Friday, January 24, 2014

MoCo eliminates the scourge of strawberry milk

Don't education advocates have bigger things to be concerned with -- like education?

Donna St. George reports in The Washington Post that the Montgomery County Public Schools have decided to address a serious hindrance to the education of students in that county: strawberry milk.

In a move that seems to defy logic, the county has decided to take away strawberry milk:

 Come January, school cafeterias in Montgomery County will be missing the pinkest offering of the lunch line. Strawberry-flavored milk is on its way out. St. George reports:

"The drink is not as popular as chocolate milk and not as nutritious as plain milk, officials say. So at a time of growing concern about healthy foods for children, the pink milk has lost its place on refrigerated shelves in Maryland’s largest school system."

Now while that's all well and good, what was the reasoning that was given for taking strawberry milk off of the shelves?

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Marla R. Caplon, Montgomery’s director of food and nutrition services, who thought long and hard about the value of flavored milk and concluded amid parents’ concerns that she could no longer make the case for strawberry. “Milk is not naturally pink. There are artificial colors and there are preservatives in the milk, and in wanting to do the best for the kids, strawberry really isn’t necessary.”

Milk isn't naturally pink? You don't say....

You might be surprised to learn this, but milk isn't naturally brown either, nor does it contain chocolate. But chocolate milk is unaffected by the decision to eliminate strawberry milk, though there are also artificial colors and preservatives in chocolate milk just as there are in strawberry milk. But chocolate milk accounts for 67 percent of milk sales in Montgomery County schools and, according to Caplon, "We know that if flavored milk is eliminated, then fewer students will consume milk, and that is a concern." So instead of banning all flavored milk, only some flavored milk will be banned, which is one of the more contradictory policies you will ever see.

A lot of the to-do over strawberry milk in Montgomery County is actually tied up with an interest group, Real Food for Kids - Montgomery, who seem to have a set of priorities less interested in educating students in Montgomery County schools than in restricting the foods that are offered in Montgomery County schools so they fit nicely with the agenda put forth by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a left-leaning group that seeks to restrict your freedom to purchase and consume the food that you want to eat (a subject Red Maryland has tackled over the years). Real Food for Kids supporters are focused on the tough questions, like wondering if students can be forced to eat vegetables before allowed to buy other foods.

While it is admirable that students should be afforded the opportunity to purchase decent food during the school day, it seems that this group could be better served by trying to improve the quality of education students receive at school than the quality of food available for sale at the school. Let's face it, it is of greater importance to the future of each and individual student to receive a quality education than it is to be protected from the evils of strawberry milk. The Real Food for Kids folks should be less concerned about using the school system to push their nutritional values on all students in the K-12 system, and instead provide them with better instruction and educational opportunities.

But instead, I'm willing to bet this outfit will go after chocolate milk instead.

I don't really have a dog in this fight. I don't drink milk very often myself (though don't worry, I get my dairy) and think that strawberry milk is repulsive. But if some believe that fighting over the nutritional content of what is served in school is the biggest public education issue in Montgomery County (or any other county) then some groups really need to reexamine and realign their priorities...


Confidence holds girls back in maths: Low expectations mean they are far more likely to drop subject at A-Level

Despite all the evidence of brain differences, many just won't admit that there are differences in male and female abilities

A crisis of confidence among girls studying maths is dragging down their performance at school and stunting their choice of careers, a report has found.

Girls are better than boys in most subjects and outperform them in the vast majority of formal exams.

But they have so little self-belief in maths that they are up to a term behind boys by their mid-teens and are far more likely to drop it for A-levels.

The low expectations are the result of parents and teachers assuming they are better suited to other subjects, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which conducted the research and described its findings as ‘troubling’.

The study of 15-year-olds in developed countries revealed 41 per cent of British girls believe they are not good at maths, compared to just 24 per cent of boys.  So they don't know themselves?  Very patronizing

This translates into just ten per cent being high-fliers in the subject at school, compared to 13 per cent of boys. The OECD average is 11 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

The worst-performing girls are around three months behind their counterparts in other OECD countries and a staggering six years adrift of top students in world leader Shanghai.

The gender gap in teenagers planning to continue studying maths when they leave school is 14 per cent in the UK - 60 per cent of boys and 46 per cent of girls - compared to an average of 12 per cent in developed countries.

And girls rule themselves out of some of the most lucrative jobs because of their dislike for the subject.

Only 40 per cent would consider a job that ‘requires considerable use of mathematics’ over one that is science-based, while for boys it is 50 per cent.

Even if they choose science-heavy jobs, they tend to opt for those with little maths, such as health and social fields. Boys show a preference to be engineers or computer scientists.

The study suggested there is no genetic reason for the difference between the sexes in the UK.

There is no gender gap in 23 of the 65 countries or major economic regions studied and girls outperform boys in several countries including Iceland and Malaysia.

The data comes from further analysis of the OECD’s 2012 PISA survey (Programme for International Student Assessment), which last month revealed British teenagers have dropped out of the top 20 rankings in maths, science and reading for the first time.

Pupils in Vietnam, Shanghai and Poland now have a better understanding of all three core subjects.

Another report from the organisation in October found the UK was the only country where young people were worse at maths and reading than those approaching retirement, despite years of rising exam grades.

The latest research said there had been no improvement in closing the gap in maths between boys and girls since 2003.

The authors said: ‘More troubling still is the fact that the gender gap extends to students’ attitudes towards learning mathematics, which has repercussions in life well beyond school.

‘Shrinking the gender gap in mathematics performance will require the concerted effort of parents, teachers and society as a whole to change the stereotyped notions of what boys and girls excel at, what they enjoy doing and what they believe they can achieve.’

Recommendations to ‘change the mindset’ include making the subject more interesting to girls and eliminating stereotypes in textbooks.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss said girls had been let down by ‘outdated assumptions about what they are good at’.

She added: ‘This government’s reforms are fixing the problem. Thanks to the new Ebacc measure [of core subjects including English, maths and science to check a school’s performance], the number of girls doing GCSE physics is at record levels, while girls’ A-level entries for chemistry and maths are at their highest ever levels.’


Students caught getting drunk at a British university BAR to be fined £200 and hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing

Killjoy university bosses have threatened students with a £200 fine if they are caught drunk - in a campus bar.

Students at Lancaster University received an email telling them anyone who appeared to be intoxicated would be fined and hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing.

The bizarre ban at the popular Lonsdale Bar also says anyone caught getting a pint for someone who is drunk could be fined £250 - including bar staff.

But within hours of Friday’s email students packed out the bar to down drinks in protest at the new rules, apparently passed to curb two-for-one drinks offers.

The announcement from Lonsdale College administrator Juli Shorrock said: 'Students found in Lonsdale Bar or coming out of Lonsdale Bar who appear to be drunk to a porter, college officer or assistant dean will be required to identify themselves and will be summoned to a disciplinary hearing.'

However, the college bar still offered discounted drinks to students that were 'cheaper than pre-drinking'.

Students took to Twitter to defy the new rules.

Joshua Polding wrote: 'Tales of last night’s rebellious carnage in @LonnieCollege bar just shows we are the best college on campus #tryfiningusnow'

Lucie Alice added: 'They ban us from drinking so we go to the bar and get drunk #wedowhatwewant'

Student union president Joel Pullan, said he thought the decree was 'damaging.'

He added: 'While LUSU holds no jurisdiction over the college bars we are striving to find out more information on the reasons behind these fines.

'Though we advocate sensible drinking, we feel such policies could damage the college bar system which we, with students have fought so hard to preserve.'

The university has played down the ban and claimes it was a 'one-off campaign' to 'raise awareness of UK law on getting drunk and the potential consequences'.

A spokesperson added: 'The ban was not enforced and the bar operated normally.  'There was a great atmosphere from very early in the evening with large numbers having a great time with their friends and enjoying a drink.

'Lonsdale bar has been praised by the police for being run responsibly and we intend to keep it that way.

'The university only fines students where there is damage to property or persons.'


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