Thursday, May 23, 2013

Undoing the Brainwashing

Thomas Sowell

This time of year, as college students return home for the summer, many parents may notice how many politically correct ideas they have acquired on campus. Some of those parents may wonder how they can undo some of the brainwashing that has become so common in what are supposed to be institutions of higher learning.

The strategy used by General Douglas MacArthur so successfully in the Pacific during World War II can be useful in this very different kind of battle. General MacArthur won his victories while minimizing his casualties -- something that is also desirable in clashes of ideas within the family.

Instead of fighting the Japanese for every island stronghold as the Americans advanced toward Japan, MacArthur sent his troops into battle for only those islands that were strategically crucial. In the same spirit, parents who want to bring their brainwashed offspring back to reality need not try to combat every crazy idea they picked up from their politically correct professors. Just demolishing a few crucial beliefs, and exposing what nonsense they are, can deal a blow to the general credibility of the professorial pied pipers.

For example, if the student has been led to join the crusade for more gun control, and thinks that the reason the British have lower murder rates than Americans have is because the Brits have tighter gun control laws, just give him or her a copy of the book "Guns and Violence" by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

As the facts in that book demolish the gun control propaganda fed to students by their professors, that can create a healthy skepticism about other professorial propaganda.

There are other books that can likewise demolish other politically correct beliefs that prevail on campuses. My own recent book, "Intellectuals and Race," has innumerable documented facts that expose the fallacies in most of what is said about racial issues in most college classrooms.

For those students who have bought the campus party line on Third World nations, the classic study of that subject is "Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion" by the late P.T. Bauer of the London School of Economics. He made a veritable demolition derby of most of what has been said in politically correct circles about the relationship between rich and poor countries.

For those students who have been conditioned to regard the welfare state as the solution to social problems, there is no book that exposes the actual human consequences of the welfare state more poignantly than "Life at the Bottom" by British physician Theodore Dalrymple. He has worked in both low-income neighborhoods and in prisons, so he has seen it all.

Although Britain is the setting for "Life at the Bottom," Americans will recognize very similar patterns here. Problems found in low-income black ghettoes in the United States are found in low-income white neighborhoods in Britain, where none of the usual excuses about racism, slavery, etc., apply. The only thing that is the same in both countries is the welfare state and its poisonous ideology.

If your student has been led to believe that "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty, in plain English -- is the only way to go, a devastating book titled "Mexifornia," by Victor Davis Hanson, introduces some cold, factual reality into a subject usually discussed in sweeping and lofty rhetoric.

A book that offers a choice between the island-hopping strategy that General MacArthur used in the Pacific and the all-out assault across a broad front that was used by the Allied armies in Europe is titled "The New Leviathan."

It has thirteen penetrating articles by leading authorities on such subjects as national security, ObamaCare, environmentalism, election frauds and more.

Those parents who want to follow the MacArthur strategy can recommend reading one, or a few, of these articles, while those who want to follow the strategy of attacking all across a broad front can recommend that their student read the whole book.

However the battle is fought, what is most important is that the battle be fought, since the young are the future, and the propaganda of today can become the government policies of tomorrow.


Common Core needs more debate

Parents in Michigan, like those across the country, want their children to have the tools they need to excel in school and beyond. The Common Core national curriculum standards were sold as the way to give students those tools. But with the standards now being implemented, a growing number of Michiganians — as evidenced by the recent House vote to withhold state funds from Common Core — are having buyer’s remorse. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s support for the Core notwithstanding, they’re right to be wary, especially since Core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.

Supporters of the Core tout the fact that 45 states have adopted the standards, but don’t mistake that for enthusiastic support. Before the standards had even been published, states were coerced into adopting them by President Obama’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states like Michigan would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink and the money would be gone; which is why most people hadn’t even heard of the standards at adoption time.

Now the standards are being implemented, and people are asking “what the heck is this?” Many don’t like the answer: untested, uniform curriculum standards pushed on everyone by Washington, and they are acting. The Michigan House acted. The Republican National Committee officially condemned the standards. Several states are in the process of potentially withdrawing from theCore. And nine U.S. senators have requested that a Senate subcommittee handling education end all federal meddling in standards and assessment.

What have Common Core supporters done in response to this groundswell of concern? Rather than address Common Core worries and evidence such as it is empirically unsupported, moves the country closer to a federal monopoly, and treats children like identical cogs, supporters have often dodged constructive debate.

Snyder, while at a Detroit event with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, dismissed concerns as politics-as-usual, saying: “Too many people in our country … are looking to fight someone for the sake of fighting.” Apparently, it is purely political to oppose clear and heavy-handed federal intrusion in what is constitutionally — and logically — a state and local matter.

In response to the RNC’s resolution, Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, complained that the move “will bestow a degree of legitimacy upon the anti-standards coalition.” As if the people who have been decrying the absence of research support for national standards and manypotential flaws in its content have all somehow been illegitimate.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a leading Common Core spokesman — elected to dismiss the RNC as ignorant for resisting the Core. “I don’t really care if the RNC, based on no information, is going to oppose this because of some emotional pitch,” he said. This despite the RNC resolution offering several valid reasons for opposing the Core, including the indisputable fact of federal coercion.

To be sure, there are some specious arguments being made against Common Core, such as the claim that it requires schools to ditch Emerson in favor of reading EPA regulations. Such assertions should be disputed by people on both sides. But those are hardly the only concerns of Core opponents, and many standards supporters are guilty of no lesser deception when they insist, for instance, that the Common Core is “state-led” and “voluntary.”

The vast majority of Common Core supporters, no doubt, are motivated by what they think is best for the country and its children. Unfortunately, many also seem happy to ignore the powerful logic and evidence arrayed against their plan, and to dismiss instead of honestly debate their equally well-intentioned opponents.

As Common Core continues to be implemented the chorus of opposition is likely to grow, and it is critical that supporters and opponents alike keep sight of their truly common goal: improving American education. Dodging honest discussion is no way to get there.Snyder should take the concerns of Michigan’s legislators and parents seriously, and welcome a hard look at the standards.


Ofsted chief: raise class sizes to pay top staff more money

Schools could be required to increase class sizes to give the best teachers higher salaries under a new system of performance-related pay, the head of Ofsted has admitted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said a major reorganisation of lessons and timetables may be needed in many schools to accommodate a more flexible salary structure.

Schools cannot afford to maintain a “highly-paid staff” while keeping class sizes down, he warned.

Speaking in central London, the chief inspector also criticised poor-performing schools that routinely place all teachers on the highest salary level.

He said it was “nonsense” that large numbers of teachers expect a salary increase even when they “don’t teach effectively” and “take too much time off”.

The comments are likely to fuel the row over the new system of performance-related pay, which will be introduced into English state schools from 2014.

Under the plans, heads are being told they can no longer award higher salaries to teachers based on length of service and must hold annual performance appraisals before setting pay rates.

Last month, the Department for Education published guidance suggesting that heads should reward teachers who improve pupils’ exam results, keep order in the classroom and take part in extra-curricular activities.

The move has been savaged by union leaders who claim the system will create tensions in the staffroom and damage teachers’ morale. The National Union of Teachers and NASUWT are already taking strike action over the changes.

But Sir Michael has strongly supported the plans, insisting inspectors will mark down schools that fail to link salaries to performance.

Schools will be expected to pay teachers from their existing budgets.

However, Sir Michael admitted that schools may need major reorganisation and larger class sizes to pay staff more money. The average primary school in England currently has 27 children per lesson, while numbers are set at 20 in secondary education.

“The good heads know they have got these additional freedoms and will reorganise,” he said. “[As] an ex-head teacher, I always said to the staff, ‘I want a highly-paid staff, I want to reward those of you who are prepared to commit yourself to the school and do a good job in the classroom. To do that, might mean that we have larger classes. You can’t have both. You can’t have small classes – small groups – and a highly-paid staff’.”

He added: “It might mean that head teachers have got to make [that choice]… So negotiation with the staff is going to be important.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “This is an invidious choice no head teacher or governor would want to make. It gives lie to the idea that changes to teachers’ pay are a free chance for heads and governors to pay ‘good teachers’ more. The simple fact is there is no more money in the pot.”

Currently, teachers outside London can earn a standard salary of up to £31,500 but see their pay rise to £34,200 if they pass the “threshold” into the upper pay scale, which is supposed to mark good performance.

But Sir Michael said that it was “nonsense” that more than 90 per cent of teachers were put through the threshold “on the nod” when the system was first introduced.

He added: “It’s a nonsense that we see failing schools where most people are at the top of the scale, and that’s something that inspectors comment on. It’s a nonsense that promotion through incremental progression should not be related to the quality of the teaching.”

Sir Michael said: “I have met teachers who have been upgraded because they don’t teach effectively, they then go on leave, they take too much time off, but still expect a salary increase.

“Of course performance and pay should be linked to those who deliver in the classroom and those that go the extra mile. And to make that judgement, heads have got to take performance management much more seriously.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: "It is vital that schools can recruit and reward the best teachers. We are reforming pay so schools can attract and retain the best teachers who have the greatest impact on their pupils' achievements.

“We expect heads to be able to judge what is best for their pupils."


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