Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mother's Homeschooling Views Work for Her Child but not for NH Judge

A home school case being argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court Jan. 6 is a window into the kind of subtle bias against Christianity that permeates our modern institutions. Only, in this case it’s not even subtle. The reasoning of a lower court is a jolting revelation of how Biblical Christian values may be publicly marginalized.

People believe in and express strong opinions on all kinds of subjects. When the subject violates the politically correct orthodoxy, however, the rules of engagement change because “we don’t want to encourage that kind of thinking any longer.” It’s something like the grown-up version of shunning the kid in the schoolyard who doesn’t dress or speak the “right way.” Suddenly, certain subjects, i.e. Christian views, must be corrected at all costs; even at the expense of parental rights.

The controversy in NH started in a common enough way – with a divorce, and a young daughter, Amanda, born during the marriage. For four years the matter of schooling was more or less agreeably compromised with the mother home schooling Amanda, while providing occasional classes at the local public school. The plan was successful by anyone’s measure of progress; Amanda excelled academically, and all agreed she was well-socialized and happy.

At some point, however, the father decided he would rather see their daughter in public school, and applied pressure for the mother to end the home school arrangement. The mother, on the other hand, wanted to continue the personal attention and emphasis on religious values inculcated through the existing arrangement – an arrangement that by all accounts was highly successful.

Of course, when divorced parents don’t agree, courts inevitably get involved. But, judges must take great care not to take sides in religious disputes. The big surprise came when a judge ordered Amanda to attend government-run school, not on the basis of educational progress, but to counter what the court believed was a narrow religious world view, and to “expose” the girl to a “variety of points of view.”

As the judge saw it, “ (i)t would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.” Come again? Doesn’t every parent rightfully have this kind of influence over their children?

Now imagine mom was a vegetarian, or an ardent anti-war pacifist. Would a court muse that a ten year old child has been wrongly denied the carnivorous point of view, or should be exposed to military and pro-war types to broaden her thinking? Or perhaps that the narrow views of a Democrat Party official needed to balanced with exposure to Tea Party philosophy. After all, the child is only ten years old; how can she know what she really thinks about health care until she hears other views? More to the point imagine a Muslim parent being told this veil thing is too restrictive; how will young Fatima know if she really wants to follow Islam or wear a burka until she hears Lady Gaga on some other kid’s iPod?

The rules change, though, if the context is some type of Christian orthodoxy that actually believes in something like (gasp) a traditional religious view of right and wrong, or even sin. Overall, a court has no place in evaluating the merits of religious upbringing – unless, of course, it violates the new orthodoxy of relativism. After all, we can’t have kids thinking that sort of stuff any longer, can we?


Nearly half of British women wouldn't bother with university if they had the chance again

Young women are losing faith in the university system with nearly half believing it is not worth getting a degree. Tuition fees and little chance of landing a good job make higher education an unattractive prospect for them, a study suggests. It found that nearly half of female graduates would not go to university if they had the chance again.

The research will cause concern because it was carried out before the Government announced that fees will almost treble to £9,000 in 2012.

The findings have prompted warnings that a generation of ambitious young women will miss out on a high-flying career and the opportunity to continue their education. Louise Court, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, which conducted the survey, said young women seem to think university ‘a waste of time’. ‘It’s never been harder to be a young woman with ambition,’ she said. ‘Understandably, women are angry and frustrated about their future and this is having a damaging affect on their self-esteem. ‘We’re urging women across the country to never give up, recognise that now can be a time for real opportunity and to always follow their dreams.’

The survey of 1,353 women also looked at the career prospects and financial outlook for women in 2011. Two thirds of those questioned said they thought it would be ‘almost impossible’ to get their dream job and a quarter were unable to follow their preferred career. Only 14 per cent said they felt safe from the sack.

And the financial situation for graduates was especially bad, with half saying they had so much student debt they could not save. The same proportion believed they faced worse financial hardship than their parents. One in seven women said they had been forced to postpone getting married because a wedding would be too expensive. And more than one in six admitted that financial constraints had made them postpone trying to start a family.

Vicky Tuck, a campaigner for women’s education and former head of Cheltenham Ladies College, said: ‘The rise in fees is going to make a lot of people reflect on why they are going to university. ‘Before the introduction of fees it was not an automatic assumption that a degree would lead to a good job. It is only recently that we have seen that relationship. ‘It is a very difficult time in terms of the job market and it will continue to be so for some time. ‘I believe that women should only go to university if they have a genuine interest in learning, a precious opportunity. If they go purely to get a job, many will be disappointed.’


British military school becomes academy (Charter) to take civilians

Standing proud and correct in his spotless ceremonial blues, this is the first civilian pupil admitted to a military school. The Duke of York Royal Military School was allowed to relax its strict admission rules after it was granted academy status by the Government.

Yesterday 13-year-old David Free became the first pupil from a non-military family to attend the £9,750-a-year school in its 200-year history.

But while the mixed boarding school has relaxed its admissions policy its tradition of strict discipline remains. Teaching is punctuated by military drills, a Regimental Sergeant Major leads marches on the parade ground and all students are in the cadet force.

Pupils stand up when teachers enter a classroom and attend chapel daily. Table manners are enforced in the Harry Potter-style dining hall. The results speak for themselves – 100 per cent of pupils got five A*-C GCSEs last year.

Graham and Jaki Free, David’s parents from North Wales, chose the school, in Dover, Kent, because they believed their son would ‘thrive in a disciplined environment’.

The teenager had to smarten up in readiness for the school. His long, floppy fringe was shorn into a short-back-and-sides and his low slung baggy jeans had to be left at home.

His parents both run their own IT businesses. Mother-of-three Mrs Free, said: ‘David’s academic performance has been tailing off so we’ve been searching for the perfect mix for a teenage lad. ‘He’s an energetic teen who needs lots of sports, structure and academic challenges.’

The Duke of York Royal Military School, for pupils aged 11-18, was founded for children orphaned during the Napoleonic Wars. It previously received all of its funding from the Ministry of Defence and was run like an Army base.

As an academy it will receive the same per pupil funding as a state school from the Department for Education plus an annual £1.5million from the MoD for ceremonial events. However, the new status gives the school management more freedom to run the school as it sees fit and open up admissions.

While the state pays for the teaching element, parents pay the boarding fees. Military families receive a Continuity of Education Allowance from the MoD which covers 90 per cent of the fee.

Headmaster Charles Johnson, said: ‘Considering that at any one time the fathers of around 50 of our pupils are fighting in a war, the behaviour of our youngsters is outstanding. ‘Discipline is strong but structured and given in caring environment. ‘Students leave with high academic achievements but also with a strong sense of self-reliance, confidence, leadership skills and a sense of responsibility.

‘Now that we’ve freedom to run the school as we like we’re hoping to get more youngsters from non-military backgrounds but we will not relax our standards. ‘Welcoming David our first civvie is a proud moment.’

The school is one of 407 to be granted academy status. This week the Department for Education said the number of academies had reached a ‘tipping point’ which would provide the momentum for all state schools to be granted academy status.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘The academies programme gives parents real choice over the kind of education they want for their children. ‘Given that choice, many parents are drawn towards schools with more traditional values, like good discipline, a strong ethos, school uniforms, and a house system.’


Friday, January 07, 2011

How Far Does an American college education take You?

It is ingrained in the heads of the youth that you must go to college to get a good job. While overall that is good advice, some graduates are finding their $100,000 educations haven’t provided them with the necessary skills for the modern work world.

College is more expensive than ever forcing students to pay more than 400 percent more for a college education today than 30 years ago. And as a result of increased tuition costs, students are carrying mountains of debt and aren’t finding the high-paying, coveted jobs promised to them upon graduation.

In fact, an article by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) highlighted the trend of useless college degrees and cited a study that showed “60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the (Bureau of Labor Statistics) considers relatively low skilled — occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less.”

The article went on to say, “Of the nearly 50 million U.S. college graduates, 17.4 million are holding jobs for which college training is regarded as unnecessary. The number of waiters and waitresses with college degrees more than doubled in the years 1992-2008, from 119,000 to 338,000, and cashiers with college degrees rose from 132,000 to 365,000.”

What happened to the American Dream for the youth of America?

It’s simple. Because of the push for American youngsters to get college degrees through government subsidies, a four-year degree is becoming less valuable in the working world. Therefore, students graduating with a bachelor’s degree are finding it necessary to get a master’s degree or even a Ph.D to set themselves apart from the masses in order to find a relatively good job that requires their degree.

This new reality, coupled with rising tuition costs, leaves students with a mountain of debt. How are the “5,057 janitors in the U.S. with Ph.D.’s, other doctorates, or professional degrees” ever supposed to pay off all that accrued school debt?

The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 Americans graduated from college with more than $40,000 in student loan debt during 2008. Also shocking is a statistic printed in the Business Insider stating that, “Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.”

And what does the government do about it? It further encourages children to go to college getting any degree necessary to graduate while pushing financial assistance, which often comes in the form of a student loan. And cash-strapped states have no problems upping the tuition for public universities in order to obtain more revenue while at the same time cutting faculty and class options.

America is failing its college students by teaching them it’s okay to take on a mountain load of debt in an economy where there is no guarantee they’ll be able to pay it off.

“There are 2.37 million unemployed college graduates. That’s staggering,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “The number rises to 5.6 million when you also look at those with some college or an associate degree. We are doing a true disservice to our youth by pushing them along a path that offers no guarantee of success. The government’s continued push to educate America by any means necessary has only caused an education debt bubble, much like the housing crisis bubble, which we are still recovering from.”

An article in Forbes suggested that America would be better off with much less government subsidies for education. One of those reasons, “The statistical correlation between state government higher education spending and economic growth is negative, not positive, suggesting the positive economic spillover effects of governmental university aid are non-existent and maybe even negative.”

The author states that despite more youth attaining higher education, “voter participation has not risen, volunteerism has not dramatically increased, and other alleged social positive spillover effects of more higher education are not apparent.”

Instead America has created a glut of college-educated young adults facing a debt burden that has possibly pushed them even farther from the American Dream then before their college days.

As students work their way through college, they need to ask themselves if they are getting a valuable education. It is the job of both students and parents to hold college administrators accountable and make sure their education is a worthy investment.

Any other product that costs $100,000 that proves to not meet its advertised claims would not stand a chance in the marketplace. It is time for colleges to increase their value to students and society all while lowering their costs.


Victory for honesty and decency over the vindictive and irresponsible bureaucracy at a British school

"I cried and cried when they told me I'd won": Dinner lady speaks out after tribunal rules she was unfairly fired for telling parents of bullying

A School dinner lady who was sacked after inadvertently speaking to a pupil’s parents about a bullying incident wept for joy after winning an employment tribunal, she revealed yesterday. Carol Hill, 60, has endured a 19-month ordeal since helping seven-year-old Chloe David, who had been tied to a fence and whipped with a skipping rope by four children.

When she later bumped into the schoolgirl’s parents at a Beaver Scouts meeting, she assumed they had been told and asked how she was – only to discover they had been informed she had suffered a ‘minor accident’.

Mrs Hill was suspended by headteacher Debbie Crabb and spoke to a newspaper about her distress. She was dismissed three months later for breaching confidentiality and bringing the school into disrepute.

But an employment tribunal has now ruled she was unfairly dismissed from Great Tey Primary School, near Colchester. A further hearing next month will decide whether she should be reinstated and how much compensation she should receive.

‘When I was told I had won I couldn’t believe it. I cried and I couldn’t stop,’ said Mrs Hill, who described her treatment as ‘barmy and ridiculous’. ‘I lost weight and my hair thinned because of the stress. My husband Ron and I have had our ups and downs too. We’ve argued and it was all my fault because I was so anxious and worried. ‘I’m not like that normally and I have apologised to him – he’s such a laid-back person and has acted as a buffer for me.

‘The worst part was not being at the school any more. Not because of the money – I only got about £125 a month – but because of the job itself. I love kids and to be taken away from them like I was some sort of criminal was heartbreaking.’

Mrs Hill, who has been working as a cleaner since losing her job, added she would not have a problem returning to the school. ‘I have been cleared, so I will happily walk back in. It’s not like my path crossed with the headteacher’s all that much anyway,’ she said.

The mother-of-two, who worked one hour a day at the school, was patrolling the playground in June 2009 when a pupil told her another child was being bullied. She found the sobbing victim tied to a chain-link fence, with rope burns on her wrist and whip marks on her legs. The bullies were punished by being made to miss part of their lunch break.

When Chloe went home, she was given an ‘accident notification letter’ from the school which mentioned her injuries but not how they happened. She was too upset to tell her parents, Scott and Claire, any more and it was only when Mrs Hill, who lives in Great Tey, started chatting to them innocently that evening that they learned the truth.

She was suspended after the couple raised concerns with the school and sacked shortly afterwards, despite Mr David calling for her to be allowed to return to her job.

An appeal was dismissed in November 2009, even though Ed Balls, then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, wrote to the chairman of governors demanding an investigation into the school’s ‘totally inadequate’ handling of the affair.

During the hearing at Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal in November, headteacher Mrs Crabb said Mrs Hill had been sacked for talking to the press. But the tribunal yesterday ruled that the governors had not carried out a reasonable investigation into the allegations and that the disciplinary and appeal hearing were not fair.

The remedies hearing, when Mrs Hill will be told whether she can be reinstated and compensated, will be held on February 2 and 3.

Father-of-four Mr David, who took Chloe and her younger brother Cameron, five, out of the school after Mrs Hill was dismissed, said she had been used as a scapegoat to cover the school’s lack of action. ‘We were disgusted [at the dismissal]. Carol’s whole life was the school and making the children happy,’ he added.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which represented Mrs Hill at the tribunal, said: ‘Unison has always believed in her case.’

A spokesman for Great Tey School and Essex County Council admitted the dismissal procedures had been flawed but said the tribunal had found against Mrs Hill in some areas, including that she was ‘not acting in good faith when speaking to the press’. He added: ‘The claimant’s predominant motive was self-interest and to a lesser extent antagonism towards Mrs Crabb. The tribunal also ruled that disclosures were not protected under the Employment Rights Act, therefore she was not acting as a whistleblower.

‘The council and school will now be considering all the options before making any further decisions or announcements.’ The council also disputed Unison’s interpretation of the tribunal’s lengthy judgment, claiming it was ‘inaccurate’ to say Mrs Hill had won her claim for unfair dismissal.

Mrs Crabb told the panel that Mrs Hill was sacked for committing the 'offence' of 'going to the press'. Mrs Hill's decision to give details of the incident to the child's parents was a breach of confidentiality which would have earned her a 'final warning', said Mrs Crabb. But by 'talking' to a journalist, Mrs Hill brought the school into disrepute and had to be dismissed, she added.

A Unison spokeswoman added: 'The tribunal has upheld Carol Hill's complaint of unfair dismissal. 'The employment tribunal found that Carol's dismissal was procedurally unfair, in that the (school) did not carry out a reasonable investigation into the allegations against Carol, and that the disciplinary and appeal hearings were not fair hearings.'

Unison said the tribunal panel would consider whether Mrs Hill should be compensated and reinstated at a hearing in Bury St Edmunds on February 2. General secretary Dave Prentis said: 'It has been a long and very difficult wait for this ruling from the employment tribunal for Carol and her family over Christmas and the New Year.

'I am sure they will be very pleased that the wait is over and the tribunal has found in her favour. She now faces another month until the remedies hearing and that cannot be easy. Unison has always believed in her case and we will be there to support her at the hearing.'

Mrs Hill added: 'The remedies hearing will be the last step in a very long and hard journey.'


Australia: Piggyback rides banned in Catholic schools

This seems excessive

Catholic clergy have been banned from giving children piggyback rides under child protection policies introduced by an outer Melbourne parish. The new policies, aimed at preventing abuse, include bans on inappropriate embracing, or contacting children through Facebook or SMS. They are being introduced at parishes in Lilydale and Healesville this year.

Guidelines will apply to all priests, parish workers, staff and volunteers representing the church, including those at associated schools St Patrick's and St Brigid's Catholic primary schools. The policies, believed to be the first in Melbourne, were put into place after two allegedly abusive priests served in the district.

Conduct deemed acceptable includes "high fives", pats on the shoulder or back, holding hands with small children, handshakes, and verbal praise.

The rules say any emails sent to minors should have parents or guardians copied in, and any phone calls should be made to the family home. Social networking is not considered an appropriate way for an adult to socialise with a child.

Inappropriate embraces, kisses on the lips, wrestling, holding minors over four on the lap, giving or receiving any type of massage, and tickling minors are all on the banned list.

Father Julian Langridge, who led the formation of the policies, based them on Catholic protocols followed Australia-wide, said Bishop Les Tomlinson, Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. "It is taking an ultra-cautious approach, but it is partly about rebuilding confidence by making clear exactly what boundaries in which the clergy will function," Bishop Tomlinson said.

He said Fr Langridge decided the guidelines would be a positive thing for his parish. "And I agree with that," he said.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Zero tolerance in the 21st century: Justice sans reason

In America, it used to be that a kid caught with something he wasn’t supposed to have at school had it confiscated by his teacher to be returned to him at the end of the day with a stern warning not to bring it again. Kids used to bring their dad’s WWII swords and pistol souvenirs to class for show and tell while no one so much as batted an eye.

But times have changed drastically from only a decade ago when the “War on Terror” and “zero tolerance” found their way into the American lexicon.

Zero tolerance policy is uncooked justice without the pinch of reasoning. Draconian punishment, un-tempered by the essential elements of fairness, logic, perspective, and common sense, is the usual result.

The latest victim is an exemplary student athlete at a North Carolina high school, suspended for the remainder of her senior year, and charged with a misdemeanor for having a small paring knife in her lunchbox. She accidentally took her father's lunchbox to school; school officials searched it; found her Dad’s apple peeling utensil; banned her from campus; and then charged her criminally with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. The incident is likely to ruin her entire academic career.

She might have brought a baseball bat to gym class without such unpleasant consequences, though that instrument could easily be employed to bash in the heads of fellow students and teachers alike. She might have used her athletic shoelaces as a garrote to strangle one of her classmates. Her school apparently isn’t afraid of shoelaces. A pencil or ballpoint pen might be used to gouge out a few eyes, but those aren’t considered weapons either.

Indeed, she might have brought a hundred assorted “weapons,” from bobby pins to paper shears, plastic bags to nail files, without arousing the mighty omnipotent high school Authority!

She could have left the little knife at home and gone to the school kitchen for a big knife were it her intent to stab someone. Of course, we all know that it was not her intent to bring a weapon to school in the first place, and certainly not for the purpose of harming anyone. The school officials know that. The police know that. The prosecutor knows that. Anyone with half a brain knows that.

So why didn’t the education thugs just confiscate the “weapon” and return it to her at the end of the school day with a warning, as any reasonable teacher has done for centuries? Why were they even searching through her lunch box?

Zero tolerance! Absolute and unequivocal zero tolerance – that’s why. The deception in consciousness in this case is the delusional necessity for zero tolerance. To Hell with circumstances; reason doesn’t count; she broke the rule which makes us safe from terrorists in our War on Terror. She’s a potential terrorist. She must pay the price for zero tolerance. Even if we all know she isn’t a terrorist, we’re going to treat her like one anyway because terrorism is serious business since 9/11 and requires zero tolerance.

By far, the most common terrorist of them all is this mindless governmental Authority!


IN: School sued for kicking boy off team over haircut

Schools that insist on dress standards do seem to get better results generally

An Indiana family is suing a high school after their son was kicked off the basketball team for having long hair, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Patrick and Melissa Hayden filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis against Greensburg Junior High, claiming that the team's haircut policy that got their son benched from the team is unconstitutional.

The 14-year-old boy was kicked off the team last fall for failing to comply with team rules that require players' hair to be above their eyebrows, collar and ears, according to the paper.

"What they're trying to do here is teach (their son) a life lesson, which simply is that you fight for what's right," Ron Frazier, the Haydens attorney, told the Indianapolis Star.

The school tells the paper the policy did not violate the boy's rights, saying that participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right. An attorney for the school says the boy was not denied a right to an education; he just needed to follow a certain policy to play sports.

"It's two different standards. There is no right to engage in extracurricular activities," attorney Tuck Hopkins told the paper.

A similar case was brought before a Missouri federal court in 2003, but the judge dismissed the case, saying the grooming policy did not violate the player's constitutional rights.


Academy (Charter) status for one-in-10 British secondary schools

One-in-10 secondary schools has been converted into an independent academy in the most radical shake-up of state education for decades, it is revealed today.

Under the Coalition Government, the number of schools given new powers to break free of local council control has more than doubled to 407, figures show.

Many of the schools granted academy status are poor-performing comprehensives placed in the hands of third-party sponsors – private companies, fee-paying schools, universities and charities – in an attempt to drive up standards. Firms such as JCB, BT and the Co-operative Group and independent schools such as Sevenoaks in Kent are among organisations now helping to run academies.

Last night, the National Union of Teachers warned that the Government was creating an “unaccountable” system of state education in England. But Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said schools benefited from greater independence, insisting figures showed exam results among academies increased faster than the national average. "The Coalition believes that head teachers and teachers – not politicians and bureaucrats – know best how to run schools,” he said.

Academy status gives individual head teachers almost complete freedom over budgets, the curriculum, hiring staff, term times and the length of school day. Some 203 state secondaries were converted into academies under Labour as part of one of the former Government’s most contentious education reforms.

The proposals are strongly backed by both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who both pledged to expand the number of academies. In one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Coalition, all state school can now apply for academy status. Outstanding schools can be fast-tracked into academies, while local councils are being told to draw up hit-lists of poor performing schools that can be converted under the leadership of a sponsor.

New laws also give primary and special schools the power to become academies for the first time.

According to figures released by the Department for Education, some 204 schools have converted into academies since September. Of those schools now named as academies, 36 are primaries and 371 are secondaries. Academies now account for more than one-in-10 of the 3,127 secondary schools in England. In total, 46 of the new academies have been opened under the leadership of a third-party sponsor, often replacing a struggling comprehensive.

Kunskapsskolan, the profit-making Swedish education firm, has stepped in to run two schools in south-west London, it was disclosed, and JCB is sponsoring a school near its Staffordshire head office. BT is co-running a school in Manchester and construction firms Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O'Rourke are also co-sponsoring an academy in the city.

Some private schools, including Sevenoaks, are also involved in the scheme, helping to appoint senior staff and sharing facilities with the new schools.

The Coalition wants academy status to become the “norm”, eventually paving the way for all 21,000 state schools to break free of council control.

But Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said academies remained among the minority. “It is quite clear that schools are thinking twice about taking up academy status,” she said. “What we need to see for the benefit of all our children’s future is a democratically accountable education system operating within the local authority not some patchwork unaccountable provision”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: “This is no cause for celebration. The clear motivation for academy status is that most schools are being duped into believing that they will get extra money at a time when schools and education are facing savage cuts."


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Poisoning the children's minds with climate scares: will that educational tide be on the turn in 2011?

We have seen an astonishing 40 years of scaremongering triggered by a few irresponsible scientists whose computer models became so vividly real for them that they abandoned basic adult responsibilities in their consequent public agitations. After a brief dalliance with the possibility of the onset of the next glaciation, their efforts turned to warming, encouraged no doubt by the remarkable annual increases of CO2 recorded at Mona Loa.

They devised models to give CO2 a more important role in climate than observations and properly conducted historical reconstructions support. The models do this by means of an hypothesised positive feedback involving water vapour, a feedback which is implausible from our knowledge of atmospheric history, and unconfirmed by recent observations, not least of air temperatures which fail to show the tropospheric 'hotspot' predicted by the models.

The 'settled science' of CO2 applies merely to its radiative properties, since the impact of these on the climate system is far from settled, with expert estimates ranging from an overall slight cooling, to a slight warming from projected increases in ambient CO2 over the next hundred years or so.

The apocalyptic stuff requires those computer models and their novel feedbacks. Models which are mere toys in the face of the immense complexity of the system they refer to. Models fit only to illustrate some aspects of speculations about the climate amongst relevant professionals, and not nearly good enough to warrant the widespread alarm they have been used to support.

It seems to me that adults, and in particular professionals, have a moral responsibility to avoid such scaremongering, and in particular to protect school-age children from it. The temptations to pursue it for financial and political gain, or even for the pursuit of publicity and public attention as ends in themselves, are obvious and in part explain the enthusiastic adoption of climate scares by powerful individuals and organisations keen to grow in power and influence. That they have dramatically succeeded in this is one of the most interesting features of the current scare, and one which is surely worthy of deep study in many disciplines if we are to have any hope of reducing our vulnerability to such exploitation.

While the media/political class chattering in and around climate will no doubt continue into the indefinite future, perhaps continuing the 20th century tradition of alternating, on an approximately 30 year cycle, between cold and hot dooms. (Certainly the recent cold weather over most of the northern temperature latitudes has seen more talk of ice ages, 'little' or otherwise.) Or, the talk may become more nuanced, and less vulnerable to refutation, by deploying less specific threats such as 'climate change' or 'climate disruption', giving the agitators scope for pushing their 'cause' on the back of the inevitable excursions of weather events near or beyond previously recorded extremes. Attempts have been made to make this particular spin, but their impact seems limited, presumably because of the huge prior success in promoting the warming motif.

The establishment (media, political classes, academia, governments, the EU, the UN, major NGOs and other multinational corporations) has bought wholeheartedly into climate alarm, some no doubt for genuine and honest reasons, based on trust in the pontifications of erstwhile respected bodies such as the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London, or indeed of the once 'dull and dowdy' Met Office, now transformed with the help of a WWF activist into an important exponent of 'climatism'. They make for a wealthy and powerful force driving and/or riding the tide of alarmist opinion about climate. It might seem futile to resist it.

But what else can we do? Will it self-destruct? The case for alarm over human impacts on climate is so thin, so tenuous, that it seems doomed to collapse from its own absurdity. The last year or so, from Climategate onwards, has seen much to encourage this view, aided and abetted by the wacky sense of humour of the weather gods who produced the Gore Effect so many times, and, now, another winter on the cold side over very extensive areas in the northern hemisphere.

Unfortunately the alarmist-virus is out and into the educational bloodstream, threatening to produce more and more demoralised and frightened children. At the very least, we who look on appalled at its spread, can try to find and encourage antibodies wherever and whenever they appear. To mix-in the earlier metaphor, the tide may be turned earlier in some places than in others. Variability is, after all, all around us.


Black Pogrom against Asians in Philadelphia School

Wikipedia describes the Russian word “pogrom” as a form of “violent riot, a mob attack, either approved or condoned by government or military authorities, directed against a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or other”.

Education Week reports “The courage of Asian students to describe the harassment and violence they experienced at South Philadelphia High School led members of the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission to act on their behalf, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Those of you who are part of the truly politically correct rainbow coalition learned in college in the 70s to 90s that racism can only be committed by whites against blacks because of the nature of the racist power structure. Well somebody forgot to tell the groups of predominantly African American students who weren’t feeling particularly multicultural on December 3, 2009 to not beat up 30 Asian students who were English Language Learners. The Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund also filed the complaint with the federal government.

USA Today reported that gangs roamed the halls searching for Asians. After they found and attacked their first victim in a classroom, another 70 students mobbed the cafeteria, beating several others. Another 35 students who were undeterred by a police officer were turned back from what they called the “Asian floor”. After school, Asian students were escorted home, but still targeted by toughs. 30 Asians were injured that day and seven were hospitalized.

Apologists said race had nothing to do with it. Community specialist Wali Smith who saw the violence explains blacks were marginalized by Italians and Irish. Now as the schools are 100% “diverse”, 70% black with an 18% Asian minority they resent seeing Asians given a special second-floor sanctuary for language programs, while the staff doesn’t care about black students. The gangster mentality also drives some to target weak people, so when they mugged Asians in the bathroom and they didn’t report it “they’ll just keep riding it until the wheels fall off.”

Asians were most angry at the school district which had failed to protect them. If anything it seemed that the African American staff and administration was taking sides and looking the other way. They seemed to put the blame on a racist and capitalist society with a centuries long history of injustices towards African Americans rather than the individual perpetrators as criminals. District superintendent Arlene Ackerman said “These problems are long-standing and go beyond the school and into the community.”

The primary directive of Asian immigrants is not “demanding racial justice from whites”, even if that is what 70s college educated “Ho Chih Minh is my hero” Asian American Movement™ hippies were taught. They try for and get BETTER grades and scores than majority whites. If the low income immigrants score lower than their counterparts in Cupertino and go to San Jose State instead of Stanford while their parents work 6 jobs 25 hours a day, they still think they’re ahead of the game instead of vowing to bring down suburban Koreans and Mandarin Chinese.. They see America as a land of limitless opportunity. They are thankful they have been given the chance to climb over obstacles placed in their path rather than cursing the races and economic systems responsible for their misery.

Asians do not see America as an inhuman, morally bankrupt capitalist system whose dominant whites and new pet Asians have stolen unfair wealth, restaurants, corner stores and Acuras on the backs of the oppressed. To their tormentors, Amerika is a system that must be smashed. Petty theft is merely payback for “problems that are long-standing and go beyond the school and into the community.” Young predators do not comprehend the concepts like individual accountability or guilt, or advancement through virtue. They only understand the language of “racial equality” and “social justice”.

Black conservatives like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams would certainly agree that White Nationalists could not concoct a more evil system to happily brainwash a once-proud people into a self-destructive cycle dooming them to the bottom rungs of society for generations. There is a multi-million if not billion dollar industry which enriches a leadership (obviously not Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck) enriched by their cut of the profits of the 21st century slave trade of “racial justice” which keeps people in chains.

It was South Pacific that explained how babies born into innocence are “carefully taught” to pull others down rather than look for and grab a helping hand up. Perhaps that is what creates jobs for so many full time activists, academic and government officials training poor, Hispanic and African Americans to see American 180 degrees of how Asians see it, and why they carefully exclude Asians from any of their studies of “economic justice”

But Asians do have the African Americans to thank for shoring up the one big Asian weakness – having the guts to stand up and complain. It was local activists, god bless them for once, who came up with the idea of 50 Asian students boycotting school for a week to make a bold statement, a tactic seemingly inspired by the original civil rights era boycotts like the bus boycott. Economic success is not an either-or proposition. Yes you must protest injustice and unfairness. But once you put a stop to violence and hatred, it is ultimately up to the individual to raise him or herself and their people as high as they can go.


Britain's Common entrance exam could go online

A century-old exam used by the country's top private schools is to undergo its first major overhaul in decades. Plans are being drawn up to put the Common Entrance exam online in an attempt to make it less stressful for young pupils, according to the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS)

First introduced in 1904, Common Entrance is an exam taken by children applying to private secondary schools, including top institutions like Eton College, at age 11 and 13. Pupils are entered for the exam if they have been offered a place at a school, subject to passing it, and the papers are then marked by the relevant school.

All pupils take Common Entrance in English, maths and science, and at age 13+ they can also take French, geography, German, Greek, history, Latin, religious studies and Spanish. Secondary schools choose which options they require from pupils, which means youngsters applying to more than one school could have to sit several subjects.

Critics have also raised concerns in the past that the exam is too intensive, and overloads prep schools' syllabuses.

IAPS chief executive David Hanson said: "Other examination systems have come and gone, but Common Entrance has remained because it has great qualities. "What we need to do now is to build on those qualities and make best use of new technology to ease the burden of examinations on young pupils."

A team of IAPS heads has been working with the association to develop a series of online tests, he said. "These tests can be done online, in the child's school, which we hope will not only help them to feel more at ease, but also free up time during senior school visits so pupils can really get to know their chosen new school."


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Education Law Offers Chance for Cross-Party Action, Duncan Says

This call would deserve respect if there were any sign that the Donks were prepared to compromise on any element of their agenda but there is no sign of it. The way they closed down the DC voucher system indicates that they are in fact rowing away from any concession to GOP ideas

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there are few areas “more suited for bipartisan action than education reform,” as the Democratic administration prepares for a new, more Republican-dominated Congress.

Democrats and Republicans agree that there are problems with the “No Child Left Behind” law for schools that was passed under former President George W. Bush, Duncan wrote in a column in today’s Washington Post.

Changing the education legislation is an area where the administration of Barack Obama and Republicans can work together to reach bipartisan agreement, Duncan said. When the 112th Congress convenes Jan. 5, Republicans will take control of the House and will hold 47 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

Difficulties with the law include labeling schools “as failures, even when they are making broad gains,” insufficient ways of measuring student progress, and the concern that the law is “driving some educators to teach to the test” rather than provide a well-rounded education, he said.

“Most people dislike NCLB’s one-size-fits-all mandates,” he wrote in the op-ed column. The 2002 act mandates that students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 on state standardized tests and that schools show yearly progress toward that goal or risk losing federal money.

“Almost no one believes the teacher quality provisions of NCLB are helping elevate the teaching profession, or ensuring that the most challenged students get their fair share of the best teachers,” he wrote.

Duncan wrote that he has spoken with hundreds of Republicans and Democratic lawmakers and “while we don’t agree on everything, our core goals are shared -- and we all want to fix NCLB to better support reform at the state and local level.”


Do your kids shower after gym class? Tradition fading away for some

Today's teens aren't shocked by much. They don't blink an eye when they spot a kid with drugs or a classmate with a baby. It's not that big a deal anymore if guys or girls dye their hair pink and pierce their faces. But the idea of getting naked to shower after gym class? No way, José.

Eyes bulge at the mere mention of showering around other students, which was common — mandatory, even — in middle schools and high schools across the country just a decade or two ago.

"I wouldn't do it," said 16-year-old Adrian Alequin, a junior at Winter Park High School. "It's way too weird. I don't want to see another guy like that."

Today, students generally have the option of stripping down to wash off the sweat and grime after workouts in the hot Florida sun. Most of the time, though, they don't. Even after hours of sports practice and rigorous competitions, many kids wait to bathe at home.

It might seem odd that teens, who are notoriously self-conscious, would forgo a quick rinse to keep from stinking in class. But veteran educators explain that the behavior isn't that unusual in an era when people of all ages are becoming more concerned about their privacy.

Parents, who have their own horror stories about showering in front of their peers and undergoing shower inspections by gym teachers, have pushed for an end to the practice. And school districts, worried about lawsuits and other problems, have given in. In some cases, school officials have even begun discouraging showers.

In the early 1990s, the Hollidaysburg school district in Pennsylvania drew national attention after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over its shower rule. A girl there got in trouble for refusing to open her towel so a gym teacher could make sure she wasn't wearing underwear into the shower.

Attorney David Millstein, who took the case on behalf of the ACLU, said the issue struck a nerve in communities far and wide. "Of all the cases I've ever done with the ACLU, this is the one case I got the most reaction from," he said while vacationing in Naples, Fla., during the holidays. "It was my belief that unless a student smelled and was drawing flies, it wasn't the school's business."

Some athletic coaches and health advocates have expressed concerns, however, about allowing teens to forgo bathing after playing sports, especially those involving a lot of skin-to-skin contact.


British universities accused of 'dumbing down' over plans to include work experience in degree marks

Universities have been criticised over plans to award students extra marks towards their degrees if they can show 'corporate skills'. Several institutions, including the University of Leicester, University College London and Durham University, are considering ways to reward experience gained in the workplace.

Undergraduates on all Leicester's courses could earn credits for showing they can run workshops or make a good presentation, while Durham is considering awarding marks for work experience. UCL's career unit has met with employers to discuss how to accredit skills.

Vocationally-orientated degrees, such as engineering, have long included compulsory workplaces skills courses, but this is thought to be the first time that the move has been planned for academic courses such as English literature.

But James Ladyman, a professor of philosophy at Bristol University, accused universities of short-sightedness and said learning to think was the skill graduates most needed in order to succeed in the workplace. 'Incorporating corporate skills into the curriculum is short-term thinking,' he told the Guardian. 'The point about education is that it equips you for the long-term. Now we have this emphasis on the cash-value of a degree.'

Mike Molesworth, senior lecturer in consumer cultures at Bournemouth University told the newspaper that some universities were now 'reducing their ambition to churning out cheap, job-ready young people to fill the immediate skills gaps identified by corporations'.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Fat cat teachers in Mass.:

Like most city workers, Boston teachers enjoy generous health benefits that would be the envy of many private-sector employees struggling with rising insurance costs.

But teachers can count on even more: A taxpayer-funded trust provides dental and vision coverage better than the plan for most city workers. In recent years, the trust paid some $45,000 annually for funeral expenses, hearing aids, a softball league, and other extras, according to recent tax filings.

As part of the package, taxpayers also contributed almost $1.3 million in the last school year for teachers’ legal services unrelated to the classroom, helping with wills, bankruptcy, real estate, name changes, and defense against some misdemeanor criminal charges.

The perks cost taxpayers $1,423 per teacher and $887 per paraprofessional this year, for a total of almost $8.4 million. That figure is above and beyond the $86.2 million the city will contribute for teachers’ life and health insurance, which includes below-average premiums and copayments as low as $10.

The Boston Teachers Union makes no apology for its trust fund, saying that it agreed to the benefits decades ago instead of a pay hike. Payments to the fund are set at a fixed rate per teacher, union officials said, so the expense to taxpayers is capped and will not rise unexpectedly like other health-care costs.

But with a sputtering economy, the city faces intense financial pressure as it negotiates a new contract with teachers and almost all of its other 43 unions. The School Department alone must close an estimated budget gap of $63 million and plans to shutter 10 schools and consolidate eight others to cut costs. Some observers argue that the time has come for the city to take a hard look at old collective-bargaining deals.

“It’s time to rethink health and welfare and treat teachers exactly as other employees in terms of benefits, and eliminate the expenditures for these other services,’’ said Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a fiscal watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofits. “It really ought to be an item on the list in terms of trying to negotiate changes.’’

The fund dates to 1968, when Mayor Kevin H. White sought an alternative way to compensate teachers, said former members of the contact negotiating team for both the union and management. The first year, taxpayers contributed $50 for each of the city’s 4,500 teachers, according to a 1972 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court.

“It came in lieu of salary,’’ said Richard Stutman, president of the union, which has about 6,500 members. “It is no extra than saying to someone, ‘You make 60 grand; two grand of that was extra back when you got it.’ We were offered more salary, but we took it this way. [Other unions] got larger salary increases all those years that we didn’t.’’

The union’s website describes the services as “a generous and valuable package’’ with “unique ‘extras’ to add to your total benefits.’’ School administrators have touted the plan in national recruiting efforts when they try to lure educators to Boston, union officials said.

About 80 percent of benefits paid by the fund are for dental and eye care, according to the trust’s most recent tax filings. The money allows the union to operate a vision center at its headquarters in Dorchester, employing a full-time optometrist and other staff.

But at $1,423 per teacher, the total cost of the perk is more than double what Boston pays for dental and vision for most other employees, who did not gain the coverage until 2001, according to city officials. The most popular health plan — a Harvard Pilgrim HMO — already includes very basic vision coverage, city officials said. The majority of Boston employees are covered by the state’s dental trust fund, which costs the city roughly $700 per employee each year.

If the teachers union “was covered by the same plan as other union members in the city for dental insurance . . . it would save money,’’ said John McDonough, the School Department’s chief financial officer, who has done some “ballpark analysis’’ of the costs. “It is significant.’’

Spending by the trust fund for other perks ranked much lower, with $9,849 one year for recreation, which includes a softball league and a fun run. Another year the fund spent $11,026 on funeral expenses for a benefit that will reimburse up to $1,000 for services when a teacher dies, according to the union’s website.

The almost $1.3 million that taxpayers spent for the teachers’ legal services goes to a separate trust fund. Union members use the money most commonly for real estate transactions, to designate health care proxies, and to draft wills, according to Patrick Connolly, a union trustee. The benefit cannot be used to fight felony charges, Connolly said, or for disputes in the classroom and other school-related issues. Last year the legal fund paid $672,000 in benefits for roughly 1,300 claims, according to the union and tax filings.

“When all of these things were established, it was a totally different fiscal environment in terms of pay scales,’’ said Michael G. Contompasis, a former Boston schools superintendent and chief operating officer who served on the contract bargaining committee for 15 years. “Every time you ask to get something back in lieu of something that’s been given, it always comes with a price.’’

The contract negotiated by the White administration doubled the payment in 1969, giving $100 to the fund per teacher. With each new contract over the past four decades, the taxpayers’ contribution increased, often at the same rate as pay hikes. When the city pays almost $8.4 million this year, the health and welfare fund will cost six times the original deal cut in 1968 after adjusting for inflation.

“We view it as part of the total compensation package,’’ said Connolly, the union trustee, who noted that other unions have their own benefits, such as uniform allowances. “The city has a certain amount of money for wages. If we allocate part of that to an increase in the health and welfare fund, it takes it out of the pot of money that’s there.’’


Chris Christie won’t solve public education

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has gained a lot of attention for his tough stances, including those he takes on educational issues. But Christie’s attitude is a perfect example of why politicians cannot solve the fundamental problems of government schooling.

Last spring, Christie responded to the charge that teachers aren’t being compensated for their education and experience by saying they “don’t have to do it.” This is certainly true, but let’s look behind the talking points to the economic implications of this attitude. The perception of inadequate compensation and little appreciation will dissuade people who have invested in education from entering the profession of teaching. Investment does not equal competence, but there is a correlation between focusing on an area and expertise, which in a rational system would make a teacher more valuable. Higher pay means more people competing for jobs, which allows for a better-qualified work force. Satisfaction of teachers can result in a better experience for students who have little choice but to go through the school system.

This does not mean that public education is a good thing. It is actually one of the biggest problems in America. Government schools do little to develop the character of the individual in any meaningful way. They promote the idea that important learning is done by assignment. Personal development that conflicts with the system’s forcible monopolization of the student’s time is often regarded with suspicion. Completing the process of schooling, which is based on fulfilling requirements made by increasingly distant authorities, passes for a thorough education. The reason why people learn more in college than in high school is not because high school has prepared them, but because college students are allowed more initiative, participation, and choice in their learning experience. Their ability to exercise these faculties is often in spite of the enforced irresponsibility of their high school experience.

More money will not solve the problem. As Bob Bowdon’s film “The Cartel” demonstrates, money often doesn’t make it to classroom. But that is the necessary product of a system in which it is dictated from the top-down that things are to be done in a certain way, and political domination hinders the creation of alternatives. “Quality education” to this system means more expensive infrastructure and administration. For teachers, taking initiative to deliver a great service to students often means defying the system’s rules, as John Taylor Gatto describes from personal experience as a public school teacher. Schools teach to grade level according to curriculum, not to students’ ability according to their learning styles. Interest is stifled by rigid procedure and by supervised separation from the outside world. Performance is measured in standardized test results, not in eagerness to learn or capability in applying knowledge. The school system’s rationality is that of a political program, not of a sector built on satisfying demand through consensual arrangements.

But people like Chris Christie don’t really want to solve the problem — they just want it to be a cheaper problem. They still want a system that teaches people from before they can read until they reach voting age to salute the flag, follow the bell, and satisfy the demands of authority. They just want to implement what they consider a more cost-effective program of control.

There are better solutions in liberty. The control of government institutions should be shifted away from centralized power structures to people with immediate understanding and interest. Greater choice in education and more student participation in directing the learning process should be created. It is also important to foster culture that values individual character over certified economic adequacy.

Dictates from the top down do not figure into any meaningful solution. There are difficult changes to make, but a free society is worth the effort.


To be blacklisted: The British High School courses that damage pupils' prospects

David Willetts, the universities minister, said institutions will have to publish the subjects that are viewed as substandard, as well as the ones taken by their successful applicants for every course in the UK

Schools that attempt to leap up league tables by encouraging pupils to sit ‘soft’ A-levels will see the subjects publicly blacklisted.

The Government is planning to curb the growth of subjects such as media studies, accounting and citizenship, which are being shunned by university admissions tutors.

Universities will be forced to reveal their unofficial blacklists of A-level subjects that they consider to be sub-standard and harming pupils’ chances of getting places.

Universities Minister David Willetts said institutions will be compelled to publish the subjects taken by successful applicants, and possibly the grades achieved, for every course in the country.

Mr Willetts believes the move is necessary to enable bright pupils at comprehensives to choose the A-levels that give them the best chance of getting into top universities.

He claimed that too many heads are wasting the time of the best pupils by pushing them into easier subjects to boost their school’s standing in league tables of results.

‘Although in well-informed families and some of the more academic schools this is very well understood and made available, it is not the case for everyone,’ he said.

‘Prospective students who can expect to be paying (higher tuition) fees are entitled to this information.

‘Young people need to know if there are banned subjects. It is far better this information is out there rather than secret.’

Mr Willetts said there was a ‘mishmash problem of very bad advice on GCSEs and A-levels and incentives in the old system for schools to pile up grades to maximise points without any regard to the combination of subjects’.

He said the new rule could be included in higher education legislation likely in 2012 or it would form part of the requirements to be met by universities wanting to charge fees above £6,000 under the Coalition’s funding reforms.

Most university departments are clear about the subjects they require for particular courses, such as historians having history A-level. But at present, only a few institutions are open about the A-levels they do not believe to be suitable.

Trinity College, Cambridge, publishes a list of ‘generally suitable’ science and arts A-levels. It cites 13 A-levels of ‘more limited suitability’ including business studies, film studies, sociology, psychology, law, drama/theatre studies, art and design and archaeology.

These subjects are acceptable to some of the college’s departments but not others. Twenty-four A-levels that are only suitable as fourth subjects include accounting, citizenship, dance, health and social care, music technology, photography and ICT.

Last year, Barnaby Lenon, headmaster of Harrow, accused many state schools of deceiving children by entering them for ‘worthless qualifications’.

He cited media studies, saying many schools wanted to enter students because it was easier for them to get a good grade.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Propaganda as Education: The Left’s Long March Through Children’s Television Continues

After the cultural terrorism of the environmentalist group 1010s exploding children, one could be forgiven for asking “what next?” Indeed, it seems that the longer one lives (I was born in 1959), the farther and deeper the intellectual, psychological, and moral corruption wrought by the Left’s politicization of virtually everything penetrates and takes root within our cultural environment. Nothing, ultimately, is spared the relentless tectonic drive of ideology.

With the Green Dragon still prowling about, and as yet another record breaking winter makes Gisele’s Green Team don their winter gear as they fight the capitalist evils of creeping development and strip mining, the pop cultural Left’s interest in the impressionable minds of American children continues.

So here we are at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and its finally happened. The venerable “Sesame Street” has “gone green.” A new two year curriculum known as “My World is Green and Growing,” intended to celebrate the show’s 40th season, is now in the works. But this is only the tip of the CO2 laden melting iceberg. In point of fact, “Sesame Street” has been somewhat “green” for quite sometime, as have a number of other “old school” children’s programs, as a recent Huffington Post article makes clear.

Why would the HuffPo wish to remind us now of the historical politicization of children’s television? Why, as 2011 is upon us, is the HuffPo interested in pointing out to us the “green” aspects of a 20-year-old “Sesame Street” episode? Could it be that, after years of unusually long and harsh winters, the long, progressive empirical demolition of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis, and two years after the revelations of the Climategate emails and computer code, the pop cultural Left perceives the need to double down on the all pervasive theme of “green” this and “green” that?

The very first sentence in the Huffington Post‘s recent article on the greening of children’s “educational” programming is perhaps as startlingly revealing as anything numerous conservative/libertarian intellectuals have long been saying about the overall meaning and intellectual origins of the environmental movement:

Teaching kids about the environment is most effective when they’re unaware that they’re being taught…

Well…yes, and this is true as well of innumerable concepts and beliefs when they comprise the kind of dissemination of ideas we call propaganda. The term “propaganda” doesn’t necessarily imply poor arguments, wrong beliefs, or intellectual deception. I may propagandize for true beliefs and I may use rigorous, critical argumentation in my propaganda. What it does connote, under most circumstances in which it is used, is a form of idea dissemination the purpose of which is to influence attitudes, beliefs, and ultimately, behavior in the name of a cause or ideological vision.

Even more critical here is the dissemination of ideas in the guise of education to influence attitudes and assumptions about various aspects of the world that come from worldview specific movements such as environmentalism. Such movements seek to indoctrinate others – including intellectually uncritical children – into that worldview, not simply to provide “education” about otherwise unremarkable phenomena.

The HuffPo piece provide 7 examples here, from Sesame Street’s green growing world, to “Widget the World Watcher” (a show with an uncanny resemblance to the new Gisele and the Green Team), and Bill Nye the AGW guy’s leftist cause activism. Some of these shows provided “green” themed episodes, while others (Captain Planet etc.) were entirely ideological in nature.

Nye himself stands out not for any particular episode of his popular show but for his general background of issue advocacy. Nye was a member of the advisory board of the leftist advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists from 1979 to 2009, and an active promulgator of global warming ideology (see the distinguished climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen surgically dismantle Nye here).

And yet, with all of this, could even Elmo have really “gone green?” Yes, and an article at the very fashionably green National Geographic Web site tells us, again in revealing terms, what motivates the new “two year curriculum”:

…the show’s producers hope that children who develop positive feelings about the environment at a young age will grow up to be advocates for the earth. Truglio explained that ”when you love something, you want to take care of it.”

Yes, and the rest of us want very much to take care of our children’s minds and want to ensure that, when we are gone, they will still be living in a free, prosperous, and civil society governed by both the rule of law and endowed by their creator with those pesky inalienable rights that stand, like towering glaciers, between the Left and its better world.


Mandarin might be all the rage, but Spanish makes a lot more sense

I don't often agree with Kristof but I think he is realistic on this one

A quiz: If a person who speaks three languages is trilingual, and one who speaks four languages is quadrilingual, what is someone called who speaks no foreign languages at all? Answer: an American.

Yet these days, we're seeing Americans engaged in a headlong and ambitious rush to learn Chinese - or, more precisely, to get their children to learn Chinese. Everywhere I turn, people are asking me the best way for their children to learn Chinese.

Partly that's because Chinese classes have replaced violin classes as the latest in competitive parenting, and partly because my wife and I speak Chinese and I have tortured our three kids by trying to raise them bilingual. Chinese is still far less common in schools or universities than Spanish or French, but it is surging and has the ''cool factor'' behind it - so public and private schools alike are hastening to add Chinese to the curriculum.

In New York city alone, about 80 schools offer Chinese. Some programs begin in kindergarten. And let's be frank: if your child hasn't started Mandarin classes by third grade, he or she will never amount to anything.

Just kidding. In fact, I think the rush to Chinese is missing something closer to home: the paramount importance for American children of learning Spanish.

I'm a fervent believer in more children learning Chinese. But the language that will be essential for Americans and has far more day-to-day applications is Spanish. Every child should learn Spanish, beginning in elementary school; Chinese makes a terrific addition to Spanish, but not a substitute.

Spanish may not be as prestigious as Mandarin, but it is an everyday presence in the US - and will become even more so. Hispanics made up 16 per cent of the population in 2009, but that is forecast to reach 29 per cent by 2050, according to estimates by the Pew Research Centre.

As the US increasingly integrates economically with Latin America, Spanish will become more crucial. More Americans will take holidays in Latin America, do business in Spanish, and eventually move south to retire in countries where the cost of living is far cheaper. We are already seeing growing numbers of Americans retire in Costa Rica, drawn by weather and lifestyle as well as low costs and good health care. We will also see more and more little bits of Florida that just happen to be located in Mexico, Panama or the Dominican Republic.

Another reason to bet on Spanish is that Latin America is, finally, getting its act together. Of all regions of the world, it was arguably Latin America that rode the economic crisis most comfortably. That means Spanish study does more than facilitate pina coladas on the beach at Cozumel. It will be a language of business opportunity. We need to turn our competitive minds not only east, but also south.

Moreover, Spanish is easy enough that children really can emerge from high school with a very useful command of the language that they will retain for life, while Mandarin takes about four times as long to make the same progress. Chinese has negligible grammar - no singular or plural, no verb conjugations, no pesky masculine and feminine nouns - but there are thousands of characters to memorise as well as the landmines of any tonal language.

The standard way to ask somebody a question in Chinese is ''qing wen,'' with the ''wen'' in a falling tone. That means roughly: May I ask something? But ask the same ''qing wen'' with the ''wen'' first falling and then rising, and it means roughly: May I have a kiss?

That's probably why trade relations are so strained between our countries. Our negotiators think they are asking questions about tariffs, and the Chinese respond indignantly that kissing would be inappropriate. Leaving both sides confused.

In effect, Chinese is typically a career. Spanish is a practical add-on to your daily life, meshing with whatever career you choose. If you become a mechanic, you will be able to communicate better with some customers. If you are the president, you will campaign more effectively in Texas and Florida.

China will probably be the world's largest economy within our children's life times and a monumental force in every dimension of life. Studying Chinese gives you insight into one of the world's great civilisations and creates a wealth of opportunities - and it will be a godsend if you are ever called upon to pronounce a name like, say, Qin Qiuxue.

So, by all means, have your children dive into the glamorous world of Mandarin. But don't forget the language that will likely be far more important in their lives: el idioma mas importante es Espanol!


Dumbing down of British university grades revealed

By David Barrett

The full extent to which British universities have inflated degree grades and are awarding far more firsts and upper seconds than in previous decades have been revealed.

At my graduation ceremony in 1992 there was only one graduate who was awarded a first in my subject. It made an impression on me because the young woman concerned was rewarded with far greater applause -- in volume and duration -- plus a few words with the vice-chancellor.

Degree results obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show six out of 10 students were handed either a first or an upper second in 2010, compared with just one in three graduates in 1970.

The results for last summer's graduates, due to be published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency later this month, will increase pressure for reform of the degree grading system in Britain, which an official inquiry has already condemned as "not fit for purpose".

The latest data shows that the criteria for awarding degrees has changed dramatically - despite complaints from many universities that grade inflation at A-level has made it hard for them to select candidates.

Traditionally, first class honours have been awarded sparingly to students who show exceptional depth of knowledge and originality.

But the new figures add further weight to a report by MPs last year which found that "inconsistency in standards is rife" and accused vice-chancellors of "defensive complacency".

Prof Alan Smithers, director of Buckingham University's centre for education and employment research, and a long-standing critic of falling standards, said: "There has been the most extraordinary grade inflation. "As the system has expanded and a wider ability range has taken degree courses, the universities have altered their standards. "Institutions are under pressure to improve their place in league tables and also need good results to compete for research grants.

"Giving university status to the polytechnics, some of which are very good, freed them to award their own degrees and they have exercised that freedom to award high degrees to relatively poorly-qualified entrants."

The university which awarded the highest proportion of firsts in 2010 was Imperial, with 29 per cent compared with the 20 per cent it granted in 1970, although these higher-than-average figures may be partly explained by the fact that science and engineering, the subjects in which Imperial specialises, generally award more first class honours - and that the institution sets very high entry requirements.

Imperial was followed by Warwick, Bath and Cambridge, which all awarded firsts to 23 per cent of graduates. In comparison, in 1970 Warwick awarded firsts to just 6 per cent of graduates, Bath 8 per cent and Cambridge 13 per cent.

Among 20 institutions which provided their figures for 1970, the average proportion awarded firsts was just 7 per cent. By 1997, the year Labour took power, it was 8 per cent but in the last 13 years the proportion of firsts at the institutions has risen to 14 per cent.

Lord Willis of Knaresborough, the Lib Dem peer who criticised degree grade inflation when he chaired the Commons science and technology select committee, said: "The rise in tuition fees is a huge gamble and if we are going to award degrees that are not at the same academic standards as they were 20 or even 10 years ago then we will be short-changing the individual students and short-changing the nation. "I was disappointed when my committee made its report that we received a snooty response from the university sector, which amounted to 'Keep your nose out of our business.'"

Some of the most consistent universities in terms of degree gradings have been Portsmouth, where the proportion of firsts and 2:1 was actually slightly lower last year than in 1997, and Royal Holloway, where the proportion remained at 69 per cent.

Professor Smithers said universities had been awarding more firsts and upper seconds because of competition for research grants, places for which are only awarded to students with higher grades. He said: "There has been compromise across the system and employers no longer fully trust degree results, and tend to look back to A-level results as a more reliable indicator. "A first is no longer a first. I think that just as we have A-star grades at A-level we now need to introduce a starred first class honours."

In February last year an archaeology professor who took a stand against "dumbing down" the quality of university degrees won a legal battle when the Court of Appeal accepted that he was forced out of his job. Dr Paul Buckland accused Bournemouth University of cheapening degrees and making "a complete mockery of the examination process".

He failed 18 out of 60 papers he marked in 2006 but when the university later regraded the papers the professor complained he was being undermined. Yesterday Dr Buckland said: "These figures show that even in the top institutions there has clearly been dumbing down. They are not explained by a sudden burst of intellectual evolution, but by a devalued system."

The Burgess Group, commissioned by higher education umbrella group Universities UK, concluded in 2007 that the current honours degree classification system was "no longer fit for purpose".

A spokesperson for Universities UK said: "The proportion of firsts and 2:1s awarded has increased marginally in recent years, reflecting increases in entry levels. "A-level performance has improved, so it is unsurprising that degree results would also show an improvement.

"However, the sector has recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument, hence the current trialling of the Higher Education Achievement Report.

"The aim of the HEAR is to provide a more detailed account of what a student has actually achieved during their studies, rather than just a one-off degree classification."