Saturday, June 30, 2007

Black Activists Applaud Supreme Court Ruling Against Racial Preferences

Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the use of racial preferences in public school admissions is being hailed by members of the Project 21 black leadership network as a necessary step in breaking down existing racial resentment and promoting true equal access to educational opportunity.

"It's refreshing that the Supreme Court decided race-based admission standards are unconstitutional," said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. "Racial quotas are harmful because they reinforce resentment towards minorities and increases racial tensions. Parental judgment and educational needs should be the basis for choosing what schools children should attend."

The ruling combined two cases: Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (Washington) and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (Louisville, Kentucky). In the Seattle case, school administrators implemented an enrollment quota of 40 percent white and 60 percent minority in each high school to reflect the racial makeup of the overall student body. In Louisville, all schools must have between 15 percent and 50 percent black enrollment, forcing parents to rank which schools they would prefer their children to attend. In both cases, there are students who must travel great distances to get to the schools selected for them.



For non-Brits: British government bodies are often accused of "fudging" an issue. We even hear of "a typical British fudge". The term means something like "an evasive compromise", "handling a dilemma by vagueness" or "concealing what is really going on by vague or misleading words". It might not be too unkind to describe the whole of British politics as one big fudge. I doubt that the word is capable of precise definition but precision is, after all, anathema to it. At any event, it is an essential word for those who claim any insight into British affairs

Government claims of improved examination performance are based on lower test standards, according to an end-of-term report on Tony Blair’s education record as Prime Minister. The school curriculum has been narrowed, and teachers are being forced to teach only for the next tests, say Anastasia de Waal and Nicholas Cowen, authors of the study by the right-wing think-tank Civitas.

“Better results in our schools give no assurance of better-educated pupils. They often signify worse educated pupils,” the report concludes. Ms de Waal said that Mr Blair had failed in his aim of closing the gap in achievement between rich and poor children because his emphasis on league tables and targets had broken the link between achievement and learning. The Government had become sidetracked by structural reforms and innovations. “The Government is not allowing teachers to have the autonomy to teach. If we really wanted to see better standards, we would leave the teachers alone — they are suffering from initiative overload,” she added.

The report cited research from Robert Coe, of the University of Durham’s School of Education, that found evidence of grade inflation at A level. Dr Coe compared the A-level results of students with verbal and mathematical reasoning test results, and found that a candidate given an F in A-level mathematics in 1988 would, on average, get a C in 2005. Students of average ability in 1988 gained E grades in geography and biology and Ds in English literature, history and French. In 2005 teenagers of similar ability were awarded C grades in all six subjects.

At GCSE, grades had also been inflated, the Civitas report claimed, largely because of the increasing numbers of students taking vocational qualifications that the Government deemed equivalent to four GCSEs.

The report also questioned the validity of primary school test results. It noted that, in Year Six, for four months normal teaching was discarded for nearly half the time and pupils were coached for national curriculum SATs.

John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, disputed the report’s explanation of A-level grades. “Teachers have got better at coaching students for exams. The modular system of A levels has also helped to raised achievement because it means that pupils don’t have to learn everything for last-minute tests,” 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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Friday, June 29, 2007

University reform in France

President Sarkozy is preparing for battle with France’s rebellious students and education establishment over his plan to revamp a crumbling university system. Under threat of a summer student uprising, he told the heads of the country’s 85 universities that he was taking charge of a draft law that lays the groundwork for the first significant reform in decades. He has shunted aside Valerie Pecresse, his Higher Education Minister, and Francois Fillon, the Prime Minister, to direct proceedings himself.

Students’ and teachers’ unions are planning protests of the kind that have repeatedly forced French governments to retreat if Mr Sarkozy tries to promote “un-French” practices in higher education. These include entrance selection, fees, private funding and competition among universities. There is, however, public acceptance that, with their 41 per cent drop-out rate and abysmal world ranking, French universities are in dire need of reform. Laurence Parisot, the head of Medef, the French Employers’ Federation, calls them “the shame of our nation”.

Jean-Robert Pitte, the reform-minded president of the Sorbonne division of Paris University, said: “It is a miracle that France is still the world’s fifth-largest [economic] power considering its weak investment in higher education.”

One of the most flagrant ills is the neglect of the rigorously egalitarian facultes, or universities, in favour of a handful of highly selective grandes ecoles. The lavishly funded grandes ecoles, which include Sciences Po, the political sciences institute in Paris, and the Ecole Polytechnique, groom the brightest 4 per cent of students to run business, industry, the state and the media. Middle-class parents yearn to place their offspring in such colleges and dread their relegation to la fac, including those with old names such as Sorbonne. About 1.5 million students are registered at the universities, which are open to all who hold a baccalaureat school-leavers’ certificate.

Liberation, the newspaper that was founded by Maoists in the 1968 student revolt, noted yesterday that the universities are so decrepit that some academics are ashamed to show foreign colleagues around their premises.

In something of a revolution, Mr Sarkozy and Mr Fillon attended universities and their Cabinet has fewer graduates from the elite grande ecoles than any administration since the early 1960s. Mr Sarkozy regards the revamp of the antiquated education system as one of the most urgent, but also potentially explosive, tasks in his drive to revive France. “You cannot keep on saying that the 21st will be the knowledge century and leave our university system in a state of neglect because it is too politically dangerous to reform,” the President told MPs from his centre-right camp last week.

His Bill, due to be published next week, will grant self-management to universities that wish it. This will enable them to manage assets and budgets, recruit staff and design courses – all of which have long been controlled by the state. Mr Sarkozy wants the universities to create partnerships with research institutions and seek finance in addition to the 50 billion euros that he has promised over five years. Student representation on university boards is to be heavily cut. Most of university chiefs favour the reforms in outline but they have told Mr Sarkozy that they are alarmed over what they see as his haste.

The main unions are furiously opposed, seeing autonymous universities as the “Americanisation” of French traditions. “They want to impose on us an antidemocratic system that will confiscate . . . the values of collegiality and equality,” Jean Fabri, the secretary-general of Snesup-FSU, the biggest lecturers’ union, said yesterday. “The Government wants to set the universities in competition among themselves while relinquishing its responsibilities,” he said. “It’s an aberrant and dangerous vision.” Bruno Julliard, a students’ union leader whose 2005 protest movement ended the political career of Dominique de Villepin, the former Prime Minister, wrote to Mr Sarkozy telling him that he faced an all-out battle. “Do not doubt our determination,” Mr Julliard said.

The Socialist Opposition has been showing confusion, deploring Mr Sarkozy’s methods but accepting the need for reform. Francois Hollande, the party leader, said: “Everyone should get together to put French universities into the category of excellence without rushing and incomprehension.”


Teachers don't want to be assessed in Australia either

People in business prosper or go under according to their performance but any shadow of such constraint is too much for our lordly teachers. "Just give us more money" is their refrain

HUNDREDS of teachers rallied in Brisbane today in protest against federal workplace laws and plans for performance-based salaries. Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) spokesman Steve Ryan said delegates to the union's annual conference were met by teachers on school holidays from across the state. About 500 teachers marched from the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre to nearby South Bank for the rally.

Mr Ryan said members were angry at the Government's industrial relations laws, standardised testing of students and performance-based pay for teachers, which was outlined by Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop in April. They were also angry about what he said was underfunding of state schools and TAFE institutions, saying the issues could have a backlash in the lead-up to the federal election.

"We oppose the mixing of industrial relations policies with education," Mr Ryan said. "We will continue to campaign in the context of the federal election, through an industrial-based viewpoint and in an educational sense opposing the policies of the Federal Government." Mr Ryan said performance-based pay did not take into account the workload issues or professional responsibilities which teachers faced and were not a true reflection of what they were worth.

Ms Bishop has threatened to withhold $3 billion in commonwealth education funding if the states refuse to allow performance-pay for state school teachers from 2009. The Federal Government also wants principals to be able to hire and fire teachers, which the union says will destroy the state-based transfer teacher system.


Australian history students may skip the most hallowed events in Australian history

HIGH school students would be able to avoid studying Gallipoli and the Anzacs under the draft Australian history curriculum prepared as a result of last year's history summit. The draft for high school history, obtained by The Australian, also overlooks the achievements of the Hawke-Keating governments and theeconomic reforms of the past 25 years.

A four-member committee that includes controversial historian Geoffrey Blainey and social commentator Gerard Henderson will now review the curriculum for the federal Government, and develop a national Australian history curriculum for Years9 and 10. The Government's refusal to release the draft curriculum has prompted speculation among historians that John Howard intervened in the process and appointed Dr Henderson to ensure his more traditional view of history teaching prevailed.

Historians questioned Dr Henderson's qualifications for the role, and said his appointment suggested the Prime Minister found the draft curriculum - written by Tony Taylor, Monash University professor and head of the National Centre for History Education - too progressive. "This group might see Professor Taylor's draft as not traditional enough and not prescriptive enough and therefore they have been put into position to force the draft into a shape that is more acceptable to the Prime Minister's office," one historian said. The vice-president of the Australian Historical Association, Martin Lyons, said Dr Henderson's inclusion on the committee was puzzling because "he has no experience for this task and his inclusion looks too much like an ideological statement". "He is there to push a certain political line," he said.

The draft curriculum was intended to provide a model for teaching Australian history in a sequential way through primary and high schools, from Years 3 to 10. For high school students, it is structured around 14 guiding questions based on 29 key dates and milestones covering 10 time periods, from the arrival of the first people in 40,000BC to 60,000BC to the late 20th century. Students would be required to study three of four pre-Federation questions, three of four post-Federation questions and two of six questions covering the entire period.

Of the four post-Federation questions, only one deals with Australia going to war and the nation's experience, leaving it open for teachers and students to choose the other three questions dealing with how Australia became a nation, who could be an Australian and the role governments play in improving the welfare of the people.

In the milestone events identified in the curriculum, the period entitled "Shaping Modern Australia" from 1967 to present names the constitutional referendum on Aborigines and the end of the White Australia policy; the protests against the Vietnam War in 1970-71; the dismissal of the Labor government in 1975; the 1992 Mabo judgment; and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Wollongong University professor of history and politics Gregory Melleuish - author of one of the background papers for the Australian History Summit - criticised the curriculum as providing a patchy view of the nation's history, particularly after World War II. Professor Melleuish said late 20th-century Australian history was presented as a series of social movements including republicanism, feminism and other rights, but was glaring in some of its omissions. "Why is the fall of the Whitlam government seen as one major event and the achievements of the Hawke-Keating governments not seen as counting for anything?" he said.

Also appointed to the review committee were ANU history fellow Nicholas Brown and the NSW school history inspector Jennifer Lawless. But NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca on Monday refused to allow Ms Lawless to participate further in the process. Mr Della Bosca questioned the suitability of Dr Henderson's appointment to the reference group, saying he was not a professional historian.

But Dr Henderson yesterday defended his inclusion, saying he had a PhD in political history and his "extensive list of publications" included two well-reviewed history books. "Della Bosca seems to hold the view that only tenured academics on taxpayer-subsidised campuses are entitled to be regarded as historians," he writes in The Australian today.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why has British social mobility declined?

For once I agree with Britain's famously Green/Left "Viewspaper", ironically called "The Independent". Their article below concludes that education is the key to social mobility and that British social mobility has declined from what it once was. They do not however go the extra step and face the fact that Britain's dumbed-down educational system MUST lead to reduced social mobility.

Only a high quality education for all or elite schools where selection is on ability only (which the Grammar schools once were) could give the capable children of the poor roughly equal opportunites to the children of the rich. The children of the rich will always go to good (mostly private) schools but the dumbing down of government schools in recent years has deprived the children of the poor of similar opportunities. The reduced social mobility in Britain in recent years is in fact GOOD EVIDENCE of the decay in British government-provided education.

But the Leftist fervour for equality was the aim of the dumbing down of government schooling in the first place. You cannot make everybody into high achievers so the only way to create some semblance of equality is to dumb everybody down to one low level. So the policy has succeeded in its aims. Those aims are not however consistent with giving full opportunity to the more capable children of the poor. Short of a Soviet-style red revolution, the present policies of equality in fact entrench existing social divisions

Why are we talking about social mobility?

New research confirms the image of Britain as a relatively rigid society. There is proportionately more chance that, if you're born poor in Britain, you'll stay poor. Academics, supported by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, have been following the changing fortunes of samples of children born in 1958 and in 1970. The group born earlier are doing relatively better in terms of "life chances": "Early indications are that the decline in social mobility for those growing up between the 1970s and 1980s reflects a strong episode of worsening social mobility that was not seen before or since. The trend of worsening has stopped, but the UK remains very low in the developed-world rankings and faces a serious challenge if social mobility is to be promoted."

Gordon Brown has made opportunity one of his themes, declaring in his leadership speech that: "Wherever we find opportunity denied, aspirations unfulfilled, potential unrealised; wherever and whenever we find injustice and unfairness, there we must be also - and it is our duty to act."

In the 1980s, the Conservatives were the party of social mobility; from Essex Man buying his council house and shares in the privatised utilities to the yuppies in the City. The Conservatives have recently become interested in the upwardly mobile again. They controversially changed their policy on grammar schools because they doubted their contribution to mobility. According to front bencher David Willetts, "stark figures" about declining mobility "have exposed our complacent belief that British society is inexorably becoming more socially mobile ... our schools are entrenching social advantage".

Both Tony Blair and the former Conservative prime minister, Michael Howard, talked about a "British dream", a version of the American dream, where a baby born in a log cabin can make it to the White House. The fact that the Conservative leader, David Cameron, is an Old Etonian, and has become popularly thought of as being fond of "hugging hoodies", has also prompted more interest in the issue.

What is social mobility?

Social mobility is the extent to which a child's social status can alter through the course of their life. It also relates to how easy it is for a child born to parents in one social class to wind up in another class. Social mobility, however, can exist side by side with vast differences in wealth (indeed, some claim such disparities amount to an incentive for the diasadvantaged). A society with equality of opportunity can be one where there is little "equality of outcome". In reality, societies that are less unequal in the first place tend to have fewer opportunities for individuals to leap class barriers.

How unequal are we?

In terms of income and wealth, we're more unequal than for decades, with the very rich (average incomes in excess of œ500,000) now pulling further away from the merely prosperous. In terms of equality of opportunity, if you were born in 1970 into the poorest quarter of the population, there's a 37 per cent chance you'll be staying there; for those born in 1958, there was only a 31 per cent chance of remaining in that stratum. But ...

Are we becoming more unequal?

Yes and no. We're no longer feudal, after all; the age of deference has long gone; women and ethnic minorities enjoy legal protections and there is, probably, less snobbery and prejudice around than before the Second World War. Sociologists have found that there has previously been little "long-range" mobility in Britain for people born between 1900 and 1960.

An Oxford University study reported that then only about 10 per cent of boys from working-class backgrounds ended up in the professional classes. Post-Second World War, the rise of the "meritocracy", much hyped in the 1960s, appears to have stalled. Although there was a decline in mobility between those born in 1958 and those born in 1970, matters did not get worse for children born through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s: "it appears that the downward trend in social mobility has halted."

Even so, while for those born in the early 1980s the gap narrowed between those staying on in education at age 16, inequality of access to university education has widened further. The proportion of people from the poorest fifth of families obtaining a degree has increased from 6 per cent to 9 per cent, but the graduation rates for the richest fifth have risen from 20 per cent to 47 per cent.

Measures such as SureStart, reforms in schools and child tax credits might have improved mobility since 1997, but it's too early to tell. Differences in life chances for people from different ethnic origins, reflected in their very different representation in the various social groups, persist strongly.

Immigrants to the UK have historically been downwardly mobile. Many first-generation Commonwealth migrants during the 20th century were forced to take manual jobs in the UK, having held white-collar positions in their country of birth. So most minority ethnic groups show high levels of children moving into a higher class than their parents, consistent with the idea that their parents suffered downward mobility on arrival in Britain.

Ethnic minorities are more likely to be socially mobile (in both directions) than the white population. Whereas 57 per cent of the white population were found not to be mobile in a census study, this dropped to 42 per cent for those of Indian origin and 37 per cent for Pakistanis, both groups seeing broadly equal rates of upward and downward mobility.

How does Britain compare internationally?

The Sutton Trust researchers found that the UK is bottom of the table of advanced countries for which there is data. Although the gap in opportunities between the rich and poor is similar in Britain and the US, in Britain those gaps are getting wider.

Does money matter?

Yes, but not as much as some might think. According to the Sutton Trust researchers, "While it is clear that family income differences between the rich and the poor do have a big impact on children's educational outcome, the estimated impact of income is modest relative to the large differences in attainment between children from richer and poorer families. Consequently, while reducing child poverty can have some benefits, policies to increase intergenerational mobility will need to focus on raising poorer children's attainment through targeted services and access to the best schools.

So what's the key to social mobility?

Education would seem to be the consensual answer, although there is huge disagreement on whether structures, standards or spending make the difference. The Sutton Trust study states: "The strength of the relationship between educational attainment and family income, especially for access to higher education, is at the heart of Britain's low mobility culture and what sets us apart from other European and North American countries." Common sense tell us that if the poorest children in the worst housing are sent to the worst schools then they're unlikely to prosper. On that, the academics and politicians seem to agree.


People born homosexual, say local school officials

Parents, doctors, ex-'gays' protest planned curriculum

The Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland has accomplished what science and medicine have been unable to confirm, simply declaring in its newly approved school curriculum for children that some babies are born homosexual.

Activists are appealing the decision, and former homosexuals are claiming discrimination due to the decision by the school board to pilot a controversial new sex education curriculum - against the advice of hundreds of practicing physicians in the county.

Developed by its own staff, the educational materials were given a test run in six schools in the county district at the 8th and 10th grade levels. Now they are supposed to be implemented in all schools soon. But since its decision on Jan. 9, the school board has drawn a barrage of criticism.

A strong opponent of the curriculum is Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, a non-profit Maryland-based group formed in response to the board's decision. According to its website, the group believes in the parental right to have "ultimate authority to guide the moral direction of their children without interference by an increasingly activist public school system."

Another organization leading the charge against the curriculum, "Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays," recently released a statement that, "According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological cause for homosexuality. But now the Montgomery County Board of Education has done what science and medicine could not do by declaring in its newly approved curriculum that homosexuality is 'innate' or inborn."

Unit 8:2 of the new 8th grade textbook includes a definition of innate from the 2006 edition of the Merriam Webster's Dictionary as meaning "determined by factors present in an individual from birth." The curriculum then instructs teachers to "Say to students, 'Sexual orientation is innate and a complex part of one's personality."

But the same text contradicts itself later when asking, "What causes sexual orientation? Almost certainly there is no single reason why some people are homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation results from an interaction of cognitive, environmental, and biological factors."

Parents and doctors object to the text as inaccurate, unscientific and discriminatory. The board received an objection to the material signed by more than 270 practicing physicians in Montgomery County, stating the information in the curriculum was inaccurate and possibly dangerous to students on the grounds that it did not disclose health risks associated with minority sexual behavior. The board did not return a WND message requesting comment.

PFOX lodged its complaints on the basis that the newly approved curriculum discriminates against ex-gays and, according to PFOX representative Peter Sprigg, it "fails to tell the students that specific sexual acts can be far more harmful to them than other sexual acts ... it fails to tell students that some individuals experience a change in sexual orientation in the course of their lives."

Legal issues are also involved. According to PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs, "The board's own policy states that citizen advisory committees are required by Maryland law in order 'to ensure that local school boards will be informed by a variety of opinions from citizens.' The school board placed a PFOX representative on the committee in order to receive viewpoints from all segments of the community, yet our input to the board is continually blocked by gay activist groups and others who serve on this committee and deny equality for ex-gays. The committee has failed to serve its purpose."

WND has documented a number of earlier cases in which educators have been shown to be promoting a homosexual lifestyle to children. Just a week earlier, WND reported California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, under whose supervision hundreds of thousands of children are being educated, has used his state position and taxpayer-funded stationery to praise a "gay" pride event that has been used in the past to expose children to sexually explicit activities. That drew vehement objections from several, including Priscilla Schreiber, the president of the Grossmont Unified High School District governing board. "I am outraged that a person in this high-ranking elected position would advocate an event where diversity is not just being celebrated but where pornography and indecent exposure is being perpetrated on the young and innocent children of our communities," she said.

WND also covered the issue when officials in Boulder, Colo., held a seminar for students where they were told to "have sex," including same-sex experiences, and "take drugs." Another school event promoted homosexuality to students while banning parents, and at still another, WND reported school officials ordered their 14-year-old freshman class into a "gay" indoctrination seminar after having them sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to tell their parents.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hijacking education in Britain

From global warming alarmism dressed up as Geography to 'happiness teaching' through yoga: the classroom has been hijacked by zealous campaigners who care little for pedagogy

Over the past two decades, the school curriculum in Britain has become estranged from the challenge of educating children. Pedagogic problems still influence official deliberations on the national curriculum, of course. But increasingly, educational matters are being subordinated to the imperative of social engineering and political expediency.

As I write this essay I receive word that the Equal Opportunities Commission has just dispatched 40 pages of guidance to head teachers and governors in England about how they should go about tackling inequality between the sexes. The guideline, The Gender Equality Duty, is the product of an imagination that regards the curriculum as principally a political instrument for changing attitudes and behaviour. `The gender equality duty presents a fantastic opportunity for schools to make a coordinated effort to tackle inequality and ensure that all pupils are able to fully achieve their potential' declares the Commission. (1)

Instructions to schools about how to close the gender gap compete with directives that outline how children should be taught to become more sensitive to cultural differences. Everyone with a fashionable cause wants a piece of the curriculum. The former national chair of the Professional Association of Teachers wants pupils to `learn about nappies' and has demanded the introduction of compulsory parenting classes for 14- to 16-year-olds. (2) Others insist that teachers spend more time talking to their class about sex or relationships or climate change or healthy eating or drugs or homophobia or Islamophobia.

The school curriculum has become a battleground for zealous 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 recent 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, the current education secretary, is a very busy man. Not only is he introducing global warming studies, he has also made the instruction 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 the task of transmitting the latest fashionable cause or value. Johnson is indifferent to the slave trade as part of an academic discipline with its own integrity; rather he sees slave trade studies as a vehicle for promoting his version of a multicultural Britain. `This is about ensuring young people understand what it means to be British today' (3), 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, learned crucial parenting skills and feel very British, they'll be taught how and why to lose weight. A curriculum devoted to a total makeover has little energy left for dealing with such secondary issues as how to gain children's interest in real education.

Increasingly, the curriculum is regarded as a vehicle for promoting political objectives and for changing the values, attitudes and sensibilities of children. Many advocacy organisations that demand changes to the curriculum do not have the slightest interest in the subject they wish to influence. As far as they are concerned they are making a statement through gaining recognition for their cause in the curriculum. The government, too, is in the business of statement-making. It may lack an effective drugs policy but at least it can claim that schools provide drugs education.

In recent months the politicisation of the curriculum has acquired a powerful momentum. Back in February climate change emerged as the new Big Theme for the curriculum. According to proposals published by the Department of Education, 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'. As Alex Standish argues in his essay Geography Used To Be About Maps published in the CIVITAS report The Corruption of the Curriculum, this subject has been transformed into a crusade for transmitting `global values'. And global values usually mean the latest Hurrah Causes championed by the cultural elites through the media.

This was the intention behind Alan Johnson's announcement in February 2007 that `we need the next generation to think about their impact on the environment in a different way'. This project, aimed at manipulating how children lead their lives, is justified through appealing to a higher truth. Johnson claims that `if we can instil 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' (4). Literally save the world! That looks like a price worth paying for fiddling with the geography curriculum.

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, `values about what?', was carefully avoided. Instead, those advocating citizenship education have cobbled together a 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.

A few years down the road and the meaning of citizenship is even less clear than when schools started teaching it as a subject. Back in January 2007, 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.

The essays by Michele Ledda, Alex Standish, Chris McGovern, Shirley Lawes, Simon Patterson and David Perks in The Corruption of the Curriculum deal with different school subjects. But they all point to similar problems that afflict their area of specialty. Their accusation about the corruption of the school curriculum is not made in the spirit of polemical excess. Corruption in these cases refers to the erosion of the integrity of education through debasing and altering its meaning. As a result some subjects such as geography and history no longer bear any resemblance to what they were in the past. At least the new dumbed-down happy versions of science and mathematics bear some relation to their subjects. But history without chronology is like learning maths through skipping over the multiplication table.

The uniqueness of twenty-first century philistinism

Of course there is nothing new about attempts to influence the values and beliefs transmitted through the school curriculum. Competing claims made on the curriculum reflect confusion and an absence of consensus about how to socialise children. At least in part, the `crisis of education' is symptomatic of an absence of consensus about the basic values of society.

Back in the early 1960s the social philosopher Hannah Arendt recognised the tendency to confuse the lack of moral consensus in society with the problem of schooling. There had to be a measure of consensus about the past before a system of education could affirm its virtues. `The problem of education in the modern world lies in the fact that by its very nature it cannot forego either authority or tradition, and yet must proceed in a world that is neither structured by authority nor held together by tradition' she wrote in 1961. (5) In other words, the crisis in education is often a symptom of a more fundamental erosion of authority and tradition. The diminishing relevance of the values of the past is a constant theme that underpins debates about education.

Arendt was one of the few observers to note that in a changing world society finds it difficult to establish a creative balance between the achievements and legacy of the past and the provision of answers to new questions and challenges thrown up in the present. It is because it is so difficult to mediate between old and new that educators continually experience their profession as facing a crisis. The challenge of sustaining respect for the past and being open to change can provide important insights about how to go about the business of teaching and learning and developing new knowledge. Unfortunately, in recent decades the British education establishment has become estranged from this challenge. It has distanced itself from the past and devotes itself to searching for and inventing values `appropriate' for our times. Indeed, one of its distinct characteristics is its obsessive search for novelty.

There is nothing unique about the experience of an education system in crisis. What is distinct about our time is the reluctance of educators to attempt to develop a system of schooling that can mediate between the old and the new. The growing tendency to reinvent subjects, modernise them or make them more relevant is driven by the objective of inventing a new tradition. Unfortunately traditions cannot be cobbled together out of thin air. If they lack an organic relationship to people's lived experiences they will lack a capacity to inspire. That is why every initiative taken to improve citizenship education falters and creates a demand for a new idea!

However, it would be wrong to perceive today's crisis of education as simply the contemporary version of an old problem. For a start, education has become far more politicised than at any time during the past two centuries. When Blair made his famous `education, education, education' speech what he really meant was `politics, politics, politics'. In the absence of a consensus of what it means to be British and what are the fundamental values that society wishes to convey to young people, the curriculum has become subject to constant partisan disputes and political experimentation.

The contemporary crisis of education is subject to three destructive influences that are in many ways unique to our time. Firstly contemporary pedagogy has lost faith in the importance of knowledge and the search for the truth. Increasingly educators insist that there is no such thing as the truth and children are instructed that often there are no right or wrong answers. The relativistic turn in pedagogy has important consequences for epistemology and the quality of intellectual life in the west. (6) It also has profound implications for the way that the curriculum is perceived. If the meaning of the truth and the status of knowledge are negotiable, then so is the curriculum.

Studying a subject or body of knowledge is rarely perceived as a good thing in itself. More importantly, the diminished status assigned to knowledge has encouraged a relativistic orientation towards standards. That is why officials have been so pragmatic about the way they wheel and deal about the content of school subjects. From their perspective, lowering standards has become the default position when confronted with a problem. Of course they rarely promote new initiatives through acknowledging that they have made the curriculum easier. Instead they suggest that the changes introduced make the subject more relevant and appropriate for our times. The recent announcement that delivery of education will become more personalised represents the logical outcome of this trend. Personalised learning displaces the idea that there is a coherent body of knowledge that needs to be assimilated in favour of the principle of teaching what works for the individual. Such a promiscuous attitude towards knowledge creates a situation where there are no real pedagogic barriers against pressures to politicise the curriculum.

The second destructive trend haunting education is the enthronement of philistinism in pedagogy. The striving for standards of excellence is frequently condemned as elitist by apparently enlightened educators. Forms of education that really challenge children and which some find difficult are denounced for not being inclusive. There have always been philistine influences in education but it is only in recent times that anti-intellectual ideals are self-consciously promoted by educators. The corrosive effects of anti-elitist sentiments are evident in all the subjects discussed by the authors in Corrupting the Curriculum.

The third important influence that is distinct to our times is a radically new way that educators perceive children. In recent decades it has become common to regard children as fragile, emotionally vulnerable things who cannot be expected to cope with real intellectual challenge. It was in this vein that in April 2007 Alan Johnson instructed teachers to routinely praise their pupils. According to guidelines, teachers ought to reward children five times as often as they punish them for disrupting lessons. (7) That this inane formulation of the relationship between praise and punishment is circulated through the institution of education is a testimony to the impoverished intellectual and moral climate that prevails in this domain. But the exhortation to institutionalise the praising of children is not an isolated attempt to flatter the egos of young people. Increasingly the therapeutic objective of making children feel good about themselves is seen as the primary objective of schooling.

The consequences of this tendency to infantilise children have been enormously destructive. At a time when Britain's schools face serious difficulties in providing children with a good education, they are to be charged with providing happiness lessons. This initiative is the latest technique adopted in a futile attempt to tackle the crisis facing the classroom through the management of children's emotions. Making children feel good about themselves has been one of main objectives of US schools during the past three decades. By the time they are seven or eight years old, American children have internalised the prevailing psychobabble and can proclaim the importance of avoiding negative emotions and of high self-esteem. Yet this has had no perceptible impact on their school performance.

In Britain, too, educators who have drawn the conclusion that it is easier to help children feel good than to teach them maths, reading and science, have embraced the cause of emotional education. During the past decades they have also adopted a variety of gimmicks to improve classroom behaviour through helping children to relax. Some schools have opted for yoga, others use aromatherapy or chill-out music to improve concentration and learning.

Perversely, the more we try to make children feel good about themselves, the more we distract them from engaging in experiences that have the potential for giving them a sense of achievement. These programmes encourage a mood of emotionalism in the school. I can predict with the utmost certainty that an expansion of the resources that schools devote to managing the emotional life of children will encourage pupils to turn inward and become even more preoccupied with themselves. Emotional education will have the unintended consequence of encouraging children to feel that they have a mental health problem. The branding of this therapeutic project as emotional education attempts to convey the impression that new forms of behaviour management possess educational value. They don't.

There are no easy magical solutions to the problems facing education. In one sense the system of education in a modern society will always be subject to new problems and challenges, but there are a number of steps that can be taken to restore a curriculum fit for our children. Firstly, education needs to become depoliticised: politicians need to be discouraged from regarding the curriculum as their platform for making statements. Secondly, society needs to challenge the tendency to downsize the status of knowledge and of standards. Anti-elitist education is in reality a masquerade for social engineering and needs to be exposed for its destructive consequence on school standards. Thirdly, we need to take children more seriously, uphold their capacity to engage with knowledge and provide them with a challenging educational environment. Children do not need to be made to feel good nor praised but to be taken seriously.


The demise of Antioch College

Ten days later than American Thinker, The New York Times takes notice of the demise of Antioch College in a column deliciously titled "Where the arts were too liberal." Too liberal for the New York Times?

The column's author, Michael Goldfarb, attended Antioch in the late 1960s and early 70s, when the college really started going to hell. He mentions a factor omitted in Henry Wickham's AT column on Antioch, but which now that I am reminded of it, I remember quite well.

With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the college increased African-American enrollment to 25 percent in 1968, from virtually nil in previous years. The new students were recruited from the inner city. At around the same time, Antioch created coeducational residence halls, with no adult supervision. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll became the rule, as you might imagine, and there was enormous peer pressure to be involved in all of them. No member of the faculty or administration, and certainly none of the students, could guess what these sudden changes would mean. They were simply embraced in the spirit of the time.

At the time, I had a couple of friends who were Antioch students, and visited the campus a few times in 1968-69. I remember hearing about the new students who were not exactly the affluent suburbanites that were the Antioch mainstay. I remember being told by people at Antioch that things had gotten downright scary with firearms (something Goldfarb mentions, too). While sympathizing with their plight, I found their tone of shock and horror quite amusing, even at the time. They were struggling with their naïve belief system that held victims not responsible for their actions, yet at the same time their own survival instincts were telling them otherwise.

The most interesting point of the Goldfarb column, however, is his implicit rule that liberalism needs to be balanced with pragmatism, which seems to hint that he (and his NYT editors) understand that liberalism isn't realistic. One can only practice it as long as it doesn't involve something of genuine interest and concern. Liberalism is a luxury for those insulated from it by wealth and privilege.

Antioch not only took liberalism farther than most, it lacked the insulation of prestige and a vast endowment. If you give Harvard another century of liberalism gone wild, it, too, may follow in Antioch's footsteps, though I concede it takes a lot of time to blow through 20 some billion dollars of endowment.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Class Size: Where Belief Trumps Reality

See also earlier posts on this blog here and here and here

Class size can make a difference, based on many variables but perhaps no belief is so expensive or contrary to the facts than that which maintains smaller classes, as determined by some arbitrary number, is beneficial to students. It is to be expected educators will harbor this view because, whatever the impact on students, clearly a teacher with, say, fifteen students per class has less responsibility than one with thirty. But members of the general public, especially parents of school students stubbornly maintain this view, contrary to history, research findings, and current experience.

Those who, such as this writer has done from time to time over the years, take a contrary view are not merely swimming upstream but they are facing upstream while the current rushes them the other way. Nonetheless, let's try this one more time. First, some history.

Class size has been regularly reduced over the years, and is currently smaller than ever. For example, early in the nineteenth century, under the Lancasterian system, a teacher might be responsible for a class of 1000 or more. They handled it by using students as assistants. In New York City schools at the time of the Civil War, relatively untrained young women teachers had classes with as many as 150 students. Even the superintendent agreed that was unreasonable, that no teacher should have more than 100 students per class.

When this writer began teaching in a public high school more than 45 years ago, the school had an 8-period teaching day. Teachers typically had six classes, one period of nonteaching duty, and one free period daily. During the six teaching periods classes commonly had 30-35 students each, giving the teacher a daily student load of 175-200+ students. Interestingly, although he was for several years president of the local teachers' association, class size rarely came up for discussion. Today's classes are typically about 25 students and, as we'll see, often mandated to be fewer, yet class size is a constant complaint.

If smaller classes are a guarantee of better education, why hasn't it happened? Does anyone maintain that public education in New York City today , with many classes of 25 students, and none with 150, is five or six times more effective than was true with the 150 or so in the 1860s?

Then there is research. A decade ago, Eric Hanushek at the University of Rochester reviewed more than 300 studies of class size. Almost without exception they concluded it made no difference. The few positive findings were so minor as to be insignificant. And they were counterbalanced by a few that found negative results - that is, as class size went down so did student achievement. Of course educators quote the few with any good news for them, without noting they are the exceptions and the gains are almost nonexistent.

Then there is the classic current experience in California which ten years ago by a statewide law mandated maximum class size in grades 1-3 (later adding 4th grade) of 20. This cost an additional $1.5 billion the first year. Ten years later more than $15 billion additional has been spent chasing this moonbeam, with miserable results. Even ignoring such frauds as reported in the March 31 Los Angeles Times of a district that "created phantom classes to pull the wool over state officials' eyes," the paper concluded that "There is still no evidence that the multibillion-dollar investment in small primary classes has made more than an incremental difference." Talk about waste! After ten years you would think citizens, particularly irate taxpayers, would be demanding that it's time to give it up. But, no. The program is still popular.

If they continue to defend this obvious failure at least they could stop complaining about school taxes. But don't expect that. This is not a system based on sound research or experience. What is done is done because that's how it is done. But if we insist upon ignoring what research suggests is the way to go, at least we should not do what research suggests doesn't work and, most of all, stop doing those things what clearly do not work.

Don't expect that either. The establishment only demands research findings when they don't like a proposal. They ignore it if it exists; and seek to prevent research if it's lacking. Yet they implement their proposals on class size, bilingualism, whole language teaching, school-to-work, etc., on as wide a basis as possible without research or ignoring hundreds of studies - on building size, certification, etc. -contrary to their views.


School tests: a little bit of stress is good for you

The only thing worse than the UK government's conveyor-belt testing of schoolkids is the anti-testing argument that says exams are evil and children 'can't cope'

There is no need to have one day each year when the `nation's 11-year-olds' are reduced to `a state of panic', argued Keith Bartley, chief executive of the UK General Teaching Council (GTC), last week. SATs tests, he said, must go. SATs, or Standard Assessment Tasks, are carried out when children are seven, 11 and 14 years old, in order to test students' grip of the national curriculum at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. The results of the tests are used as the basis for school league tables, which show parents and others how a school is performing overall. SATs - along with GCSEs and AS levels - have been under scrutiny for some time. Teachers have been accused of `teaching to test' (focusing on the achievement of `targets' during the examination period to the detriment of encouraging real understanding); `drilling to test' (exerting too much pressure on kids to pass); and even `fiddling tests' (in order to make their school's performance look better on paper). Now, however, the focus has shifted on to the stress and panic that SATs apparently provoke in young people.

`England's pupils are among the most frequently tested in the world', the GTC's Bartley said in an interview with the Observer last Sunday. Apparently, a typical British school pupil will sit 70 tests during his or her time at school, starting in Year 2 and continuing (at the discretion of individual schools) every year thereafter, until they reach Year 10 and begin preparing for their GCSE exams.

Talking to the BBC, John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: `There are all sorts of malign effects from the current testing regime. There is enormous pressure on youngsters and there's a lot of training to take the tests.' Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education, agrees. She says her party has `called for tests to be scrapped for years'. Psychologists, meanwhile, report that they are now `going into schools at unprecedented rates to tackle exam stress, with children as young as six suffering anxiety' (1). `All are affected by the anxiety transmitted by their teachers', said Martin Johnson of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

There are plenty of reasons to attack the culture of testing in schools - but stress isn't one of them. Government testing schemes are part of an educational climate in which teachers are no longer trusted to get on with their jobs. And that is the basis on which the GTC should attack SATs. Teachers should have autonomy in their own classrooms, to teach their pupils unfettered by the educational vogue of the month; to enthuse pupils with their own idiosyncratic love of a subject; and, yes, to set tests in order to monitor children's progress, but when they feel that it is necessary and in an independent way that allows the teacher to tap into the class's abilities.

By contrast, the targets set by the government are often arbitrary. The authorities' externally-imposed tests on all children from seven to 14 come across like abstract hoops that both teachers and children must jump through. These tests bear little relation to actual understanding or enjoyment of a subject. Instead, they are a means of ticking a box to show that each child has achieved the same bland level of rudimentary skills, and thus they can stifle passion, flair and originality in the classroom.

To its credit, the GTC has made some of these points about the `testing culture' - but by choosing to focus mainly on the alleged stress and panic caused by exams it has actually undermined the idea of testing per se. In this sense, its criticisms of SATs, alongside the criticisms made by others, are not a great improvement on the government's testing culture, since they communicate the idea that examination itself is problematic: too elitist; too judgemental; too stressful.

Since New Labour swept to power in 1997, there has been a permanent revolution in education. Every minute facet of education has been held up to the light and found wanting - but no coherent idea of what education should consist of has been put forward. Instead of challenging the degradation of education at the hands of the Blairites - of which the constant government roll-call of ever-changing targets is a symptom - the GTC has seized on a trendy issue: stress. The union doesn't point out how teachers are now regarded, at best, as an impediment to a child's osmosis-like learning and must therefore be monitored closely; instead it claims that the very nature of testing is iniquitous, which it isn't.

Indeed, far from questioning the government's insatiable thirst for statistics, the GTC puts forward its own version of targets, targets, targets. It proposes that a system of `cohort sampling' should replace the current SATs system. Under this scheme, less than one per cent of primary school children and less than three per cent of secondary students would take national tests. The samples would be selected randomly and tested to see how the school overall is performing. `You do not have to test every child every four years to know whether children are making more or less progress than they used to', Bartley said, somewhat ridiculously inferring that the nation's children will progress as one through the education system, and that a one to three per cent sample is perfectly representative of all their collective achievements. And what will `cohort sampling' mean for the little `stressed-out' martyrs selected to take on all the exam stress of the exam-free 97 to 99 per cent of the kids? Six-year-old hara-kiri? Bartley doesn't hypothesise.

Tests for young children and teenagers can be a good thing - when set by teachers and schools rather than imposed from on high. They can sharpen the brain. There's nothing like a bit of independent cramming to ram a principle home - and once principles are rammed home they can be applied throughout a subject, aiding understanding. What would be the point of learning French, for example, if you didn't have to go through all that dull stuff about grammar and vocabulary? (Which simply has to be learned in a laborious, repetitive way; that is, it has to be `drilled' home. And nothing will make a pupil learn better than the threat of a test to pass or fail.) Yet the GTC seems to have absorbed the idea that testing is essentially elitist and bad, and that the worst thing a child can do is fail. In truth, the worst thing for education is the demonisation and fetishisation of its disparate elements: exams are this week's bogeyman; next week it will be something else.

The idea of a classical, liberal education must be reclaimed: an education where teaching is thorough and where free ideas circulate, unbridled by government diktat. A first step to this will be allowing teachers to claw back their independence: and that means allowing them to set their own tests, as a way of aiding a class's learning, as and when they please.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Monday, June 25, 2007

British schools to be dumbed down even further

The Leftists running the show only want the kids to be propagandized. They live in dread of the kids acquiring real knowledge. Facts are fatal to Leftism

STATE secondary schools are being told to ditch lessons in academic subjects and replace them with month-long projects on themes such as global warming. The pressure to scrap the traditional timetable in favour of cross-curricular topics is coming from the government’s teaching advisers, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). It has provoked anger from traditionalists who believe it marks a return to discredited “trendy” techniques.

Schools piloting the new-style lessons for 11-14-year-olds have merged history, geography and citizenship, with teachers drawing up the lessons in teams. Mick Waters, the QCA’s curriculum director, believes the changes will help spur enthusiasm and cut truancy. He said: “The challenge for schools is to create a nourishing and appetising feast that will sustain learners and meet their needs. “Although the national curriculum is organised into subjects, it has never been a requirement to deliver it entirely as discrete subjects.”

Critics, however, have insisted that the project-based approach, which was popular in primary schools until the 1990s, led to pupils failing to master the basics. Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “This will narrow what children learn. People come with up these ideas for the less academic but they wouldn’t dream of letting their own children be taught in this way.”

The first sign of a backlash from teachers has emerged with a petition on the Downing Street website against the removal of some of the academic content from a science GCSE curriculum launched last September. About 130 science teachers have signed the petition, which calls for the course to be scrapped because it requires pupils to discuss issues such as pollution but not to learn “hard science”, such as the periodic table in chemistry. The petition reads: “Many anticipated it as ‘science fit only for the pub’. Now, at the end of its first year . . . science teachers (particularly physics teachers) are indeed judging it to be overly simplistic, devoid of any real physics and inadequate preparation for further study. This GCSE will remove Britain’s technological base within a decade.” Stuart Billington, head of physics at a large comprehensive, said: “I would never allow my own children to sit in my own classroom and be taught such a shambles masquerading as ‘science’ . . . You can imagine how I feel delivering it to 100 other people’s children every week.”

The QCA last week produced examples of what will be expected from state secondary schools next year when the changes to the timetable for 11-to-14-year-olds are introduced. They include a school that has suggested 16-year-olds could be paid to help teachers in class. Wombwell High, a comprehensive in South Yorkshire, has already dropped single subject lessons for a third of its timetable. Teachers work in teams and the projects begin with four classes working together in the hall. Tolworth girls’ school in Surbiton, Surrey, has reclassified English as “communication”.

The project-led approach took hold in primary schools in the 1970s after a report from a government-appointed education committee. Teachers were told to emphasise soft skills and “learning by doing”. Schools were told to scrap projects in 1992 after an inquiry found pupils were missing out on the basics.

Waters has told schools they need to build the timetable around the “needs” of pupils. He said: “At the moment most schools are in the traditional mindset, which means they take content and divide it up into fragments called timetables. They do it as it has always been done. “The idea [of the new timetable] is to offer less prescription and more opportunity to interpret the curriculum. Cutting across all subjects are curriculum dimensions; a set of themes including creativity, cultural understanding and diversity.”


Australia: School discipline problem greeted with the usual wringing of hands

And expressions of good intentions, of course. No suggestion of bringing back real punishment for misdeeds. A great lesson for kids to learn!

EDUCATION Minister David Bartlett does not support suspension and wants to reduce the use of the discipline tactic in Tasmanian schools. He said research showed long suspensions led to students becoming disconnected and dropping out of school. Last year, 2713 students were suspended, at least once, for an average three days for reasons including drugs, sex, weapons and physical attacks.

Yesterday Mr Bartlett flagged sending students to alternative educational venues in schools or in the community rather than suspending them. "What I believe is that we do need to keep young Tasmanians connected to schooling," he said. "A suspension of three days does not necessarily disconnect them from schooling. "But I do get concerned when students are spending longer times out of schools."

He has ordered an audit of what government and non-government venues already exist and wants to start promoting them to schools. "We need to get the schools using them," he said.

The Australian Education Union is pushing for small separate schools, or behavioural units, to send violent students to. The AEU has argued that suspension does not improve a student's behaviour and has heard reports of students attacking teachers every week. Last week, AEU state manager Chris Lane said teachers' only option was to suspend children who returned to the classroom just as badly behaved.

Mr Bartlett said suspension was not his preference but sometimes it was the "only solution". He said the Government did need to invest in education programs to provide another option to sending students home. These programs included the Keep it Big program at Rosetta High, Chance on Main at Moonah and the Bridgewater Farm School. Schools set their own policies on suspension and Mr Bartlett said a suspendable offence varied from school to school.



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

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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Academic decay

Blaming the Jews for all the world's ills is about as low as you get intellectually. Primitive ignorance is the best one can say for it, though a need to find objects for chronic hate is a more probable motive. Article below by Hal G. P. Colebatch

It was a hallmark of the Enlightenment civilization of the West that warring countries still shared scientific knowledge, and held scholarship above politics. During the Napoleonic Wars the British and French in the South Seas would often set the war aside and help one another's research ships, providing they proved their scientific credentials.

The community of scholarship was thought to transcend not only national but also religious boundaries, as, one way or another, it had been thought of since the foundation of universities in early medieval times. In 1788, when Catholic priests were banned in England, the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi, not merely a Catholic priest but a Professor of Dogmatic Theology in Rome, traveled to England to work with fellow astronomer Nevil Maskelyne, a Protestant minister.

George Orwell, writing in World War II, commented on a British newspaper produced in 1810: "There is an article of about 9,000 words on the publication of the French scientific body known as the Societe d'Areueil. The French scientists ... are treated with the utmost respect." It would, he said, be impossible to discover from this article that there was a war on between the two countries.

However, it seems we have moved on from the values of the enlightenment in Britain, and this is considering a community which Britain is not even at war with: Delegates at the first conference of the new British academics' body, the University and College Union, voted by 158 to 99 to recommend "a comprehensive and consistent boycott" of all Israeli academic institutions to its branches. (Some will be very east to boycott. They are closed because of constant rocket-fire into them from Gaza.)

The UCU resolution includes proposals to "organize a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academics/educational trade unionists." That is to say, not only are Israeli academics and universities to suffer systematic and institutionalized discrimination by being excluded from the community of scholars, and not even allowed to be heard, but the representatives of political movements and organizations committed to their destruction are singled out to be granted favoritism. As British writer Melanie Phillips says, this would be childish if it were not villainous, while the British Minister of State for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, has bleated gently that "I profoundly believe this does nothing to promote the Middle East peace process."

This is only the latest development in a long-term academic attack on Israel and on Israeli academics and researchers in Britain. In July 2003, it was reported that Andrew Wilkie, Nuffield Professor of Pathology and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, had banned a highly qualified Jewish student, Amit Duvshani, from enrolling to work in Wilkie's laboratory towards a Ph.D. thesis. Wilkie was reported to have told Duvshani in a letter: "I have a huge problem with the way the Israelis take the high moral ground ... and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians. I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level but no way would I take on somebody who served in the Israeli Army." (Military service in Israel is for obvious reasons universal and compulsory.)

Wilkie later stated: "I accept that I confused my personal beliefs with those of Oxford University," a puzzling statement for several reasons including the fact that it was unclear how a university could have personal beliefs.

Two scholars, Dr. Miriam Shlesinger and Professor Gideon Toury, were sacked from an international journal of translation studies by Monica Baker, a professor at the Manchester University Institute of Science and Technology, because they were Israeli. This was reported in the London Times's "Higher Educational Supplement" but attracted no comment or condemnation in British academic circles until American academics took the matter up.

In 2002 it was reported that the development of life-saving medical treatments in Britain were under threat because of a British boycott of Israeli academics. Baroness Greenfield, a neurologist and director of the Royal Institution, the oldest independent research body in Britain, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, both drew attention to the boycott that was being organized by "left-wing British intellectuals." It aimed at denying Israeli medical researchers and academics platforms. The point that cancer research was being handicapped to the detriment of all humanity as a political gesture was serious but perhaps not the most crucial thing. The most crucial thing was that some Israelis -- or not to be mealy-mouthed about it, some Jews -- were being punished and victimized as a group for what other Jews were alleged to have done. It had a highly familiar ring to it for any student of history. The subtext, of course was, in 1943 -- and is now -- that Jews were and are collectively and racially guilty.

What did the huge and expensive British race-relations industry do about it? Nothing, of course. It was as silent as, apparently, was the Conservative party. The same day that I placed this in my file I received a letter from a retired (non-Jewish) technical college lecturer living in Berwick-on-Tweed who commented on "the vileness of the anti-Semitism sweeping England." In fact, even a cursorily assembled collection of incidents shows how far anti-Semitism has advanced in the last few years, to an extent unthinkable a decade or so ago, or before the multiculturalism, race-relations and anti-discrimination industries really hit their strides in enforcing political correctness and the "celebration of diversity."

On February 15, 2003, nearly one million people marched through the streets of London -- probably the biggest-ever political demonstration in Britain -- under the slogan "Don't Attack Iraq -- Freedom for Palestine." The running together of the two slogans showed how anti-Israeli/anti-Jewish forces had effectively hijacked the anti-war movement, and showed also the alliance between the broad left and Islamicism, with the common bond being hatred of Israel as an outpost and symbol of Western civilization.

This march was organized by the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). The STWC was organized originally by the Socialist Workers' Party, which claimed Trotskyite credentials, and the MAB had links with the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of its senior officers publicly defended murder-suicide bomb attacks on Jews. MAB banners on the march read: "Palestine forever from the sea to the river," indicating its real agenda was not peace but a Final Solution along Nazi lines. Dr. Myles Harris described the scene in the following terms in the Salisbury Review:

At the foot of Nelson's column a loud-speaker the size of a bread van gave an electronic grunt and began to chant: "Kill Bush, Kill Bush!" at 150 decibels. Overhead an animated puppet of Bush jerked across a huge plasma screen. A crowd which had been gathering in the square all the afternoon roared enthusiastically. At intervals the sentence "You are being lied to" appeared across the screen. Nobody seemed to think it might have a double meaning....

The whole gamut of the old anti-Semitic, anti-American delusions of the Stalinist left were on display....I looked at the screen again. The jerking Bush puppet was now being occasionally outlined in the cross-hairs of a rifle....A Church of England vicar in a soutane walked past wearing a white and black chequered bandanna used by Palestinian demonstrators you see chanting at the funerals of "martyrs" on TV"

Anglican cleric Canon Paul Ostreicher, former chairman of Amnesty International, equates the Israelis fighting for national survival and the Anglo-American forces in Iraq with Nazis:

Those old enough to remember will recollect that the French resistance were held to be heroes when they killed the German occupiers. I did not rejoice at German deaths then, any more than I rejoice at Israeli, American and, yes, British deaths now. But there is no difference.

A EU survey in November 2003 indicated that 60 percent of British people believed Israel was the major threat to World Peace. This was just above the EU average of 59 percent, though below the figures 65 percent for Germany and 74 percent for the Netherlands. Thus Britain could claim to be less anti-Semitic than Germany, though not by a great margin. The statistics have possibly changed since then.

Among other incidents Lord Triesman, the former general secretary of the Labour Party, was among prominent British Jews targeted for anti-Semitic attacks. The police Special Branch had advised him to have a 10-foot-high fence erected around his house in North London, but the Labour-run Council made him take it down.

The progressive Guardian, meanwhile, published an article under the byline of that well-known journalist and fellow-progressive, Osama bin Laden, urging Moslems to resist the "Zionist-crusader chain of evil."


Single-sex schools the best?

So it would seem in the Australian State of Victoria

SINGLE-sex schools are the state's top performers when it comes to university enrolment rates, according to Government data released yesterday. Top of the class of 2006 were the students from Isik College's Broadmeadows campus for girls, with all of last year's year 12 students enrolled at university this year. Most of the students are studying at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. It's a similar story at the school's boys campus at Upfield, with 95 per cent of VCE graduates now at university and 5 per cent opting to defer their study.

Korowa Anglican Girls School in Glen Iris and Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood tied for second place with an enrolment rate of 96 per cent, followed by Melbourne High and Melbourne Girls Grammar (both 91 per cent). Korowa's principal, Christine Jenkins, said while numerous factors played a part in students' success, many girls preferred learning in a single-sex environment. "They are much more likely to make contributions in classrooms," she said. "They aren't worried about their image and they can be themselves and take risks in a supportive environment."

PLC vice-principal Carolyn Elvins agreed single-sex education made sense because boys and girls learnt differently. "Schools can cater for those (differences) more effectively in a single-sex environment," she said, adding that girls liked to learn collaboratively and tended to be less competitive.

But Isik College principal Mehmet Koca was reluctant to link the school's results to gender. Mr Koca said small class sizes and a mentor program made for a winning combination. Under the mentoring system, graduates volunteer to return to the school to tutor students after hours in specific subjects. "That gives students a role model they can look up to and the tutoring is free of charge," Mr Koca said. "It also helps students believe in themselves and aspire to university." Isik College was set up 10 years ago as a private school for economically and socially disadvantaged Turkish-Australian students. This year's Broadmeadows school captain, Iman Zayegh, 16, said the single-sex environment was supportive and comfortable. "When you're comfortable in the environment, you're more likely to work to your full potential and achieve your goals," she said. Ms Zayegh, who gets tutoring in chemistry and is aiming to study pharmacy at Monash University next year, said the mentoring program was invaluable.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.