Monday, December 29, 2014

British headteachers' chief says after-school tutoring is 'child abuse' and youngsters should be allowed to play with their friends instead of being forced to do extra learning

Sending children to tutors for up to two hours after school is 'child abuse' and they should go and play in the park instead, according to the leader of a head teacher's union.

Gail Larkin, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said children were being forced to sit through hours of unnecessary tuition by pushy parents competing with one another.

She added that instead of two or three hours spent in more classes after school, children would benefit from joining a swimming club, taking up ballet, or playing in the park instead.

She also took a swipe at parents, saying part of the drive for extra tuition was down to adults being unwilling to help their children with homework.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she said: 'I have children in tears because it is the day that they go to their tutor and they don't want to go.

'Putting your child in there for two or three hours after school, I think "You poor thing". The parents think they are doing something really worthwhile. I think it's child abuse.'

'It is part of parenting to help your children with homework, even if you're not very able yourself. We are too busy absolving parents of their responsibilities instead of supporting them.'

Mrs Larkin, a former primary school headteacher in Surrey, singled out Explore Education, which has opened branches in Sainsbury's and shopping centres, for particular criticism.

She said parents taking their children straight from school and leaving them there while they went shopping were torturing the youngsters.

Private tuition has boomed in popularity in recent years as parents coach their children through tough school entrance exams.

More than half of children are being tutored privately as parents fight to get them into the best schools, a study suggested last year. Some are as young as two.

Mrs Larkin has previously criticised parents who use forward-facing push chairs for depriving their children of social contact as they went for walks.

She said children were arriving at school struggling to talk because parents were not having conversations with them because they were too busy talking on their phones instead.

She also attacked 'runny mummy' prams, designed to be pushed along by parents while they jog along behind it.

She also shot down Nick Clegg's policy of free school meals for pupils aged between four and seven, saying the idea was a 'nice soundbite', but in practice it was 'ridiculous'.


The Year the Crusade Against 'Rape Culture' Stumbled

The movement capitalized on sympathy for victims of sexual assault to promote gender warfare, misinformation, and moral panic.

The Rolling Stone account of a horrific fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia, which many advocates saw as a possible "tipping point"—a shocking wake-up call demonstrating that even the most brutal sexual assaults on our college campuses are tacitly tolerated—has unraveled to the point where only a true believer would object to calling it a rape hoax.

But some of the blame must go to the movement that encouraged her in turning her fantasy of victimhood into activism—especially when that movement is so entrenched in its true-believer mindset that some of its adherents seem unable to accept contrary facts.

Katherine Ripley, executive editor of the UVA student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, continued to post #IStandWithJackie tweets for days after the "Haven Monahan" story broke. Two other UVA students made a video thanking Jackie for "pulling back the curtain" on campus rape and praising her "bravery."

Meanwhile, even as the UVA saga unfolded, the "women's page" of the online magazine Slate, Double X, published an outstanding long article by liberal journalist Emily Yoffe examining the excesses of the campus rape crusade—from the use of shoddy statistics to hype an "epidemic" of sexual violence against college women to the rise of policies that trample the civil rights of accused male students.

The piece was retweeted nearly 2,500 times and received a great deal of positive attention, partly no doubt on the wave of the UVA/Rolling Stone scandal. Some of Yoffe's critique echoes arguments made earlier by a number of mostly conservative and libertarian commentators. But, apart from the extensive and careful research she brings to the table, the fact that these arguments were given a platform in one of the premier feminist media spaces is something of a breakthrough, if not a turning point.

Just days after the publication of Yoffe's article, the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study boosting her case (and based on data she briefly discussed). The special report, "Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013," shows that not only are female college students less likely to experience sexual assault than non-college women 18 to 24, but the rate at which they are sexually assaulted is nowhere near the "one in five" or "one in four" statistics brandished by advocates.

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), from which the BJS derives its data, found that approximately 6 out of 1,000 college women say they have been sexually assaulted in the past year. Over four years of college, economist Mark Perry points out, this adds up to about one in 53. Still a troubling figure, to be sure, but it does not quite bear out claims that the American campus is a war-against-women zone.

Journalists who embrace the narrative of campus anti-rape activism, such as The Huffington Post's Tyler Kingkade and's Libby Nelson, have tried to rebut claims that the new DOJ report discredits the higher advocacy numbers. Kingkade asserts that the NCVS "doesn't look at incapacitated rape," in which the perpetrator takes advantage of the victim's severe intoxication or unconsciousness. Nelson argues that because the survey focuses on crime victimization, respondents may underreport acquaintance rapes which don't fit the stereotype of the stranger with a knife jumping out of the bushes.

But neither criticism holds up. The standard question used in the NCVS to screen for sexual victimization is, "Have you been forced or coerced to engage in unwanted sexual activity by (a) someone you didn't know before, (b) a casual acquaintance? OR (c) someone you know well?" In other words, respondents are explicitly encouraged to report non-stranger sexual assaults—and, while they are not specifically asked about being assaulted while incapacitated, the wording certainly does not exclude such attacks.

Kingkade also suggests that the numbers are beside the point, since the effort to combat campus sexual assault is about people, not statistics—specifically, "about students who said they were wronged by their schools after they were raped." Of course every rape is a tragedy, on campus or off—all the more if the victim finds no redress. But if it happens to one in five women during their college years, this is not just a tragedy but a crisis that arguably justifies emergency measures—which is why proponents of sweeping new policies have repeatedly invoked these scary numbers. (Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has now had the one-in-five figure removed from her website.) And while the stories told by students are often compelling, it is important to remember that they are personal narratives which may or may not be factual.  Only last June, Emily Renda, a UVA graduate and activist who now works at the school, included Jackie's story—under the pseudonym "Jenna"—in her testimony before a Senate committee.

Of course this is not to suggest that most such accounts are fabricated; but they are also filtered through subjective experience, memory, and personal bias. Yet, for at least three years, these stories been accorded virtually uncritical reception by the mainstream media. When I had a chance to investigate one widely publicized college case—that of Brown University students Lena Sclove and Daniel Kopin—for a feature in The Daily Beast, the facts turned out to bear little resemblance to the media narrative of a brutal rape punished with a slap on the wrist.

Now, in what may be another sign of turning tides, the accused in another high-profile case is getting his say. The New York Times has previously given ample coverage to Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student famous for carrying around a mattress to protest the school's failure to expel her alleged rapist.

Now, it has allowed that man, Paul Nungesser, to tell his story—a story of being ostracized and targeted by mob justice despite being cleared of all charges in a system far less favorable to the accused than criminal courts. No one knows whether Sulkowicz or Nungesser is telling the truth; but the media have at last acknowledged that there is another side to this story.

Will 2015 see a pushback against the anti-"rape culture" movement on campus? If so, good. This is a movement that has capitalized on laudable sympathy for victims of sexual assault to promote gender warfare, misinformation and moral panic. It's time for a reassessment.


‘I Wouldn’t Eat It Either’: These Wyoming Schools Abandoned Federal School Lunch Guidelines

Seven Wyoming schools have said “no” to the federal school lunch guidelines — and the money that comes with them

According to Wyoming Public Media, seven schools have decided to forego the federal standards instituted by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and decide what to feed their students themselves.

The district’s business manager, Jeremy Smith, told WPM the move was necessary.

“Universally, it was, ‘We are starving. We are hungry. This isn’t enough food for us,’” said Smith. “But we couldn’t blame them, because I looked at that school lunch and said, ‘I wouldn’t eat it either.’”

School districts that abandon the federal guidelines are financially penalized for doing so. Wyoming Public Media reports that “most schools simply can’t afford to abandon the federal subsidies. In Smith’s district, it meant walking away from about $50,000.”

Despite the high cost, Smith said there were “too many complaints,” and he knew he had to make a change.  “We knew we had to make it up,” Smith told Wyoming Public Media. “We said, ‘How are we going to do it?’ Two ways: One, you can increase prices, or two, you can increase participation.”

The district did both: The number of food options increased and prices were raised. But, according to Wyoming Public Media, participation in the school lunch program went up 20 percent and “the district is making more money than it was under the program last year—even without the federal money.”

Absent the federal guidelines, the schools are now free to make their own decisions about what’s served for lunch.

Haydon Mullinax, a student at one of the affected schools, told Wyoming Public Media he is happy about the change.  “I actually enjoy it,” said Mullinax. “I wouldn’t enjoy lunch, and now every time I get into the lunchroom, I’m actually happy to get lunch.”

Dennis Decker, a food service director at one of the schools, told Wyoming Public Media that “the federal lunch standards are well intentioned,” but he’s happy he can do his “own thing.”

“A one-size-fits-all program doesn’t work everywhere,” said Decker. “And I also think that food is a little too personal to make a law. You can tell someone they can’t speed, but I don’t you can tell everybody what they have to eat every day.”

Decker told Wyoming Public Media the federal calorie guidelines were insufficient for students who are “athletes” or who “go home and work on a ranch.”

Tamra Jackson, nutrition supervisor for the Wyoming Department of Education, told Wyoming Public Media the federal standards “were set by some of the country’s best pediatricians and nutritionists.”

“We’re trying to lay a foundation for kids to make healthy choices when they get older,” said Jackson. “It amazes me that people are mad that we’re serving them healthy food.”

The Daily Signal has previously reported on the skimpy school lunches brought about by the federal standards, and students’ distaste for them. We recently reported on pictures of lunches students shared with the viral hashtag #thanksmichelleobama and our readers’ reaction to that story.


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