Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The National Association of Scholars Report on American History

In a careful study of U.S. history courses at the University of Texas and Texas A & M University, the National Association of Scholars recently released report indicates that race, class and gender tend to crowd out the teaching of other perspectives. This form of thematically skewed teaching leads to an incomplete knowledge of American history, an ignorance transmitted from one generation to the next.

Eighty three percent of the U.T. faculty members teaching these courses received their PhD's in the 1990's or later and had race, class and gender (RCG) research interests. Hence it is hardly surprising that 78 percent of U.T. faculty members were high assigners of readings in these three areas. Moreover, an inordinate focus on RCG isn't the only problem since this emphasis subordinates other aspects of the national history. In these general American history courses, key documents from the past such as the Mayflower Compact or Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address were not assigned. Only one faculty member assigned "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and only one assigned Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.

Even though the study was restricted to two Texas institutions, I feel confident in asserting that other universities share similar characteristics of narrow specialization and a failure to provide broad coverage. It should hastily be noted that RCG are important topics that deserve a place in the history curriculum. The issue, however, is that the strong emphasis, alas the overarching emphasis, on these themes does not do justice to the depth and complexity of our national history.

In fact, diversity of informed opinion to which universities give lip-service, makes institutions of higher learning a place of genuine scholarship. When the study becomes monolithic and narrow, students are intellectually shortchanged and the appreciation of history as a discipline is skewed by political ideology.

NAS researchers didn't merely examine the evidence, they proposed several sensible recommendations. First, perhaps foremost, a review of the curriculum is called for, one that is objective and fair-minded. Two, hiring committees should take into account the need for a broad narrative of American history. Three, essential readings should be considered as part of the curriculum review with an emphasis on diversification. Four, state legislatures responsible for underwriting colleges and universities should demand transparency. Review and oversight do not in turn lead to a violation of academic freedom provisions. Last, these American history courses implicitly and sometimes explicitly suggest universities have drifted from their main mission. Increasingly these instructors think of themselves as reformers eager to eliminate prejudice and bigotry. However, when university programs consider it their responsibility to atone for or redress impressions of the past, history becomes a tool of ideological manipulation. While the struggle between the downtrodden and rooted injustice is one dimension of our history, it, in itself, doesn't convey the whole story.

Most Americans are understandably disconcerted by the gap between the credentials of college graduates and what they actually know. Students may believe they have studied American history, but in many instances, they acquired a prejudicial view of America, one that perverts evidence and the canons of scholarship. All too often courses at U.T. and Texas A&M favor one kind of historical study: one that emphasizes race, class and gender and deemphasizes other approaches such as political, intellectual, economic, diplomatic or military history.

In pointing out this obvious ideological bias, the NAS has not only performed a service for the taxpayers of Texas, but to all Americans who wonder why the balance in American history has been undermined by the self appointed professors of reform.


Teacher unfairly fired because she 'pruned bush without risk checks'

A teacher was unfairly sacked from her job after her superiors claimed she had pruned a bush without performing a risk assessment, a tribunal heard.

Tracey Smith was awarded £70,000 compensation after successfully arguing her career had been left in ruins following her unfair dismissal from a secure unit for problem youngsters in Sheffield, south Yorks.

The 43 year-old had been accused of breaking rules over disciplining a youngster, having poor relationships with colleagues and breaking health and safety rules, the tribunal was told.

One “ridiculous” allegation centred on suggestions that Miss Smith, from Crookes, Sheffield, had not pruned a bush without performing a risk assessment.

Today, it emerged that she had been awarded £70,000 – the maximum possible amount – after an employment tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed from Aldine House, a secure unit for eight young offenders and other problem youngsters.

The Sheffield-based hearing in September last year found Miss Smith had been unfairly dismissed and awarded more than £18,000 for loss of earnings.

A second hearing on Monday awarded her a further £52,400, the maximum amount a tribunal can award in compensation.

Sheffield Council, which operates the secure unit, said it was considering an appeal.

Miss Smith said outside court: "The case has destroyed my career and I am pleased to have won.  “I believe the problems arose because I didn't get on with my line manager. I was accused of five allegations.  "One, which was ridiculous, was that I pruned a bush without performing a risk assessment.”

She added: “I was on full pay for nine months doing nothing, which is something I was horrified about because I have friends who run companies and were having to make redundancies. It was not good use of taxpayers' money.

"I am so pleased with the result. To prove my innocence and show that I have been unfairly treated was my goal and … I now feel vindicated."

Miss Smith, who remains unemployed, had worked at the secure unit, for three years when she was suspended on full pay in August 2010.

She was then sacked in May the following year, despite working at other mainstream schools for 12 years.

Before her suspension she had reported to management about the bullying behaviour of her line manager, which she said was placing herself and the young people in the unit at risk because they were ignoring alarm calls.

After she was sacked she was placed on the “dismissed persons register”, which hindered her chances of gaining new employment.   Her name has only recently been removed from the register after the tribunal result.

Her lawyer, Scott Sim, of Howells Solicitors, said they were “very happy” with the result.  “Miss Smith was found to be subjected to an unfair dismissal which has had a large impact on her life and hindered her attempts to gain employment elsewhere,” he said.  “We are pleased that justice has been achieved for Tracey and she can now move forward."

Mr Sim said that at the initial hearing in September, Sheffield council claimed that Aldine House was due to be closed and so any further hearings were postponed.  Since then Aldine House has remained open resulting in a second hearing where Ms Smith was awarded further compensation.

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said today: “We note the result of the tribunal and we are looking into appealing the decision.  “It would be inappropriate for us to comment further than this at this time.”


Headmaster accuses Oxbridge of 'discrimination' against public school pupils applying for university places

Public school pupils are being discriminated against when they apply for places at Oxford and Cambridge, a leading headmaster has claimed.  Dr Anthony Seldon, the Master of the prestigious Wellington College described the 'hostility' towards these students as 'the hatred that dare not speak its name.'

There are cases of some parents allegedly putting their children into local state sixth forms to give them a better chance of getting into Oxbridge.

David Cameron has tried to 'disown' his Eton-educated background because of the public 'jealousy' of independent schools, said Dr Seldon.

He told the Daily Telegraph that at Wellington there were 62 pupils clever enough to get an interview at Oxbridge, but he expected only 20 to be offered places.

'From our perspective it looks as if some public school students are being discriminated against at the final hurdle,' he said. 'Was that different to when I was at Oxford 35 years ago? Yes. I don't think anyone gave a toss back then where you came from, only that you were good enough to go.'

He added: 'Positive discrimination in favour of state school people has become the hatred that dare not speak its name.'

This year, according to the paper, Cambridge has reduced the number of places it is offering to independent schools to 200 with almost two-thirds its students coming from state schools and colleges.

The dilemma facing parents of privately-educated children is highlighted in the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine tomorrow with the case of  a QC with two daughters at the Catholic boarding school St Mary's Shaftesbury, Dorset.

He took away the cleverer of the two at 16 and sent her to the local state sixth form because he believed it would improve her chance of a place at Oxbridge.

Last October, private school leaders raised the prospect of boycotts against any university found to be systematically discriminating against their pupils in admissions.

They are incensed that more than half of top universities have set specific targets for admitting more state school pupils under pressure from the Government to widen the social mix of students.

Headmasters are demanding that universities such as Cambridge and University College London are banned from setting targets which classify students according to the type of school they attended.


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