Saturday, December 22, 2007

School Prankster Orders Electro-Shock of Teen Boys

(Boston, Massachusetts) Seven staffers at the Judge Rotenberg Education Center, a group home for developmentally disabled youngsters, have been fired for unknowingly participating in a hoax last August when two boys were given dozens of electric shocks.

A prank caller ordered the shocks be given in the early morning hours of August 26th. After the two boys, ages 16 and 19, were awakened in the middle of the night, their arms and legs were bound and shocks were administered.
From 2 to 4:45 a.m., one teenager received 77 shocks, while another got 29, according to the report by the state Department of Early Education and Care, which licenses group homes.

As the two youths screamed, other residents woke up and insisted the accused teenagers had violated no rules. One even told staff that the caller might be a prankster.

Staff members did not realize their mistake until one of them called the central office and determined that no punishment orders had been given for the teenagers.
The Rotenberg staff members were fired for failing to stop the cruel treatment even though there was sufficient reason to doubt the validity of the caller's orders.

Fortunately, authorities have identified the prankster and are considering the possibility of criminal charges.

Notably, the Rotenberg facility is believed to be the only special education center in the U.S. that employs electro-shock treatment. Although it remains controversial, many officials and parents are convinced that the treatment is effective for hard-to-teach children.

Outrage is essentially absent which is the exact opposite of the avalanche of worldwide outrage that thundered when American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison pretended to use electro-shock on terrorist detainees. Maybe readers can reconcile the difference.
FSM's Second Annual `America's Most Dangerous College Courses'

It's been two years since I've begun investigating insipid, scary and yes, downright dangerous college courses - sometimes funded by tax dollars - and unfortunately, little has changed. Arrogant professors, protected by tenure and faint-hearted administrators, use their classrooms to spread their twisted views of America and its allies. Sometimes, entire courses are focused on anti-American views; other times, professors take time from non-political classes, such as math or Kinesiology, to complain about George Bush, the war on terrorism, social justice, and whatever it is that happens to bother them at the time of their rants. Consequently, students are not being taught properly and universities and colleges are robbing their students of the well-rounded educations they are paying for and deserve.

As was the case with the first installment of this list in 2006, courses for this list are based on a variety of criteria:

* The course must focus on the issue or issues detailed in the syllabus or class description. That is, a math course with a professor who may rail against America will not be considered.

* The course must also express an agenda far beyond any honest or accurate academic cause. That is, professors who teach courses that lie, manipulate facts, propagandize students, or express a dishonest and fact-deficient extremist view on the class topic, will be considered.

* Courses that may be required as part of a "core" curriculum will also be considered if they offer nothing more than to stroke the ego of the professor's fascination with silly topics that offer little academic value to students.

These courses represent the worst seminars offered by a university or college in 2007-2008, and should be avoided if you appreciate honest and rational debate - and if you wish to steer clear of anti-American rhetoric. Courses that rob students of facts, and professors who stroke their egos and indoctrinate students, are dangerous. Now, on to the list:

10. Collegiate Sexualities at Occidental College.

9. Body Politics: Power, Pain, and Pleasure at Williams College.

8. Issues Dividing America at Columbia University.

7. Whiteness and Multiculturalism at Ithaca College.

6. Truth, Lies, Politics, and Policy at Portland State University.

5. Introduction to Labor Studies at the University of Washington.

4. Speaking Out at Bucknell College.

3. Imperialism in American History at the University of California, Irvine.

2. Movements in Social Justice at Occidental College.

1. Islam in Global Contexts at DePaul University.

And now, the analysis:

10. "Collegiate Sexualities" at Occidental College.

It's hard to believe that this course for freshmen at Occidental College - my alma mater - is one that focuses on the "hook up" culture of college students. Offering not an iota of academic value, the course aims to debate such titillating questions as, "Do hook-ups require drunkenness?", "What are college students' sexual identities or dis- identifications?" and "What are the political ramifications of identifying as gay, lesbian, straight, bi, queer, asexual, spectral, or something else?"

For those of you not up to date on the extremist politically correct language on sexuality, "spectral" apparently "suggest[s] that homosexuality or lesbianism are threatening specters feared by the heterosexual mainstream" (I had to look up this word.) When was the last time someone you know identified his sexuality as "spectral"? I'm willing to wager not recently, if at all, leading one to believe that this course's aim is to brainwash freshman into thinking heterosexuals in the mainstream fear homosexuality (read: we're all homophobes).

Much more here

A Texas version of Head Start does no good either

But it's a great honeypot for educrats

A groundbreaking effort to prepare Texas preschoolers for kindergarten has eaten up millions of taxpayer dollars but has yet to deliver on the investment, according to a new report released by the Texas Education Agency.

The findings spotlight a lack of budget transparency, little accountability and a lot of administrative overhead in the Texas Early Education Model, or TEEM, a state program run out of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The program "operates in a netherworld of state finance" far removed from TEA oversight, according to the report by Edvance Research Inc., a San Antonio consulting firm.

State officials have pumped more than $45 million into the program since 2003. Yet the report found no proof that most children fared better in TEEM than in conventional preschool programs. "I thought those were pretty damning conclusions," said Samuel Meisels, a critic who runs the Erikson Institute, a Chicago graduate school that specializes in early-childhood development.

TEEM's leader defended the program, saying the consultant's report paints an inaccurate picture. And TEA officials said they're trying to improve the program but stressed that its performance has met the agency's expectations.

Last year, just under 27,000 children in 33 Texas communities participated in TEEM, which is expected to become the state's blueprint for all preschools. More than 100 classrooms in Dallas, Irving, Garland, Lancaster and Little Elm participate. TEEM is different from conventional pre-kindergarten programs. The model depends on the state's support for structured lesson plans and coaching for teachers at private day-care centers and federal Head Start programs. It also operates in some public school district preschools. It also places certified public school teachers in private day-care centers as mentors for less-educated workers.

The consultant's report drew a misleading portrait of an otherwise landmark effort, said Dr. Susan Landry, a UT researcher who oversees the program as director of the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development. Dr. Landry's operation bills itself as the early-childhood arm of the Texas Education Agency, which regulates public schools. TEA spent about $374,000 on the consultant's report. She said the report treated TEEM like a program with deep roots and deep pockets instead of a start-up with limited money and manpower. "They [Edvance consultants] had a certain charge from TEA, and they did their jobs," she said. "But there were other things that could have been looked at."

TEEM grew out of state lawmakers' attempts to add structure and value to preschool, an area of education known for finger painting and afternoon naps. More states have turned to preschool as a way to close achievement gaps between wealthy and poor children, which is harder to do when kids are older. Dr. Meisels, who has tracked the Texas Early Education Model, says it's a mistake to put an unproven preschool program on the fast track.... The report pointed out other problems, including:

* Dr. Landry's group reported expenses in vague detail.

* About 40 percent of the state program's budget appeared to go to salaries, benefits, travel and other expenses.

* The program's system of collecting cost and student records was somewhat incomplete and lacked uniformity.

TEA officials said they're taking steps to achieve more detailed accounting and more closely oversee TEEM. But they emphasized that Dr. Landry's group has met the agency's expectations. "I think people see a huge amount of money flowing to the state center, and they have the impression that the state center is keeping that money, and they really are not," said Gina Day, deputy associate commissioner at TEA. "They're running pretty lean, frankly." ....

The Texas Early Education Model primarily targets poor children in certain areas, but supporters want to see the program extended to every corner of the state. Dr. Landry's group also developed a voluntary preschool ratings system to grade private and public preschools on how well they groom kids for kindergarten. No one else has attempted to level the playing field of preschools, Dr. Landry said. "To be at the point we're at with that small of an investment is quite amazing," she said. "Programs across the country don't do this kind of evaluation."


Australian universities get tough on bad English

This is a sensible measure but how long will it be before we hear shrieks of "discrimination" and "racism"?

INTERNATIONAL students, Aborigines and newly arrived migrants face tougher English language requirements to get into Victorian universities after institutions complained they were not performing as well as local students. The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre has allowed universities to raise the entrance scores required for students who have completed English as a second language instead of English in their final year of school.

Secondary school students who have been in an English-speaking country less than seven years, are here studying from another country or Aborigines whose first language is not English are entitled to study ESL, which was previously worth the same marks as English. But under the changes to start in 2009, ESL students will have to get five points higher than students studying English to meet university entrance requirements.

The move came as Swinburne University decided to test the English language skills of incoming international and domestic students. Those who perform badly will be required to undertake extra English classes as part of their undergraduate degree. The University of Melbourne, the Australian Maritime College, Monash, La Trobe and Deakin universities have indicated they will increase ESL scores for course selection, making it five points higher than the minimum score needed for English. But RMIT University, Victoria University and the University of Ballarat have decided against the increase for 2009 entry and Swinburne University is waiting for the results of its new English testing project before deciding whether to raise ESL scores.

Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre director Elaine Wenn told the HES VTAC did a review of VCE English and ESL scores after requests from universities. She said institutions had done their own research and discovered ESL students often could not compete with local students who had studied English. "They found that students entering university with ESL were not doing as well, some even had a higher rate of failure than the students who had the same study scores in English," Ms Wenn said.

She said the VTAC study compared five years worth of VCE English and ESL results with general aptitude tests taken by the students. The research found there was a difference in the way the English and ESL students performed on aptitude tests. "It was telling us that a higher score was required for ESL to get the same score in English," Ms Wenn said. "We are just trying to be fair," La Trobe University admissions and selection chairman Peter Stacey said. He said the aim was to establish equivalent standards.

Monash University demographer Bob Birrell backed the move, saying there was strong anecdotal evidence international students with poor English skills enrolled in Australian high schools as a way of getting into university.


Friday, December 21, 2007

How to cut time spent on getting a Ph.D. degree

This is all amazing to me. 10-year Ph.D.s? I completed my psychology Ph.D. at a major Australian university in the minimum two years -- while I was a High School teacher. I actually had all the work done after one year. So I filled out the second year getting stuff published. There must be an awful lot of dummies getting Ph.D.s these days

For doctoral students, the clock is always ticking. How many years of fellowship support do you have left? How long can you delay starting a family or bringing home a real paycheck? How old do you want to be while still being a student? How many good jobs will disappear before you have a Ph.D.? But what about the professors who supervise doctoral work? Does the clock tick for them enough to motivate them to be realistic about dissertation expectations, to be sure to get comments back on that chapter draft, and to both encourage and prod their Ph.D. students to the finish line?

A series of new policies in the humanities and the social sciences at Harvard University are premised on the idea that professors need the ticking clock, too. For the last two years, the university has announced that for every five graduate students in years eight or higher of a Ph.D. program, the department would lose one admissions slot for a new doctoral student. The results were immediate: In numerous departments that had for years had large clusters of Ph.D. students taking eight or more years to finish, professors reached out to students and doctorates were completed. No exceptions were made, and Harvard officials believe that their shift shows that there is no reason for a decade-long humanities Ph.D.

"People get lost. Being a graduate student can end up being a very lonely experience. You've got this enormous dissertation to write, and your children are born and your partner wants you to get a new job," said Theda Skocpol, who is finishing up a term as graduate dean at Harvard and who created the new policies. Skocpol ruffled a few feathers in turning down professors who wanted exemptions, but she said that the costs to students and their universities are too high to ignore the impact of 10-year-plus Ph.D. efforts, many of which don't even result in a degree. "Losing somebody from one of these very selective Ph.D. programs after the investment of many years of faculty and student time and the students' own life and after we've invested a quarter million dollars or Harvard's money is really tragic," she said.

Harvard's new approach also includes other features, such as full financing for a year of dissertation writing, and a rule that students in the dissertation writing year cannot be assigned or accept teaching assistant positions. But Skocpol said that she believes the potential lost admissions slot is key. And at a time that many groups are focusing on time-to-degree issues, the fact that this was a policy change and not just another instance of Harvard spending some of its billions may make the shift something others could follow.

Here are the numbers that suggest the impact of the new policy, which was announced 18 months ahead of enforcement with the idea of giving professors time to get more of their Ph.D. students over the finish line: In December 2005, 16 of the 24 departments offering Ph.D.'s in the humanities and social sciences were told that based on then-current data, they would lose a total of 33 admissions slots. (Departments admit anywhere from 1 to 25 or so doctoral students and many of the programs are sufficiently small that losing even a single slot is a big deal.)

A year later, 14 departments were at risk of losing a total of 23 slots. And by the time this year that the policy was enforced, all but two of those departments were in compliance and those two lost only one slot each. If you think departments might have just kicked out slow finishers, that doesn't seem to be the case. Skocpol said that some students really had "already moved on," and that most departments avoided the admissions slot punishment by helping students finish. Indeed, in the two years after the policy was announced, the number of humanities Ph.D.'s awarded increased to 99 from 71, and the number of social sciences doctorates increased to 110 from 95. (Entering cohort size has been flat for years and so does not explain those increases.) Meanwhile, over the last five years, the percentage of doctoral students in their ninth year (or higher) has decreased to 4.5 percent from 8.5 percent.

While taking a decade to finish a Ph.D. may seem unthinkable to academics in disciplines (generally in the sciences) where half that time is the norm, decade-long Ph.D.'s are actually common in the humanities, which makes Skocpol's timeline (and her success at enforcing it) notable. Recent data from the Council of Graduate Schools, for example, show that only 36.7 percent of humanities students have finished their dissertations by year 8, and only 49.1 percent have done so by year 10.

Skocpol said that it is important to recognize that some fields (those requiring fluency in multiple languages or extensive fieldwork, for example) will have longer duration of doctoral work than others, but that there is no reason ever for a 10-year doctoral program. "Graduate students need to get on to a life where they have their own careers or income before they are entering middle age," she said. In addition, she said that private donors and government agencies are scared away from supporting humanities and some social sciences doctoral education because it takes so long. "If we are going to make claims on resources, we have to do better."

That means real changes, she said. For starters, she said that professors need to have "realistic" expectations about dissertations, and to factor in the value of getting done along with the value of exploring every possible nuance. "You have to get to a point in a dissertation where you say it's good enough. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's time to get it done as good enough," Skocpol said.

Another change she advocates is that departments view entering cohorts of Ph.D. students as true cohorts, such that there is a goal of students taking their generals at roughly the same time. Treating the process as entirely individual, she said, seems to encourage a slower pace.

Altin Gavranovic, a Ph.D. student at Harvard in American studies, is the humanities representative on the Graduate Student Council. He said he isn't sure that many graduate students are aware that new policies have been put in place to speed up their completion, "but they are benefiting." At many top universities, graduate students in the humanities just assume it will take 10 years to finish up. "I think the culture where people think about being here for 10 years, I think that has past," said Gavranovic. "The idea is that the Ph.D. should be a transitional stage," not a permanent one. "My intent is to get done in five."

Liz Olson, a graduate student in anthropology at Case Western Reserve University and president of the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, said that she had never heard of a policy like the one at Harvard. But she said that the issue it addresses (professors and Ph.D. students not both facing pressure to finish up) is widespread. She said it was important in carrying out such a policy not to increase the stress on students by compressing a 10-year program into 7, but by coming up with a 7-year program. Of Harvard's rule, she said, "I think that making it something that impacts the department is a good idea."

While the Harvard plan does put pressure on departments, Skocpol said that various pressures on doctoral students will also be a factor. She took seven years to finish her Harvard doctorate, and she said she was "totally unrealistic" about material to cover in it. "I wouldn't have finished it on time, but I was going to get fired from my first job if I didn't finish it," she recalled. "You have to get to the point where you want this thing - no matter what."


Britain: Private schools should not be a 'guilty secret'

Parents should not be embarrassed at sending their children to private school but should feel the same pride they do in buying expensive jewellery, the new leader of Britain's independent girls schools has said. Vicky Tuck, the incoming president of the Girls Schools Association and principal of Cheltenham Ladies College, said people should not feel apologetic or "sheepishly" hide the fact that they are buying a good education

"We are not embarrassed by paying a decent sum for a nice house or a nice jacket or a nice engagement ring," she said. "Yet if you decide to spend your earnings on the most valuable thing you can do - to give your children an education - you are damned for doing so."

Mrs Tuck, who takes over the association in the New Year, said that the public school sector in the UK was renowned around the world, and that the "sheepishness" some parents felt about admitting to using it was not apparent in other countries. The head launched a strong defence of the right of families to choose. "It goes back to this question of opportunities and life chances," she said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph. "If you are able to afford it, you are giving your child a better life chance - I can see the moral dimension to that. "But we should not be embarrassed by the fact that we are providing something that is excellent just because, sadly, it is not available to everyone. We would be perfectly happy not to have to exist. If the state provision was so excellent, it would be inconceivable that you would pay twice for education.

Official figures published last month showed a rise in the proportion of children aged 11 to 15 in England attending the independent sector, from 7.1 per cent in 2004 to 7.3 per cent this year. The figures show the Government's failure to persuade the middle classes that state schools have improved so much that parents no longer need to opt for the private sector.

However, despite the increasing popularity of independent schools, some parents feel reluctant to admit their "guilty secret". Earlier this year Ruth Kelly, at the time communities minister, faced criticism from backbenchers when it was revealed she had decided to send her son to private school. While Tony Blair - who attended Fettes College, in Edinburgh - supported colleagues who went private, Gordon Brown has pushed his state school credentials and stated that his children will attend the local school.

Mrs Tuck, who has been credited with modernising the regime at the o26,000-a-year Cheltenham Ladies College, said the Government had created a climate where the independent sector felt "under siege". "At one level the Government is clearly aware of all the quality that we are providing in our schools," she said. "Yet at another level we still feel under siege. There seems to be an idea that we are having an easy time but people couldn't work harder than our staff here."

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment research at Buckingham University, said the emphasis on widening access to university and social mobility was "tending to engender a certain unease" about private schooling. "By drawing attention to the gap you make people feel guilty," he said


Australia: School reduced to cartoons and PC self-loathing

A youthful voice of intelligence below

As one who recently graduated from one of Queensland's best private schools, I view the Rudd Government's promise to consult a team of education experts in drafting a national curriculum with trepidation. These so-called experts, remember, inflicted on us entire terms of work on Queen Kat, Carmel & St Jude Get a Life and The Simpsons, not to mention long assignments on designing advertising campaigns and the front covers of teenage magazines. The justification for The Simpsons was that it contains myriad references to Dante. Too bad hardly any of the students knew what he'd written before or after that term. My five years of high school English were dominated by some of the most vapid aspects of our culture. In history, meanwhile, we took a suffocatingly PC approach that emphasised all that is wrong about our nation's past and identity.

Studies are repeatedly showing that standards in literacy and numeracy are slipping. Regrettably, the Howard government failed to halt this trend. But at least it, unlike Labor, recognised the link between falling standards and the time spent analysing the values espoused by, say, a Vegemite jar.

Luckily, many Australian children are indeed articulate and well-read. But this is in spite of their schooling, not because of it. They are fortunate to have parents who see the problem, correct their spelling and grammar and guide them towards better literature than Harry Potter. As for the young people who dispute that this is even an issue, in many cases their education has been so inadequate that they don't even realise its deficiencies. Even if most students can read and write at what the government deems an appropriate standard, the question remains: could they do better?

At high school, I can remember a grand total of five English lessons on language. In Year 8, we had one on synonyms, which was so puerile it was insulting (for example: "big, enormous"), and in Year 11, noticing that many students were still making mistakes in elementary punctuation, our teacher endeavoured to explain the difference between "its" and "it's". Oh, but I'm forgetting, we learned these things in primary school, didn't we? And apparently, grammar and spelling were better taught integrated into all our subjects. Perhaps my (first-rate) physics teachers should have taught me some French as well?

I read seven novels in my five years of English classes. We did study a few works from the canon: four of Shakespeare's plays, A Room with a View and Pride and Prejudice (though we tended to watch the cinematic adaptations to analyse film techniques).

However, since everything is a text (even a table, one teacher told us), and all texts are of equal merit, it didn't matter whether we were reading Macbeth or watching Australian Story. We still churned out essays on dominant discourses, foregrounding, privileging and marginalisation. I recycled these essays from one year to the next, and still ended up with good grades.

All I learned from five years of English was that "texts" can have multiple "readings", and that it is not necessary to choose the one the author intended. What a profound observation. Never mind the subtle nuances of our beautiful language, as employed by Blake, Hardy or Steinbeck. "Critical literacy" taught me to become a critical thinker: critical, that is, of what the education authorities disapproved of.

Subsequently, I became an authority on the marginalisation of the working classes in Pride and Prejudice. I became well-practised at disparaging the West. After a term studying racism, my understanding of American and Australian history surely lacked nothing, except perhaps some knowledge of the oldest constitution in the world, or the war with fascist Japan. I knew plenty about the binding of women's feet in ancient China. But was I aware of the beginnings of democracy in Greece?

After a term on the Vietnam War, everyone had grasped that Americans are stupid. What a shame we never studied the Cold War as a whole, and that nobody mentioned the millions of people who died under Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. How about the Holocaust, the foundation of Israel and the subsequent turbulence in the Middle East?

It gets worse. Of my eight terms of history, one was spent on popular culture, one on foot-binding, one on East Timor, and one on racism. In selecting only those periods in history to study, our teachers made it clear what their views were. Yet surely it is inappropriate for them to show political affiliations of any persuasion. Their task should be to provide students with the facts (yes, the facts), discuss arguments on both sides, encourage us make up our own minds and to aspire to great things. At the moment, though, we're made to feel ashamed of most of our history, and to wallow in the cultural mire that is postmodernism.

We were continually being told at school that we were getting a world-class education. Frankly, though, I feel cheated in the humanities. The teaching of other subjects was excellent. Other young Queenslanders may protest that their own experience was nothing like mine. If that is the case, they were fortunate not to attend a school that boasted of "leading the way" in progressive education. Unless Julia Gillard has significantly more influence over the teachers' unions and the state bureaucrats than her predecessor, I am certain that all students will soon have to endure the same boredom that I did.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

British universities cut back on research

THE PhD - seen as a foundation for an academic career - is becoming redundant for many lecturers as they are increasingly sidelined into teaching-only roles.

The claim is made in a research paper presented to the Society for Research into Higher Education annual conference this week, which links the increased selectivity of the research assessment exercise with a rise in the number of teaching-only contracts. It warns that the RAE has put pressure on academics to publish the "right sort of papers in the right sort of journals" or to risk being "consigned to the waste-land of the research-inactive".

The paper by Stephen Court, senior research officer at the University and College Union, warns: "There is a danger that entrants into the profession will be over-qualified if staff with PhDs end up in a post that does not require research." He explains: "Academics may have started their careers conventionally, investing three or more years in a PhD, and if they find themselves in a teaching-only role that would be quite damaging."

The paper highlights rapid growth in the number of teaching-only posts, up from 12,000 to 40,000 in a decade. They now account for a quarter of all academic staff positions. The biggest teaching-only employers are found across the sector, including the research-intensive University College London, the University of East Anglia and post-92 institutions with less research activity.

Mr Court adds: "It is a part of the academic culture of the past 50 or 100 years that teaching goes hand in hand with research, and to be removed from that position must be very painful."

The paper says the proportion of academics classified as doing teaching and research that were counted as research-active for the purposes of the RAE fell from about 66 per cent in 1995-96 to 58 per cent in 2001-02, and appears to be in further decline as 2008 RAE entries were finalised last month. It says: "Often, if universities do not feel that an academic's research is up to RAE standard, those considered not research-active will be put on a teaching-only contract."

Lisa Lucas, senior lecturer in education at Bristol University, said the days when a masters was enough preparation for a career in academia were "long gone". She said: "Just because someone is not submitted to the RAE and is therefore deemed research-inactive doesn't mean they are not doing research that has a bearing on their teaching."

Arwen Raddon, a lecturer at Leicester University's Centre for Labour Market Studies, said the PhD was now a prerequisite for many academic posts regardless of the role. She argued that the view of teaching as the poor relation of research was a modern one. "The PhD was traditionally seen as an entry qualification that gave you a permit to teach," she said.

"It is only more recently that the emphasis in the academic role has shifted towards research and away from teaching. Retired academics I spoke to were actually discouraged from doing research in their early days and urged to focus on teaching because they were told this was what higher education was really about."

Dr Raddon said that some postgraduates, far from seeing teaching as a backwater, were put off by the pressure to publish early in their career. "One told me they were considering going into further education, where they would be able to teach but without the pressures of the RAE," she said. "Similarly, among early-career academics, having the emphasis taken away from teaching is not a positive experience, as this is one area they enjoy and where they feel they can 'make a difference'. "So if those in teaching-only posts feel they are overqualified, perhaps this is more a reflection of the way in which teaching now seems to be less valued in the higher education environment where the pressure to publish is everything."

William Locke, assistant director of the Open University's Centre for Higher Education Research and Information, also saw value in teachers having research training - with benefits for students and their careers. He said: "High levels of scholarship are required to teach in higher education, and a PhD is one means of training for this. "Young academics may also move on to posts that require research expertise later in their careers. Or the policy of selectivity or higher education institutions' strategies for the next RAE may change, requiring research alongside teaching responsibilities."

Ron Barnett, professor of higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, said he could understand the frustration of those in teaching-only posts who saw themselves as potential researchers but questioned how many fell into that category.

He said a teaching-only role did not preclude scholarship, which he argued was still possible even when contracts fail to encourage it. "Many worthwhile publications are not dependent on primary empirical research: it just needs good libraries and thinking time," he said. "If teaching-only contracts allow time in the library then they allow implicitly for thinking and writing. "So an individual could develop a writing profile even though their contract did not include an obligation of that kind. "Einstein wrote several of his papers while working in a patent office, and wasn't Trollope a Post Office clerk?"


UC gets ever more racist

No chance of concentrating on the individual, I suppose

Candice Shikai doesn't like math. She took advanced math classes in elementary school only because her parents pushed her. "Other students said that because I was Asian, of course, I was going to be in the advanced class," said the UCLA senior. "But I struggled immensely in math. Now I'm a history major."

Being held up collectively as the "model minority" is a disservice to some Asian American students, say University of California administrators and student groups that pushed to change the way the UC system collects students' ethnic data. "Forty percent of UCLA fits under the Asian category, and it is presumed that we don't have any educational problems," said Shikai, who is Japanese American. "That is not true."

The UC system announced recently it will become the first public higher education institution in the state to collect data on an expanded list of Asian ethnic groups, from Tongan and Fijian to Hmong and Cambodian. UC's undergraduate applications next year will include 23 Asian American and Pacific Islander categories, nearly three times the eight currently recorded. Dividing Asian and Pacific Island students into more precisely defined ethnic groups will allow universities to monitor graduation and retention rates and tailor outreach programs to groups that need them, officials say. "We expect that the more detailed breakdown for Asian Americans will help us find out, for example, the extent of differences in university admissions and enrollment trends among Hmong, Guamanian, or other Asian students," Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions for UC Davis, said in an e-mail.

Thousands of UC students behind the "Count Me In" campaign that pushed for the new applications argued that knowing more about who is enrolled will result in a more balanced, inclusive admissions policy. "I totally support it," said Kathy Her, a vice president of the Hmong Student Union at UC Davis. Recently, in preparation for a Hmong workshop at a conference for students of color at UC Santa Cruz, she and a friend tried to find retention and drop-out rates for Hmong. "We wanted to compare our different schools," she said. But the exact numbers didn't exist. "That's because when we applied for college we had to check the 'other' Asian category," she said. "I wanted to know how many have gone to UC Davis and what has kept them here." Her wondered if a retention program called Southeast Asians Furthering Education is keeping Hmong classmates in school - and if scholarships are helpful in bringing them to the Davis campus.

Vic Ramos, principal of Rosemont High School, said having better information on which Asian ethnic groups are getting into UC will help high schools focus on students who need more preparation. "It will allow us to collect data to see how successful we are with different populations," he said.

Bill Kidder, special assistant to the vice president for student affairs for the UC Office of the President, said the information will be important for diverse areas such as the Sacramento region. Census Bureau figures from 2006 show Sacramento is home to more than 188,000 Asians - from 119 Bangladeshis to more than 39,000 Chinese and 11,692 Laotians. "The student population we have today looks different than we had 20 years ago, but our categories had changed very little over those years," said Kidder.

Ethnicity cannot be used in UC's admission process - not since the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 - but the campuses still keep track of who gets accepted. This year's class of in-state freshmen at UC is 35.5 percent white, 35.3 percent Asian American, 18.7 percent Latino and 3.6 percent African American.

Asian American students involved in the "Count Me In" campaign pointed out the significant difference between newly immigrated Asian Americans from poor countries and groups who have been in the United States for generations. Less than 10 percent of recently immigrated Hmong Americans have earned a college degree, compared - for example - with 40 percent of Japanese Americans who have at least a bachelor's degree. "We've been asking for (more detailed data) for a very, very long time," said Wendy Ho, director of Asian American studies at UC Davis. "We find that many of our communities do very well, but many are struggling. The nuances and specificities of cultures can now be made visible."

Her, the UC Davis student, estimated that there are about 400 Hmong on campus. But that is a guess. "In the application process and around campus, nobody really knows who we are," she said. "If you are tan, dark-haired and have small eyes, you are automatically assumed to be Chinese or Japanese. "I've been called Korean. But I'm Hmong. I may have some of the same facial features. But unless somebody asks me, they will never know."

Ohio: Class Project Teaches How to Illegally Immigrate

(Columbus, Ohio) For the fifth straight year, a high school Spanish teacher has assigned her students a three-week project to devise a workable plan for a Latino to sneak into the U.S., plus find shelter and food to survive.
Try it legally, Erica Vieyra told her 40 senior Spanish students at Olentangy Liberty High School. Fill out the correct documents, follow the proper steps. And then, after they spent days completing the actual paperwork from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, she took out her red ink pad and stamped a big, fat DENIED across every request.

Now, she told the students, come illegally. Forge your documents, find a way across the border. Then, research real ads and find a place to live in Columbus. Figure out what it would cost, how to get food. Plan how to survive.

The students had to go to real businesses and ask for Spanish-language job applications. They had to visit a bank and ask for new-account documents written in Spanish.

Vieyra promised them that the process -- even in make-believe -- would frustrate them. But they would gain, she hoped, an understanding of what is one of the most important political and humanitarian issues facing the U.S. government today.
Kind of one-sided, I'd say. After all, instead of having the students simulate being generic, non-descript Latinos, Vieyra could have them pretend to be MS-13 gang members sneaking into the U.S. to develop crime networks.

Alternatively, Vieyra could have the students imagine themselves as intelligence operatives for Venezuelan marxist thug Hugo Chavez, charged with infiltrating the U.S. government to conduct espionage.

However, it's not to be. Vieyra's teaching of the Spanish language has taken a back seat to propagandizing the students with her leftist political beliefs. She cautions, though, that she's not trying to influence the students, rather just teach them "a little empathy."

As such, I'd recommend renaming the course from "Spanish V" to "Empathy for Illegal Aliens in the U.S."

Tipped by a very unhappy Olentangy Schools taxpayer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

China: Teachers Sentenced in Student Prostitution Ring

(Guizhou Province, China) A middle school teacher, Chi Yao, has been sentenced to death and another teacher, Hai Long, received 11 years in prison for their roles in a sickening prostitution ring involving young teen girls. The teachers' wives, Zhao Qingmei and Li Huiyan, operated the ring and one of them was also sentenced to death.

Reportedly, the ring forced 23 girls, six being younger than 14, to have sex with men during the period from March to June 2006. More than 20 young girls were given to men seeking virgins and 22 of the girls were local primary or middle school students.

From Shanghai Daily:
Zhao Qingmei, 28, the mastermind, was sentenced to death in Weining County last Friday, the report said. She sold snack food on campus after working as a temporary teacher at the Central Primary School in Xinfa township of Weining, the report said. Her husband Chi Yao was a teacher at the township's middle school.

In March 2006, Zhao planned with a local woman identified as Wei Yaqin, who is still on the run, how to earn money by forcing teenage girls into prostitution.
Interestingly, Zhao's husband, Chi Yao, was also sentenced to death but with two years' probation. It's unclear what that means.

Fourteen other people were also prosecuted for their involvement in the ring and received prison sentences from one year to life. Many were hostel owners. Meanwhile, Wei Yaqin is on the lam.
Britain: Student teachers 'bullied' away from working in private schools

Ingrained Leftism at teacher-training colleges again

Student teachers enrolled on state-funded training courses are being told they risk "selling their souls" by working in independent schools, according to a new report. Some graduates joining fee-paying schools are said to have been made to feel like "pariahs" as teacher training colleges "bully" students towards state schools, it is claimed

The findings - in a survey by the Independent Schools Council - will fuel suspicions over increasing hostility in the public sector towards private education. Almost 40,000 students completed teacher training courses at universities and colleges across England last year. Under existing regulations, they are required to work in a school for at least a year before being considered fully qualified. But according to an ISC survey of 750 graduates, one in 10 were told by tutors that it was "not possible" to do an induction year in the private sector, which is untrue.

Four in 10 teachers said they had been given "no information" about the possibility of working in independent schools, suggesting that many trainees were being diverted towards state schools. Only 32 per cent of new teachers reported that university and college tutors were supportive of those attempting to work the in the fee-paying sector. Some teachers reported "negative comments and attitudes" from staff, revealing a "quite striking level of hostility and ignorance" towards schools. One teacher said tutors' reactions ranged from "quiet disappointment to utter indignation". Another insisted: "They attempted to make pariahs of us - almost like institutional bullying."

The report said: "Other tutors had been openly hostile, criticising the morality of squandering one's training in the independent sector, and suggesting that there was an obligation to give something back to the state, society, and the British taxpayer." One teacher told researchers: "It was very clear that they wouldn't have given me a place had they known, and told me to 'examine my social conscience'." Another revealed: "I was made to feel that I was selling my soul."

Surprisingly, the report made particular criticism of Oxford and Cambridge universities. Of 35 Cambridge trainees quizzed, just six said they had received a positive response to working in private schools. Only one of the 17 Oxford graduates was told to consider working in independent schools.

The ISC, which represents schools educating 80 per cent of children in the private sector, has now written to 150 training colleges asking demanding fairer treatment. "We would expect that factually accurate information concerning all teaching and induction opportunities in all schools is imparted to trainee teachers in a professional manner," said Judith Fenn, director of recruitment. "We would also hope that this professionalism be extended to the even handed treatment of any and all trainees who are successful in finding employment in any school."

The report comes amid growing concerns over public sector attitudes towards the independent sector. Under legislation published this week, fee-paying schools are being forced to register directly with Ofsted for the first time - a move branded a threat to their independence. A recent shake-up of charity law also means fee-paying schools no longer have an automatic right to call themselves charities - a status which brings tax breaks worth œ100 million a year.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools, the teacher training quango, said: "Newly-qualified teachers can complete their induction in independent schools affiliated to the ISC with the support of a qualified teacher. Clear induction guidance is available on the TDA website."


Petty Connecticut principal centrally plans recess to avoid "competition"

Even though competition is a major part of life

One local school principal has basically abolished recess for students. He is endowed with all sorts of theories about how to socially engineer young people and mould them into the shape he wants and recess is something he doesn't particularly care for -- at least not the traditional recess.

He has banned students from playing tag, kickball, soccer and the like. Why? He doesn't think students should be allowed to play anything where there are scores. It might hurt someone's feelings. And he doesn't like the idea that play was unstructured, that it didn't have a central planner telling the children what to do and when to do it.

This loon is Mark Johnson of Oakdale School in Montville, Connecticut. Parents inundated him with complaints after he started his social engineering experiment with their children so he relented a bit. He will now allow kickball provided that the children do not keep score.

Johnson sounds like some chic, lame brained, trendy Lefty. He tells people that he doesn't like games that encourage competition because competititon is conflict. The children should learn to cooperate. Of course in real life the competitve market is one of cooperation all the time. What irks the central planners is that the cooperation is done without them.

Kids play games and they play games with each other. That requires them to cooperate. A baseball game with two teams requires numerous children to cooperate. Without that cooperation they can't form teams and play the game. What is irking this bureaucrat is not that there is no cooperation but that it is uncontrolled. He is upset because he is not directing it. This is the mindset of the bureaucrat/politicians -- the belief that others absolutely "need" them. In reality we'd be better off with them 99% of the time.

He says that when kids play on their own, without his control, "kids are made to feel badly." His solution is to make all of them equally miserable by forbidding them from playing games they like. This man is Nanny run amok. He told the New York Times that kids can still move about -- how nice of him! For instance they "are free to walk the grounds with the school nurse" -- god forbid they walk the grounds without a nurse in tow! They can "sing in the chorus" or "pick up liter". Pick up liter!!! His childish version of the Gulag includes having the kids labor.

Johson, with all of five years experience as a petty bureaucrat, wants to undo a tradition of hundreds of years. During their free time children play. And they play quite spontaneously. They don't need the moronic class of petty officials to structure their play for them. If it is structured it isn't play. Johnson just drones about how: "We're really responsible for what kinds of people these kids will be..."

What kind? Apparently he thinks the kind of adults they should be are those who look to central authority to structure every facet of their life. His view requires people who obey and don't think for themselves. His view pushes the idea that people are incompetent and inherently bad. They need an expert to order them about and keep them under supervision.


Schools are having virtually no impact on the progress of 11 to 14-year-olds in maths

According to a study by University of Manchester researchers

Professor Julian Williams from the School of Education led the investigation which found that year on year improvements in mathematics were almost nonexistent for higher and lower achievers. Specially devised, independent tests revealed that the performance of 12,591 English 5 to 14-year-olds remained almost static in secondary schools - what Professor Williams calls 'the plateau effect'. Primary school test scores did rise every year in the 120 schools studied by the team, though the increases slow down gradually with age.

The team also identified that children born in the summer who start their education as the youngest in the class are lower achievers than children born in the summer who start as the oldest in the class. However, the extra year's advantage is reversed by the time children get to 11.

Professor Williams said: "Our data confirms that children across a range of abilities make practically no progress in maths between the ages of about 11- and 14-years at school. "This pattern between 11 and 14-years is not significantly different for the higher or lower achieving child.

"At this rate of progress it would take ten years of extra teaching for a lower achieving classmate to catch up with his or her higher achieving peer, and five years for the lower achiever to score as well as the average in the class. "We did record short term improvements in test scores around the period of national testing at key stage 1 and 2 (years 2 and 6). "However, these increases were short term and the overall trend continued shortly afterwards in years 3 and 7, suggesting lack of lasting gain in children's understanding.

"The implications seem to us so serious that, rather than look for alternative explanations for our data, policy makers should as a matter of urgency seek to survey performance by large scale representative samples."

He added: "The figures also suggest that 'early years' children in the next year up are doing much better than a child of the same age in the younger class, having perhaps experienced as much as a whole year's extra schooling.

"A natural interpretation here is that the year two children have had up to a year longer in school and this extra teaching and curriculum exposure is reflected in enhanced performance. "However, this advantage would seem to have disappeared by the end of primary school, and goes into reverse in secondary school.

"It seems that the extra year of schooling as a 'small fish in a big pond' is disadvantaging the younger learners born in August. Starting school in September seems to disadvantage these children."


Teachers 'bullied more' in Australian public schools

TEACHERS at government schools are bullied more frequently than their colleagues in the independent and Catholic sectors, with a survey suggesting the problem is rife in Western Australia and Queensland. Preliminary findings from a national survey conducted by the University of New England found government teachers were commonly criticised for their work, excluded from decision-making, threatened, intimidated, shoved and sexually harassed.

The voluntary internet survey attracted more than 800 responses, with 99.8 per cent reporting they had been bullied at school by fellow teachers, principals or parents. Senior lecturer in business, economics and public policy at UNE, Dan Riley, said the results showed that a disturbing proportion of teachers were being bullied regularly. "Government schools are not very attentive to bullying," he said. "Claims made (by bullied teachers) often take a long time to be investigated or are ignored altogether."

The survey found bullying was less common in Catholic and independent schools. The most common instance reported at independent schools was insulting emails. Most complaints were made by teachers in NSW, about 40 per cent, but teachers in Western Australia and Queensland were over-represented in the survey.

The acting federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, stressed that the survey was voluntary. "It needs to be recognised that the respondents had self-selected to participate in the survey ... although the issue of bullying is of concern in any workplace, and this is no exception," he said.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another kid-hating school

An elementary student in Marion County was arrested Thursday after school officials found her cutting food during lunch with a knife that she brought from home, police said. The 10-year-old girl, a student at Sunrise Elementary School in Ocala, was charged possession of a weapon on school property, which is a felony. According to authorities, school employees spotted the girl cutting her food while she was eating lunch and took the steak knife from her.

The girl told sheriff's deputies that she had brought the knife to school on more than one occasion in the past. Students told officials that the girl did not threaten anyone with the knife. The girl was arrested and transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.


Successful charter school discriminated against

When it opened in September 2003, Sacramento Charter High School faced the challenge of turning around a troubled inner-city high school in which academic performance had plummeted. Where other schools do a phase-in at the start - such as Rosemont High School, which began with 345 ninth-graders in 2003 and added a grade each year - the Sac High charter took over the existing ninth- through 12th-grade student body. This was a transformation school, not a startup.

As the school board considers charter renewal Thursday, members should remember that context. In a short 4« years, the Sac High charter has made progress that should be the envy of any major urban school district. On the state's yardstick for measuring school performance, based on various test scores, the old Sac High had an Academic Performance Index of 568 the year it closed. The Sac High charter improved to 631 by last year. That's still short of the state goal of 800 (on a scale of 200 to 1,000), but the school is making progress.

And consider improvement in the API for one subgroup, black students: It was 474 in the old Sac High 2003-2004 but rose to 624 at the charter by last year, up 150 points. Compare that to Hiram Johnson High School over the same period: 460 to 535, a 75 point gain. And college acceptance rates for the class of 2007, the first class to graduate from the charter, are the highest among the district's high schools.

How has the charter school accomplished this? All students have an individual learning plan. They are expected to visit four-year colleges and win acceptance to at least one. They attend school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students who miss assignments attend "Friday Night Blues" sessions to finish work. All students are expected to do 40 hours of community service a year. Discipline is tight.

And now, the PS 7 charter, a K-8 program, is about to send its first class of ninth-graders to the Sac High charter in fall 2008. That school has an API of 749 and fosters a college-going mind-set at an early age. No one should doubt that academic performance at the high school will improve in the next five years.

That's not to say that the Sac High charter hasn't faced problems. One big problem: Exclusion from the recruiting pipeline. While McClatchy, Kennedy, Hiram Johnson, Luther Burbank and the Sac High charter have had enrollment declines, there is a difference. The district doesn't list the charter as a high school, bars it from the open enrollment process, denies it access to middle-school fairs and won't provide names of eighth-graders to the school.

The district and the charter school need to negotiate a separate agreement on recruiting. Other California districts allow independent charters such as Sac High to prepare mailings to eighth-graders where the district affixes the mailing labels (to preserve confidentiality). The other recruiting avenues are noncontroversial and freely accepted elsewhere.

The Sac High charter is embraced nationally as a model for inner-city high school transformation. It should be embraced locally, too. The school board should renew a five-year charter Thursday - and begin negotiations to open the recruiting process. Let the transformation continue.


A Nazi judge in America

A homeschooling mom in Utah has been ordered by a judge to enroll her children in a public school district within 24 hours, and have them in class tomorrow, all because of a paperwork glitch that very well could be the fault of the district. The mother, Denise Mafi, told WND that she already has enrolled her children in the district, under the threat from Judge Scott Johansen, who serves in the juvenile division of the state's 7th Judicial District, that he would order her children taken away from her.

As WND has reported previously, such threats are becoming more and more common in Germany, but that nation still lives by a Nazi-era law that makes homeschooling illegal. Mafi told WND that not only is homeschooling legal in Utah, she's been at it for nearly a decade. So what's the problem here?

It seems that an affidavit she faxed to the local school district for the 2006-2007 school year, documenting her homeschooling plans, was lost by the district. So when she went to court with her juvenile son to have the charges dismissed (under a case held in abeyance procedure) stemming from a clash among children, she suddenly was presented with four counts against her for failing to comply with the state's compulsory education requirement.

She thought she was meeting the court's demands earlier when she enrolled her two youngest children in classes, and put her two older children in an online curriculum connected to the public school. "Well everything fell apart in court today. I had to enroll my two oldest in public school. They start on Monday. If I didn't the judge said I would lose custody of my children. He threw out the plea and we go to trial on January 9th. I have NO CHANCE with this judge. He will find me guilty. He already has. So I will probably be spending some time in jail. Please pray for my children," she noted in an online forum connected to a "Five In A Row" homeschool curriculum she had used when her children were younger.

She said her public defender had reached a plea agreement she thought would be satisfied by her action, an agreement hammered out with the prosecutor. However, the judge rejected everything, she told WND. "It is a long story but basically it boils down to the school district says I didn't file my homeschool affidavit last year. I faxed it to the school district office on Oct. 27, 2006. Somehow it was lost. I have my copy," she said on the forum. "The judge is very anti-homeschooling. Stated last week that homeschool was a failure. I am a total nervous wreck," she said.

She is part of the Utah Home Education Association and she was seeking advice from that organization, but officials could not be reached Friday or Saturday by WND. She is not a member of the international organization concerned with homeschooling called Home School Legal Defense Association, but a spokesman for the organization told WND officials were reviewing the situation, and the initial reaction was that the prosecution of the woman was simply outrageous.

Mafi also told WND that the judge's other demands are that her children are not allowed to miss school unless they have a notice from a doctor, and the judge initially wanted to issue an order that she was not allowed to move out of his jurisdiction for two years. "This is all because the school district says they never received my 2006-2007 homeschool affidavit. I have a copy of the signed affidavit. I have already received my exemption for the 2007-2008 school year," she said.

A WND call to the prosecutor in the case did not get a response, nor did other judicial officials respond to inquiries about the situation.

Mafi told WND the worst part is that because it is a misdemeanor, Utah law does not allow her to demand a jury trial. But it also carries with it a maximum penalty of six months in jail, on each of the four charges. She said she had received a confirmation the fax to the school was received when she sent it, but likes to clean out her paperwork before the start of a new school year, and apparently had disposed of it. She said she has asked her public defender to work on a complaint against the judge and she's trying to raise funds to have a private lawyer continue her case. "If it was any other person in the state, they can put their children in an online public school and it's acceptable," she told WND. "I can't do it. I cannot pull my children out and put them in a private school of my choice." "He [the judge] just does not want them under my supervision," she said.

Mafi said the state has made no allegation of education neglect, and her children are performing work at grade level. But she objects to the public schools' anti-Christian world view, she said.

As WND has reported, German authorities operating under the law stemming from Hitler's desire to control the minds of youth have ruled not only that homeschooling is a basis for child endangerment charges, but a local government was remiss in allowing a mother to take her two children to another country where homeschooling is legal. The recent decision from the Federal High Court in Karlsruhe, Germany's highest court, was reported by the German edition of Agence France-Presse as well as Netwerk Bildungsfreiheit, an advocacy organization for Germans who wish to homeschool.

Now the organization is noting the similarities with earlier court rulings, when Adolf Hitler was in power. A ruling from the State Court in Hamburg dated 1936 pointed to "endangerment of the mental wellbeing of children, who would have been denied participation in the national community.," a premise that corresponds to the recent Federal Supreme Court decision, the group said. "Only the words have been chosen somewhat differently by the Supreme Court in order to conceal the fascist spirit of the decision," the analysis said. "It is quite chilling that the reasons stated by the authorities and courts in child custody terminations in Hitler's regime . correspond in their spirit exactly to the decision recently rendered by the Federal Supreme Court," the analysis said.

It said what courts used to call the "national community" now is the "public" and what was "participation in the national community" now has been called a justified interest in "counteracting the formation of religiously or ideologically characterized parallel societies and integrating minorities in this area."

The analysis found that the "National Socialist (Nazi) regime" specifically targeted members of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, including the State Court in Hamburg decision from 1936 in which judges found: "Custody rights shall be terminated for parents who, as fanatical Bible students, cannot rear their children in accordance with today's State and because this endangers the mental wellbeing of the children, who are thereby prevented from participating in the national community." Hundreds of children were taken from their families for reasons no more important than they failed to sing Nazi songs with others, the analysis noted.

"Authorities, who interpreted the civil code according to their national socialist legal notions, considered it beyond question that the childrearing practices of Jehovah's Witnesses was 'endangerment of child welfare' and 'mental and moral neglect,'" the analysis said.

WND has reported previously how German officials targeted an American family of Baptist missionaries for deportation because they belong to a group that refuses "to give their children over to the state school system." A teenager, Melissa Busekros, also returned to her family months after German authorities took her from her home and forcibly detained her in a psychiatric facility for being homeschooled. And WND has reported on other families facing fines, frozen bank accounts and court-ordered state custody of their children for resisting Germany's mandatory public school requirements, which by government admission are assigned to counter "the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views."

In the case involving Melissa, a German appeals court ultimately ordered legal custody of the teenager, who was taken from her home by a police squad and detained in a psychiatric hospital for being homeschooled be returned to her family because she no longer is in danger. The lower court's ruling had ordered police officers to take Melissa - then 15 - from her home, if necessary by force, and place her in a mental institution for a variety of evaluations. She was kept in custody from early February until April, when she turned 16 and under German law was subject to different laws. At that point she simply walked away from the foster home where she had been required to stay and returned home.

Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole." Drautz said homeschool students' test results may be as good as for those in school, but "school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens."

The German government's defense of its "social" teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified during an earlier dispute on which WND reported, when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school. "The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling," said a government letter in response. "... You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. ... In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."


Monday, December 17, 2007

Honor Roll Schmonner Roll

(Wilton, Connecticut) Congratulations to the students and faculty of Wilton High School. An astounding 67 percent of the student body made the honor roll.

It appears logical to speculate that inclusion on the honor roll will someday carry the same importance, value and distinction as being listed in the phone book.

Meanwhile, there's no news being reported on the death of the bell curve.
Student Suspended for Warning of Sex Offenders in School

(Gig Harbor, Washington) Last week, a student at Gig Harbor High School, Raydon Gilmore, was suspended for posting warning fliers about two convicted juvenile sex offenders who attend his school. Holy moly!

Three other students, names are withheld, were also suspended for the same infraction. The sex offender students are listed as a Level 1 and a Level 2, respectively considered to be low-risk and moderate-risk of re-offending.

According to Gig Harbor Principal Greg Schellenberg, Gilmore and three other students were suspended for three days for harassment and misuse of school equipment.
The students, he said, used a school printer to produce "dozens" of fliers with the sex offenders' pictures, home addresses and other personal information.

Schellenberg said the students taped the fliers on vending machines and a pingpong table and dropped them outside bathrooms. The school's security cameras caught some of them in the act.

The principal said the students should have brought their concerns to a teacher or an administrator. They also violated a rule that state officials must approve any materials that students post on campus walls.
Apparently, legislative guidance on notifications regarding sex offenders in school is minimal. The sheriff notifies the principal and the principal notifies the sex offender's teachers. That's it. Neither students nor parents are notified. In fact, all cognizant parties are cautioned to be low key regarding the sex offender's presence among other students.

Principal Schellenberg says that the school administrators "at least periodically, try to point parents where to find information."
If students want to talk about a sex offender who attends school, that's fine, he said. Distributing offenders' information and opening their convictions to a "public forum" at school isn't.

"We want everybody to feel safe and comfortable," Schellenberg said. "It's hard to imagine anyone feeling that way with fliers being posted about them."
Therefore, the school makes "everyone" feel safe and comfortable by not disclosing when a sex offender is present. Simply put, they are kept in the dark. Like it or not, that's the system. Unfortunately.

All responsibility resides with the principal to make sure adequate measures are implemented to confidentially monitor the sex offender students and hopefully preclude any future criminal behavior. As a reminder, the sex offender information is available but one has to specifically be looking for it.

All in all, the issue remains contentious as Gilmore and his mother, Meloney Garthe, continue to complain about the suspensions. Gilmore maintains that he was concerned about vulnerable girls in the student body and he would do the same thing again. His mother says that she is proud of her son for doing a public service.

My take? Convicted sex offenders should not be allowed near public high schools, much less inside.
The problems of outdoor play for British kids

I am not positively advocating that we encourage our children to fall out of trees or get whanged off roundabouts moving at 200 rpm. But the scabophobic measures we have taken to protect our children have had consequences we could not have intended. Ed Balls yesterday called for children to rediscover the joys of the playground, and the football kickaround. He painted a Brueghelian picture of children swarming to play hopscotch and tag and British bulldog, and though we all share his ambitions he could have been more honest, frankly, about the real reasons for the decline in outdoor play, and the role of government in the disaster.

Let us take the surfaces of playgrounds, the ones that used to abrade our knees. Under an EU regulation EN 1176 local authorities are advised not to install playground equipment more than three metres high, and to use soft surfacing on the ground: hence the decline in scabs. To be fair to Brussels, this regulation is not compulsory, but authorities are so terrified of litigation that they slavishly enforce it. The measure does not seem to have made much difference to playground fatalities: there has been roughly one death every three or four years for the past 20 years. But the surface is extremely expensive, costing 7,000 pounds for 100 square metres, and that extra expense has certainly played a part in reducing the overall total of playground space available.

According to play expert Tim Gill, who has written a book on the subject, there are now roughly two square metres of public playground space for each child under 12, and that is not enough. So the next time Balls wants to talk sphericals about what the Government is doing to get more children to play outdoors, I suggest he has a couple of long introductory paragraphs about the baleful effect of over-regulation and litigation - followed by a heartfelt apology for everything he has done to encourage them.

He should then move on to acknowledge the real reason why parents are so reluctant to let their children play outside, and that is their fear of crime and thuggery - a fear that is not always unreasonable. When I was a child we used to knock around Camden on our bicycles; we used to walk to school and back without even thinking about it; and even though we used to trot off to buy Mr Whippys with a flake, we took so much outdoor exercise that an obese child was a genuine curiosity. We now have a world in which three per cent of young people carry a knife, and 20 per cent of 10-11-year-olds have been assaulted at least once in the past 12 months. Too many parks and play areas are dominated by intimidating gangs, and unless you have taken the trouble to become part of the gang, and to show the requisite levels of bravado and aggression, you may be nervous of playing in the same area.

It is a profound and sad change to the quality of children's lives, and there are several plausible explanations. One might cite the revolution in the relationship between adults and children, and the weird terror with which we all seem to regard the younger generation, and the loss of respect in the way they treat adults. There is a chronic shortage on the streets of any adult willing to exert any kind of authority - and that, these days, generally means the police. It does not help that 14 per cent of all police officers' time is spent on patrol, compared to 19.3 per cent on "paperwork"; but until we can find ways of getting more police out there, too much of our public space will be filled with a vague sense of menace.

Take that together with over-regulation of playground equipment, and no wonder children are deterred from playing outside. No wonder they are all glued to their blooming PlayStations. They have playgrounds that are at once scary in their inhabitants and tedious in their equipment - and the answer, of course, is to reverse the position. We need to stop the crazy culture of litigation, which has seen local authorities reduce the number of roundabouts they buy because roundabouts are now deemed too dangerous.

Teachers and expedition leaders should be protected from civil negligence claims unless they have shown "reckless disregard"; the law should be changed so that there is no obligation on local authorities to warn of an obvious risk (a roundabout goes round, for instance), and we must above all stop these judges from making ludicrous rulings in favour of compensation - and we could do that by insisting, as they make their rulings, that they allow for the benefits to society of encouraging kids to play outside.

What we need is less health and safety in the playground, and more safety on the streets, and no more initiatives from Mr Balls until he has got to grips with the real problem.


Britain: Do schools exist for the kids or for the teachers?

Note that the teacher below was not asked to prove HER claims. If the problem is real it is she who should have been asked to move to another school

An eight-year-old was banished from her classroom after the teacher complained she was allergic to the fabric softener used on her clothes. Hope Nichols was made to work in a corridor because her class tutor kept developing a blocked-up nose and watering eyes. The school asked Hope's mother to change the fabric softener she uses - but she refused as Lenor is the only brand that does not irritate the girl's eczema and dermatitis.

Sarahjane Nichols was also asked to consider moving her daughter to a different school, she said. As the problem has not been resolved, Hope often has to sit at the back of the class. Her teacher takes breaks when she begins to develop a reaction, during which a classroom assistant takes over. Mrs Nichols, 39, said: "My daughter's allergy means she ends up literally scratching her skin off. "She gets it on her face, arms, stomach and back. "I am very sympathetic about the teacher's problem but Hope should not have been taken out of the classroom. "It was terrible for my little girl. All the other children think is that Hope has been asked to sit outside because she smells funny."

Hope joined Howard Junior School in Gaywood, near King's Lynn, Norfolk, in September. But last month Mrs Nichols was approached by her teacher. "She asked me to stop Hope spraying perfume on herself because it was upsetting her allergy," she said. "I thought it was a joke at first. I told her she doesn't use perfume. I just use washing powder and fabric conditioner like anyone else. "I went home and didn't think too much more about it because it seemed so strange. "But a few days later I got a letter from Gregory Hill, the head, saying I must change my washing powder and conditioner or reduce the amount. "I wrote back explaining that she had dermatitis and eczema and it would upset her allergy if it was changed.

"The head then wrote to me and asked for a doctor's note to prove what I was saying. "Hope uses creams and antihistamines so I got a doctor's note. Then the head asked me to come into the school for a discussion about how to resolve the situation. "But in the days before the meeting, Hope told me she had been put in the corridor and made to do her work from there sitting at a desk on three occasions."

Mrs Nichols, who is divorced and also has a 13-year- old daughter, added: "When I had the meeting with Mr Hill he asked if I would be offended if I was asked to move Hope to a different school. "But we live just a short distance away and the next nearest place is 20-minute walk away and I don't drive."

The school said that Hope had only been asked to leave the classroom on one occasion and this was "for a very short period". Mr Hill said: "This is an extremely unusual situation and one that we are working closely with Hope's mother to try to resolve. "Hope is a valued pupil at the school and is well liked."

Lenor has been made by Proctor & Gamble since the Sixties. Spokesman John Bailey said: "You can never say the chances of getting an allergic reaction are zero but they are negligible. "Some people do have a sensitivity to certain smells but this is not an allergy. "It can produce an emotional reaction and from the sounds of it in this case, a physical reaction." Using Lenor with a different fragrance might solve the problem, he added.


Australia: A totally irresponsible government school system

Sounds a lot like Los Angeles. And Australia has nowhere near the ethnic problems of Los Angeles

It has been dubbed the roughest school in NSW. Gangs of marauding students beat one another up and even assault teachers. Staff at Queanbeyan High have threatened to take legal action after the latest brawl left teachers and a student with broken bones. Students have also set upon staff with sticks, refused to go to class and threatened teachers with violence outside school hours. The school is so dangerous, teachers recently took the extraordinary step of moving a no-confidence motion in the principal and his deputy. Talks are also under way about taking legal action against the NSW Education Department for failing to provide a safe working environment for staff and students.

The latest incident involved two separate attacks that left two teachers and a 15-year-old student seriously injured. The student's father told The Sunday Telegraph his son was king-hit from behind by a Year 12 student. "Three male teachers and one female teacher went to help my son, and were escorting him to the office when they were attacked by seven other students," he said. "One male teacher broke his ribs, another has possible fractures - and the female teacher got elbowed in the temple. "My son ended up with a broken nose and broken ribs."

The father, who asked that his name not be published, has accused the school of failing in its duty of care to protect his son. Despite the seriousness of the injuries, the school had refused to call an ambulance, he said. The school suspended all eight students, although the seven involved in the attack are believed to have been allowed back to class.

The father has written to Education Minister John Della Bosca and the NSW Teachers Federation seeking an explanation. According to staff statements obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, the incident was one of many at Queanbeyan High, described by federation officials as the roughest school in NSW. In May, seven teachers tried in vain to stop a brawl between Year 9-10 students and Year 11 students. In a statement, one of the teachers involved said a student had warned the deputy principal that a brawl was brewing. "This information should have been passed to staff on duty," the teacher said. "The deputy principal's response was that boys will be boys, and that they generally tire themselves from punching and stop before too long."

In October, a teacher helping a special-needs student who had fallen over was hit across the head with a large stick by a female student after she was told to go to class. A department spokesman said the issues raised by the union were being looked at. "The department has a zero-tolerance policy towards violence in schools," he said. [What good is a "policy"? Action is needed]


Sunday, December 16, 2007


Mike Pechar from Ohio -- an old blogging friend -- has signed up to become a second blogger here.

Look forward to his posts soon
New Campus Watch Website Feature: Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch readers are no doubt familiar with the numerous smears, false allegations, and hysterical accusations leveled against us by our opponents. Frequent charges of "McCarthyism," "censorship," "silencing professors," and "threats to academic freedom" are hurled at Campus Watch by those unaccustomed to the rigors of simple criticism. The hermetically sealed world of academia lends itself to this paranoid mindset and its ideologically sympathetic defenders have adopted a similar approach.

This attitude is even more prevalent in the field of Middle East studies, which was thrust into the spotlight after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and, more often than not, found wanting. Middle East studies academics are none too pleased at the justifiable criticism that has resulted. But instead of addressing the politicization, shoddy scholarship, and apologetics at the heart of the matter, those on the receiving end of Campus Watch's critiques tend to go on the attack, as do their allies. And truth is the first casualty.

Up until now, Campus Watch has responded to mischaracterizations via our blog, where, in the past seven months alone, we have posted a series of rebuttals and corrections. For those who missed the original posts, the links – in no particular order – follow:

Campus Watch Critiques, UC Santa Cruz Paper Cries "Censorship!"
Correcting the Record: Inaccuracies in Bangkok Post's Portrayal of Campus Watch
David Castle of Pluto Press Discredits Himself While Mischaracterizing Campus Watch
Howard Zinn Gets Campus Watch Wrong in Plugging Pluto Press and Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Zionism"
Priyamvada Gopal of Cambridge University Gets Campus Watch Wrong, Laments Cancellation of UCU Boycott Debate
National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn Misrepresents Campus Watch, Others
Pipe Dream at Binghamton, Badger Herald at Wisconsin Misrepresent Campus Watch
Correcting the Record: Jesse Walker at Reason Misinterprets Campus Watch Archives on Nadia Abu El-Haj
In Truth: Richard Silverstein's Fictions about Campus Watch, Paula Stern, and Nadia Abu El-Haj

Due to this proliferation of misrepresentations and falsehoods, Campus Watch has now set up a website feature to address them on a regular basis: Setting The Record Straight. The section can be accessed by passing one's mouse over the "About Campus Watch" category in the left-hand tab and clicking on "Setting The Record Straight." There are a number of items posted thus far, the links for which appear below:

MSU Stands Against Daniel Pipes
Fighting for a Better University
More Nuggets From A Nut House
The New McCarthyism
From "Pointless" to Intolerance: Islamofascism Week
Lobby Group Pressure Hinders Academic Freedom
The Culture War Descends on Columbia
The Campaigns to Silence Critics of Israel

Stay tuned for upcoming additions, as, inevitably, there will be plenty of opportunities to set the record straight.


Why Harvard costs so much

Harvard University got some nice press this week by announcing it will reduce tuition for middle-class families. It already allows students whose parents earn less than $60,000 a year to attend Harvard free. Now it promises that families making up to $180,000 will pay no more than 10% of their annual income to finance the $45,600 that a year in Cambridge now costs.

Drew Gilpin Faust, the school's new president, said the policy is designed to help families facing "increasing pressures as middle-class lives have become more stressed." Before applauding Harvard's altruism too loudly, however, readers should know that the school also had its back against a wall. In September, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley held hearings on whether colleges should be forced to spend a higher percentage of their endowments each year.

While private foundations have been required for decades to shell out 5% of their total assets annually, universities decide for themselves and average close to 4%. The difference may seem small, but the money at stake is very large. Harvard's endowment is $35 billion, and growing, with implications that Fay Vincent illuminates nearby. Mr. Grassley wants to know why rich schools don't spend more of their money to reduce ballooning tuition.

When the hearings began, Kevin Casey, the senior director of federal and state relations at Harvard, told the Crimson student newspaper that "it may not be the best thing for Congress to dictate the formulas by which financial aid and endowment spend-out should be connected." Mr. Casey is right. But given the hundreds of millions of dollars that the university receives from the government each year, Senators inevitably start to think that Harvard's business is their business.

Ironically, these government handouts are creating the tuition problem. Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time, the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect. Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference; colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the government will step in.

As a result, "colleges have little incentive to cut costs," says economist Richard Vedder, the author of "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much." Mr. Vedder explains that there are now twice as many university administrators per student as there were in the 1970s. Faculty members are paid more to teach fewer hours, and colleges have turned their campuses into "country clubs." Princeton's new $136 million dorm, according to BusinessWeek, has "triple-glazed mahogany casement windows made of leaded glass" and "the dining hall boasts a 35-foot ceiling gabled in oak and a 'state of the art servery,' " whatever a servery is.

Our financial-aid system also hurts middle-class applicants. Parents who have saved money for their child's tuition quickly find that, by the strange calculus of financial aid, they are charged more for college tuition than if they had blown their savings on a bigger house. Mr. Vedder wonders why universities should get to ask the income of their students before telling them how much they'll be charged. That sounds like price discrimination: If a car dealer tried to make you fill out the form students have to fill out for financial aid, he notes, "you'd run to a consumer protection agency."

So is college still worth it? Though academic standards have certainly fallen, college graduates still, on average, make about twice as much over the course of their lifetimes as people with only a high school diploma. So if the government got out of the higher education business, a lot of families might decide to make the sacrifice anyway, even without the tuition aid. But they might also decide that they can live without the mahogany windows.



When Connor Wilson was turned away from after-school care because his name wasn't on the list, he took matters into his own hands and decided to walk home - all 15km. That threw his mum, his school and police into a panic. Police found the six-year-old walking along Geelong's busiest road, the Princes Highway, more than 6km into his journey to his Whittington home.

Mum Ruth Wilson was furious with Corio South Primary and has pulled Connor out of the school. Ms Wilson said Connor could have been abducted or hit by a car.

On Wednesday morning last week, she organised for him to attend care that afternoon. But when he arrived for the after-school session, the carer told him his name was not on the list and he left. The school contacted police when they realised Connor was missing after 5pm. Ms Wilson said it was the second time in two months Connor had left school after being turned away from care. "I am extremely angry that this has happened again," she said. "Anything could have happened to him."

Ms Wilson said Connor's name was put on the care list for the following morning, Thursday, by mistake. Principal Neil Lynch said the school had apologised for the mistake. All students were routinely told to go to the school office if their parents didn't turn up to collect them, Mr Lynch said. Ms Wilson said Connor was familiar with the route home from the daily drive to and from school. "He is a smart little boy but he certainly won't be doing that again," she said. Ms Wilson said that Connor now knows that if there is a next time he is to go straight to the office.