Thursday, July 07, 2016

UK: Strikes are 'futile' and harm children's education, teachers told

As ever, the teachers want more money for less work

A teachers' strike is a 'futile and politically motivated gesture’ that harms pupils' education and portrays educators as ‘militant hardliners’, the head of a teaching union has warned ahead of a national walkout over pay and funding for schools.

Last month, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted in favour of industrial action over pay, working conditions and ‘underfunding’ of schools in what many believe will cause huge disruptions to most schools in the country.

Hundreds of schools are expected to either fully close or partially close across England on Tuesday. In some cases, teachers will not show up to specific lessons, the union believes.

The strike could be one of a series this summer but the Department for Education (DfE) has said the action is 'unnecessary' and 'damaging'.

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, the union which was founded on the principle of not taking industrial action, has said that striking is a ‘political action’ which shouldn’t be considered even as “a last resort”.
Politically motivated

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, she said strikes ‘damage schools’.

She explained: “[Strikes] fail to impact on those responsible for disputed policies but do provide ammunition for politicians and politically-motivated commentators eager to portray teachers as militant hardliners who are unwilling to compromise.

“Instead, they cause great inconvenience ... for pupils, parents and non-striking colleagues across the school team, damaging pupils education, staffroom relations and the economy, as many parents are forced to take time off work.”

She added: “Futile, politically-motivated, gesture-politics strikes simply strengthen the case for government interference and further rob the profession of the opportunity to wrest education away from political ideology.”

    Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the NUT said: “The NUT is aware that strike action can be disruptive to parents and carers and for that we wholeheartedly apologise.

    “Equally, teachers do not take strike action lightly. The problems facing education, however, are too great to be ignored and we know many parents share our concerns.

    “The strike is about the underfunding of our schools and the negative impact it is having on children’s education and teachers’ terms and conditions.”


Ending Racial Preferences in Higher Education… Finally.  It can be done

The Supreme Court's recent 4-3 ruling upholding racial preferences in higher education (Fisher v. Texas) is merely the latest installment of a Wrack-A-Mole game that began with the 1978 Bakke decision. The game is simple: universities, despite the explicit anti-discrimination requirements of the 1964 Civil Right Act, choose to admit less academically qualified blacks thereby discriminating against whites and Asians.

Opponents then fight back with lawsuits and voter initiatives banning preferences. In turn, these are met with various subterfuges:  fuzzy "holistic admissions," claims that "research" demonstrates the pedagogical value of campus racial diversity, assertions that campus diversity is a compelling state interest or that the handful of blacks admitted purely on merit will flounder unless joined by a "critical mass" of fellow but less-qualified African Americans.

As in the rigged carnival Wrack-A-Mole game, victory always seems just beyond reach of those rejecting racial preferences.

Can this back and forth game so inimical to the quality of American higher education be finally ended and preferences banished forever? The answer is "yes": just make racial preferences in universities a criminal violation (current law does not provide criminal sanctions).

Begin by recognizing that schools pay a hefty price for racial preferences-lost tuition, costly remedial courses, a bloated bureaucracy of Deans of Inclusions plus the sword of Damocles threat of campus unrest.

But, when it comes to the administrators personally pushing preferences, the benefits far outweigh costs. No campus bureaucrat ever lost his or her job by violating the 1964 law; many will actually advance professionally by "making the numbers." Even if caught red-handed inventing "diversity-is-our-strength" research or blatantly manipulating SAT score data, the personal cost is zero. Moreover, deceit can be a godsend to empire-building apparatchiki as the university expands the Office of Admissions to dig deeper into the records of black applicants to uncover heretofore unnoticed signs of intellectual achievement.

Nor is there any threat of retribution from those harmed by these race-conscious policies--no rejected bright Asian applicants will hold a sit-in or otherwise prove troublesome.

What if, however, those who cook the numbers and invent unsubstantiated crackpot theories faced fines to be paid personally or even risk jail time for their illegal behavior? A policy no different than holding individual corporate executives criminally liable for poisoning the water supply versus just punishing the offending firm (think Flint Michigan where city officials now face incarceration for their negligence).

This criminalization approach can be quickly implemented though, to be sure, obtaining a criminal conviction is more difficult than winning a civil suit. FBI agents might collect publicly available data on admissions, particularly where a noticeable jump has occurred. Then interview low-level admission clerks about how African American and Hispanic applications were handled.

As with investigating organized crime, grants of immunity will quickly entice minor functionaries to testify against their immediate bosses who, in turn, will be convinced to provide evidence on the higher ups. Up and up until the university's President will be asked to testify under oath why admitting blacks with SAT scores 200 points below those of rejected Asians serves some higher, legally sanctioned purpose.

Actually, the very thought of having to give such future testimony may cool the ardor for race-based admissions. And efforts to avoid a paper trail by, for example, using non-university e-mails risk charges of obstructing justice.

And just wait until the mass media feeding frenzy as the university President, the Provost and assorted Deans are marched out of their offices to awaiting vans to be taken downtown and booked. Their trials would likewise be a media circus as they squirmed trying to navigate awkward questions of why blacks from wealthy families needed a thumb on the scale while dirt poor Asians with perfect SAT scores were judged unworthy of Harvard.

Needless to say, of course, such criminalization is unlikely. But the principle-holding individual administrators, not "the University" culpable for potentially illegal racial preferences is the key message and the good news is that this can be readily accomplished sans legal changes.

So, rather that accusing "the University of Texas-Austin" of using racial preferences, expose the Dean of Admission and whoever else does the dirty work-give out their e-mail addresses  and telephone numbers and encourage those who disagree to contact them personally. Hold debates over affirmative action and invite the racial bean counters to supply proof why "critical mass" theory applies to blacks and Hispanics but not Asians.

Why not sell tee-shirts with "I'm Chinese and Too Smart for My Own Good" for those rejected from Ivy League schools despite stellar academic records? How about a student-run website that tracks campus' affirmative action accomplishments, for instance, the drop-out rates of these special admits, their reliance on remedial coursework and penchant for soft non-academic majors?

This Mau-Mauing the Flack Catchers approach is but the mirror image of the tactics that imposed affirmative action and, critically, sustain it despite the uncertain outcomes and dubious legal foundations.

Despite the damage inflicted on higher education, racial preferences will not vanish when an erudite legal scholar invents the killer amicus curiae brief; it will slowly fade away when amoral administrators, most of whom are terrified of confrontation, conclude that the personal costs of imposing this failed social engineering are just too great. Time to restore academic excellence and put brains first.


A Dustup at UNC Over Christmas Vacation and Other Microaggressions

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill caused an outcry when it published “microaggression guidelines” on a college forum. Although UNC quickly removed the post from public view, some students say the standards represent positive change.

The post on microaggressions, removed quickly after it was published last week on UNC’s online Employee Forum, cautioned employees against “brief and commonplace” displays of “implicit bias,” such as sex-specific dress codes, staff meetings at country clubs, religious vacations, and the phrase “that’s so gay.”

The Employee Forum is a group of more than 50 elected delegates from UNC’s nonfaculty employees that exists to develop “proactive, progressive recommendations” for the school’s administration. It says it aims to foster “an open and positive environment throughout the university community,” according to its website.

The term microaggression, coined in the 1970s, is used to describe the degradation of a “socially marginalized” group through intentional or unintentional verbal putdowns.

Conservatives on the UNC campus cried foul at the guidelines, which they said amounted to liberal policing of free speech.

“Once again, students at UNC are seeing the strong liberal biases of our administration and faculty play out in the day-to-day operations of our university,” Frank Pray, chairman emeritus of UNC College Republicans, told The Daily Signal in an email.

Pray added: "This microaggression guide telling university employees how to act serves to further the victim complex exhibited by much of the left at our school and demonize conservative students as aggressors" 

But other students argued that the guidelines were not intended to squelch speech, but simply to help people consider how their words affect others.

“Ultimately, we’re at a college campus to learn and not to compliment each other’s appearance or to make assumptions about people’s gender, religion, or sexual orientation,” Courtney Sams, president of UNC Young Democrats, told The Daily Signal in a telephone interview.

“Before these guidelines were published, you didn’t see many people talking about it,” Sams added. “People are thinking more critically about the words that they say. They may not agree with everything that the guidelines set forth, but they are thinking about them, so that’s a start.”

In an official statement, Joel Curran, UNC’s vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, said the Employee Forum did not represent either formal or informal university policy.

Curran also stressed that the college’s efforts to protect free speech had earned them “the highest ‘green light’ rating” from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that works to ensure free speech rights on college campuses.

Azhar Majeed, that group’s director of policy reform, agreed with Curran, saying the university had no policies limiting free speech on the books.

The “green light” rating “indicates that a university maintains no written policies that imperil student and faculty free speech rights,” Majeed told The Daily Signal in an email. “UNC Chapel Hill earned the green light rating last year by working with FIRE to bring all of its policies into compliance with the requirements of the First Amendment.”

In the past year, college news site Campus Reform has reported on pro-life chalk messages at UNC being erased by a pro-choice group that found them offensive. It also reported on a leftist group staging a walkout from a public lecture by conservative speaker Ben Shapiro and an official “diversity dinner” to which conservative groups were not invited.

Pray, of the UNC College Republicans, told The Daily Signal:

"On the heels of a recent study showing the overwhelming tilt of our faculty toward leftism, something any conservative student could have told you without even looking up the numbers, I am hardly surprised that the university has once again failed to live up to its goals of the free exchange of ideas and a true liberal arts education"


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