Monday, January 06, 2014

It begins: New NYC schools chancellor will push ‘progressive agenda’ 

Now that New York City Mayor and far-left Democrat Bill de Blasio has chosen Carmen Farina to become chancellor of NYC schools, city residents can expect a sharp turn to the left on education policy.

Farina, a former teacher and long-time adviser to de Blasio, shares the mayor’s desire to foist a “progressive agenda” upon NYC schools, she said at a news conference earlier this week.

“This progressive agenda actually says we know there are things that need to happen, but they need to happen with people, not to people,” she said.

That means liberal education goals — including an expansion of taxpayer-funded pre-K and elimination of merit-based pay for teachers — will definitely be a top priority for the new administration.

Farina taught in a Brooklyn elementary school for over 20 years, eventually becoming a principal. She became known as a supporter for supplemental after-school programs and universal pre-K as she transitioned to more prestigious jobs in the city education administration. She retired in 2006, and is now 70 years old.

The daughter of Spanish immigrants, Farina felt “invisible” when she attended school as a child, according to Fox News Latino. Promoting racial integration of New York schools continues to be a top priority of both Farina and de Blasio.

Both take a more skeptical view of charter schools, school choice and standardized testing than former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican who became an independent during his terms in office. In fact, Farina personally battled a charter school that attempted to move into her neighborhood in 2011.

School reform advocates are already worried that Farina and de Blasio are likely to roll back some of the institutional and financial support that Bloomberg provided to the city’s charter school movement. Modifying the city’s lease agreements with charter schools could force them to pay thousands more dollars per student.

It’s less clear how Farina will proceed on Common Core, the national curriculum guidelines currently being implemented all over the country. Like many moderate chief executives, Bloomberg supported the standards. Rank-and-file teachers union members — as well as many conservatives — remain deeply skeptical of Common Core and its required testing, however. (RELATED: Common Core haters are ‘misinformed,’ says New York ed commissioner)

Farina supports the curriculum component of Common Core, but may opt to modify the standardized testing it requires in order to make things more palatable to evaluation-conscious teachers. If that happens, NYC liberals might just get every education-related thing they could ever want.


USDA: On second thought, some of those school-lunch restrictions weren’t such a good idea

After the federal government’s school-lunch standards were overhauled in 2012 in what I’m sure was a very well-intentioned effort to institute healthier habits in America’s children and help stave off of the country’s growing childhood obesity problem, it didn’t take long for the calorie-intake and portion restrictions in the new code to crash and burn spectacularly. Healthy eating habits being the highly individualized needs and preferences that they are, kids and parents quickly began complaining that students were not able to get enough to eat at lunchtime, and in some districts, school-lunch participation began to drop as more and more students started bringing their own lunches to school. The USDA soon implemented a temporary stay on the rules, and they just made the changes permanent — seeing as how the restrictions were never very well thought out in the first place. NPR explains:

"Why? Because in some cases, schools had to limit healthy foods — such as sandwiches served on whole-grain bread or salads topped with grilled chicken — due to restrictions the U.S. Department of Agriculture set on the amount of grains and protein that could be served at meal-time. …

The USDA temporarily lifted the restrictions following many complaints. And, now, according to a new announced this week, the change will be made permanent.

The School Nutrition Association, a group made up of school food directors, is applauding the decision. The group says the overly restrictive limits on grains and protein worked against them.

For instance, some schools could not offer daily sandwich selections because the two slices of bread exceeded weekly grain limits. And in some cases, salads topped with low-fat cheese or other sources of lean protein exceeded protein limits."

Gee, whiz. Like so many other attempts to socially engineer top-down virtue, this latest instance of the one-size-fits-all, nobler-than-thou regulatory approach to problem-solving not merely failed to find a workable solution, but caused another problem in the meantime on which the USDA has now had to retract. Who could’ve seen that coming?


History dons back British minister over ban on Blackadder: Great War comedy is not a documentary for schools, they argue

Leading historians yesterday backed calls for schools to stop showing Blackadder to children learning about the First World War.

They sided with Michael Gove after he said the comedy Blackadder Goes Forth and shows such as the Monocled Mutineer and Oh! What a Lovely War wrongly depicted Britain’s military efforts as a ‘misbegotten shambles’.

Cambridge historian Professor Richard Evans and fellow Great War expert Professor Gary Sheffield said the Education Secretary was right to criticise shows like Blackadder – although they differed sharply on his broader point that the conflict had been a ‘just war’.

Professor Evans said: ‘I don’t think teachers should be showing Blackadder in history lessons – and I think some of them are. There is plenty of excellent material on the First World War they can use.’

Professor Sheffield added: ‘I am glad Michael Gove has put this into the public domain.  ‘People do pick up their views on the First World War from shows like Blackadder and Oh! What a Lovely War. I’m a fan of both, but they should not be taken as being documentaries.’

Writing for the Daily Mail yesterday as Britain prepares to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, Mr Gove said only ‘undergraduate cynics’ would say soldiers had fought in vain.

He said the war was necessary to curb Germany’s ‘aggressively expansionist’ aims.

He also hit out at Professor Evans’s claims that troops were wrong to believe the war was about defending freedom.

But the academic, speaking on Radio Four’s World at One   yesterday, attacked Mr Gove’s interpretation of the war, saying he was ‘peddling his own political myths’.

Professor Evans said: ‘He wants to argue Britain was fighting for democracy but he has obviously forgotten that Britain’s main ally was Tsarist Russia – a despotism far greater than anything in the Kaiser’s Germany.

'You also have to remember that only 40 per cent of adult men had the vote in Britain.

‘The war was a very complex set of circumstances and it is wrong of Mr Gove to reduce it to patriotic tub-thumping that we should support the soldiers.  'Of course no one wants to belittle their heroism and self-sacrifice, but we have to look at the war in the round and the long term.’

Professor Sheffield was praised by Mr Gove for helping to rehabilitate the reputation of controversial Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and said he was ‘surprised’ to receive the politician’s accolade.

The self-confessed Left-winger agreed with Mr Gove that the war was ‘ultimately about ideologies – that is democracy against an autocratic, aggressive state’.  ‘It’s a war we should be very glad the Allies ended up winning,’ he added.

Blackadder Goes Forth, which starred Rowan Atkinson in the title role as a captain in 1917 Flanders, chronicles his increasingly gutless efforts to dodge the action and is shown in some schools to help children learn about the war.

Mr Gove said it wrongly portrayed the war as ‘a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite’.


No comments: