Saturday, May 13, 2006

About time: Universities to dock pay of British professors who boycott exam duties

These underworked elitists show no concern for the students they are being paid to teach

University vice-chancellors are to cut the pay of lecturers who refuse to set, invigilate or mark students' exams and coursework. The move came as Alan Johnson, the new Education Secretary, called on academics to end their boycott, which threatens to disrupt the graduation of up to 300,000 students this summer. Many students are due to start exams next week. Lecturers, led by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and its sister union Natfhe, are calling for a 23 per cent pay rise over three years. They have refused the latest 12.6 per cent offer. More than 20 universities have told the Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA) that they will dock staff pay by between 10 and 100 per cent.

Michael Sterling, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: "The employer has to send a letter asking staff to inform him when they are starting the action. From that point on, the employer will deduct different amounts from their pay according to the university's point of view." Professor Sterling, who chairs the Russell Group of universities, informed his staff of the proposed action in January. He is docking 10 per cent and says that 150 of Birmingham's academics are taking industrial action, fewer than 5 per cent of the whole. Birmingham, where exams are taken earlier, will award degrees to students on the basis of exams sat and papers marked. A "no-detriment clause" means that degree results will only be revised up, not down. At Northumbria University, staff will find their pay cut completely until they return to working full-time. Salaries will also be cut or withheld at Sunderland, Coventry and Strathclyde universities.

The dispute worsened this week after the AUT and Natfhe rejected the universities' 12.6 per cent rise over three years as falling far short of the increase sought. AUT delegates meeting in Scarborough yesterday voted to continue their boycott. The unions have so far refused to put the offer to members. This week, AUT members at St Andrews voted to accept a local 12.5 per cent deal over three years offered by the university, but they were overruled by AUT Scotland.

Intervening for the first time, Mr Johnson urged lecturers to accept the "very generous" deal and end their action. He added that it would be "incredible" if union leaders did not put the 12.6 per cent pay offer to their members. "The employers have made a very decent offer, actually a very generous offer, but I hope the unions now put it to their members," he said. "I think if they do it will be accepted. For the unions not to put that to the members would be incredible."

Boris Johnson, the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, said that the strike had gone on long enough and he called on the unions to put the offer to members. "Lecturers have a legitimate grievance," he said, "but it is not right that students across the country should be penalised and potentially robbed of their degrees by this action. I join with the Secretary of State in urging the unions to put the latest deal to their members for them to decide."

Alan Johnson, who was the Higher Education Minister who pushed through tuition fees, said that it was not for him to "step in" and resolve the dispute, but he emphasised the significance of the latest offer. He was speaking as AUT delegates discussed the dispute at the union's annual council meeting. Sally Hunt, the AUT general secretary, said that the row must be resolved soon to avoid "meltdown" at universities this summer. She said that members had been debating the pay issue since arriving in Scarborough. "They gave a clear democratic mandate in a unanimous vote to reject the offer and continue with the assessment boycott," she said. "What is clear is that this dispute will end when, and only when, there is a decent and credible offer on the table."



The long-dormant idea of teaching public school students about the literary and historic importance of the Bible is getting a fresh look this year from state legislatures and local school boards - though with political bickering and questions about what should be included. The buzz results mostly from "The Bible and Its Influence," a glossy high-school textbook with substantial interfaith and academic endorsements. It's available for the coming school year, and some 800 high schools are currently considering the course. The publisher, the Bible Literacy Project of Front Royal, Va., will issue a teacher's edition next month and is providing online teacher training through Oregon's Concordia University. The group expects no legal problems, but is promising school districts worried about lawsuits that Washington's Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will supply attorneys without charge.

Bible Literacy isn't alone in the field. Its older rival, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools of Greensboro, N.C., is backed by numerous conservative Protestant activists and says 36 new clients have adopted its program this year, compared with just a couple per month in 2005. Overall, the group says school districts in 37 states with 1,250 high schools use its curriculum. The National Council believes the Bible should be students' only textbook. It offers teachers a course outline, "The Bible in History and Literature," and a CD-ROM of "The Bible Reader," a 1969 anthology of texts and commentary. The outline follows the King James Version and recommends the conservative Protestant Ryrie Study Bible for further background.

Both efforts pursue an opening created by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a notable 1963 ruling, the court banned ceremonial Bible readings in public schools but allowed "objective" study of the text in a manner divorced from belief. "The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities," the court said.

Last month, Georgia's Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a law that sanctions but doesn't require Bible courses, and directs the state education department to pick a curriculum by February. Legislators are mulling similar proposals in Missouri, Tennessee and Alabama. In Alabama, Republicans have killed a Democratic proposal specifying use of Bible Literacy's textbook after conservatives complained to Republicans about its pluralistic approach. "To some extent, this is about Democrats trying to get religion, and certain Republicans trying to spread religion," says Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University.

Representing the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky charges that Georgia is "clearly violating" the First Amendment with "state-sponsored religious promotion" both through Bible classes and another law allowing Ten Commandments displays. At Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a spokesman finds it "deeply worrisome" that a "religious pressure group" like Bible Literacy is promoting coursework.

Americans United cites religious activities of Bible Literacy Chairman Chuck Stetson, an Episcopalian and New York entrepreneur, who co-edited the textbook. The National Council's course outline is anonymous, and President Elizabeth Ridenour declines to state her religious affiliation. The National Council's Web site features attacks on Bible Literacy from conservatives, including megachurch pastors John Hagee of San Antonio and D. James Kennedy of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Hagee calls the new textbook "a masterful work of deception, distortion and outright falsehoods" that would leave pupils "greatly damaged." Kennedy says it would be "a tremendous mistake to impose such very anti-biblical material."

Other conservatives disagree. Bible Literacy won endorsements from a lineup of evangelical scholars and leaders including Charles Colson, who says, "I do not see how any of its content would work to undermine one's faith." The National Council also faces attacks, particularly a scathing 32-page report last year by SMU's Chancey that was sponsored by the liberal Texas Freedom Network and endorsed by 187 religion professors. Chancey branded the National Council version he examined "a sectarian document" that promoted primarily conservative Protestant views, lacked input from scholars in other faith traditions and is inappropriate for public schools. The class outline has since been revised somewhat. The National Council notes in response that its "Bible Reader" was compiled by two Protestants, a Roman Catholic priest and a rabbi, and cites support from several Catholics and an Orthodox rabbi.

Bible Literacy's textbook tries to sidestep sectarian disputes. Its textbook is designed to fit with a 1999 agreement it helped broker on coursework and other issues regarding the Bible in schools. That pact was endorsed by, among others, seven major public school organizations, four Jewish and three evangelical groups and the National Council of Churches. Asked to answer the barbs from the National Council, Bible Literacy spokeswoman Sheila Weber said: "With 8 percent of the nation's schools offering coverage of the Bible, there's plenty of room for different kinds of projects."



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, May 12, 2006


From Mike Adams

Over my last 13 years as a college professor, I've heard some pretty wild conspiracy theories attempting to blame various social ills on white people. After hearing a particularly strange one about Hurricane Katrina - from a 20-year old white girl, no less - I decided to publish my Top Ten. Most of these quotes are paraphrased because they were not recorded soon enough after I heard them for exact duplication. But no subtle nuance in wording can alter the idiocy these paraphrases contain. And, sadly, 100% of them come from college professors and students at our so-called institutions of higher learning. I hope they entertain you as much as they entertained me - although something tells me they will irritate more than a few readers:

10. "911 was a conspiracy planned between the Bush administration and the Jews. They wanted an excuse to attack Arabs and the ignorant public bought into it." (from a now-deceased college professor).

9. "I don't want any teacher who supports George W. Bush. If Bush is elected he's planning - along with the rest of the Republicans - to bring back slavery. I don't want to work picking cotton in the cotton fields like my ancestors." (college student).

8. "It is a known fact that the Reagan administration invented crack to destroy the black community." (college professor).

7. "The Reagan administration hired Jewish doctors to develop the AIDS virus to destroy Africa." (college professor).

6. "The Mona Lisa was painted by an African artist and stolen from a museum in Ethiopia. Most of the great works of art are African in origin and stolen by white people. This is done to promote the myth of white cultural superiority." (graduate student).

5. "The voting machines in Florida were built by white supremacists. They may well be able to distinguish between black and white voters. Who knows what they are capable of making those machines do?" (college professor).

4. "Newt Gingrich's election as Speaker of the House, limiting affirmative action, limiting welfare, the Republican tax cuts, and the balanced budget are all part of the same idea. Everything the Republicans do or discuss is about racism. Everything is a well-orchestrated effort to keep the black man down." (college professor).

3. "The ABC news doesn't tell you. The CBS news doesn't tell you. The NBC news doesn't tell you. Even CNN doesn't tell you. Nobody tells the truth that almost all serial killers are white. The news outlets all work together to make folks think that all killers are black." (college professor and diversity director).

2. "The death penalty is a genocidal mechanism that seeks to control black people through extermination or, more importantly, the threat of extermination." (college professor).

1. "It is a proven fact that U.S. Coast Guard ships - on orders from President Bush - were seen crashing into the New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina. Bush did it to kill black people living in government housing projects." (college student).

If you haven't been following the campus cultural wars lately, you might find it hard to believe that some of those quotes were actually uttered. But if you have worked or studied on a campus lately, chances are you've heard variations of several of them.

Fight Against Campus Bias Gets Boost

If you're a Jewish college student, you no longer have to tolerate anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing on your campus. You are protected under our federal civil rights laws. These were the landmark conclusions of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal agency that analyzes information about discrimination and reports its findings and recommendations to the president and Congress.

In November 2005, the commission held its first-ever hearing on the issue of campus anti-Semitism. One topic was the Zionist Organization of America's precedent-setting civil rights complaint on behalf of Jewish students at UC Irvine, who have faced a pattern of anti-Jewish hostility that university administrators have known about but have failed to adequately address. Based on the hearing, the commission recently issued historic findings and recommendations that both Jews and non-Jews can applaud.

According to the commission, the problem of campus anti-Semitism is "serious." In addition to name-calling, threats, assaults and the vandalism of property, hatred toward Jews is being expressed on campus in subtler ways. Zionism - the expression of Jewish rights and attachment to the historic homeland of Israel - is being unfairly mischaracterized as racism. Israel is being demonized and illegitimately compared to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, and its leaders are being compared to Hitler.

At UC Irvine, annual campus events (titled, "Anti-Zionist Week" and the misnomer "Israel Awareness Week") have been regular opportunities to attack Jews, Zionists and those who support Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state. Signs have equated the Star of David with the swastika and depicted it dripping with blood. Speakers have portrayed Jews as overly powerful and conspiratorial; one referred to "the Jewish lobby" as a "den of spies."

At San Francisco State University, fliers depicted a baby with the caption, "Palestinian Children Meat - Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License." The commission rightly condemned all this conduct as anti-Semitism, finding that "[a]nti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism."

The commission also recognized that Jewish students face harassment inside the classroom. Many academic departments present a one-sided, anti-Israel view of the Middle East conflict, squelching legitimate debate about Israel. According to a Jewish student at Columbia University, her professor said that she had no claim to the Land of Israel because she had green eyes and therefore could not be a Semite. In response to such incidents, the commission recommended that academic departments "maintain academic standards, respect intellectual diversity and ensure that the rights of all students are fully protected."

According to the commission, "severe, persistent or pervasive" anti-Semitism on campus may violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI requires that colleges and universities ensure that their programs and activities are free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on "race, color or national origin." Otherwise, they risk losing their federal funding. The commission recognized that Jews are protected under Title VI because they are an ethnic group sharing a common ancestry and heritage.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education ensures that colleges and universities comply with Title VI. The commission recommended that OCR vigorously enforce Title VI to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism.

The commission also urged university leaders to denounce anti-Semitic and other hate speech. Some have already done so: When a cartoon mocking the Holocaust was published in a Rutgers student newspaper, the university president publicly recognized that although the publication was constitutionally protected, it was hurtful to the community and inconsistent with the university's values. He urged the students involved to take responsibility for their actions and succeeded in getting them to apologize for the hurt they caused to the community.

Not all university leaders have exercised the same moral leadership. Some have remained silent in the face of anti-Semitic speech and conduct, justifying their silence by saying that offensive behavior is constitutionally protected. Of course, we must all stand up for free speech and vigorous debate - especially on a college campus, where the exchange of ideas should be encouraged. But hateful, degrading and demeaning speech is hateful, degrading and demeaning, no matter where it occurs.

We can't lose our common sense about what is hateful and harmful, just because it is expressed on a college campus. If college officials remain silent, they help perpetuate the bigotry. And their silence contributes to making the targets of the hate feel even more marginalized and unwelcome. What should you do if you are experiencing anti-Semitism on your campus, to the point that the environment feels hostile or intimidating?

First, you should try to resolve the problem internally by working with university officials to create an atmosphere that is tolerant and respectful. While colleges and universities must uphold the right of free speech, they have a legal obligation to provide you with an educational environment that is free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination. If working with university officials fails and the hostile environment persists, then you can and should file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (

More information is forthcoming. The commission has recommended that OCR conduct a public education campaign, and it will be distributing its own materials to inform students of their rights. Hillel directors should be getting the message out to college administrators and to their Jewish constituents. The Zionist Organization of America will be undertaking its own nationwide effort to inform Jewish students and college administrators that anti-Semitism is illegal and that students have legal tools to fight it.

Whatever your campus experience, if you are a Jewish student, it's important to know that the Civil Rights Commission has staked out its position firmly supporting your right to be free from campus anti-Semitism. You have the right to obtain your education in an atmosphere that is conducive to learning and that does not intimidate or harass you because you are Jewish or support Israel.



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, May 11, 2006

Mob Rule: In departmental disputes, professors can act just like animals

When songbirds perceive some sign of danger - a roosting owl, a hawk, a neighborhood cat - a group of them will often do something bizarre: fly toward the threat. When they reach the enemy, they will swoop down on it again and again, jeering and making a racket, which draws still more birds to the assault. The birds seldom actually touch their target (though reports from the field have it that some species can defecate or vomit on the predator with "amazing accuracy"). The barrage simply continues until the intruder sulks away. Scientists call this behavior "mobbing."

The impulse to mob is so strong in some birds that humans have learned to use predators as lures. Birders play recordings of screech owls to attract shy songbirds. In England, an ancient duck-hunting technique involved stationing a trained dog at the edge of a pond: First the dog got the ducks' attention, and then it fled down the mouth of a giant, narrowing wickerwork trap, with the mob of waterfowl hot in pursuit all the way. Birds mob for a couple of reasons. One of them is educational: Youngsters learn whom to mob, and whom to fear, by watching others do it. But the more immediate purpose of mobbing is to drive the predator away - or, in the words of the eminent Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz, to make "the enemy's life a burden."

Sometimes, especially in winter, Kenneth Westhues can hear a flock of crows tormenting a great horned owl outside his study in Waterloo, Ontario. It is a fitting soundtrack for his work. Mr. Westhues has made a career out of the study of mobbing. Since the late 1990s, he has written or edited five volumes on the topic. However, the mobbers that most captivate him are not sparrows, fieldfares, or jackdaws. They are modern-day college professors....

Max Weber, a founding father of modern sociology, saw bureaucracy as the living embodiment of cool, procedural rationality. In Mr. Westhues's view, mobbing is a pathological undercurrent of irrationality in bureaucracies - a crabby ghost in the machine. According to Mr. Westhues, mobbing occurs most in institutions where workers have high job security, where there are few objective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between loyalty to the institution and loyalty to some higher purpose. In other words, the ghost is alive and well in many academic departments. Tenure is supposed to protect scholars from outside control, but it does a lousy job of protecting them from one another, Mr. Westhues says. In the hothouse of a department, disputes can easily cascade from individual disagreement and disapproval to widespread revulsion to a concerted effort to get a colleague removed. "Mobbing is a turning inward," he says. "People lose a sense of purpose and they're at one another's throats."....

Mr. Westhues conducts his research on mobbing mainly by doing case studies - by studying official documentation of disputes and by interviewing people. By now, he has conducted just under 150 full case studies, but he is contacted all the time by people who believe they have been mobbed. The view he has acquired of higher education is a panorama of the academic down and out.

It includes a professor from South Asia working in Texas who, after years of getting sniped at by his colleagues, was eventually drummed out of his position for careless accounting and unauthorized use of a photocopier. It includes a German-accented professor who so unnerved fellow faculty members that during a tirade against her one of them actually had a seizure. (She was soon after served with a petition demanding her physical removal from the department for charges of "creating a hostile work environment" and "unethical behavior.")

A few times a year, Mr. Westhues embarks on research trips to campuses where he has gotten wind of a mobbing. He sometimes combines his research missions with lectures or panels on mobbing, to bring the idea out into the open. Last month one such trip took him to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, just as spring was showing on the trees....

Jerry Becker, a 69-year-old professor of mathematics education at Carbondale, is the son of a Minnesota truck driver and holds a doctorate from Stanford University. He is a workaholic. In 27 years of teaching at Carbondale, he has never taken a sabbatical, he says. By his estimate, he brings in "hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars" in grant money to the university, and often gets the highest marks on performance evaluations.

In November 2003, 15 of Mr. Becker's colleagues signed a 12-page complaint against him, charging him with bullying, buttonholing professors to talk about union issues, and multiple other offenses, as well as calling him "toxic" to the work environment. They said they wanted him removed "physically and professionally" from their midst. In response, Mr. Becker spent nearly every evening for more than two months writing a point-by-point rebuttal. The rebuttal persuaded the administration to clear him of all charges. However, just a few months later, Mr. Becker's colleagues submitted yet another complaint, this one containing several charges of sexual harassment. Once again, Mr. Becker successfully rebutted the charges and was exonerated. But his colleagues still scored a victory: Mr. Becker's office was moved far away from theirs, to a part of campus where no other professors work.

Essentially, Mr. Westhues says, anything that can be a basis for bickering can be a basis for mobbing: race, sex, political difference, cultural difference, intellectual style. Professors with foreign accents, he says, often get mobbed, as do professors who frequently file grievances and "make noise." But perhaps the most common single trait of mobbing targets, he says, is that they excel.

"To calculate the odds of your being mobbed," Mr. Westhues writes in his most comprehensive book on mobbing, The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors, "count the ways you show your workmates up: fame, publications, teaching scores, connections, eloquence, wit, writing skills, athletic ability, computer skills, salary, family money, age, class, pedigree, looks, house, clothes, spouse, children, sex appeal. Any one of these will do."

With a history of consulting for the tobacco industry, a prominent critique of affirmative action to his name, and a poster that says "I Love Capitalism" hanging over his desk, Jonathan J. Bean is not exactly a shy Republican. A square-jawed, youthful-looking man in his 40s, Mr. Bean is a professor of history at Carbondale. Last April, during a freshman-level American-history course, he gave his teaching assistants a text he wanted them to use in a discussion section on the aftermath of the civil-rights movement. The text came from FrontPage Magazine, the aggressively conservative online publication run by David Horowitz, and it gave an account of a string of black-on-white murders in San Francisco during the 1970s called the Zebra Killings. Its central argument was that cultural taboos on discussing black-on-white racism had made the murders all but vanish from public memory.

Within days, Mr. Bean discovered that the reading had caused a stir among his teaching assistants and among professors in the department. In response, he first issued a rather sarcastic apology impugning the "timidity" of acceptable debate on campus, but soon after wrote a more straightforward "I'm sorry" and canceled the reading assignment. A few days later, six of Mr. Bean's colleagues in the history department published an open letter in the campus newspaper. "Academic responsibility," they wrote, "demands that professors promote the free exchange of ideas without creating a hostile environment, running the risk of nurturing racist attitudes among their students, and putting their teaching assistants in an untenable position. "Moreover," they continued, "it is our academic responsibility as history professors to disassociate ourselves from this irresponsible use of objectionable and inflammatory material."

Mr. Bean happened to own a copy of Mr. Westhues's book, Workplace Mobbing in Academe. When he looked at Mr. Westhues's indicators of a mobbing, he said to himself, "That's me all over."

But then something strange happened: People outside the department turned against the letter signers. FrontPage Magazine published a long, vitriolic article on the incident under the headline "Academic Witch-Hunt." The campus newspaper also published a story that was largely sympathetic to Mr. Bean. "I had two direct ancestors hung as witches at Salem," Mr. Bean was prominently quoted as saying. "I don't plan to be the third." In the same article, another professor was quoted describing Mr. Bean's troubles as "a classic case of mobbing." Before long, the e-mail in boxes of the letter signers were crammed with hate mail.

Not surprisingly, Robbie Lieberman, one of the letter signers, is not a fan of mobbing rhetoric. "I don't think it's accidental that it evokes lynch mobs," says Ms. Lieberman. "Blaming a lynch mob is one thing. Blaming a department for criticizing a colleague is another." "Mobbing is such a colorful term that it tends to pre-empt debate," says Rich Fedder, Ms. Lieberman's husband and the chairman of the Southern Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It plays into an American love of talking about victims."

Mr. Fedder and Ms. Lieberman do have a point: Leveling the charge of mobbing can be a quick and easy way to seize the moral high ground in a dispute. And while Mr. Westhues does, in fact, see Mr. Bean's case as a mobbing, he largely agrees with this argument. "There's a tendency for anybody who wants some leverage in campus politics to say, You know, I'm being mobbed," he says, "and the whole thing becomes quite meaningless." This is one reason why Mr. Westhues, unlike many mobbing researchers, is dead set against anti-mobbing legislation.

At his lecture on mobbing in Carbondale, Mr. Westhues told an audience of about 50 people that, in fact, his best hope for his work on mobbing is that it might have an impact on administrators. (The provost of Southern Illinois sat in the back row, scribbling notes.) Professors seeking to eliminate one of their colleagues cannot get very far without the backing of the administration, he said. And in cases where many professors are pitted against one, administrators' first instinct will often be to side with the majority.

But because mobbers tend to be so impassioned and sloppy in their reasoning, Mr. Westhues argued, administrators who side with them may suffer for it later. Mr. Westhues's research provides numerous examples of mobbing victims who have walked away with fat court settlements, and of administrators who have walked away without their jobs. "Administrators need to know that it's in their interests to prevent this," Mr. Westhues said. "They take a big risk when they encourage the mobbing of a professor."

He said that universities should wean themselves of the quasi-judicial bodies, like ethics committees, that, in his opinion, simply dignify pettiness and give professors a chance to have power over one another. At his own university, he said, after having been the subject of several ethics committee proceedings himself (of course, he has what he considers to be his own history with mobbing), he worked to persuade the Board of Governors to abolish the committee. He argued that an ethics committee "lets people play judge" and "brings out the worst in good people." His arguments succeeded. "If you ask me," Mr. Westhues told the audience in Carbondale, "we've been more ethical without the ethics committee."

More here. (HT Neil Craig).


Learning in English is a major motivation not stressed below

Public schools ["public" in the British sense] are attracting soaring numbers of pupils from across Europe despite fees averaging 20,000 pounds a year and reaching 25,000 pounds in London and the South East. The number of French, German and Spanish pupils attending British independent schools rose by more than a quarter this year, with a record number from France.

The annual census of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), published yesterday, also showed a small rise in the number of British children attending private schools, as well as strong interest from Russia, Eastern Europe, Hong Kong and China. Overall, the number of new overseas pupils at British boarding schools rose by 11 per cent to 23,056. The reason, according to the Boarding School Association (BSA), is that British public schools offer a broader curriculum, smaller classes, better teaching and more sports facilities.

Jonathan Shephard, the general secretary of the ISC, said that it was also partly down to better transport links and the greater take-up of the International Baccalaureate. "There are low-cost flights coming in to a number of different airports so you are not abandoning your child for a whole term. They can go backwards and forwards at weekends," he said.

Giggleswick school in Settle, North Yorkshire, which charges annual fees of 19,000 pounds, has 325 boys and girls, 14 per cent of whom are from overseas, including French, German, Chinese and Nigerian. Geoffrey Boult, the headmaster and vice-chairman of the BSA, said: "Overseas students, in particular Europeans, see the move as a springboard to UK universities. Initially the Germans came for the first year of their Abitur, or A levels, and then went back. Now they're staying on for two years before going on to university. They're often aiming for Oxbridge, Warwick and the LSE. They know they'll graduate at 22 instead of 26, so they see British schooling as an acceleration into the workplace."

The number of new European students studying in Britain last year came to 7,469, with a record 24 per cent increase in students from France. For Lorenz Caspar-Bours, 17, from Aachen, Germany, it is the support of the teachers at Giggleswick that is the key. In Germany, teachers are often teaching classes of up to 35. The average class size in British independent schools now stands at ten pupils per teacher. "You have a very different relationship with your teacher than if you see him with 30 others before then disappearing," Lorenz said.

The total number of pupils in the ISC's 1,272 schools rose slightly this year to 505,450. This was up but still well below the 2004 figure of 508,027. The number of boarders rose slightly from 68,255 to 68,409.

PHILIPP DANNENBERG, 17, arrived last September from Berlin at Trinity school in Devon. What started out as a year's exchange to improve his English will end with the completion of his A levels. Philipp said that he had been won over by the family atmosphere. "It's so different from Germany," he said. "I hated all the teachers there. They were so unfriendly." Having discovered that German universities will accept A levels, Philipp stayed on. Although he studies for more hours than in Berlin, he swims twice a week, studies martial arts and plays football.

Speaking from Germany, his father, Thomas Dannenberg, a psychologist, said that he had been impressed by his son's timetable. "I've been very pleasantly surprised how well English schools are organised," he said. "From dawn till dusk they're learning."

However, the exercise is not cheap. Having paid nothing for Philipp to attend the local Gymnasium, or secondary school, Herr Dannenberg pays 16,000 pounds a year in fees, and a further 2,000 a term so that his son may stay with a family at weekends.



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, May 10, 2006


Amidst relentless warnings that America's schools are graduating only two-thirds of 18-year-olds, are failing to produce the scientists and engineers we need, and need to address stubborn racial achievement gaps, more than 14,000 of the nation's education researchers gathered recently in San Francisco for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Their task is not easy. Former AERA president David C. Berliner has explained in Educational Researcher, a prestigious education journal, that education research is "the hardest science of all." Berliner argued that educational science is much harder than "splitting either atoms or genes" because those who study schooling find their research confounded by "the ordinary events of life" such as "a messy divorce, a passionate love affair, hot flashes, a birthday party, alcohol abuse...[or] rain that keeps the children from a recess outside the school building." Clearly, these scholars in San Francisco would have no time for the frivolity one might find at a gathering of biochemists or physicists.

It was quickly made evident that the scholars had buckled down to the crucial, serious work at hand. Professors had unflinchingly tackled each of the five major fields of educational inquiry: imperialism; ghetto culture; hegemonic oppression and right-thinking multiculturalism: cyber-jargon; and the utterly incomprehensible. There was also some boring work on questions like student achievement and policy evaluation, but you only had to follow the crowds to see where the action was.

Flipping open the two-inch-thick program of research presentations, no responsible educator concerned about imperialism could bear to miss the session that featured "Na Wahine Mana: A Postcolonial Reading of Classroom Discourse on the Imperial Rescue of Oppressed Hawaiian Women," "Every Shut Eye Ain't Sleep and Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: Paradoxes of Race in the Production of Political Knowledge of Decolonizing Nationhood," and "Written On, Written Over, but Refusing to be Written Off: Indigenous Educators Teaching in the Empire."

Possibilities for future research abound. If shut eyes are not sleeping, are they absorbing algebra? Where do goodbyes go when they are not gone? And, of course, is the empire likely to strike back? If it does, how many oppressed Hawaiian women will be further victimized by the postcolonial discourse?

Researchers seeking to celebrate ghetto culture were riveted by the scholarship of "Ho No Mo': A Qualitative Investigation of Adolescent Female Language Reclamation and Rejection." A subsequent piece of research, "'He's Driving a BMW and I'm Riding the Bus': Examining Spirituality in Urban Youths' Lives," no doubt delved into the question of what happens after the ho's are no mo'. Meanwhile, the burning issue of hip hop pedagogies was explored by the research session on "Black Language, Literacy, and Liberation: The Promises and Challenges of Critical Hip Hop Language Pedagogies."

Those more interested in hegemonic oppression could not afford to miss "The Formation of the Subjectivity of Mail-Order Brides in Taiwan and Their Educational Strategies Toward Their Children." The import of an oppressive "majority culture" was tackled in a provocative piece that unfortunately suffered from a limited sample size: "Translating, Paraphrasing, Helping: Coming of Age for One Child of Immigrants."

One scholar of multiculturalism showed how to do away with injustice and racism, while promoting compassion and wisdom, in "Resisting Resistance: Using Eco-Justice and Eco-Racism to Awaken Mindfulness, Compassion, and Wisdom in Preservice Teachers."

Other work promised to promote proper multicultural teacher attitudes, as with "Teaching White Preservice Teachers: Pedagogical Responses to Color-Blind Ideology" and "Overcoming Odds: Preparing Bilingual Paraeducators to Teach for Social Justice." Breakthrough research on this front included "Discovering Collage as a Method in Researching Multicultural Lives" and "Artistic Code-Switching in a Collaged Book on Border Identity and Spanglish."

Among the panels tackling the pressing questions of "queer studies" (formerly "gay and lesbian studies") were "Queering Schooling and (Un)Doing the Public Good: Rubbing Against the Grain for Schooling Sexualities," "The Silence at School: An Ethnodrama for Educators About the School Experiences of Gay Boys," and "Working Against Heterosexism and Homophobia Through Teacher Inquiry." Unfortunately, this work may have seemed a bit conventional to those researchers fortunate enough to catch the 2004 analysis of ableist oppression in homoerotic magazines: "Unzipping the Monster Dick: Deconstructing Ableist Representations in Two Homoerotic Magazines."

Cyber-jargon is a rapidly growing field, with scholars tackling such pressing questions as what happens when dyads co-quest in Quest Atlantis. One intriguing session included scholarly analyses that tackled "The 'Unofficial' Literacy Curriculum: Popular Websites in Adolescents' Out-of-School Lives," "Not Just the OMG Standard: Reader Feedback in Online Fan Fiction," and "English-Language Learning in a 3-D Virtual Environment: Native/Non-Native Speaker Dyads Co-Questing in Quest Atlantis."

Perhaps the most stimulating work was that penned by authors who dabble in utter incomprehensibility. The allure of this work resides partly in trying to discern what the authors are actually talking about. Scholarship like "Semiotics and Classroom Interaction: Mediated Discourse, Distributed Cognition, and the Multimodal Semiotics of Maguru Panggul Pedagogy in Two Balinese Gamelan Classrooms in the United States" and "Education a la Silhouette and the Necessary Semiotically Informed Alternative" leaves one a bit breathless.

Other work that may not be quite as dazzling, but nevertheless boasted its own pleasing bouquet of complexity, included "Fostering a Distributed Community of Practice Among Tribal Environmental Professionals During Professional Development Courses" and "Vygotskian Semiotic Conception and Representational Dialogue in Mathematics Education."

Of course, beckoning any researcher truly concerned about teaching and learning was the Presidential Session that featured a compelling new paper: "'Mami, What Did Nana Say?' Public School and the Politics of Linguistic Genocide." This special session called to mind one of the more compelling papers presented at a past AERA: "Chicanas From Outer Space—Chupacabras, Selena as Marian Image, and Other Tales from the Border."

Perhaps none of this should surprise. After all, Nel Noddings, the president of the National Academy of Education, spoke for many education researchers when she complained, "Why the emphasis on experimental and quasi-experimental research, when there's so much other good stuff out there, I don't know."

Given the challenges facing our schools, and the fact that most of these researchers are supported and employed by public institutions, it might make sense for educational researchers to devote attention to analyzing public policy, improving teaching and learning, and addressing the practical concerns of parents and teachers. Such topics were pursued in San Francisco, of course, but if those engaged in serious work want their work to be accorded the respect they seek, they need to emerge from their hushed sessions and do something about the prominent place their profession grants to scholarship that promotes narrow values, spouts incomprehensible nonsense, and studies the semiotic conceptualization of hegemonic linguistic genocide (or dyadic co-questing in Quest Atlantis).


Australian literacy shortfall spelt out

Business groups have welcomed the Beattie Government's moves to rid the state's English curriculum of post-modern "mumbo jumbo", saying too many school-leavers were effectively illiterate. Commerce Queensland president Beatrice Booth said yesterday employers constantly complained that it was a constant complaint among employers that employees under 30 years of age had serious communication problems, especially with spelling. "There are no remedial programs for people that age, yet we have a plethora of people who can't spell, comprehend what they're reading or write a proper sentence," Ms Booth said. She said employers had "no interest whatsoever" in whether or not staff could deconstruct films, magazines or analyse the "discourse of gender" or comment on the "invited reading, foregrounding or gaps and silences" of particular texts. Nor did they need staff to be able to make film and video presentations. "We hire experts for that," she said.

She said the only thing wrong with Education Minister Rod Welford's plain-English push was that he did not plan to act until 2008 to rid Queensland's controversial English curriculum of post-modern "mumbo jumbo". "That will be another two years lost," Mrs Booth said. She said Commerce Queensland, which represented 40,000 employers, wanted immediate changes to make reading and writing, including grammar and spelling, the main English focus of Years 1 to 4, with a love of reading fostered by suitable books. "As far as prospective employers are concerned, the lack of basic primary school reading and writing skills among Year 12 school leavers and university graduates is the main concern employers have about education," she said. "This is a frequent complaint among small business owners from the local story to surveyors and doctors." "After Year 4, the program could be expanded to take in wider skills like writing a letter."

Mrs Booth also believed critical literacy had contributed to a "labelling" mentality among young people which planted hostility towards business and business owners. "We should be out there encouraging them to become business entrepreneurs, not suggesting that business is a bad word," she said.

Professor Erica McWilliam, Assistant Dean of Research at QUT's Faculty of Education, agreed with Mr Welford that clear communication was important, but said today's students needed "a range of literacies including sound, images and text" to cope with the demands of the modern world. "English is certainly about communication but we have to be careful that as we reassert the importance of clarity that we have to be careful not to collapse into the notion of simplicity," Professor McWilliam said. As a former teacher of poetry she admitted to "a little frisson of despair" at the thought of poems like Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas) being "deconstructed" rather than simply appreciated for their beauty. She said school programs should allow students the time to appreciate and enjoy fine writing rather than constantly expecting them to "perform" by analysing, deconstructing and criticising literary works



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, May 09, 2006


If there is one fact about modern Britain that should cause us more shock and disappointment than any other, it is that social mobility seems to be declining. Politicians all talk about spreading opportunity, but we are failing to deliver. This is shocking because we are so used to thinking of social trends inexorably pushing us to become a more open and mobile society "classless", with "opportunities for all", as we politicians like to say. So what is going on?

The figures show that a boy born to parents in the poorest quarter of the population in 1958 had a 31% chance of still being there aged 33 and a 17% chance of being in the top quartile. By 1970, those figures had worsened: a boy born in the bottom quartile had a 38% chance of staying put and just a 16% chance of moving into the top quartile.

If social mobility is still declining, many people assume that education must be the culprit. Gordon Brown focused attention on universities in 2000 with his notorious intervention in the Laura Spence affair.

Britain over the past 20 years has seen a big increase in the earnings of graduates relative to non-graduates. But it looks as though the expansion in higher education has meant more places for students from more affluent backgrounds rather than students from poorer backgrounds. The chances of a child from a high-income family getting a degree are still much greater than those for a child from a low-income background. So the expansion of higher education has not increased social mobility but, if anything, has contributed to its decline.

There is clearly much that education can do: it is incredibly frustrating that despite the best efforts of successive governments to try to improve educational standards, the contribution of education towards social mobility is, if anything, going backwards. Can we offer any further explanation of all this, beyond the continuing failings of our education system?

There is one powerful explanation. The enormous expansion of education, especially higher education, must by definition have succeeded in bringing extra opportunities to many more to gain university qualifications than ever before. The assumption was that this would mean more students from modest backgrounds. But in reality the main beneficiaries have been a different, though equally meritorious, group.

The biggest single group of beneficiaries from the expansion of higher education have been young women, often from higher-income backgrounds, even if ones that would not previously have sent daughters to higher education. In 1974, 145,000 men and 75,000 women went to university. So there was a total of 220,000 university students with almost twice as many men as women. Since then, of course, polytechnics have become universities, increasing the number of university students at a stroke by several hundred thousand. But the trend has carried on upwards as well. Thirty years later, in 2004, the number of male university students quadrupled to 650,000. But the number of female university students increased twelvefold to 950,000. Now there are one and a half times as many female students as men. The expansion of education has helped both men and women. But it has had a far greater impact on women than on men.

The women who have above all benefited from this expansion are those from more affluent backgrounds. If anything, the gap between the chances of a girl from a high-income background getting to university as against a girl from a low-income background has actually widened.

More here

Push for plain English in one Australian school system

Post-modernist "mumbo jumbo" is on the way out of Queensland's controversial English syllabus. Education Minister Rod Welford said students as young as Year 8 were being presented with "incomprehensible gobbledegook" that was not being explained to them in plain English. Mr Welford said he wanted to see improvements by the time the new junior and senior syllabuses were fully implemented in 2008. "We want plain English guidelines going to teachers so they can get on with teaching and ensuring students have the knowledge and skills they need," Mr Welford said. "What's wrong with teaching kids to communicate clearly in plain English?"

The Queensland Studies Authority last year appointed independent Sunshine Coast-based educational consultant Ray Land, 53, a former English-social science teacher and education official, to review the preschool to Year 10 syllabus. Mr Land, who found curriculum jargon more of an issue in the primary syllabus than in the secondary syllabus, has completed three out of four stages of his year-long review and his final report is due next month. While unable to pre-empt his report or recommendations, Mr Land has found major variations between schools, English programs and student proficiency levels. While some schools were doing four novels a year, others were doing one and more plays, films, poetry or study of media texts. Some schools, including Thursday Island High School, studied Shakespeare up to Year 10 while others did not.

Mr Land said some measure of critical analysis would remain part of English. It always had been since the earliest days of literary criticism, he said. "But I think deconstruction itself and the jargon is on the way out," he said.

Mr Land found that between a third and a quarter of secondary students up to Year 10 were studying English, not as a traditional subject called English but as part of wider integrated studies courses, where it was linked to a subject such as study of society and the environment. "There a range of reasons for this, including staff shortages in growth areas like Hervey Bay," Mr Land said. "Most English teachers are also qualified to teach in the social sciences. A third issue is the continuity. Students are familiar with an integrated approach at primary school." He said the quality of such integrated studies programs varied and depended on how they were put together and taught, as did all English courses.

Mr Land has found that teachers and school administrators get "a bit chary" at any suggestion that lists of set or suggested novels, plays and poetry be included in the English curriculum. Mr Land is unsure, at this stage, whether he will recommend that a list of suggested reading be included in the English curriculum. He said many schools covered a wide range of works and studied good books in depth. "But about this, it is fair to say that some don't get it right," he said. Mr Land said different schools should have the freedom to select material that best suited their particular students, and the problem with every pupil studying a couple of set books was that it was impossible to suit all tastes and often too difficult to obtain sufficient numbers of the books.

Asked whether it was appropriate for lower secondary students to spend most of a term studying magazines like Dolly or Girlfriend, he said too much deconstruction of such material "becomes tedious and boring". "At the same time, banning them or asking students not to read them just privileges them with the kids," he said. "Balance is what is important."



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, May 08, 2006


The notion that local governments should have almost total monopoly control over our children's education is not only unjust and tyrannical, it is also absurd. Children need education, to be sure, but they also need food, clothing, and shelter. The same poor or irresponsible parents who public-school apologists claim will not educate their children without compulsion, might not feed, clothe, or shelter them either.

Yet, we do not see local governments owning and operating supermarkets, department stores, or apartment houses. Instead, government food stamp or rent-subsidy programs give temporary financial help or loans to those parents who are too poor to provide for their children.

When it comes to K-12th grade education, however, instead of giving vouchers or other temporary loans or subsidies to poor families so they can pay for their children's education, we've created a government-owned-and-operated monstrosity called public schools.

Millions of parents now pay for private pre-schools, kindergartens, and colleges for their children in a vibrant, competitive, education free-market. Most parents who can't afford college tuition for their kids usually apply for student loans either from a bank or a government agency. Yet for kindergarten through 12th-grade education, suddenly government must step in, treat all parents like idiots or potential child abusers, and own and operate all the schools.

To more fully understand the absurdity of this system, imagine for a moment that well-intentioned government authorities want to make sure that every child has enough to eat, that no child gets "left behind" when it comes to food. To insure this goal, local governments across the country take control of all supermarkets and grocery stores in your town.

Under this new system, bureaucrats now own and operate all food stores, and store workers become tenured civil-service employees who can't be fired. Your local government then passes a new "food tax" to pay for these stores and employees-- salaries. This tax is added to your current real-estate tax bill. If you don't pay this new tax, local government officials can and will foreclose on your home.

Also under this system, suppose the local Food Board forces you and your family to buy from a particular store. The store clerks know you have to shop in their store, and that they can't be fired. As a result, many clerks become lazy, incompent, or arrogant. The store managers have tenure and can't be fired, so they manage the stores badly. The stores can't go out of business because they are subsidized by your compulsory food taxes, so the stores give you poor service and rotten food. If you want to change stores, you have to ask permission from your local Food Board bureaucrat, who will usually refuse your request. Also, changing food stores doesn't accomplish much because they are all the same—all owned aand operated by the same incompetent government food monopoly.

If this system sounds absurd to you, if you would scream bloody murder at having to put up with such a system simply to buy food, why do you put up with such a system when it comes to your children's education? Shouldn't you be looking for education alternatives to rescue your children from incompetent government schools?

The politicians we elect to office are our agents, not our masters. They derive their powers from our consent. They are supposed to represent our interests, follow our instructions, and respect our natural and Constitutional rights as parents. Politicians, bureaucrats, and school authorities therefore have as much right to dictate how we educate our children as a real estate agent has to dictate who we sell our house to and at what price.

More here


Two state senators have called for an inquiry into the University of California, Irvine, following a scandal in its hospital's liver transplant unit and concerns over nepotism involving top executives. Sens. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, and Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, on Tuesday called on the heads of two senate committees to hold a joint hearing to address "exceptions made in university policy, favoritism charges (and) lack of transparency and disclosure" at UCI. The lawmakers said no one has been held accountable for repeated problems. "No one's manning the house," Maldonado said. "Who's in charge? Why have all these problems happened at UCI? Is there a systematic problem there? The bottom line is too many unanswered questions."

Federal agencies are investigating UCI for possible fraudulent billing related to its now-closed liver transplant program. UCI shut down the program in November following federal reports that more than 30 patients died on its waiting list in 2004 and 2005, even as the hospital turned down scores of organs that might have saved some of them. During that period, UCI had no full-time liver transplant surgeon.

Questions have also been raised about the hiring of top executives' close relatives in the medical school and medical center, and the awarding of a residency position to the son of a donor to the school. In each case, UCI investigations concluded that nothing was wrong. A university spokeswoman said UCI had taken steps to address problems since the liver program was shuttered that include convening an independent panel of experts to review the medical problems and recommend changes. "UCI has aggressively addressed these problems since the liver issues came to our attention in November," said spokeswoman Susan Menning.


Gradeless courses under fire in Western Australia

One of Western Australia's chief examiners, who has vowed to quit over the state's controversial "gradeless" curriculum being rolled out into Years 11 and 12 classrooms, claims the system is too subjective and will backfire. Jan Bishop said the new system was filled with "gobbledegook" and would cause inequities in how students were graded. Her claims were backed yesterday by former chief examiner Bill Leadbetter, who described the new courses as "content free".

Mrs Bishop helped write the new history course but stepped aside from that role last year over what she described as the Curriculum Council's insistence on writing the course using meaningless language. Mrs Bishop has signalled she will resign next year, 12 months before her contract as chief history examiner ends. She said the marking process, in which teachers decide at which of eight levels a student has performed, was complicated and subjective. "There are major problems with this system and teachers are having difficulties properly assessing students' work because they don't understand," she told The Weekend Australian.

The Carpenter Government has faced increasing pressure to delay the rollout of 17 outcomes-based subjects. Under the new system, all subjects are equal and students achieve at their own level. Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop has raised concerns over Western Australia's outcomes-based education system, claiming it is "inevitable" that standards will fall.



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, May 07, 2006


The closer the pass-rate gets to 100%, the more meaningless it becomes. Why have it if 100% pass? But I guess it makes some kids work for a change

The high school graduation season is weeks away, and nearly 47,000 California seniors -10.7 percent of the class of 2006 - have yet to pass the test required for a diploma, according to figures released Thursday by the state Department of Education. "We're making progress," said Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, in a telephone news conference. "Every student needs the skills to have success in the new global economy, and that's what we're measuring with this test." Students in the class of 2006 are the first required to pass the California High School Exit Exam to graduate. It measures achievement in math and English. Students started taking the test their sophomore year, and more students have passed the test each time it has been administered. Another test is scheduled for later this month.

Some groups of students have fared better than others: 97 percent of whites have passed, as have 95 percent of Asians. Meanwhile, the pass rate is 83 percent for Latino students and 81 percent for African Americans. Students considered "economically disadvantaged" are passing at a rate of 83 percent. And for those who don't speak English as a first language, the rate drops to 71 percent. Disabled students are exempt from taking the test this year as the result of a lawsuit. "The gaps are scary, disappointing, sad," said Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust West, an Oakland group pushing for high standards for disadvantaged students. But overall, she said, "The progress is hopeful. We're on a steady trajectory."

Some critics say it's unfair to demand that everyone pass such an exam when the school system isn't doing a good enough job educating students, especially those in poorer districts that tend to have less-experienced teachers and older textbooks. "Before we can morally or constitutionally apply the exam to all students, we need to ensure all students' constitutional rights have been served and they have been adequately prepared," said Jeff Affeldt, managing attorney for San Francisco-based Public Advocates, which is involved in one of two lawsuits filed against the state over the test.

O'Connell said he has asked the Legislature to approve additional money that will allow struggling students more chances to take the test during the summer and on Saturdays. Students can still pass the test after their classmates graduate. Exit exam or not, the state never graduates every student. Every year, about 45,000 to 50,000 high school seniors don't graduate with their class, according to the Department of Education. Most members of the class of 2006 - 68 percent - passed the exam on their first try as sophomores. In March, the state announced the pass rate had risen to 88 percent. Since that report, another 6,931 students have passed. But those gains have largely been offset because the state identified 5,774 students who hadn't previously taken the test.

The state isn't sure why those students didn't take the test earlier, but it offered three theories: The students missed previous test dates, recently moved to the state or repeated part of their junior year and were recently reclassified as seniors. The state's figures are tallied by a consultant, the Human Resources Research Organization, which has tracked the exit exam for six years.



Teaching of basic anatomy in Australia's medical schools is so inadequate that students are increasingly unable to locate important body parts - and in some cases even confuse one vital organ with another. Senior doctors claim teaching hours for anatomy have been slashed by 80 per cent in some medical schools to make way for "touchy-feely" subjects such as "cultural sensitivity", communication and ethics. The time devoted to other basic sciences - including biochemistry, physiology and pathology - has also been reduced.

Several senior consultants have told The Weekend Australian they have been "horrified" to encounter final-year medical students who do not know where the prostate gland is, or what a healthy liver feels like. When asked by a cardiac surgeon during a live operation to identify a part of the heart that he was pointing to, one group of final-year students thought it was the patient's liver.

A coalition of senior doctors appealed this week to the federal Government to step in, claiming public safety was at stake and that national benchmarks for teaching the basic medical sciences were urgently needed. The Australian Doctors Fund lodged a 70-page submission with the federal Department of Education, Science and Training this week, listing arguments from more than two dozen professors, consultants and medical academics for a rethink on medical education. The document warned of a "rising chorus of concern across the medical profession" that students were not getting "exposure to the necessary amount of training in anatomy" and other key sciences.

The heads of Australia's medical schools fiercely contest the criticisms, saying there has been an "explosion" of medical knowledge that doctors need to know, in fields such as genetics and new drugs, and that other areas have to be cut to accommodate the newer topics. They also strenuously deny that they are turning out inadequately trained doctors. But many students are also unhappy about core science training. One group of students wrote anonymously to two noted academics last year, saying they were "sick of being asked, 'Didn't you study anatomy?"' by consultants amazed by the gaps in their knowledge. "How can we learn if we are not taught the basics?" they wrote.

One of the two recipients of the letter, Barry Oakes, a former anatomy teacher at Monash University, said part of the problem was the "fads and trends" now current in medical education, and that students were "not taught where the body parts are - they are not even taught the organisation of the nervous system". "We will be turning out Dr Deaths out of our own medical schools," he said. "They (doctors) won't be competent to manage patients ... it's just appalling. "It's part of the new educational dictums - 'don't put any stress on them (students) ... it doesn't matter if they don't know anything'." Associate Professor Oakes plans to provide voluntary anatomy lessons for Monash students.

Michael Gardner, 22, a fifth-year medical student at Monash, said that when he posted this fact on a student discussion board last year, 60 out of the 200 students in the year expressed interest in attending. "I think probably the old curriculum had too much emphasis on anatomy, but the new course has probably swung a little bit too far in the other direction," he said. "If you are assessing (a patient) who has had a stroke, if you do not have a good knowledge of the different parts of the brain, it can be difficult to assess which parts have been compromised and what treatment is warranted."

The criticisms of teaching methods are fiercely contested by the heads of Australia's 17 medical schools. Lindon Wing, chairman of the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools, dismissed the examples of student ignorance as anecdotal and said the attacks stemmed from a "clash of cultures" within the profession. "It's the difference between people who have been brought up (through medical school) in a certain way, and want it to stay that way, and the people who are leading a revolution," Professor Wing said. "I have never seen any evidence ... in any of our disciplines that would show we are deficient." Ed Byrne, dean of medical, nursing and health sciences at Monash University, said his university's teaching was "superb" and said a redesigned medical course would graduate its first doctors this year. Although the amount of anatomy teaching had been cut from "several hundred" hours a few years ago to about 100 hours now, this had been matched by many new and better methods for teaching the subject. "We now teach anatomy in a more sophisticated way, using electronic models, images such as X-rays and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging)," Professor Byrne said. "The fact that we have to reduce some of the things we taught in the past to make way for new areas of knowledge is a worldwide tendency."

Nick Lee, 22, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of NSW, and was part of the university's last intake before the course was remodelled. "I prefer the old method because that prepares us before we enter the hospitals," he said.



Joanne Jacobs has two book events coming up for "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds" -- her book about a charter school that prepares Hispanic students for college. Joanne writes:

"I'll speak and sign books on Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 pm at William E. Doar Jr. (WEDJ) Public Charter School for the Performing Arts, 705 Edgewood St. NE, Washington, DC (near the Rhode Island and Brookland-CUA metro stops). In addition, the school's musical troupe will perform and I'll ask guests to donate a children's book to the school library.

Founded in 2004, WEDJ School enrolls students from all over the city. Students take classes in music, dance and theater and perform in at least one public exhibition or performance each year. A longer school day and Saturday classes ensure enough time for academics and arts. Currently an elementary, the school is adding middle and high school classes in the fall.

On Wednesday, May 17 at 5:30 pm, I'll speak at Russell Byers Charter School, 1911 Arch St., in downtown Philadelphia. I'll also do a "bookraiser" for the school's library.

Founded in 2001, the school educates children in kindergarten (a two-year program starting at age four) through sixth grade using the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound program. The school was created to honor the memory of Russell Byers, a Daily News columnist killed in a mugging.

Both the Washington and Philadelphia charter schools primarily serve black students. "Our School" follows the principal, teachers and students at Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter high school that's 90 percent Hispanic. Most students come from Spanish-speaking immigrant families; most earned D's and F's in middle school and enter ninth grade with fifth-grade reading and math skills. They were left behind academically but promoted anyhow. Operating with a work-your-butt-off philosophy, Downtown College Prep now outscores the average California high school on the state's Academic Performance Index and sends all graduates to four-year colleges.

After 19 years as a San Jose Mercury News editorial writer and Knight Ridder columnist, I quit in 2001 to freelance, start an education blog at and report and write "Our School." I think "Our School" enables readers to step inside a charter school that's struggling, learning from mistakes, adapting and improving."


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