Saturday, December 04, 2004


By Jeff Jacoby

(Note: This column is slightly expanded from the version that appears in The Boston Globe.)

The left-wing takeover of American universities is an old story. As far back as the 1930s, Irving Kristol recalled in "Memoirs of a Trotskyist," City College of New York was so radical that "if there were any Republicans at City -- and there must have been some -- I never met them, or even heard of their existence." Soon the virus had spread to the nation's most elite institutions. In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr. created a sensation with "God and Man at Yale," which documented the socialist and atheist worldview that even then prevailed in the classrooms of the Ivy League institution he had just graduated from.

Today, campus leftism is not merely prevalent. It is radical, aggressive, and deeply intolerant, as another newly-minted graduate of another prominent university -- Ben Shapiro of UCLA -- shows in "Brainwashed," a recent best-seller. "Under higher education's facade of objectivity," Shapiro writes, "lies a grave and overpowering bias" -- a charge he backs up with example after freakish example of academics going to ideological extremes.

No surprise, then, that when researchers checked the voter registration of humanities and social-science instructors at 19 universities, they discovered a whopping political imbalance. The results, published in The American Enterprise in 2002, made it clear that for all the talk of diversity in higher education, ideological diversity in the modern college faculty is mostly nonexistent.

So, for example, at Cornell, of the 172 faculty members whose party affiliation was recorded, 166 were liberal (Democrats or Greens) and 6 were conservative (Republicans or Libertarians). At Stanford, the liberal-conservative ratio was 151-17. At San Diego State, it was 80-11. At SUNY Binghamton, 35-1. At UCLA, 141-9. At the University of Colorado-Boulder, 116-5. At the University of Texas-Austin, 94-15. Reflecting on these gross disparities, The American Enterprise's editor, Karl Zinsmeister, remarked: "Today's colleges and universities . . . do not, when it comes to political and cultural ideas, look like America."

At about the same time, a poll of Ivy League professors commissioned by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture found that more than 80 percent of those who voted in 2000 had cast their ballots for Democrat Al Gore, while just 9 percent backed Republican George W. Bush. Asked to name the greatest president of the last 40 years, 26 percent chose Bill Clinton; 4 percent said Ronald Reagan. While 64 percent said they were "liberal" or "somewhat liberal," only 6 percent described themselves as "somewhat conservative" -- and none at all as "conservative."

And the evidence continues to mount.

The latest campaign-finance records reveal that the most partisan organizations in America, as measured by employee donations to a presidential candidate, are the University of California and Harvard. Together, the two institutions accounted for $942,000 in contributions to the Kerry campaign -- 19 times the amount donated to the Bush campaign.

Last month, The New York Times reported that a new national survey of more than 1,000 academics shows Democratic professors outnumbering Republicans by at least 7 to 1 in the humanities and social sciences. At Berkeley and Stanford, according to a separate study that included professors of engineering and the hard sciences, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is even more lopsided: 9 to 1.

Such one-party domination of any major institution is problematic in a nation where Republicans and Democrats can be found in roughly equal numbers. In academia, it is scandalous. It strangles dissent, suppresses debate, and causes minorities to be discriminated against. It is certainly antithetical to good scholarship. "Any political position that dominates an institution without dissent," writes Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "deteriorates into smugness, complacency, and blindness. . . . Groupthink is an anti-intellectual condition."

Worse yet, it leads faculty members to abuse their authority. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has just released the results of the first survey to measure student perceptions of faculty partisanship. The ACTA findings are striking. Of 658 students polled at the top 50 US colleges, 49 percent said professors "frequently comment on politics in class even though it has nothing to do with the course," 48 percent said some "presentations on political issues seem totally one-sided," and 46 percent said that "professors use the classroom to present their personal political views." That nearly half of the respondents expressed those views is all the more striking, since only 13 percent described themselves as conservative.

Academic freedom is not only meant to protect professors; it is also supposed to ensure students' right to learn without being molested. When instructors use their classrooms to indoctrinate and propagandize, they cheat those students and betray the academic mission they are entrusted with. That should be intolerable to honest men and women of every stripe -- liberals and conservatives alike.

"If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment," says ACTA's president, Anne Neal, "there would be an uproar." That is because universities take sexual harassment seriously. Intellectual harassment, on the other hand -- like the one-party conformity it flows from -- they ignore. Until that changes, the scandal of the campuses will only grow worse.


There was not even a pretence at justice

"Test results at one of the country's top junior schools have been annulled because investigators found evidence of cheating. Waltham Holy Cross Junior School in Essex was stripped of its results for 11-year-olds in English, mathematics and science, sending it to the bottom of performance tables published today. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which monitors the national curriculum tests, said that it believed that pupils had not completed papers unaided.

Diane Stygal, the head teacher, said that the school had been condemned by a kangaroo court. Mrs Stygal said: "We vigorously deny that anything went on. Just two months before the tests, we had an Ofsted report that said our children were in line to achieve very challenging targets." Waltham Holy Cross was rated among the top 5 per cent nationally for test results last year. But the QCA took the unusual step of awarding the ninety-one pupils zero scores in all three subjects after its inquiry at the school in June.

"We concluded that the results did not reflect the independent and unaided work of pupils," a QCA spokeswoman said. The authority's concerns were thought to focus on the invigilation of the tests.

Mrs Stygal said that staff had no opportunity to defend themselves because they were never told what the allegation was or who made it. QCA officials had told the school that there was no mechanism for appealing against its decision. "It has been extremely stressful and it is beginning to tell on all of us. But the parents of the children concerned were fabulous, and many of them have written wonderful letters of support," she said. Lorraine Kent, the chairman of the school's governors, said that the QCA was "unable to find any direct evidence relating to the allegation". She added that the governors continued to have confidence in Mrs Stygal, who has been head for nearly five years. "The governors and head teacher of the school are dismayed at the way QCA have dismissed the teachers' and children's hard work in this way, and by someone seemingly wishing to do harm to the school," she said.

Essex County Council said that the inquiry was triggered by a complaint against the school by a member of the public".

More here


In the first attempt to include a set of values in an Australian schools curriculum, Victoria will adopt five "principles" that all schools must follow as the Government prepares to release its new curriculum within weeks. The new principles have drawn immediate criticism, with the head of the Independent Education Union of Victoria, Tony Keenan, describing them as "just a statement of the bleeding obvious". "Teachers will roll their eyes," he said, also noting the academic focus of the principles. The introduction of the five principles follows the rejection by Education Minister Lynne Kosky of a more detailed set of values, which created heated debate when proposed earlier this year.

The question of values in schools has been a key issue this year, after claims by Prime Minister John Howard that the drift of students to private schools was partly because government schools were "values neutral". A national study conducted for The Age by the Australian Council for Educational Research also found that a mix of "traditional values" was the main attraction for parents who chose private schools.

The new curriculum and its principles will apply to both government and private schools in Victoria. Openness of mind, pursuit of excellence and respect for evidence are among the new principles. The other two are "learning for all" - the idea that all students can learn - and "engagement and effort" - if students work hard, they will improve. Ms Kosky told The Age the five principles were "a higher set of principles that really are fundamental to a democracy".

But Mr Keenan said: "If she's hoping to avoid the values debate, which we think is a bit of a non-issue anyway, I don't think that will do it." Mr Keenan said there was nothing offensive about the principles, but they did not deal with issues such as respect for others and co-operation. "And they're not even difficult areas," he said.

The body in charge of writing the new curriculum, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, originally proposed a list of 10 values, agreed by state and federal education ministers five years ago. The Age reported last month the list had prompted an intense debate over what values should be taught. Those proposed included tolerance and understanding, respect, social justice and freedom. Only one of those values has made it into the new principles - pursuit of excellence.

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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Government Failure: Essays Debunk Public Education

Book review by Chad Adams

(Edited by James Tooley and James Stanfield: Government Failure: E. G. West on Education; Institute for Economic Affairs; 2003; 201pp.; $15, paperback)

This illuminating book was designed to commemorate the achievements and to spread the ideas of the late Edwin G. West. Professor West, who lived from 1922 to 2001, did pioneering work in the economics and history of education and his studies have been critical in refuting the pretensions of government education. Those who wish to show that government fails to educate students well and to restore a free market in education will find that E.G. West was one of their greatest allies.

Gathered here are nine of West's essays on education. Professor James Tooley, who has made great contributions to the debate over government-provided education himself, writes in his introduction that he initially approached West's work with the intention of refuting it. As he read and thought about West's arguments, however, he found himself being won over. "For me, the fact that governments rightfully intervened in education was a taken-for-granted norm - so taken for granted that it didn't really come up in discussion," he writes. "Any deviance from the status quo - such as moves towards markets in education - needed to be justified, not state intervention itself. E. G. West's argument threatened to completely overturn this cozy presumption."

West's first discovery - still normally ignored in schools, departments, and institutes of education - was that, before the Forster Act of 1870 established the first tax-funded schools in England and Wales, school attendance and literacy rates were well above 90 percent. The educational situation in the United States at about the same time seems to have been sufficiently similar for Milton and Rose Friedman, while they were working on their book Free to Choose, to change their minds about government compulsion and funding by examining the works of West. Friedman would later recommend that the Hoover Institution give West the first Alexis de Tocqueville Award for the Advancement of Education Freedom. Friedman himself made the presentation.

West's wider international influence appears to have been greater than his effective influence on either the United Kingdom or the United States. The movement toward educational choice in the United States has been minimal, owing to the vociferous opposition of the education establishment of any movement whatever away from the status quo. In the United Kingdom, under the government of John Major, a limited voucher system known as Assisted Places was established, but, as the editors appear to have overlooked, it was immediately abolished by the incoming Blair administration in 1999.

The prime evidence of West's wider influence is provided by the fact that he was commissioned to produce, and duly produced, two papers for the International Finance Corporation ( the private finance arm of the World Bank). Those papers were entitled "Education with and Without the State" and "Education Vouchers in Practice and Principle: A World Survey." They actually succeeded in persuading the IFC and World Bank to revise their education policy to favor a greater role for the private sector.

Much of West's work was focused on the economics of politics (or public choice economics, as it is now called). As he said, "benevolent government does not exist. The political machinery is. in fact, largely. operated by interest groups, vote-maximizing politicians and self-seeking bureaucracies." As the writings of Myron Lieberman have taught us, the teacher unions are among the most powerful of such "self-seeking bureaucracies." West led the way in demonstrating the utter folly of expecting good educational results from a system dominated by the producers rather than the consumers of education services.

A particularly fascinating contribution in the current volume is Chapter 5, "The Economics of Compulsion," in which West used his knowledge both of history and public-choice economics to show that the compulsion to attend school has never been a major cause either of increased school attendance or any general improvement in human behavior.

The final essay in the book, "Education Without the State," speculates as to how much better off education consumers would have been if Britain had not taken the steps to establish universal tax-supported schooling. He concludes with these words of advice, "The choice of school movement, it is maintained, has been to a large extent misinformed. What is needed is choice in education."

Those who seek to move away from government-schooling monopoly, whether in the United Kingdom, the United States, or elsewhere in the world, will find this book to be of enormous value.



Useless courses are swamping useful ones but all he can do is wring his hands. He wants to have his cake and eat it too, of course. Who wouldn't? Giving the useful courses real priority is something that political correctness just forbids him from doing

Charles Clarke sought to shore up key university subjects yesterday by publishing a list of courses considered to be of "national strategic importance". The Education Secretary asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to report on whether intervention was needed to prevent universities abandoning subjects such as chemistry and Arabic. But he ruled out additional government funding to protect departments threatened by closure. Mr Clarke said that he had consulted Cabinet colleagues before compiling the list of courses considered vital to the national interest.

Arabic and Turkish language studies and courses on the former Soviet Union regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia were included for "strategic security and inter-cultural awareness reasons". Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and other Asian languages and area studies were listed "for business and trade purposes". Durham University decided last year to close its Department of East Asian Studies.

Mr Clarke placed science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses on the protected list, saying that they were necessary to protect Britain's productivity. Several universities have announced plans to end the study of chemistry. The latest, Exeter, declared last week that closure of its department, along with at least one other, was necessary to cut losses of œ3 million. It last night approved a proposal by Professor Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor, to wind down the music department over the next three years. The university is still discussing the fate of the Italian department, which is also under threat. Meanwhile, about 1,000 students protested on Monday against Cambridge University's plans to close its architecture department. Mr Clarke said vocational courses of interest to employers in areas that were of growing importance to the economy, such as the creative industries, should also be covered, with degrees relating to the new member countries of the European Union.

Mr Clarke asked David Young, the chairman of Hefce, to advise on how best to retain degree courses in these subjects. But he said that universities remained independent bodies, free to make their own decisions, and he was "not looking for a new set of possible initiatives, nor a bid for extra funds". Mr Clarke said: "Any sensible government needs to take a long-term view of what our students are studying and whether we have enough graduates in the subjects needed to help our economy and society thrive." He said these subjects had been highlighted because there were "particular concerns that on current trends we may not be able to produce enough graduates in these fields."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said that the initiative had been planned for several months and was not a response to Exeter's announcement. The plan to close Exeter's chemistry department has already prompted Sir Harry Kroto, who received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for discovering a new form of carbon, to return an honorary degree in protest. The Association of University Teachers said that Mr Clarke had done too little too late to prevent a growing crisis.



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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Thursday, December 02, 2004


British bureaucracy at its most arrogant

Ofsted, the government's education standards watchdog, has admitted that parts of an inspection report given to a top Birmingham school were copied from a report on another school more than 100 miles away. Lordswood Girls' School - judged in government league tables to be the best in the country for improving pupil performance - is planning to sue Ofsted after discovering that two pages of a critical review were identical to an earlier report on Parkside School in Bradford. 'When I realised my school's report contained judgments on areas that the Ofsted team had not inspected during their visit, I became suspicious,' said Jane Hattatt, the headteacher at Lordswood. 'I thought: "What would a stupid child have done if they wanted to pretend to have completed work they had not done?" [So I] typed key phrases into the internet to find where they came from.'

The fact that an Ofsted report contained inaccurate information from another school will be highly embarrassing for the institution. Parents looking for the best schools read Ofsted reports closely and a good report can lead to a school being over-subscribed. Bad reports can have the opposite effect. Lordswood's challenge is one of a growing number of legal actions facing Ofsted. The beleaguered watchdog raised a storm of protest last Thursday when it announced that 37 further education colleges in England had failed inspections, most of them in the south. 'Claims made by Ofsted that a rise in failing colleges this year was a "national disgrace" are highly inappropriate,' said Dr John Brennan, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC). 'It is inappropriate for immoderate language of this kind to be used about a sector which achieves remarkable success in the face of continuing government underfunding.'

Ofsted admitted this weekend that the inspection team for Lordswood failed to give an accurate and fair portrayal in the section relating to leadership and management of the school. It has promised to amend the report and add an addendum on its website about the school. But Hattatt, who has been head of the 900-pupil school in Harborne for 15 years, and who launched a high-profile complaint against the Ofsted inspection system in February, plans to take her concerns to an independent adjudicator. 'I have no confidence in the system,' she said. 'I would advise anyone with concerns who is going through the complaints procedure to keep on going because they need to be challenged.'

Hattatt raised 31 objections to Ofsted's report, six of which have been upheld, including the duplication charge. In a written response, Ofsted said: 'The number of errors and the duplication of the leadership and management section in the draft report are not acceptable. We have asked the lead inspector to add an addendum to the published report of the school. In addition, we will monitor the work of the lead inspector.'

Ofsted's original report into Lordswood also contained incorrect data on achievement at the school, claiming that no students achieved A or B grades in English A-level when in fact half of them did. Ofsted amended the error in the final document, but failed to update judgments made about performance in the subject based on the results. It has now agreed to make changes.

Lordswood Girls' School is just one of a growing number of schools threatening to challenge Ofsted inspections: in September, the Business Academy, Bexley, in south-east London, threatened to take Ofsted to court over a finding of 'significant weaknesses' in its teaching. Sir David Garrard, chairman of Minerva plc, which sponsors the 31 million pound flagship academy said it was taking a stance 'on behalf of all schools and teachers against the irrational, inconsistent and preposterous posturing of Ofsted.... The inspectors imposed an artificial environment by forcing unqualified and trainee teachers to conduct the lessons alone,' said Garrard. 'The academy is deeply disappointed at Ofsted's failure to have taken into account the legitimate objections to its unsupportable analysis and its refusal to meet with representatives or acknowledge its error. I believe Ofsted is accountable, as are we all, and it has refused, in these circumstances, to be accountable at any level.'



Note this post:

The graph below is from a fascinating new paper, What Happens When We Randomly Assign Children to Families?, by Bruce Sacerdote. Holt's International Children's Services places children, primarily Koreans, with families in the United States. Holt has an interesting proviso to their adoption contract, conditional on being accepted into the program, children are randomly assigned. Sacerdote has collected data from children who were adopted between 1970-1980, and thus who today are in their mid 20's or 30's, and their adoptive parents.

The graph shows how parent income at the time of adoption relates to child income for the adopted and "biological" (non-adopted) children. The income of biological children increases strongly with parental income but the income of adoptive children is flat in parent income.

In other words, environment had NO EFFECT on achievement. Kids adopted into high income households did no better than kids adopted into low income households. What made the difference was genetic inheritance. If the kid was the genetic progeny of high income parents he tended to do well and if he was the progeny of low income parents he tended to do poorly. So those poor souls featured in the Time magazine article I discuss immediately below who could not figure out why middle-class blacks kids did poorly at school weren't even looking in the right direction. Class background has NO EFFECT on achievement. It is irrelevant. So no wonder putting black kids into a middle class background did not make them high achievers. It does not make ANYONE a high achiever! Putting it another way, genetic background is overwhelmingly more important than class background. Sad for Leftists with their dreams of social manipulation, I guess, but that's reality.

All the twin studies of IQ show the same thing, of course. In predicting a child's IQ, family background tells you nothing but genetic inheritance tells you heaps. If anybody wants to explore what I have said on these matters more fully, here would be a good place to start.


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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Wednesday, December 01, 2004


A recent big article in Time magazine reports that middle-class black students from middle-class areas do much more poorly at school than do their white peers. Everybody, including Joanne Jacobs, seems to treat this as a great puzzle. But it is no puzzle at all. Middle class blacks are at the extreme top of the range for blacks whereas middle class whites are not. So the children of middle class blacks are much more likely to suffer from regression to the mean (i.e. to be less exceptional and hence lower achievers than their parents). And their parents probably made it into the middle class mainly because of affirmative action anyway so even if black children had precisely the same abilities as their parents, they would be less able than their white peers. I guess I must be breaking a lot of taboos in saying that but it does happen to be the truth.

The only way that it would be a puzzle that the black children do less well is if educational achievement were purely a function of class background -- and just to name that assumption is surely to expose it for the absurdity it is. Though what seems obvious to me after my 35+ years as a psychometrician may not be obvious to everybody, I guess. So let me just say that there is now nearly 100 years of solidly replicated psychological research to show that academic ability is mainly inherited. Though I think that there can be few people anyway who are unaware that smart kids mostly come from smart parents and thick kids mostly come from thick parents.

The sad thing is that ignoring heredity ends up putting most unfair pressures on the black children described in the Time article. They are undoubtedly being made to feel that they are a disappointment even though they are probably doing as well as they can. So if anyone thinks I am a moral degenerate for mentioning heredity in such a "sensitive" area, what are we to call those who are treating the children concerned in such an unfair and oppressive way?


The recent memo purloined from Prince Charles made the accurate observation that ‘child-centred’ education, by encouraging false expectations and discouraging effort, seriously hampers the one who receives it. University teachers know this, since they have to deal with the products of an education which puts self-esteem before real achievement. Despite the plethora of As and Bs gained through dumbed-down examinations in dumbed-down subjects, young people tend to enter university without the skills required for real study. The likelihood that an incoming undergraduate can read a book or write an essay diminishes from year to year, and only the entrenched sentimentality of the educational establishment prevents it from acknowledging that the cause of this lies in the culture of self-esteem. The ruling principle of our educational system seems to be that children should be made to feel good about themselves. The curriculum should therefore be ‘relevant’ to their interests, and examinations should make no judgment of their linguistic or literary skills.

Education is possible only if we persuade children that there are things worth knowing that they don’t already know. This may make them feel bad about themselves, but feeling bad now is the price of feeling good later. The culture of self-esteem has the opposite effect: by making children feel good now, it makes them feel bad later — so bad indeed that they blame everybody else for their failure, and join the growing queue of resentful litigants. Education involves transmitting knowledge and skills, not illusions, and a practice devoted to persuading children that they are fine just as they are does not deserve the name of education. The acquisition of knowledge requires both aptitude and work, a truth so obvious that only decades of egalitarian propaganda could have induced so many people to deny it.

The fracas over the Prince’s memo touches on deeper matters, however. Education is an end in itself. But it is also a means to social advancement. And there can be social advancement only where there is social hierarchy. In a society of equals there is neither failure nor success, and despair is conquered by the loss of hope. Real societies are not like that: they are shaped by competition, conflict, friendship and love, all of them forces that have distinction rather than equality as their natural outcome, and all of them profoundly antipathetic to the culture of self-esteem. A society of real human beings is quite unlike the society for which children are prepared by a ‘child-centred’ education. It is one in which you can lose or gain; in which talent, skill and hard work are rewarded and arrogance and ignorance deplored. Social hierarchy is the inevitable consequence of this: not necessarily the static hierarchy of inherited social class, nor the hierarchy of property that tends to replace it, but a hierarchy all the same, in which influence, affection and power are unequally distributed.

Those elementary truths used to be acknowledged by our education system. When I was awarded a place at our local grammar school, my father, a socialist who jealously guarded his working-class identity, foresaw with a curse that I would ‘get above my station’. And he was right, thank God. Both my father’s resentment and my own success testify to the same underlying reality: that you can rise to a higher station in society by getting a good education. Thanks to my grammar school I gained a scholarship to Cambridge, and thanks to Cambridge I gained the kind of education that opened my thoughts, skills and ambitions to a world that I had never dreamed could be mine. And all this without costing my family a penny.

As a result of the culture of self-esteem, however, the helping hand that I received from the state has been withdrawn by the state. Grammar schools have been largely abolished, the curriculum has been vandalised (and also compelled) and the subjects which contain worthwhile knowledge — maths, the hard sciences, Latin, Greek and ancient history — have been driven to the margins of the system. And having destroyed the schools the state would now like to destroy the universities, by forcing them to take the dumbed-down products of its vandalism. All this shows a deep hostility to social hierarchy. But egalitarian dogma does nothing to abolish social hierarchy: it simply ensures that children at the bottom are given no chance to rise to the top. The way to make hierarchy acceptable is not to pretend that it can be abolished, but to provide poorer children with the means to rise in it. In other words, it is to replace aristocracy and plutocracy with meritocracy. And that means doing the kind of thing that was done by my grammar school, and which is done by the Prince through his admirable Trust, namely, to provide young people with the opportunity to develop their talents and to reap the full reward for their work.

Now there are hierarchies only if there are people at the bottom of them. The advocates of self-esteem are so exercised by this fact that they try to invert the social spectrum, to represent the bottom as the top and the top as the bottom. Slovenly speech is praised as socially authentic, and ignorance as ‘difference’. All forms of knowledge that require aptitude or work, or which aspire to a higher culture than that of the street, are dismissed as ‘elitist’ and driven to the edge of the curriculum. The music mistress who wishes to help her class to understand sonata form and its role in the classical symphony will be criticised for the ‘irrelevance’ of her lessons, which ought instead to be concentrating on the kind of music that young people prefer — Oasis, for instance. The suggestion that we ought to be teaching young people to prefer something better will be dismissed as arrogant and oppressive. This anti-elitism has the reverse effect of that intended, since it confines young people to the social position from which they start....

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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Survey of Smartest People Just Plain Dumb

How smart do you have to be before you can rank smartness?

States Ranked: Smartest to Dumbest

The smartest state in the union for the second consecutive year is Massachusetts. The dumbest, for the third year in a row, is New Mexico.

These are the findings of the Education State Rankings, a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of hundreds of public school systems in all 50 states. States were graded on a variety of factors based on how they compare to the national average. These included such positive attributes as per-pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates, average class size, student reading and math proficiency, and pupil-teacher ratios. States received negative points for high drop-out rates and physical violence.

Sigh. They just assume (among other assumptions) that intelligence is indicated by the amount of money a state spends per pupil. If one state spends more then another, they are automatically assumed smarter than the other state. hmmmm...

The District of Colombia (Washington DC for the people who put this survey together) spends more per student than any area of the country and routinely ranks at the bottom of the barrel is every measure of actual achievement. In fact, the areas of the country where they spend the most money per pupil often produce the poorest results. But never let the facts get in the way of bad science."

(Post lifted from Wizbang. I think Wizbang is too kind, however. It is not even bad science It is deliberate propaganda.)


The Spectator has an amazing listing of exam papers for ELEVEN YEAR OLDS in the Britain of 1898. There are now very few university graduates who could answer the questions concerned. Just some of the questions:


1. Write in columns the nominative singular, genitive plural, gender, and meaning of:- operibus, principe, imperatori, genere, apro, nivem, vires, frondi, muri.

2. Give the comparative of noxius, acer, male, diu; the superlative of piger, humilis, fortiter, multum; the English and genitive sing. of solus, uter, quisque.

3. Write these phrases in a column and put opposite to each its Latin: he will go; he may wish; he had; he had been; he will be heard; and give in a column the English of fore, amatum, regendus, monetor.

4. Give in columns the perfect Indic. and active supine of ago, pono, dono, cedo, jungo, claudo.

Mention one example each of verbs followed by the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the ablative.

5. Translate into Latin:-

1. The general's little son was loved by the soldiers.
2. Let no bodies be buried within this city.
3. Ask Tullius who found the lions.
4. He said that the city had been taken, and, the war being finished, the forces would return.

6. Translate into English:-

Exceptus est imperatoris adventus incredibili honore atque amore: tum primum enim veniebat ab illo Aegypti bello. Nihil relinquebatur quod ad ornatum locorum omnium qua iturus erat excogitari posset.


1. What kings of England began to reign in the years 871, 1135, 1216, 1377, 1422, 1509, 1625, 1685, 1727, 1830?

2. Give some account of Egbert, William II, Richard III, Robert Blake, Lord Nelson.

3. State what you know of - Henry II's quarrel with Becket, the taking of Calais by Edward III, the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen, the trial of the Seven bishops, the Gordon riots.

4. What important results followed - the raising of the siege of Orleans, the Gunpowder plot, the Scottish rebellion of 1639, the surrender at Yorktown, the battles of Bannockburn, Bosworth, Ethandune, La Hogue, Plassey, and Vittoria?

5. How are the following persons connected with English History,- Harold Hardrada, Saladin, James IV of Scotland, Philip II of Spain, Frederick the Elector Palatine?


1. Multiply 642035 by 24506.

2. Add together o132 4s. 1d., o243 7s. 2d., o303 16s 2d., and o1.030 5s. 3d.; and divide the sum by 17. (Two answers to be given.)

3. Write out Length Measure, and reduce 217204 inches to miles, &c.

4. Find the G.C.M. of 13621 and 159848.

5. Find, by Practice, the cost of 537 things at o5 3s. 71/2d. each.

6. Subtract 37/16 from 51/4; multiply 63/4 by 5/36; divide 43/8 by 11/6; and find the value of 21/4 of 12/3 of 13/5.

7. Five horses and 28 sheep cost o126 14s., and 16 sheep cost o22 8s.; find the total cost of 2 horses and 10 sheep.

8. Subtract 3.25741 from 3.3; multiply 28.436 by 8.245; and divide .86655 by 26.5.

9. Simplify 183/4 - 22/3 " 11/5 - 31/2 x 4/7.

10. Find the square root of 5.185,440,100.

11. Find the cost of papering the walls of a room 16ft long, 13ft 6in. wide, and 9ft high, with paper 11/2ft wide at 2s. 3d. a piece of 12yds in length.

12. A and B rent a number of fields between them for a year, the rent and other expenses amounting to o108 17s. 6d. A puts in 2 horses, 5 oxen and 10 sheep; and B puts in 4 horses, 1 ox, and 27 sheep. If a horse eats as much as 3 sheep and an ox as much as 2 sheep, how much should A and B each pay?

This exam was for admission to a private secondary school (the one Tolkien went to, in fact) and most if not all of the children who answered these questions would have been prepared by private primary schools. The big takeover of education in England by the State was just a little later -- in 1899 (primary) and 1902 (secondary). Need I say more?


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


Monday, November 29, 2004


A recent CNN article discusses the plight of Georgia residents who worry that the controversial "warning labels" being placed on high school biology textbooks will give their students a bad reputation. In case you haven't heard, the Cobb County Board of Education's sticker reads as follows:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

The Cobb County debacle is yet another example of the pitfalls of collectivism. For example, if a particular grocery store in Georgia decided not to sell genetically engineered vegetables, nobody would conclude that everybody in Georgia is a Luddite hick; it would be clear that this was the decision of a private entity, and did not reflect the wishes of the average Southerner. In the exact same way, if the government stopped meddling with education - and what a fantastic job it's done thus far! - then private schools could determine their own policies regarding curricula. Fundamentalist parents would be free to send their kids to schools that taught Intelligent Design theory, and if graduate schools balked at this, those kids wouldn't be accepted to Harvard's doctoral biology program. No need for national media coverage, or residents complaining about negative stereotypes.

More here


Anybody for a restoration of discipline? Or teaching reading by methods that work?

Drawing its evidence almost entirely from official sources such as the U.S. Department of Education, a thoroughly researched study from the Cato Institute concludes there is little to show for the hundreds of billions of tax dollars the federal government has spent on K-12 education since 1965. The study suggests this conclusion, coupled with growing state-level unrest over new federal regulations, may lead to K-12 education being returned to local control in each state.

In the study, "A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go?" Cato education policy analyst Neal McCluskey notes, as a starting point, that the U.S. Constitution provides no basis for federal action in education. Despite that lack of constitutional authority, federal education expenditures in constant dollars have soared from about $25 billion in 1965 to more than $108 billion in 2002. "For almost 40 years the federal government has broken with both precedent and the Constitution by inserting itself into American education, an area that is traditionally and legally the domain of state and local governments," notes McCluskey. "In that time the federal government has expended hundreds of billions of dollars on everything from Safe and Drug-Free Schools to programs for towns with historical ties to the whaling industry."

The wide range of these programs is presented by the Cato study in eight pages of appendices, which list the names, 2004 appropriations, and descriptions of 96 federal education programs in eight different areas. Another three pages of the 30-page report are taken up with a listing of the primary funding areas for the top seven spending departments in 1965, 1980, and 2002.

While the U.S. Department of Education (USDoE), created after Jimmy Carter became president, receives the largest single allocation of federal dollars, McCluskey points out more education dollars are spread to other agencies. For example, in 2002, the USDoE was allocated more than $46 billion, but Health and Human Services was given nearly $23 billion for education and Agriculture almost $12 billion. More than $17 billion went to several other agencies.

And what results have taxpayers seen? Title I was initiated in 1965 as a key component of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to improve education for students living in poverty. It is the largest single disbursement by the USDoE, more than $12 billion in fiscal 2004. As McCluskey notes, in terms of reducing disparities in achievement, there is "not much to show for the multiple billions expended on Title I since 1965."

A look at Head Start, the second largest education program, is no more encouraging, despite annual expenditures that have risen to nearly $6.8 billion by 2004. Studies of the program, which offers educational and other services to low-income preschoolers, show it produces only short-term gains that disappear soon after Head Start youngsters leave the program.

After nearly 40 years of federal efforts to improve K-12 education, McCluskey points out student achievement is not markedly better than in 1965, and in some instances achievement is clearly worse.

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.

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


Sunday, November 28, 2004


"Child abuse, as defined by the Child Maltreatment 2002 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, is defined rather broadly. While the overall statistics legitimately portray parents as the most likely perpetrators, it also includes things such as mental and verbal abuse, which is not what most people are considering with regards to the homeschooling issue.

In keeping with these broad definitions, 58.3 percent of the abusers are women, which should help indicate the definitions are not limited to the extreme abuse about which most people are concerned with regard to the issue at hand. Fortunately, the report breaks the statistics down into highly specific segments which are informative and very useful.

The maltreatment report reveals three problems with the idea that public schooling will help prevent child abuse. First, the vast majority of child fatalities - 82.3 percent - occur before the child has even reached school age, while 40.1 percent of all abuse does. Even if the public schools were made mandatory, no teacher or principal could possibly help a 2-year-old. According to the report, 166 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were victims of lethal child abuse, which is less than one-fifth of the 836 children who died in school-related transportation accidents!

Second, the likelihood that evil pedophile parents will keep their children in order to sexually abuse them seems unlikely considering the following facts. Of the 88,656 cases of confirmed sexual abuse in 2002, 16,210 were committed by parents. Despite having far less time and opportunity than parents, teachers and day-care providers were responsible for 15,098 such cases. In fact, the number of confirmed sexual abuses committed by educational personnel represents almost a quarter of the total cases of all abuses accurately reported by educational personnel.

The third problem is that teachers simply don't make for very reliable reporters. Educational personnel were the single most likely group to make unsubstantiated claims of child abuse. Their 179,098 unsubstantiated claims represented 17.1 percent of all such claims, even higher than the percentage reported by the notoriously inaccurate social services personnel (12.4 percent) and anonymous reporters (11.9 percent.). A case of abuse reported by an educator was 2.83 times more likely to be determined to be unsubstantiated than it was to be found true upon professional investigation, while another 176 abuse claims made by educational personnel were intentionally false.

The reality is that although child abuse is a horrific evil that even moral relativists can find the moral outrage to condemn, there is simply no way to eliminate it completely without eliminating every last vestige of freedom in America. As the sexual-abuse statistics indicate, even permanently removing every child in the country from his parents would not eliminate such abuse, indeed, it might well increase it instead by giving more time and opportunity to the teachers and day-care providers who are molesting children at a greater per-capita rate than parents.

But the real question underneath it all is this: To whom does a child belong? The child either belongs to the state or to the parents. There is no middle ground. And considering the long, lethal history of the relationship between governments and children dating back to King Herod, turning to the state to prevent child abuse would appear to be rather similar to relying on the National Socialists to protect Jews....

It is not an accident that public schools were a major component of the Communist, National Socialist and Fascist party programs; conservative parents who believe their neighborhood public school is excellent would do well to examine precisely how excellence in education is defined by the educationist elite."

From Vox Day:


Under the "Dawkins" reforms all sorts of teachers' colleges and the like got rebadged as universities. But even that did not lower standards enough, apparently. But allowing more private institutions might save the day

Australia would be home to hundreds of boutique universities and colleges within a decade if the Howard Government's push to open tertiary education to the private sector were a success. Incoming University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said last night that higher education in Australia was "on the threshold of radical change" and predicted a US-style three-tier system with more private colleges and fewer big research universities. "A shortfall in public funding, an eager private sector and international competition all challenge a regulatory system designed in an era before the world wide web of trade liberalisation," he said.

Current guidelines stop teaching-only colleges from becoming universities, because they do not have a research output. The Howard Government is keen to relax the protocols and open the market, because the trade-off for badging more universities is that the Government can meet increasing demand for places without using public money.

Professor Davis's prediction came as debate flared over the definition of a university, after the release last week by Education Minister Brendan Nelson of a report on their role. That report leaves open the possibility of a new breed of smaller education providers called university colleges or university institutes with specific focuses, and flags the need to open up the tertiary market in Australia. Report author Gus Guthrie, a former vice-chancellor at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the review was designed to encourage diversity.

Professor Davis said the 1988 Dawkins reforms, which overhauled tertiary education by fusing teaching colleges and research universities, were outdated. "A decade from now ... there are 20 or more universities operating in Melbourne alone, and many more than a hundred across Australia," he said. "Some are the familiar large research universities ... but most of the new entrants are small and specialised."

Speaking at the inaugural Melbourne Politics lecture, Professor Davis said the first tier would probably be made up of private and public community colleges offering diplomas, associate degrees and the vocational fields now provided by TAFE. The second tier would be public and private teaching-only institutions, some ranging across disciplines and others with specific focuses. The third tier would include a small number of public and private research universities, which would be the only institutions qualified to award research qualifications such as Masters and PhD degrees. He said the system, used in California for half a century with great success, could work only with a regulatory body independent of government. "(It) has produced the best universities in the world, public and private," Professor Davis said.



Somebody get Nicolas Cage's new wife, Alice, an American history book - and quick! Spies at the L.A. premiere of "National Treasure" last week said Alice, 20, seemed befuddled when someone talked to her about the Declaration of Independence. "She looked at them and said, 'What is the Declaration of Independence?' " our witness relates - an account confirmed by another attendee. Cage, 40, quickly came to the rescue and said, "I'm sorry - please don't ask my wife any history questions." Another source said, "Nic is so odd - a day before he married Alice, he was asking friends for advice because he didn't want to go through with the wedding. He just can't be alone." Cage and Alice met on Valentine's Day at a sushi joint where she was a waitress



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