Saturday, January 21, 2012

Muslim Children in America are Being Taught to Hate

By Dave Gaubatz (who understands Arabic)

In the last five years I have personally visited over 250 Islamic Centers, Mosques, and Islamic Schools throughout America. The goal of my research has been to determine what Islamic leaders are teaching the young and innocent Muslim children. The findings are abhorrent, sad, unbelievable, frightening, and most disturbing is the fact our government is keeping this dangerous fact from the American people. Muslim children attending mosques and Islamic schools are being taught to hate America, our government, our military personnel, and its non Muslim population. In this article I will identify three significant mosques in America that are leading the way in teaching Muslim children to hate and to influence them to commit violent acts inside our country.

In America we have been programmed by the media and political leaders to believe violent teachings of Islam are only being taught to children in Palestine. We have watched the Muslim Palestinian children spew their taught hatred of the Israelis. What Americans are not being shown (due to political correctness) are that Muslim children throughout the world and specifically inside America are being taught violence and hatred in mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic Centers.

Children as young as 7 years old are being taught that to assimilate with America is to disrespect and dishonor Islam. They are being taught our military personnel are the enemies of Islam and it is justifiable to kill anyone who dishonors or oppresses the Islamic ideology.

During my research I have identified numerous mosques that are teaching young Muslim children to hate America and are leading them to commit future violent acts against our country and innocent people. I would like to focus on three such mosques. They are: Dar al Hijrah, Falls Church, VA; Al Farooq, Nashville, TN;
At Taqwa, Brooklyn, NY

My researchers and I spent several weeks at the Dar Al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA. Almost immediately we were informed to obtain our study material from the Halaco Bookstore which is located nearby the mosque. It was very apparent upon entering the store and reviewing the materials that the bookstore provides materials for the Sunni (Wahhabi) Muslim population across the U.S. and specifically for Dar Al Hijrah.

I was able to spend many hours talking with store personnel and was invited to the home of one employee to discuss Islamic issues. There is a large section in the store dedicated to the education of the Muslim children. I discovered materials that are being sent to Islamic schools across America. Much of the material deals with Sharia and Jihad. One of the DVD’s and books I obtained was by an Islamic scholar Ahmad Sakr. Sakr travels the U.S. visiting Islamic schools and educates them in Sharia law. I have watched one of his videos in which he tells the young children our government is evil and not to follow the laws of our country and America's government leaders will all go to hell. [He could be right about that! -- JR]

The material provided by Dar Al Hijrah and their selected Islamic bookstore also was filled with violent Jihad. There were manuals informing the readers how to destroy America and how to kill anyone who oppresses Islam. They are told how to obtain weapons to include weapons of mass destruction. Although all of the above is very disturbing and should (and actually is) against the law, the Muslim leaders of Falls Church, Val are allowed by our government to indoctrinate the Muslim children into future violence against our country. The next mosque (Al Farooq/Nashville, TN) is even more disturbing.

My research team and I spent two weeks at the Al Farooq mosque in Nashville, TN. The mosque was Sunni and had the typical violent books and DVD’s/videos pertaining to the overthrow of any government system that oppresses Islam. They also had numerous teachings from current Islamic leaders operating in America who are teaching the Muslim population to hate our country and its people. Although this should frighten all concerned citizens, there was even sadder and disturbing intelligence collected at this mosque. Lately we have all read about the child brides and forced marriages in Afghanistan and in Saudi Arabia. What most Americans do not realize is that child marriages are occurring throughout our country and specifically in Nashville, TN.

One young 7 year old Muslim girl at Al Farooq talked to our researcher about being beaten (MP3 file) by her Islamic leaders and being married (MP3 file) to a Muslim man. I reported the matter to the Nashville authorities but almost from the beginning they were reluctant to intercede because this was a religious institution and more importantly to them it was Islamic.

Senior law enforcement authorities of the Nashville police department informed me they were afraid of being sued by Islamic organizations such as CAIR if they got involved and it would be a political nightmare to get anything done at the mosque. What bothered me most of all is the fact I contacted Islamic organizations to help this innocent Muslim child and they also balked. This reinforced to me that Islamic law (Sharia) is alive and very active inside our country, to include child marriages.


Postmodern Political Correctness and Christianity

Mike Adams

In January 2009, a pro-life group at Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) decided to publicize and protest the disproportionate abortion rate among black Americans. They argued that the racist roots of Planned Parenthood were reflected in the organization’s activities in our nation’s inner cities. But before they could hold their event, they had to have their posters approved by the college administration. They were denied approval ostensibly because they presented only one side of the issue. In other words, the administration tried to force them to argue the side of the debate with which they disagreed.

The administration claimed that “biased” speech could lead to hate speech, which, in turn, could lead to genocide. Think about that for a second: if the pro-life group protested Planned Parenthood’s genocide, then genocide could result unless they also argued in favor of abortion.

Common sense alone should have reigned in the SFCC administration. But it required the intervention of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Washington Attorney General. In the end, the student pro-life group prevailed.

Later that semester, a student at Los Angeles Community College (LACC) was given a chance to speak on a topic of his own choosing. He chose to speak about the role God has played in his life. During the speech, he mentioned a Bible verse affirming the traditional definition of marriage. His professor was incensed. He abruptly ended the class and refused to grade the student’s speech.

After the ADF intervened, there was a successful federal injunction against the speech code that was used to punish the LACC student for uttering “offensive” speech. The matter should have ended there but it did not. The school appealed to the 9th Circuit, which ruled that the student did not have standing to challenge the speech code. It was a bizarre ruling, given that the student was, in fact, punished with public humiliation and withholding of credit for work he did in a class he paid to take. Then again, this was in the 9th Circuit.

Last year at Vanderbilt University, a homosexual student knowingly joined a student group espousing beliefs which he actively opposed. After he was predictably removed from the group, he complained to the university administration. This resulted in an investigation of several hundred student groups. In the wake of the investigation, Vanderbilt administrators began threatening to derecognize student groups that required members to adhere to specific beliefs. This bizarre belief-ban went even further. Vanderbilt began to threaten de-recognition of Christian groups that required leaders to lead Bible studies. It was so intrusive that it resulted in a letter of condemnation from 23 members of the United States Congress to the administration.

All of these cases show how identity politics, rooted in postmodernism, is destroying the marketplace of ideas at our nation’s colleges and universities. The lack of principle is seen in cases like Georgia Tech (see part one of this series) where feminists pretended to be offended by words they often use themselves. Their assault on “offensiveness” was shown to be contrived when their allies invoked racially offensive language to attack the opponents of the Georgia Tech speech code. Defenders of the speech code even superimposed swastikas on pictures of one of the Jewish plaintiffs.

The postmodern roots of identity politics show through in the cases I mentioned. In none of them was there any attempt to assert that the offending beliefs were untrue. They were simply determined (usually by white liberals) to be offensive to various disenfranchised groups said to lack the power to establish their own beliefs as “true.” At Georgia Tech it was women (feminist women). At SFCC it was blacks. At LACC and Vanderbilt it was homosexuals. In each case, postmodernism fueled a vicious assault on free speech in the name of group-based identity politics. In each case, there was a significant chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas, which no institution of higher learning can long withstand.

Public universities can be sued in federal court whenever they try to enforce overly broad speech codes. They may also be sued when their zeal to control student groups encroaches upon freedom of association. Private schools, on the other hand, are not bound by the First Amendment. But they are bound by moral considerations. If they tell students they promote a diversity of opinion, they should behave as if the First Amendment does, in fact, apply at their university. They should not use false promises of diversity to lure students into paying tens of thousands of dollars tuition per year.


Now Brussels 'brainwashes' schoolchildren: EU accused of targeting pupils after handing out pencil cases bearing logo

This might seem like a trivial complaint but the EU is not popular in Britain. Only the politicians want it

The European Union has been accused of trying to 'brainwash' children after pupils all over the country were given pencil cases with its logo emblazoned across it.

The brightly-coloured pencil cases featuring the EU's 12-star logo were handed out to schoolchildren following an event encouraging teachers to forge links with the Commission.

The one-day conference was staged by Staffordshire County Council and was attended by 50 teachers to raise awareness of the EU in schools, it was reported.

However, critics fear the event and the subsequent gifts to pupils were attempts to brainwash schoolchildren into backing the EU. 'Taxpayers will be shocked to read the cash they pay to Brussels is being spent in this way. If schools want children to know about the EU, there are plenty of unbiased resources,' Andrew Allison, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Express. 'Teachers don’t need to go to expensive conferences, and schools don’t need to buy books from the EU bookshop.'

Meanwhile Paul Nuttal, Ukip MEP, added that it was 'utterly wrong' that an organisation representing a 'highly controversial political position' should be allowed to spread its message in to schools.

The EU Commission denied the pencil cases amounted to propaganda, or that the conference had a political slant. Instead event's focus was to explore funding opportunities for the EU. The scheme was part of the EU Comenius programme, aimed at schools, colleges and councils across and supported by the British Council, an EU spokesman said.

A total of 438 UK schools were funded to forge links with European counterparts in 2011, the spokesman told the Express, adding: 'The UK authorities vigorously promoted British involvement.'

Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for schools, Liz Staples, said the event - which cost £3,500 - was 'purely educational' and there was no cost to the taxpayer.

Staffordshire County Council is understood to have received a formal complaint from a resident about the conference, which was held in November, which its legal department is now looking in to.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Pagan woman challenges Bibles in North Carolina school

The mythical "separation of church and state" requirement again

A pagan mother's challenge to the distribution of donated Bibles at a local school has prompted the Buncombe County Board of Education to reevaluate its policies regarding religious texts.

Ginger Strivelli, who practices Wicca, said she was upset when her 12-year-old son came home from North Windy Ridge intermediate school with a Bible. The Gideons International had delivered several boxes of the sacred books to the school office. The staff allowed interested students to stop by and pick them up.

"Schools should not be giving out one religion's materials and not others," Strivelli said. According to Strivelli, the principal assured her the school would make available religious texts donated by any group. But when Strivelli showed up at the school with pagan spell books, she was turned away.

"Buncombe County School officials are currently reviewing relevant policies and practices with school board attorneys," the district announced in a written statement. "During this review period, no school in the system will be accepting donations of materials that could be viewed as advocating a particular religion or belief."

The school board is expected to address the issue at its next meeting Feb. 2. According to legal experts, the First Amendment gives public schools two clear choices when it comes to the distribution of religious texts.

"You can either open your public school up to all religious material, or you can say no religious material," Michael Broyde, a professor and senior fellow at Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion said. "You can't say, 'You can distribute religious material, but only from the good mainstream faiths.'"

Preventing government from favoring or restricting any one religion may have helped the U.S. avoid the bloodshed experienced in some other Western nations, such as Germany and Ireland, according to Broyde.

"America runs a grand, noble experiment in religious diversity without violence," he said. "There's no killing of the Jews. There's no Catholic-Protestant violence. We are very successful in this grand experiment."

Traditionally, that "grand experiment" has involved Judaism and a handful of Christian denominations. But as non-traditional faiths spread into new communities, longstanding customs such as prayer, Christmas plays and Bibles that once went unquestioned in public schools are finding themselves under increased scrutiny.

"Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, not on Wiccan principles," Bobby Honeycutt, who attended public schools in Weaverville during the 1970s, said. "Our children have access to more non-Christian print material in the libraries and online than they really do Christian stuff," he said.

While many Weaverville Christians see recent events as a threat to tradition, others see a purpose in enforcing church-state separation in public schools, because even the nation's traditional faiths have divisions.

"Many Christians have stood up and said they agree with me too," Strivelli said. "Because, as much as they may like the Bible, they don't want Jehovah's Witnesses coming in with Watch Tower (magazines) or Catholics coming in and having them pray the Rosary."


More Grammar (selective) schools would put Britain in the Premier League

In Britain, you can be too clever by half, but there is no such thing as too sporty by half

Is Stephen Twigg out of his tree? The shadow education secretary is trying to get Liberal Democrat MPs to join Labour in fighting a change in national admission rules which gives English grammar schools the freedom to take more pupils. Twigg claims the plan will “expand academic selection by the back door”. Disgraceful! I mean, what have grammar schools ever done for Britain?

Er, unleashed the potential of the most meritocratic generation in our history? Yeah, but what else?

Supplied a rigorous education enabling children from modest backgrounds to compete with offspring of the wealthy for university places, thus breaching bastions of hereditary privilege and creating a more diverse group of people at the top of society?

Yeah, OK, but who wants more evil and socially divisive grammar school places?

There are currently about 12 applicants for each of the 158,000 grammar school places. At Wallington in Surrey, police were called to maintain order at an entrance exam when nearly 1,500 pupils battled for 126 places. No wonder. In 2007, grammar schools outperformed private and public schools in exams for the first time, and have kept outperforming their rivals.

Parents will lie, move house, bankrupt themselves with tutors and even engage in high-class prostitution to get their child a precious grammar place. Yet such is the ideological myopia of Mr Twigg and his fellow zealots that selection, even when it is proven to offer the only chance of social mobility, is deemed to be the enemy of something they hilariously call fairness.

Well, the other day I met a child who is going through the most brutal form of selective education imaginable. Matthew is 15 and he wants to be a professional footballer. At nine, Matt was spotted by a London club and was given a scholarship place at their Academy. Getting in, which was ferociously hard, turned out to be the easy bit. Competition within the Academy is relentless. Of the 150 aspiring youngsters, maybe only two will make the final cut. When Matt’s team travels abroad it is accompanied by coaches who spot future stars among dirt‑poor street kids. Matt is not only competing in the Academy against his British peers but the very best boys from Europe and Latin America.

It’s hideously pressurised and the prospects of achieving the ultimate goal are slim. Matt loves it. Piglet in clover. I have never met a happier teenager.

Now let’s imagine another boy or girl like Matthew. This child is also from a working-class background, but with a brain as nimble and special as Matt’s right foot. She or he is the stand-out pupil at junior school. Given the right training, their brain has the potential to do something spectacular, but it can’t be singled out from the rest. He or she will not be stimulated by the ability of other similarly talented kids in an institution dedicated to nurturing the professors or inventors of the future.

For, verily, it has been decreed that selection according to nimble feet or muscular arms or dancing grace or vocal ability is permissible and selection according to intelligence is wrong. In Britain, you can be too clever by half, but there is no such thing as too sporty by half. Unthinkable, isn’t it?

You may have noticed that, as a result of these contrasting ethos – Darwinian selection in soccer, denial of the fittest in schools – we have tumbled down the international Premier League table to 17th in reading and 24th in maths, but are rather good at football. If school was a football club, it would be time to call in Martin O’Neill (himself the brilliant product of one of Northern Ireland’s 69 grammar schools).

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new head of Ofsted and, I very much hope, education’s answer to the Sunderland manager, said this week that more than a million youngsters are trapped in “coasting” schools. Coasting schools are to good schools what Billericay Five A Side is to Manchester United. Sir Michael is abolishing Ofsted’s “Satisfactory” rating, beneath whose euphemistic cloak has been hidden all manner of shocking failure. Let me clarify. Schools rated Outstanding by Ofsted are generally pretty good, though an astonishing 53 per cent of those schools achieved that rating without being outstanding in teaching and learning. What are they brilliant at, then – recycling? Knifelessness? Schools rated Good by Ofsted are usually not too bad and as for Satisfactory schools, well, carry a pepper spray. In an age of slippery, relative standards, grammar schools remain a rock of excellence.

Still, Stephen Twigg is right about one thing. There should be no more academic selection by the back door. Too right. Let there be selection by the front door. We should send out search parties to liberate every bright kid trapped in a “satisfactory” school.

Recently, in BBC4’s The Grammar School: A Secret History, Michael Portillo, the son of a Spanish immigrant, recalled a reunion at his alma mater, the fiercely competitive Harrow County School for Boys. Sadly, one old boy was unable to attend, but at least he had a good excuse. Paul Nurse was in Sweden collecting the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Raised in Wembley by his grandparents – granddad was a mechanic at the Heinz factory, nanna a cleaner – Sir Paul is a prime example of what selective education can do for a child’s life chances.

Is there a small boy in 2012 living in a poor home who is going to grow up to be President of the Royal Society and a Nobel Laureate? Without a grammar school education to drive him on and make him take those difficult science A levels, there’s not a hope in hell.

There is, however, one chance for that boy to go to a place of fierce competition and unapologetic excellence. If, that is, he is gifted and talented. With a ball.


Israel's Post-Zionist Education Ministry

One of the declared goals of the Netanyahu government is to ensure that Israeli schoolchildren receive a strong Zionist education. To this end, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Gideon Sa'ar as his education minister.

Sa'ar has long distinguished himself as a critic of post-Zionist initiatives to transform Israel's educational curriculum from a Zionist curriculum which in accordance with the Education Law of 1953 is charged with inculcating school children with "the values of Jewish culture," "love of the homeland," and "loyalty to the Jewish state," into one that indoctrinates Israel's youth to adopt a post-nationalist, universalist perspective that does not value Jewish nationalism and rejects patriotism as atavistic and even racist.

In light of the importance that the government has placed on Zionist education, it is quite shocking that under Sa'ar, the Education Ministry approved a new citizenship textbook for high school students that embraces the post- Zionist narrative.

This fall, the new textbook, Setting off on the path to citizenship: Israel - society, state and its citizens (Yotzim l'derech ezrachit: Yisrael - hevra, medina v'ezracheya) was introduced into the state's official citizenship curriculum. In everything from its discussion of the War of Independence, to globalization and transnational institutions, to Israeli politics, to the peace process, to Israel's constitutional debate, to Operation Cast Lead, the textbook adopts positions that are post-Zionist and even anti-Zionist. It champions these positions while denying students the basic facts necessary to make informed decisions on how they relate to their country, their people and their rights and duties as citizens.

In a letter to Sa'ar written on October 4, 2011, Bar-Ilan University law professor Gideon Sapir set out four ways the textbook distorts history and reality. First, in its discussion of the historical background of Israel's founding, the book gives only passing mention to the international legal foundation of the state - the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine from 1922. The Mandate called for the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth in the land of Israel. It granted sovereignty to the Jewish state over all the territory that today makes up Israel, Judea, Samaria and Jordan.

The textbook provides no map of the Mandate.

Instead it suffices with a map of the UN's 1947 partition plan, a map of the territory controlled by the Jewish forces before the establishment of the state, and a map of the 1949 armistice lines.

Sapir explained, "In the absence of the map of the Mandate, the '49 map, (i.e. "1967 borders"), is presented as Israel's maximal legitimate borders, (with the alternative borders being the partition map."

Second, Sapir noted that the book's explanation of Israel's constitutional foundations present the so-called "constitutional revolution" of the 1990s as utterly uncontroversial. Through the "constitutional revolution," the Supreme Court effectively seized the Knesset's legislative powers. And as Sapir notes, it justified the move through a distorted interpretation of laws "reading into them rights that were specifically removed from them by the Knesset."

In hiding the controversy surrounding the "constitutional revolution," the textbook denies students the ability to understand current events. Without awareness of the controversy, students emerge from high school with no ability to understand the current fight between the court and the Knesset regarding the separation of powers.

As Sapir notes, the textbook demonizes the political Right generally and in Israel in particular. While just last month Labor politicians and leftist commentators called for the government to deny due process rights to right-wing protesters, Setting off on the path to citizenship presents political violence as the sole province of the political Right. So, too, while the book claims the Left has a monopoly on human rights, it tells students that "nationalistic chauvinism is identified with the rightist character."

After being told such a thing, how can a good, enlightened high school student wish to be identified with the largest political camp in Israel? Indeed, how can he accept that such a political camp has a right to participate in Israeli "democracy"?

Finally, Prof. Sapir mentions that the chapter on the peace process between Israel and its neighbors blames Israel for the absence of peace. The chapter begins a discussion of prospects for peace after the 1967 Six Day War. In so doing, it places the responsibility for the absence of peace on Israel which, it claims, blocks peace by refusing to give Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians and the Golan Heights to Syria.

The book paints sympathetic portraits of the Syrian regime, ignores then-prime minister Ehud Barak's offer to relinquish the Golan Heights for peace, and makes no mention of repeated statements by Arab leaders calling for the destruction of Israel and denying Israel's right to exist.

Aside from the points raised by Prof. Sapir, the book also criticizes Israel for not fully embracing the post-nationalist world order represented by the UN. It criticizes Israel for rejecting the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice's nonbinding legal opinion from 2004 regarding the security barrier. At the same time, it makes no mention of the fact that the ICJ's opinion denied Israel's right to self-defense and that the judges themselves included outspoken haters of Israel.

So, too, in attacking Israel for not embracing the UN as the arbiter of issues of war and peace, by among other things, refusing to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission after Operation Cast Lead, the textbook makes no mention of the UN's anti-Israel agenda which it advances through every organ of the institution. High school students who study from this textbook are not told about the UN's diplomatic orgy of anti-Semitism at Durban in 2001 in which Israel was singled out as the most racist, illegitimate evil state on the planet. They are not told of the UN General Assembly's insidious 1975 resolution defining Zionism - the Jewish national liberation movement - as a form of racism.

All of this actually makes sense. Because the textbook itself claims that the Jewish people are a religious group, not a nation. In a teaching note, the textbook recommends "explaining to the students that Judaism in its original meaning is a religion. The Zionist movement transformed the term, 'Judaism,' into a nation."

This shocking assertion, which channels the PLO's genocidal, anti-Semitic charter while ignoring 3,500 years of Jewish history, is par for the course for the textbook introduced into Israel's high schools under the Netanyahu government.

THE QUESTION OF how this book was approved was the subject of an in-depth investigative report written by Gil Bringer and published in Makor Rishon on December 9, 2011. In a nutshell, the story is yet another chapter in the well-known tale in which leftist politicians working hand in glove with leftist academics and leftist media, install leftist political activists in permanent, "professional" positions within the state bureaucracy in order to enable their radical policies to outlive their time in office.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'm Sorry...Who is the Bully Here?

Occasions of bullying get a lot of traction in the headlines these days. I can certainly empathize with the problem. As the quiet, nerdy type growing up I was on the receiving end of my fair share of what could be described as "bullying." Most of it was verbal, teasing and the like. Unpleasant, but helpful in some ways. It helped me to learn that words really couldn't hurt me, at least not unless they were filed in a formal complaint. Then there were the more serious types. Threats, intimidation, and the occasional use of force.

Anyone describing bullies in all manner of despicable terms will get no argument from me. Those who entertain and enrich themselves by persecuting the weak are beneath contempt. It's bad enough when we run across bullies in our daily lives, on the road or at work. When the bully comes under the color of law, however, we cross the line from bullying into tyranny.

Shawano High School in Wisconsin recently ran an editorial in its student newspaper. The format was a debate of opposing viewpoints. The subject was adoption by gay parents. A pro and con op-ed piece was published. Shortly afterward, the complaints began. Subsequently, the school apologized for printing the opinion piece opposing adoption by gays. Todd Carlson, the Superintendent of Shawano County Schools, labeled the editorial as a form of "bullying" and "disrespect." The pro editorial stood without comment.

Mr. Carlson insists that this is not censorship. I have to wonder what definition he is applying. A representative of government is acting in an official capacity to remove one viewpoint in an ongoing debate from the allowed sphere of discussion. How can it possibly be considered anything else?

If Mr. Carlson and the school district are truly concerned about the effects of bullying, then they need to consider what will happen to the young minds in their schools when the government stands ready to slap them down for any non-approved thoughts or comments. Deeply held opinions are seldom changed without serious discussion. Removing one side of the debate will not eliminate the contrary opinion. It will, however, breed resentment for the opposing view, resentment that may not find a peaceful expression.
School leavers better workers than graduates as universities fail to equip people for work, say British employers

One in five employers believe school leavers make better workers than university graduates, according to research published today. Over half of companies said that university graduates had unrealistic expectations of working life.

A further one in three believed that the education system was failing to equip young people with the skills required by British businesses, the survey by recruitment giants Adecco found.

Newcomers to the world of work were found to be most lacking in interpersonal and computer skills, while one in four employers reported a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills among graduate recruits.

Adecco called on the education system, employers and the Government to tackle 'substantial shortcomings' in workplace skills.

Chris Moore, from Adecco Group, who surveyed 1,000 firms in the study, said: 'Undeniably, Britain has one of the best and most advanced education systems in the world but it must deliver a talented, reliable graduate workforce that brings demonstrable value to UK plc.

'On a significant scale, employers believe it is failing to do that. 'Although extremely valuable, a strong academic record is no longer a sufficient prerequisite for entry into today's working environment. 'Employers now hold attitude and personality in greater esteem than academic or even vocational qualifications when assessing new recruits.

'Collectively, we - the Government, businesses and educators - must work together and take full responsibility for developing skills in line with commercial needs.

'Financial acumen, communications techniques and a full appreciation of the attitude required to excel in the commercial world must now form a core part of curricula.

'We have to listen to employers who are telling us that our education system has to ensure soft skills are valued alongside an emphasis on academic excellence.'


Asthmatic children's lives put at risk by 'red tape' as British schools banned from keeping spare inhaler

But the bureaucracy is adamant

Children with asthma are being prevented from getting access to inhalers in schools due to 'needless red tape', a leading charity has warned. Asthma UK said schools are prevented from keeping a spare blue reliever inhaler on their premises because they are prescription-only medicines. But this puts children's lives at risk when they have forgotten to bring their own inhaler to school or have run out, it said.

The charity is calling for a change in the rules to allow schools to keep inhalers in their first aid kits.

Some 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma and just over 30,000 are admitted to hospital with the condition every year. There are around 1,100 asthma deaths every year among both adults and children.

A small survey of more than 200 youngsters for Asthma UK found almost two-thirds have had an asthma attack at school. One in five children said they find it 'quite difficult' or 'very difficult' to access their inhaler at school and 55% do not always know where it is or how to get it.

Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK, said: 'These medicines are very safe but going without them can be very dangerous, so it is crucial that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) changes the rules and allows schools to keep a spare inhaler as a last resort.

'The majority of children know to find a teacher if they don't have their own inhaler when having an asthma attack at school but the reality is that there is very little that staff can legally do to help in this situation. The charity says the MHRA could provide an exemption to the regulations to allow schools across the UK to supply the inhalers.

Similar exemptions already exist for organisations such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the armed forces.

Stephen McPartland, Conservative MP for Stevenage, said: 'The tragic case of Stockport schoolboy Samuel Linton, who died in 2007 following an asthma attack at school, shows that there is a real lack of understanding and awareness as to what to do if a child has an asthma attack whilst they are at school.

'This is why this campaign is so crucial, not only in terms of giving teachers access to an emergency inhaler but also empowering them with understanding, awareness and support in how to deal with asthma at school.'

Dr Kevin Gruffydd Jones, from the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS-UK), said: 'Asthma attacks are serious and children need access to inhalers as soon as possible. 'Introducing a spare inhaler for emergencies could prevent a serious asthma attack by getting prompt help for a child when it's needed.'

A spokesman for the MHRA said: 'In the interests of patient safety, asthma inhalers should only be supplied on prescription to the individual named, for his or her own use. 'The MHRA has no plans to change the current legal position.

'Exemptions exist because of the nature of the conditions in which these organisations operate. For example, the conditions in which military operations are undertaken will tend to mean that access to medical care or advice may not be readily available.'

Sam Linton's parents, Paul and Karen Linton, said: 'Sam was a wonderful son and his loss has been devastating. The past few years have been horrendous, especially in the knowledge that things could, and should, have been different. 'The thought that his death may have been prevented with better training and clearer policies is too much to bear. 'Our family has suffered enormously since Sam's death and we know our lives will never be the same again.

'We only hope that serious lessons have been learned by all schools so that no one else has to suffer what we have been through so that our son's death is not in vain.'

Jonathan Betts, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents the Linton family, said: 'If left untreated, asthma attacks can have devastating consequences. 'A simple national policy would help, which instructs teachers to call an ambulance if a child suffers an asthma attack and is not showing signs of improvement within five to 10 minutes.

'If easing the restrictions on schools stocking spare inhalers helps prevent further tragedy in future then we wholeheartedly support it.'


Australia: Moving final year primary schools into High School a waste: Dubious advantages and big costs

Katter's Australian Party has demanded the axing of plans to move year 7 into the high school system, saying Queensland should be “proud to do things differently” from other states.

This morning, party federal leader Bob Katter and state leader Aidan McLindon held a media conference at Beenleigh State School, where they attacked the state government's plan to bring Queensland into line with other states by moving year 7 out of the primary school system from 2015.

But Mr McLindon, the former Liberal National Party member who is fighting to hold onto his seat of Beaudesert at the coming state election, said the scrapping of the plans would save $620 million over four years.

He said he was concerned about the impact of the changes on rural and regional schools, along with the costs of building extra classrooms at numerous at-capacity high schools. “At this time right now it's a complete and utter waste of time,” he said.

Mr McLindon dismissed the government's argument that the change would bring Queensland into line with other states and ensure local students were not disadvantaged when the national curriculum was rolled out. “If people want to send their kids to a school in New South Wales, then they can, but the reality is it does not improve their education,” he said.

“We used to be a proud state to do things differently in Queensland. “It [moving year 7 into high school] forces the kids to grow up sooner. Let kids be kids.”

Premier Anna Bligh has previously said the year 7 class of 2015 would be the first full year to have attended the prep prior to year 1, and students would be ready and old enough for the change.

The move will be piloted in 20 schools from next year ahead of the 2015 state-wide rollout.

The government has budgeted $328.2 million towards work including construction of about 550 new classrooms and the refurbishment of 880, while $293.8 million will be spent over five years on teacher training and other measures to enable the move.

Mr McLindon said the money saved by scrapping the transition of year 7 into high school would fund Katter's Australian Party promises, including those yet to be made during the election campaign. He said the party was costing its promises “to the best of our ability”.

Mr McLindon was unsure of the cost of Mr Katter's idea, announced yesterday, to carve a canal through inland Queensland so mines could export iron ore through the Gulf of Carpentaria. “We've got to do the costings on that, but that's going to take a lot of federal funds as well,” he said.

Announcing the year 7 transition timeframe in June last year, Ms Bligh said the national curriculum would start with in the areas of maths, science and English.

“And what the curriculum generally will require is letting year 7 children have an opportunity to benefit from specialist teachers and from specialist learning facilities,” she said.

“So the science curriculum for year 7 children will be based on the assumption that these children have access to the sorts of facilities and teaching capacity that you find in dedicated science laboratories of Queensland high schools.”

The Liberal National Party has previously offered in-principle support for the change, but expressed concern over how it would be implemented and whether the costs had been underestimated.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The gamekeeper's girl aged nine, her magical century-old exercise book and a humbling lesson for today's schools

Who was Fannie Bryan? All I know for sure is that she was born in 1889 and lived all her life in the tiny hamlet of Tidenham Chase, deep in the Forest of Dean, with views stretching to the River Severn.

I doubt she ever journeyed as far as Bristol, 23 miles away, but still, her education at a tiny village school provided her with skills that stretched her young mind to the full. By the age of nine, Fannie could read, write, spell and do sums at a level which is, to the modern eye, frankly astonishing.

I know this, because I have in front of me her old school book, found among her possessions when she died, an old lady, just yards from the house belonging to the grandfather of my friend Alan Dorrington in the quaintly named Miss Grace’s Lane.

Alan’s father, a forester, gave him the exercise book, together with a charming album of postcards when Fannie’s cottage was cleared, years ago now, and they’ve been languishing in a drawer ever since.

He gave them to me because, like me, when he took them out to examine them, he was astonished at the story their pages told. Not about Fannie’s life, but about the decline in standards that has left so many of today’s schoolchildren intellectually impoverished.

It is a story that deserves a wider audience. For anybody looking at what Fannie achieved in her poor rural backwater is likely to reach the inevitable conclusion that we have let recent generations of children down. Badly.

Fannie was not born into a family of great intellectuals. I’m guessing her father, Jack, was probably a gamekeeper, because her exercises are written out in a hardcover book called The Gamekeeper’s and Game Preserver’s Account Book and Diary. There are a few pencil accounts by Jack: the birth of a couple of calves, the number of eggs laid, and details about the value of dogs and equipment in a kennels.

So did he work for the Big House nearby? Very likely, because the sums involved seem enormous and the area was famed for hunting and game. There’s also a note which tells us that once a week he went ‘to town’ in his cart with his daughter to sell butter and eggs. That would have been Chepstow, just two-and-a-half miles away.

Was little Fannie badgering her father for some paper to write her homework on when he gave her that notebook? Working people wouldn’t waste a thing - and so in 1898 he (or another adult) wrote her name at the front: ‘Fannie Bryan - nine years’, in confident steel pen and ink.

The pages which follow are impressive. The first thing you notice is the handwriting. Every pupil was taught a good cursive (meaning ‘joined-up’) hand, and made to practise letter shapes again and again. Boring? Nobody thought in those terms then. You did it because it got results. So at nine, Fannie was writing beautifully presented sentences which dance across the page.

And don’t think she was unusual. When I turn over the postcards slotted into her album I notice that her cousins wrote in the same way. For example, Wilf, a relatively lowly second steward on a steam ship, displays an elegant penmanship equal to hers.

A modern educationist would probably dismiss Fannie’s careful passages about geography as ‘uncreative’. But when I read her words about Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Vienna, Cape Finisterre, Rotterdam and the rest, I think of how fascinating all the information must have been to the country girl.

And there are interesting insights into her mind, as she asks: ‘Would you not rather live in those airy Viennese palaces than in the midst of town, yet most people like best to live in the crowded city. I believe the reason is they like having a great deal of company.’ How many nine-year-olds could write that fluently today?

And what about this comment, which looks forward to 20th century conflict? ‘Warsaw is the capital of Poland. It is full of soldiers. They are Russians sent by the Emperor to keep the poor Poles in order...’

And the poetry of this: ‘Cracow... is a small city... the kings of Poland used to be crowned there and buried there. On a high rock stands a church. A steep road leads to it. How many kings have gone up that road - first, very much pleased - to be crowned, and then - silent and cold - to be buried!’

A year later, at ten, Fannie is concentrating on her dictation. Older readers will remember this involved your teacher reading you a difficult passage that you had to write down making as few mistakes as possible, getting all the words and punctuation right. In Fannie’s book the dictations are perfect.

But that won’t mean much unless I quote you a typical example: ‘The largest waves are seen there directly the storm has passed away, not while it lasts. No matter how furious the gale might have been, for the rushing wind has a tendency to blow down the waves, so to speak, and prevent them rising to their utmost height, it is when the storm is over that the swell rises; it does not however impress the beholder with its magnitude until it draws near to the rocks and begins to feel the checking influence of the sea.’

‘Incredible,’ do I hear you say? Yes, Fannie had to follow and reproduce extremely complex sentences that would baffle most modern children.

Beneath that exercise, and all through the book, are lists of words she was obviously supposed to memorise. Here are some examples: Londoner, refluent, spectral, embargo, weird, shadowy, listless, engineer, gurgling, dissolve, alert, stealthily, leisure, companion, purify, venture - and so on.

If the average sixth-former today used half of the vocabulary carefully copied out to learn by little Fannie Bryan they would be writing at a very sophisticated level indeed.

As for the pages of mathematics, Fannie’s sums - her pounds, shillings and pence, long division and fractions - look very difficult to me, but then maths was never my strong point. The point is, each calculation is laid out neatly, and (from the teacher’s markings) most of them are correct. And I get a touching sense of Fannie as a real, normal child when, after some sums (these ones less neat, as if she was bored) you find a lovely little doodle in ink — of an ostrich.

Why do I close this book feeling saddened, and even angry? Because it demonstrates what an ordinary child could do, when nobody was assuming she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be stretched because she was working class.

But was she typical? I pulled from my bookshelf Winifred Foley’s classic autobiography, A Child In The Forest, about her childhood growing up in the Forest of Dean. Fannie was about 25 when Winifred was born some 15 miles away, but their backgrounds would have been very similar.

Winifred Foley, whose family rarely had enough to eat and who wore ‘scruffy’ clothes, writes of being promoted to the top class at the village school when she was nine, like Fannie.

She describes how the teacher ‘took us out of the classroom... with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Black Beauty, Lorna Doone, Treasure Island. This wasn’t just “doing the classics” - as she went along, we followed, spellbound. Every day, life became richer. Learning new words was like having the key to free the imprisoned thought I’d been unable to express’.

What modern child of that age would tackle those marvellous books? What teacher would expect them to?

Last week the Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that many primary school pupils were unable to enjoy books such as Harry Potter and the Narnia series because ‘they haven’t learned to read properly’.

He said that about one in six 11-year-olds struggle to read and one in ten boys that age has a reading age of seven or below. In the last nine years England has fallen in the International Reading League Table, from 7th to 25th. Behind the statistic is a tragic story of children who have not been given the ‘key’ that meant so much to Winifred Foley - and no doubt to Fannie Bryan - the key to a mind which could be challenged.

Today, it is hard not to fear that for many who deserve better the key has been lost. Let me emphasise that I am writing this as the author of more than 25 children’s books, who has visited scores of primary schools and received hundreds of letters from children over the years.

Charming as they were (and much appreciated by me) I’m sorry to say that not even the best of them would measure up to Fannie Bryan’s work in terms of an ability to write well at the age of nine or ten.

When did the change happen? Why were writing exercises, tough spelling tests and punctuation thrown out of the window? When did teachers stop expecting children to do well, to be stretched?

When my son, Dan, first went to primary school in 1978 he wasn’t taught how to read or write - not in the sense that I was in the Fifties, or Fannie Bryan was in the 1890s.

In late Seventies Britain, playing in the sandpit was considered an area of expertise. There was little structure to the day and it was fine for children to mess about with their backs to the teacher - because that’s how classrooms were arranged. Remember? Left-wing educationists (who ruled - and I know because I spent a couple of years as an education journalist) spoke of tried-and-tested teaching methods such as ‘sitting in rows’ and ‘learning by rote’ as if they were positively vicious.

It was all about ideology, not children’s needs. And certainly not about raising standards as a means of children escaping their backgrounds.

At Dan’s South London school his teacher looked at me as if I was a dinosaur (as well as a pain in the neck) for suggesting that he wasn’t making progress and some spelling might be useful.

Two years later, in despair at what the state school was doing to him, we reluctantly entered him for a small prep school in Bath. They were seriously worried at how far behind his peers he was - but brought him up to scratch in one term.

How? Not because of class size - because after all, in my own post-war baby-boom inner-city Liverpool primary school, we had 50 per class and astonishing standards. No, by a rigorous application of the 3Rs, which a Victorian (and Edwardian and later) child took for granted.

Looking at Fannie’s book, I can’t help grieving for those common-sense rules of learning - lost amid conflicting political doctrines, educational fads, lies about standards and endless doctrinaire tinkering by those whom Education Secretary Michael Gove has dubbed ‘the enemies of promise’.

Of course, it goes without saying we have thousands of dedicated teachers preparing the lessons they will deliver to happy children who are doing very well in school. But if so many of our teenagers are lagging - in English - behind their peers in Canada, Australia and Shanghai, we have to ask ourselves why.

It pleases me to bring Fannie and her beautiful writing into the light. She may never have left the hamlet where she was born, but that little drawn ostrich alone is proof that she was encouraged to travel as far as she could, within her imagination.

Is it too much to hope that we can all learn something from her homework?


Expect fewer top exam passes, parents warned: Price worth paying to curb grade inflation, insists British education boss

Parents should be prepared to accept a fall in the number of pupils getting top GCSE and A-level grades, Michael Gove warned yesterday. The Government’s crackdown on grade inflation will mean fewer As and A*s being handed out in an attempt to return to realistic results, the Education Secretary said.

Mr Gove argued that this was a price worth paying for an exam system that commands respect among universities and parents.

In an interview yesterday, he said grade inflation ‘discredits the integrity of our education system’ and GCSEs, A-levels and degrees must get ‘tougher’. ‘If that means fewer passes, then that’s something we’ll have to accept, but I want to ensure that as well as exams being tougher, schools work harder,’ he said. ‘What I hope we will see is our exams are once again trusted across the globe and our children are among the best in the world.’

Mr Gove said he would not emulate his Labour predecessors and pat himself on the back if exam results were to go up each year.

He said: ‘Unfortunately, the real achievements of children on the ground became debased and devalued because Labour education secretaries sounded like Soviet commissars praising the tractor production figures when we know that those exams were not the rock-solid measures of achievement that children deserve.’

Mr Gove added: ‘You’ve got to tell the truth about these things. When people see that pass rates have improved at this level, they know that while schools have improved, they haven’t improved at that rate. ‘It discredits the integrity of our education system.’

Mr Gove also said that improving the UK’s place in international school league tables would take ten years to achieve. In 2009, England slipped to 25th for reading, 25th for maths and 16th for science.

Mr Gove spoke out as he prepared to outline new plans to improve discipline. Head teachers will no longer need to give 24 hours’ written notice for detentions outside school hours from today.

Schools will get new powers to keep unruly pupils behind after lessons as part of a drive to restore order in the classroom. These ‘no notice’ detentions are one of the key elements of the Education Act 2011, which aims to help teachers maintain discipline in the classroom.

Other changes will follow in the coming months, including extended powers for teachers to search pupils for items ‘that are going to be used to cause harm or break the law’.

Teachers will also be granted anonymity when accused by pupils, and independent appeals panels for exclusions are being overhauled so that they will no longer be able to reinstate pupils who have committed serious offences.

The Coalition has also laid down regulations which, subject to Parliamentary approval, will mean that teachers will be able to search pupils for tobacco and cigarette papers, pornographic images and fireworks, without their consent.

Charlie Taylor, the Government’s expert adviser on school behaviour, said yesterday: ‘Without good behaviour, teachers can’t teach and pupils can’t learn. Teachers need to have the right powers at their disposal to use if they wish.’


In praise of homeschools

The most admirable group of entrepreneurs is perhaps the least appreciated. Homeschool parents, or parentrepreneurs, are not waiting for politicians and technocrats to fix broken systems of education. Rather, they are eschewing the status quo and finding innovative ways to advance the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth of their children. Unlike their counterparts in the public sector, parentrepreneurs have achieved astounding results with humble budgets.

Curiously, parentrepreneurs are seldom the object of praise. They are instead showered with ridicule and demands for intrusive regulations that erode their effectiveness as educators. Self-interested unionists are often at the forefront of this mudslinging. A National Education Association resolution is exemplary of such demagoguery:

"The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress."

Clearly, the NEA perpetuates the myth that parents are too ignorant to be educators. Even worse, they obnoxiously imply that government schools, in fact, provide a comprehensive education experience for all students. Of course, the NEA is hardly a beacon of objectivity. Between 1999 and 2007, the number of homeschooled students increased almost twofold, from 850,000 to 1,500,000 — a trend that threatens its wealth and political clout.Download PDF

Unfortunately, the homeschool-opponents movement is ubiquitous and is backed by more than just power-hungry unionists. Left-liberal elites, statists, and antireligion bigots are also motivated to infringe on the liberties of parents. However, an objective look at four key performance indicators illuminates the truth and leads to an obvious conclusion: homeschooling parents should be praised for their noble work.

Key Performance Indicator #1: Academics

To Murray Rothbard, the merits of individual instruction are unequivocal. Only this type of education, he asserted, can develop human potential to its greatest degree. It was therefore obvious to him that formal schools were vastly inferior.

"Since each child differs from the other in interest and ability, and the teacher can only teach one thing at a time, it is evident that every school class must cast all the instruction into one uniform mold. Regardless how the teacher instructs, at what pace, timing, or variety, he is doing violence to each and every one of the children. Any schooling involves misfitting each child into a Procrustean bed of unsuitable uniformity."

Government schools cannot differentiate instruction as homeschools do. At best, a highly effective teacher might have the capacity to place students in small groups based on achievement level, disregarding their interests altogether. It is therefore evident that even an average parent is likely more effective than a great teacher; she does not have to worry about classroom management, arbitrary timelines, and restrictive curricula — her energy is focused on what's best for an individual child. Still, this advantage is perhaps secondary to homeschooling parents. As John Holt explains, what truly separates homeschools from traditional schools is that they aren't actually schools:

"What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn't school at all. It is not an artificial place, set up to make "learning" happen and in which nothing except "learning" ever happens. It is a natural, organic, central, fundamental human institution, one might easily and rightly say the foundation of all other human institutions."

This is not to say that all homeschools espouse the unschooling philosophy of Holt. In actuality, they are quite diverse in their approaches to education. Some homeschools purchase curricula from publishers while others opt to enroll their children in correspondence programs. Libraries, tutors, and local support groups might also be used by homeschools. Just as in business, there is more than one way to run a profitable organization — and the results support this idea.

In a study conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute homeschoolers scored an average of 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests (1, 2). Government regulations, including whether or not homeschooling parents were teacher-certified, had no impact on these scores. In fact, students whose parents did not have a college degree scored at the 83rd percentile. In terms of college admissions, homeschoolers typically score higher than average on the SAT.

Despite these outstanding outcomes, homeschools weren't even legal in all 50 states until 1993 and many states have enacted burdensome regulations. California and New York, for instance, have intrusive laws that regulate curricula, testing, and teacher credentials. Using compulsory attendance laws, government officials enforce these regulations and can prosecute parents who fail to comply. In essence, parentrepreneurs are punished for being exceptional parents, just as successful entrepreneurs are taxed and condemned for their profits.

Key Performance Indicator #2: Socialization

A common criticism levied by homeschool opponents is that government schools are more adept at developing social skills. While this masquerades as a legitimate assertion, it fails to survive even the most rudimentary scrutiny. Not only have studies shown that homeschooled students grow to be aptly socialized adults but the roots of public schools are deeply entrenched in a mixture of assimilation and obedience — fertile grounds for repressing human ingenuity and producing dependent citizens.
"Homeschoolers scored an average of 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests."

A primary impetus for government schooling in the United States was to impose discipline on immigrant children and integrate them into the American way of life. The forefathers of public education, including Horace Mann, drew inspiration from the despotic state of Prussia and emulated many of their practices including compulsory attendance and collective instruction. John Stuart Mill warned of the dangers of government-controlled education:

"A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government."

Oddly, the vehicle that is commonly thought to be most effective at socializing American children was essentially designed to numb minds and sterilize spirits. This might explain why an astounding 2.7 million youths are medicated for ADHD — without drugs, these "unruly" children would be unable to sit through manila lessons and behave subserviently. Of course, this is only to speak of the type of socialization that occurs at good schools. Minorities are often not as fortunate — they're forced into virtual prisons, fully equipped with metal detectors, security officers, and chaotic classrooms.

Is this the socialization that homeschool opponents espouse? To say their criticism is hypocritical would be far too polite.

To opponents, homeschoolers are held captive from society and insulated from the life experiences needed to socialize them. This view is pure bigotry. Homeschooling families live the belief that the "world is a classroom." According to Ray's study, the average homeschooler is involved in 5.2 activities outside the home such as scouts, volunteering, and sports. Other studiesDownload PDF have shown that, as adults, homeschoolers are more likely than the general population to go to college, vote, and participate in community service. One Canadian adult reflects on her social life as a homeschooled child:

"In my experience [my siblings and I] had ample opportunity for socialization with other children. Between homeschooling group activities (such as art lessons, soccer, swimming lessons), piano and voice lessons, choir, guitar, cello and violin lessons and activities in the parish, we had a great deal of socialization."

The socialization myth should be exposed for what it is: a narrow-minded fear that homeschoolers will grow to be socially awkward adults. With the current state of government education, is this really what homeschool opponents should be worried about? Just imagine a society where cocktail goers have more to discuss than weather, shopping, and reality television! (On second thought, this is precisely what the establishment should fear.)

Much more HERE

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Die For -- a teacher's story

On the first day of school students would wander into my homeroom and sit, some in front and some in back. They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. Some greeted me. Others didn’t. I’d look at each one and if I got eye contact I’d say, “Good morning,” and he or she would respond in kind. By eight o’clock all the buses would had arrived. Announcements would come over the intercom. When the Pledge of Allegiance was over they all sat down I’d walk to the front of the class, fold my arms over my chest and look them over. Everyone would be staring back at me wide-eyed and expectant. I’d scratch my chin, knit my brow, then slowly shake my head saying, “Why? Why do they always give me the ugly ones?”

In shock, their eyes would grow wider. Girls would turn to each other with hands over their open mouths. After a few seconds a boy would laugh - and it was always a boy. Then other boys would laugh. After a few more seconds, they all knew I wasn’t serious. I’d keep my poker face on for another second or two before smiling.

One year, a girl asked, “Why did you do that?”

“When I stand in front of you at the beginning of each class,” I said, “I want you to be quiet and pay attention. You’re more likely to do that now. I also want you to get into the habit of thinking critically about everything you hear. I want you to ask yourself: ‘Is this opinion? Is this fact? What evidence exists? Is there enough evidence to constitute proof?’ Stuff like that.”

After a week went by I’d begin each of my four or five history classes saying: “I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?” Inevitably, they’d want the bad first, so I’d say, “You’re all going to die.”

Some would look surprised. Some had no discernible reaction and others would just smile. Then a student would say, “We know that.”

“Okay, good,” I’d say. “I don’t mean today or tomorrow, but some day.”

“We know.”

“Right. Good. So then it’s only a matter of when and how.”

“What’s the point?”

“Some of us will live a long time and some of us won’t.”

“We know that.”

“It’s one of the very few things we can be certain of,” I’d explain. “It’s good to keep in mind that we’re here for a limited time, not forever, and what we do every day matters.”

“You’re going to die too, Mr. McLaughlin.”

“Yes, and probably before you do,” I’d respond. “So I probably think about it more and give it closer attention than you do. That’s the nature of things. On average, someone my age can expect about twenty more years, more or less, and each day gets more precious with that awareness. Not a bad thing.”

“The good news is that - if the past is any guide - most of you will live longer than your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents,” I’d tell them. Then I’d go on to explain average life expectancies for Americans today, compare them with what they were at other times in history, and with those of people in other places. That would work into how long a generation was and so forth. Teaching 20th century US History, I could say, “This would have been going on when your grandparents were children,” or “around when your great-grandparents were born,” etc. That helped put what might otherwise just be obscure events into perspective.

That’s the way I began my last several years in the classroom. When Veterans’ Day came in November, I’d point out that veterans were willing to give their lives for things they believed more important than themselves - usually the things students said every morning in the Pledge of Allegiance. When Martin Luther King Day came in January, I’d quote King, saying: “If a man has nothing he would die for, he isn’t fit to live.” I’d then ask if there were anything they would die for. Some indicated they would be willing to risk their lives for their families. Upon further questioning, I’d be dismayed to learn that others could think of nothing worth dying for. When Memorial Day weekend loomed, I’d inform them of the meaning of this holiday - honoring those who not only risked their lives, but gave them.

The theme of our limited lifespans presented many opportunities for lessons throughout the school year, including Ben Franklin’s quote about death and taxes, our radical Muslim enemies willing to die in their efforts to kill us, as well as different ideas about the meaning of human life, including the nihilist view - widespread in the late 20th century - that it had no meaning at all. It was a rich mine, and I drew from it often.


Antisemitism at a famously Left-leaning British university

A leading university is embroiled in a race row after a Jewish student was assaulted at a Nazi-themed drinking party. The 21-year-old London School of Economics student was subjected to anti-semitic abuse and left with a broken nose following a brawl during a ski trip to Val d’Isere, France.

An investigation has been mounted by the university and its student union after a video of the assault was taken and students provided witness statements.

The victim, who does not wish to be identified, had excused himself from taking part in the Nazi elements of the game, but became increasingly offended at remarks hurled at him by some students. A heated confrontation then turned into a brawl.

The alcohol-fuelled game, initiated by a small group of the union’s ski society, was called Ring Of Fire. Playing cards were arranged in a swastika shape and students urged to drink a shot of spirits and carry out forfeits depending on which card they picked out.

The rule card for the game made students stand up and say ‘Mein Fuhrer’ while making a Nazi salute if they picked out the joker card before drinking.

Another forfeit included the words ‘blitzkrieg’, the German lightning war that devastated much of Europe during the Second World War.

A video, which has been viewed by university officials, shows a man being attacked while a crowd chant ‘fight night, fight night’.

The student was urged to report the incident to French police, but instead complained to the LSE’s Jewish Society, after which it was referred to university bosses. In a statement released yesterday, he said: ‘I’ve seen this kind of game before, so it wasn’t so much the game that offended me, as much as the anti-semitic jibes that went with it. ‘There was a mix of personal references and general Jewish insults.

'That was after I excused myself from the game. It made me extremely upset. That was the tipping point for me.

'It was a build-up during the game, and seeing the swastika obviously, but the comments built up to the point where I couldn’t forgive myself if I let it slide. ‘I feel angry about it now. 'There’s no doubt it was an affront to my identity, but on a personal level it was extremely upsetting.’

The trip to the resort was subsidised by the university and cost the 150 students only £329 each for a week in the resort from December 9 to 17 last year.

An LSE and student union statement said: ‘We are prepared to take disciplinary action if the allegations are shown to be true. ‘Students must abide by clear standards of behaviour set by both LSE and the SU and breaches of those standards are taken very seriously. 'We do not tolerate anti-semitism or any other form of racism.’


Putting a dollar value on having top teachers

GOOD teachers can influence the earning power, teenage pregnancy rates and university enrolments of their students.

These are the findings of a controversial US study, which followed 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The study, by economists from Harvard and Columbia universities, used scores from standardised tests - the US equivalent of Australian NAPLAN testing - to assess teacher quality.
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It has not been peer reviewed but its results have sparked debate between teachers and parents over the benefits of merit-based pay for teachers, one of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's 2010 election promises.

The study found "excellent" teachers can increase a student's lifetime income by about $4600, compared with students of a similar demographic. Across an entire classroom, that could equate to $266,000.

Students who had the best teachers were also least likely to become pregnant in their teens, the study found.

But the majority of Australian teachers argue that using NAPLAN results to measure teacher quality does not take into account other factors such as student backgrounds.

"It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to isolate teachers in that way," the president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Bob Lipscombe, said. "A typical high school student has seven or eight teachers each year - which teacher takes credit for the results?

"More goes into making an excellent teacher than just test results."

But the president of the NSW Parents and Citizens Association, Helen Walton, said the study's findings could empower parents who are concerned their child's teacher is not performing well.

"You need quality teachers in every classroom, in front of every child," she said. "At the moment, if a parent or a group of parents are concerned that a teacher is not performing, the process required to put that teacher through an improvement program can take up to 12 months. By that time, it's too late."

The Federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett, said the government was working towards giving schools greater say on recruitment. However, he stopped short of endorsing the study.


Monday, January 16, 2012

False and defamatory speech about a school principal on social networking sites is allowed?

Third circuit reverses lower courts and says it is allowed. An important case for SCOTUS. I would have thought it fell under libel laws, and libel is not protected speech

Can an eighth-grader lampoon her principal online as a sex pervert, with liberal use of the "F bomb" and still be protected from official blowback by the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment?

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia says she just might, depending on the conditions.

The case of the eighth-grader has drawn the attention of the National School Boards Association and other educational groups, who call on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the dispute given its importance and "the explosion of social networking."

The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 the First Amendment doesn't prohibit schools from regulating student speech they believe would be disruptive or interfere with the rights of the school or other students. In 1986, the high court ruled schools also could regulate "vulgar and lewd" speech by students.

But those cases didn't answer the question of whether the First Amendment protects student speech, even vulgar and lewd speech, that originates off campus and targets a member of the school community; or is posted online from off campus and targets a member of the school community.

The justices were scheduled to discuss the case behind closed doors last week. They could decide to review the case, as urged by the educational organizations, or leave the the appeals court ruling in place.

The Blue Mountain School District covers several communities in eastern Pennsylvania. The eight-grader, an honor student identified only as J.S. in court documents, was still smarting over two citations for violations of the dress code at Blue Mountain Middle School in March 2007 when she and a fellow eighth-grader, K.L., created a fake profile of Principal James McGonigle on the social networking Web site MySpace.

J.S. used a photo of McGonigle copied from the school's official site on the MySpace profile, court documents said, and listed his "interests" as "being a tight ass, f---ing in my office, hitting on students and their parents." The fake profile had McGonigle saying, "I love children, sex (any kind), being a dick head and my darling wife who looks like a man (who satisfies my needs)." McGonigle's nickname on the profile was "M-Hoe." The fictional principal also said his interests included "riding the fraintrain," a reference to McGonigle's wife Debra Frain, who worked as a guidance counselor at the school.

Though the profile used his photo, McGonigle's name was never mentioned. "M-Hoe" was identified as a bisexual middle school principal in Alabama.

At first the profile could be accessed by anyone; J.S. eventually limited access to about 20 students. The school district said the profile became the topic of discussion among students and claimed it disrupted some classes.

McGonigle was made aware of the profile by another student, who brought a printout of the profile to school.

After J.S.admitted she created the hoax she was suspended for 10 days.

Terry and Steven Snyder, J.S.'s parents, sued in federal court, claiming that the First Amendment barred the school district from disciplining the eighth-grader.

A federal judge granted the school district summary judgment on all claims. A three-judge appeals court panel affirmed the judge, though on different grounds.

But the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, headquartered in Philadelphia, ruled 8-6 that the school district violated J.S.'s First Amendment free speech rights when it suspended her for creating the profile.

"Because J.S. was suspended from school for speech that indisputably caused no substantial disruption in school and that could not reasonably have led school officials to forecast substantial disruption in school," the majority said, "the school district's actions violated J.S.'s First Amendment free speech rights."

A bevy of lawyers, including two from the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at the University of Virginia's Law School, helped the district ask the Supreme Court for review. They asked that a separate but similar case from Pennsylvania's Hermitage School District be included in the high court's review.

"These cases present important and urgent First Amendment questions regarding the scope of school officials' authority over student online speech, questions that involve the rights and responsibilities of millions of students and school officials," the district's petition to the high court said. "Lower courts have given conflicting answers to these questions. The legal uncertainty is generating tremendous confusion and wasting resources in thousands of school districts across the country, where these issues arise on nearly a daily basis. At the moment, school officials are stuck between a rock and a hard place: They are responsible for protecting students and teachers from online harassment, but in doing so, they might trigger a lawsuit from a student claiming that his or her First Amendment rights have been violated."

The petition said the students in both cases "created profiles on the Internet falsely accusing their principals of, among other things, 'f---ing in [the principal's] office,' 'hitting' on students and parents and taking drugs. ... The en banc Third Circuit held that the First Amendment requires that school officials do nothing in response. This is wrong. The Constitution does not demand that school officials remain idle in the face of such vulgar and malicious attacks."

Citing 1986's Bethel vs. Fraser, the petition said "even in the age of the Internet, the Constitution does not require school officials to 'surrender control of the American public school system to public school students.'"

The friend-of-the-court brief by the National School Boards Association -- a federation of state associations of school boards representing the school board members governing approximately 15,000 local school districts serving more than 46.5 million public school students -- was even more emphatic.

The association was joined by the American Association of School Administrators, the American School Counselor Association, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the School Social Work Association of America.

"Social networking has fundamentally changed the nature of communication in our society and radically altered how students interact with their peers and the school community," the associations' brief said. "The ubiquity and power of this electronic forum make jurisprudential concepts such as 'off- and on-campus' analytically anachronistic."

The brief said the "difficulty of applying these and other principles from this [Supreme] Court's student speech precedents in this context is reflected in the confusing array of decisions issued by [the lower] courts in cases challenging school officials' regulation of student online speech."

The appeals court decisions in the Blue Mountain and Hermitage cases "have added to the confusion, especially in light of federal and state legislative and agency initiatives emphasizing school districts' responsibilities to address student bullying regardless of its place of origin."

Supreme Court guidance, the brief said, "is critical to assisting school officials in understanding how they may regulate the student expression that now pervades social networking forums without contravening the time-honored principles of the First Amendment."


British education boss calls for longer school days and shorter holidays… and says if teachers love their jobs they shouldn’t object

Teachers will find themselves ‘in the firing line’ if they fail to ensure their pupils behave and succeed, Michael Gove warned yesterday. Staff who do not see their class improve could be sacked more quickly under his plans to drive up teaching standards.

The Education Secretary upped the ante further by claiming teachers should welcome longer school days and terms.

But unions hit back after his two-pronged assault, with the NASUWT warning of an escalation in industrial action which might lead to strikes.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove said plans to reduce the time it takes to sack under-performing teachers would force staff to ‘focus’. When asked if a teacher whose class does not improve will be ‘in the firing line’, he replied ‘yes’. Mr Gove added: ‘It’s their responsibility to ensure that children behave and that children succeed.’

He refused to be drawn on how many teachers would be affected by the proposals, saying it would be up to heads to make decisions on where improvement was needed in their staff.

His comments came after the Daily Mail revealed his plans to allow schools in England to sack under-performing teachers in only nine weeks – about a term. Currently the process takes a year or longer. In an interview, Mr Gove said he also wanted parents to ask to go into classrooms to assess how well their children are taught.

He is axing controversial rules that restrict the amount of time heads can observe teachers in the classroom to three hours a year. The aim is to give schools more freedom to monitor staff.

Mr Gove also incensed teachers yesterday by telling ITV’s Daybreak programme: ‘We are all in favour of longer school days, and potentially shorter summer holidays.’

Asked about the potential impact on teachers, he replied: ‘If you love your job then there is, I think, absolutely nothing to complain about in making sure you have more of a chance to do it well.’

But union leaders accused him of bullying teachers. Members of the NASUWT have already voted ‘overwhelmingly’ for industrial action short of strikes on issues including changes to performance management and pay. They have been refusing to cover for absent colleagues and to supervise pupils during the lunch break.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the action could be extended if Mr Gove’s ‘relentless attacks’ continue. Heads attempting to introduce the reforms will be met with ‘significant resistance’ from teachers.

‘As far as we’re concerned any school that moved to introduce these procedures, which in our view are unnecessary, then obviously we’ve got the ability to escalate our industrial action,’ she said. ‘We wouldn’t want to move as far as strike action but if that was about protecting teachers’ jobs, that’s what we would do.’

The National Union of Teachers said it has not ‘ruled out or ruled in’ the possibility of future industrial action over the issue. General secretary Christine Blower labelled the proposals as ‘potentially a bully’s charter’.

Brian Lightman, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, had initially welcomed the proposals. But yesterday he said: ‘The language of sacking teachers is extremely unhelpful and demoralising for teachers.’ Referring to the prospect of a longer school day, he said: ‘The worst thing we can do for the quality of our education service is to worsen the existing long hours culture.’


Australia: More male teachers needed to help boys perform better, survey shows

MORE male teachers are needed in Victorian schools to help boys perform better, a new teacher survey shows.

The survey shows teachers believe little is being done to address the performance gap between girls and boys.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the findings of the latest Staff in Australia Schools survey, which asked more than 15,000 teachers and principals about their working conditions.

The report found fewer than one in five primary school teachers is male, with the number of female teachers rising in the 2010 survey to 81 per cent.

But men are far more likely to rise through the ranks to become principals in high schools, holding 61 per cent of leadership positions.

The survey also showed principals want more power to sack underperforming teachers, with a majority saying they feel hamstrung.

While private school principals have revealed much higher levels of authority to review teachers' performance and recruit staff, public school principals warn they are lagging behind.

Concerns over a lack of power to hire and fire teachers was highest among principals at public high schools, where 54 per cent were unhappy with the rules.

Releasing the report today, federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the findings underlined the Government's push to boost principals' and parents' power to run schools.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Texas High school removes doors from bathrooms to 'prevent students from having sex in them'

One high school in McKinney, Texas has removed the doors to bathrooms, invoking an outcry from both parents and students.

McKinney North High School says removing the doors to the bathroom entrances are a preventative measure to ‘keep kids safe.’ But rumours have been circulating among students that the doors were removed because of illicit sexual behaviour in the loos.

One high school student said she’s seen some questionable activities in the women’s restroom. ‘I’ve walked into the bathroom and seen girls in the bathroom with guys,’ Sarah O’Kerke told KDAF-TV. Another student agreed. ‘I heard the reason they took (the doors) off was because they caught a freshman couple having sex in the bathroom,’ Avniel Guerra said.

But the high school disagrees. McKinney High School spokesperson Cody Cunningham said in this instance, the measure was carried for student’s safety and is because of reports of students fighting.

‘The students felt like the reason we were removing them was because of some inappropriate sexual behaviour in the restrooms, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,’ Mr Cunningham told He told CBS Local in Dallas-Fort Worth that it’s a common practice in newer schools. ‘Often times…they do take off or omit the exterior doors to the restroom and really it’s just a supervision issue.’

Parents are upset that it’s an invasion of their children’s privacy, but Mr Cunningham argues that many changes have been made in the last 50 years to protect their student’s safety.

The restrooms, the schools say, still allow privacy, as there is no line of sight from the hallway into the restrooms, thanks to a half-wall.

However, Texas has consistently been a state with alarmingly high teen pregnancy rates. According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, Texas ranks fourth in the nation for the number of teen pregnancies, with 88 pregnancies per 1,000 women, aged 15-19. The report ranked pregnancy trends from 1986 to 2006.

It is first in the country for teen birth rates, according to study. While the state - along with Florida and New York - has received considerable abstinence-education funding in recent years, the numbers are alarming.

This isn’t the first disruption to mar the high school. In 2006, the McKinney high school made national news for a band of cheerleaders, dubbed ‘the Fab Five,’ who acted out by skipping class, terrorising their cheer-leading coach, and posting sexually suggestive pictures of themselves on MySpace. The then-principal ended up resigning as part of a settlement.


You're asking for trouble: Parents' anger after British school builds unisex toilets for its pupils

Parents have accused a Hartlepool school of 'asking for trouble,' after it built unisex toilets for secondary school pupils.

The toilet block at Dyke House Sports and Technology College was rebuilt as part of a £12.4m revamp and features three floor-to-ceiling cubicles, each for males and females.

The new design, unveiled after the school was remodelled under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, sees both sexes walk out from the cubicles to the same room and use communal sinks.

Mother-of-two Lynsey Smith, 32, who has a son at the school and lives in nearby Avondale Gardens, Hartlepool, said: 'If I had a daughter I wouldn't like to think you have got boys there giving it 'howay', carrying on while the girls are going through periods and all that sort of stuff. 'And if people are dating they might end up in the toilets. 'It's asking for trouble really.'

One mum, who took to Facebook to express her anger, wrote: '[My daughter] said she's refusing to go to the toilet for the next 4 and a half years.' She said she has contacted Hartlepool Borough Council and her local councillor over the issue.

School bosses have defended the new facilities, claiming the toilets are 'the way forward in 21st Century schools.' They say the block will always be monitored by a staff member, and will combat the problem of 'smokers' corners'.

Andrew Jordon, headteacher at the 1,050-pupil school, said two parents had raised concerns about the toilets, but had changed their minds once they had been invited to see the lavatories.

He added: 'What we had at the old Dyke House was girls' and boys' toilets in the same block, but with a rat-run of places where people could smoke. 'We have got them contained within the same block, but it's much more of a pleasant experience. 'The toilets are very separate - they all have individual cubicles which have floor-to-ceiling doors.

'There will be a set of toilets for each individual year group that have three individual cubicles for boys and three for girls.'

Mr Jordon said the school had spent 18 months working on the design with contractors Balfour Beatty and that the open-plan format was a 'stock-design' for the national construction firm.

He added that the toilets are supervised by a member of staff - either by a progress leader during lessons, whose office is beside the toilets, or by a member of supervisory staff during breaks and lunchtimes.

He acknowledged that the issue of girls' periods had come up in a lengthy consultation involving the school, architects and pupils, and it was felt the floor-to-ceiling design addressed this matter.

Peter McIntosh, head of schools transformation with Hartlepool Borough Council, said: 'The layout of the toilets at Dyke House School is an increasingly accepted practice in modern schools. 'Indeed, the same concept already exists and works well at the town's Space to Learn facility. 'When we were in the planning stages for Dyke House we looked at several new schools elsewhere which had adopted this design and the feedback was very positive.

'There are still dedicated toilets for girls and boys with floor to ceiling privacy and it is very much the way forward in 21st Century schools.'


Australia: Federal government aid to private schools to continue

Even under a Leftist government. With 39% of Australian teenagers going to non-government schools, anything else would consign the Left to years in the political wilderness. "Biffo" Latham's threat to private schools was a major factor in his undoing. His party lost that election and they have obviously not forgotten

PETER GARRETT has predicted a shake-up of school funding will not reignite class divisions, declaring the nation has moved on from debates about funding private schools.

The panel charged with reviewing funding, chaired by the businessman David Gonski, handed its report to Mr Garrett, the School Education Minister, shortly before Christmas.

Mr Garrett is developing the government's response, which will be released with the report early in the new school year.

The opposition's education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has predicted the government will cut funding to private schools, forcing them to increase fees or sack staff.

But Mr Garrett said despite Mr Pyne's "mischievous" contributions, the debate on funding schools had been "mature."

"I would certainly caution against the opposition thinking that there is some window of opportunity once a report of this kind is released to reignite those stale old ideological warfare exercises," Mr Garrett said. "We're in a different place as a country now. We recognise that we have a government system and non-government systems of education and we need to have an approach that applies to all systems, and that's what we're aiming for."

Mr Pyne said the opposition was taking its cues from Mr Garrett's refusal to rule out cuts to school funding indexation.

"Millions of parents with children in non-government schools are waiting to see how much their school fees will be going up because of the Gillard government's changes to school funding," Mr Pyne said.

Labor went to the 2007 election promising to preserve the Howard government's system for four years, and in the 2010 campaign sought to neutralise the issue by promising to extend those arrangements until the end of next year. Mr Garrett said Labor had boosted funding while the Coalition had promised cuts.