Saturday, March 25, 2006


High schools statewide are not providing enough counselors or college preparatory courses to adequately prepare students for four-year universities, according to a University of California report issued Wednesday. "These aren't just speed bumps. These are huge barriers on the pathway to college," said Jeannie Oakes, director of UCLA's Institute for Democracy Education and Access and author of the College Educational Opportunity Report. California ranks 37th in the nation in a count of students who receive bachelor's degrees within six years of completing high school, Oakes said.

Researchers at UCLA and the UC All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity used the study to call for a boost in education spending, although increases in K-12 state spending are largely restricted by funding formulas. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed spending $40 billion, or about one third of the state budget, on K-12 schools next year. "So many students begin high school saying they want to go to college," Oakes said. But the decision is often taken away from them because of lack of guidance or insufficient course offerings, she said. "There are not the opportunities there to pursue their own dreams," Oakes said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

The study shows that California has the worst counselor-to-student ratio in the country - one counselor for every 790 students, or almost three times the national average. Teacher-student ratios also are higher in California, the study says. Researchers also said more than a quarter of California high schools assign improperly trained teachers to college prep courses, particularly math classes.

A more rigorous curriculum is appropriate for all students, even those not college-bound, Oakes said. But for those attending a state university, "many students show up at the door with the paper qualifications but aren't prepared to do the work," she said. One in eight schools in California faces all three "roadblocks" - limited access to counselors, lack of college prep courses and ill-trained teachers, said John Rogers, associate director of the UCLA institute involved in the study.

Those problems are four times more likely to occur in high schools serving minorities, the poor and immigrants still earning English, Rogers said. The study did not identify those schools.

College officials have already taken notice with outreach programs to steer low-income and first-time college-bound students toward the UC and California State University schools. But they are fighting a proposed $7 million state budget cut to keep those programs intact. Community colleges also are trying to help struggling students catch up. The Sacramento-area Los Rios Community College District began a tutoring and intensive counseling program this year for "at-risk" college students in the 18-20 age group. "They have huge barriers to overcome and they're not prepared for college," said Brice Harris, the Los Rios chancellor.



America's public schools turn out many graduates with little chance for future. The top education bureaucrat in Florida wants to pass students who can't meet the academic requirements. He says this is not social promotion. He's full of what one finds in a stable-and I don't mean horsehair.

The fear of flunking and being held back a year was a great motivator in my short academic career, especially in the early grades. Nothing struck more fear in us recruits in Army basic training than the threat of being recycled-forced to start basic all over again in a new company.

Why do education bureaucrats believe that you can strip teachers of every tool to motivate their students and expect the teachers to educate the little savages anyway? The answer, of course, is civic cowardice. Civic cowardice, especially on the part of education bureaucrats, is a pandemic in America today.

I spent several hours one afternoon with a middle-school teacher as she poured out her frustration with the system. In her school, the rule said that if a student flunked one nine-week period and made a D the next, the D and F had to be "averaged" to a D for the semester. Now here's the kicker. If the student flunked both of the next nine-week periods and got an F for the semester, that F and his earlier D had to be "averaged" to a D so he would pass for the year.

How long do you think it takes kids to figure out that they only have to make one D and then can ride free for the rest of the year? Not long, and the teacher said that as soon as the kids figured it out, then any hope of motivating them was gone.

The tragedy and sin of social promotion is that it is aimed at those students who most need motivation and an education. Thus, the poorest kids from the most dysfunctional families are cheated out of an education just so the bureaucrats won't have to put up with any complaints.

My first-grade teacher in a little Georgia school laid out the basic premises of education when she said, "I teach, but you have to learn." Education is a two-part process. No matter how skilled the teacher, all the learning has to be done by the students. And learning is hard work. It involves memorization and drills and practice. There is no easy way to learn an academic subject. To argue that students shouldn't have to work hard in the classroom is as stupid as telling a kid he can become a basketball star without practicing on the court.

The other damning aspect of social promotion is that it ignores the fact that education is cumulative and must be done in the proper sequence. A student who doesn't learn to read and to do basic arithmetic in the early grades will be frustrated for the rest of his time in school. How can you learn history if you can't read your textbook? You can't learn algebra if you don't know how to add, multiply, subtract and divide. You will never learn a second language without the ability to memorize. You will never learn English grammar without learning the parts of speech and diagramming sentences.

Education is a deadly serious business. I remember attending a parent-teacher association meeting at which a Pakistani gentleman complained bitterly that this expensive, well-furnished American school was far behind the shabby school in Pakistan his children had attended. His kids were already two grades ahead of American kids the same age. His plea for a tougher curriculum went unheeded, of course.

Unless Americans wish to become the servants one day of Indians, Chinese, Arabs, Pakistanis, Koreans, Japanese and Russians, we'd better fix this broken, bureaucrat-ridden public-education system or scrap it altogether. God knows, the ignorance of many college graduates is appalling. No nation can survive an ignorant, lazy population. We've been living off the seed corn of earlier generations, but the bin is about empty. The evidence of that is the across-the-board decline in the quality of all of our institutions.



The excerpt below is from an article that made my day (I know that's bad of me!). It notes that feminist-inclined admissions officers at elite colleges now feel obliged to discriminate AGAINST women! Read on:

The fat acceptance envelope is simply more elusive for today's accomplished young women. I know this well. At my own college these days, we have three applicants for every one we can admit. Just three years ago, it was two to one. Though Kenyon was a men's college until 1969, more than 55 percent of our applicants are female, a proportion that is steadily increasing. My staff and I carefully read these young women's essays about their passion for poetry, their desire to discover vaccines and their conviction that they can make the world a better place....

Rest assured that admissions officers are not cavalier in making their decisions. Last week, the 10 officers at my college sat around a table, 12 hours every day, deliberating the applications of hundreds of talented young men and women.... The reality is that because young men are rarer, they're more valued applicants. Today, two-thirds of colleges and universities report that they get more female than male applicants, and more than 56 percent of undergraduates nationwide are women. Demographers predict that by 2009, only 42 percent of all baccalaureate degrees awarded in the United States will be given to men. We have told today's young women that the world is their oyster; the problem is, so many of them believed us that the standards for admission to today's most selective colleges are stiffer for women than men. How's that for an unintended consequence of the women's liberation movement?

The elephant that looms large in the middle of the room is the importance of gender balance. Should it trump the qualifications of talented young female applicants? At those colleges that have reached what the experts call a "tipping point," where 60 percent or more of their enrolled students are female, you'll hear a hint of desperation in the voices of admissions officers. Beyond the availability of dance partners for the winter formal, gender balance matters in ways both large and small on a residential college campus. Once you become decidedly female in enrollment, fewer males and, as it turns out, fewer females find your campus attractive.


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 page is here


Friday, March 24, 2006

Struggling U.K. pupils lose share of 'sprayed around' 700 million pounds

Some secondary schools get more money than they need at the expense of others with children who are struggling, the leader of a head teachers' organisation said yesterday. The Government "sprayed around" more than 700 million pounds a year to raise standards in areas of low achievement, instead of concentrating it on schools in greatest need, said John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

He told the association's annual conference in Birmingham that the money should be redirected to help children who had fallen furthest behind in their studies. The 300 secondaries in greatest difficulty should be funded at the same level as private schools. "Resources must be targeted accurately and without waste - not the inchoate mixture of government initiatives that have sprayed funds around in recent years like Dick Cheney on a quail shoot, but targeted on students with the lowest prior attainment, wherever they are at school," he said. "This is a direct challenge to central government to look at the 702 million pounds that it currently spends on Excellence in Cities, Leadership Incentive Grant, Fresh Start, the Secondary Performance Project and the Key Stage 3 national strategy, and reallocate it more precisely to reflect low prior attainment in both urban and rural settings."

Mr Dunford said that there should be a "special focus" on the 300 schools that had "the greatest distance to take their pupils from their attainment on entry to a respectable clutch of qualifications at the age of 16". They should have the same funding per pupil as independent schools so that they could hire more and better teachers, and reduce class sizes from an average of 17 to 10 students. Initiatives such as Excellence in Cities, which aims to boost urban achievement, had spread money across whole areas such as Birmingham or Manchester instead of responding to the needs of individual schools. "Because the area covered by any one Excellence in Cities grant is drawn so widely there are inevitably some schools in that area that need additional funding a lot less than others," Mr Dunford said. There are some high-performing schools in Excellence in Cities areas that would be the first to admit that they are not as much in need of additional funding as other schools.

"The Leadership Incentive Grant is another example. I recall a head coming to me quite embarrassed that they were going to get this extra 115,000 pounds a year in their school because they happened to be in an area where there were other schools in difficulty. We ought to look at whether we are spending this money as efficiently as we could and whether we ought to target this money better on schools of maximum disadvantage."

Reform was particularly important because the Government's next Comprehensive Spending Review in 2008 was unlikely to be as generous to education as the previous two. Redistribution of funding would have to take place over time to prevent some schools falling into difficulties.

Heads at the conference said that government rules on grants often took little account of individual circumstances. For instance, schools with 20 per cent or more pupils eligible for free school meals, a measure of poverty, received an extra 120,000 pounds a year. But those just below this threshold got nothing, while schools with far more pupils on free meals received no extra money to reflect the increased challenges they faced.

Mr Dunford also demanded radical cuts in the amount of examining in schools. Spending on exams had risen to 600 million pounds annually, he said, adding: "Our bloated examination system is a waste of scarce national resources, teachers' time and students' opportunities." Many public exams could be replaced by assessments within schools carried out by specially trained teachers whose judgments would be checked by external monitors. League tables should also be reformed to show results for schools that worked together rather than for individual secondaries competing with each other


Kids must learn spelling, grammar and punctuation

An editorial in "The Australian":

That Australia's educationalists are in thrall to some pretty daffy ideas is nothing new. This newspaper has for years defended proven teaching methods such as phonics while exposing the depredations of programs like "critical literacy" and other attempts to politicise and discard the bedrock of our culture in favour of "texts" that are "more relevant". Indeed, last year Queensland's Education Minister vowed to reform English education in his state after being shown examples of students' work by The Australian - including a child's feminist critique of the fairytale Rapunzel.

Horrifying as that is, in Western Australia it's about to get worse - to the point where calculation errors won't matter in maths class, and where spelling, grammar and punctuation will be tossed out the window in English and media classes. It's called "outcomes-based education" and, once implemented in Western Australia, Year 12 English students may pass their final exams without ever reading a book; analysing TV ads and film posters will do. Students will even be allowed to draw their answers, if they are able to figure out the mind-numbingly complex exam instructions.

Like "critical literacy" before it, with its emphasis on finding hidden racism and sexism in great works of literature, outcomes-based education is little more than a jargony post-modern scam foisted on an unsuspecting public by folk-Marxist educationalists. It is the pedagogical equivalent of the Australian Institute of Sport abandoning their world's-best practices for training elite athletes to tell runners that their times don't matter and swimmers that "wetness" is just a Western cultural construction. And Australian educators and politicians are taking young people down a path just as radical under the guise of OBE.

Disturbingly, Western Australia is not the only jurisdiction tearing down proven educational methods in favour of feel-good fads. Outcomes-based education is entrenched across the country: Tasmania recently launched its own radical curriculum, Essential Learnings, which was so controversial that teachers were barred by the local union from criticising it publicly and the state Education Minister was forced to promise a rethink. In South Australia, kids are taught that "Western science . . . is only one form among the sciences of the world", as if the laws of gravity are different in Japan. And Victoria is infamous for letting English students read a grand total of one book a year. More broadly, ideas such as "edutainment" (where an episode of Neighbours is just as valid a "text" as a novel by Dickens) are gaining increasing currency.

The war on excellence being waged in our classrooms is not just a matter of concern for parents and pointy-heads. When Australian students score well behind their foreign counterparts in maths and science exams, or employers find graduates are unable to write a proper sentence, it becomes a matter of vital concern to all Australians. OBE backers say that students will be better equipped for the real world under their regime; in fact, they will learn little more than how to use Google and calculators and to tear down a culture whose roots they have never been taught. This is hardly a recipe for literate and competent citizens who can go on to nourish and transmit all that is great about Australia to their descendants.

Certainly, parents and teachers have the greatest role to play in challenging these fads; in Western Australia, the recently formed PLATO (People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes; is doing an admirable job of raising the alarm. Especially when politicians have lost their senses (to say nothing of their nerve) someone has to stand athwart brewing disasters such as WA's new curriculum and yell, "Stop!". The feral postmodernism and hyper-relativism that is "outcomes-based education" has no place in Australia's classrooms.


Australian Federal government to smarten up teaching

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop will consider a major scholarship program to attract some of the best and brightest Year 12 students into maths and science teaching. Ms Bishop was commenting on the revelation that students with Year 12 scores as low as OP19 - the bottom 20 per cent of students - were gaining entry to teaching courses in Queensland.

A Department of Education, Science and Training spokesman said the Federal Government had funded 18,500 more university places in all disciplines nationally this year than in 2004, and another 39,000 places would be allocated by 2009. The growth of Queensland's population meant many of those would be allocated for teaching in this state.

Ms Bishop said that while standards had to be maintained, it was also important to ensure enough teachers were trained to meet demand. "We have to maintain that balance," she said. "I think we should be doing more in terms of encouraging teaching as a career of choice."

Teaching, like nursing, is a national priority area, so students incur the lowest HECS fees. But Ms Bishop said a more targeted approach, such as maths/science scholarships, also would be considered. She said teachers needed good nurturing, social and communication skills, and academic ability alone did not guarantee a good teacher.

While research is limited on how well low-score entrants perform in teaching courses, preliminary data gathered by the University of Southern Queensland suggests students with entry scores below OP15 are struggling. USQ associate dean of education Peter Cronk said: "The data is all over the place, but the preliminary stuff suggests that once you go below OP15 they start to find things more difficult." He said the university was well aware of the need to avoid first-year attrition in courses and had put support programs in place to bolster students' literacy, numeracy and assignment-writing skills. "Someone who has done science at school, for instance, may not be used to writing the kinds of assignments that are expected at university," he said.

While USQ has some of the lowest entry scores at its Wide Bay and Toowoomba campuses with OP19, its new Springfield campus has a teaching cut-off of 15, two places higher than that of the nearby University of Queensland Ipswich campus.

Under the OP system, no student "fails" outright, but scores in the range of 16 to 19 would suggest students scored in the low to middle ranges (low achievement and satisfactory achievement) in their Year 12 subjects.

Griffith University vice-chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor, whose institution's scores have remained in the middle ranges, believed Griffith was attracting better-calibre students because it had invested heavily in its education courses and they had a good name among schools.

Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake, who has promised to maintain entry scores at the state's biggest university for training teachers at their present levels, said it worried him that no students from leading private schools with high percentages of OP1s and 2s had opted for teaching. "We need to recognise that teaching is a traditional and noble profession, and that it is vital to our economic and community interests in the Smart State era that its value is recognised," 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 page is here


Thursday, March 23, 2006


The plight of black men in the United States is far more dire than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and welfare overhaul brought gains to black women and many other groups. "The choice is education or incarceration," declared the Rev. Jim Holley, who runs a program for almost 200 high school dropouts in Detroit, where estimates suggest barely half of the students who start high school graduate within four years. "We really need to . address these problems or else they're only going to get worse."

The studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men is becoming ever more disconnected from mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men. Among the recent findings:

The share of young black men without jobs has climbed nearly unstopped. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20s were jobless. By 2004 the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white dropouts and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.

Incarceration rates have reached historic highs. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20s who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30s, six in 10 black men who were dropouts have been in prison.

In the inner cities, more than half of black men do not finish high school. Similar trends are apparent across Michigan. In 2000 there were about 100,000 black men in their 20s in the state, and almost half of them didn't have jobs, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Almost a quarter of black males in their 20s had not finished high school, and for them, two of every three were not employed.


Dumb teachers in Australia too

Some of Queensland's future teachers are being drawn from among the bottom third of school leavers seeking tertiary places. Universities are training teaching students who scored as low as OP19 in their final year of school on the 25-point OP scale. Teaching cut-offs for many courses have dropped two OP places in only 12 months.

Several universities have begun support programs for first-year students to bolster their literacy, numeracy, comprehension and assignment-writing skills. They are also beginning to investigate how students with lower entry scores in previous years have performed. But although the minimum scores are low, many students enter teaching courses with OPs as high as one to five.

Education Minister Rod Welford said most Queensland teachers were trained at Brisbane universities where scores were generally ahead of those at regional universities. "Obviously it would be preferable if those entering the teaching profession had the highest scores, but not everyone with top results necessarily becomes a good teacher," he said. Mr Welford said teaching standards in Queensland were being improved through new accountability requirements, which meant that teachers had to update their skills to be re-registered every five years by the College of Teachers.

Richard Smith, Central Queensland University's executive dean of arts, humanities and education, said he had "absolutely no concerns" about the entry score. "There is no correlation between the OP score students enter with and their performance at university," Professor Smith said. "Ours are outcomes-based degrees and we ensure our students are workplace ready."

Under Queensland's OP scoring system for Year 12 students, OP1 - obtained by just 2.37 per cent of students - is the highest grade and OP25 is the lowest. More than 70 per cent of students score OP16 or better. A survey by The Courier-Mail has found that an OP19 was the cut-off for the Bachelor of Education degree for early childhood, primary and middle schooling teachers at the University of Southern Queensland's Wide Bay campus. It was also the cut-off score for early childhood teaching at USQ Toowoomba.

Universities accepting candidates with OP17s include the University of Queensland for middle school teaching (a dual degree with Behavioural Studies), Central Queensland University for early childhood, primary and Japanese teaching, and the University of the Sunshine Coast for science and arts teaching. James Cook University accepts trainee primary, secondary and early childhood teachers with OP16s.

Universities with higher cut-offs include Griffith University (OPs 10 and 11 and OP7 for the combined Science/Education degree), the Australian Catholic University (OP11) and QUT (OPs 11 to 13), which has the largest number of trainee teachers in the state. Many teachers also enter the profession with a post-graduate degree.

QUT vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake pledged that QUT would not allow entry scores to drop any lower. But he said if a student passed a four-year teaching degree, this overtook their Year 12 result. Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan said he was worried the focus was on filling universities with trainee teachers, rather than turning out good teachers.


Destroying Mathematics education

"Outcomes Based Education" is a system to avoid grading of students. You either attain the "outcome" or you do not. All kids are equal, is the basic (boringly Leftist) idea

Maths students will no longer be penalised for arriving at the correct answer using incorrect calculations under Western Australia's controversial outcomes-based education system. In a fundamental change to the way mathematics is assessed, the new OBE maths curriculum will reward students regardless of the process they use.

Co-founder of lobby group PLATO, Greg Williams, said the move would produce high-school graduates who would not need to have a fundamental understanding of mathematical concepts. Mr Williams said that under the present system, students were awarded marks for the calculations they made, as well as the final answer. But under the OBE system, a student who gave the correct answer but made the wrong calculations to arrive at it would be given exactly the same mark. This would not equip students for a career and life in the real world, Mr Williams said. "If you're an engineer and your calculations are sloppy, the bridge that you are building falls down," Mr Williams said.
PLATO's (People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes) concerns follow revelations that the Curriculum Council of Western Australia has turned away from the importance of spelling and grammar. The 2007 sample exams for English, media and aviation provide teachers with their first glimpse of what will be assessed under the new education system. All three samples state students should not be penalised for "poor spelling, punctuation, grammar or handwriting". Students are also permitted to draw answers or write them in dot form.

"If you're not going to learn how to write English with correct grammar, spelling and continuous prose, where the hell are you going to learn it?" Mr Williams said.

Mathematical Association of Western Australia president Noemi Reynolds said she did not believe the new system would result in a major change to student assessment. "But we have quite a mixture of opinions on OBE," she said. Ms Reynolds said many maths teachers had expressed concern after witnessing the confusion surrounding the implementation of a new English syllabus. "We understand and have sympathy for our fellow English teachers but maths teachers will not stand for a lack of support in the implementation (of the changes)," she said.

State Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said she would not speculate on how maths calculations would be marked until she had seen a sample exam. "I'm going to wait until I see a copy of an example paper until I comment," Ms Ravlich said. She said claims by PLATO that students would not be prepared for life after school was scaremongering. "Students will need to be able to demonstrate good grammar, spelling and punctuation. If they don't, it will result in students achieving lower marks in the examination," she said. "This is a pretty tough (English) examination. I think it really is quite rigorous."

But federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said that while she was not attacking the concept of outcomes-based education, she did not approve of how the system was being implemented in WA. "The current debate centres around how it is working in practice and whether the (Curriculum Council) promotes sufficient guidelines to teachers," Ms Bishop said. "What I am hearing from teachers is that they need clarity on the knowledge and skills that students are to develop (under OBE)." She said spelling, grammar and punctuation had to be one of the highest priorities in the teaching and assessment of English.



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 page is here


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


All children should be reading independently by the age of 6, according to the author of an official reading review.

With a fifth of England's 11-year-olds unable to read and write properly, the Government yesterday accepted that schools must return to the "traditional" phonics method to raise standards. If they are taught well, every child should be able to read confidently within 18 months, Jim Rose, a former Ofsted director of inspections, who presented the findings, told The Times.

The move in effect abandons the central element of the national literacy hour, known as the "searchlights system", after the nine-month independent review found that it did not work. Since 1998, schools have been able to pick from a range of methods to teach children how to read. But from September, they will focus on one method, which will give 5-year-olds the "building blocks" to read by learning the sounds of the alphabet and blending them together into words. "It's a bit like numbers in maths. You wouldn't dream of teaching maths without it," Mr Rose said. "It gives children the building blocks to read - all the other approaches work, but in a less efficient, more distracting way."

Mr Rose said that other methods that have dominated since the 1960s, such as the "whole word" approach, where children recognise words alongside pictures, opened up "many more variables". He said that, ideally, all schools should employ a dedicated phonics teacher to undertake the change and sustain it, as had already occurred in some parts of the country. He believed that if phonics were taught well for 20 minutes a day from the first day of primary school, most children should be able to read within 18 months. "I'd have thought that by the time the child is 6 or 6 and a half, the vast majority ought to be showing promising progress, or reading a book on their own at least," he said.

Mr Rose's review, Teaching of Early Reading - whose initial findings were accepted by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, in December - came after a seven-year project in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, found that children taught synthetic phonics exclusively were 3« years ahead of their peers in reading and 18 months ahead in writing at the end of primary school.

Mr Rose said that the "case for synthetic phonics was overwhelming", not only in raising standards in reading and writing overall but also in narrowing the gender gap, because boys in particular thrived with the more focused hands-on approach.

Ms Kelly confirmed yesterday that the phonics approach would be taught in all primary schools from September. "I am clear that synthetic phonics should be the first strategy in teaching all children to read. I want to be clear in the National Curriculum and we will now work with QCA on how best to do this," she said.

Teaching unions reacted with little enthusiasm. "Teachers will be bemused by the Government's proposal to promote synthetic phonics. Phonics is already at the heart of early-years teaching. They simply wish for an end to the reading wars," Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said


Federal vouchers to fund private education for slow learners in Australia

The parents of children who struggle to make the grade in maths and English could soon be able to send them to private schools under a taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. Education Minister Julie Bishop has flagged her support for an expansion of voucher programs, to also include disabled children. And as part of the push to improve literacy and numeracy, universities would be encouraged to establish centres of excellence for teacher training.

Releasing preliminary findings of a national pilot program offering $700 tutorial vouchers to students who fail to meet Year 3 reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop said parents had resoundingly endorsed the scheme, with 88 per cent "satisfied or very satisfied". However, tuition assessments showed that just 60 per cent of students actually improved their reading skills. Almost 70 per cent of tutors believed their students had improved.

Accusing the states of failing to invest enough in improving students' performance in reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop also backed debate on a voucher scheme in other areas. "I am quite supportive of the notion of vouchers across the board," she told The Australian. "The notion of vouchers to give parents choice is a notion that appeals to me. There are a whole range of areas where tutorial vouchers could be utilised. There is one with children with special needs. I think vouchers have a place there."

Prime Minister John Howard has previously ruled out a voucher scheme for all students that would allow parents to spend a taxpayer-funded grant at public or private schools. However, the Government has embraced the idea of $700 vouchers for students struggling with literacy.

Critics of the current funding model for schools have also argued that a voucher scheme already exists in practice, because students at both public and private schools all secure a basic grant from taxpayers.

Ms Bishop said she was also preparing to unveil major reforms to improve teacher training following complaints some universities were forced to run remedial literacy lessons for undergraduates. "What I think we can do is promote centres for excellence within universities," she said. "If there were a centre for excellence for teacher training other universities could draw upon that."

More here


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

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

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


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's Wrong With Education? It's the Government, Stupid!

The recent brouhaha over Colorado high school teacher Jay Bennish is just one more in a long litany of reasons that the government needs to get out of the education business altogether. Bennish teaches geography at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, just outside Denver and less than a mile from where this column originates. He has just returned to the classroom after temporary administrative leave. This came after a student went public with a recording of Bennish's anti-Bush rant on the morning after the State of the Union speech.

The predictable controversy ensued. Democrats hooted and hollered about Bennish's First Amendment rights. Republicans hooted and hollered about liberal indoctrination of public school students.

Henry David Thoreau once remarked that "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." The branches of evil are all the crises and scandals that emanate from government schools. The root is that the government runs the schools.

It is as if something is sacred about "the schools." We hear no end of "we ought to do this in `the schools'" or "it is a travesty that we do that in `the schools'." Again, we always attack the symptom rather than the problem. The problem isn't the radical talibanic Christian right or the radical secular humanist left or not enough money or the ACLU or any of that. The problem is the government. To paraphrase James Carville, it's the government, stupid!

In a free society, which America is not, there would be a separation of school and state. No one would be required to attend a school or to subsidize education against their will. If you had had it with the Bennishes of the world, you could pull your child out of their brainwashing centers and you could freely refuse to pay their salaries any longer.

In a free country, you could exercise your Ninth Amendment right to educate your children as you saw fit, without asking for permission. You could home school you kids if you wanted. Catholics could send their kids to the Our Lady of Mercy School; Baptists could send their kids to the Obadiah Baptist School; Mormons could send their kids to the Joseph Smith School; Muslims could send their kids to the Allah Akbar School; believers in Mungabunga could send their kids to Mungabunga school. If you are not spiritual, you could send your kids to the Whitney Houston School - "Where the children are the future" -- or to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young School -- "Where we teach your children well."

Moreover, political correctness, prayer, declining academic standards, evolution, creation, condoms, sex education, gay curricula, affirmative action, busing, standardized testing, bullying, discipline, dress codes, Christmas celebrations and all the other debates surrounding education today would cease to be political issues.

It ought to surprise no one that government schools are such hotbeds of socialism. Notre Dame, Georgetown and Boston College are run by the Catholic Church and, therefore, advance the cause of Catholicism. Brigham Young University is run by the Mormon Church and, therefore, advances the cause of Mormonism. Therefore, it ought to come as no surprise that state education advances the cause of statism.

"Reform" is not the answer. It matters not how many of the "right people" we put on the school boards and in the classrooms. This majority will only last until "the other side" gets a majority in the legislature or the school board. If the folks on "the other side" are so horrible, why do we open ourselves - and our children - to the possibility that they wield so much power?

We tweak and fiddle endlessly with government schools in the totally false hope that we will arrive at some optimal arrangement. One-size-fits-all education is like one-size-fits-all clothing. It is as if the law mandated that I wear a Speedo and a Dallas Cowboys tee-shirt when my preference runs toward baggier, more modest swim trunks and the garb of my beloved Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

It amazes me how so many Christians have swum with the cultural current on this issue. There is no basis for state education in either the Bible or the Constitution. However, state education is one of the ten policy planks of the Communist Manifesto.

Eliminating the federal Department of Education was once prominent on the to-do list of Christians and conservatives. Now, millions blindly follow a president who brags about increasing federal education spending by 49 percent in three years.

I have heard it said that education is so-o-o-o-o important that the government must, for the sake of the prosperity of the nation, have a heavy hand in it. Well, eating is important, too! Let us, therefore, have a state agricultural monopoly just like they did in the Soviet Union. During the 1980s, the average Soviet consumer spent two hours a day in line to buy groceries, while America was the world's number one food exporter and Americans still had so much access to food that overeating was a major problem.

Beatle drummer Ringo Starr once commented that "Everything the government touches turns to crap." Education is but one on an endless list of examples.


Subsidized Education

It's an annual ritual. With a sense of dread tinged with resignation, college students, or their parents, wait to discover how much this year's tuition will rise. Unlike their experience with new computers, they entertain no expectation that rates for their education will decrease. The upward spiral in prices appears inexorable. Yet is that the way it must be?

For a student in college between 1997 and 2001, average total costs will be nearly $46,000 at government institutions, reports Investor's Business Daily (December 8, 1998). For those in private schools, the news is even bleaker. Students face expenses approaching $97,000. Twenty years from now, graduates may well be staggered by costs of $157,000 and $327,000, respectively.

In the past four decades, the total yearly spending on higher education increased from $7 billion to $170 billion a year. Financial aid at both the state and federal levels reached $60 billion in 1998, with guaranteed student loans comprising nearly 60 percent of that aid, a six percent increase from 1997. Many people would contend that such a bump in financial aid is justified given the price hikes in tuition and other costs. Not only would they adamantly resist any attempt to lower that aid, they actively lobby for more.

Unfortunately, the first or most obvious answer to a problem is not necessarily the correct one. The reality is that government subsidies not only lead to ever greater educational costs, but also threaten the very existence of private institutions of higher learning. Two things need to be considered in this matter: basic economic principles and individual freedom.

The price we pay for any good or service is essentially determined by relative supply and demand. Other things being equal, the greater the supply of a product with a given demand, the lower the price the supplier will ask and obtain. Conversely, when demand rises relative to supply, prices will increase.

This is as it should be. Through this process, consumers indicate the importance they attach to a certain product or service by their willingness to purchase it at a given price. This insures that economic goods flow to the people who will pay the most for them. Those who are outbid will turn elsewhere to satisfy their desires.

Under normal circumstances, when a product's price is high and supply relatively low, more producers move into that line of work, hoping to cash in on greater returns than they might obtain producing other goods or services. This increased supply then tends to bring down prices. Left to operate on its own, supply and demand will bring goods and prices into equilibrium until all the supply is purchased by those willing to pay the price.

What happens, though, if the price of a product is artificially set below its clearing price? If music CDs usually sell for, say, $15, there will be a given number of people willing to purchase them at that price. However, if a third party decides to subsidize music lovers to the tune of $5 per CD, more people will decide they can afford to purchase CDs. Demand will increase. Delighted producers will make more of them. Sales will increase.

Before long, producers will realize that all those people willing to buy CDs at the unsubsidized price of $15 are paying less than they are willing to pay. So the producers will start increasing their prices, say to $17 at first, then $19, then $20. After all, with the subsidy, the consumer has to pay only $15. But some consumers who have grown accustomed to buying cheaper CDs will have to cut back on their purchases or stop entirely. They are unhappy about seeing their living standard fall. So they demand a larger subsidy, joined by the producers, who face declining sales. If the buyers succeed in getting the "music they deserve" at the price they want, the whole cycle begins again.

So it is with government programs that mask the true costs of college for students. State and federal grants, guaranteed student loans, and direct subsidies to public colleges and universities lower the apparent price of obtaining a college education. This leads to a higher demand. College administrators then feel justified in increasing tuition and fees, realizing that many if not most students are subsidized in one form or another. The cycle is born: raise tuition; give out more aid; raise tuition again.

A side effect of this policy is that it attracts more poorly qualified and less motivated students who value higher education less than others who are willing to pay the full price. Colleges have to devote more resources to remedial programs, and students in these programs have a greater dropout rate.

Another problem is that since public administrators do not have to show a profit to stay in business, they are less concerned with the satisfaction of their customers. (Remember the last time you had to wait in an interminable line at the post office or department of motor vehicles?) Administrators also have incentives to increase their budgets needlessly. After all, increased "costs" translate (through a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy) into increased subsidies.

According to the Heritage Foundation, in the 30 years since its inception in 1965, the federally guaranteed student loan program subsidized 74 million students to the tune of $180 billion. By artificially lowering interest rates and insuring banks against defaults, this program has actually raised the total cost of a college education in the long term for all students-whether they receive guaranteed loans or not.

While the short-term direct costs of subsidized loans are less than for loans obtained in a free market, the long-term result is to reinforce a cost spiral that outpaces the general price rise (as outlined above). With less attention paid to restraining spending-by administrators and students-waste and unnecessary expenses tend to increase more than they would in a market-based environment.

When combined with direct subsidies to government-owned colleges and universities, the loan program makes such institutions more attractive to students than they might otherwise be. Private colleges find it difficult to compete against public institutions whose price is lowered by taxpayers' money.

At the beginning of this century, 80 percent of students enrolled in private schools. Now that same percentage of students enters government-owned colleges. In the past 30 years, over 300 private institutions closed. It is as if the government decided to subsidize one supplier of CDs and not another. Who would want to buy more expensive (unsubsidized) CDs? The second supplier would soon be out of business.

When government interferes in the supply of any good or service-whether it be CDs, food, or education-it distorts the behavior of consumers and producers alike. When the product is education, this process becomes outright dangerous. A vital society depends on a diversity of viewpoints and ideas. With government largesse comes government control. But government has no business regulating ideas. That is the essence of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Political leaders should not be picking winners or losers in the realm of education. Diversity in approach, attitude, and emphasis should be left to the producers and consumers of education.

Besides that encroachment on liberty, no one has a right to anyone else's money. The taxes diverted toward education are taken not only from those who do attend college but also from those who do not. No one should be forced to pay for something he does not use. Even less should anyone have his wealth, and the portion of his life which that wealth represents, taken from him to pay for the teaching of ideas he does not support.

Liberty, intellectual independence (personal and institutional), economic efficiency, and educational diversity and quality all argue that government subsidies and guaranteed student loans should end. Only in this way will the unceasing upward surge in tuition be moderated. Even more important, we can begin to restore respect for the freedom and dignity of each individual



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 page is here


Monday, March 20, 2006


Post lifted from Betsy Newmark. See the original for links

Colman McCarthy advocates against testing students.

From the academic sidelines, where calls to Leave No Child Untested are routinely sounded by quick-fix school reformers, Jay Mathews joins in with his Feb. 20 op-ed column, "Let's Teach to the Test." In well-crafted prose, he reports that "in 23 years of visiting classrooms I have yet to see any teacher preparing kids for exams in ways that were not careful, sensible and likely to produce more learning."

On Mathews's visit to my classroom four years ago -- at School Without Walls, where I have been volunteering since 1982 -- he must not have noticed that not only was I not preparing my 28 students for tests but that I regard tests as educational insults. At School Without Walls and two other high schools where I am a guest teacher -- Wilson High School in the District and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in lower Montgomery County -- I have never given a test. I respect my students too much to demean them with exercises in fake knowledge.

Tests represent fear-based learning, the opposite of learning based on desire. Frightened and fretting with pre-test jitters, students stuff their minds with information they disgorge on exam sheets and sweat out the results. I know of no meaningful evidence that acing tests has anything to do with students' character development or whether their natural instincts for idealism or altruism are nurtured.

Yes, because what we send our kids to school to learn is idealism and altruism. Subject matter? That's hooey. As long as a kid thinks good thoughts and wants to help people, give him a diploma. We wouldn't want to have the dear little ones actually work to learn something and prove they know a set amount of material. That is tyranny that, according to McCarthy, leads to dishonesty and stress.

And what does Mr. McCarthy teach? He teaches peace. Too bad he can't teach peace to the terrorists who are trying to kill innocents. Instead, he works his magic on Maryland high school students in classes in which he presents his political viewpoint day after day without any counterweight. His political diatribes are amusing and interesting for the kids. Then the students don't get tests. Any wonder why his classes are popular?

Intelligent design and educational stupidity

Worried about the rise of creationism in UK schools? This teacher blames the timidity of the science establishment.

After the verdict went against the teaching of intelligent design in schools in Dover, Pennsylvania, you could be forgiven for thinking that the argument for teaching creationism was on the decline. However, in the UK the educational establishment seems hell-bent on introducing those very same ideas into all state schools.

As reported in The Times (London) on Friday, the OCR examination board has included a comparative study of creationist views on evolution alongside those of Darwin. But should we be surprised to see ideas promoted by the religious right in the USA dished up to schoolkids in Britain?

Even a cursory look at the new science GCSE is enough to give anyone pause for thought. As I have argued in the Times Educational Supplement, the new curriculum is riddled with ideas that have little to do with a formal scientific education and more to do with a sociological critique of science (3). It seems that the science education lobby is determined to undermine the idea that scientific knowledge has any objective basis in reality.

The agenda for reform of the science curriculum in UK schools is dominated by the view that formal science education is not important for the majority of children. Instead, the argument goes, children need to be taught to question the basis of scientific knowledge rather than just accept it as fact. This might sound like a good way to foster an intellectually independent mind. However, it is more likely to amplify young people's cynicism towards science in the school laboratory.

The same sociological critique of science that is driving the reform of science education here was used to defend the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover court case. Steve Fuller, professor of sociology at Warwick University, argued on behalf of the intelligent design lobby. Fuller believes Darwinism has had it all its own way for too long.

As Fuller sees it, Darwinism is being taught as dogma and intelligent design acts as a 'critical foil' to those ideas. To him, teaching intelligent design in US schools is the lesser of two evils, if it allows pupils to question the domination of the established scientific community when it comes to understanding evolution. For Fuller and other cultural critics of science, the loss of scientific objectivity is a small price to pay for a chance to undermine the dominance of the scientific elite.

This gives the lie to the idea that the attack on Darwinism is the product of a right-wing conspiracy to infiltrate mainstream education with Christian morality. Despite the work done to uncover the 'wedge' strategy of the intelligent design lobby in the USA, teachers would do well to look at the scientific and educational elites before looking for fundamentalist Christians under the bed.

The fact that the Discovery Institute and others in the USA are actively promoting an attack on science and its materialist philosophy should not scare us. They claim to be targeting the weak points in science's own arguments. This would only be of concern if science could not substantiate its argument. If the argument for evolution did not stand up it would deserve criticism - in fact, the strength of the claims made against Darwinian evolution is weak and unsubstantiated.

Far more serious is the turn away from science both here and in the USA. The inability of governments to counter panics about the use of science and technology - whether it is the scare over the MMR vaccination or the need for stem-cell research - suggests that the argument for science has been lost within the establishment itself. Despite an obvious need to maintain science as a cornerstone of modern technological advance, governments have fallen back into discussing science through the prism of risk and the precautionary principle.

This allows the cultural critics of science to repose the scientific establishment as an elite who are deaf to the concerns of the public. The collapse of the notion of scientific expertise, once highly regarded in the West, is now contrasted to the cultural claims of different groups within society, whose claims on knowledge are seen as more important than upholding scientific truth as a vehicle for progress. Thus we find ourselves not only witnessing the US establishment ditching its faith in science in favour of its Christian constituency, but also in Britain there is a growing recognition of the need to respect Muslim beliefs.

But what escapes most commentators is that both Muslim and Christian views on Darwinism are a recent product of the attack on scientific certainty in the West. The anti-Darwinian views of Muslims are not a product of the Koran. Instead, they are a product of the same left-wing critique of scientific elitism which has predominated in Western universities for the past 20 or so years.

The intelligent design movement arose from the collapse of attempts to push 'young earth' creationism into US schools in the 1990s. The proponents of intelligent design consciously adopted the tactics of the cultural critics of science by presenting their own argument for teaching scientific uncertainty. Despite their hostility towards each other, the similarity between the Muslim and Christian attacks on Darwinism belies their common roots. The attack on science is a product of Western anti-elitist politics.

It is the argument between the proponents of science and its cultural relativist critics in the UK and the USA that should be our real target. Unless scientists and teachers can re-establish a sense of science as a progressive social project, we will not be able to halt the slide. Standing up for science now means being prepared to win the arguments for progress with those who want to accept muddle-headed semi-religious ideas in its place rather than dismissing them.

On this point, I agree with Steve Fuller rather than Richard Dawkins. Lambasting religion as being the source of all evil will win no-one to the cause of science. Instead, we need to understand why people think science has lost its relevance to them, and challenge the idea that science is an elitist tool of domination.



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

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

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


Sunday, March 19, 2006

English-only immersion debated for Arizona schools

In November 2000, Arizona voters approved the most restrictive English-only education law in the country and prohibited textbooks, materials, bulletin boards, or teaching in any language but English. Two years later, voters reinforced their message by electing a state schools chief who promised tougher enforcement of the new law. The law nearly eliminated bilingual education programs that had been widely used in Arizona schools, classes with specially trained teachers that combined instruction in Spanish and English. To help schools comply with the new law, the state developed a model English-only immersion program.

Under the model, English-learners would be placed in English immersion classes of five to 15 students with a specially trained teacher and a teaching assistant. State planners said most students would learn enough English in one year to keep up with their peers in regular classes by their second year.

To be prepared for English-learners moving into regular classes, the state requires all teachers to complete a 15-hour workshop in English-only teaching methods by August. And under the model, schools would track students who tested out of the English-learner programs and provide tutoring and other help for those who fell behind. After six years, few schools have been able to establish that model. Schools say they can't afford the cost. The state can't afford to offer technical guidance or much oversight. And many teachers remain lukewarm on the entire idea. So instead of a uniform approach, the state's English-only immersion programs are different from classroom to classroom and district to district.

In January 2000, before the vote on English-only schools, a federal court had already decided Arizona was not spending enough on English-learner programs. That court battle has continued for six years, through the vote, through a couple of studies and through a contentious Legislature. So far, under orders from a frustrated federal judge, the state is approaching $1.5 million in daily fines while the governor and lawmakers continue to fight over what the state needs to spend to make English-learner programs work. The daily fines began Jan. 25 at $500,000, increased Friday to $1 million and will hit $1.5 million in March while politicians try to fix the problem. If the Legislature adjourns without a solution, the fines will reach $2 million a day.

There is one thing, however, the different parties appear to agree on: Arizona needs to create an English-only education system that works. Each side has its own twist on a plan, but the basic outline is the same. The state needs to create a variety of English immersion programs and send technical teams to schools to launch them. Then, it needs to track students' progress and make changes to any program not helping English-learners keep up with their peers. Beyond the basic plan, here is the status of English-learner issues today through the eyes of key players.

State: Politics and money

The battle among the court, Arizona legislators and Gov. Janet Napolitano is about how much extra money schools need to teach English-learners and how it should be distributed. Beneath the surface it is also about clashing political ideologies, illegal immigration and a November election.

For example, Republican lawmakers, who run both the state Senate and House, want the funding plan to include tax breaks for businesses that help pay for English-learners to transfer from public to private schools. Napolitano has twice vetoed that idea. The House did eventually approve a funding bill for English-language learning, backed by Republican leaders, that did not include corporate tax credits for private schools. Republican lawmakers also want schools to use federal money earmarked for children living in poverty before they ask the state for more to teach English-learners. The governor has rejected that idea, too, saying the state is responsible for funding the programs.

Lawmakers and Napolitano are aware of growing concerns among state voters that illegal immigration is out of control and responsible for filling classrooms with kids who can't speak English. In December, Arizona schools chief Tom Horne, citing Pew Research Center statistics, asked the federal government to reimburse the state $750 million a year for the cost of educating 125,000 children who are in the state illegally. But a Pew analyst said half of those children were born here and are U.S. citizens. To Horne, that was splitting hairs. "It's the federal government's fault the undocumented parents crossed over, and had they not done so, we would not be presented with these students," he said.

State Senate President Ken Bennett, a Prescott Republican, said he has an obligation to voters to turn the current "mish-mash" of programs into a structured system that will teach English in a year or two. That was the promise that sold the ballot initiative six years ago.

Becky Hill is education adviser to Napolitano. She said the governor is most interested in tracking progress of students in any new program and making changes if the program isn't working. "The governor wants schools to use what programs are within the letter of the law and that work," Hill said. "Then replicate them."

Rep. Linda Lopez, a Tucson Democrat, said the state should turn to the schools for direction. Schools have monolingual kids arriving throughout the year and at all grade levels. Some children speak survival English; others can't read in their own languages. Each school may need a variety of programs to help all the kids. "People want to paint English-language-learner kids with the same brush," Lopez said. "You can't do that."

Republican lawmakers wanted the Arizona Department of Education, run by Horne, to develop the wider variety of model programs. They did not want the 11-member State Board of Education, with its growing number of Napolitano appointees, to take the lead. Now, they've agreed to a task force but continue to wrangle about who appoints members of the task force.

Much more here

The wilful destruction of Australian education continues

English school students in Western Australia could pass their final-year exam without reading a book or being able to spell, punctuate or use correct grammar. The new Year 12 English exam instead asks students to compare posters for the films Spider-Man 2 and Gandhi, and to analyse a piece of their own writing rather than accepted greats such as Shakespeare or George Orwell.

The sample exam for the new general English course just released for the West Australian Certificate of Education says students can draw answers and are not required to use grammatically correct sentences. "Student responses can also be given in dot-point format, diagrams or other suitable alternatives to continuous prose," the marking key says. "Student responses should not be penalised for poor spelling, punctuation, grammar or handwriting, unless these are elements ... specifically being assessed."

Western Australia began implementing a new curriculum for Years 11 and 12 this year with four revised courses, including English, being offered to Year 11 for the first time. The first Year 12 exams in the new English course will be sat next year and the state's Curriculum Council said the sample paper, designed by a panel of teachers, industry and university members, was representative of future exams.

But an English head teacher at a Perth Catholic school, who did not wish to be identified, said students could get away with studying snatches of text such as posters and CD covers, and were not required to study full-length serious texts. "If you are a lazy teacher, or even a teacher who just wanted to get your students the best marks, you don't have to read a book," the teacher said. "There's too much focus on popular culture."

The exam has also been criticised for making the assumption that all forms of writing are equal, and so teenagers are asked to analyse their own writing. In the writing section, where spelling and grammar are assessed, students are asked to write about 400 words to convince a particular audience of a point of view and are then asked to analyse their own piece of writing, including its vocabulary, content and structure.

Adjunct professor in the school of education at the University of NSW Trevor Cairney said literature should not be sacrificed in an English course to broaden the types of text that students study. Professor Cairney praised the exam for the diverse writing tasks and said items such as movie posters had a place in an English course. But they should not be included at the expense of literary texts. "A child having to comment on a picture is not as important as commenting on a piece of literature that's been significant for centuries, or at least decades in the case of contemporary books," he said. "People are suggesting all textual forms are equal and it's as relevant to look at a piece of advertising as a well-known piece of literature."

Lecturer in English curriculum at the University of Western Australia's education faculty Elaine Sharplin defended the changes and said the professionalism of teachers meant they would teach novels as part of the course. But Ms Sharplin said the new course was intended to broaden the appeal of the written word to more students by studying a greater variety of texts. "There's been a change in perception that English literature is esoteric and only suited to the most talented students," she said. "We want to encourage students to engage with texts and therefore this caters for a broader range of needs by dealing with a broader range of texts."



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