Saturday, August 13, 2011

Indoctrination Fridays With Social Justice Math

Those of us who attended public schools before “social justice” spread through the curriculum like a bad infection probably remember sitting in math class and working through problems such as this one:
Leroy has one quarter, one dime, one nickel, and one penny. Two of the coins are in his left pocket and the other two coins are in his right pocket. The coins have been randomly placed in the two pockets.

What is the probability that Leroy will be able to purchase a 30-cent candy bar with the two coins in his left pocket? Using the coins, explain your reasoning.

We didn’t know it at the time, but while we busily charted all of Leroy’s different coin combinations, we were actually being taught to tacitly approve of America’s exploitative capitalistic system.

Think that’s taking things a bit too far?

Read the words of a “fair trade” blogger and judge for yourself:
“Did you know that child slavery is a common practice on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest supplier of cocoa beans? Don’t feel too bad if you didn’t know – I didn’t either until a few days ago. But now I know and so do you. I’m a huge chocoholic but now there is no enjoying a non-fair trade bar of chocolate, knowing a child may have been forced to pick the beans. There’s no going back. … Picking cocoa beans is hard and dangerous work. It takes 400 beans to produce a pound of chocolate so these kids work long and hard to get enough cocoa for even a few bars. No wonder most chocolate bars are so cheap and fair trade chocolate is so expensive.”

The average American “oppressor” would say that the correct answer to sample problem is, “Leroy has a one-in-three chance of having the right combination of coins in his pocket to buy the candy bar.”

But according to the social justice crowd, the correct answer should be, “Leroy is contributing to the oppression of the cocoa bean pickers of the world by purchasing a non-fair trade candy bar.”(Students who suggest charging Leroy with a hate crime would be given extra credit.)

Proponents of incorporating social justice issues into math lessons argue that to ignore the child labor that was used to help produce the candy bar is to blind students to the plight of the cocoa bean pickers. Math, therefore, is perpetuating the problem.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of Paulo Freire, one of the pioneers of bringing social justice lessons into the classroom. Freire has said that "Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."

That sentiment is echoed throughout “The Guide for Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice into Mathematics Curriculum,” by Jonathan Osler. In his guide, Osler writes:
“ … [T]he systemic and structural oppression of low income and people of color in the United States is worsening. The number of people in prison continues to grow, as do unemployment rates. Billions of dollars that were once available for social programs and education have been diverted to pay for war. …

“These problems and many others are being addressed by community organizations and activists, and often find their way into assignments in Social Studies and English classes. However, in math classes around the country, perhaps the best places to study many of these issues, we continue to use curricula and models that lack any real-world, let alone socially relevant, contexts. A great opportunity to educate our young people about understanding and addressing these myriad issues continues to be squandered.”
The purpose of Osler’s guide is to provide ways in which teachers can bring social justice topics into their lesson plans.

For example, Osler suggests that a lesson about mathematical averages can used to critique the US’s war in Iraq. Students can “take casualty data for the past 12 months and calculate a monthly average from the perspective (of) a military recruiter and from an anti-war activist.”

Instead of discussing random coins in pockets, probability lessons can be used to raise awareness of racial profiling by exploring “the probability that a traffic stop should be (and is) a person of color.”

Geometry lessons can be used to “look at how many liquor stores/fast food chains are within a 1-mile radius or within 5 blocks of your schools. This can be compared with schools in other neighborhoods.” Better still is a geometry lesson that tackles “environmental racism” by having students “determine the density of toxic waste facilities, factories, dumps, etc. in the neighborhood.”

Lessons about war budgets, incarceration rates, AIDS cases and homelessness are also identified.

The social justice crowd knows that many Americans still cling to the antiquated notion that math teachers should stick to teaching students about math and not politics. Osler answers that criticism by arguing:
“Our classrooms are politicized spaces before we walk in the door because political parties in our country are dictating what should and should not be happening in our classrooms. What we’re supposed to teach, and how we’re supposed to teach it, has been predetermined by someone with a political agenda. My goal is to provide my students with varied sources of information and support them in coming to their own conclusions.”

Osler isn’t finished. He concedes that math can be used to help people, but argues:
“ … [M]ore often it has been used to hurt them. Math was behind the development of nuclear weapons. It is used to maintain an economic divide between a handful of wealthy, White people and the billions of poor people of color around the world. It is used as a rationale for depriving people of access to cheap, life-saving drugs. So my question is: what good has the progress of mathematics as an intellectual discipline done for people? Maybe if our mathematics had a background in social justice, we wouldn’t have so many people suffering around the world.”

There was a time when math class existed to train the next generation of engineers and researchers. Now, math class is being used to inspire the next generation of social activists and community organizers.

That is why it is not surprising that in 2009, only 40 percent of fourth graders had math skills that rated as proficient or advanced, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Even worse, only 32 percent of eighth grade math students tests at those levels.

Americans are continually reminded that “the Earth is flat,” meaning our economy is so entwined with the global economy, that U.S. workers are competing for jobs against workers in China, India and the rest of the world.

Despite these new realities, our public schools are promoting this silly “social justice” curriculum which substitutes the essentials for fuzzy concepts of fairness and equality. This is academic malpractice, and it is the economic equivalent of unilateral disarmament.

The laughter you hear is coming from China.


British university 'cannot be too choosy over postgraduates'

A top university was criticised today after academics were told they “cannot afford to be very choosy” when it comes to recruiting students. Birmingham – a member of the elite Russell Group – came under fire when it emerged a senior don had emailed colleagues telling them to go to desperate lengths to enrol large numbers of lucrative postgraduates.

Prof Helen Beebee, head of Birmingham’s school of philosophy, theology and religion, said more students were needed to avoid being fined by the university for under-recruiting.

In the memo, she urged staff to be “VERY generous” when assessing applications from postgraduate students, suggesting candidates should be given places even if they are not totally up to the demands of the course.

The comments will fuel concerns that universities are being forced to give special treatment to postgraduate and foreign students – who pay far more than British undergraduates – to boost their income.

Most postgraduates at Birmingham can expect to pay at least £4,650 from September, rising to £15,660 for foreign postgraduate students.

But Malcolm McCrae, chairman of the UK Council for Graduate Education, branded the email “unfortunate and ill-considered”, suggesting that students risked being accepted onto courses that they could not handle.

“It is well known that students whose capabilities are not on a par with the demands of the programme they are following always turn out to be much more work, accentuating the pressure to compromise academic standards in an effort to get already recruited students through to...completion," he told Times Higher Education magazine.

Prof Beebee wrote to colleagues at the end of July telling them that Birmingham’s college of arts – which incorporates the school of philosophy – was facing a £1m fine from the university’s finance chiefs for failing to recruit enough students.

The email – leaked to the Times Higher – urges academics to be “VERY generous in your judgement about whether the candidate is capable of undertaking the programme applied for”, adding that “we simply cannot afford to be very choosy”.

Prof Beebee says “NOBODY” should reject a PhD candidate simply on the grounds that they are too busy to closely supervise their work. "If anyone is carrying too high a burden because of increased (postgraduate) recruitment, we will look at ways of reallocating work once the academic year starts," she says.

Birmingham insisted that it had set recruitment targets – alongside financial rewards and penalties for individual department – since 2008.

In a statement, it said: "The University of Birmingham requires very high entry standards from students wishing to undertake postgraduate study. The quality of our postgraduate students is reflected in our standing as a leading global university.

"We make no secret of our ambition to recruit significant numbers of highly-qualified postgraduate students, who meet our entry criteria and whose chosen topics are within a field of expertise of their supervisor.

"We do not permit colleagues to accept students who do not meet our rigorous entry requirements. However we do expect students who meet those requirements to be accepted where possible and provide support to our staff in adjusting their workloads accordingly.

"The university manages its financial and academic resources responsibly. To assist in this it sets targets for a range of activities, including student recruitment. Planning of this kind is usual practice for a research-intensive university with a high level of postgraduate recruitment."

*The Government has been accused of “infantilising” higher education by ordering universities to give students more face-to-face tuition.

In exchange for tuition fees of up to £9,000, the Coalition has told institutions to improve the student experience by upping the number of lectures and tutorials given to undergraduates.

But writing in the Times Higher, Paul Ramsden, an education consultant and visiting professor at London’s Institute of Education, said the Government wanted students to be “spoon-fed”.

It should “make more effort to reverse the process of infantilising universities and the patronising culture of that defines undergraduates as immature beings who cannot look after themselves,” he said.


Australia: Parents deserting chaotic and run-down Victorian State schools

And abusing the parents is the answer, apparently

Parent snobbery is being blamed for an exodus from Victorian state primary schools. While class sizes hit record lows, increasing numbers of parents are opting for private schools. Since 2003, the number of primary school-aged children sent to state schools has dipped by almost 3000, equal to 170 classes.

Over the same period, the Catholic and independent systems have been bolstered by more than 13,000 pupils - filling more than 600 extra classrooms.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy believes snobbery is partly to blame for the shift. "Often people firmly believe that something that looks better, costs more, will get a better outcome. And that's not necessarily true," Ms McHardy said.

"When you've got a bit more disposable income, rather than making a conscious choice of which system and which ethos suits your child, sometimes that decision is more easily influenced if there are more bells and whistles."

Figures from the Education Department's February schools census show the average number of students is 22 - down from 25 a decade ago. However, comparisons with data over the past eight years show the decline in public school confidence.

Melbourne University education expert Prof Richard Teese said preferences for private education had traditionally been stronger at secondary level, but had also crept down to primary level.He said parents were driven by their wish for a "competitive advantage".

Australian Education Union state secretary Mary Bluett warned the physical appearance of some public schools had proved a turn-off, and said more State Government funding for capital works was crucial.


Friday, August 12, 2011

ADF-allied attorney calls out Colorado professor for feeble “apology” to student

The stereotype of the arrogant, leftist professor in the ivory tower occasionally shows up in real life in a manner that shows that the truth is stranger than fiction.

Recent case in point: a biology professor at a Colorado college (let’s call him Dr. Jones) hotly ridiculed a student (let’s call her Ms. Smith) in front of her entire class for her lack of belief in the theory of evolution. In order to avoid legal trouble for his immense misstep, he agreed to settle the case in advance of litigation. Part of the settlement required a written apology to the student. Here is the letter of “apology” from the professor, followed by a response from Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney Barry Arrington that can only be said to…um…set the record completely straight:
Ms. Smith:

With regard to our conversation about your belief that evolution is not true, I apologize to you for appearing to denigrate your obviously strongly held beliefs. I had not intended to offend you in any way regarding your faith or your world view. That this was so perceived by you, I again offer my sincerest apology.

In making this apology to you, I am reminded of what happened to Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – considered by many to be the father of modern science. In 1610 Galileo determined through his telescope and various mathematical calculations, that the Earth moved around the sun, rather than the other way around which was, according to the Catholic Church “false and contrary to Scripture.”

In 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant heliocentrism, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. As he was led away to begin his confinement, he said (to no one in particular) “and yet it still moves”.

Sincerely, Dr. Jones

Response from ADF-allied attorney Barry Arrington:
Dear Dr. Jones:

I am writing in response to your June 1, 2011 letter to my client Ms. Smith, in which you apologized to her for “appearing” to denigrate her strongly held beliefs. Sir, we both know you did not merely “appear” to denigrate Ms. Jones’s beliefs. You specifically intended to use your position of authority as a platform from which to denigrate Ms. Smith’s beliefs and humiliate her in front of her peers, and you accomplished your purpose. It saddens me that in your letter you decided to add mendacity to your boorish and abusive attack on your student.

You say you did not intend to offend Ms. Smith. Rubbish. I assume you are not an idiot, and only an idiot would not know that your words would demean and humiliate her, intimidate her into silence, and curb her natural desire for self expression in the face of the orthodoxy you represent. Do you really expect anyone to believe that it was an unfortunate and unintended side effect of your actions that she would feel hurt by the experience or perceive it as an assault on her personal dignity? Please do not insult our intelligence.

Finally, I cannot let your smug reference to Galileo go unchallenged. Firstly, as a matter of simple fact, your history is all wrong. Galileo never uttered the words you mistakenly placed in his mouth. I provide for your edification a primer on the matter under my signature.

More importantly, however, your letter illustrates an utter failure to grasp the significance of this figure from history. I will not spell it out for you. Instead, I urge you to go back and think about this one a little more. To assist you in that endeavor, please ask yourself and answer the following questions: As between Ms. Smith and you: (1) who is the pope (i.e., the authority figure with all of the power in the relationship)? (2) Who speaks for an unyielding established orthodoxy? (3) Who holds the minority dissenting view? (4) Who was willing to challenge the entrenched orthodoxy at significant personal risk to herself?

“But Galileo was right and his opponents were wrong!” you might respond. And that response would completely miss the point. The adherents of every entrenched orthodoxy believe not only that they are right, but also that everyone who challenges the orthodoxy is at least wrong if not wicked. Yet history is full of failed orthodoxies, collapsed paradigms, and discredited dogmas.

You are a high priest of the Church of Darwin. How easily you slipped into the role of inquisitor. You sniffed a hint of heresy from Ms. Smith, and you did not hesitate to put her on the verbal rack. In your letter you point to Galileo as a hero of free thought and expression against an entrenched orthodoxy. I hope you appreciate by now how richly ironic your appeal to Galileo is.

Sincerely, Barry K. Arrington


IBD: Administrative Bloat In Higher Ed‏

Why Are Tuitions So High? College students and their families have struggled to pay for the rising cost of tuition, a cost that has been driven in part by swelling administrative expenses.

Over a 20-year period, the growth in administrative personnel at institutions of higher education has outpaced the growth in both faculty and student enrollment.

Critics refer to this as administrative bloat and contend it shows that universities and colleges are inefficient institutions.

Defenders say colleges are adding administrative staff to meet student needs.

An IBD analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 1989-2009 the number of administrative personnel at four- and two-year institutions grew 84%, from about 543,000 to over 1 million.

By contrast, the number of faculty increased 75%, from 824,000 to 1.4 million, while student enrollment grew 51%, from 13.5 million to 20.4 million.

The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

Administrative personnel are employees who are not engaged in instruction and research. The jobs range from university president and provost to accountants, social workers, computer analysts and music directors.

One reason administration at public institutions has grown faster may be that bureaucracies tend to expand their staff and programs over time, regardless of need.

"The increase has a lot to do with all the money these institutions pull in from third parties, like state funds and student financial aid," said Daniel Bennett, a research fellow at the conservative Center for College Affordability & Productivity. "They're using it to grow their staff rather than on students."

Since students are insulated from the full cost of tuition, administrators feel less pressure to spend more on faculty to teach students.

Bennett has also written that an onerous regulatory environment that higher education faces may be partially to blame. "In order to comply with the government's requirements, colleges need to employ a staff that is responsible for providing the multiple state and federal agencies with compliance reports and data," he wrote.

Acknowledging that some of the increase may be due to administrators wanting "to re-create themselves," Dan King, executive director at the American Association of University Administrators, claims it's also due to changing needs.

"Students are coming in less prepared, needing more remedial assistance," he said. "If they need help from a writing lab or math lab, that's usually done by administrators. That's something that universities didn't have to provide as much even 10 years ago."


Can't add up? We are either born with a mathematical brain or not

If you struggle with figures, you were probably born that way, research has suggested. Being good at mathematics may be entirely pre-destined – you either have it or you don’t.

And those who find the numbers never add up shouldn’t feel too dim – mathematical talent does not appear to be linked to all-round intelligence.

Previous research has indicated that ‘number sense’ is basic to humans. We use it to estimate such things as the number of seats in a cinema or crowd sizes.

U.S. psychologists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore made their finding after testing children too young to have been taught mathematics.

During the study, 200 four-year-olds viewed flashing groups of blue and yellow dots on a computer screen and were asked which colour was shown the most. The children then had to count items on a page, determine which of two numbers was greater or lesser, as well as read numbers.

They were also tested on calculation skills, such as multiplication. The participants’ parents were then asked about their child’s vocabulary.

The verbal test was done because language and maths abilities are thought to be linked through general intelligence.

The researchers wanted to be sure success in maths was not part of an ability to perform better in all sorts of tasks or to some children feeling more comfortable being tested than others.

The results, published in the journal Developmental Science, showed that children who got the best score in the dots test were also the most competent at the maths tests.

Dr Melissa Libertus, who led the study, said: ‘Previous studies testing older children left open the possibility that maths lessons determined number sense. ‘In other words, some children looked like they had better number sense simply because they had better maths instruction.

‘Unlike those studies, this one shows that the link between number sense and maths ability is already present before the beginning of formal maths instruction.

‘One of the most important questions is whether we can train a child’s number sense to improving his future maths ability.’


Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Year Keep Your Kids Home From College

Mike Adams

I am frequently asked whether I would be willing to spend the money necessary to send my own kids to a four-year brick and mortar college. The answer used to be a qualified “yes.” But college isn’t what it used to be. So my answer is now a firm “probably not.”

While I once considered college to be a good investment for most high school graduates I have come to believe that it is a bad idea for most of them. Note that I am not saying that college simply doesn’t deliver the good things it once did. I am saying much more than that; namely that it often hurts young people. And it does so in at least four distinct ways:

1. Spiritually. Three out of four Christian teens walk away from church after they leave home. The fact that they do so is largely the result of what they encounter in college. Here in my department (Sociology and Criminology) at my university (UNC-Wilmington) the anti-Christian indoctrination begins in freshman survey courses. Feminist professors are seemingly incapable of discussing important issues like same-sex marriage without engaging in ad hominem attacks against Christians. For example, those who adhere to the majority view (in support of traditional marriage) are characterized by their feminist sociology professors as advancing “hetero-sexism” driven by “homo-phobia.”

It is no wonder that in classroom discussions the students voice support for the professor’s opinion. They want to avoid being attacked personally. And so a false consensus emerges. Eventually the students abandon their worldview in a move based on the false premise that their views are somehow out of sync with social progress.

Just in case the student retains some of his religious upbringing an array of special programs and special offices – designed to indoctrinate on religious issues –is there to reinforce your child’s spiritual drift. Our own LGBTQIA Office organizes specific lectures teaching kids that their biblical views on sexuality are actually a form of mental illness, or phobia. This helps explain the second way kids are often harmed by college.

2. Morally. I don’t know when it first hit me. Maybe it was when I saw our (former) Women’s Resource Center director handing out condoms to students during orientation. Or maybe it was when I read about the “sexual health expert” who gave a lecture (on a UNC campus) called “Safe Sodomy.” Or maybe it was the time they erected (sorry) a vibrator museum on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

No, I think it was the time our Women’s Center put pictures of nude little girls in the lobby of Randall Library. Yes, that was the moment it really hit me. It was right after seeing the exposed breasts and pubic hair of a thirteen year old girl on public display (sorry) in the library that I arrived at an important conclusion: Our universities are being run by some deeply disturbed people who, with feet planted firmly in mid-air, are simply incapable of providing moral leadership. Incidentally, the child porn display was posted only a few feet from a display advocating national health care for, you guessed it, prostitutes. I’m sorry. Sex workers.

It is little wonder why these people attack our Judeo-Christian heritage. Sodom and Gomorrah University cannot thrive in the presence of God. And that is why your child stands almost no chance of being improved morally in the typical college environment.

3. Intellectually. Put simply, college makes most kids think less, not more (and certainly not better). If you don’t believe me try having a conversation with a current college student. And pick a topic like economics – one that should be dominated by reason, not emotion. Throw out a few rational observations and note the emotive responses. You might find yourself in a conversation like this one:

Adult (who went to college prior to the 1990s): Social security simply is not sustainable. When the program was established we had over twenty workers paying in for every retiree drawing out. Now we only have a few workers paying in for every retiree drawing out. If we do not abolish the program we will have to increase the age of eligibility.

Emotional college student: I feel like social security is a good idea. It would be calloused to abolish it and I feel like it would be wrong to increase the age of eligibility.

Adult: The stimulus package was a failure – even if we judge it only by the standards of its proponents. In other words, it fails objectively by the standards it was promised to deliver.

Emotional college student: Even if it failed before, I feel like it could work if we tried it again.

Adult: The national debt just reached the level of our current GDP. And the Dow dropped over 500 points recently. It’s tough to understand how we’re going to be able to afford national health care and another stimulus package.

Emotional college student: I just feel like national health care is something we need to do – something we need to provide for our weakest citizens. I feel like we could afford it if we would just stop fighting all these wars.

Author’s note: Unfortunately, you have just read excerpts from a recent conversation between this author and a college student who has never drawn a paycheck. The author will return to this issue momentarily.

4. Financially. My university is facing budgets cuts of over 15% in the coming academic year. We could easily cut more than 15% from the budget by doing two things: a) Getting rid of six-digit high level administrators who have overlapping jobs and limited responsibilities. b) Getting rid of the unnecessary offices that house unnecessary mid-level administrators. Start with the Queer Politics Center (The LGBTQIA Resource Office). But don’t stop there. Get rid of the Black Separatist Center (The African American Cultural Center). Then, close down the Abortion Politics Center (The Women’s Resource Center). Let these people pursue politics on their own dime.

It will never happen, though. The administrators will all stay employed and the offices will all remain open. They’ll just raise tuition to cover the shortfall from the proposed budget cuts. In this economy, that means that after your kid graduates from college his part time job as a bartender will become his full time job as a bartender. And he’ll need those extra hours because, guess what? Now he’s got debt! And the interest on student loans is about to skyrocket.

There are many jobs out there that require a college education. Doctors must have degrees before they can go to medical school. Lawyers must have degrees before they go to law school. But college is no longer affordable. And that means college is no longer a place to go to figure out what you want to do with your life. So if your teenager is uncertain about what he wants to do then tell him to stay home for a year or two and get a job. And save some money.

After your teen draws a paycheck for a year or two he’ll be less inclined to adopt an economic philosophy based on feelings, not reality. He will be able to use his savings to keep his debt under control should he decide to go to college later. And, best of all, he’ll gain some maturity that will shield him against the spiritual and moral decline his professors call “enlightenment” and “liberation.”


Higher Education Bubble Leads to Sex-for-Tuition and Kidneys-for-Cash Proposal; Moody's Questions Value of Liberal Arts Majors

College tuition has gotten so high that coeds are selling sex to pay for their inflated tuitions, and a professor recently suggested that students sell their kidneys.

But higher education isn’t worth what it used to be. A credit rating agency, Moody’s, is now warning student borrowers that college may not be worth the money for some majors. As Reason Magazine notes, a higher education bubble looms:

A growing chorus of economists and educators think that the higher education industry will be America’s next bubble. Easy credit, high tuition, and poor job prospects have resulted in growing delinquency and default rates on nearly $1 trillion worth of private and federally subsidized loans. Now the ratings agency Moody’s has weighed in with a chilling diagnosis: “Unless students limit their debt burdens, choose fields of study that are in demand, and successfully complete their degrees on time, they will find themselves in worse financial positions and unable to earn the projected income that justified taking out their loans in the first place.”

Two law schools are being sued for fraudulent placement data in class-action lawsuits. Law school tuition has gone up 1000 percent since 1960 in real terms, even as law schools teach students few practical skills and little real-world knowledge of the law. A tenured law professor at a well-ranked law school admits that law school is a “scam” and that his faculty colleagues are “overpaid,” “inadequate teachers,” many of whom work just a few hours a day.

Due to market distortions like the proliferation of unnecessary state licensing requirements that require useless paper credentials, and financial aid that directly encourages colleges to raise tuition, colleges can raise tuition year after year, consuming a larger and larger fraction of the increased lifetime earnings students hope to obtain by going to college.

Meanwhile, college students learn less and less with each passing year. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learned little in four years of college, and students now spend “50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

States spend hundreds of millions of dollars operating colleges that are worthless diploma mills, yet manage to graduate almost no one – like Chicago State, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.” Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation, while Obama seeks to double it. Spending has exploded at the K-12 level: per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, and “inflation-adjusted K-12 spending tripled over the last 40 years.”


Only half of British maths and science teachers have 'good enough' degrees to do their jobs

Many trainee maths and science teachers do not have good degrees in their subject, a study suggests. While nine in 10 classics trainees and almost four-fifths of would-be history teachers have a first or 2:1 university degree, this falls to around half for maths and science trainees.

Those training to be foreign language teachers are also less likely to have a 'good' degree, with more than a third holding a 2:2 or lower, the Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 found.

Researchers at Buckingham University's Centre for Education and Employment Research conclude there is a clear link between lower degree qualifications, low course completion rates and the numbers entering teaching.

About 80 per cent of English and history trainee secondary school teachers entered training after completing their course.

But this fell to 70 per cent for maths, 69 per cent for science and 66 per cent for modern foreign languages, all of which are subjects where the numbers with 'good' degrees are lower.

Report author Professor Alan Smithers said it means that teacher training departments have more choice when recruiting history or English teachers, but struggle with other subjects.

'Training departments are able to choose more carefully who they recruit, but if there are not enough people studying science and maths, the training departments really struggle to recruit and bring in people who don't want to be teachers and are not as well qualified,' he said.

This has an impact on the enthusiasm of pupils, who are then less likely to take up subjects like science and maths, Professor Smithers said. 'A teacher, to be really enthusiastic, has to have a full grasp of their subject, so the chances are if you have got a very well qualified historian or somebody teaching classics, they will make the subject come alive for their pupils.

'But if you have got somebody in maths, or the physical sciences who is really trying to keep up with it themselves, then they are not going to convey the same sense of enthusiasm.

'Young people can easily be exposed to very enthusiastic historians and people who are struggling with their own grasp of physics.'

Ministers have announced plans to scrap public funding for teacher trainees who do not hold at least a 2:2 in their degree.

The report concludes: 'The low entry qualifications of some postgraduate and undergraduate trainees, as the Government recognises, has to be tackled. 'No one wants to see teachers attempting to teach subjects which they do not fully grasp themselves.

'But if not enough people with the necessary expertise put themselves forward, the difficult question that has to be faced in formulating policy is: is it better to have an able graduate who has not studied a subject at university or someone who has studied the subject at university but not done very well in it?

'Is it better, for example, to have a good biologist or a poor physicist teaching physics?'


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Justice Department sues profitable Goldman Sachs college company on a technicality

The Department of Justice and several states have filed a fraud lawsuit against the Education Management Corporation, the second-largest for-profit college company in the United States.

The lawsuit charges that the company enrolled poor applicants who were not qualified for its programs – signing up students without computers for online education programs, for example – in order to collect state and federal financial aid payments for the students. The company received $11 billion worth of financial aid payments from July 2003 through June 2011.

The complaint against Education Management was originally filed four years ago by two former employees who’d worked in admissions and training for the company. The New York Times explains why this suit is significant:
While the civil lawsuit is one of many raising similar charges against the expanding for-profit college industry, the case is the first in which the government intervened to back whistle-blowers’ claims that a company consistently violated federal law by paying recruiters based on how many students it enrolled. The suit said that each year, Education Management falsely certified that it was complying with the law, making it eligible to receive student financial aid.

“The depth and breadth of the fraud laid out in the complaint are astonishing,” said Harry Litman, a lawyer in Pittsburgh and former federal prosecutor who is one of those representing the two whistle-blowers whose 2007 complaints spurred the suit. “It spans the entire company — from the ground level in over 100 separate institutions up to the most senior management — and accounts for nearly all the revenues the company has realized since 2003.

Pittsburgh-based Education Management enrolls about 150,000 students in 105 schools that are part of four chains: Art Institute, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University. Goldman Sachs owns 41 percent of the highly-profitable company.

Illinois, Florida, California and Indiana filed the lawsuit along with the Justice Department on Monday, and on Tuesday, Kentucky requested to join the group, Bloomberg reports. The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority has paid more than $6 million in need-based and merit-based financial aid grants to Brown Mackie Colleges in the state since 2004.

Education Management denies any wrongdoing, the Associated Press reports. "The pursuit of this legal action by the federal government and a handful of states is flat-out wrong," Bonnie Campbell, a former Iowa attorney general and member of the state Board of Regents who is an adviser to the college's legal counsel, said in a statement.


Affording private school fees in Britain

What price education? Quite a lot, it turns out, with the average school fees for a private pupil now £4,393 a term according to the Independent Schools Council. New research today shows that parents who want their children to be educated independently are having to get savvier, thanks to above-inflation fee increases and the economic downturn.

Figures from Schroders suggest that some parents are now choosing to send just one child to private school, while the rest are educated in the state system. Others are cutting the pie a different way, with a quarter of parents with children under 15 in the state system considering switching their offspring into a private school sixth form just for their final pre-university education.

“Families are being forced to make extremely tough decisions in the current economic climate, as inflationary pressures erode monies available for discretionary spending on private education,” said Robin Stoakley, managing director of Schroders’ UK Intermediary Business.

His solutions are predictable enough – invest in high quality funds that can “realistically deliver inflation-beating growth”. However, anyone who has been looking at the sea of red that has been London’s stock market in recent days might be forgiven for wondering whether their investments are really going to deliver enough to pay eye-watering school fees – especially with university fees being an issue as well.

Janette Wallis, editor of the Good Schools Guide, said that many families found it distasteful to send one child private but not another, but that they are having to save money. “We have seen lots of people save money by targeting their spending,” she said, saying that GCSEs can be a popular time. “It’s perfectly possible to send a child private for two years – age 14 to 16 – and then move them on to a state sixth form.”

“Parents should think more in terms of equivalency of experience, rather than parcelling out the exact same experience to each child. So, if for example there is a good boys’ grammar school in your area that your son can attend, but no equivalent for girls, then it may make sense to pay for your daughter to attend a private school, while taking advantage of state provision for your son.

Money can be saved and a bit extra be made available to the son for tutoring or similar educational add-ons. So long as it is discussed openly and both children are content there’s no cause for guilt,” she said.

If you are panicking about how you will educate your children, you need to start thinking realistically. The longer you have to plan, the better, but whatever stage you are at, there are things you can do to take the sting out of the prices.


Australia: No national curriculum for NSW students

Much of its content was designed by a former Communist

NSW students will not study the new national curriculum in 2013 after the state government yesterday delayed its implementation.

Cracks are appearing in the federal government's curriculum reform, with NSW the first state to pull out over concerns about its content.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said he was still committed to a national curriculum but was delaying its introduction into NSW schools until at least 2014. He would not rule out further delays if the commonwealth failed to address concerns.

NSW schools were due to teach the national curriculum in English, maths, science and history for kindergarten to Year 10 from 2013.

The Board of Studies raised concerns over the content and advised the government not to proceed.

Mr Piccoli said teachers needed training before teaching the new syllabus, which will cost $80 million over four years, and needed to be funded by the federal government.

Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said there was no reason for the backdown by NSW, which was jeopardising students' education.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Obama Skips Congress on No Child Law

Rule by decree?

President Barack Obama’s administration will bypass Congress to override the nation’s main public-education law, granting waivers to states if they agree to his schools agenda.

States can avoid the No Child Left Behind law’s 2014 deadline for achieving 100 percent proficiency on standardized state reading and math exams if they sign off on yet-unspecified administration “reforms,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes said Aug. 5 in a press briefing.

Saying Congress has failed to take action to fix the nine- year-old law, the U.S. Education Department will offer states waivers as soon as this school year. Duncan opposes the legislation’s focus on holding schools accountable only through testing proficiency, which he has said encourages dumbed-down standards. About 80 percent of U.S. schools risk being labeled failing if the law isn’t changed.

“I can’t overemphasize how loud the outcry is for us to do something now,” Duncan said.

Duncan in June said the administration would grant the waivers if Congress failed to approve legislation changing it by the start of this school year -- a deadline the legislature isn’t likely to meet.

Washington Gridlock

The administration’s waivers “could undermine” congressional efforts to change No Child Left Behind, John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the House education committee, said in a statement. Kline said he will be monitoring Duncan’s actions “to ensure they are consistent with the law and congressional intent.”

Kline’s committee is working on a series of bills to change the law. They include promoting the growth of charter schools -- privately run public schools -- and cutting spending by eliminating half of the federal education programs under the current law.

Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat and Senate education committee chairman, said he still hopes the Senate can produce a “comprehensive bill” reauthorizing No Child Left Behind.

“That said, it is undeniable that this Congress faces real challenges reaching bipartisan, bicameral agreement on anything,” Harkin said in a statement.

Duncan’s approach differs from past education department waivers -- supported by many Republicans as a way to ease regulatory burdens -- because the agency is attaching conditions to promote administration policies, said Jack Jennings, president of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization.

Executive Authority

“This is a bold use of executive authority by Duncan,” Jennings, a former general counsel for the House education committee, said in a telephone interview. “Duncan is certainly determined to bring about school reform while he’s in office.”

No Child Left Behind, signed into law in 2002, is former President George W. Bush’s signature education initiative. Officially called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law requires schools to show that all students are proficient on state standardized reading and math tests by 2014. Schools also must demonstrate yearly progress toward that goal or risk losing federal money.

Though specifics haven’t been set for the waivers, schools would be released from that deadline and annual progress requirements if they agree to such changes as raising academic standards and evaluating teacher effectiveness based on student achievement and other measures, Duncan said. The department will make details public in September.

“We can’t afford to do nothing,” Duncan said.


Public-school losses: private schools’ gain

As public school teachers face what may be the longest string of layoffs ever, the private sector gets a boost. Transport and janitorial contractors, online tutoring companies, and private schools are among those seeing a more talented workforce or an uptick in business

If there's a silver lining to the unprecedented teacher layoffs now taking place in America's public schools, it lies in places like Baylor School, a private school for sixth- through 12th-graders in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The applicant pool to teach at Baylor has become larger and stronger, says Scott Dering, the school's dean of academics. Even though four of his new hires haven't started teaching yet, he is already bragging about them. "We're getting an all-star team of public school teachers," Mr. Dering says.

For the first time since the government began keeping track in 1955, the number of workers in America's public schools has fallen two school years in a row. And it's likely that the 2011-12 school year will mark a third year of decline, perhaps the biggest so far. For instance, the state of New York, which lost about 10,000 public education employees in the past two years, will lose another 12,000 or so in the coming school year, according to New York State United Teachers, a federation of education employee unions.

Cuts in faculty mean bigger class sizes, fewer course offerings, and less individual attention for students. Public schools will struggle to maintain their education standards. But the loss of public school teachers may prove to be a boon for the private sector. While the number of public school workers dropped 2.6 percent between June 2009 and June 2011, the number of private education service workers has grown proportionately – 2.8 percent.

"Look at how the public sector is cutting back," says Peter Upham, executive director of The Association of Boarding Schools, based in Asheville, N.C. "Comparatively, our packages are more competitive."

Boarding schools have become more attractive, especially with the lure of free housing for teachers. Test-prep companies are on the rise, as are charter schools and online tutoring.

For instance,, a company that provides on-demand, online tutoring for K-12 and some college students, is increasing the number of school districts it contracts with. The number of people who want to work for the New York-based company has skyrocketed. In 2009, its waiting list of tutors ready to teach had about 4,400 people; now, it has more than 14,000.

"There's more general awareness that this [option] exists for teachers," says Jennifer Kohn, spokeswoman for Most of its tutors are teachers who have left the classroom or those who want extra part-time work.

More here

Children's grasp of WW2 'sanitised' by books and films

Pupils’ understanding of the Second World War is being undermined by sensationalist films, television programmes and books, according to a leading headmaster. Children are increasingly distracted by the “prurient and commercial elements” of the conflict employed by the entertainment industry to make profits, it was claimed.

Graham Lacey, headmaster of the Berlin British School, a private international school in the German capital, said schools had a moral duty to “rescue” the subject by focusing on more challenging topics such as the Nazi’s exploitation of democracy and the state’s treatment of minorities. The comments come amid ongoing controversy over the way the conflict – from 1939 to 1945 – is taught in British schools.

Successive German ambassadors to London have criticised Britain’s “unbalanced” obsession with Nazi stereotypes at the expense of any aspect of the nation’s history beyond 1945.

Four years ago Labour also sparked outrage by suggesting that Winston Churchill – Britain’s wartime leader – should be erased from the secondary school curriculum in an attempt to give teachers more freedom to teach history.

Mr Lacey, former deputy head of Sevenoaks School in Kent, said schools “must be careful not to downplay the significance of a period when the world almost fell off its moral axis”.

But writing in an article today on, he suggested that the biggest threat to the subject was the entertainment industry, which prioritises a “populist narrative over objective analysis”.

It follows the success of films such as Saving Private Ryan and video games including Call of Duty: World at War. The Second World War is also one of the mainstays of satellite channels such as UKTV History and the History Channel, where recent programmes have included Hitler's Bodyguard, Hitler's Women, Nazi America and Nazi Guerrillas.

But Mr Lacey said: “The argument that this period should retain its elevated position in UK school history syllabuses has, ironically, been hindered rather than helped by the popularisation of the subject. “Students have been too easily distracted by its more prurient and commercial elements, whether it be the sex lives of its leaders or the pop memorabilia of the SS, for example.

“Even the horrors of the Second World War have been sanitised through books and films that have inevitably given higher priority to commercial success over factual accuracy, and populist narrative over objective analysis. “All this has undermined the pedagogical and moral justification for teaching the subject.”

The study of the two world wars is compulsory in English secondary schools. Pupils are also expected to study the Holocaust as a distinct topic.

But Mr Lacey said schools had a responsibility to focus on the “less familiar but more intellectually fulfilling topics of the period, to rescue the academic respectability of the subject as well as to ensure their students appreciate the relevance it holds for all who wish to protect the civilised values which the Third Reich displaced.”

The Nazi’s rise to power should be used as an example of how a small minority can exploit democracy or exert “undue political influence at a time of instability”, he said.

Mr Lacey added that a study of the Nazi’s murder campaign can also shed light on the “sanctity of human life and the state’s approach to the treatment of minorities”.

“Unless you fall for the myth that ‘it could never happen to us’, a study of the Third Reich still provides lessons for us all, and should retain its prominent place in the history syllabuses of the UK’s schools and universities,” he said.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Ninth Circus Rules Against Student Christian Groups At San Diego State U

The Ninth Circuit issued a disappointing decision yesterday against a Christian fraternity and sorority at San Diego State. The University allows campus organizations that it officially recognizes to exclude students who disagree with the message advocated by the group, unless the groups are religious. San Diego State views it as “religious discrimination,” in violation of the campus nondiscrimination policy, when a Christian group requires its officers or members to believe in Christianity. So that means the vegan club can exclude student deer hunters and those who advocate eating steaks at Morton’s, but the Christian groups must permit Buddhists and atheists to join.

When a Christian fraternity and sorority declined to agree to a nondiscrimination statement, the University rejected their applications to become officially recognized student organizations. That means the groups cannot meet in campus buildings for free, cannot set up tables in the main mall where students walk each day, etc. The Christian groups are in effect banished from the main avenues of communication with students and relegated to a second class status.

The 2-1 majority upheld the policy. Although the judges admitted that the policy as applied here treated the religious groups worse than non-religious student groups, it was constitutional because there is “no evidence that San Diego State implemented its nondiscrimination policy for the purpose of suppressing Plaintiffs’ [the Christian groups'] viewpoint…” Slip opinion at 9996. Intent is irrelevant. The government cannot excuse its policy that violates a group’s constitutional rights because “it didn’t mean to do so.”

There is some good news in the decision. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the trial court because we had raised sufficient evidence that San Diego State did not enforce its policy consistently across the board, and allowed other groups to exclude non-adherents, but not allowing the Christian fraternity and sorority to do so.

Judge Ripple, a visiting appeals court judge from Wisconsin, reluctantly agreed with the ruling because of precedent for the Ninth Circuit. But in his concurring opinion, he urged the Supreme Court to take the case, and rule strongly in favor of religious liberty:

"The net result of this selective policy is therefore to marginalize in the life of the institution those activities, practices and discourses that are religiously based. While those who espouse other causes may support their membership and come together for mutual support, others, including those exercising one of our most fundamental liberties – the right to free exercise of one’s religion — cannot, at least on equal terms."

We are examining our options about returning to the trial court, or appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Twice as many British universities now looking for A* grades

The number of universities requiring the elite A* grade for entry has more than doubled. Six more leading institutions want students to achieve the ‘super grade’ in one A-level this year, while a further two will require one from next year. And ten are considering adding it to their entry criteria, according to a Daily Mail survey.

In 2010 just four made it a necessity for a place – but all these have dramatically increased the number of courses for which it is required.

The elite grade was initially used to choose pupils studying pure maths or science courses, but it has been broadened to include psychology, philosophy, economics and law.

It comes as analysis indicates that independent schools are set to further tighten their grip on the elite universities following the introduction of the new top grade in 2010.

In the first year that the A* was awarded, pupils in independent schools won 4,112 A* grades in maths, compared with 3,420 in the comprehensive sector.

In languages, they achieved 1,068 A* grades, more than twice the total for comprehensives, according to figures obtained by Elizabeth Truss, a Tory MP on the education select committee. This is despite the private sector educating just 15 per cent of A-level candidates.

The statistics will increase fears that government pressure for leading universities to boost the numbers of comprehensive pupils they admit is being undermined by the poorer grades achieved in key subjects.

This year, for the first time, Exeter, LSE, Bristol, Sussex, Birmingham and Manchester are asking for an A* and two As. Oxford and King’s College London say they will require an A* for entry in 2012.

Last year, the only universities to make an A* a requirement were Imperial, Cambridge, UCL and Warwick. Except for Cambridge, these universities asked for the top grade in just a few courses. Cambridge’s standard offer was an A* and two As.

The trend comes as competition for places at university is fiercer than ever, with 220,000 predicted to miss out on a place this year.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: ‘The A* was controversial but it is winning widespread acceptance. ‘There had been a marked rise in the number of top grades awarded, making it difficult for universities to distinguish between applicants.’

Eight per cent of A-levels taken last year were granted an A* – 62,665. But 17.9 per cent of independent school pupils achieved an A*, compared with just 5.8 per cent from comprehensives.

Miss Truss’s figures were based on the ten subjects deemed by the Russell Group of leading universities to be the most useful for winning a place.

She said: ‘Students at comprehensives are seven times more likely to take media studies than those at independent schools... in too many schools it is taken at face value that an A in media studies is worth the same as an A in any other subject. Students are effectively being misled.’


Catastrophe of British school leavers who can't add up

Children should be taught maths up to the age of 18 to avert the ‘educational catastrophe’ of 300,000 teenagers a year failing to grasp the basics, a hard-hitting report claims.

By 16 there is a ‘colossal’ ten-year range in mathematical learning between students, the report by former Countdown presenter Carol Vorderman reveals.

She calls for a ‘mathematics for citizenship’ course to be introduced for those studying A-levels that don’t involve the subject. And she recommends splitting the maths GCSE into two qualifications, one designed for those going on to A-level.

Miss Vorderman, who studied engineering at Cambridge and has said maths is her ‘passion’, believes 16-year-olds should continue with lessons in the subject to develop the skills that are vital in today’s world. Many still struggle with numbers in the workplace and in their personal lives despite 11 years of being taught maths.

Universities and employers are being forced to hold catch-up classes while the lack of numeracy threatens the country’s economic prosperity. This is because almost half of teenagers ‘fail’ GCSE maths, meaning they do not get a grade C or above.

Even those students who ‘scrape’ a C ‘are still incapable of truly understanding how to calculate percentages and fractions or to interpret data’, according to Miss Vorderman.

She was asked by David Cameron and Michael Gove to head a taskforce reviewing maths education when the Conservatives were in opposition in 2009.

The findings of the report, A World Class Mathematics Education for All Our Young People, are likely to be considered as part of the Coalition’s review of the national curriculum in England. Last year, 41.6 per cent of students – more than 317,000 – failed to get a grade C or above in maths GCSE.
Carol's formula for success

About 85 per cent of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland give up maths after GCSE. However, in ‘almost every developed country, all, or nearly all’ students continue for a further two years.

The report says maths education must continue in ‘some form’ between 16 and 18. This would tie in with the reform to raise the age of participation in compulsory education to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015.

For the most able, continuing with maths study would involve AS and A-levels. However, new qualifications should be introduced such as the ‘mathematics for citizenship’ course aimed at those with a grade C or above at GCSE who are studying A-levels where no maths is involved.

Those with a C or below should sit a ‘mature GCSE’, which would involve studying vocational units in basic numeracy, financial calculations and spreadsheets.

The single maths GCSE should be withdrawn when twin qualifications being piloted become widely available in 2015. One, applications of mathematics, concentrates on more functional maths without going into great depth. The other, methods in mathematics, contains the formal elements such as algebra that students need if they go on to AS and A-level.

Improving the maths knowledge of primary school teachers, encouraging more daily maths activities in primaries and helping parents who ‘have a fear of mathematics themselves’ are also among the recommendations.

The report, released by the Conservative Party, adds that Key Stage Two national curriculum maths tests should end in their current form as ‘most secondary schools pay no attention to the results’.

Education Secretary Mr Gove welcomed the report and admitted the country is ‘falling behind our competitors when it comes to mathematics education’.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Queer student taunted the wrong guy

A teacher testified Thursday that a gay student at a Southern California junior high school paraded around in makeup and high heels in front of a classmate who is accused of killing him the next day.

Arthur Saenz said he saw defendant Brandon McInerney sitting on a bench looking angry and upset while 15-year-old Larry King walked back and forth in front of him as other students laughed. "I saw a lot of anger and rage," the history teacher said about McInerney.

He said he did nothing about the situation because the school administrator walked up and saw the same scene. He said he assumed she would take care of it.

Saenz said that in hindsight, he thought the encounter "appeared to be sexual harassment."

McInerney, who was 14 at the time of the 2008 shooting at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, is being tried as an adult on first-degree murder and hate crime charges.

The defense is arguing that McInerney had a troubled childhood and had reached an emotional breaking point over unwanted sexual advances by King when he shot his fellow student in a computer classroom. The prosecution contends McInerney was driven by white supremacist anti-gay beliefs.

Saenz's testimony came after McInerney's aunt testified that she saw the young man's father physically and verbally abuse him.

Megan Csorba said she saw her brother sit on his son until he couldn't breathe, pull his thumb back until he screamed and punch him in the face, the Ventura County Star reported.

In cross-examination, a prosecutor asked Csorba why she didn't report the abuse to police. "I was going through my own abuse, and I wasn't going to do that to my brother," Csorba said.

She said that books on Nazi youth and videos on shooting at McInerney's home belonged to the defendant's older brother. She also testified, as did McInerney's half-brother, that the defendant had been molested by a cousin.

The cousin was scheduled to testify Friday. The trial was moved to Los Angeles County because of extensive media coverage in Ventura County.


Must not laugh at blacks

A former student is taking Red Wing High School to court. Quera Pruitt, a 19-year-old who graduated from the Minnesota school last year, is suing for allowing what she sees as an offensive, racially-charged homecoming event to go on without punishing the offending students.

The event, called “Wigger Day,” was celebrated by students who commemorated it by coming to school in oversized jerseys, baggy and sagging pants, side-cocked baseball caps and, perhaps most indicative of the racial nature of the celebration, doo rags.

To opponents like Pruitt, the premise (not to mention the name) of the event was a play off of the infamous “n-word,” which is highly offensive to African Americans.

Pruitt is charging that Red Wing High School officials, including the principal, were well aware of the offensive nature of the event and that they simply ignored it. She is seeking $75,000 in damages, citing emotional distress, depression, stress, crying, humiliation and a plethora of other emotions.

As a result of the event, she claims she dropped out of cheerleading and student council; she even considered leaving the school.

Time’s NewsFeed provides more background about how the situation has devolved:

"Homecoming typically involves a flurry of themed events that lead up to the big game. In 2009, the student body designated Sept. 30 as “Tropical Day,” but according to the federal class action suit, about 70 students declared it “Wednesday Wigger Day” instead. Pruitt says the high school, where 3% of the 900 students are black, celebrated “Wigger Day,“ also known as ”Wangsta Day,” between 2007 and 2009.

The offensive nature of the event was captured when it first happened back in 2009. In an interview published on, Pruitt explained her take on the event as follows: ”They hurt my feelings. No one asked me how I felt about it.”

Another student, Alissia Humphreys, explained, “I have a right to be comfortable at school, and I don’t appreciate that being taken away from me and making me feel uncomfortable.” But, back in 2009, at least according to, school officials seemed like they were taking control of the situation:

Red Wing Superintendent Stan Slessor says the district is disappointed with the students actions and words — whether or not they were intended to be offensive. Officials did require the students to change their clothes immediately. No more punishment has followed, but the district does plan to use the incident to teach tolerance.

Interestingly, reports a fact that didn’t make its way into some other outlets: The principal did tell students to change their offensive clothing. Regardless of whether this is true with certainty, the news site corroborated the fact that no one was punished for participating in “Wigger Wednesday.”

There’s another element here, though, that further complicates the situation. Following the incident, it appears as though a Facebook group called “Wigger Wednesday” (which has now been removed) was used to potentially cyber-bully Pruitt. Apparently, it read, “let’s keep wigger wednesday goin til that [derogatory term] quits.” One wonders: Was this “quitting” in reference to Pruitt’s cheerleading? If so, the students’ efforts were successful.


British Teenagers can earn university entrance by by going trekking, diving and whale-watching

Teenagers on gap years are being given university entrance points for adventures abroad. They can put experiences such as whale watching, trekking and diving towards a Certificate of Personal Effectiveness – equivalent to an A grade at AS-level.

Those who gain a level three in the CoPE receive 70 Ucas points, which could help them secure a university place. An A* at A-level is worth 140 Ucas points. Gap-year companies are promoting the certificate as a way for teenagers to secure university places.

But critics say the inclusion of such qualifications in the Ucas tariff system is ‘crazy’ and warn that the CoPE could give students a false sense of security when applying for courses.

There are also concerns that the extra points awarded for gap-year activities could see wealthier students edging out rivals who have the same grades but cannot afford to spend a year out travelling and volunteering.

The CoPE requires students to choose challenges from six modules: global awareness, enrichment activities, work-related activities, active citizenship, career planning and extended project.

They gain five credits for 50 hours’ activity, with at least 15 credits from three different modules required to complete the qualification.

The Frontier website, which provides gap-year advice, says the CoPE ‘will appeal to potential employers or university applications’. It adds: ‘If you just missed out on a university place or just want to boost your score, a CoPE would be a good way to do it.’

Holly Taylor, from Camps International, which specialises in expeditions to Africa and Asia, said acquiring Ucas points for overseas trips was a convenient way for ‘gappers’ to kill two birds with one stone. She said: ‘As well as doing a gap year they are able to come back and better themselves at university here.’

She added that the first two students from Camps International to achieve the CoPE secured their university places with the extra Ucas points they gained.

But Professor Alison Wolf, who led a government inquiry into education qualifications, said: ‘It underlines the craziness of trying to put points on everything that moves. ‘There is a danger that people will believe that universities will treat all points as equal and a terrible danger that the most vulnerable people will be misled and make choices they shouldn’t make.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of Buckingham University’s Centre for Education and Employment Research, said: ‘To get into Oxford or Cambridge, I’m not sure these gap-year A-level points will make any difference. They are not going to rate very highly among A*s in physics, maths and chemistry.’

Overseas volunteering is a multi-billion-pound industry, with the average gap-year traveller, aged 18 to 24, spending £3,000-£4,000 on the trip, according to analysts Mintel. But the economic downturn and next year’s tripling of the limit on tuition fees have seen the numbers planning gap years fall from 20,000 in 2010 to 6,000 this year, Ucas figures show. And students who defer their places for gap years face paying fees of up to £9,000 next September.

A spokesman for The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it was up to universities whether they wanted to charge those students under the current fee regime or at 2012 levels.

However, students can complete the CoPE without taking a year out or going abroad. It is aimed at anyone aged over 16 and some study for it by doing voluntary work during their A-levels.

A Ucas spokesman said it was possible to use activities gained ‘from a wide variety of experiences to inform a course of study’ and to attract tariff points.