Saturday, August 27, 2005


Except that it is an officially-fostered illusion. Comments from Britain:

An abundance of top grades in this year's A-level and GCSE results shows that the exams are too easy and must be reformed, the deputy head of an independent school said yesterday. As almost 600,000 students receive their results today, Richard Cairns, of Magdalen College school in Oxford, said that all 83 pupils who sat English and maths GCSE had achieved an A* or A grade and that no grades fell below A for those who took German, Greek, Spanish, religious studies, chemistry and geography.

Mr Cairns, who becomes the headmaster of Brighton College next term, also accused the Government of failing the top 5 per cent of students and called for a return of state-funded scholarships for poorer, gifted pupils to attend private schools. The exceptional results come a week after 51 of the 73 boys taking A levels at the school achieved at least three As. Mr Cairns said: "GCSEs and A levels are just too easy." The results demonstrated that the exams no longer stretch the most able students. "Pupils are thinking they need to do more and more in order to differentiate themselves from others so they are piling on more subjects rather than trying to stretch themselves by doing something different and challenging. It's like building 15 roads rather than building a bridge. They are not being stretched intellectually."

The proportion of pupils getting five good GCSE passes has risen by 8.6 percentage points since Labour came to power in 1997, from 45.1 to 53.7 last year. That figure is also expected to rise for GCSEs results released today. Mr Cairns said that the Government was neglecting the top 5 per cent and suggested that independent schools were better able than those in the state sector to provide further academic challenges to able students.

Magdalen's performance at GCSE and A level was "obviously very pleasing" for the boys, he said. "But it also demonstrates why we can no longer depend on GCSE or A-level examiners to stretch and challenge our most able students." It was now up to individual schools to provide that extra intellectual stimulation that bright teenagers need. "Some very clever boys and girls from academically deprived backgrounds are doubtless missing out, their talent squandered," he said. "There is, in my view, a stronger case than ever for the State to support scholars at leading independent schools, selected on the basis of academic ability and genuine financial need."

Mr Cairns's call came as Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, said that studying science at GCSE was more an exercise in memory than understanding. "The sciences are truly dynamic and exciting subjects," he said. "However, the experience of studying science for many GCSE students is one of rote-learning for exams and memorising a few standardised experiments. Consequently we see that many students drop science like a hot potato as soon as they have the opportunity."



GCSE results showed the highest increase in top grades in 13 years yesterday as head teachers’ leaders admitted that schools were increasingly “playing the system” to boost their standing in examination league tables. The proportion of exams awarded at least a C grade rose by two percentage points to 61.2 per cent this year, the biggest increase since 1992. The number of top A* and A grades also rose by 1 percentage point to 18.4 per cent of entries. Overall, students passed 97.8 per cent of the 5.73 million papers this year, an increase of a fifth of a percentage point on last year....

The results showed that less able pupils were being entered for vocational subjects instead of GCSEs in languages and sciences. Mr Hart said that many schools were focusing on vocational qualifications to boost standings in the league tables. He called on ministers to review the practice that permitted a vocational GNVQ to be considered equivalent to four GCSEs in the tables. New applied GCSEs in subjects such as construction and “learning for life and work” were also worth two GCSE grades. “The demands of league tables are driving the system and that is not in the interests of students or of UK plc,” he said. “Students are understandably playing the system and studying their stronger subjects.”

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, said that many more less able students had been “switched out” of “harder” academic GCSEs into less challenging vocational courses. “The league tables need to be reviewed in the light of the evidence of their impact on schools’ behaviour,” he said. ...

Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI, said that the education system still left too many teenagers with inadequate levels of literacy and numeracy. Nearly half of students failed to get a grade C or better in maths and almost 40 per cent in English. “Every student deserves praise for their achievements and I wish every one of them a prosperous future, but there is clearly a systemic failure in the education system as yet again almost half of GCSE entrants have failed to reach the basic levels of competency in the three Rs,” Sir Digby said. "Being taught how to read, write and add up was regarded as fundamental right for all in the 20th century, so why in the 21st century is the education system of the world’s fourth richest economy seemingly unable to deliver?”

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

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


Friday, August 26, 2005


U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, today criticized the methods used to produce the latest Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) annual survey, which claims to independently assess Americans' views on K-12 public education. "The PDK survey is released annually, and has annually drawn criticism from education reform supporters for its `softball' questions that protect the interests of education establishment lobbyists. This year's survey, released this morning, carries on this dubious tradition," said Boehner.

"The United States spends more than $500 billion a year on K-12 education - more than we spend on national defense - yet our students lag behind those of other nations in key subjects, and millions of disadvantaged children do not have the same educational opportunities as their more fortunate peers," Boehner said. "The Phi Delta Kappa survey relies on a number of loaded questions carefully phrased by education reform opponents to make it appear the American public isn't bothered by these facts. The result once again is a confusing tangle of survey information that is frequently contradictory and of questionable value to the education reform dialogue in our country."

Boehner listed a number of ways in which the PDK survey presents a distorted picture of public opinion on President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reforms and efforts to expand parental choice in education:

* Special education students can learn. The PDK report implicitly contends Americans do not believe public schools should be held accountable if special education students do not make academic progress - but the survey avoids asking that question directly. The poll presents no evidence to suggest Americans do not believe public schools should be accountable for ensuring all of their students, including students with special needs, make academic progress.

* Minority children do not yet have equal educational opportunities. Asked "do black children and other minority children in your community have the same educational opportunities as white children?" - the PDK report suggests most Americans answer by saying "yes, the same." What the survey is careful not to ask is whether respondents believe black and other minority children in general have the same opportunities as white children. The poll presents no evidence to suggest Americans believe black and other minority children overall have the same opportunities as white children in America , and even contradicts itself by showing an overwhelming majority of Americans believe closing the achievement gap between minority students and white students is a very important goal.

* Americans are far more concerned about children not learning to read than they are about "too much testing." The PDK poll suggests the number of Americans saying there is "too much testing" has increased, but fails to note polls consistently show Americans are far more concerned about children passing through public schools without learning to read than they are about children being tested too much. Asked which is the bigger problem - children passing through U.S. schools without learning to read, or children being forced to take too many tests - Americans overwhelmingly (77%) believe the more important problem in education is that children are passing through schools without learning to read, according to a 2004 poll of 1,000 Americans conducted for Americans for Better Education (ABE) by The Winston Group, a top national polling firm.

* Loaded school choice questions. The PDK report contends public support for giving low-income families the right to send their children to the school of their choice (private or public) - an option PDK refers to only by the codeword "vouchers" - is decreasing. The PDK poll presents no evidence to suggest Americans believe low-income parents should not be allowed to transfer their children to better performing private schools if their public schools are chronically underachieving or dangerous. President Bush fought successfully for legislation giving this option to more than 1,000 low-income children and families in the District of Columbia .

* "Single test" myth. The questions in the PDK survey repeatedly suggest - incorrectly - that schools are judged under NCLB based on the performance of their students on a "single test." But NCLB simply requires states, in exchange for billions in federal education funds, to use tests that generate results that can be compared from one year to the next in key subjects such as reading and math. Nothing prohibits states from taking performance in other subjects into account as well for their own purposes in addition to reading and math. NCLB not only explicitly bans anything resembling a national test taken by all students, but allows states to design and implement their own tests, and makes clear that no two states are required to adopt the same test.

* "Narrow curriculum" myth. The questions in the PDK survey suggest - incorrectly - that an increased focus on basics such as reading and math forces states and schools to teach students less in other areas, such as art, music, and history. But across the nation, thousands of schools are reporting improved results in the core subjects under NCLB without having abandoned their efforts to teach these other subjects.

Source. Note: The poll itself is here


By ignoring dropouts

UCLA researchers say the state is overestimating the number of students passing the California High School Exit Exam. But state officials say it depends on how you do the math. And they prefer their method. This year's incoming seniors make up the first class that must pass the exam to receive a diploma. The Department of Education reported last week that 88 percent of students in the class of 2006 have passed the English language arts part of the test and 88 percent have passed the math.

But at a meeting at National Hispanic University here, researchers on Tuesday presented a study showing lower numbers - an 81 percent passage rate in language arts for students in the class of 2006 and 80 percent passage rate in math. Students must pass both portions of the test to receive a diploma. The reason for the difference: UCLA's calculations include class of 2006 students who dropped out in 10th and 11th grade or didn't take the test for some other reason. The California Department of Education includes only students still enrolled and trying to pass the test by the end of 11th grade. "This difference is highly consequential," said UCLA professor John Rogers, one of the study's authors. Rogers was among 200 educators and civil rights advocates gathered at a conference partly sponsored by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, an organization that researches social justice issues in education. "The state has forgotten about 40,000 students in each section," Rogers said.

Where the state Department of Education says about 54,000 students have not yet passed each section of the two-part test, Rogers says the number is closer to 90,000 for the English part and 100,000 for the math.

Department of Education officials said their measurement is more accurate. "We're measuring how many kids that are taking the (exit exam) are passing it," said Rick Miller, spokesman for Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of schools. "That seems like the information we ought to want to know." Miller said the state's dropout rate is a significant problem. But information on graduation and dropout rates should be examined separately from the exit exam data, he said. "What we're trying to talk about is not how many are graduating, but how many are passing the (exit exam)," Miller said.

For exit exam opponents, the two pieces of information are related. Students who don't graduate from high school - either because they fail an exit exam or because they drop out - will likely have a hard time earning a living. Russell Rumberger, an education professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who spoke at Tuesday's event, estimated that high school graduates earn about $7,000 more a year than those who don't have a diploma, a difference in lifetime earnings of around $270,000.

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


Thursday, August 25, 2005


They say that they do plenty of testing already and then say NCLB testing is a bad idea and would take up too many resources

Calling the federal No Child Left Behind law a cruel hoax, Connecticut officials sued U.S. Education secretary Margaret Spellings on Monday in Hartford federal court, making the state the first to legally challenge the mandates of President Bush's signature education policy. The lawsuit follows repeated attempts by the state this year to ease the requirements of the federal law that at its core requires schools to meet academic goals measured in annual test scores meant to ensure that all groups of children are achieving. Connecticut's efforts earlier led Spellings to criticize the state's campaign as "unAmerican."

In announcing the lawsuit Monday, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other state officials repeatedly lauded the goals of No Child Left Behind, which attempts to close the achievement gap between white students and their minority counterparts, but said the federal government had failed to live up to its promise to not shift the law's costs to them. "We in Connecticut do a lot of testing already, far more than most other states," said Gov. M. Jodi Rell. "Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education. What we don't need is a new laundry list of things to do -- with no new money to do them."

Blumenthal summed up the lawsuit, assigned to federal judge Mark Kravitz, with a pithy comment modeled after a popular 1990s movie. "Give up the unfunded mandates or give us the money," Blumenthal said.

Federal education officials strongly criticized Connecticut for going ahead with the lawsuit and said it detracted from the real issue at hand: the gap between how its white students and their minority counterparts perform on standardized tests. "Unfortunately, today's action doesn't bring the state any closer to closing its achievement gap, which is among the largest in the nation," said Susan Aspey, a federal Education Department spokeswoman. "From the day she walked in the door, Secretary Spellings has worked diligently to listen and respond to states' needs and concerns, and she has kept her word to help states implement No Child Left Behind in a workable, common-sense way."

According to a state Department of Education estimate, it will cost Connecticut $41.6 million through 2008 to comply with the federal law, which would require Connecticut to start testing students in grades three, five and seven in addition to the schoolchildren it already tests in grades four, six and eight. Despite Monday's lawsuit, state officials conceded that $3.8 million was already in this year's state budget to proceed with the federal testing schedule.

Blumenthal first threatened to file suit five months but waited to give other states a chance to join. That hasn't happened, but still could, Blumenthal said Monday. States have been reluctant because of "fear of retaliation from the federal government," he said last week. Some in Connecticut have been reluctant, too. Even the state school board declined to support the lawsuit earlier this year, saying it wanted to allow more time to reach a compromise. Now, though, its chairman publicly supports it and other members are reconsidering. "A lawsuit certainly would not have been my preference," said state board member Lynne Farrell of Shelton, who added she will support Blumenthal, Rell and Sternberg in the lawsuit. "Who am I to say they shouldn't have filed a lawsuit? These are top-notch people and I support them."

Connecticut's 29-page lawsuit comes amid a growing restiveness among states and educational organizations that have begun to openly oppose the federal law. Proponents of No Child Left Behind argue that the law has helped to improve student performance, decreased the achievement gap between whites and minorities and that frequent testing aids teachers in identifying problems early. "If states were closing achievement gaps on their own, the federal government would not have needed to intervene," said William Taylor, chairman of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, who called Monday's suit ill advised. In eighth grade math, only 17 percent of Connecticut's white students scored in the lowest category of achievement compared to more than half of black and Latino students, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Despite the brewing controversy, many states are taking aim at the federal law. According to a recent report, every state except Alabama, Delaware and New York is fighting the law in some way. Utah has taken perhaps the most bold stance, authorizing its schools to ignore provisions of the federal law that conflict with its education program, even though it could cost the state $76 million in federal aid. Nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, meanwhile, joined a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the National Education Association, which is arguing against the law's unfunded mandates. But Connecticut's lawsuit represents the first time a state has gone to court to challenge the law. "If there's a bully on the playground, it often takes one brave soul to step forward," said Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and a co-chairman of the legislature's Education committee. "We're stepping forward." ....

The suit, in many respects, boils down to the issue of who must fund the implementation of the education law, the state or federal government, and whether the law's sweeping mandates work the same in every state. Critics call it a cookie-cutter approach. If there were research that showed testing every year was helpful, "I'd be the first in line to advocate for the tests," said Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg. "But the tests have questionable merits."

Federal officials did tell the state it could save money by converting the state's existing mastery tests to a multiple-choice format. Current Connecticut tests require a written portion for students. No Child Left Behind requires testing in math, reading and a third subject selected by states. Writing is more expensive to score because it can't be done by computers. State educational officials balked. "We're not going to dumb down our tests," added Allan Taylor, who as chairman of the Connecticut State Board of Education stood with Blumenthal and other officials Monday when the lawsuit was announced.

Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, a longtime opponent of the federal education law, said the fallout requiring student testing in every grade from third to eighth merely heightens the stress for students. "It sucks the creativity out of the classroom," Gaffey said. Farrell, a retired elementary principal in West Hartford, agreed. "I was never an advocate for a lot of testing. I found that I could test best by going around the room quickly and asking questions and looking at the expressions on the students' faces. You could find out how much they knew through active discussion," she said. "Testing turns off kids and I worry about that."

Besides, she said, it wastes time. "You have to prepare for it, then finally do the testing and accumulate all the tests and then test all the students that were absent. It takes up an awful lot of time that could have been devoted to teaching students," she said. Mary Bucaccio of Torrington, agrees. She is a fourth-grade teacher in Farmington and the parent of two students at Torrington High School. Tests help measure progress, but once every two years is enough, she said.

Education leaders such as Waterbury Superintendent David Snead agree. "These tests require huge amounts of resources to tell us what we already know: that the kids trying to overcome poverty aren't doing as well as kids who are wealthier," he said.

No Child Left Behind requires schools to test every year starting this spring. Blumenthal's suit "is a step in the right direction," Bucaccio said. The state should not concern itself over federal intimidation because of the federal lawsuit, Blumenthal said. "The first glimmer of intimidation, we will be in court seeking immediate injunction against the secretary of education," the attorney general said. She has directed her senior staff to be on the lookout for such behavior, Sternberg added.

Source. See also here


Treasurer Peter Costello has urged the states to embrace selective schools for academically gifted students, warning that talented children are being left behind.

Blaming the decline of selective schools as a factor in the exodus of children from the public sector, the federal Treasurer said parents wanted more choice over state-run schools. "I believe there is a place for selective schools, most definitely," he told The Australian yesterday. "Particularly, in my own state, Victoria, where we only have a couple of selective schools, I think that is a real problem. "Many parents as a consequence are taking them to private schools, because they don't have the option of a government selective school. The talents of some of these kids could be stretched much greater than they are in comprehensive schools."

A spokesman for Victorian Education Minister Lyn Kosky said the Government had "no plans" to introduce more selective schools. "Our position is every student in every school should have every possible opportunity to succeed to their full potential," he said.

The balance of selective to non-selective schools is not uniform nationally, and Mr Costello praised NSW for its approach. The state, which has the country's biggest school system, has been criticised by others for creating too many selective schools, bleeding ordinary public schools of the best students.

Mr Costello, a privately educated son of a schoolteacher, backed performance pay for teachers and a greater push to attract and retain talented teachers. "I know education is important for Australia's economic future and I believe that, while we spread education well in the Australian population, we are going to have to continue to focus on excellence in education. "We have got to value good school teachers: these are very important people for our children and our future."

He backed Education Minister Brendan Nelson's push to ensure plain language in school report cards. "I reckon Brendan is doing a good job, in tying commonwealth funding to standards, to our values education. As a parent myself, I've tried to read some of these reports and they are very difficult to understand. I think we want our students to have an understanding of their common values and Australia's values. It's what I call a common culture."

John Howard sparked a controversy last year by warning that "politically correct" public schools were prompting parents to switch to private schools.

Yesterday, Mr Costello stepped up his warnings over left-wing teachers contributing to anti-Americanism. Labor has accused Mr Costello of sparking the debate to improve his chances at the Liberal leadership.



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 24, 2005


David Parker of Lexington, Mass., is scheduled to go on trial on Sept. 21 for asking his son's public school to provide parental notification before discussing homosexuality with the 6-year old. The actual charge is criminal trespassing. But the real issue is whether parents or schools will control the teaching of values to children. The conflict began on Jan. 17, when Parker's then-5-year-old son brought home a Diversity Bookbag from kindergarten. Included was Robert Skutch's "Who's In a Family?" that depicts families headed by same-sex couples. Parker had wanted to decide for himself the timing and manner in which his son was introduced to the subject of homosexuality. (The Bookbag is supposed to be a voluntary program but the Parkers knew nothing about it in advance.)

Parker immediately e-mailed the Estabrook school principal, Joni Jay. Parker expressed his belief that gay parents did not constitute "a spiritually healthy family"; he did not wish his son to be taught that a gay family is "a morally equal alternative to other family constructs." Parker acknowledged the equal rights of gays but objected to "the 'out of the closet' and into the kindergarten classroom mentality." In essence, Parker highlighted the difference between tolerance, which acknowledges someone's right to make a choice, and acceptance, which is the personal validation of that choice.

The conflict moved quickly from the Diversity Bookbag to the more general issue of parental notification. The Parkers wanted to know if sexuality was scheduled to be discussed in class so they could remove their son. They also wanted their son removed from any "spontaneous conversations" about sexuality that involved an adult.

By law, Massachusetts requires schools to notify parents when sexuality is scheduled for discussion. Lexington School Committee chairman Thomas B. Griffiths explained, "We don't view telling a child that there is a family out there with two mommies as teaching about homosexuality." In an e-mail, the Estabrook school principal stated, "I have confirmed ... that discussion of differing families, including gay-headed families, is not included in the parental notification policy."

At an April 27 meeting at the school, Parker refused to leave without an assurance that he would receive parental notification. Arrested for criminal trespass, he spent the night in jail. When asked why he insisted on staying, Parker replied, "I wanted to see how far they [school authorities] would go for [my] asking something simple."

The state now wishes to impose probation upon Parker, along with other restrictions -- such as banning him from Lexington school properties without prior written permission from the superintendent of schools. This means he is barred from places to vote, as well as school committee and parent-teacher meetings. Parker is contesting the charge. Why? After his arraignment, he stated, "I'm just trying to be a good dad." During a May 11 appearance on the FOX News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Parker expanded on this statement, saying that he wanted his son "to play on the swing set and make mud pies. I don't want him thinking about same-sex unions in kindergarten." Parker's attorney, Jeffrey Denner, points to a larger issue -- "the role of family and what kind of encroachments government can make into children's and people's lives."

Otherwise stated, schools are usurping the parental role of teaching personal values to children. They are not acting as educators but as guardians, "in loco parentis" (in the place of a parent). Some schools clearly consider this function to be their right, even over parental objections. Thus, Estabrook defends its "right" to teach Parker's son to accept same-sex marriages. Denner hopes to resolve the conflict before trial but he also intends to file a civil suit in federal court against the town of Lexington, the school system and its officials.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a campaign to discredit Parker. The Lexington School Board has reportedly accused Parker of wanting to be arrested to grab "headlines." If true, it is strange that he wasted months on e-mails, faxes and school meetings before making his move. Parker's actions sound more like those of a father with no options left. The school also claims that Parker's demands would prevent other children from discussing their families or drawing pictures of them.

But this is far from what's been officially requested. According to Neil Tassel, Parker's co-counsel, "the Parkers' proposal was simple: notify them in advance if there is a planned discussion about same-sex issues, and, if an adult becomes involved in a discussion spontaneously begun by a child, then remove their child from the discussion."

School authorities quite reasonably responded that they could not be held responsible for monitoring spontaneous conversations or remarks made in the class. Moreover, they contend that children with gay parents have a right to talk about their families and have their families represented. At some point in the dialogue, however, reason broke down; police were called. The attacks on Parker have been so intense that Tassel recently found it necessary to write a defense in the local paper denying that his client is a shill for or member of Article 8, a controversial organization opposed to same-sex marriage. He pointed to Parker's Ph.D. to deflect criticism of his client as an ignorant book burner. To counter the charge that Parker hates gays, Tassel described him as "an exceptionally kind hearted man" whose best friend was gay.

Perhaps Estabrook authorities are trying to divert attention from the real question: Is Parker simply demanding parental notification or not? I think he is. David Parker cares so deeply that he is willing to go to jail and endure a lengthy court process for the right to be a parent. In a world where a myriad of social problems can be traced back to parental abuse or indifference, it is incredible that Parker is being treated as a criminal and not as the hero he is.



Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott says NSW Police are allowing "thugs" to threaten freedom of speech by urging him not to attend a university debate because of the threat of violence. Mr Abbott today said he had withdrawn from a planned debate about voluntary student unionism (VSU) at Sydney University after NSW Police advised him not to attend because they could not guarantee his safety. He had been scheduled to debate Labor opponent Julia Gillard today about the Government's plans to abolish compulsory student fees.

Student groups oppose the Government's VSU legislation and have staged major rallies across Australia, including a protest at the University of Sydney on August 10, in which three police officers were injured.

Mr Abbott said he did not like the idea that intimidation was stifling free speech. The minister said he called on police to consider the ramifications of allowing "thugs" to intimidate people. "I've asked them to ponder the implications of their actions," he said. "If baddies can threaten goodies with violence and the police then tell the goodies that they can't do what they're lawfully entitled to do, what does that say about the smooth functioning of society? "It says that intimidation works; it says that, forced to adjudicate between normal people and thugs, instead of keeping the thugs in line the police will tell the normal people not to do whatever it is they're trying to do, [and] that's a real worry."

Mr Abbott said he was prepared for a verbal stoush with student groups but was disappointed police were unable to ensure law and order would prevail. "I'm disappointed that the NSW Police didn't feel able to ensure that [the debate] went ahead in comparative safety at Sydney University," he said. "No one expects a university debate to be conducted in an atmosphere more reminiscent of a church service - everyone thinks that a university debate would be a lively and maybe even a rowdy occasion and I've been in plenty of them. "But I am disappointed that the police first thought that there was potentially violent disruption planned and second weren't sufficiently able to stop it to allow it to go ahead."

Mr Abbott admitted being "quite tempted" to ignore the police warnings and attend the debate. "[But] had anything gone wrong and had people been hurt, I would have been blamed and I didn't want to be in that position," he said.

The University of Sydney Union said it was saddened Mr Abbott had decided to pull out of today's debate because of fears for his safety. The debate has since been cancelled. "I'm very disappointed," union spokesman George Livery said. "Mr Abbott is always welcome back to this campus. He's an old boy and he's always been fun to have here, he's never shied away from a debate on campus." Mr Livery would not criticise police for urging Mr Abbott to withdraw from the event but said he had thought police were satisfied with security arrangements for the debate at the university's Manning Bar. "I thought that we had provided the kind of assistance [to police] that alleviated a majority of concerns," he said. "In fact indications from the [police] area command were that they were quite satisfied with what we had done." The union could not control the actions of people outside the university campus but it had not received any indications students were planning violence, Mr Livery said. "From all of our conversations with clubs and societies ... all they were looking forward to was a good, fun day and a great debate," he said.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

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


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


GROWING anti-American attitudes have been generated in part by left-wing teachers in Australian schools, according to Treasurer Peter Costello. Mr Costello last night delivered a speech to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue dinner, warning of the dangers of anti-Americanism taking hold in Australia. He says allowing anti-American sentiment to fester could incite terrorism. "There's no doubt in my mind that anti-Americanism can easily morph into anti-Westernism, particularly we've seen that with terrorists," Mr Costello said today. "They don't really draw distinctions between Americans or Britons or Australians, they just like to hit anybody who they consider to be a part of the West. "And that's why I think we've all got an interest in working to explain the aims and objectives of our policies."

Mr Costello said he was aware of anti-American attitudes among students while he was at university in the 1970s. Some of these students had become teachers carrying with them "ideological baggage" which he said was now filtering through to their students in schools. "I think in the schools, if your teacher's carrying that bias it tends to get passed on," he said. "And I think in the schools, the other side of the story ought to be taught.

The other side of the story, he said, was when Australia was dealing with Japanese attack and when Darwin was being bombed in February of 1942. "The American allies together with Australian troops, began to turn the tide in the Pacific, through the islands and back up to Japan," he said. This is a side of the story that young people in Australia need to know. "In our greatest security threat ... our allies came and helped defend Australia with us."

Mr Costello said the US itself should do more to counter growing anti-Americanism, for the benefit of all Western countries including Australia. "I think that's in the general interest of the whole West," he said. "Because anti-Americanism can easily morph into anti-Westernism which picks up and encapsulates Australia and threatens our interests as well."

Anti-American sentiment was generally based on a fear of US power, Mr Costello said. "And the point I was making last night was that US power is much more likely to come to the aid of Australia and its values than to threaten Australia and its values," he said. "There's no solid reason for Australia to fear the emergence of US power." "But I also made the point last night, that just as the United States has become the pre-eminent world power, it's still important that it act in concert with other people."


Horrors! Information!: "Colleges are accustomed to being ranked on the basis of everything from the quality of their libraries to the vibrancy of campus party scenes. But a proposal to have the federal government compare schools by how much they increase tuition has administrators and higher-education groups objecting. Such a ranking, proposed as part of legislation to renew higher-education programs, would require public and private colleges to report their tuition and fees annually to the US Department of Education. The federal agency would then assign each school a 'college affordability index' based on the rate of increase, and make the information public."


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 22, 2005

Less is Good, Nothing is Better: How the State Can Improve British Education

By Sean Gabb

Even before Mike Tomlinson reported on examination reform, everyone agreed, and competed at agreeing, that British state education was a mess. Schools all over the country are turning out generations of innumerate, semi-literate proles. They have become places notable for bullying, truancy in its various shades, drugs, unwise sex, the occasional murder, and a pervasive contempt for achievement. Yes, there are those whose job it is to disagree with this proposition. Naturally enough, there are the teachers and educational bureaucrats; and there are the relevant Ministers, who every summer put their names on news releases lauding the latest set of examination results. But everyone knows they are talking nonsense. If examination results were an indicator of excellence, we should be living in a nation of Shakespeares and Newtons. In fact, grade inflation and a continuous debasement of the whole examinations system have made the results largely worthless. We can no more make people educated by giving them pretty certificates than we can make them rich by giving them bags of forged banknotes. State education is a mess.

The standard response is to whine or boast about levels of funding. But this is a manifestly threadbare response. In 2002, the authorities spent £49.354 billion of our money on schooling and further education. Given a total of 10.094 million children and young people in the maintained sector, we have spending per head of around £4,900. Many independent schools charge less than that - and get better results. Indeed, there are schools in black Africa that do better. These are places without school books, without roofs over the classrooms, where the teachers are dying of aids, and where bandits every so often turn up and conscript the more promising children to fight in what are pretentiously called civil wars - and they still turn out children with a better English prose style than the average inmate of an English comprehensive.

There is no one explanation for why things are so bad. But this does not mean the problem is intractably complex. Though there are others, there are three main explanations.

In the first place, there is the emphasis on vocational learning that we owe to the vulgar economic liberalism of the Thatcher and Major Governments. The belief here is that the main or even sole purpose of education is to promote economic development. Accordingly, any subject from which no tangible return could be imagined was either removed from the curriculum or fragmented or simplified into nothingness. History and Classics were the most obvious victims - and, in lesser degree, Music. Much of the time thereby freed was filled with the almost obsessive teaching of Information Technology.

Now, there is a case for teaching children how to type: left to themselves, most people develop typing habits that reduce their general efficiency. There may also be a case for teaching the basics of the Microsoft Office suite. But these are things to be learnt over a few weeks. All else specified in the Information Technology syllabus is useless or would be picked up anyway by the children themselves. No one has yet developed a course in Mobile Telephone Studies. This has not visibly left any of my students at a disadvantage. In my experience, much of the time given to Information Technology is used to play games or look up trivia on the Internet. The time would be better given to teaching German or a musical instrument.

In the second place, there is the fact that the main purpose of state education has always been to legitimise the wealth and status of the ruling class. We can see this was so in the past. Without all the drilling in the playground, and all the team sports, and all the hours given to nationalist propaganda, would those ten million young men have marched even semi-willingly to die in the killing grounds of the Great War? Nothing fundamental has changed since then. All that has changed is the personnel of the ruling class and the nature of its legitimation ideology.

Because it is suited to our present assumptions, we cannot see this ideology so clearly as we now see those it replaced. It is there, even so. It is that axis of anti-liberal, anti-western, anti-science, anti-Enlightenment and pro-collectivist values and coercive social engineering that we call political correctness. With the decline of traditional socialism, this has gained a growing and hegemonic role in most developed societies. As an ideology, it manifestly promotes the power and privileges of our new ruling class - this being a coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, educators, lawyers, media people and associated business interests who derive wealth and status from an enlarged and activist state. The ideology is used to stigmatise and demonise any dissenting opinion, and to censor and silence it; and information is socially constructed in order to balkanise society into alleged "victim groups" who provide tribalistic bases for the exercise of political power and the extraction of economic profit by the ruling class. As ever, education is the chief mechanism by which this legitimation ideology is transmitted from one generation to the next.

As illustration, take the way in which GCSE English Literature is taught. Some years ago, while short of cash, I acted as an assistant examiner. Two of the most commonly examined books - both American - were To Kill a Mocking Bird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Doubtless, these are worthy enough texts in their own right. But they are nothing much compared with the great classics of English literature produced in these islands. Judging by the several thousand pages of answers I must have read, however, they had been preferred because they allowed English lessons to be made into sermons of racial hatred that passed unrebuked only because the objects of hatred were white.

In the third place, there is the centralised, authoritarian control that both of the above require for complete enforcement. We have the National Curriculum and we have endless testing to see that arbitrary and often incomprehensible targets are being reached.

The combined result is a demoralised teaching profession, bored and apathetic children, and a collapse of standards as these were once universally defined. The system was not very good before the 1980s. Since then, it has rotted away to the point where just about everyone with money either avoids it altogether, choosing the independent sector, or rigs it by moving into middle class catchment areas.

The politicians promise reform. But all reforms so far discussed can only make things worse. Labour promises more money and a restructuring of management - not only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but also replacing the canvas with silk. The Conservatives promise "choice" - though always supervised by the same philistine and politically correct bureaucracy that messed up the present system. The more adventurous Conservatives even talk about a voucher scheme. This has its merits. But conservatives of all people ought to know that any scheme of improvement takes its whole tone from the circumstances in which it is introduced. Any voucher scheme introduced now would give our ruling class a perfect excuse to spread the corruption deep into the independent sector. It would do this by setting criteria for the reception of vouchers, and would enforce these criteria through the usual agencies of inspection and control.

The only answer is to get the state entirely out of education. The education budget should not be expanded, or its administration reformed. It should simply be abolished. That £49 billion - now, I believe, £63 billion - should be handed back to the people in tax cuts; and these should be directed at the poorest taxpayers. The schools should be sold off or given away, and the bureaucrats be made redundant. The people should then be left to arrange by themselves for the education of their children.

The argument that parents would not or could not do this falls flat on any inspection of the third world, where parents make often heavy sacrifices and choose often highly effective schemes of education. There is also the experience of our own past. A generation ago, E.G. West showed how growing numbers of working class people in the 19th century paid for and supervised the education of their children. The beginning of state education in 1870 should be seen as ruling class coup against an independent sector that looked set to marginalise its legitimation ideology. And that reaction was promoted on the basis of fraudulent statistics.

Left to themselves, it is inconceivable that parents would not do substantially better than those presently in charge of state education. How they might do this is for them to decide. Some would pay for a conventional independent education. Some would send their children to schools run by their ministers of religion, or by charitable bodies. Some would educate their children at home. Many do this already, by the way; and Paula Rothermel of Durham University caused a stir in 2002, when she looked at a sample of children educated at home and found they performed consistently better in standard tests than schoolchildren - indeed, she found that the children of people like bus drivers and shop assistants were receiving a better education than those committed to the care of state-certified teachers. Parents could hardly do worse than the present arrangements manage. They could easily do better.

This is not a "left" or a "right" wing cause. It is about allowing children to get an education which is not directed to moulding them to believe as suits the convenience of their betters, and which really will enable them to make the best of their own lives.



They want as little as possible to be known about their appalling results

By the end of this school year, the state could deny diplomas to tens of thousands of high school seniors who didn't pass the California High School Exit Exam. But don't ask state officials exactly how many or who they are or what schools they attend. There won't be an exact count until the spring of 2007 - nine months after failing students are denied their diplomas and successful ones will have tossed their graduation caps. Until then, a precise count is only available from individual school districts, which vary greatly in their ability to produce the information on request. "We're struggling with what's the best kind of information to give (to the public) without going too far into estimates," said Deb Sigman, director of testing for the state Department of Education.

The situation flies in the face of the state's move toward greater public accountability. And it frustrates parents curious about how the pass rate at their child's school stacks up against other schools, as well as civil rights advocates concerned about pass rates of African American and Latino teens. "You can't make head nor tails of how many kids actually failed, or dropped out in lieu of taking the test," said Kelly O'Hagan, president of the Sacramento Council of Parent Teacher Associations. "If the state's using it (to determine graduation) they need to know which schools are performing well." The class of 2006 is the first required to pass the exit exam to receive a diploma, though the testing program has been in development since 1999.

Sigman expects to have a good idea of how many seniors have passed by the end of this school year. But the final number won't be known until 2007, she said, because some districts allow students to take the test for the last time after their senior year.

Incomplete reporting can have political consequences, said Patty Sullivan, director of the Center on Education Policy, in Washington, D.C. Her organization studies exit exams in the 25 states that have them or are developing them. Sullivan said states that report the information well tend to have greater public support for the exams, while states that report only limited information suffer battles that threaten the exams' staying power. "Arizona has people so confused about what's going on and the result is that kids are not taking the test seriously," she said. Other states, including Massachusetts, are able to report the percentage of each class in each district and school that have passed the exit exam - after each administration of the test. "Our attitude is: The numbers are the numbers, and they speak for themselves," said Heidi Perlman of the Massachusetts Department of Education.

In California, public school students in the class of 2006 first took the test as sophomores. Those who didn't pass got two more chances as juniors. If they still haven't passed, they can try three more times as seniors. School districts are supposed to keep track of which students pass the exam each time it is given - but they don't report that information to the state. "We can't (require) that without a law," Sigman said. So even though the state reported Monday that an estimated 88 percent of California's incoming seniors have passed the math section of the test and 88 percent have passed the English section, officials are unable to report the same information for each school and each district. "That's a total redesign of the system," Sigman said. "That's not to say it isn't a good idea, but it wouldn't happen overnight."

Yet it's information Debra Durazo would like to see about her son's school. She knows that her son passed the exam as a sophomore. He's now beginning his senior year at Sacramento New Technology High School. "I'm curious (about the pass rate) because it's a new school," Durazo said. She said she'd like to see how the senior class at New Tech compares with other schools.

The state's reporting system also frustrates researchers and advocates who want to know how many students passed both the math and English sections of the test, as required for graduation. State education officials say they can't report that figure because they don't have identification numbers that would allow them to match students' English scores with their math scores. A system is in development, said Keric Ashley, the Education Department's director of data management, but won't be complete until at least 2008.

Jeannie Oakes, an education professor at UCLA, said the lack of information portends a crisis. "Because we don't know the combined test results for any one student, we simply don't know ... if there are 49,000 students at risk (of not graduating) or 96,000 students at risk, or somewhere in between," she said. "It really seems terrible that we have to make guesses about something that important." Oakes is calculating exit exam pass rates using a formula different from the state's. She said if students who drop out after 10th-grade are included, the pass rate is 8 to 20 percentage points lower than the state reports. And her analysis shows that students who fail the exit exam tend to be clustered in the same schools.

Ashley, the education department's data manager, said he expects the state's reporting method to improve . "We're probably going to have to work out some way to do this better," he said.



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, August 21, 2005


News media reports from meetings organized by billionaire George Soros say he and some rich allies are now funding groups intended to counter the efforts on college campuses of the Leadership Institute and other conservative educational organizations. Although Soros and his allies hope through their spending to increase the effectiveness of the left on campus, I do not fear that activities they bankroll will significantly increase the left's campus influence. Nor can Soros stop the growth of campus conservative activities.

My Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program, for example, grew its number of active, independent, conservative campus groups from 216 in September 2004 to 437 groups in May 2005. And Institute graduates have created 32 new conservative student publications already in 2005. The Institute will send 27 field staff out to visit all 50 states this fall, and I expect them to increase the number of active conservative student groups by at least 300.

George Soros and his wealthy friends cannot write checks big enough to increase significantly the resources the left already spends on American college campuses. Not all college professors and administrators are leftists, but the great majority of the politically active ones are, as Dan Flynn's "Deep Blue Campuses" proved. Take all the money which pays the salaries of leftist professors and administrators. Add the money spent on the leftist, official student newspapers. Add the college funds and the compulsory student fee money spent to bring off-campus leftists to speak during the school year and at graduation ceremonies. Then add in all the compulsory student activity fees money poured into leftist student organizations. And the support national left-wing organizations pour into support of the vast array of campus leftist groups. The total has to be many billions every year.

George Soros, billionaire though he is, can't write checks of that magnitude. Neither can his wealthy allies. They can spend a lot, especially if compared to what LI and other conservative foundations spend on campus. But their spending won't have much more effect than pouring a bucket of water into Lake Michigan.

If you study how Soros affected the political situation in other countries, you will see that in every case he supported political insurgents against repressive regimes. In all those cases, he found it easy to identify and fund dissidents morally indignant against the abuses of those in power.

American college campuses certainly are now a fertile field for the kinds of activities which proved successful for Soros in the past. But now he's on the wrong side, and conservatives are on the right side. On U.S. campuses, those with the power are almost everywhere abusive leftists. Those who chafe under the bias and persecution on campus have a big moral edge, particularly when trained and organized conservative students shine spotlights on the abuses. Students appreciate cleverness, but they react negatively to unfairness when it is skillfully called to their attention. Conservatives have moral indignation on our side regarding the leftist abuses on campus. Moral indignation is highly contagious, so powerful that it tends to sweep aside everything else. That is why, in almost every case, a three-pronged strategy of public relations, political heat, and legal responses wins against leftist abuses on campus.

George Soros achieved spectacular results when he funded highly motivated political insurgents against all the massive resources of repressive, socialist regimes. American campuses today are dominated by repressive, socialist regimes. Leftists believe that any conservative presence on campus is too much, even though the resources of time, talent, and money available for campus conservative activity are still minuscule compared to those of the left.

Yet conservatives are making great progress. Once again it's David vs. Goliath. Conservatives have achieved a lot on campus, but barely begun to fight. We shall achieve a lot more as our resources continue to grow. Soros funded David against the Soviet empire. That worked. Now he's funding Goliath on campus. That won't work.


Leftist ideologues in Australian schools

Imagine the outcry if a conservative think tank, such as the H.R. Nicholls Society, set up an internet site for schools and offered students a $200 prize for the best essay extolling the virtues of the free market. Imagine the outrage if a teachers' organisation then promoted the website and the essay competition to schools, lauding it as something that teachers should incorporate in their lessons.

The response would be one of concern about special-interest groups pushing their agenda on unsuspecting students. Recall the outrage of the Carr Labor Government in NSW in 2003 when federal Employment Advocate Jonathan Hamberger wrote to school principals asking them to inform students about Australian Workplace Agreements. According to then state education minister Andrew Refshauge, the attempt to inform students about employment contracts was "completely inappropriate". The federal Office of the Employment Advocate was told to butt out. One wonders whether the Iemma Government and NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt will respond in the same way to the ACTU [Australia's version of the AFL-CIO] and Australian Education Union's attempts to enter schools?

The AEU sent an email to teachers across Australia headed "ACTU National Competition for Students -- Win $200". Some weeks ago, the winners of the competition were announced and their essays are posted on the ACTU website, www.worksite. The email described the competition as follows: "To enter, students must tell us in 300 words or less what makes a job fair and fun for them and why, as well as their ideas to amke [sic] jobs fairer and more fun." The AEU extolled the virtues of the ACTU website, saying: "Worksite for Schools continues to be a valuable resource for younger people about the world of work. Worksite is a terrifice [sic] source of information about the workforce, providing statistics, encouraging debate, creativity and analysis."

Welcome to the double standards of political correctness. It is outrageous for the OEA to inform schools about the increasing reality of the Australian workforce: individual contracts. But it's perfectly fine for the ACTU and the AEU to publicise their one-sided (and increasingly outdated) view of industrial relations. Take a look at the ACTU-sponsored website. Under the section Personality Profiles, students are introduced to trade union and ALP worthies such as Bob Hawke, Sharan Burrow and Greg Combet. That the list is biased towards trade union and Labor stalwarts is to be expected. Yet there is no attempt to balance the list by including other notable figures, such as leading economic dries Bert Kelly, Hugh Morgan and Peter Costello, who represent an alternative view.

Similarly, on examining Fact Sheets, students are again presented with a jaundiced view. On reading about the Ansett collapse in 2001, the impression is that the union movement guaranteed worker entitlements; there are no details about the federal Government's Special Employees Entitlement Scheme. Given the Howard Government's planned changes to the industrial relations system, it is obvious the subject is highly contentious and politically sensitive.

It should be no surprise, given that the ACTU is funding the website, that students are told that the present system works well and that the federal Government has no reason to change the system whatsoever. The website quotes ACTU secretary Combet: "There is no need to change this system. It works well and strikes a balance between reasonable increases for workers and economic factors." Never mind any counterarguments.

In the aftermath of last October's federal election, Wayne Sawyer, an editor of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English journal English in Australia, lamented that, because the Howard Government was re-elected, English teachers had clearly failed to teach critical literacy. According to Sawyer, the teacher's role, instead of being disinterested, is to teach students about the failures of a Coalition government in an effort to ensure that students, as future voters, do not vote conservative. Alas, this most recent example of PC bias involving the ACTU and the AEU proves that the ideological stance taken by Sawyer is not isolated. Such incidents also demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Left: while the OEA is attacked for approaching schools, the ACTU and the AEU are given free rein.



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