Friday, January 25, 2013
Rotten to the Core: Obama's War on Academic Standards
America's downfall doesn't begin with the "low-information voter." It starts with the no-knowledge student.
For decades, collectivist agitators in our schools have chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity and social justice. "Progressive" reformers denounced Western civilization requirements, the Founding Fathers and the Great Books as racist. They attacked traditional grammar classes as irrelevant in modern life. They deemed ability grouping of students (tracking) bad for self-esteem. They replaced time-tested rote techniques and standard algorithms with fuzzy math, inventive spelling and multicultural claptrap.
Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers -- empowered by Washington education bureaucrats and backed by misguided liberal philanthropists led by billionaire Bill Gates -- are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children's school curriculum. It's being done in the name of federal "Common Core" standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.
Common Core was enabled by Obama's federal stimulus law and his Department of Education's "Race to the Top" gimmickry. The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting unseen instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants. Even states that lost their bids for Race to the Top money were required to commit to a dumbed-down and amorphous curricular "alignment."
In practice, Common Core's dubious "college- and career"-ready standards undermine local control of education, usurp state autonomy over curricular materials, and foist untested, mediocre and incoherent pedagogical theories on America's schoolchildren.
Over the next several weeks and months, I'll use this column space to expose who's behind this disastrous scheme in D.C. backrooms. I'll tell you who's fighting it in grassroots tea party and parental revolts across the country from Massachusetts to Indiana, Texas, Georgia and Utah. And most importantly, I'll explain how this unprecedented federal meddling is corrupting our children's classrooms and textbooks.
There's no better illustration of Common Core's duplicitous talk of higher standards than to start with its math "reforms." While Common Core promoters assert their standards are "internationally benchmarked," independent members of the expert panel in charge of validating the standards refute the claim. Panel member Dr. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas reported, "No material was ever provided to the Validation Committee or to the public on the specific college readiness expectations of other leading nations in mathematics" or other subjects.
In fact, Stanford University professor James Milgram, the only mathematician on the validation panel, concluded that the Common Core math scheme would place American students two years behind their peers in other high-achieving countries. In protest, Milgram refused to sign off on the standards. He's not alone.
Professor Jonathan Goodman of New York University found that the Common Core math standards imposed "significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries."
Under Common Core, as the American Principles Project and Pioneer Institute point out, algebra I instruction is pushed to 9th grade, instead of 8th grade, as commonly taught. Division is postponed from 5th to 6th grade. Prime factorization, common denominators, conversions of fractions and decimals, and algebraic manipulation are de-emphasized or eschewed. Traditional Euclidean geometry is replaced with an experimental approach that had not been previously pilot-tested in the U.S.
Ze'ev Wurman, a prominent software architect, electrical engineer and longtime math advisory expert in California and Washington, D.C., points out that Common Core delays proficiency with addition and subtraction until 4th grade and proficiency with basic multiplication until 5th grade, and skimps on logarithms, mathematical induction, parametric equations and trigonometry at the high school level.
I cannot sum up the stakes any more clearly than Wurman did in his critique of this mess and the vested interests behind it:
"I believe the Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States. No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government. Moreover, there are organizations that have reasons to work for lower and less-demanding standards, specifically teachers unions and professional teacher organizations. While they may not admit it, they have a vested interest in lowering the accountability bar for their members. ...This will be done in the name of 'critical thinking' and '21st-century' skills, and in faraway Washington, D.C., well beyond the reach of parents and most states and employers."
This is all in keeping with my own experience as a parent of elementary- and middle-school age kids who were exposed to "Everyday Math" nonsense. This and other fads abandon "drill and kill" memorization techniques for fuzzy "critical thinking" methods that put the cart of "why" in front of the horse of "how." In other words: Instead of doing the grunt work of hammering times tables and basic functions into kids' heads first, the faddists have turned to wacky, wordy non-math alternatives to encourage "conceptual" understanding -- without any mastery of the fundamentals of math.
Common Core is rotten to the core. The corruption of math education is just the beginning.
Third of British graduate jobs are left vacant because students are not learning the right workplace skills
Nearly one in three leading employers are forced to leave graduate jobs open because they are unable to find suitable candidates to fill them, a report found today.
They are being left with vacant posts despite the recession because of a shortage of applicants with the right workplace skills and degree disciplines.
Bosses also complain that choosy graduates are sitting on job offers while waiting for a better opportunity to arise and then leaving their other choices in the lurch.
The report, from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, also found that employers are increasingly targeting recruitment at school-leavers - partly due to the increase in tuition fees.
Some are even cutting back on graduate recruitment in favour of hiring school-leavers, amid fears that talented youngsters will be put off higher education by rising costs, although the majority are maintaining graduate numbers.
One employer said: ‘The shift in political landscape is going to cause a lot of individuals to decide not to go to university and will impact where the talent goes in the marketplace. Most big employers are waking up to this and have developed their own apprenticeship programmes.’
Even though the number of graduates being turned out by universities is currently continuing to rise, nearly a third of 197 employers surveyed - 30.7 per cent - reported missing recruitment targets last year.
The key reason for shortfalls - up to a quarter of graduate posts - was a tendency for candidates to apply to a large number of employers and hang on for the best offers.
One employer said: ‘In previous years, they would be open and honest about where they were applying but now they wait for other offers before making a decision.’
Other leading reasons were ‘not enough applicants with the right skills’ and a ‘shortage of applicants in specific geographical areas’.
In some cases, candidates had poor perceptions of the industry sector.
Overall, the survey found the number of vacancies offered dropped eight per cent last year amid employer uncertainty over the financial climate. However it is expected to bounce back this year, rising nine per cent.
Meanwhile, graduate starting salaries are expected to rise to £26,500.
Graduates joining the public sector - organisations such as the civil service, Teach First, police forces, local government and the prison service - are set to enjoy the highest rise of any industry group, at 7.5 per cent, despite the Government’s austerity drive.
However, average starting salaries were second from bottom last year, at £23,250.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: ‘The results indicate a renewed level of optimism among organisations for the year ahead.
‘With the graduate job market inextricably linked to business confidence, it is reassuring to see that employers are committed to investing in graduate talent despite the backdrop of continuing global economic uncertainty.’
Australia: Most teaching graduates fail to secure jobs
Some of these unfortunates may find themselves readily employed in the USA and UK -- trying to teach mainly African classes. They will need a lot of luck
SEVEN out of eight teaching graduates have failed to secure a permanent job with Queensland's Education Department.
As teachers get ready to go back to school, their union warns this year will be one of the worst to attain a job in state schools.
Almost 16,000 teaching applicants are seeking employment with the Department of Education, Training and Employment - the state's largest teaching employer - including more than 1000 new university graduates.
DETE assistant director-general Duncan McKellar said as of January 16, 1608 graduates had applied for a job to teach in state schools in 2013. Only 197 of those had secured permanent jobs. Another 348 have been given temporary employment, leaving 1063 - about two-thirds - looking for jobs elsewhere.
The Queensland Teachers' Union says this will be one of the toughest years for graduate teachers to secure a job after DETE acknowledged there would be about half a classroom teacher less at each state primary school - assuming enrolments remain the same as last year - as a result of a staffing formula change. But QTU vice-president Julie Brown said there were likely to be even fewer teachers hired throughout 2013 because of the staffing change. "The sad news is that some of those graduates will go interstate or overseas," she said.
John Phelan, communication manager of Queensland's largest Catholic school employer, Brisbane Catholic Education, said they had put on extra teaching graduates this year through their centralised primary process - up from 65 last year to 89.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said teaching graduates had the right to expect a job and he was working with universities and the Federal Government to address the over-supply issue.
He said there was still a demand for teacher applicants in rural and remote areas, for specialist secondary subjects, including mathematics, science, industrial design and technology and for teaching students with disabilities.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:05 AM
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Pupil expelled from Montreal college after finding ‘sloppy coding’ that compromised security of 250,000 students personal data
Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a 20-year-old computer science student at Dawson College in Montreal, was expelled after discovering and reporting a security flaw in a computer program run by CEGEPs in Quebec.
Update: Montreal student expelled after finding data security threat receives job, scholarship offers while college refuses to reinstate him
A student has been expelled from Montreal’s Dawson College after he discovered a flaw in the computer system used by most Quebec CEGEPs (General and Vocational Colleges), one which compromised the security of over 250,000 students’ personal information.
Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a 20-year-old computer science student at Dawson and a member of the school’s software development club, was working on a mobile app to allow students easier access to their college account when he and a colleague discovered what he describes as “sloppy coding” in the widely used Omnivox software which would allow “anyone with a basic knowledge of computers to gain access to the personal information of any student in the system, including social insurance number, home address and phone number, class schedule, basically all the information the college has on a student.”
“I saw a flaw which left the personal information of thousands of students, including myself, vulnerable,” said Mr. Al-Khabaz. “I felt I had a moral duty to bring it to the attention of the college and help to fix it, which I did. I could have easily hidden my identity behind a proxy. I chose not to because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”
I felt I had a moral duty to bring it to the attention of the college
After an initial meeting with Director of Information Services and Technology François Paradis on Oct. 24, where Mr. Paradis congratulated Mr. Al-Khabaz and colleague Ovidiu Mija for their work and promised that he and Skytech, the makers of Omnivox, would fix the problem immediately, things started to go downhill.
Two days later, Mr. Al-Khabaz decided to run a software program called Acunetix, designed to test for vulnerabilities in websites, to ensure that the issues he and Mija had identified had been corrected. A few minutes later, the phone rang in the home he shares with his parents.
“It was Edouard Taza, the president of Skytech. He said that this was the second time they had seen me in their logs, and what I was doing was a cyber attack. I apologized, repeatedly, and explained that I was one of the people who discovered the vulnerability earlier that week and was just testing to make sure it was fixed. He told me that I could go to jail for six to twelve months for what I had just done and if I didn’t agree to meet with him and sign a non-disclosure agreement he was going to call the RCMP and have me arrested. So I signed the agreement.”
The agreement prevented Mr. Al-Kabaz from discussing confidential or proprietary information he found on Skytech servers, or any information relating to Skytech, their servers or how he accessed them. The agreement also prevented Mr. Al-Kabaz from discussing the existence of the non-disclosure pact itself, and specified that if his actions became public he would face legal consequences.
When reached for comment Mr. Taza acknowledged mentioning police and legal consequences, but denied having made any threats, and suggested that Mr. Al-Khabaz had misunderstood his comments.
“All software companies, even Google or Microsoft, have bugs in their software,” said Mr. Taza. “These two students discovered a very clever security flaw, which could be exploited. We acted immediately to fix the problem, and were able to do so before anyone could use it to access private information.”
Taza explained that he was quite pleased with the work the two students did identifying problems, but the testing software Mr. Al-Khabaz ran to verify the system was fixed crossed a line.
“This type of software should never be used without prior permission of the system administrator, because it can cause a system to crash. He [Al-Khabaz] should have known better than to use it without permission, but it is very clear to me that there was no malicious intent. He simply made a mistake.”
The administration of Dawson College clearly saw things differently, proceeding to expel Mr. Al-Khabaz for a “serious professional conduct issue.”
“I was called into a meeting with the co–ordinator of my program, Ken Fogel, and the dean, Dianne Gauvin,” says Mr. Al-Khabaz. “They asked a lot of questions, mostly about who knew about the problems and who I had told. I got the sense that their primary concern was covering up the problem.”
Following this meeting, the fifteen professors in the computer science department were asked to vote on whether to expel Mr. Al-Khabaz, and fourteen voted in favour. Mr. Al-Khabaz argues that the process was flawed because he was never given a chance to explain his side of the story to the faculty. He appealed his expulsion to the academic dean and even director-general Richard Filion. Both denied the appeal, leaving him in academic limbo.
“I was acing all of my classes, but now I have zeros across the board. I can’t get into any other college because of these grades, and my permanent record shows that I was expelled for unprofessional conduct. I really want this degree, and now I won’t be able to get it. My academic career is completely ruined. In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster. Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else. I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it. For that I was expelled.”
Morgan Crockett, director of internal affairs and advocacy for the Dawson Student Union, agrees.
“Dawson has betrayed a brilliant student to protect Skytech management,” said Ms. Crockett. “It’s a travesty that Ahmad’s academic future has been compromised just so that Dawson and Skytech could save face. If they had any sense of decency, they would reinstate Ahmad into [the] computer science [program], refund the financial aid debt he has incurred as a result of his expulsion and offer him a full public apology “
Repeated calls to various members of the Dawson administration were not returned, with the college citing an inability to discuss an individual student’s case on legal and ethical grounds in a statement released by their communications department.
British schools shut as soon as they see a snowflake
Be honest, how many times can you remember your old school being closed because of the weather? Once? Twice? Never?
I have memories of trudging through thick snow in a balaclava, wellies and short trousers, with wringing wet woollen gloves hanging from a piece of string knotted at the neck of my gabardine mac.
My knees were red raw, my nose was running and my heart was pounding with the thrill of snowball fights and sliding on treacherous sheets of ice created by tipping cold water on to the pavement and waiting for it to freeze.
During lessons we’d peer through frosty windows at the winter wonderland outside, willing the bell to ring so that the festivities could be resumed.
Maybe there was the odd day when the rackety radiator pipes froze or the ancient boiler gave up the ghost. But frankly, I can’t remember any school I attended ever being padlocked because of a light dusting of snow.
I’m old enough to recall the severe winter of 1963, one of the coldest on record. But to the best of my recollection our junior school kept its doors open throughout. In fact, my abiding memory of that winter was ice-skating with my dad on the Fens, which had been specially flooded for the purpose.
Certainly I can’t imagine my old headmaster letting a cold snap get in the way of our education. But he belonged to a generation of teachers who had been through World War II. Some of them probably served on the Arctic convoys. They weren’t going to flinch in the face of a couple of inches of snow.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure my own kids were ever sent home from school because of the weather, either. And that doesn’t seem all that long ago.
So why was it necessary yesterday to shut 5,000 schools across the country?
According to the chairman of the local government association’s ‘Children and Young People’ directorate: ‘Ultimately, head teachers, in consultation with school governors, make the final decision on whether or not to close a school. This is based on a range of local circumstances including the number of teachers who can make it into work safely, dangerous road conditions, or problems with vital supplies such as food, heating or water.’
It may well have been that in some remote rural areas, roads were impassible. Parts of the country have been worse affected than others, especially in the North East. But in Barnet, for instance, 60 schools were shut.
Why? I was out and about in North London at the weekend and the gritters and transport companies had done a great job.
All the major roads were clear, the buses and Tubes seemed to be running normally. The only weather-related disruption in Barnet was the panic-buying in Waitrose, where the car park was overflowing and shoppers were squabbling over trolleys as they stripped the shelves bare.
There was no earthly reason why any teacher in Barnet couldn’t get to work. In fact, just a few miles away in Hackney, only one secondary school and two primary schools closed.
So why the discrepancy? My guess is that in Barnet, and elsewhere, the risk assessment brigade pulled on their hi-viz jackets, consulted their insurers and decided to take the line of least resistance.
If they shut the schools, there’s no danger that anyone would slip over in the playground and sue for compensation.
Curiously, though, it’s only ever the public services that seem to collapse with monotonous predictability whenever there’s ‘adverse weather’. Everyone else just gets on with it.
At White Hart Lane, the game between Spurs and Manchester United went ahead in the teeth of a snowstorm. And my local curry house, Tandoori Nights, was absolutely heaving.
People clearly weren’t letting a few snowflakes get in the way of a chicken vindaloo. And I can’t help wondering now how many of my fellow diners braving the elements on Saturday night are employed as teachers in the London Borough of Barnet and were yesterday enjoying an undeserved day at home in front of the fire.
Some people are made of sterner stuff. Mike, our postman, got through as usual. So did Mr Patel with the papers. Why was it, then, that Barnet council thought opening the schools presented a uniquely hazardous proposition and was therefore to be avoided at all costs?
What was also utterly predictable was that Heathrow would go into meltdown at the drop of a snowflake, even though other airports soldiered on smoothly. If Heathrow really has spent £36 million on cold weather emergency kit over the past two years, there wasn’t much evidence of it — apart from a handful of new brooms and a couple of plastic snow shovels.
And while we’re at it, I’m sick and tired of assorted officials and dopey birds on the weather forecast telling us not to go out unless our journey is essential. Why would anyone go out in this weather unless they had to?
Oi, Doris, get your coat on, pet. There’s a blizzard outside so I thought we’d take a nice non-essential drive in the country.
There’s no escape from this patronising nonsense. A friend flew into Stansted from Glasgow on Friday. As her plane was making its descent, the captain came on the intercom with the usual update on the weather at their destination.
But instead of just telling passengers it was a bit parky, he insisted on advising them to ‘please make sure you dress in accordance with the weather conditions’.
What the hell has that got to do with him? Does he think a grown woman from the West of Scotland might change into a skimpy frock and flip-flops before disembarking at snowy Stansted?
And so what if she did? It’s none of easyJet’s damn business. Stop treating us all like children.
Now where did I put my balaclava?
Australia: Private schools reap secondary student numbers at state's expense
Private schooling mainly at High School level is the Australian norm but the pattern may be acceletating
On the figures above, 42% of Australian teenagers go to non-government high schools, which IS edging up. It was 39% only a couple of years ago
STUDENTS are flocking to government primary schools but the number sticking with the system for their secondary education is in free-fall.
Education Department figures, compiled for the Herald Sun, show the Catholic and independent sectors are snaring more students.Government secondary schools are expected to have 4700 fewer students than three years ago, a 2.1 per cent decline.
Deakin University Prof Jill Blackmore said parents appeared happy to trust state primary schools, but many were willing to invest to give their child the best chance at university and making lifelong contacts.
"They know that government schools actually do a good job at preparing them in the critical areas of literacy and numeracy," Prof Blackmore said. "But they know the social capital factor is the thing that is critical in secondary."
Enrolment figures, which include estimates for this year, show government primary schools are on track to record three-year growth of 5.4 per cent. The figure is on par with other sectors.
But while state secondary enrolments are going backwards, those at Catholic secondary schools are up 3.8 per cent and independent schools 1.6 per cent.
Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said growth was strong across Melbourne, particularly in new suburbs.
Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said many established private schools were at or near capacity.
An Education Department spokesman said a baby boom, which began in 2006, was driving government primary enrolments and would flow to secondary schools.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:36 AM
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Parents Furious After Boys Suspended For Using Fingers As Guns
Is it child’s play or a serious threat of gun violence? For the second time in less than a month, a Maryland child is kicked out of school for using his finger in the shape of a gun.
No one is debating the importance of keeping children safe. The question being asked is what’s child’s play and what’s not?
There’s controversy at a Talbot County school after two 6-year-old boys were suspended while playing cops and robbers during recess and using their fingers to make an imaginary gun.
“It’s ridiculous,” said parent Julia Merchant.
This is the second time a Maryland child has been suspended for such play. Earlier this month, 6-year-old Rodney Lynch was suspended from his Montgomery County school after pretending to fire an imaginary gun more than once.
“Just pointing your fingers like this and then she did the pow sound and I just went like that and then I got sent to the office again,” Lynch said.
The school reversed its decision after Rodney’s parents appealed.
“They’re saying he threatened a student, threatened to shoot a student. He was playing,” said Rodney’s father, Rodney Lynch Sr.
“I do not believe maliciousness was involved here,” said child psychologist Dr. Joe Kaine.
Kaine says most 6-year-olds’ minds aren’t developed enough to understand why their idea of fun play might make adults upset.
“I can certainly appreciate that at school, that’s not a type of play that they are going to endorse and I certainly support that, but that’s where we educate the time and place for doing things,” Kaine said.
A number of parents agree. “Suspending them is a bit harsh and I don’t think that’s gonna do any good for the parent, child or school,” said Janet Geotzky.
The number of suspensions has been on the rise in Maryland. School leaders say they will try to reduce those numbers.
Why pushy parents are the bane of British private schools
Under-pressure parents are increasingly complaining to their children's prep schools. But teachers know that academic success can’t simply be bought.
In school staffrooms, the stories are legion: the father of a five year-old who asked her class teacher at parents’ evening, with a straight face, whether his daughter would get into Oxford or Cambridge; the mother who emailed her seven-year-old son’s housemaster every evening at around 10pm for a whole term demanding news of her darling; the Russian oligarch who informed the head during a tour of the school that he would only send his four-year-old there if she was accelerated by two year groups because she was so bright; or the couple who turned up with a bundle of banknotes when they were told their twins weren’t academically able enough to be placed in the group getting extra coaching for common entrance.
Recently we heard that in a survey published in the new edition of Attain, the house magazine for the 600 members of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), “the vast majority” of head teachers at these fee-paying junior schools named the “unrealistic demands” of parents as the “biggest frustration” of their job, streets ahead of paperwork, rapid changes in government policy and overall workload. One spoke of some parents having the “attitude” towards education of “being a customer buying a product”.
Clearly, high-achieving parents at every kind of private or independent school often have unrealistically great expectations. Alexia Bracewell, head of Longacre School for two to 11-year-olds in Guildford, Surrey, was one of the frustrated heads in the IAPS survey. “I’ve had parents, typically those who have been to Oxford or Cambridge, or Eton or Harrow, who come in to see me because they are upset that their child isn’t shining in the core curriculum subjects,” she says. “They assume that ability in those areas is genetic, and that any problems must therefore be the school’s fault. I have to explain, as respectfully and tactfully as I can, the nature-nurture debate.”
And pressure from demanding parents is being ratcheted up. “As the economy declines and families are stretched even further to pay fees, they have even greater expectations of the value-added a private school can offer, and rightly so,” she adds. “That is why they are making sacrifices to pay.”
The result, though, is that key exchanges between parents and schools end up being committed to paper and filed. “Increasingly I am finding that I have to put things in writing,” says Bracewell. “For instance, when I advise parents against selecting an elite, hothouse secondary school because, even if their child is tutored within an inch of her life, she still may not pass the entrance exam and, even if she does, may not thrive there, I find that some go away and enter her anyway. Then, when she fails, they come back and blame me: 'You never told us this was going to happen.’ That is why I have to keep a written record.”
Her frustration concerns only a tiny minority of parents, a message reinforced by Julie Robinson, a former prep school head and now director of education and training at IAPS: “Yes, of course I’ve come across unrealistic parents – we all have. But in general in life you have the 80-20 rule, where 20 per cent of the people make 80 per cent of the problems. In prep schools I’d say it was more like 90-10.”
So what prompts this minority to take up such a disproportionate amount of head teachers’ time? Peter Tait, head of Sherborne Prep School in Dorset, is reluctant to blame them. The problem, this New Zealander says, is the education system in this country. “Many of these parents are in a tough place at the moment, especially in those parts of the country such as London and the South East where there is a shortage of places at the most esteemed secondary schools. And they are willing to fight hand-to-hand to get the best for their son or daughter, which is not in itself a bad thing. Therefore, they are very, very demanding of prep schools.”
At the heart of the matter, he believes, is the rapidly changing concept among fee-paying parents of what constitutes value for money. “We have moved strongly across the board in education towards a dog-eat-dog world of individualised learning and teaching to the test. In the process we seem to have lost a sense of the school and the classroom as a community.”
Tait has a plain-speaking message for any angry parent who comes to see him to complain that their little Johnny isn’t making the necessary grades to get them into the secondary school of their aspirations. “I tell them to relax. Their child is in professional hands. We can take the pressure off children, especially at such an early age, rather than increase it. And if they insist on talking about [secondary] schools where the competition is fierce for places, I advise them to go and see the local GP nearest to that school to find out how many children there have developed eating disorders or mental illness because of stress.”
Testing, examination pressures and the scramble for grades and places, though, are part and parcel of every schoolchild’s routine, whether they are in the private or the state sector. So do parents react differently to those issues if they are paying fees?
Margaret believes that they do. She has taught for 25 years in and around Liverpool in both state primaries and prep schools and wants to remain anonymous. She left the private sector, a decade ago, disillusioned by what she saw as its upside-down values. “In the primary schools where I have taught, there is more of a sense of the parents respecting the teachers. In the prep school, it was as if the parents were ultimately in charge, and the teachers subservient.” In the end, she says, it comes down to money. “I’m not sure if it was me projecting on to them, or them on to me, but every parents’ evening I felt as if my job was on the line. And that was something shared with others in the staffroom. If there was an issue with a child, we felt inhibited about asking the parents what we could do together to tackle it. They were paying, so it was our job and our job alone to sort it out.”
That message, she says, was reinforced from above. “We knew that if we didn’t attract and retain sufficient parents willing to pay fees then we could lose our jobs. We were constantly being told by the head that the school would fail if we weren’t 'working at two levels above the national curriculum’.”
Such an explicit demand is unusual, says Julie Robinson. “In my experience prep school heads are very careful about making such extravagant promises to parents because every child is different. But, while it is important for parents to realise you can’t pay your child’s way into Oxbridge, those who work hard to afford fees have every right to focus on value for money. The challenge is finding a common language for quantifying what represents value.”
For-profit schools coming to Australia
Global education companies are planning to open Australia's first for-profit schools targeting local primary and secondary students as early as next year.
Fairview Global, a for-profit schools network based in Malaysia, will send scouts to Australia within six months to find potential sites, with the aim of opening two schools next year and in 2015.
"We plan to have one school in the west and one in the east of Australia - cosmopolitan cities of intellects with international-mindedness," said the chairman of Fairview International Schools' governing council, Daniel Chian.
At present, private schools must be not-for-profit to receive public funding, a status held by Catholic and independent schools. Schools are for-profit if revenue is passed to an outside person or group for financial gain. They are legal to operate.
Mr Chian said the expansion plan was being guided by a former vice-chancellor of an Australian university who is now a member of the Fairview governing council, but would not reveal the name.
A second company, Gems Education, based in Dubai, hopes to open a school in Australia. Its original plan to start one in Melbourne was shelved two years ago.
The moves have outraged the president of the Australian Educational Union, Angelo Gavrielatos. "These are large companies driven by a profit motive that consider education as the last bastion when it comes to untapped resources. Our children cannot be seen as a commercial resource - a plaything for companies to make profit."
The NSW and federal education departments said they had not received any inquiries from overseas for-profit education companies.
For-profit schools are banned under Victorian law. "The regulator - the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority - cannot register a school, primary or secondary, for profit," said a Victorian Education Department spokesman.
Some for-profit schools exist in Australia but they mainly cater to foreign students.
A Fairfax Media investigation could not identify a for-profit school aimed at the mainstream student that is part of a global brand such as Gems Education. Gems Education claims to be the world's largest kindergarten to year 12 private education provider, offering the British, Indian, US and International Baccalaureate curriculums.
The company's communications director, Richard Forbes, who is Australian, said it had received three inquiries in the past three months from Australian investors interested in setting up schools, but its focus was on developing schools in Africa and south-east Asia.
Arguing for profit-based education, Mr Forbes said US studies showed a large portion of public-system investment never reached the classroom. "In a competitive environment, an environment where the customer - the parent - has a choice, the quality must be high or they will look elsewhere," he said.
The former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile is a consultant for Gems Education, which is making profits from schools in at least three countries, including Britain. "There are schools for profit in the UK and in the US, so in an economy like Australia's there will be that level of competition, they will eventually appear," he said.
A former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, Brian Caldwell, agreed that for-profit schools would make attempts to break into the Australian market in the next five to 10 years.
"But I don't think it's likely to attract significant enrolments, and I don't think they are the answer to improving Australia's school education - they're not viable," he said.
A spokesman for the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, gave Fairfax Media the same response as the department on the legality of for-profit schools, when asked whether he would allow for-profits to operate.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:18 AM
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Public School Bans Religious Visitors
An Arkansas public school district has banned youth pastors and other religious groups from visiting during school hours after a Wisconsin group filed a complaint and called the practice “predatory.”
“We have temporarily suspended allowing these youth pastors and other faith based leaders to come in during the lunch hour and we are reviewing policy and the law,” Conway Public School Supt. Greg Murry told Fox News.
The school district has retained the services of Liberty Institute, a law firm known for handling religious liberty cases.
“Conway Public School District retained Liberty Institute to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the District on or before February 12,” general counsel Jeff Mateer said.
The practice of allowing youth ministers to visit students during the lunch hour has been a longtime tradition in many Southern states. Murry, who became superintendent six years ago, said the practice had been in place long before he arrived.
And until recently, not a single person had complained. That changed when the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that has a long history of targeting and threatening school districts that welcome religious activities.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for Conway Public Schools to offer Christian ministers unique access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property,” attorney Patrick Elliott wrote the district. “No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors – a captive audience – in a public school. This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags.”
The particular incident that drew the attention of the FFRF happened when a youth minister visited some of his young parishioners in a school cafeteria. The parents of a child who was also sitting at the table – but not a member of the church – took offense. “This youth pastor was sitting having a conversation with students from his church,” Murry said. “The parents found that offensive.”
The FFRF accused the school of violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“In many cases, we have found that the pastor uses the school to befriend students with the goal of spreading a Gospel message and recruiting members for his church’s youth group,” Elliott wrote. “This sort of entanglement between religion and public education is unseemly and inappropriate.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, blasted the “outlandish demand” of the FFRF and said they were “out to lunch.”
“Local ministers interacting with their membership at their local school may be a threat to their vision of a godless education system, but it is not a threat to the Constitution,” Perkins told Fox News. “Parents and local school officials need to aggressively push back against these anti-Christian groups that are seeking to restrict the rights of Americans.”
It’s not the first time the Freedom From Religion Foundation has attacked the Conway school system. Several years ago, they were successful in forcing the school to stop allowing The Gideons International from giving Bibles to students.
Ironically, the Gideons are allowed to distribute Bibles and share their message in Russian schools.
Supt. Murry said the threat of a possible lawsuit puts the district between a rock and a hard place. “We obviously have a responsibility to do what we are legally authorized to do,” he said. “We will abide by the law.”
It’s unclear how long the lunch time visits will be suspended.
“We want to do what’s right and what’s legal and we also understand in our community it’s certainly by and large a very acceptable thing for this to happen,” Murry said.
Student to sue Oxford over ‘anti-poor’ rule that saw him ordered to find £20,000 before taking up his place
This does seem very authoritarian. Students should be left to support themselves in their own way. It's clearly an attempt to keep out the "riff-raff". I worked to fund myself through two postgraduate degrees but that would not be good enough for St Hugh’s
A student is suing an Oxford college claiming it discriminates against the poor after he was ordered to find more than £20,000 before taking up a place.
St Hugh’s College is accused of ‘selection by wealth’ after asking for evidence that applicants for postgraduate degrees have funds to cover costs, including living expenses of £12,900 a year.
Damien Shannon, 26, claims he was forced to provide evidence of ‘resources totalling £21,082’ before he could begin an Msc in economic and social history.
He was granted a conditional place last March, depending on the financial requirements. Mr Shannon got a loan of £10,000, which would have covered fees and made a small contribution to living costs, but could not prove he had the full amount.
The student, from Salford, Manchester, says the university failed to allow him to take into account projected earnings from part-time work during the course.
He will take the college to court next month claiming its policy selects on the basis of wealth and discriminates against poorer students, breaching human rights.
The university is expected to argue that the requirements are necessary to allow students to complete courses without financial anxiety, the Observer newspaper reported.
Hazel Blears, the former Labour cabinet minister and Salford MP, is backing the student and has won a Parliamentary debate on postgraduate funding to be heard on Wednesday.
‘Oxford University’s demands for a guarantee on living costs are deeply unfair,’ she said. ‘They will price gifted students out of doing these courses and our country will lose out on some really talented individuals.
‘It is ludicrous that a student deemed to be of sufficient academic merit is deemed incapable of budgeting to ensure they have enough money to live on. ‘Even in an expensive city like Oxford, a student can live on far less than £13,000-a-year with careful budgeting.
‘In any case, living costs should be a student’s personal responsibility and many get part-time jobs to help make ends meet.’
St Hugh’s, which counts Home Secretary Theresa May among its alumni, has hired a QC to defend it at Manchester county count, where hearings begin next month.
A college spokesman said: ‘The requirement that postgraduate students provide a financial guarantee in order to take up their course place at the University of Oxford is made clear to potential applicants.
‘The university and college have both made fundraising for postgraduate scholarships a key priority.’
Australia: Childcare chickens come home to roost
Working parents are waiting up to two years for childcare places as centres scrap care for babies. Cutbacks in care availability are precisely what was predicted when PM Gillard basked in the "higher standards" she mandated for childcare. Socialism is always destructive
CHILDCARE centres are scrapping places for babies as working parents wait up to two years for day care.
Three in every four long day-care centres in Australia's capital cities do not have vacancies for babies, a new survey reveals. And two-thirds do not have places left for toddlers.
Brisbane parents are having to wait up to two years for a place, forcing them to quit their jobs, rely on grandparents or hire expensive nannies or unqualified babysitters.
The Greens survey of 231 private and community day-care centres nationally in the past week shows that vacancies for babies have fallen 10 per cent since 2010. In Brisbane, nearly one in three centres has a waiting list for enrolments stretching one to two years.
Of the 36 centres surveyed, more than a quarter of these have waiting lists of six to 12 months. Brisbane parents are paying an average of $76 a day for day care.
More than three quarters of the Brisbane centres do not have vacancies for babies and 61 per cent have no room for toddlers.
Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge yesterday said some Brisbane parents were putting their unborn babies' names down on up to 14 waiting lists at once.
But some centres were closing their nurseries because they cost too much to run. Centres must employ one carer for every four babies and toddlers up to the age of two.
But for the over-threes, centres only need to employ one carer for every 11 children.
Ms Bridge said the Federal Government should pay parents a higher subsidy for babies to cover the higher fees.
"It is unviable for services to provide baby care with the same rate of (government) subsidy as older children," she told The Sunday Mail.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the survey showed the availability of day care for babies had fallen by 10 per cent over the past three years. "Obviously there is a looming crisis in the sector," she said.
"The government needs to be doing far more to improve both the quality and availability of childcare while also helping mums and dads cover the costs."
The Federal Government will spend a record $4.4 billion on childcare subsidies and rebates to parents this financial year, Treasury budget papers show.
Federal Childcare Minister Kate Ellis has blamed the states and territories for the shortage of places, and demanded they fast-track planning approval for new centres.
Melbourne mum Belinda Galloway applied for a place while still pregnant - yet still had to wait 14 months for Louis to enrol at a Port Phillip council centre.
"I put his name on the list when I was pregnant and when I got back to work there was no spot for him," she said yesterday. "It forced us into a situation of nanny-sharing with another mum from our mother's group for six months. "It ended up costing us $400 a week each, so for six months I was pretty much earning half a wage."
Now Ms Galloway pays $50 a day in out-of-pocket costs for daycare.
The new mum hopes she can find a place for her two-month old baby, Archer, by the time she heads back to work part-time, managing a jewellery gallery, in September.
"I do have to go back to work because being a small business, they just can't afford to have me away too long because the position is quite specialised," she said.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:12 AM
Monday, January 21, 2013
Moronic Pennsylvania school
Girl, 5, in trouble for chatting about shooting bubble gun
MOUNT CARMEL - Talking with a friend about a pink toy bubble gun got a five-year-old kindergarten girl in the Mount Carmel Area School District labeled as a terrorist threat, according to an attorney.
The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl's family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:
Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.
Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.
The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a "terrorist threat" and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.
"This little girl is the least terroristic person in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Ficker, who said he was contacted because the mother had read he handled a similar case in Maryland, suggested she ask the principal to expunge the record. That did not happen, but her suspension was reduced to two school days, and the reason for it changed to being labeled as a threat to harm another student.
“She’s branded,” Ficker said.
School district solicitor Edward Greco said Friday the allegations are being looked into but neither he nor school officials could discuss disciplinary actions. Greco and Ficker acknowledged they are trying to arrange a meeting next week to discuss the situation.
Ficker believes the girl’s record should be expunged and she be offered an apology.
How to deal with school bullying the modern way
This must be one of the most gross examples of "blame the victim"
A mother in St. Louis, Missouri was stunned after her daughter’s school allegedly suggested breast reduction surgery as a possible way to combat bullying.
Tammie Jackson said her 13-year-old daughter Gabrielle has been dealing with bullying and sexual harassment since last semester, so she called the Riverview Gardens School District to complain.
“The lady on the switchboard told me that they could transfer my daughter to a different school, but she [said] her boobs are so large that she’s going to always get teased,” the mother
claimed. “And then she told me that the only suggestion she could make is for my 13-year-old daughter to get a breast reduction.”
Fox affiliate KTVI has more:
“It makes me feel like now you are telling me it’s my fault, it’s God’s fault the way He made her. The lady on the phone said they could transfer my daughter and said her boobs were so large she will always get teased. And the only suggestion she had for me is to have my daughter get a breast reduction,” said Jackson.
FOX 2 stopped by the school district for a response and we’re told they’re working to counsel students to resolve the bullying issue. As for the claims about the surgery, we’re told they are still looking into it.
Jackson also says her 9-year-old son Elijah has bullying issues. He has a rare heart condition and she says kids make fun of his surgical scars, causing him to make suicidal comments.
Jackson says all she wants is resolution to an issue she says can affect kids for the rest of their lives, “Talk with the kids. Let them know people’s bodies are changing, everybody is different, but God made us all great.”
Superintendent Clive Coleman reiterated that the issue is under investigation, but speculated that the controversy may be a “product of miscommunication.”
Rise in British tuition fees leads to 40% drop in university admissions
The hike in tuition fees has caused 'wild and dangerous swings' in university admissions, with some institutions taking on 43 per cent fewer students that the previous year.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) revealed that 51,000 fewer students started degree courses last autumn - a fall of 12 per cent - after fees nearly trebled to £9,000 a year.
Ten of the 24 leading universities from the Russell Group, including Leeds, Imperial College London and Warwick, registered drops.
London Metropolitan University, which last year had its licence to sponsor international students revoked, suffered the biggest fall at 43 per cent.
Enrolment also dropped 13 per cent at the University of Southampton, 10% at the University of Liverpool and 9% at the University of Sheffield. There was also a 7 per cent decline at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham University and 6 per cent drops at the University of Leeds, Imperial and the University of London.
But some institutions managed to buck the trend, including University College London, where enrolment rose 22 per cent, and the University of Cardiff, which posted an increase of 13 per cent.
King's College London boasted a rise of 12 per, while admissions were up 11 per cent at the University of Edinburgh.
Shadow universities minster, Shabana Mahmood, said the figures show the Government's decision to raise the cap on fees is having a chaotic impact on higher education. She told The Guardian: 'Ucas reports wild and dangerous swings - with some huge losers and some winners - but the variations show severe volatility in the system that should be a concern for everyone.
'The government must now answer for the damage it has done to those universities that have suffered as a consequence of their reforms and decision to raise fees to £9,000'
Ms Mahmood said the decline could have a devastating impact on local economies of cities such as Manchester and Leeds.
Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of University of East London and chairman of Million+, which represents new universities, said the figures do not include a decline in students studying part-time. He told The Times: 'The need for Government to launch a campaign to promote the value of higher education is all too obvious.'
In 2010, thousands of people staged a series of protests against a rise in fees ahead of the vote in the House of Commons.
There were violent scenes at the Conservative Party's Millbank campaign headquarters in London. Protesters stormed the building and a fire extinguisher was thrown from the roof.
The Liberal Democrats bore the brunt of many people's anger and last year Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg apologised for an election pledge not to raise fees.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:17 AM
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Head Start: Still useless
Pat Moynihan understood the problem years ago
What is it about the Head Start program that prevents presumably responsible adults from doing what’s best for poor children? What prompts this question is the reaction to a scientifically rigorous evaluation of Head Start released last month. Conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, the study demonstrates (once again) that this Great Society program just doesn’t work.
This time, researchers expanded on previous tracking studies of kids in Head Start, which had stopped at the first-grade level. By measuring the program’s impact on 5,000 three- and four-year-old children all the way through third grade, researchers have given lawmakers a state-of-the-art assessment of the long-term impact of Head Start, one that ought to guide them as they ponder allocating additional billions of dollars to the program.
The findings are most discouraging. “By the end of 3rd grade,” the study’s authors report, “there were very few impacts found . . . in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health, and parenting practices.” The researchers measured a total of 142 outcomes in these four domains and concluded that, within a few years, access to Head Start had no measurable impact on all but six outcomes. Moreover, even in those six, “there was no clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”
As performance goes, that’s about as bad as it can possibly get. But don’t feel bad if you missed the resultant outcry from lawmakers, Obama-administration officials, the mainstream media, and policy experts. That’s because there has been none. Crickets.
So what’s going on here? On the one hand, Head Start has been blessed with one of the best name brands of any government program — ever. Everyone wants preschoolers from low-income households to be academically prepared for the challenges grade school presents. Unfortunately, Head Start’s unassailable mission has been the cross its presumed beneficiaries have had to bear for lo these past 48 years.
How so? From the program’s inception in 1965, politicians of every political stripe have learned that they can burnish their poverty-fighting credentials simply by bestowing an endless series of funding increases on Head Start. On cue, sympathetic political commentators, academics, and the beneficiaries of Head Start grants reinforce this dynamic by turning any serious discussion of Head Start’s effectiveness into an unforgiving political minefield. Dare to question its efficacy or propose reforms to improve Head Start’s outcomes (say, by proposing to strengthen the academic qualifications of Head Start teachers) and you’ll feel the wrath of the Head Start Industrial Complex.
Yet the facts about the matter are well established. Our $8 billion–per–year “investment” in Head Start ($180 billion in all since its creation) yields no discernable advantage for the children it is meant to help.
Questions concerning Head Start’s effectiveness have plagued it throughout its history. And, sadly, so long as there have been gold-plated, double-blind, peer-reviewed evaluations of Head Start, there have been politicians who would rather use the program to advance their careers than confront the real-world consequences of failing 1 million poor kids each year.
As far back as 1969, a Nixon White House aide by the name of Daniel Patrick Moynihan engaged in this sort of mischief. As editor Steven Weisman notes in a recently published collection of Moynihan’s letters, Moynihan sought to make sure that “the press gave Nixon credit for supporting programs for the poor.”
Alerted that a series of very critical evaluations of Head Start and other Great Society anti-poverty programs was imminent, Moynihan enlisted New York Times columnist James (Scotty) Reston in a little damage control. “[A] succession of research reports,” he wrote Reston, “will argue that the various specific undertakings [to alleviate poverty] have failed.” The “most consequential” study, he warned, will find “that Head Start does not work.” Specifically, Head Start “does nothing for the education achievement, attitudes, motivation, or whatever of poor children.” This most recent study, he acknowledged, “is the biggest and best to date” and, perhaps because of its authoritativeness, will cause Congress to react with “frustration, even disgust” and conclude that Head Start has been “oversold.” The program’s true believers, on the other hand, will man the bulwarks, deny the study’s findings, and accuse the programs’ detractors of “racism, cruelty to children, and methodological inadequacies.”
Rather than stoke the fires of a vicious ideological battle that would threaten Head Start’s future, Moynihan implored Reston to convince his colleagues at the Times “to be careful in reporting these issues in the next few months.” After all, he concluded, “complex problems are not always depicted as such in the press.”
Half a century has passed and the media remain as “careful” as ever in their coverage of Head Start. Remarkably, the release of the new study elicited no discernable press coverage. Nor has it prompted experts in early-childhood development or pro-Head Start lawmakers to reassess the government’s track record in alleviating poverty. Aside from a useful overview of the study’s findings by two Heritage experts, the only reaction comes from a Reuters op-ed written by Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, the prime Head Start lobbying entity. Remarkably, after examining the study, Vinci perfunctorily dismissed it. “So,” she concluded, “the answer is — yes, Head Start works.”
Head Start’s 1 million kids deserve better. Washington should take the HHS study seriously and look for more effective ways to offer poor children a realistic chance to surmount poverty and achieve their dreams.
Bursting the University Bubble
The last of the college applications have been rewritten, tweaked and polished, and at last entrusted to the tender mercies of the U.S. Mail or the Internet. Fretting over deadlines morphs into waiting, and yearning, wishing and praying for coveted letters of acceptance. This is the annual crisis in thousands of homes with ambitious high school seniors -- the high school seniors and their parents who still believe that college is the route to the American Dream.
But wait. While they play the conventional game of aspiration, certain scholars and economists, and hundreds of thousands of "concerned citizens" have initiated a different debate, and the debate is growing.
They're talking about the changes in university life and whether we should continue up the garden path worn bare over the decades. The debate is over the "higher education bubble," a phrase popularized by Glenn Reynolds, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Tennessee, who compares what's happening in higher education to what happened when housing became a feverish exercise in speculation.
"Bubbles form when too many people expect values to go up forever," Reynolds says. "Bubbles burst when there are no longer enough excessively optimistic and ignorant folks to fuel them. And there are signs that this is beginning to happen already where education is concerned." With so much fat in the system the knowledge protein may not be enough to produce the intellectual muscle needed for a prosperous life in the 21st century. Like fast food and high-energy drinks, empty calories offer only temporary highs.
"The college presidents with their $1 million-plus salaries and bloated administrative staffs, the whole system of tenure has turned out to be as much a recipe for intellectual conformity as it is a fiscal nightmare," observes the New Criterion, a magazine that closely follows the politicization of the university.
In the decade after 2001, the number of administrators grew 50 times faster than the number of instructors, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A decline in the hours spent in teaching by tenured professors coincides with sharply increasing tuition fees to pay for luxury dorms, dining halls and gyms that have little to do with actual learning but everything to do with bulking up the academic bureaucracy.
With tightening family budgets, the high debt that accompanies students to college and an increasing public reckoning of diminishing value, college becomes a risky investment. Hundreds of parents are concluding that it may not be worth it.
Moody's Investors Service, the credit rating firm, finds that students are "increasingly attending more affordable community colleges, studying part time or electing to enter the workforce without the benefit of a college education." Total student debt now approaches a trillion dollars.
That's the bad news. The good news is that new technology offers less expensive access to information, providing quality goods at lower cost.
In prophesying the end of the university as we know it, Nathan Harden, author of "Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad," finds a silver lining in the crisis, an innovative challenge that goes beyond avoiding the pitfalls in the long title of his book.
Students seeking knowledge could pay a fraction of what they do now to get an education, often a better education, as streaming videos replace live lectures, and professors and students employ the Internet to exchange papers and exams, and join in conversations over the coursework.
"If a faster, cheaper way of sharing information emerges, history shows us that it will quickly supplant what came before," writes Harden in American Interest magazine.
Textbooks are already less expensive in the ebook edition. Students can read out-of-copyright books free on the Internet's Project Gutenberg. If the best professors and universities participate, the virtual classroom can reach millions of students. When computer-guided learning is combined with traditional classroom discussion, students learn faster. High tech plus human contact forges a powerful union.
There are obstacles aplenty to improving higher education for less money, but the trends inspire optimism. One professor of computer science at Stanford discovered he could reach as many online students in one year as it would take 250 years in a college classroom. Harvard and MIT now offer a credentialed certificate for students who complete their online courses and can show a mastery of the material.
The monks who salvaged the classics, recording them with painful diligence on papyrus, nevertheless lost their jobs with Johannes Gutenberg's invention of moveable type. If there's a phoenix to rise from the ashes of university excess, then bandwidth, RAM and gigabytes must assist the flight.
When fleet-footed Hermes is reincarnated as a courier of fast-forward high tech, the university bubble may burst in many directions, accelerating the delivery of information.
There's a caution (as there always is). The speed with which information is delivered has little to do with the achievement of wisdom. As the Bard would say, "Aye, there's the rub."
Degrees in misogyny: Disturbing insight into culture of sex and alcohol at Britain's top universities
An imprudent approach to alcohol and sex has always been a part of university student life but the imprudence does seem to have got extreme at many British universities
The invitation left little to the imagination: the silhouette of a naked woman in stilettoes with horns and a whip, posing in a seated position like Sharon Stone in that now infamous moment from the film, Basic Instinct.
The scene inside the University of Exeter’s Great Hall, setting for the annual Safer Sex Ball last month, was as decadent as the publicity material which advertised it.
Each guest — girls mostly dressed in lingerie, boys in their underpants — was given a condom when they arrived. (The pretext of the bash was to raise awareness of Aids). Many attending also brought their own contraceptive supplies.
One of the rooms in the main campus building was turned into a mini-casino for the night. Another featured a burlesque act called ‘Kinky and Quirky .... the best “Tease” in Devon’.
‘The atmosphere in the Great Hall wasn’t fantastic, but it was quite different in the other rooms,’ a 21-year-old student revealed. ‘To be honest, it was like going to any other university ball, except that everyone was in their underwear rather than a dress.’
The university authorities, though, could never have imagined the event, as risqué as it was, would prove to be even more controversial than previous balls held in the name of so-called sex education.
The last one in 2011 attracted widespread criticism for using promotional leaflets containing a ‘joke’ about the number of calories a man could burn off by stripping a girl naked without her consent. On another recent occasion, a scantily-clad reveller was filmed gyrating while holding a sign which said: ‘No 1 Sh**.’
But the college top brass were in for a surprise.
For it emerged this week that shortly before 1.50am on December 11, as the raucous party neared its end, a couple sloped off to the bar, where they ended up in a darkened and deserted corner next to a pool table. The two soon lost all inhibitions. They didn’t know — or probably didn’t care by that stage — that a CCTV camera was trained on them.
Not so very long ago, what happened between them, however reckless or foolhardy, would have remained private, or at least as private as it is possible to be when you are having sex in a bar.
Instead, the whole world has been able to witness their steamy encounter. Footage from the security eye on the wall, it transpires, was recorded on to a mobile phone and sent to fellow students when they returned from their Christmas break.
Last night it emerged that two members of staff who had worked for the Students’ Guild were responsible for filming the footage from the CCTV camera.
Since then, the four-minute clip has been viewed not only by thousands of young people with smartphones in and outside Exeter University; it has also gone viral on the internet and caused something of a media storm.
Today, there is really only one topic of conversation on campus: who are the unidentified couple? She is in a negligee; he wears shorts, cape and headband. Their faces have not been pixelated.
The fallout has been devastating, not just for the embarrassed duo, but for others who have also been dragged into the scandal. One student in particular has been the subject of hurtful rumours and gossip. She vehemently insists she is not the girl in the video, saying she has a boyfriend and did not even attend the Safer Sex Ball. Her account is supported by a tweet she sent after the raucous extravaganza in which she reveals she is ‘at home’ (away from Exeter) and another later when she tweets she is ‘on train back to Exeter’.
Even so, her reputation has been traduced. And the furore shows no sign of abating.
The Athletics Union, the governing body of sports societies at Exeter, is understood to be ‘scrutinising’ claims a female footballer was the young women caught in flagrante. The club categorically denies that any of its players were involved.
The incident is still among the ‘most read’ items on The Tab, an online tabloid newspaper for the University of Exeter (11 other universities, including Cambridge, Leeds and Durham, have their own version of the site). It ran a poll asking students whether the footage should be posted on its website.
An overwhelming 83 per cent (947) voted Yes, which, in its own way, tells us as much about the society we now live in as the events that unfolded that night.
A decision was eventually taken not to publish the material following legal advice. The Tab was told it could have been in breach of data protection and human rights legislation if it had. Not that this will be any consolation to the frisky couple whose humiliation is already complete.
Before smart phones, instant messaging, Facebook, and Twitter, you would probably not have read about them at all. But the revolution in social media appears to not only mirror the culture of voyeurism and exhibitionism that seems so prevalent — especially among the young — but to encourage and fuel it.
Exeter, it should be pointed out, is a member of the Russell Group of leading universities and was recently named University Of The Year in the Sunday Times University Guide.
Few would think so if they read The Tab — ‘a newspaper for students, not a student newspaper’.
Much of its website features both male and female students without clothes on.
Parents about to pay the £9,000-a-year tuition fees for their sons and daughters to study at Exeter should perhaps turn away at this point or pour themselves a stiff drink.
One of the stories on The Tab website concerns the phenomenon of ‘spotting’, which involves taking (usually inappropriate) photographs of yourself or friends in public places and posting them on the internet. In this case, a male student is pictured (or ‘spotted’) sitting at a library computer screen with his trousers pulled down and his ‘family jewels’ exposed (to use The Tab’s description).
Not to be outdone, female students have taken explicit images of themselves and uploaded them on to Facebook. Some are naked from the waist up, their modesty barely protected by a bar bearing the words ‘Original Sin’, the name of the London-based events company that organises themed student parties at Exeter nightclubs. One such night last term was called ‘F*** Me I’m Fresh’ [as in fresher]. A second, a few weeks ago, was entitled ‘F*** Me It’s Xmas.’
So far, so squalid. But it would be unfair to assume Exeter University is in any way out-of-the-ordinary when one looks at student behaviour at seats of learning across the country.
The proof, if any is needed, can be found on the Confessions Of A Uni Student website, founded in September last year, as a vehicle for students around Britain to reveal their most intimate secrets.
Many may wonder why anyone would want to contribute to such a site, even anonymously. But, then, why would you post lewd pictures of yourself on Facebook or ‘vote’ in favour of putting footage of a couple caught having sex on CCTV on the internet just for the fun of it?
Nevertheless, Confessions Of A Uni Student has been flooded with postings from virtually every university in Britain: Edinburgh, Loughborough, the London School of Economics, Brunel, Bristol, Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester, to name but a few.
The vast majority of these ‘confessions’, which reveal details about everything from oral sex to one-night stands, cannot be repeated in a family newspaper even with a liberal sprinkling of asterisks. The website has received more than 226,000 ‘likes’ and rising, meaning those who have read the content approve and have clicked the ‘thumbs-up’ icon.
One ‘confession’ is from a student from Swansea University who reveals how he was kicked out of the home of his girlfriend’s parents after her father accidentally stumbled across pictures of their X-rated bedroom games on her mobile phone. Did he feel any shame or embarrassment? Apparently not.
‘I wish I could have seen her dad’s face when he looked down to see his only daughter, naked and staring back at him, with me giving a thumbs up to the camera.’
Back in Exeter, some of the lewd behaviour has been blamed, rightly or wrongly, on the ‘public school crowd’. Many Old Etonians and their contemporaries from other top public schools like Marlborough traditionally choose Exeter if they cannot get into Oxford or Cambridge (Peter and Zara Phillips are graduates).
Exeter has a good academic track record, after all, as well as excellent facilities, and is in a beautiful part of the country where wealthy families live or have second homes. It’s no coincidence that, at one time, more students at Exeter were said to own their own cars than at almost any other university in the country.
‘Their uniform is Jack Wills and Abercrombie and Fitch [so called ‘preppy’ clothes brands] or trainers and parka jackets,’ one 20-year-old female student told us this week. ‘They stand out a mile even when they are trying to look more ordinary. They have all got the obligatory signet ring on their little finger.
‘I think the problem is that some of them have got more money than sense and party hard, which they seem very proud of. Some of them have been so heavily spoonfed that they can’t think for themselves. I think they go off the rails a bit here because no one is telling them what to do, where they should be and when.’
It is a story we heard from a string of sources at Exeter. The behaviour of a section of the male student population at Exeter has resulted in what one female undergraduate described as a ‘testosterone-fuelled’ atmosphere.
There were two allegations of sexual harassment made by female students in the 2011/12 academic year and five the previous year.
But sexist behaviour, we have been told, is commonplace. ‘Hi, slut’ has become an all too familiar way of addressing women undergraduates.
‘I have run into boys, particularly from the sports societies, on nights out who refer to you as a “slag” or “slut” and think its funny,’ says a second-year student. ‘They say it’s just banter, but it’s demeaning. ‘If you take them on about it, then they say you’re uptight, a prude or a lesbian. Sometimes I think we have gone backwards not forwards.’
Such attitudes can never be justified. But the behaviour of some women at Exeter, as we have already seen, has not helped. This is something which has been highlighted by the university’s award-winning newspaper, the fortnightly Exeposé.
One recent report was prompted by the growing number of girls posting compromising pictures of themselves on the internet, particularly on the Facebook page of event-organisers Original Sin.
‘Substantial concerns have been expressed regarding the way in which some women in particular have been presented and placed in a number of the images with some students claiming the shots condone the objectification of women,’ the paper said.
The Original Sin Facebook page featured many photographs of semi-naked students cavorting for the camera. Some were engaged in apparently drunken deep kissing while others were snapped having booze poured down their throats from bottles high above their heads by pals. Other photographs featured trays of glasses filled with red alcopops. Others showed bottles of booze next to boxes of condoms.
Yesterday, Tom Wye, Original Sin director, said: ‘In some circumstances, some people will go further than others to be noticed. At no point are people encouraged to do anything they’re uncomfortable with, or that may upset others.’
There are now signs that the university authorities are cracking down on some of the more outrageous behaviour, at least on campus. ‘Employers now scan social networking sites and will take a view on people’s professionalism based on what they read,’ the university management warned.
The couple caught on CCTV at the most recent Safer Sex Ball (and indeed the people responsible for circulating the footage) will now be hoping that there are no further revelations — such as their names becoming public.
But given the ubiquity of social media nowadays, there’s no guarantee of that.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:13 AM