Saturday, April 16, 2011

Political Correctness roundup: Liberal school officials attack Easter, Thanksgiving, and 'white privilege'

The National Review notes that one Minnesota school district is “laying off 94 teachers” even while “sending a delegation” of teachers to an annual “White Privilege Conference” with Marxist speakers, “which starts today and ends April 16.”

"This will cost the district $160 a day for each teacher plus $125 a day for the substitutes who will handle their classes while they are away, learning ‘how white privilege, white supremacy, and oppression affects daily life.’ Other cash-strapped districts will also be sending delegations. The keynote speaker will be Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,” who was “part of the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba. . .Last year’s speaker recommended looking to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela for ‘exciting progressive developments.’ The sponsors of this educational event include the University of Minnesota,” “Hamline University, Gustavus Adolphus College,” and “Augsburg College, among others.”

The Seattle schools, a past participant in the White Privilege Conference, recently insisted that Easter eggs be referred to as “spring spheres” so as not to offend non-Christians. In 2007, the Seattle Schools illegally used federal funds to send students to the White Privilege Conference. (One of the Conference speakers says that Christianity has far too much influence in our society.)

“Past speakers at White Privilege Conferences include Obama’s Department of Education appointee, Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.” In a move trumpeted by Jennings, the Education Department recently reinterpreted federal harassment regulations under Title IX to reach constitutionally-protected speech even outside of schools (as well as bullying and homophobia that, however personally or morally objectionable, are not covered by existing federal civil-rights statutes).

The Seattle School District also said that celebrating Thanksgiving is racially insensitive. The Seattle Schools told parents that Thanksgiving is a “time of mourning” and a “reminder of 500 years of betrayal” of Native Americans. This is the same school district that claimed for several years that “individualism” is a form of “cultural racism,” that only whites can be racist, and that planning ahead is a white characteristic that is racist to expect minorities to exhibit. (Those claims were criticized in Supreme Court opinions in the 5-to-4 decision striking down racial quotas in Seattle’s schools.)

Glenn Singleton, the Seattle Schools’ “diversity” consultant, was later hired by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell (D), as well as several school districts, such as Arlington, Virginia, and Greenwich, Connecticut. So this politically-correct nonsense may soon be coming to your own child’s school. Maybe the celebrated author Mark Twain was right when he questioned the wisdom of school boards. (Singleton, by the way, claims that Mark Twain was a racist).

Diversity training often backfires, resulting in animosity among employees of different races, and even lawsuits. In Fitzgerald v. Mountain States Tel & Tel. Co. (1995), where employee reactions to diversity training gave rise to a lawsuit, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that “diversity training sessions generate conflict and emotion” and that "diversity training is perhaps a tyranny of virtue."


ME: An iPad for every kindergartner?

Does your 5 year old need an iPad? School officials in Maine certainly think so, where the Auburn Schools Committee voted unanimously to provide all kindergartners with a brand new iPad 2 next year -- with the process repeated for each new incoming class.

It's a move that will ultimately cost the school system about $200,000 next year, including Apple's $25 discount from the designer tablet's regular retail price. While the thought of a bunch of grubby kindergartners running around with $500 equipment may seem ridiculous, school superintendent Tom Morrill is a staunch believer in what he considers "a game changer."

"This is truly redefining how we're going to teach and learn," said Morrill, speaking to the school committee. "We're talking about a new tool, the iPad 2. You begin to watch how young people jump on, jump in and figure this out. It has great potential for leveling the playing field for all students."

Steve Jobs has long touted the educational potential of his latest shiny toy. But for local parent Nicole Fortin, the whole thing is just too much, especially when the district is looking for a 5 percent budget increase.

"It's crazy," Fortin told Maine newspaper The Sun Journal. "I look at all of the budgetary restraints we have. Our school system loses money every year to certain things. This is a lot to put in the hands of a 5-year-old."

Morrill hopes to find the money in the school budget and from grants from now through June, when he retires.


The Unteachables: The violent pupils who have sexually assaulted teachers - yet are being let back into Britain's classrooms

Pupils who have sexually assaulted teachers, threatened other children with knives and attacked police officers have been allowed back into the classroom, a shocking dossier reveals. In most cases, exclusion orders were lifted by their head teachers, school governing bodies or independent appeals panels. In a handful of schools, the child was not even removed in the first place.

The dossier on the 16 ‘unteachable’ youngsters was compiled by teachers who warned that their authority is being undermined by allowing such children to return to school.

In all the cases, ballots for industrial action were launched last year by members of the NASUWT and the National Union of Teachers in an effort to force schools to protect staff from troublemakers. They threatened to refuse to teach the child involved, and in most instances the boycotting tactic resulted in the pupil being transferred to a different school. Dozens more discipline cases were resolved without the need for industrial action.

The NASUWT report, unveiled before its annual conference in Glasgow, features a horrifying catalogue of violence by classroom hooligans including the sexual assault of a female learning support assistant and an attack on a police officer.

The union’s general secretary, Chris Keates, said: ‘We are seeing a trend whereby in over 50 per cent of our cases, it’s either head teachers not taking strong action or governing bodies overturning the professional judgments of heads and teachers.

‘All that pupils see is that someone either assaulted a teacher verbally or physically, or caused a major incident of disruption. They leave the school for a short time, then come back and it looks as though that behaviour’s OK because all they get is a few days off school. It’s completely the wrong signal that’s sent. That’s why teachers are very keen there is zero tolerance.’

Mrs Keates said that early intervention to combat low level disruption was vital. ‘It’s important schools take a very strong stand at the outset and make sure that not just the pupil concerned, but other pupils have an example of what the consequences are for unacceptable behaviour,’ she said. ‘However, teachers feel that their head teachers are often divorced from the daily realities of the classroom.’ She added: ‘Teachers shouldn’t have to resort to taking action to have their professional judgment about behaviour taken seriously.’

Mrs Keates said that heads should continue to have some classroom experience to help keep them in touch.

Shane Johnschwager, of NASUWT in Brent, north-west London, claims that head teachers’ reluctance to discipline pupils has left some schools ‘ghettoised’ and abandoned by the middle classes. He is putting forward a motion at his union conference claiming that lessons are being ‘ruined for the majority by a minority of poorly behaved pupils’. He told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘Middle class parents are more likely to hold schools to account over issues such as behaviour; the loss of involvement means behaviour in the school might get worse.’

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said the majority of schools had good behaviour and discipline procedures in place. She added: ‘Where there is inconsistency in the application of such policies the union will take action.’

Last October, Education Secretary Michael Gove unveiled wide-ranging plans designed to restore discipline to schools. Head teachers will be granted the right to expel pupils without fear of independent appeals panels reinstating the child. However, they face fines of thousands of pounds if they make the decision unfairly.

Schools will have a duty to make alternative provision for the expelled pupil, for example by ‘buying’ provision for the child at a special centre.

Other measures aimed at boosting class discipline include powers to frisk pupils for pornography, tobacco and fireworks. Children could also be checked for mobile phones and cameras if teachers fear they will be used to harm others or break a law.

Too many heads are wasting money by attending junkets in expensive hotels while their schools face cuts, staff claim.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Burden of College Loans on Graduates Grows

Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.

While many economists say student debt should be seen in a more favorable light, the rising loan bills nevertheless mean that many graduates will be paying them for a longer time.

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of and, who has compiled the estimates of student debt, including federal and private loans.

Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, compared with less than half in 1993. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college with an average of $24,000 in debt. Default rates are rising, especially among those who attended for-profit colleges.

The mountain of debt is likely to grow more quickly with the coming round of budget-slashing. Pell grants for low-income students are expected to be cut and tuition at public universities will probably increase as states with pinched budgets cut back on the money they give to colleges.

Some education policy experts say the mounting debt has broad implications for the current generation of students.

“If you have a lot of people finishing or leaving school with a lot of debt, their choices may be very different than the generation before them,” said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for Student Access and Success. “Things like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, saving for their own kids’ education may not be options for people who are paying off a lot of student debt.”

In some circles, student debt is known as the anti-dowry. As the transition from adolescence to adulthood is being delayed, with young people taking longer to marry, buy a home and have children, large student loans can slow the process further.

“There’s much more awareness about student borrowing than there was 10 years ago,” Ms. Asher said. “People either are in debt or know someone in debt.”

To be sure, many economists and policy experts see student debt as a healthy investment — unlike high-interest credit card debt, which is simply a burden on consumers’ budgets and has been declining in recent years. As recently as 2000, student debt, at less than $200 billion, barely registered as a factor in overall household debt. But now, Mr. Kantrowitz said, student loans are going from a microeconomic factor to a macroeconomic factor.

Susan Dynarski, a professor of education and public policy at the University of Michigan, said student debt could generally be seen as a sensible investment in a lifetime of higher earnings. “When you think about what’s good debt and what’s bad debt, student loans fall into the realm of good debt, like mortgages,” Professor Dynarski said. “It’s an investment that pays off over the whole life cycle.”

According to a College Board report issued last fall, median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients working full time year-round in 2008 were $55,700, or $21,900 more than the median earnings of high school graduates. And their unemployment rate was far lower.

So Sandy Baum, a higher education policy analyst and senior fellow at George Washington University, a co-author of the report, said she was not concerned, from a broader perspective, that student debt was growing so fast.

Indeed, some economists worry that all the news about unemployed 20-somethings mired in $100,000 of college debt might discourage some young people from attending college.

A decade ago, student debt did not loom so large on the national agenda. Barack and Michelle Obama helped raise awareness when they spoke in the presidential campaign about how their loan payments after graduating from Harvard Law School were more than their mortgage payments.

“We left school with a mountain of debt,” Mr. Obama said in 2008. “Michelle I know had at least $60,000. I had at least $60,000. So when we got together we had a lot of loans to pay. In fact, we did not finish paying them off until probably we’d been married for at least eight years, maybe nine.”

Even then, Mrs. Obama said, it took the royalties from her husband’s best-selling books to help pay off their loans.

In 2009, the Obama administration made it easier for low-earning student borrowers to get out of debt, with income-based repayment that forgives remaining federal student debt for those who pay 15 percent of their income for 25 years — or 10 years, if they work in public service.

But if the Obamas’ experience highlights the long payback periods for student debt, their careers also underscore the benefits of a top-flight education.

“College is still a really good deal,” said Cecilia Rouse, of Princeton, who served on Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “Even if you don’t land a plum job, you’re still going to earn more over your lifetime, and the vast majority of graduates can expect to cover their debts.”

Even believers in student debt like Ms. Rouse, though, concede that hefty college loans carry extra risks in the current economy.

“I am worried about this cohort of young people, because their unemployment rates are much higher and early job changing is how you get those increases over their lifetime,” Ms. Rouse said. “In this economy, it’s a lot harder to go from job to job. We know that there’s some scarring to cohorts who graduate in bad economies, and this is the mother of bad economies.”

And there is widespread concern about those who borrow heavily for college, then drop out, or take extra years to graduate.

Deanne Loonin, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, said education debt was not good debt for the low-income borrowers she works with, most of whom are in default.

Unlike most other debt, student loans generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and the government can garnish wages or take tax refunds or Social Security payments to recover the money owed.

Students who borrow to attend for-profit colleges are especially likely to default. They make up about 12 percent of those enrolled in higher education, but almost half of those defaulting on student loans. According to the Department of Education, about a quarter of students at for-profit institutions defaulted on their student loans within three years of starting to repay them.

“About two-thirds of the people I see attended for-profits; most did not complete their program; and no one I have worked with has ever gotten a job in the field they were supposedly trained for,” Ms. Loonin said.

“For them, the negative mark on their credit report is the No. 1 barrier to moving ahead in their lives,” she added. “It doesn’t just delay their ability to buy a house, it gets in the way of their employment prospects, their finding an apartment, almost anything they try to do.”


Lay-off notices sent to all Detroit teachers

The emergency manager appointed to put Detroit's troubled public school system on a firmer financial footing said on Thursday he was sending lay-off notices to all of the US district's 5466 unionised employees.

In a statement posted on the website of Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb, the district's temporary head, said notices were being sent to every member of the Detroit Federation of Teachers "in anticipation of a workforce reduction to match the district's declining student enrolment".

Mr Bobb said nearly 250 administrators were receiving the notices, too.

The district is unlikely to eliminate all the teachers. Last year, it sent out 2000 notices and only a fraction of employees were actually laid off. But the notices are required by the union's current contract with the district. Any lay-offs under this latest action won't take effect until late July.

In the meantime, Mr Bobb said that he planned to exercise his power as emergency manager to unilaterally modify the district's collective bargaining agreement with the Federation of Teachers starting on May 17, 2011.

Under a law known as Public Act 4, passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by the state's new Republican governor in March, emergency managers such as Mr Bobb have sweeping powers. They can tear up existing union contracts, and even fire some elected officials, if they believe it will help solve a financial emergency. "I fully intend to use the authority that was granted under Public Act 4," Mr Bobb said in the statement.

He was appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit's schools two years ago by then-governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, to close chronic budget deficits brought on by declining enrolment in the city. Over just the past year, Detroit's population has dropped 25 per cent, according to census data.

Mr Bobb has closed schools, laid off workers and taken other steps to cut spending but the district still faces a $US327 million ($311 million) budget deficit.


Poor children arrive at British schools feeling 'tired and hungry'

Because their parents spend the money on beer, cigarettes, drugs and gambling? From my experience with them, those are the poor who have problems. Most of the poor DON'T send their kids to school hungry

Growing numbers of children are turning up at school unfit to learn because of crippling poverty, according to research published today. Teachers are reporting a rise in pupils entering the classroom feeling tired, hungry and dressed in worn-out clothes.

A study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found almost eight-in-10 staff had pupils living below the poverty line and a quarter believed numbers had increased since the start of the recession.

One teacher from Nottingham told of a sixth-former who had not eaten for three days as her “mother had no money at all until pay day”.

A teaching assistant from a West Midlands comprehensive told researchers that some pupils had “infected toes due to feet squashed into shoes way too small”, while another member from Halifax reported a boy who was ridiculed in the PE changing room because his family could not afford to buy him any underpants.

Some teachers told how pupils were consistently late for lessons as parents could not cover the bus fare to school. Other children from middle to lower income families have been forced to cut out school trips because money is so tight, it was claimed.

The disclosure follows the publication of figures showing a rise in the number of pupils eligible for free school meals as families struggle to stay above the breadline in the recession. Almost 1.2 million five- to 16-year-olds claimed free lunches last year – a rise of more than 83,000 in just 12 months.

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, claimed that problems would escalate further because of Government funding cuts – putting the Coalition’s social mobility drive in jeopardy.

“It is appalling that in 2011 so many children in the UK are severely disadvantaged by their circumstances and fail to achieve their potential,” she said. “What message does this government think it is sending young people when it is cutting funding for Sure Start centres, cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, raising tuition fees and making it harder for local authorities to provide health and social services.

“The Government should forget empty rhetoric about social mobility and concentrate on tackling the causes of deprivation and barriers to attainment that lock so many young people into a cycle of poverty.”

The ATL, which represents 160,000 school staff, surveyed members ahead of its annual conference in Liverpool next week. Some 86 per cent said poverty was having a negative impact on pupils’ ability to learn. Eight-in-10 said pupils from the very poorest families came to school tired, three-quarters claimed they arrived hungry and some 72 per cent suggested they were unable to complete homework.

Four-in-10 said poverty levels had increased over the last three years. The comments follow claims from Lesley Ward, former ATL president, that poverty levels in some parts of Britain now mirror "the times of Dickens".

Craig Macartney, a secondary school teacher from Suffolk, said: “More children from middle to lower income families are not going on school trips and these families find it difficult to meet the basic cost of living. “A family with two or three teenage children who have one earner who loses hours, or their job, will struggle to reach the minimum income to pay for basics. “This will get worse as the impact of the cuts affects families. The number of young people with mental health problems has been on the increase in the last three years.”

Anne Pegum, a further education college teacher from Herfordshire said: “We have students who miss classes because they cannot afford the bus fare or cost of other transport to get to college. “We have students who miss out on meals because they do not have money to pay for them and in some cases then feel unwell and have to be helped by our first-aiders.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We’re overhauling the welfare and schools systems precisely to tackle entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, low educational achievement and financial insecurity. “We’re targeting investment directly at the poorest families. The most disadvantaged two year olds will get 15 hours free child care.

“We’re focusing Sure Start at the poorest families, with 4200 extra health visitors. We’re opening academies in areas failed educationally for generations and bringing in the Pupil Premium to target an extra £2.5billion a year directly at students that need the most support”.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

School choice news

Among a number of other bits of good news lately, there has been a favorable Supreme Court ruling regarding school choice.

A closely-divided Court decided (5–4, in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v.Winn) to uphold an Arizona law meant to facilitate school choice. The law allows people who donate to organizations that support religious schools to write off all their school payments on their state income taxes.

Opponents of the law — including, naturally, teachers’ unions and public school administrations — argued that the tax credit amounted to establishment of religion, and was thus unconstitutional. They pointed to the fact that many of the schools supported by the tax credit required students to be of a particular faith. The opponents were trying to get around the landmark 2002 Supreme Court ruling Zelman v.Simmons-Harris, which held that voucher programs comply with the establishment clause, even when the vouchers are used to send kids to religious schools.

The opponents’ suit was based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that allows people who are not harmed by a religious subsidy to have standing to sue, because otherwise enforcement of the establishment clause would be difficult. But the majority of the current Court held that the exemption was meant only to apply to actual government payments to support religion, and a tax credit is not a government payment; it is just funds never collected to begin with.

This ruling will permit more states to allow tax breaks enabling parents whose children are being cheated out of a decent education by the state monopolistic school systems to send their kids to religious schools instead (or private secular schools, for that matter). Robert Enlow, head of the estimable Foundation for Educational Choice, hailed the verdict, saying, “Every state that is considering a tax-credit program can rest easy.” As a religious agnostic, I also hail the ruling. If you want to send your kids to a religious school, it seems obvious that you should have that right — it doesn’t harm me in the least.

Predictably, educrat Francisco Negron, head lawyer for thee National School Boards Association, the major organization representing state public school systems, condemned the ruling, rightly viewing it as another blow to the public school monopoly. Indeed, yes sir, it is a blow — to those disgusting swamps of governmental failure, which deserve all the efforts we can make to drain them, since they are destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, every year. Negron’s specific complaint, that allowing tax deductions for private schools lowers the resources available for public schools, is specious. Yes, allowing tax credits reduces funds available to the public schools, but it also reduces the number of their students, hence their costs.

Those who find little difference between the political parities should note that all of Bush’s Court appointees voted for the ruling, and all of Obama’s and Clinton’s voted against it. The Obama administration supported the law officially, but the people whom Obama put on the Court voted against it. Justice Kagan — Obama’s most recent pick for the court — wrote the dissenting opinion. This is a classic progressive liberal trick: feign support for popular initiatives, but pack the courts with judges who will rule them unconstitutional.


Understanding the Adults' Insatiable Thirst for School Spending

We continue to hear from teachers unions and the rest of the education establishment that if public schools aren’t up to par, it’s because they’re “underfunded.”

That’s natural response from the adults – 80% of every education dollar goes to benefit them, so of course they would be fighting for more spending.

As we’ve seen in Madison, Trenton, Columbus and Lansing, the unions are making good use of their First Amendment rights “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But the unions have no right to conscript students to help fight their battles.

In Wisconsin, the union was exposed for busing kids to the Capitol protest without having the faintest idea of why they were there. One student interviewed on camera couldn’t even name the governor – he called him “some guy.” How’s that for government-school civics?

Now, the geniuses of Michigan Big Education aren’t even hiding their idea to use kids for their protests. As a “revenue enhancement” is to a “tax increase,” Grand Rapids teachers union president Paul Helder is calling for a day off from school so kids can take “educational civics field trips to Lansing to teach our students about the importance of having a voice in government." You must listen to the audio clip to fully appreciate his arrogance and gasbaggery.

The union’s idea of “a voice” in government consists of shouting out well-phrased slogans at the Capitol dome and carrying signs comparing the governor to Hitler and Mussolini.

But they already have some politicians on their side. reports that President Obama’s 2012 budget increases federal funding of education by an astounding 21%. Talk about good money chasing after bad. What will it be used for? Most likely, keeping the teachers’ cushy health care plans and pensions whole. After all, 80% of the spending ends up in the adults’ pockets.

For example, Michigan school districts are now currently paying a staggering 24% of their payroll towards employee retirement. Does that improve student learning?

The reality is public schools – like the rest of government – are not underfunded. Their priorities are screwed up. And they want taxpayers to bail them out.

But they, unlike the federal government, must live within their means. So they should start now. And while they’re at it, they should make every effort to see to it that students are not used as pawns in the unions’ political game of protecting the interests of adults.


Peer attacks Cameron over Oxford race comments

A leading peer and former College principal has criticised David Cameron for his attack on Oxford, claiming that "in no other country would a politician be allowed to speak like this about a top university". Cross-bencher Baroness Deech described the Prime Minister's claims that only one black undergraduate was admitted by Oxford last year as "damaging and ill-informed".

The peer was the latest person to hit back at the Prime Minister after the university accused Mr Cameron of using "highly misleading" figures.

Mr Cameron caused outrage when he told an audience in Harrogate, North Yorkshire on Monday: "I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. "I think that is disgraceful, we have got to do better than that."

Aides to the Prime Minister later accepted that Mr Cameron should have said "one black Caribbean undergraduate" after the university challenged him over the figures, but insisted Oxford was "missing the point" because the total number of black undergraduates admitted was just 27.

Lady Deech, principal of St Anne's College, Oxford until 2004 and independent adjudicator for higher education between 2004 and 2008, used her blog to condemn Mr Cameron's comments.

She wrote: "I deplore the ill-informed and damaging comments made ... by the Prime Minister about his own university, giving the impression that either it discriminates against black candidates or that it is not doing enough to attract them. "In no other country would a senior politician speak like this about a top national university, thereby undermining its reputation and all the efforts made to open up access."

Lady Deech, formerly chair of the committee in charge of Oxford's admissions policy, added that the university had spent millions on reaching out to students from all backgrounds. She added: "The result is, according to the latest figures, that there are about 17,000 potential students applying for 3,000 vacancies ... success in attracting candidates inevitably brings with it disappointment for many more."

Comparing the Prime Minister's remarks to those made by then chancellor Gordon Brown about Laura Spence, a medical student from a state school who failed to gain a place at Oxford despite an impeccable academic record. She wrote: "Gordon Brown got it wrong about Oxford in 2000 when he criticised it for not accepting Laura Spence ... Surely David Cameron does not want to be another Gordon Brown?"

A "disproportionate" number of black and minority ethnic candidates applied for oversubscribed courses such as medicine and maths, Lady Deech added. "Chances would be better if the BME applicants considered other sciences and humanities in greater numbers," she said.

Oxford University said the figure quoted by the Prime Minister referred to UK undergraduates of black Caribbean origin starting courses in 2009/10. There were an additional 26 students who said they were of black origin, and another 14 of mixed black descent.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Food Fight: Chicago School Bans Students From Bringing Own Lunches‏

Who would have ever thought that the youth would revolt over bringing their own lunches to school? But while young communists march against austerity in Britain, young people at one Chicago school are fighting their administrators for the opportunity to pack their own meals. All because the school wants to promote healthy choices.

“Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?” the Chicago Tribune recently observed seventh-grader Fernando Dominguez shouting to his lunch mates in Spanish and English at Little Village Academy. It‘s a public school on Chicago’s West Side.

As numerous hands reached for the ceiling, Dominguez led a chant: “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!”

At the school, students are only allowed to bring their own lunch if they have a medical excuse. Why? You guessed it: the school wants to protect children from food that’s unhealthy.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,”Principal Elsa Carmona told the Tribune. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Carmona said she instituted the policy six years ago when she got tired of seeing kids bringing chips and soda. According to her, it’s a common practice in Chicago. And according to a district spokesperson, that’s okay.

“While there is no formal policy, principals use common sense judgment based on their individual school environments,” Monique Bond wrote in an email. “In this case, this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.”

The ban has had two effects. First, more government money funneled to the school lunch provider. And second, ironically, less students eating the meals. The Tribune explains the not-so-shocking details:
Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

“Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast,” Little Village parent Erica Martinez told the Tribune. “So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.”

“This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, told the Tribune. (The center is partially funded by the food industry, the news outlet reports.)

“Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?” he added. “This is the perfect illustration of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda.”


Don't blame Oxford. The real racists are the hand-wringing liberals who expect black pupils to fail

By Lindsay Johns

Filled with self-righteous indignation, the Prime Minister has launched a scathing attack on the apparent racism of Oxford's admissions policy. Claiming that just one black British student was given an undergraduate place for 2009, David Cameron described the university's approach as 'disgraceful' and said it 'had to do better'.

This idea of Oxford as a hotbed of racial bigotry has become part of the fashionable consensus in political circles, with such sentiments common in all three major parties.

Yesterday, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who has taken to posing as the champion of social mobility, expressed his full support for the Prime Minister, saying this verbal assault had been 'absolutely right'.

Cameron's speech also echoed the views of the black former Labour Education Minister David Lammy, who last December wrote of Oxford's 'shocking' reluctance to admit more black students. The dons, Lammy argued, 'should be ashamed' for 'entrenching inequality' in modern Britain. According to the fulminations of the politicians, the city of dreaming spires has become the place of broken dreams for successive generations of young British black students.

As a black Oxford graduate of part-African heritage, I might be expected to welcome this condemnation of supposed prejudice within the cloisters of the ancient university.

Certainly, I loathe any form of exclusion based on narrow-minded racism. And I am passionate about the need to help black pupils realise their full academic potential, including, for the brightest, gaining admission to one of the world's great seats of learning.

But the theory, propounded by the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Lammy, that the small number of black students at Oxford is entirely the result of crude racial discrimination is absurd. The real fault lies not with the admissions tutors of the university, but with the gross inadequacy of our modern school system — which has dumbed down standards and imposed a culture of low expectations.

The true culprit is the disastrous poverty of aspiration which brands young black people as good for nothing except rap and sport.

Indeed, as a mentor of black teenagers in inner London, I think this slew of recent attacks on Oxford has been grossly irresponsible. Such outbursts might play well in the trendy liberal salons of the metropolitan elite, whose members love to see themselves as the heroic guardians of the oppressed.

But in the real world, this over-blown rhetoric will do nothing to achieve genuine equality. For a start, the figures quoted by Cameron and Lammy are misleading. Yes, only one applicant of Caribbean origin was admitted last year, but this ignores the fact that 40 other black students, of African or mixed heritage, were given places. And in total, almost 20 per cent of Oxford's student population is from ethnic minorities — hardly an indicator of rampant prejudice.

Moreover, black pupils tend to apply in the most over-subscribed three subjects: medicine, law and English literature, where there is ferocious competition for places. Last year, 44 per cent of black applicants tried for these three subjects — compared with 17 per cent of white applicants. It is therefore inevitable that, proportionately, more of them will be disappointed.

In addition, the denunciations from the Prime Minister ignore all the outreach work — such as open days and school visits — that Oxford undertakes to increase the number of black applicants.

Ultimately, however, admissions tutors are not miracle workers. They cannot give out places to those who do not apply, and the truth is that far too many young black pupils, who are just as intelligent as any white ones, are not encouraged to think of Oxbridge because of the anti-elitist, self-defeating mindset that prevails in too many state schools, especially in our inner cities.

This brings us to the most worrying aspect of Cameron's speech. Far from advancing a greater racial balance at Oxford, his remarks could prove counter-productive because they send out a negative message that might put black pupils off from even applying in the first place. Such comments feed into the depressing cliche of black victimhood, whereby teenagers are urged to believe that racism in Britain is so endemic that they will never be able to break free from their backgrounds. The shrill emphasis on alleged prejudice means that black failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy — and an excuse for low standards.

Oxford is not a nest of racial hostility — as David Cameron should well know from his own days as an undergraduate. Indeed, I found my time as a student at Lincoln College in the mid-Nineties both intellectually stimulating and personally liberating.

I was in the heart of a wonderful city dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It was a bastion of learning, not discrimination. The lecturers were driven by intellectual inquiry, so they wanted to work with the best students. Race did not come into it.

My devotion to the university meant that, while I was an undergraduate, I served as a volunteer in an access scheme to encourage more applications from ethnic minorities and, ever since, I have strived to give others the chance of enjoying the same enriching experience I had.

One of the ways I do that is through a mentoring scheme in the deprived district of Peckham in South London for 14 to 18-year-olds, a few miles from the private school in Croydon I was lucky enough to attend. Unlike so many inner-city schools which tolerate the shallow, hip-hop culture in the name of 'anti-racism', this programme is based on rigorous discipline, tough intellectual challenges and a refusal to accept ghetto stereotypes.

Outside school hours, we teach Shakespeare, hold a weekly vocabulary seminar and demand proper grammar rather than street vernacular. Neither do we allow the wearing of hoods and baseball caps. And contrary to the message of despair that Cameron conveys, we have had many successes.

Two of our former pupils have won places at fine universities — Warwick and Sussex — to read politics, while one girl has just been awarded a scholarship for a sixth-form place at the renowned independent school of Westminster.

What I have learnt, in my mentoring role, is that the greatest obstacle to advancement is the outlook of our state schools, which fail to challenge black pupils or instil in them an enthusiasm for learning. Instead they indulge in a form of intellectual sabotage. Everything has to be made 'relevant' to the lives of young black students.

So English literature is ignored and proper grammar avoided. Real narrative history is replaced by politically correct topic work.
The tolerance of failure I've witnessed amounts to an immense betrayal of successive generations of black pupils, who are denied the chance of a brilliant education through inadequate schooling

Teachers terrified of undermining pupils' self-esteem ignore mistakes in their work that would never be accepted at a good university, poor behaviour goes unpunished and praise is lavished indiscriminately.

Remorseless grade inflation in public exams has assisted in the destructive process, too, both by creating the illusion of progress to mask declining standards and by making it impossible for universities to pick out the truly bright pupils.

When so many university applicants get top grades, it is often the private school-educated children who are able to offer so much more than just academic excellence.

The tolerance of failure I've witnessed amounts to an immense betrayal of successive generations of black pupils, who are denied the chance of a brilliant tertiary education through inadequate schooling.

Racism is far less a problem in Britain than it was 30 years ago. But this doesn't appear to be the case when it comes to education — not in the way David Cameron thinks, though.

The real racists are often those hand-wringing liberals who pander to stereotypes — and judge people by the colour of the skin rather than their characters or their minds.

The problem isn't Oxford, and the university should not be used as an instrument of social engineering to satisfy political whims. A genuine meritocracy in Britain will be built only when we radically reform our schools.


Now Clegg is attacking Oxbridge

Nick Clegg stepped up the Government’s attacks on elite universities tonight accusing Oxford and Cambridge of being biased against poor students.

The Deputy Prime Minister brushed off a furious response from academics over David Cameron’s claim this week that Oxford has a ‘disgraceful’ record on admitting black youngsters. Instead, Mr Clegg upped the ante, condemning both Oxford and Cambridge, where he was a student, for failing to accept significant numbers of students from the poorest homes.

The Cambridge educated Deputy Prime Minister said only 40 students from families which qualify for free school meals, meaning their income is around £16,000 or less, qualified for Oxbridge last year. He told universities they would have to do ‘a lot more’ to admit students from poorer and minority backgrounds if they wanted to charge tuition fees of £9,000 a year.

‘I think the wider point that the Prime Minister was making is absolutely right,’ Mr Clegg said. ‘One of the objectives behind our controversial reforms in the funding of universities is we’re saying to universities, “look, if you want to charge graduates more money for having the benefit of going to university, you’re going to have to do a lot, lot more to get under-represented youngsters from poor backgrounds, from black, minority ethnic backgrounds into your university”.

‘And here’s a fact: last year, only 40 – four zero – children who had been on free school meals – in other words from the more disadvantaged families in this country – got into either Oxford or Cambridge, and that was a lower number than the year before.

‘So we do need to make real efforts to say to universities, if you want to continue to get support from the taxpayer to educate our young people, you’ve got to make sure that British society is better reflected in the people you take into the university in the first place.’

Mr Clegg’s remarks risk further inflaming the Government’s row with Oxford over admissions following Mr Cameron’s intervention on Monday.

The president of Trinity College, Oxford, launched a counter-attack on the Oxford-educated Prime Minister, warning that his ‘ill-informed’ comments could deter black students from applying to Oxford in future. Sir Ivor Roberts said: ‘I thought it was an extraordinarily misguided comment. ‘It seems to be based on zero understanding of what’s actually happening in the real world. ‘It’s unhelpful to have inaccurate, misleading information out in the public domain because I think it does act as a depressant and discourager for just the sort of people we are trying to attract.

‘If you are told by a public official like the Prime Minister that your chances of getting in are zero or virtually zero, you would be rather put off applying. ‘It makes our job harder in terms of encouraging people from ethnic minority backgrounds and I think ill-informed comments like those smack of trying to force a political agenda when a little more careful thought and attention to the facts and the context would be wiser.’

Sir Ivor said he agreed with those who argue that the problem rests not with university admissions policies, but with state schools not providing a good enough education for pupils. He said: ‘That seems to be exactly right. The education in our schools is where we let people down. ‘You can’t socially engineer places for people. I think there’s an element of teachers in schools discouraging people from minority backgrounds (from applying) and that compounds the whole problem.

‘Of course it’s highly competitive, but if you want to get to the best university you have to be prepared to throw your hat into the ring.’

Tony Spence, president of Magdalen College when Gordon Brown publicly attacked dons for rejecting Laura Spence, a would-be medical student from a Tyneside comprehensive school, expressed dismay that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg had followed suit. ‘The criticism of Oxbridge admission used to come exclusively from the left, but now, as we see, it comes from the right and the centre too,’ he said.

‘National educational policy for the last 40 years has dug an ever wider ditch through the level playing field of university admissions, across which the underprivileged have to try ever harder to jump.’

Thomas Cole, 18, a first year history undergraduate at University College, Oxford, who is of mixed white/Afro-Caribbean race, agreed Mr Cameron’s comments were ‘fairly unhelpful’. He said: ‘Even though there aren’t that many ethnic minority students, I don’t think it’s because the university is discriminatory. I would rather have a university that picks on merit rather than race.

‘His comments give a negative perception of Oxford and from everything I’ve seen they’re doing a lot of access work to get students from ethnic minorities in.’

But Labour MP David Lammy, one of Britain’s first black ministers, said: ‘Of course it’s a disgrace that there are over 400 young black children in the country getting straight As and they’re not making their way to Oxford, but this isn’t just about race. ‘There are whole cities in Britain - Barnsley, Middlesbrough, Rochdale, Stoke, Hartlepool - where there are not young people making their way to this university.

‘All of us pay our taxes, and Oxford and Cambridge receive around £560 million worth of British taxpayers’ money and yet there are more young people from the London borough of Richmond going than the entire city of Birmingham.

‘Why is it that Oxford is doing outreach events at Eton, nine outreach events in Eton last year? Why is it that they are doing 12 at Marlborough College? That’s why these young people from working class backgrounds, often black backgrounds and in terms of geography particularly from the North of England are not making their way to this university. The Prime Minister is right.’


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The University of California's Antisemitism Problem Deepens

America's most renowned public university system is sinking deeper into a scandal over its treatment of antisemitism and even terror groups.

The Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) at the University of California Irvine (UCI) is a fig leaf, a token gesture, used by the UC administration to cover up the shame of the existence of antisemitism at UCI and the administration's lack of resolve in identifying, condemning, and combatting it. But now the cover is blown. A letter, dated 10/08/2009, obtained recently under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals the moral confusion of the OTI ideology and its staff. The letter indicates that the OTI is part of the problem of antisemitism at UCI and not the esteemed solution as proclaimed by the UCI administration.

Chancellor Michael V. Drake has been silent for years as his campus has been the scene of physical and verbal harassment of Jewish students, inversion of Holocaust imagery, in which Jews are the new Nazis, sponsorship of public speakers who accuse Jews of not being able to exist equally with other human beings, as well as accusations that Jews deliberately kill non-Jewish children for nefarious purposes. He was even silent when more than 60 UCI faculty issued a public statement, May 2010, stating that they "are deeply disturbed about activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis. Some community members, students, and faculty indeed feel intimidated and at times even unsafe."

Instead of addressing the problem, Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, and Chancellor Drake have promoted the Olive Tree Initiative(OTI) at UCI as a sterling example of their efforts to combat bigotry. President Yudof in May 2010 gave the first-ever President's Award for Outstanding Leadership to the OTI student leaders, and Chancellor Drake awarded its founders as "Living Our Values." Moreover, on March 24, 2010, when asked to speak at a special meeting of the Regents of the University of California called specifically in response to an outbreak of bigotry at various University of California campuses, including UCI where the Muslim Student Union had disrupted an invited lecture from Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Chancellor Drake touted the OTI as evidence that students on his campus "live and practice tolerance."

The Olive Tree Initiative, begun by a group of UCI students of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, has as its mission to promote dialogue and discussion about the Israeli Arab conflict. The OTI is now an official part of the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding and International Studies Program with salaried faculty, director, and staff. Three trips by students to Israel and the West Bank have been organized as part of the program, as well as more than 70 lectures off and on campus. There are efforts on other UC campuses to replicate the program.

Yet, the moral bankruptcy of the OTI as a solution for antisemitism in academia is revealed by the letter. Addressed to Michael V. Drake, Chancellor of UCI, written by the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the letter divulges that UCI faculty and staff under OTI auspices, during the second trip to Israel in the fall of 2009, secretly arranged for students to meet with Hamas leader Aziz Duwaik. Hamas is virulently anti-Semitic; it is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.; its charter calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (article 7). It is responsible for suicide terror attacks that murder Israeli civilians, and the firing of thousands of missiles into Israeli territory.

Combatting bigotry and promoting peacebuilding by meeting with Hamas is Orwellian. Would the University of California take students to meet and dialogue with the head of the Ku Klux Klan as a way to combat murderous racism? It would not.

Even the OTI faculty and staff realized that something was amiss in their plan. As exposed by the letter, Daniel Brunstetter, the faculty advisor, and Daniel Wehrenfennig , Ph.D candidate, who were the organizers on the ground, told students to conceal the fact of the meeting in order to thwart Israeli authorities, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the chief funding organization, and the UCI administration itself.

How high up did their cover-up go? Once he was notified by the Jewish Federation of Orange County in October, 2009, it clearly included Chancellor Drake. He made no public statement about the event, nor any public condemnation of Brunstetter or Wehrenfennig. Brunstetter is still Assistant Professor of Political Science. Wehrenfennig now directs OTI as well as a new undergraduate certificate program in conflict analysis and resolution. Rather than rebuke or punishment, Chancellor Drake colluded in awarding Wehrefennig a precious staff position.

Equally reprehensible, given that Chancellor Drake knew in the fall of 2009 about the infamous incident and its cover up, he glowingly advertised it six months later as the way in which he was combating antisemitismand protecting Jewish students on his campus.

Did the cover-up go further than Chancellor Drake? Is it possible that President Yudof was informed, but 6 months later, he gave a first-ever commendation to OTI, implicating himself in the cover-up? Or is it possible that Chancellor Drake did not notify President Yudof that UCI had involved students with a U.S. designated terrorist group, an incident that would at best deeply embarrass UC? Now that President Yudof has been apprised, what actions is he taking in regard to Chancellor Drake and the OTI?

After years of trying to get the University of California administration to take action, Jews have had to turn to federal law to combat antisemitism at UC. Jessica Felber, in a suit against President Yudof and the Regents of UC, charges that as a student at UC Berkeley she was physically assaulted by a member of the student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, an assault for which UC officials are partly responsible for ignoring the mounting evidence of anti-Jewish animus at their campus.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, has filed a Title VI complaint against UC Santa Cruz, presently being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint charges that "professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UC Santa Cruz promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior" creating a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Although the OCR previously denied a complaint of the Zionist Organization of America against UCI, claiming that Jews were not a protected group under Title VI, that position is now changed. Jewish students, under federal law, must now receive the same civil rights protection in higher education as do other protected ethnic groups.

The legal suit and Title VI complaints charge that the University of California administration discriminates against Jewish students by allowing a hostile, antisemitic environment. President Yudof and Chancellor Drake can no longer hide under a fig leaf. That fig leaf, itself tainted, does not provide cover for such an abuse of decency and of the law.


Caution: This Column Now Protected by the First Amendment

Mike Adams

Some told us we should just give up. Others told us we should simply accept the federal judge’s decision and resign ourselves to the fact that the First Amendment is now dead on our college campuses. But the Alliance Defense Fund took my case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in January. And, last week, they issued a landmark defense of First Amendment rights for faculty at public colleges and universities. For the first time in years, I’m getting love mail from liberals.

In my original complaint filed against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2007, my attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund alleged that my application for promotion had been denied in part due to the conservative political viewpoints expressed through my work as a columnist. In a ruling issued in March of 2010, the federal district court rejected our claims. With respect to my First Amendment retaliation charge, the district court found that because I had included the conservative columns in my application for promotion, the content of the columns became speech "made pursuant to (my) official duties"—and thus not protected by the First Amendment.

In support of the holding, the district court cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U. S. 410 (2006), in which the Court ruled that public employees do not enjoy First Amendment protections when engaging in speech pursuant to their official duties. Under Garcetti, the district court determined that the columns could not be cited as grounds for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.

The district court's reliance on Garcetti was particularly disturbing because it was not an isolated event. It was just the latest in a series of Garcetti-based rulings for public university faculty members. The problem with Garcetti is that in lessening First Amendment protections for public employees generally it has a far greater impact on faculty members.

Put simply, faculty members are required to speak regularly on a broad range of issues in order to fulfill service and research requirements. It should go without saying that our duties differ greatly from those of police officers, fire fighters, and employees for the Department of Motor Vehicles. That is probably why Justice Anthony Kennedy inserted a crucial caveat into the majority opinion he penned in Garcetti, writing:

There is some argument that expression related to academic scholarship or classroom instruction implicates additional constitutional interests that are not fully accounted for by this Court's customary employee-speech jurisprudence. We need not, and for that reason do not, decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching.

Before my case, Justice Kennedy's warning had been largely disregarded by courts. So my old friends at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) joined with The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression to file a brief urging the Fourth Circuit to reverse the lower court's decision to throw out my case. And the panel of three judges did just that.

The landmark ruling from the Fourth Circuit was welcome news for conservatives, liberals, and non-partisan supporters of the First Amendment alike. In reversing the district court's First Amendment holding, the Fourth Circuit panel made several key points.

First, the Fourth Circuit pointed out that the district court hadn't even acknowledged Justice Kennedy's carve-out for public faculty speech.

Second, the Fourth Circuit pointed out that just because I had included my columns in my application for promotion, that act alone did not transform them into speech made pursuant to my duties as a government employee. The court observed that "[n]othing about listing the speech on Adams' promotion application changed Adams' status when he spoke or the content of the speech when made."

Third, the court noted that while Garcetti may apply to public university faculty when their duties include "a specific role in declaring or administering university policy, as opposed to scholarship or teaching," the facts presented by my case don't merit such an application. Indeed, the court found that my case involved speech that was "intended for and directed at a national or international audience on issues of public importance” unrelated to any of my assigned teaching duties at UNCW or any other terms of my employment.

Fourth, the court noted that even though the speech was "unrelated to any of Adams' assigned teaching duties" and "was clearly that of a citizen speaking on a matter of public concern," it nevertheless implicated my right to academic freedom simply because it is understood that professors will provide such commentary as a function of their role as academics. The court addressed the intent of Garcetti in very clear language:

Applying Garcetti to the academic work of a public university faculty member under the facts of this case could place beyond the reach of First Amendment protection many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment. That would not appear to be what Garcetti intended, nor is it consistent with our long-standing recognition that no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.

Fifth, and perhaps most surprising to me, the Fourth Circuit commented on the district court's denial of the defense of qualified immunity to the university administrators named as defendants in my case. In that portion of the opinion, the judges rejected the argument that the impact of Garcetti was to so fundamentally alter the law that reasonable university administrators can't possibly know that faculty members continue to enjoy a First Amendment right to speak out about matters of public concern:

(T)he underlying right Adams asserts the Defendants violated - that of a public employee to speak as a citizen on matters of public concern - is clearly established and something a reasonable person in the Defendants' position should have known was protected.

This all means that soon my lawyers with the ADF will go back to court to argue for a trial on the facts of my First Amendment retaliation claim. But thousands of professors in the Fourth Circuit – most of whom do not share my views - have already won a major victory. Their free speech rights once again belong to them as individuals – and not to the state that employs them.

You’re welcome.


British PM locks horns with Oxford U over racism, as dons demand he withdraw 'one black student' claim

David Cameron was locked in a bitter row with Oxford University last night after accusing it of racism. The Prime Minister – who studied at Oxford – denounced the institution as ‘disgraceful’ for admitting only one black student in an academic year.

But the university accused Mr Cameron of failing to get his facts straight, pointing out that 41 students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were admitted that year.

Mr Cameron spoke out during a local election campaign visit to Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He said: ‘I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful, we have got to do better than that.’

The Prime Minister, who read philosophy, politics and economics at Brasenose College after attending Eton, also said the top universities had a ‘terrible’ record when it came to admitting students from state schools. He said the numbers had gone down in the last 20 years.

The Coalition has pledged to avoid meddling in university admissions. And although it has told universities to improve support for poorer pupils if they wish to charge the new £9,000 annual maximum for tuition fees, it has made no provision for raising the number of ethnic minority applicants.

In 2009 – the year Mr Cameron was referring to – 27 black British students gained undergraduate places at Oxford, as well as 14 students of mixed race. Of the 27 black students, one was of black Caribbean origin, 23 were black African and three were listed as black ‘other’.

An Oxford University spokesman said: ‘The figure quoted by the Prime Minister is incorrect and highly misleading – it only refers to UK undergraduates of black Caribbean origin for a single year of entry, when in fact that year Oxford admitted 41 UK undergraduates with black backgrounds. ‘In that year a full 22 per cent of Oxford’s total student population came from ethnic minority background.’

That figure is double the rate in Britain as a whole – but many of these students are from overseas. And Oxford has just 99 black undergraduates from all over the world in all years, out of a student population of more than 11,000. With postgraduate students included, this figure rises to 245.

The spokesman pointed out that in 2009, 26,000 white students got the three A grades at A-level necessary to be considered by Oxford, but just 542 black pupils managed to do so. Of those straight-A students, 8.9 per cent of white pupils got places at Oxford compared with 7.5 per cent of black students.

Oxford also pointed out that black students apply in disproportionately high numbers for the most heavily oversubscribed courses, such as medicine, making it less likely that they will win places.

Last night Downing Street refused to back down, saying Mr Cameron was making a valid point about the failure to help some ethnic minority pupils. A spokesman said: ‘The wider point he was making was that it was not acceptable for universities such as Oxford to have so few students coming from black and ethnic minority groups.’

Aides expressed incredulity that Oxford was defending the admission of just 41 black students in a year. One said: ‘People will be pretty shocked by that figure. It’s nothing to write home about.’

But Mr Cameron’s intervention fuelled concerns among some Tories that he is under-briefed and overly-keen to let his mouth run away with him. Former Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit yesterday criticised the failure of the Downing Street machine to get the correct facts into his hands. He said: ‘What worries me is that the Prime Minister’s briefings for these sort of occasions seem to be so poor. This sort of thing is happening much too often.’

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham accused Mr Cameron of being ‘cavalier’ with the facts. And shadow business secretary John Denham warned that huge rises in tuition fees would make it harder for black students to go to Oxford. He said: ‘The Tory-led Government’s plan to triple fees will make this situation worse, not better.

‘The Government keeps making false promises on university access and social mobility. ‘The Office of Fair Access cannot impose quotas on social access, determine individual university admissions policies or set fees levels, regardless of what ministers claim they can do. ‘With their plans for universities becoming yet another embarrassing shambles, David Cameron needs to get a grip.’


Monday, April 11, 2011

British School leavers unfit for work: 'Firms forced to spend billions on remedial training for victims of education failure'

Firms are spending billions on remedial training for school leavers who are not capable of work, a business leader said yesterday. In a scathing attack on Labour’s legacy, he said the youngsters are the victims of an ‘education failure’, and called for the urgent return of grammar schools.

The comments by David Frost, the outgoing director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, came on the day teachers at one secondary school went on strike in protest over their uncontrollable pupils. At another, a headmistress exasperated with slovenly standards of behaviour and continual fiddling with electronic gadgets, handed out more than 700 detentions in four days. Both cases highlight a crisis in discipline which many believe has contributed to a drop in attainment by many children.

Mr Frost, who speaks for more than 100,000 British businesses, told the BCC annual conference in London: ‘Despite the billions that have been spent over the last decade, business relentlessly bemoans the lack of skills available. ‘What they are really describing is a failure of the education system. ‘A system where half of all kids fail to get five decent GCSEs simply means that five years later we spend billions offering them remedial training to make them work-ready.’

Mr Frost made an unashamed call for the return of grammars to improve social mobility by giving youngsters from poorer backgrounds greater opportunities. Earlier this week, ministers led by Nick Clegg published their strategy to close the gap between rich and poor, but there was no mention of expanding selective education.

Mr Frost suggested this was a mistake, although he backed the Government’s creation of more technical schools. He said: ‘If we really want to focus on social mobility rather than just internships why not re-introduce grammar schools? ‘They provided the escape route for bright working class children. I appear to be a lone voice on this subject, and find little support. ‘But high quality state academic education coupled with high quality vocational education would, I believe, make a major contribution to the future economic performance of the UK.’

Mr Frost joins the growing ranks of business leaders to attack Labour’s record on education. Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy described school standards as ‘woeful’ in 2009. His comments were echoed in the same year by former Marks & Spencer chief Sir Stuart Rose, who said many school leavers were not ‘fit for work’.

Despite a doubling of spending on education since 2000, from £35.8billion to £71billion, Britain has plummeted down world rankings, according to the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

During this period the UK slipped from eighth to 28th in maths, from seventh to 25th in reading and from fourth to 16th in science. It is now behind relatively poor nations such as Estonia, Poland and Slovakia. Disturbingly, the study found that a fifth of 15-year-olds are ‘functionally illiterate’.

Under Labour there was a 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses. In 2005 15,000 were taken. This soared to 575,000 last year.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has signalled that he will scrap the most pointless vocational courses and is encouraging schools to concentrate on the teaching of core subjects including English, maths, science, modern languages, history and geography.


British headmistress who gave out 717 detentions in four days evokes fury of parents who say 'it's not a prison'

A headmistress who introduced a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ to improve standards in her school has handed out 717 detentions in four days. Catherine Jenkinson-Dix has won the support of many parents after deciding to punish misdemeanours including smoking, chewing gum, eating between lessons, carrying mobile phones, applying excessive make-up and insubordination.

A strict uniform policy was also announced under which individualistic touches such as odd socks or wearing hoodies in class would be banned. Anyone breaking the rules would be sent immediately to the school hall for five hours where they would have to read a booklet about good behaviour.

On Monday, the first day of the policy, 236 children – a fifth of pupils at City of Ely Community College in Cambridgeshire – were punished. On Tuesday the figure was 186, on Wednesday it was 180 and yesterday it was 115.

Supporters of the regime say the diminishing figures prove it is working. But the crackdown has divided parents, with some calling it draconian and others saying that old-fashioned discipline will be reflected in academic achievement.

Sophie Martin, 38, backed the school despite her son Jack, 14, being given a detention on Monday for talking when he was meant to be reading a book. She said: ‘He learned not to do it again and he hasn’t been back since. ‘The number of children in the hall has been going down every day so it proves it is working. ‘Teenagers need guidelines and they always push the boundaries. If they know what the guidelines are they behave themselves.’

A parent of a 15-year-old boy said: ‘There are plenty who agree with what the school is doing. ‘Yes, the children that get detentions miss classes, but my son said that after several hours bored out of their skulls with nothing to do most of them actually want to be back in class. I think it’s a stroke of genius.’

However, florist Amanda King, 34, took her children, Ben, 12, and Shannon, 14, out of classes on Wednesday and is now looking for a new school. She said her son had been given a detention for arriving late to a French lesson. ‘I’m absolutely appalled. They are wrecking pupils’ education and turning it into a prison,’ she said. ‘Staff are nit-picking over everything – for behaviour, for what they wear.’

Ruth Hanslip, 47, has stopped sending her daughter Karris, 13, to the school after she was punished on three consecutive days for laughing, wearing a bracelet and carrying a mobile phone. She said: ‘We’d both had enough. They don’t give them any work to do and my daughter is now missing out on her school work.’ Karris said: ‘They gave me a little book to read but the rest of the time I was just sat staring at the wall.’

A letter to parents announcing the 14-point zero-tolerance policy said that any pupil who misbehaved would have to sit in the hall and read a booklet called Right To Teach, Right To Learn, which lists the rules. Those who played up in detention would be moved to an ‘isolation unit’, a room away from other children. The rules were drafted after a ‘minority’ of pupils failed to meet ‘basic expectations’.

Mrs Jenkinson-Dix, who was appointed in 2009, said: ‘Low-level issues, such as using mobile phones, affect staff’s ability to teach pupils and also affect those pupils who are trying to learn. If we can eradicate these, all students will be able to receive the best possible education. I am pleased to say I have the support of the majority of parents. ‘Any pupil who is removed from class is removed for a good reason and this is fundamental in preparing pupils for their future careers.’

Governor Ben Gibbs said: ‘Teachers are saying they are getting through their lesson plans quicker and we have feedback from students effectively saying how much better the lessons are.’


CA: “Inclusive” textboook bill closer to passage

The California Legislature could soon pass a bill that would require school textbooks and teachers to incorporate information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans into their curriculum.

The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act, or SB48, which mimics a bill previously vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, made it one step closer to becoming law Tuesday after being approved by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, could have a nationwide impact if passed because California is such a big buyer of textbooks that publishers often incorporate the state’s standards into books distributed to other states.

Supporters say that’s a good thing because it will help prevent gay students from being harassed or bullied by their classmates.

But critics say SB48 is just an attempt to brainwash students into becoming pro-gay political activists and ensure that government, not parents, has the final word on teaching kids about moral values.

“Most textbooks don’t include any historical information about the LGBT movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history,” Leno said in a statement. “Our collective silence on this issue perpetuates negative stereotypes of LGBT people and leads to increased bullying of young people.”

Leno told that California school districts that have included the historical contributions of LGBT people and the LGBT movement in their curriculum have seen reduced rates of bullying and violence among students.

He said the bill aspires to achieve the same results statewide by adding LGBT to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.

“Furthermore, SB 48 will reduce bullying by ensuring that discriminatory bias and negative stereotypes based on sexual orientation are prohibited in school activities, instruction and classroom materials,” Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which helped draft the bill, said in a statement.

Critics object to the bill on several accounts, saying it undermines parental authority, promotes gender confusion and experimentation, inappropriately classifies LGBT as a cultural ethnic group, and aims to brainwash children into adopting the LGBT community’s political agenda.

“This is teaching children from kindergarten on up that the homosexual, bisexual, transsexual lifestyle is something to admire and consider for themselves,” Randy Thomasson, president of, a group advocating against the bill, told

Thomasson said teachers should teach about homosexuals’ historical accomplishments but should not be forced to mention their sexual orientation. “Teach them about the good behavior, the noble things that people have done, but you don’t have to go into what they do sexually… True history focuses on the accomplishments of people; it doesn’t talk about what they did in the bedroom.”

Thomasson also complained that the bill does not allow for teachers to discuss the opposition to the LGBT movement or warn against “the negative consequences, that male homosexuality is the largest transmitter of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.” “So this isn’t even about history, this is about, ‘Hey, join the movement now. We need more children to become soldiers in the fight against religious freedom, parental rights, marriage for a man and a woman, the boy scouts, you name it.’”

Jim Carroll, President of Equality California, which also helped draft the bill, denied that it aims to recruit students into the LGBT movement. “And I don’t believe that by teaching about the black panthers for instance, that any school teacher could be accused of recruiting for that radical organization,” Carroll told

Carroll admitted that teachers would not be allowed to say things like “some believe homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle, the same way that you couldn’t talk about the civil rights movement but then say something discriminatory about African Americans.” But he said that people’s sexual orientation would be used only as a way of identifying them.

“It would be difficult to teach about the women’s movement without mentioning that Susan B. Anthony was a woman, it would be difficult to teach about the black civil rights movement without talking about Martin Luther King Jr. being black, it would be impossible to talk about the LGBT movement without saying Harvey Milk was gay or Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were lesbians,” Carroll said. “… We’re not asking people to talk about what they did in the bedroom, but their sexuality is relevant in terms of why you would discuss them in an educational environment.”

Leno added that the State Department would work with local school districts and the public to determine what changes should be made “and then, only at the next printing of the textbook, will this change, along with probably many others, be incorporated into the textbook, so no additional cost to the state.”

Opposing groups like and Concerned Parents United have launched letter-writing campaigns, asking critics to garner more opposition from their neighbors, religious leaders, local PTAs and lawmakers in hopes of persuading the governor and other lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Leno said the SB48 “will get to the floor of the Senate by late May; we hope that it will make its way to the assembly for similar review and to the governor’s desk by late summer.”


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Idaho governor signs education overhaul into law

Idaho's governor on Friday signed into law the final piece of a controversial Republican overhaul of education in the state, as teachers and their allies mobilized to fight the measures.

The bill signed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, forces districts to equip high schools with mobile computing devices and potentially shifts funds from teacher pay to technology.

It also could lead to the layoffs of some teachers and certain positions going unfilled, officials said.

"By spending what we currently have differently, we will reform our public education system to invest in Idaho's great teachers, create the 21st century classroom and put our students first," Tom Luna, the state's schools chief, who crafted the sweeping education overhaul, said in a statement.

The measure was the last of three Republican-backed education bills that Otter has signed into law in recent weeks.

The other two bills ended tenure for new teachers, instituted merit pay and removed discussions of workload and class size from contract negotiations for the 12,000 teachers represented by the Idaho Education Association.

Idaho is one of several U.S. states in which public sector workers are currently battling with Republican leaders over their drive to curb public employee unions.

Attention has focused on a high-profile battle in Wisconsin over a law limiting public sector unions. Proposals to limit collective bargaining are also advancing in New Hampshire and Oklahoma, and bills targeting teachers unions are under consideration in Indiana and Tennessee.

"These are troubling times; all across the nation, political leaders have decided teachers are the enemies," said Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association.

Opponents of the state's education measures are seeking to get the laws overturned. They filed their latest petition on Friday in a bid to get opposition to the latest bill as a referendum before voters.

The group has less than two months to gather more than 47,000 registered Idaho voters' signatures, in order to get the measure on the ballots for the 2012 general election.

Teachers and others opposed to the bills have led protest rallies and student walkouts across the state, and have also launched a drive to recall Luna, who in November won 60 percent of the vote to claim a second term as superintendent of public instruction.


British schools and social mobility

Yesterday felt like a parody of politics in this country. A much-vaunted government “strategy” for social mobility was launched which, in policy terms, amounted to essentially nothing.

Unfortunately, asking businesses and government departments to be more socially conscious when hiring interns will do little to improve the chances of people born to poor families. But Labour's reaction – attacking Nick Clegg for “hypocrisy” in talking about the need for more social mobility, since he was born into a rich family – was absurd. As Nick Thornsby asked, if Clegg had announced that he was going to ignore social mobility would Harriet Harman say, “Quite right too, given his background”?

The focus on internships is beside the point. People who have managed to graduate from a decent university with the skills that would make them potential hires for good jobs are not the ones we should be concerned about. Many, and maybe most, children born into poor families will receive a terrible education in a bad comprehensive school. The state schools system destroys poor childrens’ opportunities, thanks to plummeting quality and standards. The fact that many university graduates in this country cannot write to a basic standard of English should say enough about the quality of English lessons in many schools in Britain.

The Sutton Trust, an educational charity, has looked into the rates of entry to Oxbridge by children with good A-Levels across the socioeconomic spectrum. The results show that, irrespective of family income levels, students who receive excellent A-Levels have roughly the same rate of entry to Oxbridge.

The problem is that students from relatively poor families are far less likely to get those A-Levels than those from relatively well-off families. Students on Free School Meals perform disproportionately badly across the board in A-Level results. Focusing on the school-leaving point (as opponents of tuition fees do) is too late to do anything to help mobility. Likewise with a focus on making internship access more equitable – the people for whom an internship might lead to a good job are not the people most in need of help.

Fifty years of school comprehensivization (an ugly word for an ugly policy) has done enormous damage to the prospects of children from poor families. As Tom wrote this morning, rigid state bureaucracies in healthcare create bad outcomes for patients.

Education is no different. What can we do to reverse this? Some propose a return to grammar schools, which may improve mobility but would do little to help those who fail their 11-plus. Competition and choice in schooling drives up standards – allowing profit-making companies to set up free schools would be a start, but a school voucher system like the one Milton Friedman proposed is the probably best option.

Any discussion of social mobility that doesn’t focus on the failure of the state school system is fundamentally unserious. We need to get real, and get radical.


Australia: Anger at schools' Christian 'bias'

BUDDHIST community leader Dr Sue Best has complained of the "Christian bias" in religious education in Victoria, saying if her group had access to government funding, they too could expand to hundreds of schools. And social commentator and Muslim Waleed Aly said it was a "logical necessity" to "get proselytisation out of the classroom".

Public debate on the issue was sparked by a Sunday Age revelation that the Education Department was forcing schools to host Christian religious education whether they wanted to or not. It took a new turn last week when state Education Minister Martin Dixon granted $200,000 in extra funding to Christian religious education provider Access Ministries to improve its training. Mr Dixon, a Catholic, said that despite the controversy he had no intention of reviewing the system.

The move sparked anger yesterday from groups representing other religions, who said Mr Dixon had not consulted them. "We were requesting a meeting with the minister and have not even received a reply," said Anna Halaffof of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, which promotes religious tolerance and respect. "Instead he made a decision to support Access without doing any community consultation."

Access is the only religious instruction provider that receives government funding, and only Christian religious education is given to children as a default if their parents forget to opt out.

The leaders of Access Ministries say their syllabus gives children an introduction to spirituality and values, and they insist that they do not proselytise.

Mr Aly asked whether "the providers of Christian education feel equally comfortable if the religious education spot were handed over instead to Jewish teachers, or Buddhist teachers or, shock horror, Muslim teachers? "If they're not comfortable in that, then it's clear that there's a bias in the teaching that they would wish to preserve." He said children in state schools should be taught about all religions.

Dr Best said Buddhist education was offered in 14 Victorian schools, but did not have the advantages enjoyed by the Christians, who teach 96 per cent of all religious education. "There is definitely a funding bias . Ours is funded by volunteers and donations," she said. She said half the children attending Buddhist classes came from other religious traditions, but their parents were keen for them to experience their world view. If they had the resources, "I am confident that we could be in hundreds of schools".

Scott Hedges, a parent involved with the "Fairness in Religions in School" grassroots campaign, said that the Christianity taught in his daughter's Hawthorn school was missionary in nature. "The only difference between my daughter's class and an African village to these people is that we have cleaner water and shoes."