Saturday, April 29, 2006

Educating From the Bench: Judges order legislators to spend more on schools, and taxpayers see less in return

Spending on public schools nationwide has skyrocketed to $536 billion as of the 2004 school year, or more than $10,000 per pupil. That's more than double per pupil what we spent three decades ago, adjusted for inflation--and more than we currently spend on national defense ($494 billion as of 2005). But the argument behind lawsuits in 45 states is that we don't spend nearly enough on schools. Spending is so low, these litigants claim, that it is in violation of state constitutional provisions requiring an "adequate" education. And in almost half the states, the courts have agreed.

Arkansas is one such state, and its "adequacy" problem neatly illustrates the way courts have driven spending up and evidence out. In 2001 the state Supreme Court declared the amount of money spent at that time--more than $7,000 per pupil--in violation of the state constitutional requirement to provide a "general, suitable and efficient" system of public education. Like courts in other states, Arkansas's court ordered that outside consultants be hired to determine how much extra funding would be required for an adequate education.

A firm led by two education professors, Lawrence Picus and Allan Odden, was paid $350,000 to put a price tag on what would be considered adequate. In September 2003 Messrs. Picus and Odden completed their report, concluding that Arkansas needed to add $847.3 million to existing school budgets. They also recommended policy changes, but the only thing that really mattered, at least as far as the court was concerned, was the bottom line--bringing the total to $4 billion, or $9,000 per pupil.

One might think that relying on court-ordered experts would be more rational and responsible than leaving spending decisions to politicians. The exact opposite is the case. For all of their defects, legislators can be held responsible for wasting taxpayer dollars, while courts and the consultants they mandate generally cannot. This gives courts and consultants license to use pseudoscience to drive education spending higher, where legislators might be more skeptical and frugal.

The Picus and Odden report is a perfect example. To determine adequate spending they rely on what they immodestly call the "evidence-based" approach. This involves selectively embracing educational practices that some research finds beneficial and costing those policies out. Their method does not address whether their favored reforms would really result in an adequate education or are in fact the most cost-effective. This approach is about as "evidence-based" as the one employed by the diet-crazy person who comes across a study that says olive oil is healthy and decides to sprinkle it on everything he eats. There is some evidence to support it, but is it really the most sensible and effective way to assure "adequate" health?

But the most obvious sign the Picus and Odden report is not really evidence-based is its neglect of empirical examination of the overall relationship between school spending and student achievement. If spending more is the answer to inadequate education, it should be the case that schools that spend more per pupil, all else being equal, have higher student achievement.

As it turns out, they don't. The vast majority of social science studies find no relationship between spending and student achievement. My own analysis of schools in Arkansas finds that schools with more money perform no better than schools with less once student and community background characteristics are controlled. And the fact that per pupil spending has doubled over the past three decades while student achievement has remained stagnant ought to give us a clue that simply spending more won't fix schools. The shortcomings of schools are not generally attributable to the lack of resources, but to a lack of incentives to use resources effectively.

By declaring that spending had to increase, the court foreclosed consideration of this relevant evidence. And by requiring the Legislature to base the size of the increase on the recommendations of consultants, the court privileged the spending level preferred by the consultants over those that other experts might recommend or that legislators might want. If legislators did not increase spending by roughly what Messrs. Picus and Odden asserted, they would be held in violation of the court order.

Yet even this wasn't enough. After the total amount provided to Arkansas schools increased by 25% in one year, the legislature slowed the pace of spending. For the 2005 school year, money was added to the teacher health plan and school construction funds, but the minimum amount that school districts would receive for operating expenses (excluding capital and categorical money) was left unchanged at $5,400. The plaintiff attorneys argued before the state high court that spending had to at least match inflation.

The court agreed and ordered the governor to call the Legislature in special session to remedy the situation. Legislators met in early April and in less than a week increased spending again. They were so eager to placate the court that they gave schools more for the current school year, even though it could hardly do any good with only a month remaining. They also increased spending without knowing how the last round of additional money was being used or whether it had any effect. Messrs. Picus and Odden were retained for another $450,000 to provide this information, but their report is not expected until August.

One legislative leader attempted to justify their haste by declaring, "Lack of information does not justify legislative procrastination." Doesn't it? What information we do have suggests that schools haven't been able to digest the new influx very well. Unspent reserves as of October 2005 were $1.1 billion, more than 25% of the total budget. That is, schools can't even spend the additional money fast enough as the court orders more.

In Arkansas, as in too many other states, elected leaders have ceded control over the size of education budgets to unaccountable courts. Judges and the consultants they require are not easily held responsible for misusing evidence or wasting taxpayer dollars. As long as this continues, expect to spend more on education and see less in return.



Undoubtedly a deplorable record of failure but with huge numbers of Hispanics who barely speak English and lots of blacks, what can you expect? The graduation rate of whites is respectable -- as well it should be, given the rockbottom standards

A new study found that barely half of Los Angeles Unified School District students receive their high school diplomas, mirroring a Harvard University study a year ago that alarmed city officials and fueled debate over the district's effectiveness. The LAUSD ranks 86th out of the nation's 100 largest school districts in its graduation rate - lower than districts in Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas - according to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

And the results were even bleaker for the district's minority students. Blacks had a 55 percent graduation rate and Latinos, 44 percent, compared with 77 percent among whites and 80 percent among Asians. The district's Latino males had the lowest graduation rates at 39 percent, followed by black males at 49 percent.

"It's pretty bad. Large districts in general are doing less well and Los Angeles is toward the bottom of that list," said Jay Greene, co-author of the study and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. The national average is a 70 percent graduation rate. The study looked at how many students entered high school in 1999 and how many regular diplomas were awarded in 2003.

Greene said the region's challenging demographic profile can't be blamed for the problem. "We can see that demography is not destiny looking at some of the districts who have managed to produce success with minority students," he said. The California Department of Education puts the LAUSD's graduation rate at 65.7 percent for 2003 - a number district officials expect to increase by as much as 10 percentage points by next year. "All these rates ... are all estimates. Depending on how you use the formula, you come up with a different number," said Esther Wong, assistant superintendent of planning, assessment and research at the district. "I think educators should use it as a guide until a better system is in place."

In a bid to boost graduation rates, the district is developing Diploma Project, which would lower class size, assign counselors to follow up on students not coming to school, and create a more personalized middle and high school experience, Wong said.

The Harvard study, which concluded that more than half of the LAUSD's students failed to finish high school in a recent four-year period, became the source of much debate in the city. Political leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, seized on the figures to push agendas for reform ranging from mayoral takeover of the district to its breakup. "The Los Angeles school district can no longer dispute the fact that we have a dropout crisis in our public schools," the mayor's spokeswoman, Janelle Erickson, said. "This new study ... supports Mayor Villaraigosa's belief that we need new leadership at every level in our schools."

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


Friday, April 28, 2006


Student self-display matters a lot more than the facts at UCLA

In order to ride a high horse for any considerable length of time without getting sore, you need a fancy saddle. A group of righteous high horse hobbyists on campus has chosen the accusation of murder as theirs. The student group Coke-Free Campus wants to ban Coca-Cola products from UCLA because some of the casualties of the ongoing civil war in Colombia have allegedly included union leaders and Coca-Cola factory workers.

Economically, Coke has no incentive to have employees murdered by guerrillas. No workers, no Coke: no-brainer. Legally, they have been acquitted of any responsibility by two judicial inquiries. So why the persecution? I tried to find out on Friday. While Associated Students UCLA heard arguments for and against the charges, a stampede of high horses gathered to whinny in protest outside Kerckhoff. I found two answers before my cover was blown: "Our campus" and "students' power." These were in reply to the questions of "Whose campus?" and "Whose power?" This was the Q&A portion of the protest, but I couldn't decipher what it had to do with Coke's supposed guilt.

One student began the rally by announcing the group's intent to silence Coke's representatives. He told everyone that when the time came for the representatives to speak in their defense at the meeting inside, he would signal for all to scream and holler. "You can't speak here," he yelled. "It's our school and we'll tell you when to speak." The bullhorn then went to the hands of Karume James, chairman of the African Student Union. He proceeded to compare what Coke hasn't done to "apartheid, Vietnam, the genocide of black people in the Sudan region." "It's all for profit," he continued, revealing in one fell swoop the breadth of economic, historical, legal and political knowledge stocked by Coke-Free Campus.

I asked James, between his many speeches, why he's mad at Coke and what evidence he has of its guilt. "Direct your conversation to one of the organizers," he said. "I'm just here in support." Minutes later he was leading the chant, "Coca-Cola stop your lying! Because of you people are dying!"

The bullhorn made its way to Claire Douglas, who spoke of "the urgency of this issue." After her speech, she admitted to not being able to say why Coke was guilty. My search went on. Finally I was directed to Emily Villagrana, of Conciencia Libre and Raza Womyn. Villagrana admitted "(Coke isn't) the one doing the killing. ... The paramilitary in Colombia is the one causing all these deaths, massacres and tortures." Two minutes later, she was chanting: "Cherry, diet or vanilla: Coca-Cola is a killa." She admitted Coke was giving Colombians jobs they otherwise would not have. Two minutes later, she was chanting: "We support workers, we don't support Coke."

After these admissions, all that remained was the complaint that Coke hasn't provided enough protection for its workers. Any sensible person dreams of a world in which corporations have armed battalions guarding their factories from government intrusion. Sadly, we have yet to achieve that ideal. For now, private corporations are subject to the political realities of whatever government they operate under. How are they expected to provide protection in a war-ravaged country such as Colombia? "As far as I know, they haven't tried anything," Villagrana said.

I suggested that her knowledge might be augmented by listening to Coca-Cola's defenders at the meeting, rather than attempting to physically silence their free speech. "You're entitled to believe that," she said.

Her fellow riders who actually attended the meeting were jolted off their horses when a young Colombian refugee emotionally testified to the heroism of the Coca-Cola Company in her native land. She begged Coke to stay and hold its own, as the thousands of jobs it and other corporations provide help those who would otherwise probably end up joining the paramilitaries.

Colombian Professor Miguel Ceballos, of Foundation for Education, Colombia, said that no Colombian lacks a friend or family member - union or nonunion, Coke worker or non-Coke worker - who's been killed in the violence. He bashed the protestors for knowing nothing about the violent context in Colombia, where Coke is a rare force for saving lives.

Ed Potter, the Coke representative, added that Coke has more union employees than any other Colombian company, and that it provides a hotline for its workers to call to get a safety escort to work. Such are the condition-enhancing incentives of the profit motive, wherever it is allowed to motivate. Not that the riders really care about Colombian workers or the real effects of profit motive. They're there for the ride, fairgrounds be darned.

The anti-Coke protesters can only hope to be taken as ridiculously as they sound. If taken seriously, they'd have to be placed in the same category as Salem witch-hunters and Southern lynch mobs - so strong is their willingness to disregard free speech, pursuit of truth and presumption of innocence for the sake of a righteous crusade. Those tenets are among the core principles of a free society. If our university has any responsibility, it is to discourage the type of moral inflation that devalues those principles.


Minnesota panic: Fire drills give way to lockdown exercises

Even though fire is a much more dangerous threat

Melissa Galarneault's fourth-grade class at Indian Mounds Elementary had just started a math quiz when the alert came over the loudspeaker: "Attention staff, this is a lockdown." The 20 children instantly dropped their pencils, sprang from their desks, scrambled to the front of the classroom and sat silently on the floor. Galarneault rushed to the doorway, dimmed the lights, scanned the hall for stragglers and pulled the locked door shut. She checked to make sure the blinds were drawn, and then joined the huddled youngsters until a coded, all-clear message was sounded over the intercom. The entire episode lasted four minutes. This time, it was only a drill.

Across the country, many schools hold lockdown drills because of terrorism fears and school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 that left 15 people dead. But Minnesota could apparently become the first state to require such exercises. A proposal before the Minnesota Legislature would mandate at least five lockdown drills a year. To free up time, the number of required fire drills would be reduced from nine to five. "There haven't been any kids killed in school fires in Minnesota because we've done a good job with fire safety equipment, with fire drills and so on," said Democratic state Senator John Marty, a sponsor of the bill. "Unfortunately, times have changed in such a way that we have lots of other threats." Last month offered a fresh reminder of the danger, with the first anniversary of a rampage at Red Lake High School in Minnesota that left a teacher, a security guard and six students dead, including the teenage gunman.

Lockdown drills are this generation's version of the duck-and-cover exercises held during the Cold War 1950s and '60s. Some states, including Arkansas and Connecticut, have laws encouraging -- but not requiring -- drills in case of a terrorist attack or other threat. Backers of the Minnesota bill and groups that track education trends say they are not aware of any state laws that require lockdown drills. Legislatures in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota are among those weighing laws that would require schools to update safety plans periodically and practice them regularly. Kenneth Trump, president of the Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services, said he wishes all schools would be nearly as conscientious about mock lockdowns as they are about fire drills. He said the exercises teach students and staff to respond instinctively to emergencies without panicking, and they allow the staff to identify weaknesses in the preparations. "The bottom line is that a plan that's sitting on a shelf in a fancy notebook collecting dust is worth little more than the paper it's printed on if it's not practiced," Trump said.

Deadly violence in the nation's schools is actually less prevalent now than in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government report. In the 1990s, the number of homicides per year was two dozen to three dozen; from 2000 to 2002, the number has been in the low to middle teens. The Minnesota legislation has advanced through committees without protest. While observing the Red Lake anniversary, Governor Tim Pawlenty threw his support behind it. The state fire marshal is neutral despite the reduction in fire drills.

In Michigan, fire agencies have come out against a lockdown drill plan because it allows schools to cut back on fire drills. The state's Association of Secondary School Principals has concerns of its own. "You are actually teaching the robbers how to rob the bank," said executive director Jim Ballard. "Most violent crime within schools has been student against student. If you're teaching those students what you are going to do in your lockdown procedures, they basically know what's going to happen."

Minnesota state Republican Representative Dean Urdahl said there are not many secrets to give away: "The plan is to lock the rooms." Child development experts are split over whether the lockdown exercises subject children unnecessarily to stress and fear. Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists, said he is not convinced the drills are harmful. But he said teachers and parents should discuss with children why they are done. "We have to empower our children to not feel frightened about life but be prepared for it," Feinberg said.

In Bloomington, school leaders rehearse the plan monthly. The elementary school called a real lockdown last year when teachers heard gunfire outside. The commotion turned out to be a military ceremony at a senior center.


Some Education Quotes

A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students. John Ciardi (1916 - 1986)

America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week. - Evan Esar (1899 - 1995)

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology. - Clive James

The advantage of a classical education is that it enables you to despise the wealth that it prevents you from achieving. - Russell Green

Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don't. Pete Seeger


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, April 27, 2006


Report lifted from a comment thread on Tongue Tied

My mother taught remedial reading at a school in Hamburg,NY which is a suburb of Buffalo. (Not Hamburg HS, by the way, but a rival HS). I remember her talking about the inability of the school to terminate some of her colleagues for behavior which would have gotten them fired from other jobs. I graduated from the same system, and had firsthand experience with some of these bozos. Some shining examples:

#1) A male music teacher who was a convicted sex offender. He was "encouraged" not to live in the district, and actually lived just across the Canadian border. Frequently smelled of booze, and was verbally and physically abusive. But, he had tenure.

#2) A male chemistry teacher who frequently spent entire class sessions discussing not chemistry, but rather on the best way to rob a bank. One afternoon in the early '70s.....he robbed a bank. He was also apprehended immediately. Guess he should have asked the regular students instead of the honors class. Naturally, this relieved the school system from having to deal with that tenure issue.

#3) A male Spanish teacher who drank in the classroom in full view of the students (including me) and who was verbally and physically abusive. He got nasty with me...once. He didn't do it again. (No, I didn't go crying to Mom. I.....dealt with it. Myself.) The year after I graduated, he hit a bridge while driving drunk at high speed. Once again, the system didn't have to deal with that sticky tenure problem.

#4) Another male chemistry teacher whose stepson dated my older sister for a while. He used to follow them around and harass them. Also very verbally abusive to students. I remember him telling one girl in my class that she was,"so ugly, you could make a maggot jump off a gut-wagon". Hell of a nice guy, huh? But...he had tenure. Couldn't touch him.

#5) A female Health teacher who dressed very provocatively, and used to lean waaayyyy down over the male students' desks to answer questions.

I never had a problem with her......just couldn't understand what the issue was. Or why I couldn't take her course again........ :)

I graduated in 1975 (I'm 48). Back then, the teachers were allowed to hit the students with wooden paddles for failing marks on exams, being late, or just because they felt like it.

Guess it's a whole different ballgame now with all the PC b.s. ...... but there are still stupid people teaching our children...... and it's still next to impossible to get rid of them.


Comment from Hawaii

I have received dozens of letters from students at Kaiser High School using the familiar rhetoric of the Department of Education. "Why does the government want to take away our creative outlets? Why don't you put more effort into getting money for education?" It seems the weighted student formula spending scheme is shortchanging schools like my alma mater, Kaiser High.

Ironically teachers and administrators from the DOE were the primary drivers for Act 51 which devised the spending formula. Now they have driven their students to do the political dirty work, demanding to know why I want to get rid of school librarians. It is laughable that a decision that is wholly the Department's is being used to draw unsuspecting students into the DOE's favorite past time, chanting "mo money, mo money!"

Education was the hot issue 2 years ago in the legislature. Scores were low, teachers were frustrated and parents were irritated. The DOE had been saying for decades that they needed more money, but where does the money go? Records show that the number of non-teachers employed by the DOE has increased over the past 30 years from about 7,000 in the early '70s to 23,790 in 2003. Sadly only 6,362 were teachers. In other words, only 1 in 4 employees of the education system is a teacher. Look more closely and you'll find that while DOE staff increased 236 percent, student enrollment increased only by 3 percent (178K to 183K).

Per pupil spending was close to $11,000. In 2003, a study entitled "Financial Analysis of Hawaii Public Schools," showed that Hawaii was in the top fourteen of all states in per-student spending on educational operations. The same study went on to report that only 49 cents of every dollar makes it to the classroom.

The political battle of 2004 was between the Republican effort to decentralize the system into locally elected school boards for greater accountability. The DOE/Democrat effort was to "reinvent education" with new layers of complicated bureaucracy which could pass for accountability. They won. The weighted student formula that emerged seemed promising, but I was skeptical knowing it would reward lower performing schools at the expense of those with higher performing students. For instance, Kaiser High School budget has been cut by $813,000. And where have school officials decided to cut? The Library and Fine Arts.

In an historic move Democrats called for the Superintendent of Education to speak in the Legislature. In her bicameral speech, Pat Hamamoto said, "Give us both the money and the authority and.hold me accountable." ( br/br06p.html ).

If my child was being politically manipulated to do DOE dirty work and to shift the responsibility, I would be livid. This is one reason my wife and I homeschool our children. Why are teachers misleading students into a political debate? Shouldn't they be teaching them? Maybe this is part of the problem.


Australia: School assessment goes full circle in Queensland

Back to the old ways

The report cards of almost all Queensland students will use an A to E grading system from the end of this year. An overhaul of the school reporting system will give parents of all students in Years 1 to 10 twice-yearly assessments in plain English and access to two parent/teacher interviews a year. Education Minister Rod Welford said the changes meant that all students from Years 1 to 10, but not Prep, would be graded from A to E in each subject, with clear explanations of what each grade meant. Year 11 and 12 students are already assessed on a five-tier rating system (Very High Achievement ranging to Very Low Achievement) as part of the Overall Position (OP) process. The measures will apply to state, Catholic and independent schools and take effect at the end of this year in many schools and in all by the start of 2008.

"We want clarity and consistency so parents can understand their child's progress," Mr Welford said. "The reports will be more understandable." The Minister said reports had become too confusing with wide variations in styles. Some schools grade students by numbers such as 1 to 7 or 1 to 5, others use measures such as VHA (very high achievement) or SA (satisfactory achievement), while others use codes such as AV (achieving well) or ED (experiencing difficulties). Some schools assess students according to three different grades, others four and some five. And while some schools offer two parent/teacher interviews a year, many offer only one.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Association spokeswoman Wanda Lambert said it was vital that gradings were consistent between schools. "We need to feel confident that . . . an A in Cape York is worth the same as an A for someone of the same age in Burpengary," she said. Queensland Teachers Union President Steve Ryan said teachers had no problem using the A to E grading system in most year levels. But he said the union did have problems with its use in early primary years. "We believe it could be categorising children very early," Mr Ryan 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


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Teaching versus Preaching

By Tibor Machan

After having taught college for nearly forty years, I can report that a great many teachers use their class rooms to preach, not to teach. (The same is reportedly the case in secondary schooling but I am not qualified to speak to that.)

In the tradition of liberal education, which is what is supposed to guide the profession of teaching, when professors enter the classroom, they are supposed to present to their students facts about the subject matter and, where appropriate, the variety of viewpoints that have gained prominence concerning it. The former approach is mainly associated with the natural sciences, the latter with the humanities and social sciences. Of course, facts are involved in both and even where there are different viewpoints afoot, it doesn’t mean they are all equally sound. But because they have all gained respectability, the professor is not supposed to take sides. He or she is supposed to familiarize students with these prominent perspectives and leave it to the students to decide which position is the most reasonable.

Of course, total nonpartisanship is unlikely, even if possible. And students usually do not expect it—nor do they need it since they are, after all, capable of careful thinking. But they do deserve a respectful representation of all those positions the professor may not find convincing. After all, another professor with just those views could be teaching the very same course and they all took an oath, as it were, to teach, not preach.

The frequent partisanship of professors is, of course, offset by the fact that students take quite a few courses and most are taught by different teachers, so they do often receive representation of different viewpoints even if their teachers are out and out partisan. Yet even with partisan teaching, contrary viewpoints aren’t supposed to be ridiculed—if they are worth teaching, they are worth rendering at their strongest, instead of being belittled, spoofed.

Sadly this tradition of liberal education is not being faithfully followed by many professors. I do not only have my own experience—with my own nine years of college and graduate education, with my colleagues, and with reports from students—on which to base my assessment. I also have my three children with their experiences in college. They, too, have had all too many professors who engage in blatant malpractice. They often make no attempt to represent ideas at their strongest with which they disagree and quite often outright rant and rave against these, as well as at thinkers who hold them. Back when I was a graduate student, one famous Oxford educated professor of mine dismissed all philosophers prior to Bertrand Russell as nothing but ideologues—which is to say, as apologists for some ruling class. And he gave no argument for this at all.

The abuse of class room power is nothing new but it is my impression that it used to be held in very low esteem and prevailed only because some who received tenure took advantage of the policy of academic freedom. It seems, however, that these days the abuse is the norm, although it is difficult to track the matter since the classroom tends to be the fiefdom of the professor so that no one can come in without his or her permission. And deans do not breach this practice, even though they are perhaps the only ones who have the authority to do so.

All this is disconcerting although the effort to take advantage of one’s captive audience in a classroom is not likely to get far in a relatively free society. There are many other sources of information, educated opinion, and competent renditions of different viewpoints, so even if some professors try to indoctrinate their students with just their take on a subject and denounce everyone else’s as silly, they are likely to be found out.

The one clear liability of professorial malpractice can be serious, however. This is the student’s grade who dares oppose a very partisan teacher. To such students, who do not want to become wallflowers as they face such destructive professors, ones who would penalize them for failing to toe the line, I have a suggestion. Raise your objections, your questions, in the third person—for example, "I wonder what you would say to a critic who says this or that to the idea you just championed?" Or "Are there not some who have proposed this objection to your position and how would you respond to them?" This approach could help one dodge the mean-minded grading of professors who want full compliance from their students and will punish them for refusing to provide it. But sadly even this tactic cannot stop those teachers who will refuse to hear anything contrary to their views from doing damage to their students.


Rigid Victorian "sex offender" policy partially circumvented at last

An Orbost teacher who lost his job under controversial "zero-tolerance" laws for sexual offences has reached a financial settlement with the State government. The Age believes the confidential settlement is worth about $100,000 and will involve the teacher dropping legal action against the Department of Education and Training and Victoria's teacher registration body. Former Orbost Secondary College teacher Andrew Phillips was forced to resign in February last year after a compulsory police check revealed a prior sexual offence with a minor. As a 20-year-old, Mr Phillips pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, in 1992. No conviction was recorded and he received a good behaviour bond. The incident was consensual and the complaint was made by a third party. Under the laws, teachers convicted or found guilty of a sex offence involving a minor face mandatory dismissal.

Mr Phillips' case sparked fierce debate, with many in the community - including state and federal Labor and conservative politicians and teacher unions - calling for the laws to include ministerial discretion or an appeals process. But Premier Steve Bracks and Education Minister Lynne Kosky have maintained their zero-tolerance approach to offenders. The stance is supported by Parents Victoria and the State Opposition. Yesterday, Ms Kosky said the matters involved complex legal action and the decision took into account "the most appropriate use of taxpayers' funds" - meaning it is cheaper to settle than defend cases.

The Government stands by its legislation and policy for teachers and staff found guilty or convicted of child sex offences, she said. "The Government has acted and will continue to act in the best interests of children and places the protection of students in schools as its highest priority," Ms Kosky said. As part of the settlement, Mr Phillips, 35, will drop court action against the Government, Education Department and the Victorian Institute of Teaching as well an unfair-dismissal claim in the Industrial Relations Commission.

In his first public comment on the controversy, Mr Phillips thanked the community for their support. "I will not be returning to teaching, but the resolution of my case enables me and my family to move forward with greater confidence and security," he said in a statement to The Age.

Orbost Secondary College principal John Brazier said the settlement brought closure to what he called the worst miscarriage of justice in his 35 years of teaching. "Retrospective legislation supporting 'double jeopardy' and leading to the dismissal of outstanding teachers is not what I would expect of governments in the 21st century," he said.

The Australian Education Union, which represents Mr Phillips, said the education system had lost a good and passionate teacher because of the laws. "The union will continue to press for discretion to be included in the legislation so that more good teachers are not needlessly lost to Victorian schools," AEU president Mary Bluett said.

But Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said the decision to pay Mr Phillips out sent a mixed message to the community. He reiterated his opposition to discretion. "On the one hand, this sort of case involving a teacher was black-and-white and teachers with these convictions shouldn't be allowed in our schools," he said. "Yet when the community reads of the Government giving him a payout it's almost a watering down of that strong line."

Victorian Principals Association Fred Ackerman repeated calls for an appeals process in such cases. "Any process of natural justice must have an appeals process," 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


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Meet Arlene Ackerman, the woman who shook up San Francisco's schools

No person deserves more credit for introducing a robust school choice system to San Francisco than Arlene Ackerman, 59, the district's superintendent since 2000. The city had experimented with open enrollment since the '70s, but it was Ackerman who made the size of a school's budget dependent on the number of students who attended the institution, thus introducing a market-like feedback mechanism; it was Ackerman who gave schools the autonomy to use those budgets as they saw fit; and it was Ackerman who made parental preferences the first criterion for school assignment.

Her relationship with the Board of Education has been frequently stormy, in part because of ideological differences and in part because of her management style, which critics consider autocratic. Indeed, she will be leaving the district at the end of the school year, invoking an "incompatibility" clause in her contract that allows her to resign with severance pay. But while in office, she was able to introduce some radical changes to the ways the city educates its children, and student achievement improved immensely as a result.

Despite her departure, Ackerman is optimistic about the future of the reforms she put into place. She is now bound for Columbia University Teachers College, where she will run a leadership program for aspiring superintendents. Lisa Snell spoke with her in January 2006.

Reason: How did the weighted student formula get put into practice in San Francisco?

Arlene Ackerman: We started with a year-long pilot program. We took a cross-section of about 27 schools-schools that had a lot of parent involvement and schools that didn't have a lot of parent involvement. That gave us an opportunity to look at what kind of resources we needed at the district level and what kinds of support the schools would need regardless of the conditions on their individual campuses. We paid them $200 per student to participate. We went full-scale the second year.

Reason: What has been the impact of the new system?

Ackerman: Five consecutive years of academic improvement for all groups of students at every level. I mean all groups-even special ed. When I first came to the district, the African-American students' achievement was going backwards. We reversed that. The last two years we have been the highest-performing large urban school district in California. This last year we were up for the Broad Prize as one of the five top urban school systems in the country. I'd say that's pretty good. I'd link our success not only to the weighted student formula but to the fact that the formula is linked to an academic planning process that's based on trend data and performance targets that every school has to meet.

Reason: What's the role of school choice?

Ackerman: As a school's academic performance index gets better, the school becomes more desirable to parents. We had schools that were 8s [in their academic performance index rating] that are now 10s and schools that were 3s that are now 6s and 7s. When I arrived six years ago, those were not schools that parents were choosing. Now they are, because their academic performance has increased and they are much more desirable.

A new union president came in about three years ago who wanted to get rid of the weighted student formula. There was a resounding no from the majority of the schools because they like making the decisions. For example, we've had to make deep cuts for the last three years. In the past those decisions were made in the central office. Many of the schools felt that was inappropriate because the central office is too far away from the needs of the students. Even when it's been difficult to make hard choices, I've heard parents and principals and teachers say that they'd rather make those choices than someone else.

Reason: What do you think is the future of school choice and the weighted student formula in San Francisco?

Ackerman: I'm not really worried about the weighted student formula and the academic planning process because I think people in the schools really appreciate it. As for the student assignment process, we just have to wait and see. The board is very split on whether or not race should be used as one of the guidelines for choice. I think they are going to adjust the diversity index [part of the formula for determining who can attend popular schools], and one of the new factors might be race. I'm proud of the work I've done in San Francisco. This is a great city, and I leave a legacy that I know is going to continue after I am gone.



Does anybody really think homosexual activists aren't trying to push their lifestyle on America -- as opposed to merely striving to avoid discrimination? A few recent news items shed some light on the subject.

Scott Savage, a librarian at Ohio State University at Mansfield, got a quick lesson in "tolerance" while serving on a committee responsible for selecting books for incoming OSU students to read as part of their "First Year Reading Experience." Savage, a devout Quaker, recommended that a number of conservative-oriented books be added to the list, to balance other books on the list, many of which reportedly had a liberal slant. Savage recommended four books, "The Marketing of Evil," by David Kupelian, "The Professors," by David Horowitz, "Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis," by Bat Ye'or, and "It Takes a Family," by Sen. Rick Santorum. How dare he? Won't he ever learn the proper lessons of selective censorship? The school had earlier investigated him for recommending other forbidden conservative books to freshmen students.

But I guess the request to place these dread screeds on a formal school list was just way too rebellious for anyone employed by an institution of higher learning priding itself in maintaining an environment of academic freedom and open inquiry. Three professors strenuously objected to Savage's suggestions, describing the Kupelian book as "hate literature," and "homophobic tripe." The professors, two of whom are homosexual, said the inclusion of these books on the list made them feel threatened and unsafe on campus.

Now get this -- if you haven't already heard: The faculty voted to support the professors' claims and the school began an investigation against Savage for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment? We are talking about book recommendations here, not words or action against specific individuals. This complaint, on its face, was offensively absurd. You can't have sexual harassment without a victim -- without some form of mistreatment of specific individuals. The homosexual community is the first to cry intolerance at the slightest perceived indignity, yet these professors refused to tolerate the innocuous recommendation of a few books whose message they apparently don't agree with. They not only sought to suppress opposing ideas, but conspired to punish a man trying to present those ideas.

You have to be a semantic contortionist not to realize that any intolerance or hate speech involved in this episode emanated from the professors and their supporting faculty. Then again, conservative thought is obviously not entitled to the same degree of protection, if any, and anti-conservative propaganda is promoted in much of liberal academia. We can only imagine what goes on in these professors' classrooms that we don't hear about. What these professors, then the faculty and school, did to Mr. Savage comes much closer to harassment than what he did to the professors, which was absolutely nothing. Apparently someone at the school finally figured that out because the malicious and frivolous charges against Savage were dropped.

But Savage's attorney, David French, said that merely dropping the complaint doesn't repair the damage to his client's reputation and career. He is considering litigation. I think he should seriously consider going forward with litigation against the people and institutions involved. Radical homosexual groups routinely characterize the utterance of opposing opinions -- just as in this incident -- as hate speech and seek to ban it. They frequently seek to have the expression of opinions running counter to their dogma, branded as harassment or bullying, to make it easier to stigmatize those daring to disagree. Well, in this case -- if the allegations are true -- the professors appear to be guilty of that which they were accusing Savage: harassment.

You have to be naive not to recognize that the radical homosexual lobby is pushing its lifestyle on American society and using intimidation tactics, such as we see here, to compel society's acceptance of homosexual behavior as mainstream or normal. They say they just want to live and let live, but many of them want far more than that. They want to live free of harassment themselves, which I'm all for, but it doesn't appear they want to accord similar respect to those not sharing their views.

If anyone doubts the aggressive intentions of the radical homosexual lobby, he should read the recent news report about a second-grade school teacher in Massachusetts reading to her class a fantasy book about two princes getting married. Objecting parents can't even opt out their children from these experiences because same-sex marriage has been decreed legal by the high priests of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Here we see what radical homosexual activism fueled by radical judicial activism has wrought. It's difficult to understand how there can be so much apathy as we witness such ongoing assaults on our culture.



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, April 24, 2006


Post lifted from Civil Commotion

The National Science Board has issued its 2006 report (statistics, narrative) on the state of science and engineering in the United States — and the news is not good.

Nearly a quarter century ago, the National Science Board's Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology assessed the state of U.S. precollege education in the subject fields and found it wanting. In the intervening years, we have failed to raise the achievement of U.S. students commensurate with the goal articulated by that Commission-that U.S. precollege achievement should be "best in the world by 1995"-and many other countries have surpassed us. Not only are they not first, but by the time they reach their senior year, even the most advanced U.S. students perform at or near the bottom on international assessments. [emphasis mine]

Here are some sobering numbers:

Percentage of 4th-graders not meeting specified math competence: 68
Rank of American 15-year olds in math, out of 30 industrialized countries: 21
Rank of American 15-year olds in science, out of 29 industrialized countries: 19

You don't have to be Mr. Wizard to see that America's technology leadership, and its wealth, cannot be sustained if numbers like this persist much longer. Indeed, it's not irresponsible to speculate that the nation may already have passed the tipping point. Certainly, we shall have to undo a lot of nonsense if we are to keep up.

It has always been the case, and it is the case today more than ever, that the creation of wealth arises from the application of intelligence and reason to physical problems. It is human intelligence, sifting through observations, abstracting principles, and projecting those principles into the future, that made it possible for man to learn to harvest seed, store it — and feed himself the next year. It is that same human intelligence that brings clean water to the tap today, which designs and constructs safe highways, which designs and constructs the nuclear furnaces that heat hundreds of thousands of home, which has decrypted the genetic code and made possible therapies for congenital illnesses, which fuels the communications revolution ... on and on. And we will need more of that intelligence, not less, in the future. From the moment we arise in the morning to the time we go to sleep in the evening, there is scarcely an instant of the day that is unaffected by the work of an immense and mostly anonymous army of scientists and engineers.

Meantime, thanks to the inane conceit that America can remain an island of high-salaries, stupendous benefits and ignorant citizens in an ocean of cheap labor — good engineering jobs are steadily trickling to other countries.

What is more, foreign countries are poaching our best talent. Singapore, of all places, is luring some our best scientists with big salaries and well-equipped laboratories, determined to stake a claim in the miracle business of bioengineering.

In this country ... fundamentalist yahoos subject kindergarten-aged children — more than 2000 at a time — to lectures by Ken Ham, who instructs them that science is a satanic conspiracy against God, and equally insane Lefties teach children that the really, really important thing is to feel good about themselves and never mind worrying about being an ignoramus.

This is nuts; it's national suicide. Reality always gets the last word, and we need desperately to face reality, confront the fact that American education is a ruinous disaster, and start turning-out engineers and scientists. If there still is time, that is.


Far-Left education bureaucrats are finally being called to account

The muffled canon

Kevin Donnelly deplores the way literature is being swamped by an 'it's all good' attitude in our high schools

What do the works of Shakespeare and the television talent quest Australian Idol have in common? For most, especially Prime Minister John Howard, who argued this week that teaching of great literature is being destroyed by postmodernism and outcomes-based education, the answer is: nothing.

Shakespeare's works, as Harold Bloom argues in The Western Canon, represent literature at its most sublime and suggest something profound and moving about what it means to be human. Australian Idol, by comparison, deals with human nature in a superficial and predictable way and, although entertaining to some, lacks the enduring and universal quality of great literature.

Not so according to Paul Sommer, president of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English. In defending the idea that in English classrooms across Australia everything from graffiti and SMS messages to weblogs and computer games is a worthwhile "text" for study, Sommer says: "We want them [students] to be confident with a range of computer literacies and we want them to understand that texts from Shakespeare to Australian Idol are profoundly shaped by contexts and open to a range of understandings." Two teacher-academics, in a paper delivered at a 2005 national English teachers conference, also argue that Australian Idol should be included in the classroom and provide a lesson plan showing students how to analyse a judge's comments that one of the singers was overweight.

Welcome to the brave new world of "critical literacy". The Tasmanian Education Department defines critical literacy as "the analysis and critique of the relationships among texts, language, power, social groups and social practices. It shows us ways of looking at texts to question and challenge the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface."

The president of the ACT Association for the Teaching of English, Rita van Haren, describes teaching critical literacy as getting students to ask the following questions: "Who is in the text? Who is missing? Whose voices are represented? Whose voices are marginalised or discounted? What are the intentions of the author/speaker? What does the author/speaker want the audience to think? What would an alternative text say? How can the audience use this information to promote equity?" The task is no longer to read with sensitivity and discrimination what is written and to value what a literary work tells us about what D.H. Lawrence terms "the relation between man and his circumambient universe at the living moment".

The result? Whereas the Western canon, defined as works that best exemplify our creative urge to give shape and meaning to experience through the use of imaginative language, once held centre stage in the English classroom, the sad fact is that literature is no longer privileged. Not only are great works such as Hamlet reduced to being one cultural artefact among many, along with The Terminator and Australian Idol, but the moral and aesthetic value of literature is ignored as students are taught to analyse texts as examples of how dominant groups in society oppress and marginalise others.

As borne out by the example of SCEGGS in Sydney, where Year11 students are taught to deconstruct Othello from a Marxist, a feminist and a racial perspective, the joy of reading is reduced to a sterile and formulaic exercise in political correctness. Further evidence that the culture warriors of the Left have won the day is the way Tim Winton's Cloudstreet is taught in NSW senior English classes. In notes given to Year 12 students, they are asked to analyse Winton's book in terms of each of the following perspectives: gender (feminist), socio-political (Marxist), cultural, post-colonial, spiritual and psychological.

Across Australia, the reality is that critical literacy reigns supreme. The South Australian curriculum asks teachers to develop in students "the capability to critically analyse texts in relation to personal experiences, the experiences of local and global communities and the social constructs of advantage/disadvantage in order to imagine more just futures". In Western Australia, the new Texts, Traditions and Cultures program for Year 12 argues there is nothing universal or profound about the literary canon, as "the concept of the literary is socially and historically constructed, rather than objective or self-evident". Teachers are told they must teach that reading is ideological on the basis that "texts and reading practices enact particular ideologies, playing an important role in the production and maintenance of social identities and reinforcing or contesting dominant ideological understandings".

In opposition to critical literacy, it is possible to argue a case for the pre-eminent position of literature. One of the defining characteristics of literature is that it deals with those existential and moral dilemmas that define what it is to be human. Literature, unlike a computer manual, also uses language in a unique way. Reading involves what Coleridge termed a "willing suspension of disbelief" as the reader enters an imaginative world that has the power to shock, to awe and speak to one's inner self. Emotions such as love, despair, ambition, grief and joy are universal and, as suggested by Jung, there are symbols and archetypes that recur across cultures and across time. One only needs to read Greek tragedies such as Medea and Oedipus to realise that, notwithstanding all the cliches about millennial change, human nature is constant.

No amount of cant about readers as "meaning makers", texts as "socio-cultural constructions" and the purpose of reading being to "deconstruct texts in terms of dominant ideologies that disempower the marginalised and dispossessed" can disguise the fact that most of us read for more mundane reasons. As S.L. Goldberg said, "People are more likely than not to go on being interested in people, as much as they are in abstract theories and ideologies, or impersonal forces, or structural systems, or historical information, or even the play of signifiers. "So it is more likely than not, I'd say, that people will go on valuing those writings that they judge best help them to realise what the world is and what people are, and to live with both as realistically and as fully as they can."


Noted playwright backs PM's attack on current teaching

The celebrated playwright David Williamson, a fierce critic of John Howard, has joined the Prime Minister's attack on English literature study based on postmodern ideology. The left-leaning Williamson, whose plays are studied by Year 12 students, said that despite Mr Howard's criticism of English teaching this week there was nothing wrong with "pointing out to students that literature has an ideological content". "But to treat our best literature as being nothing more than ideology would seem to be abandoning our greatest repository of human wisdom," he said.

On Thursday, Mr Howard labelled the postmodern approach to literature in schools as "rubbish" and lashed out at Western Australia's outcomes-based education system, dismissing it as "gobbledegook". His attack follows reports that top Sydney school SCEGGS Darlinghurst had asked students to interpret Shakespeare's Othello from Marxist, feminist and racial perspectives.

Williamson, who has defended the arts against perceived attacks from Mr Howard's Government, dismissed as "nonsense" the postmodernist principle that people are merely creatures of their immediate society and its ideologies. "We have a universal set of human emotions that vary little between cultures and which drive us to universally exhibit egocentricity, tribal affiliation, susceptibility to charisma, nepotism, sensitivity to social pressure, altruism, excessive fear of threat, pair bonding and other deep-rooted tendencies that literature has identified as 'human nature' for thousands of years," he wrote on the Crikey website. "What great writing does is identify the enduring truths about human nature that cross time and culture."

Writing in The Weekend Australian today, education expert Kevin Donnelly says forcing high school students to "regurgitate" English literature through the prism of often left-leaning critical perspectives leaves them with little interest in the discipline at university level. Mr Donnelly is executive director of the Education Strategies consulting group. He says that in recent years Cloudstreet, a novel by Australia's Tim Winton, has been taught to Year 12 NSW students, who have had to analyse it through gender, socio-political, post-colonial and spiritual perspectives. He said the limitation inhibited the students' understanding of the text. "Students tell me they dropped literature after Year 12 because it's such a boring exercise," he said. "They really had to jump through hoops in terms of regurgitating the critical response required, whether that is feminist, Marxist and so on."

Despite his criticisms, Mr Howard was reluctant yesterday to tie federal school funding to English programs that he thought were appropriate. "I'd be reluctant to do that because I do believe that if the states are to have sensible functions on their own, setting the syllabus and so forth for the teaching of English ought to be one of them," he said.


Education: Trendy "isms" are incompatible with lasting knowledge

Below is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper -- Australia's national daily

What is the best way to introduce young people to literature? Is it to reveal to them the joy of reading great writing, and how themes and plots developed even centuries ago can be an anchor for their lives in the modern world? Or is it to treat every work as a "text" no better than any other, dissect them all ruthlessly and examine the entrails for political, sexual and racial bias? This debate has flared up again this week, sparked both by John Howard's comments on the "gobbledegook" taught in Australian English classrooms, and the defence of postmodernism mounted by the likes of the principal of exclusive Sydney girls school SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Jenny Allum, whose Year 11 students have their first encounter with Shakespeare's Othello when they are thrown into the postmodern deep end and told to analyse the play through the prisms of racism, sexism, and feminism. While many arguments can be made against this postmodern approach, the strongest one is that it does not belong in a high school classroom. If a graduate student who is well-versed in the Western canon and understands 5000 years of social and political thought from Plato and Aristotle through to John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau wants to deconstruct an author through a philosophical prism, then fine. But forcing dull formulas of race, sex and class on unsuspecting Year 11 students is unfair - not so much because it dumbs down the curriculum, but because it introduces the concept at the wrong time. Neither high school students nor their teachers are equipped with the base knowledge of literature, history and politics to do justice to such an enterprise. No wonder educationalists are tossing out Beowulf for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and claiming that students are bored by the classics.

The Australian strongly believes there is much more to life than race, sex and class, and that literature is a great way to understand the transcendant themes of human existence. Love, hate, war, jealousy, greed, charity, faith, hope, despair: these are the universals of human experience, and great and ancient literature speaks to us about these themes from across the years. Sadly, a small-mindedness has infected Australia's education system, producing an obsession with politics and power relationships that has infected the nation's classrooms like a mould. Those who defend current teaching methods by setting up a straw-man argument - "all we're trying to do is teach students that there are different points of view" - are being disingenuous. For, in forcing students to accept dull interpretations of "texts" in which everything becomes political, the postmodernists exhibit the worst sort of narrow-mindedness. The first job of teachers introducing students to the works of any great writer should be to instill a love of literature and learning. And English teachers everywhere must focus more on basics such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, all of which lose out to trendy theories like critical literacy and outcomes-based education. Those who are so inclined can always study the gobbledegook later.

One of the more bizarre aspects of the controversy is the postmodern fixation on Karl Marx as an appropriate filter through which to examine literature. For one thing, he was an economist, not a literary critic. For another, his writings inspired the deaths of perhaps 100 million people around the world, and this tragedy is better learned about in history classroom. And teaching high school students to interpret literature through ephemeral "isms" is, by definition, a way to produce students with dated knowledge. While the likes of Ms Allum may hopefully believe they are teaching students to "understand what (great authors) said in the context of their day and what it is they say to us today", it is tragically obvious what this obsession with Marx leads to - namely, students with poor skills who have had the love of books beaten out of them.


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


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Vive la Revolution: After 25 years, conservative papers have stirred campus debate

In the summer of 1980, a clutch of students at a small college in New Hampshire, disaffected by campus liberalism and incensed by the unfair treatment of an insurgent candidate for the board of trustees, founded a conservative newspaper. That might have been the end of it, but the Dartmouth Review promptly scandalized the campus with its heterodox opinions and brash style, and hostilities escalated.

In the years since, the Dartmouth administration has gone to great measures to stop the presses, including frivolous lawsuits against the paper and kangaroo suspensions of its editors. Mission hardly accomplished: As the Review tonight celebrates its 25th anniversary with a black-tie gala in Manhattan, we'd like to raise a glass to conservative student papers across the country. What was once a lonely voice challenging campus orthodoxy is now a boisterous chorus.

By 1984 the University of Chicago Counterpoint, the Harvard Salient, the Princeton Tory and the Virginia Advocate had joined the fight. As more and more such publications cropped up, they were brought under the patronage of the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA), which was funded, in part, by the John M. Olin Foundation. According to James Piereson, Olin's former director, the goal was to invest in "conservative knowledge production."

And it wasn't a passive form of knowledge. Articles from the 1980s and '90s--in conservative student papers around the country--focused on the decline of academic standards, the excesses of militant feminism, the hypocrisy of racial preferences and the reign of political correctness.

Their audience included alumni. In 1994, Yale alumnus Lee Bass learned from the campus conservative journal Light and Truth that his $20 million donation to the school, aimed at establishing a program in Western civilization, was not being used for its intended purpose. The university, it turned out, had refused to launch the program because of faculty hostility. In the ensuing controversy, Yale was forced to return the gift--with interest.

Such victories have not come easily. In addition to being denounced as "fascist" by administrators and faculty members, conservative papers have been subject to theft and vandalism by students. In 1997, a mob stole a press run of the Cornell Review and burned it in front of an audience that included several administrators, including the dean of students. The school did nothing and later defended the protesters' "freedom of expression."

Today the Collegiate Network, the successor to the IEA, supports about 95 right-leaning campus papers. Their writers and editors help to promulgate and legitimate conservative ideas that are rarely encountered in the lecture hall. Their iconoclastic tone appeals to students who are open to new ideas but skeptical of settled "truths."

The papers are even contributing to a gradual shift in the culture of universities. Conservative student journalists have helped to overturn speech codes at Stanford, George Mason and the University of Wisconsin. As civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate notes: "It is now difficult or virtually impossible for a college administration to justify or rationalize censorship when it is brought to the attention of the free world."

Which won't stop college officials from trying. But the American campus is no longer a liberal mausoleum. A lively debate has started, and we have intrepid young journalists to thank.



If a child's parents habitually fail to show up when asked to come to parent-teacher conferences, the school principal would be empowered to withhold the child's report card, under a bill approved narrowly by the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill is aimed at forcing parents to become more involved in their child's education, said its sponsor, Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie. Her Senate Bill 564 requires teachers to notify the principal when parents or legal guardians fail to attend or respond when asked to attend a parent-teacher conference. The principal, after deciding the failure is habitual, must send a written notification to the parents and demand a response. The principal then must withhold the next report card "until the issue has been addressed to the satisfaction of the principal."

The 20-13 Senate floor vote sends the bill to the House Education Committee. Opponents said while they agreed with Quinn's intentions of getting parents more involved, they disagreed with punishing the child. Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas, said he would prefer making it a criminal offense for a parent to fail to respond to a request for a parent-teacher conference, with some kind of community service as a penalty. "To put the stress on the kid is inappropriate," Cravins said. "You can't legislate common sense." The bill got the minimum 20 votes -- a majority of the Senate's 39 elected members -- required for final passage.


The child would be embarrassed, and unconcerned parents would be unconcerned about not getting a report card

Top Marx for Australia's educators

John Howard is absolutely correct in seeing post-modernist influence behind the dumbing-down of the English syllabus and in the growing disrespect shown for significant literature. But does he - or most parents - appreciate fully the extent to which Marxist ideology hides behind the mask of postmodernism?

Communism has never achieved even 2 per cent of the total vote in Australian federal elections. In the sphere of public education, however, the grip of ideas that have their origin in Marxist theory has never been greater. Children are now regularly indoctrinated in Australia's public schools with political ideology that is the opposite of that supported by their parents. Add to this an accelerating decline in quantifiable standards of learning and achievement and you see why a sizeable migration to private education has been taking place for years.

If parents were offered a totally depoliticised system of public education - even one approximating to a classical model from 50 years ago, which emphasises the acquisition of skills rather than of attitudes - I have no doubt that many would embrace it with enthusiasm. In terms of measurable academic standards, hopes for worthwhile future employment, ability to cope with tertiary courses and the development of genuinely independent, educationally informed minds, such an alternative could not help being an improvement on the present, covertly politicised and academically disastrous model. Such an alternative would, of course, be resisted to the death by those who now dictate educational policy. Such educationalists invariably claim - in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - to know best what is most beneficial and desirable for those in their power.

Does such a claim to omniscience sound familiar? It certainly should to anyone who has ever lived for any length of time under a communist regime. Under such regimes even abject failure was always represented as triumph or impending triumph. Regular observers of our educational scene should have realised by now that wherever radical educational initiatives - generally of postmodernist and thus Marxist origins - appear to create chaos or failure such shortcomings find themselves twisted through 180 degrees to re-emerge as triumphant vindications of doctrine: "Our children may not be able to read, spell, punctuate, add or subtract or show even the slightest grasp of the pleasures and purposes of significant literature but what they have been forced to recognise are the power structures concealed in educated discourse. Access to the mysteries of such recognition will make them the true world citizens of the future." What I am referring to here obliquely is the brave new world of what is termed critical literacy.

It may be instructive for parents who remain understandably in the dark about any supposed need to analyse language largely or solely in terms of power relationships to understand why their children should be obliged to view the written word in this one-eyed fashion. The originator of these ideas was a French Marxist historian/philosopher who died 22 years ago and whose entire life was consumed by a corrosive hatred of the kind of conventional, middle-class, "bourgeois" values that tend to obtain in modern Western democracies such as Australia. The man in question was Michel Foucault. Was this paragon truly the possessor of an exceptional, visionary and supremely balanced mind whose theories of life and society should be accepted by the rest of us - including parents of hundreds of thousands of children now attending Australian schools - without question?

When not exercising his supposedly superior vision of the true nature of bourgeois Western societies, Foucault was a promiscuous masochist whose areas of interest were in torture, drug-use and totally anonymous sex. His spiritual hero was the Marquis de Sade. As well as seeking the destruction of conventional Western capitalist societies, the admired philosopher had a parallel penchant for destroying himself, attempting suicide a number of times and finally succeeding in dying prematurely at the age of 57 from a sexually transmitted disease.

Whether any of these acknowledged facts fitted him supremely to be a posthumous arbiter in the way our children and university students are taught is not for me to say. These personal details of Foucault's life are, incidentally, freely available, being discussed in disturbing detail in a biography written by James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (Simon & Schuster 1993).



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