Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why I'm Getting my PhD From the 'University' of Manitoba

James Delingpole

Hey, everybody, I’ll have none of that disrespectful “Mr Delingpole” from you lot any more. From now on it’s Dr Delingpole, got that? Though I admit I haven’t actually picked up my PhD yet, I can speak with considerable confidence that it’s in the bag. That’s because I’m planning to get my doctorate from the “University” of Manitoba, Canada. And just check out this story about what an enlightened attitude this august seat of learning has to people with “disabilities.”

The University of Manitoba said it is reviewing its policy on how to accommodate students with disabilities despite winning a victory in court this week over a controversial decision to grant a PhD to a student who failed his courses due to “extreme exam anxiety.”

Gábor Lukács, a former child math prodigy who started university at age 12 and was a professor by age 24, sued the university over its decision to grant the student, identified only in court documents as A.Z., a PhD in math although he had twice failed his comprehensive exams and was missing a graduate course.

Thursday, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Deborah McCawley rejected Mr. Lukács request that the court intervene and rescind the degree, saying he didn’t have standing to take the case to court.

The university had defended its decision, saying it was legally required to accommodate a student’s disability, in this case, exam anxiety.

Mr. Lukács had argued that the university had damaged its credibility and was at risk of turning into a “diploma mill,” a claim the judge said was “unsubstantiated.”

My disability, in case you wondered, is that I’m allergic to countries which are colder than England, which have big, beaver-infested lakes in them and where they pronounce “about” “aboot”. When I explain this to the “University” of Manitoba authorities, I’m sure they’ll grant me the necessary compassionate exemption from doing any work.

Has anyone else noticed the Last Days of the Roman Empire flavour to this story? Here we are living in times so intellectually decadent, so agonisingly in thrall to the suicidal values of the Gramsciite left, that in a toss-up between a substandard, academic inadequate and a gifted professor genuinely committed to maintaining standards, the university choses to take the side of the inadequate.

The case, which dates back to 2009, has bitterly divided the school. Administrators suspended Mr. Lukács, now 29, for three months without pay last year after alleging that he had gone public with the student’s name and revealed private information about his disability.

Supporters of the professor launched an online petition, collecting nearly 200 names of students and academics from as far away as Israel. Another 86 mathematicians from around the world signed a letter of support. The university’s faculty association sided with Mr. Lukács, while the graduate students association applauded the school’s decision to suspend him.

Graduate students of the “University” of Manitoba, eh? What a bunch of intellectual heavyweights they must be.


Britain's "free" schools

Free schools will recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula

Next week sees the most innovative education experiment in memory, when 24 new free schools open their doors. Inspired by the charter school programme in the US and the free school movement in Sweden, they represent an important victory for parental rights over the power of the state. The schools, both primary and secondary, are non-selective, non-profit making, and independent within the state sector. They will be able to recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula. What they all have in common is that they have been brought into being by concerned parents who were prepared to fight for the kind of local schooling they want – and a Government that has had the good sense to allow it to happen.

The progress of the guinea-pig schools (there are hundreds more applications in the pipeline) will be watched with interest. Many are located in deprived areas where state schools are failing to deliver the excellence all parents have a right to expect. There will be variety in the kind of schooling on offer, but a uniformity of ambition. Free secondary schools expect all their students to achieve good GCSEs in English, maths, science and a foreign language. In the state sector, just a fifth of pupils manage that.

Many on the Left abhor the notion that parents should be allowed to create the kind of schools they want for their children, rather than putting up with what the state sees fit to offer them. Their criticism has been rather undercut by the decision of Peter Hyman, Tony Blair’s former education adviser, to set up a free school next year in Newham, east London, with the simply stated aim of educating its pupils for the top universities and successful careers. It is salutary that he feels impelled to bypass the state system in order to do that.


Australian schools may need to take on underperforming students to ensure funding, report says

The usual Leftist push to reduce everybody to the lowest common denominator

HIGH-performing schools may be put under pressure to take on underperforming students as a condition of funding.

A report commissioned by the Australian Government Review of Funding for Schooling has made the suggestion, adding "we need to question the extent to which public funds should continue to subsidise those already well-resourced selective schools that are not providing 'value' add in terms of student performance".

The independent report - along with three others released by the panel yesterday - has been met with dismay by the private sector but praised by the Australian Education Union.

Comments released by the review panel yesterday state the reports "have made a case for fundamental change in the way we fund schooling at all levels of government".

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the reports would help the review panel develop its final recommendations, but he distanced the Government from what was in them.

"They do not represent the views of the panel and are not indicative of the Government's intentions," he said.

One report, written by the Allen Consulting Group, recommends school outcome information, including NAPLAN and My School financial data, be used to help decide base funding for all schools.

"Loading" would be provided to schools identified as needing additional resources "to assist students with specific needs to achieve specified outcomes".

Another report, written by a consortium led by The Nous Group, said higher-performing schools should be encouraged to "take on more under-performing students and demonstrate their quality through student performance over and above what would have been expected from past performance. This may mean restructuring some or all of the public subsidies so that they are retrospective and 'reward-based"'.

AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said the reports confirmed current funding contributed to a "deepening inequality in educational outcomes".

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said the review had failed to provide any analysis of its own, leaving private schools still nervous that their funding could be cut in real terms and that top-performing schools might suffer under the new funding model.


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