Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cops ‘Disgusted’ After NYU Asks Students to Plot a ‘Hypothetical’ Terrorist Attack‏

Police and parents are outraged after prestigious New York University reportedly asked students to “hypothetically” plot a terrorist attack for a course on transnational terrorism.  Just weeks after the most recent large-scale terrorist attack was thwarted in New York City, many are saying it is a slap in the face to those who have risked and given their lives to defend the country from extremists.

Noting that many of the world’s most notorious terrorists, from Anwar al-Awlaki to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, spent formative years in American universities, the New York Post writes:
For the assignment, [Professor Marie-Helen Maras] — who has a Ph.D. from Oxford and is also an associate professor at SUNY Farmingdale — instructs her pupils to consider all aspects of the attack.

    “In your paper, you must describe your hypothetical attack and what will happen in the aftermath of the attack,” Maras wrote in the syllabus obtained by The Post.

    They must factor in the methods of execution, sources of funding, number of operatives needed and the target government’s reaction, according to the paper’s outline.

    At the same time, students must realistically stay within their chosen terror group’s “goals, capabilities, tactical profile, targeting pattern and operational area,” the syllabus states.

    Given the detail required — and possibly concerned that the how-to terror manuals could land in the wrong hands — Maras warns that each page of a student’s paper must bear the disclaimer: “This is a hypothetical scenario for a university course on transnational terrorism.”

    When told of the term paper, one ranking police officer who lost coworkers on 9/11 called it “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” ​

The New York Post source added that he is “disgusted,” and that the course “flies in the face of the 11 years of hard work the NYPD has done in tracking down terrorists to the far reaches of the globe to make sure they never strike again.”

“What is this, we have our students do the work for the terrorists?” he asked.

Twitter users appear to be similarly shocked.  “Seriously, who approved this lesson plan?” one wrote.  Another sarcastically commented: “Brilliant idea, NYU!”

The NYPD has not officially released a statement, however, and the professor is standing by her course.

“The exercise is meant to prepare students for the field, to prepare them for careers in intelligence, policing, counterterrorism,” she remarked.  “This is a grad-level assignment for a grad-level course.”

She also seemed perturbed that those offended by the exercise went to the press, instead of approaching her directly.  “Why didn’t the police call me if they have concerns?” she asked.


Aspiring British teachers will have to complete tougher English and maths tests BEFORE they start training

Tests for trainee teachers will be radically toughened up to boost the calibre of staff entering schools.  A review ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove found that existing English and maths tests taken by applicants are too easy, with many questions pitched merely at the level of grade D at GCSE.

Changes to make the tests tougher will include a ban on using calculators in the maths test and a new writing exercise in English to assess vocabulary.

All applicants for teacher training will be required to sit the tests, which will be raised to standards equivalent to grade B at GCSE within three years.

Trainees will also have to sit a new reasoning test designed to assess their powers of logic and deduction. Verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning will be examined.

Good marks in the tests may be linked to higher bursaries under proposals being considered by ministers. Top graduates currently qualify for training incentives of up to £20,000.

Reports from Ofsted inspectors suggest some staff have a poor grasp of their subjects, leading to gaps in children’s knowledge. Yet 98 per cent of teacher trainees pass the current selection tests.

About one in five need to resit at least once in order to pass.

The review panel led by Sally Coates, principal of Burlington Danes Academy in West London, found some questions ‘are not sufficiently demanding, appearing to be in some cases below the level of GCSE grade C’.

In maths, the emphasis was on ‘simple’ calculations. In English, assessment of key skills was excluded.

Passing the numeracy test has been a requirement of Qualified Teacher Status since 2000, and literacy the following year.

Until last month, trainees only sat the tests towards the end of their courses. The new changes will be phased in from next September, with the reasoning test introduced from 2014.

Candidates will be limited to two resits. If they fail three times, they will be barred from applying for teacher training for two years.


Uncool, but grammar should rule the schools

Comment from Australia

The nation's English teachers must be rubbing their hands with glee regarding the recent debate about the definition of feminism, sexism and (gasp) misogyny. It has made consulting the dictionary kinda cool. Even the head of the Macquarie says it's livened things up a little in the office, with the editors busy musing about the evolution of the terms and how to update the newest edition.

I just hope this newfound interest in our language extends into a nationwide clean up day to remedy our discourse from glaring grammatical blunders. Before I go on, I must declare that as a Gen Xer, we were blighted from the beginning.

Apparently, in the 1970s, our baby boomer teachers thought "to heck with bras and virginity before marriage, and while we're at it, this grammar palaver is really uncool, man. Let the words be free, unshackled from conventional rules." Right on dude. What seven-year-old wants to have their story about Uncle Bob's sheep that got away on the weekend sullied with worries about past participles and the like?

So we traipsed through the hallowed halls of academia, blissfully unaware of terms like dangling modifier, conjunction and adjectival clause. Sure, we learnt the basics. Capital letters. Full stops. A couple of commas ("To mark a breath for the reader") were thrown in for good measure. Probably the most remembered rule was: don't end a sentence with a word like of. Oops. That last one is a fragment, which you'd only know nowadays, because it ends up with red underline on your word processor.

I was always regarded as "Good at English". That is, comparative to my physics marks, I was an absolute genius. But years later, I found myself at a professional writing course and the first thing we did in the compulsory editing 101 subject was to take a grammar test. "Bring it on!" I thought, fully expecting to blitz the exam.

I scored three out of 20. Most of my classmates scored less than 50 per cent and we looked around in horror at each other. This was a selective course in graduate writing. How the heck could we be turning in that sort of result?

"It's not your fault," our teacher said soothingly. "Grammar was taken out of the curriculum in the '70s and '80s," she said. What?! That's like saying addition was taken out of the maths curriculum.

Later, at the pub, our shock turned to anger, then denial. "What the hell does it matter anyway?" we cried. "We've got this far. We're all 'Good at English'. Who cares if we don't know where to put commas, when it's all said and done, around a non-restrictive phrase?"

Well, it does matter, I hate to say. Once you know what it is you didn't know, you cross the Rubicon. You're born again. And everywhere, you start to see wanton neglect of that which you now hold so precious. On a daily basis, I'm confronted with assaults to my newfound grammatical piety.

First, there seems to be an apostrophe for every occasion. As a writer for hire, I'm often called in to add a spit and polish to corporate copy. The number of times I see an apostrophe plopped in the wrong context is extraordinary. It's KPIs, not KPI's.

A legitimate use of the apostrophe is for a possessive noun, or in easy speak: if the thing you're writing about owns the thing you're referring to, you bang an apostrophe in before the 's'. The book's title. The King's Speech. Tick. The meeting is in five minute's. Wrong. "The biscuit's are here for everyone". Observed in a corporate kitchen, this induces a ghastly shudder as one reaches for the last remaining Kingston.

So, I offer one more tip for those for whom grammar was just a word added to the name of an expensive school. I'm on a personal mission to eradicate the chronic misuse of "amount", where "number" is the apt and grammatically correct choice.

The rule is: If you can count it, don't use "amount". Television journalists are the worst offenders. "The amount of people here today is absolutely unbelievable." Uh-uh. People can be counted, therefore it should be: "The number of people here today…" The amount of hyperbole in sports reporting? Yeah, that's OK.

I welcome debate about the meaning of our political verbiage. While we're at it, let's start a campaign to help grammar get its groove on like it's 1975.


No comments: