Sunday, September 11, 2016

British PM's new wave of grammar schools under threat as Nicky Morgan and Ofsted chief lead revolt

May: I want Britain to be the great meritocracy of the world
A former Conservative education secretary has hit out at Theresa May’s plans to introduce a new generation of grammar schools, fuelling concerns they will struggle to get through Parliament.

Nicky Morgan, who was in charge of schools policy until July when she was sacked by Mrs May, said the plans were a “distraction from crucial reforms to raise standards”.

There was also opposition from other senior figures in the education sector such as Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, who accused Mrs May's of trying to "put the clock back" and halt momentum towards better results in the state system.

The Prime Minister unveiled proposals to lift the long-standing ban on new or expanded grammars - with a £50 million annual Government subsidy to support new places - in a speech outlining her ambition to make Britain "the great meritocracy of the world".

Mrs Morgan – who was education secretary from 2014 to 2016 - warned that increased selection by ability would be "at best a distraction from crucial reforms to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap and at worst risk actively undermining six years of progressive education reform".

Mrs May should instead build on the academy and free school reforms pursued under former Prime Minister David Cameron, which were creating "a truly comprehensive school system in which every child is able to achieve excellence", she said.

Mrs Morgan's comments follow expressions of concern from other influential members of Mrs May's own Conservative party, including Commons Education Committee chairman Neil Carmichael and Health Committee chairman Sarah Wollaston, in an indication of the difficulty Mrs May may face forcing her radical reforms through Parliament.

The reforms require a change in law to reverse a ban on new grammars which was introduced by former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998 and then supported in office by Mr Cameron.

There will be intense speculation about whether Mr Cameron backs the changes when they are put to a vote of MPs.

Mr Cameron's opposition dated back to early 2006, a month after he became Tory leader when he said: “The prospect of bringing back grammar schools has always been wrong and I’ve never supported it. And I don’t think any Conservative government would have done it.”

Labour have also pledged to fight the grammar school plans “every step of the way”, while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron predicted the “out-of-date, ineffective approach” would be defeated in the House of Lords, where Mrs May does not enjoy a majority.

The plans are particularly vulnerable in the House of Lords because they were not included in the 2015 Tory manifesto, denying Mrs May powers to overrule peers.

The Salisbury Convention ensures that major Government Bills can get through the Lords when the Government of the day has no majority in the Lords.

This means in practice that peers do not try to vote down at second or third reading, a Government Bill mentioned in an election manifesto.

Sir Michael Wilshaw - the chief inspector of schools who is due to retire at the end of this year - told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We will fail as a nation if we only get the top 15 per cent to 20 per cent of our children achieving well.

“We've got to - if we’re going to compete with the best in the world - get many more children to achieve well in our schools.

“My fear is that by dividing children at 11 and by creating grammars and secondary moderns - because that's what we'll do - we won't be able to achieve that ambition.”


College students are told they can't say 'you guys' because it might be sexist and they can't ask Asian strangers for help with math

The denial of human differeces grinds on

Freshmen at a college orientation event have been told not to address other students with the phrase 'you guys' because it could be interpreted as excluding women.

Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, has hired a chief diversity officer, Sheree Marlowe, who has directed students on how to avoid subtle insults known as 'microaggressions'.

The trained lawyer who is 'committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education' recently told freshmen at Clark they should avoid asking a black student if he plays basketball.

They should also not badger an Asian student they don't know for help with their math homework, The New York Times reports.

The term 'microaggression', coined by Columbia professor Derald Sue, refers to the 'brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities' that 'communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color'.

One example of a 'microaggression', that Marlow presented to an audience of around 525 first-year students at Clark, was to imagine what it feels like to see their race or gender not represented on a 'wall of fame'.

'On your first day of class, you enter the chemistry building and all of the pictures on the wall are scientists who are white and male. If you're a female, or you just don't identify as a white male, that space automatically shows that you're not represented,' she said.

However, not everyone thinks training students in watching out for 'microaggression' is a good idea.

Conservative commentator John Podhoretz said on Twitter: 'Sheree Marlowe, the voice of the new totalitarianism.'

Clark University one of many colleges trying to clamp down on racial tensions and sexism on campus.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has put together a programme to tackle such incidents after a racist letter was slipped under a black student's door last year.

Earlier this month it emerged students at Rutgers University have been advised to use language that is 'kind' and 'necessary' and avoid offensive terms such as 'retarded' and 'that's so ghetto' so that they don't commit 'microaggressions'.

A bulletin board, titled 'Language Matters: Think', has been put on display in at least one hall of residence on Rutgers campus, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, telling students to question whether their choice of words is 'true', 'kind', 'helpful' and 'necessary'

Last year Professors at the University of California were urged not to use a number of  'offensive' phrases, such as describing America as a 'melting pot' or the 'land of opportunity'.

The phrases were included on a list of 'microaggressions' faculty members have been advised not to use, fearing they could be deemed sexist or racist.

'There is only one race, the human race' and 'I believe the most qualified person should get the job,' are also soundbites academics are not allowed to say, in the eyes of administrators.


Dead to History

Comment from Australia

As Marc Antony put it, 'the good is oft interrèd with their bones' and so it is at Melbourne University, where a gaggle of clamorous sooks and attention-seekers is demanding the name of a long-dead medico be erased from the institution he helped to build

A movement to censor our history is forming at Australian universities. Students and academics are campaigning for buildings and lecture halls to be renamed because of their association with ‘offensive’ historical figures. They no longer feel comfortable confronting, or even acknowledging, the past— instead, they want to expunge it altogether. Their first target is the renaming of the Richard Berry building at the University of Melbourne.

Richard Berry revolutionised the teaching of anatomy in Melbourne. He wrote the standard anatomy textbook used by students for some twenty-five years. As dean of medicine he advocated for the placement of a hospital near campus that could work closely with the university, a dream that became a reality after his departure. Berry’s contributions to teaching, as well as an administrator, were so outstanding that when a new anatomy building opened, which he designed, it was only natural to name the building after him.

Sadly, despite his capabilities, Berry, along with John Maynard Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Winston Churchill, advocated for the patently racist and discredited eugenics movement of the early 20th century. Eugenicists sought to promote certain genetic traits, and discourage others, by manipulating sexual reproduction. This supposedly scientific theory was used by the Nazis to justify their atrocities.

He also advocated for sterilisation of Aboriginals, people with a disability, and other groups he viewed as inferior. Student union president Tyson Holloway-Clarke says the existence of a building named after him is ‘confronting and alienating situation for Indigenous students.’

The move to wipe Berry’s name from the building he designed follows in the footsteps of similar campaigns on British and American campuses. Oxford University students unsuccessfully advocated for the destruction of a Cecil Rhodes. However, their campaign failed to appreciate Rhodes’ positive legacy. The Rhodes Scholarship has provided extraordinary educational opportunities to thousands from the developing and developed world, people who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to attend such a prestigious institution. It has helped train the leaders of countless countries, including our own prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Bob Hawke.

Yes, Rhodes’ legacy, just like Berry’s, is deeply flawed. It is vital, however, that we acknowledge both the virtuous and vile in our history. Our past is neither good nor evil, rather, it reflects the varying shades of grey that make up the complexities of human character. It reflects our constant drive towards progress and developing a more compassionate society. It is vital we remember and attempt to fully understand the complexity, not seek to censor our past.

We must be careful to not project modern ideas, which simply did not exist at the time, onto history. The speed of human progress has led to an extraordinarily rapid change in cultural understandings, political values and scientific theories. The essence of historic analysis is gaining a full understanding of these changes, and the world in which historic figures lived. The alternate, applying today’s values to the past, makes it almost impossible to find any respectable historical figures for admiration or study.

It would require Labor to rename their think-tank, the Evatt Foundation, because Doc Evatt brandished a letter in Parliament from Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov falsely claiming there was no Soviet spying in Australia—a letter written by the same individual who signed the Soviet-Nazi Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Liberals would have to stop celebrating Robert Menzies because, in the height of the Cold War, he advocated for the illiberal policy of banning a political party, the Communist Party of Australia. Americans would have to abandon their constitution and bill of rights because two-thirds of the founding fathers owned slaves.

If we actually want to understand, not simply abandon, the past we must comprehend the world in which these people functioned, the threats that motivated them, and the cultural values of their time. We must understand that Evatt was motivated by a theory, albeit false, of conspiracy between the government and the security establishment to discredit Labor. We must understand that Menzies believed, based on the stated aims of Australian communists, that there was a serious clandestine threat to our democracy. And we must understand that the American founders lived in a time when slave ownership was common across the world. We can, and should, criticise their views and actions, but it is ahistorical to apply today’s values to figures living in a different time.

Censoring the past also hinders the educational mission of universities. These statues, buildings, and lecture halls provide an important opportunity to confront our history. Renaming buildings allows past injustices to be forgotten, to be wiped off the public memory. Leaving them in place is a good reminder and educational opportunity. Rather than rename the Richard Berry building, making him float away into the abyss of history book footnotes buried in the basement of a campus library, it would be appropriate to place a prominent plaque near the entrance of the building explaining both his contributions and abhorrent views. This would allow students to understand the fact that this person did exist, and what he actually did. It also prevents the university from taking the relatively easy step of wiping out a dark part of their history.

Ironically, the University of Melbourne has previously hosted a disability support services unit in the Richard Berry building. Some have claimed that this placement is insulting. However, the opposite is in fact true. The best way to show just how wrong Berry’s ideas were, and to display how far we have come as a society, is to act in the completely opposite manner. It is to celebrate that students from all backgrounds roam freely in the corridors of the Richard Berry building. This allows us to not forget the complexities of our past, and delivers a far more nuanced understanding of what is right and wrong.


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