Saturday, December 18, 2004


Shares in Australia's first higher education float rocketed on their stock market debut yesterday, propelling the company's founders to instant fortune. Shares in IBT Education more than doubled from their $1 issue price, finishing the day at $2.40 each. The float takes the two career educators who started the company into the ranks of the nation's wealthy elite.

Mr Jones and Dr Larsen founded IBT in Perth in 1994 as a means of helping international students to get through university courses. They identified that many foreign students who were sound academically were failing because of their difficulties with English and a lack of educational and cultural support. They designed a model to offer smaller classes with specialised help in English, IT and mathematics. IBT has links with six Australian universities - Edith Cowan, Macquarie, Deakin, Griffith, Curtin, University of South Australia - and provides foundation and first-year equivalent courses to about 10,000 students in Australia. It also operates in Britain, Africa and Sri Lanka.

Courses cost between $10,000 and $15,000 a year, with the majority of students coming from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The stock hit the boards yesterday afternoon at $2.01 and climbed steadily through the day before closing at $2.40. The float was heavily oversubscribed, with institutions clamouring to get on board. Market watchers expected a share price of about $1.50, but the $2.40 close left many stunned.

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One in three children at hundreds of primary schools still cannot read by the age of 11 because of poor teaching standards, it emerged yesterday. Seven years after the introduction of a compulsory reading hour in primary education, at least 35 per cent of pupils in 2,235 schools fail to read properly by the time they leave. David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, said the performance of these schools - one in 10 - which teach about 350,000 pupils in total, was "substantial cause for concern". The report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, blamed poor teaching. Mr Bell added that too many schools adopted a "lacklustre" approach to teaching reading. "It is unacceptable that too many children do not learn to read properly because the adults who teach them lack sufficient knowledge to do so effectively," he said. "This might have been understandable a decade ago but not today."

The report said there was "an increasing gulf between those schools that successfully tackle weaknesses in reading and those that do not". Headteachers of what it termed "ineffective schools" often did not know enough about how to teach reading. In the low-performing schools, too many teachers had low expectations of how quickly pupils could learn to read through phonics - used increasingly in schools. One in four reading lessons was delivered unsatisfactorily, the study concluded, with teaching standards worse among seven to 11-year-olds than younger pupils. Teachers were criticised for too often leaving the slowest readers with classroom assistants who "did not always have enough confidence and knowledge about teaching reading".

Mr Bell said that he wanted to "nail one fashionable theory" that all would be well if children were "freed from the straitjacket" of the National Literacy Strategy. "This is bunkum," he said. "There is not pleasure in not learning to read and I, for one, do not want to return to the so-called good old days when many more children weren't taught to ready properly." He also wanted to "nail another myth that it's all to do with the background of the children". He said: "It is simply not good enough for some schools to lay the blame for low reading standards on the children, parents or outside influences."

The report said that schools were also failing to do enough to encourage youngsters to read at home. "In some schools, even able readers were restricted by the school's policy to follow the structure of reading scheme," the report said. It cited the story of one bright girl who took home a reading scheme book and finished it in a couple of days but was told by her teacher she would have to wait a week to change it "because you can only change it on a Tuesday".

Mr Bell also urged parents to do more to encourage their children to read. "Whether it be a brother or a sister, a neighbour or a parent, a book before bedtime or a book on the bus really does go a long way," he said.

Tim Collins, the shadow Education Secretary, said: "For a government that promised so much for education in general and literacy in particular, this makes for dismal reading." Stephen Twigg, the Education minister with responsibility for primary schooling, said the number of schools with more than one in three 11-year-olds struggling to read had fallen from 6,100 since 1997. But he added: "We know there is a tail end of underachievement - schools which could, and should, be doing better, even taking account of their circumstances."

The report called for action to retrain underperforming teachers and increase headteachers' knowledge of how to improve reading standards.



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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Friday, December 17, 2004

Why Dutch children are escaping city schools

More and more teens in Dutch cities are travelling long distances every morning to schools in outlying districts. Cormac Mac Ruairi looks at why they are running from inner-city schools.

Long before the Van Wieren killing, thousands of VMBO pupils in the major cities have been avoiding the school around the corner and travelling long distances to schools in quieter, outlying towns. Daily newspaper De Volkskrant has reported that 19 percent of VMBO students in Utrecht go to schools in nearby towns, many Rotterdam students go to Bleiswijk and students in The Hague to Rijswijk. VVO, the organisation representing managers in secondary education, has warned that schools will have to come to some kind of agreement to avoid city schools being bled dry and outlying schools overrun.

In the cities, at least, an increasing percentage of the students are from immigrant, and therefore non-white, families. As schools get a reputation as a "black school", a lot of Dutch parents tend to send their children elsewhere. Black schools, or Zwarte scholen, have become synonymous with poverty, under-achieving, violence and drugs. The situation in the VMBO schools mirrors the increasing mistrust between the various ethnic communities in the Netherlands.

The association of public schools, VOS/ABB, blames violence in schools on a continuation of the hardening of society. But the very fact that some VMBO schools have to post guards, mount check points and install security cameras is off-putting for many parents.

Speaking about the new security measures at Terra College, director Gerard van Miltenburg said on 29 January: "Students and teachers must again have the confidence they are safe here". But as one parent in Utrecht explained to De Volkskrant, she decided to send her child to a VMBO out of town precisely because the local schools emphasised their security measures. "The first thing they said to me at the VMBO schools in Utrecht was that they had good contacts with the police, instead of saying 'we will make a person of your child'," she said. She said going from school to school in Utrecht was like visiting disaster after disaster: "I found myself in an environment I did not recognise".

This is a sentiment shared by many in Dutch society who claim that that life in the Netherlands is becoming bleaker. A student teacher told Expatica that she would rather be unemployed in the future than take a position in a VMBO school. "I am still looking for a placement, but I would sign up with a school two hours away by train rather than work in a VMBO in the city. VMBO schools are just awful," the student teacher said. "The children rule the roost: they decide what, when and where they are going to learn. And the teachers aren't supposed to correct mistakes, instead they have to praise the pupil for doing something right. "Children, particularly those in the VMBO system, need direction and discipline, but they are being allowed to run wild by both their parents and the system."

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Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of "diversity officers". Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.

Evidence of the atypical uniformity of American universities grows by the week. The Centre for Responsive Politics notes that this year two universities-the University of California and Harvard-occupied first and second place in the list of donations to the Kerry campaign by employee groups, ahead of Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft et al. Employees at both universities gave 19 times as much to John Kerry as to George Bush. Meanwhile, a new national survey of more than 1,000 academics by Daniel Klein, of Santa Clara University, shows that Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. And things are likely to get less balanced, because younger professors are more liberal. For instance, at Berkeley and Stanford, where Democrats overall outnumber Republicans by a mere nine to one, the ratio rises above 30 to one among assistant and associate professors.

"So what", you might say, particularly if you happen to be an American liberal academic. Yet the current situation makes a mockery of the very legal opinion that underpins the diversity fad. In 1978, Justice Lewis Powell argued that diversity is vital to a university's educational mission, to promote the atmosphere of "speculation, experiment and creation" that is essential to their identities. The more diverse the body, the more robust the exchange of ideas. Why apply that argument so rigorously to, say, sexual orientation, where you have campus groups that proudly call themselves GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning), but ignore it when it comes to political beliefs?

This is profoundly unhealthy per se. Debating chambers are becoming echo chambers. Students hear only one side of the story on everything from abortion (good) to the rise of the West (bad). It is notable that the surveys show far more conservatives in the more rigorous disciplines such as economics than in the vaguer 1960s "ologies". Yet, as George Will pointed out in the Washington Post this week, this monotheism is also limiting universities' ability to influence the wider intellectual culture. In John Kennedy's day, there were so many profs in Washington that it was said the waters of the Charles flowed into the Potomac. These days, academia is marginalised in the capital-unless, of course, you count all the Straussian conservative intellectuals in think-tanks who left academia because they thought it was rigged against them.

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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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A great school but the education establishment hates it. THEY want all the say in how kids are educated. Too bad about parents' rights

The newest public middle school in this mostly working-class town 11 miles north of Boston is a small six-room annex at the rear of a church. Its playground is an empty parking lot. There's no official gym, no theater, no science lab, no lockers, no room to spare. Yet for the 77 Lynn families who sent their fifth-graders to the brand new KIPP Academy charter school this past August -- a month before classes began at regular public schools -- this place is a godsend. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a national network of 38 public schools across the country, has been widely acclaimed for its success putting underserved students on the path to college. Started in 1994 by two former Teach for America teachers, KIPP's flagship schools in Houston and New York City continue to outperform their district counterparts, and in the last 10 years each has risen to become one of the top-performing schools in its district.

Five months into their first year at KIPP Lynn, students are at home in their new classrooms. The atmosphere is one of quiet concentration, thanks to KIPP's strict standards of behavior, but the lessons are engaging and even spirited. In one math class, the teacher leads a group of enthusiastic fifth-graders as they clap their hands and shout their way through the multiplication tables in unison: "Boom! KIPP, KIPP, good as gold, let me see your fingers roll: 8, 16, 32, 40!"

And yet these children are not exceptional learners. As an open-enrollment school, KIPP draws from the same population found in its neighboring district schools, and, says principal Josh Zoia, is more heavily minority and has a higher percentage of special education students than the district as a whole. So what's KIPP's secret? According to the 31-year-old Zoia, who also wrote KIPP Lynn's charter, success comes from placing education at the center of children's lives and teaching behavior expectations as systematically as their lessons.

School days begin at 7:30 a.m. and last until 5:00 p.m., plus two hours of homework, four hours of class every other Saturday, and three to four weeks in the summer. "If students need extra help, teachers are available by phone until 10 p.m. each night," says Zoia. "If a mom can't rouse her child out of bed, we go and pick the kid up." After four years, Zoia explains, KIPP students will have spent up to 60 percent more time in the classroom than their public school counterparts -- an extra 2- 1/2 years of school.

Aside from the intrinsic draw of KIPP's program, for many Lynn parents the school simply represents another choice. Most have had few educational options for their children; unlike wealthier families, few can afford private schools or just pick up and move to the suburbs. To them, charter schools -- publicly funded schools that operate outside the regulatory constraints of most public schools -- seem a great alternative to their district options, and they've pinned their hopes on KIPP, sight unseen.

But not everyone in Lynn shares this zeal for charter schools. Last fall, the mayor of Lynn, the school superintendent, the School Committee, the head of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, and several state representatives all fought to bar, or at least postpone, any new charter school in Lynn. For them, the issue was simple: The Lynn public school system could not afford to support a new charter school, no matter how good the program might be.

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Degrees of disillusion

There's a lot of useless education out there

A higher qualification doesn't guarantee you a job, reports Dylan Welch. Each year, from March, the big guns come to university campuses. They are representatives of law firms, management consultants, accountants and big business, and they want to attract the best and brightest to their firms. Over the course of their final year, candidates for graduate programs are whittled down. The ones who are rewarded with a job by November have usually gone through an application process involving group and individual interviews, a barrage of tests and quasi interviews, such as cocktail parties, which are used to gauge an applicant's social skills. Entry into graduate programs is highly prized. It's seen by many as a fast track to a stellar career: with on-the-job training and other perks such as mentoring and travel.

But what about those who miss out? Disappointment at rejection is intensified when classmates are boasting of three or four job offers. They see years ahead working with no career path and a wasted degree. Three months ago, Christine Neufeld graduated from the Law College of NSW after a three-year degree in psychology and a four-year degree in law. She had high hopes of getting a job after graduating but so far success has been elusive. According to Neufeld, she didn't expect the job market to be so competitive and she admits to being naive in thinking she would get a job straight away. "I probably should have started looking long before I graduated," she says. "It's been a big shock to me, definitely a big shock." She makes ends meet by working in administration at the University of Sydney two days a week and spends the rest of the week job hunting. She says it takes a full two days to prepare for an interview, which only compounds the disappointment when she misses out. But she says she remains upbeat and positive she'll find work.

The 2003 GradStats, a report on the employment activities of graduating classes in 2002, by the Graduate Careers Council of Australia, shows a levelling-off of jobs for new graduates. It states that 80.1 per cent of 2002's graduates were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degree, a fall of 1.9 per cent on the previous year. "The market has been flat," says the executive director of the council, Cindy Tilbrook. "We tend to reflect what overseas markets are doing and September 11 caused a dramatic downturn in the graduate market in the US and the same thing happened here."

Nathan Laird, the president of NSW Young Lawyers, says competition for jobs with the big law firms, such as Minter Ellison and Blake Dawson Waldron, is becoming increasingly intense among the 5000 law graduates each year in NSW.

But it's not just law students who are finding the competition fierce. Adam Antonio enrolled in a bachelor of computer science and technology at the University of Sydney in 1998, during the heady days of the dotcom boom. But by the time he graduated, in 2001, the bubble had burst and there were slim pickings in IT jobs. "I'd apply for a job and I'd never hear anything about it again," he says. He applied for more than one hundred jobs but got only six interviews. "In the first few months I would ring and ask whether I had progressed to the next stage and a typical response was, 'We had over 600 applicants for this position, we couldn't afford to contact them all, if you haven't been contacted by this stage you can safely assume that you haven't made it."'

In the field of multimedia, Nicole Frost, who graduated with a bachelor of arts from UTS in 2002 has also found the going tough. To date, she has applied for more than 200 jobs in multimedia, gone through 40 interviews and is becoming resigned to never getting a job in multimedia. She says by far the worst part of her experience has been the jobs she almost got. "If the interview went badly you knew why you didn't get it," she says. "But there was one job where I got down to the final four and I didn't get hired. That was worse than just getting knocked out in the first round."

Tilbrook says that many undergraduate students can be unprepared for the modern job market, failing to grasp that there is more to landing that dream job than just high distinctions and first-class honours. Academic results are really only the starting point. "We've been talking to graduate recruiters recently and some of the big graduate recruiters will get five or six thousand applications," she says. "They're looking for things like leadership, or teamwork, communication skills. If a graduate can say, 'I've either worked at McDonald's and I was a shift manager', or 'I was the captain of my netball team and have managed all the events for the team', then that will be held in good stead as a demonstration of some of those other skills." Graduates should look beyond the glamour of big firms to increase their chances of getting a job. Suburban and country firms take on graduates and can provide them with a strong start.

The manager of the UTS careers service, Malcolm McKenzie, says that despite big firms being the most visible recruiters of graduates, it doesn't mean they represent the wider employer market. "These big employers are only a small proportion of the whole field. We have maybe 100 firms come to campus but many, many more than that recruit our graduates. By all means try for these [large firms] but if you miss out, it's not the end of the world." McKenzie says students restrict their chances of work by not applying to lots of firms. "One of the things we've seen is students are becoming more selective in their choice of employers. Instead of applying for a wide number of jobs, they tend to restrict themselves to only the four or five that they want."



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


Thursday, December 16, 2004


A millionaire has announced plans to "bribe" parents and children in one of the poorest parts of England to regularly attend school. Irvine Laidlaw, who has a personal fortune of o500 million, intends to offer affordable restaurants, healthcare and adventure training courses to persuade people in Newcastle to back his plans to fund a controversial new city academy. Lord Laidlaw said that he wants to create "not just a school, but a community centre," and "to give something back" to children with a less fortunate start than himself. His plans have been condemned by union leaders and Jim Cousins, Labour MP for Newcastle Central, who said that he feared the scheme would exacerbate social exclusion and hand the community's control of its education to a "benevolent dictator".

City academies are a controversial government scheme to replace failing schools with high-tech, multimillion-pound ventures, backed by private-public sponsorship. Each school costs about 25 million pounds to build, double the cost of a comprehensive, and is beyond council control once set up.

Lord Laidlaw, 61, had hoped to fund a similar project in Scotland but was thwarted by hostile teaching unions concerned about the influence of private sponsors over public schools. Now his focus is West Gate Community College in Newcastle, where 33 languages are spoken, 60 per cent of pupils get free school meals and 43 per cent are registered as special needs. "I'd like to give something back to a community which has not had such a fortunate start and I feel that a city academy is a good way of doing it," he said. Lord Laidlaw aims to regenerate the community with the 1,750-strong school by providing a restaurant with healthy, affordable meals and healthcare facilities on site. School uniforms would be mandatory, teachers would do exchanges and pupils go on adventure training courses. "They may not be able to fund all that from revenue grants, so as a sponsor I'd be prepared to help. In taking on a school you take on more than just providing education, you must ensure they're on healthy diets and so on," he said.

In four years, Jim Farnie, the headmaster of West Gate College, has turned it around. About a third of pupils this year have achieved an A-C grade in five GCSEs compared with just 8 per cent in 2000. He is a hesitant supporter of the changes which will mean closing his school and moving to new premises in September 2008.

Today parents will receive a letter spelling out the offer, but Mr Farnie says that most seem happy with the plans. "I have talked to a couple whose view is that if a state-of-the-art school is to be built in the west end of Newcastle, they would like their kids to be part of it." The plan for an IT business enterprise academy to prepare students to run their own business as well as following academic courses will be debated by the city council next month.

Mr Cousins fears the loss of community control over the new school and that the vocational emphasis may duplicate the work of a local further education college. "I don't write the script, I look at the script given and this script is not good enough for me or Newcastle. It will compound social division, not help it," he said.

This summer, the Government committed itself to building 200 city academies by 2010. However, in a recent survey, more than half the 113 councils not involved in a city academy project said that they would not wish to take part. Last year four of the twelve academy heads left their posts citing too much pressure to get results. The Government has spent about 425 million pounds on 17 academies. Private sponsors invest around 2 million pounds, which gives them the right to half the seats on the board of governors and a say in how the school is run.


Mental Health Trumps Individual Accountability

Large numbers of teachers believe themselves incapable of meeting the learning expectations placed on their institutions by the No Child Left Behind Act. Like the characters in Atlas Shrugged, they find themselves having to deal with problems they did not create within the constraints of a system designed to fail. In order to remain in their chosen profession, those caught in the middle must place blame elsewhere in order to find an "out." Those who refuse to "work within the system" disappear. Mediocrity rises to the top and excellence disappears.

Public education has cried "wolf" one too many times, claiming that lack of money is what is wrong with our schools. The public is not voting for tax increases. School districts have had to resort to other means to assure that their increased public funding habit is met. Lawsuits have been filed against state governments for not providing the financial means necessary for an optimal education. "Activist Judges" who use rule based on research generated by the very mouths this research is designed to feed, have ordered governors and legislators to come up with more funding.

Educational Mandatory mental health testing not only provides an "out" for academic failure by providing labels that excuse individual actions; it generates more funding to provide special services for those labeled with deficiencies. The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFCMH) represents a massive victory for those activists and lobbyists who champion the cause of pharmaceutical companies who produce medication for those deemed "mentally ill and unable to function in `normal' capacity." It is a blow against those fighting to preserve the rights of individual liberties guaranteed under the US Constitution. With individual liberty comes individual responsibility, but that is not expected of someone excused from the standards that apply to everyone else.

The NFCMH has made it easier to justify irresponsible behavior such as impulsiveness and other unrefined character bi-products of the "me first" and permissiveness era, heralded in by Dr. Spock. Today's children are granted adult rights while retaining minor status, for example; having an abortion without parental consent and being guaranteed their right to privacy in other areas, as well. Judicial activism selectively emancipates minors. Those who behave irresponsibly while accepting no responsibility can site a variety of mental disorders as their "modus operandi" and dismiss the consequences of their actions!

Just look at the liberals who can't get over Bush's reelection. They're not bad sports. They have Post Election Selection Trauma as a result of losing the election. Their inappropriateness is justifiable given that they cannot help themselves. The therapists are making beaucoup bucks helping them adjust to reality and these blowhards don't have to be responsible for their disregard for civility.

Rather than address the real problem which is inadequate teaching and classroom management stemming from poor pedagogy, children can be labeled with a mental disorder that excuses their academic performance and behavior. Public education, seemingly forced to account for their performance, has been dealt the ultimate trump card. The Orwellian conclusion to legislating away accountability is that whether or not a child performs is no longer up for discussion. What matters ultimately, is the excuse given for not meeting expectations. A label changes everything.....

Behavior disordered children who aren't expected to achieve and do not adopt a moral code are perceived as victims of their upbringing. But in the long run, misbehavior and disrespect for authority in the classrooms translates to crime in the streets. How many parents are afraid to spank a child for fear of being cited for "child abuse?" "Tolerating" a child's excessive behavior is seen as a positive parental trait. Educators, not students, are supposed to adapt to any given situation. Given these circumstances, everyone in the whole village is needed to take responsibility for the child except for the family.

Judicial Activism, bad pedagogy, and labels all erode the individual rights and responsibility necessary to maintain our system of government. We are sacrificing the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness by shirking our responsibilities and giving the decision making power to the government and not the people. One must play the cards that are dealt and make the best of a given situation. Excuses do not keep the trains running.

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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


Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Competition in a free market prompts people to excel and continually pursue greater achievements. This is why the United States is a prosperous country and that our population as a whole lives much more comfortably than most others around the world. Choice in education provides those needing educational services more options and a competitive product. If a product isn't up to speed, people will not seek it out. Universal Tuition Tax Credits are the only option that would allow consumers from any socio/economic background the opportunity to pursue the education that best fits their needs without drawing from public education dollars. There are additional ways to insert competition into the public school system.

One suggestion worth considering has educators run the public educational system by electing their principals. It's worth noting that everyone has been given the opportunity to change the present system of education in our country except the teachers, who have been given no power in the system. Teachers often fear losing their jobs or offending the principal or others if they truly voice their opinions.

Electing the principal would remove the fear teachers have of expressing their true beliefs about how things should go. It would also introduce an element of competition. Next, principals would serve as the school board members because they are infinitely more knowledgeable about how the tax dollars should be spent in their district.

These same principals would elect one of their own to serve as superintendent for a term -in charge of appointing and hiring teachers. Teachers would no longer have to answer to untrained school boards and administrators who are removed from the every day problems of the classroom. Classroom teachers could simply vote out those who impede the educational process.

If there must be a teacher union, it will be to do the job for which it was established; to seek proper benefits and working conditions for the members. That would be the extent of any union role in education.

It is the teachers who have the proper training and classroom experience necessary to run the school system. It must be acknowledged that in the sum of their practical experience and training lie the only answers to the question of what works in education.

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The only book by Laura Ingalls Wilder I've read is Farmer Boy, which is about the life of Wilder's husband, Almanzo Wilder, when he was ten years old and growing up on a farm. I was surprised by his life, which wasn't all that long ago--in the 1860's.

Almanzo had a place and a purpose in the family, and an important one. The functioning of the farm was very much dependent on him, and Almanzo didn't mind at all. He enjoyed it a great deal. How many teenagers today can say the same? How many today just live with their families, but don't truly feel part of them? As for school--ugh.

There was something very interesting about Almanzo's life. He hated school passionately and apparently only attended a few months at the most in his entire life. Yet he grew up intelligent and well-read.

He also remembered nearly everything that happened to him when he was young. I remember little, mostly because I spent most of my time in school, and it was the same meaningless thing day after day. I couldn't tell one day from the other. I have few memories from between the ages of six and 11. I'm not the only one..........

I've come to the conclusion there is no hope for the public schools. They bore kids, they destroy their imaginations, they give them no meaning or purpose. I'd shut them down on the spot if I could. How many kids like school? Almost none. Doesn't that tell people something?

Why in the world do we need 12 years of schooling anyway? What exactly does it take 12 years to learn? And that doesn't include college and graduate and post-graduate work. Is all of this necessary? It isn't a good thing, of that I am convinced. I read an article several months ago about a rather strange man who lived in a cave with his 12-year-old daughter. He taught her out of a set of old encyclopedias. When the police finally found them, investigators said the daughter was "usually intelligent and knowledgeable."

I'm certainly not recommending living in a cave with your kid, only pointing out perhaps schools aren't only not necessary, maybe they are instead a obstacle to true education. Watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off sometime. It reminds me of a nightmare I sometimes have: it is the last day of high school, and for some horrible reason I won't graduate and have to go another year. It is the only nightmare I have repeatedly.

It'd be better if a lot of kids started as apprentices at 12 years old. I've known several people who just simply could not finish high school. All of them later became successful in their field. One friend who lived next door to me when we were in high school dropped out, and later became an airline pilot. None of them could find a place, a meaning and a purpose in schools they attended.

As for families, I do know one thing; the State is the cause of most of their problems. Interference by public schools, interference in the economy, destruction of neighborhoods and communities...all of these things are created and exacerbated by the State. Interference by the State takes away the meaning and purpose of people's lives, and tries to replace it with its meaning, which is generally bureaucracy, militarization, war and empire.

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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, December 13, 2004


More evidence that American schools are run primarily for the benefit of the teachers rather than the students. In any private business, the teachers would have to take a cut

Two looming deadlines have created a "perfect storm" for Los Angeles Unified officials, who face the prospect of proposing teacher raises while officially reporting that the district's finances are uncertain. If the LAUSD board doesn't pinpoint $137 million in potential budget cuts by Wednesday, it will have to submit a "qualified" rating for the first time in district history. That qualified rating, down from "positive," could cost the district higher interest rates on billions of dollars in school construction bonds as well as more oversight by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The board also is grappling with a self-imposed Jan. 18 deadline to propose pay raises for teachers -- a decision fueled by intense pressure from United Teachers Los Angeles, which helped elect a majority of the school board. Most board members are pushing for the raises even as they face the prospect of telling the county that the district's financial future is unclear

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What Does it Take to Create a Marketplace in Education?

Giving parents the freedom to choose their child's school is the most important element in ensuring that an education environment operates as a competitive marketplace, according to a panel of policy experts who spoke recently at a Cato Institute Policy Forum on "Creating a True Marketplace in Education." In fact, for one of the panelists, parental choice was the only thing that mattered. "It's parents that have the information about what's best for their children," said John Wenders, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Idaho. "The closer we can come to making the choices down at the bottom of the system, the better."

That's how the free market works to provide "almost limitless choices" in almost every other sector of the economy, noted conference organizer David F. Salisbury, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. Yet the U.S. K-12 education system operates as a command economy where government determines where and when children will go to school and what they will learn. So Salisbury asked: If we want to create a market-based education system, what are the three most important requirements?

Non-discrimination was the top requirement for John Merrifield, professor of economics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Non-discrimination, he explained, means the government treats everyone's children the same, regardless of which school they go to--public, private, charter, or religious. If the government provides support for education, he said, it should provide that support to all children. Merrifield's second requirement for a competitive marketplace was for low entry barriers, and his third requirement was for prices that would motivate the marketplace.

Lisa Snell, director of education and child welfare at the Reason Public Policy Institute, suggested it was money that motivated the marketplace. "The most important thing is that the money follows the child. ... The money is attached to each child and they take it wherever they want," she said. "There has to be competition for the money." Snell's second condition was that the money allotted to each child should be from a stable revenue source and have sufficient purchasing power for companies to be interested in investing in new school capacity. Her third condition was to allow for-profit companies to own and operate schools because, she contended, it is only for-profit companies that will make the R&D investments necessary to develop specialized schools.......

However, in Lieberman's view the school choice movement has made only minimal progress over the past 45 years in broadening the schooling options available to parents. By contrast, the teacher unions--the major opponents of school choice--have made considerable progress in consolidating their influence over the public school system. While no teachers were represented by a collective bargaining agreement in 1960, today between 75 and 80 percent of public school teachers fall under a collective bargaining agreement.

Over the past decade, the school choice movement has made negative progress, according to Lieberman, because leaders of the movement oversold charter schools and other severely limited school choice programs as examples of "the free market." Now, he said, the limited results from these limited programs are being used by opponents as examples of how the free market really doesn't work very well in education.

Snell had a different perspective on charter schools. While admitting charter schools are basically contract schools, she said they still exhibit some characteristics of the private marketplace. First, she noted, charter schools have added substantial new school capacity, some 3,000 new schools in total. Second, each of the for-profit providers--White Hat Management and National Heritage Academies--has developed a successful school model, branded it, and set about replicating it.

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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Sunday, December 12, 2004


Two apparently unrelated stories that appeared in newspapers on the same day are in reality not nearly as unrelated as they might seem. One story appeared under the headline, "High School Students Debate Steroid Ethics." The other story had the headline: "Economic Time Bomb: U.S. Teens Are Among Worst at Math."

We have known for a long time that teenagers in Japan scored much higher on international math tests than American teenagers do. But did you know that teenagers in Poland, the Slovak Republic, Iceland, Canada, and Korea -- among other places -- also score higher than our teenagers? Out of 29 countries whose teenagers took a recent international math test, American teenagers ranked 24th. Americans also scored near the bottom on tests of general problem-solving.

What about the ethics of using steroids? Kids can talk about this at home or on the streets or just about anywhere. What about the ethics of using up precious school time for such chatter when there are serious deficiencies in our children's ability to measure up to international standards in an increasingly competitive international economy? Presiding over classroom chatter is no doubt a lot easier than teaching the Pythagorean theorem or differential calculus. But teachers who indulge themselves like this, at the expense of their students' future, have no business conducting discussions of "ethics" about athletes using steroids -- or any other ethics issue. Jason Giambi may have done some damage to his own career, and to George Steinbrenner's pocketbook, by taking steroids. But that is nothing compared to the damage done to schoolchildren whose time is frittered away talking about it when there is serious work that remains undone.

With all the outcry about the "outsourcing" of American jobs, especially in computer work, there has been relatively little said about the importing of brains from foreign countries to do mentally challenging work here because the brains of our own students have simply not been adequately developed in our schools. For years, most of the Ph.D.s awarded by American universities in mathematics and engineering have gone to foreigners. We have the finest graduate schools in the world -- so fine that our own American students have trouble getting admitted in fields that require highly trained minds.

A finer breakdown of American teenagers' test scores shows that while white and Asian American students meet international standards in math, blacks and Hispanics fall well below those standards. Those students who are already less fortunate have the most to lose by turning classrooms into chatter sessions. The children of affluent and well-educated parents can learn a lot at home, even if the schools waste their time on "activities" and "projects." But the kid from a low-income family in the ghetto or barrio usually has just one shot at a decent life -- and that shot is in the school. Teachers who fail to equip these youngsters with mental skills send them out into the battles of life unarmed.

Teachers who think they are doing something good for those kids by sympathetically dwelling on racial grievances are giving them chips to carry on their shoulders instead of brainpower in their heads. Is anybody going to be more employable with a chip on his shoulders? Is anybody more likely to be work hard on improving himself when he is led to believe that his problems are caused by other people? The message that gets through to many minority youngsters is that you are a chump for trying when The Man is not going to let you get anywhere anyway. Those minority students who still try hard are often accused of "acting white" -- and that accusation can bring anything from social ostracism to outright violence.

Schools that give easy grades are setting their students up for a very hard life without the skills to compete. Instead of giving students and their parents a realistic picture of where they are, while there is still time to do something about it, schools are passing the job of confronting reality on to employers who get these youngsters when it is usually too late. Yet schools think they are teaching "ethics" when their whole abdication of adult responsibility is profoundly immoral.


Tennessee: Girl must be taught at school, not home: "In a rare case of alleged education neglect, a home-schooled Franklin teen will no longer be taught by her parents after tests showed that she was years behind her peers academically. This week, the family of the 16-year-old girl agreed to enroll her in a private school. It was part of an agreement with state officials, who investigated the family. The high school girl tested at the elementary level in math, science and social studies, but her reading skills were on track. ... The name of the family and the girl are not being released because of privacy concerns. It isn't clear how long the home-schooled teen struggled academically nor why it wasn't discovered earlier. ... Kay Brooks, founder of a statewide information clearinghouse for home schools, said this appears to be a personal issue that spilled over into home schooling. She said her heart goes out to the family, but she hopes this incident doesn't cast a long shadow over home schooling statewide."

Spelling: "English is written in a Code. Remember that! Think in terms of how to read a code; how to write in a code. Soon you will find yourself becoming stronger and more confident in the use of this wonderfully rich language. The Code -- phonics -- is the only way to become an excellent user of the language, because we have an alphabetic language that is represented by phonograms designated to represent specific sounds. Good readers who think that they do not need phonics are only fooling themselves."


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

Higher education in decline: "College costs have risen dramatically over the last several decades. In many cases, it's difficult to find a college where per-student costs are under $20,000 each year. Most often, tuition doesn't measure the true cost because taxpayer and donor subsidies pay part of the expenses. While costs are rising, education quality is in precipitous decline, particularly at the undergraduate level." .....

A Zogby survey was commissioned by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) to compare the general cultural knowledge of today's college seniors to that of yesteryear's high school graduates. The questions for the survey were drawn from those asked by the Gallup organization in 1955 covering literature, music, science, geography and history. The results were reported in a NAS publication titled "Today's College Students and Yesteryear's High School Grads." It concludes that "Contemporary college seniors scored on average little or no higher than the high-school graduates of a half-century ago on a battery of 15 questions assessing general cultural knowledge." .....

Intellectual diversity in the classroom: "Although conservatives complain loudly and often about liberal bias in the mass media, the truth is that one is far more likely to read a conservative perspective in the New York Times than hear it from a college professor. At least the Times publishes an occasional conservative on its op-ed page. At many universities, just finding a Republican anywhere on the faculty is problematic. Two recent studies by Santa Clara University economist Daniel B. Klein prove my point."


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