Saturday, November 25, 2006


I once taught in such a school. Half the kids learnt zilch

One recent day at the Brooklyn Free School, the "schedule" included the following: chess, debate, filming horror movies, and making caves for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not that the students had to go to any of these sessions. At this school, students don't get grades, don't have homework, don't take tests, don't even have to go to class. Unless they want to. "You can do basically anything at any time, and it's just a lot more fun because sometimes when you need a break at regular schools you can't get it," said Sophia Bennett Holmes, 12, an aspiring singer-actress-fashion designer. "But here if you just need to sit down and read and have time to play, then you can do that."

"Free schools," which had their heyday decades ago, operate on the belief that children are naturally curious and learn best when they want to, not when forced to. Today, the approach is getting another look from some parents and students tired of standardized testing, excessive homework, and overly rigid curriculums in regular schools. "Every kid here is definitely motivated to learn something, there's no doubt in my mind," said Alan Berger, a former public school assistant principal who founded the Brooklyn school, which launched in fall 2004. "Our belief is that if we let them pursue their passions and desires, they'll be able to get into it deeper. They'll be able to learn more how to learn."

Hundreds of free schools opened in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s. Most shut down, but some, such as the Albany Free School and Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, have persisted. Overall, it's unknown how many free schools operate today. The ones still in operation often use a "democratic" model, giving students a say in running the institution. At the Brooklyn Free School, much of that decision-making occurs in a mandatory (yes, as in required) weekly gathering called the Democratic Meeting. Here, students air grievances, pose challenges, propose rules and set policy. Even the youngest kids have a vote equal to staffers. One agreed-upon rule? No sword-fighting allowed inside.

The school - granted a provisional charter in 2004 by the state to run as a private educational institution - occupies two floors of a Free Methodist church. Students are required to show up for a minimum of 5 1/2 hours a day, partly so that the school can meet legal definitions, but what they do with their time is up to them. The student population - 42 students, ages 5 to 17 - is diverse racially, economically and in terms of ability, and the students are not separated by age.

On any given day, a student may be playing chess, reading a book, practicing yoga or helping mummify a chicken. The day after the Nov. 7 U.S. congressional elections, one group listened to President George W. Bush's press conference on a radio, while the sound of the younger students' feet rattled the ceiling.



One in eight secondary schools was judged "inadequate" in the past year, while more than a third were no better than satisfactory, Government inspectors said today. Chief Inspector of Schools Christine Gilbert condemned the high failure rate and said it was "unacceptable" that the gap between the best and worst state schools was so wide. She demanded urgent action to raise standards, warning: ""The report card for English education has been increasingly encouraging over the past 10 years, but it is still not good enough."

In her first annual report since becoming Chief Inspector, Ms Gilbert said a good education can "liberate and empower" children. "The story is not always positive, however," she added. "That is why I am so concerned at the gap between the best provision and that which makes an inadequate contribution to improving the life chances of children and young people. "Too many schools are inadequate - about one in 12 of those inspected, and in secondary schools this proportion rises to just over one in eight."

Ms Gilbert said many secondary schools, which are often far larger than primaries, faced a "substantial" range of issues which held them back. "However, more needs to be done, and swiftly, to reduce the number of secondary schools found to be inadequate," she said. Ofsted's annual report was based on evidence from inspections of 6,000 state schools during the 2005-06 academic year. The watchdog found:

11 per cent of all state schools were outstanding, about half were good, 34 per cent satisfactory and 8 per cent inadequate; 13 per cent of secondary schools were inadequate, and 7% of primaries; School attendance was not good enough in one in 10 schools, with particular problems in London and the North of England. In nearly one in three secondary schools, behaviour is "no better than satisfactory overall, and in these schools there are also instances of disruptive or distracting behaviour from some pupils".

The findings follow the first year of a new inspection system, in which Ofsted conducted "shorter and sharper" inspections, giving schools only a few days' notice before visiting. The new criteria for schools were also tougher than before, which explained in part why so many schools were judged to be poor. Ms Gilbert said: "The new inspection arrangements have raised the bar, but without putting it out of reach. "The performance of schools, and the public's expectations of them, have both risen, and it is right that inspection should reflect that."

Schools Minister Jim Knight said it would not be fair to make comparisons with previous years. "Direct comparisons between school judgments in this year's report and previous ones would be misleading," he said. "This report reflects the first year of the toughest inspection regime we have yet introduced. "Schools that may have been judged as good in previous years might only be judged as satisfactory now. "However, we make no apology for raising the bar - expectations are higher than ever and judgments need to be tougher than ever. "No school should be inadequate and there should be no hiding places for under-performance or coasting. "That is why the Education and Inspections Act is introducing tough new powers to turn around schools, closing or replacing them if they do not make adequate progress within 12 months."

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said: "It is still not good enough that four out of 10 schools are regarded by Ofsted as merely satisfactory or downright inadequate. "There is one success story - special schools. "But the Government is putting more effort into closing good special schools than closing inadequate secondary schools. "We need a moratorium on special school closures. "The wide gap between the best and worst-performing schools is also very worrying. "The best way to bridge this gap is by concentrating on discipline, improving behaviour and more streaming and setting in all schools."


Australian conservatives winning the education debate

Rednecks rescuing public education? Never. In fact, it's happening in pockets of North America. Accountability is back in fashion and it is a boon for public education. And it may just happen here in Australia. As education becomes a pivotal issue for the Howard Government, the Coalition may end up thanking the self-styled progressive teachers unions for that electoral gift. Each time their union leaders bang on about political issues, it's a reminder that they are less interested in what ought to be their core concern: educating Australian children. Far from working to destroy public education, as the teachers unions allege, the conservatives may just end up saving it. But more on that later.

First, to the shifting electoral sands. Education has long been regarded as Labor's stronghold, an issue that differentiated the ALP from the Coalition. In October 2003 a Newspoll survey revealed that Labor was ahead by 13 points when voters were asked who was best able to handle education. Similarly, Kim Beazley has been regarded, by and large, as more capable on education than John Howard. That appears to be changing. A Newspoll survey last week revealed that Howard is seen as just as capable as Beazley when it comes to education.

It's too early to talk of firm trends in favour of Howard on education, but the gap is closing. As a point of contrast, on the Coalition's traditional strength - handling the economy - it continues to significantly outscore Labor. The October survey had the Coalition ahead by 32 points on the economy front. As Newspoll chairman Sol Lebovic told The Australian: "You don't see that (differentiation) in Labor's strength on education." So education is well and truly up for grabs. Given that 75 per cent of Australian voters rate education as very important in determining who gets their vote, it's clear that Howard will use education as an electoral issue next year.

If it turns out to be a winner for Howard, the teachers unions will be the dunces who handed it to him. Last week The Daily Telegraph reported that the NSW Teachers Federation announced that teachers should not be compelled to include comments about students' performance in school reports. That's from the same union that is blocking any movement towards A to E grading of students of subjects apart from literacy and numeracy. As that newspaper's editorial asked, where does that leave the school report card? Looking rather blank?

The unions also opposed suggestions by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop that teachers be remunerated according to merit, not merely seniority. They scoffed at the idea that principals are best placed to determine the good teachers who deserve greater rewards. It happens in every workplace across Australia, but in schools? Forget about it.

Bloviating against reform on the dubious basis that teachers unions know best, they also opposed moves to inject a greater focus on phonetic instruction into literacy. The knee-jerk rejection by the most powerful teachers union of education reforms suggested by the Howard Government highlights the politicised nature of the unions' agenda. That and the fact union leaders regularly spill the political beans in the most colourful way. It's worth repeating the political outbursts for the simple reason that they may explain why more voters are looking to Howard for leadership on education. Recall NSW English Teachers Association president Wayne Sawyer blaming the re-election of the Howard Government in 2004 on the failure of teachers to create a "critical generation". Then came Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne declaring that teachers needed to be on the progressive side of politics. In her prepared speech to the Queensland Teachers Union conference last year, Byrne complained that "it was not a good time to be progressive in Australia" but assured her union constituency that"the conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum".

It's a neat reminder to parents of who to blame for curriculum woes. The Coalition is inching forward in the polls on education for one simple reason: the so-called progressive agenda thrust on schools has not worked. Every time a unionist calls for more of the same, it may just translate into another point in the polls for the Coalition on education. Alas, some of our education union leaders are not smart enough to work that out. Who can forget Byrne attacking the Coalition for casting the education debate in terms of conservative values. "It has framed the debate in terms of choice, excellence, quality, values, discipline," she said. Crikey. You can almost hear parents saying: "If progressives are opposed to choice, excellence, quality, values and discipline, it's time to give the conservatives a go." Next week, teachers will desert the classroom to march in the National Day of Union and Community Action, railing against the Government's Work Choices legislation. Expect a wry smile from the Howard Government, as parents and students are once again relegated behind union politics.

Union rhetoric that says conservatives want to trash public education does not match what's happening in the real world. In Alberta, Canada, long derided as home to dumb rednecks riding high on the proceeds of oil and natural gas, there has been a dramatic turnaround in the inexorable decline in public education. In Edmonton, the province's capital, recently retired schools chief Angus McBeath says: "The litmus test is that the rich send their kids to public schools, not the private schools." Just read that again. Rich folk are sending their children to public schools. Compare the exodus of Australian students from public to private schools, with parents often working two jobs to pay for private school fees. What's behind Alberta's counter-intuitive trend, in which 80per cent of parents express satisfaction with public education? Put it down to the dreaded conservatives, who have reigned since 1971, and their values. It's simple stuff like reforming the curriculum to focus on core subjects such as maths, English and science, improving teacher training, setting real performance goals for students and tracking student performance in province-wide tests.

As The Economist recently pointed out, Alberta has spent the past three decades building one of the best education systems in the country. And it's turning out clever students who rank higher than their Canadian peers. In Australia, there appears to be a similar yearning for genuine accountability in education. Increasingly, parents are turning away from Labor as being best able to deliver on that front. It's not an unreasonable response, given that reform is unlikely to come while the political bruvvers in the union movement rule in our schools.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Friday, November 24, 2006

The education debate we're not having

My adopted state of New Hampshire may be at a crossroads. The state supreme court has commanded the legislature to find a new way of funding public schools by next summer, or else the justices will impose a solution of their own. Many people here fear that a directive from the court will require so large a funding increase that a statewide sales tax or income tax would become inevitable - a radical departure from New Hampshire's historic low-tax mentality. Democrats, naturally, are for the most part ecstatic. They would love to see New Hampshire become like neighboring states that tax their citizens through every means possible.

In response, conservative Republicans have proposed that a state constitutional amendment be passed denying the court any say in education matters. All this handwringing over the best way to pay for public schools distracts us from a far more important point: that we are dealing, first and last, with a broken system - and one that is inherently defective. Rather than patch it up with more money, we ought to try a different approach.

Few dare speak of it, particularly in political circles, but an alternative to public schools does exist. While the state, to some extent, has always had its fingers in education, its role was initially minimal. Prior to the wholesale takeover of education by government, parents typically paid about half their kids' tuitions directly, while the other half was made up in local taxes. Education was mostly a private enterprise. The tireless research of historian E.G. West shows that the earliest movements at the state level to increase education funding were meant to address only the perceived need of those living far from city and village life in small pockets of rural poverty.

It was understood even by these early interferers that the overwhelming majority of families were already providing an adequate education for their children, and at their own expense. Parents would routinely forgo creature comforts for the sake of their children's needs. One anecdote West supplies is that of a poor family living on nothing but potatoes so they could afford to send their children to school. Official education commissions in the United States and England in the early 19th century consistently found that children were being competently schooled and, of equal importance, that the number of kids in private schools was steadily growing. Growing demand fueled a boom in the education industry. Rising general income and fierce competition made school more affordable for more people. More schools opened, but that tells only half the tale. There were many different kinds of schools, with different goals, curricula, and teaching styles. Literacy levels were higher a century and a half ago than they are today.

Public-school proponents would have us believe that government took over education for the sake of the poor. The truth is, early activists - urged on by education bureaucrats - idealized the militaristic atmosphere of Prussian schools and wanted to mold the nation's children into "good citizens". Later on, great industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie wanted government schools to mold citizens for work in the factories. Today teachers and their powerful unions love the job security. Meanwhile, quality education falls by the wayside.

Such is to be expected when we relieve families of the responsibility for their children's needs and place their fate in the hands of so-called experts. At a national education summit last year, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a huge supporter of public schooling, nevertheless told the audience that schools were "ruining" the lives of "millions" of children every year. Given the 12 years of mind-numbing, stultifying boredom and mediocrity that makes up the average student's public-school experience, it's hard to disagree with him. Sad to say, the "solution" proposed by Gates and other public-school supporters, including the New Hampshire Supreme Court, is more or "better" funding, and widespread acceptance of this cure-all leads to our present predicament.

It is at times of crisis when free people most need to return to first principles, and the founding principles of our republican government include a belief in individual initiative, importance of family, private enterprise, and personal responsibility. We've largely abandoned belief in these things, and our tragically flawed system of public schools reflects that fact. The Republicans have it half right in this debate: a constitutional amendment is in order - but one that separates school and state


Godless Dawkins challenges British schools

RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature. He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the "educational scandal" of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought. The foundation will also attempt to divert donations from the hands of "missionaries" and church-based charities.

His plans are sparking criticism from academics, religious leaders and fellow scientists. The Church of England described them as "disturbing", while others complained that Dawkins's foundation bore the "whiff of a campaigning organisation" rather than a charity.

John Hall, dean of Westminster and the Church of England's chief education officer, said: "I would be very disturbed if this project was going to be widely supported because it's not based on reasoned argument."

Dawkins, Oxford's professor of the public understanding of science, is the author of various bestsellers extolling evolution, such as The Selfish Gene. His latest book, The God Delusion, is a sustained polemic against religious faith. He established his foundation in both Britain and America earlier this year and is now applying for charitable status. It was founded in response to what he calls the "organised ignorance" that is promoting creationism, the belief that the Old Testament account of the origins of man is true. Another challenge comes in the form of "intelligent design", the suggestion that life is the result of a guiding force rather than pure evolutionary natural selection.

"The enlightenment is under threat," Dawkins said. "So is reason. So is truth. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity."

Creationism is less widespread in Britain than in the US, but there is a growing movement lobbying to have it introduced as part of the national curriculum. The Emmanuel Schools Foundation, sponsored by Sir Peter Vardy, the Christian car dealer, has been criticised for featuring creationist theories in lessons in the three comprehensives it runs. A spokesman for the foundation denied the claims. However, Steve Layfield, head of science at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, is a director of Truth in Science, a Christian group campaigning to have "intelligent design" in science lessons. Truth in Science has sent DVDs and educational materials to thousands of secondary schools to encourage them to debate intelligent design. Andy McIntosh, director at the organisation and professor of thermodynamics at Leeds University, said: "We are not flat-earthers. We're just trying to encourage good scientific discussion."

Dawkins, however, describes the theory as a "bronze-age myth" and plans to send his own material to schools to counter the "subversion of science". He also plans to campaign against children being labelled with the religion of their parents. "It is immoral to brand children with religion," he said. "This is a Catholic child. That is a Muslim child. I want everyone to flinch when they hear such a phrase, just as they would if they heard that is a Marxist child."

But Hall said: "The European convention on human rights is clear that parents have the right to bring up children within the faith they hold."

Dawkins is also critical of donating money to religion-based charities, warning that pledges for disaster victims should not end up in the hands of "missionaries". His foundation will maintain a database of charities free of "church contamination".

Christian Aid, however, believes Dawkins is "tarring a lot of excellent charities with the same brush". Dominic Nutt, a spokesman, said: "Many charities give aid only on the basis of need."

Dawkins's approach has also offended fellow scientists. Steven Rose, emeritus professor of biology at the Open University, said: "I worry that Richard's view about belief is too simplistic, and so hostile that as a committed secularist myself I am uneasy about it. We need to recognise that our own science also depends on certain assumptions about the way the world is - assumptions that he and I of course share."



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, November 23, 2006


No-one who knows what a century of IQ testing shows will find that "perplexing"

When President Bush signed his sweeping education law a year into his presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have persisted since standardized testing began. Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year, researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal. Slight gains have been seen for some grade levels.

Despite concerted efforts by educators, the test-score gaps are so large that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school. "The gaps between African-Americans and whites are showing very few signs of closing," Michael T. Nettles, a senior vice president at the Educational Testing Service, said in a paper he presented recently at Columbia University. One ethnic minority, Asians, generally fares as well as or better than whites. The reports and their authors, in interviews, portrayed an educational landscape in which test-score gaps between black or Hispanic students and whites appear in kindergarten and worsen through 12 years of public education. Some researchers based their conclusions on federal test results, while others have cited state exams, the SATs and other widely administered standardized assessments. Still, the studies have all concurred: The achievement gaps remain, perplexing and persistent.

The findings pose a challenge not only for Mr. Bush but also for the Democratic lawmakers who joined him in negotiating the original law, known as No Child Left Behind, and who will control education policy in Congress next year. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative George Miller of California, who are expected to be the chairmen of the Senate and House education committees, will promote giving more resources to schools [i.e, throw money at it. How unable to learn from experience can you be? It's the lawmakeres who need educating] and researching strategies to improve minority performance, according to aides. "Closing the achievement gap is at the heart of No Child Left Behind and must continue to be our focus in renewing the act next year," Mr. Kennedy said in a statement. Experts have suggested many possible changes, including improving the law's mechanisms for ensuring that teachers in poor schools are experienced and knowledgeable, and extending early-childhood education to more students.

Henry L. Johnson, an assistant secretary of education, said: "I don't dispute that looking at some comparisons we see that these gaps are not closing - or not as fast as they ought to. But it's also accurate to say that when taken as a whole, student performance is improving. The presumption that we won't get to 100 percent proficiency from here presumes that everything is static. To reach the 100 percent by 2014, we'll all have to work faster and smarter."

The law requires states, districts and schools to report annual test results for all racial and ethnic groups, and to show annual improvements for each. It imposes sanctions on schools that do not meet the rising targets. Many experts and officials, including the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, have supported the goal of raising all students to academic proficiency, but they have also called it unrealistic to accomplish in a decade. But President Bush, who put education at the center of his 2000 campaign, has been insisting that it is not only feasible but that the gaps are already closing. "There are good results of No Child Left Behind across the nation," Mr. Bush said last month at a school in North Carolina. "We have an achievement gap in America that is - that I don't like and you shouldn't like." "The gap is closing," he said.

The researchers behind the reports issued last week in Washington, D.C., New York and California were far more pessimistic, though. "The achievement gap is alive and well," said G. Gage Kingsbury, an author of the report issued in Washington by the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in Oregon that administers tests. Examining results from reading and math tests administered to 500,000 students in 24 states in the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005, the study found: "For each score level at each grade in each subject, minority students grew less than European-Americans, and students from poor schools grew less than those from wealthier ones." Minority and poor students also lost more academic ground each summer, the study said.

More here


The problem posed in Mrs. Pfeiffer's seventh-grade prealgebra class at Campbell Hall is seasonal: How much turkey is needed to serve 30 people if each person gets 2/5 of a pound? Hands shoot up, with an "ooh, ooh!" here and a quizzical look there. It appears to be a typical math class on the tree-lined campus of the private North Hollywood coed school, except for one thing: There are only boys in the room. The all-girls math class will meet a few hours later. For more than eight years, Campbell Hall has separated the 250 boys and girls in seventh- and eighth-grade math; this fall, for the first time, the school is doing the same with science class. Students benefit because they are less distracted by the opposite sex, said math teacher Michelle Pfeiffer, and instruction can be tailored to the different learning styles of boys and girls. "We can express ourselves better," said Brett Landsberger, 12, a Campbell Hall seventh-grader. "It's like boys are a different species. You walk by the girls classes and they're sitting there all perfect, and you go into the boys class and they're all over the floor."

Single-sex classes and schools - both public and private - are gaining favor across the nation as educators search for ways to boost test scores and students' self-esteem. In 1995, only three public schools in the nation offered a single-sex option, compared with more than 253 today, according to the National Assn. for Single Sex Public Education. Five percent of private schools are single-sex. In Los Angeles, a new girls-only public charter school opened this fall. Another newly opened charter school in Lincoln Heights has launched one of the first formal experiments in single-sex education, creating separate boys and girls classes with plans to study their test scores, classroom behavior and other achievement yardsticks.

Research has long suggested that girls in coed settings defer to boys and receive less attention from teachers. Other educators cite more recent evidence that boys, especially low-income minority youths, might benefit as well. The gap between girls' and boys' test scores has decreased, and girls are applying in higher numbers to college and now obtain more bachelor's degrees than boys.

A recent ruling by the U.S. Department of Education giving public schools more leeway to offer single-sex curricula will probably accelerate the move toward single-sex classrooms, experts said. Previous rules generally banned single-sex classes, with some exceptions. The new guidelines, scheduled to take effect Friday, permit single-sex education in public schools but must be geared toward improving achievement, providing diverse experiences or meeting the particular needs of students. Programs must treat male and female students evenhandedly and offer substantially equal coeducational classes in the same subject. Enrollment must be voluntary. "We're already seeing schools respond to the amended regulations," said Elena Silva, a senior policy analyst with the Education Sector, a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "There's a lot of public support for at least the notion of single-sex schooling." That support reflects a wave of enthusiasm for greater school choice overall as policymakers, parents and educators struggle to reform an education system that has left American students frequently lagging behind their international peers. The federal No Child Left Behind Act endorsed same-sex programs as an "innovative" practice.

But gender separation is controversial. Critics contend the practice is a slide backward, one that could reinforce stereotypes and lead to different and unequal classroom experiences. The American Assn. of University Women argues that there is little evidence that girls and boys do better apart. Better-funded schools with more focused academic instruction, smaller class sizes and qualified teachers are far more likely to influence learning, said research director Catherine Hill.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued a Louisiana junior high school last summer over its plan to separate girls and boys, arguing that it violated Title IX regulations that require gender equity in educational programs that receive federal funding. The complaint against the Livingston Parish School Board cited statements that girls would be taught "good character" while boys would be taught about "heroic" behavior. The school board dropped the plan.

But such arguments have failed to sway those educators who believe there is much to gain and little to lose in experimenting with same-gender education. They point to a growing body of findings - albeit disputed - that boys' and girls' brains function and develop in different ways. Boys, the theory goes, do better in competitive, action-based, team-oriented tasks, while girls thrive in a more relaxed environment, working in pairs or alone.

Since Campbell Hall began the single-gender classes, girls are taking more advanced math courses in high school and are participating more in class, said junior high Principal Eileen Wasserman. In Regina Choi's eighth-grade math class one recent morning, about 16 girls worked quietly in pairs solving algebra problems. Choi said girls feel more comfortable asking questions in class, while boys prefer to wait to avoid looking less smart in front of classmates. Though the course's content is the same for both sexes, Choi said it is sometimes more effective posing problems for girls using shopping examples and for boys using sports. Another math teacher, Arlene Myles, said she focuses on trying to get the girls to be more competitive and the boys more cooperative. Because teachers and administrators believed the single-sex approach to math was successful, they decided to apply it to science this year. Courses at Campbell Hall's high school are coed.

Students had mixed views. "I like math now a lot more than I used to," said Ally Piddock, 12. "Boys are a distraction because they goof around a lot and it's easier for me to concentrate when they're not there." "It's easier to pay attention in math when girls are not there," agreed Reese Wexler, 13. "But science would be better coed. It's a different environment. In lab, the people you might work better with could be girls or boys."

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest, Jordan High School and King/Drew Medical Magnet are experimenting with single-sex curricula, establishing small academies for at-risk boys. George McKenna, assistant superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District, said he has tried and failed to interest his staff in trying single-sex classes but is encouraged that the new federal guidelines may ease resistance. Many public schools, including charters, have skirted federal law and used same-gender curricula for years on the "down-low," said Caprice Young, executive director of the California Charter Schools Assn., who predicted that more charter schools will open single-sex programs.

New Village Charter High School opened in September on the grounds of St. Anne's, a residential treatment center for teen mothers. The ninth- through 12th-grade college prep all-girls school will focus on the particular needs of low-income girls. The school opened after receiving a waiver from the state and had fretted at the possible federal response. "I've been a coed advocate all of my educational career, but when you look at the specific needs of these girls it seems absolutely essential that it be single-sex," said Paul Cummins of the New Visions Foundation, which helped develop the school. "This is one very small single-sex school in an ocean of coed schools."

But data from a major California project suggest that single-sex programs are problematic and at the least must be carefully planned. In 1997, as an experiment in public school choice, the state opened 12 single-gender academies - one middle or high school for boys and another identical one for girls - in six school districts. A 2001 study by researchers at the University of Toronto, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley found that the program was poorly implemented and underfunded. Separating girls from boys reduced classroom distractions, said the authors - although students still experienced harassment and teasing. But traditional gender stereotypes often were reinforced, and students received mixed messages from their teachers. Only one of the schools, the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto, is still open.

At the Excel Charter Academy, a middle school northeast of downtown Los Angeles, Principal Patricia Mora and other administrators launched a project to evaluate girls-only and boys-only programs and a coed group for comparison, with students randomly assigned to each group. In its first year, the school is offering only sixth grade, with 25 students in each group. Early observations find the coed group having a few more behavioral problems, said Mora. But the all-boys group seems to be doing especially well academically. One recent morning, the boys' humanities class was reading "Boy of the Painted Cave," about a boy in ancient times who wants to be a cave painter. Both boys and girls were assigned to read the book, and stories with female protagonists will be introduced later. As teacher Cecily Feltham described the hero grabbing a wolf by the neck and fighting a bull, the boys were attentive, offering vivid descriptions of the action. In another room, the girls science class was learning about thermal energy, having built a solar oven. The coed group, meanwhile, took physical education during recess.

The first test scores are due in January, and Mora is hoping to attract a top research group to evaluate the program. "If at the end of the year we find that one group is working out better than the other, then I don't think we'd continue to subject one cohort to being coed," she said. "But I honestly don't know what we'll find."



Eton College is leading a rebellion that could result in it dropping A levels in favour of an alternative examination system with no coursework and tougher questions. Tony Little, Eton Head Master, said that "Pre-U" examinations being developed at Cambridge University would offer pupils more stimulation and a system of testing that rewarded creativity and lateral thinking. He said that A levels forced children to "think inside a very small box" and discriminated against highly imaginative pupils, whose exam answers were often marked down because they were considered too sophisticated. "We are very interested in adopting it and in looking at anything that thinks afresh and in a creative way, which has a stimulating syllabus. We want the best courses that challenge our students and, if that means doing the Pre-U instead of A Level, then we will do it."

Eton is among at least 100 leading independent schools to have shown strong interest in the Pre-U. Others include Harrow, Dulwich College, Winchester and Charterhouse. But there are fears of the creation of a two-tier examination system for rich and poor pupils, with independent schools opting for the Pre-U and state schools remaining with the discredited A-level system. Graham Able, Master of Dulwich College, who is on a steering group advising on the Pre-U, said the diploma would better prepare pupils for university. "It will take us back to the original idea of A levels from the 1950s as a qualification for university entrance," he said.

Barnaby Lenon, Head Master of Harrow, said that A levels were flawed because too many pupils got top grades, examiners made too many mistakes when marking and coursework was vulnerable to cheats. "The Pre-U combines the flexibility of A level with regard to subject choice together with the promise of harder questions and reliable examining," he said. Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said that he believed that most independent schools would be in favour of the Pre-U when it is introduced in 2008. "A levels do not discriminate enough at the top end of the ability range. If government reforms to A levels are not satisfactory, we will go with the Pre-U and so will most others," he said.

Kevin Stannard, of Cambridge International Examinations, said that about 20 state schools and colleges had also expressed an interest in the Pre-U. "They represent the tip of the iceberg," he said, adding that he expected more state schools to sign up once it had been officially recognised. Growing support for the Pre-U will put pressure on the Government to speed up reforms of the A-level system. It has promised to make A levels harder. An extended essay will be introduced, together with more open-ended questions in place of those that lead students through a series of highly structured answers. Coursework is also being cut back to reduce plagiarism. A new A+ grade is being considered. Many heads fear that these reforms may be too late, as they will not be ready before September 2008, the date the Pre-U is due to begin.

Dr Stannard predicted that 2008 would mark a turning point. "Schools will have to choose between the reformed A level, the Pre-U and any other alternative," he said. One alternative, the International Baccalaureate (IB), has been adopted by about 90 independent schools, but most have retained A levels as well. After an initial surge of interest, support has levelled off. Many schools find it too prescriptive and too heavily weighted towards very academic pupils. Andrew Boggis, Warden of Forest School, in East London, and chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of independent schools, says that neither Pre-U nor IB is the answer. He has called for the reform of A levels, with coursework being dropped from final grades. A government spokesman said that A levels were here to stay. "However, as standards in schools rise, we need to make sure that we are stretching and challenging all students, particularly our brightest," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Preferences Forever?

The University of Michigan's president does her best George Wallace impersonation.

Michigan voters struck a blow for equality this month, when 58% of them approved an amendment to the state constitution banning racial discrimination in public universities and contracting. Almost identical measures have previously passed by similar majorities in California and Washington state. That means the original meaning of the 1964 Civil Rights Act--that racial discrimination of any kind is illegal--has won reaffirmation in three liberal states, none of which have voted for a Republican for president since 1988. Supporters now plan to carry the fight to other states.

From the outraged cries of affirmative action diehards, you would think the dark night of fascism was descending with the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Mary Sue Coleman is president of the University of Michigan, which has already spent millions of taxpayers' dollars defending its racial preferences in courts. She addressed what Tom Bray of the Detroit News called "a howling mob of hundreds of student and faculty protestors" last week. "Diversity matters at Michigan," she declared. "It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow." Echoes of George Wallace, who in 1963 declared from the steps of Alabama's Capitol: "I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Ms. Coleman isn't the only Michigan official to employ Wallace-style rhetoric against MCRI. Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told a fundraiser last April that the measure would usher in an era of racial prejudice. "Bring it on!" he bellowed. "We will affirm to the world that affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow, and there will be affirmative action in the state forever."

Another leader in Michigan's massive resistance is Karen Moss, the executive director of the state ACLU. "I do think it's necessary for the courts to slow this thing down and . . . interpret some of the language," she told the Washington Post. That "thing" is an amendment that simply states: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." As the blog notes, "What part of that language does the ACLU find vague or unclear and in need of "interpretation'?"

Let's be clear what is really at stake here. Racial preferences were intended to help disadvantaged minorities, but they have turned into a spoils system for the privileged. "Most go to children of powerful politicians, civil-rights activists, and other relatively well-off blacks and Hispanics," notes Stuart Taylor of National Journal. "This does nothing for the people most in need of help, who lack the minimal qualifications to get into the game."

School choice and other dramatic efforts to improve the quality of K-12 education would do far more to improve the chances of minorities entering and finishing college than any racial set-asides. Indeed, school choice would represent genuine "affirmative action" in favor of millions of disadvantaged kids trapped in failing schools.

Despite all the demagoguery and misrepresentations hurled at the MCRI, a CNN exit poll of 1,955 Michigan voters showed that the measure had widespread appeal across many demographic groups. A majority of both sexes voted for MCRI, as did 40% of self-described liberals and Democrats. Among nonwhite voters, 30% of men and 18% of women voted "yes."

The public sentiment against racial preferences is in accord with the overwhelming belief of the lawmakers who passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They thought they were ending segregation, not sanctioning new race-conscious violations of the Constitution. But it didn't take long for activist courts and bureaucrats to claim the act actually authorized the creation of preference programs.

In recent years, the courts have been slowly inching back towards a belief that the legitimate quest for diversity does not justify any and all race-conscious means to achieve it. In 2003 Jennifer Gratz, a young white woman denied admission as an undergraduate to the University of Michigan, won her case before the Supreme Court. By a vote of 6-3, the high court held that the school's undergraduate college had unconstitutionally awarded applicants a set number of points solely for not being white.

On the same day, however, the court ruled 5-4 against Barbara Grutter's suit against the University of Michigan's law school. The court decided that the law school used race as only one factor among many and upheld the view of the late Justice Lewis Powell, who held in the 1978 Bakke case that race could be used to achieve "diversity" in higher education.

Justice Sandra O'Connor, who sided with Ms. Gratz but wrote the opinion in Grutter, issued some cautionary language that supporters of affirmative action should heed: "The court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." After noting that institutions of higher education in California and Washington were pursuing alternatives to racial preferences, she urged that "universities in other states should draw on the most promising aspects of these race-neutral alternatives as they develop." Just last week, the now-retired Justice O'Connor was asked her opinion of MCRI's approval. She replied that it was "entirely within the right and privilege of voters" to enact a ban on racial preferences.

The blind anger that supporters of racial preferences have shown towards efforts at their reform betrays a lack of imagination. Ms. Gratz, who won her Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan and spearheaded this year's effort to ban quotas in that state, says she would be happy to explore alternatives if the opponents would sit down with her. She believes universities could look to socioeconomic factors rather than racial ones when considering applicants. Economic elements "should be taken into account, regardless of your skin color," she says.

Ms. Gratz is showing great forbearance in holding out an olive branch to her opponents. Just last June Ms. Gratz filed a report with Detroit police accusing Luke Massie, national chairman of the activist group By Any Means Necessary, of displaying a knife during a heated confrontation outside a state civil rights meeting. "It was one of several attempts to either intimidate me or attack my character," she said yesterday in an interview after a speech she gave at the National Association of Scholars meeting in Boston. She said Mr. Massie had a knife in his right pants pocket and toyed with it, pulling it halfway out of his pants but not drawing its blade. Mr. Massie denies the allegation.

What isn't in dispute is that supporters of racial preferences sometimes engage in behavior that resembles the "massive resistance" campaign that tried to preserve segregation in the South, and even led some counties to close their public schools rather than allow integration. Some supporters of preference programs in Michigan are talking about lowering state university admission standards dramatically in hopes that the university will then accept what, in their view, is the proper number of minority students.

Earlier this year, some 250 high school students staged a near riot at a hearing of the state's Board of Canvassers, which was charged with determining whether the initiative qualified for the ballot. The board's four commissioners were preparing to vote when members of Mr. Massie's group began yelling, "They say Jim Crow. We say hell no." Some 50 students began marching on the board, knocking over a table before Lansing police could stop them. Other protesters began stomping their feet, with one yelling at Paul Mitchell, an African-American commissioner, "Be a black man about this, please!"

The board adjourned for two hours only to be faced with more catcalls when they reconvened. In the end, two Republican appointees voted to place the measure on the ballot, but Mr. Mitchell voted "no," and Doyle O'Connor, the other Democratic appointee, refused to vote. Three votes were needed for the measure to secure ballot access. Eventually an appellate court had to finally order the board to do its sworn duty.

We've come a long way since 1964, when the late civil rights hero Hubert Humphrey stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that if the civil rights bill contained "any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there."

Four decades later, supporters of racial preferences imposed by government agencies are blocking legal efforts to establish the color-blind society that Martin Luther King envisioned. Dr. King's dream is alive in Michigan, and in other states, but a large number of people seem interested in stirring up a nightmare of massive resistance. Such efforts are likely not only to only fail, but to harden the public's opposition to divisive racial quotas.



That's the underlying agenda of Britain's Leftist government. First, stop awarding research funding on merit ....

Britain's elite research universities were warned last night that they could forfeit millions of pounds in a shake-up of higher education. David Eastwood, head of England's university funding council, told The Times that, in future, universities that admit a large number of students from poor backgrounds were likely to receive as much public funding as those that concentrate on research. The shift will make it harder for middle-class students to get places at university.

At present almost a third (32 per cent) of all research funding goes to just five institutions: Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Imperial and University College London. These admit among the lowest number of students from poor backgrounds. They said last night that they feared they would have to fight harder for fewer funds and would struggle to compete with competitors, particularly in America.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) spends 6.7 billion pounds on teaching and research in universities. Of this, 1.6 billion goes on research, 332 million on raising the number of working-class students attending university and 118 million on developing regional business links. Professor Eastwood, its chief executive, said that as students pay higher fees and employers invest more in the sector, universities must play a greater role in society. While insisting that research funding will not be cut, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia said that ensuring more young people attended university was as important as the take-up of subjects such as maths, engineering and physics.

However, Malcolm Grant, Provost of University College London and chairman of the Russell Group of leading universities, said that while all would like to see the funding gap in teaching costs close, that gap was worst for research universities that compete globally for staff. "While we applaud widening participation, it would seem sensible for Hefce to look at ways to allow our world-class universities to compete at an international level and not to tax research funding to cross-subsidise widening participation across the sector," Professor Grant said. While universities have concentrated traditionally on teaching and research, Professor Eastwood said it was now time for institutions to work out what they were good at and act upon it. It was not possible for all universities to excel in all areas, he said, and instead of competing with the large research-led universities for diminishing returns, they should capitalise on excellent teaching and regional economic growth.

Five universities are already involved in pilot projects, including Sheffield Hallam, which has been given 1.2 million to undertake research on food waste, packaging and better ingredients with companies in the region. Forty-two per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds attend university and the Government has set itself a target of 50 per cent reaching that level by 2010. Since the introduction of 3,000 pounds-a-year tuition fees, the numbers applying to university have dropped, especially among poorer school-leavers.

The University of Reading's decision last night to close its world-class physics department, despite the prospect of a government rescue package, was met with dismay by the scientific community.


Australia: More contempt for the people from a Leftist elitist

That kids get turned off school by being bored rigid -- by politically correct preaching masquerading as education -- is not considered

Most Australians are anti-intellectual and hostile towards education, a senior Labor frontbencher said today. In a provocative speech to the Sydney Institute tonight (AEDT), Lindsay Tanner will argue parents are partly to blame for a culture of anti-intellectualism in Australia. "There's a lot of evidence that we're still disdaining of learning, we're still regarding learning activity as something that `real Aussies' don't get into too much," Mr Tanner said on ABC Radio today. "It's not an accident that our levels of education and our level of commitment to education and learning is significantly lower than comparable countries."

Mr Tanner said Prime Minister John Howard had fuelled anti-intellectualism by suggesting it was fine for young people to leave school early, and by allowing Education Minister Julie Bishop to brand schoolteachers "Maoists". "Australians have come a long way in the past 20 or 30 years but there's still a lingering culture of antagonism to learning, and I think the Howard government really has been exploiting that," he said. "We should have a government that's actually upholding learning, that's advocating learning, improving learning. "Instead, we've got a government that's exploiting that anti-learning strand of feeling that's very deep in Australia." It was "staggering" that 46 per cent of school leavers did not go on to either higher education or TAFE, he said.

Mr Tanner defended his strong views. "I don't think it's disdainful, I think it's an acknowledgement of reality," he said. "I've grown up in the Labor movement, for example, where the word `academic' has historically been a term of derision. That's just a reflection of the wider society." A British university's presentation of an honorary degree to Australian cricketer Shane Warne, who once famously boasted that he had never read a book, illustrated that many Australians regarded learning as "a bit of a laugh", he said. "I thought that was embarrassing," Mr Tanner said. "He isn't the first person to receive one of these things ... but I suspect in terms of learning and approach to education, he's probably the least justified."



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Australian PM Criticizes anti-business curricula in State schools

Australian schools should teach innovation and the virtues of a free-enterprise culture, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday in comments likely to cause further friction with the states. Mr Howard was the keynote speaker at the Business Summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Hanoi in Vietnam. He told 500 business leaders that free enterprise and the values of openness and innovation were not emphasised enough in Australian high schools. "I think our whole education system, starting at primary school, going into secondary school, should have a much greater focus on what we used to call, years and years ago, business principles," he told the summit.

The comments are likely to inflame an already-strained relationship with state Labor governments, increasingly nervous about the Federal Government moving into their areas of responsibility. While universities are mostly a federal responsibility, school education is firmly within the states' control. State governments are already on high alert following last week's majority 5-2 High Court ruling that the Commonwealth had the power to regulate employment contracts of corporation employees. Constitutional experts have since warned the High Court decision may open the way for other federal encroachments into state areas. Mr Howard and Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop have previously expressed concerns at aspects of state-run education, including teaching of history.

The above report appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on Nov. 19, 2006

Sinking ... poor white boys are the new failing class

British working-class white boys have taken over from their black counterparts as school under-achievers. Michael Collins explains why

If confirmation were needed that the urban white working class has moved away from the archaic image of a cockney cap-wearing armchair revolutionary, it came via a report published last week from the Social Justice Policy Group: a think tank created by David Cameron and chaired by the former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith. While liberals stand accused of demonising and disenfranchising the white working class, and new Labour legislates on the food that should go in their mouths and the words that should come out, the Conservatives have weighed in with news regarding this urban tribe’s rising generation. The prognosis isn’t favourable: things ain’t what they used to be. The report, entitled State of the Nation - Education Failure, casts the young of the tribe in an image that takes up the baton from Vicky Pollard of Little Britain and the chav industry that erupted a couple of years ago. It brings news of an illiterate underclass, spiralling towards drug dependency, crime and homelessness.

Apparently the rot begins with truancy and poor exam results. For the first time boys from white working-class backgrounds are performing less well in their studies than their contemporaries in any other ethnic group. Just 17% of white working-class boys achieve five good-grade GCSEs, 2% fewer than black boys and far below those from Indian and Chinese backgrounds.

If it's true that urban white boys have long since come to emulate the style, attitude and language of their black contemporaries, this latest development takes the transformation to the nth degree. Respect?

Throwing cash at the problem is not going to improve matters as, to paraphrase the report, the parents are to blame. A lack of parental interest in a child's education is listed along with parental drug and alcohol abuse for the underperformance of working class white lads.

Some of this was evident at some level in many urban neighbourhoods from the 1980s, a point the report fails to reflect on. What's happened in the past 20 years is that the problem has expanded and deepened. As GK Chesterton once said of writers trying to predict the future: "They took something or other that was going on in their time, and then said that it would go on more and more until something extraordinary happened."

According to the report, we are now in the throes of something extraordinary happening. But it strikes me that this is not exclusively a 21st-century issue. Just over 100 years ago, authors, anthropologists and reformers descended on working-class neighbourhoods. The class they were observing then was one that was said to exist without a voice, in the form of a political vote, and emerged as an identifiable crowd only when celebrating a patriotic victory, sporting or otherwise (at which point they were said to emerge like "rats from the sewers", sing drunken songs and attack each other with pigs' bladders).

Reformers put the emphasis on the need for education and thrift in order to lead the voiceless underclass from gambling, alcohol, licentiousness, vice and crime. Some were concerned that greater wealth might lead to further debasement. This is echoed today in those who believe the masses are destroying the planet with their fast food and holidays in Benidorm.

With the emergence of universal suffrage, healthcare and education, the white working-class profile altered. They became seen as salt-of-the-earth toilers, living out their lives in the same streets they'd been born in before a backdrop of factory, pub, market and betting shop and lots of communal singing, a dab of fisticuffs, and perhaps a bit of politics and patriotism thrown in.

In the early 20th century, working-class culture was localised and family based and, even if the emphasis wasn't on education, it largely valued working hard and doing well.

How things have changed. As well as highlighting the underachievement of white working-class boys, last week's report found that the young males who are doing best at school come from the Chinese and Indian communities, which have perhaps the most insular and inward-looking ethnic backgrounds. Iain Duncan Smith says in the report that boys from Chinese and Indian homes do well because "family structures are strong and learning is highly valued". He adds that marrying-in and keeping the faith are fostered.

The irony is that back in the 20th century, similar elements kept the white working class together in a tightly knit, localised culture. Once, it too had its own rituals and community cohesion. But that all changed and a social class that was, economically, already bottom of the pile was forced to experience more upheaval than any other social group. After the second world war and the bombing that had destroyed many of the old terraces and tenements in urban areas, so many people were rehoused in new concrete estates which broke down many of the old community ties. From the 1950s onwards there were incessant waves of immigration, with the white working class forced to share what were already cramped quarters with a huge influx of immigrants.

When they complained, they were dismissed by the chattering classes as Little Englanders and racists. The incessant attempts to accommodate an increasingly dense population scattered the white working class out of their original habitat. Many moved out to the suburbs, geographically fracturing the strong family networks and communities.

Before that the working class were born and bred in the place they would live for the rest of their lives. Existing cheek by jowl with family, friends and neighbours meant that everybody knew everybody else and their business. A lack of respect or a stepping out of line could haunt you for life; there was an incentive to keep your nose clean and do as you would be done by. That enforced morality and standard of behaviour began to unravel in the anonymity of the new estates.

Changing social mores also hit hard as teenage pregnancy and single mothers bred boys without father figures and dependent on benefits. Added to those problems are the increased awareness among the working classes of the lives of the rich: rather than living among their own kind, television provided a window to another way of living.

For many young lads, education seemed a long route to riches, particularly when huge sums were on offer to footballers or musicians, or lately to anyone who appears on reality television. Today's working-class lads are as clued up as anyone on what wealth is about and its signifiers. Burberry, anyone?

The culture of political correctness and the widespread (and often accurate) view among many working-class people that every other social and ethnic group's needs came above theirs when it came to government resources bred resentment. From the 1980s the multiculturalists formed part of a breed within civic bodies, keen to erase evidence of the local heritage of the white working class and emphasise the historical presence of every other creed and colour. Had all this been done to any other ethnic or social group, its problems would not have remained so hidden. "If the experience of poor urban whites were happening to other groups, there would be an outcry, followed by inquiries, commissions, reports, and positive action plans," wrote one columnist last week. "But nothing of the sort will occur. The entire thrust of the state machine is to address the needs of ethnic minorities."

I would argue that divorcing today's young working-class lads from a sense of their own history and belonging has played a large part in their underperformance. When the poor academic performance of black boys became an issue, experts were quick to point to the causes: a lack of positive male role models, racism and history. The poor performance of black boys at school first became an issue in the 1970s. Nobody then mentioned what was happening to the likes of us. I left a comprehensive school with one CSE. Only a handful of my white working-class contemporaries went on to further education. Now, 30 years on, it is depressing to say the least that things have got even worse.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Monday, November 20, 2006


Loony Britain at work again

ANTI-BULLYING advisers should be employed by local councils to help to combat bullying in schools, according to recommendations from the Office of the Children's Commissioner. The advisers would mediate in cases where parents complained that bullies were not being disciplined. They would also dissuade bullies from abusing other pupils and provide advice for victims.

The new report, Bullying in Schools, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and to be published this week, states that parents often find that head teachers dismiss allegations that a child is being bullied. The new anti-bullying advisers would be selected and employed by local authorities. The report recommends that the parents of a bullied child should have the right to a hearing before a committee of school governors. It also wants new powers for the local government ombudsmen to intervene in schools where discipline is a problem.

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, senior legal adviser to the Office of the Children's Commissioner, writes in the report: "Some heads still respond to parents by rejecting the suggestion that there is any bullying in the school. "It may be alleged that the parent is overprotective or even a troublemaker. There may be hurtful suggestions that the bullied child is oversensitive or antisocial."

A DfES spokesman said the proposals would be examined by Alan Johnson, the education secretary. The spokesman said: "While in the vast majority of cases of bullying, schools do an excellent job, we want to ensure that every case is investigated thoroughly and that parents have an effective route of complaint if they feel inadequate action has been taken."

Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children's commissioner, said of the report: "There is evidence that the present system is not satisfactory. Our proposals would lead to a more formal appeals process involving the governors and above all an independent aspect which has been missing until now." Aynsley-Green was himself bullied as a 10-year-old when his family moved to London from Northumberland and he was victimised because of his accent. He said that bullying is an "enormous problem" and he is keen for it to be "on the front burner". He added that new technology meant bullies had new ways to make their victims' lives miserable: "Until recently, if children are being bullied at school, they could go home and be in a safe environment. Now they can't escape because they are bullied on their mobiles or by e-mail."

Up to 70% of children have experienced bullying, according to a survey of 8,574 children released earlier this month by the charity Bullying Online. Half of bullied pupils said they had been physically hurt. When bullying was reported to a teacher, children said that in 55% of cases it did not stop. A report from the Office of the Children's Commissioner, Bullying Today, said Muslim children had experienced greater victimisation after the September 11 attacks in America and the July 2005 London bombings. [Odd that!]



FAITH schools have this year increased their dominance at the top of The Sunday Times's state primary league table - taking 60% of places in the list of the 500 best schools. The dominance of faith schools is likely to reopen the debate over whether such schools should change their strict admission policies. Since 2002, there has been a 10% increase in the number of church and Jewish primary schools in the top 500.

Alan Johnson, the education secretary, was last month forced into a climbdown over his plans to introduce reforms to ensure up to 25% of pupils at new faith schools came from other backgrounds. Kenneth Baker, a former Conservative education secretary, described the climbdown as "the fastest U-turn in British political history".

In the league tables published today, the most successful schools are Catholic and Jewish. Out of 1,700 Catholic primary schools, 141 are in the top 500; and out of 28 Jewish primary schools, six are in the top 500. A significantly smaller proportion of Church of England schools enjoy such success. Of 4,400 Church of England schools, only 142 are in the top 500.

In the two highest performing schools - North Cheshire Jewish school in Cheadle and St Mary and St Thomas Aquinas RC primary in Blaydon-on-Tyne in Gateshead - all pupils have achieved the maximum score in English, maths and science tests for the past three years. Experts have suggested the success of faith schools may be a result of their popularity with middle-class parents. Tony and Cherie Blair have sent their four children to Catholic primary schools.

According to Chris Woodhead, a former chief inspector of schools, faith schools are often the only realistic option for some parents in inner city areas. "If you cannot afford independent school fees, the local faith school may be the only one offering a decent education," he said.

Head teachers of faith schools, however, argue that a school's values rather than a middle-class intake is the key to success. Wendy Duffy, acting head of St Mary and St Thomas Aquinas, said her pupils were drawn from both affluent and less well-off backgrounds. "I think the strength of the school lies in its ethos," she said. "Gospel values are very important. They are essential to our mission."

Norma Massel, head teacher for the past seven years at North Cheshire Jewish school, said the moral and discipline code imposed by religious schools was a key to their performance. Her school in Cheadle, north Cheshire, draws pupils from as far as Northwich, which is 25 miles away from the school.

It can take dedication by parents to get places at church schools with some parents starting to go to church solely to get a place for their child. However, even this is no guarantee in some inner-city areas with schools reporting as many as three applications for every place. Others apply strict criteria: at the Our Lady of Victories primary, a small Catholic school in Putney, south London, children are only admitted if their parents have attended church diligently for at least three years. The head teacher, Margaret Ryall, said: "It is almost a register that is taken by the priest at the end of mass on Sunday. We impose a strict system so it is fair to all. I doubt whether non-Catholic parents could keep up that level of attendance."

Despite the prevalence of faith schools in the top 500, some community schools have enjoyed success. South Farnham community junior school in Surrey is one of three non-faith schools in the top 10. The school has more than 100 pupils sitting the tests and this year they all achieved the maximum score. Andrew Carter, head teacher for 18 years, said his results were the result of systematic teaching. "Smaller schools can rely on one excellent teacher, but this school has four classes sitting the test. "There is excellent teaching plus analysis of what extra effort is required to get all of them through the tests. There are a lot of small church schools that do well, but we take everybody."

There are no Muslim or Sikh primary schools in the top 500, but such faith schools are rare in the state sector. There are only five Muslim and two Sikh primary schools in the country.

Johnson last month announced plans to pass new laws to force faith schools to take more pupils from other faiths and non-religious backgrounds. He scrapped the proposals after lobbying from the Catholic church and complaints from backbench MPs.

The league tables of primary and secondary schools and the independent school tables are contained on the Parent Power CD-Rom and online.



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 Pages are here or here or here.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why Intellectuals Still Support Socialism

Intellectuals, particularly academic intellectuals, tend to favor socialism and interventionism. How was the American university transformed from a center of higher learning to an outpost for socialist-inspired culture and politics? As recently as the early 1950s, the typical American university professor held social and political views quite similar to those of the general population. Today - well, you've all heard the jokes that circulated after the collapse of central planning in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, how the only place in the world where Marxists were still thriving was the Harvard political science department.

More generally, US higher education often looks like a clear case of the inmates running the asylum. That is, the students who were radicalized in the 1960s have now risen to positions of influence within colleges and universities. One needs only to observe the aggressive pursuit of "diversity" in admissions and hiring, the abandonment of the traditional curriculum in favor of highly politicized "studies" based on group identity, the mandatory workshops on sensitivity training, and so on.

A 1989 study for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching used the categories "liberal" and "conservative." It found that 70 percent of the professors in the major liberal arts colleges and research universities considered themselves liberal or moderately liberal, with less than 20 percent identifying themselves as conservative or moderately conservative.[1] (Of course, the term "liberal" here means left-liberal or socialist, not classical liberal.)

Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein have recently examined academics' political affiliations using voter-registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities. They find an average Democrat:Republican ratio of 5:1, ranging from 9:1 at Berkeley to 1:1 at Pepperdine. The humanities average 10:1, while business schools are at only 1.3:1. (Needless to say, even at the heartless, dog-eat-dog, sycophant-of-the-bourgeoisie business schools the ratio doesn't dip below 1:1.) While today's Republicans are hardly anti-socialist - particularly on foreign policy - these figures are consistent with a widespread perception that university faculties are increasingly unrepresentative of the communities they supposedly serve.

Now here's a surprise: Even in my own discipline, economics, 63 percent of the faculty in the Carnegie study identified themselves as liberal, compared with 72 percent in anthropology, political science, and sociology, 76 percent in ethnic studies, history, and philosophy, and 88 percent in public affairs. The Cardiff and Klein study finds an average D:R ratio in economics departments of 2.8:1 - lower than the sociologists' 44:1, to be sure, but higher than that of biological and chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, management, marketing, accounting, and finance.

A survey of American Economic Association members, examined by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern, finds that most economists support safety regulations, gun control, redistribution, public schooling, and anti-discrimination laws. Another survey, reported in the Southern Economic Journal, reveals that "71 percent of American economists believe the distribution of income in the US should be more equal, and 81 percent feel that the redistribution of income is a legitimate role for government. Support for these positions is even stronger among economists with academic affiliations, and stronger still among economists with elite academic affiliations."[2]

Why do so many university professors - and intellectuals more generally - favor socialism and interventionism? F. A. Hayek offered a partial explanation in his 1949 essay "The Intellectuals and Socialism." Hayek asked why "the more active, intelligent and original men among [American] intellectuals . most frequently incline toward socialism." His answer is based on the opportunities available to people of varying talents. Academics tend to be highly intelligent people. Given their leftward leanings, one might be tempted to infer from this that more intelligent people tend to favor socialism. However, this conclusion suffers from what empirical researchers call "sample selection bias." Intelligent people hold a variety of views. Some are lovers of liberty, defenders of property, and supporters of the "natural order" - i.e., defenders of the market. Others are reformers, wanting to remake the world according to their own visions of the ideal society.

Hayek argues that exceptionally intelligent people who favor the market tend to find opportunities for professional and financial success outside the Academy (i.e., in the business or professional world). Those who are highly intelligent but ill-disposed toward the market are more likely to choose an academic career. For this reason, the universities come to be filled with those intellectuals who were favorably disposed toward socialism from the beginning.

This also leads to the phenomenon that academics don't know much about how markets work, since they have so little experience with them, living as they do in their subsidized ivory towers and protected by academic tenure. As Joseph Schumpeter explained in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, it is "the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs" that distinguishes the academic intellectual from others "who wield the power of the spoken and the written word." This absence of direct responsibility leads to a corresponding absence of first-hand knowledge of practical affairs. The critical attitude of the intellectual arises, says Schumpeter, "no less from the intellectual's situation as an onlooker - in most cases also as an outsider - than from the fact that his main chance of asserting himself lies in his actual or potential nuisance value."[3]

Hayek's account is incomplete, however, because it doesn't explain why academics have become more and more interventionist throughout the twentieth century. As mentioned above, during the first half of the twentieth century university faculty members tended to hold political views similar to those held by the general population. What caused the change? To answer, we must realize first that academics receive many direct benefits from the welfare state, and that these benefits have increased over time.

Excluding student financial aid, public universities receive about 50 percent of their funding from federal and state governments, dwarfing the 18 percent they receive from tuition and fees. Even "private" universities like Stanford or Harvard receive around 20 percent of their budgets from federal grants and contracts.[4] If you include student financial aid, that figure rises to almost 50 percent. According to the US Department of Education, about a third of all students at public, 4-year colleges and universities, and half the students at private colleges and universities, receive financial aid from the federal government.

In this sense, the most dramatic example of "corporate welfare" in the US is the GI Bill, which subsidized the academic sector, bloating it far beyond the level the market would have provided. The GI Bill, signed by President Roosevelt in 1944 to send returning soldiers to colleges and universities, cost taxpayers $14.5 billion between 1944 and 1956.[5] Federal spending on the latest version, the Montgomery GI Bill, is projected at $3.2 billion in 2006 alone.

To see why this government aid is so important to the higher education establishment, we need only stop to consider for a moment what academics would do in a purely free society. The fact is that most academics simply aren't that important. In a free society, there would be far fewer of them than there are today. Their public visibility would no doubt be quite low. Most would be poorly paid. Though some would be engaged in scholarly research, the vast majority would be teachers. Their job would be to pass the collective wisdom of the ages along to the next generation. In all likelihood, there would also be far fewer students. Some students would attend traditional colleges and universities, but many more students would attend technical and vocational schools, where their instructors would be men and women with practical knowledge.

Today, many professors at major research universities do little teaching. Their primary activity is research, though much of that is questionable as real scholarship. One needs only to browse through the latest specialty journals to see what passes for scholarly research in most disciplines. In the humanities and social sciences, it is likely to be postmodern gobbledygook; in the professional schools, vocationally oriented technical reports. Much of this research is funded in the United States by government agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the USDA, and others. The large universities have tens of thousands of students, themselves supported by government-subsidized loans and grants.

Beyond university life, academics also compete for prestigious posts within government agencies. Consider my own field, economics. The US federal government employs at least 3,000 economists - about 15% of all members of the American Economic Association. The Federal Reserve System itself employs several hundred. There are also advisory posts, affiliations with important government agencies, memberships of federally appointed commissions, and other career-enhancing activities. These benefits are not simply financial. They are also psychological. As Dwight Lee puts it:

Like every other group, academics like to exert influence and feel important. Few scholars in the social sciences and humanities are content just to observe, describe, and explain society; most want to improve society and are naive enough to believe that they could do so if only they had sufficient influence. The existence of a huge government offers academics the real possibility of living out their reformist fantasies.[6]

It's clear, then, that there are many benefits, for academics, to living in a highly interventionist society. It should be no wonder, then, that academics tend to support those interventions. Economists, in particular, play active roles as government advisers, creating and sustaining the welfare state that now surrounds us. Naturally, when government funds their research, economists in applied fields such as agricultural economics and monetary economics are unlikely to call for serious regulatory reform in their specialty areas.

Murray Rothbard devotes an interesting chapter of Man, Economy, and State, to the traditional role of the economist in public life. Rothbard notes that the functions of the economist on the free market differ strongly from those of the economist on the hampered market. "What can the economist do on the purely free market?" Rothbard asks. "He can explain the workings of the market economy (a vital task, especially since the untutored person tends to regard the market economy as sheer chaos), but he can do little else."

Furthermore, economists are not traditionally popular as policy advisors. Economics teaches that resources are limited, that choices made imply opportunities forgone, that our actions can have unintended consequences. This is typically not what government officials want to hear. When they propose an import tariff to help domestic manufacturers, we economists explain that this protection will come only at the expense of domestic consumers. When they suggest a minimum-wage law to raise the incomes of low-wage workers, we show that such a law hurts the very people it purports to help by forcing them out of work. On and on it goes. As each new generation of utopian reformers promises to create a better society, through government intervention, the economist stands athwart history, yelling "Remember the opportunity cost!"

Over the last several decades, however, the role of the economist has expanded dramatically. Partly for the reasons we discussed earlier, the welfare state has partly co-opted the profession of economics. Just as a higher murder rate increases the demand for criminologists, so the growth of the welfare/regulatory state increases the demand for policy analysts, antitrust consultants, tax and regulatory experts, and various forecasters.

To some degree, the increasing professionalization of the economics business must share the blame for this change. The economists' premier professional society, the American Economic Association, was itself created as an explicitly "progressive" organization. Its founder, the religious and social reformer Richard T. Ely, planned an association, he reported to a colleague, of "economists who repudiate laissez-faire as a scientific doctrine."[7] The other founding members, all of whom had been trained in Germany under Gustav Schmoller and other members of the younger German Historical School - the so-called Socialists of the Chair - were similarly possessed with reformist zeal. The constitution of the AEA still contains references to the "positive role of the church, the state and science in the solution of social problems by the 'development of legislative policy.'"[8] Fortunately, the AEA subsequently distanced itself from the aims of its founders, although its annual distinguished lecture is still called the "Richard T. Ely lecture."[9]

If asked to select a single event that most encouraged the transformation of the average economist from a critic of intervention to a defender of the welfare state, I would name the Second World War. To be sure, it was the Progressive Era that saw the permanent introduction of the income tax and the establishment of the Federal Reserve System. And it was during the Great Depression that Washington, D.C. first began to employ a substantial number of economists, to join such central-planning organizations as the National Resources Planning Board. Still, even in those years, the average economist favored free trade, low taxes, and sound money. World War II, however, was a watershed event for the profession. For the first time, professional economists joined the ranks of government planning bureaus en masse:

To control prices, as with the Office of Price Administration, led by Leon Henderson and later John Kenneth Galbraith. This group included prominent "free-market" economists such as Herbert Stein and George Stigler.

To study military procurement (what later became known as "operations research") with Columbia University's Statistical Research Group (including Stigler, Milton Friedman, Harold Hotelling, Abraham Wald, Leonard Savage), or with the Army's Statistical Control Group, which was led by Tex Thornton, later president of Litton Industries, and his "Whiz Kids." The most famous Whiz Kid was Robert McNamara, Thornton's leading prot‚g‚, who later applied the same techniques to the management of the Vietnam War.

Before World War II the primary language of economics, in the English-speaking world, was English. Since then, however, economic theory has come to be expressed in obscure mathematical jargon, while economic history has become a branch of applied statistics. It is common to attribute this change to the 1947 publication of Paul Samuelson's mathematical treatise, Foundations of Economic Analysis, and to the development of computers. These are no doubt important. However, it is likely the taste of central planning that economists - even nominally free-market economists - got during World War II that forever changed the direction of the discipline.

What about other public figures, what Hayek called "second-hand dealers in ideas" - the journalists, book editors, high-school teachers, and other members of the "opinion-molding" class? First, intelligent and articulate liberals (in the classical sense) tend to go into business and the professions (Hayek's selection-bias argument). Second, many journalists trade integrity for access; few are brave enough to challenge the state, because they crave information, interviews, and time with state officials.

What does the future hold? It is impossible to say for sure, but there are encouraging signs. The main reason is technology. The web has challenged the state-university and state-media cartels as never before. You don't need a PhD to write for Wikipedia. What does the rise of the new media, new means of sharing information, new ways of establishing authority and credibility, imply for universities as credential factories? Moreover, as universities become more vocationally oriented, they will find it hard to compete with specialized, technology-intensive institutions such as DeVry University and the University of Phoenix, the fastest-growing US universities.

Home schooling, the costs of which are greatly lowered by technology, is also on the rise. And traditional media (newspapers and network news) are of course rapidly declining, and alternative news sources are flourishing. The current crises in higher education and the media are probably good things, in the long run, if they force a rethinking of educational and intellectual goals and objectives, and take power away from the establishment institutions. Then, and only then, we may see a rebirth of genuine scholarship, communication, and education.

Source. Some more observations on the same subject here


You would probably see more flesh in a bikini

United Future leader Peter Dunne today called upon Christchurch schools to relax and maintain a sense of humour over the hijinks of their departing students. He was responding to reports that St Margaret seventh form girls were stopped by Christ's College staff on Monday when they pulled up outside to dash through the school in their underwear. "The tradition of undie runs at Christchurch high schools has been going on for many years in good spirits. Such heavy-handedness is political correctness gone mad," said Mr Dunne. It is understood the 12 St Margaret's students have been banned from attending their end-of-year leavers' dinner.

"Let's put this into perspective. It's simply end of year hijinks. There is no malice involved and in comparison with other activities that teenagers get themselves into, this really is at the low end of the spectrum. "It is traditional for Christchurch schools to get up to such antics at this time of year. While the public expects a certain standard of behaviour I would doubt if many people would be offended by such an event as occurred on Monday. "Kids will be kids; if we are unnecessarily pedantic they will inevitably be compelled to rebel in more destructive ways. "I agree that schools need to be vigilant especially as the end of year approaches, however I think they may have gone a little over the top in punishing students for what is traditionally a harmless bit of fun," concluded Mr Dunne.



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"

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