Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Head of top girls' school blames health and safety childhood of today's students for anti-free speech 'safe space' culture

Children have been brought up in such a 'cosseted' world that universities have become a haven for extreme politics and intolerance of free speech, a leading head teacher has warned.

Jenny Brown, head of St Albans High School for Girls, in Hertfordshire, said today's generation have a 'monstrous inability' to tolerate any views which are risky, challenging or different to their own. When they do, claims arise of feeling 'unsafe' and victimised.

In a blog for The Sunday Times, Brown said: 'These children of the millennium didn't play unsupervised, they didn't play outside ... they didn't climb trees, grub up or get back for supper with torn jeans and wet wellies.

Jenny Brown, headteacher of St Albans High School for Girls, has said today's generation have experienced such a 'cosseted' upbringing that they can no longer cope with views that are risky or different to their own
Jenny Brown, headteacher of St Albans High School for Girls, has said today's generation have experienced such a 'cosseted' upbringing that they can no longer cope with views that are risky or different to their own

'The state and the education system have fetishised protection, parents have cosseted their children; even our decades of prosperity and peacetime have skewed things for middle-class kids, who have had no experience of the privations and dangers that their grandparents endured.'

There have been numerous recent examples of the anti-free speech 'safe space' culture of today's world.

In October, 2,500 people signed a petition calling on Cardiff University to ban feminist Germaine Greer from speaking on campus after she publicly declared she did not consider transgender women to be women.

The event went ahead, with the university saying it was 'committed to freedom of speech and open debate'.

Similarly, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell came under fire in February by Fran Cowling, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representative for the National Union of Students.

She refused to appear at a debate the pair were both invited to speak at because Tatchell had signed an open letter in the Observer last year supporting free speech and against no-platforming, the practice by some universities to ban speakers because of their views.

She also accused him of being racist and 'transphobic'.

Under fire: There have been calls to ban gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and feminist Germaine Greer from speaking at university campuses by protesters who disagree with their views

Three years ago, T-shirts bearing the religious images of Jesus and Mohammed were banned from the London School of Economics (LSE) campus for fear of causing offence.  After a complaint was lodged, the university acknowledged the clothes had not in fact 'amounted to harassment or contravened the law or LSE policies'.

In response, National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson said: 'We congratulate students for their fearless defence of freedom of expression.  'I hope that we will now see a more sensible approach to free expression that does not rest on protecting the sensibilities of any one particular group.

'We all have to learn that being offended is an inevitable part of life, having one's fondest beliefs challenged is part of a free society.'

Students at Cambridge and Oxford meanwhile launched campaigns to remove statues they deem as controversial.

Last month saw students at Jesus College, Cambridge, voting in favour of returning a bronze cockerel statue to Nigeria, from where it was looted in the 19th Century.

The Nigerian Benin Bronze is one of more than 2,000 which sit in museums and collections across the globe. Nigeria itself has only 50 examples of these particular artworks.

It was given to the college as a reference to the surname of founder John Alcock, the bishop and architect who constructed the college.

Meanwhile, campaigners are calling on the removal of the statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, regarded as a founder of apartheid, from Oriel College, Oxford, where he was a student and benefactor.

Brown believes today's students are too caught up in the notion of remaining 'safe',

She added: 'Let's remind these precious puritanical university students of what those young people at Calais, enduring seriously unsafe space, might give for the right to face some of the discomforts our undergraduates retreat from.'


Massachusetts: There’s fear of math. Then there’s fear of ‘Russian math.’

There’s fear of math. And then there’s fear of Russian math, a private K-12 enrichment program cofounded by an immigrant in her Newton dining room in 1997. It has since grown to 32 locations in nine states and an online program and along the way earned such a reputation for intensity that some parents use it as a threat.

"If your attitude doesn’t improve," Mary Lewis-Pierce of Jamaica Plain told her fourth-grader, "I’m sending you to Russian math."

By her own admission, Lewis-Pierce has no firsthand knowledge, but she’s heard about Russian-math-induced tears. Hours of homework. Impossibly hard equations. "I picture mean Russian women teaching math in some gulag," she said.

Let’s say right up front that while class time and homework for high schoolers taking Russian math can top six hours a week, there are no gulags. Classes are taught in pleasant towns such as Belmont and Marblehead and Wellesley. Recess is given.

But what is Russian math, anyway?

It is more of an approach than an entirely new kind of math. The idea is that students are capable of understanding complex mathematical concepts at a far younger age than they are introduced in US schools, making kids stretch their brains. Think algebra in first grade.

With more than 11,000 students enrolled in nine Massachusetts locations and online, and plans to open centers soon in Weston and Burlington, the Russian School of Mathematics is one of the biggest math-enrichment programs in the region.

Its popularity — and that of programs such as Kumon, Kohlberg Math Learning Center , Girls’ Angle , and the free online Khan Academy — comes at a time when the country is increasingly focused on the importance of math education.

Some parents send their children for extra math because they fear they aren’t strong enough in the subject. Others want their children to have a competitive advantage when applying to selective colleges. Some families just love math and invest in extracurricular academic programs the way others do sports and music lessons.

There’s also a perception that public schools around the country don’t teach the subject well — a concern that isn’t new, according to Jon Star, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

"For at least the past 200 years in the US, we have been engaged in frequent, almost continual conversations about how we teach math in schools," he wrote in an e-mail.

RSM tuition averages about $2,000 a year. The school says it discounts the price when families of existing students "experience financial hardship," but it does not offer scholarships.

The school touts impressive results on its website. "RSM’s 11th grade SAT average is 774 out of 800." And: "For the past 3 years, over 75 percent of the Massachusetts Math Kangaroo Olympiad winners were RSM students!"

Lots of families — with the financial wherewithal to do so — sign up. And many of their friends and relatives have basic questions, such as: Is it math taught in Russian? By Russians? And why Russian math? Aren’t they better known for literature and communism and vodka? (No.)

And, finally: Are the teachers as scary as some say?

School leaders appear to have heard that last question before. When it was put to them on a recent Sunday morning, as students began arriving for the 8:45 class, the principal and three colleagues allowed themselves a tolerant chuckle.  "A lot of our teachers are parents themselves," Ralitsa Dimitrova, the principal said, disputing the characterization.

As for the bigger question — what is Russian math? — Ilya Rifkin, chief operating officer, began by contrasting it with other approaches.

"The biggest difference is if you give a new [Russian math] student a problem they’ve never seen before, they will look at the problem and say, ‘I don’t know,’ " he said. But if you give a new problem to a veteran student, he explained, "they’ll look and look and look and say, ‘I don’t know, but I have a couple of ideas.’ "

The school introduces algebra in first grade, and fundamental concepts of geometry in sixth grade — "significantly earlier" than most US schools, where the material is introduced in the sixth and seventh grades, and eighth and ninth grades, respectively, said Masha Rifkin, the school’s outreach director.

The math is not taught in Russian, but many of the teachers are from the former Soviet Union and were brought up with the Soviet methodology of math education, Masha Rifkin said.

And the approach, developed by Inessa Rifkin, is definitely Russian: It’s based on the theories of a Russian psychologist named Lev Vygotsky , who died in 1934 at age 38.

As the school explains on its website, under the heading "What makes our math ‘Russian?’ " — "Vygotsky recognized that education can stimulate intellectual development.

"By specifically targeting the edge of a student’s current understanding (or his or her ‘Zone of Proximal Development’) you provide mental exercises that challenge the mind in the same way that physical exercise in sports challenges the body."

Greater Boston is filled with Russian math dropouts. In Andover, Tracey Spruce and her young children fought so much about Russian math homework, and her son, then a second-grader, became so anxious about homework and class, that after a couple of years in the program the family quit.

"I finally came to the conclusion that I was not willing to sacrifice my kids’ mental health for math excellence," Spruce said.

But on Sunday morning in Newton, the students were as enthusiastic as infomercial stars.

"I really like learning intervals," said Liv Davidson, 9, a third-grader at Bates Elementary School in Wellesley.

"I like to learn multiplication and division," said Christina Gabrieli, a third-grader at Dexter Southfield, a private school in Brookline.

Christina’s mother, Susan Gabrieli, a scientist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mentioned that three of Christina’s cousins who took Russian math are now at Harvard and a fourth has been accepted.

The scene in Tatyana Bisikalo’s fifth-grade honors class was similarly buoyant. The 10 students gasped when she handed out compasses.

"This is super cool," one girl said, as another chattered happily about Venn diagrams.

Some parents believe it’s wrong to add to a child’s academic burden, while others fear their children will fall behind if they don’t take extra classes.

In Brookline, Aliza Dash is partially regretting her decision to opt out of Russian math when her son and daughter, now high schoolers, were young. "I thought, why torture children?"  But now their peers who did take Russian math are thriving, she said. "I feel like I set my children up for failure."

Fear of Russian math: Turns it out strikes fear whether you do it or don’t.


A student grabs his deputy principal by the THROAT in an Australian high school playground

Something not mentioned below: The students at that school are almost entirely Muslim. It is just Muslims being Muslims and showing their usual contempt for the rest of us. Their religion teaches them that contempt

The shocking moment a senior student grabbed his deputy principal by the throat has been caught on camera.

The Granville Boys' High School student was caught on tape storming towards one of the school’s three deputy principals, Noel Dixon, before taking hold of him by the throat.

The deputy principal resisted the attack and removed the boy’s hand from around his neck.

Moments later another student pulled the dark-haired boy away from the altercation.

The angry student led dozens of Granville School students through the playground before launching his attack.

Some of his peers tried to stop him before he got to the deputy principal, but were unable to.

The Department of Education told 7 News the school doesn’t tolerate violence, and that strong disciplinary action has been taken against the young man in the video.

The student is believed to be in Year 12. Police have been notified of the assault.

It is not the first time the western Sydney school has been in the media for violence.

In 2011 a student was stabbed in the stomach six times.

In 2008 18 people were hospitalised after the students were involved in a brawl at Merrylands High.


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