Saturday, July 15, 2006


With good teaching, some kids learn to write intelligible sentences by the end of Grade 1! I have seen it. But in American public schools today an entire Grade school education often does not suffice. And in California, of course, even a High School education does not always suffice -- as the new High School exit test there has recently revealed. When will people realize that Leftist educational theories are abject failures in practice?

Teaching reading has long been considered the job of primary grade teachers. But some educators are calling for more attention to be paid to the reading needs of middle and high school students, many of whom are struggling to master this critical skill.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based education policy research and advocacy group, estimates that as many as 6 million middle and high school students can't read at acceptable levels. It's an issue for students well above the bottom of the class. A report released in March that looked at the reading skills of college-bound students who took the ACT college entrance exam found that only 51 percent were prepared for college-level reading.

"That is what is the most startling and troubling," said Cyndie Schmeiser, ACT's senior vice president of research and development. "The literacy problem affects all groups -- not exactly in the same ways, but it's affecting all groups regardless of gender, income or race." Though struggling students might be able to read words on paper, experts said, they lack the ability to explain or analyze what the words mean. In the past two years, at least a half-dozen major education associations have released reports on adolescent literacy, including the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of State Boards of Education. State and national test scores also paint a troubling picture of the reading skills of older students.

In Maryland, 33 percent of incoming high school freshmen will need extra help in reading, according to results from the 2006 Maryland School Assessments released last month. In Virginia, 24 percent of last year's freshmen needed additional support. And according to 2005 test results in D.C. public schools, 71 percent of middle and high school students needed special help with reading.

The National Governors Association has offered states grants to develop programs targeted at older students. And school systems faced with significant numbers of middle and high school students unable to read well enough to keep up with their peers already have begun investing more dollars into programs to aid students.

Starting this fall, educators in Montgomery County will spend $1.2 million to place reading coaches at its 25 high school campuses -- more than tripling the number the system had last year. In Anne Arundel, officials will launch a course targeted at high school students who have difficulty reading. In Virginia, state education officials have formed a task force that will examine, among other issues, why so many of its high school students are struggling to read. Fairfax County schools already offer special courses for high school students who have difficulty reading.

Last year, the Bush administration launched the Striving Readers program, a $24.8 million effort that targets middle and high school readers. In the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, the administration hopes to almost triple the program's funding to $70.3 million. But educators said that is a drop in the bucket compared with the nearly $5 billion the federal government has spent to help younger kids read since 2002. "This assumption that students master all the reading skills they need by the end of third grade just doesn't fly," said Beth Cady, spokeswoman for the International Reading Association.

Educators said older students struggle for many reasons. The U.S. school population has rapidly diversified over the past few decades. The number of students who are learning English has more than doubled, from 2.03 million in 1989-90 to 5.01 million in 2003-04, according to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs. A decade ago, students who were learning English made up 6.1 percent of the student population in Montgomery; today, the figure is almost 10 percent. But it's not just immigrants. A breakdown of test scores in Maryland, for example, shows that black students, those enrolled in special education and those who come from poor families are most likely to lack strong reading skills.

Educators said it's difficult to pin down one cause. Bad teaching, chaotic home lives, low expectations for some students, cultural bias, the fact that older students simply don't read enough -- all have been faulted. And student attitude can be a factor. "By late elementary school, kids who are struggling readers have developed strategies to avoid reading," said Sylvia Edwards, a reading specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education. "They are under the radar, scraping by."

Even in such affluent, high-achieving counties as Montgomery, one in five kids reaches high school reading at a basic level. When broken down by race, the numbers are even more startling, with 42.1 percent of black students and 47.8 percent of Hispanic students reading at only a basic level when they reach high school. In Fairfax, about 15 percent of students who entered high school last year had difficulty reading. But among black students, 32 percent were not reading well; among Hispanic students, 33 percent were struggling.

Timothy Shanahan, president of the International Reading Association and a professor of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said many school systems stop emphasizing formal reading instruction once children leave primary grades. "It's not like a polio vaccine -- a couple of shots when you're a little kid and then you're done," he said.

And often, if older kids are having difficulty reading, their middle and high school teachers lack the training to intervene. "It's a lot easier in grade school to talk about learning to read, but if you're talking about it when you get to high school, then you're acknowledging that we've somehow slipped up," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and a former governor of West Virginia. Shanahan and others said the key to helping older students is less about the mechanics of reading -- phonics and such -- than about the nuances of reading, that is, teaching students how to understand and explain what they read.

Patricia O'Neill, who represents Bethesda and Chevy Chase on the Montgomery school board, said she fears that if more isn't done to help kids catch up, they will not be able to graduate from high school, noting that statewide tests that students must now take to receive their diplomas include significant amounts of reading and writing. Wise and others said that unless more is done, school systems will be forced to spend millions on remediation programs. And efforts to close the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts could be stymied. "The focus of state and federal efforts has been on the early grades, and it needs to start there," Wise said. "K-3 is necessary for building a strong foundation, but I wouldn't be much of a carpenter if I build a foundation but not the rest of the house."


Australia: Merit wins in private teacher pay offer

Government school teachers fight this sort of thing tooth and nail. I wonder why? Is it because many of them could not withstand scrutiny?

Teachers will be rewarded for merit and professional competency, rather than years in the job, in a new salary deal at private schools. A draft agreement for NSW independent school teachers, obtained by The Australian, proposes restructuring the salary scale from 13 levels into three bands, with pay rises of up to 11per cent next year in return for meeting professional standards. The agreement proposes a hefty starting salary for graduate teachers, who would earn almost $55,000 next year, and almost $76,500 by 2010 - more than fledgling lawyers on an average $40,000 - and potentially enables independent schools to lure the brightest graduates away from public schools. Existing awards covering teachers in the government and non-government sectors give pay rises every year, regardless of performance.

The proposal also strips back existing conditions by funnelling annual-leave loading and some long-service leave into superannuation, reducing the accrual of long-service leave and the amount of informal holidays. Teachers now accrue long-service leave at the rate of 1.3 weeks a year for the first 10 years of service and two weeks a year thereafter. The proposal would bring the rate in line with that of the rest of the community, at 0.866 weeks a year. The amount of time teachers must spend at school will increase by two working weeks and they will be required to attend organised professional development activities during school holidays, rather than term-time. While teachers have four weeks of annual leave a year, the amount of time they are not required to spend at school, called non-term time, can reach 12 weeks a year.

The agreement, developed by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, is being sent this week to the principals of independent schools that fall under federal Work Choices laws, with a planned July 24 presentation to teachers, before a vote is taken later this year. The AISNSW represents about 300 independent schools employing more than 12,000 teachers. About 70 per cent of schools are expected to fall under federal industrial relations laws.

The package for principals includes a suggested presentation for staff, which says the new pay structure is intended to recognise quality teachers. "Good teachers will continue to be good teachers and this proposed agreement is designed to recognise good teaching and remunerate staff according to good practice and the attainment of professional standards," the package says. "One of the most attractive features is the provision for ambitious teachers to move through the bands according to the level of competence achieved. "You will not be constrained by the 'years of service salary scale'. If you are prepared to put in the effort, you can reach the top of the scale more quickly than you can with the current system."

The draft agreement provides pay rises of between 6 per cent and 11 per cent next year, which would make independent school teachers' pay up to 11 per cent - and an average of 7 per cent - more than teachers in government and Catholic schools. Under the state award, government and Catholic school teachers in their first year will receive about $49,000 from February 1, rising to $69,000 for the top rate. By comparison, independent school teachers next year will receive $54,652 in their first year, rising to $76,729 for the top rate.

More than 70 per cent of all teachers in independent schools are paid at the top rate and about 90 per cent are paid at the top three rates, with few teachers starting their careers at an independent school. The agreement also introduces a new allowance for "classroom excellence", worth $6100 a year, for the most accomplished teachers already on the highest band, enabling them to stay in the classroom rather than have to "move along the more traditional promotions pathway in order for their excellence to be recognised". Professional competency, accomplishment and excellence will be determined by standards set by the NSW Institute of Teachers and the Independent Schools Teachers Accreditation Authority. AISNSW executive director Geoff Newcombe stressed that the agreement was a work in progress, with all options still up for negotiation with the unions and teachers.



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, July 14, 2006

UC discriminated against Christian schools

A Los Angeles federal judge has issued a tentative ruling to allow a Christian school in Riverside County and six of its students to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the University of California over its admissions policies.

In a case that has drawn national attention, the plaintiffs, including Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta and a group representing 4,000 Christian schools nationwide, filed a suit last summer accusing UC of discriminating against them by setting admissions rules that violate their rights to freedom of speech and religion.

The case is being closely watched by Christian educators, free speech advocates and higher education officials who say it could affect admissions policies throughout the country. Specifically, the schools contend that UC is biased in its admissions standards against courses taught from a Christian viewpoint, while generally approving those from other religious and political perspectives.

The university has denied the charge, saying schools are free to teach whatever they wish but that UC must be able to reject high school courses that offer more religious than academic content or that do not meet its standards.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero, in comments from the bench after a short hearing Tuesday, said he had tentatively decided to allow Calvary Christian and the other plaintiffs to pursue their claim against the public university system, according to lawyers for both sides.

The judge did not say when he would issue his final ruling, but the attorneys said they expected it within a few weeks.

Attorney Robert H. Tyler, who represents the Murrieta school, said Wednesday that his clients were pleased by the ruling. "The court has clearly indicated that substantial parts of our case, concerning viewpoint discrimination, free speech and equal protection, will go forward," Tyler said.

"It's a first hurdle for a plaintiff in any lawsuit," said Wendell R. Bird, an Atlanta attorney who represents the Assn. of Christian Schools International.

UC counsel Christopher M. Patti said the judge appeared to be leaning toward granting a UC motion to dismiss one claim in the case but appeared likely to allow most of the lawsuit to proceed. Patti said Otero also made note of the fact that other types of religious schools, including Jewish and Muslim schools, had not joined Calvary's suit.

The lawsuit charges that UC violated the students' and the school's rights by rejecting certain courses as not meeting the university's admissions standards. Last school year, for instance, UC said it would not give Calvary students admissions credit for an English class, Christianity and Morality in American Literature; a history course, Christianity's Influence in America; and a government class titled Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic.


One Australian State (New South Wales) has high education standards

The Federal Government wants to introduce an Australian certificate of education, to ensure a nationally consistent credential which, it claims, will raise standards of education across the country. To do so, it will identify common curriculum essentials from all the states, set common standards, administer common tests, and then allow work to be added by each state to reflect local needs and interests.

Why would we, in NSW, want this certificate? NSW has a rigorous, highly regarded curriculum. It's not perfect, but it is the best in the land: syllabuses which tell teachers what to teach, are creative and up to date, explicit in their definition of standards, specific in identifying content yet flexible enough to give teachers the ability to react to the needs of their classes.

The syllabuses cover the curriculum for every stage of schooling, from kindergarten to year 12. In some other states, the curriculum is written for only the last two years of schooling - when a public examination is to be held. There are other examples in which the curriculum is less than specific - even waffly and imprecise, where the curriculum does not set the same high standards for students as does the NSW curriculum. In other examples, the standards are manifestly lower than ours.

There is proof. In nearly every national test I have seen, NSW does better than other states. In the scholarship examination for year 7 run by the Australian Council for Educational Research, NSW students do better than their Victorian counterparts. For example, 1 per cent of NSW students this year gained a score of 205, whereas a mark of only 198 put Victorian students in that state's top 1 per cent.

Some years ago, when I taught mathematics, NSW always had one of the highest cut-offs for distinction certificates in the Australian Mathematics Competition. The cut-offs for each state are no longer published, because, it is claimed, they may be prone to misleading interpretation. My bet is that NSW continues to outdo the other states, and education chiefs are no longer prepared to say so.

That NSW does so well is no accident. NSW schoolchildren are among the best educated in the world and we should fight to protect that at all costs. If we are going to identify common curriculum elements around Australia, what are we going to get? A lowest common denominator. To ensure that all states feel they have some ownership of the curriculum and some stake in its establishment, it will need to include elements from these inferior syllabuses. NSW students will lose in this exercise.

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


Thursday, July 13, 2006


The article excerpted below only hints at it, but it would seem that a lot of the differences in male/female motivations referred to are in fact the well-known differences between BLACK male and female motivations. As the article is from the NYT, we cannot expect the data to be disaggregated by race but failure to do so is very poor and potentially misleading scholarship

A quarter-century after women became the majority on college campuses, men are trailing them in more than just enrollment. Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor's degrees - and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women. And in two national studies, college men reported that they studied less and socialized more than their female classmates.

Small wonder, then, that at elite institutions like Harvard, small liberal arts colleges like Dickinson, huge public universities like the University of Wisconsin and U.C.L.A. and smaller ones like Florida Atlantic University, women are walking off with a disproportionate share of the honors degrees. It is not that men are in a downward spiral: they are going to college in greater numbers and are more likely to graduate than two decades ago. Still, men now make up only 42 percent of the nation's college students. And with sex discrimination fading and their job opportunities widening, women are coming on much stronger, often leapfrogging the men to the academic finish. "The boys are about where they were 30 years ago, but the girls are just on a tear, doing much, much better," said Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington....

The gender differences are not uniform. In the highest-income families, men 24 and under attend college as much as, or slightly more than, their sisters, according to the American Council on Education, whose report on these issues is scheduled for release this week. Young men from low-income families, which are disproportionately black and Hispanic, are the most underrepresented on campus, though in middle-income families too, more daughters than sons attend college. In recent years the gender gap has been widening, especially among low-income whites and Hispanics. When it comes to earning bachelor's degrees, the gender gap is smaller than the gap between whites and blacks or Hispanics, federal data shows.

All of this has helped set off intense debate over whether these trends show a worrisome achievement gap between men and women or whether the concern should instead be directed toward the educational difficulties of poor boys, black, white or Hispanic. "Over all, the differences between blacks and whites, rich and poor, dwarf the differences between men and women within any particular group," says Jacqueline King, a researcher for the American Council on Education's Center for Policy Analysis and the author of the forthcoming report.

Still, across all race and class lines, there are significant performance differences between young men and women that start before college. High school boys score higher than girls on the SAT, particularly on the math section. Experts say that is both because the timed multiple-choice questions play to boys' strengths and because more middling female students take the test. Boys also score slightly better on the math and science sections of national assessment tests. On the same assessments, 12th-grade boys, even those with college-educated parents, do far worse than girls on reading and writing.

Faced with applications and enrollment numbers that tilt toward women, some selective private colleges are giving men a slight boost in admissions. On other campuses the female predominance is becoming noticeable in the female authors added to the reading lists and the diminished dating scene. And when it gets to graduation, differences are evident too. At Harvard, 55 percent of the women graduated with honors this spring, compared with barely half the men. And at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, a public university, women made up 64 percent of this year's graduates, and they got 75 percent of the honors degrees and 79 percent of the highest honors, summa cum laude.

Of course, nationwide, there are young men at the top of the class and fields like computer science, engineering and physics that are male dominated. Professors interviewed on several campuses say that in their experience men seem to cluster in a disproportionate share at both ends of the spectrum - students who are the most brilliantly creative, and students who cannot keep up. "My best male students are every bit as good as my best female students," said Wendy Moffat, a longtime English professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. "But the range among the guys is wider." [Which mirrors what a century of IQ testing has shown]

From the time they are young, boys are far more likely than girls to be suspended or expelled, or have a learning disability or emotional problem diagnosed. As teenagers, they are more likely to drop out of high school, commit suicide or be incarcerated. Such difficulties can have echoes even in college men. "They have a sense of lassitude, a lack of focus," said William Pollack, director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. At a time when jobs that require little education are disappearing, Mr. Mortenson predicts trouble for boys whose "educational attainment is not keeping up with the demands of the economy."

In the 1990's, even as women poured into college at a higher rate than men, attention focused largely on their troubles, especially after the 1992 report "How Schools Shortchange Girls" from the American Association of University Women. But some scholars say the new emphasis on young men's problems - recent magazine covers and talk shows describing a "boy crisis" - is misguided in a world where men still dominate the math-science axis, earn more money and wield more power than women. "People keep asking me why this is such a hot topic, and I think it does go back to the ideas people carry in their heads," said Sara Mead, the author of a report for Education Sector, a Washington policy center, that concluded that boys, especially young ones, were making progress on many measures. It suggested that the heightened concern might in part reflect some people's nervousness about women's achievement.

"The idea that girls could be ahead is so shocking that they think it must be a crisis for boys," Ms. Mead said. "I'm troubled by this tone of crisis. Even if you control for the field they're in, boys right out of college make more money than girls, so at the end of the day, is it grades and honors that matter, or something else the boys may be doing?"

What is beyond dispute is that the college landscape is changing. Women now make up 58 percent of those enrolled in two- and four-year colleges and are, over all, the majority in graduate schools and professional schools too. Most institutions of higher learning, except engineering schools, now have a female edge, with many small liberal arts colleges and huge public universities alike hovering near the 60-40 ratio. Even Harvard, long a male bastion, has begun to tilt toward women. "The class we just admitted will be 52 percent female," said William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions.

While Harvard accepts men and women in proportions roughly equal to their presence in the applicant pool, other elite universities do not. At Brown University, men made up not quite 40 percent of this year's applicants, but 47 percent of those admitted. Women now outnumber men two to one at places like the State University of New York at New Paltz, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Baltimore City Community College. And they make up particularly large majorities among older students...

Still, the gender gap has moved to the front burner in part because of interest from educated mothers worrying that their sons are adrift or disturbed that their girls are being passed over by admissions officers eager for boys, said Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska professor who has created the Boys Project (, a coalition of researchers, educators and parents to address boys' troubles. "I hate to be cynical, but when it was a problem of black or poor kids, nobody cared, but now that it's a problem of white sons of college-educated parents, it's moving very rapidly to the forefront," Dr. Kleinfeld said. "At most colleges, there is a sense that a lot of boys are missing in action."

On each campus, the young women interviewed talked mostly about their drive to do well. "Most college women want a high-powered career that they are passionate about," Ms. Smyers said. "But they also want a family, and that probably means taking time off, and making dinner. I'm rushing through here, taking the most credits you can take without paying extra, because I want to do some amazing things, and establish myself as a career woman, before I settle down."

Her male classmates, she said, feel less pressure. "The men don't seem to hustle as much," Ms. Smyers said. "I think it's a male entitlement thing. They think they can sit back and relax and when they graduate, they'll still get a good job. They seem to think that if they have a firm handshake and speak properly, they'll be fine."

At Greensboro, where more than two-thirds of the students are female, and about one in five is black, many young men say they are torn between wanting quick money and seeking the long-term rewards of education. "A lot of my friends made good money working in high school, in construction or as electricians, and they didn't go to college, but they're doing very well now," said Mr. Daniels, the Greensboro student, who works 25 to 30 hours a week. "One of my best friends, he's making $70,000, he's got his own truck and health benefits. The honest truth is, I feel weird being a college student and having no money."....

Creating a balance of men and women is now an issue for all but the most elite colleges, whose huge applicant pools let them fill their classes with any desired mix of highly-qualified men and women But for others, it is a delicate issue. Colleges want balance, both for social reasons and to ensure that they can attract a broad mix of applicants. But they do not want an atmosphere in which talented, hard-working women share classes with less qualified, less engaged men....

In the Dickinson cafeteria on a spring afternoon, the byplay between two men and two women could provide a text on gender differences. The men, Dennis Nelson and Victor Johnson, African-American football players nearing the end of their junior year, teased each other about never wanting to be seen in the library. They talked about playing "Madden," a football video game, six hours a day, about how they did not spend much time on homework...

Still, men in the work force have always done better in pay and promotions, in part because they tend to work longer hours, and have fewer career interruptions than women, who bear the children and most of the responsibility for raising them. Whether the male advantage will persist even as women's academic achievement soars is an open question. But many young men believe that, once in the work world, they will prevail. "I think men do better out in the world because they care more about the power, the status, the C.E.O. job," Mr. Kohn said. "And maybe society holds men a little higher."

More here

Illinois university must reinstate Christian group

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that an Illinois university must reinstate a student group that had its status revoked over its requirement that members pledge to adhere to Christian beliefs. The ruling reverses a lower court decision that denied the group a preliminary injunction re-establishing its status while the lawsuit proceeds.

The Christian Legal Society sued Southern Illinois University in 2005 after the school revoked the group's registered status, meaning it no longer could use the university's facilities or name and was ineligible for school funding. The group claimed the university's decision violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

The university said the society's requirement that members adhere to basic Christian beliefs violates the school's affirmative action policy as well as a Board of Trustees policy stating that student organizations must follow all "federal or state laws concerning nondiscrimination and equal opportunity."

But in its ruling Monday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the university "failed to identify which federal or state law it believes (Christian Legal Society) violated."

Messages seeking comment were left after business hours Monday for university general counsel Jerry Blakemore and Christian Legal Society attorney Casey Mattox. Mattox has said the university began looking into the chapter's requirements after a student who never attended a Christian Legal Society meeting read about its policies in a law journal and brought them to administrators' attention. No student was denied a membership or leadership position within the group because of his or her religious beliefs, he said.

Christian Legal Society, based in Annandale, Va., is a nationwide association of more than 3,400 Christian lawyers, law students, law professors and judges with chapters in more than 1,100 cities across the country, according to its Web site. The university's chapter had fewer than 12 members, Mattox said.

Source. More commentary 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


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On classic consciousness

Critics of English lite - where literary classics are on the same footing as SMS messages, graffiti and movie posters, and students are made to deconstruct texts from Marxist, feminist, class and postcolonial perspectives - are regularly attacked, including by Elizabeth Butel in this space on June 24, as overly conservative and out of touch with developments in postmodern theory.

Ignored is that giving students a weak and insipid gruel, represented by present approaches to teaching literature, not only denies them entry to their cultural heritage, but an uncritical commitment to theory, where all texts are treated as socio/cultural artefacts and reader response is defined as being subjective and relative and also undermines the ethical and moral value of great literature.

During the 1960s, growing up in a Housing Commission house in Melbourne's Broadmeadows and attending the local government school, if the new approaches to literature had applied, I would have been fed an impoverished diet of magazines, comics and the odd film; the internet had yet to be invented. Thankfully, that never happened. Strangely enough, the '60s was a time when teachers knew that working-class kids could think, and that education needed to be challenging and introduce students to unknown worlds and new experiences and emotions. Each year we studied such classics as Shakespeare, Henry Lawson and Dickens on the assumption that one of the redeeming features of great art, whether music, ballet, painting or literature, is that it speaks across the generations and can never be restricted in time or place.

Forget the tyranny of relevance, where education is chained to the here and now as represented by SMS, blogs and television shows such as Australian Idol. Years before the multicultural industry established itself, we read works such as The Merchant of Venice and learned about intolerance and bigotry. Years before Luke Skywalker and Star Wars, we read the Iliad and the Odyssey and learned about emotions such as bravery, hubris, sorrow and loyalty. No amount of analysing a film can fire the imagination or awake the psyche as does following in the footsteps of Odysseus as he battles against all odds to return home.

On graduating, my first job involved teaching migrant children from Melbourne's western suburbs. As English teachers, we faced the same debate that is now being played out. One year we ditched Shakespeare in favour of Puberty Blues, a book about two teenage girls and their adventures in Sydney's surf culture. The argument was that the book was contemporary and exactly what young students would want. After several weeks discussing the book, our classes switched off. Not only was it poorly written and the characters superficial, but there was nothing challenging or profound about the plot or the issues raised. As one of the students said to me: "Why study in class what most of us can see on the weekend?" Given that many of the children's parents had emigrated from Greece, I tried a different tack and introduced the class to Greek tragedy, beginning with Medea.

The benefit? Not only did those students with a Greek background take pride in an aspect of their culture previously unknown, the class also enjoyed the challenge of reading a complex and difficult text. Many learned that education required concentration and that it could not be acquired in a 30-second sound grab.

One of the more insidious arguments against teaching literary classics is that they are of no immediate value or use. Ignored is the reality that what we learn in school, while sometimes of little practical use, may touch us in later life.

Four years ago our son, James, was killed in a hit-and-run accident. On seeing him in the hospital, the first words that came to our daughter's lips were: "Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Not only did her words reinforce my belief that literature, more so than an SMS text or an internet blog, deals with human experience in a profoundly moving way, I also realised Amelia was only able to draw on Shakespeare's words because, years before, Hamlet had been taught.

As Umberto Eco argued in On Some Functions of Literature, the value of literature can never be restricted to what is utilitarian or what theory decides is politically correct. Literature survives because of its intangible power. As Eco wrote: "The power of that network of texts which humanity has produced and still produces not for practical ends but, rather, for its own sake, for humanity's own enjoyment - and which are read for pleasure, spiritual edification, broadening of knowledge, or maybe just to pass the time, without anyone forcing us to read them (apart from when we are obliged to do so at school or in university)."

The above article by teacher Kevin Donnelly appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on July 8, 2006


The state Civil Rights Association called Orange County's Edgewater High School a school that promotes racism. Members of the group marched at district headquarters to make their point and to file a formal complaint. They're filing a racial discrimination complaint based on former Edgewater English teacher Latasha Farmer, WESH 2 News reported.

Farmer said the high school principal promotes racism. "Edgewater has created separate academic programs inside of an integrated school," Farmer said. "One where the majority of its white students are in advanced classes and the majority of its African-American and Latino students are in remedial courses." Farmer also said that when she tried to set up a student chapter of the NAACP, the principal never answered her request. "Even though we are supposed to have formal multicultural programs in our schools, we don't have a formal multicultural program at Edgewater," she said.

After Farmer's request, she said her contract was not renewed with the principal saying she didn't match the needs for the school. In her opinion, Farmer said it was a veiled way to get rid of her because she wanted to start the club.

No one from Edgewater was available to respond to the reason why Farmer's contract was not renewed, but the district office did. It said it's quite a different reason than what Farmer said. "Ms. Farmer, I think, is a disgruntled employee that we have had here in the district," Orange County Public Schools spokeswoman Grace Lias.

Farmer said she still wants to teach, but she thinks she'll never get a job in Orange County because of coming forward with the complaint. Ultimately, the civil rights association wants the U.S. Department of Education to hold money back from Orange County until it changes what the group calls its "racist ways."


Another report about the above matter: School says a dumb black teacher was the problem

A civil rights organization is accusing an Orange County high school of racist practices. Members of the Florida Civil Rights Association delivered a discrimination complaint to the Orange County school board building Thursday. The group alleges segregation in the school district, discriminatory FCAT enrollment practices and the school's failure to comply with a multi-cultural curriculum mandate.

Latasha Farmer was a teacher at Edgewater High School. She said her contract wasn't renewed partly because she tried to start a student civil rights club. "Yes, I did think it was racially motivated," she said.

Orange County schools said there is a multi-cultural curriculum in place and two African-American student clubs were in the works for next school year. As for Farmer's claim of discrimination, in a legal memo, the school's principal said Farmer struggled with communication, teamwork and following directions.


Gifted children should be put in higher grades

Years ago it was routine practice in Australia and worked well but the equality mania of the '60s put a stop to it

Miraca Gross, director of the University of NSW's Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre, said teachers were unwilling to accelerate academically advanced children or were unaware that it was possible. "Most of these kids would be topping the class if they went up a grade. They don't realise that," Professor Gross said. "They're just cruising by at the moment. "Teachers equate acceleration with pushing the child. Teachers are afraid of hurting a kid by pushing them, so they feel better doing nothing -- but that can in fact do more harm."

How Australian schools deal with gifted children is the focus of a national study to be undertaken by Professor Gross and her colleague, GERRIC director of research Karen Rogers, over the next three years. The study will examine state and private schools and investigate different procedures that allow academically gifted students to move faster through their schooling. Professor Gross said teachers' attitudes and practices regarding acceleration would be a particular focus. The study is funded through a $500,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, based in the US.

Professor Gross has previously investigated the use of acceleration in the US and expects the Australian results to similarly show an under usage of academic acceleration. "What we found in America, and what I'm betting will be the case in Australia, is that teachers are not aware that they are allowed to accelerate kids ... they aren't aware of the policy," she said. Professor Gross said gifted children who were not accelerated could be socially isolated, acting out and underestimating their own abilities. "They get enormously frustrated," she said. "Bad behaviour can sometimes be a camouflage so the other kids look at them and think, 'They're all right'. "It's not cool to be academically talented."

Josh Croke, 11, from Kawana, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, attends a Year 7 maths class, the only sixth-grader at his school to do so. He said he would be happy to move up a grade if offered the opportunity. "It's boring when I have to wait for the other kids to finish something," 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, July 11, 2006


Ministers will tell schools this week that they must identify the brightest children in their classrooms and do more to nurture their talents. A new national register will track 11-19 year-olds who come in the top 5% in England for academic test results. Schools minister Lord Adonis will write to every secondary school with details of the register when he launches the new drive on Tuesday.

The campaign is designed to target bright children from poor families and ethnic minorities who too often fall behind at school. Some bright children are at risk of being left to fend for themselves at school because teachers do not think they need extra help, according to officials.

Lord Adonis said: "The register is a key part of our education reforms to ensure that we build a school system where every child can reach their full potential. "The new register will ensure that these children are spotted early and don't slip through the net. "It will also step-up efforts to find those pupils whose ability may have been masked by social disadvantage, low aspirations or lack of opportunity."

The Department for Education will encourage schools to use a range of methods for identifying the brightest children. These include making more use of teachers' judgements and direct "observation" of children's work, as well as data from national tests and cognitive tests.


Best Australian teachers and schools to get Federal cash bonus

Individual teachers and schools who turn out high-achieving students will receive cash bonuses directly from the Federal Government under a plan that could help keep the best teachers in public schools. The proposal from Education Minister Julie Bishop is designed to make state governments and public school teachers accountable for their performance. But she said yesterday it could also address the loss of good teachers to private schools that offer better pay and conditions.

Ms Bishop yesterday accused the states of complacency in accepting low standards, particularly in literacy and numeracy, and proposed an incentive fund that would bypass the state and territory governments to lift educational standards. "I'm looking at ways of rewarding individual schools and teacher performance, to shift the balance away from the state bureaucracies and state teachers unions and try to get accountability through an incentive-based approach," she told The Australian. "I'm concerned there's an acceptance of lower expectations, particularly in literacy and numeracy."

Ms Bishop said teachers were one of the few professions not accountable for their performance and it was "high time" they were not only held responsible for their students' achievements but also recognised for outstanding results. In state schools, teachers are generally remunerated on the grounds of seniority.

She said every classroom in the nation should have a highly qualified teacher, particularly in those schools where the need was greatest, which are generally state schools. "We don't serve teachers or students well by putting the least experienced teachers in the most challenging schools," she said. "We need to encourage better teachers into state government schools, have them performing well and then reward them for their results."

Under Ms Bishop's plan, existing federal school funding would be broken into base funding, paid to the states, with a percentage set aside for an incentive fund. Ms Bishop said the reward scheme would form part of the next round of funding negotiations with the states and territories, which start next year. The Howard Government, under the previous education minister, Brendan Nelson, tied federal funding to key policies, such as the introduction of simpler A to E report cards and a common national test for literacy and numeracy benchmarks.

But keen to stamp her own style on the portfolio, Ms Bishop wants to break away from threats to withhold funding, preferring to offer rewards for high-performing teachers and schools. "I'm not talking about rewarding people for what they should be doing, but rewarding them for outcomes that are over and above expectations," she said. Ms Bishop has set national consistency and high standards as a priority for schools, but earlier yesterday she ruled out the federal Government taking over control of schools. "I believe the commonwealth has a significant role to play. After all, we invest some $33 billion over a (four-year) funding period in Australian schools so the states must be accountable for that money," she said on Network Ten's Meet The Press. "At the end of the day I think public education should be in the hands of the states ... but harmonisation of standards is a good thing." Ms Bishop pointed to Belfield Primary School in Melbourne's eastern suburbs as proof that extraordinary results were possible.

Belfield was one of the lowest performing schools in literacy and numeracy, with a high proportion of disadvantaged students from low socioeconomic backgrounds - unemployed, single-parent, indigenous and non-English speaking families. In 1998, only 35 per cent of Belfield's Year 1 students had 100 per cent accuracy in literacy and numeracy tests. Five years later, 100 per cent of the school's Year 1 students had a perfect score, while in similar schools to Belfield, only 26 per cent achieved the top score. Ms Bishop said the tragedy was that the principal who oversaw the change in Belfield's students had since left for a non-government school.

Teachers in the bigger independent and Anglican schools are paid between 3 and 8 per cent more than a teacher at a state school, as well as having access to better facilities and resources, support networks and professional development. Students are also choosing non-government schools in greater numbers.


Your government will educate you: Sort of

Many public high schools in Australia are in such a state of disrepair that they should be bulldozed or rebuilt, an education expert says. Professor Brian Caldwell, former dean of education at Melbourne University and author of a new book, Re-imagining Educational Leadership, warns that the drift towards private schools will continue. Professor Caldwell outlined issues facing the nation's secondary school system, saying many problems are being "hushed up". He conducted 14 workshops in Australia, Chile, England and New Zealand last year, and begins a seven-week tour of Australia tomorrow.

Professor Caldwell said private schools would continue to take in more students unless state governments addressed teachers' pay, building refurbishment, literacy and innovation. He said the problems with teachers' pay, building refurbishments, literacy and innovation were so serious that most high school students would be in the private system within the next 10 years. "The fact is the public is being duped," he said. "Many government schools now simply have to be bulldozed or rebuilt. We have teachers working in government schools based on the factory model of schooling from the 19th century."

Highlighting a recent study, which showed 70 per cent of parents would prefer their children were educated in private schools, Professor Caldwell said high fees were the main reason why more students were not already in the private system. About 40 per cent of senior secondary students, 37 per cent of junior secondary children and 30 per cent of primary school children were in private schools, he said.

He said teachers were avoiding public schools, and he knew of cases where senior teaching jobs carrying a salary of more than $90,000 had attracted only a handful of applicants.

Professor Caldwell believes secondary schools in Australia should follow models of countries such as England, with only 8 per cent of children are in the private system, where the government is planning to rebuild or refurbish 85 per cent of secondary schools during the next 10 to 15 years. Partnerships with business, better pay for teachers and giving schools more autonomy to hire staff would help state schools improve, he said. Professor Caldwell noted that NSW had gone some way to rectify the problems, with 19 schools built through public private partnerships.

Among his other key ideas for reform are for low-performing schools to be paired with high-performing schools to boost their achievements, and for schools to specialise in areas such as science, technology or music.



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, July 10, 2006


Mike Adams is really angry about how an Asian student has been victimized in the name of "tolerance"

When I began the process of looking for a plaintiff to sue the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), I had hoped to see the day that a federal court would throw out the university's unconstitutional speech code. The code went so far as to prohibit any speech that would "malign" another individual -- whatever that means. Now, three months after a suit has been filed against Georgia Tech, the school has enacted a new speech code. This one prohibits any speech that is threatening, harassing, intimidating, or "otherwise injurious." The new code is entirely too broad. That is why the suit will proceed as planned.

Under their first illegal speech code, Georgia Tech created a remarkably poisonous atmosphere for free expression by punishing two students -- Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar, the co-plaintiffs in the case -- for engaging in constitutionally protected political protest. But now Georgia Tech officials are making matters worse by standing aside as their students create entire organizations designed to malign individual students; namely, the two aforementioned co-plaintiffs. For example, Georgia Tech students have formed "Conservatives and Liberals Against Malhotra (CLAM)" -- a group comprised solely of gays and their allies. Here's how they describe themselves:

"This is a group and forum for students in any political sphere who see what Ruth Malhotra is doing on campus as divisive and degrading to our Georgia Tech community."

And here is a further explanation of the group's mission:

"It is important that we respond to Malhotra's bigoted blather. This fat ugly b****** is getting so desperate (not to mention the fact that she badly needs plastic surgery). Malhotra has a record of fighting Georgia Tech to advance herself, and this isn't the first time she has taken legal action against the school. Just try googling her name. Everyone knows that Malhotra and her ilk are a complete freak show -- setting up tables on Skiles Walkway and ranting against whatever strawman or other minority they decide to hate today. Even the Republicans on campus are embarassed [sic] by their crap. Malhotra wants the right to follow gay students around campus and yell obscenities at them, and now she is forcing the Institute to spend its money to defend against her bull**** lawsuit. Malhotra needs to shut the f*** up and realize that the point of Georgia Tech is to be the best research and engineering school in the country, not to advance her dead end political `career.'"

Of course, CLAM offers no facts to support the contention that Republicans (note: they say "plural" but only one effeminate Republican male seems to be opposed) are embarrassed by Malhotra. They can't even spell the word "embarrassed" and don't seem to be embarrassed about it. Furthermore, they believe that they are able to read Ruth's mind and discern a secret desire to scream obscenities at gay people.

And, of course, members of CLAM were also among those responsible for passing out Hostess Twinkies in the dorms at Georgia Tech. This was accompanied by suggestions that Ruth (a student of Asian descent) is "yellow on the outside, white on the inside" and a "Twinkie b****." These liberals are hardly in a position to call anyone a "racist" or "intolerant." But they can freely express themselves at Georgia Tech -- even holding rallies on campus -- for two reasons:

The constitution allows these gay activists to be intolerant racists even when they are ostensibly fighting for "civil" rights. The constitution does not protect a gay activist from showing his, her, or its ass.

The other reason is that the habitually dishonest and racially insensitive Georgia Tech president applies the speech codes selectively at his school. Despite their valuable contribution to Georgia Tech, Asians are not protected by the speech code until they commit their first act of sodomy. Nonetheless, some people are confused about Georgia Tech's rapid decline since Wayne Clough took over in 1994. And they can't understand why the campus gets more hostile the more they pander to the sodomites.


Teachers: Too bad about the kids

Our teachers' unions love to tell us that their unstinting concern is for the children. Yet, like teachers' unions the world over, their policies hurt children and serve only to entrench the comfort levels of teachers. That much becomes obvious at school report time. Which is right about now.

Under threat of financial sanction from the federal Government, schools will soon be forced to provide more comprehensive reports in plain English, telling you how your child is travelling and then ranking them. Compared with the piffle that most parents received in the past, it's tempting to think we've come a long away. But, boy, have we got a long way to go if we are serious about improving the social mobility of children, especially the most disadvantaged.

For too long, the social engineers in charge of teaching used the classroom as a leveller, where no one failed and no one excelled. Or, if a student was failing or excelling, you wouldn't know it from the school report dropped on the kitchen bench. In the weird world of educrats, the focus on outcomes-based education is code for hiding the real outcomes of students. That information under-load promoted mediocrity for students and teachers alike.

Protecting their own backsides from a caning for poor performance, that is just the way the teachers' unions want it. Greg Combet may daydream about unions one day running the country again, but in our schools unions still rule. Indeed, nowhere is the power of unions more pernicious than in our schools. Unions have been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on the issue of transparency and accountability in our schools. Last year, when former federal education minister Brendan Nelson suggested that schools start delivering meaningful information to parents, unions and their supporters defaulted into hysteria.

NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran started waving around the teachers' industrial award that prevents the public release of comparative data on school performance. This information would lead to school leagues tables and we - meaning union members - don't want that, she groaned. Other teachers' unions also preferred the report that doesn't report. With unions as their paymasters, state Labor governments also resisted even these modest reforms. As Nelson said at the time: "Money is the only thing that brings them to the table."

Just how meek those reforms are becomes obvious when you look at what's happening in some American states. In the US a few weeks ago for the American Australian Leadership Dialogue organised by businessman Phil Scanlan, I learned about real education reform. And it's all happening in Florida. With textbooks such as Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by Numbers - which includes chapters on Multicultural Math - the US is home to the same sort of politically correct gimcrackery that infects our schools.

In 1999, Florida decided to see how its students were doing. Governor Jeb Bush introduced the nation's most far-reaching and controversial reforms premised on three ideas: testing, transparency and accountability. For a quick comparison of where we're at compared with Florida, click on the state's Department of Education website (www.fldoe. com). The wealth of information you'll find there puts the information void on our own state education websites to shame.

Bush's A+ program involves so-called high-stakes testing of all students from grades three to 10. It's high stakes because consequences flow from the results. Schools are graded between A to F depending on the performance of their students and, hold on to your seats, in those schools that attract two F-grades in any four-year period, students are given vouchers to attend private schools. As one pundit wrote, it was "the first money-back guarantee in the history of public education".

That the brother of George W. Bush is driving these education reforms will have left-wing union folk frothing about right-wing conspiracies. But the results prove that sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant. In a nutshell, once Florida started testing their students and making schools accountable for the results, student achievement levels kept rising. Released last month, the latest report from Florida's education department reveals record numbers of the state's students in grades three to 10 are reading at or above grade level: 223,000 more students than was the case in 2001. That's a 10 per cent jump on the 2001 results. In maths, 62 per cent of students in grades three to 10 are performing at or above achievement level, up from 50 per cent in 2001. Importantly, the traditional underachievers, African-Americans and Hispanics, have made the biggest gains.

The results for schools are equally remarkable. Putting pressure on F-graded schools was the most contentious part of Jeb Bush's reforms. In an analysis of Florida's failing schools, Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, point out that the theory behind the A+ program is that "chronically failing schools will have an incentive to improve if they must compete with other schools for students and the funding they generate". Their research finds that F- graded schools facing competition from vouchers made the biggest improvements when compared with other low-performing schools. So the theory was spot-on. In other words, Florida's willingness to penalise failing schools debunks the myth that economic forces stop at the classroom door.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Florida School Recognition Program awards funds to schools that receive an A grade or improve at least one grade category in any year. Each recognised school gets $100 for each full-time student and can use the money to award bonuses to teachers, buy educational equipment or material and employ additional staff to improve student performance. While there is a penalty for failing, there are also substantial incentives to achieve. Maybe that explains why, since 1999, the number of A-graded schools has jumped 500 per cent. In another radical move to align teaching with the real world, Florida is also awarding teachers performance-based bonuses.

And the reason Florida has been able to reform education to consistently deliver better outcomes for students brings us back to unions. In Florida, the education unions are much less powerful. Although they suffer the American disease of running off to court to complain, in Florida - unlike Australia - they don't have a state government in their back pockets. Our unionistas, dedicated to bankrolling the re-election of politicians who shaft children by cocooning teachers, have much to learn from Florida. For starters, the classroom is no place to be frightened of information if in fact you care deeply about children



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, July 09, 2006


During the man's stay in the restroom, several other men entered and exited in 20 to 30 minute intervals. The men's ages appeared to range from 20's to 50's. After the men left, condom wrappers were found on the floors of the stalls. "It was creepy," said anthropology major Eric Gamble.

To verify that the men's presence in the restroom was not coincidental, the next day the reporter called one of the numbers on the wall to set up a meeting with a man. A man answered his phone and said he would arrive shortly after 4 p.m. wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts and New Balance tennis shoes. He agreed to charge $15 for his services.

A reporter, photographer and two other students positioned themselves around The University Center to see if the man would show up. At 4:10, a man, considerably younger than the man seen the previous day and matching the description given on the phone, was spotted walking from Walker Avenue toward The UC He went down the stairs, walked through the camera-monitored hallway and entered the bathroom. Forty-five minutes later he exited the bathroom, walked to his Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on Walker and drove off campus.

The bathroom in question is adjacent to the Judicial Affairs office and near post office boxes and the Side Pocket game room, which is described on The University's Web site as "a safe social gathering place for U of M students, faculty and staff." However, children and teenagers also use The UC while attending various camps on campus during the summer. "I think The University should fix the hole and inspect what's happening down there," said the English major.

According to Derek Myers, deputy director of The U of M's public safety, they have addressed the situation in the past, but nothing has stopped it. "We have had this problem for at least the past 13 years," Myers said. "We send in a work order to physical plant to repair the hole, but the hole keeps coming back." Myers said there have been numerous arrests for public indecency in the past, and the individuals involved are usually not affiliated with The University.

However, because it is hard to catch the violators in the act, the police usually attempt to scare off suspicious looking people, by asking for identification. Myers said no complaints of the hole or suspicious activities taking place have been filed during the past year. Myers said people who use The UC facilities often, should have notified the authorities, because the police depend on the campus community to report things that are not out in the open.

The "glory hole" has caused concern for at least one upset student. "We pay a lot of money to go here," said the English major. "I don't want a prostitution ring on campus."


Priest claims religious discrimination at community college

WATERBURY, Conn. --Officials at Naugatuck Valley Community College are being sued by a Catholic priest, who claims religious discrimination. The Rev. James A. Crowley, a business professor, has filed a federal lawsuit along with his immediate supervisor, who claims officials retaliated against him for backing the priest. The federal lawsuit claims that a promotion for Crowley was delayed after a superior objected to his clerical clothing and use of "Catholic examples" in business ethics classes. The lawsuit claims that after Crowley complained about the delayed promotion, he was moved to an inferior office and given a harsh work schedule. Crowley's classes were also subjected to more than two years of surveillance by campus police, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also claims that Crowley's supervisor, Dennis E. Spector, who supported the priest's claims, was wrongfully accused of workplace violence and moved to the same windowless office.

The lawsuit was filed in January against the college and eight officials, including three campus police officials. It seeks unspecified damages for numerous alleged constitutional and legal violations, including Connecticut's libel and slander laws, federal law barring retaliation and constitutional guarantees of academic expression and freedom of religion.

NVCC President Richard L. Sanders, a defendant, declined comment this week. Assistant Attorney General Eleanor M. Mullen has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, citing flaws related to legal jurisdiction, statutes of limitations and other grounds.


Education "outcomes" we can do without

Confused about the conflict that is raging between traditional and student-centred teaching in schools? Kevin Donnelly offers an Australian guide

In publicly condemning the widespread influence of outcomes-based education, NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt should be congratulated. Along with the federal Opposition's move to drop Mark Latham's hit list of wealthy non-government schools, which was taken to the last election, it is obvious the Labor Party has finally realised that aspirational voters want choice in education and a curriculum based on high standards.

Tebbutt's recent conversion to the anti-outcomes-based education brigade follows last year's description by Brendan Nelson, then federal education minister and now Defence Minister, of the practice as a cancer and his initiative to force states to introduce plain English report cards, in which students are graded A to E, instead of using vague and feel-good descriptions such as established, consolidation and emerging.

Outcomes-based education shifts the emphasis from what is taught and can be tested fairly objectively to whatever students eventually learn. The ACT curriculum says "curriculum documentation has until recently concentrated on subject matter and teaching methods ... The move to an outcomes approach attempts to recognise the importance of what students know and can do."

Tebbutt's comments, reported in The Australian on Thursday, that "there are great pieces of literature and they should be studied as such" mirrors Prime Minister John Howard's comments earlier this year that there is no place for postmodern gobbledygook in the curriculum and schools need a more academic and rigorous approach to teaching history and the classics.

Victorian Liberal senator and the Government's backbench education committee chairman Mitch Fifield argues against outcomes-based education on the basis that "not all texts, not all works of literature are of equal merit. There is a right way and a wrong way to learn. There are right and wrong answers in exams. OBE is a failed experiment that should be declared DOA."

Why is outcomes-based education under attack from both sides of the political spectrum? It embodies a dumbed-down and politically correct approach to education and it is increasingly obvious that Australia's adoption of the approach has allowed standards to fall and put generations of students at risk.

That outcomes-based education has been forced on teachers and schools is made worse by the 1995 Eltis report in NSW in which University of Sydney professor Ken Eltis could find no evidence that the approach has been successfully implemented anywhere in the world and there appears little, if any, research proving that it is superior to what is being replaced.

A former head of the federal-state-owned Curriculum Corporation, Bruce Wilson, who was closely involved in introducing outcomes-based education into Australia during the 1990s, now describes it as an "unsatisfactory political and intellectual exercise". Wilson argues that "it is difficult to find a jurisdiction outside Australia which has persevered with the peculiar approach to outcomes that we have adopted".

A number of recent state and territory government-sponsored reports also conclude that there are serious flaws in outcomes-based education and, as a result, that teachers have suffered. A 2001 West Australian report concludes that teachers have been let down by an ineffective bureaucracy and that "many schools and teachers are experiencing significant difficulty in engaging with the requirements of an outcomes approach". In Queensland, the educrats in charge of the system candidly say in a 2005 report that the outcomes-based education framework forced on teachers lacks "clarity (on) what must be taught across schools and what standards of students achievement are expected". After reviewing Victoria's implementation of its curriculum and standards framework, a 2004 report says: "The current ways in which ... authorities have conceived the curriculum for schools resulted in poor definitions of expected and essential learning and provides teachers with insufficient guidance about what to teach."

Late last year, as a result of a second Eltis report, the NSW education department, which never adopted outcomes-based education in as pure a form as other states and territories, agreed that curriculum documents should be simplified, focus on essential academic content and give teachers a clear road map detailing what should be taught.

Those familiar with education debates in the US during the past 10 years will know that the adoption of outcomes-based education there faced similar criticisms. As a result, the practice is considered a failed and largely irrelevant experiment, and all American states have moved to a more academically based, year-level specific, detailed, unambiguous and teacher-friendly model of curriculum development.

Based on research associated with the federally funded primary curriculum benchmarking report completed last year, it is also obvious that most Australian curriculum documents in mathematics, science and English, as a result of outcomes-based education, are not as academically strong and teacher-friendly as the syllabuses developed in those systems that generally outperform Australia in the Trends in International Maths and Science Study tests.

Given the increasing belief that outcomes-based education is inherently flawed and impossible to implement usefully, it is hard not to think that the educrats responsible for inflicting it on Australian schools would admit their mistakes and move on to a better alternative. Such is not the case. On evaluating curriculum development across Australia, it is obvious that most systems, while rhetorically agreeing that all is not well, are pushing ahead with a more extreme form of the approach, described by the father of outcomes-based education, American educator William Spady, as "transformational outcomes-based education". "Transformational OBE is future-oriented," Spady says of the new age approach. "It exists to equip all students with the knowledge, competence and orientations needed for them to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities they will face in their career and family lives after graduating. It focuses on students' lifelong adaptive capacities. It is focused more on the broad role performance capabilities of young people and their ability to do complex tasks in real settings, in real situations, relating more directly to life. Transformational OBE is concerned solely with students' success after they leave school."

Those states and territories that are adopting transformational outcomes-based education in its pure form include the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. NSW and Victoria, along with Queensland, appear to be adopting a hybrid approach, combining aspects of outcomes-based education with the more academic syllabus approach.

In Tasmania, instead of basing the curriculum on academic subjects such as English, mathematics and science, the curriculum is organised in terms of thinking, communicating, personal futures, social responsibility and world futures. The NT curriculum adopts a similar approach and argues that learning is developmental (students learn in different ways), constructivist (teachers facilitate instead of teach and children take control of their learning) and futures-oriented. Essential learning is defined as the inner, the creative, the collaborative and the constructive. The SA curriculum is based on "constructivist theories of learning", adopts a student-centred view of education and, again, emphasises what are termed essential learnings: futures, identity, interdependence, thinking and communication. Similar to Spady's approach, the emphasis is on "understandings, dispositions and capabilities" and the world outside the classroom is given priority. The WA Curriculum Framework says it is not a syllabus as such and that its primary focus is on outcomes. Once again, the focus is on developing new age attitudes, dispositions and values, such as inclusivity, collaboration and partnership, flexibility and environmental responsibility to the detriment of giving students a solid foundation in academic subjects. The ACT is adopting transformational outcomes-based education in its most extreme form and the curriculum is defined in terms of 36 essential learning achievements. Students must know how to learn, use problem-solving strategies, demonstrate intercultural understanding and appreciate diversity in human society.

For a variety of reasons, including public criticisms of outcomes-based education and the realisation that teachers and schools have experienced significant problems with implementation, Victoria, NSW and Queensland are taking a more balanced approach to curriculum development. NSW, in particular, as a result of the two Eltis reports, is resisting the move to transformational outcomes-based education and the curriculum, instead of being defined in terms of broad competencies and generic skills, is grounded in traditional subjects and, thankfully, teachers are to be given clear and succinct road maps.

Since the Keating government's national curriculum statements and profiles were developed in the early '90s, most criticism of outcomes-based education has been characterised as coming from cultural conservatives. Now ALP politicians such as Tebbutt are voicing concerns that, in a bipartisan spirit, could give young Australians precedence over political point-scoring.



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