Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Philadelphia Protesters Force Cantor to Cancel Speech‏ at University of Pennsylvania

The closed minds of the Left again

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor abruptly canceled an economic speech at the University of Pennsylvania after learning his Friday address was likely to be packed with Occupy Philadelphia protesters.

Cantor (R-Va.) was expected to address the issue of income disparity in a speech titled “A Fair Shot at the American Dream and Economic Growth” at the university’s Wharton School of Business, according to The Hill. He reportedly canceled it just three-and-a-half hours beforehand.

Occupy Philadelphia, the city’s offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement, had planned an “Occupy Eric Cantor” demonstration and march, according to the group’s Facebook page. They planned to march from City Hall to the campus to protest Cantor.

A Cantor spokeswoman said the last-minute cancellation was because the school couldn’t guarantee the previously set attendance policy.

“The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met,” Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon told The Hill. “Wharton is a educational leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Majority Leader appreciated the invitation to speak with the students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the UPENN community.”

Cantor said earlier this month he was “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.” He later walked back those remarks, saying the frustration they represent is “warranted.”

As news spread of the cancellation, Occupy Philadelphia celebrated on its Twitter account with the post: “#Winning. #OccupyPhilly.” It also changed its plans from a protest against Cantor to a “March for Integrity.”


Our 'obviously incapable' teachers: Britain's new chief schools inspector takes aim at staff who do the bare minimum

Schools are being failed by ‘obviously incapable’ teachers who get away with doing the bare minimum, Ofsted’s new chief inspector has warned.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said it was ‘pretty straightforward’ to identify weak staff by looking at consistently poor behaviour or teaching standards. But a ‘more pressing issue’ was ‘the teacher who just does enough and no more than enough, who year in year out just comes up to the mark, but only just, and does the bare minimum’.

Sir Michael, who takes up his Ofsted post in January, said the quality of teaching ‘has to improve’ and the problem of ‘coasting’ teachers had to be addressed if there were to be more ‘outstanding’ schools.

Ofsted’s last annual report revealed that only around half of lessons were good or better. ‘That is a key issue. It has to be much higher than that,’ said Sir Michael, 65, who is the feted head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, East London.

His comments are likely to cause disquiet within the profession, which was warned by former Ofsted chief Sir Chris Woodhead in 1996 that there were ‘15,000 incompetent teachers’ in the system.

Asked by the Times Educational Supplement if he was taking Ofsted back to Woodhead-style ‘teacher bashing’, Sir Michael said teaching was a ‘noble profession’ but some teachers were letting it down. He added: ‘The great majority are very professional people who do their best. But in any large body of people there are going to be people that are not very good, and that has to be recognised.

‘It is really important to tell the truth and if there is an issue of poor teaching in our schools it is really important that [the chief inspector] talks about it in a very clear unequivocal manner.’

Sir Michael has previously said head teachers can be divided into those who are ‘fairly mediocre’ and don’t challenge the performance of pupils and staff, and ‘good’ ones who do.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he insisted head teachers should challenge staff who were not up to standard. He said: ‘What we’ve got to do in schools is ensure there are strong performance management systems.... to identify not just the hopelessly ineffective and incompetent teacher, but also those that are coasting and letting children down.’

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was concerned about the ‘focus’ of Sir Michael’s comments and the balance they struck between emphasising weaknesses and strengths.

Sir Michael, who has been a teacher for 42 years, including 25 as a head, is credited with turning the Mossbourne academy into one of England’s best-performing schools.

Sir Michael has also revealed his Ofsted contract could be shorter than the five years served by his predecessor. Sources suggest it could be as little as two years.


Australia: A thirst for knowledge of ancient history and religion in NSW schools

Rev. Peter Kurti

Rising levels of school retention rates have contributed to record enrolments for this year’s HSC exams, with nearly 23,000 students taking part.

But some interesting and surprising trends have emerged from these figures. While the sciences have held steady according to the NSW Board of Studies, some subjects are fading in their appeal.

Interest in geography has declined steadily since 1998; the same trend can be seen in modern history, economics and information technology, according to figures from the Board of Studies.

It seems that students are now reaching further back into the story of early human civilisation, with ancient history studies increasing in popularity. Only 6,740 students opted for the topic in 1995 – in 2010, that figure doubled to 12,269.

Religion has also surged in popularity with a mere 4,834 students sitting the exam in 1995. Fast forward to 2010 and that figure had risen to 14,182.

Not that The Sydney Morning Herald considered it necessary to mention this, let alone its significance, in a recent article about the changing mindset of students.

According to the NSW Board of Studies, ‘religion has been and is an integral part of human experience and a component of every culture,’ and the increased enrolments suggest students are increasingly aware of this fact.

Through the study of religion, students are gaining an appreciation of society and how it has influenced human behaviour in different cultures. And they seem to be thinking this through for themselves. Perhaps they have also grown weary of sneering secularism and the postmodern scepticism about religion in popular culture.


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