Saturday, April 09, 2005


The color red has become an issue for school officials across the country. Some schools have now put red on the blacklist for marking students' work. At Daniels Farm Elementary School in Trumbull, Conn., teachers are no longer grading papers in red ink. Parents complained that students get stressed out by red ink. Blue and other colors are now being used. Red has become so symbolic of negativity that some principals and teachers across the country are not touching it.

Joseph Foriska, the principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pa., has instructed his teachers to grade with colors with more "pleasant-feeling tones" so that their instructional messages do not come across as derogatory or demeaning.

Top pen and marker manufacturers -- including Bic, Pilot Pen and Sanford, which produces Papermate and Sharpieare -- are making more purple pens in response to rising rising demand. The companies say principals and teachers are largely driving that demand.

The disillusionment with red is part of broader shift in grading, said Vanessa Powell, a fifth-grade teacher at Snowshoe Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska. "It's taken a turn from 'Here's what you need to improve on' to 'Here's what you've done right,"' Powell said. "It's not that we're not pointing out mistakes, it's just that the method in which it's delivered is more positive." Her students, she said, probably would tune out red because they are so used to it. So she grades with whatever color -- turquoise blue, hot pink, lime green -- appeals to them.



As random police checks are introduced to the Scottish Highlands, there are fears that Britain's drug culture has taken root even in the remotest areas

For the 1,700 inhabitants of Kingussie, there is normally little to gossip about other than the latest new neighbours from England, attendance levels at the local line-dancing classes and the next bingo tea for the village shinty club. This week the tiny community, on the banks of the River Spey and between the Cairngorm and Monadhliath mountains, is being forced to confront a topic that is threatening to tarnish its image as a remote Highland idyll: drugs. The 393 pupils at Kingussie High School are to be subjected to random drug checks by police sniffer dogs.

Two other nearby schools are likely to follow suit after the Northern Constabulary gave warning that, even in one of Europe's last great wildernesses, the area used to film the television drama Monarch of the Glen, the smoking of cannabis "is replacing a cigarette behind the bike shed".

Although the use of police sniffer dogs has already been trialled in inner-city schools in England, the decision to replicate this in the Highlands has sent shockwaves across Scotland, where Kingussie High is the first school to introduce the practice.

An English resident, who asked not to be named but who has been living in Kingussie since 1998, said: "It may not look like the kind of place where there would be drugs, but it's going on here, just like everywhere else. You hear all sorts of stories."

Although Kingussie High School does not have a history of drug problems, there have been rumours that cannabis is being smoked in the grounds and some pupils have started to experiment with hard drugs. One community worker told The Times that several local youths were being treated for drug misuse, while there had been an increasing number of seizures in the area.

More here

When will people realize that prohibition never works?


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


For example, there is Jane Christensen who teaches at North Carolina Wesleyan College. One look at her webpage makes me proud to be a Methodist. It isn't really the picture of Jane holding an M-16 with a black hood over her head that bothers me...... Her webpage links to some interesting articles, which say some interesting things. An example follows:

"America is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq under Zionist control...Jews rule America (and most of the world) by proxy. They trick us into fighting and dying for THEM. Politicians of the 'free world' are too cowardly to oppose Zionism."

Another link presents the theory that Ariel Sharon is preparing to launch attacks in America:

"Israel is embarking upon a more aggressive approach to the war on terror that will include staging targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries..."

Another link says that Israel is preparing to launch a nuclear attack on Iran:

"a team of U.S. computer specialists flew to Diego Garcia to fit the latest version of the software known as 'over the horizon.' This would allow a Harpoon (equipped with a nuclear warhead) to hit Iran's nuclear establishments with pinpoint accuracy."

The first reader comment on that article is posted under the name "Killing Jews is Good." Nothing more need be said.

Given these "recommended readings," I know most of you will be shocked at the first two questions on Christensen's final exam for a class called "The American Presidency":

"1. How has the war on terrorism contributed to the powers of the Bush presidency? (Discuss at least 4 ways).

2. Discuss the sweeping attack on democratic rights under the Bush administration and what this means for the future of democratic government in America."

No leading questions, here!

More from Mike Adams here


The anti-phonics religion marches on despite all the evidence of how bad it is for kids

An immediate review of how children are taught to read was demanded yesterday after MPs cast doubt on one of Tony Blair's key reforms. The one in five children who cannot read properly at the age of 11 is "unacceptably high" eight years after the National Literacy Strategy was introduced in primary schools, the Education and Skills Select Committee said.

The Labour-dominated committee cast doubt on Mr Blair's claims that primary school standards have improved under Labour and was sceptical about improvements in the results of the national curriculum English test at 11. It contrasted the failing of English schools with Scotland where the restoration of the more traditional phonics approach has recorded some remarkable improvements.

The MPs said that a large-scale inquiry was necessary to establish the best ways to teach children to read. It concluded: "It may be that some methods of teaching (such as phonics) are more effective for children in danger of being left behind." It disputed claims by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) that the literacy strategy was based on the best available research.

In Clackmannanshire, 300 children received intensive instruction in a method known as synthetic phonics, learning the sounds of the alphabet and combinations of letters for 16 weeks as soon as they started school. By the age of 11, they were more than three years ahead of their peers.

There was no difference between girls and boys, unlike their counterparts in England, and children from poor backgrounds performed as well as those from better-off homes.

The committee urged the DfES to commission an independent evaluation of trends in reading standards to make clear "the scale and nature of the problem". "Even if government figures are taken at face value, at age 11 around 20 per cent of children still do not achieve the success in reading (and writing) expected of their age. This figure is unacceptably high," it said. "Furthermore, there is a wide variation of results achieved by schools with apparently similar intakes. This . . . suggests that problems do exist, either in the implementation of the Government's strategies or inherently in the methodologies it promotes."

The dispute centres on whether existing methods work as effectively as synthetic phonics. The committee said that the literacy strategy had been a compromise between competing approaches. It included a form of phonics but also encouraged pupils to work out the meaning of words using context, grammatical understanding and pictures. The idea was that if one failed, others would help children to decode words. But some argue that the strategy takes too long, leaves many children confused and encourages them to guess. Some children come to believe that they are not good at reading and never learn.

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


Thursday, April 07, 2005


And of course regulation wouldn't do more harm than good. Look at the wonderful job the regulation of drugs does!

"Propelled by the No Child Left Behind law, the federally financed tutoring industry has doubled in size in each of the last two years, with the potential to become a $2 billion-a-year enterprise, market analysts say.

Tutors are paid as much as $1,997 per child, and companies eager to get a piece of the lucrative business have offered parents computers and gift certificates as inducements to sign up, provided tutors that in some cases are still in high school, and at times made promises they cannot deliver. This new brand of tutoring is offered to parents by private companies and other groups at no charge if their children attend a failing school. But it is virtually without regulation or oversight, causing concern among school districts, elected officials and some industry executives. Some in Congress are calling for regulations or quality standards to ensure that tutors are qualified and that the companies provide services that meet students' needs. "The potential here is unbelievable, and it's not being regulated by the states or the Education Department," said Patty Sullivan, the director of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research group that released a study in late March examining the tutoring programs. "We're pouring a lot of money into it, and we're not sure it works. To the extent that it is going to grow, we've got to get a handle on it."

Critics are particularly concerned about aggressive marketing tactics, like the offers of computers, gift certificates and basketball tickets, though they acknowledge that such practices do not violate the law. Students are not required to enroll in a tutoring program. The option is merely offered at poor schools that have been deemed "failing" for two years in a row. But because families can choose from a list of state-approved providers, some tutoring groups have reacted by engaging in aggressive solicitations.

School officials in Clark County, Nev., the district that includes Las Vegas, had to call security to remove tutoring providers from a school where they were soliciting families too aggressively, the Center on Education Policy found in its report. The parents, many of whom did not speak English, said they felt that they were being pressured to sign things against their will, according to the official who called the school police. In New York City, where more than 81,700 students are being tutored, complaints about inappropriate incentives led officials to start an inquiry into all the providers about six months ago. It is expected to be completed by the summer.

The law's silence on such issues is not an oversight. "We want as little regulation as possible so the market can be as vibrant as possible," Michael Petrilli, an official with the federal Education Department, told tutoring company officials at a recent business meeting organized by the education industry. In fact, hundreds of new companies and community groups have been established to take advantage of the law, joining more established names in test preparation and tutoring like the Princeton Review, Kaplan and the Huntington Learning Center. Across the country, there are more than 1,800 "supplemental educational services providers," as they are called in the law."

More here

California HS Purges Non-Resident Students

(Post lifted from Interested Participant)

(Fremont, California) Today, the 9,500-student Fremont Union High School District will order approximately 300 students to immediately pack their bags and leave if they are unable to prove residency in the district. Parents were informed of the action weeks ago by telephone and mail.
"We're taking a gentle course," said Polly Bove, deputy superintendent. "We'll call them in between classes and call home to let parents know what's going on."

[ ... ]

Still, she said, "We expect to hear from people who will say they didn't think we meant it."
The Cupertino-based school district administration is making the change to cut costs.

Well, my, my, my! In California, no less! They are not going to spend money on kids that don't live in their district. Holy moly! Is this a grassroots message with momentum?

Can we expect the school district to next require that a student be a legal resident?

Let's hope.


It sounds like "Summerhill" all over again to me -- dependent on one charismatic and hard-working leader. Let's see what happens to his ideas when lazy NEA members get their fangs into it. I myself once taught in a "progressive" school and the founder there worked very hard in his own way

Three decades ago school teacher Dennis Littky took himself off to a cabin in the forests of New Hampshire in the US north-east. There, he chopped wood and pondered his great passion: the future of education. As far as Littky was concerned, secondary education was in a state of meltdown. High schools were outmoded sausage factories turning out generation after generation of bored, disaffected students who failed to reach anything like their true potential. The big question, of course, was what could be done about it? Littky had some ideas about this, and the more he pondered, the stranger his ideas became. When he emerged from the woods two years later, he became headmaster of a run-down high school in a nearby town and set about putting his theories into practice.

The school he'd taken over had a terrible academic record and a history of disciplinary problems. Littky cut class sizes, abandoned the syllabus, threw away textbooks and asked the students to write their set of rules. Parents and the community were appalled, and banded together to try to get him fired. Littky, however, hung on to his job - and a year later his critics were confronted by some unforeseen results. The drop-out rate at his high school had fallen from 10 per cent to 1 per cent. The number of students applying for university had shot from 10 per cent to 55 per cent. Littky, universally known as "Doc", was voted School Principal of the Year. This, though, was only the start.

Ten years ago, Littky was approached to become the director of a new state-funded school for 14- to 18-year-olds in Rhode Island. The school was to be built in a rough, mixed-race, inner-city neighbourhood. Littky agreed to take on the job - on certain conditions. There would be no classrooms, no formal lessons, no bells, no grades, no uniforms, no detentions - and no teachers, at least not in the accepted sense of the word.

The students who enrolled at the Met School had sunk to the bottom of the pile; on average, they were three years behind the norm in literacy skills. However, according to last year's figures, all of the Met School students were accepted into university, with 75 per cent of them being the first in their families to go on to higher education.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was so impressed that he donated $US40 million ($52 million) to help set up 70 more Met Schools across the US by the end of 2007. Gates says: "America's high schools are obsolete. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting - even ruining - the lives of millions of Americans every year."

The first thing you notice about the Met School is how clean it is. There's no graffiti or rubbish, none of the casual detritus that defiles most school premises. The students are pretty spotless, too. They are friendly, courteous and apparently at ease with themselves and with each other. They also look fit and healthy - the result of a nutritious, junk-food-free diet, which they help to cook.

The sceptical visitor may conclude the reason everyone looks so happy is because they're barely doing any work. But as one of the students, 18-year-old Chayanna Santana, says: "I came here from a school that had eight classes a day and 30 students in each class. To be honest, I didn't learn anything; mainly because I was bored. Here, though, they make it really fun to learn, as well as challenging. My friends at home can't get over that I actually like coming to school."

At the Met, students are divided into groups of 15, each of which is supervised by an "adviser". The adviser acts as a teacher, tutor and mentor, first identifying what each child is interested in, then using that as the basis of his or her studies. Instead of formal lessons, students sit at an oval table, discussing such subjects of general interest as ethics or current affairs. Then, two days a week, they all do work experience; the idea being that practical learning is far more useful than studying textbooks. "Textbooks!" snorts Littky contemptuously. "I think textbooks are the most boring things in the world. I would much rather my students read a historical novel than some dreary list of facts and figures. "Or better still, went out and discovered things for themselves." If he had his way Littky would get rid of all exams. "I just don't think they show much. By the same token, I also think grades are meaningless. "But when you say you want to get rid of grades, some people think you want to get rid of standards altogether. In fact, it's the exact opposite."

At the Met every child is evaluated at the end of each term by a two-page "narrative" written by his or her adviser. These narratives aren't used to rank students. They're simply to help a student understand how to meet his or her goals.

The school costs the same amount to run as any other high school in the area, a result of cutting administration costs and employing dedicated teachers prepared to teach more subjects, and take on far more tasks, than they would be called upon to do elsewhere. "I honestly believe that we could take any high school in the United States and get the same ratio of staff to pupils for the same amount of money," Chris Hempel, Littky's second-in-command, says.

What, however, remains to be seen is whether the Met Schools can succeed without the charismatic figure of Littky to supervise them. Twenty-six of the proposed 70 are running, and although they seem to be working well there's always the danger that by franchising the format, they'll end up like any other school - albeit producing different-shaped sausages.

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


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Bullying a fatty to death sounds OK to them. For non-British readers, "Comprehensive" schools are the usual form of government schooling in Britain. They are definitely safer than Los Angeles public schools but there is not much more that you could say for them.

The parents of a girl who killed herself after being bullied may sue her school after learning that a member of staff said that their daughter "must accept the blame" for being victimised. Mike and Yvonne Rhodes have consulted lawyers about legal action after being handed school records showing that staff held their daughter, Laura, 13, responsible for being bullied. The couple said that they were astonished and angered at the response of the school, Cefn Saeson, in South Wales, to their daughter's death. Social workers have also expressed outrage at the insensitivity of some staff and their failure to tackle persistent bullying.

Laura Rhodes, of Neath, died last year in a suicide pact with Rebecca Ling, 14, a friend she had met through an internet chat room. Rebecca, from Birmingham, survived after telling Mrs Rhodes that the two of them had taken an overdose of prescription pills. Laura died in hospital a few hours later. Since the death of their daughter, Mr and Mrs Rhodes have been trying to find out to what extent the school authorities accept that they were responsible for failing to prevent her from being bullied. In papers obtained by the family and seen by The Times, Laura's progress at Cefn Saeson and comments about the bullying are charted in detail. They reveal that Laura was regarded as being the author of her own misfortune and that the school authorities felt that the bullying allegations were best dealt with by exiling her to a pupil referral unit. Her parents said they were furious at the way she was treated and a "blame the victim" attitude from authorities that sent out the wrong message to bullies.

When Laura left primary school she was a happy child who thrived in class but by the end of her first day at Cefn Saeson secondary school in Cimla, Neath, she was already complaining of being bullied. Instead of taking every measure to stamp out the bullying, her parents said, the school had within three weeks decided that the problem lay with her and had requested a psychiatric assessment. During the first term she befriended another girl and sent her affectionate messages. They were interpreted wrongly, Laura said later, as declarations of lesbian love and she was branded the "school dyke".

After this Laura was held responsible for further outbreaks of abuse. Helen Langford, the education welfare officer, wrote: "Name calling will take a while to stop because of Laura's verbal indiscretion. Laura fully realises and appreciates she must accept the blame for the current situation." By the end of the first year Laura was told to attend the Bryncoch pupil-referral unit instead of Cefn Saeson. The head of Cefn Saeson, Alun Griffiths, later suggested that Laura was merely the subject of schoolgirl "squabbling", yet a written record of a meeting to discuss her background states: "Mrs Langford outlined the difficulties Laura had to face at school. She explained that she had suffered some very nasty forms of verbal bullying

Mr Rhodes said that his daughter was happier at the referral unit because she could go there knowing that she would not be bullied. Angered by the school attaching blame to Laura, Mr Rhodes said: "It's the injustice of it. How can they get away with doing this to children? How many more children will die because of schools not dealing with bullying?" Mr Griffiths maintains that his staff did all they could to help Laura, often in the face of her refusal to report bullying immediately or to name the protagonists. ....

Delwyn Tattum, director of the Countering Bullying Unit at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, said that the family was right to be concerned about Laura's treatment. After seeing the documents, he said of the school blaming Laura for being bullied: "It's most unacceptable. It's blaming the victim for the bullies' behaviour."

The school refused to comment in detail about the bullying claims until after the inquest next month but was praised last year by school inspectors for "outstanding" standards of pupil welfare, including bullying.

More here


California's public schools, once among the best in the nation, now lag behind almost every other state in student achievement, funding, teacher quality and facilities. The state's urban high schools have become "dropout factories," saddled with some of the lowest graduation rates in the United States. And the pay disparity among California teachers means that the best-paid teachers in 42 of the 50 largest districts work in schools that serve the fewest number of black and Hispanic students. Those are just a few of the findings outlined in several recent reports which together paint a grim picture of the sorry state of California schools. The conclusions by organizations including the Rand Corporation, Education Trust-West and the Harvard University Civil Rights Project suggest that a combination of factors - from budget cuts to rapidly changing demographics to lack of political will - have contributed to an alarming degradation of the state's schools over time. The problems have disproportionately affected low-income and minority students, who make up a majority of the state's public school students.

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels the state to promote several initiatives to reform state government, only one - a proposal to pay teachers according to merit, rather than seniority - even touches on the state's exploding education crisis. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger's engaged in a pitched battle with teachers who are still steamed over his decision to withhold about $2 billion they say is owed to them under Proposition 98, a voter-approved initiative that guarantees a funding formula for public schools.

As lawmakers and advocates argue over the value of the merit-pay proposal, even some Schwarzenegger advisers say it only scratches the surface of the problem. Both sides agree that dealing with the state's most intractable challenges, such as its burgeoning population of non-native English speakers, will require new ways of thinking about an education system that has remained stubbornly resistant to change.

"We need merit pay, and it's a great step in the right direction. But it's only a step," said Richard Riordan, Schwarzenegger's education secretary. "The major piece is doing some very, very systematic changes in the way schools are governed." Among other things, Riordan supports the work of Eli Broad, the southern California philanthropist whose Broad Foundation helps to fund innovative programs in public school systems around the country. Broad has advocated improving local management in education and reducing the control of unions. He also believes big city mayors should wrest control of urban school districts from seemingly unaccountable school boards.

More here


When teacher Bonnie Taylor swung open the gym doors of El Cerrito High School last week, she expected to take the stage at an assembly -- not take one on the chin. The 56-year-old came home bruised, bandaged and outraged after a 17-year-old girl punched her in the face and jabbed a pencil at her hand. The student faces suspension and possible expulsion. That doesn't make Taylor, a teacher of 33 years, feel any better about returning to work. "Physically, I'm fine. Mentally, I'm still upset and angry," she said.

Student assaults are becoming more frequent in California, statistics from the state Department of Education show. Growing concerns in the West Contra Costa school district have prompted new demands from the United Teachers of Richmond to more strongly discipline unruly students and to protect teachers. "They don't mind giving their life for education, but it should be a figurative thing, not a physical thing," said union President Gail Mendes.

According to a 2004 report, an estimated 90,000 violent crimes were committed against teachers on campuses nationwide from 1998 to 2002. About 4 percent of teachers surveyed nationally in 1999-2000 said they had been attacked by students, according to the 2004 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report. Male teachers, city teachers and those at middle or high schools were more likely to be targets. The magnitude of the problem is difficult to track. Like many states, California's data includes all school employees without separate statistics for teachers.

Recommended expulsions stemming from student assaults or batteries on school employees has grown steadily from 668 in 2000-01 to 1,053 last school year, according to the state Department of Education. However, those figures count students punished for violence against employees, not the attacks themselves. "Who knows how many didn't get reported," said Chuck Nichols, a safety consultant for the state Department of Education.

In the 33,000-student West Contra Costa school district, the union recently added new safety proposals during contract negotiations. The teachers want the district to pursue legal action if a student injures a teacher or damages property. The district would also reimburse teachers for injuries or repairs caused by campus assault or vandalism. The union, which represents about 2,000 teachers, also wants stiffer punishment for students who break the rules. Teachers can banish students from their classroom the day of an offense and the next day. The union wants to expand classroom suspensions for up to five days to prevent what Mendes calls "the revolving door." When students violate a rule, such as using profanity, teachers send them to the principal's office from where they often return during the same period. "All the kids around them see that and they think, 'Gee, if you can get away with it, I can too,'" Mendes said.

Swearing does not amount to homicide. But lax punishment for minor infractions encourages more aggressive acts, Mendes said. "It starts with children being verbally disrespectful to teachers. It moves into using foul language. And it escalates" to physical attacks, she said.

The district has rejected the safety proposals. Lengthening classroom suspensions might violate student legal rights, said Laurie Juengert, lawyer and member of the district bargaining team. "The district believes that proper disciplinary action should be taken against students who injure teachers," Juengert said. "However, we have to follow the due process requirement for state and federal law."....

To meet federal reporting requirements, California schools report expulsions related to Education Code violations that include disrupting school events, carrying a weapon and assaulting or battering a school employee. But few want to admit their schools are violent, and chalking up more expulsions offers little reward for a principal looking for approval from higher-ups. "They see that as a bad thing," Mendes said. "Well, it is a bad thing that the children are out of school and aren't learning. But it's a good thing for other students who are in the classroom and are learning."

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


Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Some alternative ideas

"Absent some extraordinary about-face, Nashville will soon be debating a tax-increase proposal to fund public education. Everywhere you turn these days, city leaders are enumerating the needs of our schools. Likewise, all involved are pointing to the anemic revenue side of the Metro ledger, where money is scarce. Because education is the single most important endeavor of an organized society and because our school funding is so topsy-turvy, it's hard to resist the urge just to give in. If the schools need more money, then why not give it to them? Isn't this the right, decent thing to do? That's how the question has been framed thus far. But I would pose an additional question: If we put more money into this particular educational model, will the children be better educated?

If recent history is any guide, the answer is no, and I have a sneaking suspicion why. Between 2000 and 2004, the annual operating budget of Metro schools increased from $407 million to $503 million. Another $230 million was spent on bricks and mortar. We haven't just been dropping nickels and dimes into the system. We've shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars into it. What do we have to show for it? Answer: Student performance has nearly flatlined. What makes the situation troublesome, if not utterly confounding, is that in addition to the money piece, a number of other parts of the puzzle are quite good. The schools chief is nationally respected, the elected board is at last a good one, parental involvement has increased, and principals have been spit-shined, polished and returned to the front lines.

Then there's the teachers' union. Let's say you are a new principal at a school. You know some of your teachers are not up to snuff, and you want to replace them. What you really want is your own team - nothing but top-notch teachers, all working together, all pulling the oars at the same time. Can you do this? Not really. A principal in Nashville has fairly restricted personnel authority. In fact, once a teacher works for three years in a Metro school, he can only be fired with difficulty. It's tenure. Thank the union. In the real world of accountability where most people live, it's normal to report to an employer who sets performance goals. You do well, and you advance. You do poorly, and you are fired. In this city's public schools, a badly performing teacher often doesn't leave. Instead, he lingers. Or, if a principal is lucky, the bad teacher is transferred to another school, then he's somebody else's headache. In the private sector, how would a manager be expected to perform if he were handicapped in hiring and firing and putting together his own team? Basically, he'd go out of business.

The point is not to blame a teacher. But do feel free to blame the union, and do by all means blame your political leaders who have countenanced the union. And do realize that pouring money into this system is akin to loading cargo onto a ship filled with holes. The tragedy is that our schools really do need the cargo. But until the holes are patched and until we allow principals to act with autonomy and freedom, only then can the system move with speed and determination and efficiency.

So, what to do with our public schools? Here's a plan. It involves raising money without raising taxes, and it is predicated on dealing the union a new hand.

1. Ask businesswoman Martha Ingram to chair a campaign to raise a $1 billion public schools endowment that would exist outside of Metro government. All private educational institutions rely on endowments. It's time public schools took the hint. Ingram raised tens of millions for a new symphony hall. Wouldn't the broader appeal of public education raise even more? Wouldn't the act of giving be preferable to the act of being taxed? The goal is ambitious, but doable.

2. Add to that $1 billion by selling two Metro-owned utilities - Nashville Electrical Service and Metro Water and Sewer Department to private buyers. Given the option of being in the business of flushing toilets or educating minds, shouldn't a 21st century city focus on educating minds? My rough guess is the sale of these two entities might bring in another half billion.

3. This $1.5 billion would spin off $75 million a year. With this money, Metro could offer a massive pay increase to school teachers. But to get this pay increase, the teachers would have to give up tenure. In other words, teacher pay would go up by a magnitude large enough for them to agree to work at will. The point is that our leaders are now focused on traditional remedies to a hogtied system that will likely result in sustained mediocrity. Only with citizen pressure and gobs of money to back it up can any long-lasting good result. I will be against a tax increase because I hate to see good money go after bad. But at the first spark of meaningful revolution, understand this: I'll happily pay."


Public high school grads unprepared for college, work: "Whether they went right to work or into college, large percentages of recent public high school graduates do not believe they were adequately prepared for the challenges they faced after graduation, according to a new report from Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan group created by the nation's governors and corporate leaders to help states prepare young people for post-secondary education, work, and citizenship. Employers and professors agree with that assessment, according to the study, published as Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Grdauates Prepared for College and Work? in February 2005."


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, April 04, 2005


From the Premier down, many are calling for stricter discipline in the family. Sandra McLean reports from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:

Ir was Edward VIII who famously commented on American parenthood, telling a British magazine: ''The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.' Who knows if he was trying to be funny, but decades later his offhand comment would certainly raise a knowing frown among parents not only in America but also in Australia. Both countries, perhaps because we are joined at the hip culturally, sharing similar interests in movies, fashion, TV and music, are wrestling with the notion that we may have lost our way with parenting simply because we've been too keen to be nice to our kids.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie may have shocked many when he said recently that parents needed to give their kids "some bloody discipline". The Premier made his statement at an Ipswich community meeting in response to criticism over rising juvenile crime rates. Beattie revealed that he had smacked his own children and said it was about time other parents took some responsibility for disciplining their own children and keeping them home at night. "If parents played a greater role and actually gave some bloody discipline at home we wouldn't have some of these problems," Beattie told the meeting. "I am sick of people abrogating their responsibilities as parents who think that at the end of the day it should be someone else's problem."

Strong stuff from the Premier. but his views have the support of experts who feel that society has become too lax over the disciplining of children and young adults. It is an issue that has spawned many books for parents dealing with wayward children. as well as a television show. The University of Queensland's Triple P Positive Parenting Program has made a TV program with Britain's ITV called "Driving Mum and Dad Mad", about showing parents how to control their badly behaved children.

But the loss of discipline is not only of concern among parents of four-year-olds who won't eat porridge for breakfast. It has wider ramifications to do with the breakdown of an individual's ability to know how to function in society, not to flout laws and to respect the rights of others. These concerns underscored the intense debate that flowed after the Macquarie Fields riots in far western Sydney in March. The riots on a public housing estate were sparked by the death of two young men in a police car chase and resulted in five nights of violence, leading to more than 60 arrests.

When the shock of the violence wore off, people were left asking: why? Suggested causes ranged from poverty, unemployment, alcohol, frustration, anger and general disillusionment with a society that too often forgets those who fall through the cracks. A constant in the ensuing debate was the issue of responsibility - who is responsible for the behaviour of these youths and who will find a way to avert history repeating itself? Boni Robertson, director of the Murri Centre at Griffith University, told The Courier-Mail that all parties - parents, youths, indigenous, Anglo and government - needed to take responsibility for youth violence.

If asked. Beattie might have suggested discipline. although everyone knows the youths at Macquarie Fields are past a good smack. So what's the answer? Brisbane clinical psychologist Brad Johnston agrees with Beattie that it is the parent's responsibility to bring discipline into the lives of young people. This way children learn how to function in a demanding world - discipline leads to self-discipline, which can be a valuable asset in today's busy, stressful society. Johnston says the problem is not so much a lack of discipline as a slackening off of discipline too soon in a child's life. "Parents feel the pressure to relax the discipline at an earlier age now," he says. "They feel the pressure to allow their child to discover the world and learn how to cope with situations but, in many cases, parents assume the child has more ability than they really do have at that age. This can be the case for children as young as two."

Johnston deals with parents who approach him because of disciplinary problems with their children, ranging from those who are unhappy with their children taking drugs or engaging in sex to toddlers who won't go to bed on time. "The major cost to society is that people find it very difficult to to cope with the pressures of the world," he says. "This is because they haven't developed this sense of self-discipline that helps them manage the pressures of living in a world such as holding down a job, being a spouse or having children.

Dr Karen Brooks, a parent and senior lecturer in popular culture at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says she agrees with Beattie's tough stand on discipline and parental responsibility. There is a real truth in this issue about the abrogation of responsibility," she says. "This is not necessarily parents' fault because we have seen a real change in society where there is too much emphasis on teachers' roles and how they should be more than educators. But they are also now having to teach sex education and social education - this sort of thing belongs in the home."

The problem, Brooks says, is that too many parents in the 21st century are too time-poor to embrace the basic tenets of parenthood. It is also because they don't have much time with their children that they want to avoid that time being made uncomfortable by battles over bedtime and eating habits. As a result, discipline goes out the window.

Brooks says it also is about too many parents wanting to be friends with their children, a misapprehension she says which has been spoon-fed to consumers of popular culture, particularly American and Australian dramas such as "The O.C." and "Home and Away". These programs romanticise the notion of family, emphasising the role of the parent as being buddy and adviser, while any hint of a disciplinarian is frowned upon. "Too many parents try to be friends to their kids and try to strike bargains with their children," Brooks says. "I just don't think they understand their role any more. It is great to have a good relationship with your children but you can do this without being the best mate. They get friends from their own age group. Parents are meant to set boundaries."

Brooks, who describes herself as a strict parent. says it isn't too late for some so-called tough love, so that children can learn to respect household and social rules. Generations of decent people have proved that tough love works, she says. It doesn't mean belting your kids either - it just means being solid, reliable and true."

(The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on March 31, 2005, p.15. Note that the Premier (roughly equivalent to an American State Governor) referred to above is a leader in the Australian Labor Party, a moderate Leftist party)


(Excerpts from Thomas Sowell)

"The notion of a trickle-down theory is debunked on pages 388-389 of my book "Basic Economics" (2nd edition). But most of those who went ballistic over my denial of a trickle-down theory were not seeking further information.

As far as they were concerned, they already had the absolute truth and only needed to vent their anger over my having dared to say otherwise. That is a sign of a much more general and much more dangerous trend in our society today that goes far beyond a handful of true believers foaming at the mouth against one columnist.

If education provides anything, it should be an ability to think -- that is, to weigh one idea against an opposing idea, and to use evidence and logic to try to determine what is true and what is false. That is precisely what our schools and colleges are failing to teach today. It is worse than that. Too many teachers, from the elementary schools to the graduate schools, see their role as indoctrinating students with what these teachers regard as the right beliefs and opinions. Usually that means the left's beliefs and opinions.

The merits or demerits of those ideas is far less important than whether or not students learn to analyze and weigh those merits and demerits. Educators used to say, "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." Today, students can spend years in educational institutions, discussing all sorts of issues, without ever having heard a coherent statement of the other side of those issues that differ from what their politically correct teachers say.

There are students in our most prestigious law schools who have never heard arguments for the social importance of property rights -- not just for those fortunate enough to own property, but for those who don't own a square inch of real estate or a single share of stock. How they would view the issues if they did is a moot point because they have heard only one side of the issue.

People who go through life never having heard the other side of issues ranging from environmentalism to minimum wage laws are nevertheless emboldened to lash out in ignorance at anyone who disturbs their vision of the world. The self-confident moral preening of ignoramuses is perhaps an inevitable product of the promotion of "self-esteem" in our schools."

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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


Sunday, April 03, 2005


This site averaged 100 hits per day in March. Still a very tiny corner of the blogosphere but not bad for a blog only 6 months old.

Dewey's socialism is alive and well in America today

America's crippled educational system

I never envisioned what I would find when I embarked on the research about our educational system. The people that are involved and how each of their lives crossed one another. These people, in ways that you could not imagine, have touched our lives. The deceit and lies under the guise of education and patriotism with the final goal Socialism. We are in trouble and the future of our children has to be our first and foremost priority. We need to save America before they turn this wonderful country into Amerika. What I write today is but the tip of the iceberg.

Initially, I researched a man by the name of John Dewey. He is known as the "Father of Modern Education." I documented, chronologically, the principal events of education in regard to this man. What I found was that he was a socialist bent on destroying the minds of the American child. Dewey's belief goes back as far as 1887 with a book he wrote called, "Looking Backward." He was a totalitarian socialist who wanted government to take over all education via government schools. He wanted the government to create an "industrial army" of totalitarian socialism......

Langdell and Dewey mocked and drove out of the teaching profession any teacher than held on to the belief of absolute values. They discarded Blackstone's Commentaries on the Law, which taught that there were certain rights and wrongs that did not change related to human behavior. Blackstone also believed that law came from God.

Dewey assisted the AFT's founder Clara Goldwater in the formation of this organization. Initially the NEA was first called the Teachers Union Auxiliary then became the Teachers Guild. Later it became known as the American Federation of Teachers. Presently the AFT is in partnership with the NEA. The NEA had John Dewey serve on the legislative commission in 1917 when it was formed.....

In 1940 the California Senate Committee investigated various foundations in regard to controlling the training of teachers and promoting specific philosophies. One of the foundations that were investigated was the Rockefeller Foundation. What they found was that this foundation spent millions of dollars in creating new history books. They also found that the new history books undermined the free enterprise system and patriotism. Here is an excerpt from their findings.

It is difficult to believe that the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Education Association could have supported these textbooks. But the fact is that the Rockefellers financed them and the NEA promoted them very widely.

The 1970's heralded the communist and socialist oriented anti-Vietnam war activities, the emergence of the modern NEA openly advocating the use of public education for social change, and the rise of the United States Supreme Court's unconstitutional contradiction in terms called 'substantive due process.'

In 1995, Clinton's unqualified support for the NEA in their use of public education for social change. It was accompanied by the current Supreme Court's "lifestyle socialism." We had the emergence of the "international rule of judges" which was the means of achieving social and economic change under mandate by the United Nations. During this time Goals 2000 was signed into law by President Clinton.

This is the feel good society, the humanist society. It is because of this our educational system has changed to the way it is today. The people changing our laws to reflect conformity and one worldness are the results of this Dewey education system. Laws are being changed to accommodate anyone without regard for what is right or wrong. Changes are being made to how much government is involved in our lives. Changes, changes and more changes until we are no longer a free society but a socialist one. This is why multi-culturalism is the buzzword. It is to prepare us for the one world system.

More here


In my home State of Queensland, Australia. If you saw the years of juvenile crap student-teachers have to put up with to get a teaching certificate you would understand why only dummies can hack it most of the time

Last week, Education Minister Anna Bligh signalled the opportunity for another 500 unmotivated or dissatisfied teachers to take a $50,000 payment and leave the state school system to make room for some of the hundreds of new graduates unable to secure a permanent position. They will join 1046 of their colleagues who have opted for the career change bonuses since they were first offered in 2002 in the name of topping up classroom enthusiasm.

Now we are faced with the reality that a side effect of increasing student teacher places in the state's universities this year has been a drop in cut-off scores for primary and secondary teaching courses to as low as OP16 and 17 - the bottom third of students. The risk, and likelihood, is that Year 12 students unable to gain entry to courses in their preferred field will apply for teaching as a consolation prize.

This is not acceptable in an era already focused nationally on appalling standards of literacy and numeracy. What profession is as vital to the formative years of rising generations as teaching? A good comparison is that the cut-off level for primary teachers at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane is OP9. Ms Bligh says no score, however high, will help students become good teachers if they don't like children and enjoy working with them. She is right. But taking the gamble that students with lower scores will mature, improve their academic skills and blossom as teachers is not the answer. Part of the solution may be to adapt the teacher training process to mandate better ongoing assessments, including aptitude tests.

Part may be based on University of Queensland vice-chancellor John Hay's urging. Ideally, he says, secondary teachers should undertake a degree in the disciplines they hope to teach, followed by professional training in education. But the warning signal - the amber light is flashing, says Queensland University of Technology's Professor Erica McWilliam - must not be ignored. Universities may have to consider imposing cut-offs higher than those enforced by demand. Students in the bottom third have clearly had problems in some subjects and their experience must not be allowed to snowball.

In 1997, medical courses at Australian universities including UQ followed the example of leading overseas institutions and switched from a six-year undergraduate degree, catering largely to school-leavers with an OP1, to a four-year postgraduate course. This was in response to public demand for doctors with greater skills in dealing with patients. The change has ensured a broader intake in both age range and primary degree, with selection depending on aptitude as well as academic performance. The principle is similar to that suggested by Professor Hay for teachers.

It is not prudent for Queensland to wait to see whether cut-offs for teaching remain at risky levels, or fall even further, before deciding remedial action is needed. The time to act is now.



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