Saturday, November 05, 2005


So few people are willing to stand up in front of the undisciplinable mobs in many California classrooms, that California has been willing to employ almost anyone as a teacher

"A court order Wednesday invalidated credentials held by at least 1,700 California public school teachers, adding to the rolls of teachers who don't meet the criteria for being "highly qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren marks a win for the Californians for Justice Education Fund, which sued the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing in August. The suit alleged that in creating the "individualized internship certificate" without following proper procedures, the state agency falsely inflated the qualifications of teachers with emergency credentials. The credentials allow them to teach even if they haven't completed all their training. "It's a victory because the commission has had to acknowledge that these people are not highly qualified," said John Affeldt, an attorney with Public Advocates, which represents Californians for Justice.

The court order invalidates the internship certificate and replaces it with another, allowing teachers to remain in their classrooms for a set period of time. It also calls on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to correct all published reports that count these teachers as "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind.

The landmark education law President Bush signed in 2002 requires all teachers of core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by the end of this school year. That means teachers must have a bachelor's degree, knowledge of the subject they teach and pedagogical training. Teachers with emergency credentials are not considered highly qualified.

The lawyer for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing downplayed the significance of Wednesday's ruling. Mary Armstrong said the judge simply clarified the procedure necessary to create a new type of teaching certificate. "It was really a process issue," she said.

The exact number of teachers holding the internship certificate deemed invalid remains unclear. In court documents from September, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing put the number at 3,804. On Wednesday, the agency's spokeswoman said the number has since dropped to 1,700. "It's gone down quite a bit because these people were in teacher ed programs and have moved on to full credentials," said Marilyn Errett. Locally, just 12 teachers in Sacramento County hold the individualized internship certificate, Errett said. Many of the teachers affected are in the Los Angeles area, she said.

Many states have had a tough time getting all of their teachers highly qualified. In California last year, 72 percent of classes were taught by a highly qualified teacher, said Penni Hansen, a consultant in the professional development division of the state Department of Education. The federal government last month announced some leeway for states trying to meet the law's goal of having all teachers highly qualified by June 2006. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the government will examine states' efforts toward meeting the goal and extend the deadline a year for those making good faith efforts to comply. Hansen said it was too soon to tell if Wednesday's court order could affect California's ability to get an extension from the federal government"



Another hare-brained experiment using both the teachers and the kids as guinea pigs

Imagine a classroom where the geography teacher wants to teach children the best way to drive from Melbourne to Sydney. Based on a syllabus approach to learning, where teachers have a clear, succinct and easy-to-follow description of what is to be taught, the exercise is straightforward. A syllabus would provide teachers with an outline of possible routes to Sydney, for example, via the Hume Highway or around the coast, and there would be details of what all students should learn and what constitutes a pass or a fail.

During the 1990s, Australia ditched syllabuses in favour of outcomes-based education. With OBE, the focus is no longer on what is to be taught or how teachers teach. Instead, the emphasis shifts to what students have learned by the end of the process. The ACT curriculum describes OBE as: "Curriculum documentation has until recently concentrated on subject matter and teaching methods. This emphasis has highlighted what teachers do in the learning process. The move to an outcomes approach attempts to recognise the importance of what students know and can do." Based on OBE, not only are teachers denied a syllabus detailing the best way to Sydney, but children negotiate their own way in their own time, and as long as they eventually arrive, whether via Perth or Brisbane, all are considered successful.

While much of the criticism of Australia's adoption of OBE focuses on the fact that stronger-performing education systems have a syllabus approach and that OBE has failed to raise standards, equally of concern is the detrimental impact OBE is having on classroom teachers. Given the West Australian Government's intention, beginning next year, to extend OBE upward into years 11 and 12, that state has become a battleground where teachers associated with the website www.platowa .com have mounted a sustained attack against Australia's current approach to curriculum. Indeed, such has been the hostility to OBE that a parliamentary inquiry has been established and state Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich has been forced into a series of embarrassing backdowns, including replacing the head of the Curriculum Council.

Since being established in June, PLATO has attracted some 450 members and the website's forum provides an illuminating and at times startling expose of how educational experiments such as OBE make teachers' work increasingly difficult, frustrating and onerous. One of the common complaints voiced is that by denying teachers a syllabus that outlines essential knowledge, understanding and skills related to particular year levels, teachers and individual schools are forced to spend valuable time reinventing the wheel by writing their own documents. Primary school teachers, as they have to deal with a number of subject areas, are particularly concerned about the additional workload; a workload made worse by the fact that OBE documents are full of hundreds of vague and fluffy learning statements that drown teachers in meaningless detail. One practising teacher states: "Many of us have tried very hard to change our teaching and demonstrate more and more that we were implementing the department's dictates. That it has led to a disaster, gross overwork and teachers leaving (and planning to leave - I know of five in my school alone) is hardly our fault."

As noted in the debate concerning OBE assessment and reporting, where the assumption is that all students, given enough time and resources, are capable of success and the "fail" word is banned, teachers are also concerned that there is little motivation to excel. At years 11 and 12, for example, instead of marking student work out of 100, the proposed OBE approach in Western Australia is to grade all students as being at one of eight achievement levels. The result? One teacher notes: "To my mind, fine-grained assessments serve as excellent feedback mechanisms and lead to greater competition and student motivation to achieve their best. This is what would be denied in the WA implementation of OBE."

Criticism of OBE is not restricted to Western Australia. The Tasmanian president of the Australian Education Union, Jean Walker, has been reported as saying that not all teachers are happy with the adoption of the OBE-inspired essential learnings. While Tasmanian Education Minister Paula Wriedt argues that teacher critics of essential learnings are old-fashioned and pass their use-by date, the head of the AEU suggests that teacher critics span all ages and that more would go public if teachers had not been gagged.

In NSW, the Vinson inquiry into public education, on surveying teachers, found that many opposed the current preoccupation with outcomes as teacher workloads increased, learning was reduced to what could be measured and teachers' professional judgment was belittled.

It's significant that teacher complaints against OBE are supported by teacher academics. A NSW report undertaken by Professor Ken Eltis of Sydney University concluded that current approaches to curriculum lead to an "overpressured school day" and that teachers should be freed "to enable them to find time to pursue creative and innovative approaches to teaching, assessment and reporting". After evaluating Australia's adoption of OBE, Professor Patrick Griffin of Melbourne University also concludes that OBE is flawed: "Perhaps OBE cannot be fully implemented system-wide. The changes needed are too radical and disruptive for whole systems of education to accommodate."

As important, if not somewhat ironic, is that the very education bureaucrats and curriculum designers responsible for imposing OBE on Australian classrooms have finally seen the light and admitted that teachers' misgivings are well founded. An ACT report recently acknowledged: "Teachers had struggled with the volume of content they felt they had to cover." In Western Australia, a report evaluating the impact of OBE on teachers concluded: "Many schools and teachers are experiencing significant difficulty in engaging with the requirements of an outcomes approach." Notwithstanding the millions spent developing curriculum over the past 10 years, those responsible for the Queensland curriculum also admit that teachers are correct in arguing that the excessive amount of material is "hindering in-depth learning" and there is "lack of clarity around what must be taught". Indeed, such is the degree of self-criticism that those responsible for developing curriculum in Queensland are happy to admit that past attempts have failed: "For the first time, in Queensland's P-10 years [preparatory year to year 10] there will be rigorous, comprehensive assessment against defined standards that will be comparable across schools." Finally, in Victoria, there is also a belated admission that not all is well: "It can be argued that the current ways in which many curriculum authorities have conceived the curriculum for schools have resulted in poor definitions of expected and essential learning and provides teachers with insufficient guidance about what to teach".

One might be forgiven for thinking, such are the acknowledged flaws in OBE, that those responsible would heed teachers' complaints and, as the teachers connected to PLATO argue, provide schools with clear, succinct and academically sound syllabuses. This is not the case. Such is the bizarre and unaccountable world of curriculum development that the majority of Australian states and territories are renewing their efforts to develop more extreme forms of outcomes-based education. In Tasmania, subjects such as history, mathematics and English have been replaced with vague and new-age essential learnings such as: "Thinking, communicating, personal futures, social responsibility and world futures". South Australia defines essential learnings as "futures, identity, interdependence, thinking and communication" on the basis that "these understandings, capabilities and dispositions are personal and intellectual qualities, not bodies of knowledge". As might be expected from the territory that hosts the nation's capital, the ACT, not to be outdone by Tasmania or South Australia, lists 36 essential learning achievements, ranging from the banal, "the student understands change", to the trite, "students use problem-solving skills".

As evidenced by the history of Australian education, the harsh reality is that, instead of being listened to, an increasingly frustrated and overworked teaching force is set for yet another tidal wave of jargon-ridden and time-consuming curriculum experimentation.


Non-existent standards

"A few years ago I wrote an open editorial for a local newspaper in which I informed the superintendent of my daughter's public school district that his services were no longer required. As far as my family and I were concerned, it was the day we fired the local bureaucrats and took our child out of a failing education system. I said it then and I say it now, government today is filled with politicians that think it is their job to take care of us. Either we are too lazy to care for ourselves and our children; or, we are too stupid to know what is best for our precious offspring and ourselves. No matter the reason, the majority of politicians in this country today believe in their hearts that they must save us from ourselves. Even to the point of promoting failing children so as not to ruin their self-esteem."

A few weeks after I fired the school system’s leading bureaucrat, the State justified my decision to remove my child from a forever-failing government school system. My hometown paper reported that the state’s promotion standards, which are designed to test third, fifth and eighth grade students, were largely being ignored by principals all across the state, at least at the fifth grade level. I was absolutely appalled to learn that seventy-three percent of fifth grade students (the only students tested for that year) who failed their exams were promoted anyway. In my county alone 298 students failed their tests not once, not twice, but three times and still only 53 of these unfortunate, inadequately-educated children were held back. Why are our children being robbed of a proper education?

You see, there was a “provision.” Ah yes, the all-powerful provision, better known as the exception to the rule. In this case the provision allows for principals to have the final word on who gets promoted to the next grade and who does not. Now I ask you, what the hell good is a standards test if the decision of pass and fail is left up to the principal anyway? Why even bother requiring these unfortunate children to take a test that means absolutely nothing since the final decisions rests in the hands of one individual bureaucrat?....

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, November 04, 2005


When He Qinming passed the stiff entrance exams for university 20 years ago, his father's friend didn't congratulate him. Instead, he discouraged him, citing his own son, a high-school dropout, who had gone into business. "There was a saying back then -- making missiles doesn't pay as well as selling eggs. But that was a temporary phenomenon," says Dr. He. Now 40, the balding computer-science professor is on the cutting edge of the latest Chinese formula for success: education. This fall, he helped to launch China's first dual-degree program. Students in Canada and China will take five years of computer science together, in Mandarin and English, dividing their time between Vancouver's Simon Fraser University and Dr. He's school, Zhejiang University (pronounced Je-jeng).

Bryan Shen, 20, a freshman at ZU, has applied for one of 25 Chinese slots. Unlike the Canadian students, he won't know until next month if he has been chosen. He's keen, and not just because of the computer science he'll learn. "At home, you can get great marks in English, but you can't speak it," he says, in passable English. (He's already going by his foreign name, picked in homage to Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.)

To an outsider, it seems that all China cares about is money, money, money. That's true. But the difference is many now believe they need a top-quality education to make even more money. In tandem with the 9 per cent annual growth of its gross domestic product, China is expanding its education sector faster than ever before in its history. "The role of education is closely linked with economic development," says Kang Changyun, a professor at Beijing Normal University. Next year, he plans to launch a joint degree program with the University of British Columbia, for a two-year master's in science education.

In the mid-1980s, about the time Dr. He was being urged to go into business, only 2 or 3 per cent of Chinese students went on to university. By 2002, that number had jumped to 15 per cent, or 16 million students. By 2010, the target is 30 million students. During the 1990s, the number of people attending university in India rose from 4.9 million to 9.4 million. "Now China is probably double that of India," says Nello Angerilli, who heads international education at Simon Fraser. "It's a mind-boggling expansion." In China, the booming economy means parents have money to invest -- in their one and only child. And traditional values are back. Education is once again esteemed both for its own sake, and as a way to get ahead. "In Mao Zedong's time, he wanted people who obeyed. He said: don't read so many books. Just obey," says Chen Yue, a vice-dean at ZU. "Now, if you want to be stronger and stronger internationally, you need to improve the quality of your people."

Chairman Mao also said, "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." Today, he could make that a couple of thousand. While Canada has about 30 universities, China had 1,396 in 2002, plus another 1,000 private colleges and universities. And China is building new universities every year. Just as the business sector is expanding through joint ventures and turnkey operations, so is education. From a standing start 15 years ago, China now has 90 MBA programs and 30 executive MBA programs, according to Paul Beamish, of the Asian Management Institute at the University of Western Ontario.

Meanwhile, he has seen the Chinese mainland students at UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business increase yearly. "After Canadians, people from China are the second largest group," he says. In the newest class, Chinese mainland students now account for 50 of the 173 students. "It develops a very nice future network," he adds.

More here

Australian Universities dominate World Rankings

(On a per head basis). Post lifted from Australian blogger Neo-Con

I know this report was released a few days ago, but I only came across this staggering statistic today:

The UK is home to 24 of the top 200 universities, second only to the US with 54 and ahead of Australia, in third place with 17.

While the article was congratulating Great Britain's performance, consider how well Australia polled, especially given our population in comparison to the other two.

* Australian Population: 20,090,437
* Australian Universities in top 200: 17
* Australian ratio of top 200 universities per one million inhabitants: .8426
* United Kingdom population:60,441,457
* United Kingdom Top 200 Universities: 24
* United Kingdom ratio of top 200 Universities per one million inhabitants: .3971
* United States Population: 295,734,134
* United States top 200 Universities: 54
* United States ratio of top 200 Universities per one million inhabitants: .1826

The stats are my own, and clearly show Australia's relative domination of the rankings. Australia also secured one University in the top 20 for the first time, with Melbourne University coming in at the 19th best University in the world.

Parents: How to make the most of online schools: "The development of the Internet and the increasing public desire for educational choices have brought about a wide variety of online programs for school-age students. There are public and private schools that offer full-time or part-time programs, programs for gifted students and programs for those seeking to catch up, and religious and non-religious programs. Different programs have varying resources, teacher availability, and professional support. How can parents best navigate this online world to supplement their children's education?"


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, November 03, 2005


Mayor Sam's got it right - the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been sucking taxpayers dry for decades and now wants another $4 billion to crank out more illiterate dropouts. I have two short stories about what many Angelenos now call LA's mummified school system:

Jan (not her real name) was a flower child of the 60s: a daisy-waving-psychedelic-peacenik-free-love-liberal-Democrat-bimbo who bore a love child after high school. Jan spoiled her baby with no discipline or boundaries. One day when her toddler misbehaved and I offered a suggestion, Jan told me to mind my own business. Unfortunately for her child, I did.

About ten years later when the girl turned 13, Jan called and sounded hysterical: "Clark, I don't know what to do. I have to go to work. She took my keys, my car and my wallet and left with her boyfriend. I think she's on drugs or something. What should I do?"

It was too late. A few years later when her child returned to prison, Jan got custody of all five of her daughter's children. That lasted a few months - until DPSS finally declared Jan an unfit mother and took them away.

Why is this relevant? Jan is not only my cousin (yup, a blood relative), but has taught LAUSD elementary school children for about twenty years. Although she is unfit to raise her own children and grandchildren, the United Teachers of Los Angeles protects her job at the expense of her classroom children. Jan doesn't want you to vote for Propositions 73 through 78.

My second story is shorter: I used to jog to-and-from work at LAPD's West Valley Station. One day as I jogged past Mulholland Junior High School, I noticed a male student leave the school grounds as classes began. I watched the 9th grader run across the field and hop the 12-foot fence. He landed near me. When I told him to get back in school - he told me to "F- myself." I grabbed his wrist and walked him to the school office.

When I delivered the boy to the Principal, she demanded to know what right I had to kidnap the child from the street. When I identified myself as an LAPD officer and explained the relationship between school truancy and daytime residential burglaries, she made a complaint against me with the LAPD! Based upon these and many other on-duty experiences with the LAUSD, I moved to Ventura County where my children would be far from LAUSD and their dysfunctional teachers and administrators.

That school principal doesn't want you to vote for Propositions 73 through 78 or school vouchers for inner city families, however she does want more of your money. The LAUSD is as competent as an unfit mother who spoils her children without teaching discipline. The only LAUSD program I would endorse is disbandment. The unions are too strong and too dangerous for our children. If LAUSD was dissolved tomorrow, competent educators would find better jobs at better schools, leaving dangerous and incompetent teachers to find careers far from where they can influence our children.

More here

Britain: Lessons on a DVD put Latin back into state classrooms

Harrumph! As a very amateur Latinist myself, I cannot see anybody learning much Latin this way

Latin will be taught in hundreds of state schools for the first time using a new programme designed to reinvigorate the subject. Hi-tech lessons, created by Cambridge University at a cost of o5 million, will give step-by-step tuition in the language, history and culture of the Romans. Launched earlier this month, the initial run of 300 interactive DVDs were snapped up by schools in just one week.

Will Griffiths, the director of Cambridge Schools Classics Project (CSCP), said the enthusiasm could signal a revival in the number of state schools offering the subject, currently just 100. "Latin has been under threat but this programme can secure its long-term future," he said. "It can refresh lessons in schools that already teach it and give schools who have never taught it the practical means to do so." Aimed at secondary school pupils, the on-line course, which has 1,000 activities, including video clips, audio sequences and grammar exercises and tests, takes children up to GCSE level.

Crucially, the programme can be taught by non-specialist teachers, with students communicating via e-mail with classicists at Cambridge, making it ideal for state schools where there is a shortage of classics teachers. Only 35 are trained each year and most go into the private sector. With the number of pupils taking Latin GCSE in the state sector plummeting from 8,493 in 1988 to just 3,468 in 2004, the project has a lot of ground to make up.

Schools involved in the pilot said pupils were keen on the work, while parents regarded its provision "as a privilege". At Saffron Walden county school, in Essex, Latin lessons have boosted modern foreign language learning. A teacher Rebecca Anderson said: "It has been a great success. A lot of the children have really taken to it. You can see they have a greater understanding of other languages."


Australia: Students compare Keats to SMS text

In their final English exam yesterday Year 12 students were asked to compare an SMS message, "how r u pls 4giv me I luv u xoxoxo O:-)", with a famous Keats love letter, "You fear, sometimes, I do not love you so much as you wish". And the 46,000 Victorian students who sat the three-hour VCE exam were also asked to analyse a Dilbert cartoon on the modern dilemma of email and write a letter to the editor of Woolworths magazine Australian Good Taste.

The test of English skills also included analysing more traditional texts from Shakespeare and Henry Lawson to Graham Greene. But it also quizzed students on popular films such as sci-fi flick Gattaca, Australian drama Lantana and classic Breaker Morant. Students sat the paper, set by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, six weeks after the same body was accused of trying to "dumb down" Year 12 English. It also came a week after NSW students were asked to analyse the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission website as part of their Higher School Certificate.

A chief critic of the Victorian curriculum, Kevin Donnelly, who recently prepared a Federal Government-commissioned report on primary curriculum benchmarking, described the paper as "unchallenging". "It's dumbing it down and the real concern there is that in trying to be accessible to such a wide variety of students, and in trying to not disadvantage those weaker students, I'd argue they're not really challenging the better-abled students," Dr Donnelly said, referring to the magazine article.

A spokesman for the VCAA said the organisation did not want to make a comment about the material. Monash English lecturer Baden Eunson described the paper as part of the "multi-literacy" approach. "These are actually very interesting issues about communication and technology but the reality is that the students don't have the ability to express themselves with maximum fluency." [I wonder why?]



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, November 02, 2005


Within the next few months, a staggering number of California high school seniors may see their worlds come crashing down. They are the guinea pigs in a tough new state experiment: the California High School Exit Exam. So many now are at risk of not graduating, it would take 60 high school campuses to seat them all. A practice that's gone on for decades will come to an end. Principals no longer will hand diplomas to students who can barely read, write and calculate. This spring, for the first time, seniors who can't pass the exam will not be allowed to graduate. They could be kids like Linda Nguyen, who started in Sacramento City Unified schools as a kindergartner and has earned a C average ever since. Or Kevin Muhammad, who hopes to attend college on a basketball scholarship. Or Juan Calderon, who left Mexico at age 4 and dreams of becoming a lawyer.

The seniors are among 182 at Hiram Johnson High School - and nearly 5,000 locally and 90,000 statewide - who still have not passed the test. The exam is in two parts - math and English language arts - and students must pass both sections. "I just want to get my education and make my parents proud of me," Linda said. "I'm just nervous about that test."

Despite their aspirations, many face tough odds. Linda is studying hard for the math test - but very little for the English section. Kevin has a 2-week-old baby and has contemplated dropping some classes so he can pick up more hours at his dish-washing job. Juan, though he has failed that part of the exam three times, is not taking a math course this year. Anxiety, apathy and confidence swirl on the Johnson campus. It's already time for seniors to take portraits and order their caps and gowns - even though more than one-third of the class has not passed the test they need to graduate.

The actions of state and local educators haven't made things easy. The school, as required by state law, offered extra help to seniors who have yet to pass the exam, but the law doesn't require them to attend. [Boo hoo!]

Classes, too, are not always aligned with students' needs. Johnson seniors, for example, can opt out of math if they've completed the required credits - even if they haven't passed that part of the exit exam. And teachers say that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, an exam supporter, confused students further when he said in September that he would consider alternatives for those who haven't passed. They say students wonder if the exam will be postponed, as it was for the class of 2004, the group originally in line to first face the consequences.

Depending on each school's calendar, seniors get two or three more chances to pass before graduation day. Hiram Johnson seniors will try again Tuesday and Wednesday and then in March. "I want to walk the stage," Juan said. "You see it in the movies, you see it everywhere. I want to be just like them."

The state does not track individual student performance, so it can't accurately report how many seniors have passed the test. But a Bee survey of all high schools in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties shows that 4,643 seniors have yet to pass the exam. One-third of them are concentrated in just 10 schools - most of them campuses that serve large numbers of low-income and nonwhite students. That means graduation ceremonies could be much smaller than usual next year at the region's neediest schools.

More here


The rubbishy State schools that socialism has produced now no longer give the poor a chance at a good education

This country is being overtaken by toffs. David Cameron is not the exception: he's the new rule. Privately educated children predominate in every sphere. It hasn't been like this since the Edwardian era. It's not just politics, although much of the Cabinet and shadow cabinet went to private schools. It's the arts, the media, the music industry and the sciences.

They may not wear school uniforms any longer, but they share distinct traits - they are self-confident, competitive, well read all-rounders. Tony Blair and David Cameron, from the best-known Scottish and English public schools, exemplify them. They are just as at home in jeans, changing nappies and drinking tea from mugs in Islington and Notting Hill, as they are leaning against their Agas, cooking breakfast for their children in the country.

The Cabinet is full of them, though ministers don't brag about it. Most forget to mention their schools in Who's Who. Tessa Jowell, who brought home the Olympics, went to the private St Margaret's School in Aberdeen. Charles Clarke pretends to be a man of the people, but went to Highgate School. Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, admits under duress that she went to Westminster. Ed Balls, Gordon Brown's protégé, went to the fee-paying Nottingham High School.

Margaret Thatcher presided over a cabinet of grammar school [selective State schools] boys including Cecil Parkinson and Michael Howard. Now half the shadow cabinet - including Oliver Letwin and George Osborne - went to private schools.

Those in the media are equally reticent about discussing their CVs, but most national newspaper editors and political commentators were privately educated. Andrew Marr went to Loretto, Tom Bradby went to Sherborne. Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, went to Stonyhurst and Michael Grade went to Stowe. Business is full of them. They excel at corporate life; BP and Marks & Spencer have privately educated chief executives. They are also entrepreneurs. Richard Branson is an early example of a public school boy (Stowe) who left to become a salesman. Julian Metcalfe of Pret a Manger started making sandwiches when he left Harrow. Charles Dunstone of the Carphone Warehouse did the same for phones after Uppingham. Johnnie Boden (Eton) fills his catalogues with dreamy photographs of private school holiday spots. The two best-known dotcom millionaires - Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox - went to Eton and Westminster respectively.

The music industry is addicted to them, even if they don't talk about it. James Blunt (real name Blount) is an old Harrovian, yet it didn't stop him becoming this year's biggest success with his song You're Beautiful. He is a modern traditionalist like Mr Cameron. He understands about verses, lyrics and choruses, but he also knows how to repackage them for 2005. He is also used to hard work. Dido (Westminster) has the same knack. Radiohead went to Abingdon School. Sherborne has produced Chris Martin of Coldplay, and Keane named themselves such after a tealady at Tonbridge.

Public school boys seem to attract the most famous women in the world. Guy Ritchie, who went to a series of public schools, is by no stretch of the imagination overawed by Madonna. Claudia Schiffer's husband went to Stowe. The artist Sam Taylor Wood and Phoebe Philo, chief designer for Chloe, have married Old Etonians - Jay Jopling and Max Wigram, both of whom are successful art dealers. Hugh Grant didn't bother hiding his accent, or Brylcreming his hair back like Mr Cameron. He still looks and acts like the best-looking boy at Latymer Upper School, the one all the Paulinas (St Paul's Girls School down the road) wanted to go out with. Emily Mortimer and Rachel Weisz were Paulinas. The old Harrovian Richard Curtis - Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually - defines his generation on film. They even dominate the sciences and the arts. Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution, went to Godolphin & Latymer. Historians from Andrew Roberts to Tristram Hunt learnt their kings and queens at private schools.

This is outrageous. Private school pupils make up only seven per cent of the population (up under Labour), but their influence is out of control. This is not the fault of parents who slave away to pay the school fees, nor can it be blamed on private school alumni. At 13, Mr Cameron can't have been expected to rip off his tail coat and refuse to go to Eton. It's the Government's fault. The state system isn't good enough. It fails children on every level, not just the five million who never learn to read so don't even stand a chance of a decent career, but the pupils who never learn the self-confidence that comes from the good teaching and high standards expected at most private schools.

But it's not all Mr Blair's fault. The problems started when he was at Fettes. Grammar school boys could hold their own, they knew they had earned their places on merit alone. In the 1950s, the grammar school system meant that there were more state school pupils at Oxford and Cambridge than there are now when the numbers are being manipulated. But when Labour scrapped the grammar school, it turned the country back into a class-ridden society, where the children of the rich had a huge advantage. The comprehensives, if they had been properly streamed, might have worked, but instead they went for the lowest common denominator. No one was allowed to be challenged; no one could fail. Exam results were fudged and school discipline fell apart. Margaret Thatcher didn't do enough to stop it.

Mr Blair's crime was that he realised this. He sent his children to the selective Oratory School because he knew the comprehensives in north London were bog standard. Yet in eight years he has done little about it. His education White Paper today promises yet another new start with an emphasis on excellence, but he is more interested in busing children round the country in pursuit of that elusive goal of equality. If Labour really wants to boot out the toffs and give private schools a run for their money, it should bring back selection, not just for sport and drama, but also for academic excellence. My hunch is that it is going to take an Old Etonian to do it


Arizona: Tax credit urged for teachers: "State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne wants to give all schoolteachers a $2,500 tax credit as a way to attract and keep qualified educators in Arizona. Horne is seeking support from the Arizona Legislature in its upcoming session to give both public- and private-school teachers the credit because he says salaries are lagging while the cost of housing is rising. The tax credit would also apply to school counselors, psychologists, librarians and nurses. The state currently does not give any tax credits based solely on occupation. If it became law, the credit would affect about 70,000 employees and cost the state an estimated $152 million."


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, November 01, 2005


How they must fear conservative thought! They have just banned the only Conservative Student Organization there

"For those of you who may be following the events at Vassar College, a shocking and reprehensible twist: The only Conservative organization at Vassar College, the Moderate, Independent, Conservative Alliance (MICA) was officially de-authorized last night in a vote that succeeded by an overwhelming margin.

The ostensible reason for the de-authorization by the Vassar Student Association (VSA) was that MICA had missed the proposed deadline for holding its forum on free speech. The deadline was set to occur before Vassar’s October Break. According to The Miscellany News, not exactly a reliable source, though on this they are correct. Under the resolution passed by VSA on Sept. 18, MICA was to hold a forum before October break.

At the VSA meeting on Sunday, Oct. 9, Ambrose went to the VSA to ask for an extension for the dialogue… Rodems said that the resolution states that Council will revisit the issue after October break if the forum does not occur before break, and told Ambrose not to do a rushed job. No one made a motion for any amendments to the resolution. The forum was not held before October break, and MICA posters in the dorms advertise that it will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

MICA requested a deadline extension on the forum, moving it back two weeks so that they would have more time to prepare. Their request was dismissed, and the forum did not take place before the assigned date (instead it is set to occur Wednesday, October 26th, the date requested by MICA).

While the VSA certainly has a right and a responsibility to penalize MICA for not meeting the agreed upon date, the inflexibility, strictness, and severity of their response, absolutely out of character given their dealings with other organizations on campus, was completely out of line given the mild nature of MICA’s infraction. The VSA’s decision to completely de-authorize MICA demonstrates that the VSA was not acting purely on the basis of MICA’s failure to hold the forum, instead it surrendered to the poisonous atmosphere of hostility directed towards MICA and let unreasonable and inappropriate factors, factors which exist outside of the purview of both MICA and the VSA, influence the severity of its response.

I had hoped that at a prestigious place like Vassar College that reason would prevail. Unfortunately the actions of those who identify themselves as “concerned students” and those of the VSA have dashed this hope. The real twist to this story, that it seemed like students at Vassar College were standing up on principle for free speech, has indeed flopped. And, though done in the name of censure, the aim was to censor. It it has succeeded.

Note that the name of this org is MICA Moderate, Independent, Conservative, Alliance. Apparently they are the only group on campus to the right of Howard Dean and now they are "de-authorized.""



Anything would be better than the average British "Comprehensive"

Parents trying to secure a place for their children at England's first state-funded Sikh school stapled cheques for the school fund to their applications, an inquiry by the Local Government Ombudsman has revealed. The watchdog has ordered Guru Nanak Sikh Secondary School, in Hayes, Middlesex, to review its admissions procedure after concerns that parents received the impression that giving money to the school would help to win a place. It had 223 applicants for 60 places this year. The main criticism of the popular secondary, one of only two state-funded Sikh schools in the country, was that it accepted "evidence of either financial or other donations" to a gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) as proof of a family's commitment to the faith.

Tony Redmond, the Ombudsman, said that the way the school used this information to determine whether families met the admissions criteria was flawed because of a "lack of objectivity and transparency". The school also accepted "evidence of having supported the school or the Nansaker Trust", a Sikh charity established by the school's founder. Some parents had misinterpreted this to mean a financial contribution and they included cheques for the school with their application forms, although these were returned.

Mr Redmond said: "Although I have seen no direct evidence for this, I believe it could easily give rise to the suspicion that financial support for the school or the trust is a factor in the offer of places."

Greg Hall, the deputy head teacher at Guru Nanak, a former private school, said: "The idea that you can buy a place does persist among a few parents and it is categorically not true. We spend a lot of time making this clear, both on the application form and at parents' evenings. In fact offering money would be damaging to the application because we would regard it as a bribe." Mr Hall said donations to the gurdwara were part of the Sikh custom of sewa, voluntary service to help the needy. This was as likely to involve cooking for the temple or offering bags of rice as donating money, he said. However, the school does plan to simplify its admissions procedure and accept more evidence of devotion from priests rather than parents.

More here

Kentucky: School districts turn to random drug tests : "There's not much cramming students can do for this kind of pop quiz. As school districts grapple with keeping illegal drugs from students, some are turning to random drug testing. At least two have added random tests this fall, and more could be on the way. 'It's not such a radical movement right now,' said John Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety. 'But it's a slow moving, steady moving trend right now toward drug testing.' There is no exact count, but education officials think at least 36 of Kentucky's 176 school districts require drug tests at some level. ... Mark Cleveland, superintendent of Owen County Schools, said his district conducted its first random drug test at its middle school Tuesday. 'Seven or eight' students took the tests, along with three district administrators and the principal, Cleveland said .... 'You don't want to violate someone's civil rights, but at the same time you want to make sure that the schools are safe,' Cleveland 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


Monday, October 31, 2005


UK prime minister Tony Blair's latest education reforms, designed to give schools more 'autonomy', have caused something of a controversy within his own government. Blair says that his plans represent a 'pivotal moment' for schools, and the move has been widely seen as an attempt by the prime minister to revive his credentials as a bold reformer. Some, including deputy PM John Prescott, counter that this will flatter the middle classes while disadvantaging the poorest pupils.

Who's right? Who knows. Blair's big reform, with its rhetoric of expanding parental choice and new freedoms from local authority control, clearly is a sop to the middle classes, whose desperate search for control over the minutiae of their child's education has been widely noted and frequently ridiculed. Then again, given the empty character of these reforms, it is doubtful whether poor children will find themselves really disadvantaged, or merely aggrieved. Whatever 'autonomy' means in Blair's dictionary, it does not mean the freedom of schools to provide a decent, rigorous, liberal education - or the ability of parents to choose such an education for their child.

The new proposals, outlined in a White Paper published today, involve allowing schools to opt out of direct control by local education authorities (LEAs), allowing schools themselves to decide how pupils are selected and the courses and teaching methods they offer. Under this new regime, promises Blair, every school 'who want[s] it' will be able to transform itself into 'a self-governing independent state school', backed by businesses, faith organisations and parents' groups (1).

So it's goodbye to the state-run bog-standard comprehensive, and hello to a kind of private education on the cheap, where a certain kind of parent can choose the school he or she wants without shelling out thousands in fees. 'What we do have to do is raise aspiration and get people to think about the education that best suits them, put their parents in the driving seat, as it were, so that parents can exercise real choice', said education secretary Ruth Kelly (2). If you are the kind of parent who wants the best for your kids, goes the argument, you will want to put in the time and emotional energy required to tailor-make their education. And if you want to tailor-make their education, you should be allowed to do so.

But is a good parent one who wants to insinuate him or herself into every detail of a child's education? What if parents would prefer to spend their home life playing with their kids and introducing them to new experiences, rather than hunching over a revision guide or ferrying them from one extra-curricular hot-housing activity to another? Yes, many parents have become quite obsessed with their children's schooling, and demand more involvement. But part of this is because the education system has become so chaotic and mediocre that they do not feel able simply to let the schools do their job; part of it is because politics has narrowed so much that parents increasingly try to live their lives and achieve their ambitions through their chilren. Either way, for the government to pretend that parental involvement in schools is not a necessary evil but something that parents really really want is a typically dishonest manoeuvre.

And what does 'opting out' of state control really mean, anyway? If a bunch of parents were to opine that teachers were spending far too much time and energy on teaching kids about safe sex and healthy eating and scrutinising them for potential signs of trouble at home when they should be teaching Latin instead; if they were to decide that their schools' meals did not in fact have to be healthy, organic, locally sourced and expensive, and that children would do better to provide their own lunches; if they were to argue for a return to frowned-upon methods of classroom discipline, like the odd telling off; if they were to rule that basic literacy and numeracy targets were a waste of time and should be replaced by the whole-class teaching of entire Shakespeare plays and the recitation of multiplication tables..

If one of Blair's new parent-power schools were to decide that what they wanted for their pupils was a traditional liberal education, would they have the freedom and autonomy to go down that route? It's hardly likely, given that for every mention of 'autonomy for schools' the government brings in at least two other policies exercising more central control over what children eat, how teachers teach, how schools structure their timetables and how parents help their children with their homework. When it comes to education, the New Labour administration just can't leave it alone. This is the politicisation of education, and its consequences are equally terrible for all.

There are many criticisms to be made about the comprehensive school system, just as there are about the grammar school system that preceded it. But both, at least, were coherent systems of education, rooted in a distinct educational philosophy. The New Labour approach, by contrast, continually presents education policy as a means to instrumental ends - social inclusion, the politics of behaviour, flattery of its core voters among the middle classes.

Having destroyed the ethos of education, through insisting that schools play a greater role in everything from healthy eating to bullying prevention to teenage pregnancy reduction, the government now intends to abdicate responsibility for a school's performance on the learning front


Anti-bullying programs for all schools

Good if they can make it work

AUSTRALIAN Government schools which don't adopt anti-bullying programs from next year may lose their funding, the Federal Government said today. Education Minister Brendan Nelson, speaking via video to the second conference of the National Coalition Against Bullying (NCAB), said there would be reporting requirements for all schools to show how they were tackling the issue from January. "Research shows that one child in six is bullied by peers each week in Australian schools," Mr Nelson said. "Up to 50 per cent of children have been bullied in the past year. Victims of bullying are two to three times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers and school bullies are four times more likely to engage in serious criminal activity as adults. "This disturbing research was the catalyst for the development of the National Safe Schools Framework."

A spokesman for Mr Nelson said the Government had allocated $4.5 million to implement the framework. The Government's four year school funding program would be contingent on schools participating. "It is a condition of the Government's $33 billion school funding program that schools implement the anti-bullying strategy," he said.

NCAB chairman and former chief justice of the Family Court, Professor Alastair Nicholson, said victims of bullying were more prone to depression and poor academic results. "For the bully it can mean an equally uncertain life that is likely to involve a breakdown in relationships, possible criminality and a lifetime habit of controlling those who are weaker and more vulnerable, thus perpetuating the problem," he said.

Prof Nicholson said a good friend had recently confided in him about his experience of bullying and sexual abuse at a boarding school during the 1960s. His friend told him it had "left him without a partner, no kids and no trust in love or relationships". "I felt enormously sad when I heard this story," Prof Nicholson told delegates. "But it made it even clearer to me that we are on the right track in tackling this problem and seeking to prevent yet another generation of children being subjected to this sort of treatment."


NYC: Poor kids shun tutoring: "More than 84 percent of poor students in the city's worst schools entitled to free tutoring this year have not signed up for the benefit, according to city Department of Education data released yesterday. Education officials said the agency has received applications for tutoring from 32,307 of the 205,322 kids who are eligible because they attend schools funded by federal poverty aid and failed to meet state standards. Under the No Child Left Behind Law, students in such schools may transfer to a better school or get tutored for free. The percentage of eligible kids whose parents do not sign them up prior to the start of the tutoring service has crept up slightly in each of the last two years, prompting criticism the city does not do enough to promote the benefit".


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, October 30, 2005


Educational reformers had reason to take heart earlier this year when Arthur Levine, the president of Columbia University's Teachers College, issued a report blasting the nation's schools of education. You can't go wrong attacking ed schools, even if you're the head of a famous one yourself. Mr. Levine singled out the "inadequate to appalling" graduate programs in educational leadership and called for the abolition of the Ed.D. degree. These programs, he asserted, suffer under the weight of lax admissions standards, weak faculties and inappropriate degree requirements and are often cynically used by their host universities as "cash cows." A rather bold bit of truth-telling on his part; and apparently there are three more such scathing reports coming from Mr. Levine, as part of a project underwritten by the Annenberg, Ford, Kauffman and Wallace Foundations.

Now, one shouldn't get too excited and expect such daring words to generate perestroika in the closed and self-perpetuating universe of ed schools. Mr. Levine deliberately refrains in his report from naming any specific institutions that are failing. Moreover, his enthusiasm for reform has somehow not extended to any effort to get his own institution to eliminate the Ed.D. In fact, Mr. Levine has played his reformist cards so close to the vest that his own faculty and students appear to have been shocked, and bitterly upset, to find out that he believed such things. So real change is going to be glacial at best. But still, it's encouraging to see such a notable figure in the education world begin to acknowledge how much is amiss in the way this country teaches teachers.

In keeping with this candor, we should acknowledge that there are similar deficiencies in graduate education in nearly all academic fields, across the board. Those professors who like to look down their noses at the ed schools and call for their elimination would do well to look in the mirror first. For one of the most striking deficiencies in American graduate training, in fields ranging from history and literary studies to physics and psychology, is the appalling inattention given to teaching--that is, to precisely the work that newly minted Ph.D.s will be expected to engage in for the rest of their careers. If, that is, they're lucky enough to get an academic job at all.

In fact, the problem goes beyond inattention. In the best graduate institutions, students are socialized into the view that teaching is a lowly activity. This view is everywhere reinforced by the willingness of universities to use graduate teaching assistants and untenured adjunct faculty to carry more and more of the instructional load.

It's a wonder that there are as many outstanding college teachers as there are. In my own graduate years, I saw eager-beaver teaching assistants subtly encouraged by their advisers to cool it and spend as little time as possible on their teaching, lest they be taken for unserious and unscholarly lightweights. They were there to do research and eventually to get jobs like. . .well, like those of their advisers, in which the teaching responsibilities are dumped on lowly graduate students.

In effect, most American graduate schools prepare students for jobs that they will never have and fail to prepare them--even conveying disdain--for the jobs that they will most likely have. No area of American higher education is more in need of reform, and none is less likely to receive it. As our chief means of forming college teachers, graduate education could hardly be more dysfunctional if we had set out to make it that way.

The result can be seen in every American college and university, where good teaching is rarely recognized and even more rarely rewarded. But this state of affairs may not continue indefinitely, as a new force for reform could come from the outside, from the consumer. William Strauss and Neil Howe have recently argued in the Chronicle of Higher Education that with tuition and the resulting debt reaching surreal levels, and colleges and universities failing to reverse the post-1960s collapse of academic standards, parents and students are increasingly skeptical about the value of a college education.

Parents born after 1961, Messrs. Strauss and Howe have found, experienced that collapse of standards in their own college educations and are determined not to tolerate another overpriced and underperforming disappointment for their own children. This is the generation that "propelled school choice, vouchers, charter schools, home-schooling and the standards-and-accountability movement." These parents will be more likely to treat higher education as a market, in which smart buyers exercise discretion.

Academics tend to be contemptuous of markets, which is why the for-profit University of Phoenix is their bete noire. But markets will do a better job of sorting these things out, at least in some aspects, than the accredited professionals who, after all, merely respond to a system that rewards time spent on research and scoffs at time spent on teaching. Such incentives need to change.

It will be a good thing if parents and students become more demanding, and it will be a very good thing if more sources of information are made available to them about what constitutes good teaching and where it is taking place--and not taking place. There is a huge and completely unanswered need for college guides that are as frank, intelligent and unsparingly honest about the quality of undergraduate instruction as consumer guides are about, say, cars and stereo equipment. Unless, that is, we think of higher education as nothing more than a credential and a badge, a source of social prestige that we buy for ourselves and our kids. In that case, we will continue to get what we pay for.



Contemporary educational thinking is obsessed with the question of method. Hardly a month goes by without weary teachers being exhorted to adopt another brain-based, evidence-informed or student-sensitive technique. At the same time, the once privileged position of knowledge, and by extension the teacher, is being questioned. To raise standards in the future, it is said that the student and his learning must take centre stage.

One proposal that neatly encapsulates the elevation of method and diminution of content is the idea that schools should teach pupils how to learn. Advocates of the 'learning to learn' agenda have been warmly received within policy circles. Schools minister David Miliband has referenced the idea in a number of key speeches, and reports commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (3) have addressed the notion. Techniques associated with learning to learn have also been piloted in schools.

The learning to learn agenda can be broken down into two core propositions and one proposal. Proposition one states that the world in which we live is changing with such rapidity as to render traditional canons of knowledge redundant. Following from this, proposition two asserts that teaching that aims to transmit knowledge will fail to equip pupils for the world in which we live. Finally, the supporters of learning to learn propose that schools should adopt teaching techniques that encourage students to focus on their own learning. By doing so, they will develop the skills and attitudes required to adapt to an uncertain future.

If we address these points in reverse order, we will see that there are a number of reasons why educationalists might want to question this agenda.

A vast array of teaching techniques has been included under the banner of learning to learn. These include generic approaches to marking student work and providing them with structured feedback, as well as teaching methods which claim to be based on neuroscience. Strategies that attempt to modify directly students' attitudes towards learning, as well as methods of organising classroom activities using real-life problems and extended projects, have also featured.

Some of the approaches are quite sensible. In terms of assessment it is right, for example, that teachers should explain their grading and provide pupils with a sense of how their work might be improved. Equally, practitioners must take care that the messages they transmit, both formally and informally, do not encourage the less able to reach the conclusion that they are incapable of development.

But while some of these approaches have been tested with impressive results, a recent report produced for the DfES makes it clear that there is nothing close to a unified, commonly accepted definition of learning to learn. Rather, there exists a miscellaneous set of attributes and approaches that have been grouped together on the arguably tenuous basis that they all encourage pupils to consider the how, as opposed to the what, of learning. A concept this baggy is unlikely to make for clear curriculum development.

While the overall coherence of the notion of learning to learn might be questioned, it is possible that it could become more focused and refined through the process of implementation and evaluation. This project would have a sound footing if the rest of the learning to learn agenda were valid. So is it true that existing forms of teaching ill-equip pupils for the future? And is the world in which we live changing so fast as to call into question the position of received knowledge?

The advocates of learning to learn evidently take a rather dim view of forms of schooling in which the teacher and their subject-knowledge have been the organising principle. The suggestion that teachers should address how students learn implies that this has not been a concern in the past. Some advocates of learning to learn seem to believe that many teachers exhibit a rather self-indulgent preoccupation with their own knowledge. Others argue that the dialogue between teachers and students has been frustrated by the lack of a commonly held educational vocabulary.

Certainly, there is some truth to the claim that our ability to make explicit the process of learning has been encumbered by the collective ignorance of educational ideas. But the suggestion that teachers have been so fixated with their knowledge as to have shown little regard for their pupils' learning is little more than a stereotype. This might describe ineffective teachers, but the effective delivery of subjects necessarily draws teachers into a discussion of the means of education, be that study skills, revision techniques, or the procedures that are specific to their discipline. In doing so, teachers involve their pupils in a discourse about their learning, even if they haven't dubbed it learning to learn.

This leaves us with the final component of the learning to learn agenda: the notion that rapid change is making received knowledge redundant. Advocates of learning to learn concede that some rudimentary areas of knowledge should still be taught, such as the practical elements of maths and English. And they acknowledge that most students only learn about their learning in response to significant content, even if it's of little practical or lasting value. But no purpose is served, they conclude, by compelling students to engage with more challenging areas of the curriculum, such as Shakespeare, if this results in them developing negative attitudes towards learning in general.

I would suggest that advocates of learning to learn have got it wrong on both counts. If we accept the growing rapidity of social change - which is unlikely given the parlous state of contemporary politics - then knowledge in fact becomes more, not less, important. In a period of flux it may be true that past ideas provide no easy solutions to the problems of the present, but they enable one to frame these problems in their specificity. In contrast, ignorance leaves one lacking the perspective required to differentiate between problems that are old and resolved and those that are really new and require innovative thinking.

And while the proponents of learning to learn are right to suggest that many students find the more advanced areas of the curriculum remote and unforgiving, they are wrong to argue that we should organise on this basis. The fact that many students experience aspects of the curriculum in this way is a sad testimony to their diminished conception of themselves and the failure of the schooling they have experienced. Our response should be to make a more compelling case for knowledge and general education. And to make this case convincing, we need to do more than appeal to the past or to the notion of eternal truths.

(From Spiked)


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