Saturday, February 16, 2008

A professor who sticks to what she knows about

A few months ago, I received an e-mail offering me a "very exciting" opportunity. Unlike most such e-mails, it was not after my money. It was after what I guard much more carefully: my time and my ideological commitment. It asked Brown University's philosophy professors to participate in a national movement called "Focus the Nation" and to "devote a portion of class time" on Jan. 31 or during that week "to teach about climate change as it relates to your discipline."

This prospect enticed me about as much as the frequent e-mails offering Viagra at a reduced price. So I did not use class time to teach about climate change. Here are four reasons why not.

Reason 1: Climate change is not what students signed up to study in my courses.

Neither of the courses I am teaching this term has anything to do with climate change. I would not pay my veterinarian if he talked about climate change instead of examining my cat. I would not pay a piano teacher for a full hour's lesson if she spent part of that time teaching me about climate change instead of teaching me piano. My students are entitled to the same respect from me that I expect from service providers. This means providing the service my students signed up for rather than whatever I decide is most important. I could avoid the problem by changing my course titles to "Whatever Professor Ackerman Decides Is Most Important," but that might leave me with no students to teach at all.

Reason 2: I am unqualified to teach about climate change.

I am not an expert on climate change. I am not an expert on how climate change might relate to philosophy. Rather than taking the time to become an expert on these topics, I prefer to pursue the intellectual interests I already have.

Reason 3: My students can have better opportunities to learn about climate change.

Brown University has physicists, geologists, chemists, biologists and engineers. Brown probably also has non-scientists who are interested in becoming experts on climate change as it relates to their disciplines. Experts can offer courses and teach-ins on climate change. Why not leave the teaching about climate change to them? One possible answer is that while many students may not be interested enough to take such courses or attend such teach-ins, these students are unlikely to get up and leave if climate change comes up in a course they are already taking on some other topic. In other words, professors should take advantage of a semi-captive audience. Is this any way to respect students?

Reason 4: I do not think climate change is the most important social problem in the world.

I am not disputing the scientific consensus about the technical aspects of climate change. As a non-scientist, I would have to be a crackpot to think that I know more than scientists about scientific matters. But I can have my own views about priorities. Climate change holds danger of future catastrophes. But other catastrophes are happening right now. They are what I would focus on if I were willing to take class time away from my courses' subject matter. The life expectancy in most African countries is under 60 right now. In America, millions of people lack health insurance right now. Are you prepared to tell an African, or an American with cancer and no health insurance, that climate change is the most important social problem in the world? I am not.

I would rather tell students that my classes are not designed to address the most important social problems in the world, and that's okay. My classes are not my students' whole lives. Students can use their ample time outside my classes to address whatever social problems they find most important, which may or may not include climate change.


Australian teacher cleared after slapping student

Good to hear that SOME effective discipline for unruly children is still possible

CORPORAL punishment has been banned in Queensland schools for 13 years, but a Gold Coast magistrate has ruled it is legal for a teacher to slap a student in the face. An assault charge against a Gold Coast high school teacher who admitted slapping a Year 8 student in class was thrown out yesterday after the magistrate accepted he was practising "domestic discipline" - a 109-year-old law that allows a teacher to use reasonable force "by way of correction, discipline, management or control".

Slapped student Aidan Pascoe's parents Wayne and Michelle were furious. Mrs Pascoe stormed out of court after the decision, describing it as "disgusting". "Now all teachers can go and slap anyone they want and get away with it," she said. Mr Pascoe said Aidan had been "denied an education" as a result of the incident. "I had to pull him out of school and he's now doing an apprenticeship," Mr Pascoe said.

He said that in the six months leading up to the slapping incident, he had asked the school several times to remove Aidan from Justin Ransfield's classes because of a "personality conflict". "It's a bloody joke. A teacher has no right to hit a kid in the face," he said.

Southport Magistrate's Court was told Upper Coomera State College teacher Mr Ransfield slapped Aidan in the classroom in December 2006 and told another student to lie about what happened. The court was told Mr Ransfield, 37, and Aidan, 14, clashed physically after the student disobeyed a direction to start work. They tapped each other on the face before Mr Ransfield gave Aidan what fellow students testified was "a loud and hard slap" which left a red mark.

Arguing for the charge to be dismissed, barrister Frank Martin said while the slap may have been outside teachers' guidelines, it was not unlawful. "'He (Mr Ransfield) knew what he did was wrong . . . but there is no law that a teacher or a parent cannot discipline a child by striking," Mr Martin said. Mr Martin said Aidan had a history of misbehaviour, having been suspended from school four times.

Magistrate Graeme Lee ruled that the domestic discipline provision of the Criminal Code did apply in the case and dismissed the charge. "The defendant, as a teacher in charge of a classroom full of pupils, is entitled to manage the class in an orderly fashion," Mr Lee said. Mr Ransfield was congratulated in the courtroom by a tearful woman and was hugged outside by a student. Outside court, he would only say: "One in three male teachers are leaving the profession and I'm about to join them. "


Australia: 'Rich' schools hit back

In Australia, private schools receive substantial subsidies from the Federal government

PRIVATE school lobby groups have denied being "wealthy" or "elitist". Catholic and independent school chiefs have hit back at revelations of exactly how much in government subsidies Tasmania's richest schools are receiving each year. Tasmanian private schools -- which educate 26 per cent of the state's school students -- will receive $170 million from state and federal governments this year.

Catholic education director Dan White said parents at private schools were entitled to government funding because they paid tax. "Parents at Catholic schools, along with all other parents, contribute fully to the taxation system," Dr White said. "It is only right and equitable that these parents are supported in the education of their children by both federal and state governments."

Recent research also indicated that, far from being wealthy, more than half of Catholic primary schools in Tasmania served communities that nationally fell into the low or very low socio-economic profile. "Based on information from the 2006 Census, four out of every five students in Tasmanian Catholic schools are from middle or low-income families," Dr White said.

The Association of Independent Schools of Tasmania accused the Mercury of "fanning the fires of envy and division" by publishing the funding breakdown. "Far from costing the taxpayer money, they are in fact saving government around $5.5 billion -- the additional expenditure it would require to educate those students in government schools," executive director Tony Crehan said.

Australia has one of the highest rates of public funding of private education in the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Federal funding for private schools will top $7 billion this year and is growing at three times the rate of funding for public schools. Among local schools, Friends' School will be given $6.4 million this year, The Hutchins School $4.3 million and St Michael's Collegiate $3.8 million. The Federal Government has vowed to review funding after it was revealed that private schools would receive overpayments of $2.7 billion over the next four years.


Friday, February 15, 2008

White Gentile Males are now UNDER-represented in the academy

They have been edged out by women, Asians and Jews

Back in the early years of the last century, American Academia was dominated by white gentile males (hereafter, WGM's). Members of racial minorities were hardly to be found, either among the professors or among the students. Women were severely underrepresented, compared to their numbers in the population as a whole, and were excluded altogether from some of the most elite schools. Jews were subject to quotas that kept their numbers far below what they should have been, based on academic merit alone.

But by the 1970's, all that was just a memory. The anti-Jewish quotas fell in the 1960's. Standards for high school g.p.a.'s and test scores were relaxed for minority applicants, sometimes dramatically, in an attempt to achieve "parity" with their representation in the overall population. Though a few schools remained all-male, they hardly threatened women's academic opportunities: women were already well on the way to their present day relative over-representation in the undergraduate population.

Still, today, the perception remains that WGM's continue to enjoy an unfair advantage in the academic world and that affirmative action remains as necessary as ever to counterbalance that advantage. But is it true?

Let's look at one major facet of this issue - and the facet which, I think, has the most to tell us, not only about where we are now, but where we are headed in the future: undergraduate admissions. Even after all the civil rights gains of the last few decades, are WGM's still over-represented in the ranks of undergraduates at our most prestigious colleges and universities?

Coming up with the relevant numbers on this took me some doing, and the results are compromised by the fact that I had to rely on three different sources that are imperfectly coordinated. Still, I was able to come up with some rough and ready estimates - and I think they might surprise you.

First source: the National Center for Education Statistics breaks down student populations at individual schools by gender and by race/ethnicity. Second source: Hillel, the Jewish student organization, provides estimates of the numbers of Jewish students on most campuses. Third source: Wikipedia has general information on the demographics of the United States.

Using those sources, let's work through a particular example: my own alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley. According to the NCES, 32% of Berkeley's undergraduates are "White non-Hispanic" (rounding to the nearest percentage point). According to Hillel, about 10% of Berkeley's undergraduates are Jewish. So, defining "gentile" simply as "not jewish," about 22% of Berkeley's undergraduates are white gentiles. According to the NCES, again, Berkeley's undergraduates are 46% male. So the percentage of WGM's at Berkeley should be about 46% of 22% - i.e., about 10% (again, rounding to the nearest percentage point).

Unfortunately, there's a complication: 9% of Berkeley's undergraduates are listed by the NCES as "Race-ethnicity unknown." So this 10% has to be divided by .91 to get WGM's as a percentage of all students of known race/ethnicity. Result: 11%.

Finally, how does that compare to the representation of WGM's in the U.S. population as a whole? According to Wikipedia, the U.S. is now 74% white. Deducting 2% for the Jewish population, and multiplying by .5, WGM's would seem to make up about 36% of the U.S. population today. Dividing 11 by 36, one concludes that the representation of WGM's at Berkeley is about 31% of their representation in the U.S. population as a whole.

Compare that to the underrepresentation at Berkeley of non-Hispanic blacks, which has been the subject of so much controversy since Proposition 209 abolished affirmative action in California schools. According to the NCES, 3.5% of Berkeley undergraduates are black. According to Wikipedia, 12.4% of Americans are black. Dividing 3.5 by 12.4, one concludes that the representation of blacks at Berkeley is about 28% of their representation in the U.S. population as a whole.

So WGM's at Berkeley are represented at about 31% of parity, blacks at about 28%. Now isn't that interesting? Would you have expected that result?

Berkeley, of course, though especially interesting to me, is an exceptional case in all kinds of ways. So I used the same procedure to come up with figures for all of the top twenty schools in the latest U.S. News and World Report ranking - which, though far from perfect, will do well enough to be going on with. And here are the results (For each school, I first list the percentage of WGM undergraduates compared to all undergraduates of known race/ethnicity, and second their percentage of parity with WGM's in the U.S. population as a whole):

1. Princeton: 24%, 67%
2. Harvard: 15%, 42%
3. Yale: 16%, 44%
4. Stanford: 16%, 44%
5/6. Penn: 9%, 25%
5/6. Cal Tech: 29%, 81%
7. M.I.T.: 29%, 81%
8. Duke: 24%, 67%
9/10. Columbia: 12%, 33%
9/10. Chicago: 21%, 58%
11. Dartmouth: 25%, 69%
12/13. Washington U. of St Louis: 19%, 53%
12/13. Cornell: 18%, 50%
14/16. Brown: 14%, 39%
14/16. Northwestern: 18%, 50%
14/16. Johns Hopkins: 24%, 67%
17/18. Rice: 22%, 61%
17/18. Emory: 11%, 31%
19/20. Vanderbilt: 30%, 83%
19/20. Notre Dame: 22%, 61%

Summary: WGM's appear to be underrepresented, compared to the overall population, in all twenty schools. In seven of those schools, they are represented at less than half of parity. In ten out of the twenty (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Penn, Duke, Columbia, Washington University of St. Louis, Brown, and Emory) they are even more underrepresented than blacks - who also remain underrepresented at all twenty schools. So, believe it or not, it would seem that, at America's top schools today, white gentile males are about as underrepresented as African Americans. Run the numbers yourself, if you doubt me.


Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48

John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell. Corcoran's life of secrecy started at a young age. He said his teachers moved him up from grade to grade. Often placed in what he calls the "dumb row," the images of his tribulations in the classroom are still vividly clear. "I can remember when I was 8 years old saying my prayers at night saying, 'please, God, tomorrow when it's my turn to read please let me read.' You just pretend that you are invisible and when the teacher says, 'Johnnie read,' you just wait the teacher out because you know the teacher has to go away at some point," said Corcoran

Corcoran eventually started acting up to hide his illiteracy. From fifth through seventh grade he was expelled, suspended and spent most of his days at the principal's office. The former teacher said he came from a loving family that always supported him. "My parents came to school and it no longer was a problem for me reading because this boy Johnnie the -- native alien I call him -- he didn't have a reading problem as far as the teachers were concerned. He had an emotional problem. He had a psychological problem. He had a behavioral problem," said Corcoran.

Corcoran later attended Palo Verde High School in Blythe, Calif. He cheated his way through high school, receiving his diploma in June 1956. "When I was a child I was just sort of just moved along when I got to high school I wanted to participate in athletics. At that time in high school I went underground. I decided to behave myself and do what it took. I started cheating by turning in other peoples' paper, dated the valedictorian, and ran around with college prep kids," said Corcoran. "I couldn't read words but I could read the system and I could read people," adds Corcoran.

He stole tests and persuaded friends to complete his assignments. Corcoran earned an athletic scholarship to Texas Western College. He said his cheating intensified, claiming he cheated in every class. "I passed a bluebook out the window to a friend. I painstakingly copied four essay questions off the board in U.S. government class that was required, and hoped my friend would get it back to me with the right answers," Corcoran said.

In 1961, Corcoran graduated with a bachelor's degree in education, while still illiterate he contends. He then went on to become a teacher during a teacher shortage. "When I graduated from the university, the school district in El Paso, where I went to school, gave almost all the college education graduates a job," said Corcoran. For 17 years Corcoran taught high school for the Oceanside School District. Relying on teacher's assistants for help and oral lesson plans, he said he did a great job at teaching his students. "What I did was I created an oral and visual environment. There wasn't the written word in there. I always had two or three teacher's assistants in each class to do board work or read the bulletin," said Corcoran.

In retrospect, Corcoran said, his deceit took him a long time to accept. "As a teacher it really made me sick to think that I was a teacher who couldn't read. It is embarrassing for me, and it's embarrassing for this nation and it's embarrassing for schools that we're failing to teach our children how to read, write and spell!"

While still teaching, Corcoran dabbled in real estate. He was granted a leave of absence, eventually becoming a successful real estate developer. It wasn't until he was 48 years old that he gave reading and writing another chance. He drove to an inconspicuous office with a sign he couldn't read. He studied and worked with a tutor at the Literacy Center of Carlsbad. Assigned to a 65-year-old volunteer tutor, Eleanor Condit, he was able to read at a sixth-grade level within a year. "I'm just an optimistic hopeful person that believes in the impossible and miracles," said Corcoran. Carlsbad City Library literacy coordinator Carrie Scott said people of all walks of life go through the reading program, including teachers.

Corcoran is now an education advocate. "I believe that illiteracy in America is a form of child neglect and child abuse and the child is blamed and they carry the shame, if we just teach our people how to read we'd give them a fair chance," Corcoran said.

He has written two books, "The Teacher Who Couldn't Read" and "Bridge to Literacy." He is also the founder of the John Corcoran Foundation. The foundation is state-approved as a supplemental service provider for literacy in Colorado and California - providing tutoring programs for over 600 students in small group settings, and individually in homes through an online program.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Antisemitism at LSE

An attempt to brand Israel as an "apartheid" state by students at one of Britain's leading universities fell by just seven votes last week. But members of the Jewish and Israel societies at the London School of Economics may have to return to the students' union debating chamber after a challenge to the conduct of the ballot. The union's constitutional committee is understood to have called into question the 292-285 vote against the motion, although a decision was not due to be announced until yesterday.

The resolution - whose proposers included the head of the students' Palestine Society - called for a campaign to lobby the LSE and the National Union of Students to "divest from apartheid Israel". More than 600 students - six times the usual attendance for union meetings - cast their vote, which was held by secret ballot rather than a show of hands to prevent intimidation. But the union's returning officer received complaints that some students had been unable to get into the crowded hall to hear the debate, and that ballot papers lying around may have been used by people not entitled to vote.

The result of the debate, however, buoyed Jewish students, who had only 48 hours to mobilise opinion after learning that it was to take place. Marilyn Carsley, president of LSE's Israel Society, said that there had been "a lot of anti-Israel rhetoric" on campus recently and that the outcome of the debate had been "uncertain. We were all on edge." Sam Cohen, an MA student, who led the campaign against the resolution, said: "The response has been phenomenal. Jewish and non-Jewish students proudly opposed extremist language at LSE and have shown that we want a moderate, sensible and constructive debate around the issues of the Middle East. "I really hope this is the last time people try to polarise the student body in this way."

An editorial in this week's LSE student newspaper, The Beaver, commented: "The LSE has been in real danger of alienating Jewish and Israeli students, and this motion was another example."

When new students arrived at the London School of Economics last autumn, they received a welcome pack from the students' union that would have been distinctly unwelcome to many Jewish freshers. Its contents included a letter from two union officials, one the head of the Palestine Society, telling them of the union's twinning with the West Bank university, An Najah, and accusing Israel of having killed 800 Palestinian children. It was a taste of what was to come. Pro-Palestinian campaigners have turned up the heat on Israel over the past year, sporting "Make Apartheid History" T-shirts while handing out leaflets denouncing the Jewish state. "It is time for us to call Israeli apartheid by its name and press our universities to divest and stop funding it," Palestine Society head Ziyaad Lunat told the JC this week.

But the intense lobbying "has made a lot of Jewish students feel intimidated by the atmosphere this year", said Sam Cohen, an activist in the Jewish and Israel societies. "They feel particularly targeted because the anti-Israel voice is so loud, extreme and polarising." There are 36 Israeli postgraduates and three undergraduates at LSE, according to an official website aimed at encouraging applicants from the country. But one third-year Israeli postgrad, Lior Herman, said he would now think twice about advising compatriots to join him. "I would definitely recommend LSE for academic reasons, but the atmosphere among students is not so pleasant."

If last week's resolution labelling Israel as apartheid had passed, Mr Herman believed that many Jewish and Israeli students "would have found it hard to be members of a student body that says if you don't agree Israel is an apartheid state, or side with the boycott, you're not one of us." Ms Cohen said that Jewish students had come to her in tears, for example after the term "apartheid" had been "tossed around in class". An MA student in human rights, she said that in one of her own classes, "I have heard students accuse Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing and of being an apartheid, racist state."


Low grades cost 87 SUNY students their dorms

Rather a good idea

SUNY Old Westbury has removed 87 residential students from their dormitories for having grade point averages below 2.0, enforcing a policy that appears to be the only one of its kind on Long Island. The policy has been blasted by faculty and students, but an administrator said Friday that the rule -- which he described as an effort to raise academic standards -- would continue. "Our goal is to have students with us who are serious about their studies," said Michael Kinane, assistant to the president.

The students were removed from their dorm rooms last month. The Faculty Senate then unanimously passed three resolutions seeking to have the policy suspended, largely because that group feels it is inconsistent with best practices and disproportionately impacts freshmen, said Faculty Senate chair Maureen Dolan, a mathematics and computer science professor. "I have not heard yet a single faculty member support this policy," she said. Twenty-three of the evicted students did not register for the spring term, Kinane said.

Sandy Pierre, 20, of Brooklyn, who said she is a junior, said she received a letter during winter break that she would have to leave her dorm because her grade point average was 1.9. "It came as a shock to me," said Pierre, who wants to go into public relations and said she is on the school's dance team. "I was thinking of withdrawing from this semester, which I don't want to do." Pierre said her mother now drives her to and from campus each day, but the travel is taking a toll. "I am enrolled, but it's really hard for me to actually have to commute," Pierre said. About 1,000 of the school's 3,500 students live in dorms.

The policy has been in effect since at least 1994, Kinane said, but had not previously been enforced. University president Calvin O. Butts III had sought to do so two years ago, Kinane said, but didn't feel the school had communicated it well enough to students. As the fall semester began, students received letters and each dorm had a meeting about the policy, Kinane said.

The overall grade point average for Old Westbury students is 2.83, down from 2.84 in fall 2006, Kinane said, while the freshman class score from fall 2007 was 2.87, up from 2.80 for the previous year's class. It is too soon to tell how the policy impacts grades, he said.

Professor Runi Mukherji, chair of the school's psychology department, said the policy is "draconian" and punishes vulnerable students. "I support the idea that we should have high standards and high expectations for our students," she said. "This is not the way we should achieve it." Freshmen, who have taken few classes and may have trouble adjusting to college life, are the most at risk, she said. Mukherji said some students removed from the dorms were unable to commute and did not have anywhere to go. Kinane said the college did not offer assistance for affected students to find alternative housing.

Esther Goodcuff, an associate vice president at Adelphi University in Garden City, which has no policy linking grades to residential life, said in a statement: "Isolating students from campus may exacerbate the student's poor academic performance, rather than help them."

On Old Westbury's campus, students voiced mixed feelings about the policy Friday. "There's some people that got affected by it. They were partying," said Faith Rivera, 26, a senior from the Catskills. "But then there were people who were trying their hardest." But other students, including Joseph Walker, 19, a sophomore from Flushing, said the policy is fair. "A 2.0 is not really that hard," he said.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama and student loans -- comment by Victor Davis Hanson

(In pursuit of the youth vote, Obama has proposed that the Federal government completely take over the admittedly corrupt student loan business. In support of that idea, he has complained that he and his wife have only recently been able to pay off their student loans. That the existing corruption is largely the result of government legislation is not being mentioned. See here on that)

OK, already - enough about those loans. I think the Obamas really need to cool it on their personal angst stories about their student loans. Two Harvard Law tuitions are not an entitlement, but a gamble-one of going into short-term debt to have marquee credentials for long-term security.

In their case, their joint professional careers and incomes (apparently nearly a million last year) paid off well and more than justified their savvy undergraduate and professional school Ivy-League gambit.

But consider:

(1) that their Ivy-League student loans are hardly proof of first-hand experience with typical student indebtedness;

(2) that their availability (e.g. why is the public subsidizing Harvard Law School?) should instead be a reason for gratitude to the government for the subsidy rather than anger that it had to be paid back;

(3) that a better source of criticism would be the universities themselves whose tuition rises faster than inflation, and whose billion-plus tax-exempt endowments could subsidize tuition far better, as Congress is now arguing;

(4) that the remedy of eliminating private lenders and creating or expanding another federal agency, is, by liberal universities' own admission, going to raise not cut costs.

There is a familiar theme here unfortunately: the expansion of middle-class entitlements is a birthright that only government can grant; and the experience of relatively affluent Harvard-trained lawyers gives them first-hand empathy with the middle-class ordeal.


The willingly blind: Letter to the Editor of "The Beacon" from Florida International University faculty member

"The Beacon" is the student newspaper of the Florida International University

It is sad to read the shackled thinking of Matt Luciano, Contributing Writer to The Beacon ("Americans should demand solidarity for Palestine," Jan. 31, 2008). Mr. Luciano unwittingly does a deep disservice to the cause of human rights by linking it to the victimology of Hamas in Gaza, whose demagogues he quotes uncritically and whose terrorism he supports in his article. Mr. Luciano is shackled to uncritical thinking.

The article attacks Israel for its right to defend itself against arbitrary murder. Yes, that is what Mr. Luciano implies when he dismisses "rocket fire" at Israeli towns as if it were harmless firecrackers. Instead, these explosive missiles are fired indiscriminately, with the intent to kill as many civilians as possible and to spread terror. Targets have been schools and shopping centers. In response, the Israelis have pursued individual Hamas officers who instigate the violence as well as defend its borders, and that is the reason the Hamas attacks have been less successful of late.

In addition, the article impugns America for its own network of defense, accusing our government of sending "tax dollars in aid" to our closest ally in the Middle East. That aid is substantially less than the cost we pay just for keeping U.S. soldiers in Germany, in order to defend Europe, or in South Korea to defend its territory, or even just in the tiny Arab kingdom of Kuwait. Further, Mr. Luciano "believes the United States is responsible" for the Palestinian people, but fails to mention the billions we send in aid to them and the twenty-two Arab countries supporting them; in particular, Egypt..

The removal of hatred and threats against Israel is all that's required for peace and territorial compromise-the whole world knows that. Instead of murderous missiles, all the Gazans need to do is something completely nonviolent: to recognize Israel's right to exist in exchange for statehood. This article in The Beacon twists the truth around. The students and faculty of FIU should know that they can find a measure of objective truth in the free press of the only real democracy in the Middle East. Simply read it for yourselves at the Jerusalem Post ( ) or Haaretz ( ). Mr. Luciano, your education deserves exposure to a democratic objectivity such as Israel's-which does not fail to criticize its own policies-even if you are disposed to accuse the United States for your disaffection.


Modern-day schools guarantee that there can be no new George Washingtons

By Vin Suprynowicz

George Washington remains the greatest man of our age. But he was no genius. That our children don't really know of Washington's greatness is a devastating indictment of our current schools. As little as a century ago, American children memorized the farewell address, with its stern warning against "entangling" European alliances. Why do you suppose that's now gone? Too many big words?

Washington's officers wanted to march on the capital for their back pay and install him as king. He pulled on his eyeglasses and declined. I have met a few modern politicians who might have had the decency and humility to turn down such a serious offer: George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Mo Udall. But I have trouble visualizing any of them also winning the action at Trenton, let alone Monmouth.

Monmouth receives little attention in the history books, because it was "indecisive." The Brits were withdrawing from Philadelphia to New York. Washington was determined to make his presence felt. But he arrived on the scene to find Gen. Charles Lee -- we will be kind and call the man who requested the honor of command merely incompetent and confused -- withdrawing in disarray. Witnesses report Washington halted the retreat by mere strength of personality but then sat his horse for some seconds, dumbstruck, as his men waited to see what he would do.

This was not some desperate raid, like Trenton. A major battle was in the offing; Washington's troops had just been found running the wrong way; he was suddenly in personal command, and he had not even surveyed the ground. Then, that indomitable spirit took command. As Teddy Roosevelt Jr. was to do when he found himself on the wrong beach in Normandy 166 years later, the general decided to start the battle right where he was.

For no better reason than because no one would dare disappoint Washington himself, an army that had been on the verge of rout lined up as directed, stood their ground, and killed the advancing infantry of the greatest army in the world all day in the hundred-degree heat. When it was finally dark enough, the Brits withdrew -- leaving the much-ridiculed "Yankee Doodles" in possession of the field, and the whole of New Jersey. Washington didn't need any French fleet that day.

Yet to many of his contemporaries, Washington was a mere hick, and not a particularly bright one. John Adams called him "too illiterate, too unlearned, too unread for his station and reputation." Washington's father died when he was 11. His older brother got everything. Determined to make it on his own, George started with nothing. "Washington had no schooling until he was 11, no classroom confinement, no blackboards," notes John Taylor Gatto in the first chapter of "The Underground History of American Education."

"He arrived at school already knowing how to read, write, and calculate about as well as the average college student today. ... Full literacy wasn't unusual in the colonies or early republic; many schools wouldn't admit students who didn't know reading and counting because few schoolmasters were willing to waste time teaching what was so easy to learn. It was deemed a mark of depraved character if literacy hadn't been attained by the matriculating student. Even the many charity schools operated by churches, towns, and philanthropic associations for the poor would have been flabbergasted at the great hue and cry raised today about difficulties teaching literacy. American experience proved the contrary."

Why? Phonics. How did the educrat conspiracy make literacy seem hard, in order to stretch out the schooling process for more than a decade? The "whole word" method. "Killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in this country," said Theodor Geisel -- Dr. Seuss -- in 1981.

There were no "school projects" gluing together pictures clipped out of magazines when Washington was 11. He immediately took up geometry, trigonometry and surveying. Before he turned 18, Washington had been hired as the official surveyor for Culpepper County. "For the next three years, Washington earned the equivalent of about $100,000 a year in today's purchasing power," Mr. Gatto, the former New York state Teacher of the Year, reports.

How much government-run schooling would a youth of today be told he needs before he could contemplate making $100,000 a year as a surveyor -- a job which has not changed except to get substantially easier, what with hand-held computers, GPS scanners and laser range-finders? Sixteen years, at least -- 18, more likely. George Washington attended school for two years.

"We know he was no genius, yet he learned geometry, trigonometry and surveying when he would have been a fifth- or sixth-grader in our era," Gatto reminds us. "In light of the casual judgment of his contemporaries that his intellect was of normal proportions, you might be surprised to hear that by 18 (Washington) had devoured all the writings of Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett, and Daniel Defoe. ... He also read Seneca's Morals, Julius Caesar's Commentaries, and the major writing of other Roman generals like the historian Tacitus. ...

"Years later he became his own architect for the magnificent estate of Mount Vernon. While still in his 20s, he began to experiment with domestic industry where he might avoid the vagaries of international finance in things like cotton or tobacco." Hemp and flax didn't work out. "At the age of thirty-one, he hit on wheat. In seven years he had a little wheat business with his own flour mills and hired agents to market his own brand of flour; a little later he built fishing boats: four years before the Declaration was written he was pulling in 9 million herring a year."

In the meantime, as a sideline, he had marched to war with Braddock at Fort Duquesne, survived a campaign that killed many men of lesser constitutions, and become the best-known soldier on the continent.

Today, in comparison, "No public school in the United States is set up to allow a George Washington to happen," Gatto points out. "Washingtons in the bud stage are screened, browbeaten, or bribed to conform to a narrow outlook on social truth" -- basically, locked away in sterile isolation for 12 years.

"Boys like Andrew Carnegie who begged his mother not to send him to school and was well on his way to immortality and fortune at the age of 13 would be referred today for psychological counseling; Thomas Edison would find himself in Special Ed until his peculiar genius had been sufficiently tamed.

"Anyone who reads can compare what the American present does in isolating children from their natural sources of education, modeling them on a niggardly last, to what the American past proved about human capabilities. The effect of the forced schooling institution's strange accomplishment has been monumental. No wonder history has been outlawed."


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Education is a hot political issue in Australia at the moment. Four current articles below

Report shows students in 1960's better educated

DESPITE a much lower level of funding. Another proof that the constant teacher cry for more money is NOT the answer

SCHOOL students in the 1960s could read, write and count better than those today, according to a new report. Australian National University researchers found student literacy and numeracy had not improved since Sir Robert Menzies was prime minister and the Beatles topped the charts. Dr Andrew Leigh and Dr Chris Ryan tracked literacy and numeracy standards by comparing student results from the same tests over successive years for their report, How has school productivity changed in Australia? "Over the past three to four decades, neither literacy nor numeracy have improved, and may even have declined slightly," Dr Ryan said. "In numeracy, the typical young teenage student in 2003 was approximately a quarter of a grade level behind his or her counterpart in 1964."

The researchers said this was despite increased government spending on education over the past 40 years. Spending increased by 238 per cent from 1964-2003, they said. "It is possible the additional education spending over the past few decades was misdirected," Dr Leigh said. "This additional expenditure does not seem to have succeeded in raising literacy or numeracy."

Dr Leigh said government policy could have contributed to the declining student standards. "Decisions to reduce class sizes while allowing teacher salaries to decline relative to other professions may not have been in the best interests of students," he said. Dr Leigh said lower salaries had led to a fall in teacher quality from 1983-2003, which would have contributed to a decline in student results.

State education departments need to focus on evidence-based policy making, he said. "We need to measure different practices to see which are the best," Dr Leigh said. "Results from one class with small student numbers should be compared against another class which has a top teacher."

Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike recently applauded grade 3, 5 and year 7 students for meeting, and often exceeding, national benchmarks for literacy and numeracy. Figures from the National Report on Schooling in Australia, released earlier this month, showed more than 96 per cent of grade 3 and 5 students met the writing benchmark, out-performing every state and territory in Australia. The Victorian Government has also committed $11.7 million to employ 45 literacy specialists.


'Back to basics' the key for Aboriginal schools

Recognition that trendy Left educational fads have badly harmed blacks

THE nation's most prominent Aboriginal academic, Marcia Langton, has called on federal, state and territory politicians to acknowledge the "comprehensive and systemic failure" of Aboriginal education and to implement back-to-basics reforms. Professor Langton, foundation professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, said there had been inadequate recognition of the "parlous" state of Aboriginal education and the "entrenched poverty" that flows from it.

"Reading Kevin Rudd's remarks about education, you would swear the biggest problem facing the nation is digital deprivation," she said. "There's been insufficient recognition of Aboriginal education by a prime minister who pledged an education revolution for all Australians. Are we not Australians?" She said the failures, reflected in the fact that less than 48 per cent of indigenous students met national benchmarks for numeracy in Year 7, while only 27 per cent of remote Aborigines met the literacy benchmark, could be sheeted home to federal, state and territory government inaction. She called for "clear and regular testing and reporting" on the performance of Aboriginal children, and a sustained attempt to build relationships between remote Aboriginal communities and schools.

"We need a structured curriculum, an emphasis on the students' capacities and competencies as well as the gaps and weaknesses in their learning, and intervention strategies to ensure children at the end of each year have learnt the required curriculum," she said. "If that means putting them into a special class then that's what you have to do. "So many of the unionists and the politically correct folk in the cities have such a poor understanding of the extremely low levels of literacy and numeracy in black communities and the poverty that stems from it. "They throw their hands up and say this (hard-line approach) is an abuse of human rights. But it's not. It's standard practice around the world."

Professor Langton criticised Aboriginal communities for their failure to ensure children attended school. "Nothing would be achieved without regular school attendance," she said.

An anthropologist with a PhD from Macquarie University, Professor Langton said several generations of Aborigines had been the victims of "ideological experiments" that had failed to deliver literacy and numeracy in the classroom. The time had come for specialised teacher training with a back-to-basics emphasis for remote communities, she said.

"Teachers need special training for this. We need teachers trained to work in remote-areas schools where the existence of Aboriginal languages, poverty and lack of social capital are the obstacles to children learning the pedagogy developed in the cities for kids with lots of social capital. When we train teachers, it's not enough to impart some fuzzy notion of Aboriginal children's special needs. We need to know precisely what those needs are."

She praised the achievements of the earlier generation of missionary teachers who recognised the importance of English while respecting Aboriginal languages. "The Aboriginal kids of that generation learned English because it was drummed into them in structured classes," she said.

Her remarks are supported by a paper on Aboriginal literacy released last year by the Cape York Institute, which acknowledged a "literacy crisis in Cape York without historical precedent", and conceded: "Many grandparents in Cape York communities possess greater functional literacy than their grandchildren."

The paper found more than 100 indigenous students leave Cape York schools every year unable to read at or above the minimum level expected for their age. "At every year level, indigenous students are up to four years behind the non-indigenous average." In some Cape York schools, less than 21 per cent of indigenous students achieved minimum benchmarks.


Australian medical schools going back to basics

Uni answers call to boost anatomy

THE teaching of anatomy will be more than doubled for medical students at the University of Sydney, and teaching of other basic sciences will be expanded, after students complained they were graduating with gaps in their knowledge. The changes, which come into effect with the new term starting tomorrow, will bring a huge increase in the number of lectures on basic sciences, with at least 50 new hourly sessions in the first eight weeks of the graduate-entry program. Over the entire four-year course, the amount of time for anatomy lectures will rise from 500 hours to 1200 hours.

The new curriculum - compiled after a year-long review - will also restore the practice of dissection as a means of teaching anatomy. In recent years dissection, in which students cut up body parts under the guidance of a tutor, has been largely replaced by other teaching methods, including "prosection" - where students observe specimens already cut open by somebody else. The new course will give students more scope to be involved in research, and will harmonise teaching practices among the university's six different clinical schools, after they were found to vary dramatically.

Students have welcomed the changes, which follow controversy over previous cuts to basic science teaching in Australia's medical schools generally. Australian Medical Students Association president Michael Bonning said: "We applaud Sydney for the fact they have listened to their student body." Mr Bonning's deputy Tim Smith, also a final-year medical student at the University of Queensland, said AMSA surveys in the past two years had shown "the vast majority" of medical students nationwide wanted to learn the scientific fundamentals. "From our experience, it's students in medical schools across the country that are asking for more basic science teaching," Mr Smith said.

Tessa Ho, Sydney University's head of medical education, said the review was launched because the previous curriculum was 11 years old and "had not adjusted to a number of changes in the healthcare system". "A number of key issues had been raised by clinicians and students about what was being offered in the curriculum," Associate Professor Ho said. Graduates felt unprepared in areas such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology, she said. [And they were right to "feel" that!]


The 'fake' school teachers

There's a lot of this is Australian schools. I know something about it myself. I was twice hired to teach High School geography despite having studied it only up to middle school level. I have always taken an interest in the subject, however and it seemed to work well enough. I just kept a chapter ahead in the textbook. And the kids got good exam results. But if I had been asked to teach some other subjects -- such as mathematics or French -- it would have been a disaster

SCHOOL teachers are taking classes in subjects they know little or nothing about, such as languages they're not fluent in - new research has shown. A report by the Australian Council for Educational Research revealed 43 per cent of high school principals asked staff to take additional classes outside their area of expertise. Primary schools are also not exempt from the problem, with 14 per cent of principals getting teachers to work outside their area.

The findings were published in the 183-page report, commissioned by the Federal Government, and canvassed the responses of more than 10,000 teachers and 2000 heads of schools.

According to unions, the figures are further proof the nationwide teacher shortage is crippling the education sector. Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union, said the severity of the shortage is being masked by teachers having to take classes outside their faculty. He added that until the Rudd Government can commit an extra $2.9 billion in funding for public schools, the problem will continue to manifest itself. Jim McAlpine, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council agreed that "it's a general problem in all education departments''.

The matter was magnified even more in rural and remote areas. "The difference there is that they are smaller schools with smaller numbers and because there are fewer teachers, you have less chance of having a trained teacher in that area.'' Music, creative arts, languages and information technology are the subjects considered to be the hardest hit as a result of the shortage.

Anthony Sleeman, a mathematics teacher at Ariah Park Central School in the Riverina region has been taking Spanish classes since 2005, even though he isn't fluent in the language. Mr Sleeman said, due to a lack of staff, he was asked to lead a combined Year 7/8 languages class and has continued to "bluff'' his way through since. "In a sense you have to use your skills as a teacher to try and teach something you don't know much about,'' he said.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Adding Up to Failure: Ed schools put diversity before math

A good education requires balance. Students should learn to appreciate a variety of cultures, sure, but they also need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Judging from the courses that the nation’s leading education colleges offer, however, balance isn’t a goal. The schools place far more emphasis on the political and social ends of education than on the fundamentals.

To determine just how unbalanced teacher preparation is at ed schools, we counted the number of course titles and descriptions that contained the words “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and variants thereof, and then compared those with the number that used variants of the word “math.” We then computed a “multiculturalism-to-math ratio”—a rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools. A ratio of greater than 1 indicates a greater emphasis on multiculturalism; a ratio of less than 1 means that math courses predominate. Our survey covered the nation’s top 50 education programs as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, as well as programs at flagship state universities that weren’t among the top 50—a total of 71 education schools.

The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word “multiculturalism” or “diversity,” while only three contain the word “math,” giving it a ratio of almost 16.

Some programs do show different priorities. At the University of Missouri, 43 courses bear titles or descriptions that include multiculturalism or diversity, but 74 focus on math, giving it a lean multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 0.58. Penn State’s ratio is 0.39. (By contrast, the ratio at Penn State’s Ivy League counterpart, the University of Pennsylvania, is over 3.) Still, of the 71 programs we studied, only 24 have a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of less than 1; only five pay twice as much attention to math as to social goals.

Several obstacles impede change. On the supply side, ed-school professors are a self-perpetuating clique, and their commitment to multiculturalism and diversity produces a near-uniformity of approach. Professors control entry into their ranks by determining who will receive the doctoral credential, deciding which doctoral graduates get hired, and then selecting which faculty will receive tenure. And tenured academics are essentially accountable to no one.

On the demand side, prospective teachers haven’t cried out for more math courses because such courses tend to be harder than those involving multiculturalism. And the teachers know that their future employers—public school districts—don’t find an accent on multiculturalism troubling. Because public schools are assured of ever-increasing funding, regardless of how they do in math, they can indulge their enthusiasm for multiculturalism, and prospective teachers can, too.

Accrediting organizations also help perpetuate the emphasis on multiculturalism. In several states, law mandates that ed schools receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE, in turn, requires education programs to meet six standards, one entirely devoted to diversity, but none entirely devoted to ensuring proper math pedagogy. Education schools that attempt to break from the cartel’s multiculturalism focus risk denial of accreditation.

Ensuring quality math instruction is no minor matter. The Programme for International Student Assessment’s latest results paint a bleak picture: U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 24th out of 30 industrial countries in math literacy, tying Spain and surpassing only Greece, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, and Turkey, while trailing Iceland, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and all of our major economic competitors in Europe and Asia.

The issue isn’t whether we should be teaching cultural awareness in education colleges or in public schools; it’s about priorities. Besides, our students probably have great appreciation already for students from other cultures—who’re cleaning their clocks in math skills, and will do so economically, too, if we don’t wise up.


Australia: "Stolen Generations" report attacked

A report that has become the basis for widespread miseducation in Australian schools

"Bringing Them Home", the landmark report that found indigenous children were systematically taken from their parents to "breed out" Aboriginality, was built on the "misrepresentations and misinterpretations" of professional historians, according to Keith Windschuttle. In a preliminary extract from his forthcoming book, Mr Windschuttle questions the existence of the Stolen Generations and claims the policies involved were largely benevolent and contained elements that should be revived today. His arguments have already been dismissed by some leading academic historians as absurd and blinkered.

Mr Windschuttle accuses University of Sydney history professor Peter Read of forming the NSW version of the Stolen Generations and says his own research has uncovered only one NSW file, among 800 examined, in which Aboriginality is cited as the reason for removal. The claim undermines one of Ronald Wilson's key findings in 'Bringing Them Home' in 1997, which was the basis for claiming the forced removal of Aboriginal children constituted "genocide".

Professor Read yesterday rejected Mr Windschuttle's interpretation of the files. "There are remarks made about the Aboriginality of the children, the way in which they were living or the number of brothers and sisters they had, where it is perfectly clear the children are being targeted because they are Aboriginal," Professor Read said.

Mr Windschuttle concedes there were "obnoxious" attempts to "breed out" Aboriginality in Western Australia and the Northern Territory but says those policies concentrated on intermarriage, not removal, and were undercut by the ineptitude of the bureaucrats involved. While he says his findings pull the rug out from under Kevin Rudd's planned apology, Mr Windschuttle insists the Prime Minister should accompany the symbolic gesture with $50 billion in compensation.

The conservative historian and incoming Quadrant editor, whose 2002 book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History questioned historians' claims of massacres of Aboriginal communities, estimates fewer than a third of the young Aborigines removed from their parents in NSW between 1915 and the late 1960s were aged under 12. Of these "almost all were welfare cases - orphans, neglected children (some severely malnourished), and children who were abandoned, deserted and homeless". In his new book, Mr Windschuttle says the vast majority of older Aboriginal minors were removed to be trained as apprentices, after which they returned to their families. "It is a policy that could well be revived today to rescue children from the sexual assault and substance abuse of the hellholes in the remote communities," he writes.

Mr Windschuttle said yesterday he anticipated a similarly strident reaction to The Fabrication of Australian History, Volume 2: The "Stolen Generations" as had greeted the earlier volume: "They will attempt to demonise me for my morals and they will make a lot of minor criticisms of my research and pretend that they are major."

Mr Windschuttle insisted he was not being mischievous by suggesting Mr Rudd's apology on Wednesday should be accompanied with $500,000 for every Aboriginal family in Australia. "Any apology in the parliament that is not backed by compensation will be a PR gesture in the best tradition of spin-doctoring in politics," he said.

Melbourne University history professor Stuart Macintyre, who is teaching at Harvard, dismissed Mr Windschuttle's claims against Professor Read as absurd. "He was involved in research on and for families that had been separated by the NSW government, under legislation that was racially discriminatory in its ambit and purpose," Professor Macintyre said. "It is refreshing to hear that Windschuttle thinks an apology ... should be accompanied by compensation, but disingenuous of him to suggest that this would involve the payment of $50 billion."

La Trobe University historian Robert Manne, who edited a collection of essays condemning Mr Windschuttle's earlier book, said he was "very pleased that Windschuttle has finally conceded that the chief protectors in both the Northern Territory and Western Australia during the 1930s supported a policy of 'breeding out the colour' of the Aborigines. Unfortunately, he does not understand the connection between this policy and systematic female 'half-caste' child removal". "The protectors believed the girls needed to be completely separated from the Aboriginal world to turn them into suitable wives for lower-class white males," Professor Manne said. "Windschuttle calls the policy 'obnoxious'. Why is he incapable of admitting that it was profoundly racist?"


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Biased history curriculum revealed

Here's a quiz: Get a pencil and paper and jot down the 10 most famous Americans in history. No presidents or first ladies allowed. Who tops your list? Ask teenagers, and they overwhelmingly choose African-Americans and women, a study shows. It suggests that the "cultural curriculum" that most kids - and by extension, their parents - experience in school increasingly emphasizes the stories of Americans who are not necessarily dead, white or male.

Researchers gave blank paper and pencils to a diverse group of 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states and told them: "Starting from Columbus to the present day, jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history." Topping the list: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Three of the top five - and six of the top 10 - are women.

Sam Wineburg, the Stanford University education and history professor who led the study along with Chauncey Monte-Sano of the University of Maryland, says the prominence of black Americans signals "a profound change" in how we see history. "Over the course of about 44 years, we've had a revolution in the people who we come to think about to represent the American story," Wineburg says. "There's a kind of shift going on, from the narrative of the founders, which is the national mythic narrative, to the narrative of expanding rights," he says.

Yes, but how does he explain No. 7: Oprah Winfrey? She has "a kind of symbolic status similar to Benjamin Franklin," Wineburg says. "These are people who have a kind of popularity and recognition because they're distinguished in so many venues."

Joy Hakim, author of A History of US, says taking out the presidents "isn't quite fair" but concedes that the list isn't too shabby. "I sometimes ask students to imagine themselves in a classroom 500 years from now. What will their teacher say about the 20th century? What were its lasting accomplishments? Of course, we don't know where future historians will focus, but I'm guessing that the civil rights movement and the incredible scientific achievements will be the big stories."

For what it's worth, when the researchers polled 2,000 adults in a different survey, their lists were nearly identical. To Wineburg, that shows that what's studied in school affects not just children but the adults who help them with their schoolwork.

The study acknowledges that the emphasis on African-American figures by the schools leaves behind not only 18th- and 19th-century figures but others as well, such as Hispanic icon Cesar Chavez, Native American heroes such as Pocahontas and Sacagawea and labor leaders such as Samuel Gompers and Eugene V. Debs.

At the same time, the study, scheduled to appear in the March issue of The Journal of American History, notes that teachers the researchers talked to while giving the quiz predicted that student lists would be top-heavy with entertainers and celebrities. Aside from Winfrey and Marilyn Monroe, entertainers appear "nowhere near the top" of the lists.

Dennis Denenberg, author of 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet, says it's no surprise the civil rights era still resonates. "Since it so redefined America post-World War II, I think educators feel it's truly a story young people need to know about because we're still struggling with it," he says. "The Cold War is over and gone. The civil rights movement is ongoing."


BRAVE NEW SCHOOLS: Intelligent design costs prof his job

Regents reject tenure request without evidence, testimony

Iowa State University regents, who earlier ruled against accepting evidence or hearing testimony from a professor in a dispute over the school's denial of his tenure, now have turned down his appeal. The case involves Guillermo Gonzalez, an honored assistant professor of astronomy who has been actively working on theories of intelligent design, an effort that ultimately cost him his job, supporters say. Tenure is roughly the equivalent of a lifetime appointment.

The school has continued to deny the handling of Gonzalez' case was related to his support of ID, even though the Des Moines Register documented e-mails that confirmed Gonzalez' colleagues wanted him flushed out of the system for that reason. "I think Gonzalez should know that some of the faculty in his department are not going to count his ID work as a plus for tenure," said one note, from astronomy teacher Bruce Harmon, before the department voted against tenure for Gonzalez. "Quite the opposite." The newspaper reported what was revealed in e-mails was "contrary" to what ISU officials said when they rejected Gonzalez' request for tenure. And Eli Rosenberg, chairman of the ISU astronomy department, also confirmed to World Magazine Gonzalez's book, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery," played a role in his being rejected.

Now the regents, at a meeting Thursday, voted against his appeal in the case. "The board of regents would not allow into the record extensive e-mail documentation showing Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure not due to his academic record, but because he supports intelligent design," said Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy and legal affairs for the Discovery Institute, where Gonzalez is a senior fellow. "Then the board refused Dr. Gonzalez the right to be heard through oral arguments. Does it come as any surprise that now they denied his appeal?" Luskin asked.

"We are extremely disappointed that the board of regents refused to give Dr. Gonzalez a fair hearing in his appeal," said Chuck Hurley, the professor's lawyer. "They say in Iowa that academic freedom is supposed to be the 'foundation of the university.' That foundation is cracked." "They've denied his due process rights throughout this entire appeal," said Luskin. "This kangaroo court decided its verdict long before today's deliberations even began." Hurley said the most "disheartening" part of the appeal was that regents refused Gonzalez the opportunity present his case to the board. "The board of regents had an opportunity to give justice to an outstanding scientist who is a leader in his field," continued Luskin. "Instead, they caved in to political pressure and threw academic freedom to the wind."

According to the Intelligent Design website, the theory confirms that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not a random, undirected force such as natural selection, which is part of the foundational faith of evolutionists.

Luskin told WND the 7-1 vote against Gonzalez showed there only a single member of the board who was willing to buck the political pressure from the university to "rubber-stamp" the rejection of Gonzalez.

A website highlighting an academic freedom petition in support from the freedom of thought needed by faculty, teachers and students also has been created.

The Discovery Institute said it also had reviewed the e-mail record regarding Gonzalez' teaching, and found "an orchestrated campaign conducted against Dr. Gonzalez by his colleagues, with the intent to deny him tenure because of views he holds on the intelligent design of the universe."

As WND reported earlier, Gonzales was one of three members of the ISU faculty denied promotion or tenure of the 66 considered at the time. The rejection followed earlier opposition to his work because of his acknowledgment of intelligent design. In 2005, three ISU faculty members drafted a statement and petition against intelligent design in the science curriculum that collected 120 signatures. "We . urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of 'science and technology,' convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray intelligent design as science," the statement said.

Officials with Evolution News, which has reported extensively on the case, earlier said two of the professors linked to the statement were in the astronomy and physics department: Prof. Steven Kawaler, who has linked to the statement on his website, and University Professor Lee Anne Willson, who is married to ISU math professor Stephen J. Wilson, who signed it. Evolution News also debunked Rosenberg's claim that there was something deficient about Gonzalez's research record. "You take a look at somebody's research record over the six-year probationary period and you get a sense whether this is a strong case. Clearly, this was a case that looked like it might be in trouble," Rosenberg had said.

"Really?" questioned Evolution News in its commentary. "Was Gonzalez somehow derelict in publishing 350 percent more peer-reviewed publications than his own department's stated standard for research excellence? Or in co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press? Or in having his research recognized by Science, Nature, Scientific American and other top science publications?" In 2004 Gonzalez department nominated him for an "Early Achievement in Research" honor, his supporters noted.

According to Robert J. Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, he checked a citation index of journal papers, and found one of Gonzalez' research papers had 153 citations listed; another had 139. "I have sat on oodles of tenure committees at both a large private university and a state research university, chaired the university tenure committee, and have seen more tenure cases than the Pope has Cardinals," he said. "This is a LOT of citations for an assistant professor up for tenure." Gonzalez' appeal to ISU President Greg Geoffroy also was unsuccessful.


France: Teacher held for hitting abusive son of policeman

A school teacher in northern France is at the centre of a national storm over respect in the classroom after police detained him for 24 hours for slapping the 11-year-old son of a gendarme who had sworn at him. The case of Jose Laboureur, 49, a technology teacher at a secondary school in the town of Maubeuge, near the Belgian border, has prompted the wrath of teachers and many parents, who say that it exemplifies the breakdown of discipline and values.

The affair began when Mr Laboureur slapped the boy for calling him a connard, an insult equivalent to c***, after he had asked him to tidy his desk during a lesson. The boy's father had Mr Laboureur arrested and held for a night and a day in a civilian cell. He was charged with serious assault against a minor, which carries a maximum prison term of three years, and ordered to appear in court next month. No action was taken against the boy until the story broke and Xavier Darcos, the Education Minister, ordered the school todiscipline him. He was suspended for three days.

Mr Laboureur regretted his action but said that the response of the authorities was unjustified. "In 30 years of teaching, no one has ever spoken to me like that," he said. "I saw red and slapped him. It was a spontaneous reaction . . . I felt like a criminal, being jailed in run-down, cold quarters, photographed, finger-printed and giving a DNA sample. It was completely out of proportion."

Parents and colleagues rallied to Mr Laboureur's side, praising him as a dedicated veteran who should not have lost his temper but who had been provoked. The father has been pilloried for abusing his authority and polls have shown sympathy for the teacher.

Teachers' unions have gathered tens of thousands of signatures on internet petitions in support of Mr Laboureur, despite prosecutors' allegations that he lifted the boy against a wall and slapped him hard. Francois Fillon, the Prime Minister, voiced sympathy for Mr Laboureur.