Friday, June 28, 2013

Conservative may get anti-discrimination protection at Colo. college

College campuses are known for proudly proclaiming their refusal to tolerate discrimination against any minority group, but try telling that to a conservative.

Few would disagree that conservative professors are an endangered species on campus, which is why the University of Colorado Board of Regents is scheduled to consider Thursday a resolution that would prohibit discrimination based on “political affiliation or political philosophy.”

Regent James Geddes said the proposed policy change is aimed at bringing more diversity of intellectual thought to the university, which has a reputation as a bastion of liberalism in its faculty and student body.

“It’s my view that academic freedom is of paramount importance, and unfortunately in many disciplines at the University of Colorado, they end up with high-quality people who think alike,” Mr. Geddes said. “If the other side is not present, then the environment for a rich exchange of ideas is simply not there.”

The board also is slated to consider a resolution to conduct a survey on whether its campuses have implemented a previous resolution calling on them to “respect diversity in all of its forms, including diversity of political, geographic, cultural, intellectual, and philosophical perspectives.”

The liberal Boulder campus may be the last place anyone would expect to find a conservative revolt in academic thought, but the University of Colorado has drawn national attention for attacking liberal bias since Republicans gained a 5-4 majority on the board in 2011.

In March, the University of Colorado Boulder appointed Steven Hayward as the inaugural visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy in an effort to bring underrepresented ideas to campus.

The drive for more conservative voices on campus is encountering some resistance from faculty members, who say they worry that the effort amounts to intellectual quotas that could hinder the university from attracting top talent.

“The university should be trying to hire the best faculty, and that should be the only criterion,” said Oliver McBryan, professor of computer science emeritus at the Boulder campus. “If you start trying to interject other criteria, you’re not going to get the best candidates, and you may even drive some of them away.”

Mr. McBryan agreed that college professors tend to lean left — “There’s definitely a weighting toward liberalism at universities” — but said the reason may be that liberals are better suited for the world of academia, while conservatives are more at home in the field of business.

“Researchers are people whose minds are very open to new ideas, which means they aren’t conservative,” Mr. McBryan said. “Conservatives are more likely to prefer the status quo. … Professors are more likely to be liberal-oriented because they search for and are open to new ideas.”

Other faculty members are expected to testify Thursday both for and against the resolutions, including University of Colorado School of Law professor Robert Nagel, who has criticized the lopsided liberal majority in the humanities.

The proposed resolution on discrimination would apply to hiring and academic policies, and would include a “mechanism for investigating any complaints of discrimination based upon political affiliation or political philosophy.”

Mr. Geddes said he expects a spirited debate. “I’ve been a regent for 4½ years, and this is the biggest deal since I’ve been here,” he said.

University of Colorado Boulder has had a major ideological fight over a faculty member, but the professor was no conservative. In 2007, ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill was fired on charges of academic dishonesty in the aftermath of years of controversy over an essay on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in which he compared the World Trade Center victims to Nazi war criminals — “little Eichmanns.”


Teachers in England are some of the best paid in the world: They earn more but spend less time in the classroom

It needs high pay to entice anybody to work in Britain's mostly chaotic government schools

British teachers are among the best paid in Europe – but work fewer hours in the classroom, an international report found.

The average primary school teacher in England earned £27,832 in 2011, much more  than in France, Spain and Italy. Scottish primary school teachers take home even more  – £30,168.

Yet English primary teachers teach for just 684 hours a year, compared to 936 in France and 770 in Italy.

It means that while an English primary teacher earns £40.69 per hour spent in the classroom, a French teacher gets just £22.27.

Only three other countries in Europe have higher pay rates for primary school teachers.

The revelation comes in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents industrialised nations.

It will add to concerns that public sector staff are hugely overpaid compared to their competitors.

Our GPs are also among the best remunerated in the world.Despite the findings, a poll yesterday by teaching union NASUWT revealed that 53 per cent of teachers say their job satisfaction has fallen over the last year.

Some 78 per cent said their biggest concern was workload and 45 per cent were unhappy with pay levels. Teaching unions are preparing for nationwide strike action before the end of the year.

The report, entitled Education at a Glance, shows that across the OECD, the average wage for a primary teacher with 15 years’ service in 2011 was £23,976.

English teachers fared much better, taking home £27,832 in 2011 prices. It put us far ahead of France (£20,843), Spain (£25,990), Italy (£20,728) – but behind  Germany (£36,881).

Across the OECD, teachers spend 786 hours teaching, compared to 684 in England.

It means an English teacher’s hourly rate of £40.69 is behind only Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, the US and Canada. The OECD average is £30.50.

The study found that English teachers earn a great deal more at the start of their careers than the OECD average, although this lead falls behind the average as they reach the end of their career.

The report also shows that our teachers are among the youngest in the West. Almost a third are under 30, against an OECD average of 13 per cent.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director for education and skills, said: ‘Primary school teachers in England are particularly well-paid compared to others, but in the UK class sizes are larger.

‘The English system is to give teachers tougher work because of larger classes, but gives them fewer teacher hours so they can give better lessons for larger groups.’

Last night a Government source said the OECD report showed the teaching unions were making unrealistic demands.

He said: ‘The teaching unions should stop damaging children’s education by calling strikes.  ‘Instead they should be demanding teachers spend more time teaching and focusing on the key academic subjects.

‘We can either start working as hard as the Chinese, or we’ll all soon be working for the Chinese.’


Australian children's education dropping further against world standards

THROWING money at schools is no guarantee children will do well, with Australian student performance declining on most international scales despite increased funding.

Despite enjoying a growth in public spending of more than four times the OECD average, test results across most rankings have fallen, according to a snapshot of world education released yesterday.

It comes as Julia Gillard used her final caucus meeting to confirm education reform will be a key focus of Labor's election campaign.

With Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia unlikely to sign on to Gonski before the Prime Minister's June 30 deadline this Sunday, heated debate over school funding is set to continue in the lead up to the September election.

The new data also reveals Australian teachers are among the best paid in the world.  Teachers' salaries are above the OECD average and have risen steadily, some 13 per cent since 2000 at all education levels.

This increase is below the OECD average salary rise of 17 per cent however, teachers in Australia earn 91 per cent of the salary of other workers similar age and education level, compared with an average of as little as 80 per cent.

The Education at a Glance report said spending on schools in Australia increased by 24 per cent between 2008 and 2010 - more than four times the average increase of five per cent.

Education experts said the data was proof "the system isn't working".

"When you have that sort of substantial increase in expenditure and you are not getting improved effectiveness or an increase in student outcomes, it's just clear evidence that we are spending in the wrong areas," Dr Ben Jensen, director of school policy for the Grattan Institute, said.

Dr Jensen said spending on "fads" such as laptops for every child had contributed to the problem.

"This is only partly to do with the federal government. This is also an issue for the state governments and the non government sector as well, which are wasting just as much money," he said.

The Prime Minister's national plan for school improvement, or Gonski reforms, pledge to restore Australian schoolkids to the top five countries by 2025. In the most recent international ranking, released last December, Australian Year 4 students came 27th in reading.

But Dr Kevin Donnelly from the Education Standards Institute said the return to the top of international rankings "won't happen without significant changes" to how schools are run.

"Just spending money for spending sake doesn't make sense. There is a lot of evidence that even with increased expenditure standards haven't gone up," he said.

"If you look at some of those countries that outperform Australia in testing, they spend a lot less money."

Improved curriculum quality, better teachers and a stronger focus on discipline were all contributors to student success, he said.


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