Monday, August 17, 2015

UK: Pupils behaving badly

For a new teacher looking forward to starting a new post, there is one thought above all that brings fear and trepidation into his or her heart: will the kids behave? Indeed, how do teachers command the attention of 30 young people and hold sway over a classroom? To most adults, this prospect is their idea of hell. But, if teachers can master their nerves, teaching is their chance to make a real difference to the lives of their pupils.

I don’t mean this in the sense of addressing society’s ills or challenging the injustices that the young face in the world. I mean teachers can make a real difference by imparting knowledge of the world to their pupils and helping them make sense of it. This is the way teachers change lives: by opening up whole new realms of understanding that their pupils would not otherwise experience. And herein lies the challenge for teachers: they have to believe that what they are teaching is the most important thing in the world for their pupils to learn. This is the source of their authority in the classroom. It is what gives them the right to stand in front of pupils and demand their attention.

Developing this sense of authority is not a straightforward task. And it’s no good looking for affirmation outside of the classroom, because we live in a society that constantly undermines the authority of adults in general. Wherever you look, we are all being told we are doing it wrong. Whether it’s Tristram Hunt, Labour’s education spokesman, criticising parents for not ‘getting down on all fours’ and speaking to their children as toddlers, or the obsession with looking for answers in the Chinese education system, adults are encouraged to think that we don’t really know how best to raise and educate children.

It is for this reason that the problem of school discipline has become so intractable. According to UK government figures released in July, 240 primary-school pupils were permanently excluded for assaulting adults in the 2013/14 school year. On the one hand, it seems outrageous that teachers can’t seem to deal with pupils below the age of 11. On the other hand, some pupils now become lost to us from a very young age.

When the schools minister, Nick Gibb, tried to relax the guidance dictating the circumstances under which headteachers can permanently exclude a child from school – changing the standard from ‘would seriously harm the education or welfare of others’ to ‘would be detrimental to the education or welfare of others’ – he was attacked by children’s charities and advocacy groups. According to them, he was marginalising pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and pupils from ethnic-minority backgrounds, both of whom are over-represented in the exclusion figures. But this was not the issue here; Gibb was trying, somewhat clumsily, to help headteachers exert more control over the behaviour of pupils in general. The new guidance was quickly rescinded, but the question remains: why do we have to exclude pupils in the first place? Why can’t we get pupils to behave without resorting to such extreme measures?

It is too easy to blame allegedly feckless parents, who defend their children’s actions by claiming teachers are singling them out. Parents can, with some justification, complain about the arbitrary nature of a school’s disciplinary methods when they seem to serve no purpose other than to exert control over pupils. What we are missing here is that teachers and parents should work together in order to get the best out of each and every child.

In one sense, this means that, as a new teacher, the people you really want to impress are the pupil’s parents; win over the parents and the child will follow. That is why new teachers should take parents’ evenings very seriously. That brief chat with a child’s family cements the common purpose you share in helping the child succeed. However, in the broader sense, this means all adults sharing a common belief in the need to encourage young people to work hard not only for their own sake, but also so that they can one day inherit and shape the world we all share. That responsibility rests on all of our shoulders.


"Social Justice" Rules U.S. Schools

Cool mornings in August, the smells they bring, and the chirping of crickets during the day all remind me September is very near. Automatically and unbidden come the familiar, bittersweet feelings of another school year approaching. They waft over me for a second or two before I remember that my life is no longer controlled the school calendar. I'm free of it. I'm detached. I'm liberated and I like it, especially when I see many of the trends that drove me out of public education accelerating.

Seattle public schools are implanting IUDs (Intra-uterine devices) in girls as young as sixth grade. That's shocking enough, but what's worse is they're doing it without parental permission!

I retired from public school only four years ago, but when I read stories like this it seems like a century. We used to get memos warning us that students may not take a Tylenol without written permission from parents, but now the school can implant a birth control device in an eleven or twelve-year-old girl's uterus without her parents even knowing about it? What's going on?

Left wing sites like hail the practice as liberating and do not mention that it's done without parental knowledge or permission. To read their article, it's all good and exciting. Salon quotes Katie Acker, a health educator at one Seattle school: "It's absolutely amazing and crazy. The birth control culture, for lack of a better term, and the conversations have just changed so much ... conversations are just happening so openly and so excitedly. There's so much pride around, ‘I've got this method, I've got this method [say students to each other].' It's not a hush-hush thing anymore."

Isn't that wonderful? I agree with Acker when she say's "It's absolutely amazing and crazy." After that, she loses me. At one point Acker described how excited she was when the whole girl's gymnastic team gathered around as an IUD was implanted in the uterus of one of their teammates. Clearly, Acker sees sex between middle schoolers and teenagers as wonderful. Investigating her profile in the King County School System, I can see nothing about cautioning her students to avoid sex until they were older. I suspect she'd look at me blankly if I suggested students might wait until marriage for sexual activity. She especially recommends a site called "Bedsider" for her students. Browsing it, I found lots of suggestions for how girls could overcome inhibitions and enjoy themselves.

Parents, probably born way back in in the regressive 20th century, are seen as obstacles to an enlightened 21st century "progressive" lifestyle. Conservative sites pointed out that students in Seattle Schools could not buy a can of Coca Cola in school, but they could have IUDs and hormonal implants inserted into their bodies. How do they reconcile this? Is there no reaction from parents in Washington? Has leftist Kool Aid been added to the water supply up there? Has the left become so dominant that conservative parents have been intimidated into silence?

Teachers' unions endorse all this. Public school "health" classes in California elementary schools encourage students to ask themselves how they know whether they're male or female. The Los Angeles Times reports that: "Starting this fall, students applying to the University of California will have the option to choose among six gender identities listed on undergraduate admissions forms: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming and different identity." Who is behind this? Former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who is now president of the University of California system.

Clearly our public schools, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary see themselves as agents of social change. Sixties radical terrorist and Obama good buddy Bill Ayers, for example, became an education professor at the University of Illinois where he instructed public school teachers that their primary mission as teachers was to bring about social change - not instructing students in reading, writing and arithmetic.

Ayers was not alone up there in Illinois. He's representative of an enormous trend in public education across the United States. What is "social change" in their minds? Again, Janet Napolitano is instructing her professors not to say things like: "America is the land of opportunity," "There is only one race, the human race" and "I believe the most qualified person should get the job." These, according to, are considered "microaggressions" and indicative of subconscious racism in anyone who may utter them.

Other examples of "microaggressive" speech at the University of California include "America is a melting pot" and "Affirmative Action is racist." All of these "microaggressions" are phrases I used regularly when I taught US History, along with "Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough." Clearly, neither I nor anybody who thinks like me, is suitable to teach in our brave new schools anymore. It feels good to be out.   


Half Australia’s unis in world elite as QUT joins top 500 in ARWU

It should be noted that, although it is the oldest, the Shanghai Jiao Tong index is only one approach to ranking universities.  That being said, I am mildly pleased that UQ did so well.  I graduated from there and my son still goes there

Australia now has more than half its public universities listed in a prestigious international ranking after Queensland University of Technology made the top 500 for the first time.

Melbourne University was again named Australia’s best university by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, being placed at 44th in the world for a second year in a row.

Making up four universities in the top 100, Melbourne was followed by Australian National University and the University of Queensland, both on 77, and the University of Western Australia on 87.

Australia now has 20 universities in the top 500, with its overall strong performance consolidated by three institutions — Curtin, Wollongong and Deakin — all making a significant move upwards in the Chinese-based ranking.

Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of Melbourne University, said he was incredibly relieved with the result having watched governments in Asia and Europe lift research investment in their universities.

“Having 20 universities in the top 500 is something to be proud of. That helps us attract the best international students which gives us the income to stay competitive,” Professor Davis said.

The ARWU, which comes out of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, is based on objective measures of research performance, such as academic papers and citations and the number of Nobel laureates a university has produced. It bears no reflection on teaching quality.

Tony Sheil, an expert in university rankings from Griffith University, said Australia was the only medium-sized world economy “with half its university system ranked in the world elite”.

“For the first time Australia matches Canada and Italy and is well ahead of Japan which has ‘lost’ 18 universities in the top 500 since 2003. Japan originally had 36 institutions listed and was at the time by far the strongest performer among Asian countries,” Mr Sheil said.

“This is a remarkable advance for the credibility of the Australian higher education model.” Mr Sheil said.

Peter Coaldrake, head of QUT, said big investments in science and engineering had finally paid off after his institutions’ inclusion in the ARWU having proved “elusive” for many years.

He said his and other universities had been hiring high-performing professors from around the world which was contributing to Australia’s overall strong performance.

Harvard was listed the world’s best university for the 13th year in a row. It was followed by Stanford, MIT, University of California Berkeley and Cambridge.


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