Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vanderbilt University: Christian Campus Groups Can’t Require Leaders to Have Specific Beliefs

Trouble-making queers again. They sure know how to generate hostility towards themselves, even if is not allowed to be overt. But social exclusion doesn't have to be overt

The drama over student rights and religious freedom continues to rage at Vanderbilt University, as the higher education facility doubled-down this week on enforcing strict rules that some say discriminate against campus religious groups.

At the center of debate is the university’s nondiscrimination policy, which bans student-led faith groups, among others, from requiring leaders to hold specific beliefs.

The policy, which in many ways contradicts theological requirements, has created angst among members of both the student body and the university’s faculty. These opponents see the ban as a crackdown on their freedom of religion and speech. School leaders, though, maintain that the policy is necessary to ensure that all students feel welcome at campus clubs and events.

The Blaze first reported about the situation back in September. Our original coverage provides the background needed to understand how the situation was started:
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is making headlines after a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi, asked an openly gay member to resign. Upon leaving the group, the young man filed a discrimination complaint and now college administrators are trying to figure out whether the campus organization violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

Of course, this incident has grown into a much larger controversy in which university administrators are reviewing all student-led organizations. As a result, officials are concerned about specific clauses that five Christian campus groups have in their constitutions.

These clauses require members of the groups to share their religious beliefs, something that didn‘t concern campus administrators until the student’s complaint was made. Now, the school wants the constitutions amended and the controversial clauses dropped.

Currently, four campus groups violate this policy, as they require their leaders to maintain Christian messages. Club heads argue, though, that leaders responsible for planning Bible studies should actually believe in the material they are preaching. The campus groups in question are the Christian Legal Society, Beta Upsilon Chi, Graduate Student Fellowship and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

At an event on Tuesday evening, the college defended its policies to an audience of over 200 students. Provost Richard McCarthy and Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics said that the university doesn’t plan to back down. If student groups fail to comply, they will lose their official status with the college.

Despite administrators’ insistence, the community forum did provide students with an opportunity to share their opposition and reasoning with policy-makers at the helm.

“The Vanderbilt discrimination policy is directed against the Christian community,” said Leighton Watts, a member of Beta Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity (he wasn’t inside the meeting, but he was watching from a computer outside of the venue and commented to media).

“We want to be able to elect our leaders based on our beliefs,” said Joseph Williams, a former student body president at the university. He spoke out against the restrictions during a question and answer period.

McCarthy’s response to this was intriguing: Students can vote for any individual they’d like, but the clubs cannot have written rules banning students who don’t hold specific views from running for leadership roles. He essentially told students not to vote for people with whom they disagree.

Carol Swain, a law professor at Vanderbilt and an adviser to the Christian Legal Society, disagrees with the college’s stance and is working to assist groups who stand opposed to the rule. In an interview with FOX News, she said:
“There are people on campus who are very threatened by the idea of religious freedom and they would like to create an environment where no one hurts anyone else’s feelings – unless it’s Christians.

This political correctness is running amuck on campus and its constraining one group – and that group tends to be conservatives. They will be forced to either accept the university’s policy or leave campus by the end of the academic year. They are in limbo.”

The Blaze also spoke with Joshua Charles, who co-authored Glenn Beck’s “The Original Argument.” Charles, who was a Founding Father and President of the Beta Upsilon Chi chapter at the University of Kansas, had some strong feelings on the matter.

“It seems difficult to imagine a scenario in which any religious group could, without any infringement whatsoever, worship and practice freely if they cannot even make decisions on their own membership or leadership,” Charles said. “Groups are formed in order to advance causes, ideals, or something of the sort. But if the integrity of that group cannot be maintained, then neither can
the causes or ideals for which it was founded in the first place.”

In the end, Christian student groups are clearly stuck at this point, as administrators are refusing to budge. But it’s not just religious groups that could encounter a problem. What if a gay and lesbian rights group on campus wants to ensure that those in leadership roles hold true to certain values of equality? Or — what if an environmental group wants members to pledge their allegiance to protecting the earth?

“Freedom of association — the ability to mingle with those you wish to mingle with, to connect with those you wish to connect with, and to join in common cause with them, is a fundamental liberty,” Charles continued.

In the end, this is a policy that certainly holds the potential to create further angst and inter-student contention.


Prestigious California college admits inflating SAT scores for rankings

A senior administrator at California's Claremont McKenna College resigned after admitting that for years he falsified SAT scores to publications such as U.S. News & World Report to inflate the small, prestigious school's ranking among the nation's colleges and universities, according to the college's president.

President Pamela Gann told college staff members and students about the falsified scores in an email Monday, The New York Times reported.

Gann wrote that a "senior administrator" had taken sole responsibility for falsifying the scores, admitted doing so since 2005, and resigned his post.

Gann wrote that she was first warned of inaccurate reporting earlier this month and asked other administrators to investigate, leading to an administrator's admission of guilt and Monday's announcement.

Gann said the critical reading and math scores reported to U.S. News and others "were generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each."

Robert Franek, the senior vice president of publishing for The Princeton Review, which provides preparation for the SAT and also ranks colleges, said he had never heard of a college intentionally reporting incorrect data.

"We want to put out very clear information so that students can make an informed decision about their school," Franek said. "I feel like so many schools have a very clear obligation to college-bound students to report this information honestly."

The Princeton Review bases its college rankings on student opinion rather than test data, Franek said, so he was uncertain whether a change as small as that reported would make a difference.

The current U.S. News rankings list Claremont McKenna as the ninth-best liberal arts college in the country, a fact noted on Gann's biography on the college's website.

The liberal arts school, part of the Claremont colleges cluster east of Los Angeles, has about 1,200 students and places a strong academic focus on political science and economics.

The school has not officially identified the administrator who admitted the wrongdoing.

"At this time, we have no reason to believe that other individuals were involved," Gann wrote in her message to staff.

Gann said a law firm has been hired to investigate further


Assistant head teacher 'bullied, undermined and victimised staff at British school where colleague collapsed and died'... but she's cleared to return to the classroom

A former assistant head teacher ‘bullied, intimidated, undermined and victimised’ her colleagues, including one young teacher who collapsed and died on school premises, a disciplinary panel has heard.

While employed as acting deputy head in South Yorkshire Moira Ogilvie, 40, allegedly ‘bullied’ staff, made them spy on each other and acted in an inappropriate manner towards children - including making obscene ‘finger gestures’ towards them.

The assistant head teacher of High Greave Junior School, Rotherham is also alleged to have discussed confidential information, and asked members of staff to report on their colleagues behind each other’s backs.

Appearing at a General Teaching Council conduct hearing in Birmingham, she was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, but can return to teaching under certain conditions.

The hearing heard how 29-year-old teacher Britt Pilton had been found dead at the school in February 2009.

Presenting officer Laura Ryan told the panel: ‘Bullying is recognised as being a problem amongst pupils, so it is vital it is not present in staff responsible for those pupils.

‘Members of staff reported that Moira Ogilvie had asked them to spy on each other. ‘That she had left them feeling victimised, intimidated, bullied and harassed, and that she had been seen making obscene finger gestures to pupils.’

One victim of the toxic leadership was 29-year-old teacher Britt Pilton. The bride-to-be, 29, faced 12 months of pressure at the school before she had a panic-attack and was found dead on the floor of a school toilet, an inquest in 2009 found.

In a letter, fellow teacher Natalie Garbutt said that on the day of Miss Pilton’s death, she had been ‘concerned that photocopying she had left in the photocopier had been removed by Moira Ogilvie to substantiate claims in relation to her professional conduct.’

Natalie Garbutt, a teacher at the school, gave a statement to the GTC committee in September. She told the panel about how Miss Pilton’s name had been removed from her pigeon hole in the staff room on the day following her funeral. Miss Garbutt said this had made staff feel uneasy because they ‘didn’t want all evidence of her to be taken away.’

She added that Miss Ogilvie had joked that the school, which had been facing the prospect of a drop in pupil numbers, would no longer have to worry.

Miss Garbutt said: ‘Moira made some comments that I think were meant to be light-hearted.’ She added: ‘She commented about there not being any staffing issues now because we had enough staff for the children.’

Miss Garbutt told the panel that Miss Ogilvie had asked her to ‘keep tabs’ on Miss Pilton after telling her that there were too many staff at the school. Miss Garbutt said: ‘The thing with Britt was her attendance was quite poor, she wasn’t always prepared for her lessons, things like that and I was asked to make notes on things that Britt did.’ She added that she thought Miss Ogilvie wanted to gather evidence to use against Miss Pilton.

She said: ‘Britt made a lot of mistakes, she had a lot of time off and if there was going to be any body that would have to leave then evidence was needed to be collected.’

Another member of staff, Rachel Green, claimed that Miss Ogilvie had remarked that Miss Pilton’s replacement was ‘a better teacher than Britt ever was’ in front of a child.

Giving a statement to the panel, former head teacher June Hitchcock said that the school had been ‘devastated’ by the loss of Miss Pilton. She said staff were ‘devastated, completely. It was a total shock. It affected them, I would suggest it still affects them deeply. ‘It was a huge loss professionally and personally for some of the staff who were very close to Britt Pilton.’

Still, despite being found guilty, Ms Ogilvie will be allowed to continue to teach under a conditional registration order: 'She will able to return to register and teach on the position but she cannot take line management responsibilities,' GTC press officer Sam Haidar told Mail Online. 'She needs to take an accredited mentoring or reflected management course.'


Friday, February 03, 2012

Germany: Intellectually Insolvent U. Of Osnabrück Shuts Down Debate – Calls Skepticism “Provocative”

What do the intellectually challenged do when they’re out-matched in debate and fully exhausted of arguments?

You do what the University of Osnabrück has done: you prevent the opponent from entering the debating arena. You call it off and closed-mindedly insist you’re right.

This is what is happening today with the University of Osnabrück and Prof. Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, who had been invited by the university to give a speech on February 8.

It’s a vivid look into the cowardice of today’s German academia and its intellectual depletion.

The problem is that Vahrenholt has just written a controversial climate skeptical book (Die kalte Sonne) together with geologist Dr Sebastian Lüning - a book that is politically incorrect because it doubts the climate catastrophe fairy tale. The book is already near or at the number 1 position in bestseller list for environment and ecology books, and is thus causing the warmists to scurry in panic. The sense of alarm and fear that have gripped the climate establishment is so strong that the University of Osnabrück decided it would be improper to have Vahrenholt as a speaker.

Vahrenholt got his dis-invitation 2 days ago. Openly questioning the dogma of catastrophic global warming is not welcome. The University prefers to stay in the Dark Ages. Here’s the public invitation:
In the series of presentations “University Speeches” of the University of Osnabrück, Prof. Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt – RWE Innogy, Essen will hold a speech titled “The Climate Catastrophe is not Taking Place”.

The IPCC is wrong. The climate debate has to be restarted. In contradiction to prognoses, there has been no global warming in over 10 years. Even with rising CO2 emissions the warming for this century will not exceed 2°C. The warming effect of CO2 is over-estimated. The latest findings show that ocean cycles and the sun, which recently entered a longer-term period of quite activity, has played a greater role in the course of climate than previously assumed.

Here is the incredible letter of cancellation:
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we invited Prof. Vahrenholt in May, 2011, it was done with regards to a very good speech he had given in Greifswald (Greifswald Speeches - a Foundation of the Alfried Krupp College Greifswald) on the topic of “Options for the Future Energy Supply of Germany”. This topic and the speaker also were accepted by the Osnabrück University Professorium.

When we invited him, we suggested this topic, which he did not object. When we asked him to provide us with the exact title of his speech 3 weeks before it was scheduled to take place, he surprised us with the provocative title ‘The Climate Catastrophe Is Not taking Place’. The reactions to this announcement range from positive to critical, and to negative.

Independent of these reactions, we have become convinced that such an assertion requires ‘a counter speech’ from a climate scientist and that the subsequent discussion be led by a competent moderator. Because it is not possible to organize this before February 8, we will search another date in 2012, in agreement with Prof Vahrenholt and the 2 yet-to-be-named individuals. We will inform you on a timely basis.

Yours sincerely,
Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Altendorf
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Asholt”

So unhindered, free dissent and questioning are unwelcome. Not believing that the world is on the road to catastrophe is “provocative”. Sorry, but this is the kind of insecure behaviour ones sees from dictatorial regimes. It’s intellectual insolvency.

Things really are that bad in Germany’s academia today – at least at the University of Osnabrück.

Two questions to professors Altendorf and Asholt: What are you afraid of? Does a movement steeped in fear and insecurity have any chance of victory? Your letter is as clear an admission one could get that the answer is “definitely no”.

Your decision is as about as remote as one can get from the true spirit of academia.


St. Valentine’s Day (Candy) Massacre: School Bans Candy, Pushes Origami Instead

(Yes, all the kids want folded paper)

In a move that will probably get support from the First Lady, but boos from kids and candy companies, a school in Massachusetts has banned candy exchanges on Valentines Day.

The Horace Mann School in Newton has told parents that kids cannot not bring Valentines Day candy to school. Instead, the school suggests that kids exchange things like nice cards, or gifts like “stickers, pencils, erasers, stamps, or crafts like origami.”

One mom was fully supporting the ban. She told MyFoxBoston that last Valentines Day was a difficult one for her:

"Last year was hell. The second grader and kindergartener came back with bags full of candy, cake, lolipops, and garbage. They had eaten half of it already at school. The other half they fought over or ate the rest. I tried to take it away from them – they screamed. I was like never again, this is not right."


Thousands of 'Mickey Mouse' courses will no longer count in British High School league tables

More than 3,000 discredited vocational courses will be downgraded because pupils are shunning tough subjects, Michael Gove declared yesterday.

Schools will be barred from using ‘dead-end’ qualifications – including courses in ‘personal effectiveness’, fish husbandry and nail technology services – to count towards their league table rankings.

Youngsters will instead be encouraged to gain at least a C in English and maths and study science and a language.

The Education Secretary warned against pandering to the view that school is ‘like the movies or a club’ where pupils expect to find lessons ‘exciting’ – and drop out if they are too difficult.

‘If we say that we will tolerate or accept non-attendance on the basis that school is too hard then we are condemning children to a future where, at every stage they face a challenge, we make excuses rather than encouraging them to do better, and that way lies perdition,’ Mr Gove told the Commons education select committee.

‘It’s unacceptable that people are bristling at the requirement that we have children doing English, mathematics and science to an acceptable level.’

Under a GCSE ‘equivalence’ system introduced by Labour, schools were allowed to count more than 3,000 vocational courses towards their league table position.

The courses were deemed equivalent to one or more GCSEs and given league table points in an attempt to motivate disaffected pupils. One approved course was a Level 2 Certificate of Personal Effectiveness, which taught children how to claim the dole.
Chopped from the tables

A report commissioned by the Coalition found that many of the qualifications were ‘effectively dead-end’ with no use in the job market. Its author, Professor Alison Wolf, of King’s College London, said schools had been entering pupils for the courses just to amass league table points.

Mr Gove announced yesterday that only 125 out of 3,175 vocational qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds meet new criteria for inclusion in league tables.

Of these only 75 will count towards the main yardstick of secondary school performance – the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C grades including English and maths. And they will count as only one GCSE.

Schools will still be able to enter pupils for the qualifications, but from 2014 they will no longer count toward their league table rankings. Many are expected to wither on the vine.

Former education secretary David Blunkett said: ‘By all means slim them down but do not send the message that this is a wholesale trashing of what was there and that vocational education has been downgraded.’


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Duke University is at it again

Leftist uproar over a finding that black students at Duke disproportionately migrate away from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors

When we last left Duke University and its home of Durham, North Carolina, the bogus story fueled by the leftwing politics that governs Duke and Durham that three lacrosse players from Duke had beaten and raped Crystal Mangum was being put to rest. True, there were lawsuits filed against both entities by former lacrosse players, but the fires that burned at Duke seemed to have been doused.

For a year while the false criminal case went on, Duke University truly was the Bonfire of the Vanities as students and representatives of the Ruling Party of Durham competed with each other to see who could make the most outrageous and untrue statements. Almost six years ago, I likened it to the Reichstag Fire, but since that time, I have concluded that in the make-believe world that is Duke and Durham (or Dukham, for short), the fires always are burning and there always is a new reason for the Right Kind of People of Dukham to be offended.

Six years ago, the lacrosse incident set Dukham ablaze (or, to be more accurate, the refusal of Dukham’s finest to do any independent thinking set Dukhanm ablaze). Today, it is the appearance of an unpublished paper that takes a hard look at some of the unforeseen consequences of Duke’s aggressive affirmative action policies.

Granted, the end of the criminal portion of the lacrosse case was disappointing to a large number of Dukham folks. The charges, after being investigated for the first time (disgraced DA Mike Nifong never did take the time to do an actual investigation even though he had three indictments), were dismissed by North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper, who said openly that the players were "innocent." Such a thing did not sit well with the leftist and racialist faculty members that had pontificated on the case, as well as the Usual Suspects of the local activist groups.

Much has happened since then. Mangum is in jail awaiting trial for allegedly murdering her boyfriend, Nifong remains disbarred and disgraced, and his sidekick Tracey Cline, who has served as Durham County’s DA since Nifong disappeared (Cline was to be second chair in the prosecution if it had gone to trial), has been suspended from her duties while she is investigated for alleged misconduct.

While the lawsuits creep along, an email from Duke’s dean of students, Sue Wasiolek, that surfaced during discovery, pointed out that right from the start, the lacrosse players "cooperated" with the police. Unfortunately, when Nifong used the local and national media to insist that the players were "putting up a wall of silence," no one from Duke University’s administration, including Wasiolek, tried to set the record straight. It is clear that the leadership at Duke knew the truth, but the fiction was so much more satisfactory to the locals, a significant portion of the university’s faculty and student body, and, of course, the New York Times, which fell headlong into the Nifong pit. The players were guilty and Dukham’s leaders were not going to let a little thing like the truth spoil a party put on by self-righteous activists.

As I said earlier, the bonfires might have simmered temporarily, but today, they are in full blaze as Duke University is enmeshed in another self-inflicted crisis. Once again we see many of the same people from the faculty and the administration beating their chests to atone for the university’s supposed racism and to point out to others that there are dastardly racists in their midst.

When word that an unpublished paper written by an economics professor, a sociology professor, and a graduate student might not paint the happiest picture of academic life at Duke, the Usual Suspects rose up to protest. The paper itself looked at what happens after students with lower SAT scores (including both those admitted via affirmative action and the "legacy" students) actually settle into academic life at the university.

While many of these students might start out majoring in natural sciences, economics, or engineering, they often change majors and migrate to the "softer" majors in liberal arts. The significant part of that migration, the paper noted, was that the "legacy admissions" and affirmative action students migrate in statistically-significant larger numbers than do the students that did not need any special dispensation to enter Duke.

The paper’s findings matched what other researchers already have noted regarding affirmative action and legacy students attending other highly-select universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Many of these students arrive unprepared for the level of work they must do in the difficult majors in order to keep up with those students who can do the work, and this leads either to students dropping out or changing majors.

Not surprisingly, the faculty members in those areas of study such as Cultural Anthropology went ballistic over the paper, decrying it as "scholarly racism" (according to English and Law professor Karla Holloway, the same Karla Holloway who declared the lacrosse players to be rapists because "guilt is a social construct"). In fact, many of the same professors that rushed to judgment in the lacrosse case and created an atmosphere of hate and hysteria at Duke also are the out-front people here.

One of the worst offenders in the lacrosse crisis was professor Tim Tyson, who openly called for dismissal of all of the lacrosse players and repeated the lie that they were refusing to cooperate with the police. Tyson also led on-campus protests against them, rushing to judgment and then refusing to acknowledge after the players were exonerated that they actually were innocent. In other words, Tyson is one of those Duke faculty members who absolutely hates a large portion of the Duke student body along with most of the Adults who are on the faculty.

Tyson, as is his wont, openly attacked one of the authors, economics professor Peter Arcidiacono, in an article, alleging that Arcidiacono was a racist and worse. (Of course, Tyson’s article is filled with ad hominems and he refuses to address the real issues of the paper, preferring to wrap himself in the righteousness of his own worldview.)

Once again: Tyson does not challenge in any way the data that Arcidiacono, et al., presented, that black students at Duke disproportionately migrate away from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors.

As in the lacrosse case, a large portion of Duke’s professors are permitted to launch baseless and public attacks on other students and faculty, all the while drawing large salaries and having to do little productive work while denouncing their employer and anyone else who pays for them to stomp about campus. In fact, it seems that their "work" is to claim that they are mistreated by Duke, which requires little out of them but spending a few hours a week on campus protesting that they should even be there at all.


British selective school pupils wrongly expelled after Facebook smear campaign saying that they had sex in a store cupboard

Two grammar school pupils were expelled after a malicious gossip campaign broke out on Facebook claiming the pair had sex in a school store room and toilet. Trevor Evans and his girlfriend were 16 when they were first suspended from West Kirby Grammar School, in Wirral, where they were sixth-formers.

Within two days they were expelled, but an independent tribunal has found that the school failed to investigate the claims properly. It also ruled that not enough evidence had been found to permanently exclude the pair.

Trevor, now 17, strongly denies having had sex with his then girlfriend. He insists that he was consoling her in a toilet cubicle after she became upset.

His mother, Honora, heard about the allegations when she received a letter from headteacher Glenice Robinson in October last year. Since then she has been fighting to clear her son's name and insists the allegations were spread on Facebook.

She said: 'This was a vindictive campaign hatched by some girls at the school who posted malicious rumours about him on Facebook.'

Trevor, a keen musician, said: 'I just want to get back to school and resume my studies.'

Mrs Evans, who lives in the affluent village of Meols, said she had endured a traumatic three months in order to expose the school's failure to carry out a proper investigation. She said: 'The way the school dealt with this was a knee-jerk reaction and the right to education should be supported, not taken away.'

Headteacher Mrs Robinson said: 'It would not be appropriate to discuss specific details but the school always acts in the best interests of pupils.'

An announcement on whether the pair can return to school is yet to be made.


Australia: Queenslanders want school performance made public

ALMOST two-thirds of Queenslanders believe teaching and learning audit results of state schools should be publicly released.

A poll on found 62 per cent of 2120 respondents wanted to know how schools performed, while 38 per cent did not think the results should be released.

The Courier-Mail's publication of the audit results on Saturday caused a furore among teachers and principals, with the Queensland Teachers' Union directing members to suspend participation in the process.

Political leaders are divided over the issue with Premier Anna Bligh backing the release, saying parents had a right to know, while LNP leader Campbell Newman dodged questions on whether he would continue the audits if his party won government.

"There's this obsession that's being created about doing the measurement, the testing and the measurement and the reporting, rather than helping the kids," he said.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said he supported parents having the right to information about their schools but wanted to know more about the cost and benefits before deciding about publication or whether they should still be run in Queensland.

Teachers are now pursuing a way of keeping future teaching and learning audit results from being published, despite the State Government saying it believes parents have a right to the statewide information.

The QTU opposed a Right to Information application by The Courier-Mail late last year for the results, endorsing last November to suspend participation if the outcomes were ever published. That suspension was put in place on Monday.

The union argues it had secured an agreement the statewide results would not be published and any publication of them was misleading.

Every state-run school and education centre was audited in 2010, with 460 re-audited last year against world-class benchmarks in eight teaching and learning practices.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said they were now considering discussing the future of the audit as part of their impending Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), including a possible guarantee of confidentiality as part of the EBA.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Wisconsin Activist Teacher's Paul Ryan Snub Explained

When I watched the video of the Wisconsin teacher snubbing Congressman Paul Ryan, I knew instantly he was little more than an activist teacher seizing his moment. Respect-be-damned, it was his moment to stick it to an ideological foe. He became an instant folk hero for leftists.

But the silliness was nothing new for Racine teacher Al Levie. He has a history of using students in his personal political agenda.

Case in point is an article Levie penned for the National Education Association magazine, NEA Today, titled, “Don’t Scold, Organize!” He concluded it by writing:

“By engaging students in real-life issues and encouraging them to act on a political level, we will transform schools into places where authentic learning takes place.

“At the same time, we will help our students become engines of positive change in our society.”

Levie wants his students to be fellow rabble rousers, and what better way than to stick to a political foe right in front of them?

The incident with Ryan, however, is only the most recent example he has set for his students.

In June, 2011, Levie was kicked out of a Wisconsin Senate Finance Committee hearing for standing in the front and reading a statement. He was literally carried out by police.

In 2009, Levie participated in (organized?) a protest outside Ryan’s office. The Racine Post explained it this way:

“Horlick teacher Al Levie, known for organizing high school students in political movements, was part of the crowd.”

Levie’s 2004 vote project was canceled when it was discovered the event – oops! – was just for one political party. The Journal Times reported:

“The get out the vote project planned by Horlick High School students has been canceled.

“Racine Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Hicks said what started out to be a class-related activity last week turned out to be a partisan event. The decision to cancel the event was made Monday morning after he learned the facts had changed and it was no longer a bipartisan endeavor.”

Levie’s response?

“We're not teaching kids good values when a learning experience can be canceled by partisan politics,” Levie said.

On a school day in 2009, the high school teacher bussed students to the state capitol for a protest against out-of-state tuition being charged to illegal immigrants. The Racine Post reported:

“Their demands: Remove unfair restrictions on tuition and drivers licenses that discriminate against undocumented workers in Wisconsin. Most of the students were members of Students United for Immigrant Rights, a group founded at Horlick High School in 2005.”

This appears to get to the nub of Levie’s personal view. Consider his quote from NEA Today. Levie believes that the purpose of schools is to turn students into change agents, and he sets the example with his childish antics aimed at Congressman Paul Ryan.

So while only 57% of Racine Unified high school students are proficient in social studies, I’m willing to bet 100% of them could find Congressman Ryan’s office to protest.

That sad reality will leave students with a one-sided perspective on American policy, and likely little insight into Ryan’s conservative thought.

But that’s “real world” teaching according to Al Levie.


School suspends cancer survivor teen over hair he plans to donate

A Michigan teen who survived a bout with leukemia has been suspended from school over the length of his long hair, which he is planning to donate.

The Detroit News reports that 17-year-old J.T. Gaskins has been growing out his hair since last summer in order to donate it to the Locks of Love charity. Gaskins said he was inspired to make the donation after learning that the sister of a family friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just a year old and has been in remission since he was seven. "I fought cancer my entire life. I'm going to keep fighting this," Gaskins told the Detroit News. "I'm not going to not give back just because my school says no."

The Madison Academy in Burton says Gaskins' suspension has more to do with the unkempt style of his hair, rather than its length. The school's student handbook requires that boys' hair be, "clean, neat, free of unnatural or distracting colors, off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes."

Gaskins says Locks of Love requires a 10 inch ponytail for a donation and that his hair is currently only 2 ½ inches long.

Locks of Love Communications Director Lauren Kukkamaa says that while they respect Gaskins' effort, they'd like to see him back in school.

"There are so many ways to support Locks of Love, and we are truly grateful for all of those efforts and this young man and his desire to give back," Kukkamaa said. "But certainly, we understand the school has its reasons for having certain policies in place."

Gaskins is also being encouraged by his mother Christa Plante, who says she supports her son's efforts "100 percent." Plante launched an online petition at for her son, which has received about 4,700 signatures so far.

"He's seen how it works and how it helped people, how it helped us," she said. "This is for him. He wants to do it now. This feels right," she said.

The petition asks the school to change their policy, allowing students to grow their hair for the Locks of Love charity. The new policy would require a student to sign a promissory note, research the respective cause they wish to support and to keep their hair "well-maintained" until the donation is made.

"I'm fighting for them to make it an option for kids to grow out their hair for Locks of Love, to make it a part of the school and raise awareness for all cancer charities out there that can help patients," Gaskins said. "It wouldn't be a change to where people find a loophole just to grow out their hair."

"I'm fine with all of their rules," Gaskins said. "I just think that with this, they could try to make a compromise."


Middle class Brits priced out of university by soaring tuition fees as applications fall by nearly 10%

Thousands of middle-class youngsters have been priced out of university by the trebling of tuition fees to £9,000-a-year, figures revealed yesterday.

Sixth-formers from families with pre-tax incomes between £40,000 and £80,000 have been hardest hit by fee hikes which threaten to leave graduates with debts of £50,000.

Several thousand youngsters from middle and higher-income homes have been put off applying by the prospect of paying up to £9,000-a-year in tuition charges on top of living costs. They fail to qualify for grants and other scholarships designed to lessen the impact of the new charging regime on the poorest.

Families earning less than £25,000 are eligible for maintenance grants to help meet living expenses, with universities also offering means-tested bursaries. Pupils with household incomes up to £42,600 qualify for partial grants.

The number of university applicants across England has fallen by nearly 10 per cent following news that most universities will impose higher charges this autumn. Older students have deserted higher education in greatest numbers, with lesser falls among 18-year-old school leavers.

But official figures yesterday showed a sharper fall among better-off sixth-formers than ‘disadvantaged’ candidates. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the proportion of youngsters applying from the wealthiest fifth of the country dropped 2.5 percentage points – a fall of 3,000. These families live in postcodes that are most likely to send children to university. Their likely average gross household income is around £80,000.

The proportion of applicants from middle-earning families dropped by about one percentage point. In contrast, the percentage of pupils applying from the poorest fifth of England dipped just 0.2 points – around 280 students. These families live in postcodes least likely to send children to university, with a likely average income of £11,800-a-year.

On average, one in 20 18-year-olds who would have been expected to apply to university this year has failed to do so, UCAS said.

The figures suggest that wealthier youngsters are deciding in greater numbers to look for jobs instead of study for three years or more and build up mortgage-style debts in the process. The trend will be seen as mounting evidence of pressure on the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ – the group bearing the brunt of economic policies aimed at easing Britain’s financial woes.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive, said: ‘Our analysis shows that decreases in demand are slightly larger in more advantaged groups than in disadvantaged groups. Widely expressed concerns about recent changes in higher education funding arrangements having a disproportionate effect on more disadvantaged groups are not borne out by this data.’

Ministers insisted the number of 18-year-olds applying to university had largely held up despite the controversial fees policy, one of the Coalition’s most bitterly-contested reforms. Sources pointed out the number of school-leavers from affluent backgrounds applying for university was still significantly higher than from lower-income groups.

But Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s higher education spokesman, said: ‘The decision of the Tory-led Government to treble tuition fees to £9,000 is hitting young people and their aspirations. It is clear the drastic increase in fees and the increased debt burden is putting people of all ages off going to university and investing in their future. Most students will be paying off their debts most of their working lives.’

The figures show how total applications for degree courses starting in the autumn were down 7.4 per cent – almost 44,000. Of these, 25,789 were aged 19 to 21. Many applied last year, causing a spike in recruitment.

The overall drop in applications was softened by a rise in the numbers from outside Europe.

Among UK students, applications were down 8.7 per cent – and 9.9 per cent among those living in England. In contrast, the number of applications from Scottish students – who will not pay tuition fees next year – dropped just 1.5 per cent.

Under the reforms, graduates only start repaying their loans when their income reaches £21,000. Outstanding repayments are written off after 30 years. Graduates on lower incomes are charged less interest than those who land top jobs.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: ‘We cannot afford a system that puts people off university if we are to compete in the modern world.’


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Obama Fosters the Skyrocketing Tuition He Criticized in His State of the Union Address

In his State of the Union address, President Obama decried skyrocketing college tuition, attempting to take advantage of public anger over the steadily-worsening college tuition bubble. This was ironic, since his own administration has done much to foster rising college tuitions.

For example, it imposed the 90-10 rule, which forced low-cost educational institutions to raise their tuition to comply with a new federal regulation requiring them to charge enough over federal financial aid so that at least 10 percent of education costs don’t come from financial aid. For example, Corinthian College had diploma programs in health care and other fields that can be completed in a year or less. Until 2011, many of those programs had a total cost of about $15,000, which meant that federal grants and loans could cover nearly 100 percent of their cost. In response to the Education Department’s rule, the college raised tuition to comply with the 90/10 rule. The net result of the Obama Education Department’s rule was to “create a perverse, no-win ‘Catch-22’ that could prevent low-income students from attending college,” by encouraging such colleges to raise tuition to outstrip rising financial aid by more than ten percent.

Administration allies like Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) are now pushing a new rule, the 85-15 rule, that would require low-cost institutions to further raise tuition so that at least 15 percent of education costs aren’t covered by financial aid. (With this kind of mentality, it is no wonder that college graduation rates have actually “fallen somewhat since the 1970s” “among poor and working-class students.”)

As George Leef of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy notes, “Obama’s talk about getting tough with colleges over tuition is pure political blather. One reason costs keep going up, thus necessitating tuition increases, is that schools keep adding administrative positions like Chief Diversity Officer. College spending is responsible for the jobs of a great many of Obama’s most zealous supporters. It’s easy to demagogue college costs, but this is nothing more than theatrics.” There are now more college administrators than faculty at California State University, and colleges, partly to comply with bureaucratic mandates, are creating new positions for liberal bureaucrats even as they raise student tuition to record levels:

The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Other colleges raised spending on administrators as much as 600 percent in recent years.

As a result of increasing federal financial aid, colleges have been able to increase tuition faster than inflation, year after year, secure in the knowledge that they can rake in ever-rising government subsidies and skyrocketing tuition. College students are learning less and less even as higher education spending explodes.

Students have little choice but to pay inflated tuition bills into the education industrial-complex, as they vie with each other for scarce entry-level jobs by acquiring ever more degrees that show their ability to jump through hoops and master difficult (but largely useless) skills. The net result is an educational arms race in which people compete to see who can acquire the most paper credentials. There are now 8,000 waiters and 5,057 janitors with PhD’s or other advanced degrees, and millions of Americans have useless college degrees.

Obama’s State of the Union address also contained false claims about outsourcing and corporate taxes, as well as a misguided proposal that could undermine discipline and order in inner-city schools that have high drop-out rates, and another proposal that could shrink Americans’ 401(k)s and increase the cost of mortgage financing in the future.

The Education Department recently made college officials’ lives more difficult by trying to alter the burden of proof long used by many colleges in sexual harassment cases (despite the lack of any legal basis for doing so), and by seeking to discourage procedures such as cross-examination that safeguard accuracy and due process in campus disciplinary proceedings.


Stay in School or We'll Make You

Many teenage kids regard school as the functional equivalent of prison -- where they are forced to endure oppressive rules, bad food and unpleasant company. For them, Barack Obama has a message: There will be no parole.

In his State of the Union address, the president came out in favor of warehousing youngsters for longer than ever. We know, insisted Obama, "that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."

Most states now allow students to drop out at 16 or 17. As a general rule, though, quitting high school restricts your options and reduces your income. Few adults would advise a youngster to leave without a diploma.

But general rules don't apply in all cases. The question here is not whether most students are better off finishing high school; it's whether the kids who otherwise would drop out are better off being forced to finish high school.

That's a very different question. Candidates who stay in the presidential race past April are far more likely to get the nomination than candidates who give up in January. But Rick Perry wasn't going to win even if he had stayed in till Christmas. If you're headed in the wrong direction, it doesn't help to keep going.

Why Obama floated the idea, with minimal explanation, is an open question. But the National Education Association, the country's biggest teachers union, has been pushing it. If you were cynical, you might think the union likes the proposal because it would mean more kids in school, which would mean more jobs for teachers, and that Obama likes it because the NEA endorsed him.

But even if their motives are pristine, it doesn't mean they are sound. The problem is that the youngsters who are most likely to drop out are the ones who are least likely to learn if they stay.

If they are 1) struggling to pass, 2) unwilling to apply themselves, 3) chronically tardy and absent or 4) simply not very bright, they won't learn much from being locked in a cell -- I mean a classroom -- for two extra years.

James Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist at the University of Chicago who specializes in education, is skeptical of the proposal. At the college level, he told me, "The returns to people who are not very able or not very motivated are typically quite low." There is evidence that kids may get some benefit from being required to stay in high school until 16 instead of 15, he says, but "it's a weak reed to lean on."

Let's also not forget that the highest dropout rates are in the worst schools. Even the kids who want an education often graduate from these schools barely able to read. Where does Obama get the idea that the reluctant students, compelled to remain, will reap a rich harvest of learning?

It might be argued that even if there is no benefit from keeping these students around till they turn 18, there can't be any harm. But think again.

The presence of disruptive, unmotivated kids in a class is a drain on teachers, a distraction to other students and a daily obstacle to learning. One of the best things you can do for students who want to do the right thing is to remove those who would rather goof off or make trouble.

It's not clear that laws like this will even work. A 2010 Johns Hopkins University study found that when six states raised the mandatory attendance age, three saw no increase in graduation rates -- and one saw a decline. Coauthor Robert Balfanz praises the 18-year-old mandate, but told The New York Times that "it's not the magical thing that in itself will keep kids in school."

If you want to keep unwilling students in school, you can spend money on truancy enforcement, which means taking money away from the willing students. It would be more rational to use the funds on education improvements so more kids will choose to stay.

A private company -- or a private school -- whose customers are fleeing has to come up with ways to keep them around. In Obama's public sector, there is a quicker solution: Lock the exits.


Competitive British parents 'taking joy out of childhood'

Competitive parents are taking the joy out of childhood by subjecting sons and daughters to regular tutoring at a young age, a leading headmistress has warned.

Mothers and fathers risk undermining their children’s natural development with evening and weekend lessons in the three-Rs – in addition to more than 40 hours of school work and extra curricular activities, it is claimed.

Alexia Bracewell, the head of fee-paying Longacre School in Guildford, Surrey, told how parents of three-year-olds regularly approached teachers to enquire what was needed to make sure children gain top Sats results or pass senior school entry exams.

She warned that many families were “setting their children up to fail” by pushing them too hard during the early years. “The joy of childhood is fast disappearing with parents eagerly inflicting one activity after another in a desperate bid to ensure their child succeeds,” she said.

“Parents’ ambition and intervention in their child’s education is undoubtedly hampering a pupil’s enjoyment and ability to develop at an individual rate… Of course, you must be sympathetic to parents but the pressure needs to be controlled. “I regularly see the inescapable problem of competitive parents.

“It is a natural instinct to want the best for your child. but the claws come out in some parents when their child fails to get the lead role in the school play, does not get selected for the 1st XI or fails to win a particular prize.”

Tutoring is increasingly popular in preparation for the 11-plus and Common Entrance – the traditional entry exams for grammar schools and private senior schools.

One study has suggested almost half of families now pay for private tutors to prepare sons and daughters for the 11-plus and a further 30 per cent coach them at home. Most received between 12 months and two years' worth of tuition, it was revealed.

Growing numbers of children are also tutored for GCSEs and A-levels, particularly amid rising competition for places at the best universities.

But writing in Attain, the magazine for the Independent Association of Prep Schools, Mrs Bracewell warned that exam cramming was “ultimately counterproductive”.

She also called for greater regulation of the tutoring industry to reduce the number of “unqualified, inexperienced and possibility fraudulent tutors”.

“If a child requires this level of support to gain entry to a school, how will they endure the level of expectation going forwards?” she said. “Parents are inadvertently setting their children up to fail unless they are prepared to invest financially in a lifetime of tutoring, which of course does not consider the implications for the child and the increasing peer pressure of adolescence.”

Nicholas Allen, the headmaster of Newton Prep School, London, and chairman-elect of the IAPS, said some parents were “reliving their own life” through their children.

“The most difficult thing that heads have to deal with is when not only do the parents have overwhelming ambition which is way beyond the child’s capacity or motivation, but also there’s a sense that they are reliving their own life, their own ambitions, through their children," he told Attain.

William Stadlen, founder of Holland Park Tuition, London, said the comments overlooked the “basic benefits” of being tutored by professional agencies.

He said parents should “enlist the support of a well-reputed organisation as referred by your child’s school and apply tuition only where absolutely necessary and ensure it is targeted at specific issues highlighted by your son or daughter’s teacher”.

“A tutor should enhance a child’s appreciation of a subject, build her confidence and set her free to enjoy the experience of school once short term problems have been addressed,” he said.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Gov. Jindal Unveils Far Reaching Education Reform Proposals as Nation Marks National School Choice Week

Fresh from his overwhelming re-election victory, Gov. Bobby Jindal has unveiled an audacious education reform agenda that built around an expanded school voucher program, new charter schools, a rigorous teacher evaluation system and a revamped tenure system. With the Louisiana state legislature set to go back into session this coming March, the governor is expected to win broad support for many of the proposed changes.

If so, the voucher program, which is now limited to New Orleans, would go statewide. Low-income families with a child enrolled in a school that has received a C rating or lower could use public dollars to cover the cost of private school tuition.

Jindal also favors using the new “value-added” teacher assessment to deny automatic tenure for teachers that do not received high marks. Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, 50 percent of evaluations for teachers in academic classes will be based on the LEAP and iLEAP test scores, while the other 50 percent will be based more on subjective criteria built around classroom observations to determine how effective instructors are in motivating students. A pilot program that involves nine school districts and one of the charter schools is already underway.

“This is historic change and an important step forward for our education system,” said Brigitte Nieland, vice-president and communications director of the Education and Workforce Development Council for Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). “For the first time, teachers will be evaluated based on how their students perform. This is about transparency and accuracy.”

The state’s teachers unions, Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) and the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), have been critical of the value-added model and object to it being included as part a tenure reform package. They point out that most teachers fall into “non-core” areas they do not involve tests. Union officials are expected to roll out an alternative reform agenda sometime later this week.

“Governor Jindal is to be praised for proposing such a far-reaching school choice and public education reform agenda. Competition is healthy for education,” Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson said, adding, “the labor reforms will make the public education that the government is responsible for more competitive.

Gov. Jindal would also to “fast-track” charter school operators who have a history of success. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, most New Orleans public schools were placed under state control in the Recovery School District (RSD). Charter school operators now run most of the schools in RSD.

“We can’t wait for another generation of students to graduate from high school unprepared for the workforce and higher education — or to dropout before they even get there,” said during an address to the LABI earlier this month. “This applies not only to K-12 education, but to early childhood education as well.”

New Orleans is now recognized as incubator for education reform. The city hosted a celebration last Saturday that marked the opening of National School Choice Week.


Okla. High School Student Catches Teacher Napping…Guess Who Was Suspended?

Students can be punished for sleeping in class, but what happens when a teacher gets caught dozing at his desk? A high school student in Oklahoma City got the answer to that question when he snapped a cell phone picture to prove that his substitute teacher was sleeping on the job.

The first reaction from the school? Suspend the student. The Oklahoma City School District has a strict policy that prohibits students from using “telecommunications devices during the school day.” Apparently, the school is sticking to the letter of the law in this situation.

The identities of the ninth grader at Mustang Mid-High or the slumbering substitute have not been released, but the story has filtered out and the community is responding. Many locals have expressed concerns over the harsh penalty imposed by the school, and some parents wondered if the suspension was appropriate — or a case of the administration trying to intimidate students.

The only official statement from the school district claims that the sleeping teacher will be investigated.

You have to wonder, if the same teacher had a heart attack and a student called 911 with a cell phone, would that student be suspended or lauded for acting quickly?


Free schooling gets expensive in Australia

SCHOOL costs are rising so fast that one in three parents can't afford the $3000 a year needed to send a child to a public primary school.

The cost of preparing a child for the first day of school has become so expensive, more parents are seeking financial assistance from principals and teachers, or turning to charities and second-hand stores for uniforms.

A survey of 12,000 parents shows they can expect to pay up to $514 this year for uniforms, textbooks and stationery for a public primary student, rising to $739 a year in high school.

Parents sending their children to Catholic or private schools face costs as high as $892 in primary and $1355 in high school. Fees, excursions and extracurricular activities are also on the rise.

The Australian Scholarship Group figures show the total cost of high school as high as $4360 a year in the public system, $11,518 at a Catholic school and $24,376 at a private college. Their survey also found one in three families couldn't cope with the cost of their child's education.

Teachers told The Sunday Telegraph many parents struggled to pay a compulsory "book pack" fee of between $10 and $25, depending on the school, to cover exercise books, textbooks and basic school supplies.

Canley Vale Public School principal Cheryl McBride, chairwoman of the NSW Public Schools Principals Forum, said schools were seeing more disadvantaged families each year but principals could help.

"Every principal has a discretionary fund called Student Assistance," Ms McBride said. "It's not a lot of money but it's designed to assist parents who are really struggling with things like uniforms or excursions. No kid should ever miss out on their books."

Tuition fees at NSW public schools were voluntary but wearing the correct school uniform is compulsory.

The Smith Family CEO Dr Lisa O'Brien said the charity was having one of its busiest periods and had launched a Back to School appeal to sponsor an Australian student.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elocution thriving in Britain

Curious: In Australia, the very word is politically incorrect. There are no elocution teachers in the phone book. A few older ladies still teach it but they are listed as "speech and drama" teachers. I sent my son to one for a year but his teacher told me he had very "cultured vowels" anyway

The Essex accent has long attracted ridicule and disapproval. But primary school teachers say it also has a damaging effect on children’s spelling and grammar. So they have introduced elocution lessons in an effort to improve pupils’ written work.

The children are learning to say ‘computer’ instead of ‘computa’ and ‘aren’t’ in place of ‘ain’t’ as well as being told to stop ending sentences with ‘yeah?’.

Up to 200 seven to 11-year-olds are having weekly lessons with a private tutor at the Cherry Tree Primary School in Basildon, Essex.

Teachers say there has been great progress in their spelling and writing since the lessons were introduced a year ago. Some parents are even being corrected on their pronunciation at home by their children.

The spotlight has been turned on the Essex accent following the huge success of the reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex.

Terri Chudleigh, the school’s literacy co-ordinator, insisted: ‘This is not about being ashamed of the Essex accent – it’s about helping the children to speak properly so they can improve their reading and writing. 'They weren’t saying words correctly and were therefore misspelling them. ‘We had lots of youngsters writing ‘sbort’ instead of ‘sport’ and ‘wellw’ instead of ‘well’.

'They now have half-hourly sessions where they get taken through exercises and learn to use the "posh voices" in their heads.

'They really enjoy the sessions. The feedback we’ve had from parents has been very positive. We’ve had them tell us their children are going home and correcting them on their speech!'

During the sessions, children run through speech exercises and are encouraged to use ‘posh voices’.

Francesca Gordon-Smith, who runs the classes through her business Positive Voice, said: ‘When they’re writing, the children have their elocution voice in their head. ‘They speak clearer, they’re pronouncing their Ts and generally finishing sentences.’

The classes have also improved pupils’ grammar, for example by telling them to use ‘we were’ instead of ‘we was’.

Rising numbers of all ages from all over Britain are turning to elocution, according to research by the website.


British universities 'dropping science in favour of media studies'

The students concerned obviously don't expect to pay back their student loans

Universities are increasingly axing courses in traditional academic disciplines such as science in favour of the performing arts, media studies and photography, according to research.

Figures show a “major change” in the balance of subjects offered in British higher education since the mid-90s after dozens of former polytechnics adopted full university status.

Researchers told of a significant decline in the number of institutions offering degrees in the physical sciences, with chemistry courses dropping by a fifth and physics declining by almost a third.

Most subjects in the fields of engineering and technology also saw a “marked decrease”, it was revealed, and the number of universities teaching botany halved.

At the same time, it emerged that the biggest increases were in areas such as the creative and performing arts, media studies, publishing, journalism and cimematics and photography. The number of universities offering media studies alone tripled while courses in journalism increased four-fold.

The Higher Education Policy Institute, which published the report, also said that rising numbers of university places had been claimed by foreign students and a falling number of institutions demanded the very highest A-level grades for entry.

Researchers insisted that major changes in subject provision between 1994 and 2010 – the period covered by the report – matched shifting application patterns among students.

Last night, a leading academic also warned that the shift reflected the influence of school league tables as growing numbers of teachers push pupils onto “easier” subjects to boost their rankings – having a knock-on effect on higher education choices.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “Many students have been encouraged to try out these newer, sexier-sounding courses that are not as demanding at GCSE and A-level and this has fed through to the universities.

“Another thing to consider is that these courses are relatively cheap to put on so the newer universities have been able to expand their provision in these areas, whereas some others such as the sciences, which traditionally attracted a small number of students, would have been very expensive.”

A spokesman for the Royal Society of Chemistry said: "We're actually seeing a resurgence of chemistry: in recent months Kings College London, Brighton and Lancaster have all announced new chemistry courses and departments and several other institutions are considering doing the same.

"Vice-chancellors clearly see how a chemistry course offers great value for money to the university, the students and the UK overall."

Prof Peter Main, from the Institute of Physics, said the decline of science courses was an “unfortunate consequence” of funding mechanisms operated under Labour which appeared to penalise laboratory-based subjects. "This issue was addressed in 2007 and since then there have been no further closures, but we remain vigilant to ensure that nothing similar happens in the future,” he said.

According to the HEPI study, the overall number of higher education institutions has dropped since the mid-90s – from 183 to 165.

Some universities have been merged or taken over by competitors, although 18 new institutions have entered the sector in this period – mainly specialist colleges focusing on creative and performing arts.

The shift has coincided with a large number of courses either opening or closing, the report said. It emerged that chemistry is now taught in just 66 universities compared with 83 in the mid-90s, while physics has declined from 69 to 47.

Materials science courses have almost halved from 10 to six, maritime technology has dropped from 11 to just five and botany is taught in 11 universities compared with 22 in the mid-90s.

At the same time, other courses have significantly expanded. The number of universities offering media studies has soared from 37 to 111, while journalism courses have increased from 16 to 68.

Cinematics and photography degrees have more than doubled from 37 to 85, while drama degrees have increased from 70 to 102, music has grown from 71 to 96 and crafts has increased more than four-fold from four to 17.

But other more traditional courses have also expanded, with law, politics and English degrees increasing by around a fifth each. Maths has also bucked the trend by expanding.

In a further conclusion, the study revealed that a “diminishing number of institutions require the highest entry grades”, with fewer universities demanding at least two As and a B at A-level for entry between 2004 and 2009.

This suggests that the brightest students are being concentrated into a small number of elite institutions as the competition for places mounts.

Researchers also said that many more universities have enrolled “significant numbers of students from outside the UK” who can often be charged far higher fees than British and EU undergraduates. “It is now the norm for institutions to enroll more than 15 per cent of their students from countries other than the UK,” the report said.


Utah students arrested over 'plot for Columbine-style massacre'

Two teenagers [above] have been charged with conspiring to bomb their Utah high school in a plot inspired by the Columbine massacre.

Dallin Morgan, 18, and an unnamed 16-year-old accomplice were arrested on Wednesday at Roy High School after a fellow student alerted police to a series of ominous text messages. "If I tell you one day not to go to school, make damn sure you and are not there," the message read, according to court records.

Police said the pair had detailed blueprints of the school and had planned to try to steal a plane at a nearby airport after their attack. Both had logged hundreds of hours on flight simulators on their home computers.

The younger suspect was said to be fascinated by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in neighbouring Colorado and last month travelled there to interview the school principal about the killings, which left 13 students and teachers dead.

Detectives said they were not sure how close the two students came to carrying out the attack but Morgan was released on bail, a sign that he is not considered a serious threat.

The charges laid out against the pair on Friday include conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, but court documents did not indicate whether they had actually built a viable explosive.

The suspects told authorities they were inspired by Columbine, but were offended when compared to them because "those killers only completed one percent of their plan," according to court documents.

Student Bailey Gerhardt, 16, was credited with helping to avert a possible attack after she informed teachers of a series of text messages from the younger suspect.

"I get the feeling you know what I'm planning," read one of the messages. "Explosives, airport, airplane. "We ain't gonna crash it, we're just gonna kill and fly our way to a country that won't send us back to the US," another read.

Both students had "absolute knowledge of the security systems and the layout of the school," a police spokesman said. "They knew where the security cameras were. Their original plan was to set off explosives during an assembly. We don't know what date they were planning to do this, but they had been planning it for months."