Saturday, October 23, 2004


If they are stupid enough to agree, they deserve what they get

Voters generally oppose tax increases, but opinion polls often show they will support them if they believe the money will go to support education. The state of Washington will test that theory on November 2.

Initiative 884 would impose a 15.4 percent increase in the state's sales tax to raise an additional $1 billion a year for education in Washington. According to the League of Education Voters, the primary organization backing I-884, the measure will create 16,000 pre-school slots for children, reduce class sizes, raise teacher pay, provide additional classes in high school, fund 32,000 slots in colleges and universities, and expand college scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Give the drafters of I-884 credit: they have given something to every level of education in the state, thereby uniting most of the education community in support of the measure.

As with most initiatives, the devil is in the details. Teachers who meet certain standards receive an annual bonus of $5,000. Teachers who meet those standards and teach in a "high need" school receive an annual bonus of $15,000!

So what are these standards? Dramatic improvement in test scores? Boosting the graduation rate? Remember, this is something the education establishment supports -- so nothing so rigorous. Rather, they simply have to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This requires completion of six essays at an "assessment center" on a Saturday morning, submitting elaborate portfolios with three examples of student work and extensive teacher commentary on the work, video documentaries of the class in action, and documentation of professional commitment outside the classroom. Supposedly this will improve teacher quality and thereby boost student performance. The one little problem is there is no academic evidence that National Board Certification increases academic achievement.....

In the bigger scheme of political things, I-884 means very little if it passes, but a whole lot if it fails. If it succeeds, then it can be dismissed as voters in a relatively liberal state voting for higher taxes. But if it goes down to defeat, then both opponents of high taxes and school-reform proponents will have a big feather in their cap. Tax opponents will be able to point to Washington and say that even voters in a liberal state won't stomach tax increases, even if they are earmarked for education. School-reform proponents will be able to say that the public is tired of "business-as-usual" in education.

Whatever the outcome on election day, Washington is proving that the education establishment's plan for public education is just "more of the same."

More here


At a history class, a professor mockingly tells a female Jewish student she cannot possibly have ancestral ties to Israel because her eyes are green. During a lecture, a professor of Arab politics refuses to answer a question from an Israeli student and military veteran but instead asks the student, "How many Palestinians have you killed?" At a student meeting on the topic of divestment from Israel, a Jewish student is singled out as responsible for death of Palestinian Arabs.

Those scenes are described by current and former students interviewed for an underground documentary that is causing a frisson of concern to ripple through the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University, where the incidents took place. The film, about anti-Israel sentiment at the school, has not yet been released to the public, but it has been screened for a number of top officials of Columbia, and talk of its impact is spreading rapidly on a campus where some students have complained of anti-Israel bias among faculty members. "The movie is shocking," one Columbia senior, Ariel Beery, said. "It is shocking to see blatant use of racial stereotypes by professors and intimidation tactics by professors in order to push a distinct ideological line on the curriculum," Mr. Beery, who was interviewed for the film, said.

The film is the creation of the David Project, a 2-year-old group based in Boston that advocates for Israel and is led by the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Charles Jacobs. The David Project, which is refusing to make the film public, has screened it for Barnard College's president, Judith Shapiro, and Columbia's provost, Alan Brinkley, according to sources. Neither Ms. Shapiro nor Mr. Brinkley would return calls seeking comment about the film, though at a meeting in Washington this week with women active in Jewish charitable work the Barnard president is said to have spoken of how emotionally affected she was by the film.

With versions at 11 minutes and 25 minutes in playing time, the film consists of interviews with several students who contend that they have felt threatened academically for expressing a pro-Israel point of view in classrooms. One of the scholars discussed most in the film, according to a person who has seen the film, is Joseph Massad, a non-tenured professor of modern Arab politics, who is teaching a course about Middle East nationalism this fall. Mr. Massad, a professor at Columbia's department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures, has likened Israel to Nazi Germany and has said Israel doesn't have the right to exist as a Jewish state.

In the film, a former Columbia undergraduate, Tomy Schoenfeld, recalls attending a lecture about the Middle East conflict given by Mr. Massad in spring 2001. At the end of the lecture, Mr. Schoenfeld prefaced a question to the professor by informing Mr. Massad that he was Israeli, Mr. Schoenfeld told The New York Sun. "Before I could continue, he stopped me and said, 'Did you serve in the military?'" Mr. Schoenfeld, who served in the Israeli Air Force between 1996 and 1999, recalled. He said that he told Mr. Massad he had served in the military and that Mr. Massad asked him how many Palestinians he had killed. When Mr. Schoenfeld refused to answer, Mr. Massad said he wouldn't allow him to ask his question.

Mr. Massad did not return phone calls for comment yesterday. Mr. Schoenfeld told the Sun that his encounter with Mr. Massad was not representative of his dealings with Columbia professors and that the Middle East-Asian department is "usually balanced." Mr. Beery, the senior at the school, told the Sun that anti-Israel bias is prevalent in the department and said the documentary film demonstrates how many students at Columbia have been affected by it. "You would be surprised," Mr. Beery said, "to find the number of students who were willing to stand up and be counted as members of the student body who oppose the intimidation of students in the classroom, especially on topics related to the Middle East."

More here


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Friday, October 22, 2004


There is a good article here about where the opposition to charter schools is coming from in Washington State. "In this state, charter-school opponents are largely Democrats, labor organizations and members of what's called Washington's "education family" — the teachers union and the professional organizations for school boards and school administrators"

The article also makes it clear that charter schools are seen by their advocates as being about encouraging innovation and providing alternatives to the existing system. Yet the political Left are highly suspicious of the whole thing and seize on such irrelevancies as one of the supporters being from the Walton (Wal-Mart) family as being a black mark against such schools. So the Leftist establishment are supporting the status quo and opposing innovation and alternative ways of doing things. Given how often Leftists have claimed to stand for the exact opposite of all that, you might think they would be ashamed of themselves. But inconsistency has never bothered Leftists. Their principles are always whatever is convenient at the time. Power is all that really matters to them and since they already have a stranglehold on education, they are going to defend that in any way they can.


Control has returned in the universities even though academic standards have not

"The rights of schools over their pupils were codified before the U.S. Constitution was written. In 1765 the legal scholar Sir William Blackstone wrote that, when sending kids to school, Dad "may also delegate part of his parental authority, during his life to the tutor or schoolmaster of the child; who is then in loco parentis, and has such a portion of the power of the parents committed to his charge."....

Not until 1960 did this system begin to break down. That year, six students at the all-black Alabama State College participated in anti-segregation lunch counter sit-ins. The school's president sent them letters expelling them for "conduct prejudicial to the school." According to Stetson Law School professor Robert Bickel, the students' case cut to the root of in loco parentis: "The university actually asserted the right to arbitrarily give some students [due] process and deny it to others." When the students sued, federal courts sided with Alabama State. But in the 1961 decision Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected the school's claim of omnipotence. Suddenly, college enrollment was a contract between the student and the school. Since kids didn't lose their constitutional rights in their backyard, they couldn't lose them on campus. State universities slackened their grip, and private universities such as Columbia followed suit......

How then, did the contemporary nanny university arise? Administrators who got their degrees in the 1960s had a certain idea of how students should be governed, and they found three tools for regaining control. The first involved intoxicants, including the escalating war on drugs and the mid-'80s change in the drinking age from 18 to 21. The second was an attempt to stave off liability for student mental health problems by intervening with students who were seen at risk of breakdowns. The third and most well known was a rigid enforcement of political correctness that set standards for just how rowdy students could get....

As the protective mind-set returned, it jibed with administrators' desires to make their campuses placid in every possible way. Alcohol and drug policies had emerged in a national context, justified by laws beyond the university's control, while mental health policies were driven largely by the threat of lawsuits. But administrators didn't need anyone to force their hands to insert speech standards and "hate crime" prohibitions into campus life. In 1987 the University of Michigan responded to a handful of anonymous racist fliers with new campus regulations aimed at suppressing offensive speech. The speech code, the first to end up in court, prohibited "any behavior, verbal or physical, that stigmatizes or victimizes an individual on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, handicap, or Vietnam-era veteran status." A university pamphlet, soon withdrawn, explained that such "harassment" would include hanging a Confederate flag on your dorm room door or being part of a student group that "sponsors entertainment that includes a comedian who slurs Hispanics."

Ironically, a one-time member of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement seized on this approach when she became an administrator. Annette Kolodny, a dean of the University of Arizona's College of Humanities, used her 1998 book Failing the Future to explain why colleges needed to regulate what students said. In concert with other administrators, Kolodny had stiffened penalties for offensive speech and created workshops in which new students could have their values certified or corrected. Her bogeyman was "antifeminist intellectual harassment," and her polices were designed to bring contrary speech out into the open, so it could be "readily recognized and effectively contained."

By the start of the 1990s, Kolodny's view of campus speech was the norm. Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy told The New York Times in 1991 that speech codes made sense, and that their opponents were just warring against 1960s values. Journalists had gotten some taste of universities' strange speech standards through The Dartmouth Review, a conservative newspaper whose editors were punished for articles that would have been protected anywhere else in New Hampshire. But they didn't comprehend how strict the standards were until codes at Stanford, the University of Wisconsin, and George Mason University were challenged in court and overturned. Based on these cases, schools learned how to design speech restrictions that were more likely to pass legal muster.

The speech codes, increasingly unpopular but largely still in effect, contain more than a whiff of the omnipotence administrators enjoyed under in loco parentis. Students are not treated as the adults that Dixon made them out to be. Instead they're young minds that need shaping. In most cases the bodies formed to govern speech -- student judicial boards, special committees -- are uniquely able to adjudicate without explaining their standards for punishment.

Universities' speech restrictions, unlike their recreational policies, do more to attract lawsuits than to repel them. NCHERM offers a seminar on how administrators can thwart the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the American Civil Liberties Union. But there hasn't been any measurable trend toward saving face by scrapping these rules. They're seen as too important to ditch -- and that's illustrative of the way universities view their students.

Four decades after in loco parentis started to stagger, college students would be hard pressed to name their new personal liberties. Yes, they no longer fear "double secret probation." And when administrators crack down, they will almost always at least provide a reason. But today's students may be punished just as hard as their predecessors -- often harder. They've discovered that social engineers have a hard time turning down the opportunity to control things.

The expanding control over college students has had repercussions in the rest of America. Campuses are proving grounds for make-nice public programs. They've provided laboratories to test speech codes and small, designated "free speech zones" for protests. (Such zones marginalize and effectively silence dissent, which is one reason they've been adopted by the major political parties for their national conventions.) The stiffening of campus law also illustrates the trend toward greater control of adults' personal behavior.

More here:


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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Polls show vouchers would be widely used: "Only 42 percent of Americans polled in the latest Phi Delta Kappa International/Gallup Poll say they are in favor of vouchers. Yet the same poll reports 57 percent of Americans say they would use full-tuition vouchers, if they were available, to enroll their children in private schools. A new national study conducted by leading research firm WirthlinWorldwide suggests an explanation for the discrepancy: The use of negative wording in a key poll question reduces the reported support for vouchers by more than 20 percentage points."


"Every year more and more students are seeking higher education, but what exactly are they learning? While the "core curriculum" is still alive on many college and university campuses, professors have increasingly ditched Socrates and Renaissance political history for Andrea Dworkin and lessons in pornography. At the University of Michigan undergraduate students must fulfill a "Race and Ethnicity" requirement in order to graduate. The classes that satisfy this requirement analyze "racial and ethnic intolerance and resulting inequality as it occurs in the United States or elsewhere."

At Kalamazoo College, a private college in Michigan that accepts federal and state funding, many history classes deal with today's leftist fashionable topics. In "Sex, Gender, and Society in Classical Antiquity," students encounter "the literary, historical, and cultural survey of social structures and private life in ancient Greece and Rome. Issues covered include constructions of sexuality, cross-cultural standards of the beautiful, varieties of courtship and marriage, and contentions between pornography and erotica." ....

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with groups of individuals gathering peacefully to learn about race, gender, religion, etc. They should be free, except for one problem: the taxpayers are forcibly subsidizing the American collegiate system. Whether it's the federal student aid program, which hands out over $60 billion in grants a year, or the expenditure of billions on university research programs, taxpayers are increasingly required to fund the activities of universities and colleges regardless of the content and character of their programs.

Without federal funding, institutions of higher learning would have to compete for private dollars as well as for quality students. Colleges and universities that offered the best education would draw more students, who in return would provide the means for the university to operate by paying tuition and later donating as alumni. And what's more important, individuals would not be required to fund courses, activities, or speakers they find objectionable.

The variety of choices would stimulate many more private individuals and foundations to fund higher education according to their vision of what American education should be. In fact, even today private money continually funds many general and specific programs within colleges and universities and endows faculty chairs. Unlike the system we have now-where universities receive a stream of federal funding-the privatization of colleges and universities will force recipients of private dollars to produce successful results in order to stay competitive and qualify for further private funding. Colleges that reject government money prove this point (Grove City College, Hillsdale College, The King's College and others).

Higher education will continue to influence the ideas and opinions of future generations. The market for these ideas should remain outside the control of government."

More here


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Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Including the French government but not the French bureaucracy!

The entourage of Jacques Chirac is the latest member of the growing fan club of M Le Bris, 50, a former Trotskyite who is leading a crusade from the little village of Medreac against the teaching methods of modern France. Criticised by his unions and punished by his own ministry for unorthodox methods, the village headmaster has become famous by touching a raw nerve with an angry book, And your Children will not Know how to Read and Count: The Obstinate Bankruptcy of French Schooling. After three decades of progressive methods, France is facing a "veritable disaster", turning out a lost generation of semi-literate, culturally ignorant youngsters, he writes.

His plea for a return to the old rituals of la dictee, rote learning and arithmetic has helped fuel a mood of nostalgia in France, which worries as much as Britain about collapsing standards. One in ten school-leavers cannot read adequately, although 80 per cent now pass the Baccalaureat, the sixth-form leaving examination.

Naturally, the guardians of the educational temple see M Le Bris as a reactionary playing to prejudice....

Francois Fillon, the minister in charge of Europe's most centralised education system, helped to catapult M Le Bris to celebrity by praising his book this summer and inviting him for a chat. Only a month earlier, the Brittany schools authority had denied M Le Bris a promotion because inspectors reported his failure to apply the tightly defined official techniques. "The inspectors consider me a bandit and I am a hero to the minister," M Le Bris joked as he recalled the ministerial audience.

To the annoyance of many teachers, M Fillon has just taken up the Breton teacher's cause, ordering more emphasis on traditional exercises such as dictee and essay writing. "The system has had too much innovation which has been badly digested and ultimately caused disappointment," the minister said.

Standing at the blackboard before his pupils, M Le Bris looks nothing like the stern instituteur -primary school teacher -of pre-modern days.... Warm and enthusiastic, M Le Bris holds his 25 pupils' attention with banter as they compete in a demanding oral arithmetic. They call him Marc, not Monsieur.

By British or American standards, the French system remains rigorous, with attention still placed on grammar, spelling and recitation, but basic skills have declined as emphasis has been laid on encouraging creativity, "global" reading methods and modern maths. M Le Bris, who jokingly blames the "Anglo-Saxons" for starting the rot, said: "If the kids are left to discover the world for themselves, you go back to being primitives."

France has curbed some of the excesses over the past decade, but the ministry and unions remain under the dictatorship of "Stalinist" progressives, he said. Many teachers are rebelling and secretly returning to the old ways. "They often keep secret exercise books that are hidden from the inspectors," he added. "It's schizophrenic. We are doing clandestine grammar". Among the practices adopted by M Le Bris is the 15-times table, a skill which is unthinkable in ordinary primary schools but which his pupils manage without great difficulty, he said.

M Le Bris, the son of primary school teachers, preaches with the ardour of the converted, because he was himself the product of the Seventies educational enlightenment, an extreme left-wing militant with a mission. As a young teacher, he noticed the successes of an old instituteur in a neighbouring school. Little by little I borrowed his approach," he said. "More dictee, more reading out loud. I gradually ejected all the dogma that had indoctrinated me and I got results...."

The above is an excerpt of an article that appeared in "The Times" (London) on Saturday, 18 September, 2004, Page 18

Terror-harboring group recruits students at Duke

University hosts organization that supports violent jihad operations

Speakers at a controversial Duke University Palestinian solidarity conference, which concluded yesterday, recruited students to join a terrorist-harboring organization... The Palestinian Solidarity Movement, which reportedly works closely with the International Solidarity Movement, an organization outlawed in Israel, held its fourth annual conference to "put pressure on the Israeli government, partly by urging universities to sell their stock in companies with military ties to Israel,"

Duke has been justifying its hosting of the conference, in part, by claiming the Palestinian Solidarity Movement is "separate and distinct" from the International Solidarity Movement, which openly supports Hamas, calls for the destruction of Israel, held activities in which several men who later became suicide bombers participated, and has been caught harboring known terrorists in its Mideast office – including members of Islamic Jihad.

But many documented International Solidarity Movement speakers or workshop leaders participated in this week's Duke conference, including ISM's co-founder Huweida Arraf, who tried to recruit students to join her group. Arraf led a workshop yesterday titled "Volunteering in Palestine: Role and Value of International Activists." Arraf handed out brochures for the ISM and urged students to join the terror-supporting group, members of Duke's Conservative Union who attended the workshop told WorldNetDaily. They asked that their names be withheld from publication. Arraf, together with seven other self-declared International Solidarity Movement members who would not state their last names, screened a slide show about ISM activism, detailed the group's two-day training session and fielded questions about the logistics of traveling to "Palestine," explaining how to fool Israeli border control since ISM members are denied entry. Arraf also told students the ISM "happily works with Hamas and Islamic Jihad," said one Conservative Union member who attended the talk. "This workshop, just as its title suggests, functioned as a recruiting session for the ISM, and ISM brochures and materials were distributed there," the Conservative Union member told WorldNetDaily. He pointed out that although Duke officials were present at other PSM conference sessions, no Duke administrator attended the Arraf talk.

The workshop and Arraf's presence constituted a last-minute addition that was not listed on the PSM's original schedule. When confronted with evidence that ISM speakers were invited to the conference and that the Palestinian Solidarity Movement is connected to the ISM, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, John Burness, who previously told WorldNetDaily the two groups weren't connected, stated, "Well, I don't know what [the PSM] is a part of." But Burness later changed his tone, telling WorldNetDaily, "The fact that [a co-founder of the ISM] was here and did speak does not diminish the fact that [the PSM and ISM] are distinct and separate. Does someone who supports or belongs to the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center mean that they are one and the same?"

Also yesterday, the PSM announced at Duke the results of a Saturday "Resolution Meeting" at which it was decided PSM would again not condemn terrorism. The group had drawn criticism last year after it refused to sign a letter stating it does not agree with terror tactics. "We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence," Ron Bar-On, who is also an ISM member and organized this year's conference, told The Herald-Sun last month.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead said neither he nor Duke endorses the content of the conference anymore than any other conference or speaker who comes to the university. "You understand that I can't make certain public statements," said Brodhead, adding that he felt doing so could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others at Duke to take positions.

More here. And Phyllis Chesler has written an open letter on the subject to the President of Duke here.


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Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Primary schools were urged yesterday to return to traditional maths teaching and bring back learning multiplication tables by rote. The shift away from rote learning may have undermined children's confidence and ability, said Dr Sylvia Steel, an educational psychologist at the Royal Holloway College, University of London.

In the late 1990s, Dr Steel studied 241 children aged between seven and 12 to find out how they tackled simple sums. Around a third recalled the answers from their long-term memory while a third counted the answers on their fingers or used mental number lines. The rest calculated the answers, using a small amount of learnt sums to work out more complicated problems. "We found that retrieval was the fastest and the most accurate and counting was the least accurate," Dr Steel told the science festival. "But despite the efficiency of retrieval, we found that many children were using counting methods."

The researchers found that primary school maths lessons made "heavy use" of conceptual teaching methods such as number lines and number squares. Children were often encouraged to look for number patterns when learning multiplication facts, rather than the traditional technique of learning times tables by rote. "We felt these methods might be encouraging children to stick to counting as they developed," Dr Steel said.

This year her team carried out the same tests on 81 children aged eight to 11 to see whether the launch of the national numeracy strategy in 1999 had made any difference. She found more emphasis on getting children to work out sums through calculation. However, despite an increase in rote learning, the least able third was still reliant on counting. "The message is that there needs to be more aural methods and more emphasis on rote learning," she said. "For a long time, teachers were told they must not teach tables, but it now appears more acceptable." Asked if schools should return to "Victorian classrooms" where children go through their tables aloud, she said: "If I had my way, yes."



While British educational standards sink ever lower

"Business leaders are threatening to boycott the Tomlinson report because they fear that its proposals will do nothing to improve basic standards of literacy and numeracy. Mike Tomlinson will today set out plans for the biggest reform of school-age qualifications in 60 years, abolishing GCSEs and A levels within a decade and replacing them with a diploma for all students aged 14 to 19.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, is expected to endorse the plans, but the Confederation of British Industry, which fears that standards could even decline, cautioned yesterday that it would withhold support unless its concerns are answered. "The CBI wants an action plan to tackle literacy and numeracy," a spokesman said. "We will tell the Government, 'We will work with you, as long as there is such a plan'. This is our problem, to what extent will your proposals deal with it?'" With 60 per cent of teenagers leaving school without grade Cs in GCSE maths and English, a third of employers are forced to provide basic lessons in literacy and numeracy for young staff. John Cridland, the deputy director-general of the CBI, said that, while members wanted radical action, they "will take some convincing that a major shake-up of exams will resolve the issue. Firms want to know exactly how changing qualifications would raise standards in maths and English. Would it ensure the curriculum gives sufficient priority to literacy and numeracy? Would it improve teacher training so that teachers have the skills to deal with the issue?" he asked. "We need reassurance that such a radical shake-up would not divert energy and attention from these urgent tasks which we could be getting on with now."

When Mr Clarke set up the inquiry last spring he insisted that the reforms could not work unless schools, business and universities accepted them. Unions cautioned that ministers would be making a "fundamental mistake" unless they backed the whole package. David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "What I want from the Government is strong support for the Tomlinson report - I don't want any fudge."

Mr Tomlinson, a former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, will call for a diploma at four levels of difficulty to replace GCSEs and A levels by 2014. The reform would also spell the end of school league tables, a move that will delight most teachers' unions. Students would progress at their own pace, earning credits towards the certificate, with the brightest encouraged to pursue the hardest courses".

More here


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.

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Monday, October 18, 2004


Though that is hardly a surprise

Nearly six months after giving the first statewide exam to identify students who aren't prepared for university-level course work, California State University officials found that nearly 80 percent of high school juniors they tested are not ready for college English. The same test - called the Early Assessment Program - dealt better results in math, with 45 percent of participating juniors posting scores too low to prove they are ready for college-level math. "The scores reveal what I've been saying all along," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction. "We must make our high schools more rigorous if we want our students to be prepared."

CSU officials emphasized the numbers released Wednesday are somewhat inconclusive because the test made its debut this year and has no basis for comparison. Still, they underscore a problem that continues to hound the 23-campus CSU system: Large numbers of freshmen, despite being among the state's top one-third of graduating seniors, aren't prepared for the academic rigors of college. Last fall, nearly half of CSU's incoming freshmen weren't proficient in English and nearly 40 percent weren't prepared for college math. Remedial courses in both subjects cost the CSU system nearly $30 million last year. "We want to be able to take those dollars and direct them to students who are already prepared," said David Spence, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for CSU....

CSU faculty have created a senior-year English course for high schools with heavy emphasis on critical thinking and writing. Current senior-year English courses center around literature, but often lack college-level writing assignments, according to CSU officials. Faculty have also developed math diagnostic tests to help students and teachers identify weaknesses.

More here.


Ashley Fernandez, a 12-year-old, attends Morgan Village Middle School, in Camden, N.J., a predominantly black and Hispanic school that has been designated as failing under state and federal standards for more than three years. Rotten education is not Ashley's only problem. When her gym teacher, exasperated by his unruly class, put all the girls in the boys' locker room, Ashley was assaulted. Two boys dragged her into the shower, held her down and fondled her for 10 minutes.

The school principal refused to even acknowledge the assault and denied her mother's request for a transfer to another school. Since the assault, Ashley has received numerous threats, and boys frequently grope her and run away. Put yourself in the place of Ashley's mother. The school won't protect her daughter from threats and assault. The school won't permit a transfer. What would you do? Ashley's mother began to keep her home. The response from officials: She received a court summons for allowing truancy.

Then there's Carmen Santana's grandson, Abraham, who attended Camden High School. After two boys hit him in the face, broke his nose and chipped his teeth, Abraham was afraid to go to school. Guess what. His grandmother was charged with allowing truancy when she kept him home while she tried to get permission for him to finish his senior-year studies at home. Lisa Snell reports that "more than 100 parents have removed their children from Camden schools because of safety concerns. The school district's response: a truancy crackdown."

Nationwide, there were approximately 1,466,000 violent incidents that occurred in public schools in the 1999-2000 school year. Violent incidents, according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, include rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attack or fight with or without a weapon, threat of physical attack with or without a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon. Most school violence occurs in inner-city schools. During the 1999-2000 school year, 7 percent of all public schools accounted for 50 percent of the total violent incidents, and 2 percent of public schools accounted for 50 percent of the serious violent incidents.

More here.


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Sunday, October 17, 2004

'Surf' degree hits the rocks

A new course in surf and beach management has been dropped - because no-one would take it seriously.

Swansea Institute's principal David Warner said they had been forced to axe the course as "it was impossible to stop people poking fun at it". The degree, due to start last month, was at the centre of a big splash in July when it was criticised at a teachers' union conference.

Teacher Peter Morris labelled it a "Mickey Mouse" course. Mr Morris, from Swansea, said surfing was "a hobby, not a subject" and that the three-year degree was "devaluing academia". The course was to have featured modules on managing surf expeditions and surf destination planning.

It was defended strongly by Mr Warner, who insisted it had not been cancelled due to lack of interest. "This is extremely sad," he said. "This is an example of a very good vocational course within a dynamic industry which now will not be run simply because of the bigots. "We do not want to get an image for doing anything other than serious vocational work, and others were just making fun of it. "After three months at least of attempting to explain to people that indeed this was a management course, it was impossible to stop people poking fun at it. "This is not fair to all our other students to be tarred with the brush of this."

All the students who signed up to the course have been accommodated on other courses within the institute. It is currently unclear whether the degree will be started next year instead. The course had required applicants to have at least two D-grades at A-level.

Earlier, Mr Warner said every course at the institute was carefully planned to give students as much hands on experience as possible in their chosen field. And he said 96.8% of graduates either found employment or went on to further education within six months of completing their studies in Swansea - one of the best rates in the UK.

More here.


No freedom even for silly speech

Less than one year after the University of Massachusetts Amherst defended the free speech rights of a columnist who celebrated the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, the university has campaigned to persecute nine students who were seen in photographs containing a caricature of one of them as the "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan. The drawing, which was intended to mock both the Klan itself and spurious accusations of "racism" made during the course of a student government election campaign, depicted the so-called Grand Wizard with his eyes crossed and his tongue hanging out of his mouth. The mere existence of such a drawing led UMass to charge the nine students with "harassment" and threaten them with penalties ranging from criminal charges to expulsion.

"Appalling double standards are, unfortunately, nothing new at America's colleges and universities, but UMass has taken the unfair treatment of students to a new low," said David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is advocating on behalf of the students. "UMass officials know that the drawing was a constitutionally protected satire of accusations of racism made against a candidate in a student election, yet they have denounced the students in public as racists and are pushing ahead with plans to punish them."

On March 26, 2004, after the elections for the UMass Student Government Association (SGA), several candidates gathered in a student organization office for a post-election party. One student at the party, Patrick Higgins, was defeated in a race for SGA President during which he was labeled a "racist" for opposing a plan to set aside a number of seats in the Student Senate solely for members of a campus group called ALANA. (Eventually the plan was judged unconstitutional by UMass's own general counsel.) ALANA claims to represent "African, Latino/a, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American" students at UMass.

In an effort to mock the charges of racism, a person at the party drew a caricature of Higgins as a member of the Ku Klux Klan on a dry-erase board. The "Grand Wizard" was depicted wearing a pointed hat and a cape, and holding a burning cross. With his eyes crossed and his tongue hanging out of his mouth, the "Wizard" had a speech bubble written over his head that read, "I LOVE ALANA!!". One of the partygoers took photographs of the caricature and posted them on his personal website. An unknown student later circulated the photographs around campus, along with others that appear to show some of the partygoers drinking alcohol.

"Anyone looking at the caricature of the student as a 'Grand Wizard' can see that it is not an expression of support for the KKK," commented Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "In the context of the charges leveled during the election, it's quite clear that the drawing is a satire of what the students felt was an unjust characterization of Higgins."

After controversy erupted, UMass Amherst Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Gargano told the Daily Collegian campus newspaper, "I have the authority to remove these people from office.I could give them 500 hours of community service, have them conduct an open forum discussion; I have a variety of sanctions at my disposal. I'm not ruling out dismissal." Gargano further articulated his threats at a September 27 "diversity panel," stating, "[I]f the Student Government Association doesn't move on it, I will. Are we clear? Resign!"

The same "diversity panel," consisting of Gargano, SGA President Eduardo Bustamante, and several UMass faculty members, labeled the nine students in the photos the "KKK Nine," implying that they supported the Ku Klux Klan. "Accusing students without any evidence of their affiliation with or sympathy for a racist terror organization is beyond slander. It shows a grave disregard for students, contempt for the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty,' and a lack of judgment bordering on malice," said FIRE's Lukianoff.

UMass has charged all nine students with "harassment conduct less than a physical attack" and other charges related to the consumption of alcohol. During the resulting judicial proceedings, UMass has offered "settlements" that include punishments far more severe than those typically imposed for first-time alcohol offenses.

On October 7, FIRE wrote UMass Amherst Chancellor John V. Lombardi on behalf of the students, pointing out that not only was the drawing irresponsibly mischaracterized, but that it was also constitutionally protected expression that UMass, as a state institution, was forbidden to punish. FIRE pointed out that "the First Amendment protects even extraordinarily offensive satire and parody," and emphasized that any punishment decisions "must be made without reference to the 'offensive' caricature."

More here. Eugene Volokh says that the behavior of the university is clearly illegal.


American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.



They were trying to fill Oxford and Cambridge with dummies in the name of "fairness"

"Targets for admission of students from state schools and poorer families to university are likely to be scrapped by the Government, The Times has learnt. Ministers are to review the "benchmarks" in the wake of hostility from elite universities to the sharp increase in their targets for recruitment of state students. Cambridge and Oxford have said that their benchmarks are no longer attainable after being told to increase their state intakes to 77 per cent from 68 and 69 per cent respectively. The Russell Group of 19 leading universities is meeting this month to determine its response.

The move comes as Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, names the 100,000 pounds-a-year director of the new Office for Fair Access (Offa) today. The director, dubbed "OffToff" by critics, will approve tuition fee increases for universities that sign agreements to boost applications by students from state schools and working-class backgrounds. This move is likely to cause uproar among backbench Labour MPs who oppose the increase in fees to 3,000 pounds a year from 2006. They see the benchmarks as a means of putting pressure on top universities to accept more state students at the expense of candidates from fee-paying schools.

Ministers have been stung by the ferocity of the response from universities to the performance indicators published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) last month. The backlash has caused the Department for Education and Skills to question the value of the benchmarks, particularly now that universities will have to set their own access "milestones" in individual negotiations with Offa. The statistics agency has adopted the points system used by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas). This dramatically expanded the pool of students that Hesa considered eligible to apply to the best universities, even though most did not meet the necessary academic standards. An analysis at Cambridge showed that 55,104 students had amassed 360 Ucas points, the equivalent of three A-level A grades. But only 16,984 had achieved the standard expected at Cambridge.

The review was welcomed by Professor Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group and Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University. He said: "That is encouraging. The use of Ucas points moved the goalposts enormously. That was a mistake." Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, representing the higher education sector, said: "I think it's sensible to look at it again."

Kim Howells told vice-chancellors yesterday, in his first speech as Higher Education Minister: "I am looking at the moment at the way in which these results are gathered and published . . . I'm prepared to look at this question." In what he called a "myth-busting" response to the row over the targets, Dr Howells said: "Universities must be the masters of their own admissions policies." He noted that universities had been keen to use the benchmarks before they became so controversial. He insisted that there was "no admissions conspiracy" by the Government. "This Government does not have a back door admissions agenda," he said.

Dr Howells said ministers regarded the gap in university entry by higher and lower social classes as unacceptably wide. The solution was a "triple A approach" to raise attainment in schools, tackle low aspirations in students, and boost applications from families without a history of higher education. But interference in admissions was "strictly off the menu".

However, Professor Sterling said he was concerned by Dr Howells's remark that universities would have to satisfy Offa that their targets were "stretching and ambitious" before being allowed to raise fees. He would be seeking assurances about the yardsticks that Offa would use in discussions with universities to determine whether they were being sufficiently ambitious in seeking more state school and working-class applicants.

From The Times


Filling out a 4-page form is too much for them even if it costs them thousands

"A new study says hundreds of thousands of college students who may be eligible for federal financial aid don't get it for a simple reason - they don't apply. The study released Monday by the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities, says that half of the 8 million undergraduates enrolled in 1999-2000 at institutions participating in federal student aid programs did not complete the main federal aid application form. Many were well off, and correctly assumed they wouldn't get aid. But the study found 1.7 million low- and moderate-income students also failed to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Two-thirds of community college students did not apply for aid, compared to 42 percent at public four-year colleges and 13 percent at private colleges.

The study concludes 850,000 of those students would have been eligible for a Pell Grant, the principal federal grant for low-income students. The findings underscore a point often made by educators: Even as college costs rise, students often miss financial aid opportunities because they aren't aware of how the system works. "It's frustrating when you know someone could be eligible and they just don't do it for various reasons," said Tammy Capps, financial aid director at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., where about 900 of the 2,500 students receive Pell Grants. She said complexity of the form is often a reason students don't apply. "We'll even help them fill it out," she said. "But we have to talk to them face to face to give that information and that doesn't always happen. They don't think to call and ask."

The government has worked to simplify the FAFSA form, but it still runs four pages and several worksheets, and King said complexity is likely an issue in some cases.

More here:


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.

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