Sunday, December 31, 2006

A vision for Hispanic education

Like many millions of other immigrants, New Yorker Herman Badillo is living the American Dream. His new book, "One Nation, One Standard," is a call to arms for Hispanics who are being shut out of that dream. So why are some of Mr. Badillo's fellow Hispanic Americans now calling him a race traitor and bashing his book even before it was published yesterday?

We'll get to that, but first consider the credentials Mr. Badillo brings to his subject. He arrived in the U.S. as an 11-year-old orphan in 1941 and by 1970 was elected the first Puerto Rican-born U.S. congressman. Mr. Badillo has since been deputy mayor of New York under Ed Koch, run for mayor himself and was former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's counsel on education, eventually leading efforts to reform and restore to excellence the City University of New York system.

Out of this experience comes Mr. Badillo's blueprint for immigrant success in America. The main focus of "One Nation, One Standard" is the Hispanic community, and his central theme is education, without which, he emphasizes, no amount of work or other opportunity will help a person rise. What's got his critics in a tizzy is Mr. Badillo's assertion that Hispanic parents cannot depend on the government to educate their children. Instead, he says, they must push their kids and rise up against a system that steers Hispanic and other minority children into segregated classrooms of designated underachievers.

The critics have focused on a few phrases in the book noting that the Hispanic immigrant community has not always placed as high a value on education as, for instance, Asians have. This is not an insult and does not sound like one when you actually read his book. As Mr. Badillo explains, the Hispanic cultural experience was formed in part by centuries of Spanish colonialism and the feudalism it spawned in Latin America, followed by decades of dictatorships and strongmen. This cruel legacy has imbued many people with a subconscious notion that stations in life don't change, and a sense that help can only come through the luck of having a benevolent leader.

"One Nation, One Standard" calls on Hispanic Americans to throw off those mental shackles and claim the rights and opportunities that other citizens enjoy. His goal, he told us in an interview this week, is to sound an alarm that what is now the country's major immigrant group is at risk of becoming the first such group not to follow the path of each generation doing better than the last.

Although his book covers many topics--including immigration--its most important audience is the parents of Hispanic kids, 50% of whom don't graduate from high school. His advice: Don't leave education up to the schools, which pursue such failed policies as "social promotion" (said to create self-esteem despite failing grades) or "tracking" with other minority children into deceptively named "academic courses," while kids marked for success study a more rigorous curriculum. Get involved and demand that your children be prepared to participate fully in the American dream, through college and beyond.

If Mr. Badillo is generating controversy by suggesting that America's Hispanics are being sidetracked in the name of multiculturalism, or hobbled by bilingual education, he welcomes the attention. "That was the reason" to write the book, he says. "To provoke a recognition that this issue cannot be hidden any longer and has to come to the forefront of a national discussion. Because we can no longer allow this to fester from generation to generation."


NYT: End the dance of the lemons

Post lifted from Edspresso

The sea change at the New York Times continues apace:

The United States has a long and shameful history of dumping its least effective, least qualified teachers into the schools that serve the neediest children. The No Child Left Behind Act requires the states to end this practice. But the states are unlikely to truly improve teacher quality — or spread qualified teachers more equitably throughout the schools — until they pay more attention to how teachers are trained, hired, evaluated and assigned.

To get control of the assignment process, districts will need to abandon union rules that basically guarantee senior teachers the right to change schools whenever they want — even if the principal of the receiving school does not want them — by bumping a less senior teacher out of his or her job.

Read carefully, folks--that's the New York Times calling for shedding union rules related to dumping mediocre teachers.  As I've stated elsewhere: if even the NYT is getting onboard with this stuff, I'd say the debate is shifting in a positive direction. 


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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Saturday, December 30, 2006


Parents are tackling universities over poor grades and lack of teaching time as they seek better value for money from their children’s degrees. As students increasingly turn to their families to help with tuition fees, Baroness Deech, head of the student complaints watchdog, has given warning that parental disgruntlement will escalate.

Last year the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), which was set up to handle student complaints against universities, upheld a third of the 350 cases it investigated. Of those, almost half (43 per cent) involved students challenging exam results. They felt they deserved better grades or were treated unfairly at appeal. Universities had to pay about 260,000 pounds in compensation.

This is known as the “my little Lucy syndrome” — when middle-class parents challenge their son or daughter’s disappointing degree result. While a 2:2 from a top university was acceptable a decade ago, a 2:1 is now a prerequisite for many high-paid jobs. So as parents prepare to pay off their children’s fees to spare them years of debt, they are beginning to question what they are getting for their money.

“Parents will fill in forms saying, ‘My little Lucy has a first-class brain and certainly should have been awarded more than a lower second degree’,” Lady Deech told The Times. “We then go to the university, which says, ‘Well, she had an average brain and a good time here, and did averagely well’. But the parents have invested in her so they want more.”

Although she has yet to receive complaints since the introduction of 3,000 pounds-a-year top-up fees in the autumn, Lady Deech predicts that the number will rise “because of the growth in higher education and the fact that the job market isn’t as exciting for graduates as it was 20 to 30 years ago unless they have a good degree. “So if they find that the degree that they have is lower than they believe their rightful grade to be, they will find ways to challenge that decision.” She suggests that universities employ independent mediators, as in America and Australia. The adjudicator operates an open-door policy, all advice is given and sought in confidence, there are no notes and he or she is either the first port of call, as in America, or the last, as in Australia.

Although her office has received few complaints arising from the recent strike by lecturers, students are already seeking better value for money. Last month, students at the University of Bristol complained after learning that they were to have two hours’ lecture time a week in their final year, instead of a promised six.

The complaints followed a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, which exposed how older research-led universities often pass off teaching to postgraduate assistants. It found that more than 90 per cent of tutorials and seminars at new universities were taught by academics, compared with 70 per cent at older institutions, with the exception of Oxford and Cambridge.

Last year the OIA’s first annual report also revealed that students studying “subjects allied to medicine” were behind 60 per cent of all complaints. They were followed by students studying creative arts and design, business administration and law. Veterinary students and architects were least likely to complain. Postgraduate students were five times more likely to complain than undergraduates, and non-EU students were slightly more likely to lodge a complaint than EU students. Most complaints were made by white British students (38.5 per cent), followed by African students (19.3 per cent).



Of a sort

A groundbreaking voucher system is being introduced to schools in England for the first time next week in an attempt to meet the educational needs of the brightest pupils. Under the initiative the country's brightest 800,000 pupils will receive vouchers to spend on extra lessons, such as "master classes" at university-run summer schools, online evening classes or even web-based courses from Nasa, the US space agency.

Every primary and secondary school will be told to supply the names of 10 per cent of their pupils who best meet the new criteria for the "gifted and talented" programme when they complete the January schools census. Only 5 per cent of pupils achieving top marks in national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds have been eligible for funding under the programme. The new project would ensure that the brightest 10 per cent in each school were selected, regardless of how many pupils met the present criteria. Each pupil will initially receive 151 credits that act as vouchers towards extra lessons.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister, and delivered by the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT), a non-profit education company. CfBT will invite companies, independent schools, universities and other educational bodies to offer activities for an agreed fee. The move is an attempt to prove that Labour values gifted and talented pupils and that they can expect a high standard of education in the state, as well as private, sector.

However, the voucher initiative is likely to prove controversial among many Labour backbenchers who oppose the notion of pupils as "consumers" in an education market, and teachers who believe that the plan is divisive and elitist. The Conservatives recently ditched plans to give parents a flat-rate voucher of 5,000 pounds a year to spend at the school of their choice, state or private.

An initial 65 million pounds has been earmarked for the credit system, with extra money coming from the Government's existing 930 million "personalised learning" programme. Lord Adonis said: "The national register set up earlier this year will enable thousands more gifted and talented children to be identified, especially late developers and those underachieving because of social disadvantage. This register will ensure they are identified early and get the appropriate learning opportunities inside and outside school."

Tim Emmett, development director for CfBT, said: "The Government is seeing this as part of school improvement, rather than a lifeboat for a few bright children. If you can raise the metre for 10 per cent of children in a school, you can do it for the other 90 per cent as well."

The voucher scheme follows plans announced earlier this year to cherry-pick the brightest children in English state schools from the age of 11 for places at top universities. The controversial move was denounced by some Labour MPs as a new system of "super-selection" that effectively made the final tests at primary school a university entrance exam. Critics also pointed out that it left little room for late developers, and in particular boys, who do less well in all tests except mathematics at 11. However, it was welcomed by academics as a way of opening up university admissions without lowering standards.

The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has already identified 180,000 children aged 11 to 17 from their Key Stage 2 exams, taken by all pupils attending state primary schools. Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the trust, said he was determined that no child should be overlooked as a result of a poor secondary school education. In a letter sent to all schools, he asked head teachers to help pupils to realise their full potential and told them that he expected each child to achieve straight A grades at A level.



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Friday, December 29, 2006


What could possibly be the connection between school desegregation and the mystifying phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"? Something critically important, it turns out. Both have spurred legal battles that have risen to the U.S. Supreme Court, and both demonstrate that a public school system that demands everyone's support but can only reflect some people's values will inevitably lead to conflict.

Earlier this month, the court heard arguments on school integration cases from Louisville and Seattle in which plaintiffs challenge enrollment policies that consider race in deciding who can attend specific public schools. In Jefferson County, Ky., which contains Louisville, parents are allowed to choose among many district schools, but no school's enrollment can be less than 15% or more than 50% African American. The result: Students have been denied admission to the schools of their choice on the basis of their race.

Seattle's system was similar, considering race in determining who could attend high schools to which more students applied than could be accommodated. (The district suspended use of race when it was challenged in 2001.) If a child's race would have gotten a school closer to an enrollment mix of 40% white and 60% minority -- roughly the district's overall complexion -- the child got an admissions advantage.

The desire to promote integration and diversity is laudable. Indeed, because Seattle and Jefferson County public schools are government entities, they have an obligation to ensure that benefits are distributed equally. But that's also the biggest failure of their integration plans. Rather than letting all parents choose the best schools for their children, the districts have kept kids out of good schools because of their race. As Louisville mother Tamila Glenn, whose son was forced to change schools between kindergarten and first grade, put it: "It's like saying, 'You can only play with these people because you have too many black friends,' " when you talk to your child.

So how does the bong hits case, which the court recently agreed to hear, pit irreconcilable values against each other as the integration controversies do? It goes back to January 2002, when Juneau-Douglas High School student Joseph Frederick held up a sign emblazoned with "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as the Olympic torch passed through Juneau, Alaska. Frederick refused to put the sign down when Principal Deborah Morse ordered him to, so Morse suspended him, asserting that she could not allow a student to encourage illegal drug use and defy her instructions. Because citizens have a right to expect that the schools for which they pay won't permit behavior that disrupts learning, or promotes illegal activity, Morse did what she had to. But then there are those pesky competing values again: While districts must maintain order, government may not punish speech just because some people find it inappropriate.

"We thought we had a free-speech right to display a humorous saying," Frederick has explained. Unfortunately, while Frederick's sign might have been unique (though not, frankly, all that funny), neither the fight over it, nor the Seattle and Louisville cases, is the least bit novel. The sad reality is that public schooling forces Americans to fight constant, values-laden battles not just over race or free speech, but a myriad of other issues as well, including sex education, religious expression, homosexuality, evolution, and so on. The Christmas season sparks some of the fiercest battles of all. These conflicts are inevitable: No school can simultaneously respect all speech and censor disruptive expression; engineer integration and be colorblind; celebrate Christmas and be totally secular, and so on. As a result, citizens have no choice but to engage in political combat to get what they want from the schools they are forced to fund.

Thankfully, since these battles have a common cause, they also have a common solution: unfettered school choice, in which the public ensures that everyone can afford an education, but individual parents and autonomous schools decide what values they'll embrace. Want a racially diverse student body, as many parents, both black and white, do? Pick a school that has one. Not fond of kids talking up bongs? Choose a private institution where children check their speech rights at the door. Want to end the fighting? Let parents select the schools they like, and the underlying cause of combat will disappear.

Whether it's an issue as contentious as race, or as strange as a kid's sign about bongs, public education is beset by constant political warfare. But it doesn't have to be. All we need to do is set people free.


Australian government tackles Islamic bigotry in schools

The Howard Government is to roll out a pilot program in schools in Muslim areas of western Sydney that will address the compatibility of Islamic and Australian values and the wearing of religious attire, including headscarves. The $1 million federally funded three-year program to improve understanding of other faiths and cultures will be run at schools in the suburbs of Lakemba, which has a large Muslim population, and Macquarie Fields, the site of youth riots last year. The move comes amid broader efforts to reshape Australia's ethnic affairs policies to put a greater emphasis on integration and English-language skills.

The pilot, which will run in up to 16 schools, aims to "reduce isolation and alienation felt by some students" and to "support Australian Muslims to participate successfully in the broader Australian society", according to a government-issued request for tenders to establish and manage the program. Education Minister Julie Bishop said the pilot, to be rolled out next year, would investigate the "challenges facing students in a range of school environments, and will seek to establish best practice which will help us to further encourage tolerance and social cohesion through school education". "It is important to help all Australian schools educate our children about values which support our democratic way of life and our capacity to live in harmony with each other, regardless of individuals' circumstances, backgrounds or beliefs," she said.

But some Islamic community leaders said they were concerned that some of the material being developed for the pilot could create negative sentiment about Muslim students wearing headscarves and other religious attire. Controversy about the wearing of headscarves by young girls has raged throughout Europe since the France banned public school students from wearing them in 2004. Belgium adopted a similar ban and Germany and Denmark banned public school teachers from wearing them. In October, the debate flared when British Prime Minister Tony Blair described full-face veils as a "mark of separation". Several Liberal MPs have indicated they support banning headscarves in local schools.

Material being developed for the pilot includes questions about whether religious/cultural attire creates challenges in schools. The material developed for the pilot must also "identify a series of challenges faced by Muslims and non-Muslims in schools, i.e. the compatibility of Islamic values with Australian values and cultures ... gender relation issues and cultural/religious attire," the request for tender said.

Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad, who is based in the Lakemba area, said he was concerned that debate about religious attire would be reignited as a result of the pilot. "I am worried that this could result in greater fears rather than something constructive or positive -- the last thing we need is to reinvent the wheel when it comes to religious attire in schools." Ameer Ali, former chair of the Prime Minister's hand-picked Muslim Reference Group, said the program should have pilots in each state rather than just in Lakemba and Macquarie Fields.



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

WSU Faculty Muzzles GOP Students?

It's a shame that the Moscow-Pullman Daily News imposes a firewall on its online version. On Monday, it published a front-page story by E. Kirsten Peters in which all three officers of the WSU College Republican student organization claim that instructors routinely squelch their attempts to present conservative ideas, even calling it "hate speech." The College of Liberal Arts is the most notorious one for being, what GOP treasurer Jeffrey Kromm claims, openminded "until you disagree with them."

An example of this "openmindedness," according to club president Daniel Ryder's statements in the article, was a one-sided discussion featuring an anti-Wal-Mart movie. Those who wanted to present the other side were called "disruptive."

"The total effect of this kind of faculty-sponsored censorship in class discussions can be wearying, the Republican students said. 'There are times I feel alone,' said club member Brendon Kepner. 'The censorship is horrendous in some classes. Any rational person who believes in the what America stands for isn't encouraged to speak up in discussions,'" continues the article. And this is a university in a conservative area.



Bellarmine University is a Catholic coeducational liberal arts institution in Louisville, Kentucky

A choice by a self-proclaimed student supporter of some Nazi ideas to wear a "Blood & Honour" armband both on and off the Bellarmine University campus this semester has led to fierce debate over freedom of expression at the Roman Catholic institution in Louisville. Administrators have created a committee to study what to do, while professors and students cope with what some are calling blatant intimidation left unchecked - and that others see as free expression.

Meanwhile, Andrei Chira, a freshman, continues to wear the armband, which he says is part of standing up for what he believes in. Chira said Wednesday that the band - which depicts a symbol similar to a swastika - is his way of showing support for National Socialism. Believers in the "Blood & Honour" philosophy have traditionally been associated with "white pride and white power," according to the Web site of the American National Socialist Party. However, Chira said that racial and ethnic issues are not the reason he wears the band and that he doesn't support anti-Semitism and racism. Rather, he ascribes to the philosophy that it's important to "think about what you believe in," and he said he favors the concept of nationalism over party affiliation.

Chira grew up in Irvine, California after his family moved there from Romania when he was 4. In high school, he said, he often wore pins that proclaimed his support for National Socialism. As more people took notice of his band and realized what it stood for, he's been told by some students and professors that one can't half support the positions of a group. "Yes, you can," said Chira, noting that he's good friends with his Jewish residential adviser and has black friends. "Are all Democrats against the war? Are all Republicans for the war?" he asked.

Chira's girlfriend, Jaye Popplewell, also a freshman at the university, said Wednesday that, while she considers herself a "heeb hippie" (though she's not Jewish) on the opposite end of the spectrum than Chira, she supports her boyfriend's choice of expression. "I don't agree with it, but I will fight to the death for his right to wear it," she said of the armband. Several student protesters held a "Sit In for Free Speech" on Monday outside of administrators' offices in an effort to pre-empt any attempts by the university to make Chira remove the band.

While Chira believes strongly in his ideas, he said that he'd take off the band if asked to do so by administrators. He said he would never consider leaving the college over this issue because he believes that the private institution can make its own rules. Questions about Chira's motivations linger, however. When the student first started wearing the band earlier in September, Laura Ward, former president of the Bellarmine University Democrats, says she heard a student ask him why he was wearing it. "His response was, `Well, I'm a Nazi,' reflected Ward via e-mail Wednesday. "Now Andrei says that he is in fact a supporter of the American National Socialists, and not a Nazi or a white-supremacist. I have not spoken with Andrei himself, so I am hesitant to say whether or not I believe that this is true.

"What I do know is this: The American National Socialist party has 25 points, point four of which states, `Only members of the nation may be citizens of the state. Only those of pure White blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Non-citizens may live in America only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens. Accordingly, no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation.' I find this point offensive and discriminatory, and there are other points that I find equally derogatory."

Chira admitted that earlier in the semester he had called himself a Nazi, but has changed his mind about that label, saying he "realize[s] that it is pejorative." Fred Rhodes, the university's vice president for student affairs, released a statement indicating that the institution "fully supports and embraces freedom of expression. Bellarmine is committed to the principle of free speech - even when, as is the case with some of the issues we are addressing now - that speech or expression is contrary to the values this institution holds most dear," said Rhodes. "We believe the best way to defeat abhorrent expressions and concepts such as these is to expose them in the open market place of ideas." "At the same time," said Rhodes, "Bellarmine University is fully committed to the safety of everyone at the university. No member of the campus community should be threatened, intimidated or harassed by another."

In response to that statement, Joshua Golding, chairman of the university's philosophy department, sent an e-mail to faculty members and students at the school, encouraging them to pressure the administration to ask that the student remove the band. "The public wearing of a neo-Nazi symbol is definitely `intimidating' to many persons on this campus," he wrote. "Any person who wears such a symbol is in effect saying the following: `I know that this symbol is associated with a group that has unrepentantly perpetrated hatred and denigration of certain minority groups, as well as engaged in murder and torture of innocent people, and I AM PROUD to be associated with this group!'" He added, "Our tolerance of `diversity' does not need to include those who openly identify themselves with racist hate groups. On the contrary, the college is obligated to ask such persons to either keep hateful views to themselves, or to leave."

In response to such views, Joseph J. McGowan, the president of the university, issued a statement that said "some among us appear not to understand the necessity and importance of free speech in an open and conversational university - and the unique opportunity that only this free speech provides for destroying the viability of hateful, exclusionary ideas." To promote a study of hate speech and conduct and to better understand Chira's views, McGowan has created a task force, which is to submit its findings and recommendations to him. The group includes the provost and the vice president for student affairs, the chairs of the faculty and the staff councils, the director of human resources and the president of the student government association. The group is expected to meet for the first time within the next two weeks.

"I personally do not care what is going on in [Chira's] head," Golding said via e-mail regarding the decision to create the task force. "To me that's irrelevant. The symbol he wears is a neo-Nazi symbol. "I note (with irony) that the student wearing the neo-Nazi symbol has not been asked to serve on the task force," said Golding. "I wonder why? Shouldn't he have a chance to express his view there, too?"

Chira said Wednesday that a password-protected bulletin board, accessible to Bellarmine students and faculty, has been created by the university officials, as a place to discuss the issues raised by his armband. He said that he thinks it's a "definitely a step in the right direction" since hundreds of students are now posting about freedom of expression issues on campus. Still, he wouldn't want this debate talked about back home in Irvine. "My dad would kick my ass if he knew all this was happening," said Chira.


Australia: School chaplains must not preach religion???

What a nutty idea. It can't last

School chaplains will have to sign a code of conduct that prevents them from touching students and bans the preaching of religion, under a controversial $90 million government scheme. Chaplains who refuse to sign the code will not be allowed to take part in the National School Chaplaincy Program, which provides grants of up to $20,000 a year for public and private schools to run chaplaincy services.

The code states that school chaplains must avoid physical contact with a student unless it is "strictly necessary", such as if the student is injured. Chaplains must acknowledge that proselytising is not appropriate, and avoid using theological language that "assumes people have the same beliefs". The details were released last week by the federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, who said chaplains were "an invaluable service to the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of school communities".

The guidelines state there must be extensive consultation with the school community, especially parents, about the need for a chaplaincy service, and the religious affiliation of the chaplain. Schools are required to provide information to students and parents, such as through newsletters or handouts, emphasising use of a chaplaincy service is voluntary.

Public school teachers and principals have strongly criticised the federal scheme. The Australian Education Union believes it will subsidise the work of private schools, while the Australian Secondary Principals Association described it as inflexible and "fundamentally flawed". The union's Victorian president, Mary Bluett, said the Government should instead target the funding to public schools, and make the money available for all types of welfare workers - not just chaplains. "It's discriminating against those school communities who believe that a chaplain is not the best resource for their community."

Existing child protection regulations for schools in NSW already prevent teachers from inappropriately touching students. The president of the NSW Secondary Schools Principals Council, Jim McAlpine, said the scheme was a waste of public money which could be spent targeting counselling services for schools. "I just see it as another way of John Howard transferring taxpayer money to private schools," he said. The deputy president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the chaplains policy was "misguided and divisive".



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The folly of counting by race

Vouchers, not compulsion, reduces racial segregation in U.S. schools

Can public schools accept or reject students based on their race? Last week, the Supreme Court took up that question in a pair of school integration cases from Seattle and Louisville. In each case, students were denied admission to their chosen public schools because they were not the right color to increase racial balance.

Supporters of race-based student assignment, from the NAACP to MTV, believe it promotes socially and educationally valuable interaction among white and minority students. In reality, these policies have been about as effective at producing meaningful integration and educational excellence as arranged marriages are at manufacturing true love.

Even in their most basic goal of achieving racial balance in school-level enrollment, forced integration policies have fallen short. Harvard's Civil Rights Project has observed that public schools are little more racially integrated today than they were before such policies were introduced, with "more than 70% of the nation's black students now attend[ing] predominantly minority schools."

The historical attempt to force racial balance through busing not only failed to integrate schools, it dramatically increased residential segregation by accelerating the shift of the predominantly white middle class to the suburbs. (Middle-class blacks fled, too, but were fewer in number.) Denying students their chosen public school drives still more families out of urban districts. Court documents show that in 2001 alone, 30 students left the Seattle Public School District because they ran afoul of the racial assignment policy. Many of these families will likely move to suburban districts, and since most of the students rebuffed under this policy are white, that will further aggravate residential segregation.

It is not even clear that racial balance at the school level is the right goal, since it does not guarantee meaningful integration. Students commonly sort themselves into cliques along racial or ethnic lines, having relatively little interaction with those outside their own group. Sociologists such as James Moody of Ohio State University have demonstrated that "simple exposure does not promote integration." So schools that seem "integrated" on paper do not always have meaningfully integrated hallways, lunchrooms, or even classrooms.

There is a better way: providing a system of financial assistance so that all families have access to the public or private schools of their choice. A recent study by Greg Forster of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation finds that "private schools are actually less segregated than public schools when examined at the classroom level; and that private schools participating in voucher programs...are much less segregated than public schools." A study by Duke University economist Thomas Nechyba also finds that such programs would significantly reduce residential income segregation -- which would help to undo the perverse residential segregation effects caused by compulsory integration policies.

What's more, integration in the private sector tends to be more meaningful. A multi-city study of school lunchrooms by Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas found that children are more likely to choose to sit with peers of different races in private schools than in public ones. In other words, private school students are less likely to have their friendships broken up along racial lines than are public school students.

Finally, the most significant educational benefits to private schooling tend to be enjoyed by African American students, both in achievement and graduation rates. Economist Derek Neal has found that African American students attending urban Catholic schools are vastly more likely to complete high school, be accepted to college, and complete college than similar students who attend public schools. And a review by Harvard University researcher Paul Peterson and others finds that the academic achievement gains to students attending private schools under voucher programs are greatest among black students.

More than 150 years ago, a young graduate of the New York African Free School lamented his career options, writing: "Am I arrived at the end of my education, just on the eve of setting out into the world, of commencing some honest pursuit, by which to earn a comfortable subsistence? What are my prospects?...Shall I be a mechanic? No one will employ me; white boys won't work with me. Shall I be a merchant? No one will have me in his office; white clerks won't associate with me. Drudgery and servitude, then are my prospective portion."

Today, any high school graduate able to write with such grace would be fought over by both colleges and employers. If America is to be a just society, we must ensure that every child has the opportunity to become so well educated. We can do that by giving all families a free choice of school, and by obliging all schools to compete for the privilege of serving them. We will never solve our cultural and educational problems simply by having bureaucrats move black and white schoolchildren around like pawns on a chessboard.


Australia: Education bureaucrats try to stymie religion classes

A controversial new religious instruction form that was to be completed by parents of Queensland state school students next year has been pulped. Education Minister Rod Welford has intervened to ditch the form amid accusations it was being used by the Government to drive faith-based teachings out of state schools by stealth. The highly ambiguous form - drafted by Education Queensland bureaucrats - appears to make parents "opt in" to their religion of choice. This comes despite the Government insisting it would maintain the long-standing "opt out" policy following outrage from church leaders at a planned overhaul of religious education earlier this year.

Mr Welford conceded the new form was "all over the shop" and needed changing. "Obviously it is a bit unclear and I have asked the department to redraft the form so it is consistent with our policy," the Minister said.

The decision to ditch the form came after concerns were raised with The Courier-Mail by one of Queensland's veteran religious instruction teachers. Wondai Baptist Church reverend John Lane said the Government was trying to achieve through policy what it could not through legislation. "I think they are trying to make it as difficult as possible for churches to continue with religious education," Rev Lane said. "I think, and I may be wrong here, that there is a whole anti-religion push behind this." Rev Lane, who has taught in schools for 36 years, said he was determined to continue despite having to submit a detailed curriculum for the first time.

The template form, which was sent to some schools in November, was to be completed by parents of all new enrolments. It asked parents to agree to send their child to religious education classes and gave them the option of the faith of their choice, if available. It gave parents the option to withdraw, but only children who identified with a religion being offered would be sent to the classes if the form was not completed.

Coalition education spokesman Stuart Copeland said the Government had been "caught out". "It certainly looks like they were trying to confuse the issue and hope RE falls over," he said. However, Mr Welford said parents were supposed to be told about their ability to withdraw children from RE, but this had not been happening in many schools. He said parents would receive a new form through the school which would clarify that they could withdraw their child from RE with a written request. "All children will stay in religious instruction unless the parent requests for them to be withdrawn," Mr Welford 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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Making a movie in which evil teddy bears attack a teacher got two budding filmmakers expelled from their high school, but a federal judge says it was the school that was wrong. However, the judge said the boys should apologize.

Cody Overbay and Isaac Imel, both sophomores, must be allowed to return to Knightstown High School for the second semester, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker said Friday in Indianapolis in granting a preliminary injunction. She also ordered the school to allow the students to make up any work they had missed since their expulsions in October.

The boys worked on the movie “The Teddy Bear Master” from fall 2005 through summer 2006. It depicts a “teddy bear master” ordering stuffed animals to kill a teacher who had embarrassed him, but students battle the toy beasts, according to documents filed in court. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued on behalf of the two teenagers last month arguing that school officials overreacted to a film parody and violated their First Amendment rights. “I had a feeling we'd come out the winner,” Imel said.

Attorneys for the school district did not say if they would appeal. School officials had argued that the film was disruptive and that a teacher whose name was used in the movie found it threatening. Prosecutors reviewed the movie but declined to press charges. State law allows expulsion for activity unconnected with school if the activity is unlawful and interferes with school operations. The judge said the movie was “vulgar,” “tasteless,” “humiliating” and “obscene,” but ruled that school officials did not prove it disrupted school.

The judge said she did not believe it was a coincidence that the teacher in the movie had the same name as a math teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School. She urged the teens to apologize to the teacher and the school administration. “School officials need to know you've learned a lesson,” Barker 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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Monday, December 25, 2006

UK: Millions 'cannot read well enough for karaoke'

Millions of adults have such poor reading skills that they will struggle to keep up with karaoke lyrics at Christmas parties this year, government research has found.

Research for the Department for Education's Get On campaign found classic songs like Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" require the reading skills expected of an 11-year-old, lacked by more than 5.2 million adults. Other karaoke hits, such as "Angels" by Robbie Williams, pose a harder challenge, which nearly 18 million adults will fail.



An MIT professor is reportedly threatening to "die defiantly" in a hunger strike outside the provost's office, if that's what it takes, to overturn a university decision denying him tenure. Dr. James Sherley, a professor of biological engineering at MIT who is black, contends "racist attitudes" on the part of his department colleagues were a key factor in the rejection of his bid to become a permanent member of the university's faculty. MIT denies Sherley's charges.

Now Sherley, who has already voiced his concerns to the local media, is preparing to ramp up his protests in a bid to both win tenure and force the resignation of Provost Robert Brown

In an open letter to fellow MIT professors that was posted on an Internet blog, Sherley is threatening to go forth with a planned hunger strike on Feb. 5 outside the provost's office unless his demands are met. Sherley, who could not be reached for comment, is inviting fellow MIT colleagues to accompany him for moral support. The letter, corroborated by one source, was first reported online by the Boston Business Journal. "I will either see the Provost resign and my hard-earned tenure granted at MIT, or I will die defiantly right outside his office," Sherley writes. "This is the strength of my conviction that racism in America must end."

A university spokeswoman declined comment on the letter, but released a statement responding to Sherley's claims of being unfairly denied tenure. "MIT has a well-established procedure for reviewing and granting tenure to faculty," the statement read. "`The process is thorough and extensive and we are confident it was followed with integrity in this case."

In his letter, Sherley cites examples of alleged racism at MIT. He contends he was deliberately denied his own "independent" lab space due to his race, even though the same privilege was granted to all his white colleagues. And he contends that racist motives prompted department superiors to deliberately mispresent his research.



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

America's Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses

As college costs soar through the roof-averaging above $31,000 a year for tuition, room & board-today's college students study adultery, genitalia, and Native American feminism. That's not a misprint.

Occidental College, located in Los Angeles, California, offers The Phallus, which covers a broad study on the relation "between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism." Occidental, sadly, is not alone in offering completely disturbing and wacky courses.

Young America's Foundation brings you the worst of the worst-hundreds of courses researched, only 12 selected. We call it the Dirty Dozen: America's Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses. Following Occidental's number one spot are many other leading institutions devoted to "higher learning"-to wit, University of California-Los Angeles and its Queer Musicology. Students explore how "sexual difference and complex gender identities in music and among musicians have incited productive consternation" during the 1990s. Unless you want to become a singing pimp or prostitute, how does this class enrich your education?

Actually, that question can be asked for most of the course descriptions you are about to read, and the answer is the same throughout-how is it enriching or educational? Queer Musicology, mind you, does study "breakthrough" composers, one being "Pussy Tourette" (he/she is famous in the American drag queen composer world).

Instead of obsessing over Latino penises and dancing transgendereds, the third course on the Dirty Dozen takes a more wicked and murderous tone-admiration of communism. Amherst College in Massachusetts offers Taking Marx Seriously: "Should Marx be given another chance?" Students are asked to question if Marxism still has "credibility," while also inquiring if societies can gain new insights by "returning to [Marx's] texts." Coming to Marx's rescue, this course also states that Lenin, Stalin, and Pol Pot misapplied the concepts of Marxism. Apparently the 100-plus million that totalitarian regimes have murdered over the years is not enough for the Left to throw Marxism overboard?" But then again, we do have 6 billion people on earth. To leftists, what's a million murdered here and there?

Moving from murder to romance, do you think adultery is beautiful? Well, the University of Pennsylvania does. The school's Adultery Novel class reads a series of 19th and 20th century works about adultery and watches "several adultery films" in order to place adultery "into its aesthetic, social and cultural context" [emphasis mine]. UPENN even finds room for Marx in a course on marital infidelity, viewing trysts through "sociological descriptions of modernity, Marxist examinations of family" and "feminist work on the construction of gender."

Reminder: you're not reading a Saturday Night Live script, but a depiction of real college courses for which taxpayers, parents, and students pay.

Ever wonder what it is to be a "feminist new black man?" Do you even know what a "feminist new black man" looks like? It appears that Occidental College does. It offers Blackness, which elaborates on a "new blackness," "critical blackness," "post-blackness," and an "unforgivable blackness," which all combine to create a "feminist new black man."

Chances are that women will not come knocking at the "feminist new black man's" door. That's why Johns Hopkins University offers Mail Order Brides: Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context. Not only do you gain valuable and deep understanding of Filipino kinship and gender, but you learn how to import a wife, if need be.

You can catch the Dirty Dozen in its entirety by going here. Read up on "Native American Feminisms," "Cyberfeminism," "Whiteness," "Sex Change City," and much more. While these courses make us laugh-sometimes uncontrollably-they should bring us dismay.

Tuition's grown more than twice as fast as inflation over the last 30 years, indeed, faster than the costs of food, clothing, and shelter. Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment, but more than half can name at least two family members of "The Simpsons." And as The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education report, only 31 percent of college grads can read and comprehend complex books, and 40 percent of college students need remedial work in math and English.

Are we really putting our educational resources to the best use? The growth of frivolous classes gobbles up tons of money and time and ignores scholarship from a conservative perspective. For instance, books and speeches from the late Milton Friedman and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick are rarely studied in the classroom, yet leftist works and themes are prevalent in colleges nationwide. It may be a stretch, but I'd go out on a limb and say employers, family members, and friends would rather students understand economics, American history, and the role of government in a society rather than the differences between a Jewish and Latino phallus.


More on the Australian science teaching disaster

Astronaut Andy Thomas has warned that primary schools are failing to inspire young students to study science and follow in his footsteps. "Students getting hands-on experience doing science experiments is not happening because of liability and safety issues," Dr Thomas said in his home town of Adelaide yesterday. "You have to plant the seeds in their minds, usually before they're aged 10 - before the seventh grade."

His comments follow a scathing review of the teaching of science in the nation's schools, with The Australian reporting that laboratory experiments are being squeezed out of classrooms by tight budgets and health and safety laws that require risk-assessments in some states.

While Dr Thomas did not excel at school in Adelaide, he sees science and maths teaching in primary school, and experiments in particular, as crucial to inspiring future scientists. "If you haven't sparked some interest before the seventh grade you have lost them, you ain't gonna get them," he said. His comments came as he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Adelaide, for his career as a research scientist.

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor James McWha backed Dr Thomas's call for better teaching. "Maths and science teaching in schools has been diluted," he said. "There has been a huge demand for engineers and scientists, and as a consequence not enough of them are going back into school teaching. "You need to get more scientists teaching, otherwise we're going to end up with a society which has a complex technology but doesn't understand it."

Dr Thomas's honorary doctorate goes with the first-class honours degree and PhD in mechanical engineering he earned while studying at the University of Adelaide in the 1970s. A specialist in high-speed drag and fluid dynamics, the young Dr Thomas was immediately hired by aircraft maker Lockheed, the maker of some of the US military's most revolutionary aircraft, including the stealth fighter. He later headed its flight sciences laboratory. In 1989 he went to work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and in 1992 he entered the astronaut training program. In 1996, he fulfilled a childhood dream by flying into space on board the space shuttle Endeavour. Dr Thomas, Australia's only astronaut, completed three shuttle missions and more than four months on the Russian Mir space station. He lives in Texas with his wife, NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, and works on the ergonomics of the next generation of spacecraft, which will go to the moon by 2020.



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

AZ: Schools aiming to end "senior coasting"

It's senior year and the hardest work is over. For many high school students, that means it's time to coast. The usual way is to take four hours of class in the morning - including perhaps cooking, ceramics or as a teacher's aide - then at 11:30 or so, head to a job or home to while away time on the computer. But educators have a new message: The days when seniors can slide are coming to an end.

State and district officials are taking steps to ramp up the year's value and intensity, including lengthening the school day. Within a decade, the beloved half-day option will be extinct. School officials are asking themselves why they allow so many students to ease off during their senior year when Arizona education is under fire and the global marketplace demands higher skills.

Students can expect to face more required internships and tougher courses just to graduate, such as the stepped-up math proposed by a governor's panel last week. Schools also want to persuade students to stay on campus by offering a wider variety of college courses or online courses, such as Japanese.

Next month, state schools chief Tom Horne will ask lawmakers to increase full-time student hours from a minimum of four a day to five. Because schools get more money for full-time students, the change would pressure districts to find ways to keep seniors in school at least five of the day's six hours. Some district officials said that would cost the schools more money.

Not all half-day seniors are taking light loads and playing video games. Some take serious courses and leave by noon to go to work, earning money for college or a car or to help with the bills at home. Joni Brown's three oldest children left their Peoria high school campus early during their senior years to work, and that makes her proud. Her fourth, Jesse, 17, also is attending half a day, then working at a tire store to pay his bills. Brown, a secretary, raised the kids herself. "I wasn't able to give my kids things like cars and cells," said Brown, whose three oldest became a teacher, a hairstylist and a mortgage-company worker. "My children were big achievers and worked to get those things for themselves."

Still, many educators say allowing seniors to skate on academics is not doing them any favors. The millennium generation will need higher math and language skills whether they are headed for a university, a technical school or the workplace. College recruiters advise juniors not to let up in their final year or they risk being unprepared for the college grind....

The senior day already is growing longer for students who attend special classes to help pass or excel on the AIMS exam, which they need to earn a diploma or, if they score high, a tuition waiver.

More here


The US Department of Education is planning to propose limits early next year on how much universities can charge former students in collection fees if they default on government loans.

At Northeastern University, President Joseph Aoun has asked a prominent alumnus, former Suffolk district attorney Ralph C. Martin II , to recommend changes to the school's debt collection practices after a Globe report last month that the university has charged fees as high as 66 percent of the original debt. Northeastern should "consider ways to insure compliance with financial obligations that are consistent with our values as a university and a community," Aoun wrote to faculty and students earlier this month in announcing the review. "To my mind that means we treat one another with respect and dignity."

The Globe reported that colleges routinely charge debtors collection fees between 33 percent and 50 percent of the original balance on loans or unpaid tuition. In contrast, people with other types of debts, including on credit cards, generally pay much smaller collection fees, or none at all. Some advocates for students, specialists on consumer debt, and university administrators called the fees at many colleges excessive and unreasonable.

The Department of Education caps collection fees at 25 percent for the loans that it administers. But one of the major federal programs, the Perkins loan, which gives at least $1 billion each year to low-income students, is administered by universities, which set their own collection fees. Under the Perkins program, schools are required to charge defaulted borrowers all "reasonable" collection costs incurred by the institution, but the regulations do not spell out what is reasonable. "The good government approach here is that we should specify or define what reasonable collections costs are," said Dan Madzelan , director of forecasting and policy analysis in the office of postsecondary education. The department's ombudsman's office, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings , and members of Congress have all received complaints about schools charging high collection fees, Madzelan said.

The department hopes to publish a formal proposal around May 1, seek public comment and then have the new policy in place by Nov. 1, officials said. It will create the rules in concert with representatives from universities, student and consumer groups, and loan companies. If new rules are approved, they would be binding. Although the changes would apply only to Perkins loans, schools usually follow the Perkins guidelines for other loans they administer.

Elizabeth Reardon , collection officer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, praised the plan to establish limits. "When the department gets involved, schools often sit up and take notice," Reardon said. She said the department of education's move will probably prompt universities to change their policies even before new limits go into effect, so that schools will appear proactive. UMass, which already had lower fees than most schools, recently put its collections out to bid to try to lower costs even more, Reardon said. The new collection fees range from about 21 percent to 33 percent, rather than up to 35 percent.

College officials in the Globe report defended their collection efforts as a last resort after students failed to respond to efforts to negotiate a deal. They say that they make no profit on the fees, and need to charge as much as they do in order to balance their budgets and to replenish loan funds so other students can borrow. Department of Education officials say their collection costs are lower than the colleges' because they have powers, including wage garnishment, that schools lack.

Northeastern had the highest collection fees of any school examined by the Globe. Aoun said last night that he chose Martin to conduct the review because of his integrity and his love for Northeastern. Martin earned a Northeastern law degree in 1978. Aoun refused to say whether he thought Northeastern's collection practices were unreasonable, because he didn't want to prejudge Martin's work. He said Martin's findings, stripped of confidential information about specific students, would be made public. Aoun asked Martin, now a partner at Bingham McCutchen , to report back by March 1.



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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Friday, December 22, 2006


A school has had to apologise after a class of children aged 9 and 10 were told that Father Christmas does not exist. The shocking assertion was contained in a worksheet which asked the children to compose a Christmas letter. The worksheet handed to the Year 5 pupils said “many small children believe in Santa” but that his letters were actually handled by an official at the Post Office. To make matters worse, the pupils were then asked to compose a reply to one of the “small children” explaining why a request for presents was being turned down.

But the main explaining had to be done when the children went home. Their parents, some unbelievers themselves, had to explain why not everything that you are taught in school may be true.

Jackie Jackson, the head teacher of Ladysmith Junior School, Exeter, has written to parents to apologise. She said that the class teacher had downloaded the worksheet in error from an educational resources website. She said: “The choice of this worksheet was a genuine mistake by a teacher, which we are very sad about. Having three children myself, I understand how parents feel. “The last thing we wanted to do was take away the positive and magical side of Christmas and I have wished all the families a happy time. “I have apologised to the parents and this worksheet will never be used in the school again.”

The apology came after a complaint by the parents of one nine-year-old pupil. The child’s father said: “My wife and I make a special effort to keep the belief in Santa in our daughter’s mind as we believe it adds to the magic of Christmas for her and her four-year-old brother. “What gives the school the right to decide when children should know the truth about such a harmless matter when knowing the truth takes away that little bit of magic?” Other parents with children at the 490-pupil school agreed. Sam Horn, 28, whose children, Charlotte, 6, and Kieron, 8, believe in Father Christmas, said it was up to parents to discuss with a child whether he is real. “Kids grow up too quickly these days. Children should have the right to stay innocent for as long as possible. Teachers don’t have the right to decide these things.”

Another parent said that her child had brought the worksheet home with her. “When I saw it I instantly realised what it meant. It is not up to anyone apart from the parent. I have received no apology. The damage is done.” Some unbelieving parents were less concerned. Sally Jones, 32, said her children Cory, 10, James, 8, and Tasha, 6, knew “the truth” about Father Christmas. “I don’t think it will come as a shock to many children of that age,” she said. “I don’t think any harm has been done. “Children don’t care as long as they get what they want for Christmas. The only advantage of Santa for a parent is that you’ve got someone to blame if children don’t get what they want.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said that there was no official policy on Father Christmas and it was up to individual schools to decide what to tell pupils. Leaving a glimmer of hope for those of us still expecting a visit, he added that the DfES was not able to comment on the existence or otherwise of Father Christmas.


Comrade Rudd is a closet Leftie

Kevin Donnelly examines the new Australian federal Opposition Leader's record in the battle of ideas on education

Who are the authors of the following quotations?

l. "I have a plan... a national crusade for education standards representing what all our students must know to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century."

2. "Our goal: to make Britain the best educated and skilled country in the world ... education, education education."

3. "We [need to] turbo-charge our national education system to create the knowledge base for the future of the Australian economy" and "We need to lift our vision and start to imagine an Australia where we turn ourselves into the most educated economy, the most educated society in the Western world."

The answers are: former US president Bill Clinton. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and new federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd respectively. It's significant that Blair and Clinton saw education as vitally important in their quest for power and as a powerful weapon in the policy arsenal of their governments. Rudd, in signalling education as a key issue in what he terms the "battle of ideas for Australia's future", is doing nothing new. As demonstrated by Blair and Clinton, concerns about education are central to aspirational voters. And calling for higher standards, accountability and a curriculum based on core knowledge resonates with the broader public.

As illustrated by the response to Mark Latham's hit list of non-government schools, taken to the last federal election, the old-style politics of envy and class war has outlived its usefulness and an essential element of the Third Way is for social democratic parties to seek the middle ground. Coupled with the destructive impact of ALP-inspired experiments such as outcomes-based education at the state level - witness the demise of Paula Wriedt as Tasmania's education minister and the slow political death of Ljiljanna Ravlich in Western Australia - it's understandable why Rudd and Stephen Smith, Labor's education spokesman, are so eager to mimic a conservative agenda on this issue.

Will Rudd be able to win the battle of ideas in education? One obstacle in copying the Howard Government's agenda on issues such as teacher accountability, defining educational success by measuring outcomes and supporting parents' right to choose non-government schools is that the ALP will antagonise its traditional supporters such as the Australian Education Union. At the 2004 federal election the AEU mounted a campaign, costing $1.5 million and targeting 28 marginal seats, to unseat the Howard Govern-ment. The AEU, evidenced by a series of speeches by the union's president, Pat Byrne, favours a cultural Left agenda in education and is opposed to the types of initiatives being put forward by team Labor.

Rudd's new-won adherence to a socially conservative view of education is also very much at odds with his track record as chief of staff to former Queensland premier Wayne Goss and his role as director-general of the state cabinet office. While it is true that during the Goss-Rudd partnership the premier argued against using the term "invasion" in relation to the arrival of the First Fleet, the period under the Goss government saw education in Queensland gain the reputation of being a bastion of the dumbed-down and politically correct approach to curriculum represented by outcomes-based education.

During the early 1990s, Queensland was given the task of writing the Keating government's national studies of society and the environment syllabus. In the words of Bill Hannan, a Victorian educationalist close to the ALP, the Queensland material was little more than a "subject of satire" and "a case of political correctness gone wild".

In 1996, after Goss lost government, I undertook a review of the Queensland Education Department for Bob Quinn, the incoming minister. The report concluded that during the Goss-Rudd partnership education in Queensland suffered from "provider capture", a situation where unions ran the agenda and schools were stifled by a rigid and insensitive centralised bureaucracy. The curriculum, as a result of educational experiments such as the new basics, critical literacy and drowning history and geography in "Studies of society and the environment", led to falling standards and to students becoming culturally illiterate.

While Rudd seeks to re-badge himself and the ALP, recently stating "I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never will be a socialist", three years ago he declared himself " old-fashioned Christian socialist". On reading his first parliamentary speech as Opposition Leader, there are elements of this socialist vision for all to see. He argues that "families are such a basic social institution that they deserve special protections" and that they should be "protected from the market".

Rudd argues, as does Byrne, that education is a public good. Those familiar with the campaign being waged against parental choice in education will understand that statist expressions such as "public good", that families deserve "special protections" and should be "protected from the market", are left- wing code for maintaining government control and denying families choice.

Ignored is the overseas evidence that charter schools, where local communities manage their schools and vouchers, where the money follows the child and more families are in a position to choose, lead to increased equity and social justice, especially among those less fortunate. While Rudd, in his parliamentary speech, seeks to differentiate himself from old-style Labor politics, the danger is that beneath the rhetoric about equity, sustainability and compassion and the argument that Labor has a monopoly over "a fair go for all, not just for some" beats the heart of Comrade Rudd.

In relation to education, this means that the initiatives guaranteed to turbo-charge the system - benchmarking curriculum to ensure that it is world's best, freeing schools from provider capture and giving more parents the right to choose - will be ignored and, while on the level of rhetoric the arguments are appealing, little of substance will change.

The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on Saturday, December 16, 2006


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. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


It's parents and taxpayers who will end up footing most of the bill for all this useless do-goodery that will change nothing except generate a warm inner glow in those planning it

Somewhere in the curriculum, most colleges and universities include Henry David Thoreau. Now, many of them are trying to emulate him. Yes, sweeping the academic world is Walden Pond 101: the art of living in a sustainable manner. Think environmental and social responsibility.

One of the best examples of the ivory tower's effort to tread lightly on the land is at Arizona State University. Next month, ASU will inaugurate the nation's first School of Sustainability - whose classes will look at everything from water scarcity to urban air quality problems. It is one of many universities putting its intellect and talents to use in the name of ecology. These institutions are devoting more research to solving global climate problems, and they're redesigning their own campuses to be examples of better ways to use and protect Earth's resources. For some schools, the financial commitment to these issues has started to run into the millions of dollars, as they foot salaries for new specialists and pay the costs of creating green buildings. At the very least, many universities are creating new courses in response to student interest. "We have always looked to academia to think creatively about the larger problems of our day," says Carter Roberts, president of the World Wildlife Fund in Washington. "There is not a more complicated problem than how to survive and flourish with a growing population and finite resources."

Universities are quickly latching onto the issue as several developments show. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has quintupled in size this year, as it went from a West Coast-based organization to a national group. Also, an increasing number of schools, from New York University to the University of Central Oklahoma, are getting 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources. And next month, a group of colleges and universities will launch an effort encouraging 200 universities to develop a plan that would make their schools "climate neutral," meaning the schools wouldn't adversely affect the environment.

Many institutions are proud of their innovations. At the University of Rochester in New York, a new optics lab will have stairwells designed to absorb heat and radiate into the building to reduce heating costs. At Berea College in Kentucky, sewage from an "Ecovillage" is treated in a series of tanks filled with plants and fish. The University of California at San Diego has identified campus rooftops where it can install 500 kilowatts of solar panels, which equals the power needed for 325 homes.

But ASU has ratcheted up the effort with "a holistic approach" that is probably unique in the nation, says Mr. Roberts. Any new building erected at ASU - a school adding facilities quickly - must be built to exacting environmental standards. Some professors in the university's labs are concentrating on understanding nature and then using the knowledge to solve problems. For example, a team of professors is growing a strain of bacteria that feast on carbon dioxide. The bacteria could then be used to convert emissions from a power plant into bio-fuels. By the fall, the university hopes to integrate its work so that students in other schools, such as the law school, can minor in sustainability. Some students will come from China as part of an agreement in August to launch a Joint Center on Urban Sustainability.

In October, ASU hosted 650 academics, administrators, and students from AASHE who took part in a conference on the role of higher education in creating a sustainable world. The university is attracting donors and business people, including heiress Julie Ann Wrigley and Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart, who last month agreed to chair the board of ASU's Institute of Sustainability.
Behind the university's efforts is its president, Michael Crow, who arrived at ASU in 2002 after 11 years at Columbia University, where he played a lead role in founding the Earth Institute. (Read an interview with Mr. Crow). Like many environmentalists, he counts reading Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" as a landmark in his life. However, he says it wasn't until he matured that he realized "all of these 70,000 chemicals and synthetics that we have put in the atmosphere and water were all derived mostly by universities with no thought given to what the other impacts may be to what they are doing." At ASU, Dr. Crow reorganized the life-science departments, and began hiring experts in sustainability. A central goal, he says, "is that we work in concert with the natural systems as opposed to in conflict with the natural systems."

And Crow goes a step further: He believes that nature, through 4 billion years of genetic change, provides "the pathway to everything we need. Nature has adapted to all kinds of problems: hot climate, cold climate, high carbon dioxide, low carbon dioxide." In May 2004, Crow organized a three-day retreat in the Yucatan, with leading experts from around the world, to brainstorm what an institute of sustainability would have to do to succeed. "We asked them, 'If you could design an entire university to attack sustainability issues, what would you do?' " recalls Crow. "What they said is that 'You can do this, and we need you to,' and they urged us to move forward."

At the meeting was Ms. Wrigley, who later wrote the university a check for $15 million as a planning grant. Crow subsequently allocated the university's resources. He committed to dozens of new faculty positions, four distinguished chairs, and a new building that would meet exacting environmental standards. Included in the mix: a $6 million "Decision Theater" that allows community leaders to see the complexities of their decisions on the environment - not just now, but also in a virtual future.

In some ways, Phoenix makes a good laboratory for studying sustainability - a fast-growing metropolis that is in the middle of a desert. "It is a daunting environment," says Patricia Gober, codirector of the Decision Center for a Desert City, part of ASU. "But we are also an open system, composed largely of migrants, so we are open to innovation, change, new ideas." Phoenix, like other cities in hot climates, confronts some major "sustainability" problems. One, the nighttime temperatures here now average 10 to 12 degrees warmer than 40 to 50 years ago when the area was less developed. Called the "urban heat island," the higher temperatures mean a greater demand for air conditioning, which requires additional power generation.

But in an ASU lab, scientists Jay Golden and Kamil Kaloush are experimenting with ways to cut down on the heat, including using coatings on street surfaces such as rubber that absorb the heat more efficiently, but also release it faster. "Reducing the urban heat island effect could mean cities like Los Angeles have fewer days when they are not in compliance with EPA air-quality standards, and that could mean more money for them since the EPA cuts funding when a city is not in attainment," says Mr. Golden. Their work is being closely watched in China, where Shanghai has the same problem.

ASU has built a $400 million Biodesign Institute on the campus, and researchers there are trying to implement Crow's vision of emulating natural systems. One example: Neal Woodbury and his colleagues are trying to mimic the way plants take sunlight and carbon dioxide to split water and produce hydrogen, a potential fuel for the future. By creating and identifying new catalysts that greatly speed up nature's process, the experiment could be commercially producing hydrogen in about two years.

Students seem excited to be part of the university's effort. One is Thad Miller of Malverne, N.Y., who has been accepted to work on a doctorate at the new School of Sustainability. "What is appealing to me is that these problems of climate change, the urban heat island, urban planning, require a real interdisciplinary way of looking at the world, and they do this more so here than any other school," says Mr. Miller, who is leaning toward working for a nonprofit or advising decision- makers when he graduates. "It's fun to be a part of it."

Eventually, Crow hopes to see thousands of new students - future Thoreaus - enrolled in the school. "I think I've read everything Thoreau wrote," says Crow. "And he would have loved this place."


Australia: Lab work being squeezed out of science teaching

Thus taking away most of the fun that enthuses kids for science

Science experiments are being squeezed out of school classrooms by tight budgets and health and safety laws that in some states require risk assessments for all laboratory work. Leading science educators say many schools no longer have specialised science laboratories, and teachers with insufficient class hours are often forced to drop experiments to ensure they finish the large amount of content they are required to teach.

The introduction of Occupational Health and Safety laws in some states is turning more students away from studying science. While Bunsen burners have not been outlawed yet, the laws particularly affect the use of chemicals in science experiments, the way they are handled and teachers' exposure to dangerous chemicals. Even an experiment to calculate the amount of calories by heating peanuts is no longer possible because peanuts are banned in many schools because of allergies.

Senior lecturer in science education at Edith Cowan University, Vaille Dawson, said practical experience of science was crucial to attracting students to the subject. "In some lower secondary classrooms, there's no practical work at all," she said. Dr Dawson said the crucial stage in arresting the falling numbers of science students was the end of primary and start of high school, when research showed students were turned off science. "When kids are 12 or 13 years old, that's when they decide not to continue with science and maths. And that's about making science practical."

A comparison of school science curriculums by Dr Dawson and colleague Grady Venville found only one state, NSW, specified the time students spend on practical experience -- 50 per cent in that state. But Dr Dawson said requirements specified in a curriculum did not necessarily translate into the classroom. Dr Dawson said science was the most expensive subject to run in schools after computer science. "Some schools are being designed without labs, or have multi-purpose rooms for art and science and other wet activities," she said.

The president of the Australian Science Teachers Association, Paul Carnemolla, said the pressure on teachers for students to pass external examinations and a crowded curriculum also affected the ability to conduct experiments. "There's been increasing emphasis on preparing students for external examinations and that can lead to a tendency to concentrate on theory," he said. "Students aren't discovering aspects of science through experimentation quite as readily and we all know through the research in science education that it's the most effective way for students to learn."

The Australian Academy of Science, funded by the federal Government, is developing a high school science course called Science by Doing to address some of the problems with the way science is taught. The course is in its early stages but is based on a pilot study of about three years ago, which found that a focus on students conducting their own investigations guided by their teacher was more effective than traditional teaching. The study, run by Denis Goodrum and Mark Hackling, found students gained a better understanding of scientific concepts when based on experience. Professor Goodrum, now at the University of Canberra, said teachers were forced to cover so much in lessons that practical experiments seemed an inefficient way of teaching. "The result is that learning is rather superficial and not deep and meaningful," he said.



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

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

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


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Reading Shakespeare excites the brain in a way that keeps it “fit”, researchers say. A team from the University of Liverpool is investigating whether wrestling with the innovative use of language could help to prevent dementia. Monitoring participants with brain-imaging equipment, they found that certain lines from Shakespeare and other great writers such as Chaucer and Wordsworth caused the brain to spark with electrical activity because of the unusual words or sentence structure.

Referring to “functional shift” — such as when a noun is used as a verb — Philip Davis, of the university’s School of English, said that the brain reacts “in a similar way to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. By throwing odd words into seemingly normal sentences, Shakespeare surprises the brain and catches it off-guard in a manner that produces a burst of activity — a sense of drama created out of the simplest of things.”

Professor Neil Roberts, from the university’s Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre, said: “When the word changes the grammar of the sentence, brain readings suddenly peak. The brain is then forced to retrace its thinking process in order to understand what it is supposed to make of this unusual word.” The researchers are now investigating which areas of the brain are most affected and the implications for maintaining healthy brain activity. Professor Davis, whose book Shakespeare Thinking is published next month, believes that reading classic literature helps children in their wider studies.



Children will spend more time being taught through play rather than formal classes when they start primary school under a shake-up of the curriculum. An increasing number of children entering primary one from next August are to learn through techniques traditionally used in nursery school. Schools will still use traditional methods when necessary to teach pupils to read, write and count. But the Scottish Executive also wants teachers to use play-based techniques.

It means drama, music, art, sand and water will replace worksheets or teaching from the blackboard. The changes have already been introduced in some schools, including primaries in East Renfrewshire and Shetland, but the executive wants to see all local authorities backing the approach. The aim of the changes is to bring Scotland closer to the approach taken in Scandinavia, where children start school at the age of seven but still go on to achieve high academic standards.

Some experts feel the current system creates a gulf in a child's experience between nursery and primary as learning through play is immediately replaced by more formal techniques. Education Minister Hugh Henry said every local authority across Scotland must have reviewed, or be reviewing, their policies on P1 education by next summer. He added: "One of the things I am particularly concerned about is the tendency in Scotland to start the formal education process at too young an age. "I want to see more of a gradual transition from the nursery years into primary education. "We need to move away from the concept of teaching where pupils are given worksheets and are instructed, to a process where children can develop on their own through purposeful play."

However, Judith Gillespie, policy development officer with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, warned the executive to take a cautious approach. She said: "I think the difficulty with these kinds of ideas is that when they are introduced there is a tendency to go overboard in one direction. "Whilst play is an important part of learning, youngsters have to do the hard work and at the end of the day there is a reward for hard work. "Learning can't always be fun - there is hard work required and it is a mistake to think that the big incentive is to make everything fun."

SNP education spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop MSP said her party had been calling for the changes for some time. She added: "However, the Lib-Lab government must ensure that there is more time for teachers to implement these proposals and work with children in structured play".


Australian science courses mystify teachers

School science curriculums are poorly written, unnecessarily complex and so laden with jargon that experienced science teachers and academics struggle to understand the intent of the courses. Education researchers from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia argue that science curriculums are overwhelming for newly qualified science teachers and the growing numbers of non-specialist teachers forced to teach science because of the shortage in expert teachers.

In an article published in Science Teacher, the journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association, Grady Venville and Vaille Dawson compared science curriculums for Years K to 10 in every state and territory. Professor Venville and Dr Dawson say the benefits of having tailor-made curriculums for each state and territory "were not immediately apparent". They were surprised by the complexity of the curriculum documents. "Although we are both experienced science teachers and academics in science education, some of the documents were extremely long (over 200 pages), the language dense, jargon-laden and exclusive," they said. "The documents were complex and difficult to interpret without assistance."

Dr Dawson said yesterday the language used to describe the science to be taught was understandable; the problem was the jargon associated with education that was difficult to understand. "There's a need for a single national curriculum, but not in the sense that we want all schools to teach the same thing because that's unrealistic," she said. "But a national curriculum would be easier to work with." The comparison says that all curriculums are structured around discipline-based learning areas, including science, except Tasmania, which lists essential learnings as desired outcomes of education in a "distinct move away from disciplines".

The Tasmanian Government is in the process of revising its essential learnings curriculum, and Education Minister David Bartlett has said disciplines with syllabuses for specific subjects, including science, will form the basis of the new curriculum framework.

The NSW curriculum was also substantially different from the other states and territories, particularly in the K-6 syllabus, which includes technology in the science curriculum.

The researchers remarked that while the curriculum documents gave guidance to teachers, "the nature of the document cannot guarantee good teaching".

Professor of education at the University of Canberra, Denis Goodrum, who is heading a report for the federal Government to identify the key issues facing science education, said 90 per cent of science curriculums across the states and territories were the same. Professor Goodrum said the main differences were within states rather than between states. "The differences between a school in Killara on Sydney's north shore and City Beach in Perth is less than the difference between a school in Killara and one in Wilcannia in western NSW," he said.