Saturday, May 07, 2005


Plagued with one of the worst on-time graduation rates in the California State University system, officials at CSU Northridge are slashing general-education requirements by 20 percent. But are they sacrificing education for expedience? The purpose of a university, after all, is to produce educated graduates -- not merely to crank out diplomas.

Yes, improving graduation rates is important. Students at the Northridge campus pay a great cost, in terms of time as well as tuition, for their education. Many have family and work commitments to tend to while they're pursuing their degrees. For them, the road to graduation -- only 3.8 percent of CSUN students graduate in four years, and only 32 percent in six -- is intolerably long. In part, that's because of CSUN's demographics, which include older students who must study part time.

Still, the university has good reason to worry about its graduation rate, and it's wise to boost that statistic in whatever educationally sound ways it can. Administrators' plans to offer students "road maps" for graduation in a set period of time, as well as better counseling, are two worthwhile steps in that direction. Reducing graduation requirements is not. Cutting its 58 required general-education credits -- the highest in the CSU system -- to 48, the lowest that the system permits, might speed up graduations, but only by cheapening the value of a CSUN degree.

More here


Leftist ethics at work. "There's no such thing as right and wrong" -- Remember?

A four-month investigation into possible cheating on state tests at two dozen Houston schools has uncovered evidence of cheating at four campuses, school district officials announced Wednesday. Houston Independent School District Superintendent Abe Saavedra moved to fire four teachers: one at Key Middle School, two from Bowie Elementary who now work at other schools, and one at Petersen Elementary. Key Principal Mable Caleb and an assistant principal are being demoted, and the principals at Bowie and Petersen will receive reprimands, Saavedra said.

He announced earlier this year that two Sanderson Elementary teachers are being fired and the principal demoted. All have denied wrongdoing and are appealing Saavedra's decisions. Saavedra ordered the investigation by the newly created Office of Inspector General in January, shortly after the Dallas Morning News reported test-score anomalies at about 400 Texas schools. Investigators found no evidence of cheating on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills at 13 schools and inconclusive evidence at seven campuses, Saavedra said. "The investigation has clearly shown that a few employees at these ... schools helped their students answer questions on the TAKS test," Saavedra said. "A small number of teachers and administrators have profoundly harmed children in our care by taking away their right to a good education. We apologize to those children and their parents, and we will punish those responsible for this wrong that has been committed."

The school district will give the Harris County District Attorney's Office all the evidence collected during the past four months by a dozen investigators who interviewed dozens of students and employees and inspected thousands of pages of testing documents and data, Saavedra said.

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Friday, May 06, 2005


Nice to see economists discovering what psychometricians have known for about 100 years

By now, the letters have landed. The fast-track nursery schools and the "gifted and talented" public schools and the Ivy League colleges have mailed their acceptance letters, and parents everywhere are either a) congratulating themselves for having shepherded their children into the dream school or b) chiding themselves for having failed. In the first case, the parents may tell themselves: It was those Mozart quartets we played in utero that primed her for success. In the second case, they might say: I knew we shouldn't have waited so long to get him his first computer. But how much credit, or blame, should parents really claim for their children's accomplishments? The answer, it turns out, is a lot - but not for the reasons that most parents think.

The U.S. Department of Education recently undertook a monumental project called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which tracks the progress of more than 20,000 American schoolchildren from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Aside from gathering each child's test scores and the standard demographic information, the ECLS also asks the children's parents a wide range of questions about the families' habits and activities. The result is an extraordinarily rich set of data that, when given a rigorous economic analysis, tells some compelling stories about parenting technique.

A child with at least 50 kids' books in his home, for instance, scores roughly 5 percentile points higher than a child with no books, and a child with 100 books scores another 5 percentile points higher than a child with 50 books. Most people would look at this correlation and draw the obvious cause-and-effect conclusion: A little boy named, say, Brandon has a lot of books in his home; Brandon does beautifully on his reading test; this must be because Brandon's parents read to him regularly. But the ECLS data show no correlation between a child's test scores and how often his parents read to him. How can this be? Here is a sampling of other parental factors that matter and don't:

Matters: The child has highly educated parents.
Doesn't: The child regularly watches TV at home.
Matters: The child's parents have high income.
Doesn't: The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten.
Matters: The child's parents speak English in the home.
Doesn't: The child's parents regularly take him to museums.
Matters: The child's mother was 30 or older at time of the child's birth.
Doesn't: The child attended Head Start.
Matters: The child's parents are involved in the PTA.
Doesn't: The child is regularly spanked at home.

Culture cramming may be a foundational belief of modern parenting but, according to the data, it doesn't improve early childhood test scores. Frequent museum visits would seem to be no more productive than trips to the grocery store. Watching TV, meanwhile, doesn't turn a child's brain into mush after all; nor does the presence of a home computer turn a child into Einstein.

Now, back to the original riddle: How can it be that a child with a lot of books in her home does well at school even if she never reads them? Because parents who buy a lot of children's books tend to be smart and well-educated to begin with - and they pass on their smarts and work ethic to their kids. (This theory is supported by the fact that the number of books in a home is just as strongly correlated with math scores as reading scores.) Or the books may suggest that these are parents who care a great deal about education and about their children in general, which results in an environment that rewards learning. Such parents may believe that a book is a talisman that leads to unfettered intelligence. But they are probably wrong. A book is, in fact, less a cause of intelligence than an indicator.

The most interesting conclusion here is one that many modern parents may find disturbing: Parenting technique is highly overrated. When it comes to early test scores, it's not so much what you do as a parent, it's who you are. It is obvious that children of successful, well-educated parents have a built-in advantage over the children of struggling, poorly educated parents. Call it a privilege gap. The child of a young, single mother with limited education and income will typically test about 25 percentile points lower than the child of two married, high-earning parents.

So it isn't that parents don't matter. Clearly, they matter an awful lot. It's just that by the time most parents pick up a book on parenting technique, it's too late. Many of the things that matter most were decided long ago - what kind of education a parent got, how hard he worked to build a career, what kind of spouse he wound up with and how long they waited to have children. The privilege gap is far more real than the fear that haunts so many modern parents - that their children will fail miserably without regular helpings of culture cramming and competitive parenting. So, yes, parents are entitled to congratulate themselves this month over their children's acceptance letters. But they should also stop kidding themselves: The Mozart tapes had nothing to do with it.


Examinations have long had mindlessly "inclusive" results but now the SAT is going that way too

Not long ago the College Board revamped the SAT, adding an essay section along with the traditional multiple-choice aptitude tests; the essay counts for 25% of the total SAT verbal score. The New York Times reports that Les Perelman, "one of the directors of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology," analyzed all the graded sample tests the board has made public, and concluded, in the Times' words, that the test "is actually teaching high school students terrible writing habits"--namely, the longer the better:

[Perelman] was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. "I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one," he said. "If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you'd be right over 90 percent of the time." The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade.

He was also struck by all the factual errors in even the top essays. An essay on the Civil War, given a perfect six, describes the nation being changed forever by the "firing of two shots at Fort Sumter in late 1862." (Actually, it was in early 1861, and, according to "Battle Cry of Freedom" by James M. McPherson, it was "33 hours of bombardment by 4,000 shot and shells.")

Dr. Perelman contacted the College Board and was surprised to learn that on the new SAT essay, students are not penalized for incorrect facts. The official guide for scorers explains: "Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays. For example, a writer may state 'The American Revolution began in 1842' or ' "Anna Karenina," a play by the French author Joseph Conrad, was a very upbeat literary work.' " (Actually, that's 1775; a novel by the Russian Leo Tolstoy; and poor Anna hurls herself under a train.) No matter. "You are scoring the writing, and not the correctness of facts." . . .

SAT graders are told to read an essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay, and Dr. Perelman is now adept at rapid-fire SAT grading. This reporter held up a sample essay far enough away so it could not be read, and [Perelman] was still able to guess the correct grade by its bulk and shape. "That's a 4," he said. "It looks like a 4."

Perelman's recommendation for students preparing for the SAT: "I would advise writing as long as possible, and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." That's also good advice for those who want to go to work for Dan Rather at CBS's "120 Minutes."

(From Taranto)


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Thursday, May 05, 2005


College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate “V-Day” (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day “mascot” — a friendly looking “penis” named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.

The P-Day satirists are the first to admit that their initiative is tasteless and crude. But they rightly point out that V-Day is far more extreme. They are shocked that the administration has come down hard on their good-natured spoof, when all along it has been completely accommodating to the in-your-face vulgarity of the vagina activists.

V-Day has now replaced Valentine’s Day on more than 500 college campuses (including Catholic ones). The high point of the day is a performance of Ensler’s raunchy play, which consists of various women talking in graphic, and I mean graphic, terms about their intimate anatomy. The play is poisonously anti-male. Its only romantic scene, if you can call it that, takes place when a 24-year-old woman seduces a young girl (in the original version she was 13 years old, but in a more recent version is played as a 16-year-old.) The woman invites the girl into her car, takes her to her house, plies her with vodka, and seduces her. What might seem like a scene from a public-service kidnapping-prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Ensler’s play “a kind of heaven.”

The week before V-Day, the Roger Williams campus was plastered with flyers emblazoned with slogans such as “My Vagina is Flirty” and “My Vagina is Huggable.” There was a widely publicized “orgasm workshop.” On the day of the play, the V-warriors sold lollipops in the in the shape of–-guess what? Last year, the student union was flooded with questionnaires asking unsuspecting students questions like “What does your Vagina smell like?” None of this offended the administration or elicited any reprimands, probations, or confiscations. The campus conservatives artfully (in the college sense of "artful") mimicked the V-Day campaign. They papered the school with flyers that said, “My penis is majestic” and “My penis is hilarious.” The caption on one handout read, “My Penis is studious.” It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone’s Hard America, Soft America.

“Testaclese” tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus “Penis Warrior,” the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom. After this incident, which was recorded on videotape, the promoters of P-Day were ordered to cease circulating their flyers and to keep Testaclese off campus grounds. Mindful of how school officers had never once protested any of the antics of Vagina warriors, the P-warriors did not comply. The Testaclese costume was then confiscated and formal charges followed.

It is easy to understand why school officials would not want a six-foot phallus wandering around campus; nor why they would ask students not to paper the college with posters describing all the things it likes to do. But that is just the sort of thing the vagina warriors have been doing, year after year, on hundreds of campuses. In fact, P-Day at Roger Williams was mild by comparison. Wesleyan College hosted a “C***” workshop; Penn State held a “C***”-fest. At Arizona State, students displayed a 40-foot inflatable plastic vagina. It was not confiscated and no one was ever threatened with probation.....

But for the short term, college administrators should brace themselves. The rebels at Roger Williams are talking about a Free Testaclese Fund. And word is spreading to other campuses. P-Day and Testaclese will be back next year. And not just in Rhode Island.



Head teachers called on Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, to think again yesterday and abolish GCSEs and A levels in favour of a new diploma. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it was profoundly disappointed by her rejection of reforms set out by Sir Mike Tomlinson. Sir Mike proposed the introduction of a diploma for students aged 14 to 19 to replace GCSEs and A levels within a decade. He said that a single qualification structure would overcome the divide between academic and vocational education, and encourage more youngsters to stay on after 16. Ms Kelly rejected his report in February and instead set out plans in a White Paper to create 14 vocational diplomas to run in parallel with GCSEs and A levels.

Members of the NAHT voted overwhelmingly at their annual conference in Telford, Shropshire, to press the Government for a rethink, saying that the White Paper would deepen divisions between vocational and academic study. Eric Fisk, a member of the NAHT's national council, said that the Tomlinson report had won support from Charles Clarke, Ms Kelly's predecessor, David Bell, the head of Ofsted, and Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog. ....

Delegates also complained that grammar schools were being hit by the Government's new secondary admissions system. Local authorities asked parents to give a list of their preferred schools this year in an effort to ensure that every child got the offer of one place, rather than some having none and others holding several. The conference was told that some schools were refusing to consider applications from parents who had not placed them first on the list. As a result, parents in some areas with grammar schools were unwilling to enter their children for the entrance exam because they feared that if they were unsuccessful they would not be considered by the most popular non-selective school. The NAHT voted unanimously to press for a government review of the admissions process.

The head teachers jeered Stephen Twigg, a Schools Minister, after he ruled out extra money to ease a crisis over free time for classroom staff. .... Richard Collins, head of the Whyteleafe School in Surrey, said heads could not afford to employ extra teachers to cover for colleagues so would rely on unqualified classroom assistants to take lessons instead.

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Such has been the politicization of the MLA that a counter-organization has been formed, called the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, whose raison d' etre is to get English studies back on track. I am myself a dues-paying ($35 annually) member of that organization. I do not go to its meetings, but I am sent the organization's newsletter and magazine, and they are a useful reminder of how dull English studies have traditionally been. But it is good to recall that dull is not ridiculous, dull is not always irrelevant, dull is not intellectual manure cast into the void.

The bad old days in English departments were mainly the dull old days, with more than enough pedants and dryasdusts to go round. But they did also produce a number of university teachers whose work reached beyond university walls and helped elevate the general culture: Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Ellen Moers, Walter Jackson Bate, Aileen Ward, Robert Penn Warren. The names from the bad new days seem to end with the entirely political Edward Said and Cornel West.

What we have today in universities is an extreme reaction to the dullness of that time, and also to the sheer exhaustion of subject matter for English department scholarship. No further articles and books about Byron, Shelley, Keats, or Kafka, Joyce, and the two Eliots seemed possible (which didn't of course stop them from coming). The pendulum has swung, but with a thrust so violent as to have gone through the cabinet in which the clock is stored.

From an academic novel I've not read called The Death of a Constant Lover (1999) by Lev Raphael, Professor Showalter quotes a passage that ends the novel on the following threnodic note:

Whenever I'm chatting at conferences with faculty members from other universities, the truth comes out after a drink or two: Hardly any academics are happy where they are, no matter how apt the students, how generous the salary or perks, how beautiful the setting, how light the teaching load, how lavish the re-search budget. I don't know if it's academia itself that attracts misfits and malcontents, or if the overwhelming hypocrisy of that world would have turned even the von Trapp family sullen.

My best guess is that it's a good bit of both. Universities attract people who are good at school. Being good at school takes a real enough but very small talent. As the philosopher Robert Nozick once pointed out, all those A's earned through their young lives encourage such people to persist in school: to stick around, get more A's and more degrees, sign on for teaching jobs. When young, the life ahead seems glorious. They imagine themselves inspiring the young, writing important books, living out their days in cultivated leisure.

But something, inevitably, goes awry, something disagreeable turns up in the punch bowl. Usually by the time they turn 40, they discover the students aren't sufficiently appreciative; the books don't get written; the teaching begins to feel repetitive; the collegiality is seldom anywhere near what one hoped for it; there isn't any good use for the leisure. Meanwhile, people who got lots of B's in school seem to be driving around in Mercedes, buying million-dollar apartments, enjoying freedom and prosperity in a manner that strikes the former good students, now professors, as not only unseemly but of a kind a just society surely would never permit.

Now that politics has trumped literature in English departments the situation is even worse. Beset by political correctness, self-imposed diversity, without leadership from above, university teachers, at least on the humanities and social-science sides, knowing the work they produce couldn't be of the least possible interest to anyone but the hacks of the MLA and similar academic organizations, have more reason than ever to be unhappy.

More here


The notion of left-wing political bias in the universities is widely pooh-poohed on the left as so much right-wing propaganda -- a smokescreen for an attempt to push a conservative agenda on college campuses. Sure, conservative professors may be a rare breed; but that, we are told, is only because the academy is all about intellectual openness, tolerance of disagreement, robust and untrammeled debate, and all those other intrinsically liberal values that conservatives presumably just don't get.

For a rather dramatic test of this proposition, one need look no further than Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which is currently in the grip of a witch-hunt that would do the late Joe McCarthy proud -- except that it's directed by a leftist mob. The victim of this left-wing McCarthyism, history professor Jonathan Bean, identifies himself as a libertarian but is widely regarded as a conservative on the campus; he serves as an adviser to the Republican and Libertarian student groups at the university. (There are reportedly no Republicans among more than 30 faculty members in his department.) A prize-winning author, he was recently named the College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year.

On April 11, six of Bean's colleagues published a letter in the college paper, the Daily Egyptian, denouncing him for handing out ''racist propaganda" in his American history course. The offending document, which Bean had distributed as optional reading for a class that dealt with the civil rights movement and racial tensions in that era, was an article from the conservative publication about ''the Zebra Killings" -- a series of racially motivated murders of whites in the San Francisco Bay area in 1972-74 by several black extremists linked to the Nation of Islam. The article, by one James Lubinskas, argued that black-on-white hate crimes deserve more recognition.

Bean's critics charged that the article contained ''falsehood and innuendo" and that, in printing it out for the handout, Bean deliberately abridged it in a way that disguised its racist context -- specifically, a link to a racist and anti-Semitic website. In fact, Bean did omit a paragraph containing a link to the European American Issues Foundation, which has held vigils commemorating the Zebra victims and which is indeed racist and anti-Semitic (its website features a petition for congressional hearings on excessive Jewish influence in American public life). He has told the student newspaper that he was simply trying to fit the article on one two-sided page.

By the time the letter from the outraged professors appeared, Bean had already canceled the assignment in response to criticism and sent an apology to his colleagues and graduate students. His letter of apology ran in the Daily Egyptian on April 12. On the same day, College of Liberal Arts Dean Shirley Clay Scott canceled his discussion sections for the week and informed his teaching assistants that they did not have to continue with their duties. Two of the three teaching assistants resigned, leaving the course in a shambles.

One may argue that Bean showed poor judgment in selecting the article for a reading given the offensive link it contained. But imagine reversing the politics of this case. Suppose a left-wing professor had assigned a reading which turned out to contain a link to the website of the Communist Party USA, or to a group that supported Palestinian terrorism in Israel. Imagine the outcry if the administration penalized this professor for such guilt by association.

Anita Levy, associate secretary in the Department of Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors, says that making one's own decisions about the course curriculum as long as the material is relevant to the course is ''a part of academic freedom" and that it's clearly inappropriate to penalize a professor for such decisions -- especially without any due process. (While has criticized the AAUP for remaining silent on the case, Levy says that the organization had not heard about it before and has not been contacted by Bean, whom I have been unable to reach for comment.)

A number of SIUC professors who do not share Bean's politics have rallied to his defense. Jane Adams, an anthropologist who was a civil rights activist in the 1960s, told the Daily Egyptian that the persecution of Bean ''puts an axe at the root of academic freedom and the freedom of inquiry." She added, ''For anybody who is a conservative, this has got to be a chilling case." Indeed, if this case is any indication, conservatives on many campuses are not just a rare breed but an endangered species.



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Tuesday, May 03, 2005


John Munson, professor at the U of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, is being sued by a local cocktail lounge. The suit doesn't seek financial damages, but just to make him stop certain activities.... A university professor "paying" his students, with extra credit points to circulate petitions in favor of a smoking ban, and to patronize non-smoking restaurants.

I was angry, as are the bar owners who were fighting the smoking ban. I've worked with Minnesotans Against Smoking Bans and I know that big sums of extorted tax money are used by a few people to inflict smoking bans on all of us. I also know that smoking bans have destroyed many small businesses and have a serious negative economic impact that anti-smokers refuse to acknowledge.

Worst of all, I know that the secondhand smoke issue is a total fabrication from a scientific standpoint. For many organizations, it has been a straw-man opponent they could attack and look as if they're doing something of value. They've demonized smokers with lies so that they could enlist the financial contributions of people who don't have the time to discover the truth. Simply put, they've used every trick in the book to SCARE people into believing lies, and they've profited grandly by doing so. Most of those groups have gotten financial funding from corporations who sell stop-smoking products.

Like most things, this professorial action is more complex than it first appears. John Munson teaches several sections of something called "Health Promotions". I don't expect teachers to be omniscient, but it does seem that a professor teaching such a course should make a more diligent attempt than most of us can... to know the truth about health issues. A teacher has a rather serious responsibility to either present a balanced view of contentious issues, or to present scientific evidence when appropriate. It's obvious that Munson didn't do that, because he came down clearly on the side of implementing a smoking ban and penalizing the opposition.

The fact that Munson is a state employee, teaching at a tax-supported state university, complicates his position, because he rewarded his students for taking actions that will harm some of the very people who support his salary. Yes, what he did is illegal, but far more importantly, it is wrong, not just scientifically wrong, but wrong in "bribing" students to take a political position.

Are my expectations higher of Munson because he teaches at a state university? They are, not because I hold state institutions to be a source of truth, but because many students do. From the time they start kindergarten, the supposed beneficience and truthfulness of government is fed to them. THEY expect to hear truth from their government-school teachers, so professors have influence far beyond what they deserve.

By the time I was a college underclassman, I was influenced by what I was taught, and thought that government was the solution to any and all societal problems. Solving problems was only a matter of designing the proper government programs and "making it so". I was, effectively, a socialist. As I've matured, and considered information from non-governmental sources, it has gradually become clear to me that government is not the solution to ANYTHING, it is almost always the source of our problems. In retrospect, it makes me angry that I was misled for so long by people whose word I should have been able to trust. They not only didn't present the truth, but they wasted a lot of my time in disproving and unlearning what they fed me. Many of us don't ever go through that questioning and unlearning process, but spend the rest of their lives in ignorant belief that what they were taught IS the truth. But therein lies the problem:

How can we expect government-paid teachers in tax-supported institutions to teach anything BUT that "government is the solution"? Do we expect government employees to bite the hand that feeds them? To do so is to deny human nature. To expect John Munson to be a maverick and teach freedom of choice instead of governmental repression would be unrealistic.

Government schools are the single biggest means dragging us toward a totalitarian society. They subtly brainwash in favor of government and tend to convince us that we would be helpless without government control. The result has been a never-ending increase in government control over us... government gains power, and we, as individuals, become closer to being mere serfs. It starts in elementary schools, and it obviously continues right up through state universities.

On a brighter note, the voters of Stevens Point rejected the smoking ban.

More here


All that silly stuff about being able to read and write will be ditched soon

Momentum is growing to provide alternatives to California's controversial high school exit exam, which critics say contributes to low graduation rates and discriminates against minority students. The test's opponents in the Legislature sought support Wednesday for two new bills that would rein in the graduation policy, which is a requirement for next year's senior class. Both measures passed committee hearings.

Grass-roots groups, meanwhile, have been mobilizing against the test by lobbying legislators, holding rallies and recruiting new members on high school campuses. "I'm very concerned that students will be discouraged and [question] why they should go forward if their futures rest on one exam," Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said before the vote, which fell largely along party lines. "I don't understand why people think that giving an exam magically improves education."

But the test, which students begin taking in their sophomore year and have six chances to pass, is praised by others who say it is an important measure of academic success. They note that research is inconclusive on whether the exam contributes to low graduation rates.

Bass' measure would offer students alternative methods to prove their knowledge of English and math through assessments and projects tied to the state's academic standards. The other bill, in the state Senate, would delay the exit exam requirement until schools demonstrate that they offer access to fully credentialed teachers, adequate books and counselors - educational deficiencies that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has publicly acknowledged.

Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) said at the education committee hearing that students who fail the exit exam are often victims of classroom deficiencies. The exit exam, she said, "is going to punish the students who were born poor" and attend underachieving schools.

Republicans voiced dissent, saying that an unfettered exit test can motivate learning, promote better standards and ensure that all graduates meet a statewide standard. Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge), a physician, noted that after medical school he had to take board tests ensuring competency. The state's high school exit exam represents a similar hurdle, Richman said.

If it proceeds with the planned exit exam, California would join 19 other states that require students to pass high school exit exams. The 6 1/2 -hour exam, which includes multiple choice questions and an English essay, is pegged to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade standards in math, including Algebra I, and to skills through 10th grade in English. Even with the modest expectations, however, state officials delayed enforcement of the exam from the Class of 2004 to the Class of 2006 amid concerns about low passage rates and a desire to give students more time to master the material. So far, 83% of next year's seniors have passed the English portion of the test and 82% have passed math.

As the deadline for the graduation requirement approaches, critics are once again highlighting the need for better preparation and pointing to the specter of more dropouts, particularly among African Americans, Latinos and other groups with the highest failure rates. They note that 78,000 of next year's seniors must still pass the English section, and 59,000 must pass math. Some of the same students could be included in both groups. "I've already seen it demoralizing the ones who haven't passed," said Elizabeth Minster, a teacher at Los Angeles High School and a leader of Coalition for Educational Justice, a grass-roots Los Angeles group.....

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Monday, May 02, 2005


New Labour shares a similar concern for order, but its big idea is personalisation. It plans to 'tailor our education system to individual pupil needs', and talks up flexibility. Apparently many pupils find the 'academic track' too narrow, and schools should loosen up. If pupils were given more choices, more might stay on.

All this choice-talk sounds empowering, but what does it mean? Students are being encouraged to specialise at an early age. The result is that many are dropping a battery of key subjects at 14, such as history and modern languages. For the government, apparently, ignorance is empowerment and inclusion trumps standards. The Conservatives evidence a similar disdain for academic education. Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats all promote vocational training as an alternative for the disaffected. Teachers should expose this for what it is: giving up on those who most need schools to broaden, not narrow, their minds.

All the parties talk up choice while undermining it. Choice has no meaning if the content of education gets squeezed out. And ignorant pupils are in no position to make considered choices about their lives.

More here


By Jessica Durkin

The UK Plagiarism Advisory Service recently reported that one in four British students admits to copying and pasting material from the internet then presenting it as their own. Across the Atlantic in the USA, where I am a student, internet plagiarism is even more rampant. A national survey published in Education Week asserts that 54 percent of American students admitted to internet plagiarism. This includes everything from students who copy and paste a few sentences, to those who fork over premium beer money for custom-made papers. University officials believe the rise in plagiarism is driven by the internet's accessibility. Phil Anderson, director of the honors system at Kansas State University, says: 'The internet is the main driver because it is so easy.'

However, the growth of plagiarism is not just a result of the internet, or of American students' laziness - it also comes from students' new perception of education. Most American students do not attend university to embrace knowledge; university is just a gateway to a successful career. Once an American enters high school, he or she feels pressure from parents and teachers to attend university. Students are told that college is the only way they will get a 'good' job. American university student Maureen Kellner did not feel she had a choice about whether or not to attend university: 'I went to college because I had to. There is absolutely no way I could start a career without a degree. I couldn't really care less about what I'm learning except if it has something to do with what I'm going to do later on in life.' Kellner says she memorises what she needs to know for tests in order to receive high grades, and then she forgets the material that does not involve her major. Other students also see college as a route to a job. Some do not try to perform exceptionally well in their courses; they just aim to pass in order to receive their degree. It is this that provides the market for internet plagiarism.

Searching for a term paper online is easy. Within seconds of googling 'buy term paper', hundreds of websites appear, from to Most websites like require students to submit papers of their own in order to gain access to thousands of free papers. The website's staff reviews papers for quality, and within three to seven days, writers of 'quality' papers are given access to the site. Here they can find papers on a variety of topics, including the political system of Australia, the depiction of women in modern art, and a brief history of tattoos. However, these free papers seem to be of low quality. Sample introductions often have misspellings like 'atractive', and poor punctuation such as 'a persons surroundings'. Even if students fix spelling and grammar errors, the papers often lack a coherent thesis. An essay on Oedipus Rex on begins: 'Oedipus is guilty because, despite knowing the prophecy that he will commit parricide and incest, he yet kills an elderly gentleman and sleeps with an elderly women.'

Students can also pay for custom-made papers. On, a custom-made paper costs $3.95 a page for seven-day delivery and $8.95 a page for overnight delivery. Other sites like charge $22 per page for papers delivered in seven days and $55 for 'emergency service'. Additionally, the student must pay for the paper before they see it, but some websites like offer unlimited free revisions.

By paying for custom papers, students ensure that professors will have a harder time tracing the paper. But in general, the internet has made it easier for professors to spot plagiarism. Dr Stephen Lambert, a writing professor at Hillsborough Community College in Florida, says that online searches take seconds, while searching through books in the library would take ages. Additionally, many schools subscribe to anti-plagiarism software such as Teachers upload suspected papers on to, and the software searches the web, its own database of papers, and published works for signs of plagiarism.

Nonetheless, professors could perhaps avoid subscribing to such services by injecting enthusiasm into their lectures. 'If my professor is engaging, I want to learn. I put a lot of effort into those classes. However, if a professor isn't putting effort into teaching, I don't want to put too much effort into that class', said American university student Michelle Pilson.

Additionally, society needs to promote the value of learning over a degree's increased job potential. The current emphasis on careers training leads students to overlook the fact that knowledge has intrinsic value - in broadening their minds and expanding their horizons. Some students do realise this and take advantage of the opportunities that university offers. American university student Brandon Bodow commented: 'I went to college to learn and to become a better person - more educated in all facets, more experienced, and more intelligent.'


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Sunday, May 01, 2005


They reject so-called "child-centred" teaching in favour of knowledge transmission

'Modern pedagogy's only use is to justify the abandonment of the ambitions we once had for our children. We are facing a real cultural catastrophe', writes Marc Le Bris, a 50-year-old head teacher at a primary school in Medreac, France. His book is an attack on the child-centred philosophy that has dominated reforms of the French education system in the past 30 years, and a defence of the Enlightenment idea of an education based on the transmission of knowledge to every citizen.

A schoolchild in the riots of May 1968, the author of this passionate book started his teaching career as a moderniser. When he left teacher training in 1977, he had learnt 'one thing above all': that 'old-fashioned teachers were almost incompetent; they were ridiculous...unthinking labourers working the wrong way round'. 'Yet', he writes, 'the pupils of the older teachers...obtained the best results. At the start of secondary school, their pupils were better prepared. My pupils, pampered by modern methods, were subjected to an academic handicap of which I am ashamed today.'

Along with Rachel Boutonnet and Fanny Capel, Le Bris is a member of Sauver les Lettres (Save Literature) a collective founded by teachers in the year 2000, during the protests that forced education minister Claude Allegre's resignation. The organisation campaigns against child-centred education through its website, numerous books and other public initiatives. At the beginning of February 2005, one of the group's surveys showing the decline in French pupils' spelling ability received wide publicity in the French and the British press.

Child-centred education is based on the constructivist theory of learning, according to which learners construct their own knowledge by analysing experience. For Marc Le Bris, this is a false theory, because the whole of humanity, not the individual child, constructs knowledge. The dominance of constructivism means that pupils will be, at best, autodidacts lacking the solidity of systematic learning.

In Britain there is also a strong aversion to the transmission of knowledge. The idea that pupils must be 'active' and become 'independent learners', rather than depend on the teacher, is seldom questioned. An independent school head teacher recently asked me: 'We are often accused of spoon-feeding our pupils. How can we help them become independent learners?'

Rachel Boutonnet could have answered that question. A French primary school teacher with a master in philosophy, she kept a diary throughout her teacher training and her first year as a teacher, which she published in 2003. She rejects the idea that traditional teaching methods make pupils passive: 'I think it is impossible to learn in a passive way. If you have learnt something, you must have been active; order to listen, you must concentrate. What the speaker is saying, you must make your own. This often requires effort and will power.'

She also questions the belief that so-called active methods lead to pupils' autonomy: 'the fact that pupils are "in research mode" doesn't mean that they are active. Often...they just ape an activity. They go through the motions that the teacher has scripted for them. Intellectually speaking, they are passive.'

The constructivist method is not so much an alternative to previous teaching methods as an anti-method. Boutonnet captures well the destructive impulse behind it: 'by refusing to transmit knowledge, the teacher trainers nevertheless transmitted something. They could not avoid this, since they were in the position of teachers.... This something was the rejection of knowledge. In this, they were the experts.'....

Despite overwhelming evidence over the years that synthetic phonics is by far the best method (2), educationalists in France and the UK have been reluctant to implement its adoption, because its principles conflict with the child-centred model. As Geraldine Bedell explains in an excellent article in the Observer, this resistance is due to the belief 'that synthetic phonics is traditionalist teaching of the stuffy grammarian type.... True, some educationalist conservatives may favour it - but there is nothing cramping about being able to read'

More -- much more -- here


Dumbed-down education where qualifications are increasingly meaningless means that poor but bright kids now have no way of proving themselves

What if academic selection was fundamentally less elitist than the current regime of bog-standard comprehensives with personalised learning plans? It's just a thought. Or it was, before a new study seemed to show precisely this point. The study, carried out by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) and widely reported in Monday's newspapers, compares social mobility in Britain with the situation in seven other wealthy countries. It found that British children from poorer families have less chance of improving their lives than those in every country apart from the USA. Unlike any other country, social mobility in Britain has worsened over time - which, apparently, is partly a consequence of the demise of the grammar school system.

So kids who are born poor in Britain get a lousy education and stay poor for life. This grim conclusion will come as little surprise to anybody with a basic understanding of real life in Britain 2005. It should, however, come as something of a shock to those in the upper echelons of policymaking, who continue to peddle the fantasy that everybody gets equal educational chances these days, and if all kids just had more schooling, social inequalities would magically disappear. So three-years olds are pressured into pre-school, 18-year-olds are pushed into university, and the Labour Party manifesto promises 'No more dropping out at 16'. When will they ever learn?

Education is not a panacea for social problems. It never has been, and it never will be. A decent education, within a hierarchy that rewards academic merit, can help a few individuals progress beyond the circumstances of their birth - enabling, in theory at least, the son of a dustman to become a lawyer, the daughter of a dinner lady to become a doctor. The problem that this study seems to show is that in Britain today, we don't even have that.

The intellectual hierarchy embedded in the grammar school system has been flattened out and levelled down to provide every child with an equally mediocre education. Those who do well in this situation are not the children who are poor but bright, but the children who simply happen to be born middle-class, living in areas with better-resourced schools that are attractive to better teachers and with access to private tuitition or private schooling, and greater ability and expectation to go on to higher education. As one news report described the LSE's findings: 'Educational opportunities improved for those born in the early 1980s but social inequalities widened because children from wealthier families benefited overwhelmingly from the increase in places at university'

How did it all go so badly wrong? Whilst international comparisons of social mobility are useful, the issue is not that Britain fares badly compared to other wealthy nations. The fact that four of the eight countries studied by the LSE were Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, much less populous and diverse societies than the UK, with a very different relationship to the state, indicates the limitations of such comparisons. And it is important not to romanticise a 'golden age' of grammar schooling. Many of those who pushed for comprehensive education in the 1960s were motivated by well-founded concerns about the way that academic selection reproduced and ossified social inequalities. Grammar schools selected a small academic elite, comprising children who passed the 11-plus examination. This provided the scope for some working-class kids to 'make good' in education - but it was generally the case that those who came from wealthier backgrounds were most likely to achieve educationally, whilst those from the poorest backgrounds were most likely to end up taking the second-best secondary modern route into manual work.

Today's stubborn campaign to abolish Britain's few remaining grammar schools seems to be motivated by little more a base desire to bring all schools down to the level of the bog-standard comprehensive. The argument seems to boil down to: 'If our kids can't have a good education, why should anybody else's?' But half a century ago, when grammar schools were not simply the odd quirky institutions but part of the established education system, the arguments against the grammar system often involved a genuine, if idealistic, belief that all children could enjoy the quality education that had previously been offered only to a few, giving all children, irrespective of background, a shot at academic and social advancement. That this never happened was not because of the abolition of the grammar system, or the failings of the concept of comprehensive schools. It was because of the UK's increasingly instrumental approach to education.

In today's society, increasingly devoid of either political vision or economic dynamism, education is promoted as the way to solve all manner of social ills and realise all kinds of individual ambitions. Under the weight of all these expectations, it fails to fulfil any of them; and in the process, education is screwed up as well. So we end up with the worst of all possible worlds.

Schools become sites of socialisation and life skills, with pupils put through a battery of courses on sex, drugs, citizenship and 'circle time'. For every overblown social 'problem', from teenage pregnancy to childhood obesity to the pensions crisis, there is a policy-solution that revolves around the schools. Train up the dinner ladies! Teach saving and budgeting schools! Install nurses with unlimited supplies of emergency contraception! Enforce more physical education! End bullying, child abuse and domestic violence!

As the importance of knowledge - education - moves further and further down the list of a school's priorities, the more we hear tales of woe about university undergraduates who cannot structure an essay or new recruits to the job market who can barely spell their own name.You wouldn't now expect any school-leaver to be able to recite a poem or conjugate French verbs, though they are frighteningly well-versed in the language of self-esteem.

Education is also, paradoxically, promoted as the key vehicle for social mobility. If kids start 'pre-school' at aged three, we are told, they might become middle-class in outlook by aged five. The more qualifications that children ratchet up whilst at secondary school, taking their pick from a bewildering array, the more likely they will be to go on to university - and everybody knows that a degree is how you increase your earnings, so that's social mobility, isn't it?

The actual consequence of persistent grade inflation and accreditation mania is conveniently ignored. When all have top grades, those who choose university are those who can afford to spend three years frittering away their pocket money and immediate future; those whom universities choose are the candidates who have interesting travelling experiences, middle-class hobbies and intantigible qualities like 'confidence', because who's to tell if they are brighter or dimmer than anyone else in the A-grade pile?; secretaries have degrees in business studies, are called executives and are paid like secretaries. The degree-as-social-mobility line is a con, and no doubt many of the refuseniks from poor backgrounds are smart enough to know this.

The crusade against academic elitism has made the education system into a naked reflection of a more basic social elitism, where 'What's your name and where d'you come from?' ends up counting for more than intellectual application, and good fortune is more a driver of social mobility than exam results. The idea that education can move people forward in leaps and bounds has been usurped by the prosaic notion of 'value added' - that if children leave school slightly more literate and numerate than when they started, that's good enough. But it isn't, and it shouldn't be. Real education has its own value; today's brand of vapid instrumentalism isn't worth the interactive whiteboard it's written on.



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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