Monday, September 17, 2012

When Students Cheat Liberals Retreat

    Mike Adams

The best argument against liberalism is that it doesn’t work. That should be obvious to any teacher who has to deal with student cheating. Even some sociology teachers are beginning to learn this although they are not aware that they are learning it. Like rats in a Skinner box, their behavior is being modified by reality even when they lack the intellectual capacity to recognize it. It warms my heart to see old liberals changing their ways, even if mindlessly. So I have written a column about it, which I am hoping will someday be reprinted by the New York Times.

Liberals are reticent to address the issue of student cheating because it reminds them of the fallen nature of man. Utopia requires cooperation and evidence that people tend to cheat undermines the view that they are inclined to cooperate. So liberals would prefer to ignore evidence of cheating in order to preserve a vision of what “society” ought to be and could be if only they were given the means (read: more of our money) to re-engineer it.

But evidence of student cheating has become too widespread to ignore. So the liberals in my department have started circulating articles on the subject coming from reputable sources like the New York Times (sarcasm = off). Some of these articles and some of the faculty reactions to them have focused on what they describe as “a culture of cheating.” Accordingly, some liberal faculty members have started talking about what needs to be done about it. Others have started acting on it. This should be causing cognitive dissonance for several reasons:

1. Merit is irrelevant. Sociology students are frequently fed the liberal line that people do not succeed in America on the basis of their own merits. The old “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” maxim is more than just a cultural adage. It seeps into the college curriculum in sociology classes that focus on Marxian conflict theories. Students are routinely taught that wealth, power, and privilege are the keys to success. This tends to denigrate the importance of knowledge. It should go without saying that people are less inclined to rely on their own achievements if their efforts are thus devalued. The connection of such notions to acceptance of cheating is fairly obvious. If we teach people that they cannot succeed through legitimate efforts we will soon see them pursue success through illegitimate means. As always, liberals fail to understand that ideas have consequences. And bad ideas can have very bad consequences.

2. Ethnocentrism is unacceptable. Sociologists like to teach others that it is wrong to judge other cultures by the standards of one’s own culture. Such judgments are called “ethnocentric.” This concept has slowly crept into mainstream liberal thinking. That is unfortunate because promoting anti-ethnocentrism is problematic for at least two reasons: 1. it tends to undermine the idea that one’s actions (including cheating) can be considered objectively wrong. 2. It renders efforts to condemn a “culture of cheating” hypocritical. Remember that we aren’t supposed to judge other cultures!

3. Punishment is ineffective. Sociologists routinely teach the liberal idea that punishment is ineffective and the corresponding idea that “society” has an obligation to rehabilitate criminals. Then, in their own syllabi, they warn students that cheating will be punished. Claiming to be shocked when their threats are ignored, they send students through the campus penal system, not through rehabilitation. And the liberal campus penal system can be quite punitive and dismissive of due process. No attorneys, no tape recorders, no note taking, no soup … oops! I mean, no due process for you!

In a nutshell, sociology, like modern liberalism, teaches that we can’t get by on our own merits, we should not judge other cultures, and that punishment does not work. When students cheat, however, the sociologist urges advancement through one’s own merits, condemnation of the culture of cheating, and punishment of the transgressor.

It is little wonder that many students are intellectually lost and morally confused. They make the mistake of taking their sociology professors seriously, which means buying into contradictory liberal ideas. So my advice is two-fold: First, don’t cheat in college because it is objectively wrong to do so. Second, don’t cheat yourself by choosing a major populated by hypocrites who cannot abide by the consequences of their own ideas.


Just as intended, teachers strike hurts families

by Jeff Jacoby

Striking Chicago public school teachers march down Michigan Avenue on September 13. The teachers union rejected a proposed 16% salary increase, and demanded job guarantees for any teachers laid off as Chicago's failing schools downsize. (Getty Images)

THE TRUE LONG-TERM IMPACT of the Chicago teachers strike may be not be known for some time. But there is no mystery about its impact in the immediate term -- anxiety, panic, and disruption for myriad mothers and fathers left in the lurch when 30,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked away from their classrooms last week just as a new school year was getting underway.

"Parents and guardians frantically sought last-minute child care, pleaded with their bosses for leniency, and hoped that their kids would return to school sooner rather than later," reported the Chicago Sun-Times. "Citywide, for thousands of families, stress was high." The paper quoted Martina Watts, a mother in West Garfield Park, one of the city's rougher neighborhoods: "I might be losing my job over this. As long as they're on strike, I can't work. I'm not getting paid."

Construction worker Allen Packer told a TV interviewer that he had to switch from full-time work to a part-time night shift so he could be home with his young daughter during the day. "I kind of understand what they're trying to do," he said of the striking teachers. "But this is not just them." He gestured toward his daughter. "It's her education, first of all. Then my paycheck for the food."

The union went on strike to block school reforms proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, especially a tough teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. The chaos and financial hardship inflicted on so many Chicagoans -- more than one-fifth of whom have incomes below the poverty rate -- was not an unintended consequence of their walkout. To the contrary: The sudden dislocation, the harried scramble to find emergency day care, the extra expense, the turmoil in the children's routine -- they were at the heart of the union's strategy. The Chicago Teachers Union knew that by going on strike it would put countless families in an impossible position. That's what it was counting on.

When public-sector employees refuse to work, innocent bystanders are always the victims. Unions are well aware that by walking off the job, their members can deprive a huge swath of the public of what are frequently essential services -- trash collection, public transit, air-traffic control, classroom teaching. Since those services tend to be legally sheltered monopolies, a union strike leaves the public with few alternatives. Shut down the schools or let the garbage pile up, and voters grow desperate or angry. As public impatience mounts, elected leaders will usually decide they have no choice but to give the union what it wants. Rare is the official who can resist that kind of political pressure.

The private economy is different. Striking workers at a private corporation may demonize management as heartless plutocrats and greedy "1 percenters" who deny employees the pay and perks they deserve. But while union rhetoric can be ridiculously exaggerated, labor disputes in the private sector generally boil down to an argument about economic equity: Workers deserve more of the profits they helped generate. If those workers walk off the job, both sides pay a price -- the company loses business, and employees lose income. Seldom does public opinion play the deciding role. That's because a strike against General Motors or Shaw's Supermarkets doesn't leave consumers with nowhere else to go.

Strikes in the private sector, like the 2007 United Auto Workers action against General Motors, impose costs on labor and management. Strikes in the public sector, by contrast, are designed to inflict pain on the whole community.

By contrast, when public-sector unions call (or threaten) a strike, their strategy isn't to starve management of revenue. It is to cause maximum distress to blameless third parties – ordinary residents – and then deploy that distress as a weapon. That's not economic equity. It's raw power politics.

It's also egregious. In Chicago, the average public school teacher makes more than $76,000, according to union figures -- half again as much as the average private-sector employee earns. Over the past nine years, Crain's Chicago Business reports, teacher salaries in Chicago have climbed 42 percent. And what have Chicago taxpayers gotten in exchange? One of the worst public school systems in America, with a graduation rate of only 55 percent. "Of 100 Chicago Public School Freshmen, Six Will Get A College Degree," a headline in the Chicago Tribune announced in 2006.

Only in government work would employees claim that so lousy a record entitles them to still more hefty raises, or to a level of job security virtually unheard-of in the private economy. Such an outrageous sense of entitlement is among the poisoned fruit of public-sector collective bargaining, which empowers union officials with influence they have no right to -- influence they preserve by exploiting other people's pain.


Major reform to British High school examinations

Michael Gove is to herald an end to a quarter of a century of ‘dumbed-down’ exams this week when he abolishes GCSEs and brings back a tough new O-level style system.

The Education Secretary will announce the new exams on Tuesday in a joint press conference with Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after a furious behind-the-scenes row between the two men.

Mr Clegg has forced Mr Gove to delay the new system until September 2015, which means Labour could scrap it if they win the next Election, due in May 2015.

But Mr Gove won his battle to ensure the new exams are more rigorous and that the top grades only go to the brightest children. The joint appearance on Tuesday is designed to counter claims of another Coalition rift.

The reforms are designed to help schools in England catch up with other countries which have left us trailing in school standards.

The new exams, dubbed ‘Gove- levels’, follow claims that GCSEs, which replaced O-levels in 1986, are too easy. Under Mr Gove’s shake-up, the current system whereby nearly three in ten pupils get A or A* grades will go. Instead as few as one in ten will get the top mark, Grade 1.

Marks will depend on a traditional ‘all or nothing’ three-hour exam at the end of the two-year course, rather than the current system in which up to half the grading is based on modules and continual assessment, followed by a 90-minute exam at the end.

Pupils will no longer be able to bump up their grades with endless re-sits of each exam module. In future they will have to re-sit the entire exam, which is expected to deter most.

There will be more complex algebra questions in maths exams and a return to essays in English literature exams instead of trendy GCSE ‘bite sized’ answers.

And in a controversial move designed to counter claims that GCSEs are far too easy for bright pupils, questions in the new exam will be graded, starting with easy questions and building up to difficult questions which will stretch the cleverest pupils.

It means that less able pupils may be unable to complete the paper. But Mr Gove will argue it is vital to boost standards.

In addition, the new exams will be run by a single exam board following complaints that competition between rival boards is driving down standards.

Board officials have been accused of boasting how easy their exams are, and giving tips to teachers on the content of papers. Ministers said the current rules had created a ‘race to the bottom’ in standards.

According to a 2010 OECD study of 15-year-olds, the UK fell from 17th to 25th for reading, 24th to 28th for maths and 14th to 16th in science over a three-year period.

Mr Clegg was furious earlier this year when Mr Gove suggested replacing GCSEs with a two-tier exam, with a new version of O-levels for top pupils and a new version of CSEs, also abolished in 1986, for less able youngsters. Mr Clegg accused Mr Gove of acting in an ‘insulting and patronising’ manner by failing to consult him in advance.

Mr Clegg’s main objection was that this system would be ‘elitist’ and would ‘stigmatise’ children considered not bright enough.

The two men thrashed out their differences in a series of meetings over the summer. Mr Gove won his battle to ensure the exams can test so-called ‘elite’ pupils.

However, Coalition insiders say there could be further Tory-Lib Dem friction as details of the new single tier exam emerge.

‘Gove is determined to ensure it is much more demanding than the existing exam,’ said one source.

‘Schools will be given time to raise their game and adjust to that. If they can’t, or decide their pupils simply aren’t up to taking the new exam they may be forced to find a different option. That could reopen the debate about having another, less difficult exam.’

Mr Clegg persuaded Mr Gove to delay starting the new exams until September 2015, arguing that a 2014 deadline would cause chaos in schools. It was a blow to Mr Gove who had hoped to show the system was up and running before the next Election. Furthermore, the 2015 start date – with the first new exams in 2017 – means that, in theory, if Ed Miliband wins the next Election, the new exams could be scrapped weeks before they are due to begin.

It is certain to put education at the heart of the next Election campaign.When Mr Gove first floated his ideas of a two-tier exam system, Labour education spokesman Stephen Twigg called it ‘a cap on aspiration’ and accused Mr Gove of ‘harking back to a nostalgic view of the past’.

The new proposals are also expected to run into fierce opposition from teaching unions who claim they could ‘lower aspirations and exacerbate inequalities in society’.

Tuesday’s announcement is a key moment in the fast-rising political career of former journalist Mr Gove, brought up by adoptive parents and partly state-educated. A growing number of Tories believe he is a contender to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, though Mr Gove has laughed off such reports, offering to ‘sign a parchment in my own blood to prove I do not want to be Prime Minister’.


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