as a country of color, we need more programs to elevate the rainbow coalition."

(We should note that because this was a left-wing event and we are quoting Leftists, the following paragraphs contain vairous expletives and racial slurs.)

Ironically, the other afternoon session which we attended, on the topic of "Promoting Progress Through Comedy," was mechanical and boring. The one exception was a "joke" by Baratunde Thurston of The Onion that Mel Gibson’s black friends must be a "pack of raping niggers," which Thurston said he could "only say… because I’m black."

Van Jones seems to have learned his lesson from last year, and like most of the major speakers took care to sound as mundane as possible. One who didn’t get the memo was an individual of indeterminate gender named Andrea Gibson. She went on a few long rants, saying such things as "Our sky is so perfectly blue, it’s repulsive – somebody tell me where God lives, because if God is truth, God doesn’t live here." Her view on supporting the troops was "fuck your yellow ribbon."

Although her time was expired, she decided to stay for one more rant, since, as she put it, "I can’t get off the stage without being gay." She ranted about "the patriarchy," recounted a fit of rage from her lesbian girlfriend when she commented that she’d "like to eat that checkout clerk," and expressed her anger at people who do not want to redefine marriage to enable her to marry her girlfriend "but the fuckers say we can’t because you’re a girl and I’m a girl!" One of the best moments of her life was "the time we saw two boys kissing on the street in Kansas, and we both broke down crying, because it was Kansas…we were born again that day!"

Another interesting speaker was Beau Sia, who opened up with "I don’t need a gong to make my entrance, I’m Asian-American!" and recounted a series of racial achievements and his pride in them, statements which would have been described as "racist" and "supremacist"if they had come from a white person. He then proceeded into another tirade in which he described himself as "a developed nation jerk-off," and rambled wildly about "saving the world" from some sort of apocalypse.

What do we take away from this? Campus Progress seemingly has little to do with generating solutions, even in theory, for issues like the economy, job creation, national security, health care, trade, or education. Instead, it is a collection of tribes united only by their hostility to Middle America and everything that it stands for. It's simply George Soros backing the next generation of Jesse Jackson-style shakedown artists and freakish exhibitionists. They have no solutions for America's future – more than that, they're not even trying.

The next event being hosted by Campus Progress here in D.C. is "Drag Bingo," featuring "the biting commentary of DC’s best drag queen, Shi-Quita-Lee." I think we’ll pass.


Angry parents accuse British school of 'dumbing down' English by showing The Simpsons in class

A father has started a petition against 'dumbing down' after his daughter's school ditched literary classics in favour of The Simpsons. Joseph Reynolds was horrified when his 13-year-old daughter spent six weeks studying the popular US cartoon in English lessons. Homework assignments included watching episodes of the TV series.

His petition calling for Shakespeare to replace The Simpsons has now gained more than 300 signatures.

But the school, Kingsmead Community School in Somerset, has defended its curriculum, claiming the programme helps students 'to become critical readers and analysts of complex media texts'. It insisted it was merely following the National Curriculum, which requires that students study 'moving image' texts. And it said 'many other schools' used The Simpsons to teach English.

But Mr Reynolds, 44, a marine engineer from Wiveliscombe near Taunton, branded the programme the 'Turkey Twizzler' of the curriculum and called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to act to remove it.

'When I asked my daughter what she had done today in her English class, and she said The Simpsons, I thought it was a hook to get the kids interested in something more intellectual,' he said. 'But six weeks later she was still doing The Simpsons.

'I'm not some moral crusader against The Simpsons. I find it witty and clever and watch it at home. But it's a TV sitcom and it doesn't belong in the classroom. 'I do think we should raise the level a little for our children. Children should be studying text of the highest quality and I don't believe this fits the bill.'

Mr Reynolds wife, Denise, 39, said: 'Someone said to my husband that Homer was the modern day Hamlet but how can these kids make a connection like that if they are not learning about Shakespeare?'

Mr Reynolds wrote to the school to raise his concerns but both the head and governors defended the use of the programme.

In a letter, the school claimed that analysing the opening sequences of the Simpsons was similar to analysing the opening of Dickens' Great Expectations.

Mr Reynolds added: 'Most of the parents I have met have been unaware that their children are studying The Simpsons and they were shocked when I told them. 'All I can do is try to change it. The Simpsons has dominated English lessons for six weeks. My daughter will never get that time back. I don't think it's good enough. It's dumbing down.'

There are suggestions The Teletubbies was used in lessons for 11-year-olds, while Mr Reynolds' daughter will next year study the Hollywood romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. It is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew.

Mr Reynolds said he no longer 'trusted' Ofsted inspections after the school was rated 'outstanding'.

But headmaster Geoff Tinker said: 'The National Curriculum requires that students study a range of texts including moving image texts. 'We, along with many other schools, use The Simpsons to develop analytical essay writing and thinking.

'The Simpsons is excellent for analysing the use of satire, parody, irony and humour - enabling students to become critical readers and analysts of complex media texts.'

He said students also studied Shakespeare, classics such as Jane Eyre and Great Expectations and poets including Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke.

'Mr Reynolds has his own view about the merits of The Simpsons, which we do not hold,' he said. 'Our GCSE results in English Language and English Literature stand up to scrutiny and do not support Mr Reynolds assertions about "dumbing down".'


Australia: School computer scheme probed

THE Auditor-General is probing the Gillard government's $2.4 billion school computers program. This comes on the heels of multiple inquiries into Building the Education Revolution bungling. The outcome - due to be reported to parliament in the spring session - has the potential to damage Julia Gillard in a knife-edge election campaign.

"The objective of this audit is to assess how effectively (the federal Education Department) implements and manages the Digital Education Revolution initiative, with particular focus on payment arrangements, monitoring and reporting on the fund, and on-costs," the Australian National Audit Office stated in its latest work program, published yesterday.

News of the audit came a day after the Prime Minister admitted in a nationally televised speech that the delivery of the BER program was flawed, because it was designed in haste amid the global financial crisis.

The DER scheme, to cost taxpayers $2.4bn over seven years, aims to give high schools at least one computer for every student in Years 9 to 12 by the end of 2011.

The Auditor-General also revealed his office was investigating a $2.5bn scheme to set up trade training centres in schools, and flagged "potential audits" of the My School website, which compares school performances nationally.

The auditor also plans to probe the administration of $2bn a year in childcare subsidies to families, as well as the Council of Australian Governments agreement to provide a preschool place for every Australian child by 2013.

All the audits implicate the sweeping portfolio of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, which Ms Gillard managed before she wrested the prime minister's job from Kevin Rudd last month.

Queensland's Audit Office yesterday revealed it was conducting an inquiry into how the state was spending its $2.1bn slice of the $16.2bn BER scheme.

The auditor refused to comment on his secret investigation, but The Australian understands it will include the first comparison of BER construction costs between public and Catholic schools.

Queensland opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg yesterday lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, asking it to investigate possible collusion in the BER scheme.

The Australian revealed in April that Queensland's Master Builders Association had negotiated the fee with the government, on behalf of eight construction giants, to manage $840 million of BER work without going to tender.


Friday, July 16, 2010

75 percent of America's school districts expect to cut teaching jobs in the 2010-11 year

School districts have used federal economic-stimulus money to help ameliorate the effects of the economic recession and keep their teaching staffs employed, even as their overall budgets decreased. But the looming end of that funding means 75 percent of the nation’s school districts expect to cut teaching jobs in the 2010-11 school year, according to a report published today by the Center on Education Policy.

The Washington-based center took at look at how school districts have spent money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic-stimulus law passed by Congress last year. The law is sending about $100 billion to education over two years.

“Education was buffered to a degree [by the stimulus], but even being buffered, school districts were reporting they had to lay off teachers and cut back on spending for textbooks and professional development,” Jack Jennings, CEP's president, said in an interview.

The report is the second installment in a three-year research project the nonprofit research and policy group is conducting on the impact of the stimulus law. The first, released in December, found states were struggling to improve teaching quality and low-performing schools, and that their capacity to implement significant education reform was a serious problem. ("Stimulus Aid’s State-Level Impact Seen Mixed," December 3, 2009.)

The latest report finds districts used much of the funding from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the supplemental boost to Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to pay for having and creating teacher and administrator jobs in the past school year.

Even with the billions in economic-stimulus dollars flowing to states and school districts, the districts reported their budgets in the 2009-10 school year were lower than in 2008-09. Districts are worried about the upcoming “funding cliff” when the stimulus funds run out; 60 percent reported when surveyed this spring that their districts had spent or expected to have spent all of the funds received by the end of the 2009-10 school year.

And the stimulus wasn’t enough to stop layoffs—45 percent of school districts reported cutting teaching jobs in the 2009-10 school year.

“The stimulus money certainly was a blessing to school districts because, without it, the situation would have been worse,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of School Administrators, whose group has released several reports on the stimulus’ effect on education.

However, he said, “We are not over the recession. There is still no turnaround in real estate taxes or in state sales and income taxes. There is still a shortage of money to support schools at the state and local level.” “That financial cliff is very much a reality.”

Focus on Reform

While districts spent the majority of the money on saving jobs, they also spent some of the money on making educational improvements favored by the Obama administration that were embedded in the economic-stimulus law.


Graduate tax and private colleges at heart of new British higher education blueprint

Private universities will flourish and struggling institutions will be allowed to fail, if the coalition has its way with the future of higher education

Vince Cable Vince Cable warned that the Labour government's target of extending higher education to 50% of the population is likely to be scrapped. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images

The government signalled the biggest shakeup of Britain's universities in a generation today, with a blueprint for higher education in which the highest-earning graduates would pay extra taxes to fund degrees, private universities would flourish and struggling institutions would be allowed to fail.

Vince Cable, the cabinet minister responsible for higher education, also raised the prospect of quotas to ensure state school pupils were guaranteed places at Britain's best universities, breaking the private school stranglehold on Oxbridge.

Comparing the existing system of tuition fees to a "poll tax" that graduates paid regardless of their income, the skills secretary argued it was fairer for people to pay according to their earning power.

He said: "It surely can't be right that a teacher or care worker or research scientist is expected to pay the same graduate contribution as a top commercial lawyer or surgeon or City analyst whose graduate premium is so much bigger."

Graduates earned on average £100,000 more than non-graduates in their life-time, Cable said, and there are significant premiums for degrees such as medicine.

Cable said he had asked Lord Browne, the businessman conducting a review of student finance, to look at a variable graduate tax tied to earnings. Low earners may end up paying less than they currently do for their degrees while those with high incomes pay more. A spokesman for the inquiry said Browne was not unhappy about the apparent pre-empting of his report.

The graduate tax would replace the current system, under which the government lends money to students to cover the cost of their degree courses and graduates pay this back once they start earning more than £15,000.

Phasing out tuition fees is a crucial part of Liberal Democrat education policy. Any moves by the coalition to raise fees – or even keep the status quo – could prove divisive. Lib Dem MPs will be allowed to abstain from any vote on fees under the coalition agreement.

Cable warned that the Labour government's target of extending higher education to 50% of the population was likely to be scrapped, questioning whether it was sensible or affordable. Figures from the university admissions service, Ucas, underlined the pressure on university places: universities have received more than 660,000 applications and a record 170,000 students are thought likely to be denied a place this autumn.

Cable told an audience of vice- chancellors at South Bank University in London: "What we have is an urgent problem. Universities are going to have to ask how they can do more for less. There will probably be less public funding per student … quite possibly fewer students coming straight from school to do three-year degrees." Universities had to be prepared for a period of contraction. "Britain is a poorer country than two years ago and future spending had to be adjusted accordingly."

He stunned the vice-chancellors by announcing that struggling universities would be left to go bankrupt. But he said students would still be protected. "It would be similar to banks," he said. "They can fail, but their depositors are still protected."

The government wants to increase the number of private companies offering higher education that is not subsidised by the state. This increased competition would mean some publicly funded universities could struggle to recruit enough students and be forced to close. Experts said at least 20 universities could close in the next few years if this were allowed to happen. At least five universities are known to be on an "at risk" list because they are heavily indebted.

Cable's proposals mark a departure from the current regime and the biggest change to universities since the early 1990s, when at least 40 polytechnics became universities and higher education was expanded.

He suggested that universities reserve places for pupils "from each of a wide range of schools" to ensure the brightest children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were not denied the chance of going on to higher education. But he did not want to repeat Gordon Brown's mistake of "trying to dictate Oxbridge admissions". In 2000 Brown, who was chancellor at the time, labelled Oxford's decision to reject Laura Spence, a state school pupil, "an absolute scandal".

The Russell Group of leading research universities said Cable's graduate tax would not work. Wendy Piatt, its director general, said: "It would lead to many years before revenue from the tax became available so until then there would be a requirement for a very major upfront investment in universities by government – a very costly solution."

Million+, a lobby group for former polytechnics, questioned whether graduates paying more for their degrees squared with the government's commitment to social mobility.

However, students welcomed a graduate tax. The National Union of Students argued for a tax in its submission to Browne. Aaron Porter, NUS president, said: "The fair solution is to abolish tuition fees and ensure that graduate contributions are based on actual earnings in the real world."

The shadow universities minister, David Lammy, said: "This a PR exercise from a man whose party have just completed the biggest U-turn in their history."


Up to a quarter of a million British students could miss out on university places

Almost a quarter of a million students will miss out on a university place after worries about the economy helped to produce a sharp rise in applications. More than 660,000 people applied for a university place this autumn, up almost 12 per cent on last year’s record-breaking figures.

There were 68,000 more applications this year compared with 2009 after growing numbers opted for education instead of trying to find a job. There was also a significant increase in applications from would-be mature students and those who missed out on places last year.

Applications from foreign candidates were also up by 15 per cent, with 100,000 overseas students seeking places, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said.

School leavers who would traditionally take the places could be disappointed and the University and College Union, the main lecturers’ union, warned of a “lost generation” who would miss out on higher education.

The number of places for British and European Union students is capped and vice-chancellors face fines if they exceed their limits, which will be set later this year.

Last year, 373,793 British and European students were awarded places on undergraduate courses at English universities when 592,312 had applied for places. This year 660,953 have applied, including 54,254 from outside the EU, meaning around 225,000 students, a record number, will miss out.

So far the Coalition has promised that just 8,000 extra full-time and 2,000 part-time undergraduate places will be available, mostly on maths and science courses. The overall budget for higher education is being cut by £200 million and David Willetts, the universities minister, admitted there was not the “capacity to meet such a surge in demand”.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Today’s figures make frightening reading.

“Other countries are increasing the number of graduates to compete in a high-skill knowledge economy, yet our government seems intent on doing the opposite. “It is not scaremongering to talk about a lost generation of learners. “It is disgraceful that thousands of applicants will be denied the chance to fulfil their potential at university. The decision not to fund student places properly and to make savage cuts to higher education will come back and haunt this country and will lead to a huge skills deficit.”

The rise in applications occurred despite warnings that the number of places available during clearing, where candidates are matched to spare places, could be cut by half.

Applications from older people were up more than 20 per cent on the previous year, continuing a recent growth in those wanting to become mature students.

There were around 90,000 applications from people aged 25 and over. There was also a 24 per cent rise in those who had applied in previous years, after an unprecedented squeeze on places last year.

Some subjects leading to public sector jobs proved particularly popular, despite imminent cuts in state spending. Nursing was the biggest area of growth, with a 62 per cent increase in applications, followed by design studies (34 per cent) and social work (27 per cent).

Some rejected candidates will seek places through clearing, but university chiefs have warned that the places available through that method could be half the 22,000 offered last year.

“Funding restrictions from government mean that universities will not be able to take on extra students to meet this demand,” Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said. “It is quite likely, therefore, that more qualified applicants will fail to secure places this year. Applicants may have to be more flexible in their choices.”

Prof Les Ebdon, the chairman of the university think tank million+ and vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: “It will be a tragic waste of talent if highly qualified students miss out on a university place in 2010. Instead of fining universities if they recruit more students than they have been allocated, the Government should now fund additional university places in 2010 if they want to be serious about their commitment to social mobility.”

The Department for Business, which oversees higher education, accepted that some candidates will miss out. A spokesman said: “The Government recognises the important role graduates play in our economy and society, which is why, in these tough times, we provided funding for a further 10,000 students to begin their studies this year. But university is not always the right option for young people.

“Demand from employers for skilled workers is rising so we are investing in further education and we are funding 50,000 new high-quality apprenticeships.”


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Politicians are the problem for higher ed

n a recent hearing — the first in a promised series — members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee began an inquisition into for-profit higher education, suggesting the sector exploits vulnerable Americans.

"Congress has a responsibility to ensure that ... opportunity is real, and not just false hopes pedaled on a billboard or pop-up ad," declared HELP Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in his opening statement, setting the hearing's tone.

So what's wrong with federal politicians calling for-profits to the carpet? What's wrong is the entire higher education system — not just the proprietary part — is broken, and it's the politicians' fault.

There certainly are shady for-profits. One, the Drake College of Business, recently received significant attention for recruiting students in homeless shelters, likely just to bring in federal financial aid attached to warm bodies.

Then there's the lingering problem of diploma mills — institutions that dole out sheepskins for a fair amount of money ... and very little scholarship.

While such outrages are anecdotal, there is also troubling systemic evidence about problems in the for-profit higher education sector. According to federal data, only 27% of for-profit students who started four-year programs in 2000 finished at the same institutions within four years, and only 38% within eight years. For two-year programs, only 42% of students who started programs in 2004 completed on time.

Those are some rotten results, and they don't come cheap. According to the College Board, among for-profit students who received bachelor's degrees in the 2007-08 academic year and borrowed money, the median debt level was $32,650.

Unsurprisingly, there are loan defaults, which cost federal taxpayers who back most student loans. Among federal loans for which repayment was supposed to begin in fiscal 2007, 11% belonging to for-profit students were in default as of September 2009.

So for-profit schools produce lots of trouble. But they're not much worse than the rest of the higher education, no matter what senators' rhetoric might suggest.

Consider costs. Estimating federal, state and local appropriations to public institutions — direct funding that for-profits don't get — reveals outlays of $7,452 per pupil for four-year programs, $3,660 for two-year and $5,881 for less than two-year programs.

Adding those subsidies to government student aid reveals total taxpayer burdens, and suddenly for-profits don't look so singularly terrible. The annual burden per undergraduate at a four-year public school is around $15,794 vs. just $10,272 at a for-profit. For a two-year program, the for-profit is just somewhat costlier: $10,960 vs. $8,489.

How about graduation rates? Again, it all stinks. Look at bachelor's programs. While only 27% of for-profit students finished on time at the institution where they started, only 29% of public-school students did. That's hardly a major difference. The gulf widens as one moves to six- and eight-year rates, but even the best rate — 66% of students at private, nonprofit schools graduated within eight years — is underwhelming.

So the for-profit sector isn't much worse than anyone else. Why, then, are our honorable senators focusing their fire on it?

Scapegoating, that's why. Higher education is awash in government cash, with tens of billions of taxpayer dollars going to schools and students annually. But all that money, coupled with nonstop political rhetoric about everyone needing to go to college, has led millions of unprepared people to futilely pursue degrees at all kinds of institutions.

It's also fueled stratospheric price inflation. Between the 1989-90 and 2009-10 academic years, inflation-adjusted prices rose 75% at four-year private schools, 139% at four-year public institutions and 75% at two-year public colleges.

Blame that on Washington, which has kept upping student aid and driving Americans to consume far more higher education than they need or can handle. It's also let colleges raise prices with impunity.

Higher education has bad actors, and some are at for-profit institutions. Ultimately the worst are the politicians, who fuel profligacy for political gain, then shamelessly blame others for the trouble they've wrought.


Computers won't close the educational divide

One of these days, someone is going to conduct some scientific research and discover that billions of dollars could be saved by not doing so much scientific research.

For example, the New York Times last week carried an interesting story by Randall Stross titled, "Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality," in which the author previews an upcoming scientific paper on the effects of home computers on the educational outcomes of low-income students.

The study's authors — professors from the University of Chicago and Columbia University — used fieldwork from a Romanian computer voucher program to prove that low-income students who received home computers actually achieved lower test scores than students who applied for, but did not receive, the vouchers.

Here's the part where we could pocket some research grant money: Mr. Stross quotes researcher Ofer Malamud as saying, "We found a negative effect on academic achievement. I was surprised, but as we presented our findings at various seminars, people in the audience said they weren’t surprised, given their experiences with their school-aged children."

Who needs stark regression discontinuity to establish something that any competent, responsible parent can tell you over a cup of Starbucks? If you're trying to raise a well-educated, well-rounded child, you need to limit — not increase — the time he spends on a home computer.

Of course, now that there's scientific research to prove the point, will educators and government bureaucrats take notice?

After all, much is being made of the "digital divide" between the haves and the have-nots, especially between children of middle- and upper-income families with at-home Internet versus low-income families who do not own home computers. Such students are condemned to use school computer labs or (gasp!) access the Internet on free computers at the public library. Improving access for all students is assumed to be necessary in order to level the playing field of educational opportunity.

In fact, assumptions on the part of educational experts about the need for greater Internet access are behind the Obama administration's push to provide free high speed broadband to low-income rural homes. (Dial-up is simply insufficient if a poor child is to keep up in a 21st-century global economy).

Yet this study contradicts the knee-jerk solution of resolving an inequity with government dollars. In fact, it's just one more example of a cure that makes the disease even worse.

The research showed that low-income students who received home computers didn't use them to enhance their schooling, but rather, used them to play games. (Act surprised). Their scores in three academic subjects actually declined, but at least their proficiency in computers was measurably higher, so I guess the experiment wasn't a total loss if what you're looking for is a generation of low-income computer gamers.

The unvarnished truth is that the digital divide isn't what's holding back America's underprivileged children. The real problem is a discipline divide. Regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity or religion, where there are strong, skilled, supervising parents, you will find successful students. And where there aren't, you'll find gamers.

It's time to stop throwing money, technology and excuses at poor children and calling it education. The only way to close any sort of gap is to stop selling kids short on competent teachers who are committed to imparting knowledge and skills rather than using the classroom to affect "social justice," and to hold their parents accountable for the privilege of a free public education.

A well-educated person — no matter what his economic background — will figure out how to get a computer in his home and use it to his advantage.

On the other hand, an uneducated child who gets a computer will use it to find and while away the hours that most certainly would be better spent turning the pages of a book.

Maybe I should start applying for research grants.


More than half of British students fear unemployment

More than half of university students fear they will face unemployment when they graduate after racking up record levels of debt, a new survey has warned. According to research, 55 per cent of students are worried they will be unable to find work after leaving university due to the effects of the recession.

A shortage of money could lead to graduates abandoning their career goals, the survey suggested, with one in three students saying they would look for a higher paid job rather than their career vocation in order to pay off their debt.

Graduates are poised to leave university burdened by record levels of debt, with those leaving university in 2011 forecast to owe an average of £21,198, according to university guide

In 2009 the average debt of graduates was £15,812, while for those starting university courses in September – most of whom will graduate in 2013 – the figure is likely to rise to £23,500.

This projection could increase further if the government lifts the current cap on tuition fees following an ongoing review into university funding being led by Lord Browne, the former BP chief executive.

The new survey, carried out by the Association of Investment Companies (AIC), an investment trade organisation, showed that half of students expect to take more than 10 years to pay off their debts incurred at university.

Results also indicated the recession has been a burden on parents, with 82 per cent saying it has increased the financial strain of supporting their children through university.

The AIC said: "Many young people go to university to enjoy some of the best years of their life but the reality on graduation is a huge financial burden which will take years to pay off."


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

John Taylor Gatto wants to demolish the existing education system and return power to the people

And he tells why

The new economy is awash in contradictions, but few are more troubling than this one: At the very moment that brainpower is more important than ever, education seems more backward than ever. We have a new economy but outdated schools.

Out of this disconnect has emerged a quiet grassroots rebellion aimed at reinventing both the form and the function of American education. Charter schools – publicly funded startup schools that operate mostly free of regulation – have boomed. In 1992, there was one charter school in the United States. Today, there are more than 2,000. The fastest-growing education movement is homeschooling. Today, roughly 1.5 million children learn at home. Just as Internet startups and free agents rattled big business, charter schools and homeschooling are shaking up "big schoolhouse."

Leading them is John Taylor Gatto, education's most original (and perhaps most controversial) thinker. Gatto earned his reformer's credentials the hard way. For 30 years, he taught English in some of New York City's toughest schools – and became the East Coast's answer to Jaime Escalante, the East Los Angeles teacher immortalized in the film Stand and Deliver. Gatto was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changed lives (hundreds of former students remain in touch with him), even as he outraged administrators. In 1991, he was New York State's Teacher of the Year. Then he quit.

"When I left school teaching, I was blind with rage. I didn't know whose throat to grab first," growls Gatto, whose round face, white hair, and bearish build make him look like the tough brother of TV's Captain Kangaroo. "After a while, I could see that responsibility for education had to be revested in ordinary people."

He began writing essays and articles that recommended a systematic overhaul of learning in America and soon attracted a nearly cultish following among homeschoolers, charter-school advocates, and other education reformers. To many members of that incipient movement, Gatto has become their philosopher king. But Gatto, 65, gives himself a different job title. "I'm a saboteur," he says. "I'm sabotaging the idea that you know best what my family needs."

Schools, he says, are irremediably broken. Built to supply a mass-production economy with a docile workforce, they ask too little of children, and thereby drain youngsters of curiosity and autonomy. Tougher discipline, more standardized tests, longer days, and most other conventional solutions are laughably short of the mark. "We need to kill the poison plant we created," Gatto has written. "School reform is not enough. The notion of schooling itself must be challenged." His alternative: to get rid of institutional mass-production schools, allow every imaginable experiment to blossom, make free public libraries universal, and expand hands-on apprenticeships.

Earlier this year, Gatto published a book, The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling (Oxford Village Press). Nearly a decade in the making, the enormous volume is a sprawling work of history, political philosophy, and citizen activism. Two major publishers liked the book enough to offer Gatto sizable advances – on the condition that he trim the pages and mute the language. He refused. So he produced and distributed the book himself, selling 5,000 copies the first week.

"This is the Blair Witch Project of books," says Roland Legiardi-Laura, 47, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a former eighth-grade student of Gatto's. "It's been under the radar, but not for long." Legiardi-Laura and his former teacher are now adapting the book into a documentary that aims to do for education what Ken Burns's series on the Civil War did for the War Between the States.

The Underground History of American Education is pointed and provocative. It's hard to agree with everything Gatto has to say, but it's even harder to come away from his searing critique unchanged. A single reading of a single essay inevitably makes you start to question the purpose and the premise of American education. "I had no intention of being an author," says Gatto, who lives with his wife on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "I hate being a product. But I feel that I have a responsibility to bear witness to what I've seen." Fast Company met with Gatto in Legiardi-Laura's loft apartment across from Tompkins Square Park in New York City.

Q. How did you get started in teaching?

A. I never thought I would be a teacher. The prevailing Ivy League ethic when I left college in the late 1950s was that you would be a man in a gray flannel suit. And if you had blood flowing through your veins, you didn't want to be a banker or a businessman. You wanted to be an ad man. So I became a copywriter at an ad agency. At first, it was very exciting. But after a while, you say, "Is the rest of my life going to be writing 50 words a month, holding my drink the correct way, and knowing when people shift from martinis to Gibsons?"

My roommate in New York City at the time was a guy named Dick Boehm. He was a waiter at the Waldorf-Astoria, but he also had a teaching license. He'd taught for one day and said, "You have to be crazy to do this for a living." And he threw his teaching license in a drawer. His license didn't have a picture on it, so I took a few days off from the ad agency, used Dick's license, and went around the city substitute teaching.

I was bored, I guess. And I was tweaking the city's nose by teaching school as Dick Boehm. But I ran into some genuinely horrifying experiences in which kids were obviously being denied basic intellectual tools. And the reason, at least the surface reason, that they were being denied those tools was the belief that there were some things that these kids couldn't do. People would tell me, "It would embarrass the kids to try to do more." It's real easy, when you're a young man, to buy that crap.

Q. When did you stop buying it?

A. There were two experiences that changed my life. One took place in a school in Harlem on 120th Street. I tended to favor subbing in Harlem because they were so desperate just to get bodies in there that I was pretty sure that they wouldn't check the records. I was assigned to teach a Spanish course. I knew a couple-hundred words of Spanish, so I figured that I could fake it pretty well. I got in there and asked the kids if they knew how to tell time. I assumed that they did, and I thought we could review it. But they said no, they didn't know how to tell time. I said, "I can teach you how to tell time in this one class period, and you'll know it forever." So I did that.

You get five classes a day as a sub, and by the third class, I got summoned to the principal's office. Some assistant principal began to scream at me. Her face turned a deep purple red. "How dare you do this! You have destroyed the entire curriculum for the month of June. I have no idea how I will explain to the teacher when she comes back," she said. "But I'll tell you this: You will never be hired at this school again!" At first, I thought I was locked up with a lunatic. Then, the more I reflected on this odd situation, the more I realized that this was the attitude in all subject areas. They expected so little of these kids that it was easy to communicate the whole curriculum for the month of June in 15 minutes.

The second life-changing experience came at a school on 103rd or 104th Street and Columbus Avenue. I was assigned as a sub in a third-grade remedial reading class – an easy assignment. You could write stuff on the board, pass out worksheets, and then sit there and read the Daily News. A little girl named Milagros Maldonado came up to the desk and said, "I don't need to do this. I already know how to read." All I wanted to do was finish the day, but I said to her, "Well, you know, these things are done by people older than you who are looking out for your own best interest, and they think you're better off here." And she said, "No, I can read anything."

There was a reader on the teacher's desk, and she grabbed the reader and said, "Ask me to read anything." I cracked it open to a story called "The Devil and Daniel Webster," which is an extremely difficult piece of American Victorian prose. And she read it without batting an eyelash. I said to her, "You know, sometimes, Milagros, mistakes are made. I'll speak to the principal." I walked into the principal's office and the woman began shrieking at me, saying, "I'm not in the habit of taking instruction from a substitute teacher." I said, "I'm not telling you what to do. It's just that this little girl can read."

And she said something to me that, at my dying moment, I'll still remember. She said, "Mr. Gatto, you have no idea how clever these low-achieving children are. They will memorize a story so that it looks as if they know how to read it." Talk about an Alice in Wonderland world! If that little girl had memorized "The Devil and Daniel Webster," then we want her in national politics! The principal said, "I will come in and show you." After school, she came in and put Milagros through her paces. The little girl did well. Then she told Milagros, "We will transfer you." And when Milagros left, the principal said to me, "You will never be hired at this school again."

Q. That made you want to teach?

A. Yes. The attitude toward these children in liberal New York City wasn't remotely like the attitude toward children in western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. There the assumption was that if somebody couldn't do the work, it was because they were lazy or defiant. In these schools, the assumption was that some kids were permanently disabled, and everyone had to settle into their assigned place.

So I told the people at the ad agency that I was going to leave to teach full time. I thought I'd be right back. I said to myself, I'm going to do this for a year or two and I'm going to demonstrate, to my own satisfaction, that these rules of classification are nonsense. Thirty years later, I still hadn't found out how far it was possible to push human beings to become big, self-directing, independent, and able to write their own script. The trouble is, especially with poor kids, they have such an indoctrinated belief that they can't do it, and that belief is reflected in antagonism and anger that they carry with them throughout life. But the truth is that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us.


Something Rotten in the State of Montana?

Montana is seeking to impose an unscientific, Kinseyan ideological model of pathological sexual instruction on the undeveloped, immature brains of vulnerable children. I would argue that the exposure of children to the kinds of sexual stimuli proposed by Montana’s education mavens reflects unmitigated ignorance, malevolence or both

Michael F. Shaughnessy interviews Judith A. Reisman

1. Dr. Reisman , first of all could you tell us a little bit about your background and experience?

Well, below is my short summary but based on YOUR knowledge and interests, let me say I worked for years for CBSTV, Captain Kangaroo, writing songs, and producing musical stories, sort of the original MTV, for children. I also produced “Great Works of Art” for children for various museums, Cleveland Museum of Art, and for Scholastics Magazine. My interests were in using great art to educate children.

My university education involved the effects of television on children’s attitudes and behavior and from that I moved (long story) into the effects of pornography, as a form of trauma really, on adult and child attitudes and behavior. I focused on visual versus text reception by the brain, mind, memory.
{Judith A. Reisman, PhD has focused on fraudulent sex science-education and on pornography as an Erototoxic pandemic, addicting children and society. Dr. Reisman is a news analyst and commentator for several press outlets, and was principal investigator/author of the pioneering U.S. Department of Justice, Juvenile Justice study, Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler (1989). She also authored Kinsey, Sex and Fraud (Reisman, et al., 1990), Soft Porn Plays Hardball (1991), Partner Solicitation Language as a Reflection of Male Sexual Orientation (w/Johnson, 1995), and Kinsey, Crimes & Consequences (1998, 2000) and the forthcoming Sexual Sabotage (2010).

Dr. Reisman was scientific consultant to four U.S. Department of Justice administrations, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is listed in Who’s Who in Science & Engineering, International Who’s Who in Sexology, International Who’s Who in Education, Who’s Who of American Women, The World’s Who’s Who of Women, etc. Her scholarly findings have had international legislative and scientific impact in the United States, Israel, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. Tim Tate, UNESCO award-winning Producer-Director of “Kinsey’s Paedophiles,” (Yorkshire Television, UK, 1998) stated: “every substantive allegation Reisman made was not only true but thoroughly sourced with documentary evidence—despite the Kinsey Institute’s reluctance to open its files.”

Based on her work, The German Medical Tribune and the British medical journal, The Lancet demanded that the Kinsey Institute be investigated for deliberately covering up massive sex crimes against children and fraudulent science. Website,}

2. Now, what seems to be happening in the state of Montana?

Montana is seeking to impose an unscientific, Kinseyan ideological model of pathological sexual instruction on the undeveloped, immature brains of vulnerable children. I would argue that the exposure of children to the kinds of sexual stimuli proposed by Montana’s education mavens reflects unmitigated ignorance, malevolence or both. Their imposition of sexplicit and indeed deviant forms of sexual conduct on captive schoolchildren is institutional child sexual abuse. Were a man or woman to stop a child on the street and whisper the same information teachers will force on these school children, he or she could be arrested for child molestation. Thus yes, the sexual stimuli “education” planned is unmonitored, untested, not validated and on the evidence provably traumatic for normal child development. Moreover, the assault on parents as the single responsible caretakers and instructors in sexuality for their own children is deliberately repudiated by the sexuality curriculum starting in kindergarten and continues conditioning, confusing and hijacking these children until they are free should they graduate….

3. Who seems to be, for lack of a better word, behind, these curricular changes or modifications?

Certainly those who planned this pathological program perceive themselves as better than, more knowledgeable than, the parents of these children, and for that reason these elitists would override all of the moral values of parents and society. Thus such persons qualify as radicals by definition, as subversive of the historic morality and the belief system of this nation. That their plans for children are in concert with that of the organized pedophile movement is ignored to the detriment of these really, experimental, children.

4. According to the Constitution , are schools supposed to be teaching about “ alternative life styles “ or even doing sex education?

Of course not, there is nothing in the US Constitution to justify such “instruction.” Indeed all such “education” is child experiment and would be completely illegal were a proper legal force to argue this historically and scientifically in a court of law. All the data finds that since the beginning of “human sexuality education” we have massively increased, not decreased our sexual dysfunctions, diseases, crimes, and such. There is ZERO proof of any success for even the less invasive sex ed courses must less this one.

5. When is this “illustrious “ instruction supposed to begin and are the schools going to make sure that no child gets left behind…?

As far as I understand it this “instruction,” really propaganda assault, is under debate at this time. If the faction passionately desiring this assault on children succeed, it will doubtless begin as soon as they can get clearance. Indeed, as in Massachusetts, it is becoming common for the pedagogical elitists to mandate that “no child gets left behind,” no matter what their parents wish or know to be right for their children.

6. Does the average parent know about what is going on in Montana?

I doubt that most parents realize what is planned and even if they are aware, the real story tends not to become accessible to parents until much too late.

7. Is the legislature behind this? Or are they ignoring it?

I am not an expert in the legislative situation, the private or public machinations. In 1998 Montana legislature did not require such “education.” Obviously there has been a great deal of political activity in the last decade to reverse that conservative posture. NARAL Pro Choice Montana” has been very active in campaigning for this “education” seeing it as the only way to attain their mission of abortion on demand and similar political desires.

8. Tough question, but at what age or grade should kids be taught about emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, and even friendships?

Not really tough at all. These are parental decisions that are inappropriate for an academic setting. They involve myriad personal unknowns that are not part of “education.” In class and in the playground and lunchrooms teachers should enforce rules about bullying, taking terns, being polite and so on.

Children need to focus their attention on learning their basic academic tasks. They can do that quite well when teachers establish an orderly, respectful, and safe environment. Within such a respectful environment, children will automatically be learning about friendships. It would be nice if emotional and sexual intimacy could be “taught” but the evidence finds some teachers will transmit damaging information based on their own emotional and sexual intimacy problems, and some will abuse such opportunities to attain dominance, control and even blackmail of children. This means such issues must be off limits to school personnel.

9. What have I neglected to ask?

Well, just what makes these sexperts sexperts? How do they get their training, where? Since sex education only existed as “hygiene” before 1950, (cleanliness habits and instruction to wait until marriage for sex unless one wanted to get VD) all sex ed had to come from some “expert.” That “expert” was Alfred Kinsey and his books Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) launched the “field” and the sex ed curricula the Montana folks would like to bring to classrooms today. Since all of the Kinsey data were lies, based on sex abuse of hundreds, even thousands of children (young as 2 months) the entire “field” is based on lies and crimes against children. And the field denies it—so ask where they were trained, by whom—their sexperts will all come down to being Kinseyans. This is the biggest con job on American education in history.


British government to encourage two-year degrees to help cut deficit

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, will propose more two-year university degrees, part-time courses and students living at home in a speech on Thursday. As part of attempts to cut the £155bn deficit, Mr Cable will say that the current degree system, in which some students are taught for just six hours a week, ought to be adapted to make it more efficient.

Two-year degrees with shorter summer holidays would enable graduates to compress their learning into a shorter space of time, meaning tuition fees and debts would be reduced, he will argue.

Mr Cable will also suggest that more students ought to be able to live at home and study at their local university for a degree awarded by another institution.

In his speech he will say that changing to the system of providing higher education, rather than "salami slicing", is the best approach to making cuts, The Independent reported.

This could pave the way for an increase in the number of private universities, which could offer local teaching for students on degree courses which are further from home.

Mr Cable will reopen the debate on government targets for the number of students in higher education, indicating that Labour's 50 per cent target could be scrapped.

The Business Secretary has been asked by George Osborne, the Chancellor, to deliver cuts of 25 per cent in the next four years.

Supporters believe two-year degrees would be more cost-effective and would suit some students better than three-year courses, but leading universities argue the long holidays enjoyed by students on traditional courses are necessary for staff to be able to carry out their research.

His proposals could also include a raising of the cap on tuition fees – currently £3,225 a year – while other areas, such as research funding, will be protected.

The head of University College London said before Mr Cable's speech that places for students at lower-ranking universities could be cut to protect funding for research at top-level institutions.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gates Foundation puts its stamp on education

Across the country, public education is in the midst of a quiet revolution. States are embracing voluntary national standards for English and math, while schools are paying teachers based on student performance.

It's an agenda propelled, in part, by a flood of money from a Seattle billionaire prep-school graduate best known for his software empire: Bill Gates.

In the past 2 1/2 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than $650 million to schools, public agencies and other groups that buy into its main education priorities. The largest awards are powering experiments in teacher evaluation and performance pay.

The Pittsburgh, Pa., school district landed $40 million; Los Angeles charter schools, $60 million; and Memphis, Tenn., schools, $90 million.

The Hillsborough County district, which includes Tampa, won the biggest grant: $100 million. That has set the nation's eighth-largest school system on a quest to reshape its 15,000-member teaching corps by rewarding student achievement instead of seniority.

Shift in strategy

The focus on teaching marks a significant shift for the foundation. In the past decade, it spent $2 billion to improve high schools, with a major emphasis on creating smaller schools.

But Bill Gates said Saturday that new approaches are needed because the pace of improvement has been too slow. In many cities, a third or more of students fail to graduate from high school on time. Those who earn a diploma are often ill equipped for college.

"It's disappointing to everyone who looks at the facts," Gates told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. He said he is willing to do whatever it takes to help raise achievement. "There's a risk that we might not succeed," Gates said, "but I can tell you we'll keep trying."

It is unclear whether philanthropy — even a charity led by one of the world's richest men — can find large-scale solutions to problems that have beset schools for generations. But what is certain is that Gates grants have become a leading currency for a particular kind of education change.

That agenda has won praise from the Obama administration and others, while prompting questions from some about the foundation's pervasive presence and its emphasis on performance measures.


British Prime Minister doubts that he can find a good State school for his children in London

David Cameron has admitted that he is "terrified" by the prospect of trying to find a good state secondary school for his children in London. Mr Cameron said that, living in central London, he sympathised with parents in areas across Britain where there was no choice of decent schools.

"I've got a six-year-old and a four-year-old and I'm terrified living in central London,” he said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper. "Am I going to find a good secondary school for my children? I feel it as a parent, let alone as a politician."

Mr Cameron, who was educated at Eton, said he remained determined to send his children to state schools despite rejecting 15 primary schools for his six-year-old daughter Nancy, before sending her to St Mary Abbots, Church of England primary in Kensington.

Good schools in central London are hugely over subscribed, with six parents chasing every place in one near Downing Street, and Mr Cameron said the dilemma has strengthened his resolve to drive up standards so there are “really good state schools available for all”.

People are forced to “break the bank” to send their children to private school because “in some parts of the country, there isn’t a choice of good state schools”.

Mr Cameron and his wife, Samantha, also have a four-year-old son, Elwen, and are expecting another child in September.

He said the coalition Government was trying to ensure there were more good schools with their plans for "free" schools set up by parents and others.

In their general election manifesto, the Conservative pledged to restore discipline and raise standards in the classroom, vowing to bridge the gap between rich and poor by giving “every child the kind of education that is currently available only to the well-off”.

One method they are studying is addressing the financial shortfall in the education budget by allowing private firms to fund and run state schools in London.

One school, Turin Grove, in Edmonton, already has private company involvement. Edison Learning won a £300,000-a-year contract from Enfield council to provide a headteacher and two deputies. A Swedish schools group, Kunskapsskolan, is to open two non-profit making, state-funded academies in Richmond in September.

According to London Councils, a lobbying group for the capital’s 33 local authorities, around 50,000 extra school places need to be created between now and 2016 to cope with demand, costing approximately £880 million.

Westminster City Council, Mr Cameron's local education authority, insisted its schools were providing "first-rate education".

It invited him to send his children to one of its primaries. St Mary Abbots is in the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where he lived before becoming PM.

Nickie Aiken, Westminster's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "We welcome the Prime Minister's interest in improving central London education. We can assure him that our schools are delivering first-rate education every day.

"We are proud that several of our secondary schools are considered outstanding by Ofsted and that our nearest primary schools to Downing Street are also both rated outstanding. "We acknowledge that there is still room for improvement and will continue to strive to build on our success to date.

"We would be delighted if the current Prime Minister followed in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors and sent his children to Westminster state primaries. We would welcome the opportunity to show the Prime Minister our schools in action."


Australia: Why schoolyard bullies should be stopped in their tracks

SCHOOL bullies are three times more likely to engage in anti-social behaviour in their early 20s, while victims experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, according to a study revealed in The Sunday Telegraph.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has uncovered, for the first time, the damaging and ongoing effects bullying can have on children in their adult life.

Researchers tracked 1000 Australian children over three different stages of their lives - when they were 12 years old, 13 and again at 23 - and discovered tragic results.

Children who were bullied showed signs of depression when they grew older. "What we found with the victims is that once they were established in this role, abuse was likely to continue," Dr. Jodie Lodge said.

Dr Lodge found that one in four children were bullied at schools - and that 95 percent of students were bullied more than once. “They also experienced a number of social adjustment problems during adolescence and by their early 20s, were more likely to have higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress.”

Dr. Lodge, who presented the ground- breaking findings at a conference last week, said bullies tended to perform poorly academically and were more likely to drop-out of school.

They were also more likely to use drugs, be involved in physical fights and engage in other criminal activity in adult life. “Those who bullied in adolescence were three to four times more likely to be involved in anti-social behavior and physical violence by their early 20s," Dr. Lodge said. “It seems that once they're on this trajectory or pathway, it's something that stays with them into adulthood."

Verbal abuse and insults were the most common forms of bullying reported by both boys and girls. Physical violence was more prevalent among boys, while girls tended to bully by socially excluding others.

Dr Lodge said children who were both bullies and victims were particularly at risk as they suffered greater degrees of social and academic problems, were generally unpopular and had fewer friends.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said the results showed we needed to act urgently. “We know bullying has been linked with self-harm and attempts at suicide so it's a very, very serious issue and we need to address it," he said.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Every school should have a bad teacher: British schools chief in extraordinary outburst

This is the sort of nitwit the Labour party put in charge of British institutions

Every school should have a 'useless teacher', according to the chairman of Ofsted. Zenna Atkins prompted fury among heads by claiming that a bad teacher helped children learn how to 'manage' people who are not good at their jobs.

She said: 'It can be crushing for pupils to have a truly awful teacher. I have watched kids who learn an awful lot by having them though. They learn to manage those dreadful teachers, while keeping their confidence.'

Her foul-mouthed outburst also includes comments that the education system's credibility is 'shot to shreds' and that violent computer games like Call Of Duty should be used to teach children in class, according to The Sunday Times.

Atkins,44, emphasised that the opinions were her own, rather than those of Ofsted, but they will nonetheless cause huge embarrassment to the regulatory body.

She said: 'It's about learning to identify good role models. 'One good thing about primary school is that every kid learns how to deal with a really s*** teacher. 'In the private sector, as a rule, you need to performance manage 10 per cent of people out of the business. But I don't think that should be the case in schools.

'I would not remove every single useless teacher because every grown up in a workplace needs to learn to cope with the moron who sits four desks down without lamping them and to deal with authority that's useless. 'I'd like to keep the number low, but if every primary school has one pretty naff teacher, this helps kids realise that even if you know the quality of authority is not good, you have to learn how to play it.'

Atkins's comments are at odds with the opinion of Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's chief inspector of schools, who has previously attacked a 'stubborn core' of bad teachers in the British system.

The comments also follow a report last week which said that, although the General Teaching Council estimated two years ago that there could be as many as 17,000 sub-standard teachers circulating in Britain, just 18 had been struck off in the last ten years.

Ofsfted distanced itself from Atkins' comments. 'Ms Atkins was being interviewed in a personal capacity about the private sector role she is taking up in a few weeks," said a spokesperson. 'Ofsted has an unshakeable commitment to ensuring children benefit from good teachers in every lesson.'

Atkins's views were described as 'appalling' by Rod MacKinnon, a former Ofsted inspector and headmaster of the independent Bristol Grammar School. 'I am amazed and horrified,' said Mr MacKinnon. 'We should be seeking to give children the best education possible.'

Atkins has always cut an incongruous figure in the world of education, having been a self-confessed failure at school. She revealed in an interview with The Times in 2007 that she was illiterate at the age of 11, was expelled from school and failed her English O level - with an unclassified U grade - three times.

Atkins has already announced that she will step-down from her position as Chairman of Ofsted as of August 31, 2010. She is set to take over as chief executive of the UK arm of Gems, a private education company, where she plans to launch state-funded 'free schools' under government reforms.

Her approach will be highly scrutinised as the government seeks to introduce more private sector control into state schooling, but Atkins sees her approach as revolutionary and reforming.


British city forces schools to rearrange exams and cancel lessons to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan

Schools are being urged to rearrange tests, cancel swimming lessons and stop sex education to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan. Head teachers in Stoke-on-Trent have been issued with the guidance for treatment of Muslim pupils who may still be fasting when the new term starts in September.

But critics dismissed the advice as ‘over-zealous’ bureaucracy and said all pupils would be forced to miss out on activities as a result.

During Ramadan, all Muslims who have reached puberty avoid eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset to encourage discipline and self-restraint. To help them with this, Stoke council advises schools not to schedule exams or hold parents’ meetings and social events after school.

They should also avoid swimming lessons because some parents and pupils consider the risk of swallowing water too great. It even advises schools to cancel sex education because Muslims are expected to avoid sexual thoughts while fasting.

Although the guidance was specifically drawn up to help Muslims, it will affect every pupil in the 89 schools in the Potteries. According to the last census in 2001, 3.2 per cent of the population of the city is Muslim.

The co-founder of the the Campaign Against Political Correctness, John Midgley, said: ‘Instead of meddling in this politically correct way the council should trust the judgment of pupils, parents and teachers. ‘They should be able to cater for what goes on in schools without wasting time on overly bureaucratic and politically correct guidance.’

He warned that the advice could be counter-productive and encourage disapproval of the city’s Muslims. And he added: ‘If there’s an over-zealous implementation of this guidance that may mean some pupils could miss out on activities.’

Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, meaning it falls on a different date each year. It is between August 11 and September 9 this year. For most of the holy month, the pupils will be on holiday. They will only be at school for the last week.

Mr Midgley said the guidance was a ‘waste of time’ as pupils are rarely examined in the first week of term and parents’ evenings would be unlikely to fall at that time.

But Ruth Rosenau, a councillor, said: ‘We live in a multicultural society and already accommodate Christian celebrations. ‘So we’re just asking teachers to be more aware and more accommodating of the Muslim ones. ‘These are not rules that are going to be introduced, but guidance asking schools to be slightly more flexible in how they deal with Ramadan.’ [Backdown under publicity]


Australian schools fleeced as red tape leads to waste

MANY public schools are overpaying when buying goods through government-endorsed delivery channels. The overpayments run to hundreds of dollars - and in some cases thousands - each year.

An investigation by The Australian has found wastage in education departments is not isolated to the $16.2 billion schools stimulus building program. Public schools are being overcharged for products from projectors and calculators to refrigerators. The problem appears worst in NSW, where the state government collects a fee of up to 2.5 per cent on all items purchased by government departments - and public schools - through its Smartbuy procurement program.

A survey by The Australian has found many products offered through Smartbuy can be bought on the open market for less than those prices offered through the government scheme.

Government supplier Corporate Express is quoting $1708 for a 564-litre, LG refrigerator. An identical item is advertised online for $1276, including delivery. Another Smartbuy supplier is quoting the Bison AMP-1715 wireless projector to schools at $2905. The same product is advertised at $2499, including delivery. All prices and quotes include GST.

NSW public school principals must purchase all items through Smartbuy - regardless of their value - unless they provide the Education Department with details of the product, and the department approves each request.

NSW Education Department spokesman Liam Thorpe said: "We ask schools to notify us of cheaper products they have found so we can check they're the same size, same warranty and that there are no additional costs. If the product is the same, the school can purchase it."

The Public Schools Principals Forum, which is calling for centralised procurement to be scrapped, said the additional red tape meant schools rarely opted to purchase outside the program. "The (NSW) Education Department is saying it doesn't trust principals to do the right thing, that the department knows better than principals do when it comes to school requirements," said forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride.

The federal opposition said last week a Coalition government would give school principals more autonomy, including more financial independence from state bureaucracy.

Mr Thorpe said NSW government schools purchased goods worth $12.5 million through Smartbuy in the first 11 months of last financial year.

A major supplier to NSW public schools is OfficeMax Australia, which sends schools a catalogue. The Australian has found many of the items in its catalogue can be bought for substantially less elsewhere. The Canon Tx-220TS calculator quoted at $29.98 can be found online for $24.33. The Raffles medium-back executive chair offered for $371.81 is $315 at Allgood Office Furniture. Both prices include GST and a three-year warranty.

OfficeMax has repeatedly refused to comment when contacted by The Australian in recent weeks.

When asked about the widespread cost differences, the NSW Department of Services Technology and Administration, which operates Smartbuy for all state government departments, said it was unable to comment on "commercial decisions made by individual suppliers".

"The prices for goods and services in state contracts are based on those included in competitive tender offers, and they factor in considerations such as delivery, warranty and compliance with government policy," a spokesman said. "The majority of state contracts have a clause that provides for NSW procurement to request suppliers to vary their prices if there is evidence that external market pricing is consistently more competitive."

He said an independent review for the 2008-09 financial year had estimated that $360m in "cost avoidance savings" were delivered across all NSW government departments from the use of state contracts. It was unclear how that figure was derived.

Ms McBride said such studies failed to account for the suitability of products delivered to schools and rewarded under funding of public schools. "The lack of choice means schools often end up with products that are not suited to their requirements, leading to even more waste."

The centralised procurement model was of particular concern to country schools, she said. "The local businesses are seeing all the goods for the public schools coming in on the train from Sydney, so when it comes to those schools attempting to fundraise the local businesses want nothing to do with it," she said.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bloated colleges spending more and more on peripheral activities

Pity the poor schmucks who are paying for this but just want to give their kid a good education

American colleges are spending a declining share of their budgets on instruction and more on administration and recreational facilities for students, according to a study of college costs released Friday.

The report, based on government data, documents a growing stratification of wealth across America’s system of higher education.

At the top of the pyramid are private colleges and universities, which educate a small portion of the nation’s students, while public universities and community colleges, where tuitions are rising most rapidly, serve greater numbers and have fewer resources.

The study of revenues and spending trends of American institutions of higher education from 1998 through 2008 traces how the patterns at elite private institutions like Harvard and Amherst differed from sprawling public universities like Ohio State and community colleges like Alabama Southern.

The United States is reputed to have the world’s wealthiest postsecondary education system, with average spending of around $19,000 per student compared with $8,400 across other developed countries, said the report, “Trends in College Spending 1998-2008,” by the Delta Cost Project, a nonprofit group in Washington that promotes greater scrutiny of college costs to keep tuitions affordable.

“Our analysis shows that these comparisons are misleading,” Jane Wellman, the group’s executive director, said in an e-mail statement. “While the United States has some of the wealthiest institutions in the world, it also has a ‘system’ of postsecondary education with far more economic stratification than is true of any other country.”

Community colleges, which enroll about a third of students, spend close to $10,000 per student per year, Ms. Wellman said, while private research institutions, which enroll far fewer students, spend an average of $35,000 a year for each one.

Undergraduate and graduate enrollments nationwide grew to 18.6 million students overall in 2008 from 14.8 million in 1998, an increase of 26 percent, the report said. Among all the sectors that make up American postsecondary education, public community colleges added the most students over the decade, growing to 6.3 million from 5 million.

By comparison, enrollment at private colleges and universities grew to 2 million students from 1.8 million in the 10 years.

Tuition, on average, increased more rapidly over the decade at public institutions than it did at private ones. Average tuition rose 45 percent at public research universities and 36 percent at community colleges from 1998 to 2008, compared with about 21 percent at private research universities.

But the trend toward increased spending on nonacademic areas prevailed across the higher education spectrum, with public and private, elite and community colleges increasing expenditures more for student services than for instruction, the report said.

The student services category can include spending on career counseling and financial aid offices, but also on intramural athletics and student centers.

“This is the country-clubization of the American university,” said Richard K. Vedder, a professor at Ohio University who studies the economics of higher education. “A lot of it is for great athletic centers and spectacular student union buildings. In the zeal to get students, they are going after them on the basis of recreational amenities.”

On average, spending on instruction increased 22 percent over the decade at private research universities, about the same as tuition, but 36 percent for student services and 36 percent for institutional support, a category that includes general administration, legal services and public relations, the study said.

At public research universities, spending for student services rose 20 percent over the decade, compared with 10 percent for instruction.

Even at community colleges, with their far smaller budgets, spending on students services increased 9.5 percent, compared with 3.4 percent for instruction.

The study also said that the recession that began in the last months of 2008 had dramatically changed the economics of higher education, probably forever.

“The funding models we’ve created in higher ed are not sustainable,” Ms. Wellman said. “We ran up spending in the ’90s and early 2000s to levels we can’t maintain, and this is true not only in the elite privates, but in many of the public institutions, too.”

Now, with private-college endowments battered and state legislatures slashing university budgets coast to coast, “policy makers as well as university presidents and boards must learn to be better stewards of tuition and taxpayer dollars,” she said.

The Delta Cost Project, founded in 2007, is governed by a three-member board and financed in part by the Lumina Foundation. The project says it “focuses on the spending side of the college cost problem, how institutional spending relates to access and success, and ways that costs can be controlled without compromising quality.”


Expand Educational Opportunity, Don't Restrict It

Remember the Obama administration's promise to make higher education more accessible by expanding Pell grants and student loans to more students through the $787 billion stimulus? Apparently, the administration is having second thoughts -- at least when it comes to allowing students to pick their own schools.

New regulations being contemplated by the Education Department would place new restrictions on loans going to students who want to use them at for-profit schools. The administration's claim is that for-profit schools exploit low-income -- often minority -- students by promising them high-paying careers, on which they can't deliver, and saddling them with debt. But is that really the issue?

For-profit schools occupy an important niche in our higher-education system. They provide training in everything from traditional academic fields to information technology, health care, criminal justice, and automotive repair. According to recent estimates, enrollment at for-profit career schools has increased 20 percent during the recession, as many workers, young and older, realize that they don't have the skills to compete in an increasingly technical and demanding labor force. And with many states cutting back on community college budgets, for-profit schools are sometimes the only alternative to get the training students want and need.

Tuition at for-profit schools averages about $14,000 a year, according to the College Board -- not cheap, but midway between the range in average college tuition between private colleges ($26,273) and public ($7,020). But the difference is that many for-profit career colleges require only a one- or two-year commitment to provide practical job skills, not four. But like all educational institutions, for-profit schools can't guarantee success. It's up to the students to stick with the program, learn the skills, and be diligent in pursuing jobs after they've earned their degrees.

But the Education Department is now contemplating regulation changes that would make it more difficult for students to use federal loans to attend for-profit institutions. The new rules would limit the amount of money a student could use to repay loans to 8 percent of income -- but the way the government will calculate income is a problem. Income will be defined in a debt-to-earnings ratio dependent not on the individual's actual income but on the Bureau of Labor Statistics job code associated with the student's diploma or degree at the 25th percentile of wages in that field. But this formula assumes that after graduating, the person will remain at the lowest quartile of earnings throughout his or her working lifetime instead of assuming wages will rise over time. Under the proposed regulations, students would be ineligible to use federal loans for programs that cost more than the artificial debt-to-earnings ratio dictates.

It seems like the folks in charge of writing the regulations are prejudiced toward for-profit schools. These institutions already meet accreditation rules and must disclose graduation rates and other information to ensure that they are legitimate educational institutions, not mere moneymaking scams.

Schools that advertise on TV and radio and provide education to working-class adults are anathema to the education community elite -- who not only didn't attend such schools but don't know anyone who did. But I've seen firsthand the important role for-profit schools play in providing opportunity. One of my sons earned his Microsoft certifications in a for-profit school and has gone on to a very successful, steadily advancing career in IT in the 10 years since.

The idea that everyone must attend a four-year college in order to succeed is nonsense. Education is important -- and improving skills to compete in a more demanding work environment often makes the difference between those who keep their jobs in a recession and those who don't. But it shouldn't be the federal government's job to decide which school a student chooses. The for-profit market is growing because there is an increased demand for the kind of education it provides. Shouldn't the Education Department devote its resources to expanding opportunities for Americans to receive schooling, not restricting them?


Britain: The bullies in the staffroom

Joanna Leapman expected criticism when she spoke on TV to attack teaching standards. What she didn’t expect was a poisonous, online attack:

I always knew that speaking about standards of teaching in Britain’s schools on national television last week was going to have its consequences. When I took the call from the producer at BBC’s Panorama, asking me, as a former parent-governor who had already aired my grievances with our education system in this newspaper, if I would be willing to contribute to an investigation into incompetent teachers, I thought twice about saying yes. Not only would I be potentially criticising the leadership of the school my children still attend, but I would be throwing myself into the ring with members of the most vitriolic profession in our country — teaching.

I weighed up the odds, and decided my views and experience had a vital role to play in fuelling any policy change in the practice of recycling incompetent teachers. I could handle the inevitable critics.

What I didn’t expect was for some teachers on a popular online teachers’ forum to sink so low as to lash out highly personal and insulting remarks about my family’s red hair, the inside of my house — and, unbelievably, make nasty judgments about my three children.

One of them, a primary teacher hiding behind the online pseudonym “lardylegs”, says: “Severely ginger people should not be allowed to become school governors. Or breed.” She also says of my five-year-old son: “Did you see the maniacal grin on the young one at the front? He is clearly a pain in the backside in class.” She also described the children of two other parents involved in the programme as “a sandwich short of a picnic”. Others joined in the debate, agreeing wholeheartedly with Lardylegs’s attack.

Such hurtful remarks are made worse by the knowledge that they have been posted by teachers — professionals whose very job should dictate that they make no judgments about individuals in this manner. Lardylegs reveals herself on other postings to be a teacher with years of experience of teaching primary pupils, aged 7 to 11 — the same age as my two eldest children. Hiding behind a cloak of anonymity should not excuse her or the others. Is this how they discuss our kids in the staffroom? It’s shocking.

I am all in favour of open debate, and online forums only help to engage an otherwise politically apathetic public on issues. But to use them to make sniping personal attacks on people whose views you don’t share cannot be good.

The BBC investigation had uncovered new statistics that showed that only 18 teachers had ever been found to be incompetent by the General Teaching Council, despite estimates by former schools inspector Chris Woodhead that 15,000 incompetent teachers were still in the system.

In my interview with the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, I revealed that, as the former chair of my school’s personnel committee, I knew that the headteacher was aware of the weak teachers but gave them to classes who had already had a good teacher, or vowed to give them a good one the following year.

Before the programme was even aired last Monday, the teachers’ forum, on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) website, was buzzing with angry teachers attacking reports in the newspapers of its findings. They branded it “yet another witch hunt”, accusing the programme’s makers of incompetence and hurling abuse at their long-serving arch-enemy Mr Woodhead.

The facts were there in the programme. Panorama’s own forum has been flooded with parents sharing horror stories of incompetent teachers. Most teachers surely must be aware that some of their colleagues are incompetent. Indeed one school head of department, using the name “chocolateheaven”, did acknowledge the problem on the forum, saying: “Every school I’ve worked in has had a teacher not working up to scratch, and most are not tackled… If they’re not prepared to do the necessary, then they deserve to lose their job.” But the vast majority of the 220-plus posts from teachers on the TES forum are in denial. Why?

Ask anyone else if they work with incompetent people and they will probably happily descend into a rant about some of the more useless people in their workplace. So why does everyone but teachers accept this? Why are they being so defensive? Had the programme hit a raw nerve? Had the programme hit such a raw nerve that they had to resort to getting personal?

I know the majority of teachers are hardworking professionals, and most must privately worry that some of their colleagues are not up to the job. Unfortunately, this reasonable majority all too often remain silent and allow the public voice of the teaching profession to be that of the teaching unions, whose defensiveness sounds like belligerence.

Teachers take criticism less well than any other professional body I can think of. The teaching unions line up regularly to wheel out quotes attacking their portrayal in television dramas in a way no others do. I can’t recall ever seeing quotes from pub landlords or shopkeepers saying that they are unhappy with their latest characterisation on screen.

What’s more, most teachers only ever seem to have two lines of defence when even a vague bit of criticism is levelled at them — the same two lines we’ve all been hearing for years, and the same two lines that appeared in post after post on the forum.

The first is: “Well, why don’t you try standing in front of a class of 30 all day!” and the second is: “You’re not a teacher, so what do you know about education?”

Neither of these arguments would work in any other walk of life. Imagine, complaining in a restaurant about the quality of food, to be told, “Well, you try standing in front of a hot stove all day”, and “you’re not a chef, so what do you know about food?” No. It would be totally unacceptable. Parents, like customers, have a right to expect good service. If they don’t get it, they have a right to complain. Can teachers really patronise parents by telling them that they have no understanding of what a good service actually is?

Maybe that’s why one teacher has attacked me on the forum for being “the worst kind of pushy middle class parent” and several others rushed to agree. The judgment was apparently made on the basis of me having a piano in my front room – which appeared in the background of my interview photograph. One poster, “Eureka”, an FE computer studies teacher, even started a whole new forum discussion topic about it, calling for pianos in front rooms to be banned. His remark — a joke, but a nasty, pointed one — says what I’ve suspected for a while: some teachers are uncomfortable with middle-class parents in their environment; perhaps they’re fearing their authority and their position as the “most learned one” in the room may be undermined. Or maybe, in the worst-case scenario, they’re fearing that their own inadequacies may be revealed.

Sadly, it’s become increasingly easy to enter the teaching profession and, unlike in many other countries, our teachers are not made up of our top graduates. In fact, many don’t even have A-levels. Information from the teacher recruitment body, the TDA, specifies only 3 GCSEs (at grade C) as a basic requirement. Some teacher training courses require two A-levels, but it depends on the course. Most also accept “equivalents”. Bluntly, this means that those who didn’t quite make the grade in school, those kids who struggled academically and were in the lower sets and ended up at a technical college doing BTecs, DipHEs, NVQs or CPVEs or any other lesser academic acronym, can get on a teaching course.

And judging by the teaching forum, many are lacking basic spelling and grammar skills. Some write “apparantly” and “defanately”, several confuse “its” and “it’s” and at least one posting is incomprehensible: “Who would like disciple to be enforced--end off--after that see how teachers teach…we cant get them out of school...whats been done for that?”

Teachers’ poor spelling is clearly a common problem in schools up and down the country, even among headteachers, as I know I’m not alone in becoming increasingly frustrated at poor grammar and spelling in letters sent home in book bags.

Perhaps some headteachers are scared that people like me will send the letters back with corrections in red ink! Or perhaps they really do feel happier talking down to not-very-literate parents, safe in the knowledge that their incomprehensible jargon and target-setting is unlikely to be challenged if teachers don’t quite meet the standard that year.

But teachers’ own fears, resentment and prejudice towards middle-class parents is bringing our state system down. I know of several state primary headteachers who believe their own, middle-class children are better served in private schools. But without a true balance of class, ability and aspirations in the school, the system is doomed to failure.

Schools need supportive — pushy — parents to ensure that they truly thrive. You’d have thought teachers would welcome parents who want to help their child progress with reading, support the school, help out with the PTA cake stalls, drum up support for the school fete, and so forth. Maybe some teachers do, but I suspect that staffroom mutterings paint them as “interfering busybodies”.

Parents feel very strongly about incompetent teachers. They know when their child’s unhappy; they know when their child is bored, or is being bullied and the teacher is doing nothing. They know when their work isn’t marked or a reading book isn’t changed. They don’t need a BA in education to know that.

Several parents in my children’s school, who I didn’t even know, came up to me the day after the television programme aired, to thank me for speaking out. Parents are angry and feel helpless.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has already scrapped the General Teaching Council, which handled teacher incompetency cases. He now has two big jobs to do — adopt a business-like attitude to the teaching profession to hack out the incompetent teachers that are undermining our children’s education. And secondly, to increase the standard of teachers entering the profession.