Saturday, October 01, 2011

Public schools eat too much at government trough

Soon after his boss introduced the American Jobs Act, Vice President Joe Biden held a conference call to get teachers' unions behind it.

It was an easy task, with American Federation of Teachers honcho Randi Weingarten promising to "do whatever we can" to get the legislation passed. And why not? It's teachers and other politically potent interests, not kids or the economy, that the Act is really about.

That teachers' unions are gung-ho about the proposal — which would furnish $30 billion for education jobs and another $25 billion for school buildings — doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Kids need teachers and classrooms, right?

Sure. But we all need food, too, yet we can eat too much, or scarf down the wrong things, and end up sick as dogs. And for the last several decades public schools have been throwin' down Twinkies like they're going out of style.

Look at staffing. According to the federal Digest of Education Statistics, between 1969 and 2008 (the latest year with available data) public schools went from 22.6 students per teacher to 15.3. District administrative staff went from 697.7 students per employee to just 363.3. In total, students per employee dropped from 13.6 to 7.8.

And what happened to achievement? Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the "nation's report card" — flatlined for 17-year-olds, our schools' "final products."

But those employment figures are just through 2008. Haven't the last few years truly devastated education employment? We don't have perfect numbers, but what we do have says no.

The 2009 "stimulus," recall, included $100 billion for education, most of which went to elementary and secondary schooling. A year later, the Feds allocated another $10 billion to keep education employment intact. Oodles of education jobs probably were created or preserved.

Unemployment rates support that. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for April — a month when most schools are in session — show that the rates in "education services" (which includes K-12, colleges and other training) were 4.8% in 2009, 4.2% in 2010 and 3.8% in 2011.

Education unemployment has been falling, and has been below not just overall unemployment, but unemployment for people with college degrees. In April 2011, the unemployment rate for the latter was 4.5%.

Assuming that staffing has been roughly constant since 2008, what would the magnitude of the cut be if the Obama administration's worst-case scenario — 280,000 lost positions — came true?

Small, especially since the administration is talking not just about teachers, but also "guidance counselors, classroom assistants, after-school personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches." Most of those positions are considered "instructional" and "support" staff, and in 2008 there were 6,182,785 such employees. Losing 280,000 would be just a 4.5% trimming. And that's the worst-case scenario.

So much for employment. How about crumbling schools?

Many public schools are in terrible shape, but not for lack of funds: Public school spending rose from $5,671 per student in 1970-71 to $12,922 in 2007-08. Much of that went to pay for all the new employees, but facilities spending ballooned as well.

Where'd the money go? It's hard to know for sure, but too often not dull maintenance. Instead, it went to glory projects such as the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Los Angeles, which boasts such educationally essential features as talking benches that explain the site's history (Robert Kennedy was shot at the hotel that once stood there), and an auditorium that mimics the Cocoanut Grove nightclub.

Politicians simply don't star in golden-shovel groundbreakings when bathroom stalls are replaced. They do get such free publicity when opulent buildings are erected. And while the Jobs Act wouldn't fund new buildings, it would bail out districts that long traded function for flash, and would pay for spiffy new science labs and other glitzy additions. And naturally, all the work would have to be done at union rates.

This makes no educational sense. It also makes no economic sense: Taxpayers would ultimately have to pay for the Jobs Act, meaning money would be taken from the people who earned it and given to infamous squanderers. That almost certainly means a net loss of jobs.

But this isn't really about education or job growth. It's about politics. At least, that's all that the evidence allows you to conclude.


Teenage girl beaten by classmates in Canada on 'Kick A Ginger Day'

A CANADIAN schoolgirl with bright red hair was kicked repeatedly by up to 20 classmates today as part of a bullying day inspired by US animated TV series South Park, The Windsor Star reported.

Gwendolyn Russell, 14, called her mother in tears soon after getting to school and had to go home mid-morning as she was targeted by fellow Grade 9 students during "Kick A Ginger Day."

The event was invented in a 2005 "South Park" episode, in a bid to satirise discrimination. But unfortunately, the cartoon comedy's attempt to make a point appears to have backfired in real life.

Gwendolyn's mother, Samantha Russell, told the Star her daughter suffered bruises to her legs after being kicked more than 20 times, and at least four other red-haired girls were also assaulted.

"I'm infuriated. There should be zero tolerance for something like this," she added.

According to the paper, school administrators have already suspended four male students from taking part in a football game after they were seen on video kicking the girl. Up to 20 students in total could face discipline.

"This behaviour isn't acceptable," Joe Picard, superintendent of human resources for the French Catholic District School Board, said. "As such, steps and measures will be taken. Above that, you need to be proactive in teaching empathy to the kids and social responsibility."

Ms Russell said her daughter had problems on "Kick A Ginger Day" when she was at elementary school and was forced to stay home during the day last year.


Course Instructs Journalists to Take Note That Jihad 'Not a Leading Cause of Death'

A new online journalism course on Islam appears to downplay the threat posed by global jihad groups, suggesting reporters keep the death toll from Islamic terrorism in "context" by comparing that toll to the number of people killed every year by malaria, HIV/AIDS and other factors.

"Jihad is not a leading cause of death in the world," the online course cautions studying journalists.

While that is technically true, researchers at the Culture and Media Institute who examined the online program took exception to that and numerous other claims made in the Poynter News University course.

Dan Gainor, vice president at the institute, said the course is sweeping these threats "under the rug," while watering down the section on jihad with inappropriate comparisons.

"Infectious disease, we have government structures to prevent that, and that's great ... in radical Islam we have not even one organization but several organizations that are constantly seeking to kill Americans and others too," he said. "It seems like journalists should not be involved in trying to downplay that."

Gainor's group released a report Thursday morning on the course.

The Islam reporting program is supported in part by a group, the Social Science Research Council, which has received funding from organizations backed by billionaire George Soros.

In the section on jihad, the course informs readers that the word merely means "struggle" in Arabic -- this is something White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has sought to remind the public of in the past. The course notes that terrorism in the name of jihad has "failed to mobilize Muslims outside of a few territories."

But to illustrate this point, the course references the number of people killed by various causes, implicitly suggesting journalists change the way they report on jihad-related deaths.

"Of the hundreds of murders that occur each day, journalists are far more likely to report on jihad-related incidents than other violence. As a result, news consumers have developed a skewed impression of the prevalence of jihad, relative to other forms of conflict. Context is essential in covering this global story in a way that does not amplify fears of jihad," the course says.

The Poynter course estimates jihad groups have killed about 165,000 people over the past four decades, mostly in Iraq. It notes the biggest toll in the United States was the approximately 3,000 killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"To give those numbers some context, the FBI reports that approximately 15,000 people in the U.S. are murdered each year. All around the world, more than half a million people are murdered annually, according to the World Health Organization," the course says. "At its peak, jihad organizations have accounted for less than 2 percent of this toll -- in most years, they account for well under 1 percent. (A half-million individuals die each year from nutritional deficiencies, more than 800,000 from malaria, and 2 million from HIV/AIDS.)"

Gainor noted that murder victims mostly are killed in separate incidents, whereas victims of Islamic terrorism often are killed in larger-scale attacks. Also, murder victims typically are not killed in the name of an ideological war against a country.

The online course, which is broken into several sections, also discusses "right-wing activists" bent on linking American Muslims to terrorism. The section includes the good-journalism tip that reporters should check to see if experts they're interviewing "have a bias or a stake in the story you are covering." But then it only cites examples of anti-Muslim groups.

The course also addresses Shariah law without including information of instances where the law is interpreted with harsh consequences.

"In countries governed by strict adherence to Islam, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shariah is the law of the land. But in many other Muslim countries, such as Egypt, there are separate civil and Shariah law courts, with the latter governing issues such as marriage and family law, while civil courts decide the rest," the course says.

But the Culture and Media Institute, part of the conservative Media Research Center, noted that in strict countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, people can be stoned to death or flogged for non-violent crimes. In Iran, a pastor who refused to renounce his Christian faith was facing execution after his sentence was recently upheld by an Iranian court -- though an attorney now says he is likely to be acquitted.

The Poynter Institute said in an email to that it created the course "as a tool for journalists who want to be accurate in educating their audience about the religion and culture of Islam, Muslim communities in the U.S., and the distinctions between Islam as a political movement and the radical philosophies that inspire militant Islamists."

"We believe there is a need to better understand the complexities of Muslim societies and the online course offered by Poynter and Washington State University is a vital resource toward that end," the Poynter Institute said.

"The values underpinning the course are truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, minimizing harm and context -- the core journalistic values on which we build all our teaching here at Poynter."


Friday, September 30, 2011

Justice Department promotes bad English in U.S. schools

“Facing a possible civil-rights lawsuit, Arizona has struck an agreement with federal officials to stop monitoring classrooms for mispronounced words and poor grammar from teachers of students still learning the English language. . .The state’s agreement with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education allows it to avoid further investigation and a possible federal civil-rights lawsuit,” notes the Arizona Republic. As legal commentator Walter Olson notes, this is nutty, but it has the apparent support of the nation’s largest teacher’s union, the National Education Association, which passed a “resolution ‘decrying disparate treatment on the basis of ‘pronunciation’ — quite a switch from the old days when teachers” were sticklers for correct pronunciation.

As I noted earlier, the Justice Department has gone even further in other cases, making the sweepingly overbroad and inaccurate claim that discrimination based on accent, pronunciation, or language is a form of racial or national origin discrimination. That argument ignores two federal appeals court rulings that rejected the idea that an employer’s requirement that employees speak English on the job is illegal discrimination. (See Garcia v. Spun Steak Co. (1993) and Garcia v. Gloor (1980).) (When another federal agency, the EEOC, sues private employers for expecting their employees to speak a language their colleagues and supervisors can understand, it claims that the courts should ignore these prior appellate court rulings, and instead follow its own “national origin” guidelines, which treat English-only rules as a form of “national origin harassment” and racially “disparate impact.” Amazingly, trial courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere have accepted this absurd argument, even though the Supreme Court long ago rejected the idea that EEOC guidelines supersede prior court decisions or have the force of law, as it made clear in rejecting EEOC guidelines in its decisions in EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co. (1991) and General Electric v. Gilbert (1976).)

The Justice Department has overstepped its authority by promulgating “guidelines” requiring accommodation of non-English speakers under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Justice Department guidelines suggest that recipients of federal funds, such as private health care providers, can be liable for “disparate impact” discrimination if they fail to provide translation services for just a single non-English speaker. Influenced by such guidelines, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest has demanded that drugstores hire bilingual interpreters.

But the Justice Department guidelines are legally flawed in two key respects. First, the Supreme Court cast doubt on whether “disparate impact” claims, which do not require a showing of discriminatory intent, are even valid under Title VI in Alexander v. Sandoval (2001), which barred any damage claims or private lawsuits for “disparate impact” under Title VI. Second, it is blackletter law, under cases like Coe v. Yellow Freight (1981), that a claim of unintentional (or disparate impact) discrimination cannot be based on a practice’s effect on just one minority group member in an establishment: there must be a large class of affected people at that establishment. Yet the Justice Department’s guidelines suggest that a health care provider might be liable for not having a translator to accommodate each and every speaker of an obscure language like Hmong that did not even exist in written form until recently.

Even worse, the Education Department, where I used to work as a civil rights attorney, interprets Title VI to require that school districts translate all notices into every conceivable language spoken by even one student or parent using the school system, such as Hmong, and to ignore the cost of oral translations. That is contrary to basic principles of disparate-impact law, which recognize that high cost can be a defense (not even the Justice Department suggests that costs should be ignored), and that an institutional practice that inadvertently harms just a single minority group member is not illegal discrimination unless it systematically excludes members of that person’s minority group.

It is unlikely that the Justice and Education Departments even care that their interpretation of federal civil-rights law is very suspect. The Justice Department has become more politicized under the Obama administration, as droves of left-wing ideologues have been hired; and the Education Department has recently shown contempt for federal court rulings limiting the reach of liability under civil-rights statutes like Title IX (and also contempt for civil liberties such as free speech, and limits on government power).


British middle-class students face fresh squeeze on university places

Middle-class teenagers face missing out on university places next year after institutions were ordered to admit more disadvantaged students. Currently, universities set their own targets on increasing the number of applicants from ‘under-represented’ groups, such as those from low income families.

From today, universities have been ordered to set ‘at least one target’ on increasing the number of such students they actually admit, instead of simply focusing on attracting applications.

The change, demanded by the Office for Fair Access, the higher education watchdog, is a trade-off for being allowed to charge up to £9,000 a year in student tuition fees. Universities could be stripped of the right to charge the higher fees unless they meet the new demand.

Elite universities will face intense scrutiny from OFFA next year as figures show that only one in seven students at Oxford and one in eight at Cambridge qualify for full maintenance grants – available only to poorer students – from the Government.

This compares to more than 50 per cent at Bedfordshire University. All institutions wishing to charge above the basic current fee of £1,285 a year must have an approved ‘access agreement’ in place with OFFA. This lays out the targets set by the university for improving access among ‘under-represented’ groups.

A report for 2009-2010 published today by OFFA found that one in four universities had not yet met their targets. These included universities such as Cambridge, Bristol and Warwick.

Sir Martin Harris, director of OFFA, said he was ‘concerned’ to understand the reasons why the targets had not been met. He added that from 2012-13, OFFA will ‘require institutions to set themselves at least one target around broadening their entrant pool’. Sir Martin went on: ‘Up to now it has been possible for institutions to restrict their targets to broadening their applicant pool’.

But Dr Tim Hands, headmaster of Magdalen College School, Oxford, said: ‘It’s difficult to see that [this] isn’t social engineering. ‘It’s also difficult to see that it won’t affect subjects like engineering, maths and modern foreign languages which the Government has identified as crucial to the economy.’


British schools will be judged on gay and gipsy pupils' progress

Schools will be penalised if they fail to improve the progress of ‘vulnerable’ groups of pupils such as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual.

New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ‘meets the needs of the range of pupils’ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children.

Schools could see their teaching being judged ‘inadequate’ if they do not reduce gaps in achievement between different groups who make up a significant proportion of their student population.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ¿meets the needs of the range of pupils¿ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children.

New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education 'meets the needs of the range of pupils' in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children. Picture posed by models

However, critics hit out at the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual pupils in an Ofsted list of groups that could be monitored for signs of progress.

They insist that head teachers will not wish to pry into the private lives of pupils and claim that youngsters should be treated as individuals, not groups.

There are also fears that teachers will feel forced to categorise pupils by their sexuality at a time when they are young and impressionable.

But an Ofsted spokesman insisted last night: ‘It is about schools being aware of the different groups of pupils that might attend their schools and doing all they can to ensure they reach their full potential. ‘These groups could differ depending on the nature and type of school and Ofsted does not have a prescriptive list.’

Today Ofsted unveils a new inspection framework which will make it harder for schools to be ranked ‘outstanding’. From next January, inspectors will concentrate on four key areas: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching and learning; effectiveness of leadership and management, and standards of behaviour and safety.

However, there will be an even greater focus on ‘narrowing gaps in performance’ for different groups of pupils such as ethnic minorities and children in care. Inspectors will evaluate the standards achieved and progress made by these cohorts compared with other pupils in the school and with national trends.

New Ofsted guidance says: ‘It is important to test the school’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential, especially those whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require particularly perceptive and expert teaching and/or additional support.

‘In any particular school, such pupils may include disabled pupils; boys; girls; groups of pupils whose prior attainment may be different from that of other groups; those who are academically more able; pupils for whom English is an additional language; minority ethnic pupils; gipsy, Roma and traveller children; pupils known to be eligible for free school meals; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual pupils; young carers, pupils from low income backgrounds and other vulnerable groups.’

Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders criticised the highlighting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual pupils. He said: ‘I’m not aware of any way in which such pupils might be identified in a school. It would be inappropriate for any headteacher to pry into the private lives of children.’

Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers said: ‘It would be simpler to say that every pupil should reach their potential. Each school will have different groups and communities.

‘What an inspector used to do, and should do, is go in and look and what the broad types of pupils are and look at whether there are any groups that are falling behind and home in on those. ‘But if you start getting rigid and start defining all these subcategories at length, the data can become less and less meaningful.’

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University branded the list ‘absurd’. He said: ‘Schools have my sympathy. It’s political correctness that will get in the way of educating every child to his or her potential.’

The new Ofsted framework, which will come into effect in January, applies to all primary and secondary schools in England.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

More on THAT bake sale

It has attracted worldwide publicity

Despite allegations of being "purposefully offensive," a Republican student group in California held a controversial bake sale on Tuesday in opposition of pending legislation that would allow universities to consider race, gender and ethnicity in the admissions process.

California Senate Bill 185, which was passed by the state Legislature and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, would authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider those and "other relevant factors" during the admissions process.

If signed into law, S.B. 185 would be in direct opposition to Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot proposition approved in 1996 that amended the state's constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity during the admissions process.

Though Proposition 209 bans awarding admissions decisions based on race and ethnicity alone, S.B. 185 would allow admissions officials to view ethnicity as part of the student's background as a whole, Jesse Choper, a UC Berkeley law professor told The Daily Californian.

The bill would only authorize UC and CSU to consider race, gender, ethnicity and other factors in admissions decisions, but will not mandate them to do so, the newspaper reported.

Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, which hosted the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" at a campus plaza, said the event was intended to oppose any policy that treats one racial group different from another.

The bake sale, which was held just yards away from a phone bank event urging people to call Brown's office in support of the S.B. 185, charged all white men $2 for cookies and other baked goods, while Asian men were charged $1.50, Latino men paid $1, black men 75 cents and Native Americans 25 cents. All women received 25 cents off those prices.

"After the UC Berkeley student government endorsed the bill, we decided a response was needed," Lewis wrote on the group's website. "Thus this bake sale was formulated ... If preferences based on skin color are ok [sic] for college admissions, they should be ok [sic] for other aspects of life. We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point."

Lewis said the bake sale, which has led to threats and intimidation, is in direct response to the Associated Students of the University of California's sponsoring of a phone bank with a goal of more than 1,100 calls to Brown's office. It is scheduled to be held until 2 p.m. local time.

According to The Daily Californian's live blog of the event, roughly 300 people participated in a silent protest of the bake sale. Several campus police officers monitored the event, the newspaper reported.

Earlier, political science professor Wendy Brown told the newspaper that she tried to buy all of the group's baked goods but was not allowed to do so. "I thought the Republicans were free enterprise, but they won't let me buy all the cupcakes," she told the newspaper.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Brown, told that the governor has not taken a stance on the bill and generally does not comment prior to taking action. He has until Oct. 9 to sign or veto the bill, Westrup said.

Meanwhile, University of California Student Association President Claudia Magana said having knowledge of an applicant's racial or ethnic background will allow university officials to make a "more informed" admission decision. "UC students strongly support this bill, and we will be taking action to let the Governor know that we expect him to sign it," Magana said in a statement released on Monday.

S.B. 185 does not mandate quotas nor allows individuals of different ethnic groups to be held to different standards, said Magana, adding that it will also not repeal Proposition 209.

"SB 185 is an important step in the right direction," her statement continued. "In part because of the extensive institutional racism that persists in our state and nation, it is critical that our University is aware of the race of applicants, in order to fully understand and contextualize an individual's background and experiences."

Joey Freeman, external affairs vice president at UC Berkeley, said the bake sale does not further a "productive dialogue" and instead harms the campus climate.

"We welcome all students to participate in dialogue about the best ways for us to increase diversity and ensure that our University is accessible to all Californians," Freeman said in a statement. "Still, we hope that such dialogue can occur without purposefully offensive to specific groups on our campuses."

Neal McCluskey, an education analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, said a "reasonable reading" of S.B. 185 would find it unconstitutional since the state bans discrimination to any individual or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the "normal operation" of public employment, public education or public contracting.

"It certainly looks like it would be in violation of the state's constitution," McCluskey told "That said, I'm familiar enough with affirmative action and you can guess what their argument will be -- that this is part of 'normal and necessary' operations of public colleges and universities."

McCluskey said he's not surprised at the charged reactions on both sides of the issue. "This has been a problem in this country for decades, centuries I should say, where distinctions made by government based on race, sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity, when a government sides one way or another based on one of their group identities, then it is hugely controversial because this is the government choosing winners and losers and not on merit," he said.

"And that completely flies in the face of the idea of the United States where individuals succeed or fail based on their own merits," he continued. "We shouldn't be shocked at all when this leads to constant conflict because nobody wants to end up on the losing side because they weren't born with the characteristics the government decides to favor."


Why I aprove of Berkeley’s “racist” bake sale

by John Stossel

Some College Republicans want to satirize California’s proposed affirmative action law, which would direct California public universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national/geographic origin when admitting students. They need a new law? I assume the schools do that anyway.

Affirmative action may be a good thing—a way to compensate for past discrimination. While that may have been useful when I attended college, I think it’s no longer helpful today. Affirmative action is now part of the minority special privilege machine, a component of which is perpetual victimhood.

Useful or not, affirmative action it is a form of racism, and the bake sale helps make that clear. But I don’t understand the Berkeley students’ price list. Asians, not Whites, should be at the top , since studies show that often, Asian students need significantly higher SAT scores to be admitted.

I once held a similar sale: I stood in midtown Manhattan shouting, “Cupcakes for sale.” My price list read:

Asians -- $1.50
Whites -- $1.00
Blacks/Latinos -- 50 cents

People stared. One yelled, “What is funny to you about people who are less privileged?” A black woman said, angrily, “It’s very offensive, very demeaning!” One black man accused me of poisoning the cupcakes.

I understand why people got angry. But my racist sale led to some interesting discussions. One young woman began by criticizing me, “It’s absolutely wrong.”

But after I raised the parallel with college admissions, she said: “No race of people is worth more than another. Or less.”
But do you believe in affirmative action in colleges? I asked. “I used to,” she replied.

Those are the kind discussions students should have. Berkeley administrators were not happy when they learned of the College Republicans plan, but I’m glad that they will allow today’s bake sale. At Bucknell University, the administration shut a bake sale down. A university is supposed to be a place for open discussion. Satirizing affirmative action shouldn’t be off-limits.


U.K. Schools Ban Witches’ Black Hats for Promoting…Racism Among Children?

It seems nothing — from the traditional dress of age-old children’s storybook characters to the very sheet of paper those stories are written on — is above the scrutiny and condemnation of those seeking to push a politically correct agenda and tie even the most seemingly innocent of things to an assault on racial “equality.”

That’s correct, according to diversity and equality “experts,” the Wicked Witch of the West (or at least witches in general), promotes racism among children simply because she dons a black hat. Likewise, the pale, glistening colors typically worn by “fairies” — those ethereal creatures of middle earth so often portrayed in sweetness and light — are merely calculated, cynical wardrobe choices intended to dupe children into believing that all things light, or white, in color are inherently “good.”

Now, to combat that perceived threat, primary school teachers in Britain are allegedly being encouraged by equality advocates to censor fictional children’s characters, eliminating witches’ black pointed hats in favor of white ones, while dressing fairies in dark colors. Proponents of this technique claim the method will eliminate “racism” in children as young as two.

But that’s not all. Even white writing paper has come under fire. The Telegraph reports:
Another staple of the classroom – white paper – has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.

Children should be provided with paper other than white to draw on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones”, reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.

These rather drastic-sounding measures to ensure racial equality among children are reportedly outlined in a series of guides in “Nursery World” magazine.

Without providing any scientific proof to support the assertion, the guides posit that young children could possess the inclination to express racist views — and that it is therefore the obligation of nursery school teachers to help the children “unlearn” these undesirable traits.

Eerily, the term “unlearn” conjures images of uninstalling software programs on your laptop — or, perhaps more pointedly — the reconditioning sequence made famous in the movie A Clockwork Orange, in which the protagonist’s mind is wiped “clean” of thoughts deemed socially unacceptable, thereby erasing his free will.

One of the alleged goals of the program is to form positive association with dark colors. The Telegraph reports that this “anti-bias” method was developed in the U.S. as part of special interest group’s multiculturalism agenda.

That method, promising to challenge racism, sexism and ageism, has now traveled across the pond, infiltrating at least a portion of the British school system. O‘Connor has reportedly developed material for Lancashire council’s childcare service:
“This is an incredibly complex subject that can easily become simplified and inaccurately portrayed,” she said.

“There is a tendency in education to say ‘here are normal people and here are different people and we have to be kind to those different people’, whether it’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or faith.

“People who are feeling defensive can say ‘well there’s nothing wrong with white paper’, but in reality there could be if you don’t see yourself reflected in the things around you. “As an early years teacher, the minute you start thinking, ‘well actually, if I give everyone green paper, what happens’, you have a teaching potential.

“People might criticise this as political correctness gone mad. But it is because of political correctness we have moved on enormously. If you think that we now take it for granted that our buildings and public highways are adapted so people in wheelchairs and with pushchairs can move around. Years ago if you were in a wheelchair, then tough luck. We have completely moved and we wouldn’t have done that without the equality movement.”

Not everyone is in agreement with color-mania, however. Margaret Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group Parents Outloud told the Telegraph, “I’m sure these early years experts know their field but they seem to be obsessed about colour and determined to make everyone else obsessed about it too.”

“Not allowing toy witches to wear black seems to me nonsense and in the same vein as those people who have a problem with ‘Bar Bar Black Sheep’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs’. Children just see a sheep in a field, whether it be black, grey, white or beige. I have worked with children for 41 years and I don’t believe I have ever met a two year old who was in any way racist or prejudiced.”

Meanwhile, it might be worth pointing out that, at least in Technicolor, the most infamous witch of all was in fact the color green.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Lazy Is the Professoriat?

I rather agree with Bryan Caplan below. I always considered most of my academic colleagues to be frauds leeching off the taxpayer and in some years I got more papers published than the whole of the rest of my Department put together(a Department with about 20 academics in it). But as Caplan says, their behaviour is largely a reaction to the system in which they work

In my view, low conscientiousness is a major cause of poverty. Laziness and impulsiveness lead to low marginal productivity. Sooner or later the market notices and gives you your just deserts. A smug, self-satisfied view, I know, but I'm only a messenger.

Still, I have to wonder: What would the world say if someone shined a hidden camera in my office? How hard do I really work?

I could just compare myself to other professors. But that begs the question. When I look around academia, I see lazy people everywhere. (My own impeccable department excepted, of course). Many professors virtually retire the day they get tenure. Plenty of others start even earlier. It's fairly common for tenure-track professors to "work" seven years with zero discernible output. By most measures, professors are extremely successful. How do such success and such laziness coexist?

To resolve this paradox, you need to remember that laziness is a preference - and that behavior is the reaction of preference to environment. Before you pronounce a professor "lazy," you should ask yourself, "How would most people act given his situation?"

Imagine taking randomly selected people, putting them in an office, and saying, "In seven years, your peers will decide whether your research is important enough to merit a job for life. See you in seven years." That's only a slight caricature of what it's like to be a tenure-track professor. You have to decide what's worth studying. You have to figure out something original to say. And you have to actually say it despite your peers' presumptions of apathy and negativity.

I submit that, placed in this situation, the vast majority of people would accomplish nothing. Indeed, I bet that many people would voluntarily resign because they wouldn't know what to do with themselves. Even if, by normal standards, you have a very good work ethic, you still need someone to (a) tell you what to do, (b) clearly tell you how well you're doing, and (c) reward you before you forget why you deserve a reward. Professors, in contrast, are supposed to toil day after day on a self-defined goal, bereft of clear-cut feedback, to impress habitually apathetic and negative peers seven years in the future. Bizarre.

On a gut level, professors who don't publish appall me. Untenured professors who don't publish actually baffle me. How can they squander their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? On reflection, though, the amazing thing about professors isn't that they accomplish so little. The amazing thing about professors is that they accomplish anything at all. They may look lazy to outside observers - and even to each other. But considering their situation, professors are amazingly industrious.


Plan to give poor British pupils extra credit to discriminate against private school classes

Britain's biggest exam board is proposing to rank all A-level students according to the schools they attend. The proposal would allow universities to discriminate against pupils from private schools.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance plan means universities could offer places to students from disadvantaged homes who showed potential but had performed less well in exams than their peers at better schools.

Under the proposal, a pupil at a weak school who scored a lower grade than a rival at a good school could get extra credit in the form of university entrance points. Until now, boards have judged pupils only on their exams and not their schooling.

The plan is contained in a paper prepared for discussion by Dr Neil Stringer, senior research associate at the AQA centre for education research and policy, and being circulated at the party conferences for debate this month.

Critics fear candidates will be penalised for achieving good A-level results at a good school. Independent schools are also concerned the approach could discriminate against disadvantaged pupils to whom they have offered scholarships.

Dr Tim Hands, headmaster of Magdalen College, Oxford, and co-chairman of the Independent Schools’ Universities Committee, said last night: ‘It is extraordinary. It takes no account of home background or the amount of tutoring a pupil could have.’

Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment Studies at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘The possibility for errors is enormous. ‘There must be concerns about the ranking the candidates are awarded.’

Dr Stringer gives the example of the medical school St George’s, part of the University of London, in support of his argument. The school offers places to students with lower A-level grades (BBC rather than AAB), providing their performance is 60 per cent better than the average for their school.

In another example, pupil A at a low-performing comprehensive in a disadvantaged area gets an exam score of 36 out of 40. But he is entitled to bonus points as a result of his school’s low ranking.

Pupil B goes to a top independent school with no pupils on free school meals and got 38 for his exam score. However, he faces being penalised on his school’s ranking.

It would be for a university to decide what to do with the information.


The crude social engineering of A-levels insults any child who wants to succeed on merit

Why do some societies succeed while others fail? Why is it that some nations can prosper while others decline? Is it a matter of natural resources, cultural factors or wise public spending? Or some indecipherable ingredient which is a matter of the purest chance?

History teaches us that it is none of the above. Nations succeed when they put talent first: those societies which have guaranteed the highest standards for all their citizens, throughout the ages, have been those which have been the purest meritocracies.

Those who don’t promote on merit, whether crony-ridden sheikhdoms or creaking Euro institutions, find they quickly decline, whatever riches they start out with.

Deciding that jobs, or positions of influence, should be allocated on the basis of where you come from, not what you can do, is the sort of thinking we should leave to defenders of the feudal system and discredited Marxists.

But, sadly, the deluded notion that background matters more than ability is still alive, well and undermining excellence in the cloistered seminar rooms of the Left-wing education establishment.

How else to explain the bizarre idea which has emanated from one of our examination boards that students with weaker A-levels, if they’ve attended a poor school, should be able to automatically leapfrog students who possess stronger A-levels in the race for university places?

Exam boards exist to measure ability, not engage in crude social engineering. And the A-level, as Britain’s most demanding school-level qualification, is the real test of their ability to maintain educational standards.

The point of the A-level is to equip students with the knowledge to flourish at university. A-levels should also help universities select the students best equipped to succeed, by the simple and old-fashioned expedient of giving the most able students the highest grades.

Sadly, in my job as Education Secretary, I’ve been confronted with more and more evidence from universities that A-levels are no longer doing the job they should. Professors tell me they have to provide catch-up classes for bright students who arrive at university with good grades, but who have not been provided with enough knowledge in the A-level syllabus to match the performance of students from other countries, or students who started the same course a generation ago.

The same academics also tell me they are finding it more and more difficult to identify the most able pupils, when so many come with fistfuls of As and A stars.

The delight that hard-working students feel when they get a string of great passes curdles into anger when they find that still doesn’t mark them out from the crowd or guarantee a cherished college place.

The last Government invented the A star because so many were getting As. Now the numbers walking off with a clutch of A stars means we may soon have to introduce a veritable galaxy of A double and triple stars simply to allow the top talent to stand out.

It’s quite wrong to blame pupils for this fiasco. They work harder than ever, what with GCSE modules and AS levels before their final A2 exams.

They deserve better. Exam boards should be working harder to get tests which are truly stretching, and provide marking schemes which are more rigorous. But instead we have the silly idea from one exam board, tellingly launched at the Labour Party conference, that we should further devalue the gold standard.

The education system, it is argued, should inflate the value of lower grades if a candidate comes from what is believed to be a weaker school. All students are to be treated equally, but some will be treated rather more equally than others.

The authors of this scheme, I am sure, imagine they are doing their bit to advance social mobility.

Well, as the beneficiary of old-fashioned ideals which genuinely advanced social mobility, such as hard work, great teaching and academic rigour, let me assure the authors of this modest proposal that they are insulting any child who wants to succeed on their own merits.

No one wants to think they’ve been admitted somewhere on sufferance rather than ability. And this scheme risks tipping the scales against the deserving. A child from a normal home on a scholarship at a private school, as I was, would suffer compared with a child from a wealthier background who goes to a state school, but benefits from expensive private tutoring, as the children of so many distinguished Labour politicians have.

It’s because I came from a modest background — my father was a fish merchant — that I am so passionate about the power of great education to transform people’s lives. I spent my first months in care, before being adopted and brought up by wonderful parents who believed in education, even though they’d both had to leave school before they were 16.

I was fortunate to go to good state schools, before winning a scholarship to a private school. At every point I benefited from excellent teachers who didn’t make excuses about their pupils’ backgrounds. They expected every child to succeed. And they demanded the same level of discipline, application and ambition from every student because they thought we were all capable of excellence if we tried our utmost.

That same attitude permeates our best schools today, including those in our poorest areas: London schools such as Burlington Danes in White City, or Mossbourne in Hackney, which have more than their fair share of students from disadvantaged homes. They do much better in exams than many schools, including private schools, in leafy areas.

Their students win places at Oxbridge on merit. All because their heads, from the moment any child arrives, refuse to accept excuses for under-performance.

Because once you accept that a child is likely to do less well than his contemporaries, you condemn that child to fall further and further behind, to never know the satisfaction of pushing himself beyond his limits, to be a prisoner of others’ prejudice. The victim of the bigotry of low expectations.

That is why, instead of covering up poor performance — or purposefully skewing university entrance procedures — we need to demand more of our education system.

The way to get students from poor homes in weak schools into good universities is not to rig exams, establish quotas or inflate grades. We should improve the state schools in the first place. All the ingenuity that academics devote to lowering the bar to entry to college should instead go into raising standards in the classroom much earlier.

The reason I am giving teachers more powers to impose tougher discipline, replacing heads in schools that are under-performing, reforming school league tables to reward rigour, getting rid of low-value qualifications in soft subjects and paying more to get top maths and science graduates into teaching, is because I want the scandalously high number of children who have been let down by poor schools to be given a proper education at last.

The children in our poorest schools are, overwhelmingly, from our poorest homes. Many of them will have the talent to rise to the very top. To become business leaders, academics, surgeons and head teachers. But they will achieve their full potential only if we ditch, once and for all, the dismally defeatist mindset which believes that, in education, second-best is good enough.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Child Left Behind is leaving all children behind

The federal education program No Child Left Behind is leaving behind the very children it was supposedly designed to help. The law dictates that all elementary and secondary school children in government-run public schools be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014, according to standards set by politicians and federal bureaucrats. According to President Obama’s secretary of education, most of the nation’s schools are on the brink of getting a failing grade. Nearly 80 percent of schools are in danger of losing their federal funding, leaving the children in their classrooms behind for “failing” to meet bureaucratic standards.

President George W. Bush came up with this program and a Republican Congress passed it in 2002. This is apparently one of the few failures President Barack Obama doesn’t blame on his Republican predecessors. The president and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have decided fix the problem by allowing states to do what some have already tried to do – opt out of the federal mandate.

So here you have yet another federal government program that is not only unconstitutional but also an utter and complete failure. Yet rather than admitting it’s a failure and ending the program, politicians and bureaucrats insist on trying to “fix it.” However, the alleged fix is just a subterfuge for imposing standards the administration had already written but couldn’t get Congress to pass. This is another example of the dictatorial style used by modern American presidents from both parties. It is a classic example of the ruling elites trying to conceal failure in a blatant attempt to simply save face and subvert the limits imposed by law and the Constitution to expand their power.

Several states had already tried to resist this latest federal intrusion into education. Utah’s legislature almost passed a law that said the state’s education standards trumped those of No Child Left Behind, but then backed off because the state could have lost $76 million in federal funding. Idaho, South Dakota and Montana said they’d ignore parts of the law. Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky applied for waivers even before they were announced. All of these states were close to being labeled “failing.”

Given this trend, I think it is a good bet that a majority of the states will attempt to opt-out of this federal burden. However, the “waivers” Secretary Duncan will dangle in front of the states will come with the usual strings attached, making it difficult for states to actually obtain these waivers. As a result, it’s very likely that only those states with passing grades will be left subject to the law. This will so skew the grades that federal education apparatchiks will be able to finally declare that No Child Left Behind is a success.

In defending No Child Left Behind, President Obama was right about one thing. He said, “Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher, that’s the right thing to do, that’s the right goal.” The issue is not whether or not we want our children to have excellent teachers and a first-rate education. Of course we do. The question is whether parents can, or should, rely on government to provide it, or rather assume the responsibility themselves. The libertarian answer to that question is clear: nothing as important as educating a child should be left to bumbling bureaucrats.

The No Child Left Behind bungle is another situation where a government-run public education system doesn’t get a passing grade, at any level. One out of every three students entering high school doesn’t graduate. Minority students are twice as likely as whites to drop out. Even students who get their diploma have the reading and math skills expected of middle school students in other nations.

The worst consequence of taking the responsibility for educating young minds from parents and bestowing it on the State is that the task is botched so horribly. Some children are educated quite well in a state-supported system but most barely receive an average level of education. And, far too many fall through the expansive cracks of society that are the floorboards of a bloated bureaucracy grown so large it has become impossible to keep track of everyone.

Government-run education is a twelve-year “cookie-cutter” factory system that treats everyone the same and produces more than its fair share of functional illiterates. Secretary Duncan admitted as much when he said, “”No Child Left Behind treated everybody the same, as interchangeable, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me.” I am glad he thinks so! It never has made any sense to me.

But that is what government programs inherently do. They are intentionally designed that way, to always threat everyone and everything “the same.” They cannot operate any other way. Deciding educational issue by majority vote inevitably results in “dumbing-down” what is taught. Children in government-run public schools are not educated, they are indoctrinated. These children are not trained to take charge of governing themselves; but rather, they are almost programmed to be willing taxpayers who obey a ruling elite.

A child’s first and most important teachers are his or her parents. What a child learns and where he or she learns it is a decision best made by parents, not politicians, bureaucrats or educational experts. The most important thing we can do for the education of our children is to return the responsibility for that education to whom it belongs, to parents.

We should also restore to parents the means to afford the best education possible for their children by eliminating the property taxes that support failing, government-run public schools and repealing the income tax. If parents want their child to pray in school, to learn evolution or creationism, get sex education or learn abstinence, and not be harassed by bullies, they should have the means and ability to choose the school that best meets these needs. They should be able to send their children to a school that conforms to their family values and standards, not the values and standards imposed by distant and detached education “experts.” If we really want to leave no child behind we will eliminate the political experts from the educational equation, because they have already proven they are unable to deliver what they promise.


Revolution! British High School students to be docked marks over bad spelling and grammar in exams

GCSE candidates face losing as much as 12 per cent of their marks for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. The writing errors will be punished to inject rigour back into qualifications taken by 600,000 pupils a year.

‘Bite-sized’ modules will also be axed in favour of final exams under the reforms outlined yesterday by regulator Ofqual.

From next September, pupils taking English language GCSEs will be assessed for their grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Twelve per cent of the total marks will be given for demonstrating writing skills in these subjects.

English literature, geography, history, ancient history and religious studies will follow in 2013, with 5 per cent of the marks granted for accurate writing.

Pupils will also be expected to use specialist terms.

For two-year GCSE courses starting next year, all examinations will be sat in summer 2014. Pupils will no longer be able to resit exams in order to boost their marks, except in English and maths.

The consultation sets out plans to allow students who need these qualifications to retake them – from November 2013 onwards – so that they do not have to wait another 12 months for the opportunity. The reforms were announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove last year and included in the Department for Education’s White Paper.

Speaking in the summer, Mr Gove attacked the ‘culture of resits’ that had resulted from allowing students to keep taking modules until they achieved the desired grade.

He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘The problem that we had is that instead of concentrating on teaching and learning, you had people who were being trained again and again to clear the hurdle of the examination along the way. ‘It’s a mistake and I think the culture of resits is wrong. ‘What we need to do is make sure, certainly at GCSE, that you have a clear two-year run.’

The consultation on the changes will run until November.

This year, nearly one in four exam papers – 23.3 per cent – were awarded a coveted A or A*, up from 22.6 per cent in 2010. While the pass rates were a record high for the 24th consecutive year, the annual increase of 0.8 per cent was small in relation to that seen in previous years. Experts said it signalled the end of relentless grade inflation, with pass rates expected to level out as early as next year.

They claimed the year-on-year increases have been fuelled by a lack of rigour in the exams.

The move effectively scraps the current system, which splits GCSEs into 'bitesize' units, with students assessed on these throughout the course.

Pupils will also no longer be able to re-sit exams in order to boost their marks. The only exceptions would be English and maths.


Torment of teacher cleared of sex attack claims: Accusations saw him barred from birth of son

Who'd be a male teacher in Britain?

A teacher cleared of sexually assaulting six pupils yesterday told of the agony of being ordered to live away from his wife and baby son.

Peter Wilson suffered the indignity of social workers attending the birth of his first child and making him swear he would not live with his family for the eight months it took to resolve the allegations.

Yesterday a jury took just 20 minutes to acquit him of all the charges, brought after girls at his primary school accused him of kissing them and touching their bottoms.

The 35-year-old said the allegations were ‘probably malicious’ – he had merely been trying to encourage the pupils with a clasp of the shoulder, a hug or a pat on the back.

He remains suspended from his job while the council carries out its own investigation. His 29-year-old wife Clare, a teacher at the same school, has also been barred because of her relationship to him.

After the case, Mr Wilson spoke of their ‘horrible ordeal’ and told of his delight at having his reputation restored. ‘The past 18 months or so have been the most stressful of my life and my wife’s,’ he said.

‘My greatest distress was that as a result of these unfounded allegations, social services were present at the birth of our first child and I was required to sign an agreement to say that I could not live in the same house as my wife and newborn baby.’

Mr Wilson was suspended from the school in Blackpool – which cannot be named for legal reasons – after two pupils reported him to a teacher. Other children gave similar accounts of him rubbing his hand down their backs or leaning close to them cheek to cheek before patting them on the bottom.

Mr Wilson was charged by police and released on bail on condition he had no unsupervised contact with under-16s.

The jury at Preston Crown Court heard he had been considered a well-liked and well-respected member of staff until his suspension.

Giving evidence, Mr Wilson broke down in the witness box as he denied gaining sexual gratification and insisted any touching was part of his job.

His barrister, Mark George QC, had told the jury: ‘Nowadays, it seems as if encouragement, a clasp of the shoulders, or a pat on the shoulders, or pat on the arm can be misunderstood and lead to someone like Mr Wilson becoming the subject of suspicion and a case of this sort.’ The teacher told police four of his accusers were lacking confidence and self-esteem and needed praise.

The jury yesterday cleared him of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to five girls. Earlier in the trial the jury was ordered by the judge to find him not guilty on three further counts in relation to another girl.

Mr Wilson, of Thornton Cleveleys, Blackpool, cried in the dock as he was cleared. He was supported in the public gallery by members of his family.

Last night Blackpool council said both Mr Wilson and his wife would remain suspended ‘ahead of an internal investigation following the conclusion of the court case’.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council’s social services department said the authority could not comment on individual cases.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Ga. Middle School: Muslim Polygamy Is Normal, Burkhas Good For Women

By Warner Todd Huston

A middle school in Smyrna, Georgia included in an assignment material that essentially shows 7th grade children that Islamic polygamy is a perfectly legitimate concept and that there is nothing wrong with the strict dress codes used to oppress Muslim women the world over.

The material was presented to the 7th graders at Campbell Middle School as part of a discussion of the school's dress codes, apparently meant to use the ideas of Islamic culture for women's clothing as some sort of example to compare how the school regulates clothing for its students in Georgia.

The concepts were presented in the lesson as a letter from a fictional 20-year-old Muslim woman named "Ahlima." In this letter "Ahlima" tells readers that she wouldn't mind if her husband took a second wife and also extolled the virtues of the burkha. She claims that American women are "horribly immodest" in the way they dress.

As to polygamy, the fictional Ahlima says, "I understand that some Westerners condemn our practice of polygamy, but I also know they are wrong."

A father of one of the students was not very happy with the assignment. He complained that the lesson is "promoting or positively depicting their belief that polygamy" is acceptable. He also felt that there should have been some sort of disclaimer that we Americans don't accept these concepts and he worried that the Muslim ideas were presented as completely acceptable.

Another page of the assignment explained the "seven conditions for women's dress in Islam," presenting all of them without discussion and, in essence, endorsing them as acceptable or normal.

The school told the WSB TV, Channel 2 News that it did not create the lesson plan and that it came from the state. The school pledged to review the material to see if it was appropriate.

But, it is not appropriate. Not at all.

First of all, this lesson plan is built on lies. The burkha, for instance, is not a requirement of Islam. It is a cultural practice that only some Muslim cultures observe. The burkha has nothing at all to do with Islam directly. Not all Muslims practice polygamy, either, so even that isn't necessarily a strict Islamic idea, either.

But, worse, the idea that burkhas should at all be acceptable to an American is a slap against our own ideals and promotes the oppressive ideas of enemies to our culture as perfectly acceptable.

The culturally strict proscriptions against freedom forced on Islamic women are a crime against humanity, yet here we have our own schools presenting to our own children the idea that the oppression of women is a perfectly acceptable cultural choice.

It would be exactly the same if they had a letter from a female slave saying that she was OK with being a slave. That it was perfectly acceptable for her to be owned by someone.

We are teaching our children that our own principles are not the optimal principles. We are teaching our children that our own culture, our own ideals are not supreme. We are teaching our children that the oppressive ideas of Islam are just as good as American ideals.

This is a result of liberals trying to make sure Muslims know that we "like" them in a post 9/11 world. With this weak, kow towing we are also making of ourselves a bigger target because there is another cultural ideal in Islam. Muslims feel that such bending over backwards as this is a weakness to be despised. Such kow towing is looked upon as pitiful. Muslims feel that such groveling is not "nice" or "neighborly" but spurs them to imagine that they can easily attack and dominate such a weak-willed culture.

But, even that aside, it shows how the liberals that wrote these lesson plans despise America. It shows that they do not value our own culture. It shows that these liberals are always in search of ways to further tear down the United States and make of her just another nation with just another set of cultural ideas.

If we want to bring America back from the brink of the destruction liberals have led us to we need to take back our educational system and get back to a time where we are teaching our kids why the United States is the best nation on earth.

Unfortunately, today our schools are filled with lessons like this, lessons that teach our own children that the US is nothing special.


Insult Obama? Not on this campus!

Insulting the president and other government officials is practically a national pastime in the United States. This is a testament to the freedom of our society; in some parts of the world, insulting those who govern earns you swift punishment, or at least official censorship. That isn’t the case in America — unless you live on a college campus.

Students at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Texas found this out the hard way yesterday when they erected a “free speech wall” — a recently popular way for students to highlight the importance of free speech in which students put up a freestanding wall covered in paper, upon which anyone can write anything they want. Students jumped on the chance to participate. To cite a few examples: “Don’t hate against Gays …,” “If you make less than $200,000 Republicans don’t care about you,” “Life’s not a bitch, Life is a beautiful woman …,” “Han Solo Shot First,” “My boyfriend is a liar!,” “Legalize Weed!!!,” and “NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF!!!”

But just hours in, the free speech wall was vandalized by a professor — yes, a professor! — who was offended that someone had written “FUCK OBAMA” on the free speech wall. Students being students, the “F-word” was written on the wall many times about many different topics, but apparently the only expletive that offended this professor enough to take action was the one referring to President Obama.

The professor, whom students identified as Joe Kirk, demanded that the student groups sponsoring the wall — including Republicans, Democrats, libertarians and socialists — cover up only the Obama statement. They refused. He then told them that he would come back with a box cutter and cut it out of the wall himself, which he then did. You can see the before and after pictures at

Shocked that a professor would do this, the student organizers got in touch with the campus police. When the police arrived, they interviewed the students and the vandalizing professor. Then came the surprise: The police told the students that since Prof. Kirk was offended by some profanity on the wall, the students were engaging in “disorderly conduct,” a misdemeanor, and had to cover up all the swear words on the wall or take it down. Realizing that this would make a mockery out of the purpose of a free speech wall, the students simply disassembled the wall. Thus ended SHSU’s several hour-long experiment with free speech.

Profanity has always had a unique power to bring consternation to those who hear it; legendary comedian George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine made him famous precisely because he was willing to use such words. But the landmark Supreme Court case of Cohen v. California (1971) made clear that the First Amendment protects shocking or offensive expression, including the use of expletives in the communication of core political speech. In Cohen, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words “Fuck the Draft” in a county courthouse, writing that “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

Prof. Kirk does not appear to have been offended by the F-word itself, however — only at its use in an insult against the president. That’s the only one he cut out, after all. But the right of Americans to insult their leaders is just as protected as the right to use four-letter words. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), the Supreme Court made clear that the First Amendment requires that “[d]ebate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and … may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” And in Rankin v. McPherson (1987), the Court found that the First Amendment protected a deputy county constable’s expressed hope that if another attempt were to be made on President Reagan’s life, that it be successful. If that extreme statement constitutes protected speech, there is no question the words “FUCK OBAMA” are as well.

Worse still, the police, by threatening to charge the students with disorderly conduct rather than Prof. Kirk with vandalism, have established a “heckler’s veto” on SHSU’s campus. Institutions grant a “heckler’s veto” over expression when they allow the reactions of those who hear or see the expression to govern what might be said, creating an incentive for people to act disruptively or violently when confronted with speech they don’t like in the expectation that the police will shut it down. That’s precisely what happened in this case: Prof. Kirk’s destructive vandalism and claims of offense led the police to silence the expression of every student who wrote on the Free Speech Wall.

But in our free society, the police can’t censor speech simply because some people don’t like what’s being said. Instead, their job is to protect those with unpopular views from those who wish to silence them. And there are few places where this job is more important than a university campus, where it’s vital that all viewpoints be able to get a hearing if the search for knowledge is to take place.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) has written to SHSU President Dana Gibson asking her to restore free speech rights to her campus and allow students to express themselves and protest as the Constitution demands. Insults against President Obama might sound unpleasant to some, but the alternative — a society in which citizens must always meekly respect their leaders — is too unpleasant to contemplate.


British primary schools are being 'punished' if they stop sex lessons as secondaries are told to hand out contraceptives

Primary schools are being pressured into providing sex education under a scheme to promote ‘healthy’ lifestyles, a report claims today. And secondary schools are being encouraged to hand out contraception and hold condom demonstrations in class to prove they are sending out ‘healthy’ messages, it says.

Campaigners claim the Healthy Schools Programme is being used to impose ‘permissive’ sex education without a national debate.

Launched in 1999, it had its central funding cut this year, but is still being promoted by local authorities.

In a survey of all 152 English councils, the Family Education Trust found one in five told primary schools that decided not to teach sex and relationship education they would not be eligible for ‘Healthy Schools status’.

This is despite the fact that primary schools may decide if they want to teach sex education beyond the requirements of the curriculum.

This month, Schools Minister Nick Gibb ruled out implementing Labour’s commitment to compulsory sex education for those as young as five.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said it was ‘very concerning’ that primary schools were still being leant on to provide it. ‘Primary schools that make a principled decision not to teach sex education should not be stigmatised and denied a sought-after award for that reason,’ he said. ‘There is nothing inherently “unhealthy” about a primary school that decides not to teach sex education.’

To achieve ‘Healthy Schools status’ schools must meet 41 criteria covering personal, social and health education, healthy eating, physical activity and emotional health and well-being.

While there is no direct financial incentive, schools that achieve it can use a special logo on their websites promoting their status. More than 70 per cent of schools have the status and most councils are encouraging the remainder to follow suit.

Head teachers assess themselves against the criteria – which are on the Department for Education website – but local authorities provide a ‘quality assurance function’, checking they are on the right track.

The Family Education Trust found ‘considerable levels of inconsistency’ over how the Healthy Schools guidance is interpreted and applied.

Northamptonshire county council supported giving pupils as young as 12 the opportunity to practise putting a condom on a demonstrator device in the classroom. But it believed ‘it would not be appropriate to supply free condoms’ to pupils for the lessons.

However, this approach was not followed by all councils. South Tyneside, for example, believed it would be ‘good practice’ to give free condoms to pupils older than 14 for such lessons.

Overall, 8 per cent of councils believed pupils as young as 12 and 13 how to use freely supplied condoms would be in line with the guidance. Six per cent of councils said it would not be possible for secondary schools to get Healthy Schools status if they did not wish to refer pupils to contraceptive and sexual health clinics.

Mr Wells said: ‘In some parts, the programme is being used to impose a liberal and permissive type of sex education on schools by the back door


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is the Berkeley College Republicans‘ ’Diversity’ Bake Sale Racist?

The UC Berkeley College Republicans are planning a bake sale — where the price of a cupcake depend on your race.

The “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” is meant to satirize an affirmative action-like bill in California that would let the university system consider ethnicity in student admissions.

“Just like the CA Senate Bills 185 and 387 the phone bank supports, we will be considering race, gender, ethnicity, national/geographic origin and other relevant factors to ensure the equitable distribution of baked goods to our diverse student body,” the College Republicans wrote in a Facebook announcement publicizing the event, set for Tuesday. “Hope to see you all there! If you don’t come, you’re a racist!”

But with a price structure that includes $2 for “White/Caucasian,” $1.50 for “Asian/Asian American” and $.0.75 for “Black/African American,” some aren’t finding it very funny.

“I’m ashamed to know that I go to the same school with people who would say stuff like this,” student Skyler Hogan-Van Sickle wrote Facebook. “I’m really trying to figure out how someone can be this hateful.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 200 students responded to the event, mostly in opposition. One threatened to burn the table and set the cupcakes on fire. At least four student groups sent complaints to campus administrators, and a student-only meeting was set for Friday evening to discuss it.

“It’s offensive because of the tactics that they chose,” Joey Freeman, Berkeley’s student government vice president told the Chronicle. “This should be done for constructive dialogue and debate. But not in a way I thought was, frankly, racist.”

In a separate Facebook post, the College Republicans doubled down on their intent to hold the bake sale:
The Berkeley College Republicans firmly believe measuring any admit’s merit based on race is intrinsically racist. Our bake sale will be at the same time and location of a phone bank which will be making calls to urge Gov. Brown to sign the bill. The purpose of the event is to offer another view to this policy of considering race in university admissions. The pricing structure of the baked goods is meant to be satirical, while urging students to think more critically about the implications of this policy.

Gibor Basri, Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, told the Chronicle the Facebook posting does not violate any campus policy.

“The only policy it violates is the principles of community,” he said, adding that a campus-wide letter will go out Monday. “We can use this as a teaching moment.”

Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said he was surprised by the number of critics and their harshness his organization has received. He said agrees that race-based pricing is discriminatory.

“But it’s discriminatory in the same way that considering race in university admissions is discriminatory,” he said.


Christian activity no longer avoided like plague by University of Montana work-study program

University prohibited work study at community center only because religious youth activities sometimes occur there; ADF letter prompts UM to reverse course

University of Montana officials agreed to allow students to be employed through a work-study program at a Missoula community center after a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund explained that allowing employment at the center, where religious student activities occur, would not violate federal law.

The letter explained that denying such a request merely because several religious youth activities take place within the massive City Life Community Center complex is unconstitutional.

“University students should not be prohibited from taking part in a work-study program merely because religious activities would take place before or after their shifts in the same building,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “The university got it right by ending its quarantine and allowing students to work at the community center. They can be confident that the Constitution does not equate nearby religious youth activities with asbestos in the ceiling tiles.”

Last year, the 34,000-square-foot City Life Community Center for teens was used by 43 diverse not-for-profit or youth-based programs. Because some of these were religious in nature, University of Montana officials banned students in their work-study program from seeking employment at the center, fearing that it would violate statutory and regulatory provisions governing federal grants for such programs. The ADF letter explained that the concerns were unwarranted.

“The work-study statute and regulation, properly interpreted, do not require you to forbid work-study students from working at City Life on the ground that religious activities sometimes occur there,” the ADF letter stated. “Indeed, the law likely forbids such an approach.”

City Life facilities are used by numerous community organizations, including Missoula Parks and Recreation, District Youth Court/Drug Court, Missoula County Public Schools, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Sentinel Kiwanis Club, Missoula Rotary Club, Missoula City Fire Department, and many religious and athletic organizations. It has a full-service sandwich and coffee bar; a gymnasium equipped for basketball, volleyball, and fencing; a student center; a teen activity center for ping-pong, air hockey, video games, darts, and other recreational/social activities; and a paintball facility.


Sir Ian Botham: bring in corporal punishment and ban reality TV to save today's youth

Ian Botham is one of Britain's greatest cricketers but has also been very active in charity work. As such he is very well-known so his call for corporal punishment to be reintroduced into the schools might just break the ice on that subject

Sir Ian Botham, the former England cricket captain, believes a combination of cricket, corporal punishment and a ban on reality television can help to prevent the kind of break down in law and order that occured in the riots during the summer.

As the England cricket captain he showed ruthless determination and self-discipline on the pitch.

Now, in the wake of the August riots, Sir Ian Botham wants to see today's youth given the same combination of team sports and tough love which he credits for making him a success.

The former all rounder has set out how he believes parents must be allowed to deploy corporal punishment, the cane should be used to restore order in schools, police given respect - and reality television should be abolished.

And he also launched an attack on the previous Labour administration, saying they had to take some of the blame for the breakdown of law and order in the summer, which he found himself caught up in when looting and street violence affected Birmingham.

Sir Ian who has three grown-up children and four grandchildren aged from 18-months-old to 17-years-old, spoke as he launched his own sports initiative, to get inner-city youngsters and young offenders playing a version of his sport known as cage cricket.

The six-a-side version of the game is designed to be played on concrete in cities and towns.

The brainchild of former Hampshire player Lawrence Prittipaul, it is played in a “cage,” with separate coloured zones for scoring, positioning and refereeing, each game takes 30 overs to complete with just six players.

He said: "We desperately need to create an opportunity for youngsters to mingle, release and discipline themselves, play a game and also, make it national. The youth of today won't get bored with cage cricket either – this is when the problems start and carnage can set in as it did with the riots.

"The government can lie as much as they want, but half the playing fields are being sold off. I want to give these kids the opportunity to keep out of trouble.

"And who knows, we could find ourselves a cricketer, who'd never have had this chance, in the systems of schools where most don't play, unless you go to a private school. That is a fact.

"The same goes for those in prison. We give hard criminals a bat and a ball and they are pleased about playing. It's the best way of engaging the most disengaged of our population."

But he said that more radical measures than his own initative were needed. "Britain is in a mess," he said. "I believe in the cane. It didn't do me any harm as a child at school. Bring it back. Youngsters today, need discipline, and to get off their backsides.

"Parents also have to take greater responsibility too. I am afraid, at the end of the day; most of it is down to them."

Sir Ian told the Sunday Telegraph he believes these measures are the only way of solving Britain's deep-rooted social problems following the recent riots, which he was caught up in.

The 55 year-old was forced to lock himself in his Birmingham city centre hotel when rioting flared on the streets. Extra police were called when vigilantes smashed shop windows, looted stores and tried to hijack a bus.

Sir Ian said the experience has made him more resolute to get youngsters from deprived inner-cities off the streets and out of trouble, as well as engage prisoners with something positive.

He said: "Everyone thought Birmingham was going to go AWOL that night. We all sat there in total silence. No one went out. The hotel doors were locked, its shutters pulled down."

He said the experience had strengthend his resolved to get youngsters off the streets and involved in sport - especially after witnessing the racially tensions which followed the deaths of Asian men Haroon Jahan, 21, Shazad Ali, 30, and his brother, Abdul Musavir, 31, in a hit-and-run allegedly carried out by a young black man at the height of the disorder..

He said: "If it wasn't for the dignity of Tariq Jahan's father, I honestly thought Birmingham city centre could have gone up in flames."

Sir Ian ultimately blames the riots on the previous Labour government, holding them responsible for bankrupting the country. He said: "We have Ed Miliband telling us where the Conservatives are going wrong. But hang on a minute Ed. You are the ones who landed us in this situation, and we are in a perilous situation.

He added: "You guys borrowed ridiculously and sold our gold reserves at the lowest price. Have you forgotten about that dumpy thing called Brown? He's now in hiding. The man who was never elected and never to be re-elected. "Then they leave a note for the new Chancellor, saying, 'By the way, there's nothing left in the box. PS -Have a good time."