Monday, February 29, 2016

African studies

As I am sure most readers here will be acutely aware, many American universities and colleges now have schools of African studies.  And at the core of such studies are claims that the role of Africans in history has been largely ignored or underestimated.  And by recounting little-known stories of achievements by blacks in the past they certainly do no harm and may right a real imbalance in conventional history.  Depending on the teacher, however,  students may also  be told that just about everything invented by whites was in fact invented by blacks. 

I thought it was time for me to say something about that type of  claim  so I spent a little time looking at the writings of a man who was prominent in the creation of black studies and who made such claims, Dr. John Henrik Clarke.  The child of sharecroppers, he was clearly a rather clever man and some of his aphorisms are good.  I was rather taken with this one: "A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson".  That certainly holds true of a classroom full of black students but less so of my experiences in teaching white High School students.

There is surprisingly little of his writings available online but his essay here would appear to summarize most of his contentions.  It starts out on a very strange note.  He says: "Africa and its people are the most written about and the least understood of all of the world's people".  Africans are more written about than the Jews, the Greeks or the Romans? It's clearly not true but Clarke gives neither reasoning nor reference for the statement.  And it is a statement he repeated often so he clearly takes the claim very seriously.

And the rest of his essay is of that kind:  A string of questionable assertions unsupported by any recitation of detailed facts or references to sources for each statement.  So the essay is very unscholarly.  More than that, I am sure that I am not the only psychologist who would recognize it as the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic.  Paranoids do in general sound reasonable and even persuasive in their delusions -- until you check what they say and find that what they say happened did not happen or was grossly misinterpreted.  Clarke is just imagining things.

But paranoid delusions are not random.  They do have inspiration from somewhere.  And Clarke does tell us his inspirations.  He says that he and his ilk "are using neglected documents by radical White Scholars who are generally neglected by the White academic community".  He is inspired by the distorted writings of hate-filled far Left historians.  It is clear that their writings would suit him but, as with Leftists generally, they only tell half the story in arriving at their conclusions.  Leftists have a very shaky relationship with the truth.

The thing that most clearly shows most of black history as fantasy is its lack of specificity.  When an invention or discovery is mentioned in conventional history you usually get some details:  The name and historical era of the inventor/discoverer, the year of the invention/discovery and some details of what led up to the invention/discovery. And you can normally find plenty of corroboration of those details and further details from multiple sources.  When it is claimed that the claimed inventor/discoverer of something was not whom we are usually told but rather some black man, most of those details are missing.  You are lucky if you even get a name for the alleged black man.  So it is clearly wishful thinking, not fact.

So black studies contain a lot of pseudo scholarship.

Nothing that I have said does of course take anything away from those blacks who have made genuine contributions to knowledge, science and technology -- such as the remarkable George Washington Carver and Madam C. J. Walker, whose contributions are recognized in conventional history.

Harvard University removes the word master from its academic titles after protests over slavery and considers changing its official seal

Harvard University has confirmed they will abolish the word master from academic titles due to its racist connotations and links to slavery and are considering changing their official seal.

College Dean Rakesh Khurana announced in an email to students that House leaders decided to change the title 'to reflect the current realities of the role' and it had been approved by the Massachusetts university president.

It comes as the school also debates whether to scrap their seal which features the crest of the former slaveholding Royall family.

Isaac Royall, born in 1719 in Antigua, was the son of wealthy sugar plantation and the owner of many slaves. 

House masters are the heads of the 12 halls of residence and are responsible for overseeing the pastoral care of undergraduates.

Ivy League institutions adopted the term from British schools, notably Oxford and Cambridge, where 'master' is short for 'schoolmaster'.

However, in the American context, it has been criticized for its associations for slavery.

And in an email, seen by the Washington Post, Mr Khurana said: 'I write on behalf of myself and my fellow residential House leaders to let you know that the House Masters have unanimously expressed desire to change their title.

'In the coming weeks, the College will launch a process in which members of the House leaders' docket committee, working with senior College team members and the House leadership community as a whole, will suggest a new title that reflects the current realities of the role.'

The decision came after Mr Khurana previously told students that a committee ‘will suggest a new title that reflects the current realities of the role' over the coming weeks.

‘I have not felt comfortable personally with the title,' he told the college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

‘The recommendation to change the title has been a thoughtful one, rooted in a broad effort to ensure that the College's rhetoric, expectations and practices around our historically unique roles reflects and serves the 21st century needs of residential student life.'

A Facebook page describing itself as a ‘union' of white Harvard students then emerged at the university, prompting outrage among students.

Critics denounced the group as racist, and the discovery sparked an investigation into how the group came about.

The page includes a description which claims that it was formed to ‘defend the inherent rights of White Europeans'.

There are also links to the website of the American Renaissance, a group listed as a White Nationalist extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Protests concerning the issue of race are sweeping through universities across the nation.

Supporters believe that the protesters' demands for greater racial awareness is a sign of progress. But others complain the demands are interfering with colleges and universities as places of education.

Princeton University has also made changes to reflect growing racial awareness.

It announced that it would be changing the title ‘master of the residential college' to ‘head of the college', on November 18.

The administration at Princeton is still deciding whether to remove references to President Woodrow Wilson, who led the university from 1902 to 1910, but who many students claim was a racist.

Yale's president Peter Salovey also said that he had been discussing whether to make a change to remove the word ‘master' from titles since the beginning of the school year.


British private pupils are two years ahead of state rivals by the age of 16 and would out perform the best European nations, study finds

Pupils at private schools are two years ahead of their rivals in the state system by the age of 16, a study suggests.

Children in the independent sector are more successful at GCSE in all subjects – by up to two exam grades.

Compared with teenagers internationally, those at British paid-for schools would out-perform the best European nations and match rigorously-taught pupils in Japan and South Korea.

The study, commissioned by the Independent Schools Council (ISC), will cast doubt on recent claims that state schools are catching up with their private counterparts.

Julie Robinson, of the ISC, said it proved private pupils still enjoy relatively higher returns for their schooling. She added that the report gives ‘us solid ground to say that based on academic results, independent schools are worth paying for'.

The research by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University examined the differences in attainment between pupils in the two sectors from junior or prep school through to GCSE.

It tried to assess only differences which could be credited to attendance at independent schools alone, without factors such as prior ability and family background being considered.

With these factors taken into account, the researchers noted ‘the evidence from this study suggests similar students achieve more in independent schools than in state schools'.

The research found pupils in the independent sector have an advantage over their peers at all ages, beginning at four.

The difference between independent and state schools in the average of best eight GCSEs was just under two grades.

However, when prior academic ability, deprivation and gender were taken into account, the difference was 0.64 exam grades. The report authors admitted there may be some factors they had not accounted for.

But they said: ‘This difference equates to a gain of about two years' progress and suggests attending an independent school is associated with the equivalent of two additional years of schooling by 16.' The greatest differences were in French, history and geography while the smallest were in chemistry, physics and biology.

Researchers said that compared internationally, UK private school pupils as a group would outperform those in Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands – Europe's highest-achieving nations. They would be on a par with rivals in Japan and Korea.

Professor Robert Coe, who contributed to the study, said: ‘It is always difficult to unpick the causes of any differences, and we think it is unlikely to be purely an effect of better teaching, but we find a clear and significant difference in the GCSEs achieved that is not explained by any of the factors we can account for.'


A very grim report card for Muslim schools management in Australia

Something rotten is happening at our Muslim schools. Over the past six years, hand-wringing bureaucrats, politicians and a media scared of the label “Islamophobic” have allowed the parasite of institutional corruption to slowly take over its host.

It's a state of affairs that in two months could prompt chaos: a major high school forced to shut, with the education of its 2400 students thrown into turmoil.

Muslim schools are big business and they are booming. Islamic colleges are the fastest growing schools, with enrolments increasing at a clip nine times faster than their mainstream counterparts. Between 2009 and 2014, Muslim students surged from 15,503 at 32 schools to 28,267 attending 39 schools — an increase of 82 per cent. In contrast, enrolments at all schools grew by just 6 per cent over the same period, to 3.7 million.

There are six schools controlled by Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. They received $42 million from taxpayers in 2013, plus $21.5m for new buildings and other capital works between 2009 and 2013. In 2014 and 2015 this will be at least $45m.

The largest is Malek Fahd Islamic School based in Greenacre in Sydney's southwest, with 2400 students across three campuses.

The school was due to receive $20m in commonwealth funding this year. But it won't. Federal education minister Simon Birmingham has ordered funding cut off in April following an audit report from Deloitte, which found serious issues of financial management and governance of all AFIC schools.

Two weeks ago the minister said the excuses from Malek Fahd simply weren't good enough. Last week the board was forced to resign and the school is in limbo.

Despite the school reassuring parents this week that it has enough funds to remain open, senior education department figures tell The Australian that, without commonwealth funding, Malek Fahd cannot last much longer than a week. As to what happens to its pupils, at this stage nobody can say.

Professional educator Rafaat El-Hajje was principal at Malek Fahd. The nuclear physics PhD lasted six months before he quit in disgust.

“These people have no idea about what governance was or any idea about professional education,” El-Hajje says. “There were about three people who ran the show, and now they're all fighting among themselves again. But it's the kids who miss out, it's the parents and the teachers.”

When he resigned in February 2013 El-Hajje wrote to NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli begging that he freeze its funding until the board was replaced. El-Hajje is highly critical of both state and federal governments: they took too long to act, they didn't ensure the board was replaced after numerous warnings.

“The government just never pulled the cord on them. They were supposed to pay $9m back and they didn't. I brought it to their attention, a Queensland principal brought it to their attention. They just didn't act.”

In its defence the NSW education department says it is monitoring the situation.

El-Hajje blames political and bureaucratic intransigence for failing to act on the corruption that The Australian has documented for six years. “The minister said it wasn't his problem, the NSW education department said it was board of studies problem, the commonwealth department said it was someone else's problem. It just got shuffled around. Maybe if they had acted sooner the school wouldn't be in this position.”

El-Hajje is sceptical of the intentions of some at the school, who might see a closure as a get out of jail free card. “There will be people who think that if the school closes there will be no more investigations into where the money went so maybe they don't mind.”

The six AFIC schools have 5481 students, a 53 per cent rise in five years. Usually, these schools receive the highest possible funding from governments as they are populated by students from poorer and non-English speaking backgrounds.

Back in 2011 The Australian reported that the AFIC had siphoned off $5.2m worth of funds from the Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney.

The day after the report a media release was put out by then AFIC president Ikebal Patel decrying its inaccuracies. It also implied it was driven by an anti-Muslim agenda and demanded an apology and retraction (neither was ever given).

All six AFIC schools have been subjects of media reports and government funding freezes in the past few years. At one point the NSW government even demanded it repay $9m of state funds; a directive the school promptly ignored and challenged in court. Now, it is even contemplating a legal challenge to the withdrawal of the $20m.

Parents like Fazel Qayum and children like his two daughters, both enrolled at Malek Fahd, are paying the price for the behaviour of the school board and the inaction of education authorities. Qayum, a Stanhope Garden local, drives his daughters, Sabah and Sana Qayum, in Years 11 and 4, to MFIS two hours each way because of its “academic reputation”.

“It's not the children's fault. The people who misused funds, they're the ones who should be held responsible. The school belongs to the kids, not the principal,” he says.

“I want the school to run. We live in a society of law and order ... the board should be taken to court. (But) the children should not pay”

His daughter, Sabah Qayum, is in Year 11. “All the students are devastated. I'm in my second last year, the HSC is just (around) the corner)”

To add to the stress of her Higher School Certificate exams is the likelihood she'll have to find a new school. “Everyone's worried about not being accepted (into schools)”.

The Australian has obtained the Deloitte report to the government which paints a disturbing picture of what was taking place at Malek Fahd.

Under Australian law, schools must not operate for profit to be considered viable for commonwealth funding.

The Deloitte report confirmed previous reports in The Australian that millions of dollars was siphoned out of the school into AFIC via unexplained “project management” and “accounting and salary services” — seemingly for services that never existed.

There was also evidence of millions in inflated rent for the school land paid to AFIC.

The government's findings following the Deloitte report were a clear indictment of AFIC and the school board, who were often one and the same.

“Money has not been applied for the purposes of the school or for the function of the authority (Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited), and money has also been distributed (whether directly or indirectly) to an owner of the authority, or any other person,” department of education official Michael Crowther wrote.

“I also consider that the quality of the policies and practices in place for MFISL are inconsistent with the basic requirement for MFISL to be not-for-profit.”

The audit found that over $500,000 was paid by the school to a company Casifarm Pty Ltd, run by school board member and one-time AFIC spokesman Amjad Mehboob. Services it provided could not be clearly identified.

Last year Mehbood and former “business manager” Agim Garana were sacked from the school amid the commonwealth probe in an attempt by AFIC president and school board chairman Hafez Kassem to demonstrate he was cleaning up the school.

In an almost humorous twist, Mehboob appeared on ABC television the same day the funding cut was announced demanding Hafez Kassem step down, seemingly oblivious that his own behaviour included in the Deloitte report that led in part to the commonwealth decision.

Look around the country and the story at other AFIC run schools is no better. Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Melbourne are beset by governance problems.

The federal minister has recommended the tens of millions in annual commonwealth funding to all other schools be cut if they can't show cause to be kept open.

At the Islamic College of Brisbane, the audit report found that millions of dollars in loans between AFIC and the school were unaccounted for. The Brisbane school is subject to a Queensland state department and police investigation.

Deloitte found numerous governance failings at the Canberra school, evidence of millions of dollars in unaccounted for loans to AFIC and found the school was barely financially viable.

The Melbourne school is accused of hardline religious teaching and allegedly threatened to send home children who missed morning prayer and Koran recital. Following the audit the commonwealth found the school was not operating as a non-for-profit.

The Islamic College of South Australia is beset with problems, including allegations of inappropriate payments to AFIC. The government found the school failed the “fit and proper person” test as well as the not-for-profit requirements.

Someone who knows all about the nature of the brutal infighting at AFIC is its former president, lawyer Haset Sali. Sali was a founding AFIC president 40 years ago and served as a legal adviser to the Muslim body before the current cabal kicked him out in 2006.

Sali describes the culture at AFIC as “toxic” and AFIC-managed Muslim schools as “tragic”. “These people have exploited the situation to their own advantage while taking advantage of the mainly poorer people who tried to get their children what used to be a good education.”

He says the boards should be sacked, professional administrators appointed and reforms made to mirror more professional independent networks like the Catholic school system.

The qualifications for running a Muslim school are woefully low. Pretty much anyone with a property and desire to set shop can make millions. “Muslim schools do not have that centralisation or professionalism. AFIC schools could contribute but they need to be run properly,” Sali says.

Sali has greater concerns: the way the toxin of corruption can leave a void of ethical Muslim leaders, which can lead young people towards Islamic extremism. “These people have just been taking, giving nothing back and couldn't care less that we've ended up with an Islamic subculture,” Sali says.

“Unfortunately a lot young people don't know where else to look for guidance, which leads to the rise of unqualified imams and the attraction of groups like IS.”

But come April, the pressing concern will be the education of 2400 students. While the AFIC schools are in the spotlight, at least four other non-AFIC Muslim schools have had their funding frozen in recent years by the NSW department over financial mismanagement, only to have the tap turned on soon after.

El-Hajje takes a dim view of the bulk of the Muslim schools that Malek Fahd students could be forced to go to. “I don't trust any of these other Muslim schools. They're intent on empire building and making money.”


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