Saturday, August 06, 2005


Kids get textbooks designed to bore rather than real literature that can excite

In July, the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a congressionally mandated standardized test, showed the reading skills of high school students haven't improved since 1999. And last week, the Pew Research Center's Internet Project reported that for today's teenagers, "the Internet and cell phones have become a central force that fuels the rhythm of daily life." Eighty-seven percent of America's kids ages 12 to 17 spend time online. E-mail is no longer fast enough for most teens who are using instant messenger and text messaging to keep up with their friends.

Faced with declining literacy and the ever-growing distractions of the electronic media, faced with the fact that - Harry Potter fans aside - so few kids curl up with a book and read for pleasure anymore, what do we teachers do? We saddle students with textbooks that would turn off even the most passionate reader.

Just before the school year ended in June, my colleagues in the English department at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and central office administrators discussed which textbook to adopt for the 9th- and 10th-grade World Literature course for next year. Of the four texts that the state approved, the choices came down to two: the Elements of Literature: World Literature from Holt, Rinehart and Winston and The Language of Literature: World Literature from McDougal Littell. The problems with these two tomes are similar to the problems with high school textbooks in most subjects.

First, there's the well-documented weight problem. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has said that an increase in back injuries among children might be attributed to the enormous textbooks they lug around in their backpacks. Injuries aside, what kid is going to sit in a chair and relax with a heavy hardcover, 9-inch-by-11-inch compendium? Worse is the fact that for all their bulk, the textbooks are feather-weight intellectually......

Take the McDougal Littell text that we finally adopted for 9th- and 10th-graders. It starts off with a unit titled "Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Hebrew Literature," followed by sections on the literature of Ancient India, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient China and Japan. Then comes "Persian and Arabic Literature" and "West African Oral Literature" - and that's only the first third of the book. There are still more than 800 pages to plough through, but it's the same drill - short excerpts from long works - a little Dante here, a little Goethe there and two whole pages dedicated to Shakespeare's plays. One even has a picture of a poster from the film Shakespeare in Love with Joseph Fiennes kissing Gwyneth Paltrow. The other includes the following (which is sure to turn teens on to the Bard):

"Notice the insight about human life that the following lines from The Tempest convey:

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Shakespeare's plays are treasures of the English language."

Both books are full of obtrusive directions, comments, questions and pictures that would hinder even the attentive readers from becoming absorbed in the readings. Both also "are not reader-friendly. There is no narrative coherence that a student can follow and get excited about. It's a little bit of this and a little bit of that," says T.C. Williams reading specialist Chris Gutierrez, who teaches a course in reading strategies at Shenandoah University in Virginia. For kids who get books and reading opportunities only at school, these types of textbooks will drive them away from reading - perhaps for life.

Such texts bastardize literature and history, reducing authors and their works to historical facts to be memorized - what Alfie Kohn, author of The Schools Our Children Deserve, calls "the bunch o' facts" theory of learning. Students are jerked from one excerpt of literature to another, given no chance for the kind of sustained reading that stimulates the imagination.

One of the most popular books I teach is Night, Elie Wiesel's powerful remembrance about Nazi concentration camps. Even the most reluctant readers are enthralled by the 109-page narrative. The Holt, Rinehart and Winston World Literature text throws in seven pages of Night, cheating students out of the experience of reading the whole work and giving them the illusion that they know the book.

With my subject, English, special problems exist - any literature that has a whiff of controversy is kept out of texts to appease the moralists on the right, while second-rate "multicultural" literature is put in to appease the politically correct on the left. Quality is 'secondary'

As researcher Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police, wrote in the summer 2003 issue of American Educator, "Literary quality became secondary to representational issues." You will never see John Updike's A&P or Toni Cade Bambara's The Lesson - great short stories that kids can easily relate to - in these tomes because they might offend groups on either side of the political spectrum.

No matter how highly esteemed poet Denise Levertov is in academia, The Mutes- her poem that evokes intense discussion about sexual harassment - will never make its way into the bland 1,000-plus pages of a high school textbook. The McDougal Littell text proudly lists its 10-member "Multicultural Advisory Board" in its introduction.

A similar problem exists with math and science books. A study of textbooks by the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded: "Today's textbooks cover too many topics without developing any of them well. Central concepts are not covered in enough depth to give students a chance to truly understand them."

'Teacher-proofing': Teachers who didn't major in science tend to "use textbooks - lean on them - more than better-qualified teachers do," Arthur Eisenkraft, former president of the National Science Teachers Association, told Science News in 2001. The desire of school officials to make courses teacher-proof - to put more faith in bland compendiums than in the skill of teachers - is only getting stronger with the spread of high-stakes state exams. Textbook companies now get state approval by boasting that their wares cover every possible skill demanded on state tests. The safe thing for school systems to do is to limit themselves to the state-approved books; if a school district adopts its own materials and its test scores go down, administrators could take the fall.

The fact is that for all the anxiety schools have about state exams, with the exception of science and math, those exams have turned into nothing more than minimum competency tests that any average student can pass with little preparation. And no decent teacher needs a 1,500-page text to prepare below-average students for these dumbed-down tests. It's time for states and school districts to kick the mega-textbook habit that four or five big corporations control and start spending money on the kind of books that will make kids want to do sustained reading, to get lost in the written word. For English classes, that's paperback novels (whole novels) and collections of short stories (complete short stories) and poetry.

More here

Censoring A Conservative School Paper

No Conservatives Allowed by the champions of "diversity"

By Tyler Whitney

America's culture war is fought everyday with the country's most vulnerable soldiers -- conservative high school students. Conservative students such as me are ridiculed everyday as we fight to save America from the ongoing leftist assault. Unfortunately, spreading right-wing ideas is difficult when administrators muzzle conservative speech and indoctrinate students with liberal propaganda. Stalinism is alive and well at East Lansing High School.

On Tuesday March 19th, several conservative students distributed "The Right Way" -- a conservative paper independently organized and published. Instead of receiving accolades for extracurricular involvement, we were reprimanded for distributing our publication before the school approved it.

Frustrated yet cooperative, I visited the board office where Superintendent Dave Chapin banned our paper. Although his reasoning is unclear, he did mention that the John Birch Society is too extreme for East Lansing High School. Apparently, Dr. Chapin felt his superintendent status granted him authority to rate the extremity of content.

That night I immediately fired off press releases to every major media outlet. I wanted to make East Lansing High School regret their unconstitutional actions. Thankfully, I wasn't the only person who believed that ELHS was in the wrong. East Lansing High School received numerous phone calls from angry conservatives nationwide about the censorship of our paper.

Due to the awkward nature of the situation, I managed to completely avoid speaking to administrators while media coverage continued to pile up. Eventually, Principal Paula Steele granted our paper the status of a Non School Organization, meaning we had the same rights as groups that meet in the building after school.

Despite previous gratification, I was later informed that any content that can be traced to East Lansing High School must be removed. Principal Steele wanted me to remove an ad for my Teenage Republicans club as well as several other insignificant things.

Feeling rebellious, I distributed my paper with the banned content. As expected, I was caught and reprimanded. Unfortunately, my punishment was quite severe. Not only was I suspended, over 200 copies of "The Right Way" were trashed by school authorities.

After weeks of fighting, I have decided to give in to East Lansing High School's Stalinist policies. I can't call my battle completely pointless because I've created awareness about the cultural bolshevism prevalent in America's high schools.

As a dedicated conservative activist, I will continue to publish more issues and inform our nation about America's biggest threat: Liberal indoctrinators that create minions with their biased multicultural education and anti-male curriculum. If conservatives rise up, we can create a cultural backlash against the tide of liberalism corrupting America's youth.


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, August 05, 2005

HOMESCHOOLING: Hitler's Ghost Haunts German Parents

In Germany, the State owns the children, not the parents. Sound familiar?

Of all religious groups Baptists were among the most fiercely persecuted in the Soviet Union. They were not just Christians but they also distrusted the state, preaching an institutional secession from state-run institutions. Many Baptists belonged to the German-speaking minority in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they emigrated to Germany, the land where their forefathers had originally come from. Today, these Baptist immigrants from Russia, as well as the Low-German Mennonites, are being prosecuted in Germany because they are unhappy with what their children are learning in the German public schools, which they consider too secular. Children are not allowed to opt out of classes or school activities and homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938.

Last week, a court in Paderborn in the German state of Westphalia ruled that two Baptist couples lose their parental authority over their own children in educational matters. The court said it was interfering "in order to protect the children from further harm." It stated that the parents had shown "a stubborn contempt both for the state's educational duty as well as the right of their children to develop their personalities by attending school." The court appointed the local Paderborn social service as guardian over the children to ensure that they attend public school.

The two couples belong to a group of seven families with a total of fifteen children of elementary school age who do not attend school. The parents were brought to court by the local education board of the county whose director, Heinz Kohler, argued that homeschooling cannot be allowed because it is "a right of the child not to be kept away from the outside world. The parents' right to personally educate their children would prevent the children from growing up to be responsible individuals within society." Kohler was backed by the Westphalian minister of Education, the Socialist politician Ute Sch„fer, who stated that the obligation to attend a government approved school follows from the "right of a child to free education and maturation."

Last January, a court in the Westphalian county of Guetersloh sentenced a couple to imprisonent, six days for the mother followed by six days for the father, because the parents had refused to let their children attend a Christmas school play after Grimm's fairytale "K”nig Drosselbart" (King Thrushbeard), which they considered blasphemous. The prison sentences were demanded by Sven-Georg Adenauer, the Christian-Democrat Landrat (governor) of Guetersloh county, because the parents refused to pay the fine of 150 euros which they had received for not sending their children to the school play.

Upon the conviction Hermann Hartfeld, a Baptist preacher from Cologne who is also an immigrant from Russia, wrote to Adenauer: "These parents did not give in to the intimidations of the Communists. Do you really believe that they will give in to you?" However, Germany's Christian-Democrats, who are likely to win the coming general elections in September, are as opposed to homeschooling as are the ruling Socialists. The German mentality, even among its so-called conservatives, is very statist. Parents are considered to be incapable of schooling their own children. In this respect the German mentality does not seem to have changed much since the days of Adolf Hitler, when the Germans were expected to look upon the state as a caring parent. Ironically, Sven-Georg Adenauer is the grandson of Konrad Adenauer, the first post-Nazi Chancellor of Germany.

The initiative of the Paderborn Baptists to establish their own private school was rejected by the authorities, who argued that such a school is but a cover for homeschooling and that "the living room is not a class room." The Baptist families received the support of Hermann Stuecher, a 68-year old Christian pedagogue who from 1980 to 1997 homeschooled all his seven children, despite a government prohibition. Stuecher runs the Philadelphia School in Siegen, another Westphalian town. The Philadelphia School, which is not recognised by the German authorities, was established to assist homeschooling families. Stuecher called upon all Christian parents in Germany to withdraw their children from the public schools which, he says, have fallen into the hands of "neomarxist activists propagating atheist humanism, hedonism, pluralism and materialism." Manfred Mueller, the Christian-Democrat Landrat of Paderborn county, has threatened to take Stuecher to court on charges of "Hochverrat und Volksverhetzung (high treason and incitement of the people against the authorities) - a charge which the Nazis also used against their opponents. Mueller considers homeschooling to be high treason because "die Schulpflicht sei eine staatsbuergerliche Pflicht, ueber die nicht verhandelt werden k”nne" (the obligation to attend school is a civil obligation, that cannot be tampered with).....

What is one to make of modern-day Germany, a country which happily appoints a former marxist fanatic and condoner of terrorism to the post of minister of foreign affairs but accuses ordinary citizens of treason when they voice concern about what the schools are teaching their children? Clearly they have learned nothing from their experiences with state totalitarianism in the last century.



Merit-based schooling advocated

The comprehensive school system should be scrapped and replaced with academic selection for all pupils from the age of 11, a teachers' union said yesterday. Delegates at the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers said generations of pupils had been failed by the "one-size-fits-all" approach, and called for grammar schools to be reintroduced across England and Wales. Peter Morris, from Bishop Gore comprehensive school in Swansea, told the conference that grammar schools had been "the most successful type of school Britain has ever seen".

Following the 1964 general election, the Labour government instructed all local authorities to draw up plans to introduce a comprehensive school system. However, there are still 164 grammar schools spread over 36 local authorities. They only represent 5% of secondary school education, but they account for more than 40% of the best 100 schools in terms of progress made by pupils between the ages of 11 and 16.

But last night, Judie Harrington from the Campaign for State Education, said that reintroducing selection at 11 would be bad news for pupils. She said that although grammar schools' results were higher than the national average, the majority of children in those areas went to other schools, where they were "failed" by the system. Ms Harrington said international research had shown that a comprehensive education system that included children of all abilities and backgrounds offered the best results, and she called on the government to limit the opportunities for pupils to "opt out" into private, church or grammar schools.

But Mr Morris said the government should reintroduce grammar schools as soon as possible. "Social inclusion is wonderful in theory, but does not produce the results anticipated prior to its introduction." He said most 16-year-olds today would not be able to get good grades in the old O-levels, which were replaced 20 years ago with GCSEs.

Tony Reynolds, a primary school teacher from Cambridge, said that the comprehensive system had let down the brightest pupils. "I have taught many pupils who have had to hide their academic brilliance to survive in comprehensive schools," he said. "If grammar schools allow them to show their true worth, I am all in favour of their reintroduction."

Yesterday the government reiterated its opposition to grammar schools. "The government does not support academic selection at 11 and does not wish to see it extended," said a spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills. "Where selection exists, the government believes in local decision making as to whether it should continue, and has put in place mechanisms to allow this to happen."



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, August 04, 2005


The usual Leftist "all men are equal" religion taking over

This fall in Palm Beach County, letter grades will no longer be included on report cards for kindergarten through fifth grade. The report cards will read as follows for various subjects: Child is performing on or above grade level; child is less than one year below grade level; or child is struggling.

In essence, information is being withheld from parents and students that indicates a child is doing well. "On or above grade level" tells parents nothing. There is no distinction between average work and work that is better than average. What message are we sending our children when the best they can be is "on or above grade level"? This change cuts to the root of our value system in America.

Art Johnson, the Palm Beach County school superintendent, was quoted as saying that "our challenge has been, and is, the education of the masses." It is offensive that Mr. Johnson views our children as the "masses" and not the beautiful individuals that they are. This change is being forced on the parents and students of Palm Beach County without us having much say in the matter. Most parents were not informed by our principals, but read about it in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in March. It is interesting, however, that although we were not notified, the School Board provided principals with an information sheet to "provide assistance when dealing with questions." As if they wanted to control the principals' responses, or didn't trust they would answer the questions appropriately. They anticipated parents having questions about incentives or awards the children could receive without letter grades.

The School Board's canned response was that the new report cards could provide awards for attendance and conduct. Are you kidding? Forget about the honor roll. Let's replace our bumper stickers "Proud Parent of an Honor Student" to "Proud Parent of a Student Who Showed Up." A group of parents attended the School Board meeting in May and the issue of report cards was raised. There were board members who were opposed to, and surprised by, the change being made and stated that grades would be reviewed at their next retreat and revisited. On June 29 we attended the meeting; three board members vocally opposed the change. It finally was discussed at the July 21 meeting and scheduled for a workshop meeting this Wednesday. The public can attend, but not speak.


Why does Washington State University pay campus hecklers?

(Because it's just another form of censorhip)

Washington State University's web site calls the school "an ideal place to live and learn" and promises prospective students that instead of "smog or traffic jams," they will find "an easy-going pace and eclectic college-town atmosphere." Here's something else WSU students don't find much of on the Pullman campus - freedom of speech. Hecklers who shout down speakers at WSU sometimes do so on tax dollars. Hitler used Nazi thugs called "Brown Shirts" to silence opponents as he sought power in pre-war Germany. Today at WSU, the people paying the hecklers are called "administrators."

Here are the basic facts of this incredible event: Black student playwright Chris Lee staged his intentionally provocative production of "Passion of the Musical" at WSU April 21. He warned potential ticket buyers beforehand the play was likely to offend everybody because, as he later said, "the whole point of the play was to show people that we're not that different, that we all have issues that can be made fun of."

Sure enough, a group of Mormon students peacefully protested the production outside the theatre, but inside the First Amendment took a beating as 40 mostly Black protestors repeatedly shouted "I am offended" and threatened audience members and the cast. Guess who paid for the protestors' tickets? WSU's Office of Campus Involvement (OCI).

At one point, Lee took a microphone and asked campus security to remove the protestors. The officials declined to do so and suggested instead that Lee change the lyrics to one of the play's songs that especially drew the ire of the hecklers.

WSU President V. Lane Rollins later defended the hecklers, telling the campus student newspaper they "exercised their right of free speech in a very responsible manner by letting the writer and players know exactly how they felt." Then Raul Sanchez, OCI's Director, investigated the incident but concluded no action was needed to discipline the hecklers because "the mere fact that such an outrageous play was produced, though lawful, was a provocation." Sanchez also suggested Lee was himself responsible for the hecklers' conduct because he "spared few social groups from the play's abundance of slurs, swear words, epithets and derogatory language," then tried to evade "all responsibility for intended and unintended impacts on the audience and the WSU community."

As a result, not only do WSU students now know campus administrators will not protect their freedom of speech, those same officials are encouraging more such violations. As David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is aiding Lee, observed: "Washington State's defense of this vigilante censorship will encourage students to unlawfully silence others whenever they feel offended."

As disturbing as is the fact WSU bought tickets for the hecklers knowing in advance that they were likely to disrupt the controversial play, and as difficult to believe as it is that WSU's president and another high-profile administrator absolved the hecklers of blame, what is truly dangerous about this incident is the role of campus security and WSU's favored method of avoiding future such controversies. It's bad enough campus security refused to enforce the First Amendment. They also took the next very large step of invoking police power in an attempt to censor the play, even as it was being presented! The next even larger step after that, of course, is using the police power to enforce pre-production censorship, AKA "prior restraint." Oh, but that could never happen here in America, you say?

Tell Sanchez, who has already put the student playwright on notice. Sanchez doesn't dare call it censorship. In fact, he almost appeared obsequious about it, telling Lee three months ago: "If you decide to stage a similar performance in the future, this office strongly encourages you to think long and hard about the possible reactions of your audience and the entire community .No one should seek to censor you but it is not unreasonable to expect you to act more responsibly in anticipating public reactions to your theatrical productions. This office stands ready to help you do that."

And just to make sure there was no doubt in Lee's mind about his orders, Sanchez added this instructive suggestion: "If you put on any more plays, please seek us out well ahead of time, so we may help you develop a constructive framework for anticipating and responding to public reactions to your work."

Those, my friends, are the words of a nascent American Stalinism.



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, August 03, 2005

At Law School, Unstrict Scrutiny

An inside look at identity politics in law schools

Dan Subotnik once went to his dean and asked to teach a course on race and the law, a subject to which he had devoted a great deal of his own scholarly effort. Teaching a course about something you know is a time-honored method of refining your ideas and, not least, of educating the young. But the dean turned him down. Why? He claimed that Mr. Subotnik's message would be unduly dismissive of racism, amounting to, as the dean put it, "get over it."

While the dean's decision may have been unfortunate for Touro Law School, where Mr. Subotnik is a professor, it was an excellent one for the rest of us because it prompted "Toxic Diversity" (New York University Press, 335 pages, $45), a thoughtful critique of identity politics in the nation's law schools. These days "critical race studies" and feminist jurisprudence are a routine part of law-school scholarship, and much of it is devoted to discovering in the law those white, male power structures that have become an obsession throughout our universities.

Mr. Subotnik argues that critical race theorists and feminists often publish dubious articles and books that ignore the relevant facts in an effort to deliver an unrelenting message of victimization. He wants to hold these scholars to the same standards by which other legal scholars are judged. That they are sometimes not speaks volumes about the double standards that plague all institutions--not only universities--when ethnic identity and gender become in themselves a criterion of judgment, even an axis upon which the institution turns.

Double standards are deeply embedded in the scholarship, too, according to Mr. Subotnik. Racist speech by whites, for instance, is treated as evidence of racism in whites, while racist speech by minorities is evidence of racism . . . in whites: It is either "justified" or part of the warped sensibility that the governing power structures have imposed on persons of color. Meanwhile, the facts that normally support arguments are treated loosely. One of the first African-American law professors recently lamented that his "colony" was at "risk" because law schools showed "little interest" in replacing black professors when they retired. But in the decade before he wrote those words African-Americans had risen to 7.8% of the legal professoriate, up from 4.8%, casting doubt on his central claim.

And then there is the neglect of social statistics. Many critical race theorists, for example, view efforts to discourage illegitimate children as an assault on the African-American community, where illegitimacy has recently run to more than 60% of newborns. But the theorists refuse even to acknowledge the data showing illegitimacy to be a major cause of crime, poverty and disorder there. By contrast, distinguished scholars outside the legal academy, like Harvard's Orlando Patterson, have written eloquently about the blighted lives that result from families without fathers. Mr. Subotnik sees such law-school myopia as typical of the way that critical race scholarship tends to celebrate any conduct that violates middle-class values, never mind the costs.

Mr. Subotnik's critique of feminist scholarship is less sweeping but no less shrewd. He focuses on claims that paradoxically impugn the fortitude and resilience of women. There are more than a few feminists who argue, for instance, that law schools need to change their ways because certain practices, such as the Socratic method of aggressive classroom interrogation, make female law students uncomfortable and cause them to lose their identity. Mr. Subotnik believes that feminists who make such arguments are reviving the stereotype by which the 19th-century Illinois Supreme Court dismissed women as unfit to engage in the "hot strifes of the bar."

Some of the same feminist scholars also call for the elimination of testing for admissions and hiring because tests do not take into account, among other things, "emotional intelligence." As Mr. Subotnik wryly wonders: Why should we pay attention to such soft academic speculations and not take seriously the comments of Bill Gates, who says that winning in business is all about I.Q.?

Mr. Subotnik's book is not without its debatable aspects. He believes that the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold affirmative action may lead to less use of standardized tests in admissions. But actually the decision allows universities to keep using such tests--as a device to help pick the best students within each ethnic group while often ignoring the differences between students of different ethnic groups.

More generally, Mr. Subotnik's writing style is somewhat diffuse, full of jokes and asides, with the result that his line of analysis is sometimes opaque. And he would make his case more compelling were he to contrast the scholarship that he criticizes with the fine new empirical writing on race and sex, such as that of Rick Brooks of Yale about minority perceptions of the judicial system.

Most disappointing is Mr. Subotnik's decision to approve of the narrative as a sound form of scholarship and, in fact, to indulge in a few personal stories of his own--e.g., his bitter reaction to being mugged. The problem with narratives in scholarly writing--whatever their virtues elsewhere--is that they are difficult to verify, hard to place in context and generally impossible to evaluate. The big question always is: How representative are they?

It is a strength of the academy--in law and many other disciplines--that professors have diverse, sometimes even radical, views. But to advance our knowledge such views need to be supported by rigorous analytical reasoning and the dispassionate gathering of cases and data. It is the great merit of Mr. Subotnik's work that he moves us toward a single standard for judging scholarship and thus helps create the conditions for the common enterprise of explaining our social world--and even, if we are lucky, improving it.



Too bad about the students

Principal Faye Banton can walk through the classrooms of Edison Middle School in South Los Angeles and quickly identify her weakest teachers. But Banton knows she can't dismiss them without a drawn-out fight. "It takes much too long to get rid of them," she said. "There is a real need for change." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes he has the solution: a voter initiative that would extend the probationary period for new teachers and change the rules for firing veterans who perform poorly.

But critics, including the state's association of school boards, say the governor has missed the mark. The initiative would not achieve his popular goal and might, in fact, make removing problem teachers harder, they say. Schwarzenegger, whose initiative will appear on the state ballot in a Nov. 8 special election, says the issue is simple. "If you have someone who does not perform well in any job . you are able to get rid of that person. And we cannot do that" with teachers, he said.

Large numbers of government employees and workers in many unionized businesses share job protections similar to those of teachers. Unlike college and university professors, public school teachers do not receive lifetime tenure. But the idea of reducing teachers' job protections is popular with many principals and parents concerned about the difficulty of removing poor-performing instructors. A Field Poll last month found broad support for the teacher measure among registered voters, with 59% supporting it and 35% opposed.

Under state law, school districts can dismiss teachers during their first two years on the job without providing any reason. After two years in the classroom, teachers earn the more protective "permanent status." Before dismissing a permanent-status teacher, district officials must meticulously document poor performance over time, formally declare the intention to dismiss the teacher and then give the instructor 90 days to improve.

Schwarzenegger's measure - known as the Put the Kids First Act - would authorize school districts to dismiss teachers summarily during the first five years. The initiative also would simplify the process for dismissing teachers with permanent status, allowing district officials to fire a teacher after two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations without declaring their intentions in advance or waiting 90 days. Dismissed teachers would still be entitled to a hearing before an administrative judge and two credentialed teachers from outside their district. State law empowers such panels to uphold or overturn teacher dismissals.

The struggle to remove underperforming teachers is a familiar frustration in California school systems. Schools often provide extra training and mentoring for teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations in an effort to help them improve and stay on the job. But rather than hassle with dismissing a teacher, which can consume hundreds of hours, some administrators shuffle problem instructors from school to school in a practice known to school officials as the "dance of the lemons."

The Los Angeles Unified School District has attempted to dismiss just 112 permanent teachers - or about one-quarter of 1% of the district's 43,000 instructors - over the last decade. Some were fired, but most resigned or retired. "It takes two to three years to effectively remove someone who is not helpful to children in the classroom," Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer said. "That's too long."

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


Tuesday, August 02, 2005


"Academics sometimes are too book smart for their own good. Overintellectualizing anything is not necessarily a good thing, and Ebonics proves it. It is beyond me how anyone can take poor English skills and attribute that to another language. I don't think poor English skills should be an goal to be aspired to, much less, attained. I have to agree with those that say that possessing these skills will not help gain a professional career, let alone just a regular job.

Twenty years or so ago, I had an African American woman work for me in a telemarketing firm where I was office manager. One of the requirements there was that English had to be spoken clearly and concisely. It was essential that good English speaking skills were utilized, or customers on the phone couldn't understand what was being said, which was, of course, detrimental to our business.

I remember her telling me that she was having problems with her teenage daughter, who insisted on speaking this so-called "Black English". My co-worker went on to say that she was the daughter of a college professor who insisted that she learn to speak "the King's English", as that was basic to being able to get and hold a decent job.

Her daughter's friends, on the other hand, were saying that speaking "the King's English" meant that she was pretending to be "white". My co-worker was having a tough time convincing her daughter that speaking proper English had nothing to do with what race you were, and had everything to do with your success in life. I often wonder if she prevailed in getting this across to her daughter.

As office manager, I was in charge of hiring. I was turned in to the labor board on at least two occasions for refusing to hire an African American who couldn't speak good English. I was accused of discrimination. Each time, I won the suit because I employed other African Americans who COULD and DID speak proper English.

Even today, I cringe when I hear this "street English". I'm sick of going to a fast food restaurant, where so many young African Americans work, and can't understand a word they're saying, and they apparently can't understand me either, since "iced tea" is constantly interpreted as "Hi C", a totally different beverage.

My personal understanding of this "Black English" is that it is an attempt to differentiate Blacks from Whites. As such, it is a racist undertaking, at the very least. "Black English" is just street language, and most of the people that I've met that speak it are, indeed, undereducated and underachievers. I live in a very racially balanced neighborhood, in a mostly poor area of my city. Believe me when I say that most of the people who speak this "language" are basically illiterate. And I'm not kidding.

That's sad. It's also unnecessary. There are other ways to respect and honor the African American culture other than the dumbing down of its people. Because in the end, that's what "Ebonics" is - a nod to the dumbing down of a people that need that like they need more discrimination and poverty.

Giving credence to this language does a great disservice to Black Americans. I applaud the efforts of any and all Black leaders who dissuade their people from adopting this "street English", which will do nothing but KEEP THEM DOWN. And if you think about it, it's just another form of slavery, because as long as people speak it, they will be denied access to the kinds of jobs and careers that will make them successful. Not everyone can be a Rap Star."



By the same logic a medical student who is a great guy but who fails all his medical exams should be graduated

As students ponder their selection or rejection by University of California campuses, Patrick Hayashi is one of the people they could praise or blame. The Oakland resident is among a handful of people who have been instrumental in changing how the UC system reviews students. Even in retirement, he remains a potent force. Concerns he raised about the fairness of the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program led to an announcement this month that UC campus chancellors are pulling university funding from the test-based program in 2006. ``Had he given up, this matter would not have received UC attention, perhaps ever,'' said UC-Santa Barbara education professor Michael T. Brown, who headed a faculty committee that also found problems with the program.

Hayashi has been a driving force behind the idea that each UC applicant should be evaluated as an individual. The post-affirmative action strategies he helped devise moved UC campuses away from selecting students based on grade-and-test-score formulas toward a broader, individualized review like those at elite private universities. ``He has had an extraordinary influence on how people get measured,'' said Tom Goldstein, a UC-Berkeley professor who has known Hayashi for 20 years. He did it, Goldstein said, by ``questioning the orthodoxies that went unquestioned for decades.''

Hayashi, 61, is a skilled political strategist. As the UC system's associate president, he worked with former UC President Richard Atkinson, a noted expert in testing and cognition, on a high-profile campaign that forced major revisions in the SAT I college entrance exam. ``It was a cooperative effort between us,'' Atkinson said. ``We laid out a plan for changes being implemented, but Pat really engineered this.''

Hayashi's family came to California in the 1880s. He was born in 1944 in Utah's Topaz internment camp and lived there a year. ``I remember nothing, but it affected my entire life,'' he said. The experience made him aware of racial issues and injustice, and their effect on whole generations. There were few early clues that Hayashi would become an activist. He played tennis at Hayward High School, and for a year at San Jose State College. Academically, he ranked dead center in his high school class. After graduating from UC-Berkeley in 1966 with an English degree, he worked at a variety of campus jobs while pursuing graduate education. He helped establish Berkeley's Asian-American studies program, but wasn't among the militant student strikers who called for an independent ethnic-studies college in the late '60s.

When Asian-American admissions to Berkeley dropped suddenly in 1984 after a period of rapid growth, some suspected the university of setting quotas. Hayashi was tapped to manage the public-relations crisis, which lasted several years during state and federal investigations. UC was never sanctioned. His skill dealing with the controversy ``saved my butt,'' said campus chancellor, I. Michael Heyman. ``I just didn't realize the intensity of the feeling.'' First as Heyman's executive assistant, then as associate vice chancellor of admissions, Hayashi lived on the front lines of UC-Berkeley's admissions wars of the 1980s and 1990s, attacked from all sides. He believed in ``throwing the net wide,'' Heyman said. He wanted ``admission standards that would bring in kids from non-traditional backgrounds who had a good chance of doing well, but had never had that opportunity.''

In 1996 Californians passed Proposition 209, which banned race as a factor in admissions. Hayashi introduced the concept of ``comprehensive review'' at Berkeley: reading each applicant's file, doing away with rigid scoring formulas and considering multiple factors in assessing potential. Its subjectivity, he said, is what made it good. ``Some students, you look at their history and put it all together and they're greater than the sum of their individual factors,'' he said. ``They're great kids. They've done great things with their lives by 17, and you know they will do great things after.''

Hayashi has a complex view of affirmative action as ``more than a numbers game,'' said UC-Berkeley professor Jack Citrin, who supported Proposition 209. He wanted to increase underrepresented minority students, ``but he also wanted Berkeley to remain an elite place from a conventional way of looking at things,'' Citrin said.

Hayashi retired last year but continues to battle the National Merit program, a symbol of academic achievement for almost 50 years. His main objection is what he calls ``a fake definition of merit'' based on its use of the PSAT as a gateway exam. The program uses cutoff scores that vary from state to state to eliminate about 99 percent of the test takers. ``You shouldn't make momentous decisions on insignificant differences in score,'' Hayashi said. ``Whites and Asians suffer most from the program,'' he explained. ``Millions of high-achieving students of all races, but especially whites and Asians, take the hardest courses their schools offer, concurrently enroll in community college and do extraordinarily well as president of the student body or mistress of the local youth symphony. But they just didn't get above a certain PSAT cutoff, so they are judged without merit.'' Hayashi hopes UC's decision will inspire other universities. If nothing else, he said, the debate demonstrates ``that traditional notions of merit have to be examined.''


Teachers Need High Expectations Too!

But at the moment they only have to be dummies. Post lifted from Mz Smlph

Wow...I'm really on an education-rant roll lately. A few days ago, I posted about what makes a teacher "qualified" or not. While I didn't focus on teacher education, I do believe that a teacher needs some sort of training before becoming certified, whether it be a formal four-year program or an alternative licensure kind of deal. The state in which I currently teach agrees with me (smart) and graciously offers financial assistance to those who come into teaching from another field and are seeking licensure.

I am happy to say that, as of last Monday, I am done with all my licensure courses and will start teaching in the fall with a complete Lateral Entry license. You might think that it was difficult for me to reach this point, and part of me wishes that it had been. I might be a better teacher if I had actually been challenged in this process.

Coming into teaching, I wasn't required to take many classes, thanks to the similarities between the Psychology and Education curricula at my university. Then, as I demonstrated "success" in the classroom, licensure requirements such as "Classroom Management" were fulfilled, further reducing the number of actual courses I needed to take. Passing the Praxis, which was frighteningly easy, meant that literature and grammar courses were also waived. By the time all these waivers were taken into account, I needed only two courses to be granted licensure.

The first course I took, during my initial semester as a teacher, was called "Technologies in Education." I took it as an on-line course since the actual university, if you can call it that, was 1.5 hours from my home. I knew right away that I was in for an interesting experience when my instructor sent out her "Curriculum Vitae." In my primary perusal of this document, I noted no fewer than 5 fairly glaring errors. As if this were not reason enough to doubt her professionalism, I then started reading the announcements she sent to our class via the university's Internet distance learning system (Blackboard). She was extremely critical and harsh, reprimanding the entire class for "not reading the syllabus" whenever one person asked a question. She never taught directly and never contributed to the discussion board conversations we were required to have. While we did have a textbook (a $75.00 paperback), we didn't really have to read it. Weekly quizzes came from the textbook's website, and my classmates and I quickly figured out that, by using the browser's back button, one could get answers for and resubmit the quizzes endlessly without losing points. To the teacher's credit, there was a final project: a portfolio that consisted of various projects we were supposed to complete over the course of the semester. I did my entire portfolio on Thanksgiving Day. I think I had to design a web page, create a spreadsheet, and make a PowerPoint. It was rough, grueling almost, but boy, did it make me a better teacher!! (*clears throat*)

When it came time for me to start my second and last certification-required course, Reading in the Content Areas, there was only one "university" offering the class. This "university" is one that I have long suspected to be a REALLY CRAPPY school. (Unfortunately, several of the teachers I mentioned in that last post got their degrees there.) From the day my colleague and I drove to the campus for orientation, I knew my suspicions had been confirmed and not in any sort of self-fulfilling prophecy kinda' way.

The instructor of this course, which was also on-line, was a kindergarten teacher who had never taught the course before. She used the same assignments as the teacher before her, sometimes not even bothering to change the dates from the previous semester. Unlike the instructor from my first course, she wasn't rude to us, but this was probably because she almost NEVER communicated with us at all. We had weekly assignments, due on Fridays, that consisted of regurgitating information from the textbook. The on-line grade-book we could access showed that, week after week, the class average on these assignments was 100%. Clearly, if the instructor was reading our responses at all, she was not holding us to very high standards.

I was out of town when the short answer, open-book midterm was posted and freaked out when I realized I had left my book at home. Over the phone, THE GREATEST ROOMMATE EVER kindly gave me some key points from the text. I put in about 30 minutes of work and scored a, you guessed it, 100%.

Going into the final, I still had 100% in the class. When I heard that, like the midterm, this exam would be open-book, I was confident that I could do fairly well. When the instructor told us it would consist of 25 multiple choice questions (this was the FINAL, people!), I became even more sure of myself. Then...I saw the test. Many of the questions contained obvious typos. Some of the questions had vaguely tricky answers, like this one:

Why should teachers allow students time to think?

a. Being given more time makes students think.
b. being given more time enables students to answer questions better.
c. It is the polite thing to do.
d. It ensures quick answers.

I was a little torn between a and b. Eventually, I chose b because nothing, not wait-time, not a miracle can MAKE anyone do anything. Tricky questions like these aren't the type of trick questions that I can respect. Rather, they're the type that requires the test-taker to attempt to guess what the test-writer might have been thinking. Of course, I will never understand what my instructor was thinking with this next question:

What educational practices contribute to the students diversity in secondary classrooms?

a.More students entering school from poverty-level homes
c.Cultural change
d. All of the above

Since when are immigration, cultural change, and poverty EDUCATIONAL PRACTICES????? I chose d because a,b, and c all contribute to diversity, but I hated myself for even having to answer it.

So, I did my best to answer 25 questions like these. I was quite chagrined when, upon submitting my answers, I learned that I missed 5, scoring only an 80%. How depressing!! I was only slightly comforted by the fact that the class average on the exam was only 72%.

The fact that this class was required for certification bothers me for a couple reasons. First of all, the state must think it's an important class if you can't get a teaching certificate without taking it. I feel I was cheated out of a class that was supposed to have taught me something I need to know. I can honestly say that I learned nothing from that class. Is this partially my fault? Sure, I could have taken the initiative to read the text book on my own, create challenging assignments for myself, and regularly assess my own progress by means of varied and authentic assessments, but who are we kidding here? It's summer. Would I have done these things if they were a requirement for the class? Of course I would have. It's all about high expectations. Teachers need them as much as students do.

The other thing that really gets my goat about this class is that, clearly, the instructor had NO IDEA WHAT SHE WAS DOING!!! Immigration is not an educational practice, dam*it! I have always been of the opinion that, if someone is going to be my instructor, get up in front of me and lecture - or "teach" me over the Internet - that instructor SHOULD KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT SHE'S TEACHING!!! Does this woman have a single shred of a conscience? Did she not feel bad that she was collecting a paycheck for teaching us nothing? (Sounds a lot like some teachers at my school.)

Granted, I paid only $58.00 for the course (+ $90.00 for the crappy book), but the State of ** footed the rest of the bill. I know, I should be happy that the course was so easy, that I can now start teaching in a few weeks with a fully cleared license. But something inside me continues to rage against this kind of non-education. It's insulting, and I don't like being the victim of it.


Whenever he can, President Bush touts the huge spending increases necessary to promote his No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But it's not just NCLB funding that has increased: the entire education budget has ballooned during the president's time in office. The Department of Education's budget has grown by 82.5 percent in real terms from $34.9 billion in FY2001 to $63.7 billion in FY2005. This is the largest increase of any president since Lyndon Johnson. And President Bush's 2006 budget asks for more of the same. Every state sees an increase in grant money, nearly 5 percent on average. The average state receives a level of grant funding that is more than 50 percent higher than when President Bush took office; no state has an increase less than 35 percent.

In spite of the GOP's extravagance, Democrats constantly criticize the Administration for not spending enough. During the presidential campaign, Kerry told voters that the President was not serious about education and promised that, if elected, he would spend an additional $27 billion. Special interest groups are also dissatisfied with the amount of money going to education. In April, the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest teachers union, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education charging that the federal government hasn't provided enough money for states to comply with the NCLB. This is bad news for fiscal conservatives: the Bush administration may use this opportunity to brag about how much they have increased federal education spending and may be required to spend even more....

This is unfortunate. The only real measure of success is not how much we are spending but whether we are getting the most bang for our bucks. American schools are already very well-funded. Moreover, there is little evidence that additional funding would much improve the quality of education. In international comparisons of per-pupil expenditures, the U.S. ranks near the top of the list. According to OECD figures, the U.S. spends 78 percent more per primary school student than Germany, 58 percent more than France, 31 percent more than Japan, and 71 percent more than the U.K. But despite these large spending differentials, American students perform no better than average on international comparisons of math and reading skills.

Comparisons over time reveal a similar story. From 1960 to 2000, inflation-adjusted spending on education in the U.S. nearly tripled, yet test scores show little improvement, dropout rates are high, and a large racial achievement gap persists.

Education economist Caroline Hoxby explains that public schools today are doing less with more: school productivity -- achievement per dollar spent -- declined by 55 to 73 percent from 1971 to 1999. Meanwhile, private and charter schools are boosting student achievement with lower expenditures per pupil than public schools. In other words, there is no consistent, systematic relationship between education spending and student outcomes.

Trumpeting huge increases in education spending may lower the level of complaining from the NEA and other critics of President Bush's education policies, but "historic" new federal spending is nothing for a fiscal conservative to brag about. And given the weak effectiveness of money to improve education, it's nothing for an education reformer to boast about either. The Bush administration has taken the GOP from advocating no federal spending on education to spending like drunken sailors. It's high time for the party to sober up and remember its core principles.

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, August 01, 2005


Jude also says the world of his parents offered things that the world of today's parents of MPS students lacks - strong parenting setting good standards for kids, to name one. And he now believes, at age 58, something he never would have expected when he started as a math teacher in 1973: Things have gotten worse during his career. A few of Jude's thoughts as he departs:

* "Did my parents give me basic tools (for succeeding in school)? No, because they didn't have them themselves. But what they did have was respect, discipline and courtesy."

* Show up and show up on time. Both in his years in the MPS central office and in its high schools, Jude made a priority of fighting truancy and - something he considered just as serious - tardiness. He says parents and MPS don't do enough in dealing with these. "There are two major things that businesses are complaining about (related to the high school graduates). Tardiness and attendance. They go together into attitude and relationships. (Business executives say) if a kid comes in here punctually and they have a pleasant attitude, we can train them. But I can't train them if they're not on time or they're arguing with every supervisor and co-worker they come into contact with. . . . "Once a student is punctual and in school, a lot of other problems begin to disappear." Jude said MPS policy since the late 1980s has barred principals from taking strong stands against tardiness.

* Working in an MPS high school, 2005 vs. 1973: "First of all, there's far less respect in high schools now, meaning the adults in high schools in 2005 are not the same as the adults of 1973. The adults in 2005 are not taking charge for all kinds of reasons, staff members as well as non-staff members. The red tape that is not only established locally but statewide or nationally . . . causes some restraint, especially for those of us who don't have the courage to step out there and do things because it's the best for kids or right for kids. " . . . The other difference has to do with the expectations of schools these days, whether it's in curriculum, whether it's in discipline, whether it's in other areas. " . . . The adults are no longer the real authority. The authority now is shared by many and sometimes the authority that is the closest to the problem is the one that is second-guessed the most."

* The 80-20 rule - there's only so much schools can do to offset what happens in kids' lives outside of school. "Too many expect the schools to solve the problems when we only have the kids a maximum of 15, 16 percent of the time. . . . Even with extracurricular activities thrown in, few kids spend more than 20 percent of their time in school. That percent will destroy the 20. The 20 cannot carry the 80 unless something productive is happening in that 80 percent. " . . . You show me a youngster who is being successful in school, I'll show you a household where someone is spending time with that youngster."

* The state of MPS as a whole: "The elementary schools are moving in the right direction, and they're making progress. I'm not sure we'll be able to sustain it unless we focus in on the group between grade 3 and 8. . . . We begin to lose as they go forward because we're not paying close enough attention to the building blocks that need to be developed further - vocabulary, math skills, to really home in on them. "Oftentimes, high schools are blamed for not preparing youngsters. But right now, even as late as this past year, we know that in many of our high schools we have kids come in reading at Grade 6. Well, our high school curriculum is designed for Grade 9, so we have a gap there. So we try to figure out, how do we fill that gap and at the same time keep the kid on the high school curriculum that is to prepare him to compete with others when he leaves high school? That becomes a real challenge. " . . . What happens in the first 14 years - or what does not happen - cannot be made up in the (next) four years."

* You can do a good paint job that makes a poorly performing car look good, but it's still a poorly performing car. That's true too often of MPS diplomas. For kids to get to graduation, they sometimes take courses that aren't as demanding as what should be expected. Graduation comes, "but it's at the expense of content." The student goes to college and finds other kids are way ahead. Jude's response: "You were doing the A section of the book while they were doing the B and C sections. You covered a lot of material but it was very shallow. They covered a lot of material but it was in depth."

More here


Student test scores rose in New York City this year-and in some classrooms and schools, kids made truly significant gains. Consider Region Five, a poor district of eastern Brooklyn and Queens. As Julia Levy reported in the New York Sun, the district was an "educational wasteland for decades," with two-thirds of students failing at everything. But this year, the district's elementary- and middle-school students pulled off testing gains of 17 percentage points in English and ten percentage points in math, outpacing the city's average gains in both areas. At P.S. and I.S. 41 in the district, 48 percent of fifth-graders met reading standards this year, up from 32 percent last year, while 37 percent of the seventh-graders did okay or well this year, more than double last year's figure. It's no mystery why scores are going up: a gifted, determined manager who motivated teachers to succeed. The district's leader, Kathleen Cashin, established clear expectations for principals and teachers, and pushed the schools in the district to meet them. P.S./I.S. 41 principal Myron Rock enthuses that his teachers worked evenings, Saturdays, and vacations to push students....

But without the introduction of merit-based pay, new money won't do much to build upon this year's rising scores, as a recent study, conducted by Harvard economics prof Caroline Hoxby and Andrew Leigh of the National Bureau of Economic Research, makes clear. The study examined worker aptitude (native smarts, basically) as it related to worker pay. In most professions, the best workers usually get the top pay-a situation that once held in teaching, before the unions arrived on the scene and began to mandate lockstep salaries. Hoxby and Leigh found that smart women (the study looked only at females), frustrated by the absence of reward for ability in the public schools, have looked elsewhere for more rewarding career paths, as you'd expect.

Forty years ago, as unions were just gaining control in public schools, Hoxby and Leigh report, 16 percent of American female teachers were of low aptitude in relation to other college grads (determined by mean SAT scores at their respective universities). By 2000, 36 percent of women teachers were of low aptitude. In 1963, 5 percent of women teachers came from the highest-aptitude group; by 2000, that figure had plummeted to 1 percent. The main reason for this startling decline in teacher quality, Hoxby and Leigh conclude, is the elimination of financial rewards for talent. Back in 1963, the smartest teachers earned more than average teachers, while the lowest-aptitude teachers earned less; by 2000, all teachers earned about the same for the same level of experience, regardless of talent.

If New York wants to attract and keep the best teachers, then, the solution isn't to increase teacher pay across the board. That might draw more people to teaching, but not necessarily smarter or harder-working people. Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein should instead seek to structure financial incentives to reward teachers like those who did so well at P.S. 41....

More here

Don’t Fund College Follies

It is easy to give money foolishly to colleges and very hard to give it wisely. But at a handful of schools, enlightened alumni not only have learned how to avoid misguided benevolence but are also figuring out how to re-introduce serious scholarship to their campuses. Their initiatives are doing what presidents and trustees have failed to do: break the Left’s illiberal stranglehold on their institutions’ intellectual life and restore true academic freedom to campus....

Though at first glance, the prospects that trustees and alumni donors can recall the universities from their descent into narcissistic know-nothingism look grim, donors nevertheless have two possible levers for change. One is as yet unused, but the other is already exerting effective pressure.

Unused is the power that trustees could wield—if they had the courage to do so. All boards have academic committees, meant to advise the president on academic matters, and university bylaws usually vest final say over hiring in the trustees. Nothing prevents trustees from actually reading the course catalog; doing so would be eye-opening. While no trustee today would dare to challenge an appointment, there is no reason that boards can’t start conversations with provosts about why, for example, their colleges no longer offer courses in American revolutionary history. They might also ask why their colleges require each student to take a “diversity” offering rather than an overview of European and American history, or why English departments offer far more courses in theory and “underrepresented” voices than in the greats of English literature. Asking questions is no violation of academic freedom, though professors and administrators will doubtless complain that it is.

Trustees could also hire presidents who understand the value of a liberal education and are committed to improving the curriculum. Unlike the Harvard Corporation, they should then back up their choices unequivocally. Liberal education, they should explain, has nothing to do with the party affiliations of professors. Rather, it means a willingness to engage the legacy of the past with seriousness, rather than condescension, and to understand the achievements of Western civilization—science, prosperity, freedom, and artistic marvels—rather than only moan over its failings. Will the faculty howl? Sure, but that does not mean that their “academic freedom” has been violated.

For now, though, the alumni are the most likely agents for change. A few savvy alumni entrepreneurs are already creating a blueprint for breaking the monopoly of the academic Left and bringing traditional scholarship and intellectual diversity back to campus. The model is as follows: find a tenured professor committed to classical learning. Give him resources to expand his jurisdiction by bringing in new faculty or offering new courses. A tenured prof, it turns out, often has leeway to recruit faculty on a temporary basis and to set them to teaching—as long as the prof is highly respected and has his own pot of money independent of the university budget, and as long as he, not the donor, is the actual and the perceived force behind the new program.

The James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton is the flagship of all such cartel busters, a conservative version of the left-wing research institutes, like the Radcliffe Institute, that have proliferated on campuses in recent years. Directed by the charismatic Robert George and funded entirely by foundation and alumni money, the program focuses on constitutional law and political thought. George selects six fellows a year to come from other campuses to pursue research in such topics as the nature of free institutions, to offer public lectures, and to supervise student writing projects. Sometimes a fellow may teach a preexisting undergraduate course that has lain fallow in the catalog for years, or he may devise a new course and offer it on a one-time basis, subject to the approval of the chairman of the politics department, where the Madison Program is housed.

The program, which has attracted an enthusiastic student following, has altered the political debate on campus. No longer can a speaker at a conference assume that everyone in the audience shares the view that America is the world’s prime source of evil; some of George’s fellows may be there and will ask uncomfortable questions. Students interested in American ideals now have a body of thinkers they can draw on to expand their knowledge and encourage them, and they have a mutually reinforcing peer group sharing their generally conservative worldview.

In a similar vein is the Political Theory Project at Brown, also under the complete control of an energetic professor and backed by a strong-minded alumnus. Political theory professor John Tomasi, a free-market libertarian, had watched in frustration as the political assumptions on campus and in the curriculum narrowed and ossified. He had his own scars from that close-minded culture. When he had dared to question Brown’s minorities-only freshman-orientation program, a powerful tool for indoctrinating students into the reigning anti-white, anti-capitalist orthodoxies, Brown’s diversity police launched a hate campaign against him, he recounts. His colleagues wrote letters to the campus newspapers denouncing his “insensitivity”; anonymous diversity commissars made harassing late-night calls to his family; “anti-hate” activists hung his picture, with the label “racist,” throughout campus; and vandals smeared slurs on his car.

Alumnus Curtin Winsor, President Reagan’s ambassador to Costa Rica, had seen the results of Brown’s doctrinaire left-wing culture up close. His daughters, in collecting their Brown degrees, had also picked up a set of political assumptions that he found “distressing.” “I’m still trying to detox them,” he says. “They look at the world from a socialist perspective, which is alien to their upbringing.”

Tomasi’s and Winsor’s benevolent revenge? Introducing free-market thinking to Brown freshmen. With financing from Winsor, Tomasi created the Political Theory Project, an umbrella for courses and student discussion groups in liberty and democratic values. The project brings in five ideologically diverse postdoctoral fel-lows from other universities to teach freshman seminars—a task that most of Brown’s own faculty regard as beneath them. The fellows, who stay at Brown for two years, create their own courses, based on their scholarly interests. The result: ten new courses a year in perspectives that Brown would otherwise lack.

Tomasi plays to the typical Brown student’s desire for the avant-garde. “I tell freshmen that if they want radical funky ideas, here are some new courses, such as in de Tocqueville, Locke, or the philosophical ideas of the American Founding. Students are not getting these books anywhere; they just get critiques of free-market politics and the canon. The classics are so untaught that they become trendy.” Tomasi wants to create undergraduates who’ve read different books from the faculty. “After a whole semester of Hayek, it’s hard to shake them off that perspective over the next four years,” he says slyly.....

The secrecy in which reformers are working is the clearest proof of how desperately academe needs change. At one Ivy League school, a government professor hoping to replicate Princeton’s Madison Program begged me to keep his college’s identity blank, “as this is something the feminists will try to quash as soon as they hear of it.” Alumni and a professor at another Ivy League college want to create an institute for researching the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Battle of the Ancients and Moderns. The institute will be a home for people who want to do non-political scholarship without being subject to discrimination, a donor explained. He might as well have been trying to set up a center for making anthrax. “We are reaching a crucial stage,” he said, in requesting anonymity, “and it will be extremely important that nothing be done that would mobilize the campus left in opposition.”

The challenges to re-introducing liberal scholarship are considerable. If the key to creating a Madison-type program is to find a tenured scholar in place who can run it, few are the colleges that still have such traditional thinkers—and fewer still that have anyone with the star power and organizing skills of a Robert George. A philanthropist looked into starting an Alexander Hamilton institute at what was once the premier American history faculty in the country, for example, and quickly concluded that there was no one left in the department who would champion such a program.

Yet the prospects for change have never been more auspicious. Activist David Horowitz’s nationwide academic-freedom campaign, complete with an Academic Bill of Rights, has provided the perfect entree for alumni who seek to better their colleges’ education (see “On Campus, Conservatives Talk Back,” Winter 2005). Presidents are starting to get nervous that their campuses may be the next to be blasted by Horowitz’s bullhorn. The Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate University, established in 2003 by political scientist Robert Kraynak and funded by Colgate alumni, announces boldly on its website that it “seeks to challenge the prevailing [campus] conformity by presenting a ‘conservative voice’ and a genuine exchange of ideas.” Why this unusual honesty? Colgate president and feminist theologian Rebecca Chopp asked the center to designate itself as “conservative” to demonstrate Colgate’s intellectual diversity, according to the NAS’s Stephen Balch, writing in the June Philanthropy.

The Ward Churchill affair at the University of Colorado at Boulder has also started administrators worrying about whether their own campus radicals may blow up and expose their left-wing ravings to all the world. Desperately trying to recover after the press unearthed Professor Churchill’s comparison of the 9/11 victims to “little Eichmanns,” Boulder can look to its new Center for Western Civilization as a needed counterweight. (The center was also a beneficiary of Horowitz’s agitation.)

Would-be alumni entrepreneurs should seize the moment. The model for starting a revolution has already been forged: fund professors already in place. If you can’t find anyone committed to liberal education at your own university, send your money instead to places that are more open to traditional scholarship. The National Association of Scholars and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni have databases of worthy candidates. If your alma mater sees that it is losing philanthropic dollars to institutions that support the traditional liberal arts, it may figure out a way to win back your donations. (Even universities with billion-dollar endowments hate to forgo significant alumni grants: in the 1980s, Harvard Law School alumni, angry over the Critical Legal Studies faction’s lock on tenure decisions, stopped giving money. The left-wing tyranny ended within a year.) Never give to a college’s general-support budget; it is money down the drain.

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


Sunday, July 31, 2005


The social experiment that Santa Monica High School has become is yet one more example of the dismal failure of leftism and the delusions and paranoia of its architects. Once a beacon of public education to which families and their kids flocked, this beachside high school has in recent years become a center of political indoctrination.

The Left has created the false reality of institutional racism at "SamoHi," thereby fostering a sense of hopelessness in students. The students have, in turn, acted on that hopelessness. Racial disharmony is rampant at the school, manifest in the unchecked self-segregation found at so many of our nation's public schools. This has caused a greater potential for violence. It was not surprising when a huge, out-of-control race brawl took place on the campus. What was surprising was the response of school board member Oscar De La Torre, who nearly started a second riot just days later when he brought known gang members onto campus and refused to remove them, defying and mocking the police officers on the scene. Rather than being punished or reprimanded, this school board member will continue to be allowed to play a key role in instituting an aggressive new wave of leftist initiatives to address the racial animus.....

In a school board meeting the following day, De La Torre further contributed to the problem by failing to reproach the students who engaged in violence, instead giving them a blanket excuse for their reprehensible conduct. Resorting to the unsupported leftist claim that all blacks and Hispanics - even those in a city as P.C. as Santa Monica - are inherently the victims of some mysterious "institutional racism," De La Torre explained that "youth violence is a complex social problem that stems from marginalization and disenfranchisement."

I had the displeasure of meeting Oscar De La Torre during one of the Santa Monica city summits where all the leftist student leaders, parents, district officials, and community activists get together to see who can use the most left-wing buzzwords in a single sentence. During my day at the summit, I probably heard the words "exploited," "marginalized," "oppressed," and "disenfranchised" more than most people will in their natural lives. Every problem was chalked up to the larger villain of institutional racism, and all discussion centered on how to combat it. That no one could provide concrete examples seemed to make no difference.

I pointed out that it was incredibly damaging to put all this energy into convincing minority students that they were victims of discrimination and that if they tried to succeed or do something with their lives they would inevitably be held back. I argued that this would only encourage and increase delinquent behavior and that we needed to dispense with this illusion. Instead, we need to explain to minority students that if they applied themselves to their studies and stayed out of trouble, they would find a vista of opportunities. I was quickly labeled a racist, and after the session De La Torre became combative. He, like countless others during my time at Santa Monica High, tried to convince me that blacks and Hispanics were all victims of inescapable discrimination, deeply ingrained in the white ruling class and all public institutions. For many leftists such as De La Torre, this belief is central to their worldview. A belief in racial oppression has become an article of faith, beyond question or reason, invulnerable to rational discussion.

Nonetheless, it is still amazing that it has not occurred to anyone involved with the district that it is the leftist victim mentality and its unchallenged progressive initiatives, and not the mysterious villain the Left call institutional racism, that is in fact causing and worsening the problem....

Assimilation is anathema to leftists like De Le Torre because the resulting unity would eliminate the need for their policies and programs. To a disturbing extent, this indoctrination has been successful. I have spoken with a number of minority students during my time at SamoHi who claimed that they thought of themselves as Mexican, or Honduran, or Guatemalan first, and American second. De La Torre describes the successes of the Left in instituting ever more multiculturalism over the years; yet, the result has been the development of an anti-Americanism that also contributes mightily to racial tensions. A scientific poll I conducted while at SamoHi revealed that nearly one in every two students felt that America was an unjust nation, and more than one-third of the student body was not proud to be American. In turn, the vast majority of students wanted to reduce military spending, increase gun control, redistribute the nation's wealth, and expand government. At this one high school alone, the Left has trained thousands to continue building its failed utopia.....

The Left has caused and deepened the distressing problems we find in Santa Monica High School and countless other schools in this nation by refusing to answer student misbehavior with discipline, by failing to hold individuals accountable for their actions, by justifying any and all poor conduct, by excusing black and Hispanic misbehavior by holding those students to a lower standard, by drilling into them the belief that they are inherently victims, by proffering multiculturalist solutions to problems that don't exist. The political Left is like a doctor who stays in business by keeping his patients sick. According to leftist logic, if the leeches aren't making the patient healthy, then more leeches need to be applied. The doctor in the case of the racial illnesses at Santa Monica High School is the problem.

More here


In Australia recently, I shared a public platform with an educationist, who had won awards for social innovation in the field of education for disadvantaged minorities. I was looking forward to what she had to say. I was soon in a towering rage, however. She uttered some of the most foolish cliches of radical education theory, now about 40 years old-theories that I had fondly thought were now behind us, such as the harmful effects upon the children of disadvantaged ethnic groups or families of an emphasis on education as learning, with particular reference to the damage done to their self-esteem by the dominant culture's fetish about reading and writing.

These "technologies," as the social innovator called them, were in any case on the verge of obsolescence because of computerized voice-recognition systems, so why teach them? Why not recognize children's individual strengths and natural creativity, and why not accept what their native cultures brought to the great smorgasbord of life (my expression, not hers): such as, presumably, singing and dancing and basket-weaving and female circumcision.

This was all said with such smugness, with such an expression of beatific complacency and self-content, that I wanted to get up and strangle the innovator there and then. As a believer in the necessity of self-expression, she would no doubt have understood. I recalled what one of my patients in the prison once said to me, to explain why he had murdered his girlfriend: "I had to kill her, doctor, or I don't know what I would have done."

However, having been educated in precisely the kind of school that the innovator derided-namely, one in which I sat in a row with lots of other children and regularly heard in no uncertain terms that, being no more important than any other child in the class, I had wait my turn if I wanted to speak-I was able to control myself and even be polite in my reply.

I pointed out the obvious things, such as that the announcement of the death of reading and writing as a means of distant communication was premature, to say the least, and that if it was all right for children not to learn to read and write because it was in their culture not to do so, then was all right for them not to go to school at all; and that it took little imagination to understand how difficult and painful life in a modern society must be for someone who could neither read nor write properly.

Halfway through my own reply, however, I suddenly became bored. Why do I spend so much time arguing against such obvious rubbish, which should be both self-refuting and auto-satirizing the moment someone utters it? Why not just go and read a good book? The problem is that nonsense can and does go by default. It wins the argument by sheer persistence, by inexhaustible re-iteration, by staying at the meeting when everyone else has gone home, by monomania, by boring people into submission and indifference. And the reward of monomania? Power.



The 28-year-old teacher ran screaming down the corridor to the refuge of the staff room. She was quite a sight - almost naked, and so covered in blood, bruises and welts that her colleagues were at first unable to recognize her. In a frenzied 12-minute attack, she had been beaten, punched with a closed fist, raped and severely bitten by a hulking 15-year-old student who also made a serious attempt to strangle her. It was her second day on the job. The attack occurred in September and the woman, a dedicated teacher, has not yet been able to steel herself to going back into a classroom.

In many British state schools, there is a new fad going round the play yards. "Happy slapping", it is perversely called. Little girls of 10, 11 or 12 choose another little girl as a victim, surround her and, holding her so she cannot escape, hit her head and face with force while one films the attack on her mobile phone, laughing uproariously. Some little victims of "happy slapping" end up in hospital or at the doctor's office. At least one was left lying unconscious on the concrete playground when her attackers ran off shrieking with laughter. It has now spread to gangs of young teen boys who roam streets and parks.

Meanwhile, more advanced 10-year-olds who have put childhood pursuits aside are demanding the birth control pill. As one threatened a doctor in Scotland, "You'd better put me on the pill, because if you don't, I'm going to keep on having sex with these three boys anyway." To be fair, the doctor involved has been called up before the medical board for contributing to the rape of a minor. But, given the utter indifference of the mother - her "partner" of 10 years ago unlikely to know of the existence of a 10-year-old daughter - what was he to do? Report her to the ubiquitous "social services", who would "counsel" this little girl to make "a mature decision" and give her the pill anyway?

An undercover reporter for Channel 4, Alex Dolan, posed as a substitute teacher in several state schools and came away from the experience shaken. One feral girl, playing her mobile phone music at high volume throughout class despite being told by "the teacher" (Dolan) to stop, lost her patience and, putting her face inches from Dolan's, hissed, "Don't make me hurt you. I swear to God I will do it." Dolan posed as a substitute teacher in 16 schools and "came away saddened". That she didn't come away rigid with fright speaks well for the sang froid of undercover journalists. A full account of her investigation is here.

A lot has been written in recent years of Britain's feral children and the breakdown of civil behavior. From a confident, disciplined society, large strata of Britain have descended into the final days of the Roman Empire.... The decline in standards of behavior can be laid at the imposition, often against the will of parents ambitious for their children to rise in the world, of Tony Blair's socialist, politically correct philosophy. His government has not only destroyed all tax advantages for normal families with a father living in the household (every style of "family" is equal, after all), but has actually provided incentives to discourage such stability. Conservative commentator Melanie Phillips points out that there is now an œ8,000 ($14,000) tax advantage to parents who live apart.

In the socialist world of Tony Blair (who sends his own children to a "selective" school and has in the past seconded civil servants from the Ministry of Defence to come over to Downing Street to coach his son on tests to get in to university), with his Alice-in-Wonderland "all must have prizes" philosophy, has destroyed the long internationally respected gold standard of British education. GCSEs are end-of-school-year exams for 16-and 17-year-olds, set by panels of universities. They are graded, anonymously, by academic specialists employed by those universities, not the schools. Passing these very tough exams was a source of tremendous pride to students and their families. An important by-product was that they provided a route for bright children to step out of the blue-collar class and be welcomed into the professions.

Unfortunately Blair and his cabinet made up entirely of former Trotskyites, Marxists and presidents of the Students Union (a communist organization officially embedded in all British universities) cannot, in their chic chatterati compounds, understand that all children deserve a rigorous education to provide them with equality of opportunity - it's too judgmental otherwise. The socialists say: Why not just cut to the chase and ensure equality of outcome? Everyone wins. Passes of the GCSEs, once a proud badge of academic merit, have, under Blair, become a human right. This means the universities no longer have the dependable 50-year-old yardstick by which to judge applicants.

The mentality of the socialists, with no rewards for arduous application and no penalties for spending classroom time making calls on mobile phones, putting on make-up and walking around visiting with friends and chivvying the elbows of children who were trying to work, has taken hold. The result is a decline in civil society in general. Encouraged by Blair's "entitlement" culture, teachers are now subject to bullying and sometimes physical assault by parents whose children hadn't performed but demanded passes for them anyway.

Motivated, ambitious youngsters only know what they are told at school: that British GCSEs are the envy of the world. Those students who take responsibility for their own future still place enormous faith in the power of getting good grades.

Undercover reporter Alex Dolan quotes a letter written to Tony Blair by a 15-year-old student worried about her future. "Dear Prime Minister, me and my colleagues have a problem. We have had 26 supply [substitute] teachers since the start of the year, when we should have a proper teacher because our GCSEs are at risk."


UK: Teachers want parents punished for disruptive kids: "The parents of badly-behaved pupils must be punished by the Government to stop the rising tide of disruption in schools, teachers decided yesterday. Teachers say that violent and abusive parents have created a generation of children whobelieve shouting and swearing is normal behaviour. At the other end of the spectrum, children of over-indulgent parents arrive at school never having been denied anything and are unable to adapt to school."


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