Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Two Types of Child Victimization at Government Schools

You would think the bureaucrats who run government schools would want to focus on the basics, such as teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.

After all, no nation spends more per pupil on education than the United States. And based on some Cato Institute research, I suspect the OECD estimate of about $15,000 per student is a low-ball estimate of the burden on American taxpayers.

So what do we get for all this money? To be blunt, the results are miserable, with Americans ranking well below average compared to our overseas competitors.

Here are some comparisons on both literacy and numeracy from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You’ll have to click the images to get an enlarged view. But maybe you won’t want to do that since it’s depressing to see that Americans are near the bottom for math skills and well below average for verbal skills.

Geesh, this is embarrassing. I like Slovaks, but I don’t want Americans to be less intelligent. I also like Belgians, but why are they kicking our tail? And I really like Estonians, but they’re putting us to shame.

So how is the education establishment dealing with these dismal results?

Well, they keep asking for more money. But as this remarkable chart from the Cato Institute illustrates, throwing more money at the system is a great way of building bureaucracy. But is sure doesn’t do much for kids. Education spending Cato chart

So you could say this is a form of child abuse. But that would trivialize the plights of kids who are grossly mistreated. So let’s say that the sub-par education provided by government schools is a form of child victimization. Or mistreatment. Or some word that signifies how they are not well served by the government’s education monopoly.

But let’s also remember that sub-par education is not the only bad thing that happens in government schools.

We also have amazing (in a bad way) episodes of intrusive and abusive political correctness.

Here’s a story from Massachusetts about a student being punished for doing the right thing.

    "It’s tough for Eleanor Cox to talk about how heartbroken her daughter Erin is over the punishment she received for doing what she thought was right. …Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol. A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games. …the parents of Erin’s teammates have started a petition to support her."

I’m dismayed, of course, that the school wants to punish someone who didn’t do anything wrong, but what really irks me is that the school wants to regulate and control behavior that takes place off school property and outside of school hours.

To be blunt, it’s none of their you-know-what business. Parents should have primary responsibility for their kids and law enforcement has a role if they’re breaking the law.

Let’s now travel down south and read part of a report about how some mindless school bureaucrats punished an autistic student because he drew a picture of a bomb and brought the drawing to school.

    "…it all started when her son had made the hand-drawn picture of the bomb during the weekend at home. Parham said Rhett is a fan of the video game Bomber Man and drew the cartoon-ish like explosive. She told FOX Carolina on Monday that her son took the picture to Hillcrest Middle School, and that’s where problems arose. Parham said she was told that her son showed the picture to some older children, who reported him to school administration. …She said her son was suspended indefinitely by the school."

Fortunately, the government backed down after the story generated some unfavorable attention for the bureaucratic drones.

But we should ask ourselves why it even got to that stage. And perhaps get some counseling for the little brats who snitched on him. Sounds like they’re future IRS agents in training.

Sadly, this is just part of a pattern we’ve seen in government schools, with bureaucrats hyperventilating over normal kid behavior. Here are some other examples.

*    Bureaucrats suspended a little boy for taking bites out of a pop tart in such a way that it was shaped like a gun.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a 7-year boy for pretending to throw a non-existent grenade on the playground.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a 6-year old boy in Maryland for making a gun shape with his finger.

*   Bureaucrats busted a 5-year old girl in Pennsylvania for having a pink plastic gun that shoots bubbles.
*   A teacher in Rhode Island caught an 8-year old boy with some plastic toy army men.

*   Bureaucrats evacuated a school because an 11-year old boy made a motion detector for his science experiment.
*   Bureaucrats in Florida kicked an 8-year old boy out of school for a year because he had a plastic gun in his backpack.

*    A dual award in Virginia, with half the prize for the bureaucrats who suspended a 10-year old boy for a toy gun and half the prize for the cops who then arrested the kid.

*   A third-grader got in trouble for having toy army men on his birthday cupcakes.

*   Two second-graders got suspended for holding pencils like they were guns.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a kindergartener for having a lego-sized toy gun.

*   Bureaucrats wanted a deaf child to change his sign-language name because it required him to shape his fingers in a way that resembled a gun.

*   Bureaucrats suspended two boys for playing with toy guns while off school property.

Now ask yourself to key question: Do we want to maintain and perpetuate a failed government school monopoly, or should we implement school choice to get better results and less political correctness?

Heck, we should be able to reform our schools if there’s already choice in countries such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Hypocrisy of not so clever Clegg: Harry Mount went to school with Deputy PM and says he's a plodder who owes everything to the joyously maverick teachers he now wants to ban

British Liberal leader Clegg wants all government funded schools to require a teaching qualification of their teachers

How many Government schools inspectors would approve of a half-naked teacher who instructed his pupils in the finer points of anarchic terrorism?

That was the approach taken by Jim Cogan, an English teacher at my old school, Westminster, in the Eighties.

Mr Cogan, who had done his National Service in Nigeria with the West African Frontier Force, liked to teach outside, often stripped to his vest.

On sunny summer days, he marched the class to the boundary of the cricket pitch in nearby Vincent Square, asking pupils to compose an instant essay on ‘How cricket is like life’.

Cogan was a Shakespeare scholar, expert at guiding pupils towards Oxbridge with his vast memory bank of quotes from English literature.  At the same time, he told his pupils that all Oxbridge colleges should be blown up, to end the wicked class divide.

If Jim Cogan’s old pupil, Nick Clegg, had his way, this maverick genius wouldn’t have been allowed to give 35 years of his life to inspiring Westminster pupils.

Mr Cogan studied classics and English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but he never got the formal teaching qualification Clegg insists all teachers at free schools must have.

Barely any of the gifted teachers who taught me and Nick Clegg — I was four years below the Deputy Prime Minister — had a teaching qualification. As a result, our elite education was blissfully free from the blunt, oafish, centralised government intervention Clegg is demanding for less privileged children.

Nick Clegg wasn’t one of the more intelligent boys when he was at Westminster School from 1980 to 1985.

The clever pupils at Westminster — one of the best, and most expensive, schools in the country, costing £32,490 a year — were ‘accelerated’. That meant they did O-levels after two, as opposed to three, years.

Clegg, one of the less bright sparks, was selected for the three-year option. Still, that didn’t stop him making it into Robinson College, Cambridge, in 1986, and, from there, on to the smooth-running conveyor belt to life’s glittering prizes: a scholarship at Minnesota University, an MA at the College of Europe in Bruges, a job with the European Commission and a spell as an MEP, before becoming an MP.

None of this would have been possible without the rocket-boosters attached to his middle-ranking talents by Westminster’s teachers.

I was largely taught by the same teachers — they stayed at the school a long time, attracted by the freedom to teach in the way they wanted, not hamstrung by the foot-dragging, equality-obsessed, knowledge-hating forces of the State education machine.

They taught for the love of their subject and were restricted neither by any national curriculum — which Clegg is also insisting all free school teachers must follow — nor much of a school curriculum. That day’s topic could be changed on the spot.

I remember the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister, in October 1984.  I was 13, in my first term, and our English teacher, David Edwards, decided on a whim to devote the lesson to studying her legacy rather than reading Julius Caesar, our O-level set book.

Of course, we’d end up reading Julius Caesar and doing well in those exams, but only as a sideshow in the general mission to enjoy literature; not as the be-all and end-all of the two years of lessons — or, in Clegg’s case, three years — leading to our O-levels.

The teachers used a deft combination of carrot and stick. David Hepburne-Scott — an Old Etonian who taught physics to me and Clegg and was rarely seen without his Eton tie — could be terrifying. But his  lessons were wonderfully original.

He taught the physics of heat transfer by telling us that, to warm up a cold bottle of red wine quickly before a dinner party, we must stick it behind the fridge — where warm air is expelled.

In the same lesson that he taught us Bernoulli’s principle — which explains why aeroplanes fly — he also told us how to fold our jackets before putting them in a suitcase: turn one arm inside out, fold once vertically, then again horizontally.  I still do it today on holiday — and I remember Bernoulli’s principle, too.

Hepburne-Scott also had an uplifting disregard for petty rules. On a trip to a railway museum, he jumped into the cab of a stationary locomotive, beckoned a group of boys aboard, and headed, steaming, off into the sunset.

My maths teacher, Michael Hugill, taught statistics by comparing the length of words used by the novelists Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh in 100-word extracts from their books.

Tellingly, my other maths teacher, Tristram Jones-Parry, a planet-brained mathematician, later the headmaster, tried to teach at a State school when he left Westminster — and was denied a job because he wasn’t ‘qualified’.  His old pupil, Nick Clegg, must have been delighted.

Jones-Parry was formidable figure. He once bellowed at the young Helena Bonham Carter, who took her A-levels at Westminster: ‘You can’t dress up as if you’re about to go out and milk the cows!’

Richard Stokes, Clegg’s German teacher — last year awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for ‘great service rendered to British-German relations’ — taught his subject through German poems set to music by Schubert and Mozart.

Stokes was another ‘untrained’ but inspirational man who admitted that while at Oxford, he’d get one of the girls from Somerville College to check his translations which were always littered with ‘howlers’.

Of course, Westminster in the Clegg years wasn’t a sepia-tinted paradise, with a common room entirely populated by adored Mr Chips types. As in any school, some of the teachers weren’t much good.

And it helped that the pupils were from comfortable, middle-class backgrounds, often with book-lined drawing rooms at home. It helped, too, that practically all the teachers had been to Oxbridge.

Still, that doesn’t mean less privileged children wouldn’t benefit from the teaching techniques that sent droves of Westminster pupils to Oxbridge and professional careers.

Wicked, patronising critics insist State schools can’t follow the same methods that make private schools the best in the world.

And Nick Clegg isn’t alone in denying poor children the advantages he benefited from by an accident of birth.

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt — son of a peer, educated at fee-paying University College School and Trinity College, Cambridge — insists teachers must have qualifications, even though he has taught in schools in his Stoke constituency without one himself.

Clegg and Hunt come from a long line of privately educated, Left-wing politicians, who pull up the drawbridge behind them.

Shirley Williams, Education Secretary under James Callaghan, was beautifully educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and Somerville College, Oxford, but was determined to get rid of private and grammar schools.

Anthony Crosland (Highgate School and Trinity College, Oxford), Harold Wilson’s Education Secretary, famously said: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland.’

Who wouldn’t want to be free of their hypocritical grasp?

The idea behind Michael Gove’s free schools is they should be  free, if not entirely independent, of the dead hand of Government.

But Nick Clegg is trying to keep a Government grip on them, keep them attached to what Michael Gove calls ‘the blob’ — the immovable, stodgy mass of the State-education establishment.

The result? Talented, free-thinking, unqualified teachers will desert free schools and flock to private ones.

Westminster’s teachers were brilliant because they were free from State indoctrination, free from a Government curriculum, free from the dim limitations of groupthink.

Free, too, to scream at, expel or suspend anyone they wanted. And they haven’t been on strike in 453 years.


It's no surprise that Tristram Hunt says he may educate his children privately. Most Labour grandees do

I'm not surprised that Tristram Hunt, Labour's new Shadow Education Secretary, has admitted he may send his children to private school. Left-wing grandees have a long track record of passionately supporting comprehensives – except when it comes to their own children.

Harold Wilson and James Callaghan both sent their children to private schools, while Tony Blair plumped for the London Oratory, a high-performing faith school in Fulham that was grant-maintained at the time. Tony Crosland and Shirley Williams, the architects of Labour's comprehensive schools policy, both went private, as did Polly Toynbee, who had the gall to attack me on Any Questions for wanting something better for my children than the nearest comprehensive. (You can listen to our exchange on the point here. It kicks off at the 34m mark.) Diane Abbott sent her son to City of London Boys, while Harriet Harman sent one of her sons to a grammar school in Kent. The list goes on. And on. And on.

When I've pointed out this sort of thing before, people below the line have quickly responded by drawing my attention to Conservative Prime Ministers and Education Secretaries who've gone private. The difference is, they haven't spent their careers arguing for greater equality or attempting to deny others the choice they've been able to exercise themselves. (The 1979 Labour Party manifesto proposed the abolition of private schools.) In the case of these Labour panjandrums, it's do as I say, not do as I do.

P.S. If Tristram Hunt is refusing to rule out educating his children privately then he can't be too worried about them being taught by teachers without QTS can he? After all, even in the unlikely event of Labour being back in power in 2015 and forcing taxpayer-funded schools to sack teachers without QTS, private schools will continue to employ them.


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