Saturday, August 12, 2006



A secondary school in England is to abolish all year groups in an effort to raise its academic performance. Pupils aged 11 to 16 at Bridgemary School in Gosport, Hampshire, will be mixed according to ability, with the brightest taking exams years early. Only a quarter of its children get five A* to C grades at GCSE or equivalent, less than half the national average. Head teacher Cheryl Heron said a new approach was needed to overcome "unacceptably" low achievement. She told BBC News: "This is about making sure the bright kids are pushed and that those with less academic ability are not left behind. "Children will be able to work according to their own needs and raise their expectations."

From September, pupils will study at one of five levels, depending on their ability. These are worked out from teachers' asessments and final primary school test performances. The levels range from basic literacy and numeracy skills to A-level standard. The hope is that brighter children can get ahead, while those of lesser ability are not allowed to become bored and frustrated if they fall behind.

Each pupil will be assessed in each subject every half-term to decide whether they should be moved within a system of "personalised learning". So it would be possible for a 13-year-old to study maths at the standard of the average 15-year-old, while doing "normal" level English. Less developed pupils will get extra "catch-up" coaching. The plan is a radical departure from the common system of "streaming" or "banding" within year groups, where children are grouped according to ability.

Mrs Heron, who has already tried some mixed-age group teaching at the school, said: "A child might be good at all subjects or one subject. "It's not just academic. We offer every level of qualification from the basics upwards, in vocational subjects too. "Everything a child does will be accredited." Bridgemary, set in an economically deprived area, is working in "challenging circumstances", according to the schools watchdog Ofsted. Two fifths of its 1,200 pupils have special educational needs, while just 1.4% of parents have any experience of higher education.

Mrs Heron is encouraging older pupils to become "mentors" to their younger counterparts. She said: "A lot of people think that bullying will happen if you mix ages. There is bullying in school anyway. "The work so far had aided social interaction big time. It's given younger children the confidence to speak to older ones. "The $64,000 question is how we raise expectations and standards. We are trying to do this all the time.

"This is a template for our school. I don't know if it will work elsewhere. We've got to do what we feel is right. "I know I'm a maverick but we must try something new because the current situation is unacceptable." ....

More here

U.K.: "Setting" (i.e. streaming according to ability) makes thick pupils feel thick

Secondary school pupils placed in low-ability sets often feel stigmatised as "thick", a study suggests. Researchers at London University's Institute of Education said the system had to change to ensure these children did not lose motivation. A survey of 5,000 pupils found they largely backed setting, but those in lower groups were more likely to prefer mixed-ability classes. The government said "effective" setting raised overall academic standards.

The researchers found 62% of pupils preferred to be in sets, while 24% wanted mixed-ability classes. But children's feelings were linked to their position in the hierarchy. A greater proportion of those in the lower sets for mathematics, for example, preferred mixed-ability classes compared with those in the middle or top sets. This was reversed when they were asked about setting, with 79% of pupils in the highest sets preferring setting, 67% of those in the middle sets, and 44% of those in the lowest sets.

The pattern was similar in English and science, though in those cases there were small majorities in favour of setting even in the low ability groups (55% and 54%). Pupils who preferred setting said it meant they could work at an appropriate level. This was more important than being in a class with their friends. But those who preferred mixed-ability teaching said it helped develop social skills and co-operation between pupils. Setting made children in the bottom groups feel like giving up, they said.

Professor Susan Hallam, who co-wrote the report with Professor Judith Ireson, said: "The research demonstrates that young people are mainly concerned with being able to learn. "This is more important to them than being with their friends. If work is too easy or too difficult, the extent to which learning can take place is limited. "Schools need to find ways to ensure that work is set at the appropriate level."

The report suggests bringing in more mixed-ability classes but with pupils working at different levels within them. Alternatively, it proposes a "modular" system, with pupils being grouped by academic progress rather than age. This is already in place at Bridgemary School, a comprehensive in Gosport, Hampshire. Conservative leader David Cameron has hinted that his party might adopt such a system as its policy.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "Effective grouping of pupils by ability can raise standards and better engage pupils in their own learning. "We have encouraged schools to use setting since 1997, and will continue to do so. "Of course it is for individual schools to decide how and when to group and set pupils according to their pupils' needs." He added: "Massive investment in personalised learning, as well as reforms to 14-to-19 education will deliver catch-up classes, challenge for gifted and talented pupils, and a new curriculum to keep all pupils engaged and excelling in learning."

The study involved pupils in 45 mixed gender comprehensive schools in London and the southern counties of England, East Anglia and South Yorkshire. The report - Secondary School Pupils' Preferences for Different Kinds of Structured Grouping Practices - is published in the British Educational Research Review.



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 11, 2006


The enrollment of black students at three of the most prestigious colleges of the City University of New York has dropped significantly in the six years since the university imposed tougher admissions policies. One of the sharp declines has come at the City College of New York, CUNY's flagship campus, in Harlem, which was at the center of bitter open admissions battles in the late 1960's. Black students, who accounted for 40 percent of City College's undergraduates as recently as 1999, now make up about 30 percent of the student body there, figures provided by the university show.

At Hunter, a competitive liberal arts campus on the East Side of Manhattan, the share of black students fell to 15 percent last year from 20 percent in 1999. And at Baruch, a campus that specializes in business, the proportion of black students slipped to 14 percent from 24 percent. Over all, the number of black undergraduates at CUNY, including those in associate's degree programs, grew to 57,791 last year from 52,937 in 1999, the figures show.

University officials attributed the declines to several factors, from their admissions policies to greater competition for top minority students from other colleges to students' own preferences about where they want to study. But Robert Bruce Slater, the managing editor of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which noted the trend at CUNY in its Weekly Bulletin last week, said, "The tougher admissions policy seems to have had a major impact."

CUNY is not the only public university experiencing such changes. In California, which voted to end affirmative action at its public universities a decade ago, U.C.L.A. and Berkeley have both seen steep declines in the number of black students, even as the numbers at other campuses fell less and have recovered more over time. CUNY put its tougher admissions policies in place in 2000 and 2001.

Critics like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said CUNY had low standards and was accepting far too many students who were not prepared for college work. Opponents of the change pointed to a tradition of open admissions and predicted that there would be a sharp decline in total enrollment and in the enrollment of minority students. The tightened standards required that students who wanted to enter CUNY's baccalaureate programs attain certain scores on the SAT exam, the New York State Regents tests or CUNY's own entrance exams. "At one point, they basically had an open admissions policy and all these kids got in," Mr. Slater said. "Then they changed their policy, and this is what happened." Mr. Slater said that CUNY, which has 17 undergraduate campuses, has been an important institution for black students, and that nearly 3 percent of all American black college students are at the university.

CUNY officials acknowledged the dip in the number of black students at three of their top schools, but argued that they had more black undergraduates last year than in 1999. "Not only are we recruiting more black students onto our campuses, but we are graduating more, too," said Selma Botman, CUNY's top academic officer. In 2004-05, an official said, 7,496 black students graduated from CUNY's bachelor's and associate's degree programs, up from 7,151 five years earlier. CUNY also has a black male initiative that it adopted last year, when it recognized how few black men were enrolled compared with the number of black women.

The declines in black enrollment appeared unrelated to the pipeline of students from New York City's high schools. The number of black students graduating from public high schools in New York City grew to 11,754 in 2005 from 10,594 in 1999, according to the city's education department.

When CUNY's trustees approved the stricter admissions policies, the state Board of Regents questioned how much they would change the university's racial balance. Saul B. Cohen, a Regent and former president of Queens College, said yesterday that the declines for some of the individual campuses were "a bit surprising" and warranted another look. But others said the decline in black enrollment at Hunter, Baruch and City College should not cause the university to shy away from strengthening its standards. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who served on Mr. Giuliani's task force that evaluated CUNY, said yesterday that she believed CUNY was "absolutely on the right track."

More here

Mom and Dad, where are you?

The headline on the Sunday, Aug. 6 Washington Post style section was so visually "loud" that no other words were immediately visible to my eyes. It screamed, "Chill Out, Mom," followed by "Parents Fret About Children's Entertainment. Maybe That's Part of the Problem." Say what?

As I travel the country speaking to civic, religious and education organizations about how to protect today's youth in a culture gone crazy, it's obvious that the problem isn't parental worry -- it's parental ignorance and inaction. Of course, headlines are supposed to grab your attention (and the writer of this one deserves a Pulitzer). But the impression is so powerful that the reader actually may believe the lie that parental concerns or involvement harm our children.

Here's the reality: Moms and dads, you have good reason to fret. And as I show in my book, Home Invasion, hands-on parenting in your children's lives is more important today than ever. To be fair to Post journalist Ann Hornaday, her article contained excellent recommendations. She pointed out, for instance, that media literacy programs are important components of keeping our kids safe in our technological world of wonders. As an advisory board member for Web Wise Kids, a non-profit organization that has worked with schools, law enforcement and civic groups, and trained hundreds of thousands of students across the nation how to stay safe from online predators, I know that such programs have saved lives.

According to Robert Rabon (whose organization, National Center for Youth Issues, has taught counselors and administrators from some 30,000 schools how to identify dangers and build character in students): "School counselors and teachers can be a primary entry point for addressing the social and emotional issues of our kids. Most public schools have a counselor, but the vast majority have very few tools to do their jobs. One of our goals is to get resources and training into their hands." There must be a joint effort by the educational community, religious leaders and, yes, parents, if we're going to keep our youth safe -- not just from predators, but from the pornography-immersed marketing efforts that have our kids in the cross-hairs.

Today's kids are the most marketed-to generation of children in history. They spend an estimated $150 billion a year of their own money. Combine this with the often-seen modern parental desire to be their kids' "friend" (which results in indulging little Johnny's every whim and a failure to set rules and standards), and you can see why marketers compete like never before for the attention of these sophomoric spenders.

So fierce is the competition for their cash that modern marketing techniques have become, in many cases, insidiously evil. Selling to tweens isn't about finding out what they want, it's all about figuring out how to manipulate their minds. Of course, sex sells and always has been a staple of marketing campaigns. But today's most highly sexualized campaigns are targeted at children -- selling empty promises of sexual power and every kind of sexual perversion, accompanied by a crude incivility that flows throughout the entertainment programming, not just in easily identifiable ads.

MTV (with its "pooh cam," which enables one to watch others go to the bathroom, and its tawdry Spring Break specials, etc.) and others have become experts at feeding on the raging hormones, edginess and roller-coaster emotions of our youth, producing highly titillating material that ignites their adrenaline and leaves them begging for more. Instead of helping our sons and daughters positively approach and channel their sexuality and their developing understanding of decency and civility, the entertainment world pours gasoline on youthful passions and confusion. Plainly put, our kids are being used.

Educators, religious youth leaders and parents must become familiar with this brave new world and rise up to stop the abuse. And parental action is most critical to successfully freeing our kids from those who would entrap them. After all, it's not at school that pornographic Web sites are viewed, that dangerous MySpace or chat-room conversations take place, or that hours are spent watching the crud of MTV or playing violent video games. It's in their homes -- often in the privacy of their own bedrooms -- that kids consume the brainwashing rot.

More here

Abject failure of "modern" primary schooling in Australia

Fewer than half of all Year 7 students could identify verbs or adjectives and only 7 per cent could spell "definitely" in a literacy test sat by all NSW students entering high school this year. The results of the English Language and Literacy Assessment, run in March, show that a majority of students have difficulty with spelling, punctuation and grammar. Only 27 per cent of students knew where to put the apostrophe in "children's excitement" and 35 per cent were able to put the apostrophe in "can't".

When asked about the phrase "made Nick's eyes water", only 40 per cent of students identified the word water as a verb and just 44 per cent knew the words "calm", "still" and "unexpected" were adjectives. When given misspelt words to correct, one in four students was able to spell "accommodation", 37 per cent could spell "scaly", 47 per cent could spell "razor" and 53 per cent could spell "paid". But almost one in five students was unable to correct the sentence, "Then Ron and me had lunch", while only 35 per cent corrected "could of" to "could have".

Senior lecturer in the school of languages and linguistics at Melbourne University Jean Mulder said the specific teaching of grammar had been dropped from school curriculums around the nation and the poor literacy results showed that this approach was not working. Dr Mulder designed the English language course in Victoria for Year 11 and 12 students, which teaches grammar as part of a study of literature and language. Dr Mulder said most students who were familiar with grammar had learnt it from studying a second language, where grammar was specifically taught. "It's time to rethink the way grammar and language is taught, but not just simply repeating the traditional grammar approach of being taught by rote," she said. "It needs to be taught in context, by looking at the way words are used, not just their function, and in doing that to be able to name things, like this word is a verb, this word is a noun."

The ELLA program was introduced in 1997 as part of the NSW Government's literacy strategy and is compulsory for all Year 7 students, with a voluntary follow-up test in Year 8 that is normally taken by about 97per cent of students. Students are assessed on their writing, reading and knowledge of language, and are required to write two passages, answer questions after reading a piece, and identify grammatical components, correct spelling and punctuation mistakes. The NSW Education Department said this year's results were "exceptionally good", with the overall results for reading, writing and language combined the best since the test was introduced. In the language assessment, the results were comparable with previous years. The tests are marked within a range of 45 to 120, and the average score this year was 88.8, the same as last year's average and equivalent to the high point of 88.9 in 2004. [Which shows how dumbed-down the testing is]



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 10, 2006


There is "no danger" that schools in England will be forced to ditch classic novels to make way for modern works, the education secretary has insisted. Alan Johnson was seeking to end speculation that some "great" books would disappear from reading lists. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is reviewing the modern authors recommended to schools. But Mr Johnson said writers such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot would continue to be studied. These were "a crucial part of our national heritage", he added.

Mr Johnson said: "We must encourage children to read English classics which have stood the test of time and for which there should always be time to test. "Young people need to also read books by dynamic modern authors which fire their imagination, inform their love of language and extend their knowledge."

The QCA is looking at reading lists as part of a wider review of the curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds and is due to report back to ministers at the end of September.

Mr Johnson said the most important thing was for teachers to instil a love of reading which could benefit young people throughout their life. "Greater flexibility will allow teachers to use their professional judgement to tailor their teaching and open up the rich world of English literature for every pupil to treasure." He said he was currently reading Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure as well as Jeff Brown's Flat Stanley with his son and added: "Harold MacMillan said reading Jane Austen helped him relax when he was prime minister - so it can even be therapeutic for those who lead stressful lives too."

Shadow minister for schools, Nick Gibb, said he welcomed the government's comments. He said: "It is important that the classic texts, including Shakespeare and Jane Austen, are studied by our children before the end of compulsory education. "For many children exposure to the great classics of English literature occurs only at school. "Any move by the QCA or others to limit this opportunity would have been a huge mistake and would have added to the general concern that our education system is being dumbed down."



University students from ethnic minorities in Scotland find it hard to mix with others, a study has found. The research carried out by the universities of Stirling and St Andrews said institutions could do more to get students to socialise. The study also revealed that ethnic minorities youngsters in Scotland feel more Scottish than white young people.

The work, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, involved youngsters sharing their experiences. The report, entitled Young people's experience of transitions: A study of minority ethnic and white young people, was compiled by Dr Clare Cassidy and Dr Rory O'Connor of the universities of St Andrews and Stirling respectively.

They interviewed two groups of 15 to 18 year olds, once when they were still at school and then a year later when they had left. Dr Cassidy said relatively little was known about how children from ethnic minorities in Scotland made the transition from school pupil to adult.

Those taking part in the study were asked for their views on education, home and family life, social networks, access to information, ethnicity, identity and aspirations. The researchers found that the majority of youngsters from ethnic minority backgrounds entering higher education were keen to pursue a career in medical sciences. Their decisions were more likely to be influenced by family or community expectations, the study said.

Young Pakistanis were the least likely to move away from home to study and were more likely to complain about distractions during their studies. Dr Cassidy said: "For some participants, the drinking alcohol, pub and club culture of university life conflicted with their cultural and religious beliefs. "As a result they found the transition to the social side of university more of a challenge than did their white counterparts. "This raises questions as to whether universities should be providing ways of socialising and support suitable for the particular needs of young people from minority ethnic groups."

Dr Cassidy said the findings suggested a need to gain a better understanding of both structural and psychological factors which may contribute to a lack of ethnic mixing in higher education.



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 09, 2006

Why Kids Can't Read: Challenging the Status Quo in Education

A book review of "Studying Teacher Education"

Studying Teacher Education-a voluminous report of the American Educational Research Association Panel on Research and Teacher Education (2005)-reaches some tough and generally honest conclusions about the scant evidence supporting the value of formal teacher education. In short, they concede that there is presently very little empirical evidence to support the methods used to prepare the nation's teachers.1

When employed, research-based teaching methods and approaches can assure that our children will read proficiently.2 In a new book, Why Kids Can't Read: Challenging the Status Quo in Education (edited by Phyllis Blaunstein and Reid Lyon), are twelve essays which explain not only how to identify problematic methods commonly employed to teach children to read in our nation's schools, but also include a number of scientifically proven methods of reading instruction which can help resolve the crisis of inappropriately prepared teachers using poor pedagogy to teach reading.

In chapter one, The Crisis in Our Classroom, Blaunstein and Lyon explain that the goal of whole language philosophy based programs, for which there is no scientific evidence to support "is to instill a love of reading, not the ability to read, seemingly without the realization that the latter is the pathway to the former."3 Although scientific research deems the following skills necessary for reading success: phonemic awareness; phonics; vocabulary; reading fluency; and comprehension strategies, they are not systematically and explicitly instructed within these programs.4 Blaunstein and Lyon conclude that although the current system is failing our children, "well trained teachers, effective instructional programs, and strong educational leadership" can ensure most children will learn to read.

Chapter two, Armed With the Facts: The Science of Reading and Its Implications for Teaching, urges readers to share the scientific basis for phonics-based reading methods and provides clues to help determine whether or not a child has a reading problem.5 Two doctors, Sally and Bennett Shaywitz explain that the National Reading Panel (NRP) found that to break the code, beginning readers must discover that spoken words have parts and that the smallest sounds are called phonemes. Phonemic awareness is being able to segment (pull apart) and blend (push together) the individual sounds in words. Reading difficulties stem from being unable to perform this type of exercise.6 Learning how letters and letter combinations link to sounds is called phonics. There are 44 phonemes and 26 letters. Imagine the possibilities. Unless a child can use phonics, words never before encountered are unmanageable.7 In whole language approaches, children guess words by looking at pictures or using the context rather than sounding it out. Although some phonics may be taught, "letter-sound linkages are not taught in a preplanned or systemic way; often some, but not all, of these linkages are taught, and vowels are often overlooked." 8 The Shaywitzes dispel the myth that reading difficulties are developmental lags and will be outgrown.9 Furthermore, they explain that evidence-based reading intervention can spur necessary neural systems growth, which results in significant and durable changes in brain organization.10 Finally, they provide a list of symptoms which can indicate reading problems which must be addressed.11

In the next four chapters, individual authors share personal stories about how the system was failing and the ways they each responded to their individual situation in order to receive proper reading instruction. Whether enlisting the help of a "Reading Specialist", doing some sleuthing to determine whether reading materials are in alignment with current research on reading, realizing that behavior problems are a symptom of reading distress and shopping around for a school that can meet a specific need, or advocating policymakers for widespread changes in instruction, everyone has suggestions on how to solve the problem, although many of the solutions require time and commitment.

While chapters seven and eight deal with how to enlist the media and how to advocate to change laws in order to benefit your cause, chapter nine provides a history of how reading came into this state of being. Sara Porter explains that there are many teachers who are aware there are problems with the instruction of a portion of their students but have not accepted the solution. In some cases, remediation is simply more of the same whole language programs. 12

The science and evidence that now tell teachers that they must teach children to read using instruction that is systematic, structured and comprehensive, and that this is necessary for all children, are viewed with suspicion. They do not understand that this is not simply an "approach." They do not understand that scientifically based reading instruction is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution. On the contrary, scientifically based instruction is built upon our knowledge of how children learn to read and why some children have difficulty learning. It asks that teachers understand this knowledge in depth so they can adjust instruction to meet every child's needs - needs that differ from child to child.13

Chapter 10 and 11 give accounts about how two different schools implemented plans which would help students achieve grade level in reading. I preferred the plan offered by Benjamin Sayeski at Johnson Elementary School in North Carolina because it took only three years to establish and make gains. Also, the plan utilized at Hartsfield Elementary School, which took six years to implement, required dumping Social Studies instruction at certain grade levels. This is because it relied on commercial curriculums which did not integrate the disciplines. I believe that expository reading and writing can be taught through Social Studies and that just because it isn't tested doesn't mean it isn't important.

After the book's conclusion there are a number of appendixes, a glossary, and resources to help the reader affect change in the way reading is currently being taught in our nation's schools. I especially enjoyed First Lady Laura Bush's essay on how to identify a good early reading program.

Overall, this is an extremely informative, helpful book for anyone interested in understanding what the reading wars are about and how to navigate through the propaganda and decipher the facts. I highly recommend this book.


Colleges' open minds close door on sense

University of Georgia professor Betty Jean Craige surely must know the rules of good writing as taught in freshman composition: One needs to back up points with specific evidence and support. But this professor of comparative literature gets an F due to obfuscation and PR-speak for her Aug. 2 opinion column "New ideas must flourish at colleges".

Most parents who send their children off to college have no idea of what is being taught in the humanities classes: pornography appreciation, analyses of the clothing of transvestites, Native American scalp dances, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I am not kidding. Journals considered presdtigious publish papers such as an analysis of abortion as "performance art" and bondage in lesbian sex acts. I came across this type of "scholarship" while writing my dissertation.

Craige claims, "New ideas about nature and society will always threaten traditional ways of understanding the world," and she implies that those of us who object to the radicalism on college campuses are creationist Neanderthals. But let's see if providing some support by way of specific examples will contradict Craige's thesis.

Let's look at the American Literature Association conference, which I attended in May. I sat in on such panels: "La Reconquista: The Application of Latina/o Studies to U.S. Literature(s) & Criticism" (where an up-and-coming young Latina professor gave instructions and sample syllabi on how to make a survey class on American literature into a class devoted to Latina/o literature and issues), "Teaching the Arts of American Protest" on social protest literature (yes, a how-to on teaching literature as a form of social protest), and a film and literature panel, where the intellectually challenging paper "Female Sexualities Revised in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and Anita Blake Series" was delivered. (The Anita Blake Series is a series of graphic novels, i.e., with pictures). A perusal of literary calls for papers from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 reveals:

* Hard to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen
* An anthology of essays on "Brokeback Mountain"
* Michael Moore: The Documentary Tradition
* Papers for a roundtable discussion on Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"
* "Sexing the Text": The description reads, " Do we consider Britney Spears kissing Madonna subversive? What about transgendered narratives? Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie? Slash fiction? . . . ."

Imagine these instructions from a college professor and you will understand what we "conservative activists" object to: "OK, class, let's look at our worldviews. What do you think of Britney Spears kissing Madonna? What does that act say about gender roles? Write a three-page paper and remember: Papers that do not display an open-mindedness will fail."



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 08, 2006

A Modest Proposal To Abolish Universities

I think it is time to close the universities, and perhaps prosecute the professoriat under the RICO act as a corrupt and racketeering-influenced organization. Universities these days have the moral character of electronic churches, and as little educational value. They are an embarrassment to civilization. I know this. I am sitting in my office in Jocotepec, consorting with a bottle of Padre Kino red-channeling the good Padre if you will. It is insight cheap at the price. A few bucks a liter.

To begin with, sending a child to a university is irresponsible. These days it costs something like a quarter of a million dollars, depending on your choice of frauds. The more notorious of these intellectual brothels, as for example Yale, can cost more. This money, left in the stock market for forty hears, or thirty, would yield enough to keep the possessor in comfort, with sufficient left over for his vices. If the market took a downturn, he could settle for just the vices. In the intervening years, he (or, most assuredly, she) could work in a dive shop. See? By sending our young to college, we are impoverishing them, and ourselves, and sentencing them to a life of slavery in some grim cubicle painted federal-wall green. Personally, I'd rather be chained in a trireme.

Besides, the effect of a university education can be gotten more easily by other means. If it is thought desirable to expose the young to low propaganda, any second-hand bookstore can provide copies of Trotsky, Marcuse, Gloria Steinem, and the Washington Post. These and a supply of Dramamine, in the space of a week, would provide eighty percent of the content of a college education. A beer truck would finish the job. The student would save four years which could more profitably be spent in selling drugs, or in frantic cohabitation or-wild thought-in reading, traveling, and otherwise cultivating himself. This has been known to happen, though documentation is hard to find.

To the extent that universities actually try to teach anything, which is to say to a very limited extent, they do little more than inhibit intelligent students of inquiring mind. And they are unnecessary: The professor's role is purely disciplinary: By threats of issuing failing grades, he ensures that the student comes to class and reads certain things. But a student who has to be forced to learn should not be in school in the first place. By making a chore of what would otherwise be a pleasure, the professor instills a lifelong loathing of study.

The truth is that universities positively discourage learning. Think about it. Suppose you wanted to learn Twain. A fruitful approach might be to read Twain. The man wrote to be read, not analyzed tediously and inaccurately by begowned twits. It might help to read a life of Twain. All of this the student could do, happily, even joyously, sitting under a tree of an afternoon. This, I promise, is what Twain had in mind.

But no. The student must go to a class in American Literatue, and be asked by some pompous drone, "Now, what is Twain trying to tell us in paragraph four?" This presumes that Twain knew less well than the professor what he was trying to say, and that he couldn't say it by himself. Not being much of a writer, the poor man needs the help of a semiliterate drab who couldn't sell a pancake recipe to Boy's Life. As bad, the approach suggests that the student is too dim to see the obvious or think for himself. He can't read a book without a middleman. He probably ends by hating Twain....

The truth is that anyone who wants to learn anything can do it better on his own. If you want to learn to write, for example, lock yourself in a room with copies of Strunk and White, and Fowler, and a supply of Padre Kino, and a loaded shotgun. The books will provide technique, the good Padre the inspiration, and you can use the shotgun on any tenured intrusion who offers advice. They tend to be spindly. A twenty-gauge should be sufficient.

Worse, these alleged academies, these dark nights of the soul encourage moral depravity. This is not just my opinion. It can be shown statistically. Virtually all practitioners of I-banking, advertising, and law began by going to some university. Go to Manhattan and visit any prestigious nest of foul attorneys engaged in circumventing the law. Most will have attended schools in the Ivy League. The better the school, the worse the outcome. Any trace of principle, of contemplative wonder, will have been squeezed out of them as if they were grapes.

Perhaps once universities had something to do with the mind, the arts, with reflection, with grasping or grasping at man's place in a curious universe. No longer. Now they are a complex scam of interlocking directorates. They employ professors, usually mediocre, to sell diplomas, usually meaningless, needed to get jobs nobody should want, for the benefit of corporations who want the equivalent of docile assembly-line workers.

See, first you learn that you have to finish twelve years of grade school and high school. The point is not to teach you anything; if it were, they would give you a diploma when you passed a comprehensive test, which you might do in the fifth grade. The point is to accustom you to doing things you detest. Then they tell you that you need four more years in college or you won't be quite human and anyway starve from not getting a job. For those of this downtrodden bunch who are utterly lacking in independence, there is graduate school.

The result is twenty years wasted when you should have been out in the world, having a life worth talking about in bars-riding motorcycles, sacking cities, lolling on Pacific beaches or hiking in the Northwest. You learn that structure trumps performance, that existence is supposed to be dull. It prepares you to spend years on lawsuits over somebody else's trademarks or simply going buzzbuzzbuzz in a wretched federal office. Only two weeks a year do you get to do what you want to do. This we pay for? What if you sent your beloved daughter to a university and they sent you back an advertising executive?


Education: New-age ways miss the mark

William Spady's approach to learning - outcomes-based education - is full of flaws and contradictions, writes Kevin Donnelly

After listening to US academic William Spady - the father of outcomes-based education - at last month's Australian Primary Principal Association 2006 conference in Alice Springs, I can see no doubt about Spady's views on education. The more traditional approach to education is labelled as educentric by Spady and he condemns it for being competitive, academic, having right and wrong answers, being rational and logical and, as a result, instilling fear and an either-or mentality. In Spady's words: "The curriculum box, time box, grade-level box, opportunity box, testing box, marking box, achievement box, school box and classroom box all severely constrain how teachers and learners function and think about outcomes."

In opposition to the more conservative approach, Spady argues in favour of what he terms transformational outcomes-based education, described as a paradigm that embraces empowerment, divergent, lateral thinking, holistic and spiritual unity and a win-win approach imbued with love and synergy. While acknowledging it is difficult to properly implement OBE, Spady argues that teachers and educational leaders should strive to embrace an "inner realisation" paradigm of educational reform, involving "expanded consciousness of one's spiritual nature-potential", "one's intuitive connection to universal wisdom", "meditative exploration by quietening the conscious mind" and "learner-controlled timing group-enhanced experience".

In arguing the case for "a total learning community", Spady further suggests: "In a total learning community, no one has to prove anything to anyone else to be accepted for who they are and what they cancontribute."

While it might be tempting to dismiss Spady's views about education - blending, as they do, new-age managerial speak and age-of-Aquarius psychobabble - the reality is thatSpady has had and continues to have asignificant impact on Australian education. Not only were the original national curriculum statements and profiles developed during the 1990s under the Keating government, based on an outcomes model, but all states and territories, to various degrees, are also implementing curriculums founded on atransformational, outcomes-based approach.

The result? Competition and failing is considered bad for self-esteem, the focus of learning shifts from teaching subjects such as history and literature to instilling new-age and politically correct values, dispositions and attitudes, teachers facilitate instead of teach and students are described as knowledge navigators or adaptive, lifelong learners.

The flaws in Spady's views about education are many. First, Spady's description of the more conservative model of education, labelled as educentric, is misleading and simplified. Since the time of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, learning has always been about outcomes. Those familiar with Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and the educational writings of T.S. Eliot will also know that a liberal humanist approach places at its centre the need to educate young people to be critically aware, to read with sensitivity and discrimination and to value the best that has been thought and said.

While such outcomes might not be the ones Spady prefers, the reality is that the type of learning associated with Western civilisation has a noble history and a proven record in benefiting mankind. The way advocates of OBE repeat the mantra of change, or what Spady terms the prevalence of "constant change and continuous discovery", is also wrong. As suggested by Eliot, education must acknowledge continuity as well as change and holding on to what is lasting is equally as important as embracing the new.

In belittling academic subjects and the need for memorisation and rote learning, Spady also makes the mistake of favouring one form of learning over another. Creativity and the ability to master higher order skills requires structured, formal learning and, on occasion, students need to learn by rote and be told they have failed. While OBE rightly promotes values such as tolerance, openness and respect for diversity and difference, such beliefs are often used as code for imposing the cultural Left's agenda on schools. Especially in areas such as multiculturalism, feminism, the class war and gender issues, the curriculum is often one-sided.

Thankfully, there is evidence that OBE's impact on Australian education is open to scrutiny and there is a willingness to admit mistakes. In Western Australia, after the debacle caused by Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich's attempts to force OBE into years 11 and 12, Premier Alan Carpenter was forced to intervene in an attempt to ameliorate some of its worst excesses. In Tasmania, after Paula Wriedt nearly lost her seat at the most recent election and was subsequently replaced as education minister, the new minister, David Bartlett, has agreed to review Tasmania's OBE-inspired essential learnings.

At the federal level, Prime Minister John Howard has spoken out against OBE gobbledygook and its impact on history and literature teaching, and the NSW Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, has publicly condemned OBE and argued that teachers need a clear road map of what is taught, associated with a more traditional syllabus approach to curriculum.



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, August 07, 2006

UK: It's not cool to be clever

Teachers are being urged to stop using the word clever and talk about successful children to curb school bullying. Union leaders said hundreds of children were being targeted because they were considered clever, and some bright students were refusing school prizes for fear of being picked on by classmates.

Simon Smith, a teacher from Essex, told the Professional Association of Teachers conference in Oxford that being clever was simply not cool among today's children. "I have talked to various pupils ... and being clever meant that you were boring, lacked personality, were a teacher's pet and other things not polite enough to mention."

Wesley Paxton from Yorkshire told the conference that celebrity role models meant children no longer aspired to academic success. He said self-made men like Alan Sugar were proud of their poor academic achievements and others like David Beckham "do not give the impression of eloquence and intellectual capacity".

Ann Nuckley, an administrator from Southwark, south London, said many pupils in her school refused to come up on stage to receive awards. "I am ending up sending book tokens through the post because children won't come up and get them, which I think is extremely sad."

The PAT, which has 34,000 members, passed a motion that stated: "Conference regrets that it does not appear to be cool to be clever." Last year the conference heard calls from members to delete the word "failure" from the educational vocabulary and replace it with the concept of "deferred success".


Britain updates an old Soviet and Nazi system

Anonymous and baseless alegations by disgruntled and envious people will be dealt with how? No mention. Let's hope there is some consciousness of that problem anyway

A new scheme to tackle bullying and racism is being piloted in 20 Salford schools. The web-based project will enable staff and pupils to log in to a database and confidentially report any incidents of bullying - including the names of bullies. If the scheme is successful it will be extended to all schools and children’s services and possibly social services and primary care trusts.

The Sentinel Anti-Bullying software being used will enable children to report incidents more easily and will alert appropriate staff so that the relevant support and action can be taken. This approach eliminates duplication and provides a single reporting base. It is aimed at encouraging more children to report any bullying or racism and giving staff and officials a truer picture as to the extent of the problem which will help them to combat it. The project is part of a national pilot and will run until the end of the academic year 2007.

Councillor John Warmisham, lead member for children’s services, said: “Sentinel will enable Salford to meet national requirements in reporting racial incidents, but will go beyond this, combating all forms of bullying within schools and children’s services, including gender and homophobic bullying. It was particularly important for us to have a mechanism that was specifically designed for children to be able to report bullying safely and easily. “The web-based access is secure and universal and is a medium which will appeal to children, which will help us to get a truer picture of the issues.”



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, August 06, 2006

Stanley Fish Is Right on Academic Freedom

He wants to get political bias out of the classroom

Stanley Fish, author, university professor, "public intellectual," is a prodigious, original, unorthodox thinker. Even when one disagrees with him, his arguments are honorably and thoughtfully propounded as he unleashes his chicken upon your egg. In a July 23 New York Times Op-ed, Fish takes an intellectual straight razor to warring concepts of academic freedom. Springing from the case of Kevin Barrett, a 9-11 conspiracy theorist who lectures at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Fish labels argument over content, the ideas espoused, as the wrong battlefield of academic freedom.

"Both sides get it wrong," he writes. "The problem is that each assumes that academic freedom is about protecting the content of a professor's speech; one side thinks that no content should be ruled out in advance; while the other would draw the line at propositions (like the denial of the Holocaust or the flatness of the world) considered by almost everyone to be crazy or dangerous.

"But in fact, academic freedom has nothing to do with content....Rather, academic freedom is the freedom of academics to study anything they like; the freedom, that is, to subject any body of material, however unpromising it might seem, to academic interrogation and analysis.... "Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply...."

In other words, study and teach astrology if you will, "not to profess astrology and recommend it as the basis of decision-making...but to teach the history of its very long career." Study, learn, teach. Any subject, no matter how offbeat or mundane, is fair game for academic research, scholarly protocols, classroom introduction. No subject should be available for classroom "indoctrination." For that, there is the public square, no less available to academics (excepting Lawrence Summers, late of Harvard) than to the rest of us.

Fish's short brief should be influential. It won't be, because academia is thoroughly invested in content. Ward Churchill, the focus of the most prominent current battle (misconstrued as it is) over "academic freedom," was hired by the University of Colorado because he was provocative, not for his "scholarship." And he's the tip of the iceberg.

Just imagine, though, how refreshing it would be for graduates to actually emerge from universities with rigorous grounding in academic disciplines, thus capable of discerning facts, making rational, informed life judgments, even determining their own "partisan political ideals" without having been indoctrinated other than in the ability to think for themselves.


Political diversity not welcome at universities

Imagine, if you can, that slightly more than half of the public voted Democratic in the last presidential election, yet some 80 percent of higher education's social scientists voted Republican. In that universe, you would expect the left to demand changes in university hiring practices so that academia would nurture greater diversity so as to better represent the American community. Then step back into the real world, where academia has become a solid bastion of the Left, as demonstrated by two articles in the latest issue of the scholarly journal Critical Review. One article presents a survey of academic social scientists that reports that 79.6 percent of 1,208 respondents said they voted mostly Democratic over the last 10 years, with 9.3percent voting Republican. Call that a near monopoly marketplace of ideas.

A second article studied the voter registration of California college professors and found that the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans (among professors located in voting registers) is 5 to 1. Let it be noted that the researchers made an effort to include schools reputed to be right-leaning. Some disciplines demonstrated more orthodoxy than others - with sociology departments showing a ratio of 44 Democrats to 1 Republican, but economics departments employing 2.8 Democrats for each member of the GOP.

Is it bias or self-selection? The two libertarian-leaning economics professors who conducted the California survey, San Jose State University's Christopher R. Cardiff and George Mason University's Daniel B. Klein, don't believe there is one quick, easy answer to that question, although they definitely see what Cardiff described as "subconscious bias."

"I think, partly, it is self-selection," said Klein over the phone Wednesday. He sees "something about intellectuals and hubris and conceit" in academia - with political scientists pumping themselves up as savvy saviors of a public sorely in need of their enlightened views. While liberal professors often think that they are open-minded, Klein believes that they also often think that "we're smarter" than those outside of academia, which gives them a right to "discriminate against people who get it wrong."

As a result, Klein asserts, an economics major might present a paper that argues that the New Deal deepened and prolonged the Great Depression, with supporting data, but "no matter how solid the research was, there's no way that would impress them." In their group-think, many social scientists marginalize heterodox thinkers.

Cardiff knows conservative professors "who are afraid to share their point of view," lest their colleagues turn on them. "You've got this situation where universities are professing to support intellectual freedom, academic freedom, when in reality there's a chilling effect on actual political discussion."

Many professors see their universe as expansive and novel. Yet, Cardiff noted, "If you're only getting one point of view, you're living in an echo chamber." The worst of it is, the most ideologically pure professors have so isolated themselves that, according to Cardiff, "a lot of these folks don't realize there are other opinions out there."

The Critical Review articles bared two disturbing trends: First, left-leaning academics are more orthodox than right-leaning academics. Klein, and Charlotta Stern of the Institute for Social Research in Stockholm, who conducted the social-scientist survey, polled academics about their views on where government intervention works best. They found "almost no diversity of opinion among the Democratic professors." Republicans - no surprise - demonstrated more ideological diversity. GOP scholars also are more likely to work outside the university - and that's no accident.

Second, as Klein succinctly put it, "It's going to become more lopsided in the future." Cardiff and Klein looked at the younger ranks in academia - tenure-track and associate profs - and found the ratio of Ds to Rs to be even greater.

So the future could see state universities morph into today's UC Berkeley, where Cardiff and Klein found 445 Dems to 45 Repubs. Group-think will further marginalize any free thinkers. If you think outside the box, you work outside the institution. That's where academia is heading.



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