Friday, September 14, 2012

Is College a Lousy Investment?

Why are we spending so much money on college?  And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?

The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

For my entire adult life, an education has been the most important thing for middle-class households. My parents spent more educating my sister and me than they spent on their house, and they’re not the only ones ... and, of course, for an increasing number of families, most of the cost of their house is actually the cost of living in a good school district. Questioning the value of a college education seems a bit like questioning the value of happiness, or fun.

Donald Marron, a private-equity investor whose portfolio companies have included a student-loan firm and an educational-technology startup, says, “If you’re in a position to be able to pay for education, it’s a bargain.” Those who can afford a degree from an elite institution are still in an enviable position. “You’ve got that with you for your whole life,” Marron pointed out. “It’s a real imprimatur that’s with you, as well as access to all these relationships.”

That’s true. I have certainly benefited greatly from the education my parents sacrificed to give me. On the other hand, that kind of education has gotten a whole lot more expensive since I was in school, and jobs seem to be getting scarcer, not more plentiful. These days an increasing number of commentators are nervously noting the uncomfortable similarities to the housing bubble, which started with parents telling their children that “renting is throwing your money away,” and ended in mass foreclosures.

An education can’t be repossessed, of course, but neither can the debt that financed it be shed, not even, in most cases, in bankruptcy. And it’s hard to ignore the similarities: the rapid run-up in prices, at rates much higher than inflation; the increasingly frenetic recruitment of new buyers, borrowing increasingly hefty sums; the sense that you are somehow saving for the future while enjoying an enhanced lifestyle right now, and of course, the mountain of debt.

The price of a McDonald’s hamburger has risen from 85 cents in 1995 to about a dollar today. The average price of all goods and services has risen about 50 percent. But the price of a college education has nearly doubled in that time. Is the education that today’s students are getting twice as good? Are new workers twice as smart? Have they become somehow massively more expensive to educate?

Perhaps a bit. Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor who heads the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, notes that while we may have replaced millions of filing clerks and payroll assistants with computers, it still takes one professor to teach a class. But he also notes that “we’ve been slow to adopt new technology because we don’t want to. We like getting up in front of 25 people. It’s more fun, but it’s also damnably expensive.”

Vedder adds, “I look at the data, and I see college costs rising faster than inflation up to the mid-1980s by 1 percent a year. Now I see them rising 3 to 4 percent a year over inflation. What has happened? The federal government has started dropping money out of airplanes.” Aid has increased, subsidized loans have become available, and “the universities have gotten the money.” Economist Bryan Caplan, who is writing a book about education, agrees: “It’s a giant waste of resources that will continue as long as the subsidies continue.”

Promotional literature for colleges and student loans often speaks of debt as an “investment in yourself.” But an investment is supposed to generate income to pay off the loans. More than half of all recent graduates are unemployed or in jobs that do not require a degree, and the amount of student-loan debt carried by households has more than quintupled since 1999. These graduates were told that a diploma was all they needed to succeed, but it won’t even get them out of the spare bedroom at Mom and Dad’s. For many, the most tangible result of their four years is the loan payments, which now average hundreds of dollars a month on loan balances in the tens of thousands.

A lot of ink has been spilled over the terrifying plight of students with $100,000 in loans and a job that will not cover their $900-a-month payment. Usually these stories treat this massive debt as an unfortunate side effect of spiraling college costs. But in another view, the spiraling college costs are themselves an unfortunate side effect of all that debt. When my parents went to college, it was an entirely reasonable proposition to “work your way through” a four-year, full-time college program, especially at a state school, where tuition was often purely nominal. By the time I matriculated, in 1990, that was already a stretch. But now it’s virtually impossible to conceive of high-school students making enough with summer jobs and part-time jobs during the school year to put themselves through a four-year school. Nor are their financially shaky parents necessarily in a position to pick up the tab, which is why somewhere between one half and two thirds of undergrads now come out of school with debt.

In a normal market, prices would be constrained by the disposable income available to pay them. But we’ve bypassed those constraints by making subsidized student loans widely available. No, not only making them available: telling college students that those loans are “good debt” that will enable them to make much more money later.

It’s true about the money—sort of. College graduates now make 80 percent more than people who have only a high-school diploma, and though there are no precise estimates, the wage premium for an elite school seems to be even higher. But that’s not true of every student. It’s very easy to spend four years majoring in English literature and beer pong and come out no more employable than you were before you went in. Conversely, chemical engineers straight out of school can easily make triple or quadruple the wages of an entry-level high-school graduate.

James Heckman, the Nobel Prize–winning economist, has examined how the returns on education break down for individuals with different backgrounds and levels of ability. “Even with these high prices, you’re still finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated,” he says. On the other hand, “if you’re not college ready, then the answer is no, it’s not worth it.” Experts tend to agree that for the average student, college is still worth it today, but they also agree that the rapid increase in price is eating up more and more of the potential return. For borderline students, tuition hikes can push those returns into negative territory.


Third of Britain's elite universities still looking for students

Almost a third of Britain’s leading universities still have places available with less than a week to go before the application deadline, following a sharp drop in student applications, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Seven out of 24 institutions in the elite Russell Group are still advertising vacancies on more than 1,000 courses days before the start of the academic year.

Thirty thousand more places have been made available through the clearing system than at this time last year, increasing suspicions that £9,000-a-year tuition fees have put off many school-leavers.

Despite the unexpectedly high level of vacancies for British students, places are likely to go unfilled because fewer pupils have achieved the entry requirements for leading universities.

One Russell Group university, Queen Mary, University of London, was yesterday advertising spaces on 178 of its 194 courses that are available through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Sheffield University had places to spare on 257 of its 326 courses, including English literature and law. Exeter was yet to fill 191 out of 316, including psychology and classics.

Overall demand for university places is down by seven per cent on last year, with many blaming the new higher fees. Leading universities have also been hit by a decline in the number of teenagers gaining good A-level grades following a drive to make exams harder. David Willetts, the universities minister, said that this summer there was a fall of 5,000 in the number of pupils believed to have gained at least two As and a B, the threshold for many courses at leading institutions.

If the places are not filled, some universities could suffer multi-million-pound losses.

Lecturers’ leaders warned that the decline represented a rejection of the new fees regime, which has seen the price of courses almost treble at some universities.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Fewer students at UK universities this year represents the predictable failure of the Government’s attempt to create an artificial market for the most highly-qualified students.

“The minister’s recognition that higher tuition fees forced a scramble for places last year highlights the unfair nature of this Government’s hike in fees. At a time of high unemployment, we should be making it easier for people to get to university, not pricing them out.”

Mr Willetts said evidence from previous higher education reforms showed that “individual institutions can face a temporary jolt when changes like this are introduced”, with students applying early to get around the fees increase.

This will lead to declines in entry rates at some institutions, creating “real pressures”, he said. Speaking at the Universities UK annual conference at Keele University, the minister said: “I think we are likely to see fewer students going to university this year because last year’s figure was partly artificially inflated by fewer people taking a gap year. But I still think we will have very high numbers of students going to university.”

Universities have been given greater freedom to take unlimited numbers of students with at least AAB at A-level. Previously the Government operated strict controls on all student places, threatening universities with fines if they over-recruited. The move was designed to create more competition between institutions and free up places for the brightest students.

But a decline in the number of teenagers gaining top grades has actually led to some leading universities facing shortages.

Mr Willetts said that 80,000 students gained AAB, compared with a previous prediction of 85,000.

The decline in applications can also be put down to a fall in the number of 18-year-olds in the education system over recent years.

Figures from Ucas showed that the number of students who accepted places at English universities by Sept 11 was down by 30,076 on last year.

There were 26,997 courses with vacancies in clearing, and eligible candidates have until Sept 20 to apply. Some 642,654 people applied to study this year, compared with 692,358 last year.

In a separate disclosure, Times Higher Education magazine carried out an anonymous survey of universities to find out how many students with grades of AAB had been admitted.

One Russell Group university said it was 500 short of predictions, while three others were down by 400, 260 and 160. Another “less selective” university said student numbers were down by 700.

With average annual tuition fees estimated at £8,123, it is believed universities could be facing a £700 million loss of funding over three years.

Wendy Piatt, the directo- general of the Russell Group, criticised the Government’s decision to award more places to cheaper universities.

“The first year of the new funding system was always going to be challenging and uncertain. But the Government’s core and margin policy of re-distributing places, largely on the basis of lower fees, meant universities had fewer places to offer to students with grades below AAB and this has had a knock-on impact.

“We have consistently argued this policy of giving more places to institutions charging lower fees would neither improve quality nor enhance student choice.

“If universities couldn’t recruit enough high-calibre students they risked losing funding but if they recruited too many students with grades ABB or below they risked substantial fines. The difficult choices faced by admissions departments this year means students who wanted to attend a leading university and had the right qualifications have not been able to even though those universities wanted to accept them.”

Mr Willetts said: “Different institutions will have been affected differently; that is inevitable when making significant changes, which are intended to take greater account of student choice.”


Trivial-minded British school leadership

They can't stop REAL misbehaviour so they harass decent families

It is usually the norm that a schoolgirl would be reprimanded for her skirt being too short.  But in this case, one pupil was sent home because her trousers were not flared enough and deemed far too tight.

Teachers also made Lauren Entwistle learn in isolation at Swavesey Village College in Cambridgeshire, because the offending black school trousers did not have the correct 'flarage'.

Her mother Mandy Entwistle, 37, today said she was furious her daughter missed a day-and-a-half of GCSE lessons just because her trousers were the wrong style.

She said the school had banned various styles of trousers because they were deemed fashionable, but she had decided the bootcut version that they ask pupils to wear looks untidy and can get caught in bikes.  Bizarrely, the school has now ordered Lauren new trousers, which they deem suitable, from the same website as the original ones.

Mother-of-four Ms Entwistle said: 'I just do not understand how sending a child home from school because her trousers are too tight around the ankles is beneficial for anybody.

'Are we supposed to get a tape measure out and measure the flarage?  'I could understand if they were too tight in case they are distracting for the boys, but that is not the issue.  'I bought them from a school uniform website. I would not send her to school in leggings. I always make sure she looks smart.

'When I was at school bootcut trousers were banned because they were in fashion and now straight trousers are banned because they are in fashion.  'I think the flared trousers do not look very smart as they often get caught in their bikes or shoes.

'The school say they want the pupils to behave like young adults and then they treat Lauren like a child over some trousers.

'She wears the trousers to work at her hair salon and they are considered smart enough - so if they are appropriate for the world of work they should be good enough for school.'

The seething mother, who runs her own cleaning business, added: 'Lauren is a well-behaved pupil and despite her interest in beauty she respects the rules and does not have her nails done or wear make up to school.  'I refuse to let them put Lauren in the isolation room is like a prison cell - it is like something out of a torture camp.  'They will make them wear orange jumpsuits next.'

Lauren, who lives with her mother and stay-at-home father Allen, 40, in Swavesey, Cambridgeshire, was sent home at about 10am on Monday and missed the rest of her lessons that day.

Mandy sent her back to school on Tuesday, but Lauren had to work in the teachers’ office missing her favourite lesson, health and beauty.

She was allowed to take part in lessons on Wednesday after the school ordered Lauren some new trousers - which Mandy says came from the same uniform website she originally used.

Swavesey Village College today confirmed it has clamped down on their uniform policy, which they say helps them deliver 'very high standards.'

The school’s uniform policy states that girls must wear bootcut trousers to ensure everyone is dressed the same and to prevent girls wearing leggings.

A source at the school confirmed there is an isolation room, but said pupils are given work to do and supervised by staff.

Andrew Daly, acting headteacher at Swavesey Village College, today said the school is rated 'outstanding' and expects 'very high standards.'

He said: 'Part of these expectations is a very clear uniform policy, that in consultation with parents and students we apply fairly and consistently.  'We explained before the summer our expectations about uniform and girls’ trousers in particular to ensure they are appropriate.

'All parents were given the summer to arrange for the correct uniform to be purchased.

'Students are offered opportunities to rectify issues with uniform before going to lessons, either by being lent uniform we keep in stock or having uniform brought in from home.  'If they refuse to respond to either of these options then we do have a clear sanctions policy in place.'


Thursday, September 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Obese Chicago teachers' union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you are sitting down while reading this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What astonishing arrogance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicago Bled Dry by Striking Teachers’ Unions

The smartest parents in Chicago right now are those whose kids attend charter schools, private schools, or parochial schools. Those institutions don’t employ Chicago’s unionized public-school teachers, who went out on strike this morning for the first time in 25 years.

The coverage of the strike has obscured some basic facts. The money has continued to pour into Chicago’s failing public schools in recent years. Chicago teachers have the highest average salary of any city at $76,000 a year before benefits. The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year. Yet the teachers rejected a 16 percent salary increase over four years at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.

The city is being bled dry by the exorbitant benefits packages negotiated by previous elected officials. Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs.

But beyond the dollars, the fact is that Chicago schools need a fundamental shakeup — which of course the union is resisting. It is calling for changes in the teacher-evaluation system it just negotiated by making student performance less important.

Small wonder. Just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating.

The showdown in Chicago will be a test of just how much clout the public-employee unions wield at a time when the budget pressures they’ve created threaten to break the budgets of America’s major cities.


British teachers could be fired for refusing to endorse homosexual marriage

Teachers who refuse to endorse gay marriage in the classroom could face the sack under controversial Government reforms, a legal expert has warned.

Schools will be within their statutory rights to dismiss staff that wilfully fail to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex weddings, it is claimed.

Aidan O’Neill, a senior QC and expert on religious freedom and human rights, also warned that parents who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will have no right to withdraw their child from lessons.

In a report, he said that any decision to redefine marriage would have far-reaching consequences for schools, hospitals, foster carers and public buildings.

The most serious impact is likely to be felt in the church where vicars and priests conducting religious marriage ceremonies could be taken to court for refusing to carry out a gay wedding, he said.

The conclusions – in legal advice commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage – comes amid continuing fall-out over Government plans to tear up the centuries-old law on marriage.

Ministers launched a consultation on proposals to legalise homosexual weddings earlier this year. David Cameron has said he is committed to pushing through the change by 2015.

The plan is being backed by the Liberal Democrats and many senior Conservatives, although it has prompted a backlash among some backbenchers and Christian groups.

Last month, the Roman Catholic Church had a letter read in all 500 Catholic parishes in Scotland urging churchgoers to oppose attempts to “redefine” marriage north of the border.

Sharon James, a Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman, said the proposed law change would have a serious effect on schools, representing an “unprecedented assault on the rights of parents”.

“This is a dangerous path to go down and one that should be resisted,” she said.

“The redefinition of marriage would ride roughshod over a person’s right to support marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman, whether that person be a teacher, a parent, a foster carer or a marriage registrar. The only winners from a change in marriage law will be lawyers.”

Mr O’Neill – based at Matrix Chambers – has analysed the effect that any change in the legal basis of marriage would have on a series of public institutions.

He outlined a fictional scenario in which a Christian teacher is asked to use a book called King & King, a story of a prince who marries a man, and produce a play based on the tale.

The QC suggested that any refusal to comply would be “grounds for her dismissal from employment” because of a legal ruling that religious belief cannot be used by employees “to demand changes in their conditions of their employment”.

Mr O’Neill also warned that parents who object to gay marriage being taught would have no right to withdraw their child from lessons for religious conscience reasons.

“If gay marriage is introduced, the school would be in its own legal right to refuse the wishes of the child’s parents, arguing it is under a legal obligation of its own to promote equality - whatever the cost,” he said.

In the report, he also claimed that Government promises to protect churches and other faiths who object to gay marriage would be meaningless.

Mr O’Neill insisted that vicars or priests would be powerless to stop same-sex couples demanding the same weddings as hetrosexuals under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Churches would be in a stronger legal position if they were to stop conducting weddings altogether – bring to an end more than a thousand years of tradition, he suggested.

“Churches might indeed better protect themselves against the possibility of any such litigation by deciding not to provide marriage services at all, since there could be no complaint then of discrimination in their provision of services as between same sex and opposite sex couples,” he said.


Australia: Media bias on schools policy stifles debate

NOW that Julia Gillard has endorsed the Gonski report in principle, and state and federal governments are deciding what the new model will look like post 2013, Australia's cultural-Left institutions such as the ABC, the Fairfax press and a number of universities are mounting a one-sided campaign against non-government schools by giving critics a free run.

The failure to offer a balanced and objective view of the funding debate is best illustrated by the ABC's 7.30 program telecast on August 20. The program centred on disadvantaged government schools.

Non-government school opponent Richard Teese, of the University of Melbourne, argued: "The biggest single predictor of differences in achievement is the social background of children."

This reinforces the argument that money must be redirected from non-government schools to government schools, but it is incorrect.

Teese's argument that there is no advantage in parents paying fees to send their children to non-government schools, as such schools fail to outperform government school students after adjusting for socioeconomic background, is also not supported by the research.

Another academic who is vocal in his opposition to non-government schools, David Zyngier from Monash University, has also been given airtime on the national broadcaster.

In ABC radio's The World Today on September 7, Zyngier was one of two pro-government-school voices versus a token independent school representative.

Zyngier argues that the main reason why Australia is outperformed by a number of Asian countries is because of "parents paying enormous amounts of their money for private tuition after school". He also repeats the mantra that demography is destiny and that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are doomed to failure.

In fact, Asian countries outperform Australia because they have a more academic curriculum and more effective classroom pedagogy, their students face high-risk tests and the culture respects and values learning.

It's no accident that, compared with many Western countries, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan have significantly higher proportions of students defined as resilient - that is, classified as disadvantaged but able to achieve high performance.

A recent seminar at La Trobe University organised by Robert Manne, titled Education in Australia: The Struggle for Greater Equality, involved Carmen Lawrence, Teese and Dennis Altman. All were critical of funding to Catholic and independent schools. (Manne says a spokesman from the independent school sector had been invited to the seminar, making it three to one, but was unable to attend.)

Since the Gonski review was established more than two years ago the Fairfax press's editorial stance has been to attack non-government schools and to give priority to critics such as Jane Caro, Teese, Lawrence, Kenneth Davidson, and Trevor Cobbold.

Two pieces in last weekend's edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age best illustrate this bias.

In the piece titled "No fair go at school: Gonski", those interviewed include Lawrence, Zyngier and Chris Bonnor, and the argument that socioeconomic background determines success or failure is repeated.

Research by Gary Marks of the Australian Council for Educational Research analysing the impact of socioeconomic background on performance across 30 countries was ignored; it concludes that "both between and within schools, differences in student performance are not largely accounted for by socioeconomic background".

Also ignored is research commissioned by the OECD, published in a report titled "Let's Read Them a Story!", which concludes that, regardless of socioeconomic background, parents who read to their preschool children bolster their chances of educational success.

The report says, "PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results show that even among families with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, reading books to young children is still strongly related to better performance when those children reach the age of 15."

The second piece, published in The Age and titled "The invisible backpack, and why it makes the education gap hard to close", also repeats the cultural-Left view of education and includes comment by Zyngier and Teese.

Luckily, we have a free media and independent universities but on issues like school funding cultural-Left group-think is evident and, as a result, debate and public discussion suffer.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Many recent U.S. graduates  hold low-paying jobs in retail

Chances are if you're a working Millennial, you're working in retail, says a study released Tuesday by Generation Y research firm Millennial Branding in conjunction with PayScale, a company that collects compensation data.

The most common jobs held by Gen Y are merchandise displayer and sales representative, which they are about five times more likely to hold vs. all workers, shows a PayScale analysis of about 500,000 profiles submitted to the company in the past year by Millennials ages 19-30.  Those jobs are also among the lowest paid.

Retail sales associate is listed as the fifth-worst-paid job, at an average of $19,300 a year, only better than cashier, barista, hotel clerk and dietary aide, the findings show.

For an age group struggling with a poor job outlook and hefty student loans, many settle for retail while they look for jobs in their preferred field, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Millennial Branding. "A lot of them will end up in these retail jobs while applying for professional jobs and hoping there'll be openings," he says.

Many Millennials in retail have college degrees. Almost half of merchandise displayers — better known as floor clerks — and 83% of clothing sales associates indicated having a bachelor's degree, the PayScale data show.

Mandi Walker, 24, graduated from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., in May with a degree in graphic design and business but has had almost no luck finding a job in those fields.

Instead, she's continued to work as a sales associate at Kohl's, which she's done for the past eight years during summers and breaks from school. She'll soon start a new job as a supervisor at Midwest retail chain ShopKo at $10.50 an hour, vs. about $9 an hour at Kohl's.

The best paid jobs with companies ranked high among Gen Y are all in science and technology, the survey shows. Google, Intel and Microsoft are all among the top five best companies for Gen Y, ranked based on average pay for Millennials working there, job satisfaction and flexible schedules, among other things.

At the same time, it's most common for Gen Y to work for small companies of 100 employees or less, the study shows.


Educrats Ban the Number 18

Astonishing zero-tolerance lunacy from the zero-intelligence government educrats we entrust to teach children:

A third-grader has been sent home from a Greeley [Colorado] school to change out of his Peyton Manning jersey because Manning’s No. 18 is too close to the name of a local gang.

CBS Denver reports Konnor Vanatta was forced to take off his jersey because of a Greeley school district policy that bans clothing with “18″ on it.

How do you explain to a third-grader that the reason he can’t wear his prized Peyton Manning jersey is that schools are run by militant fools?

Other numbers banned by the school district include 13, 14, 31, 41, and 81. Yes, I’m serious.

Coming next: bans on various letters of the alphabet.


Accepting lower grades from poorer students condemned by Cambridge University as 'a cruel experiment'

Cambridge University said accepting poorer students with lower grades would be a 'cruel experiment the could ruin lives' as the institution came under increasing pressure to widen its social mix.

The university's outgoing admissions director said it would resist calls to make 'adjusted offers' for less well-off students as Cambridge stepped into the row over 'social engineering'.

It is just one of the elite universities being urged to admit students with lower grades from poorer backgrounds to match the number accepted from middle-class families.

Geoff Parks, who this month stood down from his 10-year stint as head of the Cambridge admissions office, said students who failed to achieve top A-level results could be doomed to failure.

He added that a lack of academic success could mean they would be ill-equipped to cope with the demands of Cambridge, it was reported.

Dr Parks told the Sunday Telegraph: 'Our bottom line would be that it actually would be a really, really cruel experiment to take a bunch of students and hypothesise that they have what it takes to thrive at Cambridge and then see them fail because they don't.

'We have very high standards within the university and we do fail students in exams.'

He added: 'None of us in good conscience want to be ruining people's lives on some gut feel or political imperative based around getting votes or pandering to some particular bit of the populace.'

There is growing pressure to stop the middle-class dominance of higher education, with the government backing the custom of universities accepting students with lower entry requirements from deprived areas or poorly-performing schools.

Universities minister David Willets said earlier this year there would need to be a 'renewed push' to ensure universities were improving access in return for the government allowing them to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Virginia recognizes racial differences

For years, Virginia tried to sidestep various provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. No Child’s accountability requirements are awkward because they threaten to shine a bright light on the highly uneven performance of Virginia’s schools and the state’s significant achievement gaps. So when Education Secretary Arne Duncan allowed states to set new performance targets earlier this year, Virginia, along with many other states, jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, rather than taking the opportunity to focus more on underserved students, the state took the stunning step of adopting dramatically different school performance targets based on race, ethnicity and income.

President George W. Bush famously talked of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in education, meaning the subtle ways educators and policymakers shortchange some students by expecting less of them. Virginia’s new policy is anything but subtle. For example, under the new rules, schools are expected to have 78 percent of white students and 89 percent of Asian students passing Virginia’s Standards of Learning math tests but just 57 percent of black students, 65 percent of Hispanic students and 59 percent of low-income students. The goals for special-education students are even lower, at 49 percent. Worse, those targets are for 2017. The intermediate targets are even less ambitious — 36 percent for special-education students this year, for instance. Goals for reading will be set later.

Because Congress is years behind schedule in updating the No Child law, some provisions are showing their age and revisions to the accountability rules are long overdue. Virginia’s new policy, however, is a step backward, not an improvement. It sends a debilitating message to students, parents and educators because there is no way around the fact that the commonwealth is codifying different expectations for various groups of students. Virginia students of all races and incomes go to school together, but “together and unequal” is the message of the new policy. Assuming that not even six in 10 poor or black students will pass the state’s math test in 2017 reinforces negative beliefs about what should be expected from these students. Virginia’s chapter of the NAACP and the Legislative Black Caucus have already spoken out against the new policy.

There are better ways to design an accountability system. For starters, Virginia could set common targets that assume minority and poor students can pass state tests at the same rates as others and at the same time provide substantially more support to these students and their schools.

It’s important to remember that these accountability rules do not create high stakes for students. They are designed to create performance metrics and requirements for improving schools. The new performance targets do anticipate some closing of the achievement for students groups that now lag behind. Yet little in recent history, state policy or the waiver plan approved by Duncan inspires confidence that Virginia will redouble its efforts on behalf of struggling students.

State officials argue that because these performance targets are not the same as what Virginia uses for school accreditation, this is not really a “together but unequal” policy. Unfortunately, relying on the accreditation system inadvertently reveals the extent of Virginia’s problem. For schools to be fully accredited, they need only pass a fixed percentage of students, usually 70 percent, and there is no disaggregation or accountability by race, income or any socioeconomic group at all.

This approach masks substantial achievement gaps in many schools. It’s also why 96 percent of all Virginia schools are fully accredited at the same time that only 18 percent of black eighth-graders, 18 percent of low-income eighth-graders and 27 percent of Hispanic eighth-graders are proficient in math in the benchmark National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For years, a small band of school reformers in Virginia has tried to point out how the state overlooks too many students, but the flawed accreditation system has made it a quixotic effort; it’s hard to argue with the appearance of 96 percent success.

Now, left to their own devices, school officials have created an accountability system that makes different expectations for different groups of students the official policy. Virginia is not the only state using the flexibility the Obama administration is offering to weaken accountability for at-risk groups of students. Regardless, Virginians can and must do better.

The writer, a partner at the nonprofit organization Bellwether Education and an education columnist for Time, served on the Virginia Board of Education from 2005 to 2009.


British girl, 13, taught in isolation by school because special shoes for her painful tendonitis were the WRONG COLOUR

If she had wanted to wear Muslim garb, that would have been OK, though

A teenage girl who has to wear special shoes due to a foot condition, has been told by her school she will be taught in isolation if she doesn't wear the 'correct' shoes.

Keeley Skov has to wear achilles tendon supports and orthotic insoles as she suffers from achilles tendonitis which causes her chronic pain.

The supports don't fit into standard school shoes, and so Keeley wears a pair of black and white trainers to school.

But Wilnecote High School in Tamworth, Staffs, have told the 13-year-old she must wear regulation black school shoes - despite Keeley having a medical note to explain the situation.

The school will not accept the letter and have said they will keep Keeley in isolation until she wears a pair of plain black shoes.

Mum Carrie Skov said: 'Keeley is a shy girl, she works hard at school and she was devastated. She was in floods of tears.

'I was told by a teacher that she would be in isolation until she wore the correct shoes and that they would not accept the letter from the hospital.

'I want an apology for how she was treated - there is a medical reason for why she wears these pumps and I provided medical evidence.  'She should have been treated differently - she cried all day about it.'

Headmaster Stuart Tonks said that at the end of last term, pupils were given new letters reminding them of the strict school uniform policy and parents were reminded of this by text last week.

Stuart said: 'Wilnecote High School is reinforcing its uniform policy at the start of the new school year and footwear needs to be black.

'Keeley was in school with shoes that were black and white. This pupil has medical reasons why she has to wear a certain type of footwear and we appreciate that.

'We want to work with the family to help her fulfil our uniform policy.'


Australia:  G_d!  Leftists talk a lot of sh*t at times!

And surely they know it.  They cannot be unaware that they are making huge and improbable assumptions.  That smart people tend to get rich and that their kids tend to inherit their smarts ought to be apparent even to the average Joe -- and politicians not knowing it is wilful ignorance.  But knowing those things  is all you need to understand that the children of the poor will, on average,  ALWAYS do worse at school than the children of the rich do.  The education system has a role but it will never be a Canute that will roll back the tide, no matter how much money you spend on it.  Money can't make an Einstein out of a dummy. 

And it's a wonder that the poisonous Carmen Lawrence  -- she of the bad memory -- is still opening her deceitful trap at all.  At least one person below mentions intellectual ability

Increasing segregation of students has led to a two-tiered education system with a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots".

Australian students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are up to three years behind students from more privileged backgrounds in literacy levels, according to figures compiled for the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling. Poor students also lag well behind their wealthier peers in science and maths and are only half as likely to attend university.

Carmen Lawrence, the director of the centre for the study of social change at the University of Western Australia and a member of the Gonski review panel, said the figures busted the myth that Australia offers a fair go for all.

"For a long time there has been a willful denial that there is a problem," she said. "But we assembled all those data and they don't make pretty reading."

Disadvantaged children are concentrated in the public system, according to Gonski, with 80 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, 85 per cent of indigenous children and 79 per cent of children with disabilities in government schools.

Australia is achieving only average equity compared with other OECD countries, according to figures from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment survey, which ranks us behind Hong Kong, Shanghai, Finland and South Korea, which are rated in the top five performing places overall, compared with Australia at ninth spot.

The OECD reports that, among its member countries, differences in students' backgrounds accounted for 55 per cent of performance differences between schools; for Australia, the figure is 68 per cent.

Educational inequity starts when a child reaches kindergarten, according to leading experts in the field.

David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in the faculty of education at Monash University and a former teacher, said disadvantaged children have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words at the age of six, compared with between 10,000-20,000 for wealthier children.

"When a child comes into school 50 per cent of their academic achievement is already determined by what they bring into school, that is their family background, their home, their culture and intellectual ability," he said.

"Children come to us in our classrooms with what has been called the 'invisible backpack' and some come with their backpack full of privilege and others come with a backpack of disadvantage."

Research from the UK shows that even bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to perform well academically. By the age of eight, they are overtaken by less intelligent children from more advantaged backgrounds.  [Given the "sink" schools that Britain's poor get sent to, that is no surprise]

The inequity is compounded by an education system which siphons more affluent children into the private system and high achievers into the selective system, says Chris Bonnor, a former high school principal and a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.

"We subsidise kids to leave low socio-economic status schools to go to higher socio-economic schools," he said. "The disadvantage at the bottom end gets worse because all the aspirant kids have gone."


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Discrimination is bad  -- except when Leftists do it

Journal abstract below

Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology

By Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers

A lack of political diversity in psychology is said to lead to a number of pernicious outcomes, including biased research and active discrimination against conservatives. The authors surveyed a large number (combined N = 800) of social and personality psychologists and discovered several interesting facts. First, although only 6% described themselves as conservative "overall," there was more diversity of political opinion on economic issues and foreign policy. Second, respondents significantly underestimated the proportion of conservatives among their colleagues. Third, conservatives fear negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. Finally, conservatives are right to do so: In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.

Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 496-503, 2012..

Southern schools dominate list of best colleges for free speech‏

Just as college students head off to campus, a list of schools that hold the First Amendment above political correctness is out  — with a slew of Southern schools leading the way.

The list, released Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), cites James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies honoring freedom of expression.

"It's easy for students to get caught up in the frenzy of trying to get into the best-ranked schools, but if the college you attend doesn't respect free speech, your education will suffer regardless of how high the college is ranked," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said.

FIRE has spotlighted schools where free speech is taboo, including colleges that restrict expression of controversial ideas to small sections of campus and others that bar students from protesting affirmative action and government policies.

To determine this year’s list of pro-speech schools, Lukianoff said FIRE considered whether an institution’s policies restrict First Amendment-protected speech and whether the school had censored speech in recent years. Each of the seven schools surveyed out of roughly 400 colleges and universities received a “green light” rating, meaning its policies did not imperil free speech on campus.

Only 16 schools in all received that rating and roughly 65 percent of all schools received so-called red light ratings for speech codes that are “laughably unconstitutional,” Lukianoff said.

“Believe it or not, 16 schools getting a green light is a major improvement,” he said.

Three of the schools on the list — James Madison, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University — were included for the first time following revisions to its policies pertaining to student expression. The remaining four schools were selected for the second consecutive year.

In a statement to, James Madison officials said “liberty and freedom” are essential to its mission.

“At James Madison University we value and honor diverse perspectives,” said Dr. Josh Bacon, director of JMU’s Office of Judicial Affairs and Restorative Justice. “Freedom of speech is essential to advance learning, research, change, and ultimately the search for truth. Our students need to learn to express their opinions and just as importantly be open to the opinion of others; we believe this is essential to our mission of creating educated and enlightened citizens."

At University of Pennsylvania, officials said the Ivy League school is simply upholding the tradition started by a famous Philadelphian.

"The University of Pennsylvania is committed to the free exchange of ideas," the school said in a statement. "That was a principle of our founder Ben Franklin, and it is central to the mission of any great university."

There are plenty of schools where free expression isn't part of the learning experience, Lukianoff said.

“The kind of speech that can get you in trouble on college campuses is truly shocking,” Lukianoff told “Students are learning to keep their mouths shut when they disagree … things that are so vague and broad that they potentially ban any speech that’s controversial or interesting.”

Types of censored speech at American universities run the gamut from policies that restrict offensive or potentially hurtful speech to “flat-out political censorship,” Lukianoff said.

“Universities seem to think they can regulate every aspect of a student’s life,” he continued. “It’s important that universities know that they can write policies that are in line with the Constitution and the sky won’t fall.”

In March, FIRE released its second annual list of the 12 worst colleges for free speech, naming, among others, the University of Cincinnati, Bucknell University, Yale University and Harvard University.

Bucknell, for example, banned students on its Pennsylvania campus in 2010 from holding anti-affirmative action “bake sale” protests. A year earlier, a protest of President Obama’s stimulus plan featuring Monopoly money distributed by students was halted.

“They were stopped from doing that,” Lukianoff said. “Other times it’s very much an exercise of raw power, where an administrator doesn’t like being criticized or a threat of censorship.”

The University of Cincinnati was also included due to its “shockingly restrictive” free speech zone that comprises just 0.1 percent of its 137-acre campus. The zone was struck down on First Amendment grounds in federal court this summer in litigation coordinated in part by FIRE.

Other schools sharing that dubious distinction included Syracuse University, Widener University and St. Augustine’s College in North Carolina.

In contrast, Lukianoff said he was pleased to see that free speech “caught on” in Virginia, home to three of the seven schools named to this year’s list.

“There’s a tendency that once it catches on with one school in a region, all of the other schools nearby follow suit,” he said. “It had this kind of spreading effect.”


White males now classed as a 'minority group' at university

Women now dominate Britain’s universities and professions to such an extent that a leading institution has launched a campaign to recruit more “white males”.

The move by the Royal Veterinary College, where more than three-quarters of the intake are female, marks the first time that white men have been included in a strategy to help under-represented groups.

While the college is an extreme case, it reflects a wider trend of women overtaking men in education. Of the 24 leading universities in the Russell Group, only three have a majority of male students.

Across UK universities, 984,000 female undergraduates are studying for degrees, compared to 713,000 male. The gap is expected to widen in future years as new government rules make it easier for universities to recruit students with A-level grades of AAB or better, more of whom are female.

While last week’s A-level results showed boys narrowly outperforming girls at the A* grade for the first time, girls remained significantly more likely than boys to achieve grades in the upper range of A* to B.

According to Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the “very worrying gap” between male and female performance at school and university is leading to “fundamental shifts” in society.

Figures from professions which were traditionally male bastions reveal the workplace gender revolution.

In law, women made up 60 per cent of individuals qualifying to practise and admitted on to the roll of solicitors in 2010.

In the same year, 56 per cent of places in UK medical schools went to women, compared to less than a quarter in the 1960s, and it is predicted that by 2017 female doctors will be in a majority.

Yet while women account for 62 per cent of trainee GPs they make up less than a third of hospital consultants. A reluctance among female doctors to take on more demanding specialties, such as cardiology, has led to fears of shortages in key areas.

Women’s domination in veterinary science is also causing concern. About three-quarters of newly qualified vets are now female. By 2015, it is estimated that 90 per cent of those qualifying will be women.

The huge imbalance has prompted the Royal Veterinary College, with campuses in north London and Hertfordshire, to launch a campaign, outlined in its annual report to the admissions regulator Offa, to attract “white males”, among other under-represented groups such as pupils from poor backgrounds and ethnic minorities.

White males are defined as under-represented because while they make up about 45 per cent of the UK population, according to the last census, they account for only 20 per cent of the college’s intake.

Prospectuses and publicity materials have been redesigned to feature photographs and quotes from white male students. Visits to schools and college roadshows specifically target boys.

The college also targets other under-represented groups including ethnic minorities of both genders, who together make up about 10 per cent of the UK population but only 6 per cent of the students at the college.

They are sought out through schemes such as a science Saturday school for pupils from inner London.

By contrast, white women are overrepresented among the students, and are not being targeted for recruitment.

Professor Stephen May, vice-principal for teaching at the college, said: “Our concern is that just in terms of the professional community, having a good gender mix is healthy.

“It may be that in recent years, good quality male candidates have been attracted to more lucrative careers, such as banking.

"The decline in agriculture versus small animal practise could also be a factor. We are not in the business of quotas, that would be discriminatory, but we hope in the long term we will see progress with white males.”

This year, 84,000 more women applied to higher education than men. The only Russell Group universities where male students are in a majority are Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Imperial College, London.

Women outnumber men in the vast majority, including King’s College, London, where 67 per cent of students are female, and Cardiff University, where the figure is 60 per cent.

Mrs Curnock Cook said: “If you look at educational achievement through primary and secondary school and then university outcomes there is a very worrying gap between males and females.

“Somebody needs to address what it is about our education system that is allowing females to perform overall so much better than males. If this trend continues it will start to underpin quite a fundamental sociological change.”

While women are forging successful careers on the back of superior performances in school and university exams, some fear boys are being left on the scrap heap by an education system which disadvantages them.

Coursework and modular exams, less emphasis on the physical, outdoor curriculum and the lack of male teachers have all been blamed for boys’ underachievement. White working class boys now do worse at school than any other group.

Diane Houston, a psychology professor and graduate school dean at Kent University, said that whilst boys may be disadvantaged at school, women still faced a glass ceiling in the workplace.

“There are issues about the way in which schools have become feminised,” she said. “There is a culture in some schools which can be quite difficult for boys, the sitting still and being neat and organised.

"Some can be put off education at a critical point.

“But I’m not sure that at this point we should be screaming about percentage differences in attainment given the way in which women’s careers atrophy through their reproductive lives. There may be more women training to be solicitors, but the judges are men.”