Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Successful School Curriculum Under Attack

 Ken Blackwell

As a longtime school choice advocate, I am always in favor of giving parents the tools they need to ensure their children receive a high quality education, which is necessary to compete in today's global marketplace. And as a visiting professor of law at Liberty University and former associate professor at Xavier University, I know how a rigorous education is critical for students to be prepared to get the most value out of their time at college.

Therefore, I am disturbed by a recent development in states such as Idaho, where members of the school board are questioning the worth of this program despite its value to students. Or in New Hampshire, where fringe activists claiming to be members of the Tea Party are supporting bills to shut down a rigorous education program. You may be familiar with schools which have advanced placement (AP) classes, where students are given the opportunity to take accelerated classes. The program in question, International Baccalaureate (IB), was started in 1968 and is even more rigorous. Offered in 1,311 primary and secondary American schools, IB has a track record of helping shape young minds into accomplished life-long learners and ethical leaders. And for poor minority students in rough neighborhoods such as Chicago, IB has been a ticket for many motivated students out of dependency and poverty.

IB is accepted by more than 1000 U.S. universities- such as MIT, John Hopkins, and the Naval and Air Force academies- as an exemplary mark of academic achievement. Some universities automatically enroll high school students who finish the IB Diploma Program. And hundreds of universities offer college credit for IB classes, which saves students time and money.

In addition, according to a recent study by the Stanford Research Institute, not only are IB students much more likely than other students to attend a selective college, most (81%) finish their program within 6 years. That is compared to the national average of 57%, which has been a strain on taxpayers and has added to our current student loan default crisis.

So, what is the objection to IB? Because the program is available across the globe, encourages students to learn a second language, and teaches students about other cultures, it appears that the conspiratorial-right is claiming the program is part of a plot to erode American sovereignty through the United Nations and create a one-world, socialist government.

It is a shame William F. Buckley is not alive today because he spent a lifetime building a respectable and electorally-successful conservative movement, while rejecting kooks from organizations such as the John Birch Society. Our movement needs to be concerned about actual threats to our sovereignty, such as unelected judges who cite international law in their decisions or inappropriate treaties such as the Law of the Sea. No one can fill WFB's shoes, but I am here to insist that an intense and vigorous education to prepare students for a global world is a good thing! To claim otherwise makes self-labeled conservatives sound anti-intellectual, paranoid, and detached from legitimate political discourse.

As Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said while visiting an elementary school with a successful IB program, "I think the one-size-fits-all (model) coming out of Washington is not the way to go. I think we need to empower innovative, creative, talented principals and teachers to do their jobs and let the success come." Programs such as No Child Left Behind and the elimination of voucher programs are examples of how busybody bureaucrats inflict permanent damage on entire generations of students.

We were each endowed with abilities from the Almighty. And education policy must free up local communities to offer programs to allow students to maximize their God-given potential. School choice, parental control, and a vigorous, classical education are at the heart of conservative philosophy.


Hypocrisy of the rich British liberals who buy their way out of the schools calamity their dogma created

Sometimes, a spotlight shone harshly into one private life can starkly illuminate a calamity for an entire society.

It was reported yesterday that Sir Jonathan Miller, the theatre and opera director, playwright, neurologist, polymath and icon of the Leftist intelligentsia, is helping pay for at least some of his grandchildren to attend independent schools.

This is all the more notable since Sir Jonathan's profound aversion to private education is well known. In accordance with his principles, in the Seventies he sent his own children to Pimlico comprehensive school in Central London.

Some years ago, however, his son William revealed his fury at having been forced to endure an education that he said had blighted the lives of himself and his siblings, all to conform to their parents' political beliefs.

In a newspaper interview he revealed the bullying and poor education that he had endured at Pimlico school, calling the experience a 'wholly avoidable disaster' arising from a 'mistaken ideology'.

Eventually, Sir Jonathan and his wife relented and sent William to the fee-paying Bedales school in Hampshire.

Now William says that he and his wife have decided to educate their primary school-age children privately to ensure that they, too, do not become - as he has characterised himself and his siblings - the 'victims of the most cavalier of social experiments'. And his father is helping foot the bill.

Of course, it is not just the Millers but hundreds of thousands of other children who, for several decades now, have been forced to pay a devastating price for this 'cavalier' experiment.

They were the victims of their parents' ideological fixation with abolishing privilege - a fixation expressed by refusing to give their children the educational advantages that all too often they themselves had enjoyed.

Sir Jonathan, for example, was educated at St Paul's, one of Britain's top public schools. Like a number of other ex-public school pupils, however, he turned venomously against the education system that had provided such advantages.

Whether as the result of personal guilt or socialist ideology, such people decided that selective schools discriminated against both poor and less academically-able children.

So through an utterly misplaced idealism, they resolved that if everyone could  not benefit from such schools, then  no one should.  Accordingly, the principle of equality of opportunity that lay behind selective education - including that provided in the state system by the grammar schools - was replaced by the doctrine of equality  of outcomes.

The result was a disastrous confluence of comprehensive schooling with child-centred educational theories, which in the interests of eradicating both 'illegitimate' adult authority over children and equally 'illegitimate' differences in achievement, simply undid the very concept of education altogether. The result was countless numbers of children abandoned to ignorance and under-achievement, with middle-class ones such as William Miller bullied at their comprehensives - and with those at the very bottom of the social heap, who depended most of all upon school, left locked into disadvantage.

This was because the aim of this experiment had nothing to do with education and instead everything to do with social engineering - to create a society without privilege. But this aim was always unattainable.

The result was that education was now geared to the lowest common denominator, producing a catastrophic decline in standards from top to bottom of the system.

The damage done by this experiment has been incalculable. The further irony is that it actually increased the numbers going to independent schools. 

To avoid the poor standards of education and discipline at so many comprehensives, more and more desperate parents proceeded to impoverish themselves to educate their children privately - just to give them the kind of education they once would have received at the grammar schools.

Yet even now, Sir Jonathan Miller appears to have not an iota of insight into the disaster to which he subscribed. Indeed, his hatred of independent schools remains as strong as ever - even while he pays towards his grandchildren's education.

Obviously, he is reported to have said, he wanted to secure his grandchildren's safety and future. Nevertheless, he felt ashamed of doing so, and of belonging to a society which created a 'profound and malignant separation of the prosperous from the poor'.

And he went on to rail at the 'protective educational devices' of independent schooling provided by 'prosperity and big money' which guaranteed that such pupils would 'become like their parents'.

It is obvious to Sir Jonathan that he should look after his grandchildren's interests by helping fund their private education. How extraordinary that he thinks this is, nevertheless, 'malign' and 'invidious'.

This seems to be because he thinks that parents' motivation for educating their children privately is to turn them into clones of themselves.  But this is not what drives such parents at all. They merely want their children to have a good education so that they can make the best of themselves in life. Isn't that what the vast majority of parents want?

So why does Sir Jonathan assume independent school parents have less noble objectives? It must be because he believes that the better-off are wholly driven by self-interest, whereas the poor are not.  This is as absurd as it is offensive. It's also more than a bit rich coming from Sir Jonathan who is himself?.?.?. well, rich.

So does he think, therefore, that he himself is motivated only by self-interest? Plainly not, when he was prepared to sacrifice the interests of his own children supposedly to further those of the poor. So why does he damn independent school parents as an apparently obnoxious breed apart?

One thing he does say, which is correct, is that the gulf in education between rich and poor is even wider now than it was when he chose comprehensive schools for his children.

But what he utterly fails to acknowledge is that the cause of this widening gap is the very doctrine of educational equality that he supported. That doctrine was swung like a wrecking ball at the very foundation of British society.

It is no coincidence that, back in the Sixties, Sir Jonathan Miller was also a founding member of the seminal Beyond The Fringe satirical troupe, whose anti-establishment views started to unravel the skein of Britain's entire moral framework.

But then, those from the Left can never admit they can be wrong - because they assume that they embody virtue itself.  Accordingly, they demonise and sneer at all who dare disagree. Pinning their faith on utopian fantasies, they tend to regard theoretical ideas as having more substance than what's going on under their noses.

Sir Jonathan has previously expressed disappointment that his children seemed indifferent to his work. None of them, he complained, identified with or took pleasure from the world in which ideas and the life of the mind took priority.

But the life of the mind surely should not take priority over life in the actual world. To allow it to do so is to lose sight of reality altogether - which is surely the whole problem with the Left-wing intelligentsia.

In the past, Sir Jonathan has also expressed deep regret, and even shame, that he chose the theatre over being a neurologist, which he said he felt he was 'meant to do'.

Sometimes, parents unwittingly force their children to pay a price for the parents' own resentments. How sad if Sir Jonathan's difficulties played a part in creating  such bitterness and disappointment in  his family.

But how sad also for Britain that such a brilliant mind became so twisted by socially destructive dogma, when it could have been used to contribute immeasurably to helping the most vulnerable instead of knocking the ground from under their feet.


Australia: Olympic boss calls for more sport in schools

With Australia trailing Kazakhstan, you can see why

AUSTRALIA'S Olympic boss John Coates believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on sport in schools in the hope of finding the next Cathy Freeman or Ian Thorpe.

The Australian team so far has failed to live up to Coates' expectations of a top-five finish at the London Games, languishing at 24 on the medals tally after the first week of competition.

The Australian Olympic Committee president says before the next Olympics in 2016 Australia needs to "talent-build" by making sport a focus in schools.

He has called on the federal government to consider changing its policy and funding to give priority to school sports.

"Perhaps the area that needs a lot of attention - and if not, funding and government intention in terms of policy - is getting sport back into the school curricula," Coates told the ABC on Monday.

The British were making "a big thing" of that being one of the legacies they're looking towards, he said.

"They've been achieving that, a greater emphasis on sport in the schools."

Some children would benefit from the health and fitness, but the next Freeman or Thorpe may also be discovered, Coates said.

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy is happy with the level of sports participation in schools.

"What we're seeing over at the Olympics at the moment is that we're coming so close so many times ... and it's just not going our way," she told ABC radio.

"But we're still way up there with the best of the best in the world in sport."

Senator Lundy said it was important to continue to innovate to keep sports programs strong.

"Australia's great strength is we've always punched above our weight in sport and we need to be smarter about how we use our resources to stay right up there," she said.


1 comment:

Truth About IB said...

Sorry, but Ken Blackwell is seriously out to lunch on the IB issue and has misrepresented Sen. Rand Paul's comments to twist them as an endorsement for IB.

This outrageously expensive indoctrination coming straight from UNESCO and Geneva does not belong in American public schools. Period.