Saturday, November 12, 2005

School Allowed to Give Sex Survey to Students, Despite Parents' Protest

Another reason for giving parents a choice of schools

The recent ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Fields vs. Palmdale School District is cause for great alarm. A group of parents brought a lawsuit against the school district for involving their children in a sex-survey conducted in their school without the parents' permission. The parents' basic complaint was that the school violated the students' right to privacy and the parents' right to control the education of their children, particularly regarding sexual matters.

The Central District Court of California ruled against the parents. The parents appealed to the 9th Circuit Court which on November 2nd agreed with and upheld the lower court's ruling. Quoting from the opinion from the appeals court:

"We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students. Finally, we hold that the defendants' (officials and school district) actions were rationally related to a legitimate state purpose."

This case disturbingly illustrates the radical departure of federal judges (and I must say, the entire legal system) from the foundational principle of the Constitution: that it is an instrument of the people to restrict the powers of government.

The court's conclusion could only be reached by using the Bizzaro Superman comic-book logic, where everything is in reverse, good is evil and evil is good. Instead of the Constitution being an instrument of the people to allow certain specified powers to the government, these bizzaro judges believe that the Constitution is an instrument of the government that gives rights to the people. This kind of bizzaro thinking violates the very essence of the Constitution! Only by using bizzaro logic can they conclude that, because there is no provision in the US Constitution that gives parents the right to control the sex education of their children, then the parents don't have that right.

This is what results from the mind-set of the activist-court. These arrogant liberal judges are out-of-control. If America is to avoid further erosion of the Constitution and the anarchy that will follow, these judges must be stopped and replaced. Furthermore, America needs to repair the damage caused to its Constitution by the bizarros with the gavels and black robes


Another comment on the same ruling (Excerpt):

All parties agreed that no court had previously found a specific right to "exclusive control over the introduction and flow of sexual information to their children." Judge Reinhardt writes that "no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history or tradition..." He means that he can find no political-legal right of this sort appearing in the documents that found our nation. Therefore, he looks for this right as an accompaniment of other broader rights that either are stated or have been construed by past jurists as having been stated.

Quite clearly, the judge is working solely in a framework of constitutional and statutory law. He is not seeking justice in the sense of natural rights. He is not out to find what is naturally right. His job is to determine what is legal either because a constitution says it is legal, or legislative laws say it is legal, or what other judges have previously determined to be legal.

If Judge Reinhardt were dealing in natural, not political, law, he could never say that the right to determine the sex education of children was not to be found in American history or tradition. He would be laughed out of natural law court. It is common knowledge that from time immemorial parents have heavily determined their children's education in sex and other matters, and have a natural right to do so. It is also obvious that the appellants are a small sample of a significant set of Americans who have objected to sex education in the schools on various grounds, such as religious, personal, and political, for a long time. If these facts aren't part of American history and tradition, then what is? The only way the judge's comment makes any sense is that he is not taking into consideration the age-old natural parent-child relationship.

In natural law, this relationship is straightforward. Children begin life with some rights and acquire more as they grow older. They do not have full adult rights as children. The parents have the right to bring up and educate their children, which they acquired by producing the children. This is not to say that there will not be tensions arising as children mature and acquire more rights.

At this juncture, I naively muse about why the lawyers for the plaintiff and why the judges did not make any reference to the numerous documents in our country's history that reflect natural law and rights. The Declaration of Independence is a prime example. It plainly states that governments are instituted among men to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I may not personally believe this, but if I were a lawyer I would argue on this basis. Educating one's children according to one's preferences is surely conducive to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It surely is natural to the life of those in a family.

And if I were Judge Reinhardt or one of the other two judges, I could, if I had a mind to, conclude that our history and tradition does provide a good deal of evidence of broad natural rights that imply that a parent has a right to determine what a school teaches. Why didn't both sides use this legal logic? Maybe they have not thought of it, but that's quite implausible. Maybe it won't hold up in court, but that's implausible too. Otherwise, why did the judge mention the documents that found our nation? I am puzzled. I hope that some bright lawyer reads these words and can build a different case the next time.

Under both political and natural law, the appellants have a potential weakness in their case. In sending their children to the school, they may have suspended their rights over the children. However, I argue that this is not the case because coercion is present in several respects. Parents must educate their children by law. Parents (and non-parents) must pay school taxes. Furthermore, parents find it very costly to move for the sake of changing school district. It is also very costly to remove the children and educate them at home or in a private school. Therefore many parents make a highly constrained choice to send their children to public school. They are not voluntarily suspending their rights. It is more accurate to say that they have lost their rights over their children.

A court might say that parents can assert their control over the school through the school board. In reality, the school board is a political body and, as such, is an unwieldy, blunt, and costly instrument for exercising control.....

Kristi Seymour administered all the surveys. She was a Master's Student in psychology at the time who volunteered as a "mental health counselor" in the district. She developed the questionnaire in association with the Children's Bureau of Southern California and the School of Professional Psychology in which she was enrolled. The Children's Bureau is a 100-year old private/public institution. It is private in form but receives over half of its funding from the state. One of its focal points is child abuse and neglect. The goal of the research was "to establish a community baseline measure of children's exposure to early trauma (for example, violence.)"

Seymour mailed a letter to parents that explained the study and provided a consent form. This letter, after mentioning the trauma and violence objective, explains: "We will identify internal behaviors such as anxiety and depression and external behaviors such as aggression and verbal abuse." This comprises the material about the substance of the questions. Nowhere at all is even a hint, not a trace, given of questions about sex or sexuality. However, the actual questionnaire had 10 (out of 79) questions specifically about sex.

My own naive legal thinking is that this deception should be the basis for a tort based upon the breaking of a contract. However, the lawyers of the plaintiffs did not go in this direction.

The appellants argued that the survey was not a legitimate state activity because it was not part of the curriculum, again referring to past cases. They also argued that the survey was done to advance Seymour's career. Reinhardt dismissed the latter as "entirely speculative and conclusory in nature." He referred to the "detailed information setting forth the legitimate governmental purpose of the survey" and that the survey would be used for the benefit of the School District. Although this issue did not make or break the case, the judge seemed to me to lean over backwards to side with Seymour. He does not admonish her either for her failure to inform parents fully in advance, indeed to mislead them, about the survey, even if only by oversight; and he does not even admit that she did stand to gain personally by her work.

The former claim he axed, noting that the state's interest goes far beyond curriculum. From Brown vs. Board of Education, he extracted a veritable paean to public education whose glorious language I will spare you from.

The only even slight concession to the appellants occurs here: "Although the students who were questioned may or may not have `learned' anything from the survey itself and may or may not have been `taught' anything by the questions they were asked, the facilitation of their ability to absorb the education the school provides is without question a legitimate educational objective." Judge Reinhardt at this point seems anxious to close off any legal loophole that might be used in the future. He makes a far-fetched assertion. He asserts (with no basis) that the survey makes easier the education of the students being asked the questions. Try as I might, I can't see how this occurs.

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 11, 2005


Keith Burgess Jackson (who is, like me a religious unbeliever) comments: "This fight is not about imposing religion on schoolchildren. It is about keeping scientists from imposing their secularism on schoolchildren"

The fiercely split Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 on Tuesday to adopt new science standards that are the most far-reaching in the nation in challenging Darwin's theory of evolution in the classroom. The standards move beyond the broad mandate for critical analysis of evolution that four other states have established in recent years, by recommending that schools teach specific points that doubters of evolution use to undermine its primacy in science education. Among the most controversial changes was a redefinition of science itself, so that it would not be explicitly limited to natural explanations.

The vote was a watershed victory for the emerging movement of intelligent design, which posits that nature alone cannot explain life's complexity. John G. West of the Discovery Institute, a conservative research organization that promotes intelligent design, said Kansas now had "the best science standards in the nation."

A leading defender of evolution, Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education, said she feared that the standards would become a "playbook for creationism."

The vote came six years after Kansas shocked the scientific and political world by stripping its curriculum standards of virtually any mention of evolution, a move reversed in 2001 after voters ousted several conservative members of the education board. A new conservative majority took hold in 2004 and promptly revived arguments over the teaching of evolution. The ugly and highly personal nature of the debate was on display at the Tuesday meeting, where board members accused one other of dishonesty and disingenuousness.

"This is a sad day, not just for Kansas kids, but for Kansas," Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kan., one of four dissenting board members, said before the vote. "We're becoming a laughingstock not only of the nation but of the world." Ms. Waugh and her allies contended that the board's majority was improperly injecting religion into biology classrooms. But supporters of the new standards said they were simply trying to open the curriculum, and students' minds, to alternative viewpoints.

There is little debate among mainstream scientists over evolution's status as the bedrock of biology, but a small group of academics who support intelligent design have fervently pushed new critiques of Darwin's theory in recent years. Kenneth Willard, a board member from Hutchinson, said, "I'm very pleased to be maybe on the front edge of trying to bring some intellectual honesty and integrity to the science classroom rather than asking students to check their questions at the door because it is a challenge to the sanctity of evolution." Steve E. Abrams of Arkansas City, the board chairman and chief sponsor of the new standards, said that requiring consideration of evolution's critics "absolutely teaches more about science."....

More here


A national curriculum for babies and toddlers has been dismissed as "absolute madness" by parents who fear childhood could be taken from children.

Under the Childcare Bill, childminders would teach the curriculum to children "from birth" until they start school. All three-year-olds in childcare in England would learn rudimentary maths, language and literacy.

But the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations described the proposal as "bizarre". Spokeswoman Margaret Morrissey said: "We are now in danger of taking away children's childhood when they leave the maternity ward. "From the minute you are born and your parents go back to work, as the government has encouraged them to do, you are going to be ruled by the Department for Education. "It is absolute madness."

The proposals for the first threee years of children's development give statutory force to existing guidelines, Birth to Three Matters, published two years ago. But the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses (PANN) also expressed concern. Tricia Pritchard, from PANN, said: "We hope that this will be age-appropriate and flexible as young children develop at different rates. "Children of the same age have different abilities." Deborah Lawson, former chair of PANN and now vice-chair of the Professional Association of Teachers, said: "We do need to have some guidelines and parameters but nothing that is too prescriptive."

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said the curriculum would indeed be flexible and "age specific". The Bill tells childcare providers to give a mixture of "integrated care and education from birth". Introducing it, Ms Hughes said: "We want to establish a coherent framework that defines progression for young children from nought to five. "We are not talking about sitting very young children in chairs and making them learn numbers and letters where that is inappropriate."

The government drew up the new curriculum for toddlers, arguing that research showed earlier education helped children develop faster socially and intellectually. It will build on an existing system which teaches three-year-olds "mathematical development and communication, language and literacy", the Education Department said. The early years foundation stage will have the same compulsory legal force as the national curriculum for schools, Ms Hughes said. She said young children's learning deserved "parity" with that at primary and secondary level, but denied that this would be at the expense of play.



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 10, 2005


Babies are to be taught a "national curriculum" devised by Whitehall, the new Childcare Bill revealed yesterday. Childminders and nurseries will be under a legal duty to teach the Early Years Foundation Stage to children from birth until the age of 3. They will be taught mathematics, reading and writing, according to Beverley Hughes, the Children's Minister. She argued that research showed that earlier education helped children to develop faster both socially and intellectually.

But parents will not be guaranteed childcare under the Bill, despite government promises of a universal service. Instead, local authorities will have a legal duty to provide childcare facilities for working parents only where it is "reasonably practicable".

Ofsted will police the new curriculum with its inspectors checking that children are developing in four distinct headings. The children will be expected to have mastered skills such as comparing, categorising and recognising symbols and marks. Ms Hughes said yesterday that the Bill was a bold move, adding that it would provide a "coherent framework that defines progression for young children from nought to five". She said that young children's education deserved parity with that at primary and secondary level, but denied that this would be at the expense of play. "We are not talking about sitting very young children in chairs and making them learn numbers and letters where that is inappropriate," she said.

The department said that the curriculum would be based on the four stages of development contained in Birth to Three Matters, an advisory document published two years ago. The curriculum will divide a baby's development into four broad areas: heads up, lookers and communicators; sitters, standers and explorers; movers, shakers and players; and walkers, talkers and pretenders. There will be four aspects each containing a check list of components - a strong child, a skilful communicator, a competent learner and a healthy child.

The guidance on which the curriculum will be based says: "Creativity, imagination and representation allow children to share their thoughts, feelings, understanding and identities with others, using drawings, words, movement, music, dance and imaginative play." The Government also pledged yesterday that by 2010 all parents of children aged between 3 and 14 should have access to year-round childcare places from 8am to 6pm.

Ms Hughes said: "It is a truly radical Bill enshrining in law the duty of local authorities to reduce inequalities amongst the youngest children and improve outcomes for all. "It brings, for the first time, the provision of integrated early years education and care into the mainstream of the modern welfare state."

More here


Little kids are happier at home with their families -- something the British government is obviously ignoring

As taxpayers, parents and educators debate the value of public preschool for every child, a new study by UC Berkeley and Stanford researchers finds for the first time that middle-class children -- not just kids from the poorest families -- receive a boost in language and math skills from preschool. But its darker findings bolster earlier, more controversial conclusions that preschool can hinder social development.

The study, "How much is too much? The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Development Nationwide," was released today and comes as Hollywood movie director Rob Reiner leads a group of universal preschool advocates pushing for a June 2006 ballot measure that would tax the wealthiest Californians to fund preschool for all who want it. The study, with its good and bad news, is likely to fuel arguments on both sides of the preschool debate. Universal preschool advocates can seize on the findings that preschool benefits most children in language and math. Those who think scarce preschool resources should continue to go to the poorest children can point to the negative effects on social development, especially for children from the wealthiest families. The study looked not only at aggressive behaviors but also at a child's ability to cooperate and negotiate tasks in a classroom.

"If preschool is expanded, more isn't necessarily better," said UC Berkeley child development research director Margaret Bridges, an author of the study who expressed concern about the negative effects on social development. "Cognitive benefits are great, but we have to pay heed to what's going on with kids emotionally and socially." ....

The researchers found evidence supporting past studies that preschool has the greatest cognitive impact on the poorest children -- those whose families make $16,000 or less. Those children exhibited language and math skills that on average were 8 and 9 percentage points higher, respectively, than their stay-at-home peers. This sort of finding isn't new and has fueled support for the federal Head Start program for poor children. Children from lower-income families -- an economic notch above poor families -- didn't see a statistically significant improvement in language but performed an average of 6 percentage points better in math than peers who didn't attend preschool.

What struck researchers was this: Middle-income children did 5 percentage points better in both language and math than those in that income bracket who stayed at home. And children from the highest income quartile -- those whose families made $66,000 or more -- also saw improvements, although small ones: They performed 3 percentage points above average in language. Their gains in math weren't statistically significant.

These findings -- while positive overall -- don't convince Fuller that universal preschool is the way to use scarce resources. If preschool gives everyone a leg up in either language or math, then a universal program wouldn't close the achievement gap between children from low-income and higher-income families, Fuller argues. "Middle-class families are benefiting, but if we move toward universal preschool, it's not clear that universal preschool would close gaps in early learning because the gain experienced by low-income kids may not ever be enough to catch up with the gain by middle-class kids," Fuller said. ...

The UC Berkeley-Stanford study found that all children who attended preschool at least 15 hours a week displayed more negative social behaviors such as trouble cooperating or acting up, when compared with their peers. The discrepancies were most pronounced among children from higher-income families. Children from lower-income families lagged behind their peers who didn't attend preschool an average of 7 percentage points on the measure of social behavioral growth. But children from higher-income families lagged 9 percentage points behind their peers. These wealthier children did even worse when they attended preschool for 30 hours or more: They trailed their peers by 15 percentage points.

It's not clear why children from higher-income families exhibit more negative behaviors than their stay-at-home peers. Fuller speculated their peers might be in enriching home environments that include things like trips to the library as well as dance and music lessons. Other studies have found childcare centers negatively affect children's social development, said Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck University of London, in an e-mail interview. "It is time to come to grips with what all too many have denied for all too long, namely, that all disconcerting news about adverse effects cannot be attributed to low-quality care, which has been more or less the mantra of the field of child development and the child-care advocacy community for decades," Belsky 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


Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Post lifted from Steven Levitt's blog

Here is proof that citing Freakonomics can be dangerous to your academic health as well. A reader sent in this e-mail the other day, which we now reprint in full-minus the young man's name and college, for obvious reasons.

Dr. Levitt:

I was asked to leave a college classroom because of you. I'm a college student and currently taking Criminology. Among the subjects we're currently studying are Victimization. The professor uses a powerpoint presentation as an aid. We requested the powerpoint because he talked so fast and often gave statistics hard to believe. Now he shows us well documented charts, statistical numbers, and papers from different authors.

I noted he quoted some ideals from "The Changing Relationship Between Income and Crime Victimization" (specifically how poor people are now more likely to be assaulted or robbed). He specifically named Levitt as the author. Having read "Freakonomics", I picked up on the name and readily agreed with the idea.

Later the professor asked the question: "Why did crime fall in the 1990's?" Answers were typical: good economy, more police, etc. I offered a different view with the Roe v Wade approach. The professor immediately accused me of being all sorts of nasty things. I assured him my opinion was not loosely based, but rather well documented. He stuck back that no one in their right mind could possible prove that case had any effect on crime in the 90's. I answered back that one of the authors previously discussed in that very day's discussion wrote the paper and a few follow-ups and also co-authored a book containing that assertion. The professor was so upset at losing ground in the argument that I was asked to leave the room.

Apparently college professors are the ultimate authority on classroom information but not necessarily on the subject's actual facts. Thanks for getting me kicked out the room! I enjoyed every minute of it!


So how to ensure that students, regardless of socioeconomic background, achieve to the best of their ability? In Britain, the Blair Government's white paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All, released late last month, shows one way. In allowing schools more autonomy in staffing and curriculum and giving parents the freedom to choose between government schools, the intention is to pressure schools to be more responsive to community needs, as opposed to what teacher unions and public servants may want to supply. In the words of Tony Blair, there is a need ``to escape the straitjacket of the traditional comprehensive school and embrace the idea of genuinely independent non-fee paying state schools. [The white paper's goal] is to break down the barriers to new providers, to schools associating with outside sponsors, to the ability to start and expand schools; and to give parental choice its proper place.''

The cross-partisan British think tank Reform argues that the Blair Government does not go far enough because it does not propose to introduce vouchers, so that the funding can follow the child, nor allow profit-making companies to manage schools, but the white paper abandons much of existing practice. Historically in Britain, local education authorities control schools, and schools that under-perform continue unchallenged. Under the new set of proposals, not only will the role of local authorities be reduced but also, where there is parental demand, it will be easier to establish new schools that better reflect community needs.

In comparison, the recent Victorian government [Australia] white paper Review of Education and Training Legislation represents a more traditional approach to managing education. Whereas the Blair initiatives push the boundaries, the Victorian white paper stays on safer ground. Victoria's white paper fails to deliver on using results to rank schools in terms of performance, giving parents greater freedom to choose between schools and allowing private providers to manage schools. Although the education rhetoric under the Bracks Government is couched in marketing cliches such as ``best practice'', ``performance and development culture'', ``transparent reporting'' and ``multiple pathways'', the reality is that the system is unresponsive and bureaucratic.

The result? In Victoria and across Australia, such is the level of parental dissatisfaction with government schools that non-government enrolments have grown from 22 per cent in 1980 to 31 per cent in 2004; at years 11 and 12 the figure rises to 39.5 per cent.

Similarly, the ACT Government's response to public schools losing market share also demonstrates a singular inability to think outside the square. ABS figures show government school enrolments dropped from 68 per cent to 59 per cent between 1984 and 2004. Commonsense suggests that if students are going elsewhere, it's logical for governments to examine why and to do something to turn the tide. Not so with those responsible for education in the ACT. Instead of addressing the reasons parents are voting with their feet, the official response is just to get government schools to have a marketing strategy, hold open days and circulate promotional material.

As to why Victoria, and education systems across the rest of Australia for that matter, have failed to adopt more school reform, the reasons are easy to find. As the publication of Going Public: Education Policy and Public Education in Australia suggests, teacher educator organisations such as the Australian Curriculum Studies Association are opposed to opening up the education system to market forces.

The Australian Education Union is also a staunch critic of parental choice in education. The union consistently argues against government funding to non-government schools on the mistaken basis that private schools only serve the elite and that state schools are more effective in promoting social cohesion. In a paper titled Defend Public Education Against an Arrogant Federal Government, the AEU's South Australian president Andrew Gohl argues that parents should not be allowed to ``choose where to send their children and where to spend their education dollar''. Not only is Gohl's argument presumptuous -- suggesting that teachers and public servants, and not parents, know what is right for children -- but, by stifling innovation, state schools are denied the ability to compete against better performing non-government schools. Notwithstanding the $33 billion committed to schools (2005-08), Gohl also argues that the Howard Government may want to ``eliminate funding to the entire education sector -- public and private'' and that innovations such as funding vouchers will ``create a growing divide between the well off and the poor''.

Ignored is the US experience where community managed charter schools established in low socio-economic areas with high black American populations have been successful in strengthening community ties and raising standards. Also ignored is the evidence from the US, summarised by Mark Harrison in his book Education Matters: Government, Markets and New Zealand Schools, that vouchers have been instrumental in improving parental satisfaction and student performance among disadvantaged groups.

The AEU appears unaware of the research carried out by the English academic James Tooley, from the University of Newcastle, demonstrating that private education, especially in developing nations, is a key factor in raising standards among the poor. Tooley has spent some years researching the effectiveness of government and privately run schools in the poorer areas of the world, and he concludes that the research ``both from India and from other developing countries, suggests that private education in general is more effective''.

Finally, the Australian situation, where wealthier parents can afford non-government school fees or the cost of buying a house next door to a high-performing government school, is one already characterised by inequality. If the teacher union and Labor state governments are serious about equity and social justice, then logic suggests that vouchers, where more parents are given the financial ability to choose, and charter schools, where the local community manages the school, should be introduced.

Those opposing change, such as the AEU and many teacher educators, generally characterise as right-wing those pressing for more competition between schools, making school results public and rewarding better performing teachers. Although the label does apply to some advocates of school choice, such as the American economist, Milton Friedman, the same cannot be said of Andrew Leigh, a Canberra-based economist who served as an adviser to the federal ALP from 1998 to 2000. At the recent Australia and New Zealand School of Government conference in Sydney, Leigh argued that ``progressives in Australia had adopted a conservative approach to reform'' and, given the fact that literacy and numeracy scores are falling, that Australia had to follow the reforms introduced in England and the US.

Contrary to the AEU and its argument that any reforms will harm those children already most at risk, Leigh also argues that ``if we block innovation in Australian education, those who suffer will be children in the most disadvantaged schools''.



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 08, 2005


A highly selective and highly successful British private school has decided to accept "the King's shilling" (government funding) and in return has dropped all selectivity in its admissions. So it will become just another of the usual British sink schools where anybody goes and hardly anybody learns anything. It is only the academically selective schools that have provided a small stream of genuinely educated young people to British society. The fact that the school will remain privately run rather than government run may make some difference but not much. It is the quality of the students and the straitjacket of government regulations and requirements which will matter most in dictating the educational outcomes

A private girls' school in Liverpool is on course to join the state sector as an academy [charter school] in the first phase of Tony Blair's plans to take independent education to the State. The Belvedere School, run by the Girls Day School Trust and Sutton Trust, will end selection, admit boys and almost double in size within two years, if talks are successful. Children on Merseyside will be the first to benefit from the private-style teaching, in a move that ministers hope will prompt other leading independent schools to join the controversial programme.

Ministers are likely to use the school to try to win over critics of academies. One government source said that essentially it was "nationalising a private school". Labour MPs are divided over the move, with some welcoming it but others saying that the choice of academy status would be divisive and that independent schools that join the state sector should be subject to local authority controls.

The Belvedere, a 125-year-old independent school, is set to undergo a radical change under the proposals, starting with an end to all fees and academic selection from 2007. The 600-pupil school will specialise in modern languages and be open to all girls in Liverpool aged 11-18, reserving 10 per cent of places for those with an aptitude for its specialism. The sixth form, which will be open to boys, will be vastly expanded - at a cost of "a few million pounds" - to include several hundred pupils. Class sizes will also increase slightly.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust charity, which supports under-privileged children, said he welcomed the chance to extend the school's high-quality education to the whole of Merseyside's children. "My main objection to city academies has been on the grounds of their high capital cost," he said. "I have for some months let the (Education) department know that I would be prepared to help in the setting up of a low-cost academy. This would create a low-cost academy from a school with a high academic reputation which has recently had its most successful GCSE results thanks to the Open Access Scheme."

Companies, charities and the wealthy generally invest œ2 million to sponsor an academy - where average building costs reach œ25 million - and are given control of the governing body in return. To some, the Belvedere is already halfway there. Since 2000 the school has operated a unique "needs-blind" admissions system, with only 30 per cent of parents paying the full œ6,930-a-year fees. The other places are fully or partly funded. The scheme costs both charities œ2 million a year to operate. This summer it paid off with record GCSE results, when the first cohort of girls selected on ability alone passed 63.2 per cent of all their examinations with A* or A grades.

With 19,100 pupils at 25 schools in England and Wales, the Girls Day School Trust (GDST) is the largest provider of private schools in Britain and in a good position to share best practice. "The Open Access scheme has been so successful that we wondered how we might extend it and this goes a long way to broadening its impact," Sue Bridgett, a GDST spokeswoman, said yesterday.

Although academic selection would end at Belvedere, negotiators hope an expanded sixth form would maintain standards.The Government intends opening at least 200 academies by 2010, in traditionally deprived areas, despite opposition from backbench Labour MPs and teaching unions.

In September Mr Blair said that his goal was to "escape the straitjacket of the traditional comprehensive school" and offer "genuinely independent non-feepaying state schools". Government advisers hope achievement levels at state schools will be raised. Last year more than 10 per cent of GDST A-level students gained places at Oxford or Cambridge. A government source said: "We believe having more high-quality non-selective free places in the state system is a good thing, particularly in areas where academic achievement has been too low. This, alongside ceasing academic selection and adopting fair admissions, is key to any private school joining the state system, as we set out in the White Paper."

Although a number of private schools have already joined the state sector, this is the first major independent school. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but as an academy the sponsors will be liable to pay 10 per cent of the capital costs, while all other costs will be paid for by the taxpayer.



Another affirmative action success?

University of California Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, the UC system's second-ranking leader, resigned suddenly Friday amid what UC officials described as an investigation into possibly improper hiring practices and conflict-of-interest concerns. UC President Robert C. Dynes said in a statement Friday afternoon that the university's attorneys and auditors were looking into the role Greenwood, 62, may have played in two recent hirings, including that of her son James for a $45,000-a-year internship at UC Merced. The second involves Lynda Goff, a longtime UC Santa Cruz biology professor recently named to head the UC's new effort to improve science and math education in California. UC officials recently learned that Greenwood and Goff have owned rental property together, according to the statement. "It appears that Provost Greenwood may have been involved in Dr. Goff's hiring to a greater extent than was appropriate, given that her business investment with Dr. Goff had not been properly and fully resolved in accordance with conflict of interest requirements," the statement said.

UC spokesman Michael Reese said he could not comment on whether Greenwood resigned voluntarily. But he emphasized that the investigation was not complete and that there was no presumption of wrongdoing on Greenwood's part. "The president made some decisions very quickly, and this is the result," Reese said.

Greenwood, a biologist and former chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, in February 2004 became the first woman appointed as UC provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Known to friends and colleagues as Marci, she has been widely praised as an articulate, forceful advocate for the university at a time of growing enrollment, rising student fees and tightened resources.

Greenwood, whose resignation was effective immediately, could not be reached for comment. Reese said she had declined to speak with reporters or issue a statement. A tenured professor, Greenwood is expected to return to a teaching or other academic position with the university, Reese said.

More here

But the above looks like a big improvement on just last September, when V.D. Hanson wrote the following rather sarcastic words:

One of President Summers's chief critics, Denice Denton, the newly appointed chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, heralded Mr. Summers's public humiliation as a "teachable moment." As one president to another, she objected: "Here was this economist lecturing pompously [to] this room full of the country's most accomplished scholars on women's issues in science and engineering, and he kept saying things we had refuted in the first half of the day."

But Chancellor Denton has her own shortcomings. They do not revolve around mere impromptu remarks, nor have they been trailed by public apologies and task forces. Yet in its own way her controversy goes to the heart of the same contemporary race-and-gender credo that governs the university, enjoying exemption from normal scrutiny and simple logic.

Before her arrival, Ms. Denton arranged the creation of a special billet--ad hoc, unannounced and closed to all applicants but one: Ms. Denton's live-in girlfriend of seven years, Gretchen Kalonji. Most recognize this as the sort of personal accommodation--old-boy networking, really--that Ms. Denton presumably wishes to replace with affirmative action, thus ending backroom deals and crass nepotism.

But if race and gender--what we now refer to as "diversity"--are to be taken seriously, one wonders whether there was not a qualified African-American or Latina woman who could at least have been interviewed for the lucrative UC position. After all, Chancellor Denton herself praised UC Santa Cruz for its "celebration of diversity." And earlier, she insisted that "it is really shocking to hear the president of Harvard make statements like that," i.e., statements that ever so gently questioned the diversity shibboleth. Consider the reaction had President Summers arrived at a public, tax-supported university and arranged for his live-in girlfriend to have lifelong employment in a specially created job, complete with a subsidized move into a rent-free home.

And a six-figure salary: Gretchen Kalonji's unusual position pays $192,000 a year. Now, it happens that Chancellor Denton--whose salary is $275,000--was granted $68,750 to subsidize the move into the rent-free University President's House. But Ms. Kalonji, too, received a grant for expenses incurred during her "transition" to the Santa Cruz campus--$50,000, in fact.

The decision to pay $120,000 in public money for moving expenses to a couple with a combined salary of $467,000 can be defended, perhaps, but one group was certainly outraged: the university's maintenance staff, secretaries, and blue-collar workers. UC Santa Cruz's workers had not received a raise in three years. Yet in response to questions about her controversial partner accommodation--and the message that it sent to less-fortunate others on the campus--Chancellor Denton did not sound like a woman of the Left. "It's a typical practice," she explained in an interview with the local Santa Cruz Sentinel, "in the corporate world or academia." As if turning for support to the suspect world of capitalism was not enough, Ms. Denton also sought the sanctuary of victimhood, of someone at the mercy of red-state yahoos: "We got caught in the middle of national forces, gay marriage, red-state/blue-state issues and a state ruling. It's a hot item right now, and it heightened the tension. I was kind of surprised at the San Francisco Chronicle coverage saying 'lesbian lover.' It seemed more like a tabloid headline."


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, November 07, 2005


The Saudis are at it again, and this time America's school children are the victims. It's no secret that the princes in Riyadh fund anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic propaganda in mosques and madrassas across the globe. But now a yearlong investigation by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency exposes that the oil kingdom's virulent tentacles also stretch into America's public school system.

The JTA says textbooks used in public schools across the country "are highly critical of democratic institutions and forgiving of repressive ones." The books also "praise and sometimes promote Islam, but criticize Judaism and Christianity and are filled with false assertions."

One such book is the "Arab World Studies Notebook." The JTA reports that it suggests that Jews have "undue influence on U.S. foreign policy" and that its country section omits any information on Israel and only refers to "Palestine." The book writes that the Koran "synthe sizes and perfects earlier revelations," namely Jewish and Christian. According to the JTA the two organizations behind the book - the Arab World and Islamic Resources and the Middle East Policy Council - receive funding from Saudi Arabia: AWAIR from the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company and MPEC directly from Riyadh. According to MPEC's Web site it has "conducted Workshops in 175 different cities in 43 states," which "more than 16,000 educators have attended."

The American Jewish Committee published a study in February criticizing the book and urged "school districts across the nation" to ban it. A spokesman for the AJCommittee, Kenneth Bandler, told The New York Sun that they haven't been able to track whether the book is used in New York City's schools but that "it's possible." The director of communications for the New York City department of education, Stephen Morello, queried by the Sun, said that the department launched an "aggressive effort to find out" whether the book was used in the city's schools. Mr. Morello told the Sun that the book was not found as far as he can tell in the city's schools and that it is "unlikely it is being used."

The department of education has a good record in removing unsuitable influences from its schools and teachers. In February the city's schools chancellor, Joel Klein, barred the head of Columbia University's Middle East Institute, Rashid Khalidi, from lecturing the city's teachers on how to teach the Middle East. Whether other education departments across the country follow New York's lead and investigate whether Saudi propaganda is being taught in their classrooms will be something for the Congress and parents to watch.



Arnold Schwarzenegger and his supporters have managed to get several items on the November 8 California ballot, including the proposal to extend the trial period for government primary and secondary education teachers to five years rather than the current two before they receive tenure. Well, actually, they do not receive “tenure” in the sense of full job security but after two years they can only be let go by meeting various “due process” requirements—e.g., showing they are incompetent or have broken some laws.

Ordinary employment situations rarely involve tenure, even in this restricted fashion. If you hire someone to mow your lawn, clean your home, handle your tax returns, or flip hamburgers at your fast food restaurant, you can simply discontinue the relationship if you want to. You need not demonstrate good reasons for this, although you may get some resistance if you don’t—complaints, a bad reputation as an employer, etc. Or you can negotiate an employment agreement that spells out the conditions under which you may be let go, even conditions under which you may leave. It all depends on what the contract says.

The policy of tenure, to which a great many government educational institutions—as well as quite a few private ones that need to follow suit so as to be able to compete—involves getting substantial job security after a probationary period. The tenure at universities and colleges usually amounts to job security provided the entire institution is experiencing an economic down turn. (In state universities and colleges, of course, this is usually met with raising taxes, thus meeting the economic pressure, although even that can come to an end eventually.) Only if one commits a crime or grossly misbehaves will tenure provide no protection of one’s teaching position. But it usually takes seven years to achieve tenure.

The traditional argument for tenure, especially at state higher education institutions, had been that it will protect professors with controversial ideas from arbitrary treatment from the administration. At elementary and high schools this traditional justification is virtually completely moot. Here the reasoning tends to be that given the low pay of teachers, they will at least receive job security and thus have a pretty good reason to carry on properly, even excel, at their profession.

Problem is that there’s an imbalance involved in teachers receiving tenure, even of the moderate sort that guarantees due process when and if they are to be dismissed. Think about it for a moment—why must the school provide due process when a teacher is let go but the teacher who wants to leave can do so at will? If, in other words, schools are forced by law to show cause for letting a teacher go, why isn’t a teacher required, by law, to show cause for wanting to leave?

When I recently posed this question to some who support the existing tenure system of California’s public elementary and high schools, the question wasn’t even understood. Yet it is plain—if one side in the employment relationship must show cause for discontinuing that relationship, surely it is only fair that the other side should do so as well. Otherwise we have a case of blatant unjust discrimination!

Of course, how the employment relationship should be structured should actually be left to the agreement that employees and employers reach among themselves. That is how adult men and women should comport themselves in a free society. If, then, teachers can negotiate a tenure-like contract, as well as being able to leave anytime they wish, so be it. If not, so be it again.

You may think, well the bargaining situation is quite uneven. School administrators have a lot more clout than teachers, so teachers cannot be expected to negotiate a favorable employment agreement. But this is completely wrong. The institutional clout of school administrators is matched virtually fully by the clout of school teachers—by means of their unions. These unions enjoy even more clout than in justice they should have, given that governments have rules that mandate from employers the very conditions that should be left up to the bargaining process to settle. For example, many unions are authorized, in law, to bargain for employees who are non-members. Non-members of many unions, especially public service unions, are required to pay dues. (This varies some from state to state!)

There is also the injustice that governments have largely eliminated the choice educational customers have, the choice that customers of department, grocery, or shoe stores take for granted. They are, instead, virtual monopolies. So their unions have even more clout than those in the private sector where if a firm is struck, customers can shop at another firm. (Indeed, the whole notion of public service unionization is an anomaly in a free society.)

Alas, in our day certain people have come to take their special, unjust privileges for granted, so much so that even to bring up the issue of this injustice strikes them as bizarre. But that is no excuse for intelligent citizens to let the matter pass.



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, November 06, 2005


Staff at the AQA exam board have said that they detected 'blatant copying of material from the internet' in some of this year's coursework for GCSE English, and that some schools gave students so much help it amounted to 'a kind of mass plagiarism'.

Another board, Edexcel, said teacher guidance stretched what was acceptable: 'More insidiously worrying [than blatant plagiarism] is the growth of what one moderator described as "teaching by numbers" and there were other references to "over reliance on teacher notes" and "similar responses within a centre"', said its report. Meanwhile, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) prepares to publish the results of a two-year inquiry into cheating in school exams.

Yes, this is all very worrying. But what else can we expect, in a culture of grade inflation that abhors failure and views educational success purely in terms of a rising pass rate? For some years, university lecturers have been warning that the cult of course work, projects and 'portfolios' in schools are churning out students who simply don't know how to write an essay, and are unaware that including verbatim sources from the internet amounts to plagiarism. Teachers are under such pressure to ensure that their students pass their assessments that it can hardly be a shock if some lose sight of where hand-holding and handout-giving ends and writing their students' assignments begins. And though they can barely fail to get the grades as a result, the biggest losers are the students, who have been cheated of a decent education in the name of improving educational attainment. Bring back the prospect of failure in education - and with it, the freedom for students to think for themselves.



Parents' rights were not violated when a Southern California elementary school conducted a psychological survey of their children and asked them about sexual feelings and masturbation, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco pointedly refrained from commenting on what the judges termed "the wisdom of ... some of the particular questions'' that were asked of children in grades one, three and five in the Palmdale School District in Los Angeles County. But the court said parents, while entitled to make basic decisions about a child's upbringing, have no constitutional right to control what they are taught at school or what questions they are asked.

"Parents have a right to inform their children when and as they wish on the subject of sex,'' said Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the 3-0 ruling. "They have no constitutional right, however, to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise.''

One of the Palmdale parents, Tammany Fields, said she was surprised and dismayed. "It gives the schools more control and the parents less control,'' Fields said. "I believe it should truly be the parents' decision to educate a child on appropriate questions about sex.'' She said she, her husband and four other parents haven't decided whether to appeal further. Their suit sought damages for violations of their right to privacy and their civil rights. Fields said her son came home from his fifth-grade class one day in 2001, asked to speak to her privately, and told her about the questions he and his classmates had been asked. He told her he was offended, she said.

The survey, intended to measure children's exposure to early trauma, was designed by a district counselor who was studying for a master's degree in psychology. Parents had consented to the survey after being told of its overall nature but were not informed of specific questions. Students were asked 79 questions about how often they had certain thoughts, feelings and experiences, such as anger, bad dreams and suicidal impulses. Ten of the questions concerned sexual topics, including how often they thought about sex or whether they were "touching ... private parts too much.''

The survey was discontinued after parents complained. The district's lawyer, Dennis Walsh, said school officials ultimately "recognized the inappropriateness of some of the questions.'' But he said the court rightly found that school curriculum is controlled by school boards, subject to the limitations of state law -- for example, California law allows parents to remove their children from sex education classes.

Reinhardt, in Wednesday's ruling, said the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in the 1920s that parents' rights to raise their children included the right to decide whether a child goes to public or private school. But a parent's constitutional prerogatives do not extend beyond the schoolhouse door, he said.



"If the United States is to preserve our system of free public schools, teacher unions are going to have to stop accepting the status quo and making excuses for the poor performance of our students. Most of us know that contrary to all of the talk about how we are raising our standards, in most of our schools they continue to decline. The low scores on the so-called high stakes tests are testimony to the fact that large numbers of students leave school knowing next to nothing and ill equipped for any but the most menial of jobs. While many of our most talented young people spend their days in so-called accelerated courses with curricula once thought more appropriate to the college level, too many of them have whizzed right by basic skills and cannot string together three coherent sentences or know to any degree of certainty if they have received the correct change in a store. We must face the fact that some of the right-wing critique of public education, particularly their criticism of the ever inflating costs of public education, resonates with the American public because it is true, or at least truer than some of the blather put out by the people who run the schools and the unions who represent the people who work in them. If it is true that our freedom is ultimately tied to our being an enlightened and educated citizenry, we are in terrible trouble.

Excuse number one - We don't have enough money to meet the educational needs of our students. While too many of our school districts do need more financial resources, resources that many find impossible to raise through the regressive property tax, the fact of the matter is too many of them also waste a substantial portion of what they have, a good piece of the waste mandated by state and federal law. I've written elsewhere about the administrative bloat in school districts where level upon level of bureaucracy insures that teachers and educational support staff are over scrutinized and under supervised to the point where teaching innovation and imagination are increasingly giving way to the routines of educational programs, particularly in math and English, that are intended to make teaching thinking-free. We have program upon program upon program. Can anyone seriously say that our students know more and are more skilled than they used to be? With entrepreneurial aplomb some crafty educators have gone corporate, developing and skillfully marketing programs for everything from mathematics to values education. School districts employ large numbers of central office administrators who then turn around and hire consultants who often come selling their programmatic wares. Where are the NEA and AFT to challenge this pentagon-like waste in our schools?

Meanwhile, over forty school districts on Long Island defeated their school budgets last spring. Pressed by ever-escalating property taxes, citizens were in revolt. That revolt, I fear, will spread as the middle class in the United States is squeezed more and more by a taxation system designed by and for the rich and an economy that increasingly is either exporting or abolishing the good jobs that used to support a comfortable middle class life. If education unions do not become outspoken advocates for economy in our schools, they will find taxpayers increasingly revolting against them. Surely some of the budget defeats on Long Island were aided by the local newspaper's articles on teachers earning over one hundred thousand dollars a year".



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