Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gross misuse of her position: College Professor at Northern Michigan University Offers Students Extra Credit for Attending Occupy Protest

As a sociology teacher I too set my students participant observation tasks but I avoided anything political -- JR

According to an email obtained by The Blaze, Professor Jeanne Lorentzen is offering students in her introductory sociology course 20 extra credit points if they attend an Occupy the Upper Peninsula demonstration with her on Saturday. Students who do not wish to attend the protest have the option of writing a 20-page term paper about a social movement to receive the same extra credit. Neither assignment is compulsory.

The email says students who choose to attend must make a protest sign that can say anything as long as it’s not “offensive, rude or divisive.” To qualify for the extra credit, students must sign an attendance sheet twice, at the beginning and end of the march.

Lorentzen did not return multiple phone call and email requests for comment to confirm the extra credit offer, but a Facebook profile for “Jeanne M. Lorentzen, prof @ NMU” is filled with pro-Occupy Wall Street articles, photos and postings. She “likes” both the pages for “Occupy the UP” and “Occupy the UP: NMU Students and Faculty.”

On Thursday, she posted a petition asking New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to evict the Occupy Wall Street protesters with the comment, “Please sign the petition!“ An earlier post notes ”Occupy Marquette is happening this Saturday.”

In order to earn 20 extra credit points students must participate in the march that is planned for Saturday, October 15th. The march starts at 10 a.m., but students who choose to do this assignment should meet me in Harlow Park, right next to Washington St., by at least 9:45 a.m. Students must make a protest sign (as long as it’s not offensive, rude or divisive you can write anything) and sign an attendance sheet twice, once at 9:45 a.m. and once after the march is over.

The organizers have been working with the Marquette Police, who were very supportive and helpful, in order to insure a safe and non-violent march. Those students who choose not to participate in the Occupy the U.P. march on Saturday may instead choose to write a 20 page term paper on a particular social movement and earn 20 extra credit points. You may choose to one or the other, but not both. You may also choose to do neither option.

University spokeswoman Kristi Evans said she had not heard about the assignment and though she couldn’t confirm it, saw no reason to think it would not be a real offer.

From the school’s perspective, Evans said there was nothing wrong with the assignment because students aren’t specifically required to attend, and have an alternative assignment they can do instead.

“The university doesn’t oversee what professors assign for extra credit,” she said, noting that as long as it doesn’t involve an “immoral or unethical” activity the school does not have reason to step in. NMU is a public university.

Dan Adamini, chair of the Marquette County Republican Party, said the assignment seemed very one-sided. He said he hoped that if extra credit is being given for attending Occupy U.P., students could get the same extra credit for attending a different demonstration they deemed “more sensible.”

“Whatever the topic is, I hope if you’re going to give extra credit for something like this, fairness would dictate you give extra credit for something on the other side,” he said.

Adamini disputed Lorentzen’s statement that “activities associated with social movements are limited in the Marquette area,” saying Marquette reguarly has marches and demonstrations for gay rights, abortion, union rights, the environment and the Tea Party movement. “She’s choosing this one versus something might be conservative in nature,” he said.

He also dismissed the offer of a 20-page term paper for students who didn’t want to demonstrate, saying, “I‘m not sure that’s the equivalent of taking a Saturday morning and taking a walk.”


Almost half of pupil allegations against British teachers are malicious and made up

Nearly half the allegations made against teachers are malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded, according to a Government study.

The Department for Education survey shows that only three per cent of investigations resulted in a police caution or court conviction for the teacher.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the research justified Government plans to allow teachers facing potentially career-wrecking allegations to remain anonymous while investigations took place.

But ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen sounded a note of caution yesterday, pointing out that it was often difficult for the ‘cumbersome’ criminal justice system to protect vulnerable children.

The survey looked at the number and nature of abuse allegations referred to 116 councils in England in the 12 months to April 2010. Of 12,086 claims, 2,827 – 23 per cent – were against teachers, and 1,709 were against school support staff. Forty-seven per cent of the allegations against teachers and 41 per cent of those against non-teaching employees were found to be baseless.

But nearly one fifth of teachers and one third of other staff members were suspended while the accusations were investigated.

Mr Gibb said: ‘Every allegation of abuse must be taken seriously but some children think they can make a false allegation without any thought to the consequences for the teacher concerned. ‘When these allegations are later found to be malicious or unfounded, the damage is already done.’

But Ms Rantzen said: ‘This means that half the allegations made by children require further action. ‘It is very difficult to provide corroboration for serious offences against children because they often happen in secret. So it is not surprising that only a small percentage result in a conviction.’

But she was in favour of the anonymity provision because of ‘terrible’ cases in which ‘good and committed’ teachers had been ‘to hell and back’ after false allegations were made against them.

‘There is no easy way to obtain justice for children. That is why organisations such as ChildLine are so important because we can move them to a place of safety without having to go through the cumbersome and often unfair legal process,’ Ms Rantzen said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NAS/UWT teaching union, said the anonymity proposal was a ‘small step in the right direction’ but more needed to be done to protect school staff from malicious allegations.

She said that the Government had failed to address the issue of information being kept by police even after a teacher had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Government has already revised its guidance to local authorities and schools to speed up the investigation process when a staff member is accused of an offence. The aim is to insure that allegations are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Other measures in the Government’s Education Bill include preventing appeal panels from sending excluded children back to the school from which they were removed and withdrawing the requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours’ notice of detentions.


Warning over British children's 'appalling' handwriting skills

Children are struggling to write their own name because growing numbers of schools are shunning traditional handwriting lessons, academics have warned.

Education standards are at risk as pupils are increasingly allowed to submit essays digitally using email, memory sticks or even presenting PowerPoint displays, it was claimed.

Prof Carey Jewitt, from London University’s Institute of Education, said students' handwriting skills were “absolutely appalling”, adding that many failed to get the practice they needed at home or in the classroom.

Other academics warned that a failure to teach children to write may stunt their development and hold them back in the classroom.

It comes after the publication of primary school exam results this summer showed that pupils perform worse in writing than any other core subject. A quarter of 11-year-olds failed to reach the standards expected for their age in writing, compared with less than 20 per cent in reading and maths, figures showed.

Prof Jewitt, who has been leading research into the relationship between handwriting and technology for the last 10 years, said the amount of lesson time devoted to the skill had plummeted. “Little children may not be able to write their names but most can type them,” she told the Times Educational Supplement. “Even families on a very low income are using email, using Skype.

“Students’ handwriting we have seen is absolutely appalling because they are not getting any practice. They aren’t handwriting at home.” Observations of lessons in secondary schools suggest that handwriting has now all but disappeared from the classroom, she said.

Teachers increasingly prepare their lessons in digital form in a range of subjects, including English, before presenting them on high-tech white boards. Many children are also allowed to submit essays as computer print-outs, send them to teachers by email or hand in work using memory sticks.

Dr Karin James, from the department for psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University in the United States, told the TES that a failure to develop handwriting skills undermined children’s reading ability. “This is setting their brains up to be able to process letters and words,” she said. “That doesn’t happen with keyboarding or even with tracing the letters. “Creating the form, stroke by stroke, seems to be very important. They need to produce the letters in their minds, then create them on paper.”

One study from Warwick University in 2008 suggested that children who struggled to write fluently devoted more brain capacity to getting words onto a page during tests – interfering with their ability to generate ideas, select vocabulary or plan work properly.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Handwriting is the most fundamental building block of being educated. "Every single parent expects their children to be taught how to properly write at school. The current National Curriculum stipulates this is an absolute central part of primary school lessons.

“This is a pretty esoteric debate. No one is saying that keyboard skills aren’t important – but if people like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs had to learn to write, then so can pupils in schools today. “


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