Friday, November 02, 2012

The OFA Exception to Political Speech

Mike Adams

Two Fridays ago, I was busy preparing for a campus debate and finishing the final edits on my next book. It was a busy day and I simply did not have time to deal with a totalitarian college administrator posing as a genuine liberal. But these people never rest. So when the phone rang I should not have been surprised. And I knew I had a responsibility to help the distressed student, despite my busier than usual schedule.

The controversy in this case was pretty simple. The UNCW College Republicans (CRs) were hosting a political event. They put up posters on campus and all around Wilmington trying to draw people to the event. Then, one of the CR officers went to Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) to place political fliers on bulletin boards inside some of their publicly funded educational buildings.

Members of the taxpaying public should not have to ask for permission to put up political fliers on public campus bulletin boards. But the CR officer asked anyway. When she did, the CFCC administrator denied the request with this sweeping statement: CFCC does not allow political posters or fliers anywhere on campus.

I was proud of the CR officer for demanding that the administrator show her a copy of the policy that allows administrators to ban all printed political speech on a publicly funded college campus. I was unsurprised to hear that the administrator failed to produce evidence of the nonexistent policy. Nor was I surprised when she redirected the CR officer to two different administrators who were not present in their offices during the middle of the morning.

After being redirected to the two empty offices, the CR officer called me to explain the situation and seek my advice. I sent her back to the CFCC campus with her iPhone to complete a very simple research project: I asked her to take a walk across campus and take pictures of every single political poster she saw.

The results of our little study will not surprise you. Obama For America (OFA) posters were hanging in plain sight all across campus. So I called the administrator who had banned the Republican posters from the CFCC campus. When she picked up the phone, I said "Hi. My name is Mike Adams. I've called to ask some questions about one of your policies that restricts political speech on campus." Her reaction suggested that she may have heard of me before.

I did not get very far into my First Amendment lecture before that administrator transferred me to another office. The reception I got there was markedly more professional. I explained the illegality of a policy banning all printed political speech. I explained that it was irrelevant because the policy actually does not exist because the administrator simply made it up. Then, I arranged a time for the student to come back to seek approval with two things in her hand: 1. A stack of political posters advertising a Republican event. 2. An iPhone loaded with pictures of OFA posters hanging all over the CFCC campus.

By the end of the day, the posters were hanging on the campus. I went back to preparing for my debate and working on my book edits. When I finished those tasks I sat down to catch up on my column chronicles of the campus free speech wars. I wrote this specific column in order to illustrate the followings points:

1. Campus censorship, which began in the elite private schools and spread to the state universities has now reached our community college campuses.
<>2. All of these institutions are populated with armies of administrators who are, at best, indifferent to First Amendment principles.

3. Increasingly, many campus administrators, including those at small community colleges, are openly hostile toward the First Amendment.

4. Hostile administrators often invent campus policies in an effort to shut down the marketplace of ideas.

5. The goal of hostile administrators is to completely remove any semblance of conservative thought from the marketplace of ideas. Their goal is total domination of the ideological marketplace.

6. Administrators rely upon a combination of student apathy and student ignorance in their efforts to reduce intellectual diversity on campus.

7. When questioned by others in positions of authority, these administrators generally refuse to answer questions and try to pass responsibility on to other administrators.

8. When initially confronted, those other administrators claim ignorance of the facts concerning alleged constitutional violations.

9. When confronted again with explicit evidence and implicit threats of litigation, campus administrators often capitulate.

10. Even small free speech victories require substantial effort due to the size of the college administration and the ambiguity of its organizational structure.

There really is little wonder why some administrators at CFCC sought to keep OFA posters as the sole examples of political speech on campus. It really isn't political speech. It's just the way things ought to be. The OFA movement protects the administrative bureaucracy. The administrative bureaucracy protects the OFA movement. That is how these things move. Forward.

These days, the purpose of speech at government schools is to grow the government. It isn't about the students. It hasn't been that way since the 1960s.


Be wary when politicians promise the money’s going to education

Politicians, public employee unions and other supporters of big government have learned a simple lesson over the past thirty years — people don’t want to pay higher taxes to fund additional government services, except for police, fire or education.

Because of this understanding, every bad idea seems to be wrapped in a blanket that it will increase education funding with the millions of dollars of advertisements behind this claim to trick the people into approving something they ordinarily wouldn’t.

In California, where they have virtually ceded representative government for government by initiative and referendum, Proposition 30 is another of these tax increase schemes that boldly promises to raise money exclusively for education.

This California example is important to taxpayers nationally, because the tactics being used to promote a massive tax increase are the same that voters face whether they live in Arkansas, Maryland or anywhere else in the nation.

Should California voters pass Proposition 30, the sales tax would increase from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent for four years, and income taxes will increase significantly for golden stater’s who earn more than $250,000 a year.

Using the tried and true formula for tricking voters, Proposition 30 promises that all the increased monies raised will go toward education spending.

Yet, as Jon Coupal, president of the Los Angeles-based Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association warns, “If you thought Proposition 30 was for schools, think again.”

The actual ballot title of Proposition 30 which reads, “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding,” should be enough to tip off any voters who are sentient that perhaps the education funding line is nothing more than a political sales pitch.

If the money is all for education then how does it guarantee local public safety funding?  It cannot.

Here is how the bait and switch works.  The initiative, referenda or constitutional amendment promises to use monies raised exclusively for education funding.  What the proponents don’t tell you is that by designating funds directly for education, it allows the state legislature and governor to move funds that currently go to fund education to meet other “needs.”

This means that in virtually every case, the net spending for the designated good cause, actually does not go up, but is just funded through other means allowing the politicians to fund other pet projects.

Not simply a California phenomenon, Professor Bradley R. Gitz of Lyon College in Arkansas found in a study released earlier this year that dedicated taxes, “drives up overall government spending and tax burdens.”

Dr. Gitz examined the recent history of such “dedicated” tax increases over time in the state of Arkansas, with the goal of providing a basis for assessing their advantages and disadvantages, he finds that once established, dedicated taxes become unusually suspect to manipulation by legislators.    These manipulations include extending the sunsetting date of the study as well “repurposing” the tax and putting the money into other funds rather than keeping the original promise.

The study argues that these dedicated taxes have become “more attractive over time to elected officials because 1) they can be easily sold to the public; 2) they remove the need to make the kinds of difficult ‘trade-offs’ in funding decisions required by the use of general revenue; 3) their costs can be more effectively concealed from taxpayers; and 4) they can be easily increased, extended or ‘re-purposed’ to fund other government programs.”

Gitz cites work by George R. Crowley and Adam Hoffer,  whose research suggests that dedicated revenues are “largely ineffective for increasing expenditures toward which they are tied” but more effective “at increasing total government size,”  by masking increases in total government spending.

Whether voters are considering a “temporary” tax increase to fund education in California or a vote on a constitutional amendment (Measure 7 on the ballot in November) that allows the building of a new casino in Maryland, when the sales pitch is that the proposal will dedicate money to education or any other worthy cause, voters should look three times before approving it.

History shows that the sleight of hand artists in the state capitol have a trick up their sleeves, and it almost never means that those who support smaller government win.


UK academic union faces claims of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’

Severe anti-Israel bias ‘makes Jews feel uncomfortable and unwelcome,’ lecturer charges in landmark tribunal

The UK’s trade union for academics, the University and College Union, is “institutionally anti-Semitic,” a London employment tribunal heard Monday.

The claim was made on the opening day of a potentially landmark case, which partially revolves around UCU’s resolutions concerning an academic boycott of Israel.

The claimant, freelance mathematics lecturer Ronnie Fraser, is alleging that the union harassed him by creating a hostile environment for him as a Jew, which “derives from a culture and attitude which is informed by contemporary anti-Zionism.

Complaints about anti-Semitism are met with either bald denials or accusations that the complainant is attempting to stifle legitimate debate. As a result of the role which the State of Israel plays in contemporary Jewish identity, the hostile environment necessarily has an adverse impact on Jewish members of the union, making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.”

He says that this contravenes the 2010 Equality Act, which prevents discrimination on grounds of race or religion.

Unusually for an employment tribunal, the case will take four weeks to be heard. Over 30 witnesses for the claimant include the Booker Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson — who has submitted a witness statement but will not be cross-examined — as well as Jewish community officials and numerous academics, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The seven witnesses for the respondent are all UCU officials.

Two of the three witnesses who testified during the opening session Monday discussed UCU’s decision to allow the international relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Bongani Masuku, to speak at a UK conference promoting boycott and divestment of Israel in December 2009. Just two days earlier, the South African Human Rights Commission had publicized its finding that Masuku was guilty of hate speech against the Jewish community of South Africa.

The statements, which were made at a student rally at the University of Witwatersrand the previous March, included threats to South African families with children in the IDF, as well as a promise to make the lives of Zionists in South Africa “hell.”

Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, a representative body, argued that UCU leaders were informed of the ruling the day after it was made public (and the day before the conference) and had ample time to ensure Masuku did not have a platform in the UK. She rejected the suggestion by UCU’s lawyer, Antony White QC, that since Masuku had announced his intention to make further representations to the SAHRC, there was at the time “the possibility of a range of views about what Masuku had done”.

“That range of views was brought to the Human Rights Commission, they had a finding that was communicated to the Union and to the people who had invited over Masuku,” she said.

She was repeatedly questioned about when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism and whether comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa were anti-Semitic.

“Whether Israel is or is not an apartheid state is academic discourse; it’s often discussed in the South African media,” she said. “When comments are made, ‘I came to the conclusion that Jews are arrogant’ or ‘Jews control the US’ — these comments are unacceptable, that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission. When Jews are talked about as having blood dripping from their hands, that they should leave the country — that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission.”

Political debate is “valid, to be admired,” Kahn later added. However, she said, “I have a problem with using the Israeli situation as an excuse for hate speech and making comments on fellow South Africans. Some of the comments drew on classic and modern anti-Semitic discourse.”

A second witness, retired University of Oxford biochemistry professor Michael Yudkin, had helped draft a motion in his local UCU branch disassociating members from “Masuku’s repugnant views,” which was passed 14:1. In May 2010, he proposed the motion at the UCU Annual Congress, but lost by “an overwhelming majority”. Yudkin subsequently resigned his UCU membership.

By the time Masuku was invited to the London conference, Yudkin  stated, “it was a matter of public record that he had made remarks at a public meeting several months earlier that were, to put it no more strongly, prima facie anti-Semitic. The most cursory search of Google in October or November 2009 would have revealed both that such remarks had been made by Masuku, and also that there had been official complaints about them. The fact that UCU nonetheless invited Masuku to the conference in London suggests either that the union was reckless in failing to scrutinise the background of its invitees or that it knew of Masuku’s anti-Semitic remarks and didn’t consider them a reason for rescinding the invitation.”

His motion, Yudkin said, “centered on the expression of anti-Semitic views by someone who had been invited by the union to the UK. It recited incontrovertible facts and it invited the union to dissociate itself from remarks that had been found by an authoritative body (the South African Human Rights Commission) to amount to hate speech. That the union was unwilling to do so indicates, in my opinion, that it regards the expression of anti-Semitic views as acceptable.”

When White suggested that some UCU members felt it was inappropriate to support the motion as COSATU had said it was going to make further representations on Masuku’s behalf and legal proceedings were still ongoing, Yudkin responded, “I’m struck by the overwhelming opposition to the motion, 10:1 [against]. I don’t think these niceties about whether COSATU supported the appeal can be used as an excuse for that degree of opposition — all the motion asked [members] to do was to disassociate themselves from Masuku’s racist remarks, and that they refused to do. The context was the last several years of anti-Israel resolutions. All added together made it clear that the union was run by those committed to disregarding the feelings of its Jewish members and thinking that the kind of behaviour in which it was indulging did not need an explanation. It was institutional antisemitism.”

Told that several of the speakers opposing the motion were Jewish, Yudkin responded, “The fact that they are Jews by birth or upbringing is not a sufficient reason to think people may not be guilty of disregarding what is important to the majority of Jews.”

The panel of three judges, led by AM Snelson, will spend Tuesday listening to audio recordings of the UCU debates on an Israel boycott and the claimant, Ronnie Fraser, will take the stand on Wednesday.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Prominent Union Apologist Sniffs Out Absurd School Reform ‘Re-segregation’ Motives

Her book "The Language Police" (2003) was a good critique of political correctness in school textbooks but she seems to be good at criticism only, with little to offer by way of genuine alternative ideas for the problems of America's schools.  Her latest wisdom could not be more tired:  “Our problem is poverty, not our schools.”   She is unusual in drifting Leftward in her later years.  One wonders if the  Lesbian relationship of her latter years has anything to do with that

Defending the educational status quo has become a lucrative business for Diane Ravitch. For one speech alone, she received an $8,869 honorarium from the Michigan Education Association, according to union financial documents.

String a few of those together each year and she’s well on her way to Randi Weingarten territory among the elite so-called “one percent.”

So as states continue to pass and implement sweeping educational reforms rooted in choice and competition, Ravitch has been traveling around the country defending teachers unions and government schools and collecting her loot.

But it appears she’s becoming a bit unhinged in the process.

Ravitch, who is 74, is now accusing those who want to create more school choice programs – which put parents and students in the driver’s seat – of really being motivated by a desire to re-segregate America.

That’s right. According to Ravitch and her allies, anyone who things American students deserve a few more educational options are really closet racists.

She writes this insulting nonsense in a blog titled, “The Real Goal of Reformers: Re-segregation?”

“Anthony Cody has a stunning article this week about what is happening in Louisiana. The expansion of vouchers and charters will facilitate the re-segregation of the schools, he predicts.

“The freight train of reform (aka privatization) is running full blast in that unfortunate state. Arne Duncan will be there any day now to congratulate Governor Jindal on the progress made in ‘reforming’ the schools.

“And lots of thanks to the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, and Teach for America for turning the clock back to 1950 and calling it ‘reform.’”

Ravitch either has a growing case of desperation or advanced senility, and neither one is good, except for groups like the MEA that pay big money to get her to say whatever they want to hear.


Teachers 'to blame' for lack of ambition among pupils -- says British Liberal politician

There's some truth in that but liberal restrictions on school discipline are a prior factor

Teachers are encouraging many children to believe that top exam grades, places at elite universities and professional careers are all beyond them, an education minister has said.

David Laws attacked the “depressingly low expectations” that he said are holding back children in many parts of the country and preventing them from getting ahead in life.

Even in relatively affluent parts of the country, schools and careers advisers are failing to encourage children to “reach for the stars,” instead pushing them to settle for middling exam results and careers with “medium-ranked” local employers, he said.

Mr Laws’s remarks to The Daily Telegraph are his first comments on education policy since his return to the Government in last month’s reshuffle.

“Teachers, colleges, careers advisers have a role and a responsibility to aim for the stars and to encourage people to believe they can reach the top in education and employment,” Mr Laws said.  “That’s not happening as much as it should do at the moment.”

Mr Laws, a Liberal Democrat and close ally of Nick Clegg, has ministerial posts at the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office and holds the right to attend Cabinet meetings.

The Lib Dems are pushing measures to increase social mobility, making it easier for people to get ahead regardless of their background.

Alan Milburn, the Coalition’s social mobility adviser, last week criticised policies such as the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance that was paid to pupils from low-income homes.

Mr Laws, a Cambridge University graduate, said that social mobility was not simply a question of wealth, arguing that even children from comfortable backgrounds are being held back by low expectations and a lack of ambition.

The minister, a former City banker who represents Yeovil in Somerset, said many children are effectively being taught that high-flying careers are not possible for them.

“Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world,” he said.

“They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them.”

In many parts of the country outside London, the minister suggested, children without family connections believe that careers such as banking, law and journalism are closed.

Instead of aiming high, “there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration”.

Low career expectations can lead children to get lower exam grades than they could achieve, he suggested. “If your expectation in a school is that you only need a modest set of qualifications because that’s all you need to work for the local employer, which you think is the best job you could do, that’s a huge cap not just on social mobility, it is a cap on achievement in examinations,” he said.

“If you think it is really important to get three A*s to get into Cambridge and the City, you will be much more motivated than if you think you just need three Cs to go into the local medium-ranked employer.”

As well as telling teachers and schools to raise children’s expectations, Mr Laws said that employers from “more privileged” industries should also do more to encourage applications from people of all backgrounds.

Mr Milburn last week produced figures showing that the 20 per cent of teenagers from privileged backgrounds are seven times more likely to get into top universities than the poorest 40 per cent.

Some campaigners want universities to change their entry policies to admit poor children with lower grades than their better-off counterparts. That is rejected by many Conservative MPs, who say that ministers should focus more on improving the performance of the state schools attended by poorer children.

Mr Laws suggested that some teachers in state schools are still discouraging pupils from targeting places at Oxbridge and other top-ranked universities.

“I still find, talking to youngsters across the country, the same depressing low expectations I found when I went to university in the 1980s,” he added.

“The students you met, who were often the first students from their school who had been to Oxbridge, said they were often encouraged by teachers and others to think that Oxford or Cambridge were not the places for them and they should think of somewhere more modest.”

Mr Laws last week returned to his former employer, JP Morgan, which is donating £1.1 million to Achieve Together, a charity that helps state schools attract and retain highly qualified teachers.


Stupid Leftist government in Australia wants to pressure more High School students to study Asian languages

There is a reason why so many high school students drop out of Asian languages - they're just too hard.  And anyone who knew anything about the matter would have told PM Gillard that  -- if she had asked

Language learners of Australia, let's be honest: we are not going to become a nation of Mandarin speakers overnight as Prime Minister Gillard would like us to be.

As for her Asian white paper and its lofty goals for language studies and Australian high-schoolers, I wonder if we are thinking this through enough?

We're making a mistake if we think we can coerce high school children into learning Asian languages because, frankly, they are difficult for children with an untrained Anglo ear.

As Michael Maniska, the principal of Sydney's International Grammar School, told Lateline on Monday night, when you start learning a European language you can expect to have to invest 600 to 700 hours before you attain the basic level of proficiency. To attain that same level of proficiency in Mandarin or Japanese you have to invest 2100 to 2200 hours, according to the US Foreign Service Institute.

This is where the latest white paper on a cultural and economic interchange with Asia falls flat.

Anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language in their teens or later, no matter how enthusiastic they are, knows how hard it is to learn it "cold". That is, without exposure as a preschooler.

For anyone over the age of 12, the intonations, grammar, sentence structures and colloquialisms of another language seem like an Everest to master. That's why you see older people maintaining accents even if they've emigrated in their teens.

This learning hurdle is as true for high school students as it is for business people who are told by their bosses to buy a few language tapes (or search the internet) to learn some of the lingo for that overseas posting.

In the past, for English speakers, it's been relatively easy to learn a foreign language. European languages such as French (the dominant diplomatic pidgin), Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German, shared the same Roman alphabet and many words. Those wanting to learn Greek or Russian had greater hardships, as the alphabets were different, though there were a few strands of familiarity that still crept through, both in alphabets and in word usage.

But Chinese and Japanese both use different alphabets and very subtle juxtaposition of symbols to create nuances in their written languages. This subtlety also extends to the tonal nature of their pronunciation and vocabulary, where it's much easier to make mistakes than in the European languages. That is why high school students drop out of Asian languages - if offered - at a high rate. They're just too hard. It is rare that an 18-year-old without an Asian background will sit the HSC in an Asian language.

I'm bilingual - German and English - and they're the only languages that remain imprinted on my mind.

In young adulthood I learnt three other languages. Two, French and Spanish, proved easy for pronunciation but difficult for grammar. Both dropped away without any use.

There were two real killers learning as a teenager: grammar and pronunciation. For grammar, you had to get your head around German sentences like: "Ich bin zu den Laeden gestern gegangen." (I have to the shops yesterday went.) For the Romance languages, you have elaborate subjunctives.

Although translation devices will never replace a competent, on-the-ground teacher who acts as a translator and mentor, there are both good and bad ones at the touch of a mouse or an app. You just have to choose the right one.

So is it realistic to make Asian language learning a priority for our schools? The sentiment's fine; it's just very impractical. Besides, we have a great pool of people in Australia who already speak so many Asian languages due to our diversity. Just hop on a western Sydney train line and you'll hear them speaking their native tongue.

Business people who travel from Shanghai to Singapore, or from Tokyo to Taipei will tell you time and again that unless you're on the pointy end of trade, people in Asia won't want you to practise your dodgy local language skills on them: they want to practise their YouTube versions of English on you.

You're there to talk business or science or education, so stick to what you're good at, unless you have the magic ear.

A vision for an exchange between Australia and Asia is laudable. Where curiosity and a greater cross-cultural understanding thrives, the economy will automatically follow. Pushing it with stumbling Mandarin-speakers is just an artificial construct.

Spending billions on languages and scrambling to find the teachers isn't the answer for Australia. Spending billions on better, egalitarian education, and fostering research beyond digging holes in the ground, is.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Uncool, but grammar should rule the schools

Comment from Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drama teachers fired for allowing British junior High School  students to perform play in front of parents depicting rape, oral sex and child abuse

Two drama teachers were sacked for allowing GCSE students perform in a play involving depictions of rape, oral sex and child abuse within a family in front of their parents and classmates.

The play - which even featured a pupil acting out the role of a father sexually abusing his daughter - shocked teachers, upset parents and left children sobbing and vomiting in distress.

Complaints were made and the two unnamed teachers, who were supervising the 15 and 16-year-olds who wrote and acted in the play, were sacked by the school for gross misconduct.

They are now pursuing unfair dismissal claims - but the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled this week that a previous decision in their favour was ‘perverse’ and that their cases must be re-heard.

The teachers taught drama at an unidentified school. One was head of the department - and they were responsible for supervising GCSE students in writing, rehearsal, production and performance.

The ‘age-inappropriate’ material included graphic descriptions of sex, rape, oral sex between father and daughter, child abuse between parents and children, and group sex within a family, EAT judge Lady Smith said.

A showcase of the work was held in front of friends and relatives, but the department head failed to warn those invited of the potentially disturbing nature of the production.

Even the headteacher of the school was not told about the content and was unaware of what the students had been involved in until after the showcase, Lady Smith said.

‘The principal complaint came from a parent who described not only her own distress, but the distress of others, including a girl who was sobbing after the performance and a boy and one of the actors who were vomiting as a result of their distress,’ she said.

The local county council’s safeguarding manager for education was called in to view a DVD of the performance and said he was shocked and concerned that the students had been allowed to engage in such sexualised behaviour.

Some of the children were acting out roles of abusers or victims and he said he found the material ‘offensive, disturbing and potentially abusive’ of the young people involved.

He described it as a ‘crude portrayal of abusive acts’ and said it might not be known for some time what effect being involved in such a production might have had on the students.

In disciplinary proceedings, the teachers both put forward statements from others who had watched or been involved in the production and who described their experiences as positive.

Following their dismissal, both teachers took their case to an employment tribunal and succeeded in claims for unfair dismissal. It said that there was ‘no cogent evidence’ of a risk of, or actual, harm to the children involved.

'Matters need to be looked at afresh with the correct questions being addressed under reference to all relevant facts and circumstances'

The school’s governing body and county council had failed to interview a representative sample of those who took part or watched the showcase to compare and contrast with the opinions of the safeguarding manager, who had ‘no experience of drama’, the tribunal said.

But, overturning the decision as ‘perverse’, Lady Smith said the tribunal was wrong because the safeguarding manager had shown he had professional experience of role play in abuse scenarios and had spoken of the potential effects on participants.

Lady Smith said the fact that participants and viewers of the performance were not interviewed was an ‘irrelevant factor’ for the tribunal to have taken into consideration.

The tribunal members had also failed to take account of some relevant matters and failed to apply the proper test in coming to their decision on the teachers’ claims.

Sending the cases back for a new employment tribunal hearing, she continued: ‘Matters need to be looked at afresh with the correct questions being addressed under reference to all relevant facts and circumstances.’


What the devil? Plastic Halloween tridents and broomsticks banned from British school party 'for safety reasons'

Halloween party organisers banned children from bringing sharp plastic props, including toy broomsticks and scythes, to a fancy dress celebration amid fears that they could hurt themselves.

Youngsters aged five and under were banned from bringing pointed objects to the 'spooky disco' at a primary school in Treuddyn, North Wales.

The ban was in spite of posters publicising the event telling parents that under fours could not attend without an adult.

Community leaders put the ban in place in fear that the youngsters might injure themselves if they brought pointed costume accessories along.

Local mother Jo Turley told The Sun: 'Please leave our kids alone and let them be kids. So long as they are supervised, where is the harm?'

The party, which was held yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) was held at the Treuddyn Schools Campus which is home to both Ysgol Parc y Llan Primary School and Ysgol Terrig Primary School, but organised by a local playgroup.

Flintshire councillor Carolyn Thomas who helped organise the event said: 'The children are very young and we just didn't want them running around with any pointy things.  'It was to save them hurting themselves or getting upset if they lose the articles.'

But a spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said that the ban was unnecessary.  He said: 'The ban on Halloween toys seems over the top, especially as the organisers of the party have also made arrangements for supervision of the children. The key thing for the children is to enjoy themselves. It's not going to be much of a party otherwise.'

News of the ban comes as it was revealed that a staggering two thirds of British children do not understand why they celebrate Halloween.

More than ten per cent of youngsters also believe the annual horror-fest is a day to mark the last witch being burned in the London.

But Halloween is becoming as popular a date to celebrate among UK children as their American counterparts with 45 per cent of those surveyed by Snazaroo face paints due to attend themed parties this year.

It seems our youngsters are also particularly persistent when it comes to trick or treating with nearly one in five knocking on as many as 30 doors in their neighbourhood.


Australia: Private schools not just for wealthy according to figures by independent report

ABOUT half of Queensland's richest families sent their children to state schools last year instead of the private sector, a report released today shows.

The report also found independent schools had a slightly higher percentage of children from the state's poorest families in its student population than the Catholic sector.

Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) executive director David Robertson said figures in ISQ's "Research Report: Income Levels of Families with Students in Queensland Schools" - compiled using 2011 Australian census data - busted a myth that its sector only served the wealthy.

He said the figures also raised the question of whether the children of high-income state school parents, who could afford to pay more for education, should receive less money under the new school funding model. The ISQ report states 48 per cent of families earning more than $2260 per week - or $117,520 a year - sent their children to a state school, compared to 28 per cent to Catholic schools and 24 per cent to Independents.

"Of those students from families with incomes in the highest decile ($3278 per week), 39.7 per cent attended government schools, 30.1 per cent attended Catholic schools and 30.3 per cent attended independent schools," the report stated.

"This pattern of the Government catering for more of the highest-income families than either independent or Catholic schools was replicated at both primary and secondary levels."

The one exception was in secondary for the highest wage bracket of more than $3278 per week - $170,456 plus a year - with the independent sector schooling 37.5 per cent of those children, compared to 32.5 per cent in the state sector.

At the other end of the income bracket the report found "19.6 per cent of students attending independent schools were from families that earnt less than $1,108 per week, compared to 18.1 per cent for Catholic school students and 36.0 per cent of government school students".

Mr Robertson said there had been significant growth in independent schools catering for disadvantaged families and they would be able to cater for more if funding arrangements were more equitable.

"It would be a surprise to many that close to 10 per cent of students from families with a weekly income of less than $488 per week attended independent schools," he said.

Mr Robertson urged the Government to closely examine the data "which clearly dispels some public myths" before deciding on the nature of its school funding reform.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Ben Carson on America's Education Challenge

In the midst of the third presidential debate in Florida, which was supposedly about foreign policy, President Barack Obama interjected a few words about American education.

The rationale was not unreasonable. A better-educated America will be a better-performing and more internationally competitive America.

"Let's talk about what we need to compete. ... Let's take an example that we know is going to make a difference in the 21st century and that's our education policy," he said.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with politicians, what we hear sounds so logical, so compelling. If only it had anything to do with reality.

According to the fractured political logic on education, which is not much different from what we hear regarding most areas of public policy, the reason we have failure is we're not doing enough of what already isn't working.

In the case of education, we're spending a lot of money and not getting results. So the problem must be, in the brilliant political take on matters, we're just not spending enough money.

"I now want to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we've fallen behind when it comes to math and science," Obama said. "And those teachers can make a difference."

But, Mr. President, what information do you have that leads you to conclude that more teachers can make a difference?

According to information recently published by Face the Facts USA, a nonpartisan project of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, over the last decade the federal government spent $293 billion and states spent a combined $5.5 trillion -- money targeted to improving academic performance -- with no discernable change in reading and math scores. "A quarter of high school seniors don't meet basic reading standards and a third fall below basic math proficiency," Face the Facts USA reports.

Throwing money at education may make those who get the money better off, but there is little, if any, evidence that it makes any difference at all in improving academic performance.

Recently, I sat down and interviewed one of my heroes: Dr. Ben Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Outside of his work, Carson's passion is education. As someone who grew up in a Detroit ghetto, whose mother was a domestic who could not read, he has some idea what it means to start with nothing and achieve the American dream.

But listening to Carson -- whose latest book is titled "America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great" -- you get a much different take on what is wrong with education and our nation today than what we hear from politicians.

Carson says, "We were a 'can do' nation and now we're a 'what can you do for me' nation."

He talks about the two biggest influences when he was a boy: a demanding and caring mother and his church.

According to Carson, "we're being crucified by political correctness -- that any lifestyle is equivalent to any other lifestyle."

Through the Carson Scholars Fund, he provides $1,000 college scholarships to kids "who excel academically and are dedicated to serving their communities." He also builds reading rooms -- there are now 77 at schools in 11 states -- designed to provoke kids to want to read.

After a half-hour interview with Carson (see, here's my takeaway: Education is about family, meaning, personal responsibility, standards of right and wrong, and appreciating the uniqueness of every child.

Without these fundamentals, truckloads of taxpayer money will accomplish nothing. Which is why the trillions being spent are poured into a black hole.

I would add that, given the realities of today's public schools -- defined by the political correctness that Carson says is crucifying us -- there is no hope of meeting his standards for education without giving parents freedom to choose where to send their kid to school.


When did the education system decide that literacy and numeracy don’t matter?

British Education Secretary Michael Gove should not be vilified for trying to turn round 'bog-standard' state schools

If I were to join the current fashion, begun this week by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, of writing a letter to my teachers, it occurred to me that it would be neither an apology for bad behaviour (I was horribly well-behaved) nor a catalogue of the school’s defects (in the style of the TV presenter Fiona Phillips, who turned up to her old school’s relaunch and lambasted both her own behaviour as well as the quality of the education on offer there.

Any message I wrote to the three teachers who stand out in my mind would be embarrassingly close to a love letter. Best avoid an epistolary form, then.

Miss Campbell taught me maths nearly continuously through secondary school. The light that comes on in my head at the link between algebraic formulae to be “solved”, and the geometrical interpretation of which those formulae are capable: all that is her doing. Everything in my professional life – the non-Telegraph bit of it – is down to the groundwork she taught me.

Mrs Houston taught me English for only one year, but her influence may well have affected my life even more deeply than the discovery of that facility with numbers. Through gentle but relentless critique of our compositions, she showed us that writing is an exercise at which it is possible to improve, a discipline with its own rules (but unlike mathematical ones, those rules should sometimes be broken).

The fact that when I’m not being a statistician, I’m writing for The Daily Telegraph (and my columns often worry, imprecisely, about Iris Murdoch and her novels): that started with Mrs Houston’s golden year.

But neither of them could have taught me anything, had Miss McKnight not come first. The teaching of the final year of a primary school is a special responsibility: it is the last chance to perfect anything missing, to prepare the children (I was 10) for secondary education. Miss McKnight used methods of which I doubt the NUT would approve: our ranking in the classroom was determined on a weekly basis, according to our performance in the tests of grammar and mental arithmetic which she insisted her class (huge, by today’s standards) perform.

Easy to dismiss such exercises as pointless: who needs to do mental arithmetic, when the iPhone’s got a calculator? What’s the point of being able to identify the subordinate clause in a sentence, in the age of txt spk?

Easy to dismiss them, until you reflect on the changes in teaching and society that have occurred since Miss McKnight had to put up with me. The Department for Education has declared that the standards of the literacy and numeracy tests which new teachers are required to sit will be raised. Why? Because a fifth of trainees fail at least one test in their first sitting. (Sample literacy question: choose the correct spelling of “anxiety” from a list including “anxsiety”, “angxiety” and “anxciety”. The numeracy tests involve simple multiplications, which can be carried out with a calculator.)

Miss McKnight wouldn’t tolerate 10- year-olds failing such tests (and would never have permitted a calculator). Yet some time between the early 1980s and now, we decided as a society that these skills didn’t matter. Education for the non-wealthy didn’t have to be rigorous: what could one expect from those schools famously described by Alastair Campbell as “bog standard”?

Meanwhile the privileged elite continued to pay so that their children could at the very least speak and write correctly, and reason numerically. It is this apartheid which Michael Gove is trying to overturn. Like Miss McKnight, he’s focusing on the basics.

Elaboration of cause and effect is a difficult exercise, but here’s one that I’d bet is true. One reason that so many newcomers to Britain secure jobs in service industries, ahead of indigenous applicants, is that they can speak English properly and add up in their heads.

I used to wonder why the written skills of the young people I met were so poor compared with those of my generation: even bright graduates sometimes struggle with proper sentences. Learning about the declining standards in teacher training, I’m less surprised. I believe there’s a link between failures at these basics, and what David Laws correctly describes as the failure of ambition for life after school.

I still have the letter Miss McKnight sent me on my graduation, nine years after leaving her school: “You are a credit to Argyle Primary,” she wrote. For once, she was wrong: I’m a credit to Miss McKnight, to Miss Campbell, and to Mrs Houston, to the vocation to which they dedicated their lives, to the education whose rigour and depth it would never have occurred to any of them to weaken, or make less aspirational because it took place in the confines of a “bog standard” state school. Ability is randomly determined: the impact of a good teacher on everything else that follows is not.


Asia to be core part of school education in Australia

Given Australia's geographical location and trade patterns this is reasonable enough -- as long as Australia's  own history and and culture plus the history and culture of our major country of origin -- Britain -- is also covered.  I don't see Muslims (for instance) disrespecting their own history and culture so why should we?  And the Chinese and Japanese would laugh at any idea of prioritizing the cultures of other countries over their own

ASIAN studies will become a core part of Australia's school curriculum under the federal government's ambitious plan to capitalise on the region's growing wealth and influence.

The government on Sunday released its long-awaited Asian Century white paper, a policy blueprint that sets out how Australia can increase integration with Asia over the coming decade and beyond.

The document reveals a number of targets for the nation over the 13 years to 2025, aimed at ensuring Australia fulfils its ambitions and competes effectively within Asia.

By 2025 Australia's gross domestic product (GDP) per person will be in the world's top 10, up from 13th last year. That would lift Australia's average real national income to about $73,000 per person in 2025, compared with about $62,000 now.

The school system will be in the top five in the world, and 10 of its universities in the world's top 100.

The paper places a heavy emphasis on education, saying Asian studies will become a core part of the Australian school curriculum.  All students will be able to study an Asian language and the priorities will be Chinese Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.

Australia's leaders will also be more Asia literate, with one-third of board members of the top 200 publicly listed companies and commonwealth bodies to have "deep experience" in and knowledge of Asia.

The Australian economy will be more deeply integrated with Asia, with Asian trade links to be at least one third of GDP, up from one quarter today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the document lays out an ambitious plan to make sure Australia grows stronger by capitalising on the opportunities offered by the Asian Century.

"The scale and pace of Asia's rise is staggering, and there are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians," she said in a statement on Sunday.

"It is not enough to rely on luck.  "Our future will be determined by the choices we make and how we engage with the region we live in. We must build on our strengths and take active steps to shape our future."

Australia should be in the top five countries for ease of doing business by 2025, the white paper says.

Its diplomatic network should have a larger footprint across the region.

While the white paper sets out what actions governments can take, it also calls on businesses and communities to play their part.

New work and holiday agreements between Australia and its Asian neighbours will mean more opportunities for work and study in the region and to take up professional opportunities.

Financial markets will be better integrated, allowing capital to flow more easily across borders.

The government will enter into a National Productivity Compact with the states and territories, focused on regulatory and competition reform.  "We want to ensure that Australia is as competitive as it can be," Finance Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

The compact is expected to be agreed at the next meeting of the Business Advisory Forum between business leaders, prime minister and senior ministers.

The white paper also reinforces the need to attract skilled migrants and students from Asia.

The government is expanding its network to support online visa lodgment, multiple entry visas and longer visa validity periods and is streaming the student visa process.

Seven of the top 10 source countries in Australia's migration program are in the Asian region, including India, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam.

Students from Asia already account for about 77 per cent of the more than 550,000 international enrolments each year.

In agriculture, the government says Australia's primary producers can benefit from rising demand by Asia's middle classes for high quality food and farm product.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Schools think they own students

Granite City school suspends multiple students over Twitter comments

A sexually inappropriate tweet about a teacher started it, but by the time administrators at Granite City High scoured the recent social media activity of students, at least 10 were suspended, unleashing an explosion of criticism online.

School administrators said they had no choice but to act because students violated school rules. But an official with the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the school district and others throughout the country are commonly going too far when it comes to monitoring Internet activity outside of school.

“This is punishing students for what they say and what they do outside of the school. And even if what they do and what they say is inappropriate, there’s a mechanism in place already to correct kids behavior outside of school — they’re called parents,” said Illinois ACLU policy director Ed Yohnka.

Indeed, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking activity outside of school has increasingly become an issue as schools tackle online bullying and sexting. Most schools have detailed student handbooks with sections devoted to cellphone, computer and social networking use. Most connect what happens on personal computers and cellphones outside of school with school rules and policy.

The wave of suspensions at Granite City High started after a student wrote a demeaning comment that sexually objectified a female teacher on the social networking site Twitter.

That led two of the student’s friends to click “retweet,” which posted the comment on their Twitter feeds, effectively broadcasting it to a wider net of followers, mostly students. A third friend clicked an icon favoring the original post — which is the equivalent of giving the comment a thumbs-up in social network speak.

One of the students who retweeted the comment about the teacher to his followers said he didn’t give it a second thought. Now the honors student said he is worried about his chances of getting into a Division I school to play basketball.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was at home with my friends when I saw it on Twitter. I laughed and I retweeted,” said sophomore DeAndre Williams. “It’s not like we screamed it down the hallway to her and embarrassed her in front of everybody.”

What resulted was a five-day suspension for him and his three friends.

That led to a complaint by a parent that other inappropriate comments were being posted on the social media site involving the school. What followed was a review of Twitter by school officials that resulted in even more suspensions, said Principal Jim Greenwald.

Not only did school officials discover two other students tweeting inappropriate comments about teachers, they found another student had said she ought to bomb the school so she wouldn’t have to go. That comment was retweeted by three of her friends, Greenwald said.

“We don’t go out looking for individual comments on the Internet, but when it threatens or compromises a person’s sexual integrity or there are comments or threats pertaining to school safety, then that does become school business,” he said.

Greenwald said all the students — regardless of who originally posted the comments or who later passed them on or endorsed them — violated the school handbook signed by each student. Specifically, they violated rules against posting comments that cause “school students or staff members to feel threatened or compromised” or that are “likely to cause disruption in the school,” he said.

Greenwald further pointed to policies forbidding inappropriate language or behavior directed at school employees, even if off-campus.

Greenwald said high school staff spent a lot of time with students at the start of the school year discussing Internet and cellphone usage as it related to school policy. He said the school recently decided to allow more use of cellphones on campus, and because of that, administrators had initiated intense discussion with students about appropriate social networking.

Assistant Principal Skip Birdsong said students need to understand that posting things on the Internet is the equivalent of taking an advertisement out in a newspaper.

“What’s the difference there? It’s in print. It’s the same thing,” he said.

Yohnka, of the ACLU, said schools particularly have no right to punish students for retweeting or liking a comment.  “That’s really punishing thoughts at some point,” he said.

In cases where there’s not a direct threat to the school, Yohnka said school districts are commonly going way beyond their bounds by punishing a student for posting an inappropriate comment off school property.

Greenwald, begged to differ.  “In this day and age of Facebook and Twitter and out-of-school multimedia, this is something we have to deal with,” he said. “We have to be cognizant and aware of what is school business and what isn’t school business.”

He said that nationwide, school policy increasingly calls for intervention if what students “post outside of the school infiltrates and creates the same type of disruption in the school.”

Yohnka said that reasoning typically backfires on schools.  “The reality is that the only thing that is causing the disruption is that now everyone is talking about these students being suspended,” he said.

Several recent cases across the country highlight the conflict.

In Indiana, a senior was expelled from high school after posting from home on his Twitter account and repeatedly using a swear word. Some states such as Indiana and West Virginia are proposing statewide policies prohibiting inappropriate online posts to prevent bullying or offensive speech that might be considered an interference with school functions or educational purposes.

The disciplinary actions at Granite City High on Wednesday prompted outrage online on Twitter, with many students arguing even Friday that they were unfairly punished, and that the school stepped out of bounds by scouring Twitter. Students were marking their tweets with hashtags such as #freejustice, in honor of one of the students who was suspended.

One student, Dylan Thevenout, 17, said he was suspended for five days on Thursday because he was interacting at school with students who had signs protesting the suspensions.

Another student who was suspended acknowledged through Twitter on Friday that the incident had likely been a burden to the teacher. But he also tweeted: “I guess this counts as our senior prank.”

Other people on Twitter have repeated and even elaborated on the sexually inappropriate comment that started the uproar.

Greenwald said the four students involved with the tweet that mentioned bombing were given 10-day suspensions pending an administrative hearing. All other students involved with inappropriate tweets about teachers were given five-day suspensions.

Greenwald said the students will likely be given pre-expulsion meetings when they return, meaning they and their parents will be put on notice that any further disciplinary problems could result in them not being allowed to return to school.

Greenwald said the district had no choice but to view the mention of bombing the school as a possible threat, and brought in police.

DeAndre Williams said that everyone was just joking around and that the school could have handled it differently with warnings. He said he was willing to make an apology. Even though he signed a school handbook, he said he had no idea what it truly meant about out-of-school online behavior.

“They made us sign the handbook and there was some Internet policy, but there was nothing like this where they said they can check our stuff on Twitter,” he said “I would never expect that.”


Pupils aged ten should learn about porn as part of the national curriculum, British teaching union claims

Schoolchildren as young as ten should learn about pornography as part of the national curriculum, a teaching union said yesterday

The National Association of Headteachers said primary school teachers needed to respond to the fact that children were now getting a large amount of their information about sex from the internet.

They said sex education guidelines are hopelessly out of date and cannot cope with the ‘overtly sexualised world’ in which children are now growing up.

But many family campaigners will argue that teaching children about pornography could actually make the situation worse, because children could be introduced to the concept for the first time.

Campaigners say the easy access of porn online is harming children, and the NSPCC says they have seen an upsurge in calls from teenagers upset by what they have seen.

However, another teaching union – the National Union of Teachers – said it was too early to start teaching children about porn at primary school.

The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on web porn, with adults having to opt in if they want to access it.

In an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme, NAHT policy adviser Sion Humphreys said teachers should hold lessons on the ‘impact of pornography’.

‘Children are growing up in an overtly sexualised world,’ he said. ‘That includes easy access to porn and they need the skills to deal with it.

‘We would support children being taught in an age-appropriate way about the impact of pornography as part of a statutory Personal Social Health Education programme.’

Mr Humphreys said that lessons could start from primary school but that the material would depend on age.

‘Evidence suggests ten isn’t too young to start lessons on pornography, but it wouldn’t be a full-on lesson but the grounding would be laid down,’ he said.

At the moment, PSHE, which includes sex and relationships education, is not compulsory in England, unlike other parts of the UK.

Biological facts are part of all lessons in secondary school science lessons. Beyond that parents have the right to withdraw their children from any sex education.

The National Union of Teachers however disagreed with their union colleagues.  They told the BBC that referring to issues of porn in lessons is a step too far, and that schools should only talk about it if asked by students.

But Leonie Hodge, from the charity Family Lives, said it was vital children learned about porn.  She said that at a time when 90 per cent of children own a smartphone, it is no longer relevant to talk about ‘making a baby’.

She said: ‘Teenagers are bombarded with pornography from a young age; you can’t escape it. It’s patronising to say they can’t cope with the lesson because they can.’

Siobhan Freegard, founder of website Netmums, said mothers frequently panic when they come across porn on a computer at home and would welcome support from schools.

She said: ‘It can be a minefield. Many don’t know what to do or say. For example a single mother may struggle with teenage boys, a single father may not know how to approach the subject with his daughter.

‘In very traditional households, they might not even talk about sex at all. The ideal solution is for schools and parents to work together.’

The Department of Education would not comment on the NAHT’s suggestion, but told Newsbeat that it is up to individual schools on how they teach sex education.


Australia: Testing the new teacher - the plan to lift classroom quality

TEACHER graduates should be tested on literacy and numeracy skills, ability to communicate and passion for teaching before fronting a classroom, the Australian Centre for Educational Research said.

ACER chief executive Geoff Masters said quality teaching was the key to lifting achievement levels in Australian schools, a key goal of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Governments must enhance the status of teachers so the best and brightest are attracted to the profession and admission to teacher education programs is highly competitive, he said.

"Teaching can be highly rewarding, but is also increasingly complex," Professor Masters said.

"Teachers must keep abreast of rapidly changing technologies and provide support for a wide range of personal and social issues that students now face. Work of this kind requires highly skilled, caring individuals."

Speaking ahead of World Teacher Day today, Prof Masters said one way governments could enhance the status of teachers was to ensure that teacher graduates met minimum national standards of literacy and numeracy, as well as the standards for teaching these skills.

Second, make entry to teacher courses more competitive by reducing the number of teachers trained and setting higher hurdles for course admission.

Governments should also develop research-based descriptions of effective teaching practices, provide professional learning to develop practices and recognise and reward great teaching.

High-performing school systems also assess interpersonal and communication skills and the candidate's commitment to teaching as a career.

The state government has released a discussion paper on improving the quality of teaching amid concerns that it is becoming an easy career choice.

As a way of attracting quality people to the profession, responses have suggested a minimum ATAR requirement, increasing teacher wages and universities being more willing to fail unsuitable candidates.

Education department Director-general Michele Bruniges, Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias and Institute of Teachers chief executive Patrick Lee will make recommendations to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli early next month.