Thursday, March 29, 2012

NYC madness:  PC student tests forbid dance, dinos & lots more

In a bizarre case of political correctness run wild, educrats have banned references to “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween” and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests.  That’s because they fear such topics “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”

Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays aren’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism.  Even “dancing’’ is taboo, because some sects object. But the city did make an exception for ballet.

The forbidden topics were recently spelled out in a request for proposals provided to companies competing to revamp city English, math, science and social-studies tests given several times a year to measure student progress.

“Some of these topics may be perfectly acceptable in other contexts but do not belong in a city- or state-wide assessment,” the request reads.

Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. Poverty is likewise on the forbidden list.  Also banned are references to divorces and diseases, because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

Officials say such exclusions are normal procedure.  “This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” said a Department of Education spokeswoman, insisting it’s not censorship.

In fact, sensitivity guidelines recently published by a group of states creating new high-stakes exams also caution against mentioning luxuries, group dancing, junk food, homelessness or witches.  Yet a comparison shows the city’s list, at 50 topics, is nearly twice as long and has fewer exceptions.

The city asks test companies to exclude “creatures from outer space,” celebrities and excessive TV and video-game use — items that are OK elsewhere.

Homes with swimming pools and computers are also unmentionables here — because of economic sensitivities — while computers in the school or in libraries are acceptable.

City officials also specified that test makers shouldn’t include items that are potentially “disrespectful to authority or authority figures,” or give human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects.

Terrorism is deemed too scary. Slavery is also on the forbidden list.

Officials said there isn't an absolute ban on the items, in that they do get included on some exams on a case-by-case basis.

“The intent is to avoid giving offense or disadvantage any test takers by privileging prior knowledge,” said Robert Pondiscio, a spokesman for the Core Knowledge Foundation, an education group.

“But the irony is they’re eliminating some subjects, like junk food, holidays and popular music, that the broadest number of kids are likely to know quite a lot about.”

Columbia University Teachers College professor Deanna Kuhn said, “If the goal is to assess higher-order thinking skills, controversial topics, for example, ones that are the subject of political debate, are exactly what students should be reasoning about.”


Education Animal Farm

Public school education systems, methods and procedures today are bad enough to make George Orwell’s Animal Farm read like a Libertarian themed novel. Any semblance of personal freedom, individuality, critical thinking and human dignity has been thrown out the school house window.  Herewith is just a tiny sample of the proof:

An 11-year-old Lancaster, Pennsylvania girl – 11 years old, mind you -- has been denied her right to participate in her elementary school choir, chorus and orchestra, as well as every other extracurricular activity available to her sixth grade peers, both academic and athletic.

Is that because she’s a vicious unmanageable problem child, a bully perhaps, who presents a clear and present danger to fellow pupils at her school? 

Not at all; it’s solely because she and her parents refuse to allow the statist administrators in her school district to force her to piss into a bottle so they can test her body fluids for the presence of illegal drugs.

They have the temerity to complain that the district’s scheme to randomly drug test students in this manner is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and a violation of the child’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures, not to mention her Fifth Amendment due process rights.

But what do local school districts in America today care about constitutional rights? They think they can force kids to attend school and make them give up all their rights in the process. That’s the American way these days.

A ninth grade Australian schoolboy was suspended from classes because he shaved his head as part of an effort to raise funds for a cancer charity and support a friend who is battling leukemia.
Going beyond a "number two" haircut is against the school's uniform and grooming policy, explained his school principal. After his suspension he’ll be allowed back only if he agrees to wear a cap until his hair grows back.

"He took it on himself to shave his head for a very good cause, he didn't go through school procedures and deal with us first," said the statist principal. "I've always told students who wanted to support World's Greatest Shave it was OK, as long as hair length was within acceptable levels -- a number two. Then we can also then support them with publicity."

The kid took it upon himself to decide his hair style. That’s something kids today can’t do without official permission from the educational authorities. I suppose the kid with cancer was suspended too after all his hair fell out from the chemotherapy and he could no longer comply with the “number two” hair code policy.

A Chicago sixth-grade writing and social studies school teacher at Murray Language Academy was suspended for leading a class discussion about the "N-word," race relations and racism.
He explained that, using advice given by the Southern Poverty Law Center to help guide discussions about the word, he turned a bad classroom situation - in which one student wrote a rap calling another student the (n-word) - into "a teachable moment."
The problem here, of course, is that the teacher is a white guy, and white guys are not supposed to utter that word under any circumstances in public schools nowadays. Black teachers, yes; white teachers, no.

So forget about his First and Fifth Amendment rights to freedom of speech and due process of law; white people are prohibited from using the n-word even when it is done in language and social studies class for the purpose of teaching students why the n-word is bad.

I myself don’t even feel comfortable articulating that particular word in my blog for fear that the American language police will come crawling down my back. I’m white and that word is a no-no for me.

Republicans in the United States Congress are proposing a new School Lunch Bill in which pizza and French fries would stay on school lunch lines, and they’re fighting the Obama administration's efforts to take “unhealthy foods” out of schools.

The bill aims to circumvent Agriculture Department school lunch standards limiting the use of potatoes, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. It would also keep counting tomato paste on pizzas as a vegetable.

Are all these die hard statist politicians doing this out of caring magnanimity, and altruistic desire to enhance the health and welfare of all the little school bunnies of America?

Hell, no! They’re doing it because American food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and have lobbied Congress. You see, school lunches in America that are subsidized by the federal government must include a certain amount of vegetables, and USDA's proposal could have pushed pizza-makers and potato growers out of the school lunch business.

The USDA and congress have taken on the responsibility to reduce childhood obesity and thereby future health care costs. The government wants to decide what kids can eat at school. Tomorrow it will be decisions about what they can eat at home if the politicians have their way.

"While it's unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America's children, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals," sniffed a USDA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, a group of retired generals, called Mission: Readiness, advocating for healthier school lunches, also criticized the bill, calling poor nutrition in school lunches a national security issue because obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

"We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program," the director of the group, said in a letter to lawmakers. "It doesn't take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace."

Yes, French fries and pizza in school lunches is a matter of national security these days – not because the little school prisoners are adversely impacted – but because if they get fat they won’t qualify for military service. That’s truly a national disgrace. America wants its slaves when they’re kids, and later when they’re adults too. It wants its slaves for all their miserable lives. That’s why the government is telling us what we can eat.

If all this isn’t enough, now there are several school districts all across the U.S. suing their respective state governments, asking courts to order more spending on public education, and contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more rigorous educational standards.

In Washington State, the Supreme Court recently ordered the state legislature to come up with a plan for additional funding. Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire agreed, explaining that without ample funds it is "difficult for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today's global economy."

School districts everywhere need more and more cash so they can perpetuate the statist Education Animal Farm.


British trainee teachers facing harder three Rs tests in bid to root out applicants not fit for the job

Trainee teachers face tough new tests in the three Rs to root out those unable to do the job.  Ofsted inspectors found some staff, particularly in primary schools, have a poor grasp of subjects, leading to gaps in children’s knowledge.

Ministers fear entrance exams are too easy and allow trainees with a poor mastery of English and maths to slip through.

While new tests are being devised, the pass mark for existing tests in literacy and numeracy will be raised in September with fewer resits allowed.

One in five trainees fails to pass either literacy or numeracy first time around while one in ten trainees has to take the numeracy tests three times or more.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced yesterday that an expert panel will review the current tests with a view to devising new-look assessments.

‘International studies show that rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality and standing of the teaching profession,’ he said.  ‘It helps ensure trainees are committed to becoming teachers.

‘Strengthened trainee tests and an end to constant re-sits will mean parents can be confident that all teachers have the basic skills needed.’

The review will be led by Sally Coates, principal of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, and will report back to ministers by June, to allow the new tests to be introduced in September 2013.

From this September, the pass mark for the current tests will be raised.  Trainees who fail one or both of the tests at the first attempt will be limited to two resits for each test.  They will also have to pass the test before starting their course, so those without the right skills cannot start the training.

The Coalition has already announced plans to give out bursaries worth £20,000-a-year to students with first-class degrees who train to teach so-called shortage subjects such as maths and languages.  Lower bursaries will be available to students with 2.1s and 2.2s.

Heads are also being handed tough new powers to sack incompetent staff.

The skills tests were introduced by Labour amid concerns that teacher training did not guarantee a thorough grounding in literacy, numeracy and comprehension.  Passing the numeracy test has been a requirement of Qualified Teacher Status since 2000, and literacy the following year.

Students currently sit the online tests during their teacher training.  They were originally allowed only four or five attempts to pass the tests.  But Labour scrapped the rule in 2001 and gave trainees unlimited resits.

The numeracy test lasts 48 minutes and contains 12 mental arithmetic questions to be completed without the aid of a calculator.  Candidates are allowed to use pen and paper.

There are also longer questions involving interpreting statistical information and working out basic percentages and ratios.

The 45-minute literacy test is in four parts - spelling, grammar, punctuation and comprehension.


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