Monday, January 20, 2014

Politics Versus Education

Thomas Sowell

Anyone who has still not yet understood the utter cynicism of the Obama administration in general, and Attorney General Eric Holder in particular, should look at the Justice Department's latest interventions in education.

If there is one thing that people all across the ideological spectrum should be able to agree on, it is that better education is desperately needed by black youngsters, especially in the ghettoes. For most, it is their one chance for a better life.

Among the few bright spots in a generally dismal picture of the education of black students are those successful charter schools or voucher schools to which many black parents try to get their children admitted. Some of these schools have not only reached but exceeded national norms, even when located in neighborhoods where the regular public schools lag far behind.

Where admission to these schools is by a lottery, the cheers and tears that follow announcements of who has been admitted -- and, by implication, who will be forced to continue in the regular public schools -- tell the story better than words can.

When the state of Louisiana decided to greatly expand the number of schools available to students by parental choice, rather than by the rigidities of the usual public school system, Attorney General Holder's Justice Department objected on grounds that this was at cross-purposes with the federal government's racial integration goals for the schools.

In short, Louisiana's attempt to improve the education of children is subordinated by Holder to the federal government's attempt to mix and match black and white students.

If we have learned nothing else after decades of socially divisive and educationally futile racial busing, it should be obvious that seating black kids next to white kids is neither necessary nor sufficient to get them a better education.

The truly despicable intervention by Attorney General Holder is his warning to schools against discipline policies that result in a higher proportion of minority students than white students being punished.

This racial body count method of determining whether there is discrimination by the schools might make sense if we were certain that there could be no differences in behavior that would explain the differences in punishment. But does any sane adult really believe that there cannot be any difference between the behavior of black boys and Asian girls, for example?

There is a lot of make-believe when it comes to racial issues, whether out of squeamishness, political correctness or expediency. There is also a lot of deliberate racial polarization, and attempts to promote a sense of grievance and fear among black voters, in order to keep their votes in the Democrats' column.

What makes this playing politics with school discipline so unconscionable is that a lack of discipline is one of the crushing handicaps in many ghetto schools. If 10 percent of the students in a classroom are disruptive, disrespectful and violent, the chances of teaching the other 90 percent effectively are very low.

Yet, in the words of the New York Times, "The Obama administration speaks out against zero tolerance discipline." It quotes Attorney General Holder and says that he was "on the mark" when he said that a "routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct."

In other words, Eric Holder, sitting in Washington, knows better than the thousands of people who run public schools across the country what kinds of sanctions are necessary to preserve some semblance of order in the classrooms, so that hoodlums do not make the education of their classmates impossible.

Like the New York Times, Attorney General Holder has made this an issue of "The Civil Rights of Children." More important, the implied threat of federal lawsuits based on racial body count among students who have been disciplined means that hoodlums in the classroom seem to have a friend in Washington.

But even the hoodlums can end up worse off, if lax discipline in the school lets them continue on in a way of life that usually ends up inside prison walls. Nevertheless, if all this means black votes for the Democrats, that may well be the bottom line for Holder and the Obama administration.


Teaching to the Ten

Mike Adams

Dear CRM 381 Students:

Welcome back! I just wanted to write and let you know that the syllabus is up and running on the departmental web page. I have been instructed to direct you to the link rather than distribute individual copies. The university needs to save money on paper so the LGBTQIA Office can continue to offer orgasm awareness seminars and so the Women's Resource Center can continue to promote abortion. Remember kids, the more trees we save, the more babies we can kill!

In addition to going over the syllabus on day one, I plan to introduce each one of you to my somewhat informal teaching philosophy. Actually, this will be the first time I ever make a statement of teaching philosophy, despite the fact that it is my twenty-first year to teach here at UNC-Wilmington. In a nutshell, that philosophy can be summarized in the phrase "twenty-seventy-ten." I'll explain it briefly, although I do plan to elaborate in class on Monday.

Despite what Karl Marx says, there really are not just two kinds of people in this world. That's an oversimplification, although there are two types of communists - a) the ones who live off their more productive comrades and b) the dead ones. But when it comes to students, there are at least three distinct groups. They follow in order from the least pleasant to the most pleasant among you.

1. The Tweeny Twenty.

2. The Sagacious Seventy.

3. The Tenacious Ten.

The first group, the Tweeny Twenty, derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are woefully immature, to almost preadolescent proportions. Fortunately, they are only a minority - about twenty percent of the student population.

The Tweeny Twenty somehow managed to get out of high school without having even a vague sense of what they want to accomplish in life. But they are able to go to college for a few years to explore their options because a) anyone can get into college these days, and b) anyone can get a government-backed loan to help pay for college these days. And so they go. What else is there to do?

Having no clue what they are doing in college, they behave as clueless individuals do. They come and go from class as they please - arriving late and leaving early. They dress inappropriately as if they are coming from a bar or are heading to the beach. In short, they come to college for social reasons. To party. To meet a spouse. Or maybe to meet a "connection" or someone who will "hook them up" with a job upon graduation.

I will do everything within my ability to drive these people out of the classroom before the drop date. That is my sincere promise to the other eighty percent of you.

The second group, the Sagacious Seventy, also derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are shrewder and more goal-oriented than the Tweeny Twenty. Fortunately - I only say "fortunately" because they are fairly well behaved and manageable - they are about seventy percent of the student population.

Having some clue of what they are doing in college, they behave as rational individuals. They come to class pretty regularly and go through the motions in order to get their course credit. They have calculated that having a degree is better than not having a degree and that the amount they pay in student loans will be exceeded by the salary increase that accompanies having a college degree. Of course, many of these students have miscalculated and will never pay off their loans but that is another issue to be explored at a later date.

In short, these students come to college to get credentialed. They know that employers want to see an applicant's degree because that means they had the stick-to-it-ness to set a goal and follow through. They also know that it doesn't require much work to get their expensive degree so they divert study time toward work time. They take a part time job in order to keep their student loans down even if this means turning in sub-par work. They know their professors have come to expect sub-par work. Like most of our students, they are intelligent and keenly self-interested. They do the cost-benefit analysis and make a reasonable decision in a difficult situation that is becoming more difficult as college becomes more expensive.

I will do everything within my ability to threaten these people into doing work that is only slightly sub-par, instead of clearly deficient. I know they are used to being given good grades for work that is clearly deficient. But I also know that they cannot risk failing my class. So I will threaten them and hopefully (through fear) motivate them to soar towards mediocrity in their academic work output. It's really the best I can hope for in an age of hyper-inflated hire (misspelling intentional) education.

The last group, the Tenacious Ten, also derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are highly determined and persistent and cannot easily be distracted from their goals. Unfortunately, they are only about ten percent of the student population.

The Tenacious Ten may well have good genes. I don't know for sure. But I do know that they usually had good parents who taught them good life lessons. Also, more than likely, they had good counselors in their schools or in the churches. And so they are focused and ready from day one.

In short, the Tenacious Ten are here because they desire specific knowledge that will help them attain a specific goal. As a result, they have an intrinsic appreciation of the material I plan to teach throughout the semester. So there is no need to threaten or cajole or manipulate them into performing at expected levels. They just do it because they come to college having already gotten into the habit of doing it on their own.

This message is just my way of reminding you that when I talk about "our" class I am not talking about all thirty of you. I am talking to about three of you - those who constitute the Tenacious Ten percent. You are the only reason I am still teaching. I look forward to finding out who you are. I don't suspect it will take very long to identify you..

I hope this message finds you well. If you are in the Tweeny Twenty, I hope it scares the hell out of you - so much so that you drop the course. Otherwise, I will see you in class on Monday.


'Elf and safety gone mad'! Now British school bans RUNNING in the playground in case children fall over

A primary school has told pupils not to run on its tarmac playground - in case they fall over.

The extra-cautious health and safety measures were brought in at Western Primary School in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, whose head teacher insisted children could play on the grass instead.

But some parents accused her of taking 'health and safety' too far, with one saying: 'They'll be stopping them using knives and forks next - ridiculous!'

Writing on Facebook, Claire Cherry said: 'The parents are furious.'  Another, Chris Pace, said: 'Banning the children from running? They'll be stopping them using knives and forks next for "health and safety" purposes. Ridiculous!'

Parents were told the decision had been taken after a number of pupils suffered scrapes and broken bones.

The school insisted it was not discouraging children from play, exercise or running, but encouraging them to only do it in allocated areas around the school

Head teacher Claire Brown said: 'I suspect the work we are doing with our children to help them understand that they need to think of others when they are playing boisterously has been misinterpreted'

'I suspect that the "play safe, play sensible" work we are doing with our children to help them understand that they need to think of others when they are playing boisterously has been misinterpreted.

'We have a vast range of places for children to play and we are just advising that if they want to run around with their friends they should try to do that in our multi-use games area, our Fast Fit Grid or the school field, instead of on the tarmac area.'

It is the latest in a long line of health and safety controversies in schools.

Council officials in Warrington, Cheshire, told 62-year-old lollipop man Steve Allsop in November that he could no longer high-five children crossing the road for fear of distracting them.

In June, girls at Kingsholm Primary School in Gloucester were issued an edict on the size of their frilly socks because staff feared they would trip over them.


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