Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Left Versus Minorities

Thomas Sowell

If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left's avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now -- and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.

These schools have given thousands of low income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. Last year 82 percent of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed city-wide mathematics exams, compared to 30 percent of the students in the city as a whole.

Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people -- or even common decency -- want to destroy what progress has already been made?

One big reason, of course, is the teachers' union, one of Mayor de Blasio's biggest supporters. But it may be more than that. For many of the true believers on the left, their ideology overrides any concern about the actual fate of flesh-and-blood human beings.

Something similar happened on the west coast last year. The American Indian Model Schools in Oakland have been ranked among the top schools in the nation, based on their students' test scores. This is, again, a special achievement for minority students who need all the help they can get.

But, last spring, the California State Board of Education announced plans to shut this school down!

Why? The excuse given was that there had been suspicious financial dealings by the former -- repeat, former -- head of the institution. If this was the real reason, then all they had to do was indict the former head and let a court decide if he was guilty or innocent.

There was no reason to make anyone else suffer, much less the students. But the education establishment's decision was to refuse to let the school open last fall. Fortunately a court stopped this hasty shut-down.

These are not just isolated local incidents. The Obama administration has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia and its Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools.

Why such hostility to schools that have succeeded in educating minority students, where so many others have failed?

Some of the opposition to charter schools has been sheer crass politics. The teachers' unions see charter schools as a threat to their members' jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes that teachers' unions can provide.

The net result is that public schools are often run as if their main function is to provide jobs to teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best.

In various parts of the country, educators who have succeeded in raising the educational level of minority children to the national average -- or above -- have faced hostility, harassment or have even been driven out of their schools.

Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. That is why teachers' unions hate them, as a threat not only to their members' jobs but a threat to the whole range of frauds and fetishes in the educational system.

The autonomy of charter schools is also a threat to the powers that be, who want to impose their own vision on the schools, regardless of what the parents want. Attorney General Eric Holder wants to impose his own notion of racial balance in the schools, while many black parents want their children to learn, regardless of whether they are seated next to a white child or a black child. There have been all-black schools whose students met or exceeded national norms in education, whether in Louisiana, California or other places around the country. But Eric Holder, like Bill de Blasio, put his ideology above the education -- and the future life -- of minority students.

Charter schools take power from politicians and bureaucrats, letting parents decide where their children will go to school. That is obviously offensive to those on the left, who think that our betters should be making our decisions for us.


British school head forced out by fanatics: They saw me as the enemy, says Muslim moderate

A Muslim headmistress told last night how she was driven out of her job by extremists bent on taking over state schools.

Her school is one of 12 apparently targeted by Islamic fundamentalists in a plot dating back two decades.

In a letter seen by the Mail, a fanatic brags about enlisting four radical parents to help oust her in 1993.

She said: ‘I was the victim of a pernicious, well-orchestrated smear campaign I have never been able to recover from.

‘People need to know this is a dangerous, well-organised and sinister group who have the capacity to destroy. They are producing fear in society and playing on paranoia. They are extremely powerful.’

The 69-year-old believes she was seen as an enemy because she was too moderate a Muslim. She was confronted with a number of allegations, including one of financial mismanagement.

Despite protesting her innocence her dismissal followed in 1994.

She added: ‘I was involved in a campaign so nasty that, since I lost the headship, I’ve never been able to raise my head above the parapet.

‘I was shocked to read this letter after 20 years and I am genuinely scared by it.’

Details of the extraordinary plot, which have been referred to the police, emerged on Friday after the letter was passed to Birmingham Council and a number of newspapers.

The unnamed author admits making false claims against several teachers in Birmingham in order to oust them.

The document discusses extending the ‘jihad’ operation to Bradford and Manchester – cities with fast growing Muslim populations.

The letter identifies specific schools as targets and names heads it claims to have ousted through dirty tricks campaigns, forged resignation letters and false allegations of cheating and financial irregularities.

It claims the former head of Birmingham’s Regents Park Primary, Tina Ireland, was forced to resign after the group ‘planted the seed’ that she was encouraging pupils to cheat in exams.

Another head, who is understood to have resigned following a plot to oust him, said he had been vindicated by exposure of the wider campaign, which the extremists called ‘Trojan Horse’.

Balwant Bains, former headmaster of Saltley School, said: ‘I had to leave. I am trying to move away from a very horrible, horrible experience, and I am pleased that it has been exposed.’

Another school – also named in the letter as a target – is alleged to have allowed extremist preachers into school assemblies.

Governors at Park View Academy, whose pupils are almost all Muslim, apparently organised an ‘extended Islamic assembly’ for its Year 10 and 11 children with Sheikh Shady Al Suleiman, who has called on Allah to ‘destroy the enemies of Islam’ and to ‘prepare us for the jihad’.

The academy was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2012 and has been praised by the Prime Minister. But according to former staff, the Trojan Horse operation is taking hold.

A former supply teacher at the school told the Mail she was forced to wear the head scarf at work against her will.

Park View Academy, which is headed by Lindsey Clark, was given a snap Ofsted inspection this week after claims were raised of unfair treatment of non-Muslim staff.

The chairman of governors, Tahir Alam, is referred to several times in the letter as being involved in the plot. But the senior activist in the Muslim Council of Britain and vice-chair of the Association of Muslim Schools said the letter was a ‘malicious fabrication’.

Birmingham City Council has launched an investigation which is being monitored by police and the Department for Education.

The Mail understands Education Secretary Michael Gove met the leader of the council last month to discuss the documents.

The letter says: ‘We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools.

‘Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a jihad.’


A dog's dinner! Clegg 'gave officials just hour's notice of chaotic' free school meals plan - then refused to listen to doubts

Nick Clegg ‘put his fingers in his ears’ when told his free school meals policy was in chaos, it was claimed last night.  The Deputy Prime Minister is accused of ignoring Whitehall warnings that the £1billion plan was a ‘dumb gimmick’.

Dominic Cummings – a former adviser to Education Secretary Michael Gove – said officials were given only one hour’s notice of the policy announcement.

On Monday, headteachers savaged the schools meal plan – for pupils aged four to seven – saying they did not have the facilities to cope with an extra 1.5million lunches.

Mr Cummings said the Department for Education had dismissed the policy but Mr Clegg struck a deal with David Cameron to be allowed to push it through in return for the Tories announcing marriage tax breaks.

‘Officials in the DfE were unanimous that it was a bad gimmick and introduced in a way that makes it hard to avoid implementation chaos. Officials were obviously right,’ Mr Cummings said.

He described the £150million funding announcement for new kitchens as a ‘back-of-the-fag-packet’ calculation from Mr Clegg’s spin doctors.

He added: ‘Because Clegg only thinks about politics ... he assumed that our opposition was because it was a Clegg idea. It wasn’t.

‘Our opposition was because it is a dumb idea, badly executed, which shows why politicians should have less power over schools.’

He had earlier tweeted: ‘Officials warned Clegg/Downing St and told them the £150million is junk but fingers in ears.’

Jonathan Isaby of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch and Nick Clegg’s dog’s dinner of a policy is proof of that.

‘Taxpayers are footing the bill for a policy that was about winning applause at conference rather than helping children or families struggling with the cost of living.’

Mr Laws dismissed the claims from Mr Cummings, saying: ‘What he said about the backdrop to the introduction of this policy is complete and utter balls. The DfE was not opposed to this policy, it was the result of pilots undertaken since 2009.

‘This stuff from Dom reflects his personal views, it doesn’t reflect the views of the Secretary of State, who I have spoken to extensively about this, including before our policy announcement.’

Mr Clegg weighed in with an article on the Lib Dem website, writing: ‘I would love the Liberal Democrats to be able to take all the credit, but the truth is that Whitehall has been looking at this for the last five years.

‘This isn’t back of the fag packet stuff. The evidence shows that free school meals make a real difference in our classrooms.’

But Labour said Mr Cummings’s claims amounted to ‘very serious allegations which call into question the quality of decision-making in the Department for Education and in the Coalition as a whole’.

Heads criticised new guidance that urges schools to ask pupils to choose their menu options at least two hours before they eat and operate staggered lunch breaks which could mean some youngsters eating as early as 11am.

Kevin Baskill, head of Christchurch Primary in Ilford, Essex, expressed his doubts about the policy yesterday.  ‘It’s a fantastic idea, but not very well thought out. It’s a pity they didn’t sort out the details and then announce it,’ he said. ‘What we’ve discovered is that we’ll end up with a scenario where every day is rather like a Christmas lunch.

‘I wanted a second canteen so 150 four-year-olds could have a nice pleasant experience at lunchtime. Now, I suspect, that will become a very busy canteen.

‘I know money has gone to local authorities that will be passed through to schools, but I’m not sure it will meet the huge demand.’

Peter Malcolm, head of Rayleigh Primary in Essex, said the school needed extra kitchen equipment.

‘We don’t know if we will get the funding yet, so we don’t know if we can even cook the food yet,’ he added. ‘It’s very difficult to make a plan, if you don’t know what you can afford to do,’ he said.

The free meals policy will save even the best-off families an average of £437 a year per child.


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