Friday, May 09, 2014

Moral Bankruptcy

Thomas Sowell

If you want to get some idea of the moral bankruptcy of our educational system, read an article in the May 4th issue of the New York Times Magazine titled, "The Tale of Two Schools."

The article is not about moral bankruptcy. But it is itself an example of the moral bankruptcy behind the many failures of American education today.

Someone had the bright idea of pairing public high school kids from a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx with kids from a private high school that charges $43,000 a year.

When the low-income youngsters visited the posh private school, "they were just overwhelmed" by it, according to the New York Times. "One kid ran crying off campus." Apparently others felt "so disheartened about their own circumstances."

What earthly good did that do for these young people? Thank heaven no one was calloused enough to take me on a tour of a posh private school when I was growing up in Harlem.

No doubt those adults who believe in envy and resentment get their jollies from doing things like this -- and from feeling that they are creating future envy and resentment voters to forward the ideological agenda of the big government left.

But at the expense of kids?

There was a time when common sense and common decency counted for something. Educators felt a responsibility to equip students with solid skills that could take them anywhere they wanted to go in later life -- enable them to become doctors, engineers or whatever they wanted to be.

Too many of today's "educators" see students as a captive audience for them to manipulate and propagandize.

These young people do not yet have enough experience to know that posh surroundings are neither necessary nor sufficient for a good education. Is anyone foolish enough to think that making poor kids feel disheartened is doing them a favor?

This school visit was not just an isolated event. It was part of a whole program of pairing individual youngsters from a poverty-stricken neighborhood with youngsters from families that can pay 43 grand a year for their schooling.

What do these kids do? They tell each other stories based on their young lives' unripened judgment. They go to a big park in the Bronx together and take part in a garden project there. They talk about issues like gun violence and race relations.

They have a whole lifetime ahead of them to talk about such issues. But poor kids, especially, have just one time, during their school years, to equip their minds with math, science and other solid skills that will give them a shot at a better life.

To squander their time on rap sessions and navel-gazing is unconscionable.

This is just one of many programs dreamed up by "educators" who seem determined to do anything except educate. They see school children as guinea pigs for their pet notions.

The New York Times is doing these youngsters no favor by publishing page after page of their photographs and snippets of things they said. More than two centuries ago, Edmund Burke lamented "everything which takes a man from his house and sets him on a stage."

Setting adolescents on a stage is even more ill-advised, at a time of life when they do not yet have the experience to see what an inconsequential distraction such activities and such publicity are.

At a time when American youngsters are consistently outperformed on international tests by youngsters in other countries, do we have the luxury of spending our children's time on things that will do absolutely nothing for them in the years ahead? Are children just playthings for adults?

Maybe the affluent kids can afford to waste their time this way, because they will be taken care of, one way or another, in later life.

But to squander the time of poor kids, for whom education is often their only hope of escaping poverty, is truly an irresponsible self-indulgence by adults who should know better, and it is one more sign of the moral bankruptcy of too many people in our schools.


Hello Stranger ... Want To Have Sex?

Mike Adams

Controversy has once again hit the campus of UNC-Wilmington. This time it's not my fault. The controversy is actually the fault of a student. His crime is simple: He decided to behave like a feminist behaves every day on campuses all across America. Unfortunately for him, he chose to do so without the proper genitalia and without the approval of the UNCW Women's Resource Center.

I was introduced to the controversy shortly after a student of mine finished taking her final exam of the semester. After she had left my 2 pm exam, she came into my 3:30 class and, as discreetly as possible, told me that a male student had just walked up to her and asked if she wanted to have sex with him. It took me a few minutes to figure out that she wasn't joking. So I asked her to give me more information as we walked out into the hall to look for the offending student.

Apparently, the young man had been working his way through the building asking every female student he saw if she would like to have sex with him. Some just walked away, but some wanted an explanation for the wildly inappropriate request. When pressed, he simply told them he hadn't had sex all semester and didn't want to go home for the summer until he had. One woman reacted a little more strongly to his indecent proposal. She started to cry and went upstairs looking for help from someone in the psychology department. That's when things got interesting.

Fortunately, the visibly shaken student found a concerned psychology professor who went downstairs with her, found the male student, and told him to knock it off. The propositioning student became incensed and told the professor he needed to get over his hang-ups about sex. The student's argument was pretty simple: Asking someone to have sex is no different than asking them to engage in any other recreational activity such as playing basketball.

Of course, that argument was rejected and the UNCW police were called in to apprehend the student. Fortunately, the psychology building is in walking distance from Dunkin' Donuts so the police made the trek in less than an hour. Upon arrival, they scoured the building in search of their suspect.

But what crime did the desperately horny student commit? Did he sexually harass these women in a traditional sense? No, this was a case of creating a hostile environment in the workplace. Had he done this in a bar, rather than on campus, there would be no controversy. In other words, the venue made a difference.

Of course, there is another important variable to consider. If he were a female student, his conduct would have been seen in a very different light. In order to assess the possible role that gender played in the incident, please consider the following:

-Every year when they put on The Vagina Monologues, UNCW feminists send out an email that begins with the line "Greetings vagina lovers." And they use the university email system to send this to everyone. Feminists at another UNC Women's Center advertised The Vagina Monologues by purchasing a six foot vagina costume. They later took turns walking around campus dressed as a giant sex organ.

-Feminists at the UNCW Women's Center once advertised The Vagina Monologues with a large sign saying "p***ies unite." It was posted outside a campus diner where faculty and staff often took their children to eat. Note that those responsible for making the profane sign were professors, not students.

-Feminists at the UNCW Women's Center sold "p***y pops" made out of candy and shaped to resemble female genitalia. Some feminist professors walked around the lobby of Kenan Auditorium licking the candy-coated genitals in front of students.

-Feminists at the UNCW Women's Center have set up tables showing people how to put condoms on cucumbers. But this isn't nearly as bad as the feminist students at UNC-CH who actually built a vibrator museum and erected it (cough) in the middle of campus.

-Feminists at the UNCW Women's Center posted pictures of nude women- some of them under-aged - in the lobby of Randall Library as part of an "art" exhibit.

-Feminists at the UNCW Women's Center sold "I had an abortion" tee shirts on campus so students could let strangers know they had killed their own children and were proud of it.

All of these incidents are a reflection of a consistent philosophy promoted by feminists here at UNCW. That philosophy is made up of two core principles: 1) Women have a right to act as vulgar as they want in public because the rules of ordinary decency and civility don't apply to them. 2) The key to personal fulfillment is to have sex with as many people as possible and to view any restrictions on sexual liberty as forms of patriarchal oppression.

So what was the crime of the male student who was publicly asking for casual sex with female students who were total strangers? His crime was simply that he accepted feminist arguments and behaved in a manner that is consistent with feminist philosophy. But he did so without the proper genitalia.

Some who were near the propositioning male student said they overheard him saying he had a premonition he was going get to a "yes" from one of his targets. This talk of "premonitions" caused some to speculate that he was mentally unstable.

However, if accused of a specific crime, the offending student should not plead insanity. His chances of acquittal would be better if he had a sex change.


Alabama teen suspended after opting out of standardized test

An Alabama teen says she was suspended from school after she refused to take a local assessment test, contrary to an earlier report from WAAY-TV that the test was aligned with the state's Common Core curriculum.

Alyssa McKinney, an eighth-grade student at Whitesburg Middle School in Huntsville, Ala., told the station she was given two in-school suspensions after telling school officials that she didn’t want to take any more standardized tests and opted out, believing she that was an option.

WAAY had reported earlier Tuesday that McKinney was suspended for opting out of a test related to Alabama's Common core program, which allows students that option.

A Department of Education spokeswoman told the station parents can choose not to have their child take part in state standardized testing  if they put their refusal in writing and give it to their school.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Dedicated student

'I think I'll just do some swotting while I wait for the ambulance': Chinese student learns 107 English words after she is knocked off her scooter

When it comes to being determined, one particular Chinese student takes some beating.

Despite suffering painful injuries in a road accident in China's capital Beijing, Wang Dafan wasted no precious time while waiting for medics to arrive.

‘We couldn't believe it when we got there,’ said a police spokesman. ‘She was obviously in pain but she was using an electronic dictionary to memorise English words for her university lessons.

‘She said the accident had reminded her life was too short, and education too important, to waste time on worrying about other things.’

The 18-year-old girl was knocked off her bike by a car as she was on her way to a tutorial.

Having checked out that she was not seriously injured, she reached into her bag for the electronic gizmo while still sprawled on the ground, and set about learning 107 new English words in the time it took for an ambulance to arrive to treat injuries to her legs, head and arms.

Wang, a bright spark who has won lots of scholarships and academic prizes in her time, said: ‘I was in pain but the study kept my mind off feeling hurt. I think that we are all on this earth for such a short time that we owe it to our family, friends and each others to become the best that we can be and you can only do this if you are educated.

‘I found that studying the English words was a great help and soothed my pain.’

She is currently a student at Capital Normal University in Beijing and hopes to continue her studies at Oxford or Cambridge in the future and plans for a career in academia.


Kennedy School Students Call for Training To Combat Privilege in Classroom

Communist re-education camps live again!  At Harvard.  Harvard's totalitarian tendencies go way back.  They were hospitable to Nazis in the 1930s

Students at the Kennedy School of Government gathered in the school’s courtyard on Friday for a “moment of solidarity” in support of a movement lobbying the school’s administration to create a mandatory orientation program to help incoming students and faculty better recognize and address race and gender in the classroom.

The movement, called HKS Speaks Out, began in October after students expressed having “really negative classroom experiences,” according to Reetu D. Mody, a first year Master in Public Policy student and an organizer of the movement. She said the group has amassed about 300 student signatures, or about a fourth of the school’s student population, on a petition that calls for mandatory privilege and power training.

At Friday’s event, about 80 students participated in an exercise to visualize the differences in privilege created by race and gender. The students began in a single line, but as students were asked to step forward or backward based on questions about the social repercussions of their socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and sexual identities, the line became disjointed.

Mody said that she felt the event brought the students together to share their varying backgrounds and, in doing so, demonstrated the need for greater training on the issue.

In response to the movement, the school’s diversity committee met with the group’s organizers to hear their concerns, Kennedy School spokesman Doug Gavel wrote in an email, adding that these discussions “have been extremely productive and constructive.”

Additionally, Melodie Jackson, senior associate dean for degree programs and student affairs, “has committed to integrating diversity training into student orientation and the school is currently exploring a variety of different training options,” Gavel wrote.

Mody organized “speak out” sessions last fall after being disappointed by classes that “didn’t really address race at all” when considering systemic policy issues. The sessions allowed Mody's fellow classmates to discuss their frustrations freely; the first session drew about 80 of her peers, she said.

At the sessions, many students expressed that the power dynamics in the classroom hurt their experience and limited their education, according to Mody.

“To have these discussions where we are not being challenged is very detrimental to our ability to be thoughtful policy makers,” Mody said. “Coming here and not getting an education to support that has been really difficult.”

Out of these community conversations, the group decided that students and faculty needed to have a better understanding of “race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, international status, and power differentials,” prior to entering classroom discussions, according to the movement’s open letter to the Kennedy School community.

“You can either go to a diversity talk, or you can go play soccer–that was our orientation.” Mody said, of last year’s orientation.

For Michelle A. Millar, a first year student at the Kennedy School, the status quo limits the amount of unique voices in the classroom.

“We just can’t learn when we are only hearing from one side,” Millar said. “It’s hard to get that perspective if our professors aren’t trained to…make [classrooms] a safe place.”


Parent Arrested After Complaining of Explicit Sex in Schoolbook

A New Hampshire parent was arrested Monday night at a school board meeting after complaining to officials about a book sent home with his 14-year-old daughter that contained graphic sexual content.

The book in question, "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult, was given to ninth-grade students in Gilford, N.H., to read. School officials say the book has important themes related to a school shooting. It also contains a graphic sexual encounter between two teenagers.

The book had been given to students in the past, but a letter to parents ahead of time was always mailed out. No letter was sent this year because of an apparent oversight, station WCVB reports.

William Baer said he discovered the passage when his daughter brought the book home. On Monday, he and other parents vented to officials at a school board meeting about the situation.

When another parent made the point that the letter should have gone home, Baer said, "This is absurd. This is ridiculous."

"Nobody's talking about censoring the book, nobody's talking about banning the book or burning the book or anything," Baer said.

A member of the school board responded, "Would you please be respectful of the other people?"

"Like you're respectful to my daughter, right? And my children?" Baer said.

A police officer then appeared next to Baer and asked him to leave or he would be arrested. When Baer refused to leave, the officer placed a hand on his arm, guided him out of the room, and arrested him on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Baer was in violation of a two-minute rule that officials imposed so every parent at the meeting would be able to speak.

"It was basically, you make a statement, say what you want and sit down," Baer told WMUR-TV. "Sit down and shut up, basically, and that's not how you interact with adults."

Other parents voiced their support of Baer.  "I am utterly appalled that this was an oversight, that my son had this book in his hand for a week. [It's] unacceptable," Sarah Carrigan told WCVB.

"I fully understand how he feels. It really is a huge violation," Baer's wife, Barbara, said in the WCVB story. "Why should those ideas be put in their mind? They can discuss this some other way. They don't need that kind of imagery."

Baer said he was shocked when he read the passage.  "I've never read anything like this," he told WMUR. "It's like the transcript for a triple-X-rated movie."

The school board released a statement after the meeting:

"The board apologizes for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the school district to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel . . . The district will take immediate action to revise these policies," the statement reads, according to WMUR.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Children as young as four made to study BAREFOOT at British primary school which banned shoes because it 'improves the learning environment'

Primary school children have been told to wear only socks for lessons after shoes were banned in an attempt to improve children's results.

Holmbush Primary School in Shoreham, West Sussex, declared that children should study barefoot after the school's 'Learning Council', made up of Year Six pupils, found that 'shoeless classrooms' could help pupils learn.

After a trial, which was deemed successful by children and staff, the 240-pupil school's governors agreed to make the policy official, and Holmbush became a 'shoeless school' in January this year.

The unusual philosophy, which originated in Scandinavia, where shoes bring in slush, snow and ice, suggests that children both learn and behave better when their feet are unrestricted by shoes.

Pupils are said to be gentler with each other, concentrate better, and other benefits include cleaner and more hygienic carpets.

Pupils at Holmbush, which is deemed 'good' by Ofsted, are allowed to go barefoot or to wear socks and slippers whenever they are in the school building, and only put on school shoes when they head outdoors to play.

Headmistress Rebecca Jackson said: 'Shoeless classrooms were brought in to improve the learning environment.'

However children and staff discovered one downside of shoeless learning last week when a fire alarm sounded and the children had to file out onto the wet playground in their socks.

Some parents and carers were upset that the children got their feet wet as a result, with one grandmother of a five-year-old at the school saying: 'It’s absolutely ridiculous.

'Thee pupils were ushered out of the door without their shoes, and my grandson was stood there on a soaking wet playground in just his socks.

'When they came back into the school, they had to take their socks off, so when we went to collect the kids nearly all of them came out wearing shoes and no socks.'

She added: 'It is just disgusting. There are so many health hazards about kids walking about in socks on the wooden floors and chair legs slamming on their feet, but the reassurance we’ve been given is that posters are no longer stuck on walls with drawing pins.

'Even in hospitals you’re not allowed to walk about barefoot because of health and safety implications.'

Headteacher Rebecca Jackson said: 'The children’s safety is of the utmost importance, which is why we evacuated the building.

'During the afternoon, children with wet socks or tights were given spare dry ones and theirs were dried.'

She added: 'Shoeless classrooms have nothing to do with [protecting] the carpet tiles - we haven’t had any new carpets fitted since 2007.'


'Ditch Shakespeare in British schools and give children Adrian Mole instead'

Best-selling author claims the Bard turns youngsters off reading because they can't 'relate' to his work

A best-selling author has urged the Government to substitute plays by William Shakespeare for more modern works on the curriculum, arguing teenagers cannot relate to the Bard.

GP Taylor, whose work includes Shadowmancer, described Shakespeare as 'dry' and claims more up-to-date books would ensure younger generations become enchanted with reading.

Figures show that children growing up in his home county of Yorkshire are less likely to master the basics in reading and writing than those anywhere else in the country.

Mr Taylor claimed a key problem is the choice of books pupils are asked to study, adding: 'I do think Shakespeare is a real killer.

'Young people tell me that it is a real pain for them and I think it puts them off.

'Not just Shakespeare, but it puts them off books in general. The language and the context is just not relevant to them and often they study it without the performance, so it’s just dry.

'Nobody will want to criticise Shakespeare because he is the nation’s Bard but when I visit schools young people tell me that reading Shakespeare is a pain.

'The key is to get them to read about things which are relevant to their lives.'

He has called for the works of more modern authors such as Sue Townsend, who wrote the series of Adrian Mole books and died last month, to be taught in lessons.

The author, from Scarborough in North Yorkshire says the Government should fund schools to bring more writers into the classroom to inspire a love of storytelling among young people.

Mr Taylor said books like The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole (left) and The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole were more appropriate to youngsters studying at school today

He says that having authors and storytellers meeting children helps to get young people interested in reading.

'Authors are storytellers,' he added. 'They know how to get people interested in the story and I find that even when we are saying the same things as the teachers pupils will be more open to us as we are not their teacher.

'The problem is, of course, that authors cannot give up all of their time free of charge and so this costs money. I think it is something the Government should look at.

'Funding schools to ensure every pupil has the chance to meet authors and work with them. It makes a huge difference. I see it myself and in other authors I speak to do as well.'

He has also urged schools and the Government to look to bring more modern writing into the school curriculum.


Chinese teaching is not the best plan for Britain'

Plans to bring teachers from China to Britain in the hope of matching their world-beating results are flawed, according to expatriate parents

When education minister Elizabeth Truss suggested maths could be better taught to British children by the Chinese, it wasn’t just teachers in Britain who were sceptical.

Since 2002, local schools in Shanghai have gradually been opening up to foreign students, and now, each year, hundreds of expat parents send their children to bilingual schools that employ strict Chinese teaching methods.

Last month, Mrs Truss announced plans to invite up to 60 Shanghai teachers to England as part of an £11 million programme to raise maths standards in the state system.

But members of the expat community familiar with local teaching methods were not convinced it will work. Although unanimous in their praise for high levels of educational expectation, classroom discipline and work ethic in the Chinese system, expat parents expressed deep reservations about the rote-learning road to results.

"There’s definitely a danger in leaping to the conclusion that this country has got it absolutely right," said American mother Melanie Ham, who sends her nine-year-old daughter Annabel to Aiju Primary School, a local Chinese school with an international division.

Despite the fact that Annabel is able to complete maths homework that outshines her peers back home, Ham admitted that she will probably send her daughter to an international school after Year 6.

"I show the worksheets of my child to my teacher friend [at home], and she’s in shock. She says the first and the second-graders are doing the same as the third and the fourth in her school," she said.

"But my daughter’s creative, and I’m not sure her abilities will be nurtured."

It’s a common refrain among parents. Memorising Chinese characters, maths equations, and science formulas for tests leaves little time for projects that require independent, reflective thought, or group work.

From their first year onwards, children have at least 10 hours of school work per day. In addition many students have tutors during the week and at weekends, while striving to add extracurricular skills to their CVs from an early age.

All roads lead to the multiple-day university entrance exam (the gaokao) - a test of memory that determines the trajectory of a student’s higher education career.

Recently, Shanghai students were ranked the most successful in the world in a series of reading, maths and science tests, in a study by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD). The UK came 26th.

Jennifer Jenson, who teaches students aged 15-18 at the Shanghai Weiyu High School for native Chinese children, was not surprised.

"My son is going to start a local primary school in the autumn. He’ll have about three hours of homework every night," she said.

"His friends have had tutoring to help them get into their primary schools. They’re out of nappies and start taking tests, so of course they’re good at it.

"If all you did in the UK was give kids maths lessons, five hours a day, everyone would be brilliant in exams. There’s no secret Chinese method."

The US-born teacher and her English husband, who teaches geography and business at the same school, both described the British government’s plan as "terrible".  "When it comes to applying any technical knowledge they have, they can’t do it. I don’t think that’s what the UK wants from their kids," said Mrs Jenson.

Yet local parents harbour strong admiration for certain elements of what Mrs Truss called the "Shanghai method".

British mother Harriet Gaywood moved her nine-year-old daughter Anoushka from an international school to the local YK Pao School two years ago, to improve her performance.

Since then, her daughter has flourished; a fact Mrs Gaywood put down to a shift away from unhelpful beliefs that have become entrenched in the West, such as "girls can’t do maths" and "homework is optional".

“Chinese teachers could teach English teachers about discipline. And that all subjects should be taken seriously. Maths shouldn’t be seen as an opt-out course because it’s not cool.”

Mrs Ham added that the Chinese cultural tradition of children respecting their teachers means discipline levels are high in classrooms.

"The teacher is a venerated role. Kids want to please their teachers, do the very best they can, and are rewarded for that."

However, this highly authoritarian approach to learning has its flip side. As Mrs Jenson pointed out: "If the teacher says something, they write it down, it goes in their book, and they memorise it.

"But it’s very difficult to get them to have discussion and conversation. You can tell them something ridiculous like ‘salt grows on the moon’ and they just write it down and memorise it."


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Illinois House Passes Three-Year Ban on Online Charter Schools

The Illinois House has passed a three-year ban on virtual charter schools, shortly after an existing one-year ban expired.

“It’s an amazing story about what they want to do here in Illinois. We are going absolutely backward in terms of education reform and education innovation,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Twenty-seven states have online schools, and five require students to take a class online before graduating high school, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Much of the political pressure for the ban came from teachers unions, Dabrowski said.

“The school districts in Illinois have massive power. We have 868 school districts, the most in the nation, and they have massive power to keep out charter schools. They want to keep out competition, and so the unions and a couple of the legislators … have worked very hard to block reforms,” Dabrowski said. “There’s a lot of politics as usual.”


Obama Administration Going After 55 Colleges in Sex Assault Investigation

 Some of the 55 colleges and universities facing federal investigation for their handling of sexual abuse allegations say they're cooperating with the U.S. Education Department, though few are offering details about what information the agency is seeking.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is one of only a handful of schools named by federal officials Thursday to publicly reveal anything about why the department is investigating. The probe involves the school's handling of a reported 2009 violation of its sexual misconduct policy by then-football placekicker Brendan Gibbons, who was expelled this past December.

Michigan is "fully cooperating" with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, school spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

"They were on campus a week or so ago doing some interviews with faculty, staff and students," Fitzgerald said. "We've had information related to the investigation posted on our website since they informed us about the investigation toward the end of February. This is well-known on campus."

A student government group that examined the school's student sexual misconduct policy said last month that it planned to share with investigators its determination that the university failed to explain the delay between the alleged incident and Gibbons' expulsion.

The Obama administration is seeking more openness about the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation's campuses. On Thursday, the Education Department revealed its list of schools facing investigations that were started after complaints were filed with its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or as part of a review to see whether the schools were complying with Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds.

It is the same law that guarantees girls and women equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Some Ivy League schools also are on the list.

The department did not provide details, but information about some of the investigations has come out.

The investigation at Vanderbilt University follows complaints filed in November by students and former students who alleged the school responded inadequately to reports of sexual assault. It also comes amid a criminal case in Nashville of allegations that four former Vanderbilt football players took part in a gang rape of a student in a school dorm last June.

Vanderbilt spokeswoman Beth Fortune said in an email that the school was cooperating in the investigation.

At Boston University, spokesman Colin Riley said a single complaint was filed against the university last October.

"While we believe the University provided the student with a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint in full accordance with the requirements of Title IX, we are cooperating fully with OCR in its investigation and are always open to improving the manner in which we respond to any incident of sexual misconduct reported to us," Riley said.

Many schools sought to emphasize that there were no complaints against them.

Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis said his school was on the list as part of a "proactive review" of procedures for combating student sexual violence and harassment.

"OCR has consistently told us that Ohio State has impressive protocols and resources for combating sexual harassment, that no major concerns or findings have been identified and that our protocols could serve as a model for other schools around the country," Lewis said.

The government emphasized the list was about investigations of complaints, not judgments. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there was "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt.

The Education Department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with Title IX, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

The White House has said that as many as 1 in 5 female college students is assaulted. President Barack Obama has appointed a task force of Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

The task force's report, also released this week, announced the creation of a website — — offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on campuses.

The department publicized guidance on Title IX's sexual assault provisions in 2011, and complaints by students have since increased. Complaints, however, don't always lead to an investigation.

Harvard College students filed formal complaints in late March to the Education Department saying the college did not respond promptly to reports of sexual violence, that students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment, and that in some cases assault victims were forced to live in the same residence buildings as their alleged assailants.

"Harvard has taken a number of steps to foster prevention efforts and to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct," spokesman Jeff Neal said. They include appointing a Title IX officer to review policies and procedures.


UK: Now schools in Bradford are fighting Trojan Horse-style plot after two headteachers have left their jobs and PM vows to clear the classrooms of 'Islamism'

Schools in Bradford are fighting alleged Trojan Horse style plots after two teachers left their jobs while a third fears being 'driven' out as David Cameron vows to clear the classrooms of 'Islamism'.

The plot involves ousting moderate headteachers from schools, and is also feared to have taken place in Birmingham, Manchester and parts of east London.

Faisal Khan, a former member of George Galloway's Respect party was accused of being behind the alleged plot in Bradford, where one of the heads described herself as the victim of an 'attempted coup'.

At another secondary school in Bradford the local council dismissed every governor as it tried to tackle the issue.

News of events in Bradford comes after the National Association of Head Teachers said it had ‘serious concerns’ about attempts to ‘alter the character’ of at least six schools in Birmingham, and warned efforts to infiltrate classrooms were likely to be affecting other major towns and cities.

According to the Sunday Telegraph Mr Khan, who was formerly a councillor with Respect but who now sits independently, was seen in a video clip revealing how he and his colleagues have been working to change headteacher at Bradford schools.

'We have to do that for every single school… we have to be there, on governing bodies, because that’s what it’s all about… It’s time we took these schools back,' he reportedly said.

However, Mr Khan has maintained that his desire to remove head teachers was to improve standards, and said he was not seeking to 'Islamise' schools.

His group, the Bradford Muslim Education Forum (BMEF) has links to alleged plotters who have sought to bring in more conservative Islamic practices at Birmingham schools.

The group has run events in Bradford involving alleged Birmingham plotter Tahir Alam, who heads the governing body at the city's Park View school, where it is claimed pupils freely praise terrorism, are segregated by gender, and are taught women must obey their husbands.

Park View has denied the allegations, and said the idea it supports terrorism is ‘abhorrent’.

Mr Alam's contact details were reportedly distributed at a BMEF meeting against teaching sex education in schools, and another meeting was run in conjunction with the al-Hijrah Training Academy - which he also runs.

Speakers at BMEF meetings have also included Razwan Faraz, the deputy head of Nansen Primary School in Birmingham, which has been visited by Ofsted inspectors investigating the alleged plots, Nansen's chairman of governors Shahid Akmal, and Achmad da Costa - the chairman of governors at Oldknow Academy - where a successful non-Muslim head was allegedly driven from her post.

BMEF head Mr Khan is chairman of governors at Carlton Bolling College in Bradford, a secular school where many pupils are Muslim. He had been on the governing body at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College until every member was sacked by Bradford council following fears over poor performance and a 'dysfunctional' relationships between the governors and management.

Staff at both schools claimed Mr Khan was behind attacks aimed at driving out headteachers.

Last January former Carlton Bolling head Chris Robinson left the role in the middle of the school year, despite having recently been announced as runner-up in the secondary head teacher of the year category in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.

Ms Robinson has not commented on the Trojan Horse claims but after moving to another school in Rotherham gave a presentation about her tenure at Carlton Bolling, saying in the talk on February 21 last year that people had been working against her.

She went on to say how important it was to remain 'absolutely focused, even when dementors attempt a coup,' referencing evil characters from the Harry Potter books.

Mr Khan has insisted he had not driven out Ms Robinson, and said she had taken another job.

He added that he had clashed with her over a contract for the school's human resources services, and said she had not got three quotes for the work, as laid out in Department for Education rules.

Mr Khan reportedly admitted being involved in removing Jackie Nellis, who was head before Ms Robinson and was head when the school received an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating.  He said she had not delivered good enough GCSE results at the school.

Mr Khan was also accused of attempting to undermine current Laisterdyke head teacher Jen McIntosh, with one source at the school saying tactics used were similar to those used in Trojan Horse plots as governors were questioning decisions and results.

Mr Khan denied any 'Islamist' takeover but said he had argued with Ms McIntosh as she had not hired enough permanent staff.

He said the governors had been removed for holding the head to account.

'This is the head teacher removing the governing body, not the other way round. It’s more like a Trojan donkey than a Trojan horse,' he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to erase extremism from schools, saying his is concerned about the alleged plots.  'I don't want to see Islamist entryism into our schools. That is a very worrying development,' he told the Sunday Times.  'We will not have extremism, entryism, Islamism in our schools.'

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said some teachers were being appointed because of their Muslim faith rather than their skills.

There was also evidence of ‘pressure’ being brought to bear on heads to adopt ‘certain philosophies and approaches’.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham, he said: ‘We ourselves have concerns about what has been going on in and around half a dozen of those schools.  ‘There have been things going on inside our schools which would make some of us feel uncomfortable.’

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that dozens of teachers pushed out of schools by an alleged Islamist takeover plot are too afraid to speak out because of gagging orders.

Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood said at least ten teachers told him they were made to sign agreements offering cash in return for their silence.

Mr Mahmood said: ‘A lot of people are still not speaking, even in private, because they are frightened of what may happen. They think if they come forward they will lose their pay-off or pensions and are worried they will then not be able to teach.’

Noshaba Hussain, a moderate Muslim former headmistress of Springfield Primary, was forced out of her job by a ‘well-organised and sinister’ group of extremists more than 20 years ago.

The 69-year-old told the Mail she was made to sign a confidentiality agreement, or ‘gag’, that threatened to withdraw her pay-off of a few months’ salary if she spoke to the press.

She claimed false rumours were spread about her by the Muslim governing body until she was sacked by Birmingham education chiefs for what was described as a ‘loss of faith and trust in the head by the governing body’.

‘It was all done through my union,’ she said. ‘I was told if I spoke to the press about what happened to me I would have to return the money.’

A source from one of the schools affected said: ‘A lot of teachers who leave are being bullied and harassed. The threat of taking away a reference can be worse than a monetary threat as they are worried their career will be affected.’


Monday, May 05, 2014

Catholic School Celebrates 'Year of Lady Gaga'

Buyer beware those promising a "Catholic education."

Saint Mary's Institute is the Catholic grade school in my wife's New York hometown, Amsterdam. It is affiliated with Saint Mary's Catholic Church, whose pastor Rev. John Medwid pens the opening to the Saint Mary's Institute annual newsletter.

"In September at the opening Mass I officially announced that this was going to be the Year of Our Lady at SMI," the letter began.

How nice. Except that's not what he wrote. There was someone else he had in mind to honor besides the Virgin Mary.

"In September at the opening Mass I officially announced that this was going to be the Year of Lady Gaga at SMI."

That's what he proclaimed. Apparently during mass, too. Why Lady Gaga? Was every other living or dead female or male on planet Earth or anywhere else unavailable? The answer, he explains, is "complex," which is a euphemism for scandalous.

First, he writes, "many people may not realize that Lady Gaga is the product of Catholic education." (To which the response would be: so was Hitler.) Her real name, he tells us, is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, as if she were some obscure Italian saint. She is a graduate of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, where — and here we're getting to the point — "she was someone who followed her own path ... It takes a great deal of courage especially for young people to blaze their own trails in life!"

Exactly which trail blazed should Catholic children find commendable?

Was it her attire during the nationally broadcast MTV Video Music Awards last year, watched by millions of children — a thong?

Was it her video earlier this year in which she simulates all manner of sexual activities while bizarrely "resurrecting" from their tombs Michael Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi and — maybe this was it? — Jesus Christ?

Was it her song "Judas" in which she proclaims: "I'm still in love with Judas, baby. Jesus is my virtue," but "Judas is the demon that I cling to"?

Was it how she constantly promotes gay themes in her music and bashes the military for its treatment of gays? Or maybe she's a trailblazer of another sort.

Speaking at a gay-left dinner in 2011, President Barack Obama began by joking, "I took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga."

Medwid's second reason for having a Catholic grade school honor Lady Gaga is also vague. It is "to highlight her immense creativity."

Was Medwid impressed when Lady Gaga said of Pope Benedict XVI, "What the Pope thinks of being gay does not matter to the world"?

Maybe it was the video "Alejandro" he found so immensely creative. In it she dressed in a nun's habit, swallowed a rosary and engaged in simulated erotic activities with her male backup dancers. As the Catholic League's Bill Donohue put it, Lady Gaga "has now become the new poster girl for American decadence and Catholic bashing."

Maybe it was her "Marry the Night" music video in which she depicts herself having an abortion.

Maybe it was the song she deliberately released on Christmas Day, "Stuck on F—-in You" (and no, nothing's edited in the song).

Maybe it's other creative talents grade school children can admire. A couple of years ago Lady Gaga released a new fragrance called "Fame." She referred to the scent as "a very slutty perfume." She boasted: "It was taken out of my own blood sample, so it's a sense of having me on your skin. I wanted to extract sort of the feeling and sense of blood and semen ... "

Or is it just her mind we should celebrate, as when she stated on an MTV program in 2010: "For me this evening, if we don't stand up for what we believe in, and if we don't fight for our rights pretty soon, we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I'm not a piece of meat."

That statement by Lady Gaga makes just about as much sense as a supposedly Catholic grade school, bearing the highest of responsibilities - providing a moral education to children — honoring her.


CAIR's Hypocrisy At America's Schools

Earlier this month, the Muslim Students Association and the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) jointly hosted a Muslim Youth Leadership symposium at George Washington University, open to all Muslims aged 14-22. No featured speakers were publicly named for the event, but the panels and workshops are listed on CAIR's website - including the alluringly-titled, "How To Get What You Want: Politicking 101."

It's an appropriate topic for a CAIR event: the Hamas-linked organization is a champion at getting what it wants," and ironically, given the nature of this event and its venue, its officials have become particularly adept of late at "getting what they want" at schools and universities. Academia, you might even say, has become CAIR's latest target, and its newest tool - not only in its campaign to silence critics of Islam - but too, to promote and spread messages of pro-Muslim hate groups among American Muslim youth.

Best-known of CAIR's manipulations on college campuses is its recent success persuading Brandeis University president Frederick Lawrence to rescind his offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial Somali-born women's rights activist whose often-strident, but deeply insightful anti-Islam speeches Lawrence called "inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."

But Brandeis was just one in a lengthening chain of such incidents. Simultaneous with the Brandeis affair, CAIR also drove Knox County, Tenn. to revoke permission for an event scheduled at a local high school, aimed, according to its organizer, ACT! For America, at informing the public about Sharia law. In a statement, Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre explained his decision: "The primary purpose of our school facilities is to provide a safe, healthy and comfortable learning environment for our students. When other uses of the facility begin to impinge on or interfere with the administration's ability to provide a suitable education atmosphere, it is necessary for us to reconsider that use."

In response, ACT! For America observed pointedly: "Why is it that Muslims engage in teaching about how good Islam is for Tennessee at the Cedar Bluff Library - a public building - but feel 'uncomfortable' when ACT! For America plans an event to show the opposite viewpoint at a public building?"

What ACT! neglected to point out was the salient fact that this is not just any public building, but a school - a forum for the exchange of ideas and for learning. So important is the "freedom of expression" in schools that even CAIR claims to champion it. Earlier this month, the organization successfully campaigned to defeat a measure that "would have restricted student groups at Maryland's public colleges and universities from supporting boycotts of foreign countries like Israel." While CAIR's support for the right to boycott is valid, its reasoning is less so, focusing "protest against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and human rights abuses against Palestinians." (Note that it does not suggest supporting boycotts "of foreign countries like Iran" or other Islamic countries where human rights abuses are endemic.)

But evidently that "free expression" has its limits, at least for CAIR, which seems to find the free exchange of some ideas a threat. Take, for example, the goings-on in Ohio, where the nice people at CAIR are demanding an investigation into the activities of Oberlin College Arabic Professor Samir Amin Abdellatif, charging him with "anti-Muslim bigotry and crude stereotypes of Muslims in his writings and on campus.

Abdellatif gained notoriety with the (self)-publication of his treatise, The Unknown History of Islam, which CAIR claims is riddled with "outlandish conspiracy theories about the Muslim [sic] and promotes xenophobic views about Muslim immigration to the West." Oberlin, CAIR warned the school's president in a letter, risks "tarnishing" its reputation by keeping the tenured Abdellatif on its faculty.

But Abdellatif's colleagues see it differently, according to a source I contacted at Oberlin. Rather, he is known for emphasizing stereotypes of all kinds in his lectures, based on the belief that all stereotypes contain a kernel of truth. "That is what he teaches," according to my source. "So if Abdellatif's academic thesis about stereotypes is taken out of context, I suspect it could be seen as promoting anti-Muslim bigotry and crude stereotypes." But then, taking anything out of context can be viewed in any way one wants to twist it.

In truth, it is not Oberlin's reputation Abdellatif stands to tarnish, but that of the school's French Professor Ali Yedes. A Muslim, Yedes, who has been embroiled in several lawsuits involving the college, now stands accused of sexual harassment, and of issuing death threats to fellow French professor Eunjun (Grace) An.

Ms. An is now suing the college for failing to protect her from his menace.

Yedes accused An of "betraying" him in January, 2006, and informed her that "in his culture, he could have her killed because of his perceived mistreatment by her," the lawsuit said. Abdellatif, who claims that Yedes also told him he planned to kill "an Asian French professor at Oberlin," is a witness in her suit.

It gets more complicated. CAIR says Oberlin is also trying to fire the tenured Yedes, who serves as an adviser to the school's Muslim Student Association (MSA) - a national group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the school is counting on Abdellatif to testify against Yedes on their behalf.

Could this be why CAIR wants him gone? It is striking that an organization that claims to stand for justice and civil rights has done nothing to reprimand Professor Yedes for his alleged threats against Professor An. Or do their officials not view his statements, like Abdellatif's, as "outlandish" misrepresentations of Islam? Do they feel it is appropriate for students to be exposed to his views (as they are alleged), but not to those of ACT! For America - or, for that matter, Samir Abdellatif?

Perhaps so. CAIR officials have never indicated concern about the well-being of students exposed to the ideas expressed by various speakers at colleges around the country, all invited by local MSA chapters -speakers such as Abdel Malik Ali, who in 2006 told an audience at Chaffey College that Zionists, not the Danes, were behind the controversial Danish cartoons that caused worldwide rioting among Muslims that year.

Nor did they seem distressed when Mohammed Al Asi also condemned Israel and the Jews at the University of California, Irvine, stating, "It's about time we begin to open our eyes, see for ourselves, and identify this cancerous presence of the Israeli interest that has taken over the American body politic."

But maybe this is all part of what CAIR sees as "How To Get What You Want:" promote what you want people to hear, censor the rest, and manipulate the law and Constitution to serve your purposes. However, if CAIR plans to teach Muslim youth in America that they can and should use bullying and propaganda to "get their way," it is all the more important that we teach them otherwise. Unless we do, we'll find that they grow up to be, like CAIR itself, far more Islamist than American. And that is a risk we can't afford to take.


White House Task Force attacks cross-examination & due process rights on campus

Hans Bader   

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once noted that “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”

However well-meaning it may be, the Obama administration’s “guidance” this week on campus rape and sexual harassment contains insidious attacks on cross-examination and due-process rights (as KC Johnson discussed at Minding the Campus.) As the White House Task Force Report notes (pg. 19), “this new guidance clarifies that: . . . the parties should not be allowed to personally cross-examine each other.” Similarly, the Education Department’s accompanying guidance says (pg. 31): “OCR strongly discourages a school from allowing the parties to personally question or cross-examine each other during a hearing on alleged sexual violence.”

These attacks by the administration ignore the fact that the Supreme Court has lauded cross-examination as the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” (See Lilly v. Virginia, 527 U.S. 116, 124 (1999).) The new guidance will create serious legal problems for both public and private colleges, as I will explain in future commentaries (colleges that do not follow the administration’s “guidance” risk having their federal funds cut off, and financial aid to their students terminated).

As I explained over a year ago, the Education Department’s attack on cross-examination has no legal basis, especially since cross-examination is permitted all the time in sexual harassment cases in court, showing that cross-examination is entirely consistent with the civil-rights laws. While there is no independent constitutional right to cross-examine in campus disciplinary proceedings, the right has sometimes been afforded by state education codes, collective bargaining agreements, or other contracts or regulations. Title IX does not require that these be disregarded, contrary to the Obama administration’s suggestions. Indeed, as the Supreme Court observed in its Davis decision, a school is entitled “to refrain from” disciplinary action that “would expose it to constitutional or statutory claims,” without risking Title IX liability.

More importantly, in a handful of campus disciplinary cases, such as Donohue v. Baker (1997), judges have ruled that cross-examination was constitutionally required on due-process grounds to test the credibility of the accuser.

The Obama administration’s guidance also overreaches in demanding that schools alter the burden of proof they use in disciplinary proceedings. On page 25 it says, “The school must use a preponderance-of-the-evidence . . . standard in any Title IX proceedings, including any fact-finding and hearings,” rather than a higher standard, like the traditional “clear and convincing evidence” standard. The Obama administration previously demanded that schools stop using the “clear and convincing” evidence standard, in an April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s colleges and schools.

For examples of seemingly-innocent students expelled or suspended from school based on very weak evidence, in the aftermath of the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In addition to attacking cross-examination, the guidance would also violate due process by unfairly preventing a student from exonerating himself based on relevant “sexual history” evidence permitted by even the most complainant-protective rape-shield and sexual-harassment-shield statutes (like Federal Rule of Evidence 412(b)). Federal rules of evidence permit the introduction of physical evidence suggesting that “someone other than the defendant” was involved (in certain rape cases), and permit evidence in sexual harassment cases of the complainant’s “sexual behavior or sexual predisposition if its probative value substantially outweighs the danger of harm to any victim and of unfair prejudice to any party,” such as whether the complainant earlier willingly engaged in a category of activity (such as sexual banter) that he or she later claimed to categorically hate engaging in.

The Education Department’s new guidance flatly bans any questioning about “sexual history” with people other than the accused, which may or may not extend beyond physical sexual activity to things like verbal discussion of sexual fantasies, which could be highly relevant in some cases. On page 31, it says, “May the complainant’s sexual history be introduced at hearings? Answer: Questioning about the complainant’s sexual history with anyone other than the alleged perpetrator should not be permitted.”

The Obama administration’s attack on cross-examination will undermine accuracy in campus disciplinary proceedings. The subjective component of the legal definition of sexual harassment means that there is no category of cases in which cross-examination is more useful or essential to ensure due process. To legally qualify as sexual harassment under Title IX, or racial harassment under Title VI, speech must be severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile learning environment for the listener, and interfere with the listener’s education, both in subjective and objective terms, according to court rulings like the Supreme Court’s 1999 Davis decision.

Transitory offense is not enough. If the accuser admits on questioning that she did not really view the offensive speech as being a “big deal,” or was not shocked or surprised by it, that probably rules out the existence of a subjectively hostile environment. Indeed, a federal appeals court dismissed a racial harassment claim for just that reason in Newman v. Federal Express Corp., 266 F.3d 401 (6th Cir. 2001).

But a wrongly-accused person may not be able to establish the absence of a subjectively-hostile atmosphere without questioning the accuser, and may not be able to show that the accuser wasn’t greatly impacted by the speech without cross-examining the accuser about its alleged effect on her and her studies, such as whether she continued to enjoy her college experience after overhearing the allegedly “harassing” remarks.

There is a fine line between protected speech about unpleasant sexual topics and unprotected sexual harassment, and it is crucial that accused people be able to prove that their speech did not amount to sexual harassment. Even sexually vulgar speech on political issues is protected on college campuses, as the Supreme Court’s Papish decision illustrates.

And perfectly civil, non-vulgar students have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings for sexual and racial harassment, in violation of the First Amendment, merely for expressing commonplace opinions about sexual and racial issues, like criticizing feminism or affirmative action, or discussing the racial implications of the death penalty. (See the examples cited in the Amicus brief of Students for Individual Liberty, et al., in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, available at 1998 WL 847365.)

To adequately defend themselves against sexual harassment charges over speech on sexual topics that doesn’t really amount to sexual harassment, people who are wrongly accused of sexual harassment will sometimes need to cross-examine their accuser to show that their speech did not really have any sexually harassing effect, and thus did not legally amount to sexual harassment, despite their accuser’s attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill. The Education Department’s attack on cross-examination will lead to free-speech violations, by resulting in students being convicted of harassment even when their speech did not create a subjectively-hostile environment, much less interfere with the accuser’s educational opportunities.

If the speech has not created such an environment, it has not caused tangible harm, and cannot be banned merely because a hypothetical listener might have objected to it. For example, in Meltebeke v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 903 P.2d 351 (Or. 1995), the Oregon Supreme Court struck down a religious small-business owner’s fine for religious harassment because the state agency’s harassment rule violated religious-freedom guarantees. Justice Unis, in his concurrence, noted that the rule also violated free speech, and was unconstitutionally overbroad, because it only required that the speech create a hostile environment for a hypothetical reasonable person — not for the actual complainant, who did not need to experience a subjectively-hostile environment.

The Education Department also orders colleges to use the lowest standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings over alleged sexual harassment and rape, known as the preponderance standard. Historically, most colleges and universities used a higher, “clear and convincing” evidence standard in student and faculty discipline cases of all types, to safeguard due process. As James Picozzi noted in 1987 in the Yale Law Journal, “Courts, universities, and student defendants all seem to agree that the appropriate standard of proof in student disciplinary cases is one of ‘clear and convincing’ evidence.” (James M. Picozzi, University Disciplinary Process: What’s Fair, What’s Due, and What You Don’t Get, 96 Yale L. J. 2132, 2159 n. 17 (1987); see also Nicholas Trott Long, The Standard of Proof in Student Disciplinary Cases, 12 J. College & U.L. 71 (1985).) Contrary to the Education Department’s claims, Title IX does not require a lower standard of evidence.

I earlier explained why the Education Department’s demand that colleges lower the standard of proof is legally erroneous, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, and is not required by Title IX at this link. I explained at a separate link why courts should not defer to the Education Department’s “guidance” on this subject due to its procedural and logical flaws.

The demand that colleges lower the standard of proof was originally made in a 2011 Education Department letter to school officials, known as the “Dear Colleague” letter. Its demands were criticized by many legal scholars, law professors, lawyers, civil-libertarians, and journalists, as well as groups like American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Obama Requests Plan to Teach the Teachers: Wants to Regulate Teacher Prep

Having a "great teacher" in every classroom is critical for the nation's success, the White House said on Friday, as it announced that President Obama has directed the Education Department to come up with a plan to strengthen America's teacher preparation programs.

Among other things, the Obama administration will use taxpayer money to pressure states to improve their teacher-prep programs, including those taught at colleges and universities.

For example, the administration will hand out TEACH grants only to students who attend "high-quality" teacher education programs. (The TEACH Grant Program provides up to $4000 a year to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income area.)

In addition, the administration says it will "encourage" all states to develop "meaningful" ways of identifying high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs.

It wants to see "bold new standards" for teacher prep programs, including "higher entry and exit standards" (tougher exams, in other words); and it wants states to collect data about where new teachers get jobs, how long they stay, and how well their students do.

The administration wants that information to be available to potential teachers and the public; and it wants more teachers to learn in "real schools with the help of master teachers."

"These critical changes will help to increase recognition for high-performing teacher preparation programs, and create a much-needed feedback loop to provide information to prospective teachers, schools and districts, and the general public, and drive improvement across programs," a White House fact sheet said.

The White House also notes that strengthened teacher preparation and support "will help to make teaching an increasingly desirable and rewarding career."

Diversity appears to be a factor as well.

An image on the Education Department's webpage says the nation's teaching force "does not reflect the increasing diversity of America's students." It also says 72 percent of students "are not prepared to address the needs of students with diverse cultural backgrounds."

According to the Education Department, almost two-thirds of new teachers say their teacher-prep program left them unprepared for the realities of the classroom.

The White House anticipates that its teacher-prep plan will be ready for "public discussion" by this summer, and it expects to issue regulations next year.

As previously reported, the Obama administration also plans to exert tighter control over the nation's colleges and universities by tying federal student aid to colleges that meet certain criteria, including access, affordability and how well students do in school and beyond.


Oxbridge 'fails poor graduates': New league finds universities are among worse for social mobility

You usually need a good social background as well as the "right" education to get to the top in Britain

Oxford is the second worst university for social mobility, a new league table claims.

It is among elite universities judged to be poor at propelling underprivileged students into top graduate jobs.

Michael Brown, former vice-chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, who compiled the list, said that ‘brand value’ was not everything. He called for all students to be taught job skills such as project management.

The rankings were labelled ‘strange’ by the Russell Group of 24 top universities, most of which came in the bottom half of the table. Oxford came 152nd out of 153 and Cambridge was 135th, while the School of Pharmacy in London came top.

Professor Brown said top universities had done badly mainly because most of their students are already from wealthy backgrounds.

Many less selective institutions are ‘doing a remarkable and better job’, he said, and Government policy should focus on careers as well as admissions for poorer children.

A Russell Group spokesman said the table put a lower value on students who chose to do a PhD and only looked at professional success six months after graduating.

In a report for the CentreForum liberal think-tank, Professor Brown devised a ranking which shows how well universities help poorer students land top jobs after graduating.

Professor Brown said Russell Group universities ‘do not fare well’, mainly because most of their students are drawn from the wealthiest social groups. [Only about half are]

But he also found that ‘many “less-selective” universities with wider ranges of student backgrounds’ are ‘doing a remarkable and better job of developing their graduates into professional employment’.

Professor Brown said Government policy had focused too narrowly on increasing the number of disadvantaged pupils getting to university in the first place, without considering how well they fare after leaving.

These students often lacked the contacts and know-how of their middle-class peers which helped them land professional jobs.

‘In terms of graduation performance and employment outcomes students from areas of high disadvantage have a lower success rate than those from more advantaged backgrounds,’ said Professor Brown.

‘And despite the political focus on access to Russell Group universities, the most selective institutions do not necessarily deliver the best professional graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students either. It is time to raise the game.’

He called on the Government to rank universities officially using a table similar to his own.

But Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said it rejected the findings of the report, branding its methods ‘strange’.  ‘For example, it puts a lower value on graduates who decide to carry on their studies - thereby suggesting that doing a masters or getting a PhD does not represent a step up the social ladder.

‘It fails, too, to recognise that those students from more disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to complete their degree at a Russell Group university than they are at other institutions.’

‘Finally, it takes only a snapshot of graduates’ jobs six months after they’ve left university. What graduates are doing six months after graduation is not a very good indicator of how much upward mobility they will achieve over a lifetime.

‘In fact, graduates from Russell Group universities go on to earn more than other graduates, are more likely to be in high-skilled jobs and earn 24 per cent more per hour than their peers from other universities.’


Head teachers raise 'serious concerns' over Islamic school take-over

Schools across Britain are likely to have been targeted in an alleged Islamist plot to take over classrooms, head teachers have warned.

The National Association of Head Teachers said it had found “concerted efforts” to infiltrate at least six schools in Birmingham.

But the union also said that the scandal had “connections” to other large cities.

The Telegraph understands that there are growing concerns about the possible infiltration of schools in Bradford, Manchester and parts of east London.

The acknowledgement from the professional body follows a series of exposés by The Telegraph which disclosed how a “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham had put schools under pressure illegally to segregate classrooms and change teaching to reflect radical Islamic beliefs.

On Friday, Ofsted confirmed that its investigation had spread from 18 to 21 schools in the city. The three additional schools are primaries.

In a statement, the head teachers’ association said attempts had been made to “alter their character in line with the Islamic faith”, including sidelining parts of the curriculum and attempting to influence the appointment of Muslim staff.

Russell Hobby, its general secretary, warned that the action was unlikely to be “limited to Birmingham”, adding: “I think it is connected into the large cities around the country.”

It is the first time a major teachers’ organisation has confirmed that such concerns exist. The plot involves the alleged takeover of secular state schools and the removal of secular head teachers by radical Muslim staff and governors.

Five non-Muslim heads have left their posts in a tiny area of the city over the past six months. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has ordered an inquiry into Birmingham schools.

An inspection report by the Department for Education, leaked to The Telegraph, found that girls at Park View school were made to sit at the back of the class, GCSE syllabuses were “restricted to comply with a conservative Islamic teaching” and an extremist preacher was invited to speak to children.

Last week it emerged that Tahir Alam, the alleged ringleader of the plot and chairman of governors at Park View, wrote a detailed blueprint for the “Islamisation” of state schools in 2007.

Speaking at the NAHT annual conference in Birmingham on Friday, Mr Hobby said that there was no “cause for panic” and insisted few conclusions could be drawn until the completion of separate inquiries by Ofsted, the Department for Education, Birmingham council and West Midland Police.

Addressing a press briefing, Mr Hobby said the union had been supporting about 30 members in the city in around a dozen schools.

He said there were “serious concerns in half that”, confirming that the six schools involved are among those being investigated by Ofsted.

Areas of “collective concern” included “pressure” on heads to adopt “certain philosophies and approaches” and over the appointment of teachers, he said.

In a few cases, schools risked “eroding the basic entitlement of children to a rounded education”, he added.

Mr Hobby will cover the issue in a keynote speech to the conference on Saturday.

He will say: “Schools should not be places for indoctrination in any creed or ideology, political or religious.”

In a statement, Ofsted said Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, had visited Birmingham last week to help lead the inquiry and that Ofsted had inspected additional primary schools this week.