Friday, November 16, 2012

Skip College

Interviewing various bouncers, bartenders, pedicab drivers and other low-skilled workers along Bourbon St. in New Orleans, Peter  Schiff ound almost everyone had an expensive college degree. And not meaningless ones, either. He found people with advanced degrees in neuroscience, robotics, radiology, mechanical engineering, engineering, to name but a few.

"President Obama promotes the myth that everyone must go to college," says Peter. "That if you don't go, your life will be ruined -- that you will end up waiting tables, or trapped in some other mundane occupation. The truth is, even with a college degree, you may still end up waiting tables, you'll just begin your 'career' four or five years later, tens of thousands of dollars in debt."

Watch the hilarious, thought-provoking video below:


British education bureaucracy to be slashed

Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to have halved his department's running costs by 2015-16.  Michael Gove will shed 1,000 jobs from the Department for Education as he tries to set an example to the rest of Whitehall.

The Education Secretary has pledged to do 'more with less' by halving the £580million running costs of his department by 2016.  He won the approval of Cabinet colleagues to conduct a radical 'zero base' review of his department, as though it were being set up from scratch.

But his plans have drawn the ire of unions, who warned they were balloting members on the reforms.

Mr Gove said poor performers will be 'speedily managed out' of their jobs and higher standards will be expected of those remaining.

Many back-office roles will also go as management consultants warned their costs were too high. Work that is not a ministerial priority is also likely to stop.

Children's services are likely to be hit, with resources diverted to supporting academies and free schools – which will account for one in four schools by 2015.

Staff will also be forced out of their expensive Westminster headquarters, which include a 'contemplation suite' and a massage room, to a cheaper building. Real estate costs for the DfE have soared to £40million – £6million of which is spent on vacant buildings.

Unions criticised the job cuts as an 'ideological attack on the civil service as a whole' and accused Mr Gove of 'playing politics' with people's livelihoods.  PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'Michael Gove appears to want to run his department as some kind of nightmarish Right-wing experiment, playing politics with people's livelihoods and putting at risk the very important services DfE civil servants provide to schools, teachers and the public.  'Staff in the DfE will not sit back and allow their jobs and the vital work they do supporting the education and development of our children to be used as some kind of ideological testing ground.'

A review document drawn up by the department's permanent secretary, Chris Wormald, said: 'While there is no formal headcount target, this is likely to mean that by 2015 the department will have fewer than 3,000 posts, around 1,000 fewer than we have now.'

Mr Wormald added: 'We will be smaller and will operate from fewer sites. We will focus on our duties to the taxpayer with renewed vigour, investing where we need to but always remembering that every pound we spend on ourselves must be justified to the citizens who pay for us.'

Cost-cutting will mean leaving the ministry's HQ in Great Smith Street in Westminster

Most Whitehall departments have been asked to save a third of their costs by Chancellor George Osborne as part of the austerity measures to reduce the country's deficit.  But Mr Gove's target was to cut administrative costs by 42 per cent by 2015, which he has extended to a goal of 50 per cent by 2016.


Queensland private schools announce fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for 2013

Fees at Eton are approx. $48,000 p.a. at current exchange rates.  But that includes full board, which is not discussed below.  Considering the standard at Eton, one imagines that food and accomodation accounts for around $20,000 of that.  So Australian private schools are well funded, considering that they get substantial Federal money as well

ELITE private schools have announced fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for next year, with one charging parents $19,880 for annual tuition.

Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) has posted the most expensive "all inclusive" tuition fee so far of $19,880, just above the 2012 tuition fee for Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) for Year 8 to 12 students.

In a letter to parents, BGGS board of trustees chairwoman Elizabeth Jameson said the 6.4 per cent fee rise reflected "the lowest percentage increase in many years and the school's concerted effort to constantly contain the impact on our families".

"Brisbane Girls Grammar remains one of the few independent schools which does not impose additional levies on top of our tuition fees," the letter states.

Brisbane Boys' College (BBC), Clayfield College and Somerville House have posted the biggest fee percentage increases so far of about 7 per cent each.

BBC is charging $17,920 for annual tuition in Years 7 to 12 next year while Somerville House is charging $17,776.

Extra levies and other school costs mean BBC Year 12 parents will pay more than $20,000 next year for the cost of education.

BGS parents are expected to pay more than $20,000 for tuition in senior year next year - the first time in Queensland a tuition fee would have risen above that mark.

The all boys' school, which is also the state's most consistent top performer in OP rankings and NAPLAN, charged Queensland's top 2012 tuition fee of $19,635. Parents of Year 8 to 11 pupils also paid $1005 for a tablet PC levy.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said fee increases generally reflected the rising cost of education.  Education costs have gone up 6.1 per cent over the past year according to Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index figures.

"Around 70 per cent of a school's expenditure generally goes to teachers' salaries," Mr Robertson said.

"Education costs include increases in salaries, capital costs for new buildings and maintenance programs plus implementation of the Australian curriculum."

Somerville House principal Flo Kearney said fees needed to go up "because of the increasing cost of delivering a quality education", including recruiting and retaining the best teachers.

"There are things that are out of our control as well such as significant increases in the cost of insurance and also meeting growing costs of compliance," she said.

Cairns-based Trinity Anglican School principal Christopher Daunt Watney said they tried to keep their costs to a minimum.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Higher Education: Why Government Should Cut the Cord

Bryan Caplan

I'm currently in the 36th grade.  After high school graduation, I spent four years at UC Berkeley to get my bachelor's degree, and four years at Princeton to get my Ph.D.  In 1997, George Mason hired me as a professor - and I'm still here.  I have a dream job for life: GMU essentially pays me to do whatever I want, and I never have to retire.  But while higher education has been very good for me, it has been a lousy deal for society.

Taxpayers heavily subsidize higher education - about $500 billion dollars per year.  What does our society get in exchange?  Conventional wisdom says that these billions lead to a massive increase in what economists call "human capital."  The nation's colleges teach promising young people the skills they need to contribute to the modern economy, enriching us all.  If you actually pay attention to the subjects that most students study, however, this story is does not fit the facts.

Think about the classes you're taking right now.  How many are teaching you skills you're ever likely to use on the job?  There are very few jobs that use history, literature, psychology, social science, foreign languages, and the like.  Think about your major: Does it even pretend to be vocational?  There may be a few engineers in the audience, but most of us study subjects that simply aren't very practical.  And if you talk to engineers, even they spend a lot of time proving theorems - a skill you rarely use outside of academia.

I'm not saying that college teaches zero real-world skills.  My claim, rather, is that at least half of what colleges teach is not useful in the real world.  And while many professors insist that their subjects are more useful than they seem on the surface, this is wishful thinking.  If you actually measure learning, students usually learn little, quickly forget most of what they learn, and fail to apply what they still know even when their education is actually relevant.

If all this is true, why is going to college so lucrative?  Because completing a degree - even a useless degree - signals to employers that you're smart, hard-working, and conformist.  Most people never finish college.  If you do finish, you show the labor market that you've got the right stuff - and many doors open.

If you're not convinced, let me point out that the best education in the world is already free.  If you want to learn at Princeton, just go there and start attending classes.  No one will stop you.  Professors will be flattered by your attendance.  At the end of four years, you'll have a great education but no diploma.  Interested?  Just take I-95 North and turn right at Philadelphia.

Key point: Since college is, to a large extent, jumping through hoops to show off, government subsidies are counter-productive.  When education gets cheaper, you just have to jump through more hoops to convince employers that you're in the top third of the distribution.  Subsidizing college so we can all get better jobs is like urging us to stand up at a concert so we can all see better.  In technical terms, education has at least one big negative externality.

Steve is probably going to give you a long list of positive externalities of education.  I'm skeptical of most of them; in fact, he often misapplies the concept.  But suppose Steve's totally right.  All he's shown is that education has some positive externalities that at least partly offset the negative externalities of signaling.  To make an economic case for government support, however, Steve would need to show that the net externality of education - all his positives minus all my signaling waste - is positive.  I'm not asking for precision down to the penny; I'd gladly settle for some ballpark numbers.

Isn't there more to college than just the economic benefits?  What about transforming students into enlightened human beings who love ideas and savor culture?  Many economists scoff at such notions, but I don't.  I'm a huge fan of ideas and culture.  But the harsh reality is the most college students find ideas and culture boring - and professors rarely change their minds.  In any case, the Internet now provides free unlimited intellectual enrichment for everyone.  Spending half a trillion dollars a year to force feed ideas and culture to students who won't consume them for free is just silly.

What about students who genuinely want to acquire useful skills or broaden their horizons?  Government spending on their education is certainly less wasteful than usual.  Even there, though, there's no reason why - given the labor market's rewards for education - students couldn't pay for their education with unsubsidized student loans.  If the extra cost deters a lot of students from going, that tells us something: Though students rarely say it out loud, many silently realize that the full cost of a college degree exceeds all the expected benefits put together.

One last question: Even if a free market in education is efficient, is it fair?  I say it is.  Suppose your parents had the money to pay for your college, but refused to do so.  Would it be fair to legally force them to cough up the money?  Probably not: You're an adult and it's their money.  I say we should extend taxpayers the same courtesy.  If your parents don't owe you an education, neither do millions of total strangers.


Tough exams and learning by rote are the keys to success, says British education boss

Learning facts by rote should be a central part of the school experience, the education secretary, Michael Gove, will argue on Wednesday in a speech which praises traditional exams to the extent of arguing they helped spur the US civil rights struggle.

In the address, titled In Praise of Tests, Gove describes the ideological underpinning to his planned shakeup of GCSEs and A-levels, a philosophy which will further delight educational traditionalists but is likely to prompt criticisms that he is seeking a return to the teaching styles of the 1940s and 50s.

Competitive, difficult exams for which pupils must prepare by memorising large amounts of facts and concepts will promote motivation, solidify knowledge and guarantee standards, Gove is to tell the Independent Academies Association, a trade body for academy schools.

"Exams matter because motivation matters," Gove will say, according to extracts of the speech provided by his department.

"Humans are hard-wired to seek out challenges. And our self-belief grows as we clear challenges we once thought beyond us.  "If we know tests are rigorous, and they require application to pass, then the experience of clearing a hurdle we once considered too high spurs us on to further endeavours and deeper learning."

Gove professes himself a great fan of Daniel Willingham, a US cognitive psychologist who has sought to use scientific research to show pupils learn best through the use of memory and routine, arguments outlined in a book, Why Don't Students Like School?, also popular with free schools guru Toby Young.

Gove argues that "memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding". He says: "Only when facts and concepts are committed securely to the working memory, so that it is no effort to recall them and no effort is required to work things out from first principles, do we really have a secure hold on knowledge.

"Memorising scales, or times tables, or verse, so that we can play, recall or recite automatically gives us this mental equipment to perform more advanced functions and display greater creativity.

"And the best way to build memory, as Willingham explains, is by the investment of thought and effort – such as the thought and effort we require for exam preparation and testing."

Such exams must be "proper tests", marked externally and with results ranked in league tables, rather than teacher assessment, Gove he argues.

While saying he is "a huge fan" of teacher assessment Gove argues that external tests are more fair, saying evidence shows some ethnic minority children can be under-marked by their own teachers.

He goes on: "With external testing there is no opportunity for such bias – the soft bigotry of low expectations – and tests show ethnic minority students performing better.

"So external tests are not only a way of levelling the playing field for children of all backgrounds they are a solvent of prejudice."

More here

Eton:  what is it about the school that makes it such a breeding ground for leadership?

What exactly is the source of its pupils' legendary charm and confidence, their almost as legendary slipperiness? In his book, Fraser interviews the late Anthony Sampson, the famous investigator of Britain's elites. "I'd meet Etonians everywhere I went," says Sampson, not one himself. "I've never understood why they were so good at networking and politics." Fraser speculates: "The Etonian mystique often seems a matter of mirrors, a collusion between those [non-Etonians] hungry for [Eton] notoriety and Etonians who are only too happy to supply it." One afternoon last week, I emailed the school to ask if I could visit. Within less than two hours, Little emailed back and offered to meet the next day.

Like many British centres of power, Eton owes some of its influence to geography. It was founded in 1440 on the orders of Henry VI, frequently in residence with his court nearby at Windsor Castle. Nowadays, the school emphasises its closeness to London, the great global money hub, a dozen miles to the east. "About a third of our boys have London addresses," says Little, leaving open the possibility that they also have others. For the tenth who live abroad – the proportion "has grown a little" since he became head in 2002 – Heathrow airport is even closer. Jets intermittently moan loud and low over the school's spikes and towers.

But otherwise, for much of the long school day, there is an uncanny hush. As you approach the college, there is no grand announcement of Eton's existence, just small, hand-painted signs, white lettering on black, indicating that an increasing number of the courtyards, alleyways and driveways branching off the High Street are private property. From the open windows of neat classrooms, some late medieval, some Victorian, some Edwardian, some with expensive glass-and-steel modern additions, little of the usual hubbub of secondary school life emerges. Pupils and teachers alike sit upright in the black-and-white uniform, which is somehow both uptight and flamboyant – some might say like Etonians themselves. The uniform was standardised in the 19th century and must be worn for all lessons, AKA "divs" or "schools" in Eton's elaborate private language.

When the lesson ends, the spotless pavements are suddenly flooded with pupils. Some are tall and languid, some are chubby and scurrying, some are black or Asian, most are white. Everyone carries old-fashioned ring-binder files, and no one texts or makes a phone call. But some of the boys greet each other with hugs, or bursts of transatlantic up-talking, or say "like" with a long "i", London-style – for a minute or two, many seem reasonably modern and normal. Then everyone rushes off to the next lesson. "It is possible to be bored at Eton," says the school website, "but it takes a bit of effort!"

"In many ways it is a conservative institution, with lots of tiny rules," says someone who was a pupil from 2002 to 2007. The ambiguous outside status of Eton often makes old boys reluctant to declare themselves. "But Eton is probably more liberal, more permissive than its reputation. There are amazing cultural facilities, to do art and theatre for example. There were so many opportunities, it seemed churlish to focus on how annoying it was to have to wear a gown in the heat of summer." Last month, the History of Art Society, one of dozens of such pupil-run bodies, held a typical extracurricular event, a talk on 20th-century modernism. It was given by the BBC's arts editor, Will Gompertz.

Some boys are so well-connected when they first arrive at the school, they already have a certain swagger. In focusing on a single institution, Eton's critics are sometimes avoiding the more uncomfortable truth that the roots of Britain's elites go wider and deeper. But for less overwhelmingly privileged boys, says theex-pupil, Eton can be life-changing: "It's just expected that you will drink from the cup of opportunity. So you become used to being able to do whatever you put your hand to. Or at the least, you learn not to seem fazed by opportunities in the wider world."

Little himself was a pupil from 1967 to 1972, "the first male in my family to be educated past the age of 14". His study is baronial and high-ceilinged, with a window austerely open to the cold evening, but he is less forbidding than you might expect, with a quiet, calm, middle-class voice, like a senior doctor. "Dad worked at Heathrow, security for British Airways," he says. One of the school's main aims, he continues, is to admit a broader mix. But how can it, given the fees, which have raced ahead of earnings and inflation in recent decades? "It's a huge amount of money," he admits – the appearance of candour is one of Little's tactics when he talks to the outside world. "Sometimes I think, short of robbing a bank, what d'you do?"

Currently, by giving out scholarships on academic and musical merit, and bursaries according to "financial need", Eton subsidises the fees of about 20% of its pupils. "Forty-five boys pay nothing at all," says Little. "Our stated aim is 25% on reduced fees, of whom 70 pay nothing." What is the timescale? "Quite deliberately non-specific. But I'll be disappointed if we have not achieved it in 10 years." Not exactly a social revolution. "A long-term goal" is for Eton to become "needs-blind": to admit any boy, regardless of ability to pay, who makes it through the school's selection procedure of an interview, a "reasoning test", and the standard private-school Common Entrance exam. Whether Eton would then become a genuinely inclusive place is open to doubt: one of its selection criteria is an applicant's suitability for boarding, and many people connected with Eton would surely resist its metamorphosis into a meritocracy. Hierarchy is in Eton's bones.

Either way, Little says, the school does not have nearly enough money to become "needs-blind" yet. According to its latest accounts, Eton has an investment portfolio worth £200m. The school looks enviously on the wealth of private American universities: Harvard, the richest, has an endowment of more than £20bn. Eton seems unlikely to return soon to its core purpose as decreed by Henry VI: the education of poor scholars.

Little says the school teaches pupils "how to juggle time, how to work hard", and how to present themselves in public: "One thing I say to them when they leave is, if you choose to behave the way a tabloid would expect … you deserve everything you get." He downplays Eton slang as "a quirk and an oddity. A lot of words have fallen out of use."

I wonder if he would say quite the same to a Daily Telegraph journalist. The classic Etonian skills – Cameron has them – have long included adjusting your message to your audience, defusing the issue of privilege with self-deprecation, and bending to the prevailing social and political winds, but only so far. "Do institutions in England change totally while seeming not to, or do they do the opposite?" asks Fraser. "I think the latter. And Eton has changed far less than Oxbridge."

Does he think a school can ever be too powerful? For once, his affability gives way to something fiercer: "I'm unashamed that we're aiming for excellence. We want … people who get on with things. The fact that people who come from here will stand in public life – for me, that is a cause for celebration." If Eton is too influential, he suggests, other schools should try harder. Fraser has another explanation for the success of Old Etonians: "At moments in their lives," he writes, "they are mysteriously available for each other." Subtle networking, a sense of mission, an elite that does not think too hard about its material advantages – Eton's is a very British formula for dominance.

It can be a high-pressure place. For all the Old Etonians who have considered the rest of life an anti-climax, there have been others damaged by the school: by its relentless timetable, by its crueller rituals, such as the "rips" torn by teachers in bad schoolwork, and by Eton's strange combination of worldliness and otherworldliness. Compared to most other boarding schools, Eton seems more eccentric and intense, its mental legacy more lingering. "Eton never left me," writes Fraser. Little says: "I've come across a fair number of casualties who were here [with me] in the 60s." Another more recent ex-pupil describes Eton as "a millstone round my neck every day".


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Evidence Tampering U

 Mike Adams

For years, I've been writing about the issue of censorship on our nation's campuses. But I have given far too little emphasis to due process violations within the so-called campus judiciary. Today, that all comes to an end. This will be the beginning of a series of columns highlighting the worst colleges in America when it comes to due process violations. I will reveal the name of this week's winner after explaining why this university is being ushered into the due process Hall of Shame.

In 2005, a professor was brought up on charges of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Specifically, he was accused of giving a student an A in exchange for dancing with the professor in a sexually provocative way. There was only one problem with the charge: it wasn't true.

One set of university documents (the transcripts) revealed no A was given. The university convicted the professor anyway even after it was clear that another set of documents (the official harassment accusations) had been doctored in order to sustain the charge.

In 2009, our present inductees disciplined a fraternity for waving a fraternity flag that had a portion of the confederate flag imbedded within it. Incidentally, they waved it at another southern fraternity that also had a fraternity flag with a portion of a confederate flag imbedded within it. The all-white fraternity waved it at the other all-white fraternity at a university intramural game at which no nonwhites were present. So a white university official charged them with violating the campus hate speech code.

I wrote about the incident and the university soon realized the campus speech code (as applied) was illegal. So, rather than dropping the charges, they doctored university documents in order to remove any evidence that the charges against the fraternity were related to the speech code. They then inserted new allegations and convicted them under those. The fraternity was then punished with suspension from intramural sports competition for "taunting" rather than "hate speech" as originally charged.

In 2011, a professor was accused of sexual harassment and sought out legal counsel to defend him. During cross-examination by his attorney, the female accuser claimed not to have made two statements included in the official charges. In other words, the university helped the accuser by padding the charges without even bothering to tell her.

The accused was eventually dismissed from the university. Those tampering with the evidence were never identified and disciplined.

In 2012, police responded to an off campus alcohol-related incident involving a campus social organization. The police left shortly after arriving and no charges or arrests were even contemplated by police. Nonetheless, officers of the student organization were brought in to the Dean's Office for interrogation. Since they were being asked about behaviors that were minor violations of the criminal law, they asked to have legal counsel present. Their request was denied.

Recently, I had a chance to hear the tape recorded interrogation of the student officers. University officials repeatedly denied their requests for counsel and asked them to turn off the tape recorder. By the end of the investigation, the university had prepared three different reports on the incident. The facts in report #3 bore no resemblance to the facts in report #1. Each time the university realized its charges were incorrect they simply constructed a new version of events. Decent people would have dropped the charges once they realized they were wrong. But this is not the way things are done at Evidence Tampering U. The charges are still pending and the fate of the student organization is still hanging in the air.

Again in 2012, a professor appealed a sexual harassment charge (anyone seeing a pattern here?) and was exonerated on charges of inappropriately touching a student. Finally, there is some good news at Evidence Tampering U, right? Wrong. I'm not finished.

During the appeal of the conviction for inappropriate touching the university inserted a new charge of "inappropriate communication." The university convicted the professor of that in partial retaliation for his appeal on the charge of inappropriate touching. No chance of winning an appeal at Evidence Tampering U. These people are good. They rig appeals by adding new charges each step of the way. They base their judiciary rules on Franz Kafka novels.

This is all very important because the way universities administer justice affects the way students view justice. At Evidence Tampering U., justice is not a process. It is a result. The ends justify the means. It is the same mentality that justifies stealing elections. And it is not the way we educate young people. It is the way that a constitutional republic eventually turns into a banana republic.

Unfortunately, it is the way things are done at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, our inaugural inductees into the Due Process Hall of Shame. Their liberal administrators make providing a liberal education damned near impossible. It may seem ironic. But that’s what the evidence reveals.

In the next installment, we will learn about the role the Obama Department of Education has played in the erosion of campus due process. Students aren’t biting the hand that feeds them. They just re-elected the hand that is slapping them.


The £300 bespoke classroom chairs for the £80m British school dubbed 'socialist Eton' with a roof terrace and panoramic views of London

With panoramic views of the capital from a roof terrace, bespoke chairs and glass walls, this £80million six-storey building resembles that of a plush city hotel.  But this is, in fact, Britain's most expensive comprehensive school - set to open next week in a leafy area of Kensington, west London, for 1,480 lucky pupils.

Holland Park School, dubbed the 'socialist Eton', has unisex lavatories where no main door will be fitted to deter bullying, a glass-clad open-plan library and an exotic 25-metre basement swimming pool.

The new futuristic building for the school, once attended by the actress Anjelica Huston, has a glass roof and glass-walled classrooms, with an energy-saving array of fins and mesh to spare pupils the glare of the sun.

Pupils will sit down on £300 bespoke chairs created by one of Britain's leading furniture designers, Russell Pinch - though the school paid far less for the chairs with its large order.   Teachers will have their own version of Pinch's 'Holland Park Chair', with arms - retailing at £400.

They will also enjoy the services of waiters bringing them tea and coffee in their common room.

Modernist features of the building include wash troughs, and an atrium stretching the length of the building.

The school is about to leave council control to become an academy. It is part of a multibillion-pound building programme that has seen lavish state schools spring up around the country.

The schools have been designed by architects such as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, renowned for their high-tech, modern designs, often featuring soaring glass atriums.

State schools built under Labour typically cost £21m-£50m and the lavish scale of Holland Park has caused friction among local groups at a time of cuts in services.  Union representatives have asked why a new academy planned for north Kensington, one of the poorest parts of the borough, has a budget of £28m.

But Elizabeth Campbell, the council's cabinet member for education, told the Sunday Times she was proud of Holland Park.  She said: 'We set out to build the best school in Britain and we have ended up with the best school in western Europe.'

She argued that the building had cost the taxpayer nothing, adding: 'We raised £105m by selling off part of the site to housing developers and built a six-storey school instead.'

The school dubbed the 'socialist Eton' because it once attracted members of the Labour elite who lived locally but did not want to compromise their principles by using private education.

The school now has Tory ministers in its catchment area, including George Osborne, who lives a short walk away.

A few weeks ago,  according to the Sunday Times, a Holland Park parent reported that her daughter had seen Gove and his wife Sarah looking round with their nine-year-old daughter.

Headteacher Colin Hall said earlier the school was a reward for pupils and teachers who over the past decade had transformed the comprehensive and put it in the top 5% of state schools for improved GCSE results.  He said: 'Students will be coming to something a bit unconventional and a little bit grand.

'Some don’t come from privileged backgrounds — we want them to have a sense of aspiration and see this building as aspirational.'


Australian students get right to sue training colleges

This could lead to damaging litigation by dim students. 

DISGRUNTLED students will be able to sue their training colleges for shoddy education under new laws to be introduced in Victoria.

The state government hopes the new rules will prevent dodgy training providers from delivering substandard education. The rules will apply to students whose vocational training was subsidised partly or fully by the state government.

An explanatory memorandum of the legislation, seen by The Age, said students could seek compensation for a college's "failure to deliver training". The state government contracts training providers to deliver courses to students.

An Education Department spokesman said students would soon have the right to enforce terms of that contract.

"This is designed to provide greater protection for students if there is a breach of contract between the government and vocational training provider," he said.

But he said contracts would vary between providers.

Earlier this year the national training regulator rejected a training college's registration after finding it had failed to meet quality standards.

More than 1200 students were enrolled at the college, which offered a wide range of courses from aged care, childcare and transport and logistics. The students were forced to find other colleges to complete their courses.

The Australian Education Union's TAFE vice-president, Greg Barclay, said the new laws were a "good move" but the government needed to ensure the contracts were fair to students.

The Victorian TAFE Association's education policy consultant, Nita Schultz, said the greater capacity to seek compensation would "fill a gap" in students' rights as consumers. "It's got to give students more confidence," she said.

Ms Schultz said students might also be entitled to sue their training college if it closed their course before they could complete it.

The new laws are part of legislation recently introduced to the Victorian Parliament about how universities and TAFEs are governed.

Some of the new legislation is highly contentious, including the removal of the requirement that university councils and TAFE boards must include students and staff.

More than 220 academics have signed an open letter protesting against this change.

Melbourne University professor and author Raimond Gaita and La Trobe politics Professor Dennis Altman are among the high-profile academics who have lent their names to the "defence of university autonomy and academic freedom". The letter calls on the state government to abandon the bill.

"Universities are not businesses selling education and research products. They are some of our oldest public institutions and their autonomy is crucial to a properly functioning democracy and vibrant civil society," the letter said.

But Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said there was nothing to stop universities appointing students and staff to their councils if they had the necessary skills.

He said the government was introducing the changes after extensive discussions with chancellors and vice-chancellors from Victoria's universities.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

University Pres. Scolds Students for Inviting Ann Coulter to Speak

A lesson in how to make threats subtly.  Quite literally Jesuitical

American universities are often criticized for their left-leaning biases, but the president of Fordham University in New York appeared to take it a step further when he singled out the young Republicans on campus.

The group “College Republicans” had invited well-known author and columnist Ann Coulter to speak, and President Joseph M. McShane expressed his thoughts in a university-wide email, according to Young America’s Foundation (YAF).

It should be noted that Coulter’s appearance was to be paid for by the school’s student activity fees, but the president still made it seem as though the school deserved tremendous praise for allowing free speech by a conservative firebrand.  In the end, though, Coulter’s invitation was still rescinded, the university’s website says.

Here is part of the November 9th email, via the YAF:
    …Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.

To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative-more heat than light-and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.

McShane then references a number of racist incidents that occurred on campus, before concluding:
    Still, to prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another. The old saw goes that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.

The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character: do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter’s (and the student organizers’) opinions, or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better and our faith in the academy-and one another-stronger? We have chosen the latter course, confident in our community, and in the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.

When the College Republicans rescinded their invitation to Coulter, saying they didn’t “vet” her properly, McShane said the university had passed its challenge “with flying colors.”  Here is part of his follow-up letter, via The Observer:
    Allow me to give credit where it is due: the leadership of the College Republicans acted quickly, took responsibility for their decisions, and expressed their regrets sincerely and eloquently. Most gratifying, I believe, is that they framed their decision in light of Fordham’s mission and values. There can be no finer testament to the value of a Fordham education and the caliber of our students.

Yesterday I wrote that the College Republicans provided Fordham with a test of its character. They, the University community, and our extended Fordham family passed the test with flying colors, engaging in impassioned but overwhelmingly civil debate on politics, academic freedom, and freedom of speech.

We can all be proud of Fordham today, and I am proud to serve you.


British universities paying £10,000 to sign up bright students

Bright students are being offered financial incentives worth up to £10,000 to study at "lower-ranked" universities amid a scramble to fill undergraduate places, the Telegraph has learnt.

Dozens of institutions outside the academic elite are making lucrative offers to applicants with the best A-level grades, irrespective of their household income, it emerged.

The awards - for students starting degrees in 2013 - normally include substantial discounts on tuition fees or cash contributions towards living costs.

Some universities are offering applicants guaranteed places in halls of residence and even free laptops or membership of sports clubs.

Institutions offering deals include Aston, Bournemouth, Brunel, Coventry, De Montfort, Edge Hill, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Leicester, Northumbria, Roehampton, the Royal Agricultural College, Salford, Surrey and Wolverhampton.

City University London is offering awards of between £3,000 and £9,000 over three years depending on students' A-level grades and chosen undergraduate course.

Newman University College in Birmingham said it was offering £10,000 for all students who achieve three B grades or better in their A-levels.

Newcastle University's school of electrical and electronic engineering offers scholarships of up to £2,000-a-year plus a laptop, while Surrey University promises a £3,000 cash award alongside free sports club membership to students with straight As.

In most cases, these scholarships are not means-tested but depend on students naming particular universities as their "firm choice" on UCAS application forms.

The disclosure appears to underline the lengths universities are being forced to go to in an attempt to fill places following a backlash over the near tripling of tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000-a-year.

Earlier this month, England's Higher Education Funding Council found that university finances were under pressure after an "unexpected fall" in admissions rates.

Overall numbers were an average of 2.1 per cent lower than universities' own forecasts, it emerged. Some 57,000 fewer undergraduates started courses across the country this year.

In a report, the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said "lower-ranked" universities were now increasingly likely to use cash incentives to attract students.

"Support for high-achieving students has become more generous across all types of institutions, particularly lower-ranked ones," it said. "This may be at least partly a response to the new admissions system... It may result in high-achieving students being attracted to lower-ranked universities by the promise of more financial support in the short-term."

Previously, the number of students recruited by each university was subject to strict Government caps.

But the Coalition has partially lifted controls to allow institutions to take unlimited numbers of students with the best A-level grades. In 2012, they could recruit more undergraduates with AAB grades, while next year the measures extend to those with at least ABB.

The move has triggered intense competition to sign up these students to prevent them being tempted to rival universities.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said high-achieving students were "in demand by universities and there are a wide variety of scholarships and other financial inducements being offered to them."

"Universities have offered merit-based scholarships for many years, so the concept is not new," she said, adding that UUK was currently undertaking research into the impact of bursary and scholarship packages on university application trends.

But Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said cash for bright students may come at the expense of means-tested support for the poorest.

"Some universities are now pulling out all the stops to secure students with the highest grades," she added.

"Students considering university next year should be attracted to the courses that best suit their talents, not by financial incentives."

But Deborah Streatfield, a London-based careers adviser, doubted that scholarships acted as a significant draw, adding that applicants "intensively study league tables of university rankings and subject ranking and never look at the financial incentives on offer".


Weak British primaries to become academies (charters)

The Government will improve the 400 weakest primary schools by turning them into academies, the Prime Minister said yesterday.

David Cameron said that by the end of next year he wanted them to be paired with sponsors to turn them into academies as part of the Coalition's efforts to improve education in the poorest performing schools.

"The driving mission for this Government is to build an aspiration nation, where we unlock and unleash the promise in all our people," he said. "A first-class education system is absolutely central to that vision.

"We have seen some excellent progress with our reforms, including turning 200 of the worst-performing primary schools into sponsored academies.

"We have seen how academies, with their freedom to innovate, inspire and raise standards are fuelling aspirations. So now we want to go further, faster, with 400 more underperforming primary schools paired up with a sponsor and either open or well on their way to becoming an academy by the end of next year.''

At the last general election, there were 203 academies but they were all secondary schools. There are now 2,456 academies, and a further 823 in the pipeline. Of the new academies, 333 were formerly failing primary or secondary schools.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Uneducated People Share Simplistic Graphic About Education, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney

You may have seen this graphic floating around the internet. I have no clue where it comes from, but wouldn't recommend visiting whatever "" is, which has been watermarked on this version:

Hah! Those dumb conservatives, they all vote for Mitt Romney. And they're dumb. Well, now that we've all confirmed our elitist preconceived biases about conservatives, it's off to the wine bar to celebrate eh?

Not so fast. Pretty much every exit poll shows very little correlation between education and electoral outcomes. Here are the graphics that accompany CNN's exit polling on education.

There is only one category here that correlates with level of education: postgraduates. President Obama won those who didn't attend high school, those who didn't attend college, and postgraduates.

Here's a news flash: Obama won the election, so he won slightly larger percentages of everyone. In fact, as education level increases, tendency to vote for President Obama decreases until you get to the postgraduate level. This is largely unsurprising when you consider that one of President Obama's major supporter groups - teachers' unions - consists almost entirely of members who have some sort of postgraduate education.

This sort of infographic is the kind of lazy attempt at snarky humor that actively misinforms people. And it's embarrassing to draw conclusions here - there is nearly a zero level of correlation between formal education and electoral choice.


Note for statisticians:  This is a very good example of why "ecological" correlations (correlations among grouped data) have to be treated with caution

British tuition fees hike 'may have benefited poorer students'

The gap in university participation between rich and poor students has narrowed since the introduction of higher tuition fees in England in 2006/07, according to a new report.

Students from poorer backgrounds may have benefited from the introduction of higher university tuition fees in England, according to a new study published today.

The gap in higher education participation between those from wealthy and deprived backgrounds has narrowed rapidly since the 2006-07 student finance regime changes, which saw the tuition fees cap rise from £1,000 to £3,000 per annum.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report, this could be because the new fee regime was more generous to poorer students and hit those from richer backgrounds relatively harder.

"Contrary to the beliefs of many, the new HE [higher education] finance regime introduced in 2006-07 was actually significantly more progressive than the system it replaced," the report says.

It adds: "We cannot say for sure that this change in [university participation] arose as a consequence of the new HE finance regime, but it was coincident with it and we cannot explain it using the other characteristics that we observe in our data."

Only 18 per cent of state school students from the most deprived backgrounds attended higher education in 2009-10, compared with 55 per cent of those from the least deprived backgrounds - a gap of 37 percentage points.

But according to the report that gap had fallen from 40 percentage points just five years earlier, due mainly to a sharp increase in the number of pupils from deprived backgrounds applying for university.

The gap has in fact been diminishing throughout the last decade, but the process 'accelerated somewhat' after the tuition fees cap was increased in 2006-07, according to the report.

Claire Crawford, the author of the report, said: "This experience in 2006-07 provides some hope that the drop in university applications observed this year - following the most recent increase in tuition fees - may not herald the start of a longer term fall in participation rates."

However, NUS president Liam Burns said: "Top-up fees were in marked contrast from the current government's decision to increase the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 which, far from providing additional income, was used as a spurious justification by ministers to remove almost all public funding from universities and to substitute it with debt loaded onto the shoulders of individuals."

Students starting university this September faced another tuition fees hike, with the cap now set at £9,000 per year.

The IFS report cites studies concluding that poorer students became better off under the 2006-07 fees regime than its predecessor because the fees are means tested, and because student loans are only payable above a certain earnings threshold after graduation and can eventually be written off.

Bursaries and grants are also available to university students based on household income.

But the studies point out that poor students will only benefit if they fully understand the implications of the regime and aren't 'debt averse'.

The report also notes that increased university participation among poorer students has been partly driven by a 'catch up' in attainment earlier on in the education system.

The proportion of young people with at least 2 A-levels also rose more quickly among poorer students over the last decade, for instance.

  A separate report also published by the IFS today criticises the new National Scholarship Programme - introduced this year to replace previous bursaries for disadvantaged students - for being too complex.

The report also criticises the variation in bursaries available from different universities under the new regime. It found Russell Group universities offering more generous financial support than lower-ranked institutions.


Shock, horror!  Speaker at Australian Catholic college fails to honour politically correct custom

He paid a tribute to the real founders of a college instead of the imaginary Aboriginal founders.  He said nothing at all about Aborigines but saying nothing was to insult them!

Non-Australians will find this hard to follow but in Leftist and particularly academic Australian circles, big meetings such as graduation ceremonies begin these days by acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal tribes used to live on the land concerned.  The pretence is that the meeting is held only with permission of the "traditional owners" of the land  -- which is of course complete garbage.  They have no title to it at law at all

A leading Sydney barrister and senior counsel at the trouble-plagued St John's College has sparked outrage after mocking the Aboriginal community at an official dinner at the University of Sydney.

Jeffrey Phillips, SC, stood in the college's 150-year-old Great Hall and, in front of more than 250 staff, students and guests, paid tribute to the "traditional custodians of this place" whom he identified as being the "Benedictines who came from the great English nation".

The comment was made in the presence of several indigenous students, one of whom has lodged a formal complaint and, according to senior staff, remains "deeply traumatised".

Mark Spinks, a respected member of Sydney's Aboriginal community and chairman of the Aboriginal men's group Babana, said: "How disgusting, how disgraceful, how disrespectful are those comments. I am outraged and I am disturbed. For that to have been said at the university, in a room full of students, I am almost speechless."

Last night, the University of Sydney's vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, condemned Mr Phillips' remarks. He said: "The university is very proud of the fact that it stands on land where indigenous peoples have been teaching and learning for many thousands of years before us and we acknowledge this publicly whenever we can."

Mr Phillips graduated from the college more than three decades ago but today he is back and, on occasions, reliving the good old days. The students appointed him as patron of the student club in 2009 and he is always a phone call away. He drinks and sings with them at formal dinners. He invites a select group to long lunches and "networking" events in the city, including a recent cigar and whisky appreciation night. He helps to find work for the law students of the college and hosts an essay competition each year, with a prize of $500.

Yesterday, Mr Phillips said his comments had been taken out of context, adding that he had sent the upset student a letter.

"It is a great pity that my speech was misinterpreted by one student," he said in a statement. "The speech was not intended, nor delivered in any way to disrespect or mock indigenous people. On the contrary, the speech had an important message of forgiveness and tolerance.

Neither the rector, Mr Bongers, nor anyone else present at the speech complained. In fact, the Rector personally thanked me warmly for my speech. Whilst I apologised to the student, as she had been offended, it is important, especially in an environment of vigorous debate, such as a university, that simple misunderstandings by one student not be blown out of proportion."


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Teachers 'failing to champion excellence', Australian academic warns

Speaking in Britain

School standards are being damaged by a "conspiracy of silence" among teachers who refuse to champion excellence, a leading academic has warned.

Pupils may be missing out on the very best results because of a "great equalisation" at the heart of the teaching profession that fails to mark out and reward top-performing staff, it was claimed.

John Hattie, professor of education at Melbourne University, suggested that too many teachers were reluctant to value expertise for fear of denigrating struggling colleagues.

He insisted that the "tyranny of the closed door" was a major problem as it prevented teachers sharing their best ideas and lessons with their colleagues.

A rigorous focus on teacher improvement is the hallmark of top education systems around the world but a reluctance to adopt a similar system in the UK risks undermining standards, Prof Hattie suggested.

He warned that the impact that schools can have on pupils "will barely change" until drastic reforms are made.

The comments come amid continuing concerns the variable quality of lessons in schools.

In its annual report last year, Ofsted warned that teaching was not good enough in more than four-in-10 English schools, with "dull" lessons fuelling bad behaviour in the classroom.

Ministers have now introduced new rules making it easier for heads to sack consistently struggling teachers. The Government is also considering introducing a new system of performance-related pay to reward the very best staff.

Prof Hattie, an expert in the evaluation of teaching standards, said there was a "great equalisation in the profession that does not welcome excellence and a conspiracy of silence to even talk among each other about the impact of their teaching".

Speaking ahead of a presentation to the London Festival of Education on November 17, he said too many teachers failed to properly observe their colleagues at work.

"The greatest difference between one school and another is the quality of teaching," he said.

"Yet in spite of this there is a conspiracy of silence, with teachers unwilling to talk to their colleagues about the impact of their teaching.

"Teachers, like politicians, prefer to talk about the curriculum, children, assessments and the structural parts of schooling such as the state of the school building.

"Until this situation is properly acknowledged, it just isn't possible to truly change the impact a teacher, a school, even an entire education system, can have on its pupils."

The academic, author of the book "Visible Learning", said the UK education system was not sufficiently geared towards teacher improvement, adding that the profession failed to sufficiently "rejoice" at evidence of improvement being made.

"Teachers too often live in their private worlds with teaching often done in front of classes not visible to colleagues," he said.

"And our studies show that the most high impact and passionate teachers are not always the most social in the staffroom."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, insisted that teachers constantly "strived for excellence" but were hampered by a lack of on-the-job training and attacks from politicians.

"Teachers find their efforts to improve the quality of their teaching stymied by the low priority given to continuing professional development," she said.

"And teachers' morale is at rock bottom - damaged by wave upon wave of denigration by Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] and his acolytes.

"If the situation is to improve, teachers must become partners in the drive to improve education performance. After all, it is teachers who will make the difference - not politicians."


Universities 'grossly distorted' by Government reforms

The higher education system is being "grossly distorted" by Government reforms to universities, a powerful coalition of academics and peers has warned.

Academic research and student teaching has been undermined by the sheer scale of "excessive, inefficient and hugely wasteful" regulations imposed on institutions, it was claimed.

The newly-established Council for the Defence of British Universities, which is being backed by 65 key figures, including Lord Bragg, Alan Bennett, Sir Simon Jenkins and Lord Rees, warned that the "very purpose" of a degree was under threat.

Students are increasingly being seen as "consumers" who are encouraged to invest in an undergraduate course to boost their earning prospects instead of developing their "intellectual and critical capacities to the full", the group suggested.

Particular criticism was levelled at the Coalition's decision to axe all direct state funding for arts, languages and humanities courses while continuing to subsidise science, technology, engineering and maths.

Sir Keith Thomas, the Oxford University historian and former president of the British Academy, said the move will have "unfortunate effects" and could lead to a decline in the study of subjects such as Chinese, Russian, German and French.

The group - which will be officially launched next week - will campaign for the abolition of existing Government quangos set up to fund higher education in favour of fully independent grant-making bodies designed to act as "buffers between the universities and the politicians".

Writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Sir Keith, a member of the council, criticised the "repugnant" treatment of universities by successive governments.

He said it was correct that safeguards should be placed on the spending of public money, but added: "The degree of audit and accountability now demanded is excessive, inefficient and hugely wasteful of time and resources.

"More fundamentally, the very purpose of the university is grossly distorted by the attempt to create a market in higher education.

"Students are regarded as `consumers' and encouraged to invest in the degree course they think most likely to enhance their earning prospects.

"Academics are seen as 'producers', whose research is expected to focus on topics of commercial value and whose 'output' is measured against a single scale and graded like sacks of wheat.

"The universities themselves are encouraged to teach and research not what they think is intrinsically worthwhile but what is likely to be financially most profitable."

In recent years, the system for funding university research has been overhauled, with institutions being scored through a complex mechanism based on quality and impact. Universities also must hit new admissions targets designed to create a more socially-diverse student body and institutions are subjected to additional audits by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Sir Keith said that the "central values of the university" - to develop students' intellectual and critical capacities - were being "sidelined or forgotten".

Also writing in the Times Higher, Lord Rees, emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, said academics' morale was being eroded, even at world-leading institutions.

"I am lucky to have spent many years in one in the University of Cambridge. But even there, morale is falling," he said.

"Coffee-time conversations are less about ideas and more about grants, the research excellence framework, job security and suchlike. Prospects of sustaining excellence will plummet if such concerns prey unduly on the minds of even the best young academics."


British father attacks daughter's school after she was told to remove poppy band as it breached health and safety rules

A man whose grandfather was a Second World War soldier has hit out at his daughter's school after she was banned from wearing her poppy wristband because of health and safety fears.

Maggy Lane, 13, was ordered to remove the Poppy Appeal band - a symbol of remembrance sold by the Royal British Legion - by teachers at Shepshed High School in Leicestershire.

The teenager was told the wristband was forbidden because it breached the school's uniform code and it was feared the rubber bangle could get caught on something during a lesson.

The schoolgirl's father Myles Lane, 39, questioned why the rubber bands were banned because of the potential safety risk when students are allowed to wear poppies secured to their uniform by a pin.

'I feel quite passionate about it,' said Mr Lane, who added that his grandfather Arthur Witherbed, who died last year at the age of 90, was part of the Royal Leicester Regiment which fought in Norway in 1940.

'I have always drummed into my daughter the importance of Poppy Day and she had bought the band out of her own money.

'They told me it was a health and safety risk, but they are okay to wear a poppy with a pin on it.

'I can appreciate the school has health and safety issues with bracelets but I think they should be able to make an allowance with a poppy band,' said Mr Lane, a draughtsman.

'Perhaps they could ask students to remove them in potentially hazardous situations like for P.E. and in cookery lessons, then let them wear the bands at other times.'

Mr Lane, from Shepshed, said Remembrance Day held extra significance for his family since his grandfather's death last year.  When the Germans invaded Norway in 1940 Mr Witherbed escaped by walking to neighbouring Sweden. From there he made his way back to England, and he was stationed with the military police at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

Adrian Stephenson, joint head teacher at the school, said: 'We don’t allow children to wear wrist bands at school. It is as simple as that.  'We have to stick to the uniform code,' he said.   'When governors put the dress code together, health and safety is part of the issue of wearing jewellery.

'It is important to stress we want the children to understand all about remembrance and it is a central part of what we do, but at the same time, if you want to run a good school you have a set of rules and you have to stick to them,' Mr Stephenson added.

His co-head Stewart Goacher said the wristband was forbidden under the same rules that prevent pupils from wearing bracelets.  Mr Goacher added that the school sells lapel poppies, holds an annual remembrance assembly and supports the charity Help for Heroes.

David Hobday, chair of the Loughborough British Legion, said: 'In theory, I am upset because it is a promotional time particularly for us, but if it is school policy and they have been asked to take them off then that is the school’s prerogative.'