Thursday, April 04, 2013

Canada’s biggest student group backs boycott of Israel.  Jewish student leader brands York University resolution ‘fundamentally racist’

Yes, it is fundamentally racist. Have the academics of any other country ever been boycotted? Nazi Germany? Stalinist USSR? Maoist China? To boycott Israelis because of their nationality is racist

The largest student association in Canada passed a resolution endorsing the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

With the passage of the resolution, York University’s student association joins two others in Canada — the University of Toronto and Concordia University graduate student associations — in endorsing the BDS campaign, according to the York University Excalibur.

The campaign calls for universities to divest from holdings in companies that do business with Israel and to cut ties with Israeli academics.

The vote by the council of the York Federation of Students late last week was 18-2 in favor and was advocated for by the Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York.

Jewish student groups at York complained that they were not given advance notice of the vote and had little time to prepare an argument against the resolution.

In comments to the Excalibur, Safiyah Husein, a vice president of the York Federation of Students, portrayed the resolution as uncontroversial. “Indeed, not everyone supports reduced tuition fees, equity campaigns, or sustainability work, but we know the majority of our members believe this work is vital and important,” Husein said.

Chaim Lax, president of Hasbara@York, said his group was disappointed and called the resolution “fundamentally racist, and a possible violation of [York’s] anti-discrimination codes.”

The York Federation of Students resolution will have no actual bearing on the university’s investment portfolio.

“York University uses best practices in developing its policy on investments, and this is built on advice from major investment consulting firms,” York spokeswoman Janice Walls told the Canadian Jewish News.

The student federation represents over 52,000 undergraduate students at York, Canada’s third-largest university.


Now British teachers demand to work just 35 hours a week... and they even want to be allowed to do five of those at home

Teachers worldwide seem to be Prima Donnas

Teachers demanded a 20-hour a week limit on classes yesterday to maintain a healthy ‘work/life balance’.

Union members called for a rigid 35-hour week, with little more than half given over to teaching children.

Five hours would be used for planning, preparation and assessment ‘at a time and place of the teacher’s choosing’ – meaning at home in most cases.

The remaining ten hours would be set aside for other ‘non-contact’ duties including marking and going to meetings.

The proposal came at the end of a heated eight-day period during which annual conferences held by three teaching unions were used to repeatedly attack the policies of Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The working hours motion of the National Union of Teachers – which was passed by an overwhelming majority and will be linked to planned strikes over pay, pensions and conditions – would mean teachers taking classes for just four hours a day on average. Many schools would have to hire extra staff, putting greater pressure on budgets.

Cutting teaching workloads is one of the demands in the current dispute with Mr Gove that has led to a series of regional strikes from this summer, followed by a national strike before Christmas.

Critics were swift to accuse the union of being ‘out of touch’ with reality. Craig Whittaker, a Tory MP on the Commons education select committee, said: ‘You can’t change these things in the current economic climate.

‘It just shows how incredibly out of touch the unions are with what’s going on in the real world.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said teachers should have their hours ‘expanded, not diminished’. He added: ‘In the independent sector it is normal to have 60 hours of contact time a week. They are living in fantasy land if they want 20 hours per week.’

He said the hours of work should be made less stressful by giving them greater powers to suspend or exclude disruptive pupils. The NUT saved its bombshell for the last motion of its five-day conference in Liverpool. Cambridgeshire primary school teacher Richard Rose said: ‘We’re fed up with arriving at 7.45am ... and most people are there until 6.30pm.

‘During that time there is no time to go to eat, no time to talk, no time to think, no time even to go to the toilet in many cases.

‘Then, after the day’s work, what do you do when you get home? Do you relax? I’m sure you all know – another two, three, four hours of work. The number of emails you get after midnight, people sending each other plans, targets, data, things like that is incredible.’

Teachers were sacrificing time with their own children, he said, adding: ‘If you complain to management about that they say “Maybe teaching’s not for you then”.’

Adarsh Sood from Lewisham in South-East London said: ‘We will fight in all the ways we can to win a model contract which clearly defines the weekly limits on working hours for teachers.’

Earlier in the day, delegates chanted: ‘Gove must go’ as they passed a motion of no confidence in the Education Secretary.

Teachers are contracted to work 195 days every year, with five set aside for training.

They typically spend 22.5 hours taking classes each week, meaning the proposal would significantly reduce contact time.

But they complain contracts include a clause to carry out ‘reasonable additional hours’, meaning they end up working longer.

Coventry delegate Christopher Denson said official figures showed secondary school teachers work 50.2 hours per week on average and primary school colleagues give 49.9 hours of their time.

He added: ‘It is essential that what is already NUT policy for a 35-hour week becomes a reality.’

The NUT and NASUWT are holding a series of regional strikes followed by a national strike later this year over pay, pensions and conditions. Some teachers are already operating on a work-to-rule basis.

The working hours motion – during which teachers also called for smaller class sizes – is the latest point of friction between teachers and Mr Gove.

They have also clashed with him over issues such as changes to the curriculum and the end of modular qualifications. The Department for Education said it was for schools to organise the hours and workloads of staff.

A spokesman added: ‘By scrapping unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy we are making it easier than ever before for teachers to focus their efforts on teaching and learning.’


Tell youngsters the truth: the UK needs you to work not go to university

There is little that is more likely to lead to ruined lives than groupthink in politics, especially when it is imposed by a well-meaning, over-enthusiastic Establishment convinced that it is doing the right thing.

Tragically, as yet more data reveal, the decision to massively increase the number of school-leavers going to university, wrongly assuming that this would transform opportunity in an era of technological revolution, ranks as one of the greatest social and industrial policy blunders of recent decades.

Britain is facing a jobs crisis made in Downing Street and signed off by the leaders of all political parties, starting with Sir John Major, during the past quarter century. The problem is not the number of new jobs – there are lots of those, confounding the sceptics, and could be even more if the labour market doesn’t become over-regulated. The issue is that an obscenely large number of young people with a university education will not be able to find a job that matches their expectations.

Research from the US government, which without doubt applies equally to Britain, suggests that just one out of the top nine occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade requires a university degree.

The picture is truly dire for the army of university graduates: only five of the top 30 fastest-growing occupations expected to create the most jobs by 2020 require an undergraduate degree (or an additional post-graduate qualification) – nursing, teachers in higher education, primary school teachers, accountants and medical doctors – and 10 of the top 30 don’t require any kind of qualification at all.

Among the top 10 fastest-growing professions are retail sales staff; food preparation (including fast-food restaurant jobs); customer service reps; labourers and freight, stock, and material movers; lorry and van drivers; and various healthcare aides, related to the ageing population. This is the semi-secret, and devastating, story that far too few people in government want to talk about.

The horrible truth is that central planning never works: just as the authorities cannot possibly know how many widgets an economy ought to produce, or what the “right” price for goods will turn out to be, they cannot possibly know many decades in advance what skills will be required, or what percentage of school-leavers should go to university. It is hard to fathom what Tony Blair was thinking when he promised that half of 18-year-olds would go to university. The result has been betrayal, broken dreams, graduates working in coffee shops, a business community that still cannot find the right people with the right soft and hard skills, and a generation of young people crumbling under ever larger student debts. It’s a social catastrophe for which nobody has yet paid the price; even worse, it remains politically unacceptable for those in a position of power to point any of this out.

The figures predicting where new jobs are going to come from were uncovered by Mark J Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, who analysed the US Bureau of Labour Statistics’ official employment projections in a short note published recently by the American Enterprise Institute. Most Western economies face a similar problem. They confirm what many in Britain already knew: many young graduates are in jobs where a degree is not necessary, a situation which is getting worse. The oversupply of graduates, especially from those institutions in the lower reaches of the league tables, and those with degrees in areas not directly relevant to firms, has substantially distorted the market.

To many employers, university education has become little more than a signalling device, a means to filter out potential staff. To others, it is seen as a remedial device, there to fill in the gaps left by state education. The result has been an inflation of entry requirements, with positions once open to plucky 16-year-olds now requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s, even though the actual work hasn’t changed one jot.

There are, of course, caveats. There will still be plenty of qualified jobs, but regrettably their supply is not growing as quickly. Many of the more specialist, skilled jobs, such as those in IT, are divided into numerous categories, such as programmers, developers, network administrators, security analysts and so on – and are therefore ranked further down the list. Grouping them together would rebalance the picture a little.

Many jobs will genuinely require university degrees, especially those with quantitative and mathematical skills, and of course it is essential that children of all backgrounds who have the interest and ability to study for a degree be given the opportunity to do so. But if we really care about social mobility, and ensuring that people are able to live their dreams, we need an urgent shift in policy.

Britain needs more, better, skilled jobs – and that means making the UK more welcoming as a base for firms in areas such as technology, science, finance and high value added business services.

The onslaught against the City, which is crippling it rather than seeking to make it more resilient, will merely reduce the availability of good jobs.

The answer is not more top-down planning of the sort that gave us our higher education crisis, with politicians choosing sectors they guess will create the “right” sort of jobs, but a broad policy to encourage global firms to base their best-paid positions in the UK, and to trade and export from our shores.

That means low tax rates and living costs, a better business climate and enhanced infrastructure and airport links; sadly, we are faring miserably in all areas.

Britain also needs to do more to promote entrepreneurship, including welcoming job-creators from overseas.

We need to raise productivity levels, enabling workers to be paid more; mechanisation and technology kill jobs in the short term, but eventually boost output per worker and hence average wages, and are thus a good thing. The Government needs to continue reforming the welfare state to ensure that nobody is locked into a situation where it doesn’t pay to take a job.

Crucially, the UK must focus on improving the knowledge and skills of school-leavers, currently all too often heart-breakingly inadequate, eventually reducing the need for as many to go to university. The reforms being pursued by Michael Gove are an excellent first step, but it is a tragedy that he isn’t being allowed to go faster and further.

Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications are essential: had politicians focused on these in recent decades, rather than on boosting university admissions at any cost, the prospects for Britain’s young would be very different today.

Most important of all, however, the political establishment needs to start telling our young people the truth: it doesn’t make sense for everybody to go to university.


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