Saturday, September 25, 2004

Surprise, surprise! "Ongoing news reports from across the country indicate incidents of corruption and mismanagement in the public schools occur frequently, often on a massive scale. Ignoring the scale of the problem not only costs taxpayers millions of dollars but also hinders school reform efforts, according to New York University law professor Lydia G. Segal. In her recent book, Battling Corruption in America's Public Schools (Northwestern University Press, 2003), Segal argues, 'one impediment to reform that no one is seriously studying in the debate over how to improve public schools is systematic fraud, waste, and abuse.'"

Free market closed to education: "Textbook 'selection' or 'adoption,' is decided by the individual states. In an open state, individual school districts are free to choose the textbooks they want to use. In a closed state, a state textbook committee chooses its textbooks and if a textbook is not approved, then state funds cannot be used to make a purchase. This creates a powerful competition among publishers to produce a 'politically correct,' 'adoptable' book which ends up dull, devoid of the context for most content, and low in quality. Although there are only 22 states with the closed model for text selection, it is these states which ultimately influence the types of books offered by the publishers and produced for sale to schools everywhere in our country."

Illiterate in L.A.

Vox Day has some pertinent comments about the disastrous level of illiteracy in Los Angeles. Beware of the sarcasm! Excerpts:

"The "Los Angeles Daily News" recently lamented the tremendous increase in "functional illiteracy" among the working population of Los Angeles County. In reporting the results of a recent study, it said:

In the Los Angeles region, 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older were deemed functionally illiterate, the study said ... It classified 3.8 million Los Angeles County residents as "low-literate," meaning they could not write a note explaining a billing error, use a bus schedule or locate an intersection on a street map.

While the article took note of the wasted "hundreds of millions of dollars spent in public schools over the past decade," it blamed the terrible results on an influx of non-English speaking immigrants and a 30 percent high-school dropout rate. But the dropout rate can't possibly explain the low level of literacy, because if the public school system was even remotely competent, the children would be reading adequately long before they ever reached high school....

It's a pity that the "Daily News" does not have access to studies tracking the reading ability of children who are schooled at home in Los Angeles County. It would be interesting to see how well those children read compared to these illiterate workers, particularly immigrant children taught at home, because as hard as it may be for the Daily News to imagine, people who speak other languages, even Spanish, have been known to be able to read. I can't confirm this, but I have even heard rumors that there are reputed to be one or two authors, such as the suspiciously foreign-sounding Arturo Perez Reverte, who actually write in Spanish, if you can believe anything so outlandish.....

One need only look at an elementary school's curriculum to realize that the bulk of a child's education necessarily comes from outside the school environment. It may come from parents, peers or the television, but very little of it comes from the free day-care centers that are the public schools".


Margaret Soltan does not seem to think much of her academic colleagues. Excerpt from post of 14th:

"... They describe a cadre of senior professors willing themselves into a denial of reality profound enough to make Blanche Dubois look like Descartes. Blanche Dubois, though, had a sense of the tragic nature of life. Some of the professors evoked in these blogs look more like Amanda Wingfield, sure that any day now their graduate students will start receiving tenure-track gentleman callers. Still others look like Scarlet O'Hara: faced with graduate programs that haven't placed anyone in a respectable job in years, they say "Fiddledeedee. We'll think about that tomorrow." They are so busy thinking about the next job offer or administrative stint that will enable them to raise their salary and title demands at their home institution that they have not noticed the erosion of their own tenured ranks in American academia and the replacement of these ranks by huge numbers of untenurable and undercompensated instructors.

Tenured faculty, the aristocracy of the university, have been disgracefully complicit in the creation of an academic helot class to subsidize their own upper-middle-class salaries," writes Jack Miles, "but the helots are progressively replacing the aristocrats as the latter retire and are replaced by helots rather than by other aristocrats. What is being phased out, in short, is the very career which tenured faculty once enjoyed and to which new Ph.D.s still vainly aspire." Full professors are the aristocracy of the aristocrats, and that much more disgraceful.

This situation, this vast disparity between the restive bottom and the fatuous top of our profession, and the evolution of the professoriate away from a model based upon a calling and toward a model indistinguishable from market greed and vanity, has gradually become morally nauseating to me"


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, September 24, 2004


By their actions, public school teachers give very persuasive advice about their schools

"Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools. In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; Rochester, N.Y., 38 percent. The same trends showed up in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where 34 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children; 33 percent in New York City and New Jersey suburbs; and 29 percent in Milwaukee and New Orleans.

Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, the 2.7-million-member public school union, declined a request for comment on the study's findings. The American Federation of Teachers also declined to comment.

Public school teachers told the Fordham Institute's surveyors that private and religious schools impose greater discipline, achieve higher academic achievement and offer overall a better atmosphere..... "Public education in many of our large cities is broken," the surveyors conclude. "The fix? Choice, in part, to be sure." Public school teachers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Baltimore registered the most dissatisfaction with the schools in which they teach.

"Teachers, it is reasonable to assume, care about education, are reasonably expert about it and possess quite a lot of information about the schools in which they teach. We can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day."

More here

As Peg Kaplan points out, teachers are voting on public schools in the most persuasive way possible -- voting with their feet. And, as the articles says, they are in a position to know what really happens in schools


Bill Vallicella is peeved that nobody can pronounce his name

"Perhaps I should be happy that I do not rejoice under the name of Znosko-Borovsky or Bonch-Osmolovsky. Nor do I stagger under such burdens as Witkiewicz, Brzozowski, or Rynasiewicz. The latter is the name of a philosopher I knew when he taught at Case Western Reserve. Alvin Plantinga once mentioned to me that he had been interviewed at Notre Dame, except that `rhinoceros' was all Plantinga could remember of his name.

Actually, none of these names is all that difficult if you sound them out. But apparently no one is taught phonics anymore. Damn those liberals! They've never met a standard they didn't want to erode. I am grateful to my long-dead mother for sending me to Catholic schools where I actually learned something. I learned things that no one seems to know any more, for example, grammar, Latin, geography, mathematics. The next time you are in a bar, ask the twenty-something `tender whether that Sam Adams you just ordered is a 12 oz or a pint. Now observe the blank expression on her face: she has no idea what a pint is, or that a pint is 16 oz, or that there are four quarts in a gallon, or 5, 280 feet in a mile, or 39.37 inches in a meter, or that light travels at 186, 282 miles/sec, or that a light-year is a measure of distance, not of time.

Even Joan Baez got this last one wrong in her otherwise excellent song, Diamonds and Rust, a tribute to her quondam lover, Bob Dylan. The irony is that Joanie's pappy was a somewhat distinguished professor of physics! In a high school physics class we watched a movie in which he gives a physics lecture.

I was up in 'Flag' (Flagstaff) a few years back to climb Mt. Humphreys, the highest point in Arizona at 12,643 ft. elevation, (an easy class 1 walk-up except for the thin air) and to take a gander at the moon through the Lowell Observatory telescope. While standing in line for my peek, I overheard a woman say something to her husband that betrayed her misconception that the moon glows by its own light. She was astonished to learn from her husband that moonlight is reflected sunlight. I was astonished at her astonishment. One wonders how she would account for the phases of the moon. What `epicycles' she would have to add to her `theory'!"

More here. (Via Bill's Comments).

Bill (Guglielmo?) might agree with my comments on the way that place-names are routinely mispronounced


It's a loss of control. How awful!

"In a federally funded exercise to prepare emergency responders for a terrorist attack, a Michigan county concocted a scenario in which public-school children were threated by a fictitious radical group that believes everyone should be homeschooled. The made-up group was called Wackos Against Schools and Education. The exercise in Muskegon, Mich., yesterday simulated a situation in which a bomb on board a bus full of children knocks the vehicle on its side and fills the passenger compartment with smoke.

Dan Stout, director of Muskegon County Emergency Services, told WorldNetDaily the choice of the fictitious group certainly was not meant to offend homeschoolers. "I don't think there was any particular objective other than to just have a name," he said. A WND reader who saw a story about the exercise in the Muskegon Chronicle, however, said he was "outraged" at the characterization of the terrorists.

Stoudt said the general idea for the type of group came from the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which suggests group names such as "Wackos Against Recreation" and other such such "causes.""

More here.

Prof. Bunyip's comment on the newish university where he teaches gave me a laugh but I think only Australian university people would understand it: "Sydney Orr University's start as the Workingman's Institute of Cobbling and Saddlery is largely forgotten these days, but a slight taint of humble origins lingers yet. You have your Sandstones, and below them, the Bricks, and humbler still, the Dumb-as-Rocks. Then there is our little oasis of the mind, which has its eye on Fibro and is pushing hard to make the grade." The oldest buildings in Australia's oldest universities are made of sandstone and Fibro is the now-obsolete asbestos-cement sheeting once used as siding in the cheapest buildings. "The sandstones" are Australia's nearest equivalent to America's "Ivy League". I have to confess that I did go to a "sandstone" -- two of them in fact. I also liked the good Prof's comment just below about "the cherished principle of the seventeen hour week". Academics do get it easy. A lot of the time I had only an eight-hour week. The good Prof. can't spell "Gorbals", though. Obviously not a Scot.


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


"Education has become a sort of public religion in this country with its own set of "truths." Those who question the accepted dogma are seen as heretics and face quick political oblivion. Decades of self serving promotion by those working in the education industry have programmed Americans to accept without question one of the most expensive and inefficient systems for passing on knowledge to new generations in the history of mankind.

This hollowed and sacred system guarantees twelve years of "free" public education to all. The majority of high school graduates forget almost everything they learn beyond the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, within ten years of graduating. The taxpayers are effectively asked to pay for twelve years of schooling to get six years of education. No one questions this since a high school diploma has come to signify an absolute good, with little regard for the actual improvement in the life of its holder. True many high school graduates also receive valuable vocational training, but this is denigrated in a society that sees any vocational training as the road to lower social class.

We send millions more young people to colleges and universities than there are actual jobs requiring the education they are to receive there. Young people are promised that a college education is the key to a good job. The truth is that the colleges and universities who promote this view do so to attract students and earn tuitions. They have no way of delivering on their promises. Four years of studying French Literature or Oriental Philosophy may be rewarding in terms of personal growth, but does not guarantee a lucrative career.

We accept the notion that the problems of public education are related to money. Yet there are many examples of people being educated for a fraction of what our schools cost. These same people often exceed the achievements of both public and private schooled students. We confuse education with schooling. Sitting in classrooms, taking notes, studying for tests, doing homework, and all the other school related activities are just one small part of how human beings acquire knowledge and mastery. Since these methods create lots of good paying jobs for teachers and administrators they are the methods sold to the public. Why don't more people question this model?....

A real discussion of education should start with a default position that the government has no role to play in it. From there a good logical analysis should be developed and the problems in a completely voluntary educational model identified. Addressing those problems with the minimal use of government should be the goal. Then will we see a real free market develop to offer competing ideas in educating. This will empower students and parents instead of strangle the taxpayers. Only then will education be both inexpensive and efficient."

More here:

Too Much Schooling? A British Comment

I heartily agree

"More than a century ago the tramlines were set: the more people there are at school, the better; and the more years they spend there, the better. This is especially true of children and young people; why, their proper place is in school. This conventional assumption has nothing to do with actual learning. It's just the right place for them to be. Once, they went in there at 5 and came out at fourteen. Nine years they stayed there; not enough. So the school-leaving age was raised to 15 and then in the sixties to 16. A while after this in the late seventies it was noticed that after 11 years in their proper place, 40 per cent of school children had no usable batch of skills, qualification or learning. Many were illiterate and innumerate.

Did anyone give a sceptical glance at the institution that had demanded so much of these children's time and so much public money? No. In government, nothing succeeds like failure. The problem was that the children and young people had not spent enough time in the institution. They were encouraged, cajoled and now, under Blair bribed to stay on. Not only to stay on but to go to university, or at least institutions which were renamed universities. While some politicians were trying to extend educational attendance at the 'university' end, others were tugging away at the nursery and kindergarten end. The ideal is now clear: children should enter the institution at three and leave at 21, in fact 22 allowing for the very necessary Australian-Thai holiday gap year. What was 9 years is now, for many, 19 years.

The precise numbers need to be spelt out. This institution, schooling, is now allowed and funded to monopolize young people's time for more than 4,000 days or 25,000 hours. Yet it takes a commercial organization only a dozen or so hours to teach someone to drive a car and a commercial language school will get you proficient in a foreign language in several weeks. The state's Little Pied Piper children leave after tens of thousands of hours in state schooling institutions inarticulate in their own language.

Set aside for the moment the arguments about just how little they learn in all those hours, weeks and years. What is never challenged is the assumption that school, or schools called universities, are the right places for children and youth. The assumption is that they should be there and nowhere else. The assumption is revealed in all its thoughtlessness in the literature of the anti-child labour lobby. Where should children not be? At work, of course. And why not? 'Why not, do you really want to push toddlers up chimneys again or have them rooting on rubbish tips or selling their bodies as they do in South America?' No, but then I don't want adults forced up chimneys either. Nor do I want them on rubbish tips or selling their bodies. That is nothing to do with children. It is about work no-one should have to do.

Once this nonsense is put aside, why should children not be at work? Because they will be exploited? Surely their parents would not let them be and nor would a regulatory government. So why not? It comes down to this. Children should not be at work because - wait for it - their proper place is at school. Where school is concerned all the worries of the anti-child labour lobby are thrown aside. They who are so worried about employers coercing and exploiting children don't care that schools have much more power to coerce and exploit children. They don't care that the schooling institutions can keep their charges working for no wage, in many cases, without any demonstrable educational benefit for years on end.... "

More here


One look at the "success" of the British and American policies would show why

"An OECD education analysis last week found that Australian public investment in education, at 4.4 per cent of GDP, was below the mean of OECD countries.

The deans of education, whose manifesto is aimed at influencing policy during the election campaign, said in Britain the national education budget had doubled in the past decade, as it had in the US since 1996. In Australia, federal spending on education as a percentage of total budget outlays has fallen from more than 9 per cent in 1974-75 to 6 per cent in 2002-03."

More here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


At Wundt's psychological laboratory in Germany around a century ago

Wundt, with his laboratory and machines, was certainly trying to better himself and win for his discipline a new kind of legitimacy. It was just for that reason that he attracted so many students, many of them Americans who came home to found schools of educational psychology and psychological testing and to impress upon our whole system of schooling the indelible mark of clinical practice. One of them was a certain James Cattell, who, while playing with some of Wundt's apparatus, made a remarkable and portentous discovery. Here, in brief, is the story, as told by Lance J. Klass in "The Leipzig Connection" (The Delphian Press, 1978), a useful little book on the influence of Wundt in the history of American educationism:

One series of experiments Cattell performed while at Leipzig examined the manner in which a person sees the words he is reading. By testing adults who knew how to read, Cattell "discovered" that individuals can recognize words without having to sound out the letters. From this, he reasoned that words are not read by compounding the letters, but are perceived as "total word pictures." He determined that little is gained by teaching the child his sounds and letters as the first step to being able to read. Since individuals could recognize words very rapidly, the way to teach children how to read was to show them words, and tell them what the words were. The result was the dropping of the phonic or alphabetic method of teaching reading, and its replacement by the sight-reading method in use throughout America.

The consequences of Cattell's "discovery" have surely been enormous, for they include not only the stupefaction of almost the whole of American culture but even the birth and colossal growth of a lucrative industry devoted first to assuring that children won't be able to read and then to selling an endless succession of "remedies" for that inability

..... our educationists prefer not to treat the multiplication table as something that just has to be learned. They rather think of multiplying as a desirable "student outcome," a "behavioral modification" of one who does not know how to multiply. This would be only a harmless playing with words if it weren't for the fact that not all students learn to multiply with equal ease. If we simply think of the multiplication table as a set of numbers that must be learned by brute force, we can demand more force of those who fail to learn. If we think of the ability to multiply as a "behavioral objective," an appropriate response to stimuli, then the student who doesn?t learn to multiply must drive us to seek other stimuli and perhaps, in stubborn cases, to decide that learning the multiplication table has only limited value for the student outcome of multiplication. From such a view, other follies may flow.

The folly at hand, the word-recognition teaching of reading, is the result of just such tormented thinking. It is perfectly true that people who can read do not stop to sound out letters. That, therefore, is an attribute of readers. So, to the mortally wundted, the path to reading requires the not sounding out of letters as a student outcome, and student behavior must be modified accordingly. Thus, the rare and pesky student who has learned the sounds of some letters must be discouraged

More here.


"I love my job as a head teacher. It is really satisfying to be responsible for young people and to guide them in realising their potential. But sadly my time is increasingly occupied by lawyers and I have to divert an ever growing proportion of my budget away from staff, books and equipment towards defending and insuring against legal actions.

Head teachers do, on occasion, have to exclude pupils. Parents are sometimes reluctant to believe that their child can do any wrong. In one case, a parent having chosen my school, which advertises discipline and strong sanctions, stated that discipline should not be imposed in any circumstances. He complained that there was nothing wrong with his son using school computers to download pornography, but that it was wrong for me to impose a temporary exclusion on his son for doing so. The parent brought in his solicitor, which, under our insurance policy, meant that we too had to seek and pay for legal advice.....

In two cases my decisions have been overruled by panels that had little understanding of current education. In the first case, a panel member asked me how many O-levels the pupil had gained and was very offensive when I could not answer because O-levels were abolished years before the pupil had even entered secondary education. Another panel member opined that students did no work in the lower sixth and thus bad behaviour was to be expected. Even if this had been true in the past, the current system of AS- and A2-levels requires dedication throughout the course, with public examinations at the end of the lower sixth year. Needless to say, the panel member had no knowledge of the current system.....

Risk assessment procedures and second-guessing by parents make it increasingly difficult to organise study visits at home and abroad. If, like many schools, we reduced the number of visits or stopped them completely, then the losers would be the pupils who benefit so greatly from these experiences. All these visits are voluntary and so, if parents are anxious, their children do not have to take part.

So far as organising trips is concerned, our increasingly risk-averse, bureaucratic and lawyer-plagued culture means that many children are already being deprived of opportunities. One local authority (not mine) issued a diktat stating that every visit had to be accompanied by a first-aider and that if a party was subdivided into groups then each section must have its own first-aider! Obviously a first-aider goes out on a geography or a biology field visit, but a visit to a London museum is very different, and even one first-aider is unnecessary because such institutions have good first aid facilities.....

We carry insurance, which is becoming increasingly expensive, and is now a serious drain on our budget. We cannot afford to do without it. However, our insurers are very helpful, and so far our students are still able to undertake a range of activities.

The Prime Minister said that his priority was `education, education, education'. Sadly, it seems that what he really meant was `litigation, litigation, litigation'. Is it any wonder that while universities have to abandon courses in physics and chemistry because of lack of demand, they are overwhelmed with applications from would-be lawyers?"

More here.

A good comment from Bill's Comments: "Wendy McElroy has an article in Fox News Opinion concerning the testing for mental health in the public schools. What she describes is scary. Not because of the current reality, but because of what it portends in the future. The most common technique the liberals and the left use today is, "It's for the children." Children's "rights" trump parental rights. The goal is to gain control over our children and through them in time over society. More and more, rulings in the courts are going against the parents and in favor of the state. Programs for children are not predicated on proper research but on feel-good, wishful-thinking ideas of so-called professional educators and developmental experts".

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


This story could be repeated in most countries of the developed world today

"It takes a peculiar type of institutionalised stupidity not to appreciate the value of Elizabeth Stone. Her treatment by the morbid education bureaucracy has opened a window into the real reasons why the school system is a war zone in this federal election.

This week, Stone is going to turn away from a successful career in law and commit to becoming a high school teacher. Why? Because she thinks it is the most important thing she can do. Until recently she had planned to teach in disadvantaged public schools with the greatest needs. They are desperately short of maths teachers so I was going to teach maths," she told me. Her ambition was to become the headmistress of a damaged public school and turn it around.

Laudable. But what does she bring to the table beyond idealism and altruism? A lot. She is a Rhodes scholar. She has a BA and LLB from the University of NSW, and a masters in law from Oxford University. At school she excelled at academics, sport and leadership. She is now a lecturer in law at UNSW, teaches classes of 30 to 40 students and, most importantly, ranks in the top 1 per cent of teacher performance surveys. She is 31, married with two young children, but willing to take the big salary cut required to become a teacher.

You couldn't write a better resume. Stone is the sort of person the public education system should be desperate to recruit. So how did the NSW Department of Education respond when she applied for a job?

Not qualified. Go away.

This, remember, is the same bureaucracy which for decades has averted its gaze from the excesses of the NSW Teachers' Federation as the union blocked, stymied and diluted every attempt to measure the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom and enable the removal of those who shouldn't be there.

This is the power alliance that has contributed to the exodus from the public system. One in five students was enrolled outside the public system 25 years ago, but now it's one in every three.

What exactly was wrong with Elizabeth Stone? She didn't have a diploma of education. The bureaucracy could not see beyond this fatal gap. It would not even consider allowing her to teach (and thus earn an income) while getting a Dip Ed in her spare time at her own cost. "All they did was put up barriers," she said.

Inevitably this story flows towards the private school system. She made inquiries and was immediately snapped up. Last week she was offered a contract by Barker College, which is near her home on the North Shore. "She is going to make an enormous contribution to our kids," Barker's headmaster, Dr Roderic Kefford, told me. "Why would Elizabeth not be the sort of teacher any school would want to grab?"

Private schools, unlike public schools, have the flexibility to offer a job to any applicant with high potential. They allow a Dip Ed to be acquired as part of professional development..... "

More here

I myself had a very similar experience over 30 years ago. I wanted to do High School teaching but had at the time "only" an M.A. -- no Diploma of Education. The New South Wales Department of Education gave me the heave-ho but a small regional Catholic school (at Merrylands) gave me a job teaching economics and geography. Although the school served a very working-class area, my students got outstanding results in their final High School examinations (the Higher School Certificate, which serves as the university entrance examination). Despite that outstanding track record as an experienced teacher, I am still to this day not regarded as "qualified" to teach in any government High School in Australia. Nothing has been learned in the last 30 years.


An argument for a very different education from what we have today:

"Education is out of joint. It examines nature more than life, mathematics more than justice. It assumes we are placed here to watch the growth of plants or to marvel at the speed of the Internet, not to learn how to do good, and avoid evil, as Socrates understood. Man is elevated only to the extent of his morality and moral wisdom. That should be the North star of education.

The great business of the human mind is not external nature, but discovering a higher purpose between ashes to ashes and dust to dust. As unsurpassed philosopher Sam Johnson elaborated: "Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be pleasing or useful, the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues and excellencies of all times and of all places. ... Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials for conversation; and these purposes are best served by poets, orators, and historians."

Elementary school students need immersion in Aesop's Fables, La Fontaine's Fables, "Alice in Wonderland," and Greek mythology. Instead, they read insipid "award winning" books like "The Bee Tree" or "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." Young children need instruction in moral distinctions and matters of degree; in speaking and writing with exactness and brevity; and in landmark issues and events in American history, including slavery, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, the Civil War and Pearl Harbor. At present, however, young children are taught nothing about expressive skills, nothing about moral reasoning and nothing about the pivotal happenings that have made the United States, warts and all, the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

Secondary school students need to master Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, Dumas and Thoreau. The histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, Tacitus, Plutarch and Gibbon should be scrutinized.....

The United States could have avoided much of its current and past follies, both foreign and domestic, if its leaders and the public knew history and had acquired a fine sense of justice, prudence and moral judgment.... Without a keenly developed sense of morality and justice, there is nothing to distinguish mankind from beasts.

More here


In Australia, multiculturalism has come to mean an abandonment of all standards for right and wrong or good and bad.

I was reminded of being told by one teacher and the husband of another how Middle Eastern boys in an inner city school had treated the female staff with a gross lack of respect. These women had felt sexually harassed.

And I was reminded even more of Coburg's Moreland City College, which lost two thirds of its students in five years and is now being shut down as a lost cause. What no bureaucrat or politician will openly admit is the extraordinary reason for Moreland's death -- how a school that had planned to grow to 1200 students in fact shrank to just 250.

The answer, as I found when I visited two years ago, and spoke to parents, teachers and the principal, was one of those nasty secrets that most of us are too scared to mention for fear of being branded racist.

Moreland was a fashionably multicultural school, just like the school my colleague visited (let's call it School X), so that the increasing number of Middle Eastern children who went there were made to feel at home - their parents' old home, that is, and not their new Australian one.

Islamic preachers addressed assembly, Arabic and Turkish became the main foreign languages taught, Islamic headscarfs were common.... Worse, Moreland become known for its ethnic gangs - with Lebanese students notoriously smashing up three Yooralla buses that were kept at the school. To make a tough situation worse, its discipline and academic standards were left to slide, without any intervention by the Education Department until it was far too late.

By that time, other children - Anglo-Saxon, Greek and Italian - had been pulled out by their parents and sent to other schools, which meant that those left were overwhelmingly Muslim, and Australia must have seemed the "other".

No doubt, the students... got the usual teaching about Australia and its past - about our "genocide", our "stolen generations" and our "racism".... An education of the kind that had Melbourne University's Hellenic Society tell me: "A nation that created itself from the blood of its slaughtered and persecuted native inhabitants and the destruction of their culture has no right to demand further assimilation from its migrants."....

Have such students yet learned to call Australia home? How successful have we been in assimilating them, so that they share our most important values and feel as responsible for this wonderful land as do you?....

In fact, what worries me most is not even that a minority of Muslim immigrants from the Middle East, encouraged by too many of their "leaders", seem particularly intolerant and rejecting of Australia.

More worrying is that our institutions -- not least our schools -- don't seem to promote aggressively an Australia that the children of such immigrants would want to join. Or even give them all the skills to do so. It's not just that we like to madly imagine this country has an evil past. See how we trash our present, too.....

Is it smart to let poorer state schools, or whole suburbs at that, become dominated by a minority culture, and turn into ghettoes? Is multiculturalism in schools -- such as the teaching of the student's home language -- trapping immigrant students in their own closed culture, and should we try harder to make them fall in love with Australia's?

Are we too often teaching students to disrespect this country and its past, and to see Australia as ugly? Are we asserting our values and our core culture strongly enough? Or have we so lost confidence that teachers do not dare even to enforce basic rules of civilised behaviour? And again I ask: what do our bureaucrats do to pick up schools that are failing?

In the end, I suspect, we will discover that discipline, rigor, a little prudishness and an optimistic belief in Australia and a respect for its rituals were not so stupid, after all.

More here.

Monday, September 20, 2004


"Last February Secretary of Education Rod Paige used the inflammatory and inappropriate term "terrorist organization" to describe the National Education Association. Perhaps he should have called them a "far left group." It might have been only slightly less inflammatory, but it would have been far more accurate.

Last Wednesday the NEA hosted a conference call to launch a new coalition called "National Mobilization for Great Public Schools." It is motivated by the need to make education "a higher priority across this nation" because "we're failing to provide too many children with the basics," according to the coalition's website. The coalition plans to host over 3,000 "house parties" across the nation on September 22 to make educational issues a major election issue.

The other coalition members include some of the usual suspects: NAACP National Voter Fund, and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. However, the NEA is now working with groups much further on the left:, ACORN, and Campaign for America's Future.

No description of is necessary for regular readers of this site other than a reminder it was the organization sponsoring the political ad contest that included two ads comparing Bush to Hitler.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was founded by George Wiley whose claim to fame during the 1960s was to instigate poor single women to engage in sit-ins at welfare offices to end "oppressive" welfare eligibility restrictions. According to writer Sol Stern, Wiley's aim was "to flood the welfare system with so many clients that it would burst, creating a crisis that, he believed, would force a radical restructuring of America's unjust capitalist economy." ACORN continues Wiley's proud tradition of confrontational tactics. Several years ago, ACORN members protested Baltimore's lack of service to poor neighborhoods by dumping garbage in front of city hall and conducting a profanity laced demonstration in front of the mayor's house. ACORN is the group most responsible for imposing living wage laws in many of America's cities, and it's currently conducting a sustainable development campaign that, by limiting the growth of the suburbs, would make it more difficult for people to flee the high-tax cities.

The other organization involved is Campaign for America's Future, whose co-director Robert Borosage was formerly president of the leftist Institute for Policy Studies. CAF hosted the Michael Moore speech during the Democratic Convention and has accepted about $300,000 in contributions from George Soros. During the conference call Borosage even unintentionally admitted that some of the members of this coalition were from the far left. In response to a question about how this coalition could contend that it was bipartisan, he let slip, "I think you'll see that by the time we finish this coalition very mainstream groups [will be] joining it, it's just the mainstream groups it takes longer to get through their process."

More here.


The schools policy just released by Mark Latham, Federal leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, promises to cut grants to private schools while giving more money to government schools

"The reason Latham is keeping down the private schools -- and particularly the most successful -- is simple: The big Labor-supporting teaching unions hate this competition. But rather than demand real reforms that will make state schools better, the unions insist Labor make non-government schools more expensive. They want to price their private rivals out of the market.

For Latham to give in to this special pleading doesn't just restrict parents' choices, but makes no sense financially or academically.

It makes no sense financially because every student in a non-government school saves taxpayers money. Scotch College, for instance, gets just $3.5 million a year from governments, although it has as many students as Balwyn High, a state school that gets $19.8 million. On average, a private school student gets half the grants of a state school student. It gets better. Parents of children in non-government schools also pump more of their own cash into their child's education -- more than $4 billion a year -- than do parents of children in state schools. And that's on top of their taxes.

Nor does Latham's plan to slug many parents who choose private make sense academically. After all, students of both independent and Catholic schools do better, on average, in the VCE than do state students.

So private schools save taxpayers money and make us spend more on educating our young, with better results. That's a hell of a deal, and it's hard to believe Latham resents it......

So that's Latham's education policy -- punish the parents who spend the most on their children's schooling, punish the schools with the best results, punish the Christian denominations that best build wealth and punish the taxpayer".

More here.


Australia is less wealth oriented than the USA but even in Australia, business still beats education

"Go into any Year 12 class approaching its final exams and the tension is palpable. Why? Because if the students do not perform well, they will not get into university and therefore (so the theory goes) be consigned to low-paying jobs for the rest of their lives. This fear, albeit a bit dramatic, is not only coming from students but also is shared by their parents. In turn, it is passed on to politicians who try to prove which of them is better at achieving improved education outcomes.

However, as John Howard wants us to be a nation of entrepreneurs and Mark Latham is providing us with rungs of opportunity, the link between education and prosperity is not as clear as some think. In the BRW Young Rich list, published today, an examination of the richest people under 40, tertiary education does not correlate to wealth. Only 40 per cent of those on the list have university degrees. Instead, most pursued their entrepreneurial venture soon after leaving school.

Many of these rich young people argue that formal education delays one's ability to pursue dreams or blunts innovative thinking. The richest person on the list, John Ilhan (39), who made his $300 million fortune through his mobile phone company Crazy John's, speaks for many successful entrepreneurs when he says: "Without university you have the idea that one plus one could be three, and in business that is a good thing."

Students, parents and we as a society should take a less rigid approach to university studies. Young people should be allowed to pursue their interests - if this does not include studying at university, so be it. Tertiary education is not for everyone and it by no means determines how successful you will be in life and even how rich you can be.

Although it is considered that education should be done while young, the early years are also the best time to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions because young people have fewer obligations and greater optimism in their ability to succeed. With greater flexibility in education these days, pursuing studies later in life, if the entrepreneurial venture fails, can be a better option.

In the BRW Rich 200, which identifies Australia's richest people, most do not have degrees. In fact, of the top 10 richest people in Australia, only one (property developer Harry Triguboff) obtained tertiary qualifications. It might have been thought that entrepreneurs would gradually become better educated, as the broader population has, but the Young Rich list challenges this. Clearly, a university education is not related to entrepreneurial success....

If we as a society are encouraging people to go to university at the expense of pursuing their entrepreneurial activities, we will all be the worse off for it. What is more, who then will create the wealth? The ultimate irony is that university graduates will no doubt line up to work for those non-university graduates on the Young Rich list".

More here

A cynical comment from a reader: "There's no evidence that education has anything to do with being very rich. Kyle Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Elle McPherson were all on the rich Aussie women list. Like to know how many degrees those girls have. Reckon plastic surgery can pay better dividends then a degree, at least for some people.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Prof. Wilfred McClay comments. Excerpts:

"It's been said, rightly, that in insisting upon the authenticity (or "accuracy") of the forged documents in its possession, CBS is sacrificing truth and reputation for self-protection. But even such a massively costly strategy is risky, since the self-protection will hold only so long as there is no independent way of verifying the documents' source. And now, with the emergence of Bill Burkett as the likely source, or conduit, for the very documents that formed the core of CBS News's latest attack on President Bush, CBS is in danger of having sacrificed all three.....

It is not just that CBS should have been more skeptical of Burkett, as a committed political activist who has a long and well-documented record of grievances against George Bush. It's something far worse. With the addition of Burkett to the picture, we come face to face with the dismaying fact that Dan Rather and his colleagues, who sit at the pinnacle of the American liberal establishment, have been willing to embrace the word, and the world-picture, of a political lunatic. Anyone who doubts this characterization of Burkett, who proudly claims, among other things, to have been a consultant for Fahrenheit 9/11, should consult Prestopundit, which is all over this aspect of the story, and provides link after link to writings by and about Burkett, including articles appearing earlier this year in the "New York Times" and "Boston Globe". Ace of Spades further confirms this picture of Burkett....

In one sense, it is simply the latest change to be rung on the oldest of moral temptations, a willingness to say that the end justifies the means. But, as those of us who work in the academy know, the problem goes much deeper, to a comprehensive picture of the world in which the most delusionary visions of political reality enjoy a special indulgence.

Which is where the comparison of Michael Moore Politics to pornography seems to me entirely apposite. Reasonable people can differ about whether or not pornography is always and everywhere a vice. But no one can doubt that when men become addicted to it.... it is a debasing, coarsening, and debilitating thing, which renders its consumer pathetic, disoriented, and sometimes even dangerous. It is death to all genuine relationships with other people in the real world.

So with political pornography. It is death to genuine political debate, which is why the academic world, the San Fernando Valley of political pornography, and the most ideologically uniform example of "diversity" that the world has ever known, is so utterly moribund as a source of fresh ideas about the direction of this country".

More here.


"Education Department data show most American preschoolers enter school with the building blocks for achievement. A majority recognize numbers, letters and shapes. Nearly all are in good health, enthusiastic and creative, key precursors to achievement, says Olsen.

American youngsters are also competitive internationally: In England, France and Spain, 90 percent of 4-year-olds attend preschool, yet American children outperform their European peers in reading, math and science. Unfortunately, by 12th grade, American students drop to a "D" on the international scale. Preschool will not solve this, says Olsen.

Improving achievement requires changing the education system, giving parents muscle through charter schools, grants and tax credits. When parents have options, schools either deliver a quality education or risk losing students to better schools, says Olsen. Most studies report benefits from these programs"

More here.


Only Leftist elites deserve the best. No vouchers to give the poor any choice, of course. This article is from a little while back but nothing has changed.

"As candidates for governor, Democrats Robert Casey Jr. and Ed Rendell promise to improve public schools and oppose providing state grants to students to attend the school of their choice. Yet, Casey's four daughters attend the same Scranton Catholic schools as their father did, and Rendell's son, who is now in college, had attended Quaker-run Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.

The two men's press secretaries offered similar explanations as to why both candidates decided not to put their child in public school. "It is a reflection of what he and his wife believe is the best choice for their children," said Karen Walsh, spokeswoman for Casey.....

Casey and Rendell want to increase the state's share of the cost of kindergarten through 12th grade from the current 35 percent to more than 50 percent, what it was 30 years ago. They both emphasize a focus on early childhood education. Casey's plan and Rendell's plan would provide for all-day kindergarten, funding for pre-school and enhanced school safety.

In contrast, Mike Fisher, the Republican candidate that one of these men will face in November, does not believe there is a need to increase state funding of education. Fisher's daughter is a recent law school graduate and his son is a Penn State graduate, but he had sent his children to public schools in the affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Upper St. Clair. Fisher supports the idea of school choice".

More here