Friday, February 28, 2014

U. of Iowa president apologizes for referring to human nature

The University of Iowa president has apologized for a remark she made to the student newspaper about sex assaults on campus.

In an interview published Feb. 18 in The Daily Iowan, President Sally Mason said she was dismayed by the reports of sexual assaults. She said "the goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That's probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that's unfortunate. ..."

Criticism erupted over the phrase that includes "human nature."

The Iowa City Press-Citizen says Mason apologized during a President's Forum on Tuesday.

Mason said she's been told by several people in the campus community that her remark was hurtful. She said she was "very, very sorry for any pain that my words might have caused."


Education Improves When Parents Can Bypass Clueless Bureaucrats

A portrait of stagnation! That’s how U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan summarized the performance of American 15-year-old students, who slipped in the latest international rankings in reading, math and science.

This wasn’t supposed to happen with a U.S. Department of Education.  At the Oct, 17, 1979, Department of Education Organization Act signing ceremony, President Jimmy Carter insisted that he had come to office “determined” to improve the return on Americans’ education investment.

“I don’t know what history will show, but my guess is that the best move...might very well be this establishment of this new Department of Education,” he remarked at the time.

History has proved Carter wrong, since overall student performance is no better today with a federal Education Department than it was decades ago without one. But we’re sure a lot poorer in the pocketbook.

Results on the Nation’s Report Card for 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds in reading, math and science have virtually flat-lined since the early 1970s—even though total public school funding more than doubled in real terms since then—increasing nearly $400 billion, while student enrollment has grown less than 10 percent.

Opponents predicted such failure when the original Department of Education was established—in 1867.

Back then opponents objected that the federal government just isn’t qualified to manage education, so creating a centralized bureaucracy filled with clerks who can’t teach a single student the A-B-C’s was derided as a useless extravagance.

After being downgraded to relative obscurity as the Office of Education in 1888, plans for resurrecting the department emerged during the Carter administration—largely at the behest of the country’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association.

Twentieth-century opponents from both sides of the aisle again derided the notion that the feds or special interest groups know what’s best for schoolchildren. Supporters also couldn’t provide a shred of evidence that student achievement would improve under federal “leadership.”

Rather than waiting around a few more decades for some elusive federal know-how to miraculously kick in, we should turn to the states for evidence of actual academic improvement, particularly among disadvantaged students.

This year, nearly 245,000 students are attending schools that their parents have chosen for them through 32 voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs operating in 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as one educational savings account program in Arizona. Scientific research consistently shows that participating students have higher graduation and college attendance rates, as well as higher reading and math scores than their peers.

These are compelling findings because students participating in parental choice programs are overwhelmingly from low-income families and previously had attended failing schools.

The reason choice programs succeed where multi-billion dollar federal Department of Education programs fail is simple. Parents are the real education experts. Unlike far-off federal politicians and bureaucrats, parents have only one special interest—their children.

Parents empowered to enroll their children in schools they think are best—regardless of their income or address—introduce immediate rewards for schools that perform well and unwelcome consequences for those that don’t.

When schools have to compete for students, all children win—not just those participating in parental choice programs. More than 200 scientific analyses show beneficial effects of competition on public schools, including higher student achievement, graduation rates, efficiency, teacher salaries and smaller class sizes.

Nowhere does the word “education” appear in the Constitution. In fact, “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” according to the 10th Amendment.

Nowadays the very notion of denying the federal government any unenumerated power is almost unthinkable. Yet, given the federal government’s track record, the Framers of the Constitution were right to make the primacy of states and local citizens over education the supreme law of the land.


'Pushy parents are exactly what we want': British Minister says others should be 'dragged' out of homes to take an interest in school

Schools minister David Laws said he backed 'sharp-elbowed parents' and urged headteachers to challenge parents who do not engage

Pushy parents who move house to get into the best schools today won the whole-hearted backing of the government.

Education minister David Laws leapt to the defence of ‘sharp-elbowed parents’ who were only trying to help their children to succeed in life.  Condemning a ‘tolerance of failure’ in schools and councils in many areas, he said parents who invest time in money in their children’s education is ‘exactly what we want’.

And he suggested that where parents were not taking an interest, headteachers should 'drag' them out of their homes.

The government has insisted more needs to be done to close the attainment gap between working class children and those with better off parents.

Mr Laws said parental engagement with school and whether parents are in work plays a key part in performance in lessons and pupil aspiration.

Surveys suggest middle class parents are prepared to pay up to 170 per cent property price premiums to live close to Britain’s top private primary schools.

Property prices close to England’s top 30 state secondary schools are on average £31,500 – or 12 per cent - higher than neighbouring areas.

It means poorer families often struggle to live in the catchment areas of the best schools.

But Mr Laws refused to criticise parents who used their own wealth and ambition to improve their children’s prospects.

‘People sometimes do complain about sharp-elbowed parents and people who seek to invest a huge amount of money to give their young people opportunities in life.

‘But we shouldn’t complain about any parent who is doing those things – whether they’re in the state sector or the private sector.

‘To do all you can to help your children to succeed in life is exactly what we want everybody to be doing,’ he told MPs on the education select committee.

‘So I’m afraid that we can’t cap any of those opportunities. What we need to do is extend them to those young people who are not getting them at the moment.’

Last month Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that the Government should consider rewarding 'good citizens' who knock on their neighbours' doors and demand to know why their children are not in school.

He said: 'How do you financially incentivise these people to get up in the morning, knock on the neighbours' door, and say your children are not up yet, they've not had their breakfast yet, why aren't you taking them to school?'

But today Mr Laws insisted it was a role for headteachers and not neighbours to ensure parents were involved.

He said: 'We need more headteachers like Sir Michael Wilshaw used to be, the type of person who would, if he had problems with children and aspirations, probably go round to their flat and drag the parent out, not quite kicking and screaming, but to engage in education.'

In 2010 David Cameron admitted he and wife Samantha were part of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle classes’ who took over public services like SureStart centres.

Last month leading headmaster Anthony Seldon said rich parents should be charged £20,000 a year for their children to attend the best state schools.

The head of £11,000-a-term Wellington College in Berkshire argued families should become liable for the fees if they had a combined household income of £80,000 a year or more.

Making the wealthy pay for state education would end the wasteful and unfair gap between the academic achievements and career prospects of the richest and poorest children in the UK, he claimed.

Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove has vowed to close the gap between private and state schools.

Mr Laws said the attainment gap between white working class children and other students was ‘pretty disgraceful’.

He added that it was ‘frustrating’ that in 2014, low aspirations and an ‘excuses culture’ still existed.

Headteachers should be willing to go round to pupils' houses and confront parents if their school was facing problems of low expectations and aspirations, he said.

Mr Laws added: 'There are obviously schools and local authorities in all parts of the country where aspirations are very high. And that will be based on good leadership in local authorities or schools or academy chains.

'But there are too many where even today, after all the pressure of the last government and this government, aspirations are way too low in local areas, in schools, in local authorities.'


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