Sunday, April 29, 2012

Political Spin in the Classroom- How it’s Hurting America
Benjamin Franklin once said “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private families and of common-wealths,”

He and the rest of the Founders recognized that the continuation of liberty is in the hands of an educated electorate. When the people are uninformed, they can be manipulated and enslaved- case in point- the feudalist system in the Middle Ages.

So, if the education of the public, and particularly young people, is crucial in a free society, the role of the teacher is perhaps one of the most important. They influence the individual at a crucial age- when they are discovering the world and learning to think for themselves. By opening the young mind to the wonders of society and humanity, a good professor can inspire passion in a student to succeed and change the world. And that is a truly beautiful thing.

But what happens when the teacher misuses their position? What happens when the teacher uses their position to push a private agenda, poisoning the student’s mind through malicious lies?

Given the trust and importance placed in public educators, is this duplicity not a betrayal of the free society they are supposed to be preserving?

I have spent many lectures fighting back tears of anger as my professors malign everything I believe in, mocking the conservative way of thinking, lying about the goals of an opposing party, snickering at anyone who has the guts to stand up and try to defend what they believe in. Can there be anything more despicable than a professor who uses their position to put down young people who are just learning to stand up for themselves? Yes, freedom of speech is crucial to public dialogue, and teachers have a right to their opinion, but do those opinions have a place in the classroom, especially when they are used it to be divisive and to bully?

And what about the lies? How many students take what their teachers say at face value, as they should be able to, and live in the manufactured reality of political spin? Shouldn’t we be able to place trust in our educators? Is it any wonder then, when the classroom is used as a propaganda platform, that the right wing is so unabashedly maligned in the public dialogue?

And perhaps the most crucial question, what does this mean for the future of our country? When students are lied to, taught not to think for themselves, and believe in the absolute evil of a certain way of thinking, how can a free society survive? This is where education becomes a national security issue. This is what the Founders warned about. The teacher has the power to shape the destiny of the next generation. And when they use their position to indoctrinate rather than promote critical thought, teach them to be guided by the opinions of others- that is when the next generation becomes slaves to the government, rather than the masters of it.


State pupils 'not being pushed for Oxbridge' prompting fears hundreds of youngsters are being held back

More than half of state school teachers are failing to encourage their brightest pupils to apply to Oxford and Cambridge, according to a survey out today.

They ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ advise their most gifted pupils to apply to the elite institutions, prompting fears that hundreds of youngsters are being held back.

The survey results suggest that many teachers perceive Oxbridge to be the preserve of wealthy private school pupils, even though 57 per cent of entrants are state-educated.

The Sutton Trust, the education charity that commissioned the study, called for action to ‘dispel myths’ surrounding Oxbridge.  ‘It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge,’ said Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chairman.

‘It is also worrying that almost all state school teachers, even the most senior school leaders, think that Oxbridge is dominated by public schools.’

He added: ‘The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools, who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements.’

Institutions are coming under intense Government pressure to increase their intake of state school pupils despite fears such moves could introduce crude ‘social engineering’ into admissions.

Today’s survey suggests too few bright pupils are applying in the first place amid a failure by their teachers to encourage them.

The poll of 730 secondary state school teachers, by the National Foundation for Educational Research, showed nearly two thirds believed less than 30 per cent of Oxbridge pupils came from state schools.  One in five said they would ‘never’ advise their brightest pupils to apply to Oxbridge, while 29 per cent would do so ‘rarely’.  Only 16 per cent said they would ‘always’ advise applying, with 28 per cent saying ‘usually’ and 10 per cent saying they ‘didn’t know’.

Head teachers last night insisted that Oxbridge was ‘only one of many’ routes for bright students.

Brian Lightman, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘There are many good universities in the UK and other excellent employment-based routes into top careers, all of which are available to high calibre applicants from all backgrounds.

‘Social mobility is about far more than entry to Oxbridge.

‘If teachers and for that matter the general public are not aware of admissions trends to Oxbridge, surely those universities should be addressing the misconception in their own communication.

‘We agree that young people should be made aware of the opportunities available to them, which is why we have been so concerned about the removal of national funding for  face-to-face careers guidance by a qualified adviser. This should be an entitlement for all students.’


Western Australia: Education Department Director General calls for calm over National Assessment fears

WA's education chief has urged parents to ignore the "fear campaign" surrounding national literacy and numeracy tests amid calls for parents to boycott the tests next month.

Education Department director-general Sharyn O'Neill called for calm as Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students across WA prepare to sit the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests from May 15 to 17.

Her comments followed a call from the Literacy Educators Coalition for parents to withdraw their children from the tests because they "create fear and stifle creativity".

“This kind of testing has been active in WA schools for the past 12 years, and the information we gather from NAPLAN is for teachers to better educate their students,” Ms O’Neill said.

“NAPLAN can be a call to parents to talk to their school and gather information about their child’s results, and we have an overwhelming response from parents who do just that.

Ms O’Neill also denied claims that the tests put undue pressure on students, likening the anxiety a child might feel ahead of the tests to that of a sports carnival or music performance.

“It is reasonable for teachers to do some preparation with students just like they would for a concert, for example,” Ms O’Neill said.

“However, if parents feel their child’s anxiety is caused by undue pressure from teachers, I encourage them to contact their school to discuss this.

“With these results a teacher can be at the forefront of diagnosing a problem, and parents have good information on the performance of their child.”


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