Saturday, February 17, 2007

Heavy discrimination against males in British education

We are now seeing the results of the feminized education that British schools offer: Many boys are turned right off

The gap between the number of men and women applying to university has grown fivefold under Labour as evermore women opt to take a degree. While the Government trumpeted record numbers of teenagers wanting to continue with further education yesterday, academics voiced concerns about the widening rift between the sexes. Between 1998 and 2007, 14,305 more men applied for university places, compared to 51,214 more women. This gap has increased every year for six years.

Malcolm Grant, Provost of University College London, gave warning that unless the trend slowed, colleges could become male-free zones. He said: "We are concerned because you'd think that if we had an equality of genders in society, it would be reflected in their performance at A level and university. "We need to understand what it is that's causing young men not to thrive in the A-level culture and not to choose to apply to university. The male participation rate is sufficiently divergent that we'd expect it to continue."

Professor Grant's comments echo widely-held fears, already expressed to ministers, that young men face being locked out of university and marginalised in the jobs market. Last year, 57 per cent of first degree graduates were women. In 1980, 60 per cent of university entrants were men. In 2005, 30 per cent of boys took A levels compared to 40 per cent of girls.

More here

Does Barnard Need Junk Academics?

Post lifted from Muqata. See the original for links

Its tenure time at Barnard College, and Nadia Abu El Haj is aspiring to attain the coveted Barnard professorship title in her field of Anthropology. Unfortunately, tenure for Nadia Abu El Haj does about as much to further Columbia and Barnard's academic standing, as Hamas has done to promote peace in the Middle East.

One only has too examine her doctoral thesis (and now a book), "Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society." to see that her analysis of "archaeological practice" has nothing to do with anthropological or archaeological analysis, and is just your run-of-the-mill anti-Israel rhetoric, masquerading as junk research.

Her analysis of Israeli society determines that it is a "settler-colonial community", and has "invented" an ancient history in the region by the use of archeology. She attempts to demonstrate how "(social) science generates facts or phenomena, which refigure what counts as true or real," and concludes that the "existence of the ancient Israelite and Hebrew kingdoms should be considered "a pure political fabrication." Historians are appalled by her junk research.

"El-Haj is not a practicing archaeologist. She hardly knows the Hebrew in which many Israeli archaeological debates are conducted. She has taken part in very few actual digs. Yet she confidently condemns Israeli archaeology as a tool of the Zionists. With only gossip to go on, she accuses one archaeologist of bulldozing non-Jewish strata to get to the levels that might offer details about ancient Israel. Bizarrely, she then concludes her book by reversing herself on such desecration, asking us to "understand" sympathetically the Palestinian mob that destroyed Joseph's Tomb on October 8, 2000. I guess it all depends on whose narrative is being bulldozed."

Jonathan Burack, The Family Security Foundation, December 28, 2006

Archaeologists have criticized her book harshly:

The dean of Middle Eastern archeology, William Dever of the University of Arizona, "who has authored more than 20 books on Middle East History, said Ms. Abu El-Haj seems intent on writing Jews out of ancient Middle East history, and demonizing a generation of apolitical Israeli archaeologists in the process. Barnard should deny Ms. Abu El-Haj tenure, he said, `not because she's Palestinian or pro-Palestinian or a leftist, but because her scholarship is faulty, misleading and dangerous.' " Campus Watch

"At the heart of her critique is an undisguised political agenda that regards modern and ancient Israel , and perhaps Jews as a whole, as fictions. "Abu El Haj's anthropology is undone by her... ill-informed narrative, intrusive counter-politics, and by her unwillingness to either enter or observe Israeli society... "The effect is a representation of Israeli archaeology that is simply bizarre... Filling in what is missing from her text becomes fatiguing. In the end there is no reason to take her picture of Israeli archaeology seriously, since her selection bias is so glaring. "Abu El Haj has written a flimsy and supercilious book, which does no justice to either her putative subject or the political agenda she wishes to advance. It should be avoided." Alexander H. Joffe, Lecturer in Archaeology, Purchase College, SUNY Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Chicago: Oct 2005. Vol. 64, Iss. 4; p. 297

"Perhaps the most astonishing part of the book is a discussion on the last page of the text (p. 281). Abu el-Haj describes and condones the attack, and subsequent ransacking, by a Palestinian mob on what is known as "Jacob's Tomb" in Nablus in 2001. Several people were killed as a result of this attack; the gleeful tone in which she describes this act of vandalism exemplifies how her political agenda completely overcame her duties as a social scientist. "This book is the result of faulty and ideologically motivated research. One can but wonder how the 1995 dissertation on which it is based was authorized at Duke University and how a respected publisher like the University of Chicago Press could have published such unsubstantiated work."

Maeir, Aren, Professor of Archaeology, Bar Ilan University, Isis, volume 95 (2004), pages 523-524, Solomonia Blog

It's ironic that while supposedly advocating archeology, Abu el-Haj indelibly aligns herself with the Palestinians, who have absolutely no regard or respect for Biblical archeology whatsoever. Doing everything in their power to destroy the archaeological remnants from the Temple Mount, Palestinians dug out a huge underground Mosque in the "Solomon's Stables" area of the Temple Mount, and proceeded to destroy and dump everything they could find of historic significance, while repeating the mantra, "There were never any Jewish Temples in Jerusalem."

As Arab mobs riot these days over Israel's attempts to rebuild a bridge to the Temple Mount and the to excavate outside the Mugrabi Gate (and therefore, outside the Temple Mount complex and Mosques), one has to wonder why Barnard College is demeaning itself by offering tenure to junk academics, bent on the denying the legitimacy of the Jewish State.

Are you an alum of Barnard or Columbia? Why not drop an email to Barnard College President, Judith Shapiro, (jshapiro@Barnard.Edu) or Columbia College President Lee Bollinger ( and let them know that tenure for Nadia Abu El Haj degrades your alma mater.


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, February 16, 2007

Elites to Anti-Affirmative-Action Voters: Drop Dead

The University of California has spent a decade wiggling around Proposition 209

In 1996, Californians voted to ban race and gender preferences in government and education. Ten years later, the chancellor of the state-funded University of California at Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, announced a new Vice Chancellorship for Equity and Inclusion, charged with making Berkeley more "inclusive" and "less hostile" to "underrepresented minority . . . groups." This move is just the latest expression of the University of California's unrelenting resistance to the 1996 voter initiative, in every way possible short of patent violation. Stasi apparatchiks disappeared more meekly after the Soviet Empire's collapse than California's race commissars have retreated after voters tried to oust their preference regime.

The last decade in California shows the power, and the limitations, of the crusade for a colorblind America led by Ward Connerly, architect of the 1996 anti-preference initiative. Without a doubt, Proposition 209, as that measure is called, has cut the use of race quotas in the Golden State's government. But it has also exposed the contempt of the elites, above all in education, for the popular will. "Diversity"-meaning socially engineered racial proportionality-is now the only official ideology of the education behemoth, and California shows what happens when that ideology comes into conflict with the law.

When Prop. 209 passed, a few politicians, such as San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, loudly vowed to disobey it. Most public officials, though, were more circumspect. Doubtless they counted on a highly publicized lawsuit, filed the day after the election, to eviscerate the new constitutional amendment before it affected their operations. A coalition of ethnic advocacy groups and big labor, represented gratis by some of the state's top law firms, had sued to block the amendment from taking effect. The plaintiffs argued, remarkably, that requiring government to treat everyone equally violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The plaintiffs could not have found a more sympathetic audience than Judge Thelton Henderson, one of the federal bench's most liberal activists. He quickly issued an injunction against Prop. 209, on the grounds that American society is so racist and sexist that only special preferences for minorities and women could ensure their constitutional right to equal protection.

Henderson's 1996 ruling was the high point of the preference racket's reception in the courts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Henderson the next year, declaring that Prop. 209's ban on discrimination and preferential treatment was fully compatible with the Equal Protection clause-a point evidently not obvious to the crSme of the state's lawyers.

From then on, both state and federal judges would show an admirable respect both for voter intent and for the plain meaning of the state's new constitutional amendment. Not so California's bureaucrats and pols. Many chose passive resistance or tried to hide noncompliance under Orwellian name changes: San Jose's affirmative-action bureaucracy rechristened itself the "Office of Equality Assurance," for instance.

Without the efforts of a small public interest law firm, some of the state's largest government employers would still be using racial preferences for hiring and would be requiring contractors to do the same. The Pacific Legal Foundation has had to drag into court the city and county of San Francisco, the Sacramento municipal utility district, the state lottery commission, the state bond commission, and the California community college system, among others, to vindicate the people's will. The Los Angeles and Berkeley school districts continue to assign students and teachers by race, even though the foundation has won suits challenging the practice in other school districts.

California's then-attorney general, Bill Lockyer, filed an amicus brief supporting San Jose's continuing preferential-outreach requirements for contractors. As for enforcing the state constitution against violators of 209, Lockyer could not be bothered. Members of the state legislature have also busily tried to thwart the voters' fiat, often under pressure from Latino advocates. In a particularly desperate move, the state assembly in 2003 adopted a definition of discrimination put forward by the 1969 UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, whose terms would have restored racial preferences in contracting. California courts saw through this ruse and overruled it in 2004.

Ward Connerly estimates that by now, 65 to 75 percent of California's agencies no longer use race in hiring or contracting-hardly resounding compliance but a huge improvement over the pre-209 era. A pro-preference organization, the Discrimination Research Center, claimed in 2004 that transportation-construction contracts awarded to minority-owned business had dropped 50 percent since 1996 and that the percentage of women in the construction trades had declined by one-third. These figures suggest the extent to which race and gender discrimination had been keeping many noncompetitive enterprises afloat.

California's university system is a different matter entirely. That diehard center of race and gender obsession has managed to stay out of court (except for one sweetheart suit brought by pro-preference advocates) through fiendishly clever compliance with the letter of the law, while riding roughshod over its spirit. In doing so, university officials have revealed a fatalism about the low academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics that they would decry as rankest bigotry in a 1950s southerner.

After Prop. 209's passage, UC Berkeley, like the rest of the UC system, "went through a depression figuring out what to do," says Robert Laird, Berkeley's pro-preferences admissions director from 1993 to 1999. The system's despair was understandable. It had relied on wildly unequal double standards to achieve its smattering of "underrepresented minorities," especially at Berkeley and UCLA, the most competitive campuses. The median SAT score of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley's liberal arts programs was 250 points lower (on a 1,600-point scale) than that of whites and Asians. This test-score gap was hard to miss in the classroom. Renowned Berkeley philosophy professor John Searle, who judges affirmative action "a disaster," recounts that "they admitted people who could barely read."

The downward trajectory of those students was inevitable, Searle says. "You'd be delighted to find that your introductory philosophy class looked like the United Nations, but that salt-and-pepper effect was lost after six to eight weeks," he recalls. "There was a huge dropout rate of affirmative-action admits in my classes by mid-terms. No one had taught them the need to go to class. So we started introducing BS majors, in an effort to make the university ready for them, rather than making them ready for the university." Searle recalls a black studies class before his that was "as segregated as Mississippi in the 1950s." One day, Searle recounts, the professor had written on the blackboard that a particular tribe in Africa "wore colorful clothing."

Even though preference beneficiaries often chose the easiest majors-there were, and still are, virtually no blacks and Hispanics in the most competitive engineering and computer science majors, for example-graduation rates also reflected the qualifications gap. The average six-year graduation rate for blacks and "Chicanos" (California-speak for Mexican-Americans) admitted from 1991 to 1997, the last year of preferences, was about 20 percent below that of whites and Asians. The university always put on a happy face when publicly discussing the fate of its "diversity" admits. Internally, however, even the true believers couldn't ignore the problems. A psychology professor at UC San Diego recalls that "every meeting of the faculty senate's student affirmative-action committee was a lugubrious affair. They'd look at graduation rates, grades, and other indicators and say, `What we're doing is failing.' "

Yet for the preference lobby, a failing diversity student is better than no diversity student-because the game is not about the students but about the self-image of the institution that so beneficently extends its largesse to them. Thus, when "underrepresented minorities" accepted at Berkeley dropped by half in 1998, the first year that Prop. 209 went into effect, and by nearly that much at UCLA, the university sprang into crisis mode. Never mind that the drops at other campuses were much smaller. Berkeley's then-chancellor, Robert Berdahl, came to Berkeley's Boalt Law School, recalls a law professor, and demanded that the faculty increase its shrunken minority admissions. When another professor asked how Boalt was supposed to do that consistent with 209, Berdahl responded testily that he didn't care how they did it, but do it they must. UCLA law professor Richard Sander was on a committee to discuss what could be done after 209. "The tone among many of the faculty and administrators present was not `How do we comply with the law in good faith?' but `What is the likelihood of getting caught if we do not comply?' " he says. "Some faculty observed that admissions decisions in many graduate departments rested on so many subjective criteria that it would be easy to make the continued consideration of race invisible to outsiders."

Like Proteus caught in a net, the University of California struggled furiously over the next decade to rework its admissions formulae, trying to re-create its former "diversity" profile without explicitly using race. If, in 1967, an Arkansas fire department had devised pretextual, ostensibly nonracial, job qualifications to foil a desegregation order, it would have been judged in violation of the Constitution. But legal elites will never object to such pretextual surrogates for race in order to engineer a certain level of representation for "underrepresented minorities."

The university's attitude was as damaging as its actions. How to explain the significant drop-off in black and Hispanic applications to UC's most elite campuses after Prop. 209 passed? The then-dean of Boalt Law School, Herma Hill Kay, gave PBS's NewsHour the pro-preference answer: "I think that there was a feeling that California in general had turned its back on minority applicants. People felt that they didn't have to come here if they weren't welcome here." Another explanation, of course, might be that minority students, well aware of how much they had previously benefited from preferences, realized that without those preferences they stood little chance of getting in to the most selective campuses.

UC could have responded to the charge of being "unwelcoming" with a resounding rebuttal: "We welcome students of all races and ethnicities. Every student will be judged according to his accomplishments, and anyone who meets our standard-equally high for all-will win admission. UC has never discriminated and never will." Instead, UC continued throwing its weight behind the argument that the only way to "welcome" minority students is to make sure that they get in whether or not they match the academic qualifications of white and Asian students.

University spokesmen constantly convey the idea that 209 is forcing them to do something unjust. "It's a hard message to send-persuading kids that they have a place at the university, when we deny so many qualified students," says administrator Nina Robinson. (Robinson masterfully blends the "unwelcoming" topos with the university's current line that students who would only be admitted under affirmative action are all "highly qualified.") But the University of California rejects many white and Asian applicants with credentials identical to those "qualified" underrepresented minorities, and no one accuses UC of being unwelcoming to rejected Asian students with combined SAT scores of 800 and 2.85 GPAs, say. If proportionally far fewer black and Hispanic students qualify for admissions than whites and Asians, the problem lies with the systemic academic weakness of those students, not with the admissions standards. But this is a truth that, post-209, the university has persistently denied.

Only in 1998 did the university's admissions processes operate without either explicit racial preferences or stealthy surrogates for race. The results were telling: at Berkeley, the median SAT gap shrunk nearly in half, to 120 points; black and Hispanic admits logged an impressive 1,280 on their combined SATs. The six-year graduation rates of this class would increase 6.5 percent for blacks and 4.9 percent for Hispanics, compared with the class admitted two years earlier.

The more pedagogically and socially sound environment that resulted didn't matter to the race-mongers, however, who flung themselves into their long experimentation with different admissions schemes, with one purpose: "To maintain a racially and ethnically diverse student body," as former UC associate president Patrick Hayashi wrote in 2005. The first scheme that the university tried was to give an admissions preference to low-income students. This device backfired, however, when it yielded a lot of Eastern European and Vietnamese admits-not the kind of "diversity" that the university had in mind. So the campuses cut their new socioeconomic preferences in half and went back to the drawing board.

Various components in the system began diluting their academic requirements. Boalt Law School reduced the role of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and college grade-point average (GPA) in ranking students, and it lowered the LSAT cutoff score that would disqualify a student for consideration-measures that previously it had applied only to minorities but would now technically apply to all students. It also removed the quality adjuster for high school GPAs, so that a 3.8 from a school where half the students drop out before graduating counted as much as a 3.8 from a school where the student body is frantically competing to rack up academic honors.

Other schools created pretextual institutions in the hope that they would be minority magnets. UCLA's law school established a specialization in critical race studies, a marginal branch of legal theory contending that racism pervades nearly every category of the law and that writing about one's personal experiences grappling with that racism is real legal scholarship. College seniors who say that they want to specialize in critical race studies on their UCLA law school applications get a boost in the admissions process: as the school discreetly puts it, a student's interest in the program "may be a factor relevant to the overall admissions calculus." In 2002, UCLA rejected all white applicants to the program, even though their average LSAT score was higher than the average score of the blacks who were admitted.

The university as a whole started admitting all students in the top 4 percent of their high school class, regardless of their standardized test scores, hoping that this would net more kids from all-minority schools. The public justification for this practice, which Texas and Florida have also implemented in response to affirmative-action bans, is that getting to the top of one's class signals the same academic talents regardless of whether your school awards As just for showing up. But a 2005 college board study found that 30 percent of the African-American and Hispanic students with an A average have mediocre SAT verbal scores of 500 or lower. Indeed, while only half of the blacks and Hispanics who rank in the top tenth of their class also score over 600 on either section of the SAT, all the whites in the top 10 percent do. And contrary to the claims of affirmative-action proponents, the evidence is irrefutable that students with 900 combined SATs, say, are far less likely to do well in competitive colleges than students with test scores several standard deviations above that. In addition, UC also started giving preferences to students who had attended university-sponsored tutoring programs, which, while technically open to students of all races, target underrepresented minorities.

None of these new admissions measures produced the numbers of "underrepresented minorities" at Berkeley and UCLA that the diversity ideologues and the ethnic lobbies in the state legislature demanded, however. The legislature's Latino caucus told the university that more of "their people" at Berkeley and UCLA was the price of budgetary support. Clearly, the university remained too wedded to its old, meritocratic ways to achieve the "critical mass" of minorities that diversity advocates claim is necessary for a sound education. So the university began to "question all criteria, including criteria that have long been regarded as reflecting high academic achievement," in the words of former associate president Hayashi. Incredibly, it began to ignore entirely its applicants' objective academic rankings.

More here

Disenfranchised: The Buzz in Education Reform

The word that most aptly describes the momentum behind education reform going into 2007 is disenfranchised. This can be applied to students in grades P all the way to 16. It can also be applied to adults who want to go back to school, who never completed school, or who are learning English as a second language. It can be used to describe those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. This word can be mixed and matched with pretty much any type of person that is deserving of more opportunity; and who isn't?

To be sure, the word disenfranchised will inevitably be used to call for more education funding, to fight for more equitable education and to appeal for universal education. Disenfranchised is the sort of descriptor that can be mixed and matched by any education reformer for any type of reform because it appeals to the conscience; it begs the decent person to look out for those amongst us who might need a little action on their behalf. "It is the right thing to do." But be forewarned; those whose heartstrings are being pushed and pulled in every direction must try and be discerning about the various offerings and work through the maze of rhetoric so that the disenfranchised are truly helped by our efforts. Like it or not, sometimes the solutions can become part of the problem.

The effort behind universal pre-school stems from the notion that some children are better prepared for Kindergarten than others. For a multitude of reasons, underprivileged children are not accumulating as much practice playing with the English language and they are not exposed to the types of concrete experiences which lay the foundation for learning abstract mathematical concepts. In my own observations with "disenfranchised" children, I've discovered that they are lacking at a much more basic level.

Some are not used to interactions where they are expected to listen, and conversely, they don't expect others to hear them. Accustomed to this deficit, and having their needs met by Power Rangers and X-Men, they tune out people and events and succumb to the symptoms of having insufficient relationships with caring responsible adults, these being stunted curiosity about the world and lack of civility. This type of child most definitely benefits from a preschool that offers opportunities for exploration and language development. But this child profits more from the consistency offered from caring adults who teach them social skills and provide them with the most basic of needs. Conversely, children growing up in homes rich in one-on-one interaction with one or two parents with the time and resources to devote to raising a child will not benefit more from the experience of preschool where a teacher's time is divided between 18 needy children. Children, whose needs can be met at home, gain much more tumbling and swimming at the local park district than if placed in universal pre-school.

Children are disenfranchised when expectations are lowered for their potential. Whether or not a child is labeled ADD, EL, LD, Gifted, or anything else, really doesn't matter if in any given situation the child isn't pushed to his or her maximum ability. When a label is used as an excuse for not meeting needs, this is when the solution has become the problem. If mainstreaming prevents some students from making optimum academic gains, the solution has become the problem. The bottom line is that while everyone is not equal, everyone should be given equal opportunity. This might not always look the same in every given situation. In sports, one child might be learning to sink or swim while another is practicing Butterfly. While the two students would not be expected to be treated the same way, this isn't the case in academics. Some serious rethinking must take place in our elementary and middle schools. In these circumstances, it must be, "one "hellava reality check" to suddenly find one self competing and placed in leveled classes upon reaching high school in this day and age. How about when it comes to looking for a job?

It used to be that everything important could be learned by the end of 8th grade. Now, colleges are finding many students cannot read or write at an 8th grade level. How is it that some students are accepted into college when they haven't met the requirements of the preceding grades? Community colleges are expected to remediate students who are not prepared for college level courses yet at the same time are awarding more and more course credits to record numbers of students who are testing out of classes because of prior AP or IB programs. How can that be? Is it because everyone is not equal but everyone should be given equal opportunity?

I used to joke that I went to college on an 8th grade education because I did the absolute minimum to get by in high school, much more concerned with socializing and rebelling than in my future. But I also tested at the 11th grade level in many areas when I was still a preteen. This is because students were grouped and challenged according to their ability in the elementary and middle grades. Perhaps I was disenfranchised in high school, for whatever the reason. One of 125 students per teacher, maybe I needed larger amounts of attention which I couldn't receive under those circumstances.

Smaller class sizes and a smaller school might have made all the difference in the world, or not. On the other hand, would I have been better off in single sex classes, where I wasn't so concerned with boys? This is not a universal rule applicable for everyone. Some students thrive amongst large numbers of people and unimaginable opportunities. This is why there should be choice in education. One size does not apply to all. One universal rule does not always benefit everyone. Beware of equalizing instead of equal opportunity. This has the effect of disenfranchising some groups while ensuring rule of the majority or minority.

Colleges should be kept affordable but not if those who can afford to supplement the cost of an education are given the responsibility of this burden. As long as there are student grants and loans and scholarships to offset tuition costs, colleges will not have the incentive to streamline their offerings and keep costs down. If colleges are not held accountable for the relevancy of their course offerings, for the quality of their teaching, and for the success of their graduates, they will not have to be held to the same standards as other businesses that must satisfy a customer base. When the government has to supplement or bail out a business, in the long run it isn't doing the economy any favors. What disenfranchises students is graduating with no appreciable skills and with a lot of debt.

Disenfranchised is a very powerful word. It can be used to further equalize everyone or it can be used to provide everyone with equal opportunity. Be careful when deciding which educational reforms to get behind in 2007.



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, February 15, 2007

No classroom left alone

Once upon a time when their party believed in small government, balanced budgets, and federalism Republicans ran on promises to dismantle federal bureaucracies and unnecessary government agencies. The Department of Education was a the target of particular animus. Ronald Reagan called it "President Carter's bureaucratic boondoggle." Republicans routinely inveighed against creeping federal control of education and pleaded for the return of control to local school boards.

As sincere as they seemed at the time, in the 18 years Republicans have held the presidency since the Department of Education was created, they have been no more successful in dismantling it than in evicting the Muppets from their home at public broadcasting. Advocates of small government and local control of education really got their comeuppance with George W. Bush. Lulled into a fog by the rhetoric of "compassionate conservatism," those who liked the old grumpy, small government variety of conservatism were mortified to see the federal government extend its reach into every classroom in America. Not even LBJ could have imagined No Child Left Behind.

The legislation sounded good on its face. Many children, especially in inner cities, were trapped in poor schools, standards seem to be invisible, and American children were falling further and further behind their foreign counterparts. What to be done? Since the federal government had such a magnificent track record in eliminating poverty and family fragmentation, politicians ranging from Teddy Kennedy to George W. Bush decided to give it one last assignment: improve K-12 education. Complaints from local school boards, teachers' unions, and fiscal conservatives were ignored. As only the federal government can do bureaucrats were hired, federal funding conditioned and reams of regulations enacted, in particular requirements for standardized tests, to ensure children were actually being taught.

Fast forward just a few years and we now have the specter of the federal government threatening the local school board of one of the most successful school districts in the country with a loss of funds because the local school board has balked at the prospect of testing (and then inevitably failing) non-English speaking students in English as the federal bureaucrats have deemed necessary. No really. Apparently federal education officials didn't like the reading exams that Fairfax and other local districts had devised for students learning English, because the tests according to the federal officials they were not equivalent to tests given to students fluent in English.

The Washington Post reported on Feb. 1, "In a sharply worded letter, Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon said he is 'greatly distressed' that some school districts, including Fairfax County [in Northern Virginia], might violate the No Child Left Behind Act. Simon urged Virginia to enforce the law. If it does not, he said, federal education officials could step in, possibly withholding funds." Sensing the growing ire of parents who were now on to the bullying tactics of the Education Department, Secretary Margaret Spelling dashed off her own short piece for the Post claiming the local school district was "dragging its feet" in complying with federal testing dictates.

The victims in this tale of bureaucratic rapaciousness are not of course limited to less affluent, non-English speaking children. Ask any parent in this school district (largely populated by children of well to do, highly educated parents) which indisputably is successful whether they think the testing wrought by No Child Left Behind is a good thing and you will be greeted with much eye rolling and laughter. Real learning stops in April so curriculum can be diverted to daily drilling of students and test taking preparation. Days of classroom time each May are then taken up by the testing itself. With the help of the federal government students then lose weeks of classroom instruction.

The irony is delicious. We now have a federal bureaucrat put there at the behest of a Republican president dictating to a highly proficient local school board what questions should and should not be on the tests of Virginia school children. The Republicans' former natural constituency -- affluent and well-educated parents -- is now disgusted with the busybodies in the Bush Education Department.

With Republicans bemoaning the absence of a "real" conservative standard bearer for president in 2008 it would seem a good place to start for an aspiring Republican candidate would be to champion repeal of No Child Left Behind. Such a candidate would be on solid philosophical footing and appeal to the army of disenchanted parents. What's more, in this era of new found bipartisanship, they might even make some friends in the teachers' unions.



But the Australian Left (like most Leftists worldwide) is still ignoring the obvious with their paradoxical belief in the magical power of money

In Thomas Friedman's bestseller The World Is Flat, he explains how India positioned itself to become an invaluable player in the global economy. It began in the late 1990s with the boom in long-distance fibre-optic infrastructure. This enabled American companies to outsource a lot of tedious code-cutting work in the lead-up to the supposed Y2K meltdown of the world's computers. India had an enormous pool of highly educated English-speaking people who could perform the work at rock-bottom prices. Next, multinational companies began outsourcing ever more sophisticated work to India. Reuters newsagency, for instance, outsources news bulletins to Indian reporters, and US accounting firms sent 400,000 tax returns to Indian accountants in 2005.

The Indian middle class has blossomed, and clever young Indians no longer have to leave their families and migrate to Western countries to make something of themselves. They can do that right at home. We have grown used to speaking to women from Bangalore when phoning Diners Club to report a lost credit card. India was so well poised to capitalise on the technology that enables the "flattening" of the world economy, Friedman says, because it had a huge pool of well-educated workers. For an impoverished country, that was no mean feat, shaming Australian claims that lack of money is the sole cause of our higher-education woes.

In 1951 India's leaders decided to make good-quality education a priority, establishing the first of the nation's seven Indian Institutes of Technology, which became "islands of excellence". "India mined the brains of its own people," Friedman writes, "educating a relatively large slice of the elites in the sciences, engineering and medicine."

But, as Gurcharan Das wrote in Newsweek last year, it's no longer just the elites getting a decent education: "Government-run schools are a mess . . . But private schools - which can range from expensive boarding schools for the elite to low-end teaching shops in the bazaar - are proliferating. "Even the poor now send their kids to private schools, which can charge as little as $1 to $3 a month in fees and are spreading rapidly in slums and villages across India." Two-thirds of children in India's three largest states attend private schools and their reading and maths scores are significantly higher than those of other students.

Which brings us to Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's education "revolution". He gets top marks for identifying education as his first election issue, crucial to economic growth. And while India's experience shows us resources aren't everything, Rudd's point that Australia's spending on universities has declined 7 per cent since 1995, while spending by OECD countries has risen on average by 48 per cent, struck a chord. In fact, the picture is worse than that, since the money is spread so thinly over a variable array of universities.

Rudd, who beavered through the summer break on his education policy, has already managed to convey a substantial message in a way his predecessors never could, with his clear link between the nation's future prosperity and the education level of its people. He argues that the way to boost Australia's flagging productivity is to invest massively in "human capital": education from preschool to university.

However, Rudd's first fleshed-out policy, a plan to offer universal preschool education, may backfire. While on the committee of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in 2005, I became aware of a powerful desire by the education establishment to push formal education down into the preschool years. The thinking goes like this: if children are having trouble learning to read in primary school, it is not because the methods used to teach them are inadequate, it is because their families have not equipped them with what are called "pre-reading" skills - familiarity with books and the concept that the black stuff on the page has meaning.

While there is evidence that pre-reading skills are useful, especially for socially disadvantaged children, the evidence that intensive systematic phonics instruction is most effective in teaching most children to read is overwhelming. Yet there are still entrenched pockets of influential resistance to phonics-based teaching, in universities and various teacher associations.

As the literacy inquiry found, fewer than 10 per cent of course time in university teacher education departments is spent teaching teachers how to teach reading. But instead of fixing such problems, Rudd's early-education plan runs the risk of shifting responsibility for reading failures in primary school to preschool. That's no way to compete with India.



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, February 14, 2007

Rhode Island school bans talking!

A Roman Catholic elementary school adopted new lunchroom rules this week requiring students to remain silent while eating. The move comes after three recent choking incidents in the cafeteria. No one was hurt, but the principal of St. Rose of Lima School explained in a letter to parents that if the lunchroom is loud, staff members cannot hear a child choking.

Christine Lamoureux, whose 12-year-old is a sixth-grader at the school, said she respects the safety issue but thinks the rule is a bad idea. "They are silent all day," she said. "They have to get some type of release." She suggested quiet conversation be allowed during lunch. Another mother, Thina Paone, does not mind the silent lunches, noting that the cafeteria "can be very crazy" at the suburban school south of Providence.

Principal Jeannine Fuller did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but a spokesman for the Diocese of Providence described the silence rule as a temporary safety measure. Spokesman Michael Guilfoyle said the school does not expect complete silence but enough quiet to keep students safe. Lori Healey, a teacher at the school who also has a son in third grade, said "silent lunch" means students can whisper. "They know it's not for punishment," she said. "It's for safety, and they'll be the first ones to tell you." Stacey Wildenhain, a teacher's assistant at St. Rose, said her 7-year-old son does not mind the policy. He told her: "The sooner we eat, the sooner we can get out to play," she said.

Amanda Karhuse, of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said that students should not run wild during lunch, but that they also should not have to remain silent. "It seems kind of ridiculous in our opinion," she said. "Kids need that social time, and they just need time to be kids at that age."

The principal's letter also spelled out other new lunch rules, including requiring students to stay in their seats and limiting them to one trip to the trash can. Any child who breaks the rules will serve detention the next day. Paone's 6-year-old son, Joey, said he accepts the changes, but some of his classmates were having trouble obeying the rules. Kara Casali, who also has a 6-year-old son at the school, said the rules against talking will be tough to enforce. "I can't imagine having a silent lunch," she said.


Corrupting the British curriculum

Why is it ‘brainwashing’ when faith schools teach values but ‘raising awareness’ when the state teaches the pieties of environmentalism?

So what’s the difference between subjecting children to the zealous propaganda of their elders in a faith school and in a secular school? According to today’s cultural commentators, it is ‘brainwashing’ when carried out in a faith school, but ‘raising awareness’ when conducted in a so-called secular environment.

The current wave of hysteria about the apocalyptic consequences of climate change, following most recently the publication of the IPCC summary on 2 February, is being harnessed towards ‘re-educating’ schoolchildren. According to proposals due to be published this week, cautionary tales about global warming will become integral to the British school curriculum. This instruction about global warming will masquerade under the title ‘geography lessons’, but in truth it constitutes a new kind of behaviour management.

This was clear when UK education secretary Alan Johnson announced his new moralising enterprise last week. Johnson said he wants children to alter their behaviour. ‘We need the next generation to think about their impact on the environment in a different way’, he declared. This project, aimed at manipulating how children lead their lives, is justified through appealing to a higher truth. Johnson claims that ‘if we can instill in the next generation an understanding of how our actions can mitigate or cause global warming, then we lock in a culture change that could, quite literally, save the world’. Literally save the world! That looks like a price worth paying for making some changes to the geography curriculum. In truth, the moralisation of education will only nurture ignorance.

The school curriculum has become a battleground for moral campaigners and entrepreneurs keen to promote their message. Public health officials constantly demand more compulsory classroom discussions on healthy eating and obesity. Professionals obsessed with young people’s sex lives insist that schools introduce yet more sex education initiatives. Others want schools to focus more on Black History or Gay History. In the widespread media outcry over the sordid scenes of moral and cultural illiteracy on Celebrity Big Brother, many demanded that schools should teach Britishness.

The government hasn’t yet announced any plans for introducing Appropriate Behaviour on Reality TV Shows into the curriculum…but nevertheless, Alan Johnson is a very busy man. Not only is he introducing global warming studies, he has also made the study of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade a compulsory part of the history curriculum.

For Johnson, the subject of history, like that of geography, must be subordinated to a higher good. He is not interested in the slave trade as part of an academic discipline with its own integrity; rather he sees slave trade studies as part of a moral crusade. ‘This is about ensuring young people understand what it means to be British today’, he said in defence of his reorganisation of the history curriculum. Johnson’s title, education secretary, is something of a misnomer. He seems to have no interest in education as such. His preoccupation is with using the classroom to transmit the latest and most fashionable prejudices. He can’t even leave school sports alone, recently announcing that PE lessons will now stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle and will raise awareness about the problem of obesity. So after children have received instruction on how to behave as green consumers, lead responsible sex lives and feel very British, they’ll be taught how and why to lose weight.

This ceaseless attempt to instil in schoolchildren fashionable values is symptomatic of a general state of moral confusion today. Instead of attempting to develop an understanding of what it means to be a good citizen, or articulate a vision of public good, Britain’s cultural elites prefer to turn every one of their concerns into a school subject. In the classroom, the unresolved issues of public life can be transformed into simplistic teaching tools. Citizenship education is the clearest example of this corruption of the curriculum by adult prejudices. Time and again, school inspectors have criticised the teaching of citizenship, which is not really surprising considering that leading supporters of citizenship education seem to have little idea what the subject is or ought to be about.

Nick Tate, former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, argued that citizenship education was ‘about promoting and transmitting values’, ‘participation’ and ‘duties’. But the obvious question of ‘values about what?’ was carefully avoided. Instead, those advocating citizenship education have cobbled together a ‘hurrah list’ of unobjectionable and bland sentiments that have been rebranded as values. Alongside fairness, honesty and community, even participation and voting have been turned into values. Professor Bernard Crick, a key adviser to the government on citizenship education, stated that ‘students must demonstrate a commitment to active citizenship, commitment to voluntary service and concern for the environment’.

A few years down the road and the meaning of citizenship is even less clear than when schools started teaching it as a subject. Last month, a review of how schools teach citizenship found that the subject failed to communicate any sense of what it means to be British. Anyone with the slightest grasp of pedagogy will not be surprised by the failure of successive social engineering projects in the classroom. The absence of any moral consensus in Britain today will not be solved through subjecting children to sanctimonious platitudes. Those who are genuinely interested in educating children and inspiring them to become responsible citizens will instead look to real subjects, which represent a genuine body of knowledge. Propaganda campaigns around the latest fashionable ‘value’ only distract children from learning. Values-led education has helped create a situation where children learn that the Holocaust was awful, but do not know which country suffered the greatest number of casualties during the Second World War. It will produce children who know that the slave trade was bad, but who are ignorant about how the right to vote was won in Britain.

And they will learn in geography that we face human extinction, but will not be able to name the highest mountain in Europe. In other words they will be values-rich but uneducated.


British students to be disciplined for publishing Mohammed Cartoon

Cambridge University is in effect putting its behind up in the air and saying to the Muslims: "F**k me". Cambridge has of course long been a traitorous place. Post below lifted from Pub Philosopher

While the French establishment was leaping to the defence of Charlie Hebdo, the authorities at Clare College were considering taking disciplinary action against students who published one of the Mohammed cartoons in the college magazine. The magazine, Clareification, had been renamed Crucification for a special issue on religious satire.

According to the local paper, the student who wrote the piece containing the cartoon is in hiding and the college chaplain has met leaders of Cambridge University's Islamic society and local Imams in an attempt to reduce racial tension. 

This may just be a precaution but the college clearly has some concern that the cartoon might provoke a violent response from Muslims at the university or in the town.  Even so, most of the authorities' wrath has been directed at the students who produced the magazine. Clare College fellows have called for a Court of Discipline to be convened, something which has not happened for many years. Officials of the college, the students union and Cambridge University have queued up to condemn the publication of the cartoon.

Printing this cartoon may have been an irresponsible act but if you can't push the boundaries of free speech in an academic environment, where can you do it?  Universities are supposed to be places where people experiment, test ideas and think the unthinkable. If people are not free to defy conventions and make themselves unpopular in a university,  they will not be free to do so anywhere.  The university authorities should be saying that they disapprove of the cartoon and find it in poor taste but are nevertheless duty-bound to defend the students' right to publish it. 

The great and good in France may still appreciate the importance of defending free speech.  Cambridge University, the second oldest in the English speaking world, now seems to have other priorities.

Update: Local Muslim leaders have expressed outrage over the printing of the cartoon and are demanding public apologies from all the students involved.      


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, February 13, 2007

See No Jihad, Hear No Jihad: Determined censorship of the truth about Islamofascism in American universities

In a decision that reveals the state of denial on American campuses, the editorial board of the Georgica Tech student paper - The Georgia Tech Technique - has rejected an ad from the Terrorism Awareness Project warning students about the threat that radical Islam poses to America. Nor is it the first campus publication to chill open debate on radical Islamic terrorism. Entitled "What Americans Need To Know About Jihad," the ad warns students that "the goal of jihad is world domination," and that "Jihad's battle cry is `Death to America.'" The ad includes quotes from several radical Islamic leaders, such as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has declared, "Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute. Death to America. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide."

The Technique ad department initially accepted the ad and processed payment for it. But then the editors got a hold of it and killed the deal. When asked to explain why the ad was rejected, an editor at the Technique declared that it was "hateful," "offensive," and "misleading." In particular, the editor was upset that the ad draws a connection between Islamic radicals and the Nazis. This complaint refers to the pamphlet titled The Nazi Roots of Palestinian Nationalism and Islamic Jihad, which is advertised in the ad. The pamphlet describes the role that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the universally recognized father of Palestinian nationalism, played as a follower of Adolf Hitler during WWII. When a representative from TAP offered to alter the ad, the Technique replied that everything in it was offensive and no alteration would help.

"The Technique's rejection of this ad reveals exactly why the Terrorism Awareness Project is needed on America's campuses," commented TAP National Coordinator Stephen Miller, who is currently a senior at Duke University. "Universities and Middle East Studies Departments turn a blind eye to the threat of radical Islam, resulting in ignorance and denial. The editors of the Technique claimed that our ad was `hateful' and `misleading,' and refused to print it even if it were limited to actual quotes from radical Islamic leaders. In other words, the Techique's editors are simply trying to suppress the truth about the radical Islamic threat."

The Technique is one of 15 college newspapers which have so far been approached about running the TAP ad. Several other universities-including Purdue, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan-have rejected the ad, some without providing any reason for its rejection.

Jeffrey Wienir, who has been responsible for placing the ad in many of campus newspapers across the nation, also handled rejection calls. "When they reject the ad, I begin asking piece-by-piece: `What can we change to make the ad acceptable for your publication? What if we remove this, or that?'"

The editors, he said, usually branded the ad "hateful" and "misleading," without specifying any change that could be made. One campus newspaper told Wienir it refused to run the article, because it feared those scanning the ad might think it was a pro-jihad organization (which does not speak well of the educational level of its students). Another said, incredibly, that any description of Islam would be misleading, because it was "not produced by a member of that group-as if I couldn't speak about jihad unless I was a jihadist."

The TAP ad has been accepted for publication at a number of universities, including some of the most left-wing (and pro-Palestinian) campuses in the country: San Francisco State University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Duke University.

TAP has also produced a short flash video entitled The Islamic Mein Kampf, which documents the genocidal agendas of Islamic radicals like Iranian president Mahmoud Achmadinejdad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The video was distributed to more than 850,000 individuals across America this week, including the entire liberal arts faculties of several universities.

The Terrorism Awareness Project (TAP) is a new national program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. It was launched this week to alert the American public-and particularly American college students-to the threat posed by radical Islam. The TAP ad and video clip can be viewed on the program's website at


Australia: Federal Leftist leader echoes conservative tough talk on teachers

Despite all the contempt heaped on him by journalists and "intellectuals", Australia's unassuming conservative Prime Minister still sets the agenda for political debate. The great lack of anything original to say on the Left helps, of course

Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has thrown down the gauntlet to teachers' unions, calling for sharp improvements in school performance.

Echoing the sentiments of the Government on the quality of curriculums and reporting standards, Mr Rudd told a conference of Labor's National Left in Canberra yesterday he was prepared for a fight to get his way: "This may result in resistance from some teachers' unions,' Mr Rudd said. "I understand this, but I will not be signing blank cheques unless we can improve the quality of what we teach our children.

Mr Rudd's speech was a clear attempt to demonstrate his conservative credentials on school standards -- an issue Prime Minister John Howard has nominated as a priority for his Government in the rundown to the end-of-year federal election.

"This is like walking into the lion's den," one senior Rudd aide said yesterday, describing the Opposition Leader's decision to take on the unions.

Mr Rudd said teachers were "dedicated professionals (who) deserve our support -- not our condemnation". "But I am deeply concerned about how we go about in practical terms lifting curriculum standards, curriculum outcomes and the resources necessary to achieve those ends. "It is not just about investing more in education but also in improving the quality of our education outcomes". [words cribbed from the Prime Minister!] "This means taking on the hard questions of curriculum standards and resources. This will involve a contract between ourselves and the education sector -- to boost our national investment but in exchange for better, measurable curriculum outcomes for our young people."

Queenlsland parents and teachers groups have hit back at Mr Howard's plan for a national curriculum. The Prime Minister last week cranked up his campaign to reform the state-based education systems, labelling some curriculums "incomprehensible sludge". His comments have been dismissed by the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations and the Queensland Teachers' Union.

"From a parental point of view, there are some real benefits in leaving the system as it is," P&C council operations manager Greg Donaldson said. 'We have one of the best curricula in Australia and we have a good say in what is being taught in schools. Parents would have less say in these things if it was done from Canberra."

QTU president Steve Ryan said attacks by Mr Howard and Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop on state schools were really about industrial relations. The big picture here is a push to get teachers on to Australian Workplace Agreements."

The above report by GLENN MILNE and DARYL PASSMORE appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on February 11, 2007

Australia: Leftist State government goes elitist in its need to train more doctors

Leftists usually think that they are the elite and everybody else must be levelled down: Elitism for me but not for thee

A new super state school will prepare gifted students to be the doctors and dentists of the future. Education Minister Rod Welford said the school, to be based on the Gold Coast, would give students access to experts and facilities at the state-of-the-art Griffith University Parklands campus. It will be built beside the Gold Coast's second public hospital, which also is part of the Griffith campus, becoming Queensland's third "super school". It follows the opening in Brisbane of the Science Maths and Technology Academy at Toowong and the Creative Industries Academy at Kelvin Grove. Like those schools, the new academy will select students in Years 10 to 12 on the basis of an entrance exam later this year. Year 11 and 12 students will complete the International Baccalaureate rather than follow the state syllabus to get an OP score.

Mr Welford said the International Baccalaureate's focus on science would suit the college, which would have an emphasis on health sciences. Students would be likely to go on to study courses such as medicine, dentistry, radiography, physiotherapy and biomedical science at university. He expected several hundred students to enrol in the first year. "It will broaden the options available to Gold Coast students and will also be accessible to those in Beenleigh and Logan and even the southern suburbs of Brisbane," Mr Welford said. "The Gold Coast campus of Griffith, with more than 13,000 students, is the fastest growing university in the state."

Griffith University vice-chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor said the Health Science Academy would benefit from its proximity to the university's health science schools and research facilities. These include the Institute for Glycomics, headed by Professor Mark von Itzstein, an Australia Prize winner for his efforts in developing the anti-influenza drug, Relenza.

Griffith Deputy vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar said the students would have the chance to work with academic staff, especially on tasks such as the 4000-word project that was part of the International Baccalaureate. Under that program, each student does English, maths, at least one and often two science subjects, a foreign language and a choice of psychology or business, with the Creative Industries Academy offering subjects such as drama, film, art or music instead of the second science.

Mr Welford said the Gold Coast Academy, which would be beside Griffith University's student accommodation, would also offer Year 8 and 9 students the chance to undertake school holiday science courses to see what opportunities the subject had to offer.



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, February 12, 2007


It looks like a rich company has got a lot of congresscritters in its pocket

With lots of fanfare, Congress recently made student loans slightly less expensive for future students. But they completely ignored the biggest abuses in the student loan program, abuses that make student loans the most lucrative to collect and the most onerous debts to carry. The process can be so bad for borrowers that Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren told the Wall Street Journal, "student loan debt collectors have power that would make a mobster envious." And no one makes the mobsters greener than Al Lord and his Student Loan Marketing Corporation, the largest student loan provider in the country. It's also known as Sallie Mae - one of the most profitable companies in America.

As the founder of the largest student loan borrower group in America, Student Loan Justice recently began our nationwide tour to reform student loan abuses by visiting the offices of Congressman David Wu in Portland. Wu will be among a handful of congressional leaders who will reform student loans.

The problem with student loans began ten years ago when Congress privatized student loans, largely through a strange arrangement with Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae assumed all the rewards, but the federal government took all the risks. In addition to legislating draconian collection powers, outlawing bankruptcy protection and imposing huge penalties for delinquent debt, Sallie Mae convinced Congress to outlaw re-financing and other forms of competition for student loans. With these powers and protection from competition, Sallie Mae's stock price increased nearly 2000 percent in 10 years, with its robust profits coming from collecting penalties on defaulted student loans. Meanwhile, the borrowers suffer.

Student Loan Justice ( has received thousands of stories from citizens whose lives have been shattered by their student loans. These stories are from decent citizens who have been forced to live off the grid, had their livelihoods taken away, been forced to postpone marriage and children. Some have gone so far as fleeing the country and committing suicide.

Such borrowers quickly find themselves unable to function in society, and are faced with a decision to either continue the paralysis and live in fear, or begin making payments on a massively inflated amount - often three or four times more than what they originally borrowed. That is why Student Loan Justice is working to:

1. Pass legislation which allows borrowers who have been in default for 5 years or more to repay what the government paid for their loan (which includes principal plus interest), and get on with their lives.

2. Give borrowers the right to refinance their debt with lenders willing to give better terms.

3. Ban "school as lender" programs, where universities steer students to certain lenders due to financial incentives. In the business world, that is called kickbacks.

4. Return standard consumer protections to student loans.

5. Make student loan repayments tax deductible

Almost all of these steps could be accomplished with Senator Hillary Clinton's Student Borrower Bill of Rights. The present situation is not what Congress intended when it created the student loan program, and Congress must undo the program if we are ever to make student loans a stepping stone for middle class opportunity - not a cash cow for Sallie Mae. As one of the most influential members of the Education Committee, Congressman Wu is in a unique and important position to restore sanity and equity to the student loan program. That is what we need him to do.


More academic corruption in Australia

This sort of thing -- lowering standards to preserve fee-paying enrolments -- is an old story in Australia. Protesters such as the guy below are the saviours of Australian academic standards and should be praised and encouraged, not harried. The shortsightedness of the administrators who are endeavouring to destroy the asset they depend on -- the reputation of their university -- is incredible

A leading Queensland academic quit his university post in disgust after being told to pass fee-paying overseas students he had intended to fail. The academic, who asked not to be named, said he refused to pass the students attending a Queensland university last year, even though he was put under "enormous pressure" from senior academic staff. "I was told, in no uncertain terms, to pass some particular students, who in my opinion, had not met the standards required – not by a long shot," he said. "To pass the subject, there were several components: an exam, an essay and a practical assessment, none of which these students had passed. "They had not even come close to passing. "If it were a mark out of 100, I would have given them a five and yet I was told to somehow get them through."

His claims came after a recent report by Monash University demographer Bob Birrell in Melbourne which found more than one-third of overseas uni students were graduating with a lower standard of English than what was required. But Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop challenged the findings and has asked anyone with evidence of favouritism towards full fee-paying students to come forward. "This is a very serious allegation and I want to see the evidence: which universities, which professors, which courses," Ms Bishop said.

The academic said he believed a cash-for-degrees culture was growing at all Queensland tertiary institutions, due to Federal Government budget cuts. "What happened to me is by no means an isolated incident," he said. "I have spoken to many other academics and they have had similar experiences."

National Tertiary Education Union Queensland secretary Margaret Lee supported the academic's claims. "The National Tertiary Union is certainly aware members are under enormous pressure," she said. "There is anecdotal evidence that some members have felt pressured, either directly or indirectly, to ensure high pass rates for their international students. "They are told that a fall in international student numbers would pose income difficulties for their university." Ms Lee said that, on average, Queensland universities received 18 per cent of their income from international student fees.


Australia: Federal call for a return to quality education

Article below by Federal education minister Julie Bishop

There is no doubt that education plays a key role in the economic and social fabric of any society. Early childhood education and our primary schools should provide fundamental skills, such as literacy and numeracy. Students at secondary school should develop more advanced but equally valuable skills, such as greater initiative and analytical abilities.

Vocational education should provide skills and knowledge that are specifically required for various occupations. And our universities not only equip graduates with skills for the professions and industry but also create new knowledge to underpin our economic prosperity and international competitiveness. But our education system is not only about personal attainment. It is also a driver of economic growth directly related to the quality of the education students receive.

Quality is the key determinant in education's contribution to economic growth. The determinants of economic growth, for example, were analysed in a study of 100 countries, including Australia, from 1960 to 1995 by Harvard researcher Robert J. Barro. His research found that the quality of education was far more important than quantity when looking at the impact on economic growth.

At the heart of this debate about quality is the decline in academic standards in our school systems. This is the new frontier of the education debate. The quality of our teachers is critical. After parents, teachers are the most important determinant in educational outcomes for school students. Our teachers are a precious national resource. They should be respected and rewarded for their significant role in educating our children.

But like other professionals they deserve career incentives. That is why I am developing options for greater consistency in professional development for teachers as well as calling on the states to provide higher salaries, with an element of performance or merit-based pay and greater workplace flexibility. For example, we should be rewarding teachers who work in our most disadvantaged schools and achieve outstanding results, or specialist teachers such as in science or maths. But let us focus on what our schools are being asked to teach our students.

I am concerned that students, teachers and parents are being let down as many aspects of school education get hijacked by teachers unions and state education bureaucrats. This has led to the role of teachers being redefined from someone who teaches a syllabus to someone who facilitates; many children lacking basic numeracy and literacy skills; parents lacking meaningful feedback about the performance of their child and their school. Instead of learning basic facts in subjects such as history, children are being taught according to an ideological agenda. And the values and discipline parents teach at home are not being reinforced at school.

The problem is the growing number of students at the tail end who don't have the fundamental skills to even hold down a job. A growing number of remedial English and maths classes are being offered by the nation's universities and other tertiary institutions to bring first year, and in some cases PhD, students up to appropriate English standards. Employer groups have reported that school and university graduates lack generic skills such as grammar. In terms of literacy and numeracy, recent reports of statistics, such as those released in my home state of Western Australia, reveal that about one in five students who completed Year 7 last year are functionally illiterate, that is, failing to meet national benchmark standards in reading, writing and spelling.

We are already making our funding for the states and territories conditional on a number of areas of reform: plain-English report cards and making more school performance information publicly available. With commonwealth funding of $1.8 billion going directly to the states for literacy and numeracy standards, we have established national benchmarks in literacy and numeracy in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The first national assessments will be carried out next year.

Literacy and numeracy skills are not a "tired old cliche" as Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford said recently. These skills are the fundamental, the essential, the enduring foundations for an educated society. Yet the study of English, for example, is not compulsory in the senior secondary years in Queensland. When the issue of compulsory teaching of English is raised, Welford defends this by saying that most senior students take English anyway.

What he doesn't reveal is the level of English those students take. Students can elect to study standard English, English extension (literature) or an English communication subject, or none at all. Standard English is the subject we would expect every student to take, and which would meet community expectations. English literature is more advanced, but English communication is the soft option. It is a disturbing fact that between 1992 and 2005, the number of students studying standard English or English literature dropped from 93 per cent to 80 per cent of Year 12 students, while the number of students studying English communication rose from 6per cent to almost 20 per cent of Year 12 English students. The number of Year 12 students studying soft option English in Queensland went from 2376 to 8494 a year, almost tripling in a decade and a half.

The teaching of English is essential in primary and secondary schools and must include not only reading and comprehension but spelling, punctuation and grammar. On leaving school students must have the ability to not only express themselves orally but also to write comprehensible prose. I note that in some states SMS messaging is part of a tertiary entrance English course. Apart from the fact students know more about the language of texting than their teachers, it will not help a student write a CV for a job or a letter to customers.

We see similar trends in science and mathematics where students are choosing to study, if at all, the soft options of these important subjects. Research shows that the study of science and mathematics and the acquisition of these skills is fundamental to the ongoing economic prosperity of a nation. We must capture the imagination of students on the wonders of science and mathematics early, and ensure that they have the skills to continue to study in these areas in Years 11 and 12. Otherwise they will not go on to university and take up careers based on science or mathematics.

Now is the time for the states and territories to put aside their parochial differences. With an increasingly mobile work force, we must put the interests of parents and students first, for their interests coincide with the national interest.



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, February 11, 2007

Only in Kannada, eh?

Hostility to private school superiority and the English language is destructive

You’ve probably never heard of Kannada – the native language spoken by 7 out of 10 Karnatakans. You’ve probably never heard of Karnataka either. But there’s a good chance you’ll chat with a Karnatakan if your iPod ever locks up or you have trouble installing the new Windows Vista operating system. That’s because Karnataka is the Indian state whose capital city, Bangalore, is "the back office to the world." Bangalore is awash in call centers for Western companies such as Apple and Microsoft, boasts over 200 high tech companies of its own, and is reported to enjoy the highest number of engineering colleges of any city on Earth.

But if an Indian court doesn’t step in soon, the out-sourcing capital of the world may put itself out of work. As of this April, the government of Karnataka will force 2,000 private elementary schools – enrolling nearly 300,000 students – to shut down. Their crime? Teaching in English instead of Kannada.

Bangalore’s incredible success in the information technology field stems not just from its wealth of skilled workers, or the lower cost of employing them relative to U.S. or Canadian workers, but from the fact that so many are fluent in English. And that’s a skill they are likely to have picked up in private schools. English is the mother tongue of only a tiny fraction of Indian citizens, and public schools use regional native languages (like Kannada) for the majority of instruction. English is relegated to a separate course, usually not taught until the later grades.

But, as many Canadians have discovered, teaching a second language as just one course in the curriculum is less effective at promoting fluency than immersion programs that teach all subjects in the second language. Many Indians have discovered the same thing. So, dissatisfied with the performance of public schools and their lack of English immersion programs, Indian parents have fueled the growth of a vast private education sector that teaches primarily or exclusively in English. In parts of India, the majority of students are now enrolled in private schools – even in some of the country’s poorest urban slums.

Karnataka’s ban on these schools is technically the result of a 1994 court ruling – a decision that remained unenforced until last September. But, in the wake of increasingly vigorous and finally successful lobbying on the part of Kannada language activists, the trigger was finally pulled. There is no question as to why the government dragged its feet for so long on enforcing the ruling. If the crackdown on these schools succeeds, the English-fluent high-tech labor pool will gradually drain away and the sucking sound of jobs leaving Bangalore will be audible all the way to North America.

In fact, that’s a lesson that Kannada activists could learn from… Canada. In a fascinating 2004 study of interprovincial migration, geographer Kao-Lee Liaw showed that non-Francophones were five times more likely to emigrate to another province if they lived in Quebec than if they lived in Ontario. And there’s no end in sight. A new report from the Association for Canadian Studies finds that, in 2006, Quebec incurred its single largest net population loss since 2000.

Given that attracting and retaining skilled immigrants is an important ingredient to sustained economic growth, the effects of this non-Francophone exodus are inevitable. Quebec’s economy consistently lags those of Ontario, Canada, and the United States. In fact, Quebec's per capita income ranks 54th in North America—behind all but two U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

It is impossible to precisely apportion blame for this dismal performance between Quebec’s economic policies and its English-hostile language law, but there is certainly enough blame to go around.

Fortunately, just as Karnataka seems poised to repeat Quebec’s mistake, there is a glimmer of hope. This week, the New Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society launched an India-wide school choice campaign. The ultimate aim of that campaign is to make the option of independent schooling universally affordable, letting families, not judges or bureaucrats, decide how children will be educated.

So these are the dueling visions of Karnataka’s – and perhaps India’s – educational future. Forcibly ban English as the primary medium of instruction because it is viewed by some as a threat to native languages and a legacy of colonial government oppression (is there a word for irony in Kannada?), or make it possible for all parents to decide what sort of education is best for their children – public or private, English, Kannada, or some other language altogether.



The Iranian education system is preparing its students for a global war against the West in the name of Islam, according to an independent study of 115 textbooks and teachers guides released today. With Tehran accused of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and the United States dispatching a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, the report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace highlights the uphill task Washington faces trying to persuade Iranian youth to distance themselves from the hard-line Islamist regime.

The study, which claims to be the first of its kind, catalogs how pupils as young as 9 are conditioned to take part in a global jihad against such "infidel oppressors" as Israel and the United States. "Hate indoctrination is a professed goal of Iranian textbooks," said the report's author, Arnon Groiss, a Princeton- and Harvard-educated journalist who also has written critical studies of the Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian education systems.

According to Mr. Groiss, Iranian pupils learn from an early age that the Islamic republic is in mortal combat with Western powers bent on its destruction. One 11th-grade textbook, quoting former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, refers to the United States and its allies as "the World Devourers" and says that if they "wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them."

Students are drilled for battle from age 12, when they are obliged to take defense-readiness classes, according to the study by the Israel-based nongovernmental organization. Some also are drafted into the Revolutionary Guard and other elite combat units, where they are taught how to handle shoulder-propelled rocket launchers, the study says.

Through stories, poems, wills and exercises, martyrdom is glorified as a means of defending the Islamic republic and attaining eternal happiness, the report says. A Grade 10 textbook on "defense readiness" boasts that during the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, half a million students were sent to the front and "36,000 martyrs ... were offered to the Islamic Revolution."

Describing Iran's school system as a "global war curriculum," Mr. Groiss said the emphasis on military training from such a young age instilled a "siege mentality" among many students. "It is a form of child abuse to install such notions in children's minds," he told journalists at a briefing in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Israel, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has said should be "wiped off the map," is not recognized in atlases and is portrayed as a danger to Islamic states.

More here

PM Howard on education reform:

The Australian Prime Minister is heavily pushing the restoration of educational standards

For a long time, the education debate focused almost exclusively on inputs and quantity - on money spent, student-teacher ratios and the like. This was the territory staked out and defended fiercely by the state education bureaucracies, curriculum designers and the teachers' unions. One of our achievements has been to open up the debate and to focus it on quality. Our great challenge as a nation is to improve the quality of Australia's education system. Schools reform centres on three key areas:

* GREATER choice and accountability;

* HIGHER standards; and

* MORE national consistency.

These are the foundations of a quality education system. Many of the fads and politically-correct fashions that have found their way into our schools undermine the quality of education. When Big Brother or a text message jostles with Shakespeare and classical literature for a place in the English curriculum, we rob children of their cultural inheritance.

By obfuscating the need for teachers to impart specific knowledge and for rigorous testing of achievement, we rob children, especially disadvantaged ones, of the one proven path to individual achievement and social mobility. And by denying parents clear statements of their child's performance we are letting new-age fads get in the way of genuine accountability.

Few debates are as vital as those over education, whether it be in upholding basic standards on literacy and numeracy, promoting diversity and choice, or challenging the incomprehensible sludge that can find its way into some curriculum material.

I am an unabashed supporter of choice for parents. I am a product of the government education system in Australia. I believe in a strong, well-funded and academically rigorous government school system. Yet I am a staunch defender of the right of parents to send their children to non-government schools and to have government support for that choice.

Choice has intrinsic value in a free society, especially in an area like education where we are dealing with the most important decision parents have to make - their child's future.

I am also an unabashed supporter of competitive examinations, teacher-directed lessons and the importance of academic disciplines. I make no apologies for the fact that the Commonwealth has played a role in pushing the states and territories on to higher ground on issues like standards, testing and "Plain English" report cards in our schools. High standards can only be achieved if teachers have clear road maps as to the knowledge and concepts to impart. Formal competitive examinations are essential to assessing what a child has learned.

And there is something both deadening and saccharine in curriculum documents where history is called "time, continuity and change", and geography becomes "place, space and environment". Experiments like "outcomes-based education" not only short-change parents and children, they also put unjustified demands on teachers, with jargon-ridden curriculum statements leaving teachers overwhelmed when it comes to what must be taught and what standards of student achievement are expected.

I also have serious concerns about the way in which the teaching of English has been allowed in some cases to drift into a relativist wasteland - where students are asked to deconstruct "texts" using politically-correct theories in contrast with the traditional view that great literature has something profound to say about the human condition.

There is, of course, a degree of irony in some recent comments about the need for an education revolution in this country. The key point is this - the Labor Party (leg-roped as it is to its allies in the teachers' unions) is very much a "Johnny-come-lately" to the cause of commonsense education reform in support of parental choice, higher standards and sound curricula. It was this Government's schools policy in 1996 - opposed by Labor - which really opened up choice for Australian parents by facilitating the huge expansion in low-fee independent schools.

It was David Kemp more than anyone who campaigned to put testing of basic literacy and numeracy on the national agenda. It was Brendan Nelson who fought to ensure that Australian parents are given Plain English report cards. And now Julie Bishop is taking forward a new wave of school reforms in the areas of national consistency, higher curriculum standards, principal autonomy and teacher quality. Our goal is simple: we don't want uniformity, but we do want nationwide high standards in schools to ensure every Australian student receives the best possible foundation in core subjects.



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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