Sunday, June 15, 2014

Did This Student Receive a Bad Grade on a College Paper Because She Cited Heritage Foundation?

Hayley Waring, a student at Southern Methodist University, has an opinion piece in The College Conservative about former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address last month at Harvard.  Mayor Bloomberg criticized left-wing censorship of conservative ideas on campus.  Waring said Bloomberg is correct and discussed  her own experience at SMU:

“Last semester, I took a public policy class with a professor who often let her left-leaning views leak into her lectures while assuring us she would keep her personal bias a secret. A large portion of my final grade relied on a term paper due at the end of the semester; I received a 67 on that paper.

Upset and confused, I sought my professor, asking for an explanation. She brushed me off explaining that I’d gone a bit off topic. A bit off topic? Sure, a paper that strays from the topic assigned should be docked a few points. But being given a nearly failing grade didn’t seem fair to me, especially considering the fact I didn’t actually venture off topic.

I continued to email her and visit her office, asking her to reconsider the grade. Ultimately, she did, and she raised the grade to an 87. Essentially, she raised my grade by 20 points, and I never changed a single word in the paper. I’ve always had a feeling that the original grade might have been directly related to the fact that the majority of my research came from the Heritage Foundation.”

Colleges are supposed to be places of free inquiry and debate.  In public schools, particularly public colleges, students are protected by the First Amendment. But even at private colleges such as Harvard and SMU, students expect and deserve to be allowed to think for themselves.

Yet, too often,  the free speech student radicals of the 1960s—today’s graying college professors—seek to suppress conservative speech rather than engage with it intellectually.  Bloomberg likened this situation to “McCarthyism.”  Yet shutting down the free speech of today’s students is worse than McCarthyism. Sen. Joseph McCarthy was fighting against those who sought to violently overthrow the American government, and declassified intelligence reports now show that many of his accusations in the 1950s were not unfounded. 

By contrast, today’s students are not trying to violently overthrow anything—they are seeking to learn and express themselves peacefully. Using Heritage research, passing out Heritage pocket Constitutions, even being a part of the Heritage Young Leaders Program—these are not the sort of thing that should draw reduced grades from professors.

Cases like these make it all the more important that students educate themselves about the Constitution and about the First Principles that make America great.  Take a few minutes to do so. The next time you find yourself staring down a college professor, you’ll be glad you did.


'Cheating teachers have lost morality': Dirty tricks on the rise to boost British exam grades

Teachers have lost their ‘morality’ and are cheating in exams and coursework to boost pupils’ grades, an expert has claimed.

Professor Robert Coe said teachers were falling into ‘bad behaviour’ because they believed other schools were bending the rules.

It coincided with revelations that whistleblowers reported teachers for telling students what to write and completing coursework for them.

There are even claims of staff employing external consultants to finish projects.

In a separate move, exams watchdog Ofqual this week opened an unprecedented anonymous online survey that urges teachers to report experiences of improper tactics or cheating.

The questions detail some 30 strategies thought to be used to boost results.

Professor Coe, an expert in exams at Durham University and an Ofqual adviser, said: ‘I think there is a big issue about morality here, professional morality and how we have lost sight of the bigger picture.

‘It is kind of [seen as] OK to do things you know are wrong because everyone else is doing them: “Because I need to for the sake of my school surviving Ofsted.”

'Bad behaviour drives out the good – if other people are doing it, it is much harder to resist,’ he told the Westminster Education Forum in London.

The former teacher also  suggested coursework marks could be capped according to pupils’ exam scores, the Times Educational Supplement said.

He called for more support for whistleblowers, saying: ‘When there is cheating, people know there is cheating. So why don’t they tell us about it?

'Partly because there are some strong incentives for them not to, but  also because there isn’t really a mechanism.’

Freedom of Information  disclosures show Ofqual has received 73 complaints from whistleblowers since April 2012, many about controlled assessments – coursework done under exam conditions in class.

The complaints range from inflated grades to altered marks in spoken exams.

One said pupils were ‘told what to write’ and another complained of ‘inappropriate granting of extra time by the school’ during an A-level.

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s GCSE and A-level reforms substantially reduce controlled assessments. But some subjects will still need coursework to test skills not assessed in written exams.

Ofqual will use its survey – which runs until July 18 – to cut out loopholes as it finalises the new-look exams.

It asks about practices such as pupils learning mark schemes, the ‘hot housing’ of borderline students, and giving ‘hints’.

Glenys Stacey, the head of Ofqual, said it had ‘heard increasingly . . . that certain approaches are used which create unfair advantages’.

Insisting the survey was ‘not condemnatory’, she said: ‘We want teachers to be open and honest with us . . . How much assistance are you going to give a child?


Kid Twirls a Pencil in Class, N.J. Threatens to Take Him From His Dad and Requires Blood and Urine Testing

In April, Ethan Chaplin was twirling his pencil in class when another kid—a bully, according to Chaplin—called out: "He's making gun motions, send him to juvie!"

The 13-year-old was yanked out of school and thereby commenced his 15 minutes of fame as sites like Huffington Post, as well as local cable news stations, took up his cause arguing that a suspension for pencil twirling was zero tolerance run amok.

The Vernon Township school district's interim superintendent claimed Ethan had never been suspended, but conceded he had been out of school for two days, telling the New Jersey Herald:

"The story that we expelled or suspended a student is partially not true ... We did exclude" the student from attending until a proper psychological evaluation was done, interim Vernon Superintendent Charles Maranzano [said.]...

If a student "demonstrates odd behaviors, non-conforming behaviors, it causes us to take a closer look," he told the newspaper. "If a student gestures or demonstrates behavior that could be construed as a threat to others in a classroom... then that's also a trigger for us."

Ethan was back in class quickly, but too often these zero tolerance cases have second- and third-order effects. In Ethan's case, long after they thought the incident was resolved, his dad received some very scary paperwork from the state of New Jersey threatening to revoke his custody rights:

Ethan's father [Michael] received startling communication from New Jersey's Department of Child Protection and Permanency and Department of Children and Families.

"I received a letter from them saying they had found an incident of abuse or neglect regarding Ethan because I refused to take him for psychological evaluation," Michael said.

Panicked by the letter, Ethan's parents took him in for the evaluation, where he was required to give blood and urine samples.

No troubling psychological conditions were found (unless they've recently added "being an annoying fidget" to the DSM) but now the Chaplin family will likely endure a period of uncertainty and perhaps even home visits from social workers with the power to take away Ethan at any time.

Meanwhile, 13-year-olds may be idiots sometimes, but they're not dumb. Remember, the whole incident was triggered by a kid savvy enough to know that raising the specter of even a fake gun is a powerful weapon in the bullying wars.


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