Saturday, December 17, 2011

Minn. High School Apologizes for ‘Incest’ Prank Involving Blindfolded Kids Kissing Their Parents‏

What perverted mind came up with this idea?

When we watched this video in the Blaze newsroom, several audible gasps rang out and numerous hands covered mouths. The video shows several Minnesota high school students at a pep rally standing blindfolded. The students are then presented with a kissing partner. What ensues is some passionate lip-locking. It was meant to be a prank. The prank part? The kids didn’t know it, but they were actually kissing their parents.

Yes, you read that right. explains more about what happened at Rosemount High School:

These poor kids reasonably assumed they were about make out with their classmates. But the assembly organizers had something else in mind: their parents.

Footage of the assembly shows a scene that would make even Sigmund Freud cringe. Dads kissing daughters. Mothers kissing sons.
And these are not just innocent pecks on the lips. The parents are intimately lip-locking their children for several seconds. One even progresses to rolling around on the gym floor. In another instance, a mother moves her son‘s hand south so he’s grasping her butt.

After the make-out session comes to an end, the still-blindfolded kids are asked to guess who kissed them.

Now, the school is apologizing. “As principal I am responsible for everything that happens in the school so, ultimately, I am the person that needs to answer for this,” school principal John Wollersheim told KARE-TV on Wednesday.

“I know there are people who are upset about what they have seen and as principal I am responsible for what happens here. For all the people who are offended, they are genuinely offended, and I owe them an apology,” Wollersheim said.

Still, he says the video is only a snippet of what went on and doesn’t tell the whole story


Betrayed by schools, the bright British seven-year-olds who fail to shine at 11

The devastating extent to which primary schools are failing bright pupils was revealed yesterday. Up to 51,000 11-year-olds who achieved top grades at age seven have effectively gone backwards after being left to coast in maths and English. Four in ten youngsters who were above average in the three Rs at seven are failing to fulfil their early promise, official league tables show.

Around half of primary schools – more than 7,500 – have failed to get each of their brightest pupils up to the highest grades in Key Stage Two tests at 11.

Among these schools, more than 800 could not get all their young high achievers even up to the national average.

This left around 1,300 pupils at a disadvantage when they started secondary school in September. Despite their flying start, they were still struggling to grasp the point of a story, write sentences using commas or add, subtract, multiply and divide in their heads.

The Department for Education has identified a hard core of 15 schools where more than 20 per cent of pupils who were high attainers at seven sank to the ranks of the lowest achievers at 11.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the Government was ‘shining a light’ on these schools.

Critics claim the figures are a damning indictment of a league table culture which has encouraged schools to concentrate on youngsters of low to middle ability at the expense of the brightest.

Schools are judged on how well they do in getting pupils to level four, the expected standard, in the basics and many teachers focus their efforts on borderline pupils to improve their league table positions.

The Department for Education yesterday published school-by-school data for around 15,000 state primaries in England, based on national curriculum test results in English and maths.

The tables reveal for the first time how low, middle and high achieving pupils at seven go on to perform in the Key Stage Two tests four years later. The statistics show that more than 2,000 primary schools are serving their middle achievers better than their brightest pupils in English lessons.

There is at least a 20 percentage point gap in the levels of progress made by middle versus high achievers in the subject in 2,160 schools.

This emphasis has also contributed to 11 per cent of children – around 32,000 – who were ‘middle’ achievers at seven rising to join the ranks of the highest achievers at the age of 11.

The figures show that 74 per cent of pupils achieved level four in both English and maths this year, up one percentage point in 12 months.

The proportion of bright boys and girls exceeding the standard expected – level five – fell by four percentage points to 29 per cent in English and increased by one percentage point in maths to 35 per cent.

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University said children in the top ability range are ‘perhaps too often left to their own devices’. He said: ‘The way schools are judged has a massive effect on their behaviour. If they are asked to account for how many children are getting to level four, that’s where their effort is going to go. ‘We don’t do enough for the really able in our education system.’

Nearly one in ten state primary schools face possible closure or takeover after failing to hit Coalition targets in the three Rs. Nationally, 1,310 are falling short of Government benchmarks in English and maths.

Ministers have already identified the 200 worst primaries which will be pulled out of local authority control and turned into academies under new leadership teams as early as next September. Hundreds more will now be ordered to improve or face similar intervention.

The head of one of the country’s best primary schools has attacked the Coalition’s education reforms. Paul Fisher, of Oakridge Primary School in Stafford, claimed yesterday that the changes would focus on facts instead of skills, and said: ‘Do we want a society that’s great at pub quizzes or one that’s great at thinking and problem solving?’

Nearly all the 34 children at his school taking English and maths tests exceeded the standard expected of their age to gain the higher level five.


Australia: Private schools all but vanquished from top 10 list

Select your pupils on academic ability and then find that those students outperform students who are not selected that way? Not much of a surprise!

THE stellar performance of students at NSW selective high schools continues apace with only one private school, Moriah College, making the top 10 of the Herald's annual list of top-performing schools as judged by HSC results. Sydney Grammar (ninth last year, now 12th) and SCEGGS Darlinghurst (13th) both dropped from the top 10 this year.

James Ruse again topped the rankings, based on HSC subject scores of more than 90 compared with number of students. Among the elite academic schools, North Sydney Boys produced particularly outstanding results, moving from eighth to second place.

Yesterday 71,415 students began accessing their HSC results from 6am; this morning from 9am those who hope to enter university will learn their ATAR university entrance rank.

There were 31 non-government schools in the Herald's top 50, including Wenona, with its results helped by Madeleine Pulver, the Sydney schoolgirl who had a fake collar bomb chained to her neck at her home in August. Madeleine scored more than 90 in advanced English.

A slim majority (52.3 per cent) of the 16,420 students on the Distinguished Achievers List - those with a result of more than 90 in a subject - are from non-government schools. Some 36.7 per cent are from independent schools and 15.6 per cent from Catholic systemic schools.

The principal at North Sydney Boys', Robyn Hughes, said selective schools would "share the love". "The selective school principals are an incredibly collaborative network," she said. "We meet on a regular basis through the year and we share in each other's successes."

But Ms Hughes rejected any suggestion her school was an "academic hothouse". "It's not about that coaching culture; it's about the holistic development of these young men, really getting them engaged in a wider world and seeing beyond themselves.

"This group of young men have done a lot outside of just pursuing academic excellence and that's what I think is the secret of their success. It's a balancing act, but that's where they get joy and engagement and, ironically, the busier they are the more organised they have to be with their study."

Julie Greenhalgh, the principal of Meriden, which rose from 53rd to 18th, said the improvement was the result of strong departmental leadership and changes at the school. "I think we're seeing the fruit of some very, very good programs in our junior school and our junior secondary years, really focusing on the quality of teaching and learning," she said.

Hunter Valley Grammar School leapt from 199 to 51. The principal, Paul Teys, said it was the school's best result on record. "We've been on a journey the last few years to lift our performance so these kids have been part of that strategy and they are the beneficiaries of the whole school effort in lifting the HSC performance," he said.

That strategy included a focus on individual or small tutorials, examination technique and information days, but he said the most effective was the relationship between the staff and students and students' involvement in their school. "We've got a young group of people who are really committed to their school and that's the most significant feature of these results," Mr Teys said.


Friday, December 16, 2011

A fine example of Leftist hate-speech from Australia

Written by John Birmingham below under the restrained and balanced heading "Why are we subsidising ignorance, stupidity and hatred?"

The fact that private schools actually cost the taxpayer LESS per pupil than government schools is just one of those silly little facts that must not be allowed to interrupt the flow of bile. The Australian Federal government does subsidize some of the costs of private schools but not all.

And the fact that the church is upholding standards that embody the wisdom of the ages cuts no ice with Mr Birmingham, of course. He knows better!

A small pic of the happy Mr Birmingham below. One pities any partner he might have

It’s heartening, but not entirely surprising that the Catholic Church overturned the decision of the Sacred Heart Primary School in Broken Hill to reject the enrolment of a young girl whose at-home parents, two women, are in a lesbian relationship.

Heartening for the little girl, even though the mums have wisely decided to spare her the inevitable unpleasantness of attending a school where she’s not wanted. But not entirely surprising, because if the Church had allowed this story to spin out of control it risked having to answer some very awkward questions about just how much money it sucks off the public tit, when it’s unwilling to comply with public standards as expressed in legislation such as the Anti-Discrimination Act.

The Catholic Church and its fellow travelers in the other denominations are pretty much out on their own when it comes to punishing kids for the sexuality of their parents. And be assured, that’s what was at stake here, and what Bishop Kevin Manning has avoided airing in public with his order to Sacred Heart to enrol the child.

All religious schools in this country, not just Catholic ones, enjoy the benefits of a grotesque double standard, where they put their hands out for a hand out, and a massive one at that, draining off billions of dollars from the education budget, while not having to measure up to the same standards demanded of public schools, most of which are woefully underfunded because of subsidies to the private sector.

Surely if the private religious schools are to trouser billions of dollars in taxpayer funds, at the expense of taxpayers who can’t afford to send their own children to those privileged institutions, more might be demanded of them when it comes to, say, not behaving like ignorant, medieval bigots. There's no reason they can't hang onto their vile opinions, but there's no reason the rest of us should have to pay for them.

As long as they enjoy a free pass from the Act, however, we will continue to subsidise their ignorance, stupidity and hatred.

They know it too. Or at least the smart ones do. That’s why they moved so quickly to shut down debate on this most recent outrage.


Twisted sex stories

The BBC has a report up this morning that claims that the number of students in sex work has doubled. But the story is paper-thin – the NUS says they’re being misreported, and the BBC gives no useful figures to support the claims in their report.

The article’s headline says “NUS: Students turning to prostitution to fund studies”. The basis of this claim is not an NUS report or even an NUS press release, but a comment given by an NUS officer on the BBC’s own story. And the content of the story is weak, to say the least.

To begin with, the story is based on a statistical fudge. It reports the change, without any concrete numbers. But relative figures are only useful if you have the original numbers to see where the change has taken place. An increase from two people to four isn’t very significant but, if expressed in terms of the change, it’s the same as an increase from 10,000 to 20,000. And, obviously, if you’re dealing with very small numbers it’s hard to say that a “doubling” of an extra ten or twenty people is statistically significant. That the number of students who know someone working in the sex industry has risen from 3% to 25% in the last ten years doesn’t say very much about the actual numbers doing so, especially given the nebulous status of the term “sex industry”.

Next, the BBC story interviews a woman who “turned to escorting during her A-levels when she found out her education maintenance allowance (EMA) was in danger of being cut.” Note the weasel words there – if Clare was studying for her A-levels and getting an EMA, she would continue to get it until June 2012. So Clare hasn’t actually been getting less money from the government at all, and won't until June next year.

Far from being forced by poverty into sex work, Clare says “I began looking for jobs, but the hours were unsociable.” I’m sympathetic to Clare – she says that she was misled by a “friend” into escort work, which is grotesque. But for the BBC to appropriate this story to support their flimsy thesis about students being forced into sex work is exploitative to her and deeply misleading to its readership.

There are people resorting to illegal sex work because of poverty. This is very, very bad, especially because the prohibition of a lot of sex work has made it a violent and dangerous type of work. But this BBC article has hijacked this very real problem in order to promote a specious non-story that misleads readers.


British Teachers giving students exam questions before they sit High School exams

Teachers are giving students the exam questions before they sit GCSEs and A-levels after secret conversations with examiners, whistle-blowers have told The Daily Telegraph.

Secondary school teachers have alleged that they are under so much pressure to deliver high exam grades that they have been forced to adopt questionable tactics.

The information given to pupils is so detailed that earlier this year a teenager disclosed a forthcoming question for an A-level law exam on an internet bulletin board after his teacher had a meeting with an examiner.

One whistle-blower, an examiner for one of the main exam boards, said the “cause of the rot, ultimately, is competition between exam boards”.

The heads of the country’s main exam boards will be questioned by MPs today over the growing scandal in the examinations system after disclosures by The Daily Telegraph last week.

This newspaper reported that teachers were paying up to £230 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners, who advise them on exam questions and the wording pupils should use to get higher marks.

One examiner from WJEC, the Welsh exam board, was recorded by this newspaper saying: “We’re cheating.”

Another, Steph Warren, the chief examiner for Edexcel GCSE Geography, told an undercover reporter considering taking the company’s tests “you don’t have to teach a lot” and there is a “lot less” for pupils to learn than with rival courses.

The exam boards are expected to claim today that these examiners spoke out of turn and there is no evidence of widespread wrongdoing.

However, The Daily Telegraph has been contacted by dozens of teachers, pupils and examiners who allege a system riddled by dubious practices. Last night, a dossier of evidence provided by whistle-blowers was passed to the committee of MPs who will question examiners, exam board executives and regulators about the system.

The latest claims include:

Allegations that one of the main exam boards was warned that a teenager had posted a correct exam answer online before an A-level law test after his teacher met an examiner. Last June, students at two high-performing schools were also allegedly openly discussing the content of a forthcoming A-level history paper on Facebook.

An English examiner who says that over the past decade the standard to receive a C grade has “markedly deteriorated” and that “what has happened is a travesty against learning”.

A teacher who was visited by chief examiners who dropped “big hints on what to expect in the summer exam”. The teacher left last year, disillusioned with the system.

A science teacher from Wales who said he and colleagues were told by their head of department to “leave information up on the board” or “displayed on the power point [presentations]” so pupils could “copy it down” in an exam.

Teachers who contacted The Daily Telegraph raised concerns that they were being urged to help students “cheat” to increase grades.

One science teacher said he and colleagues were put under pressure to help students with the answers during an exam. “Basically, it was said to us to cheat,” he said.

Another teacher from south London said students’ coursework grades were being inflated to increase the pupils’ marks. The same teacher claimed that students were given answer booklets when completing an online test.

There is also evidence that teenagers are being told of forthcoming questions. In the case of the law A-level, a student wrote on an internet forum last Jan 26 about “a few hints” from his teacher.

He wrote: “If it is (and he is sure) general defences, then this will be the question, (again from the examiner dude). Evaluate any two genera; [sic] defences that you have studied and put forward proposals for reform of any one. And he also said, they will not specify which defences you do.”

The following day, the exam question was: “Write a critical analysis of any two of the general defences (insanity, automatism, intoxication, consent, self-defence/prevention of crime). Include in your answer a consideration of any proposals for reform of one of your chosen defences.”

An A-level law teacher from Formby in Merseyside, who has also acted as an examiner, said her school had complained to AQA, the board that set the paper, after seeing the student’s posting. “He clearly had insider information,” she said.

After receiving the complaint, AQA said there were “no irregularities”. A board spokesman said: “This case was drawn to our attention and we conducted a thorough investigation which found no evidence of malpractice.”

AQA said it had not informed Ofqual about the incident because its own investigation had not found malpractice. Headmasters have raised concerns that the increasing commercialisation of exam boards has led to a fall in standards.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said there would be “major changes” to GCSEs, including marking papers on the basis of spelling and grammar – and scrapping modules.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Australia: PC police strike Christmas at Inner Sydney Montessori School

'Merry Christmas' replaced with 'Happy Holidays'. I think the father who objected to this has his kid in the wrong school. Montessori schools have always been "progressive" -- though whether it's "progress" to be doing the same thing for over 100 years is an interesting question. Most of the other parents probably agreed with the school and see Christmas as just a quaint folk custom of no particular importance

A SCHOOL is accused of stealing Christmas after removing all references to Santa, carols and Christianity in end-of-year celebrations.

Three to six-year-olds at the Inner Sydney Montessori School replaced the festive lyrics "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" with "We Wish You A Happy Holidays".

One angry parent said he would withdraw his daughter from the Balmain school next year, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The dad, who did not wish to be identified, said: "There were about five songs and not one of them mentioned Christmas. There was no Santa or Christmas decorations or a Christmas tree or any reference to Jesus. "Is this politically correct? I don't understand."

He said some of the children were so confused they blurted out the word Christmas while singing: "They should not force this on young kids. Christmas is meant to be all about Santa and presents."

The Inner Sydney Montessori School said it offers an "inclusive co-educational, non-denominational" education for children from diverse backgrounds from birth to age 12. Principal Cathy Swan said the complaining parent had misinterpreted what went on at the school.

"This is the first complaint I have received about this ... I am sorry this parent felt that way. We have Christmas activities going on all over the building," she said.

"Our policy is that we give children keys to the world and we show them many celebrations including Christmas. We look at all cultures and the particular ways that people celebrate such as Easter, Christmas and Chanukah." Ms Swan said the end-of-year songs without Christmas references may have been an "attempt by one teacher to address the fact that she had Hindus and Jewish children in the classroom".

"Chanukah is happening at this time of year as well. Our parents are multicultural but so are my staff ... we do celebrate Christmas," she said.

Montessori Australia Foundation office manager Sandra Allen said each school was independently owned and operated and had its own policy. "It is a secular education system so no particular religion is taught," she said. "Some schools may choose to celebrate holidays such as Chinese New Year or Chanukah or look at these events from a cultural point of view.

"I have had an email from a concerned member of the public and I pointed them to our website. "It is one school only that I've heard of - it (complaints) are not widespread."

Australia has 190 Montessori schools and 25,000 in 120 countries around the world.


"Studio schools" to open to cut teenage unemployment rate in Britain

Thousands of teenagers will be able to transfer to a new wave of “studio schools” at the age of 14 to boost their chances of finding a job, it is revealed today.

Ministers will announce the creation of a dozen new-style schools that are designed to act as a bridge to the workplace and cut the number of NEETs – young people not in education, employment or training. Under plans, schools will operate longer days and work outside standard academic terms.

Each pupil will be expected to spend between four hours and two days a week on work placements with businesses linked to the school and teenagers will be assigned a personal coach to act as an academic “line manager”.

The reforms come amid fears that too many teenagers are currently finishing full-time education lacking the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

According to a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry, more than two-thirds of employers believe school and college leavers lack vital “employability skills” such as customer awareness, while 55 per cent say they are unable to manage their time or daily routine.

Last month, it emerged that the number of NEETs had hit a record high, with almost one-in-five young people – 1.16m – being left without a job or training place.

But the latest move is likely to be criticised by teaching unions who claim it risks creating a “two-tier” system, with brighter children remaining in mainstream schools and colleges while others transfer.

Today, the Department for Education will announce the establishment of 12 studio schools – catering for around 3,600 teenagers – in areas such as Liverpool, Stevenage, Stoke-on-Trent and Fulham, west London.

Each one, opening in 2012, will be linked to a series of local employers, with the Fulham school partnered with the BBC and Fulham FC. Six are already open in Luton, Huddersfield, Durham, Manchester, Maidstone and Coalville in Leicestershire.

Under plans, pupils will be able to transfer out of ordinary schools to attend them between the age of 14 and 19.

The Government said all subjects would be taught “through projects, often designed with employers” – with disciplines such as science being linked directly to local engineering firms or hospitals.

Schools will operate a longer day to give pupils a better understanding of the demands of the workplace.

Along with their studies, pupils will carry out work placements for four hours a week, rising to two days a week of paid work for those aged 16 to 19. They will also get the chance to take vocational qualifications linked directly to the needs of local employers.

Ministers have already announced plans for dozens of University Technical Colleges – similar schools for 14- to 19-year-olds in which pupils spend roughly 40 per cent of the week learning a trade such as engineering, manufacturing, fashion and information technology.

But the National Union of Teachers has already claimed that the new schools could effectively lead to a two-tier system with weaker pupils pushed onto vocational courses while the brightest are encouraged to take A-levels.


Struggling British schools 'being let down by poor teaching'

More than a third of schools inspected under a tough new Ofsted regime have been branded not good enough amid continuing concerns over poor teaching.

Some 35 per cent of primaries and secondaries visited in July and September were rated no better than satisfactory, it emerged.

Ofsted said fewer than one-in-seven of the 873 schools subjected to recent inspections were awarded its highest mark of outstanding. It was down sharply on the fifth of all schools falling into the category but an improvement on judgments made during the last academic year.

The disclosure comes just weeks after the watchdog warned in its annual report that too many state schools were being let down by “variable” standards of teaching.

It found that underperforming schools relied too heavily on worksheets and a narrow range of textbooks during lessons, while teachers spent too long talking and set “low-level” tasks that failed to develop pupils’ knowledge.

In a report published today, the watchdog said there was a “strong relationship” between the overall judgement made on schools and the quality of teaching, with the same mark “being made on 90 per cent of inspections in this period”.

The move comes after a speech by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, in which he suggested hundreds of schools did not deserve the “outstanding” accolade because their teaching was not up to scratch.

“It is a worry to me that so many schools that are still judged as ‘outstanding’ overall when they have not achieved an outstanding [in] teaching and learning”, he said.

Ofsted currently rate schools on a four-point scale – inadequate, satisfactory, good and outstanding.

Since 2009, inspections have been more closely focused on the worst schools, with those previously given higher marks left for longer and weak establishments given more regular visits.

According to figures, some 20 per cent of schools are currently judged outstanding based on their last inspection, with 50 per cent rated good, 28 per cent satisfactory and just two per cent inadequate.

Based on inspections carried out in July and September this year alone, just 13 per cent were judged outstanding and 52 per cent were good – suggesting they are finding it much harder to win the very top rating.

A further 33 per cent of schools were merely satisfactory and two per cent were given the lowest mark.

However, the figures were a significant improvement on inspections of schools carried out under the new Ofsted system throughout the 2010/11 academic year, when just 11 per cent were outstanding and 44 per cent were given the two lowest marks.

From next year, inspections will be subjected to further reform, with Ofsted rating schools on four key areas: teaching, pupil achievement, behaviour and leadership.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We’re driving up standards across the board – recruiting the brightest graduates and giving them outstanding training.

"The tough new inspection regime coming into force next month will root out weak teaching. There is compelling evidence shows that poor teaching has a critical link with bad behaviour – it’s right take a hard line on this.”


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CA: Minorities hit hardest in epidemic of expulsions

Lots of blacks obviously can't help their unacceptable behavior but that's no reason to allow them to inflict that behavior on others

As he waited for his first disciplinary appeal hearing to begin this fall, the sixth-grade student began sobbing.

He was barely 11 years old. He had been expelled again - for the rest of the school year – from his Bakersfield elementary school district, this time for alleged sexual battery and obscenity. The offense: “Slapping a girl on the buttock and running away laughing,” according to school documents.

The boy’s pro bono attorney, a retired FBI agent, was appalled. “This, on his record, puts him right up there next to the kid who raped somebody behind the backstop,” said Tim McKinley, who spent 26 years in the bureau, much of it locking up murderous members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

For the boy’s local school board in Kern County, the punishment fits the crime. It upheld a panel’s initial approval of expulsion.

For McKinley, the discipline is dramatic overkill sure to prove counterproductive for both the child and the community at large.

These days such disagreements are hardly unusual. In California’s southern Central Valley, Kern County is at the leading edge of a contentious debate over where to draw the line in exacting school discipline. Teachers want a safe environment in which to teach. Parents want to know their children are secure and not getting bullied. And no-nonsense school districts in this conservative oil and agribusiness region are suspending and expelling students for a broad range of indiscretions.

Meanwhile, a national reform movement is growing, fueled by reports that suspension and expulsion policies are disproportionately targeting minorities, and doing more harm than good by killing kids’ attachment to school and putting many on a fast track to failure.

Roots of a trend

Since the 1970s, multi-day, at-home suspensions and long-term expulsions have been on the rise nationally, many of them meted out not for violence, but for lesser violations like insubordination, according to research by associates of the Civil Rights Project of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Punishment of minority students is rising especially rapidly, the researchers have found. Between 1973 and 2006, the percent of black students suspended at least once during their K-12 years grew from 6 to 15 percent nationwide while Latinos’ rate rose from 3 to almost 7 percent. White students’ rate grew more slowly, from about 3 to almost 5 percent.

A root cause for the rise in removal of students is fear, especially fear of gun violence. The 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act required each state – as a condition of federal funding – to enact laws mandating a year-long expulsion of any student caught with a firearm, with little local discretion to reduce the duration of the punishment.

The “zero tolerance” phenomenon accelerated after the shocking 1999 suicidal shooting spree by two students at Colorado’s Columbine High School, which killed 15 and injured 24.

Against that backdrop, state legislatures began adding more specific infractions that could lead to suspensions and expulsions. California lawmakers, for example, approved a law in 2008 barring students from using cell phones and email for “cyber bullying,” and this year voted to add social networks to that mix.

At the local level, school boards, administrators and individual schools began exercising their discretion more broadly in deciding how tough to be in their interpretation of behavior codes.


Leadership shortage as British schools struggle to recruit new head teachers

Schools are facing a leadership crisis as primaries and secondaries across England fail to recruit head teachers, according to a new report.

More than a third of primary schools and almost a fifth of secondaries struggled to find a head after advertising the position last year.

Roman Catholic schools are being left with the most acute shortages because they traditionally restrict recruitment to religious applicants.

Head teachers’ leaders blamed rising workloads, the target culture in schools and a real-terms cut in pay, saying that teachers were reluctant to take on the extra pressure of headship – despite the publication of official data earlier this year that showed 700 heads or deputies earned more than £100,000.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the report showed “worrying trends in the school labour market at the very top level”.

“Headship is a wonderful job, with challenges and satisfaction in equal measure,” he said. “We want people to become heads and experience the unparalleled power to make a difference to young lives. Against this are the prospect of a 20 per cent real-terms pay cut over the next four years despite rising targets, longer hours, increasing threats of violence and lower job security.’’ Mr Hobby added: “We run the risk of running out of heads, with dramatic damage to the trend of school improvement.”

A report by Education Data Surveys analysed the recruitment of senior school staff in the 2010-11 academic year.

It found that about 36 per cent of primary head teacher positions had to be advertised more than once after failing to find a successful applicant the first time, compared with 34 per cent a year earlier. At the same time, some 19 per cent of secondary school jobs were advertised more than once – the same as 12 months earlier.

According to figures, the number of vacancies for deputy heads dropped, suggesting that existing deputies are remaining in the job for longer – and failing to aspire to top positions.

The report – which was commissioned by the NAHT – described the development as “very concerning”. “As existing deputies come closer to retiring, there is a real danger that schools will face even greater difficulty in recruiting head teachers in years to come if there is not an available and ample supply of deputy head teachers from which to draw candidates,” it said.

Earlier this year a government consultation document outlined plans to hand Britain’s brightest students £20,000 to train as teachers in an effort to improve standards. Under the reforms, graduates with first-class degrees would be eligible for the most generous bursaries to teach shortage subjects such as science and maths.

The plans were designed to raise the profile of the teaching profession amid fears that English state schools were falling behind those in other developed nations.

Ministers also signalled their intention to train more students in schools – instead of universities – in a move seen as an attack on the Left-wing teaching establishment.

Under the strategy, student teachers will be expected to display better standards of English and maths before being allowed to qualify – scrapping a rule that gives trainees unlimited attempts to pass basic tests in the three-Rs.

The Government will also attempt to encourage former Armed Forces personnel into the classroom with the establishment of a new “Troops to Teachers” programme.


Public vs. private school: Which is better?

The following rather amusing and clearly biased defence of Australian public schools relies heavily on the fact that public schools have to take ferals. She seems to think that is a point in their favour. But that is very much a major reason why 39% of Australian parents send their kids to private High Schools!

The eternal question rears its ugly head [Ugly to whom?]: Do private or public schools provide the best education?

The research published in The Australian Economic Review released last week uses NAPLAN results to report that private schools produce better results than government schools, even once differences in student background are taken into account.

This is hardly surprising news. For some years more and more parents have been flocking to private schools based on the assumption that they produce "better" academic outcomes than their public counterparts.

But the study wasn't intending to generalise about the success of private education but rather to examine student performance on the NAPLAN test when socioeconomic status is not a factor. By the researchers' own admission they didn't take into account the discrepancies in funding and the needs of the students.

Here's some more unsurprising news: private schools are able to provide their students with better resources and more access to technology because they have more money. And on the whole private schools take fewer students with special needs, fewer indigenous students and fewer students whose first language is not English.

Meanwhile, public education cater for all, including high and low-achieving students. They are required to keep students with behavioural difficulties within the system until they're 17 and students with disabilities or learning difficulties are accommodated and provided with support.

Even when taking socio-economic status out of the equation, public and private schools have widely differing student bodies. Comparing their literacy and numeracy results is like comparing apples and oranges, and expecting them to taste similar.

Public education enrols the vast majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet operates on a budget that's close to 70 per cent of independent schools.

It's actually extraordinary what they do. If the MySchool website was to report individual students' literacy and numeracy improvement from test to test it would find that government schools far outperform private schools.

And while private schools have higher rates of students finishing year 12 and send proportionally more students to university, internal [unpublished?] research from Melbourne University shows that it is students from public schools who perform better in their first year of university, as they are required to be self-motivated and apply high levels of self-discipline while at school.

But NAPLAN doesn't report on students' independent study skills or self-discipline. These are also qualities usually developed in the high school years, but the research from The Australian Economic Review reported only on year 3 NAPLAN results.

In fact, the performance of public school students at university shows that the "real world" is the great leveller. When they're not being propped up by extra resources or facilities, the performance of public school students is equal to that of a student hailing from the private sector. [More precisely, a student who has SURVIVED the public sector]

But the purpose of school is not to get every member of society a university degree, and tertiary study is certainly not for everyone. The vast majority of school-leavers take other worthy paths, which include TAFE, apprenticeships or employment, all of which are encouraged as viable options in public schools.

Academic success can be measured in different ways. The fact is that NAPLAN and its partner in crime [Measuring student knowledge is a "crime"??], the MySchool website, reports on one narrow facet of education. Yes, literacy and numeracy are very important factors in a child's education, but they represent a small piece of the puzzle.

Parents who choose to send their children to public schools needn't necessarily think that they are getting a second-rate service. Public education produces commendable results given that its purpose is to educate the whole spectrum of students, regardless of their ability, special needs or their capacity to pay fees.

Public schools do extremely well to meet the individual needs of the 71 per cent of Australian school students who attend them, particularly considering that Australia is ranked towards the bottom of the OECD in terms of spending on public education.

But as long as NAPLAN is used as the sole measure to report academic "success", the myth of a failing public education system will continue to be perpetuated.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Team O's Denial on College-Cost Crisis

Want to do exactly the wrong things to fix US higher education? You can't do much better than the recent offerings from Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To a system blackout-drunk on taxpayer money, the Obama administration would deliver even more booze while only whispering about tough love.

Speaking at a Nov. 29 Las Vegas gathering of financial-aid administrators, Duncan addressed exploding college costs, a problem highlighted by Occupy Wall Street protesters angry over rising student debt. He lauded loan forgiveness and repayment reduction, and exhorted colleges to do, well, something to become more efficient.

While trumpeting the bogus claim that the average college graduate will earn $1 million more over his lifetime than someone with just a high-school diploma, he didn't even hint that taxpayer-funded student aid (including easily forgiven loans) enables schools to blithely raise their prices.

In short, Duncan said all the wrong things. Start with the "million-dollar jackpot." While there is an average net gain for those who actually complete four-year degrees, the "$1 million prize" doesn't factor in lost earnings while in college, the high cost of schooling or other variables. Include those, and the average lifetime premium is probably closer to $300,000. And, by definition, roughly half of all grads won't even hit that average.

Yet the real problem is this: Only about 57 percent of people who start four-year programs finish within six years, and most of the remaining 43 percent will probably never graduate. So lots of people will gamble for $1 million, but few will win.

Of course, the jackpot isn't the only reason millions keep paying even as tuition skyrockets. There's something even bigger: ever-expanding government aid.

Between 1985 and 2010, inflation-adjusted federal student aid rose from about $30 billion to about $140 billion, a 367 percent leap. Pell Grants alone ballooned from $8.1 billion in 1985 to $41.7 billion in 2011.

Add various tax credits and deductions to that, and it's no wonder college prices have inflated even faster than health care: Government has ensured that ever-higher bills can be paid.

But hasn't the real culprit been declining state support for colleges, forcing schools to raise prices? Duncan cited that one, too; it's another dodge.

Consider: State funding doesn't much affect private colleges, yet their tuitions perpetually boom. Plus, while public institutions do raise their prices when state support falls, they also raise them when support is rising.

Anyway, state and local support hasn't been gutted. From 1985 to 2010, inflation-adjusted state and local funding rose from about $54 billion to $75 billion. Support only appears to drop when looked at on a per-pupil basis, because higher-education enrollment has also ballooned.

Which brings up the last point: The Obama administration has set the goal of leading the world in the percentage of the population possessing a college degree.

But the reality is that we've already got armies of people in college who'll never finish. There's little reason to think we could get even more people in and through.

But there's a plan to deal with that — sort of. Duncan says the administration will "challenge" schools to improve their graduation rates. Great.

Colleges' most likely response will be to run warm bodies through to graduation, while giving them few if any college-level skills. Indeed, we've been seeing this for years, with literacy for degree-holders dropping and earnings for people with only a bachelor's degree falling, too.

Ultimately, none of Duncan's prescription will make college much cheaper or more effective. Only taking the jet fuel — federal student aid — out of college pricing, and being frank about the real value of higher education, could do that.

But Duncan didn't even hint at such things — because that would really be tough love.


Don’t just try

He stood in front of my desk, fidgeting, and avoiding eye contact. This was a necessary but not pleasant conversation.

"Look," I said, "to get a B in the class, you will need to do just a little better on the final than you have so far on your previous tests. But just a little. Remember: Students usually raise their averages on the final exam. You have seen most of this material before. You understand it better now. And since the final is weighted more heavily than the other tests, I'd say you are in a pretty good position to pull out a B. Can you do it?"

He looked up from the floor. "Well, I'll try."

It's a conversation I have multiple times toward the end of every semester. A student wants to clarify where he stands in the class and what he needs to earn on the final to both maintain his current grade and to perhaps even raise it.

It's a short, one-act play in which we both know our parts. I pull out my calculator and show the student the necessary score. Often, I'll add that I am not saying that he has to ace the final but only improve his previous performance by a small, marginal amount.

And then the student says, "Well, I'll try."

It wasn't until the most recent semester that this retort began to bother me. I have long known of the insidiousness of this attitude, yet I rarely noticed when it stood right in front of me, wearing blue jeans and a grey North Face jacket.

The thing is, I teach in a college of business, with an emphasis on the word teach. Although I am very active in research, I have not forgotten that the primary social function of the professor is to profess the truth about the world, or at least his area of specialty, from one generation to the next — and that we prove our worth to the extent that we achieve this in the classroom. To be sure, we also prove ourselves by refining and adding to the present understanding of how the world works, but this is all for naught if the present understanding is not continuously transmitted from professors to students, year after year after year.

When the great liberal economist Ludwig von Mises defined education as the transmission of doctrines and values, he also noted its limitations. Contrary to some of the promotional literature of many of our leading business schools, Mises wrote that qualities highly valued in market economies such as innovation and genius cannot be taught. Did Steve Jobs really learn to be Steve Jobs during his semester at Reed College?

Still, this does not diminish the importance of understanding correct doctrines and values.

In my area of interest, economics, we have learned over the last few years what happens when the received wisdom of centuries of thinking is poorly transmitted to the present generation that populates society's institutions. For instance, we have forgotten that creating money derived from nothing results in a stealthy transfer of wealth to whatever groups get to spend the new money first. Scholastic thinkers as early as Nicholas Oresme, writing in the 14th century, knew well of this effect of fiat money. This Catholic prelate, philosopher, and author of the De Moneta would hardly be surprised by changes in capital ownership, productivity, savings, and wages in the years since 1971, when the United States and the world officially ditched gold-backed currencies for fiat money.

But that's not what I want to tell my student, who is standing before me, promising to try his best. As a teacher in a college of business, I know that business isn't about trying. It's about achieving results. Colleges of business should not be in the business of graduating a bunch of triers. Successful entrepreneurs do not simply try, nor do they waste their money hiring employees simply to try. Those who actually accomplish their assigned tasks — ethically, consistently, and with purpose — are those who both reap the greatest benefit from their business degree and will be the most likely to live out successful vocations in business.

We serve students poorly when we teach them that if only they try, they will succeed. Trying is necessary but not sufficient for success in a competitive business environment. That students are conditioned to think it is necessary and sufficient occurs for several reasons. One is that colleges themselves promote the idea. One ironic aspect of colleges of business is that they are often staffed by individuals who would not survive in business in the first place and who, as a result, gravitated toward academia. In fact, many have tried in business and failed, and then found academia as a second vocation.

Universities tend to contribute to this mentality as well because it lowers the bar for student success and allows for a greater number of students and, by extension, student-loan and tuition revenue. Even universities with reputations for academic rigor maintain less-publicized programs that offer easier degrees to tuition-paying students. By providing avenues through which those who simply try can get degrees too, universities diversify rigor and maximize enrollment and revenue.

Ohio University economist Richard Vedder wrote about perverse university incentives to reject performance-based scholarships in his important 2004 book Going Broke by Degree. When students are assured scholarship money not tied to actual outcomes, Vedder noted that they change majors, take light loads, and continue to take courses after meeting graduation requirements. When achieving specific outcomes (such as graduating in four years) is not rewarded relative to simply trying, students remain in college for fifth or sixth years and universities can lengthen the demand for their services.

The emphasis on trying alone is also a carryover from the public-school mentality that the way for students to survive is not to question the system in which they are compelled to operate. Getting along is the overriding value in the public schools, and those who think critically about education and perhaps even resent its focus on subservience to authority are often labeled delinquents worthy of shame, punishment, and Ritalin. But if you get along — or at least show a willingness to try to get along — you will survive through high school while helping to pay the salary of many an administrator in the process. Meanwhile, anything of value that you learned you probably would have taught yourself anyway.

It's a mentality that colleges of business should thwart if their business degrees are to signify any value to entry-level labor markets, because no business will survive if the bulk of its workforce is content with just trying to achieve its objectives.

Woody Allen may have said that 80 percent of life was simply showing up. That may be true for life in the public sector, which so often looks like a glorified jobs program, subsidized by the plundered wealth of the productive. In that sector, the primary bureaucratic concern is spending this year's budget so as to justify an increase in next year's budget. The employment-results relationship is weak by design.

It's surely not true for life at a Dell or a Macy's or even your local grocer, where a firm's very survival is based on its ability to convince customers to engage in voluntary trade for one more day, and where showing up and merely trying at work does not guarantee meeting those objectives necessary for customer satisfaction and firm success.

Colleges of business should punish those who only try. We do those firms that hire our graduates no favors when we don't.


Australia: Shocked Education Minister orders probe into student suicides, mental health issue among teens

The abandonment of effective discipline has given free rein to bullies and we are seeing the result of that

VICTORIAN Education Minister Martin Dixon has ordered an investigation after schools registered "a spate of alerts" about the mental health of students during VCE exams last month.

Department officials have found that, on average, one Victorian student attempts suicide each week of the school year. Preliminary findings show 24 students, in government schools alone, are believed to have taken their lives over the past four years.

Mr Dixon, a former secondary school principal, said he was shocked. "These are lives that are lost, or these are lives that are in obvious turmoil," he said.

Mr Dixon is calling for open discussion about mental health and the huge pressures facing today's teenagers and younger children. "It's something we just can't hide under the mat any more," he said. "Any statistic in this field is tragic, whether it's one or it's 30."

The Education Department's figures, which are based on initial "alert reports" by schools, also detail other causes and indicators of severe "mental stress".

In 2011 so far, there have been 122 reports of students threatening to commit suicide, self-harming, or suffering as the result of another person's suicide. This compares with 96 last year, and 77 in 2008.

Mr Dixon said he wanted to bring attention to the previously taboo topic because "(now) the best clinical advice is that we can't turn a blind eye to it and pretend the problem doesn't exist".

"I had been made aware of alerts coming into us, where schools had reported incidents regarding children self-harming and threatening to self-harm. "There just seemed to be a spate of them. It was around (VCE) exam time, and I thought, 'I need to go a bit deeper on this and see what's happening'."

Suicide rates across Australia have fallen over the past decade, including among teenagers, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But one-in-four young people will experience a mental-health problem over the next 12 months, according to Orygen Youth Health.

Dr Vicki Trethowan, Education Department senior psychologist, said mental-health problems were distinct from "normal adolescent behaviour, where moods will fluctuate".


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Savings of Freedom in Public Education

One of the more common complaints of people opposing vouchers is that the use of vouchers will drain money away from public education. From a factual standpoint, this complaint has no merit unless you accept the premise that “public education” must take place at public schools. If not, then it becomes apparent that the use of vouchers neither adds nor subtracts from the money used except in the case where vouchers are issued at a lower value than that sent to schools on a per pupil basis, in which case there is a net savings. (I have never read or heard of a case where a voucher system was approved funded at a larger rate, with the possible exception of vouchers for special needs children.)

There can be an argument made that vouchers take money away from public schools, but does the argument hold up when all factors are considered? Funds are lost from the public school that would have been allotted had the child attended. That much is certain. What is seldom examined is the potential cost reductions that would come with a fully funded voucher system, and how those reductions might affect the school district’s bottom line as far as cash available. There are any number of areas that might see cost reductions, from staff cuts to lowered bus maintenance required, but this time of year in particular brings to mind a particularly distasteful cost.

Any web search at this time of year will bring up a number of cases where schools and townships are accused of religious discrimination, whether for something the school permits or something it denies. Regardless of the merit of such cases, money is lost from the school’s primary purpose, that of education, to deal with the complaints. If a lawsuit is filed, direct legal costs will ensue even if the case is eventually settled out of court. If the case does make it to court, the costs will increase. And, due to the nature of such litigation, if the school loses the case it will likely have to pay legal costs for itself and the persons filing the complaint. Should the school win, it is more than likely that it will still be liable for it’s own legal fees. In a system where the majority of principals have reported that they have had lawsuits filed against their schools at least once, the costs run high and do nothing to contribute to the education of students.

While lawsuits on religious discrimination and freedom of speech draw great attention, they are by no means the only reasons that school lawsuits are filed. Across the nation right schools schools are suing and being sued for such causes as improved funding, bullying, inadequate teaching, unsafe environments, and discipline practices. Even schools that are not sued spend large amounts of money and time documenting procedures and actions as a defense against possible litigation.

A well instituted voucher system will not put every student in an ideal school, but it will allow for the elimination of many types of lawsuit against the district before they even begin. Don’t want God mentioned in the curriculum? Fine. Stick with the government schools. On the other hand, if you want your child brought up learning not only writing and math (or perhaps really learning writing and math), but also the history and practice of Christianity or Judaism or Islam or most anything else, you have the chance. If the demand is there, the market will not ignore it. If you would rather your child didn’t spend time learning to put condoms on cucumbers or getting yanked out of class to provide stage props at the latest union rally, you can arrange it. If you would rather have your child get a swap on the rear rather than attend a week long sensitivity class for making an improper remark, you might be able to do that to. If you value great books, history, and art above great political sloganeering, this could be your chance. Not through lawyers and courts and months of unsatisfying litigation, but by banding together with parents and negotiating with schools, schools that would now be dependent on your good will to survive.

At the same time, while the school would be dependent on the students and parents, it would have to consider the needs and desires of all of the students and parents. Since the attendance at any particular school would be voluntary and subject to the agreement of the schools and the families, no single voice could drown out the others. Since the terms of attendance and discipline would be contracted, civil rights lawsuits could largely be eliminated. When they did occur, the expense would be the responsibility of the litigants, not the city, county, or state.

It is a continuing amazement to me that for all of the trumpeting that “diversity” receives, most of the professional educators still cling to a “one-size-fits-all” model of public schooling. I can understand it to an extent. Teacher’s unions (another huge drain on education dollars) have spent large amounts of cash, often taken against the will of their members, convincing people that school choice would be the end of public education as we know it. In reality, it has the chance to be the end of what public education has become and the beginning of something a great deal better.

University Teacher Attacks Military, College Republicans

An Iowa State University lecturer is under a firestorm of criticism after he insulted the U.S. military and condemned efforts by College Republicans to collect gift boxes for American soldiers.

“Why do Republicans care so much about the military?” Thomas Walker wrote in a letter to the Iowa State Daily. “Because the military-industrial complex is dear to their simplistic laissez-faire fantasies: a bottom-line patriotism that excludes the people at the bottom.”

Walker is a lecturer in the university’s English and orientation program. He ridiculed the charitable actions of the young college students and questioned their motives.

“Soldiers are to Republicans as fetuses are to them: prized,” Walker wrote. “But once out of the womb-like army, Republican solicitude for hapless veterans goes where extracted zygotes go.”

Walker was referring to a newspaper article detailing efforts by Iowa State’s College Republicans to show their support for America’s fighting men and women.

“Donating toiletries, boxed and canned foods, socks and beanies to U.S. soldiers who can already deodorize themselves, who eat better than the poorest Americans and who are gallantly garbed, is an eleemosynary travesty,” he wrote. [Wow! Big word: "eleemosynary". He is a show-off as well as a hater. Just a big ego all round. I am familiar with the word from its church associations but I doubt that I have ever used it]

His comments have created an outrage among students and supporters of the university.

“I, along with many Iowans, was offended and disgusted by the unfortunate and highly inappropriate remarks made against our soldiers in uniform,” Regent President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter told the Quad-City Times. “Not only did Mr. Walker insult our sons and daughters in uniform – he also questioned the kind and humanitarian efforts made by our students to ensure that our soldiers know we care about them and are exceedingly grateful for their service.”

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy was a bit more subdued in his remarks – explain that he respects freedom of speech, but disagreed with Walker’s letter.

“Please understand that Mr. Walker’s opinions do not in any way represent Iowa State University, and as a military veteran myself, I strongly disagree with his comments,” Geoffroy stated in a release provided to Fox News & Commentary. “I do however respect every individual’s right to freedom of speech, which is so highly valued in our nation, and which is one of the cherished values that our troops are fighting to defend in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Walker remains employed by the university.


More than 1,000 failing British primary schools are facing closure

More than 1,000 primary schools face closure or takeover after failing to hit Coalition targets in English and maths.

Official league tables published next week will reveal they are still not ensuring youngsters get a good enough grasp of the three Rs, despite the billions poured into education under Labour.

Ministers have warned that by the end of this year, headmasters must meet a minimum of 60 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching the standard expected in English and maths.

Schools failing to reach this target can gain a reprieve if they prove children are making necessary progress between the ages of seven and 11.

The escape clause is designed to counter critics who claim some schools are punished for having large numbers of pupils from troubled backgrounds, who are far behind their classmates.

Last year, school-by-school data published by the Department for Education showed 962 primaries – which were attended by 269,000 pupils – failed to hit the official benchmarks.

However, full results were only recorded for 11,500 schools after almost a quarter boycotted the tests.

Education experts expect the number of schools failing to meet the targets to rise to around 1,200 when the data for all primaries in England is published on Thursday.

These substandard schools will go on a Government ‘hit list’. They face being closed and reopened as academies under the leadership of a new headmaster, or being merged with a successful neighbouring school. The weakest 200 will be pulled out of local authority control and converted into academies as early as next September.

Schools are supposed to ensure that at least 60 per cent of their pupils gain ‘level four’ – the standard expected of their age – in both English and maths. They are also expected to satisfy ‘pupil progress’ measures designed to chart improvement between the ages of seven and 11.

Statistics show that 74 per cent of 11-year-olds reached ‘level four’ this year in English and maths, up from 73 per cent last year. However, this still means more than 142,000 do not understand the basics.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘Since overall performance has only gone up by 1 per cent, one could expect 1,200 or more schools are failing to meet the expected standard this year.

‘It’s very disappointing so many children are leaving primary school not able to handle words and numbers properly. 'The Government is quite right to want to tackle this.’

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, accused ministers of being heavy handed, adding: ‘Having failed to persuade the majority of primary schools to become academies, the Government has resorted to bullying.’


Queering the Schools

At a high school in prosperous Newton, Massachusetts, it’s “To B GLAD Day”—or, less delicately, Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Awareness Day. An advocacy session for students and teachers features three self-styled transgendered individuals—a member of the senior class and two recent graduates. One of the transgenders, born female, announces that “he” had been taking hormones for 16 months. “Right now I am a 14-year-old boy going through puberty and a 55-year-old woman going through menopause,” she complains. “I am probably the moodiest person in the world.” A second panelist declares herself an “androgyne in between both genders of society.” She adds, “Gender is just a bunch of stereotypes from society, but I am completely personal, and my gender is fluid.”

Only in liberal Massachusetts could a public school endorse such an event for teens, you might think. But you would be wrong. For the last decade or so, largely working beneath public or parental notice, a well-organized movement has sought to revolutionize the curricula and culture of the nation’s public schools. Its aim: to stamp out “hegemonic heterosexuality”—the traditional view that heterosexuality is the norm—in favor of a new ethos that does not just tolerate homosexuality but instead actively endorses experimenting with it, as well as with a polymorphous range of bisexuality, transgenderism, and transsexuality. The educational establishment has enthusiastically signed on. What this portends for the future of the public schools and the psychic health of the nation’s children is deeply worrisome.

This movement to “queer” the public schools, as activists put it, originated with a shift in the elite understanding of homosexuality. During the eighties, when gay activism first became a major cultural force, homosexual leaders launched a campaign that mirrored the civil rights movement. To claim their rights, homosexuals argued (without scientific evidence) that their orientation was a genetic inheritance, like race, and thus deserved the same kind of civil protections the nation had guaranteed to blacks. An inborn, unchangeable fact, after all, could not be subject to moral disapproval. There ensued a successful effort to normalize homosexuality throughout the culture, including a strong push for homosexual marriage, gays in the military, and other signs of civic equality.

But even as the homosexual-rights campaign won elite endorsement and lavish funding, even as supportive organizations proliferated, the gay movement began to split internally. By the early nineties, many gay activists viewed goals such as gay marriage or domestic partner unions as lamely “assimilationist”—an endorsement of standards of behavior that “queers,” as they called themselves, should reject as oppressively “straight.” And they militantly began defending the “queer lifestyle” not as an ineluctable fate but as the result of a fully conscious choice.

Underlying this militant stance was a radical new academic ideology called “queer theory.” A mixture of the neo-Freudianism of counterculture gurus Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse and French deconstruction, queer theory takes to its extreme limit the idea that all sexual difference and behavior is a product of social conditioning, not nature. It is, in their jargon, “socially constructed.” For the queer theorist, all unambiguous and permanent notions of a natural sexual or gender identity are coercive impositions on our individual autonomy—our freedom to reinvent our sexual selves whenever we like. Sexuality is androgynous, fluid, polymorphous—and therefore a laudably subversive and even revolutionary force.

Rutgers English professor Michael Warner, a leading queer theorist, observes that categories like “heterosexual” and “homosexual” are part of “the regime of the normal” that queer theory wants to explode. “What identity,” he writes, “encompasses queer girls who f*&k queer boys with strap-ons, or FTMs (female-to-male transsexuals) who think of themselves as queer, FTMs who think of themselves as straights, or FTMs for whom life is a project of transition and screw the categories anyway?” To overturn the old dichotomies of hetero/homo and even male/female, Warner encourages continuous sexual experimentation.

A relatively recent arrival on college campuses, queer theory has swiftly dominated the myriad university gender-studies programs and spread its influence to other disciplines, too, “queering” everything under the sun. Type “queering” into’s search engine, and up comes Queering the Middle Ages, Queering the Color Line, Queering India, and many other books, many from prestigious academic presses.

It would be tempting to dismiss queer theory as just another intellectual fad, with little influence beyond the campus, if not for gay activists’ aggressive effort to introduce the theory’s radical view of sexuality into the public schools. Leading the effort is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN, pronounced “glisten”), an advocacy group founded a decade ago to promote homosexual issues in the public schools. It now boasts 85 chapters, four regional offices, and some 1,700 student clubs, called “gay/straight alliances,” that it has helped form in schools across the country.

GLSEN often presents itself as a civil rights organization, saying that it is only after “tolerance” and “understanding” for a victim group. Sometimes, therefore, it still speaks the old gay-rights language of unchangeable homosexual “identity” and “orientation.” But it is, in fact, a radical organization that has clearly embraced the queer-theory worldview. It seeks to transform the culture and instruction of every public school, so that children will learn to equate “heterosexism”—the favoring of heterosexuality as normal—with other evils like racism and sexism and will grow up pondering their sexual orientation and the fluidity of their sexual identity.

That GLSEN embraces queer theory is clear from the addition of transgendered students to the gays and lesbians the group claims to represent. By definition, the transgendered are those who choose to change their gender identity by demeanor, dress, hormones, or surgery. Nothing could be more profoundly opposed to the notion of a natural sexual identity. Consider as evidence of queer theory’s influence, too, the GLSEN teachers’ manual that says that middle-schoolers “should have the freedom to explore [their] sexual orientation and find [their] own unique expression of lesbian, bisexual, gay, straight, or any combination of these.” What is this but Michael Warner’s appeal to pansexual experimentation?

One of the major goals of GLSEN and similar groups is to reform public school curricula and teaching so that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender—or LGBT—themes are always central and always presented in the approved light. GLSEN holds regular conferences for educators and activists with workshops bearing titles such as “Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls: Creating a Safe, Supportive School Environment for Trans, Intersex, Gender Variant and Gender Questioning Youth” and “Developing and Implementing a Transgender Inclusive Curriculum.” Every course in every public school should focus on LGBT issues, GLSEN believes. A workshop at GLSEN’s annual conference in Chicago in 2000 complained that “most LGBT curricula are in English, history and health” and sought ways of introducing its agenda into math and science classes, as well. (As an example of how to queer geometry, GLSEN recommends using gay symbols such as the pink triangle to study shapes.)

Nor is it ever too early to begin stamping out heterosexism. A 2002 GLSEN conference in Boston held a seminar on “Gender in the Early Childhood Classroom” that examined ways of setting “the tone for nontraditional gender role play” for preschoolers. To help get the LGBT message across to younger children, teachers can turn to an array of educational products, many of them available from GLSEN. Early readers include One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads; King and King; and Asha’s Mums.

As for teaching aids, a 1999 book, Queering Elementary Education, with a foreword by GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings, offers essays on “Locating a Place for Gay and Lesbian Themes in Elementary Reading, Writing and Talking” and “How to Make ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ in the Classroom”—the scare quotes showing the queer theorist’s ever present belief that categorizing gender is a political act.

For comprehensiveness, nothing beats a GLSEN-recommended resource manual distributed to all K–12 public schools in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The manual presents an educational universe that filters everything through an LGBT lens. Lesson ideas include “role playing” exercises to “counter harassment,” where students pretend, say, to be bisexual and hear hurtful words cast at them; testing students to see where their attitudes lie toward sexual “difference” (mere tolerance is unacceptable; much better is “admiration” and, best of all, “nurturance”); getting students to take a “Sexual Orientation Quiz”; and having heterosexual students learn 37 ways that heterosexuals are privileged in society. In turn, principals should make an “ongoing PA announcement”—once a week, the manual says—telling students about confidential support programs for LGBT students.

Teachers, the manual suggests, should demand that public school students memorize the approved meanings of important LGBT words and terms, from “bigenderist” to “exotophobia.” Sometimes, these approved meanings require Orwellian redefinitions: “Family: Two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values and goals, and have commitments to one another over a period of time . . . regardless of blood, or adoption, or marriage.”

Two videos come particularly highly rated by gay activists and educators as tools for making primary school queer-friendly. Both films strive to present homosexuality in a favorable light, without saying what it actually is. It’s Elementary, intended for parents, educators, and policymakers, shows how classroom teachers can lead kindergartners through carefully circumscribed discussions of the evils of prejudice, portrayed as visited to an unusual degree on gays and lesbians. In That’s a Family, designed for classroom use, children speak directly into the camera, explaining to other kids how having gay and lesbian parents is no different from, for example, having parents of different national backgrounds.

GLSEN even provides lesson plans for the promotion of cross-dressing in elementary school classes. A school resource book containing such lesson plans, Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry for Kids, Parents, and Teachers, has already been used in second-grade classrooms in California. A children’s play in the book features a little boy singing of the exhilaration of striding about “In Mommy’s High Heels,” in angry defiance of the criticism of his intolerant peers:

They are the swine, I am the pearl. . . .
They’ll be beheaded when I’m queen!
When I rule the world! When I rule the world!
When I rule the world in my mommy’s high heels!

Some of the LGBT-friendly curricular material aimed at older children is quite sexually explicit. The GLSEN-recommended reading list for grades 7–12 is dominated by such material, depicting the queer sexuality spectrum. In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth features a 17-year-old who writes, “I identify as bisexual and have since I was about six or seven. . . . I sort of experimented when I was young.” Another GLSEN recommendation, Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, has a 16-year-old contributor who explains, “My sexuality is as fluid, indefinable and ever-changing as the north flowing river.”

Some of the most explicit homosexual material has shown up in classrooms. An Ohio teacher encouraged her freshman students to read Entries From a Hot Pink Notebook, a teen coming-out story that includes a graphic depiction of sex between two 14-year-old boys. In Newton, Massachusetts, a public school teacher assigned his 15-year-old students The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a farrago of sexual confusion, featuring an episode of bestiality as one of its highlights. Such books represent a growth industry for publishers, including mainstream firms.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cost of High School Dropouts Draining US Taxpayer

High school dropouts on average receive $1,500 a year more from government than they pay in taxes because they are more likely to get benefits or to be in prison, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday.

"Dropping out of high school before receiving a high school diploma places a substantial fiscal burden on the rest of society," wrote Andrew Sum of Northeastern University, an author of a study of Illinois and Chicago residents done on behalf of the Chicago Urban League and some education groups.

The findings, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2009-2010, illustrate the cost advantage of programs that persuade dropouts to re-enroll in school instead of becoming a financial drain on society, the study's sponsors said.

The cost of getting a high school dropout back to school and through to graduation is $13,000 a year, or roughly $33,000 total, said Jack Wuest of the Alternative Schools Network, one of the study's sponsors.

And yet over a dropout's entire working life, he or she receives $71,000 more on average in cash and in-kind benefits than paid in taxes. The societal costs may include imprisonment, government-paid medical insurance and food stamps.

In contrast, high school graduates pay $236,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and college degree holders pay $885,000 more in taxes than they receive.

Lifetime earnings of dropouts totaled $595,000, the study found, compared to $1,066,000 earned by high school graduates and $1,509,000 by those with a two-year junior college degree.

In Illinois, the fifth-most-populous U.S. state with nearly 13 million residents, 11.5 percent of adults aged 19 to 24 left school without earning a high school diploma, and 15 percent in that age group dropped out in Chicago.

The highest dropout rates were among black and Hispanic men, at up to 30 percent.

High school dropouts accounted for 51 percent of Illinois' prison population, the study found.

The cost of housing an inmate is $22,000 annually, and adds up to more than $1 billion a year for the 46,000 prisoners being held in the state, according to state statistics.

Among men aged 18 to 34, 15 percent of the dropouts were in prison, an incarceration rate that was five times higher than high school graduates'.


Showdown for British exam cheats: Board chiefs will be hauled before emergency session of MPs for a grilling over 'coaching' of teachers

In Britain it's the examiners who are cheating, as well as the students

The heads of the country’s exam boards are being hauled before MPs in a bid to restore public confidence in GCSEs and A-levels, it was revealed yesterday.

The Commons’ education select committee has called an emergency session in the wake of the scandal over school teachers being ‘coached’ by examiners in how to improve their pupils’ pass marks.

Education Secretary Michael Gove hopes to de-commercialise the exam system so that each subject is tested by one board only – so rival boards would not be driven to offer tests that are easier than their competitors’ to try to win business from schools.

Rod Bristow, on behalf of Edexcel, and Gareth Pierce, chief executive of the Welsh board WJEC, will appear before the select committee on Thursday, alongside Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, and Andrew Hall, chief executive of AQA.

The exams regulator, Ofqual, and representatives from the Daily Telegraph have also been invited to give evidence. An undercover investigation by the newspaper exposed how teachers pay up to £230 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners, during which they have been advised on exam questions and the wording pupils should use to get higher marks.

Two examiners have been suspended from WJEC, after being filmed giving detailed guidance on forthcoming GCSE history exams.

Another examiner was suspended from Edexcel after being recorded claiming the course content in her board’s geography GCSE was so small she did not know how it had been passed by the regulator. The select committee is already investigating the country’s exam system. It now wants urgent answers from the exam bosses over the ‘shocking’ evidence unearthed.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the select committee, said: ‘One of the areas we’re already looking at is conflicts of interest – the commercial exploitation of their position as awarding bodies and whether the way the examination system is structured incentivises the right behaviour in awarding bodies.

‘This…tends to suggest the pressures and competition within the system are driving them to behaviour that is not in the best interests of good standards of education.’
Paul Barnes was filmed apparently telling teachers they could ignore some parts of the syllabus as they wouldn't appear in the exams

Paul Barnes was filmed apparently telling teachers they could ignore some parts of the syllabus as they wouldn't appear in the exams

He added: ‘The whole session will be on the evidence unearthed and the questions arising from that. ‘It will be about how we can have confidence in the system if the very people who are providing the awards appear to be complicit in gaining an encouragement of an approach which isn’t truly educational. We are already conducting an inquiry into exam boards and the need for reform.

‘The stories are shocking and suggest there may be a need for radical changes. The committee will question the heads of the exam boards to hold them publicly to account. We will also want to ask the regulator how such alleged breaches have been allowed to happen and explore what can be done to ensure that our qualifications support and encourage real learning rather than undermine it.’ Former senior examiner Martin Collier, who worked for Edexcel, told the committee last week that he wanted to see a single merged exam board because ‘it was wrong to put children’s qualifications into the marketplace’.

Mr Collier, who was an A-level history examiner between 1996 and 2011, told MPs: ‘One of the reasons why grades have gone up and up is the issue of market share. ‘Exam boards are very wary of saying, “this year there have been fewer A grades”.

‘What the exam boards are worried about is that if they hit children hard one year and the number of top grades diminish they fear people will go elsewhere.’

Mr Gove has ordered an official inquiry into the scandal and the regulator, Ofqual, must report back before Christmas. Chief executive Glenys Stacey has outlined a number of possible sanctions including pulling ‘examinations set for January and for next summer with awarding bodies providing substitute scripts’.

The Education Secretary said he is preparing to reform the exam system early in the new year, but is awaiting the findings of the investigation before finalising his proposals. His current plans would see exam boards compete to provide a single exam for each subject.

‘The first response that most people understandably have is, “Why don’t you just have one exam board?”’ he said last night.

‘And as someone who grew up in Scotland I naturally sympathise, because we just had one exam board. I think it is the most compelling answer at the moment. But I owe it to students and to teachers to let the investigators come up with their recommendations.... and present all the facts.’


Big jump in university fees for maths and science study at a time when Australia needs more such students, not fewer

AUSTRALIA'S ambition to become the "clever country" is in tatters because it cannot produce enough experts in the two most critical disciplines - mathematics and science.

Top scientists and mathematicians, furious about the Gillard Government's $400 million cut in HECS fee relief and axed school science programs, warn Australia is in serious danger of losing its mantle as a world leader in education.

In a bid to return the Australian economy to surplus Treasurer Wayne Swan has taken the razor to education, increasing annual HECS fees for university science and maths students from $4691 to $8353 - cancelling the incentive to study those subjects.

Barry Jones, a former science minister in the Hawke government, said just 9 per cent of Australian university students enrol in the sciences of physics, chemistry and mathematics when the OECD average is 13 per cent and in South-East Asia it is 26 per cent.

"It looks bad," he said. "There are serious problems in maths and sciences in Australia generally."The "deficiency" starts in primary schools with a high proportion of teachers themselves uneasy with maths and science and by high school, students move on to other interests, Mr Jones added.

And the crisis is set to worsen by 2020 when Australia will have more PhD mathematicians retiring from the workforce than entering it - despite a 55 per cent increase in demand across all sectors of the economy.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is so worried about the decline it is planning a national advertisement campaign on buses and trains to promote the impact of maths and statistics on people's "daily lives and on their health and wellbeing".

The head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of NSW, Anthony Dooley, warned the cut to HECS would affect student numbers in the core subjects.

"The country needs more mathematicians and scientists ... our enrolments have been going up by 10 per cent a year and that growth is a realisation that maths and science are crucial to the world's future," Prof Dooley said.

"We need the Government to realise that this is a crucial national priority ... we need to be clever and we need people with mathematical skills to drive the economy forward."

The number of advanced maths students across Australia dropped by 25 per cent between 1995 and 2008, while university maths majors fell by 15 per cent between 2001 and 2008. The Australian Academy of Science also urged the Government to do more to support the subjects.

"We are slipping behind neighbouring countries in maths and science performance at secondary school and there are growing shortages in the workforce of young people with maths and science skills," president Suzanne Cory said.

"Australia's robust economic future depends upon innovation.," she said.

A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the HECS subsidy was being abolished because it had not proven to be a cost-effective way of lifting maths and science attainment.

"By the time young people are making university choices many have already made the decision to drop the study of advanced maths and science subjects at high school," he said. "It's for that reason that the Government has asked the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to work with the science community to develop new means for further lifting student participation rates in maths and science."

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said that science and mathematics were two of the first four subjects to be rolled out under the new national curriculum.

Universities Australia said alternative programs to improve school science and maths and university enrolments were vital while the University of Sydney was seeking more funds to support the most talented students.