Saturday, August 05, 2006

$40,000 numbskulls

Colleges and universities will start their fall semester soon. You might be interested in what parents' and taxpayers' money is going for at far too many "institutions of higher learning."

At Occidental College in Los Angeles, a mandatory course for some freshmen is "The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie." It's a course where professor Elizabeth J. Chin explores ways in "which scientific racism has been put to use in the making of Barbie [and] to an interpretation of the film 'The Matrix' as a Marxist critique of capitalism." Johns Hopkins University students can enroll in a course called "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll in Ancient Egypt." Part of the course includes slide shows of women in ancient Egypt "vomiting on each other," "having intercourse" and "fixing their hair."

Harvard University students can take "Marxist Concepts of Racism," which examines "the role of capitalist development and expansion in creating racial inequality." You can bet there's no mention of the genocide in Africa and former communist regimes like Yugoslavia. Young America's Foundation and Accuracy in Academia publish lists of courses like these, at many other colleges, that are nothing less than student indoctrination through academic dishonesty.

Parents are paying an average tuition of $21,000, and at some colleges over $40,000, to have their children exposed to anti-Americanism and academic nonsense. According to a 2000 American Council of Trustees and Alumni study, "Losing America's Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century," not one of the top 50 colleges and universities today requires American history of its graduates.

A survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut gave 81 percent of the seniors a D or F in their knowledge of American history. The students could not identify Valley Forge, or words from the Gettysburg Address, or even the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution. A survey released by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that American adults could more readily identify Simpson cartoon characters than name freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.

The academic dishonesty doesn't end with phony courses and lack of a solid core curriculum; there's grossly fraudulent grading, euphemistically called grade inflation. For example, Harvard's Educational Policy Committee found that some professors award As for average work. A Boston Globe study found that 91 percent of Harvard seniors graduated with honors, that means all As and a few Bs.

I doubt whether these "honor" students could pass a 1950 high-school graduation examination. According to the Department of Education's 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 31 percent of college graduates were proficient in prose, only 25 percent proficient in reading documents and 31 percent proficient in math.

Who's to blame for the increasingly sad state of affairs at America's colleges and universities? It's tempting to blame professors and campus administrators, and yes, they share a bit of the blame for shirking their academic duty. But the bulk of the blame rests with trustees, who bear the ultimate responsibility for what goes on at the college.

Unfortunately, trustees know little detail about what goes on at their institutions. Most of them have their time taken up by their non-college obligations. As such, they are simply yes-men who, in making decisions, must rely on information, often incomplete or biased, given to them by the president and the provost. A good remedy would be for boards of trustees to hire a campus ombudsman and staff that's accountable only to the trustees. During my brief tenure as a trustee of a major East Coast university, I made this suggestion only to be asked by the president whether I trusted him. My response was yes I trusted him, but I wanted verification.



Scotland's law schools were yesterday charged by a leading lawyer with turning out sub-standard graduates. He also accused universities of putting profits before standards. Professor Alastair Bonnington claimed legal education was being dumbed down and accused law schools of making the subject an easy option to increase their profits with boosted student numbers. In a scathing article in the current issue of the Law Society Journal, written to reflect on his retirement after 25 years' teaching, Prof Bonnington said that studying law had become much easier than it was 30 years ago and that law schools hand out 2:1 honours degrees almost as a matter of course. He also complained there was a paucity of teachers who had actually practised law employed at Scottish law schools.

The article, which the Law Society of Scotland was quick to point out was Prof Bonnington's "personal opinion", provoked outrage at Scotland's university law schools. Professor David Carey-Miller, head of the law school at Aberdeen University, said: "I would vehemently disagree with almost everything Alastair is saying." He said that in a recent survey five out of the top 20 law schools in the whole of the UK were Scottish. "The fundamental reason for these schools appearing in this list is high standards," said Prof Carey-Miller.

Professor Colin Reid, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Accountancy at Dundee University, said: "It is hardly surprising that many students are achieving good honours results since well-qualified students enter the law schools where more thought is being given to teaching and learning than ever before. "Moreover Dundee is unique in offering qualifying law degrees for Scotland, England and Wales and Northern Ireland. We are, therefore, very conscious of the differences between the various legal systems."

Prof Bonnington, solicitor to BBC Scotland and a visiting professor at Glasgow Law School, said he had major concerns that students today did not understand Scottish law as "it is taught little and seldom" by academics who lack "necessary practical skills". And lamenting the lack of intellectual rigour and vocational training, he noted that 2:1 degrees are dished out to "almost everyone", while university administrations milk law schools as "cash cows". Prof Bonnington said: "Today, Scottish law schools admit almost everyone to study honours and award almost everyone a 2:1 degree. It appears that Scots law is taught little and seldom in some law schools."


The (digital) camera lies

School photos digitally 'fixed'

The class of 2006 will be the best lookers yet, with parents getting the option to digitally remove pimples and marks from their teenagers' school photos. For $8, parents can buy a touch-up option for official school portraits. Even parents of grade one children are asking for blemishes to be airbrushed.

The company offering the service said it was popular with many parents and children. National School Photography services state and private schools across Melbourne. Owner Peter Gillahan said the pressure to look good was growing. "People are very conscious of their image these days. They're bombarded with beautiful people in the media who all look fantastic and parents and students want to look like that themselves," he said. Mr Gillahan said many parents asked for the touch-up because they didn't want a permanent reminder of their children's pimples. "They say 'get rid of that pimple, it's not going to be there forever it's going to come and go, so it's not really part of their personality'," he said. "One mum said in 20 years' time her son is going to be different and she didn't want to be looking at that forever."

The digital make-over option was tested at one school last year before being offered to all students photographed by the company. For $8, the company will remove obvious pimples, scratches or other blemishes, even going the extra mile for children suffering severe skin problems. "It's pretty hard if you've got a young lad with acne all over his face, so the retouchers will do more than what we charge for it because we want a nice photo to go out to our customers," Mr Gillahan said.

But teen health experts were shocked to hear of the touch-up service. "My immediate reaction is that I'm appalled," said Susan Sawyer, director of the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children's Hospital. "It's suggesting that this is not normal, that you should not look like this, that no one should have pimples. "I think it gives a very unsavoury message that you are not OK." Prof Sawyer said that the pressure from media on both parents and children was behind the push for perfection. "What we see around us is airbrushed perfection in every magazine," she said. "If we accept that it is fine for celebrities to cut inches off their bottoms and thighs and upper arms . . . then should we be surprised about this?" Prof Sawyer even questioned whether the use of electronic photography aids would end at smoother skin. "First pimples, next teeth, next ethnicity or colour of the skin -- who knows?" she said.

But Mr Gillahan said more sophisticated digital alterations were too complicated to be offered on a widespread basis. "That would become a minefield because then people would want you to whiten their teeth and remove the braces," he said. But digital imaging allows photographers to manipulate school portrait images like never before. "We often open eyes by swapping eyes from one photo of a student to another photo of the same student . . . if they've blinked in one we'll swap the eyes over," Mr Gillahan said. "It's the same in the class photos . . . we'll combine a number of photos to make it the best one we can. "Pull the socks up, plant a tree in the background if a car has pulled up when it shouldn't have."

Mr Gillahan said no photos were retouched without consent. "It's a parent's choice, we don't just retouch because sometimes students have a birthmark on their face . . . that is part of them." Mr Gillahan said he expected plenty of repeat customers from the digitally perfect class of '06. "It will only grow because if you've had Jimmy's or Jenny's photo done this year, when they go to school in following years they will have to have them done then as well," he said. Basic school portraits start at $18. But some parents were taking the desire for perfection to extreme levels. "When we get requests for a retouching on a six-year-old you think what can you do to a six-year-old?"



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, August 04, 2006

Scotland: Ex-pupils 'break teacher's leg after attacking him in street'

A teacher required surgery to "shocking" injuries after he was set upon by former pupils in the latest in a string of attacks on school staff to provoke warnings teaching is becoming "a dangerous profession". The supply teacher had to have six steel screws inserted in his shattered leg during surgery after he was assaulted in Edinburgh by a gang of between four and six youths, believed to be former pupils of Liberton High School. He also suffered facial injuries during the attack in which the gang kicked and punched him in the head and body as he lay defenceless on the ground.

Last night the head of Scotland's biggest teaching union warned the incident highlighted the increasing violence faced by teachers both in and outside the classroom. The 42-year-old teacher, who did not want to be identified, was attacked as he walked across North Bridge in Edinburgh last Sunday. He said: "I was stopped in the street by the kids - I still call them kids because they were my pupils - but they were young men now. They called me by my name and I recognised some of their faces. "We started talking and I asked them how they were getting on and what they were doing with their lives. Then one of them threw some water on me from a bottle. The next thing I knew someone punched me in the face. Another kicked me in the leg and I heard it snap. I fell to the ground and they started kicking and punching me in the head." He went on: "Being a teacher can be quite stressful, so I look forward to my holidays to relax, but now that's ruined. I'm just shocked that they could have done this."

Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country's biggest teachers' union, said violence in and out of the classroom was at risk of making teaching a "dangerous profession" - a label that would deter students from training to join it. Last year, a survey found at least 36 teachers in Scottish schools had to have hospital treatment after being assaulted by pupils. Mr Smith said the EIS recognised that violence towards teachers was a growing problem, and increasing numbers of teachers were leaving the profession due to stress. "It is a pretty grim state of affairs if a teacher cannot go out in his or her leisure time without looking over their shoulder," Mr Smith said. "If the job of teaching is seen as not only being pressurised in the classroom but also dangerous on the streets, it will put off people from becoming teachers and that is something we cannot allow to happen."

A police spokeswoman said: "Three men aged 20, 21 and 22 were arrested in connection with an assault." The growing number of attacks on teachers are leading local authorities to take increasingly extreme measures. In the Borders, staff have been issued with panic alarms as classroom violence spirals out of control. The "safe school alert" system works by sending pager alerts to key staff, giving the precise location so they can rush to the scene.


Children left behind in Los Angeles schools

If the No Child Left Behind Act is to work, school districts have to take part. And early evidence indicates that in at least one major case, that's not happening. Since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District has received hundreds of millions of federal dollars meant to help students in failing public schools. Students in schools that did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two straight years were supposed to have been offered the opportunity to attend another public school in the district or receive supplemental educational services, such as tutoring. But, according to data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, only 315 of the 257,636 students in failing schools in Los Angeles participated in public-school choice in the 2003-2004 school year. And citizens groups are getting fed up.

The Alliance for School Choice and Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) recently filed complaints against the school districts of Los Angeles and Compton, Calif., for taking the NCLB money but failing to offer these remedies. CURE argues that the Department of Education should withhold future funding until the school systems comply with the law. At issue is what is known as Title 1, Part A funding, which is dedicated to improving the performance of schools by introducing school choice or, if that wasn't sufficient, tutoring services. Up to 20 percent of Part A funding was intended for school choice or supplemental services. But, $46 billion later, only about 1 percent of the 3.9 million eligible students nationwide had moved on to better public schools.

In many cases, this was because school districts failed to inform students of the opportunities. According to a General Accountability Office (GAO) report, only 29 percent of school districts informed parents about the school-choice option before the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year. Another 21 percent notified them only as the school year began, which allowed little time to learn about other schools or make decisions on whether to transfer. The other half of school districts didn't inform parents until well into the school year, thus effectively preventing them from participating. School districts fared only slightly better on providing special educational services; 17 percent of eligible students participated.

In Los Angeles, for the 2002-2003 school year, 104 of LAUSD's 678 schools failed to make AYP for two straight years. These schools served 221,472, or 29.7 percent, of the district's students. The next year, 111 of 695 schools failed to make AYP. These schools served 257,637 students, or 34.5 percent of the district's students. LAUSD received $1.2 billion in Title I, Part A funding during those school years. One fifth, or $239 million, should have gone to fund public-school choice or after-school tutoring. But just 218 students took advantage of choice the first year and 315 the next. And just 7.1 percent participated in tutoring the first of the two years and 7.4 percent the next.

Either students in Los Angeles are attending tutoring sessions in gold-plated salons and riding to their new schools in limousines, or the money isn't being spent as intended. The latter seems likely, given a 2003 letter from Eugene Hickock, then acting deputy secretary of education, to Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado who now heads the Los Angeles school district. The letter criticized the spending of Title I, Part A funding and questioned why the school system used so little of its money on tutoring.

According the most recent data, LAUSD still doesn't spend its Title I, Part A funding properly. Kids in failing schools remain there and don't get the help they need. Parents deserve better. If Los Angeles can't spend the federal government's money properly, it shouldn't receive any more until it improves. Parents and leaders should work to provide other opportunities to move students out of failing schools. It's time that Los Angeles lives up to its obligations to the students in its care.



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, August 03, 2006


It's a sad fact that an achievement gap between minority and white students exists. The real question is what to do about it. For too long, affirmative action - boosting minorities in the college admissions process - has been the preferred big government remedy. Defenders say this helps achieve "diversity" - a sacred concept in academia - and makes up for discrepancies in school funding and quality.

After years of controversy over affirmative action, Michigan will soon decide if racial preferences remain the status quo. Sparked by two 2003 Supreme Court cases challenging the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in student admissions, a group proposed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - a statewide referendum that would ban racial preferences for hiring, contracting and education. The initiative's success would have national implications.

Many argue affirmative action is needed to level the playing field for minority students trapped in bad schools. But what makes a school "bad?" In Detroit, for example, the district now outspends the state average in total and instructional per-pupil expenditures and recently constructed two of the most expensive high schools in the country. Its teachers are among the highest paid in the nation, and 96 percent are deemed "highly qualified." Nonetheless, Detroit schools continue to boast below-average test scores and a graduation rate under 50 percent. Why hasn't money bought success?

One reason is Detroit's large education bureaucracy. Administrative costs are well above the state average, drawing charges of waste and cronyism. Public school districts also tend to spend more for supplies and services than their private counterparts. As such, fewer dollars make it into the classroom.

Regardless, "bad" schools are more the product of poor learning environments than inadequate funding or teachers. In urban schools, students often enter unprepared, fall behind early and lose interest, leading to the disciplinary problems that plague urban schools. Graduation is not the norm and expectations are low. These factors lead to a greater number of at-risk children in urban schools and inhibit learning.

The problem is that nearly all schools rely on the same, one-size-fits-all model (textbooks, many classes, little individual attention) to educate drastically different students. When this fails, officials don't search for innovative ways to improve minority education or increase efficiency. Blaming an alleged racist conspiracy, they lower standards.

And, while lowering the bar may help minority students enter a particular college, it may harm students before and after the admissions phase. High school students have little incentive to improve their performance beyond what is deemed "good enough" for admission. Once enrolled, these students may find themselves overwhelmed. It's the academic equivalent of throwing a child in the deep end to teach him to swim. As Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out in Grutter v. Bollinger, it "[helps] fulfill the bigot's prophecy about black underperformance - just as it confirms the conspiracy theorist's belief that 'institutional racism' is at fault for every racial disparity in our society."

To truly succeed, schools must address the unique needs of their students. The University Preparatory Academy in Detroit does just that. With largely the same students as public schools, U Prep achieves considerably higher test scores, graduates 90 percent of its students, and sends 90 percent of its graduates on to college - all while spending $2,000 less per pupil than Detroit public schools.

How? Among other factors, U Prep develops personal learning plans, places students in mentorship groups and promotes community and parent involvement. Private contractors and the reduction of elective courses help reduce costs. Schools achieve success by promoting environments conducive to learning - not by increasing spending or lowering standards.

Affirmative action allows those responsible for the failures of urban education to shirk accountability with a simple, ineffective solution to a complex problem. For 13 years, urban and suburban students are treated the same way in cookie-cutter schools, despite their disparate characteristics. In the college admissions process, officials suddenly decide minority students should be treated differently. Such is the great paradox of affirmative action - one that Michigan voters may choose to end in a move to try to improve minority education.



Web sites that allow college students to anonymously evaluate their professors -- slamming them as buffoons or rating them as "hot" -- have grown in popularity in recent years. Now, a unique site called Pick-A-Prof, which also posts the numbers of A's through F's given out in individual classes, is breaking into the California market of more than 2.3 million public university and college students.

The for-profit company prevailed recently in a public-records lawsuit against the University of California, Davis, that was seen as a test case in California. (The school initially refused to hand over the letter-grade information, then backed down and paid Pick-A-Prof $15,000 in legal fees.) Now the company is seeking the distribution of grades at other University of California schools, the California State University system and the state's community colleges -- to the ire of faculty members who say students will shop for easy classes.

Meanwhile, students by the millions are embracing the Web sites -- from, with ranting and praise for professors at more than 6,000 schools, to, which focuses on teachers at CSUS.

Pick-A-Prof covers about 150 schools, including the University of Texas, the University of Florida and Michigan State University. The site displays bar graphs showing the grading history for individual professors. "All students have a right to know as much as possible about the classes they are taking and the professors who will play a central role in their education," said William Cunningham, a former systemwide chancellor at the University of Texas, in a sworn statement filed as a part of the suit against UC Davis.

Cunningham's son started the Web site as a class project in 2000 at Texas A&M University. But Dean Murakami, president of the faculty union for the Los Rios Community College District, refers to the Pick-A-Prof site as "Pick-On-A-Prof." Last month, the company asked one of the Los Rios schools -- American River College -- for its letter grades. The school is grudgingly complying. In a letter sent last week to professors at the Los Rios colleges, which also include Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento City, Murakami called the effort a "shameless assault" on academic freedom -- the freedom, he said, for teachers to determine their own system of grading and level of academic rigor.

Jane DeLeon, an English professor at American River and president of the Los Rios academic senate, said there's apprehension among faculty members that students will stay away from classes they perceive as hard. If a class doesn't meet a minimum enrollment requirement, it gets canceled. "They're concerned they wouldn't get a chance to teach," DeLeon said. Los Rios Chancellor Brice Harris agrees, but said in a letter to faculty and staff that it wasn't worth losing a legal fight after UC lawyers determined that the aggregate letter-grade data amount to a public record that can be given to anyone who asks for it.

San Diego State University -- approached by Pick-A-Prof last month -- also is complying with a request for information. Meanwhile, the Los Rios faculty union is talking about pushing state legislators for an exemption to the California Public Records Act that would keep the letter-grade information private. The teachers union at San Francisco State University also is considering how to block that school from handing over the information, citing possible violations to collective bargaining agreements and federal education privacy rules.

But Pick-A-Prof won't be easy to pick off. In January, the company filed a suit in Yolo Superior Court after UC Davis refused to provide the grade information. The school actually had been cooperating and handing over grades as far back as 2001. But less than two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, UC Davis lawyers rejected Pick-A-Prof's request for more updated information. In court documents, UC Davis lawyer Lynette Temple argued that the public interest of maintaining a rigorous academic environment on campus is greater than the private interest of Pick-A-Prof to obtain the grades. She said students "may be disadvantaging themselves in the long run" by using the data to take more lenient classes. Lawyers at UC headquarters in Oakland reconsidered the UC Davis position and agreed in late May to settle the case and hand over the information.

Darnell Holloway, 22, student-government president at UC Davis, said he scans professor-rating Web sites and says Pick-A-Prof could be a valuable tool for students comparing two professors who teach the same class. "A couple of grade-points can affect your future," he said. However, he said he believes that most students will not select classes based solely on a professor's grading history. Evelyn Chua, 22, who graduated from UC Davis last month with a degree in exercise biology, said she also referenced the professor-rating Web sites. But it's not that easy to pick and choose professors because of scheduling conflicts, Chua said. Also, required upper-level classes are always going to be hard, she said during an outdoor lunch break near campus Friday. "You're just going to have to take a class no matter what," she said.


Scotland: Free Church plea for Presbyterian schools

The "Wee Frees" are more fundamentalist than the Church of Scotland

Free Kirk ministers are calling for Presbyterian schools to be set up to combat "the sustained attack" on Scotland's Christian heritage. The Free Church of Scotland, which fears that children are being fed a secular agenda, is examining whether state funding would be possible or whether the schools would have to be set up privately.

A resolution adopted by the church's General Assembly ordered the review, saying: "The General Assembly express their concern at the sustained attack upon and continual erosion of the Christian ethos and foundation of Scotland's nondenominational schools. "They note with particular concern that the Scottish Executive now deems it appropriate to use schools to further a secular social and cultural agenda."

The Rev David Robertson, the Free Kirk minister in Dundee - who proposed the resolution - said: "We're concerned that the schools are being used, in some parts of Scotland at least, to advance a secular agenda and so we need to look at the possibility of having to set up Christian-based schools. "Ideally we would want Scotland's school system to return to its Christian foundations. Both the Free Church and the Church of Scotland established complete systems of schools in the 19th century which they later handed over to the state."

Robertson admitted that the 12,000-strong Free Church would struggle to set up such schools on its own resources and that it would have to seek out like-minded church-goers from other groups, such as Baptists, the Church of Scotland or other Evangelical believers. He added: "The schools could be set up privately, which would be costly, or there is an case for state funding. We see the current emphasis on faith-based schools, and if we have state-funded Muslim schools, Church of England schools, and Catholic schools, then it's hard to resist the argument for Presbyterian schools, or whatever you would call them."

In recent years some in the Church of Scotland have called for Kirk schools to stem the decline in organised religion.



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, August 02, 2006


Coursework in GCSE maths is likely to be scrapped, and pupils will no longer be allowed to take most of their projects home under plans by the exams watchdog to stamp out cheating. The proposals have been made to try to end the problem of internet plagiarism among teenagers and the desire of parents to “help” with their children’s work.

The Government demanded a review of coursework in A levels and GCSEs last November, after the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority found evidence of widespread cheating. One in 20 parents admitted doing their children’s coursework at GCSE level. Coursework counts for between 20 per cent and 60 per cent of the overall marks allocated at GCSE and A level. Critics of coursework in maths, in particular, suggest that it does not help a pupil to understand the fundamental elements of the subject.

The latest suggestions were made by Ken Boston, the chief executive of the authority, in a newly released letter to Ruth Kelly, then the Education Secretary. In it he wrote: “We recognise that the practice of students carrying out coursework at home and the wide availability of the internet have created greater opportunities for malpractice. “This gives problems with ensuring authenticity — the extent to which we can be confident that internally assessed work is solely that of the candidate concerned. This is a threat to the fairness of GCSE.” Dr Boston advised that the public examinations might be tightened up with a more rigorous assessment of the marking system, coursework being completed in the classroom, as well as by placing a greater emphasis on examinations.

“The consequence of these changes would be that in subjects that involve such activities as creating a physical product, carrying out investigations or performing with others, internal assessment is likely to continue, but under conditions that maximise fairness,” he wrote. “Greater use of controlled conditions would also help reduce the assessment burden on students as they would normally take less time to complete their task under controlled conditions than otherwise.”

But the chief executive said that tightening the rules must not stop children acquiring the important analytical and research skills that coursework projects can help to develop. “During its initial development, internal assessment in GCSE was seen as a way of enriching the curriculum and ensuring that all aspects of a subject that were important were taught and assessed,” he wrote. “We want to ensure that a new approach to internal assessment, including increasing the use of controlled conditions, will not prevent students achieving important educational aims or developing valuable life and work skills.”

One subject likely to see coursework axed at GCSE altogether, however, is maths, after the authority’s review suggested that teachers had questioned its value. Several public schools, including Harrow, have adopted the maths IGCSE, similar to the scrapped O level, after deciding that the compulsory GCSE coursework, which counts for up to one fifth of marks, was not contributing to the pupils’ understanding. Dr Boston said that the authority was drawing up plans for the future of GCSE maths for 2007-10. “If consultation confirms the views expressed in the report, we will take action to reduce or remove coursework from GCSE mathematics and assess the skills involved, where feasible, within the examination,” Dr Boston said.

In March the watchdog issued a guide to plagiarism for teachers and gave warning that staff would be guilty of professional misconduct if they let students present plagiarised material as their own. Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, welcomed the recommendations. But he called on the watchdog to consider whether coursework was necessary in a range of subjects, including maths and English. “The international GCSE has no requirement for assessed coursework, which is a principal reason why the independent sector is increasingly adopting the IGCSE in maths, English and the three sciences,” he said.



Expressing conservative views is a punishable offence at an American university

A professor at the State University of New York, Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia) has been denied promotion for publicly disagreeing with the university's student conduct policies and affirmative action practices. SUNY Fredonia's president later agreed to approve the promotion only if the professor would submit all of his public writings to prior university review. Professor Stephen Kershnar declined the offer and sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). "Professors must be able to publicly and frankly express their opinions if the `marketplace of ideas' is to survive," stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "SUNY Fredonia's bungling attempt to suppress a professor's criticism of university policies is both reprehensible and embarrassing."

Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated for promotion to full professor in January 2006, with strong support from his colleagues, department head, and top administrators, because of his outstanding professional record. An outspoken member of the Fredonia community, Kershnar writes a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper, in which he questioned Fredonia's affirmative action practices and examined the lack of conservatives in higher education. In 2005, Kershnar publicly condemned a new rule that targets students who fail to report violations of the student conduct code. He was quoted in a Buffalo News article saying the new policy would "turn the student population into a group of snitches."

SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner issued a letter to the university community defending the conduct policy against "media misrepresentations." Kershnar e-mailed the SUNY Fredonia faculty e-mail list on the following day to say that he had criticized-not misrepresented-the policy. Hefner replied to that e-mail by warning Kershnar, "You need to start acting like a responsible member of this campus community."

On April 27, Hefner sent Kershnar a letter denying his promotion. Hefner explained that although Kershnar's "teaching has been described as excellent," he would not be promoted because of his "deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and the media," which Hefner claimed "impugned the reputation of SUNY Fredonia."

Kershnar told FIRE that at a later meeting, Hefner suggested that he would approve the promotion if Kershnar agreed to refrain from such statements in the future. In response, Kershnar drafted a contract to be in effect for one year, during which time he would submit his written materials to a "Prior-Consent Committee," consisting of two other professors who would decide if his statements deliberately misrepresented the university. Hefner rejected Kershnar's version of the contract, substituting a more stringent contract that would be in effect for an indefinite period of time, and that required Kershnar to get "unanimous consent" from a university committee for all writing regarding the university to ensure "the avoidance of any future misrepresentations" of campus practices. "President Hefner should have immediately understood that requiring a professor to submit his opinions to university review flatly violated SUNY Fredonia's obligations to uphold the First Amendment, but Hefner demanded that Kershnar give up even more of his basic rights," said Lukianoff.

Kershnar refused to sign this contract and contacted FIRE, which wrote a letter to Hefner on July 7 castigating him for the unjust and illiberal actions against Kershnar. On July 19, Hefner responded to FIRE's letter, insisting that SUNY Fredonia "takes seriously its legal obligations as a public university," but refusing to comment on Kershnar's case. However, on July 20, Hefner sent another letter to Kershnar denying his promotion, this time with the references to misrepresentation removed. "President Hefner made Kershnar's academic promotion-which should by all accounts be based upon his merits as a professor-dependent upon his public statements about the university," Lukianoff stated. "FIRE, along with others who care about academic freedom, will not stand idly by as a public university punishes a professor for speaking his mind and then requires him to relinquish his constitutional and moral right to express his opinions."


Spelling fad cost Australian kids 14pc drop in results

Dumping 1970s methods of teaching spelling, which included primers and graded workbooks, in favour of the "whole language" method caused primary school students' reading scores to fall about 14 per cent over 15 years. Despite a move back to teaching phonics and devoting more time to spelling, students are yet to catch up to their peers of 30 years ago.

A study of spelling scores among South Australian school students over 26 years showed the need for the direct teaching and testing of spelling skills, and the inclusion of phonics in teaching children to read, write and spell. South Australia was the most ardent of the states in rejecting the need for the direct teaching of spelling and teachers were discouraged from teaching phonics in the 1980s and 1990s. Phonics is the understanding of the sounds that make up words, while whole language teaching believes students will "catch" spelling and reading through their daily exposure to books and writing.

The study, published in The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, analysed the results of three large-scale studies of spelling tests sat by more than 40,000 South Australian students aged six to 15 in 1978, 1993 and 2004. The biggest difference was among children aged 7 1/2. Between 1993 and 1978, their scores fell about 14 per cent. The difference at 6 1/2, seven and eight fell between 10 and 14 per cent.

Study authors, Peter Westwood of the University of Hong Kong and Kerry Bissaker of Flinders University, said the most plausible explanation for the fall was that less attention had been given to the direct teaching and testing of spelling skills. This was because of the implementation of "whole language" philosophy. The traditional teacher-directed methods of the 1970s based on the use of graded primers or workbooks was rejected in the 1980s for "a freer and more developmental or child-centred approach", the study said.

While teachers are increasingly embracing a more systematic approach that combines the best of whole language principles with explicit instruction in literacy, students in 2004 were still behind their 1978 peers.



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, August 01, 2006

"Dale's Cone of Experience"

There is a concept in education called "Dale's Cone of Experience" that states that people generally remember:

10% of what they read
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they hear and see
70% of what they say or write
90% of what they do

Often displayed graphically as a cone -- see here -- Dale's Cone has had a profound impact on the way we teach both children and adults. And it is a complete and total fraud. No, really. Will Thalheimer at Work-Learning Research delved into Dale's Cone and discovered that:

1. While Edgar Dale indeed did indeed create a model of the concreteness of various audio-visual material back in 1946, the model contained no numbers and no research was conducted to create the model. Dale's Cone was just a hunch, albeit an educated hunch, one that Dale warned shouldn't be taken too literally.

2. The percentages -- 'people generally remember 10% of what they read' and so on -- were most likely added to Dale's Cone by an employee of the Mobil Oil company in the late 1960s. These percentages have since been discredited.

You can see Thalheimer's complete report online here. It's an eye-opening read, especially if you're an educator, librarian or trainer. Let me also put in a plug for Thalheimer's blog here

While I've known about Thalheimer's investigation into Dale's Cone for a couple of years now, I've only recently discovered his blog. It contains a collection of "research-based commentary on learning, performance, and the industry thereof."



Schools would no longer be required to teach children the difference between right and wrong under plans to revise the core aims of the National Curriculum. Instead, under a new wording that reflects a world of relative rather than absolute values, teachers would be asked to encourage pupils to develop "secure values and beliefs". [Like "crime is good if you can get away with it", presumably]

The draft also purges references to promoting leadership skills and deletes the requirement to teach children about Britain's cultural heritage. Ministers have asked for the curriculum's aims to be slimmed down to give schools more flexibility in the way they teach pupils aged 11 to 14. Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), set out the proposed new aims in a letter to Ruth Kelly, when she was the Education Secretary.

The present aims for Stage 3 pupils state: "The school curriculum should pass on enduring values. It should develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong." The QCA's proposals will see these phrases replaced to simply say that pupils should "have secure values and beliefs".

The existing aims state that the curriculum should develop children's "ability to relate to others and work for the common good". The proposed changes would remove all references to "the common good".

The requirement to teach Britain's "cultural heritage" will also be removed. The present version states: "The school curriculum should contribute to the development of pupils' sense of identity through knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Britain's diverse society." The proposals say that individuals should be helped to "understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world".

References to developing leadership in pupils have also been removed. One of the present aims is to give pupils "the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership". This is due to be replaced by the aim of ensuring that pupils "are enterprising".

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham's centre for education and employment research, said: "The idea that they think it is appropriate to dispense with right and wrong is a bit alarming." Teachers' leaders said that they did not need to be told to teach children to distinguish between right and wrong. A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "Teachers always resented being told that one of the aims of the school was to teach the difference between right and wrong. That is inherent in the way teachers operate. Removing it from the National Curriculum will make no difference."

But she insisted that it was important for children to understand about their cultural heritage. "To remove that requirement can undermine children's feelings of security in the country where they are living," she said.

A spokesman for the QCA said: "The proposed new wording of the curriculum aims is a draft which will be consulted on formally next year as part of the ongoing review of Key Stage 3. One aim of the review is that there should be more flexibility and personalisation that focuses on practical advice for teachers. "The new wording states clearly that young people should become "responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society". It also identifies the need for young people who challenge injustice, are committed to human rights and strive to live peaceably with others."


Why teachers must teach spelling

Failure to teach spelling is a failure of duty of care, argues teacher Judith Wheeldon

Are you proud of your good penmanship or embarrassed by your messy chicken scratches? Handwriting matters to us as a reflection of ourselves. Yet we sometimes purposely cultivate bad handwriting to fudge uncertain spelling. Deep down we know that spelling matters. Poor old spelling is the butt of almost as many jokes as mathematics. Spelling is boring. Most think spelling is no more than rote learning of long lists. Teachers treat spelling with disrespect by consigning it to "the wallpaper method", expecting learning by osmosis from words stuck up on the wall.

But spelling is important. Our written language, including our spelling, represents us as individuals in public, whether that public for a child is grandmother receiving a birthday card, the class at school or a job application. Fair or not, a piece of writing that contains spelling errors will never be taken as seriously as one that does not.

A child who does not spell well is likely never to be able to express themselves with confidence in writing. Don't take refuge in spell check. It's a Trojan horse from Microsoft that requires first-class spelling and grammar skills to avoid making horrendous errors. Without good spelling your child will go through life with poverty of expression and understanding that is largely avoidable through good syllabuses and teaching from kindergarten to Year 12.

Judging from the results of testing released this week by Educational Assessment Australia at the University of NSW, our schools are not doing the job. On the whole, our children don't spell English as well as Mandarin-speaking children in Singapore. Australian teachers and employers have plenty of anecdotal evidence that corroborates this view. These results cannot be a surprise since we stopped serious teaching of spelling, grammar and sentence construction decades ago, with the consequence that most teachers cannot analyse errors in speech and writing. If you want good spelling and grammar, find someone over 55.

We have wandered into a general belief that spelling has no intellectual content or feature that is intrinsically interesting. Even Peter Knapp, of EEA, said in The Australian this week that "spelling is not a high-order cognitive skill such as sentence construction". Is spelling anything more than letters in a prescribed, arbitrary order? Charles Perfetti, of the Learning Research and Development Centre at the University of Pittsburgh, defines spelling as a human literacy ability that reflects language and non-language cognitive processes. Spelling, he says, is the use of conventionalised writing systems to encode language. Acquisition of good spelling develops as the child's brain reaches new stages of physical development.

Small children begin to be spellers when they make marks with crayons on paper in imitation of adult writing. Muscular control and planning are used to make what adults see as scribbles. Preliterate writing is an intellectual task performed for pleasure at the child's own will. "Reading" aloud what they have written, young children show that they have made a cognitive leap in associating writing with sounds of speech.

Spirited singing of the alphabet song and naming the letters with pride is a highlight of this stage of language development. The child cannot yet separate discrete sounds accurately. Nor have they learned conventions of spelling. Writing of words begins but with a lot of errors that often evoke smiles from encouraging adults. From preschool to early primary, growing within-word pattern recognition leads to acquisition of sight words, essentially words that have been memorised. Wide reading, word games, spelling games and poetry will increase sight vocabulary and correct spelling.

Children use invented spelling to explore their ideas and to expand their new skills. Praise and encouragement help, but so does gentle teaching to replace inventions with accepted conventions. Children do not like mistakes and will learn quickly how to spell the grown-up way. Allowing incorrect spelling does not do justice to the child's desire to learn. The growing repertoire of sight words enables the child to generalise about how meanings are conveyed in spelling. Relationships between words are discovered; for example, that adding a "t" or "d" sound "ed" to the end of an action word pushes it to the past tense. The child who used to say correctly, "he ran" may now say, "he runned", attempting to follow the newly discovered pattern. Simple grammar and vocabulary lessons will explain to the child what they are grappling with and give early tools of language analysis that later will solve much bigger problems in language manipulation.

By the middle of primary school the child can break words into syllables and learns rules such as that doubling a consonant changes the pronunciation of the preceding vowel. Say "little" and "title" aloud to hear the difference. Rules such as "i before e except after c" and "add e to make the vowel say its name" as in hat/hate become helpful guides to speed up correct spelling, but the rules need to be taught and practised. Systematic grammar and spelling lessons are essential to allow the child's intellect to acquire the skills of controlling language. It is unfair not to help in this complex cognitive development.

By late primary school, many children are ready to build vocabulary, reading and spelling through noticing patterns that relate to the roots and origins of words. Incredible, credit, creed, credo, credulous. Chronological, chronology, chronic, chronometer. Children love word games. They enjoy building the power of their language. Latin study would not go amiss at this time. If French, German or Spanish is being taught in the school - and it should be - that language can be mined for discoveries.

Good spelling is for all children. Good spelling, vocabulary, grammar and reading make the passport out of poverty and joblessness. They build self-esteem based on achievement and foster the ability to face greater challenges later. Every child has a right to be taught these skills. A systematic program of grammar and spelling lessons consistently taught through all the years of school is essential to help the child's intellect acquire control of language. Teachers have the specific task of helping in this complex cognitive development. Parents have the task of ensuring it happens in their own child's school.



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 31, 2006


Press release below:

The Libertarian Alliance, Britain's most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute, today welcomes the rise in truancy rates announced in a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb: "State schooling is an instrument of ruling class control. It is a means by which ideologies of obedience are imposed on the young. "State schools have always encouraged intellectual passivity and trust in the authorities. In the past generation, they have begun also to celebrate illiteracy, innumeracy and a general ignorance of the world. Add to this endemic bullying and temptations to unwise experimenting with sex and recreational drugs, and we have in state schooling a comprehensive absence of what used to be meant by education.

"Rising truancy levels are to be welcomed. They show that increasing numbers of the young are withdrawing from the process of mass brainwashing. The young may not yet be expressing positive discontent with the corporatist police state New Labour and the Conservatives have made for us. But they are beginning to vote with their feet.

"While the Libertarian Alliance does not encourage breaches of the criminal law, even if the law happens to be pointless or malevolent, we do look forward to a time when state schooling will be as dead an institution as the workhouse and the debtor's prison."

Smearing education choice

This month, papers all around America reported that according to the U.S. Department of Education, "children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools." The New York Times put the study on its front page, along with a quote from teachers' union president Reg Weaver, who claimed it showed "public schools were doing an outstanding job." Please.

Most public schools are far from outstanding. America's government schools have rigid one-size-fits-all rules that reward mediocrity. Despite raising per-student spending to more than $10,000 (at least $200,000 per classroom!), test scores have stayed flat. On international tests, Americans now lag behind students from less developed nations like Poland and Korea that spend a fraction as much money on education.

The people who run the international tests told us, "the biggest predictor of student success is choice." Nations that "attach the money to the kids" and thereby allow parents to choose between different public and private schools have higher test scores. This should be no surprise; competition makes us better.

It's true in America, too, as we know from the few tiny choice experiments that have squeaked past the restrictions of the unions and the education bureaucrats. There are now eight studies from some of the places where choice has been tried. All show that when parents are given choices, kids' performance improves. But those studies didn't make the front page of The Times.

Why? Were they inferior to the new study? Not at all. Many were the best kind of controlled studies -- they followed students who were assigned by lottery to get a ticket out of the regular public schools. That gave the researchers two nearly identical populations to compare. Again and again, kids who won the lottery did better than those who were stuck in the standard government schools.

Then why did the new study conclude that public schools performed as well? The researchers tortured the data. It seems the private school kids actually scored higher on the tests, but then the researchers "dug deeper." They "put test scores into context" by adjusting for "race, ethnicity, income and parents' educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful."

Maybe it's unfair to call that "torturing the data." Such regression analysis is a valid statistical tool. But it's prone to researcher bias. Statistical hocus-pocus is not the best way to compare schools. "Ideally, to ascertain the difference between the two types of schools, an experiment would be conducted in which students are assigned (by an appropriate random mechanism) to either public or private schools." That quote, believe it or not, is from the study. But the ever-scrupulous journalists at The Times didn't find that "fit to print."

In any case, it's telling that they put so much emphasis on 4th and 8th grade tests. That's just the beginning of a student's education. American 4th graders do pretty well in international competitions. It's by 12th grade that Americans are so far behind. The longer they spend in America's bureaucratic schools, the worse they do. I'd like to see The Times publish results of 12th grade comparisons, but I won't hold my breath.

Why are the mainstream media so eager to defend a unionized government monopoly? Maybe The Times gave the "adjusted" test data (and an earlier version of it published in January) so much play partly because of the editors' dislike of "conservative Christian" schools (which did poorly in the study) and the Bush administration (which has talked about bringing market competition to education). But I suspect the biggest reason is that the editors just don't like capitalism and free markets.


Lost literary heritage

Excerpt from an article by Imre Salusinszky that appeared in "The Australian" on July 29, 2006

The recent experiment perpetrated by The Australian, in which a chapter of Patrick White's The Eye of the Storm was submitted to 10 publishers and agents and rejected by all of them, tells us little if anything about literary genius, or about some purported decline in modern civilisation that means genius is no longer recognised.

It tells us something that is both more mundane and more interesting, which is that young commissioning editors in Australian publishing houses - those who did not simply bin Eye of the Cyclone after a glance but offered Wraith Picket remedial writing advice - have not read Eye of the Storm or sufficient Patrick White to recognise his style.

Have a look at a range of school and university curriculums across Australia and it is easy to see why. In the Victorian Certificate of Education, for example, students of English are presented with a range of perfectly worthy contemporary Australian texts but study no classic Australian literature, apart from a few Henry Lawson stories.

Meanwhile, in universities you will find plenty more contemporary Australian texts, this time grouped. explicitly according to the organising categories of cultural studies: race, gender, sexuality and class. What you won't find are courses with boring titles such as "19th-century Australian fiction" in which the organising feature is canonical; that is, these are important writers with whom any Australian student of literature should be familiar.

In a sense, we have returned to the situation of 30 years ago. When I was stumbling around the corridors of the University of Melbourne stoned out of my gourd in the 1970s, Australian literature was considered a minor offshoot that could be studied only around the fringes of the core courses in English (British) literature. The situation was not quite as bad everywhere, but neither was it good. All this changed in the late '70s thanks to the activism of a group of energetic young academics who formed the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. For a while, Marcus Clarke, Henry Handel Richardson, Shaw Nielsen and, yes, Patrick White loomed large in the window of Australian undergraduates.

But who was to know what a narrow window it would turn out to be? The study of classic Australian literature in universities thrived only during a brief interval - say 1975-90 - sandwiched between cultural snobbery (no Australian belongs in the canon) on one side and cultural studies (there is no canon) on the other. Unless the readers of the publishing firms caught out by The Australian were educated in that interval, I can easily imagine they would not have read The Eye of the Storm or much White.

Responding to a complaint by John Howard that the teaching of history in our schools has degenerated into a "stew of fragmented themes and issues", federal Education Minister Julie Bishop has convened a history summit to meet in Canberra next month. I would suggest that the teaching of literature has degenerated into the same kind of stew, partly courtesy of cultural studies, and that a national strategy to address that situation (with a special emphasis on the teaching of Australian literature in schools and universities) is long overdue.

Cultural studies is a perfectly legitimate area of study but one that should come after, not before, an immersion in literary works studied for their own sakes as imaginative structures. Proceeding in that order, students can make their own educated investigations into the ways that literature, along with other forms of symbolic expression, reflects cultural values. Taken in the wrong order, however, categories such as gender and class themselves become canonical, and education narrows into indoctrination.

As former NSW premier Bob Carr has argued in connection with the study of history, the study of literature, too, is a vocational necessity in an information economy where the ability to organise arid express complicated ideas is at a premium.

While I am a non-believer at the church of "national identity" and the cultural protectionism based on it, I certainly believe there are such things as cultural traditions. Unlike an identity, which cannot lead to a liberal education, a tradition is inseparably a part of all that comes before it and exists alongside it.

Just as Howard and Bishop have asserted that the study of Australian history requires a sound understanding of European history at least as far back as the Enlightenment, so the proper study of Australian literature requires a grounding in European literature as far back as Shakespeare. Bring on the literature summit!


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 30, 2006

American diploma mill endorsed by British High Court!

The celebrity hypnotist Paul McKenna won his libel battle yesterday over a newspaper claim that he had bought a fake doctorate from an American university. The ruling in the High Court followed a trial over articles in the Daily Mirror that he claimed had portrayed him as a fraudster and made him "a laughing stock". He was not in court for the ruling by Mr Justice Eady, who will assess damages in October.

McKenna, 42, whose self-help hypnotherapy business has a turnover of 2.5 million pounds a year, said that he was devastated when the columnist Victor Lewis-Smith alleged that he had bought a "bogus" PhD from La Salle University in Louisiana for 2,615 pounds. Under the headline "It's a load of doc and bull", Mr Lewis-Smith wrote: "I discovered that anyone could be fully doctored by Lasalle within months (no previous qualifications needed), just so long as they could answer the following question correctly: `Do you have $2,615, sir?'." The newspaper's publisher, MGN, which denied libel and pleaded justification, called evidence from Mr Lewis-Smith's co-writer, Paul Sparks, who said he was told by the university that he could obtain a doctorate for that fee within a matter of months and without undertaking any formal course.

The judge, who heard the case without a jury, said that the newspaper had not proved that the sting of the words complained of was substantially true. McKenna was awarded his costs, estimated at 300,000 pounds, and the judge ordered the newspaper to pay an interim amount of 75,000 pounds. Marcus Partington, head of MGN's legal department, said: "We are dismayed about the judgment."


School integration that happens naturally offers real promise for furthering understanding

Unlike "Busing"

Tamia, Farhan, Isabella, Giovanni, Shebob. These are some of the names that my son, Zakir, has rattled off to me over the course of the last school year. He graduated from kindergarten in June, and I will remember his first year of school wistfully. Every morning since September, we've raced out of the house to join the parade of parents and children trekking to P.S. 150. Pulling their book-laden bags on wheels or toting them on their backs, boys and girls, big and small, filled the sidewalks of my Sunnyside, Queens, neighborhood. Mothers with infants in strollers trudged alongside the grade-school members of their families. Some kids rode their dad's shoulders.

Waiting for the doors to open each morning, I stood in the company of mothers in saris, mothers in headscarves and mothers in sweatpants. I would reciprocate a nod of recognition to Jason's mom, who is Japanese, and say good morning to the Chinese mom and white-haired American dad of identical twin boys. Greetings of "Buenos dias. . . . Buenos dias" sprinkled the air, along with a few others I couldn't translate so easily.

This multiethnic population is a far cry from the homogeneous student body of my own grammar school in Flushing, Queens, back in the 1960s. Esther Paik and William Fong were the sole Asians in my class. In 1967, when I was in fifth grade, black students from the nearby neighborhood of Jamaica were bused into Flushing. (At first, this was a voluntary effort on the borough's part; it was not until a year later that the Supreme Court, in Green v. New Kent County School Board, required school boards to develop desegregation plans.)

At the time, my neighborhood consisted of private homes owned by a mix of blue- and white-collar families. They were predominantly composed of second-generation Italian- and Irish-Americans, although there were some Jewish families as well. The influx of blacks into my own school was met by the frenzied protests of parents. Until then, the PTA meetings had been attended only lightly; the prospect of classroom integration inspired mass turnouts.

When all was said and done, the number of students bused into my school was minimal. Only two African-Americans were transferred into my own class. We adjusted to one another without incident; our young age kept overt expressions of prejudice to a whisper. Junior high school was another matter. By 1969, busing was being conducted on a much larger scale throughout the nation, including Queens, and a much larger proportion of bused students attended my own school, Campbell Junior High. The sheer numbers didn't allow for polite introductions or gradual assimilation but instead fanned the flames of adolescent angst on both sides of the racial divide. Territorial postures were staked out, threats were made and fights ensued. Hallways, bathrooms and cafeterias were sites of intimidation and confrontation.

Busing produced similar results all over the country. And, sadly, there is no evidence that it raised the educational prospects of African-Americans, the purpose for which it was intended. This failure was implicitly foreseen as early as 1966, when "Equality of Educational Opportunity," a study by James Coleman at Johns Hopkins University, found that racial integration did not necessarily improve achievement levels in urban schools. Later studies at Harvard revisiting Coleman's data concluded that the best way to help academic achievement was to raise overall family income and that "racial composition of the school does not have a substantial effect [on academic success]--not nearly so strong as the social class composition of the school."

The apparent assimilation of the ethnic and racial groups in my son's school seems to speak to this last point. Of course, I am not in a position to judge academic achievement per se. But the natural mixing of groups is a reflection of the neighborhood population: It achieves diversity without imposing it, and it blends social classes without a court order.

I often tell people that I don't need to travel--the world is outside my door: Irish, Turkish, Armenian, Russian, Polish, Indian, Mexican, Asians, Muslims, Jews and Christians, black and white. These days, the working-class immigrant population in Sunnyside is offset by middle-class professionals. Large apartment buildings dominate the neighborhood, complemented by walk-ups and private homes. We share the streets, restaurants and stores--interaction and assimilation follow a natural course. The children in such neighborhoods have more than enough opportunity to cultivate tolerance and understanding for those unlike themselves. Zakir seems to have learned this lesson. To him, the kids that he has learned with and laughed with for the past year are simply his friends. I think they will stay that way.



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