Friday, July 27, 2018

Even Leftists who can afford it send their children to Britain's elite private schools

Some bitter but factual thoughts from The Guardian.  The people who went to private schools really do run Britain.  Given the state of government schools, it's no wonder.  The writer is commenting on a book by Verkaik

One notorious posh boy (Boris Johnson, Eton, Oxford) exits Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another (Charterhouse, Oxford) arrives to take over. No surprise there, but the nation, or the 93% of it that did not go to private school, is left wondering again how this crony class of bought privilege and vicious self-interest has managed to hold on to the reins for so long. Not least when – from Balaclava to Brexit – they haven’t run things very well.

Of course, it may be that the grockles and plebs are not very bothered. In his fascinating, enraging polemic, Verkaik touches on one of the strangest aspects of the elite schools and their product’s domination of public life for two and a half centuries: the acquiescence of everyone else. “Public schools have a mesmerising influence over British people,” Verkaik says, echoing George Orwell (Eton) 85 years ago. Verkaik says we are all seduced, not least by the innocent question: “Who doesn’t want the best for their children?” As a parent and a troubled posh boy myself, I understand him.

It’s a leap from that thought, however, to educating your children privately – especially since the cost of an independent day school is more than £250,000 from nursery to sixth form. But the habit is not going away: school rolls have been stable since 2000, around the time Harry Potter turned up at Hogwarts. That is first because the investment is likely to work, in terms of buying access to university and life’s material prizes. More important is that as faith in the state system fails, the better the private one will fare: the one “hangs like a shadow” over the other, an expert in international education policy tells Verkaik.

Sending the children off to private school has long been the most notable hypocrisy of the leftish middle class, and of some of the public schools’ most famous detractors. Nadine Dorries (Halewood Grange Comprehensive), the rightwing Conservative MP whose outburst against “arrogant posh boys” David Cameron (Eton, Oxford) and George Osborne (St Paul’s, Oxford), gives this book its title, sent both her daughters to Ampleforth, where they have learnt “very good manners”. Paul Weller, whose wry bitterness as a member of the excluded class wrote the Jam’s song Eton Rifles, sent his children to public school. Eton might well have taken the little Wellers, I imagine, for about £35,000 a year: among the wiser self-preservation systems of the schools is the fact that they will allow some entry from outside the establishment. Otherwise we would have smashed them to the ground decades ago, wouldn’t we?

Verkaik’s larger theme is the toxification of British public life by the private school system and the injustice and inequality that educational apartheid based on wealth entails. But the blatant theft of public resources is the book’s sharpest point. From the very beginning the institutions – including St Paul’s, Winchester and Eton – have been hijacked by the wealthy, though they were plainly set up to benefit the poor.

Edinburgh’s Fettes college, a 19th-century invention, was built on the money of a merchant, Sir William Fettes, who left his fortune specifically for the education of the city. His executors instead constructed a gothic horror that sits behind high fences, with its great spire thrusting a finger up at the rest of the city. It has a poor record when it comes to sharing facilities or giving means-tested bursaries. Yet, like most, it is a charity: it pays a fraction of ordinary business rates and no VAT. Fettes receives an estimated £1m a year in direct subsidy from the Ministry of Defence, which still pays for much of the education of armed forces officers’ children. Tony Blair is one Fettes alumnus: Verkaik thinks it significant that his administration backed off from years of Labour pledges to sort out the absurd tax advantages the private school business enjoys.

How do we sort this out? Even a Jeremy Corbyn administration will be wary of the best-connected lobby groups in Britain (and of course Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Momentum founder Jon Lansman all did time at various Hogwarts). Besides, with 30% of students from abroad, the public schools are now a significant export industry. In Scotland the SNP, however, has promised to act on the exemption from business rates.

Verkaik’s solution is “slow and peaceful euthanasia”. He would suffocate the schools. Since they cater to just 7% of the population, let quotas be set, so that from their ranks come just 7% of judges (instead of 74%), 7% of senior forces officers (instead of 71%) and so on. Newspapers such as this (the British media is 50% private school-educated) will have to take the same medicine.

My money says private schools will survive: since the second world war successive governments have failed to curtail them in any significant way. As it happens, the departure of Boris Johnson means a Conservative cabinet without a son of Eton for the first time since the 1830s. But that won’t go on long – there are 20 Old Etonian MPs, all Tories. As an Eton school song has it: “Floreat Etona, Floreat, Florebit”. May Eton flourish; she will flourish.


Justice Department Weighs in to Protect Free Speech on Campus

In the face of Orwellian speech codes on campus—and with the help of advocacy groups like Speech First Inc.—college students have been fighting to defend their First Amendment right to free speech.

Now, they can count the Justice Department as one of their strongest allies.

Earlier this year, the University of Michigan passed a policy that could punish students for making their peers feel offended. The Justice Department decided to weigh in, showing just how different the Trump administration is from the one that preceded it.

As Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told students at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the University of Michigan has set an improper “limitation on the right of Michigan students to be able to speak.” So last month, the Justice Department filed a “Statement of Interest” in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Michigan’s speech code. It’s the fourth such document it has filed in the last 12 months in an effort to aggressively defend college students’ free speech rights.

For example, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in a case last year involving Pierce College in Los Angeles. There, free expression is confined to a 616-square-foot “free speech area” (just 0.003 percent of the campus), and even then, students are still required to get prior authorization from campus administrators to enter it.

The Justice Department also criticized Georgia Gwinnett College for permitting speech only in zones that covered just 0.0015 percent of the campus. Even then, no speech is allowed in that “free speech zone” that “disturbs the … comfort of person(s).” In eight years, the Obama Justice Department never once challenged such restrictions.

Hopefully, with the Justice Department now intervening, the courts will finally start striking critical blows to insidious university policies that impose a political orthodoxy on students, and limit their basic First Amendment rights to engage in vigorous debates on contentious issues.

As Sessions noted, “State universities need to be objective and fair. They need to let both people, both sides of an issue, have an opportunity to speak.”

It is not news to most Americans that colleges have been restricting the speech—especially conservative speech—of students, staff, and speakers. Sometimes this suppression comes at the hands of students, such as the rioters at the University of California, Berkeley, who prevented conservatives from giving lectures.

In these instances, school administrators have been disappointingly complicit in condoning such misbehavior and refusing to punish students and faculty who disrupt other speakers.

In other instances, the schools themselves have restricted speech on social and political issues. According to Sessions, the fact that university administrators are supporting “groups who go in deliberately to intimidate, threaten, and block a person’s right to freely discuss an issue is a threat to our freedom, and it’s contrary to the Constitution.

The University of Michigan’s speech code prohibits any speech that a listener considers “bothersome” or “hurtful.” A violation of the code can result in school punishment, including suspension or expulsion. So the most sensitive student on campus effectively can dictate the terms under which other students can speak or, as the case may be, not speak.

If that wasn’t enough, the university has organized so-called “bias response teams” made up of administrators and law enforcement to investigate any student accused of violating the speech code, whether on or off campus—and complaints can be filed anonymously.

Picture that: a team of campus officials and law enforcement officers patroling a college campus to punish speakers who have been accused of offending some student’s sensibilities. That sounds like something out of a TV show about a despotic future society.

Basically, bias response teams are the University of Michigan’s version of the thought police in George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s no wonder students claim they are afraid to speak out about controversial topics like abortion, immigration, or racial politics.

These speech restrictions continue to be implemented because a powerful group of college administrators and leftist elites have a growing contempt for the First Amendment. They simply want to silence anyone who disagrees with their views on politics and culture. They consider all speech they disagree with to be bigoted speech that constitutes real harm—just like physical violence—and should therefore be banned.

Many on the left believe that those who disagree with them on substantive issues have genuinely evil motivations and, therefore, are not entitled to the First Amendment right to disagree.

Speech codes like the one imposed by the University of Michigan, which allow a listener to determine if the speech “feels” offensive, will inevitably be weaponized against those who express disfavored political views.

Indeed, this is exactly why the Justice Department felt the need to intervene. It wrote that Michigan’s law “invites arbitrary, discriminatory, and overzealous enforcement.” It also “does precisely what the First Amendment forbids—it punishes speech merely because of the ‘listeners’ reaction.’”

It’s easier to be indifferent about these speech codes when your own views are the ones being protected. But liberal administrators should ask themselves: What if a pro-life student claimed to be distressed by Planned Parenthood passing out flyers on a campus quad? What if a Christian student felt persecuted by a public debate about the existence of God? Would these students get the same support from the university? Even if they did, it would only prove that a feelings-based approach to free speech creates an endless mess in which no one’s speech is ever fully protected.

Americans of all creeds and political views should fight to oppose these restrictions. They are truly Orwellian and un-American. The university of all places—especially the public university—should be a place where free speech is defended, where open dialogue and intellectual debate ought to be the modus operandi.

This is why the Justice Department said that it could not “stand idly by while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights.” Sessions and the Justice Department should be commended for their readiness to defend our fundamental liberties.

The First Amendment doesn’t lose its power when speech becomes offensive. It was actually written to protect speech that could be perceived as offensive. After all, why do popular speakers need the protection of law? No one threatens their ability to speak.

The Bill of Rights exists to protect the weak from the strong, the minority from the majority, and the unpopular from the popular. The right of the 49 percent to speak out against the 51 percent is what makes us a free country.

When a state school can punish speakers for nothing more than hurting someone’s feelings, the First Amendment has been utterly gutted—and students who are citizens protected by the Constitution have been robbed of their fundamental right to disagree.


Letting kids be kids: Schools remove the cotton wool and encourage pupils to take risks when they play - and the benefits are stunning

Public schools are giving students the opportunity to build resilience by adopting the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

Schools across Perth are letting students zip around on bikes and scooters, slide down ramps in crates and climb trees.

There is believed to be many benefits to the approach, resulting in more focus in the classroom, ABC reports.

Schools that encourage physical activity say that the students are happier and healthier, and are able to play more creatively and cooperatively.

With the current 'obesity epidemic' and children being captivated by screens, schools are hoping to get children out and about on the playground.

Honeywood Primary School in Perth's south has implemented weekly 'Wheels on Wednesday', where students are allowed to bring scooters, bikes and skates to school.

As long as students follow conditions of wearing a helmet and having signed permission from parents, they're allowed to ride around the school grounds during recess and lunch.

Principal of the school Maria Cook said that the program was very popular with both parents and the students.

'We've had kids who hadn't been able to progress past their trainer wheels suddenly being able to go without training wheels, because they get lots of practise just riding around this one-way track,' she said.

Ms Cook believes that teaching the kids to manage some risk is positive and thinks that 'cocooning' them isn't a good idea.

There are also trampolines at the school that they encourage the students to use, allowing them to do flips and tricks.

The program is teaching students to be active and improves their skills while having fun with their friends.

Ms Cook also said that the children head back to class focused and ready to learn due to using lots of energy.

West Greenwood Primary School in Perth's north is another school that has implemented the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

The school has introduced a program called 'Loose Parts', where students have the ability to use their creativity with items such as milk crates, giant wooden spools and timber.

Principal Niel Smith said that nature play is highly important and the school wanted to do something that was 'slightly different and cost effective'.

'We encourage students to be creative, to take risks, to analyse those risks. We've got kids building pulley systems, climbing trees, making swings, see-saws,' he said.

They ensure that the children are being safe by teaching them to analyse risks.

The program has proven to work well, as teachers are seeing an increase in students' cooperative skills, teamwork, sharing and negotiation.

Due to the program keeping children busy, students are less likely to make a fuss complaining about injury and they're becoming more resilient.

He has also opened up a creative space for children with interest in art, creating a mural wall for the kids to create artworks with chalk. 

Researcher from the University of Western Australia, Karen Martin, said that the 'anti-cotton wool' trend is a positive.

She believes that society became too over-protective of young children.

It's important for the children that don't do too much physical activity outside of school to have that active time on the playground during school.

'I think what's happened is we've started to realise that wrapping kids up in cotton wool isn't beneficial for them at all,' Ms Martin said.


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