Saturday, July 28, 2007

British socialists have betrayed the working class kids they purport to help

They hate and have managed to close down as "elitist" most of the schools that were once the highroad to a top education for poor kids -- the Grammar (selective) schools. But talented poor kids are still there

Fifteen pairs of eyes fix on the patient's shrivelled white limb. The toes are black. "It's gangrene," says the surgeon cheerily to his summer school students. The patient says his leg hurts more when he is lying down. "That's probably because less blood can circulate when it's on the level," says a mullet-haired youth with a Rotherham accent. An Asian girl suggests comparing blood pressure in the arm and leg to diagnose arterial disease. Long ringlets from Somerset agrees.

Over 90 minutes they forensically diagnose the patient. No one giggles, or chats, or doodles on their notes. I did science A-levels and I can't follow it all. These 17-year-olds, all from comprehensives and families where no one has been to university, are super-bright. They are the doctors and surgeons of the future, whose knowledge will save us when we are sick.

There has been much national soul-searching of late over Britain's alarmingly bad - and deteriorating - social mobility. Last week, to add to the gloom, our leading universities revealed they are taking fewer students from poorer areas and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation announced that the gap between rich and poor is the largest for 40 years.

Education is the missing link; if poor bright kids don't make it to the best universities to become the surgeons, businessmen and other professionals of the future, the engine of social mobility runs out of petrol. Oxford is the most glaring example with only 53.7% of its students coming from state schools (less than 20% from standard comprehensives). This matters because 90% of our kids go to them and, as I had rammed home to me during my day at the Oxford summer school, intelligence has nothing to do with class, income or accent.

The miracle, as I discovered as I heard more about the lives of the summer school kids, is that these teenagers have made it this far. "I kept quiet about coming here," one lad from Lancashire told me. "Me mates would think I was daft going to school in the holidays." The others laughed and agreed, and one added: "At school you wouldn't let on that you are clever. The others look down on you. You have to hide it." The best thing about summer school is finding that "there are people like you who are on your intellectual wavelength".

They all say they thought they would be the most stupid person on the week-long course. One girl told me she nearly got off the train because she was so sure she couldn't cut it. To them Oxford is not just another world, it's a different planet. Many had unemployed parents, nearly all were on EMA (education maintenance allowance) which is paid to over-16s who are still studying and whose family income is less than 31,000 pounds a year, and nearly all did jobs - waitressing, supermarket checkouts, bar work - as well as their studies.

They all said how proud their parents were that they'd come to Oxford to be students for a week. I had expected their schools to be proud, too - that their teachers would have picked them out, encouraged them to attend (it is hard to get on the summer school, 1,500 apply for 250 places). Not a bit of it. "My school didn't tell me about it," chorus a few voices. They'd found out from the local paper, posters in college, from the internet. Mostly off their own bats. Had their teachers encouraged them to apply? A few obviously had, but the majority implied that the teachers felt that Oxford was "divisive" and "elitist" - not for kids like them. With attitudes like this it's no surprise that we are not getting bright, poor kids into our elite universities. Harvard and the other US Ivy League institutions have teams of scouts truffle-hunting poor kids from bad schools with high SAT results.

A friend told me how he sat in on an admissions board at Harvard where they discussed a bright young black single mother from the ganglands of Los Angeles with SATs at the lowest end of their range but who they believed had the potential to be the mayor of a city, who with their help could be a catalyst for change. They wanted to create social capital. Despite the risks and the other higher qualified candidates, she was in.

At Oxford, by contrast, until 10 years ago the university ran no outreach programmes to get bright kids from unlikely schools and backgrounds into its colleges. Peter Lampl, an Oxford alumnus and himself a poor grammar school boy, was appalled to discover after spending 20 years in America that things here had gone backwards educationally. "I realised," he said, "that a kid like me had little to no chance of making it to Oxbridge or another Russell Group university. Something had to be done." He started funding the Oxford Summer Schools, which have proved so successful that they now run in 10 other top universities and the government is involved in rolling the programme out further.

At the dinner on the last night of the course the sense of thrill, of widening horizons, was palpable. "I thought everyone else would be an egghead, but they're not, they're just like me," said a hipster from Wales. "Oxford just seemed completely out of reach before I came here," said another, "but now I'm going to apply." A week of living in college, going to seminars and hanging out with students who are already there has shown them that this could be their world, too. Half of the kids who come on the summer school apply to Oxford and about 40% of those get in. Of the rest, almost all will get a place at a top university. As one Asian boy from Birmingham put it: "I always thought I'd go to the local college with my friends. Now I'm going to apply to Oxford, Bristol and Edinburgh."

It felt a privilege just to watch the bright young faces, chatting confidently, feeling on the cusp of great things, realising they've got what it takes. During the speeches when Lampl told them that they all had a great future, a black girl on the next table shouted "Yeah!" Lampl told them to work hard for their A-levels, that the next year would have more influence on the rest of their lives than any other. That anything was possible for them. I left feeling humbled. I had expected to go to Oxford since as a child my parents (who met there) had walked me round the quads. At St Paul's school and Westminster I was coached to get in. My time there was fantastic but not productive. I feel ashamed of my immense privilege and how arrogantly I wore it. We need to get our brightest kids, wherever they are from, into our best universities. If we don't, we all suffer.



Three current articles below

Crap English curriculum in NSW

ANALYSING camera angles in the Australian movie Ten Canoes, which is spoken mainly in the indigenous language Ganalbingu, or deconstructing a website on multiculturalism would hardly seem to have much to do with the study of English in high school. But those two "texts" are part of the new draft HSC English reading list for 2009 to 2012, as revealed by Hannah Edwards in The Sun-Herald last weekend.

The films, websites and various multimedia offerings that clog the draft syllabus list show that, even after six years of criticism and complaints from students, parents and teachers, the curriculum designers at the NSW Board of Studies are determined to patronise the ability and desire of high school students to comprehend great ideas and expand their minds with classics. "There is a failure of nerve on the part of curriculum [designers]," says Dr Barry Spurr, a senior lecturer in English literature at Sydney University. "They don't want to present the children with the difficulty of texts, or deal with difficult language . [and] historical context. It's a failure of belief in English as a discipline."

Even while primary school children all over the state are willingly burying their heads in the new 607-page Harry Potter book, the Board of Studies, which has apparently consulted "stakeholders" for years about its latest selections, doesn't trust senior students to read big books. Instead they can analyse Wikipedia, or websites about multiculturalism and the September 11 terrorist attacks. They can deconstruct the "visual images" of the German language film Run Lola Run or the US political satire Wag the Dog. Or they can read short novels, such as the 216-page domestic violence novel Swallow the Air, or Jhumpa Lahiri's 291-page The Namesake or 202 pages of Raimond Gaita's biographical Romulus, My Father or the 78-page play A Man with Five Children by Nick Enright.

Spurr does point to some gems in the new offerings - chiefly the return of Patrick White with The Aunt's Story (304 pages), though he says White should never have been dropped. Spurr says his department gets "the best and the brightest [school-leavers] but they do not know how to construct an essay". Since most of their university study involves essay-writing, and in the business world report-writing is a crucial skill, he is perplexed that the syllabus does not adequately equip students.

In a scathing critique of the 2006 HSC English exam for his school magazine, Spark, Roland Brennan, a year 12 student last year at St Ignatius College, Riverview, writes: "Have I really taken away anything valuable from my HSC advanced English course? I have not been nourished with substance, rather stuffed to the brim with a syrupy, sloppy waste. Junk. Welcome to the HSC English syllabus." He forensically dissects the exam paper and says essay writing is "fast becoming obsolete".

"King Lear . has now been deconstructed and rebuilt within the framework of modern theories such as feminism, Marxism and existentialism. "Contrary to what the Board of Studies seems to think, a 'text' is not 'anything'. The term implies something in a written format, poetry, drama or prose. Not an image or a film clip. Similarly, Shakespeare was a playwright, Coleridge a poet and Huxley an author. They were not 'composers' . We are . readers or viewers, not 'responders'. "The misuse of terms is typical of the HSC syllabus and appears to be used to cover up ignorance." Brennan also says many students do not speak out for fear of being labelled "uncool".

Conservatives have launched ferocious attacks on the HSC English syllabus in recent years, with little apparent effect. The Prime Minister, John Howard, who is married to a former English teacher, last year decried what he called the "dumbing down" of English in which "what I might call the traditional texts are treated no differently from pop cultural commentary".

The problem for the Board of Studies is it has to cater for many HSC students who are not interested in English. The subject is compulsory in years 11 and 12, making it a wearisome task to cajole students into the most basic learning. A high school teacher who sat on a committee choosing HSC texts in the 1990s says the pressure to make English compulsory for all HSC students came from the University of NSW medical faculty, which was worried about churning out doctors without adequate English skills. Perhaps medical schools could conduct English lessons rather than force reluctant students to do a subject they detest.

The other problem is that today's students are so focused on their HSC results that teachers are under intense pressure to confine themselves to the syllabus, says Daniel Brass, a 26-year-old teacher of advanced English at a coaching college for years 11 and 12. "English is not to improve your mind," he says. "It's just to get your marks to get into uni."

In this way the English syllabus places teachers in an intellectual straitjacket. Brass doesn't mind websites and films crowding the syllabus. He doesn't even mind authors being renamed "composers" and readers "responders". But he says the board has usurped teachers' autonomy, deciding not only the texts they must teach but prescribing how they must teach them.

There is hope, Spurr says, as the students he sees in first-year university are increasingly demanding to be taught the classics, hungry for real literature and fed up with incoherent jargon. But this is no consolation for "less-gifted students who should have as much right to be exposed to the best that has been known and thought in the world", he says. Instead they are encouraged to fritter away perhaps their only opportunity to improve their minds.


Student achievement must be detectable and rewarded

Little Johnny understands the convention of printing ... little Suzie understands the operation of addition ... The rest of us, well, we don't understand what's happening in our schools any more. If anybody other than a school teacher can decipher the true meaning of the "convention of printing" - a convoluted little phrase appearing on report cards across the state - then they deserve a ribbon. (Which is only fair, because everyone in school gets a ribbon these days. More on that later.)

NSW's school teachers have won a necessary victory over the Iemma Government in their refusal to implement a state-wide ranking system on student report cards - but hold off the backslapping just yet. There was a reason Premier Morris Iemma couldn't understand his daughter's report card, which prompted his ultimatum, and why the Federal Government also felt it necessary to weigh in. It is the teachers' fault.

Report cards have become such a dog's breakfast of political correctness, convoluted jargon and deliberate clouding that no parent can understand what they say or are meant to say. The convention of printing? Supposedly, it means little Johnny knows to hold the book the right way up, that he knows to read left to right and that one line follows another. The operation of addition? Little Susie can add up. Why teachers don't say it like it is any more is anyone's guess.

Indeed, so clouded are any meanings, and so subtle have become the gradings between "achieving", "working towards" and "more effort required", that they are virtually useless.

The grading system proposed by the State Government was impractical. For example, grading every kid from A to E is unfair on the average kid at a smart school, who is unfairly pushed to the bottom of rankings. It is unfair to the average kids at a below average school, getting A's when they are by any realistic measure average. Comparing grades uniformly from school to school doesn't work. It's apples and oranges.

The biggest reason for this awful system is, apparently, self-esteem issues. How would Johnny, struggling to understand the "convention of printing", feel if he showed Mum and Dad his report card with a D for literacy? It is an understandable concern but the pendulum has now swung too far the other way. "Rotational reward" is the term, and the liberal-thinkers have got it backwards. Rotational reward is a reaction against the naturally intelligent kids - for example, the ones who win all the prizes even though, unlike little Johnny trying hard to understand the convention of printing, they don't have to work nearly as hard.

Rotate the rewards until little Johnny, putting in all that effort, finally gets a ribbon. Sounds great. It works until the average kids work it out, then question why they should try harder when their reward is going to come around sooner or later anyway. Worse, it creates a wave of school children who drift through school, never needing to sharpen their competitive instincts because they get the reward as a matter of course. The problem comes after graduation, when they find themselves in a world that doesn't give rewards on a rotational basis but for achievement. Soon enough they find they're ill-equipped to survive the competitive environment of this real world.

Kids need to compete. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child to win. Or that work brings reward. Nothing wrong with showing a child that, if they work harder, they can climb from the middle of their class and win a ribbon. The hard-earned victories are the sweetest. If every child gets a prize, soon the prize won't mean much at all. So, far from the backslapping, the NSW Teachers Federation needs to come up with a better system, one that lets kids and parents know exactly where they stand in relation to other kids in class. The criteria for achievement in our schools has to be more clear-cut - give that gift to our children and one day those children will become our gift. Believe it.


Bloated teacher-training courses highlighted

And the establishment is resisting. I went into secondary teaching without one second of teacher training and my students did very well

The head of education at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia says it is important to consider all kinds of programs to get more people into teaching.

The Nationals are preparing a report to be tabled in State Parliament which will recommend a teaching course used in the United States be considered in WA. The Nationals' spokesman for education, Grant Woodhams, wants to introduce a fast track seven-week training course offered to university graduates. He says it will give people wanting a career change, the university qualifications to teach.

While Professor Gary Robson says all options need to be considered, but he doubts two months is enough time. "On the face of it I would be very nervous about seven weeks, if that's all it was. Seven weeks would not seem to be a sufficient time for people to acquire the skills that are needed to be a good practitioner in this day and age," 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, July 27, 2007

Britain: History education too haphazard

Children must be taught landmark dates in chronological order from primary school, to give them a common sense of British history and identity, Ofsted tells the Government today. Far from knowing the order of key events, such as the Battle of Hastings or the signing of Magna Carta, pupils have no overview of history and cannot answer the “big questions” it poses, the schools’ inspectorate has found. Not only are key events in British and world history overlooked, but without a sense of the order in which they occurred, students cannot make any connections with the periods that they have studied.

The damning assessment of pupils’ understanding and the way history is taught in England’s schools, particularly primaries, comes after academics and historians have called repeatedly for a review of the way the subject is taught up to the age of 14. “History is taught in all primary schools, but we are recommending that the syllabus is looked at to promote a coherence in what’s being taught – a core, with some local discretion,” said Miriam Rosen, Ofsted’s director of education.

Dr Rosen acknowledged that history had been squeezed in some primaries, because of their need to raise standards in the three Rs. “We quite understand why schools have focused on literacy and numeracy, but we think they are beginning to see they can link history teaching to make sure it’s not lost and that there’s still a focus on the core subjects,” she added. Her comments appear to be at odds with the latest proposals by the Government to allow schools to teach themes such as creativity and cultural understanding, rather than individual academic subjects, such as history and science, at secondary level.

In History in the Balance: History in English Schools 2003-7, the inspectors targeted their criticism mainly at the education of 7 to 11-year-olds, “which continues to disappoint”. While the teachers themselves often had not studied the subject beyond 14, they were also poorly trained in history and tended to jump from one topic to the next, the inspectors found. They cited one primary, where eight-year-olds studied the Romans one term, learnt how children coped in the Second World War the next and finished with Ancient Egypt.

Although the National Curriculum calls for pupils to develop a “chronological framework” and to make “connections between events and changes in the different periods”, the inspectors said this rarely happened in practice. “Consequently they often have little sense of chronology and the possibility of establishing an overarching story and addressing broader themes and issues is limited,” they wrote.

The inspectors praised history teaching post14, but noted that only 32 per cent of pupils study it at GCSE level and even fewer post16. Although 66 per cent achieve A grades at GCSE, a third of A* grades are from independently educated pupils.

The report echoed concerns aired by academics and historians, including Kate Pretty, principal of Homerton College and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who said that Britain was losing a sense of shared identity, because children were not being taught basic general knowledge in primary school. “It’s not secondary school that instills the deficit, but primaries. It’s the primary view of the great stories in the past, like Alfred burning the cakes, Magna Carta, Columbus sailing the ocean blue – all that sort of stuff,” she said. “The little tiny stories that make up the common thread which you can pull on, we’re expecting students to somehow implicitly know. It’s not about A-level knowledge of a particular subject, but a general web of understanding that binds us to a past. That seems to me is being lost somewhere in all of this.”

The report comes as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority proposes allowing schools from next year to teach themes such as creativity and cultural understanding rather than individual academic subjects from the ages of 11 to 14. The curriculum watchdog is already piloting a new GCSE syllabus in 70 schools where periods of history are replaced by themes including “conflict and its lasting impact” and “people’s diverse ideas”. Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said he agreed with many of the points raised by Ofsted, which had been addressed in the revised secondary curriculum introduced last week. “The new curriculum has strengthened the requirement that all pupils need to have a good chronological understanding of history. This is compulsory at primary Key Stages too,” he said, adding that they would improve the training of primary teachers.

However, Michael Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary, said the report underlined the dangers of the new curriculum. “The changes Ed Balls [the Education Secretary] announced last week would mean more of the flabby, woolly, ‘theme-based’ teaching this report warns us about,” he said. “Ofsted underlines the importance of rigour and giving pupils a proper connected sense of what went on in the past. Ed Balls’s plans for five-minute lessons and writing Churchill out of the past are the complete opposite of that, and won’t give the next generation the understanding it deserves of our national story.”


Australia: Teachers' union beats attempt to set standards

TEACHERS have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Iemma Government demands by blocking student report cards. The NSW Teachers' Union has won a three-year battle to stop a "one-size-fits-all" report that would have ranked children in the classroom based on their performance. Public school teachers are now gloating that not one of them has been disciplined over the refusal to prepare the reports requested by Premier Morris Iemma.

Mr Iemma championed A to E grades two years ago, saying he could not understand his daughter's report and needed a meeting with the teacher to determine her ranking in class. "The report that came home was confusing to us and required very careful reading and raised a number of questions that we could only have addressed at the parent-teacher night," he said in 2005.

But now, Mr Iemma's demand for a simple, uniform report card system has been stymied, with different approaches being taken across schools at the behest of the Teachers Union. Teachers were taken to the Industrial Commission after banning the new reports claiming they would label children as failures and could be used to judge their work in class. The union has told each of the state's 2240 schools to decide their own preferred format for student reports. The successful campaign effectively prevents any comparisons of performance between students, teachers or schools.

Threats by the Howard Government to withdraw $3.7 billion in school funding if the reports were not implemented also have come to nothing. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that many schools across the state are not grading students on an A to E scale or telling parents they can request details of their child's ranking. "The majority of NSW public schools did not conform to the department's reporting requirements," a fax sent to schools by the union during term two said. "No federal funding was lost. No teacher was disciplined."

Primary Principals' Association president Geoff Scott said yesterday that individual schools were deciding the best way to report to parents. "There is variety . . . most schools have reached a compromise with their communities on Plain English reports," he said. "There is no compiling of league tables ranking students." Public Schools Principals' Forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride also said a "whole lot of schools are doing their own thing in consultation with their communities". "Many schools are not doing A to E but are using word descriptors (such as 'outstanding' or 'limited' to indicate a student's progress)," she said. "Some have made up their own (descriptors) or are using just four instead of five. "There won't be a direct comparison between schools because of the differences (in report formats)."



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, July 26, 2007

The lying Ward Churchill gets the ancient order of the boot

Statement to Faculty, Staff and Students from CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson:

A message to the faculty, staff and students of the University of Colorado at Boulder:

Earlier today, the University of Colorado Board of Regents, acting on the recommendation of University of Colorado President Hank Brown, voted to dismiss Professor Ward Churchill from the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I want each of you to know that I have carefully reviewed the documentation and reports prepared by the various committees and by Professor Churchill, and I fully endorse this decision. It is my hope and expectation that this action will bring to close an unpleasant chapter in our history, and allow us to move forward to a future that more appropriately befits the many outstanding contributions the faculty, staff and students of the University of Colorado at Boulder makes to the state, the nation, and the world.

The University followed due process in the dismissal proceedings against Professor Churchill, according him all the rights and privileges due a full professor in such a case. I further believe the institution upheld the long tradition of academic freedom by standing firm on the issue of academic integrity. Finally, I want to reaffirm that the University’s decision was not based on Professor Churchill’s writings, politics or expressed personal views, but rather upon his scholarship and its quality. That scholarship was examined by three separate panels and more than 20 tenured faculty members who conducted a thorough review, and who found that it fell beneath the acceptable standards of our profession and the expectations of faculty here at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Academic freedom caries with it a high level of responsibility that we as an academic community cannot allow to be compromised. When these issues are raised, we have a responsibility – in fact, the obligation – to act accordingly.

Perhaps the most important lesson for our community in the painful ordeal surrounding Professor Churchill’s case is rooted in the values we must uphold and convey to our students. The young people who come to us are transformed by this institution, and they in turn, transform it with their energy, idealism and hard work. They deserve to be taught by faculty who embody high academic and personal standards. In a time such as ours, in which the very concept of “truth” is often bracketed by relativism, battered with cynicism and reduced by manipulation and “spin,” our students must know that when they enter our classrooms, they occupy sacred territory where truth is always pursued on a foundation of ethics, honor, and integrity.

We must now reaffirm our core values and not be deterred in our quest to provide the very best environment for our faculty, staff and students and to promote high ideals. Far from those who have said this case represents a “chilling” of academic freedom, I believe it forms an important annunciation of academic freedom, which time and practice have shown must be rooted in academic integrity to prevail.

So, as we continue our pursuit of excellence in research, scholarship and education, I believe we now do so with a stronger academic community, one ready to face a new and challenging time in American higher education. Our students are facing the challenges of a new century, a new global economy and a new era of global conflict and uncertainty. We have an important role to play in preparing them to enter that world, and in preparing that world to receive them. We must now return our full, undivided attention to that urgent cause, and I know we will.


Louisiana governor vetoes school choice measure

This is the incompetent who could do nothing other than wring her hands during the "Katrina" disaster

Tax breaks for parents who pay private and parochial school tuition, for business utility costs and for the replacement of hurricane-damaged property were vetoed Friday by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in a flurry of last-minute bill rejections. Those tax break bills were included in a batch of a dozen vetoed bills that Blanco's office said wrapped up the governor's actions on all measures passed by lawmakers in the regular legislative session that ended last month. Blanco then headed to Michigan for a meeting with the nation's governors.

The vetoes were Blanco's first of any tax break bills from the legislative session. Lawmakers approved a host of tax breaks big and small, and the governor agreed to many of them. The tax breaks she rejected Friday were overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers. In her veto message to the Senate about the private school tuition tax break, Blanco - an ardent supporter of public schools and opponent of voucher programs - said the bill by Sen. Rob Marionneaux could "subsidize private schools at the expense of public school children."

Marionneaux's bill would have allowed parents to take an income tax deduction for 50 percent of private and parochial school tuition and fee costs, up to a maximum $5,000 deduction, starting July 1, 2008. Supporters said the tax break would help parents who struggle to pay for private school tuition. They said in some areas the state's public schools performed so poorly that parents had little choice but to turn to private and parochial schools to educate their children.

The Rev. William Maestri, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said the archdiocese was disappointed with Blanco's actions. "This veto clearly indicates that Gov. Blanco is acting on behalf of teachers' unions and teachers' organizations rather than on behalf of parents and students," Maestri said in a statement.

Opponents called the bill a backdoor attempt to enact a voucher program statewide that would funnel state money away from public education to private schools. "I understand the sacrifice some parents make to send their children to private schools," Blanco wrote in her veto letter. "But, state government's primary responsibility is to maintain a public educational system."

More here

Oppressive use of police as a substitute for school discipline in Oregon

More hatred of kids. The police should never have been involved

The two boys tore down the hall of Patton Middle School after lunch, swatting the bottoms of girls as they ran -- what some kids later said was a common form of greeting. But bottom-slapping is against policy in McMinnville Public Schools. So a teacher's aide sent the gawky seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school soon interrogated them.

After hours of interviews with students the day of the February incident, the officer read the boys their Miranda rights and hauled them off in handcuffs to juvenile jail, where they spent the next five days. Now, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, face the prospect of 10 years in juvenile detention and a lifetime on the sex offender registry in a case that poses a fundamental question: When is horseplay a crime?

Bradley Berry, the McMinnville district attorney, said his office "aggressively" pursues sex crimes that involve children. "These cases are devastating to children," he said. "They are life-altering cases." Last year, in a previously undisclosed prosecution, he charged two other Patton Middle School boys with felony sex abuse for repeatedly slapping the bottom of a female student. Both pleaded guilty to harassment, which is a misdemeanor. Berry declined to discuss his cases against Mashburn and Cornelison.

The boys and their parents say Berry has gone far beyond what is necessary, criminalizing actions that they acknowledge were inappropriate. School district officials said Friday they had addressed the incident by suspending the students for five days.

The outlines of the case have been known. But confidential police reports and juvenile court records shed new light on the context of the boys' actions. The records show that other students, boys and girls, were slapping one another's bottoms. Two of the girls identified as victims have recanted, saying they felt pressured and gave false statements to interrogators. The documents also show that the boys face 10 misdemeanor charges -- five sex abuse counts, five harassment counts -- reduced from initial charges of felony sex abuse. The boys are scheduled to go on trial Aug. 20.

A leading expert called the case a "travesty of justice" that is part of a growing trend in which children as young as 8 are being labeled sexual predators in juvenile court, where documents and proceedings are often secret.

More here


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, July 25, 2007


Post lifted from Dan Mandel. See the original for links

Sara Roy, a senior research scholar at Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, complained recently of censorship because her review of a book by the Washington Institute's Mathew Levitt, Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, was rejected by a peer review panel at Tufts University's Fletcher Forum on World Affairs as one-sided and lacking in objectivity. (Apparently, peer review is regarded by Roy as a mere formality, something akin to the approval of a presidential decree by the Syrian parliament). Cinnamon Stillwell has a detailed account of the issue. Roy's review was in the end published elsewhere and upon reading it, the justification for its earlier rejection is readily apparent.

This is what Roy had to say in her review about Hamas, the Islamist movement whose innovation in Palestinian politics has been to move in its Charter beyond the customary call for Israel's extinction by violence to the general murder of Jews:

Since Hamas's victory in the January 2006 legislative elections, there has been a further evolution in its political thinking - as evidenced in some of its key political documents - characterized by a strong emphasis on state-building and programmatic work, greater refinement with regard to its position on a two-state solution and the role of resistance, and a progressive de-emphasis on religion.

Really? Here are some indicators of Hamas' record since January 2006: In February 2006, senior Hamas figures Mahmoud Zahar and Saed Siyam rejected any possible peace negotiations with Israel, with Zahar saying that Israel was an enemy, and thus not a partner for negotiations.

In April 2006, Musa Abu Marzouq, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, reiterated in an interview that "One of Hamas's founding principals is that it does not recognize Israel. We [participated in] the elections and the people voted for us based on this platform. Therefore, the question of recognizing Israel is definitely not on the table unless it withdraws from ALL the Palestinian lands, not only to the 1967 borders."

In June 2006, Hamas blasted Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas for suggesting that it may accept a two-state solution and recognize Israel.

In September 2006, Marzouq said: "Hamas has serious reservations about the [Arab Peace] initiative since it involves acceptance of two states, Palestine and Israel. Hamas rejects this because it means recognition of Israel."

At a 20 October 2006 Hamas convention in Khan Yunis, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated that "Israel is a vile entity that has been planted in our soil, and has no historical, religious or cultural legitimacy. We cannot normalize our relations with this entity ... [We say] no to recognizing Israel, regardless of the price we may have to pay [for our refusal]."

In March 2007, Hamas issued a statement reaffirming that it was still committed to Israel's destruction despite having signed a power-sharing agreement with Fatah in Mecca: "We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine." Later that month, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated, "We stress that we do not and will never recognize the right of Israel to exist on one inch of Palestinian land."

In April 2007, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan declared in a sermon televised on Palestinian television that "The Hour [Resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the rock and the tree will say: `Oh, Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him!' We must remind our Arab and Muslim nation, its leaders and people, its scholars and students, remind them that Palestine and the Al Aqsa mosque will not be liberated through summits nor by international resolutions, but it will be liberated through the rifle."

Not particularly telling examples of "refinement" with regard to its position on a two-state solution (a defective euphemism for accepting Israel) or anything else. Roy's Orwellian apologia for Hamas is a telling instance of the corruption of academic standards in Middle East studies.

Australia: Back to basics for misguided educators

Public debate is the first step towards improving the nation's failing school systems, writes Kevin Donnelly

HOW successful is Australia's education system? Based on apparent high rates of illiteracy, automatic promotion of students without the necessary knowledge and skills, our second-rate performance in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study tests and a dumbed-down, outcomes-based approach to curriculum, the answer is: not very.

Unsurprisingly, as noted in the federal government-funded survey Parents' Attitudes to Schooling, on being asked to give their views about the quality of school education, only 58.3per cent of parents of primary school-aged children expressed satisfaction, while at the secondary level that figure was 39.9 per cent.

Two of the top three parental concerns are the quality of the curriculum and the standard of teaching. As may be expected, those responsible for falling standards and under-achievement argue that all is well and that any talk of a crisis is a media beat-up or a conservative political ploy.

Take the Australian Education Union's submission to the Senate committee's inquiry into education standards, which held hearings across Australia early this month. The AEU argues that "standards in Australian schooling compare favourably with those in most other countries and historically", and that the Howard Government's concerns about standards are simply "a means of diverting attention from the inequity of its funding mechanisms and attacking its critics". By making public the parlous state of our education system, commentators such as myself, in articles in The Australian, are condemned by the AEU as being involved in "reactionary witch hunting" and guilty of employing "myths, misconceptions and deceit".

The AEU is not alone in wanting to shoot the messenger. Last year the educrats from the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and the Australian Secondary Principals Association put out a media release arguing the education debate had been "hijacked by partisan political views and media commentators pushing their own barrows". The Australian Association for the Teaching of English is another organisation that argues all is well; it describes Australian education as "spectacularly successful". Australia's high ranking in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment tests for 15-year-olds and the results of national literacy tests are used as evidence that our approach to education is world's best practice.

In opposition to public concerns about the way classic literature has been destroyed by politically correct theory and critical literacy, where students are taught to deconstruct texts in terms of power relationships and victim-hood, the AATE also argues that such theories represent the best way to teach English. Judging by other submissions to the Senate inquiry, it is obvious that fears about falling standards are not a media beat-up and that many respected and well-qualified teachers and educators argue that much needs to be done to strengthen and improve our education system.

As noted in the submission from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, advocates of the PISA test ignore that the test evaluates so-called real-life skills, not the school curriculum. The AMSI submission also argues that PISA "is not a valid assessment of the mathematics knowledge, as only a fragment of the curriculum is tested" and "some of the questions are effectively general aptitude tests rather than mathematical ones".

Based on the results of the TIMSS tests, Australian students are in the second XI when it comes to international mathematics and science performance, and we have a longer tail of under-performing students. According to AMSI, the reasons for Australia's under-performance include the inferior quality of our curriculum documents, lack of expertise and confidence among primary-school teachers caused by flaws in teacher training and, as a result of universities dropping prerequisite subjects, a decline in the numbers of students taking more difficult senior-school courses.

Notwithstanding the AATE's claim that Australia has "internationally acclaimed, rigorous, research-based and balanced curricula and teaching methodologies", literacy is another area where there is increasing evidence that teachers and schools are being let down.

Kerry Hempenstall, an academic specialising in literacy at RMIT University in Melbourne, argues in his submission that many of the curriculum innovations that regularly wash over Australian classrooms lack a rigorous research base. The reality is that fads such as whole language, where the assertion is made that learning to read is as natural as learning to talk, have bred generations of illiterate students. As noted by Hempenstall, "These assertions have influenced educational practice for the last 20 years, yet they have each been shown by research to be incorrect. The consequence has been an unnecessary burden on struggling students to manage the task of learning to read. Not only have they been denied helpful strategies but they have been encouraged to employ moribund strategies."

One of the most telling critiques of outcomes-based education has been developed by a group of teachers associated with the Perth-based People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes ( PLATO members have worked tirelessly in opposition to extending outcomes-based education into years 11 and 12 and have been instrumental in the West Australian Government's efforts to ameliorate the worst excesses of the new certificate. In their submissions, PLATO members Igor Bray, professor of physics at Murdoch University, Stephen Kessell, a retired associate professor at Curtin University, and Marko Vojkovic, a teacher, suggest that standards have fallen, that more needs to be done to strengthen teacher education and that teachers need to be properly supported in their work with academically based, clear and succinct syllabus road maps.

While many of those responsible for the present malaise vilify the media for placing education firmly on the public and political agenda, ignored is the fact education is far too important to leave to the so-called experts, and the first stage of strengthening and improving the system is public debate.



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, July 24, 2007

The culture gap and school failure

Cut through all the statistical squid ink surrounding the issue of economic inequality, and you'll find a phenomenon that genuinely deserves public concern. Over the past quarter-century or so, the return on human capital has risen significantly. Or to put it another way, the opportunity cost of failing to develop human capital is now much higher than it used to be. The wage premium associated with a college degree has jumped to around 70% in recent years from around 30% in 1980; the graduate degree premium has soared to over 100% from 50%. Meanwhile, dropping out of high school now all but guarantees socioeconomic failure.

In part this development is cause for celebration. Rising demand for analytical and interpersonal skills has been driving the change, and surely it is good news that economic signals now so strongly encourage the development of human talent. Yet -- and here is the cause for concern -- the supply of skilled people is responding sluggishly to the increased demand.

Despite the strong incentives, the percentage of people with college degrees has been growing only modestly. Between 1995 and 2005, the share of men with college degrees inched up to 29% from 26%. And the number of high school dropouts remains stubbornly high: The ratio of diplomas awarded to 17-year-olds has been stuck around 70% for three decades.

Something is plainly hindering the effectiveness of the market's carrots and sticks. And that something is culture. Before explaining what I mean, let me go back to the squid ink and clarify what's not worrisome about the inequality statistics. For those who grind their ideological axes on these numbers, the increase in measured inequality since the 1970s is proof that the new, more competitive, more entrepreneurial economy of recent decades (which also happens to be less taxed and less unionized) has somehow failed to provide widespread prosperity. According to left-wing doom-and-gloomers, only an "oligarchy" at the very top is benefiting from the current system.

Hogwash. This argument can be disposed of with a simple thought experiment. First, picture the material standard of living you could have afforded back in 1979 with the median household income then of $16,461. Now picture the mix of goods and services you could buy in 2004 with the median income of $44,389. Which is the better deal? Only the most blinkered ideologue could fail to see the dramatic expansion of comforts, conveniences and opportunities that the contemporary family enjoys.

Much of the increase in measured inequality has nothing to do with the economic system at all. Rather, it is a product of demographic changes. Rising numbers of both single-parent households and affluent dual-earner couples have stretched the income distribution; so, too, has the big influx of low-skilled Hispanic immigrants. Meanwhile, in a 2006 paper published in the American Economic Review, economist Thomas Lemieux calculated that roughly three-quarters of the rise in wage inequality among workers with similar skills is due simply to the fact that the population is both older and better educated today than it was in the 1970s.

It is true that superstars in sports, entertainment and business now earn stratospheric incomes. But what is that to you and me? If the egalitarian left has been reduced to complaining that people in the 99th income percentile in a given year (and they're not the same people from year to year) are leaving behind those in the 90th percentile, it has truly arrived at the most farcical of intellectual dead ends.

Which brings us back to the real issue: the human capital gap, and the culture gap that impedes its closure. The most obvious and heartrending cultural deficits are those that produce and perpetuate the inner-city underclass. Consider this arresting fact: While the poverty rate nationwide is 13%, only 3% of adults with full-time, year-round jobs fall below the poverty line. Poverty in America today is thus largely about failing to get and hold a job, any job.

The problem is not lack of opportunity. If it were, the country wouldn't be a magnet for illegal immigrants. The problem is a lack of elementary self-discipline: failing to stay in school, failing to live within the law, failing to get and stay married to the mother or father of your children. The prevalence of all these pathologies reflects a dysfunctional culture that fails to invest in human capital.

Other, less acute deficits distinguish working-class culture from that of the middle and upper classes. According to sociologist Annette Lareau, working-class parents continue to follow the traditional, laissez-faire child-rearing philosophy that she calls "the accomplishment of natural growth." But at the upper end of the socioeconomic scale, parents now engage in what she refers to as "concerted cultivation" -- intensively overseeing kids' schoolwork and stuffing their after-school hours and weekends with organized enrichment activities. This new kind of family life is often hectic and stressful, but it inculcates in children the intellectual, organizational and networking skills needed to thrive in today's knowledge-based economy. In other words, it makes unprecedented, heavy investments in developing children's human capital.

Consider these data from the National Education Longitudinal Study, an in-depth survey of educational achievement. Among students who received high scores in eighth grade mathematics (and thus showed academic promise), 74% of kids from the highest quartile of socioeconomic status (measured as a composite of parental education, occupations and family income) eventually earned a college degree. By contrast, the college graduation rate fell to 47% for kids from the middle two quartiles, and 29% for those in the bottom quartile. Perhaps more generous financial aid might affect those numbers at the margins, but at the core of these big differentials are differences in the values, skills and habits taught in the home.

Contrary to the warnings of the alarmist left, the increase in economic inequality does not mean the economic system isn't working properly. On the contrary, the system is delivering more opportunities for comfortable, challenging lives than our culture enables us to take advantage of. Far from underperforming, our productive capacity has now outstripped our cultural capacity.

Alas, there is no silver bullet for closing the culture gap. But the public institutions most directly responsible for human capital formation are the nation's schools, and it seems beyond serious dispute that in many cases they are failing to discharge their responsibilities adequately. Those interested in reducing meaningful economic inequality would thus be well advised to focus on education reform. And forget about adding new layers of bureaucracy and top-down controls. Real improvements will come from challenging the moribund state-school monopoly with greater competition.


Campus Watch and California's Middle East Academic Radicals

By Cinnamon Stillwell

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it became painfully clear that if America was to become more engaged in the Middle East, it would need to develop a greater understanding of the area. Scholars of Middle East studies at our nation's universities were called upon to explain the religious, cultural and political dynamics of the region to students, journalists, and politicians Unfortunately, many of the leading academic lights in the field proved to be woefully unprepared for the conflict at hand and-much worse, were actively hostile to the interests of the United States and its allies.

It was for this reason that in Sept. 2002, Middle East Forum director and Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes started Campus Watch (, a project intended, as stated at its website, to "review and critique Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them." Campus Watch has since focused its efforts on the West Coast, where no shortage exists of Middle East studies academics with problematic perspectives. Consider the following views publicly expressed by denizens of the ivory tower:

"As far as I can tell, American empire is safe and secure, despite my best efforts to topple it (although Musab al-Zarqawi seems to be doing a good job in Iraq)."

UC Irvine history and Islamic studies professor Mark LeVine

"Israel is an 'apartheid state' and a 'colonial state,' but Hamas and Hezbollah are 'liberation movements.'"

Diablo Valley College Middle East studies instructor Imam Amer Araim

"America's military presence is metastasizing throughout the Arab world to the point of malignancy. Isn't it curious that Muslims are the ones under pressure to proclaim that their religion is the 'religion of peace'?"

UC Berkeley Islamic studies professor Hamid Algar

"You can't have a Palestinian state with its own rights, when you have 150,000 Jewish extremists sitting in the middle."

UCLA history professor Gabriel Piterberg

"It's about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. ...They're gonna say some Palestinian being too radical - well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!

UC Berkeley Islamic studies lecturer Hatem Bazian

Unfortunately, such sentiments are par for the course at California colleges and universities where a culture of political correctness has allowed apologists for radical Islam to dominate Middle East studies. Instead of offering college students the historical basis and intellectual tools to help them better understand the realities of a changing world, far too many Middle East studies professors engage in indoctrination. The classroom has become merely a tool for pushing a political agenda.

At the same time, students that dare to buck the prevailing orthodoxy often find themselves the victims of intimidation and suppression at the hands of their own professors and administration. Professors that diverge from the party line can also face ostracism and, at times, discrimination.

In working to stem the tide of intolerance and academic dishonesty on California's colleges and universities, Campus Watch will inevitably run up against the sort of smears to which it has long been subjected. Critics often accuse Campus Watch of practicing "McCarthyism" or "censorship," but they couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, Campus Watch analyzes and critiques Middle East studies, employing specialists in the field, original research, and the largest archive of related news and information available on the Internet.

Campus Watch holds no governmental power, nor does it control academic and financial decision-making at colleges and universities. Campus Watch takes no position on debates over tenure and, according to its mission statement, "fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds." Only those who equate criticism with censorship could confuse Campus Watch with being anything other than what it is - a participant in the free exchange of ideas. After all, rigorous debate should be the very essence of higher education.

Yet in the rarified, insulated world of academia, professors arrogantly assert that they should be answerable to no one: Not even the taxpayers who foot the bill for keeping the universities running. In what other profession would such a demand for unaccountability be tolerated? Simply by shedding light on the discipline, Campus Watch is bucking that trend. Judging by the level of vitriol generated in response, its efforts are paying off.

The state of Middle East studies should concern us all. And, lest one be misled, the issue at hand has nothing to do with political or religious affiliation. Rather, it's about the importance of providing students, politicians, and journalists with accurate and fair information on this most important of fields during this crucial time. The next generation deserves no less.



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, July 23, 2007

Schools should be protected from unreasonable searches

The 4th Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"

As an attorney, I believe that government schools should be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment ban of unreasonable searches. The recent police-state raid in Goose Creek, South Carolina is another in the growing list of proofs.

Government schools have a special exemption under the 4th Amendment, a lowered standard that promotes police-state raids. A raid was caught on videotape when gun-toting police burst into a high school, ordering students to lie flat on their stomachs in hallways as they searched for drugs at Goose Creek, South Carolina on Nov. 7, 2003. Police handcuffed anyone who apparently didn’t comply quickly enough. The tape showed police waving their guns and searching lockers. Worse still, the media reports that the school maintains constant video surveillance of students through various cameras available to police.

During my legal career, parents have asked me if it is wise (or constitutional) for government to control everyone’s education. Government schools create milquetoasts in the same way that Cuban schools create socialists. That is why parents subject their own children to government schools with constant video surveillance and police-state tactics. Government schools in the U.S. are different only in degree from schools in the former USSR

The 4th amendment should be improved to specifically include “schools” with the same high standard given to homes. Of course, the only real solution is to end government schools. Many parents have already rescued their children from government schools in favor of the many better alternatives. The U.S. did not have government schools when the Fourth (and First) Amendment was written. If the authors of the Constitution had foreseen the government’s education monstrosity then the Fourth Amendment would have included government schools, and the First Amendment would have banned Congress from the establishment of religion and education.

The Constitution should be amended to include “education” next to “religion.” The separation of school and state is as important as the separation of church and state. And for the same ideological reasons. The proposed constitutional amendment is discussed in detail at

Even if an excuse could be made for the initial creation of some government schools, their ongoing existence is proof of their ongoing failure to educate people to handle their own (or their childrens’) educations without government schools. The Post And Courier newspaper in Charleston reports the high school is one of the largest in the state with 2,760 students. It has an academic reputation as one of the Low country’s best. But that doesn’t show from the subservient comments of the students and parents. The media reported that “the commando-style raid has parents questioning the wisdom of police tactics.” Sadly, no media reported that the raid has parents questioning the wisdom of government schools. And that is more proof that government schools are dangerous and must end.

One media outlet reported that a parent said, “I was just upset knowing they had guns put to their head and a K9 was barking at them and about to bite somebody. It was awful.” Only through years of government schooling can a parent actually make such a statement and not announce that she is withdrawing her student from government schools. She did not even question the constitutionality of government schools per se.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the media reports state that parents and students are already aware, and have done nothing about, the fact that the school maintains constant video surveillance available to police. The paper quoted a law enforcement officer as saying that he watched school surveillance tapes from four days that showed students congregating under various cameras, allegedly to avoid being filmed. “They know where the cameras are. If they stand directly under them, the camera’s don’t look directly down,” the law enforcement officer told a paper.

The 4th amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Police didn’t find any criminals in the armed sweep nor any drugs. Goose Creek police and school administrators defended the draconian measures as necessary for crime prevention.


Testing defended in Britain

The new Children, Schools and Families Secretary set himself on a collision course with the teaching establishment yesterday by pledging that national testing and school league tables were here to stay. Despite growing pressure from the Government's own examinations regulator and the majority of the teaching profession about overtesting in schools, Ed Balls said that "testing and the publication of results" were the only way to ensure accountability. "It enables us to be able to see as policymakers what is working, who is not performing well and, in the extremes, being able to tackle poor performance," he told The Times. It was necessary also, he said, to help parents to judge the performance of their child's school.

Mr Balls's comments will disappoint the main teaching unions, as well as the professional body, the General Teaching Council. All complain that, far from raising standards, overtesting encourages a narrow curriculum, alienating students from learning and increasing their anxiety.

Children in England typically sit 70 tests and exams in their school careers and are the most tested in the world. Despite this, Britain is near the bottom of international league tables for the number of students leaving school with valuable qualifications.

Critics of testing include Ken Boston, head of the examinations regulator, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, who has argued that national tests for children aged 7, 11 and 14 should be replaced by the random testing of a sample of pupils and teacher assessments.

Mr Balls's opposition to this approach will also distance the Government from the Conservative Party, which has promised "fewer but tougher" tests and the dropping of Key Stage 3 tests at 14. In his first newspaper interview since he was appointed three weeks ago, Mr Balls also attacked Tory support for more streaming and the promise made by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, for a "grammar stream" in every comprehensive.

Mr Balls stopped short of banning streaming, which involves separating children into groups according to overall ability and teaching them in the same class for all subjects, arguing that individual head teachers know what works best in their own schools. But he emphasised that it was "backward-looking and divisive", imposing an arbitrary judgment on children's intelligence and ignoring individual talents. He said that he would rather see a greater use of setting, where children are separated into ability groups for individual subjects. "I do not find anybody sensible advocating streaming in schools. As somebody who went through streaming myself through secondary school I saw how deeply socially divisive it was," he said.

Mr Balls said that he would be making a series of impromptu visits to schools to spend time with teachers and pupils, who would not be informed who he was. He made his first such visit on Monday, when he spent the day at Banbury School in Oxfordshire, having informed only the head, the deputy and two senior staff members of his intention to visit. He arrived on foot, having asked his driver to drop him some distance from the school and was introduced to teachers and pupils as "a visitor".

He said that there was an old-fashioned view that you either focused on the welfare of the child or drove up standards in the classroom. His visit to Banbury had shown him that this was a false choice. "You can only drive up standards if you are actually focusing on the whole child, tracking their learning on an individual basis, but also knowing that if they aren't ready to learn because they are not sleeping or have difficulties at home, it's not possible for them to do well," he said.

He was determined to tackle the "achievement gap" in society, emphasising the importance of closer cooperation between education, health and social care services for children. "There are children in the same borough, on the same streets sometimes, and even going to the same schools, who have radically different experiences, shaped by family income and family environment, by poor health. The scandal is not England v Sweden, but Blackbird Leys v Headington. It's Harehills v Roundhay. It is North Kensington v South Kensington," he said.

Mr Balls said that more than 400 city academies could be set up, but insisted that they should become part of the "mainstream" and work more closely with nearby schools. The man who has spent most of his political life advising or working for Gordon Brown admitted that he felt "a bit liberated" at being outside the Treasury at last and declared himself ready to argue hard with his former colleagues for cash. Acknowledging that plans for a more flexible national curriculum would place a heavy burden on teachers and head teachers, he said that he would welcome the appointment of head teachers from outside the teaching profession.



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, July 22, 2007

California: Battle over exit exam concluded

Exam stays

State education officials and lawyers representing students who failed the California High School Exit Exam settled a lawsuit Thursday that began last year in an attempt to eliminate the test as a graduation requirement. Under the agreement, the test remains in place but schools must continue to educate students who fail for an additional two years after 12th grade -- if those students want to return and try the test again.

Both sides saw it as a victory. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell gets to keep the test, which has been a cornerstone of his platform as the head of the state's public school system. Advocates for low-performing students get to keep those kids in school a bit longer, with the hopes they'll pass the test and earn a diploma. "For our clients, this is absolutely a victory," said Arturo Gonzalez, the San Francisco attorney who represented students in the classes of 2006 and 2007 who couldn't graduate from high school because they failed the exit exam. "It just means that if (a school is) going to have a special course to prepare students for the test, you may have to invite five kids from last year who didn't pass. And that's a lot better than having those five kids out on the street."

Gonzalez sued O'Connell over the test last year, months before the first class required to pass it was scheduled to graduate. The courts initially sided with Gonzalez and tossed the test. Then the state Supreme Court overturned the decision and restored the test. The parties have been hashing out a settlement ever since. "We won the lawsuit to the extent the exit exam stayed in place, but the litigation was never dismissed. There was always the potential for the case to go to trial," said Hilary McLean, O'Connell's press secretary. "We thought it was important to end the threat of a potential lawsuit."

The state is paying Gonzalez's law firm $87,000. And the state is paying county offices of education $1.5 million to oversee that districts comply with the terms of the settlement. The cost of educating students who return after 12th grade will come from the funds schools already receive from the state to prepare students for the exit exam, McLean said. Students who return can receive test preparation in English and math. Those who are not fluent in English can take more classes to learn the language, according to the agreement. "We are going to ensure that districts immediately begin notifying students in the classes of '06 and '07 that they have the opportunity to come back for additional instruction," Gonzalez said. "They need to set up a program and then do whatever they can to get students to attend."

The settlement will become final if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approves Assembly Bill 347, by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara. The bill, which awaits approval in the Senate, spells out the details of the settlement.


Serious loss of mathematics skills in Australia

AUSTRALIA is losing its mathematical skills as school courses are hijacked by fads and divorced from modern mathematics as practised in industry and business. At a time when economic growth is underpinned by jobs in maths-related fields, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute says the teaching and learning of maths in schools and universities is in serious trouble and suffering from a lack of input from mathematicians. Not only is the number of students taking maths continually falling, especially at an advanced level, but even students studying related fields such as engineering and science are taking fewer maths courses.

In a submission to a numeracy review being undertaken by federal, state and territory governments under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments, AMSI is critical of the review for its ignorance of modern maths and its application in industry and business, and for failing to include mathematicians in the process. "Mathematicians and statisticians have had few opportunities to be involved in school mathematics for a number of years," says AMSI, representing 30 universities and mathematical organisations. "As a result, serious misconceptions concerning modern mathematics are arising ... particularly concerning the role of foundation or 'pure' mathematics."

AMSI says that in the absence of input from experts and users of mathematical sciences across the trades and professions, school curriculums tend not to reflect pertinent mathematical content and have become the victim of fads. Mathematics has also "lost coherence and many of its successful teachers". "We are deeply concerned by the failure of the background (review) paper to address specific content, the apparent lack of knowledge of modern mathematical sciences, the inability to give examples of good practice (at) high-achieving schools and failure to address Australian curriculum expectations compared to those of other nations," the submission notes.

It says school curriculums tended to reflect the belief that pure maths courses were only required for highly specialised areas, when pure maths was a vital element of many new applications in various fields, such as climate change, as well as providing the fundamental understanding required to apply mathematical concepts.



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.