Wednesday, June 07, 2017

In U.S. Universities, a Divorce Is Needed

For a century or so, U.S. universities have been an adornment of American culture, and indeed of world culture, but, with notable exceptions, only in the sciences. Bright people have flocked to the USA from all parts of the world to study, research, and teach in physics, chemistry, biology, other physical and life sciences, and related fields such as medicine, mathematics, and engineering. The products are all around us, from life-saving drugs to the Internet, smart phones, GPS guidance systems, and countless other marvels.

But in the humanities and social sciences, the story has been different, especially during the past forty years, as Marxist-spawned doctrines such as Critical Theory and Multicultural This and That have proliferated, destroying disciplines such as English, history, sociology, anthropology, and even in large part economics and replacing them with tendentious dogmas cum jihads such as black studies, gender studies, and LGBT studies.

Moreover, aggressive administrators and zealous faculty adherents of these doctrines have now begun to extend their gaze toward and their interventions in the STEM fields, threatening to destroy the last bastions of what was glorious and truly progressive in the universities. For a long time the faculty in the substantive fields tended to ignore the crazies in the humanities and social sciences, being satisfied to be left alone to do real work. But whether they will be able to continue in this strategy seems now to be in serious question. Pusillanimous administrators have been easily swayed, if they did not in fact lead the way, in favor of the bullshitization of the U.S. universities, turning institutions away from understanding and scholarship toward ideological crusades and identity politics.

If the worthwhile parts of the U.S. universities are to continue to thrive, or even to survive as serious endeavors, it would seem that a parting of the ways must come. The STEM fields must separate themselves from the bullshit parts of the universities. The latter can then go their own way to fester in their nonsense until the general public awakens to the need to cease supporting such activities altogether. This divorce cannot come too soon. Scientific and technical progress is too important to mankind to allow it be be taken hostage by practitioners of anti-rational, mumbo-jumbo-talking, ideological zealots.


College Prevents Students From Distributing U.S. Constitution  

As American colleges and universities have embraced leftist ideology those values of liberalism so often espoused by these institutions have died and have given way to an ever-increasing tyranny of “social justice.” The latest instance of leftist intolerance comes from Bunker Hill Community College, where students were prevented from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. The school administration justified its action based on polices contained within its student handbook, which “prohibit[s] expressive activity on campus without advance permission and approval, restrict[s] the content of printed materials that may be distributed, and grant[s] unbridled discretion” to prevent discrimination against minority views. In other words, this public school’s administration has taken it upon themselves to determine which viewpoints students are allowed to express. The thought police.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sent the college essentially a cease and desist letter. It states in part, “Constitutionally protected freedom of speech doesn’t disappear as soon as students step on to a public college campus, which is supposed to be the very ‘marketplace of ideas.’ It’s ironic that the college is unconstitutionally prohibiting the distribution of the very document that protects the freedom of Americans to engage in free speech and to associate with one another to advance shared beliefs.”

The hiding, veiling and even prohibiting of constitutionally recognized and protected individual freedoms by leftists running these colleges and universities needs to be addressed. The freedom an individual has to promote those ideals he favors is the outworking of his right to free speech. To prevent or demand and individual capitulate to ideals by a statist authority is to do violence to an American citizen’s freedom.


‘I wake at 2am worrying about the children’: the headteachers leaving Britain's schools

Too little money, too many tests: senior staff talk frankly about life on education’s frontline

It’s five in the afternoon at the Forest school, a boys’ comprehensive near Wokingham, Berkshire, and most of the staff and students have gone for the day. But headteacher Mary Sandell is still in her office, as she is every day. The room, with its slatted blinds and motivational messages – “Make your mark on the world”; “Keep your promises” – is the one she entered as a newly appointed head three years ago. Her buzzword then was “‘fizz: I want to go into classrooms and feel fizz. I want children to feel energy and passion.”

Now all she feels is battle-weary. A combination of budget cuts and underfunding means Sandell had to axe food technology GCSE (along with the food technology teacher) from the curriculum last year, because the school “simply couldn’t afford it”. The subject had been on offer since the school opened nearly 60 years ago. Now she has to make further announcements: next year there will be no music, French or Spanish A-levels (no languages, at all, in fact, beyond GCSE), because they are no longer “economically viable”.

Nearby, in the Winnersh Triangle business park, an expanding hub of tech companies, the future looks shiny. Not so for the Forest school. “Here we are in 2017, and we’re going backwards in terms of choice, not forwards,” Sandell says. She sits brooding at her desk and considers the future. She could put up with the shabby paintwork, the rundown toilet blocks and substandard tennis courts (only two of the five have nets), but not with the fact that there are only 45 geography textbooks for the 168 pupils doing geography GCSE. There is an e-copy, but not all of the boys have a fast internet connection at home.

On 31 August, after 29 years and 43 days first as a teacher, then a deputy, then a head, Sandell will be standing down in protest at what she sees as a crisis in education. “We are short-changing our children, and by that we are short-changing the nation,” she says.

She is not the only one who feels this way. Last month, Alex and Peter Foggo, the head and deputy head, respectively, of a primary school in Hampshire, announced that they would be resigning after 25 years in education. “The last year has seen things just get harder and harder, as more and greater challenges have come to undermine our core beliefs in education,” Peter wrote recently.

Last September, Jo Garton resigned as head of Bridlewood primary in Swindon, after eight years. Concerns about school funding levels, changes to the curriculum and new assessment methods had led her to the conclusion that children were being “used as guinea pigs by politicians, yet again”, she wrote in her resignation letter to parents. “This is unforgivable.”

“I love what I do, but there comes a point where resignation is the only option,” Richard Slade, head of Plumcroft primary school in Greenwich, south-east London has said. His school faces a £400,000 cut in funding by 2019-20. “If I’m going to deliver those cuts, standards are going to be unsafe.”

He told delegates at a recent Westminster Education Forum that “a lot” of headteachers have told him they are considering resigning, after asking why they would want to “oversee the decimation of our schools”. Last month, more than 500 headteachers signed an open letter to Theresa May, demanding that she abandon proposed education cuts, which they said represent up to £3bn in real terms.

“It’s a Headteacher Spring,” says a spokesperson for the school leaders’ union, NAHT. “An uprising. Lots are writing to MPs, governing bodies, taking an unusual interest in campaigning.”

In the 17,000 primary schools and 3,000 secondary schools across England, discontent runs deep. Research by the NAHT shows that 72% of heads say their budgets will be untenable by 2019/20; 18% of school leaders say they are already in deficit.

But the pressures are not just financial. There is also a new national curriculum in local authority schools in England, for pupils aged five to 16, and new Sats tests. The combination of external auditors (Ofsted), government targets and league tables has massively increased the stress. Work now routinely entails detailing aims and objectives, analysing data, and the anxiety of being subjected to ubiquitous scrutiny.

The micromanaging by the Labour government under Tony Blair – literacy strategies, numeracy strategies – has shifted under the Conservatives to a focus on structure, with the championing of academies, free schools and now grammar schools.

In recent years, Ofsted has increased the pressure, bringing in “no-notice inspections”. A school “doing badly” can result in the head being dismissed. “Heads now join the likes of football club managers, whose job can often rest on the result of one major match,” one headteacher wrote.

One of the effects is that people are being deterred from entering the profession. Sometimes there are no applicants for a headteacher vacancy. A 2016 report by Teach First and another charity says that “by 2022 England could be in need of up to 19,000 school leaders”. According to Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, the profession is headed towards a crisis: “School budgets are at breaking point, and so are many headteachers.”


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