Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Military service doesn't count when it comes to extra points for education, DOE tells New York principals‏

New York City principals are up in arms over a new plan that gives bonus points this year to high schools based on graduates going to college — but doesn’t count those who join the military.

Department of Education officials met with a group of principals last week to explain changes in Progress Reports coming out this fall. Schools that send more kids to community or baccalaureate colleges within six to 18 months will get extra credit.

When a principal asked about points for grads who choose to enlist in the armed forces, he was shot down. “The military isn’t college. It doesn’t count,” the group was told.

In response to criticism, DOE officials say they are working to gather military enlistment records and eventually credit schools for grads who sign up to serve the country — which spokesman Matt Mittenthal called a “strong career track.”

The DOE recently got access to the National Student Clearinghouse, which lists those enrolled at 70 percent of the nation’s colleges, including CUNY and SUNY.

The extra points for college enrollment can help improve the letter grade given to each school — from “A” to “F” — and polish its image.

But principals are shellshocked that young heroes who may be sent to battle won’t get, for now, the same nod as peers who head for the dorms.


Bishop McFadden and “Totalitarian” public schooling

“In a totalitarian government, they would love our system [of public education],” Bishop James McFadden of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told WHTM-TV. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all of them tried to establish — a monolith, so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

McFadden’s remarks touched off a firestorm of complaints from the usual suspects.

Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said McFadden “should not be making his point at the expense of the memory of six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust,” arguing that the bishop had “inappropriately [drawn] reckless comparisons” to that horrific event.

Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, declared McFadden’s comments “completely inappropriate.”

Harrisburg University professor Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, who is also vice president of the local World Affairs Council, told WHTM, “As soon as you throw in those words and you take the debate and the conversation to another level and another context, it is not right.”

In a statement responding to his critics, McFadden apologized to “those who may have been offended by [his] remarks.” He is not, however, retracting them, pointing out that he “purposely did not mention the holocaust” to avoid giving offense — an assertion backed up by the TV station, which stated that “in the 20 minute interview he never mentioned the word holocaust.”

“The Church recognizes the holocaust as a terrible atrocity and evil emanated against humanity and especially those who were the victims of these crimes,” McFadden wrote. “I would never minimize or trivialize the devastating suffering that took place.”

He also elaborated on his analogy:
The reference to dictators and totalitarian governments of the 20th century which I made in an interview on the topic of school choice was to make a dramatic illustration of how these unchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children. Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that bests suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past.

[An] absolute monopoly in education, where parents do not have a right or ability to choose the education that best suits their children due to economic circumstances or otherwise, runs counter to a free and open society.

McFadden could not be more correct. “In 1936,” writes the History Place,
all of the Catholic parochial and Protestant denominational schools [in Germany] were abolished. Christian holy days which had usually meant a day off from school were now ignored and classroom prayers were banned. Celebrations of Christmas and Easter were discouraged, replaced by pre-Christian Yule or Solstice celebrations. The Nazis later forced all teachers to renounce any affiliation with professional church organizations.

Moreover, says the article, indoctrinating students with Nazi ideology became the sole purpose of the schools, to the detriment of genuine education:
National Socialist teachers of questionable ability stepped into grammar school and high school classrooms to form young minds, strictly abiding by the Party motto: “The supreme task of the schools is the education of youth for the service of Volk and State in the National Socialist spirit.” They taught Nazi propaganda as fact which was then recited back by their students as unshakable points of view with no room for disagreement or discussion.

Fascist dictators weren’t alone in recognizing that controlling the schools meant controlling the minds of the youth. “Free education for all children in public schools” is one of the demands of the Communist Manifesto; and Karl Marx’s disciples in the former Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and elsewhere have always abolished private schools in favor of state-run indoctrination centers.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that the public schools of 21st-century America are turning out students thoroughly steeped in environmentalism, socialism, and moral relativism but unable to read their own diplomas. The objective of government schooling is to produce cogs for the state machine, not well-rounded, independent thinkers.

With the facts on McFadden’s side, his critics have been forced to attack his remarks’ propriety rather than their truthfulness, which also reveals the critics’ true agenda: sticking up for government schooling.

The bishop, meanwhile, is seeking to allow parents more options in schooling their children. Believing it is unfair for parents to have to pay twice to send their children to parochial and other private schools — once in taxes and again in tuition — and faced with declining parochial-school enrollment, McFadden and other church leaders are calling for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enact a school-voucher program whereby parents’ tax dollars that are earmarked for education can be directed to whatever school, public or private, parents choose for their children. (A proposal that would have allowed that under certain limited circumstances was rejected by the state legislature in December.)

McFadden’s diagnosis of the problem is correct; his proposed solution, however, leaves much to be desired. School vouchers might very well end up co-opting private schools into serving the state, which would be an even worse situation than the one that currently exists. Private colleges — minus a handful of brave resisters who have chosen to forgo federal dollars — have been forced to obey Washington’s dictates in exchange for accepting federal student aid. Why would anyone expect state governments to hand out money to schools with no strings attached? Instead, private schools would very likely become dependent on such aid and would compromise their integrity by bowing to the state’s demands, ultimately becoming the state’s handmaidens in training the youth to serve Leviathan.

McFadden and other Christians, of all people, ought to recognize the dangers inherent in mixing the state with the private sector. Separation of church and state — in the sense that neither controls the other — has served Americans well over the centuries. Why not separation of school and state as well?


Key dates from history that every British pupil should know: Cambridge don says GCSEs should embrace ALL of the nation's past

Thirty-one key events in British history that all teenagers should study were outlined yesterday by a leading historian.

The dates cover the sweep of British history from the Dark Ages to the present day and include events such as the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the 1649 execution of Charles I and the abolition of slavery in 1833.

Professor David Abulafia, of Cambridge University, said current GCSE studies were disjointed and ‘deadened interest in the past’.

He also pointed out that the exams reward pupils who memorise and regurgitate mark schemes and penalise youngsters who try to demonstrate originality and insight.

Instead he proposes a curriculum which encompasses the nation’s story – and requires exam candidates to write at length.

There is evidence that a generation of university students – including those starting at Cambridge – have lost the ability to write essays.

The professor’s proposed curriculum – produced for the think-tank Politeia – will be submitted to a major review launched last year by Education Secretary Michael Gove. The Government is considering introducing a new curriculum for history and other subjects in September 2014.

Criticising the current syllabus, Professor Abulafia, an expert in Mediterranean history at Gonville and Caius College, said: ‘The lack of continuity is a fundamental problem. ‘What one actually wants is a sense that things join up, a sense of context.’

Under current GCSEs, pupils might jump between units such as Elizabethan England and Germany 1919 to 1945. Units covering a historical sweep often focus on a specific theme, such as ‘Medicine through Time’.

The professor said pupils were too often required to interpret sources instead of studying history itself. This had ‘deadened interest in the past among students’, he said.

His proposed curriculum – published yesterday in draft form – ensures ‘continuity across long expanses of time’. Linked to each event, or ‘transformational moment’, are studies of key people, places and innovations.

Pupils studying the 1066 Norman conquest, for example, would learn about the role of William the Conqueror and might visit the Tower of London. This could act as a spur to learn about the Domesday Book.

Professor Abulafia added that exams also needed reform because some candidates learn mark schemes ‘by heart’. ‘That is not what education is about,’ he said.

‘Writing essays involves making judgments. At the moment examiners don’t know how to cope with judgments. All they seem to know how to cope with is very exactly and precisely placed bits of information.

‘A very important part of any examination even at GCSE level – and you might only be talking about a couple of sides of script – is to be able to present a connected argument and to do it independently.’

Professor Robert Tombs, also a Cambridge University historian, said students appear to have been drilled to write essays in a particular way, making particular kinds of arguments in a particular order, and not writing their own ideas and responding to questions in a fresh or original way.

Politeia is planning to publish curriculum pamphlets written by academics on different subjects, beginning with history, later this month. Professor Tombs, of St John’s College, who is also working on a curriculum proposal, criticised current arrangements.

He said: ‘A curriculum ought to be coherent and not just miscellaneous. It shouldn’t be the sort of thing that enables you to know about Hitler and not Mussolini or Stalin.’

John McIntosh, who was head of the London Oratory School when it was attended by two of Tony Blair’s sons and now sits on the advisory committee of the Government’s curriculum, warned: ‘I find that teachers have become increasingly robotic, they have worked slavishly to the prescribed curriculum.’ ‘A lot of the teaching is simply the minimum required for whatever the next test or examination will be,’ he added.


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