Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hong Kong drops patriotism classes seen as pro-Beijing ‘brainwashing’ after mass protests

Hong Kong officials backed down Saturday on plans to make students take Chinese patriotism classes following a week of protests in the former British colony sparked by fears of pro-Beijing “brainwashing.”

The semiautonomous Chinese city’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, said it would be up to schools to decide whether to hold the classes. They were to have become a mandatory subject in 2015 after a three-year voluntary period.

Public anger over the classes has been growing for months. Many feared they were a ploy by Beijing authorities to indoctrinate the city’s young into unquestioning support of China’s Communist Party, though Leung and other senior officials denied it.

China regained control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 after more than a century of colonial rule, but the city has been allowed to retain a high degree of autonomy, a separate legal system and civil liberties not seen in mainland China, such as freedom of speech.

Leung’s retreat follows a week of protests by thousands in front of government headquarters coinciding with the start of a new school year. Organizers said 120,000 took part on Friday evening, though police put the number at 36,000, local news reports said.

The decision comes a day before elections for the city’s legislature. Sunday’s vote will be the first time the public will be able to choose more than half the seats. Deepening opposition to the education plans could have undermined support for pro-Beijing candidates.

The protesters worried the new subject would be an attempt to indoctrinate the city’s young with nationalist education classes similar to ones used in schools all over China to inculcate support for the Communist government.

The fears rose after a pro-Beijing education group published a pamphlet earlier this year extolling the virtues of one-party rule. The government stressed that the booklet, called “The China Model,” was not part of designated teaching material.

According to curriculum guidelines, students would learn in the classes about China’s political leaders, the contributions they have made and the difficulties and challenges they face. They would also learn how to “speak cautiously,” practice self-discipline and get along well with others in a rational and respectful way.

The controversy is the latest sign of increasing discomfort with mainland China’s growing influence on the city. Hong Kongers have also been perturbed about stunted democratic development and an influx of wealthy mainlanders buying up property and driving up prices.


Obese Chicago teachers' union

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis walks, talks, and barks like a rootsy Occupy Wall Street activist. But this Big Labor loudmouth who’s leading the abandonment of nearly 400,000 schoolchildren in the Windy City is just another power-grabbing union fat cat.

Instead of academic excellence, she rails about “social justice.” Instead of accountability, she fumes about “profits” and curses merit pay. Lewis has marched with the Occu-clowns denouncing capitalism and promoting “socialism (as) the alternative.” She raves: “Occupy Wall Street and the whole concept of the 99 percent is an extraordinarily important movement.”

And she earned praise as a “fist-in-the-air, crowd-rousing, dynamic union leader” by former Communist party revolutionary turned Obama-funded “school reformer” Michael Klonsky.

While she pays solidarity lip service to the 99 percent, Lewis is part of the deep-pocketed elite of public-employee union chiefs who blame everyone else for their own financial and educational ruin. She’s good at pandering to her Che Guevara T-shirt-wearing colleagues and trash-talking the political machine. But she is the machine.

The Chicago Teachers Union rakes in nearly $30 million in forced dues from rank-and-file teachers every year. CTU is an affiliate of the behemoth AFL-CIO, which dropped an estimated $100 million in forced dues to support Democratic candidates and causes during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

Before Lewis took control of the CTU, the union was teetering on bankruptcy and owed millions of dollars in loans. The previous CTU president pulled down nearly $300,000 a year in base salary and compensation. Local union watchdogs reported that top CTU officers and staff with six-figure salaries and bonuses also received:

a monthly expense account for each administrator — officers, coordinators and field representatives — of $1,500; a car allowance of $7,000 per year (whether or not you have a car); 85 percent of car insurance and expenses paid; parking allowance; cellphone allowance; life insurance paid with union dues; and among other perks, a 53rd week of yearly pay for “working” over the Christmas holiday.

Lewis assumed the CTU presidency in June 2010. “Teachers union officials declined to provide information on Lewis’ salary,” The Chicago Tribune reports, but records show that she made more than $71,000 for half a year’s work in 2010 — along with compensation from the Illinois Federation of Teachers in 2011 totaling at least an additional $64,000 on top of her unknown base salary and benefits.

When she’s not urging other teachers to ditch the classroom or organizing traffic blockades to impede everyone else in Chicago from getting to and from their jobs, Lewis spends her time trashing public charter schools and business leaders trying to reform our Soviet-style monopoly in education. The results speak for themselves: While CTU members earn an average of $74,000 a year and are now spurning 16 percent pay hikes, 71 percent of the third-largest school district’s eighth-grade students can’t attain the most basic level of science proficiency, and nearly 80 percent are not grade-level proficient in reading.

Lewis, a vulgar standup comic wannabe who has joked publicly about smoking weed in college, sneered at parent-centered charter schools that defied the strike on Monday as not “real” schools. Competition is the enemy of union-enforced stagnation. She also played the race card like a Vegas poker pro. And in a stem-winder straight out of the Barack Obama/Elizabeth Warren/Occupy rhetorical handbook, Lewis blasted the “wealthy” at a strike rally this week: “You don’t make money by yourself,” she hissed.

Nope. In Social Justice World, you make that money by climbing up the public-employee union ladder and extracting it forcibly through a compulsory dues racket that redistributes hard-earned dues from nearly 30,000 captive members to the union leadership’s class-warfare demagogues.

It bears repeating often: The goals of the teachers’ union radicals are not academic excellence, professional development, and fairness. The goals are student indoctrination, social upheaval, and perpetual grievance-mongering in pursuit of bigger government and spending without restraint: 2, 4, 6, 8! One agenda: Agitate!


Refusing to put pupils' art up in classrooms? It's militant British teachers who belong in the playground

Talk about coming back down to earth with a bump! The ecstatic cheers from the Olympic crowds had not died away before the teaching unions declared they were taking industrial action.

So it’s business as usual in bolshy, backward-looking Britain.

As the TUC annual conference ushers in the new political season, the sound of Britain’s neanderthal tendency downing tools is as predictable as the leaves now gently falling from the trees.

The National Union of Teachers and its sister teaching union the NASUWT have issued an unedifying 18-page document entitled National Action Autumn Term.

This instructs teachers to refuse to undertake a wide range of ‘non-teaching duties’ in a dispute over their pensions, jobs and pay.

I hope you are sitting down while reading this.

For the restrictions these unions are placing on teachers’ duties — listed, if you please, under the union’s slogan which declares ‘protecting teachers, defending education’ — are as small-minded as they are deliberately designed to make as much trouble as possible.

Refusing, for example, to supervise pupils during the lunch break. Refusing to cover for absent colleagues.

Refusing to invigilate any public examination or SATS. Refusing to collect money from pupils and parents, investigate a pupil’s absence, or even set up and take down classroom displays.

Refusing to provide more than one written report annually to parents. Refusing to undertake extra-curricular activities unless teachers have ‘volunteered freely’ to do so.

So much for the Olympic spirit of pulling out all the stops to encourage children to develop their sporting skills.

And more stupefyingly obtuse still, teachers are being told to defy ministers’ plans to lift the limit of three hours for the amount of time that can be spent in a year on ‘classroom observation’ — when teachers are checked to see if they are performing properly.

Eh? Why should ‘classroom observation’ be limited to three hours per year? It seems that such observation is required when Ofsted classifies a school as ‘failing’. Well surely such observation becomes even more necessary in those circumstances?

Frankly, it’s these unions who are behaving as if they are in the playground. It’s hard to believe that any grown-ups could be quite so foot-stampingly petulant.

This is surely the National Union of Violet Elizabeth Botts, threatening to ‘thcream and thcream’ until they make not themselves but everyone else ‘thick’. For who is going to suffer from this selfish and irresponsible juvenilia? Why, the pupils, of course, and their parents.

With breathtaking hypocrisy, the union document claims that this action is ‘parent, pupil and public friendly’. But how can the chaos to which it aims to reduce schools possibly be ‘friendly’ to parents or the public?

How can refusing to put up children’s artwork on the classroom wall, for heaven’s sake, possibly be ‘friendly’ to pupils? How can frustrating the ability of headteachers to manage their own schools properly be anything other than harmful to children and the public interest?

This mean-spirited and destructive action is entirely about the interests of teachers rather than the pupils in their care. Whatever happened to teaching being a vocation?

Of course, most teachers are entirely mindful of their overriding duty to their pupils. They think of themselves first and foremost as educationalists, and dedicate themselves selflessly to that crucial role.

Indeed, the number of teachers who actually voted for this action was very small. Almost three-quarters of the membership of the National Union of Teachers failed to vote at all.

But then, isn’t that just all too typical of much union disruption, where tiny numbers of activists effectively hijack the passive majority who then find themselves dragooned into industrial action they would rather not take?

The fact is that the teachers’ work-to-rule reflects a general union militancy currently in the air.

The TUC has suggested it may co-ordinate strike action by public sector workers over pay; the prison officers are leading wild talk of a general strike; and a mass TUC demonstration is planned for next month.

There is no public sympathy for any of this; indeed, the vast majority of people take a very dim view indeed of such anti-social behaviour.

All too aware of this, the two Labour Eds, Miliband and Balls, are desperately trying to distance themselves from such talk.

But then, the teaching unions have form as long as your arm when it comes to damaging the interests of school children — in ways that go far beyond the normal trade union preoccupations with pay and working conditions.

It was the teaching unions which promoted the use of every destructive, ideological and anti-education fad that has gripped the entire education world for decades and abandoned countless thousands of children to illiteracy, innumeracy and ignorance.

It was the teaching unions which implacably denied the patently obvious fact that there were thousands of wholly inadequate teachers who, because it was well-nigh impossible to sack them, were continuing to destroy the life-chances of so many pupils.

It was the teaching unions, too, which fought tooth and nail to frustrate and undermine every single government reform aimed at stamping out such shoddy practices.

Faced with the evidence of mass teaching failure, these unions put the interests of their members first and the education of children last.

In similar vein, this latest call to militancy is also an attempt to avoid poor teachers being held to account. 

Take for example the instruction to refuse to submit teachers’ lesson plans for inspection by senior school managers — presumably department heads or head teachers.

In a typically opaque bit of gobbledygook, the union document asserts that teachers are to be held accountable only ‘through their use of suitable approaches to teaching and learning’, not for the way in which they plan ‘learning activities and experiences’ (known to the rest of us as teaching).

Consequently, they huff, lesson plans are to be used purely to support teachers rather than as a means to hold them to account for their work.

What astonishing arrogance!

The importance of lesson plans is that they show whether teachers are organising their lessons properly. Yet the unions are saying that these plans should not be scrutinised by senior staff.

Extraordinary! Imagine the uproar if police officers, say, or nurses — or indeed employees in any place of work — were to assert that aspects of their performance were off-limits for senior managers!

Yet the teachers are saying that they alone should be given carte blanche. This is all of a piece with the attitude that has helped bring Britain’s education system to its knees — the belief that only the teaching profession knows the answers.

As a result, parents have found over and over again that, while they may observe that their child is failing to thrive at school or learn very much, it is virtually impossible to get to the bottom of the problem because so much of teaching is deliberately kept a mystery.

It is this attitude more than anything else which has ensured that mass teaching failure has gone largely uncorrected, and that generations of children have been betrayed by an education system that has veered wildly out of control.

It is more than disappointing that, after a summer of such outstanding co-operation and goodwill celebrating the very best in people, we should now be subjected to such a display of selfish, antisocial and indeed positively nihilistic behaviour.

It is even more dismaying that it is once again vulnerable pupils who will be paying the price of a teaching profession that has forgotten what it is for.


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