Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Arm your children with skepticism about authority

For those of you with children now and those who will have children in the future, guard them. As precious as a child is to a parent they are equally so to the state. Children are the future, as the old saying goes. Most parents will judge the success of their child based on their child’s success in the dominant paradigm. One is raised to obey and behave, as their parents were taught. The state sees a tax base, ever growing.

All parents will pass on lessons to their children. The large majority of these lessons will be passed unconsciously. A father who grew up being yelled at will, in turn, yell rather than speak to his children when any stressful situation arises. A young girl criticized at every turn will grow up to be a mother who finds fault in all that her child does. Parents who accept arbitrary edicts from any authority will raise children to do the same.

There is a perpetual war for the minds of the young. These prized lives we fight for are the very weapons of battle. When we, as parents, do not teach our children to question, to analyze, and to think critically, we send them into the world unarmed, to be slaughtered and enslaved.

This, for me, was recently driven home at a local middle school talent show. I took my daughter to see her cousin perform. What we witnessed was a performance of a more sinister nature. During each act on stage the kids would be texting each other or holding up back lit phones much as my generation did lighters at a concert. But the assistant principal would make rounds collecting all of the students’ phones. I took out my own phone and texted as well, making sure that he saw me. The man approached, then retreated. To my disgust he would not speak to an adult but would only accost the younger and weaker of the crowd. The children would, when demanded, turn over their phones. Most had an air of indignation but did not resist.

Enter my nine year old daughter. At intermission she approached the tyrant and, in full view and sound of many others, began to question him. She pointed out that these phones were private property. The assistant principal told her that, just like at the movies, cell phone should be off. Then told her that the school prohibited use of cell phones by students. She countered that the phones could not be taken at the movie theater. My daughter went on to explain that the kids were not in school at this time. The show was at 7:00 pm and the public was invited. This was not a function of the school, but a function at the school. She added “taking the kids’ phones and not the adults’ is just bullying kids because that’s all you can bully.” I choked with pride.

So please, teach your children to think for themselves. Let them ask questions. If you do not know the answer be honest about it and help to find the answer. And never end with “because I said so.” Do not disarm your kids before sending them out into a hostile world bent on enslaving them.

A friend or co-worker may roll their eyes at you when you speak of the current state of things, but your child will listen when you have shown honesty and consistency. They will grow with free minds, unable to understand the pride of those who wear their chains as tight as possible without choking to death. In the future our children will be the shining beacon on the hill for others to look to when confused and broken. Weaponize their minds with logic, armor them with rationality, then loosen them upon the world we hope to someday see free.


Students face degree crisis: Troubled British universities may axe courses before they're completed

Thousands of students are applying to universities that may axe their course before they have gained a degree. Researchers looked at 125 UK institutions and found that 50 are facing financial ruin. Up to two-thirds of these universities, most of which are former polytechnics, are loss-making, according to the study by consultancy firm the Parthenon Group.

There are already up to ten universities on an ‘at risk’ register held by university funding watchdog the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Business Secretary Vince Cable has said many are ‘effectively broke’, and should not be propped up but allowed to close.

Yesterday a report by the Public Accounts Committee warned that some institutions ‘may fail’ when fees rise to £9,000 next year.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, highlighted the risk and called for HEFCE to name the universities in trouble. The Labour MP said: ‘HEFCE doesn’t tell the public about any institution that has been in financial difficulty for three years. If you are a student risking your money to go to that university you have a right to know because if a university were to fail you would have put your money up front, you wouldn’t get your education and wouldn’t get your degree. ‘I don’t think the Government will stand behind a university that falls into financial difficulty.’

Matt Robb, who conducted the Parthenon Group research, pinpointed 50 universities classed as ‘general teaching universities’. These institutions, such as De Montfort and Salford, focus on courses like business studies, design, IT and education. At each, as many as two-thirds of all courses are loss making.

London Metropolitan University, which is on the ‘at risk’ register, has said it is to axe 400 courses.


British regulator warns of 'weak' vocational qualifications

Pupils are being awarded top grades on "weak" vocational courses that leave them with a poor grasp of business, Government inspectors warned today.

Ofsted said an analysis of lessons and written work “brings into question” the claim that courses sat by thousands of schoolchildren are comparable with mainstream GCSEs. In a damning conclusion, the education watchdog said pupils taking vocational business courses were often given good marks despite being left with poor knowledge and understanding of the subject. Courses were often “narrow and simplistic” in an attempt to improve students’ grades in written tasks without properly developing their skills, it was claimed.

Currently, schools can use vocational qualifications such as BTECs as an alternative to GCSEs. They can be worth as much as four mainstream qualifications and critics claim they have been used in the past to inflate schools’ positions in league tables.

But in today’s report, Ofsted questioned whether these courses should be equivalent to GCSEs, saying some were defined by an “atomistic approach to the development and demonstration of knowledge and understanding, which took no account of the quality of learning”.

It comes less than two years after Ofsted raised similar doubts over the value of vocational qualifications in information and communication technology (ICT).

Ministers have already announced plans to review practical qualifications and reform school league tables to stop heads using them as “equivalents” in official rankings.

Christine Gilbert, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “Vocational qualifications provide a valuable route to employment and further study for many learners. “However, the report highlights the need to review the equivalency of vocational business qualifications that are assessed wholly or mainly by internally set and marked assignments with more traditional GCSEs and A-levels.”

In the latest study, inspectors analysed standards in economics, business and enterprise subjects over a three-year period. The study – based on visits to 161 English schools and colleges – found the overall effectiveness of education was good or outstanding in more than three quarters of secondaries. But even when provision was good, Ofsted found a number of “common weaknesses”, including a lack of opportunities to work directly with local businesses.

The number of pupils taking a GCSE in business studies dropped from 78,300 in 2007 to 68,700 in 2010. Evidence suggests this was “due in part to schools switching to alternative vocational courses” such as BTECs and OCR Awards, which enable students to gain a qualification equivalent to as many as four GCSEs, according to Ofsted.

“Despite good results, the quality of students’ work, their knowledge and understanding, and their ability to apply learning to unfamiliar contexts and to demonstrate higher level skills, were often weak,” the report said. It added: “Evidence from lesson observations, scrutiny of written work and discussion with students brings into question the case for claiming that such courses are equivalent to between two and four single award, traditionally examined GCSEs.”

Earlier this year, a Government-commissioned report by Prof Alison Wolf, from King's College London, found up to a third of post-16 students were taking vocational courses that failed to prepare them for the world of work.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Good vocational education is crucial to boosting our economic growth. This report raises serious concerns about the quality of some courses taught in our schools. “All young people should have access to high-quality qualifications that lead to employment, further or higher education – as Professor Alison Wolf made clear in her review. This summer, we will be carrying out a consultation on the characteristics of high-quality vocational qualifications so we can ensure that only those qualifications that meet the criteria are taught in our schools. "We also plan to do more to encourage industry experts to teach in schools – providing students with a better understanding of how the business world works."

A spokeswoman for Pearson, which owns the exam board that runs BTECs, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted found many excellent examples of BTEC courses helping young people to gain real world business and enterprise experience. "As the report points out, when vocational courses are taught well, 'students developed skills valued in employment and higher education – such as enterprise and work-related skills, and ICT, presentation, investigation, research and organisational skills – which were not always well-developed in more academic courses'. “Pearson believes all schools and colleges should be aiming to build better links with employers and give young people a better understanding of enterprise. We strongly believe that this type of vocational learning, when done well, is vital for the health of the UK economy."


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