Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lying journalism school head

Why am I not surprised?

Faculty at Northwestern University's journalism school said Tuesday that they "are deeply troubled" about their dean's use of anonymous sources in his alumni magazine columns and called on him to provide proof that he didn't fabricate the quotes. A statement signed by 16 Medill School of Journalism instructors, along with a letter they wrote to Medill Dean John Lavine, comes after a columnist for The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper, questioned Lavine's use of anonymous quotes in two introductory letters Lavine wrote for the Medill alumni magazine last year.

The two-page statement, signed by tenured faculty members as well as contract lecturers, also was given to Northwestern President Henry Bienen and Provost Daniel Linzer, the letter stated. "This matter has become a crisis for the school," the statement said. "The principles of truthfulness and transparency in reporting are at the core of Medill's professional and academic mission."

Northwestern's office of the provost is reviewing Lavine's use of unnamed sources and "the veracity of the quotations," according to a statement by spokesman Al Cubbage, who declined to comment further. In addition, students and alumni joined the new "Save Journalism at Medill" group on Facebook. On Tuesday afternoon, there were nearly 90 members of the group, which was created to discuss "concerns about the issue of the dean's anonymous sourcing, as well as other recent changes in the journalism school."

At issue are two columns Lavine wrote in Medill's alumni magazine. In a column in last spring's magazine about a class in which students developed "a fully integrated marketing program," Lavine quoted "a Medill junior" saying: "I sure felt good about this class. It is one of the best I've taken." In the same piece, Lavine quotes "one sophomore" who glowingly praises a new reporting program, concluding, "This is the most exciting my education has been."

Lavine's use of anonymous quotes seemed suspicious to David Spett, a Medill senior and Daily Northwestern columnist. He said he figured out which marketing class Lavine had mentioned and then tracked down all 29 students. Each denied making the "I sure felt good" comment, his column stated.

At Medill, one of the country's premier journalism schools, professors emphasize that unnamed sources should be used sparingly, in line with professional media standards. Students routinely are required to submit names and contact information for every person quoted in their articles as a guard against fabrication.

Lavine, 67, told the Tribune last week that the quotes in his columns "came from real people," though he couldn't recall whether they were provided by e-mail or during face-to-face conversations. He said he writes student comments in a reporter's notebook he carries and also receives comments by e-mail. He said comments from that time period have been deleted.

He defended his use of anonymous quotes by drawing a distinction between a news story and a letter to alumni in a magazine. "Context is all-important. I wasn't doing a news story. I wasn't covering the news," Lavine said. "When I write news stories, I am as careful and thorough about sources as anyone you will find. . . . This is not a news story. This is a personal letter."

That argument didn't sit well with some journalism faculty members, who called the explanation "at best inadequate," according to their statement. "It is wrong to argue that the forum in which the questionable quote was used, the school's alumni magazine, is not subject to the same standards as other publication venues," according to the statement.

Medill professor Donna Leff said law and ethics instructors first broached the idea of issuing a statement. The position statement then circulated to a larger pool of professors, Leff said, many of whom felt it was important to take a public stand. "This is not something that played out in the newspaper as though it were an internal matter. It's a newspaper matter that then got played out in school," said Leff, who teaches media law and ethics, science writing and urban reporting. "We're actually asking him exactly what we would ask of any reporter if we were the editor." The faculty requested a meeting with Lavine, Bienen and Linzer.

Lavine also defended his writings in an e-mail to faculty in response to the Feb. 14 Tribune story, saying that the quotes "are what students told me." "They are real quotes, a fact that was demonstrated by my including in my letter to the alumni a link to a student video that showed students making the same kind of points," Lavine wrote. "There was no shortage of material from students for these quotes." Of the 16 instructors who signed the letter, 10 are full-time professors while the remainder are lecturers or retired faculty members. There are 51 full-time Medill faculty members.


Britain: Privileged children excel, even at low-performing "comprehensive" schools

Charles Murray pointed out long ago that richer people have higher IQs and that IQ is the main factor in educational attainment. What the report below skates over is the safety concerns many British parents have about sending their children to "sink" schools

Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling. Most of the children "performed brilliantly" at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.

To give their children "the best start in life", many parents choose to live in catchment areas of high-performing schools, "find God" to gain their child a place at a faith establishment or make financial sacrifices to pay for their child's independent schooling. However, the researchers decided to analyse the progress of the offspring of "those white, urban, middle-class parents who consciously choose for their children to be educated at their local state secondary, whatever the league table positioning".

This group attended average or poorly performing schools in working-class or racially mixed areas. Here they thrived academically and were often given special attention by teachers keen to improve the school's results, according to the study by professors in education from the universities of Cambridge, Sunderland and West of England (UWE).

The only failure was in social integration, which had been the very reason most parents sent their child to the school. Most children from middle-class families mixed only with pupils from identical backgrounds. The research found "segregation within schools, with white middle-class children clustered in top sets, with little interaction with children from other backgrounds".

Professor David James, from UWE, said: "But we wanted to discover what motivates parents who instead choose to send their children to local comprehensives that appear to be performing poorly. "Most children who had this choice made for them have gone on to perform brilliantly in GCSEs, A levels and then on to university entrance, including a much higher than average entry to Oxbridge."

The researchers interviewed 124 families from London and two other cities. Eighty-three per cent of the parents had degrees and a quarter were educated to postgraduate level. They included three Labour Party activists and two who worked in a social exclusion research unit. In 70 per cent of families, one or both parents worked in the public sector. Most described themselves as left-wing or liberal.

The report found: "Some parents were motivated by a commitment to state-funded education and egalitarian ideals and many had an active dislike for privileged educational routes on the grounds that they were socially divisive. Many wanted their children to have an educational experience that would prepare them for a globalised, socially diverse world. "These parents positioned themselves in a way we termed `a darker shade of pale', as part of a more culturally tolerant and even anti-racist white middle class. "They felt strongly that higher-achieving schools would not provide the kind of experience of the `real world' that their children needed."

However, the researchers said such parents did not consider that they were sacrificing their children's education, with many seeing it as a worthwhile, if risky, strategy. "Many parents said they could and would pull out if things did not go well," the report said. Some parents who attended privileged schools made the choice as a "conscious reaction to their own schooling". Others wanted their children "to compete in ordinary circumstances". It added: "Anxiety was not absent, especially when their children were attending schools that were pathologised - or even demonised - by other white middle-class parents."

But even though those sending their children to comprehensives were open and tolerant of other backgrounds, in some cases researchers noted "elitism and a sense of intellectual and social superiority - a sense that would be confirmed by their own child's relative success".


Australia: Othello becomes a tragedy of the system

LITERATURE, the soul of the English language, has been marginalised by ideology and social theory in its study in schools and universities. Reader in English at the Australian National University Simon Haines said the literature part of the subject English had been squashed and marginalised during the past 30 years, pushed aside to teach theories from other disciplines. "Literature is the heart of English and if we're not doing that, then the subject loses its soul," he said after addressing the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney yesterday.

Dr Haines said university academics in English and literature over the past two generations had "colonised" other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and linguistics. As a result, it had become the attitude in English schools to question the primacy of the text in the belief that the text should be used to illustrate theories from the other disciplines. "And so Othello has become a tragedy of race rather than a tragedy of jealousy," he said. "It hasn't always been; up until the 1960s, it was a tragedy of jealousy. "It's not the teachers' fault - they're just reflecting what they've heard for two generations in universities, which is that literature as core of the subject English is in the end dispensable and theoretical."

Dr Haines is the director for the ANU of the International Centre for Human Values, a joint venture with the Chinese University in Hong Kong. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and is a former diplomat and analyst with the Office of National Assessments, and was chairman for three years of the OECD budget committee before pursuing a career in academia.

Dr Haines said the English syllabus in schools had become much more crowded over the past three or four decades. "It's all the more reason not to dilute English with other disciplinary or ideological approaches. There just isn't time," he said. "The best you can hope to have is an understanding of the context of the play, so you don't want to narrow it down into one ideological approach. What you get then is a teacher who doesn't understand Marxism and feminist theory as thoroughly as a university academic trying to give students a half-baked version at the same time as teaching Othello. Students end up with a mishmash.

"By all means study Marxist theory when you're at university, where you can study it thoroughly, but don't try to do it in a half-baked way at school." Dr Haines said in this way, Othello had become a tragedy of race not jealousy, which makes the play narrower, more polemical and ideological than Shakespeare intended.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

Cleon Skoussen would say, "I told you so."

With the coming general election, and the impressive youth movement within, one can only conclude Skoussen was a visionary. When watching today's young people gush over Barack Obama, pledging allegiance to the Democrat Party, the phrase "Mission Accomplished" comes to mind. The former FBI agent, in his 1958 book, "The Naked Communist", enumerated several goals the left would take to obtain, and maintain, power in the United States. Some of those "goals" included.

"Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current communist propaganda.

"Get control of the teachers associations.

"Gain control of all student newspapers."

But when it comes to today's successful infiltration into academia, the phrase "Give `em an inch, and they think they're rulers" come to mind. According to Paul Rogers of The Mercury News, "A Silicon Valley lawmaker is gaining momentum with a bill that would require "climate change" to be among the science topics that all California public school students are taught. "You can't have a science curriculum that is relevant and current if it doesn't deal with the science behind climate change," Simitian said. "This is a phenomenon of global importance and our kids ought to understand the science behind that phenomenon."

It's not enough that today's youth seem ill equipped with the basics. There is this FedEx commercial where a young employee can't find China on a map. We have another commercial where a young man completes an online stock transaction for a company in Hong Kong, and then tries to impress us with his knowledge that Hong Kong is in China. Insurance commercials targeting young buyers today use cartoons. And we wonder why Russia and China are so cocky.

While I'm only the son of an educator, wouldn't we best spend our time teaching kids the basics, instead of pumping their little heads full of science that is, despite what Al Gore says, not conclusive?

I asked Dr. Timothy Ball about his thoughts on this California curriculum proposal and he replied, "The blunt truth is if you don't understand the science you simply have discussions in ignorance. You also have the problem that teachers can push there own political agenda consciously or subconsciously. Unfortunately, most parents have no idea what is being taught in the classroom, and too often it is not education, it is indoctrination. This extends through to the university, where idealistic young minds are like a tabula rasa eager for ideas and vulnerable without experience.

Dr. Ball concluded, "So we are a science based society with only about 20% who even have a glimmering of understanding of science. As you can see, everywhere you look it is a serious problem because it is ripe for exploitation of fear and lack of knowledge. Gore's movie is a classic example. It is pure unadulterated propaganda which is why an Oscar from Hollywood, the land of make believe, was so appropriate. It employed all the gimmicks of visual and sound imagery that science and technology can provide. As you know even in the radio industry the gimmicks and techniques used to "underscore" a story. The challenge I have made to educators and others is what would you show to provide the other side of the climate issue from Gore's piece? The challenge is you have to present accurate technical boring science. As somebody said you can't spin the truth like you can its perception."

Instead of teaching "science" most of the teachers won't understand, because we're talking about something as inconclusive as the weather, maybe we should be making sure our kids can master the basics. You know, little things like Basic English so young adults can fill out a job application and read an equipment manual for a job. Little things like mastering Basic Mathematics so they can balance a checkbook and calculate how much change to give from a cash register.

Turning our kids into little, intolerant Democrats may have served a short-term goal, but mandating schools spend valuable class time "teaching" climate change that conveniently omits The Sun as a "warming" factor is a continued and dubious disservice, and waste of taxpayer money.

The basics are the basics for a reason. Using kids for political gain is a tactic not beneath the left. It is a reality. If you really care about the future, be concerned about the morons being pumped out of schools that will be the leaders of our nation tomorrow. You know, our nation. That's in North America!



Four current articles below -- no good news

Rudd's education "revolution" at work

THE Rudd Government will axe a $1.2 billion program which has allowed schools across NSW to upgrade toilets, landscape their grounds and improve facilities. The Investing in Our Schools scheme - one of the most popular policies of the former Howard government - will not be continued after the money runs out this year.

Angry primary principals are seeking an urgent meeting with new Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard at which they are expected to voice a strong complaint about the decision. A storm of protest following The Daily Telegraph's report this morning has forced Ms Gillard to defend the decision. She said the Government would continue investing in schools via other means. "The Investing in Our Schools program was only ever a four-year program," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard's office earlier confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that Labor's "education revolution" - with heavy emphasis on computers and trade schools - does not extend to Investing in Our Schools. A spokeswoman said the $1.2 billion already promised to schools would be delivered, allowing schools to "build and repair vital infrastructure". "Under the previous Liberal Government there was no funding provided for the program beyond the 2007-08 Budget and therefore the program cannot be continued," the spokeswoman said.

Primary Principals' Association president Geoff Scott said schools - particularly in the government sector - were disappointed to learn the program had been dropped. "It will be a terrific shame if it is not replaced by something else that gets funds to schools," Mr Scott said. "Under this scheme a little bush school could get equal access to funds. It allowed them to get money directly for a host of things such as covered walkways, outdoor learning areas and play equipment."

One recipient of Investing in Our Schools funds has been Oxley High School at Tamworth, where students use old railway carriages as a study centre and computer room. Parents & Citizens' president Wendy Newby said the school had received $100,000 from the program which would be "put to good use". "We are very grateful for the funds . .. the P&C does as much as it can," she said.

State Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner said principals "could not speak more highly of the Investing In Our Schools program". "This was a $1.2 billion program making a real difference to NSW schools - often where the State Government had failed to provide adequate facilities," he said.


Rudd's school computer promise comes unplugged

THE Rudd Government has backed away from an election pledge to provide every upper secondary school student with their own computer. Education Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday the Government would provide the resources but conceded it could not force schools to provide individual computers to each student.

The Opposition seized on the concession, accusing the Government of reneging on its promise and disappointing the almost one million private and public students in Years 9-12.

Mr Rudd's education revolution, including the $1 billion National Secondary Schools Computer Fund, helped him steamroll into Government last year. A 15-page policy document labelled A Digital Education Revolution said: "A Rudd Labor Government will revolutionise classroom education by putting a computer on the desk of every upper secondary student. It said: "Students will have their own computer and access to the school's extranet and classroom content - both from their desktop and remotely. Schools will be able to apply for grants of up to $1 million . . . this could include personal laptops."

But in fiery exchange in a Senate standing committee yesterday, bureaucrats told Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason there was never a pledge to give students their own computers. Some schools might choose to have computer laboratories on school campuses, they said. An animated Senator Mason seized on the comments, offering to read the ALP brochure to Innovation Minister Kim Carr. "Unless I'm stupid and every 9-12 student I know is stupid, every one of them thought the Government would be providing them with a computer," Senator Mason said.

During an interview later in the day, Ms Gillard argued the Government had not changed the goalposts. "There will be sufficient resources so that schools can put a computer on each child's desk for Years 9 to 12," she said. "We are leaving it to the school how they do it , we are not mandating that every desk have a computer on it but we are saying the aim of the program is to make sure every student has access to a computer."

Senator Mason also accused the Government of fudging costs because the costs of maintaining broadband connections were not included in the $100 m broadband plan. "During the election, Kevin Rudd said that the buck would stop with him. We now discover that the buck has been passed on to others, including hard-working parents trying to put their children through school," he said. "As anyone with internet knows there are monthly costs associated with maintaining a connection."


Mathematics education still a low priority

CASH-STRAPPED university administrations diverted most of the millions of dollars meant to reverse the maths and statistics skills crisis to other purposes, confidential research has found. At least 50 per cent and as much as 80 per cent of new money allocated by the former Coalition government to the national priority disciplines appears to have been retained for administration, a draft report to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute suggests.

The report on a national questionnaire of university maths departments found that despite the $2729 in extra funds for each student place in maths and statistics granted by former education minister Julie Bishop last May, there were almost 40 fewer maths teaching and research staff at the start of this year compared with 2007.

National Committee for Mathematical Sciences chairman and University of Melbourne professor Hyam Rubinstein told the HES that, based on the survey, he estimated about $25 million nationally had been allocated to universities to support the recruitment of new staff and teaching students in maths and statistics. "But we are only getting 20per cent or less, or about $4 million to $5 million actually flowing to departments nationally," he said. Professor Rubinstein said he understood that universities were in a tight financial situation. "Universities have to make money. This issue of national priorities has become secondary to what will pay the bills. That's the difficulty."

Australian Mathematical Society president and Melbourne University professor Peter Hall thought Rubinstein's estimate was generous. "I understand that some universities need the freedom to put these funds where they are haemorrhaging most seriously, but it's clear they don't see offering maths as playing a serious role in science." Professor Hall said that having a sufficient supply of maths-qualified researchers was increasingly influential in multinationals' decisions to locate significant research facilities.

Only five of the 10 universities contacted by the HES yesterday responded to queries about how much extra they earned from enrolling maths and statistics students and how much was passed on to departments. The Australian National University rejected the suggestion it had not passed on the increase, saying it had allocated 85 per cent to the relevant areas and the rest to student support. The University of NSW failed to provide figures but said it had advertised for three professorial chairs following retirements and resignations. The University of Western Australia said it had upwardly adjusted funding weightings for maths, and the University of Adelaide employed four extra maths staff.

The AMSI report said despite initial euphoria over the funding boost and high starting salaries for graduates sparked by the skills shortage, an air of pessimism had descended on many university maths departments. One respondent said that when a senior university administrator was confronted with the failure to pass on extra funding, he said the federal education department wouldn't be concerned and that the minister wouldn't get involved in such detail.

Australian Council of Deans of Science president John Rice said he was hopeful the Rudd Government's planned $111 million maths and science HECS relief plan would encourage far greater numbers of students. Australian Council of Engineering Deans president Elizabeth Taylor said universities were working with schools as hard as they could to encourage greater numbers of students. "Students see maths and science as harder options, which would come at the expense of a nicer life and their social life," she said.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said universities had discretion over the funds. The proportion of Australian school-leavers taking advanced maths fell from 14 per cent in 1995 to 10.4 per cent in 2006, according to AMSI figures.


A bleak future for those with poor literacy and numeracy

No matter how much spin you put on the recent benchmark figures for Queensland's literacy and numeracy, the state is not doing well. Cold comfort though it may be, it is not alone. Victoria has one in five students falling short in maths and besides the Northern Territory, Tasmania remains the national bottom feeder. ...

What is unambiguous is that the long-term fallout of poor literacy and numeracy affects the economy. While federal Treasurer Wayne Swan can say: "Around the kitchen tables Australians understand absolutely that inflation has been rising", to do this, you need numeracy skills. In Britain, a country which has had a national curriculum for 20 years - plus entrenched and continuing low literacy and numeracy levels - the economic danger signs of what this means are evident. People who require the greatest welfare support are those with low numeracy and literacy skills.

While Australia has low housing affordability, the fact is that buying a house is the biggest financial decision we make. If we don't understand the numbers, such as interest rates and repayments, then this is potentially disastrous.

British MP Boris Johnson, a candidate for Mayor of London and former editor of The Spectator magazine, recently summed up the reality of low numeracy skills for people securing a mortgage: "It involves concepts of percentages and interest and there is abundant evidence that millions of Britons either do not care about the debt they are taking on, or do not really understand the meaning of these squiggly figures for their future prosperity. It's not that they are stupid. It's just that they haven't been educated to understand the maths."

Johnson could have as easily been talking about Australia. The key word here is education. It is something recognised by one of the country's biggest charities, The Smith Family. As from this year, the charity has stopped welfare and put its emphasis on education. The reason is that "passive assistance", as The Smith Family describes welfare services, does not support children's education.

The reality is that in Queensland, as is apparent elsewhere, the most economically vulnerable are those who have not succeeded in education. The importance of high levels of competence in literacy and numeracy cannot be stressed enough. To this end, Queensland's indifferent performance on the benchmarks is cause for concern. The long-term health of the economy is dependent on high educational standards underpinning it. Some children do not have them.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Racist Harvard Affirmative Action Policy

Harvard, my alma mater, discriminates against Asians in admissions. Asians are less likely to be admitted at any GPA or SAT score than members of other races - they are vastly less likely to be admitted than blacks or Hispanics, the beneficiaries of racial preferences, and somewhat less likely to be admitted than whites.

Although the statistical evidence is overwhelming, the Harvard Crimson claims there is "no definitive proof." It speculates that that Asians are being rejected because they are grinds, not because of their race, and that that explains why Asians are less likely to be admitted than members of other races at any given level of academic achievement. People concerned about discrimination against Asians, it claims, must first take into account Asians' possibly lesser "community involvement, leadership capabililities, [and] distinction in extracurricular activities."

This is no basis for this speculation. The current crop of Asian high school students participate in extracurricular activies at least as much, on average, as students of any other race.

I don't really know how to respond to this baseless downplaying of Harvard's discriminatory and Orwellian "diversity" policy, which punishes Asians because they have the temerity to succeed in school.

My 3-year-old nephew is part Korean. Should we try to hide his ethnicity when he applies for college? Given the shape of his eyes, that may not be possible. It is a disgrace that his racial identifiability may expose this little boy to prejudice by both reactionary bigots and politically-correct college admissions staff.

We previously discussed the ridiculously racist theory of some "diversity" trainers that members of different races have inherently different ways of thinking, such as in our Supreme Court amicus brief in the Seattle case.


Overworked Students?

This article in U.S. News & World Report suggests that American high-school students are having a rough time keeping up with academic requirements and suffering stress as a result. Excerpt:
Earning a high school diploma this spring is going to take just a little more effort for students in Maine. This is the first year that all public high schools in the Pine Tree State are requiring seniors to complete a college application to graduate. It's an effort aimed at boosting the number of students who attend two- and four-year colleges in the state with the lowest college degree attainment rate in New England. Already the requirement has caused some anxiety among parents of students with disabilities and other parents who are worried that applying to college could lead their kids away from home.

Another, more immediate worry for these high school students and their families: Is it one task too much? While Maine is the only state to pass such legislation requiring students to apply to college (admittedly, not the most onerous assignment), many high schools across the country are making students complete similar-and often more time-consuming-extracurricular projects in order to get their diploma. These tasks are intended to boost the teenagers' learning experiences, but they also raise the question of how much work students can handle.

Some education consultants do say that such additional requirements, particularly capstone projects at competitive high schools, make it harder for students to distinguish themselves from their peers when applying to selective colleges.... There is also a danger that struggling students will feel overwhelmed by the additional work and drop out.

On the other hand, we have the following, also from U.S. News & World Report, in a different article:
Two million minutes is the estimated time that students spend in high school. It is also the title of a new documentary film that suggests American students squander too much of that time. While their peers in China and India study longer hours to sharpen their math and science skills, top students from one of the best high schools in the U.S. are playing video games and watching Grey's Anatomy during a group study session...

...American teenagers' attitudes toward academics differ sharply from those of their peers in India and China, who seem more motivated and focused. Take, for example, 17-year-old Apoorva Uppala, who attends Saturday tutoring sessions to prepare for her university entrance exams. She wants to become an engineer, which she calls "the safest" profession in India. In Shanghai, Jin Ruizhang, 17, preps for international math tournaments. He is already the top math student at his school and hopes to get into a prestigious university offering an advanced math program.

As an educator of some thirty-five years, I can sum up very quickly what's wrong with educational practices today: (1) the concept of an integrated core curriculum, including basal readers in elementary schools, has been abandoned in favor of worshipping at the copying machine; and (2) educators' jockey to use special projects as public-relations tools and as the means to getting a positive evaluation from an overseeing administrator. Both of those mistakes also lead to disciplinary problems in the classroom, in effect making enemies of students and teachers.

In some of the most prestigious schools all over the United States, students are subjected to all sorts of activities at the expense of learning the three r's. Furthermore, many dedicated high-school students see the basic flaw and opine, "Teachers don't really care about us learning any more." Compounding the problem is the fact that schools are trying to be all things to all people, to meet all the students' educational needs--from the gifted and talent to the mentally retarded.

It never ceases to amaze me that the spartan one-room-schoolhouse education of the 18th and 19th Centuries led to the rise of some of the greatest minds and inventors in history, including various political leaders and inventors such as Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. The old McGuffey Readers and the Blue-Backed Speller, plain as they were, worked; effective use of those textbooks, along with many parents' emphasis on their children "getting their lessons," inspired students to go beyond what was taught in the classroom! Back then, without all the bells and whistle and "experts," many students managed to learn what they needed to know--in part, because their self-esteem was not the primary concern of parents and educators.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the homeschool movement, which harkens back to the idea of a core curriculum emphasizing the three r's, keeps catching on?


Australia: Parents are too dumb to be told all the facts

That is the elitist and typically Leftist attitude we see below, anyway

EDUCATION Minister David Bartlett has rejected a call to make league tables of school performance available to parents.

Liberal education spokeswoman Sue Napier yesterday called on the Government to release more data to help parents compare schools. Her call comes after the Mercury revealed that government schools were developing a new series of key performance indicators to measure and improve their results in areas such as literacy, numeracy, attendance and retention. "This is exactly the sort of information to which parents are entitled, particularly after 10 years of a state Labor government during which time the performance of our students in many key areas has actually gone backwards," Mrs Napier said. "This is about transparency and accountability and the desperate need to boost education standards in our schools."

But Mr Bartlett said he would not allow the Opposition to use figures to stigmatise struggling schools. "Every Tasmanian school already reports directly to its parent body about its performance on literacy and numeracy and a number of other benchmarks," he said. "Every single individual school produces an annual report to its school community with relative figures of literacy and numeracy and improvement or otherwise and I think that's very important. "That data is being used already for school improvement and, as I've said, in a disaggregated fashion most of that data is already publicly available. "What I won't ever stand for is people like Sue Napier using this data for political purposes to berate or run down particular schools."

Mr Bartlett said there was already sufficient information for people who needed it. "What we're talking about here of course is my goal to empower principals to make more local decisions about their school that reflect the aspirations of their school community," he said. "The public has access to data already ... and they can research that data and compare schools as they see fit."

Mrs Napier said the current push to implement performance indicators was "hardly rocket science".


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Left Wing School Agenda and the Banning of Patriotism

An article by Mark Loftin []

When Winston Churchill was dropped from the UK school curriculum last July, one had to wonder if patriotism itself was next. Now it's official. The Institute of Education, a leading educational body, has warned teachers not to instill pride in students when speaking of great moments in British History:

"To love what is corrupt is itself corrupting, not least because it inclines us to ignore, forget, forgive or excuse the corruption. And there's the rub for patriotism."

The recommendations singled out specific moments in history that students should now feel "ambiguous" about:

1750-1830 The Industrial Revolution: exploitation of the poor versus great wealth creation and growth

1807 Abolition of the slave trade. Britons were both practitioners of the trade and responsible for abolition

1947 Indian independence and Partition. How well did Britain manage its withdrawal from the sub-continent?

2003 Iraq war: was it liberation or occupation?

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The UK schools' leftist agenda has been in full steam over the last year:

* Last month, "Mum and Dad" become forbidden in British schools because it assumes a child's parents are different genders, and The Three Little Pigs was banned so not to offend Muslims.

* Last July, as mentioned, Winston Churchill was dropped from the UK school curriculum.

* Last April, teachings about the Holocaust were dropped as to not offend Muslims.

* Last March, schools began teaching 4-years olds about homosexuality through books like "King and King," (which is about a prince that rejects three female princesses before falling in love with a prince).

* An Inconvenient Truth is regularly shown in 3400 UK schools, instilling paranoia in 7-11 year olds.

Here in the U.S., the leftist agenda is also sinking its teeth into our schools at an equally disturbing pace. Leading the charge is California:

* San Francisco is debating an anti-war textbook, which features corporate American celebrating the spoils of war and Ronald Regan hugging Osama Bin Laden. Pete Hammer of the San Francisco Unified School District, who approved the book, says "The topic is one that a lot of teachers would have an interest in bringing into the classroom."

* A current bill gaining momentum by California lawmaker Joe Simitian (D - Palo Alto) would require California schools to include climate change as part of the science curriculum

* Last October, "Mom and Dad" were banned from schools, along with "Husband and Wife." In the same bill, public schools were ordered to allow boys to use the girls' restroom or locker room, and vice versa, if they choose

* Last June the state passed a homosexual education bill SB 777, which: ".requires textbooks and other instructional resources to cast a positive light on homosexual `marriages,' cross-dressing, sex-change operations and every other facet of homosexual and bisexual lifestyles."

* More hatred of Israel, as seen by anti-Israel speakers and the atmosphere that appears on the UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State campuses .

While there is not a specific mandate here in the US to "ban" patriotism - or any specific heroes that defined it - with more of the left's agenda taking up course time, one must wonder what will be slighted to make room.

A 2003 poll from California's Santa Monica High School said that 1/3 of students were not proud to American and 40 percent said America itself was "unjust". One can only imagine what the numbers would look like today in the name of "progress." Of course, you can't blame young, impressionable students for not being proud to be an American if that is what they are taught. The way the left commonly twists the meaning of the word, not being proud to American could be taught by a teacher as "patriotic."

In typical Doublespeak fashion, the left has been adamant about manipulating patriotism's definition for years. The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines patriotism simply as "love for or devotion to one's country." In 2001 Senator John Kerry redefined patriotism to mean "not drilling in the Arctic refuge." In 2006, Kerry redefined it again to mean "wartime dissent." Air America has defined it as "pointing out the flaws in your country." Entire Web blogs are dedicated to this trickery, such as US Patriots United which issued it's "10 commandments of patriotism." A few entries:

(someone who),

"respects the diversity and culture of all nations, recognizing that our continued success lay not in spite of other nations but in alliance with them in a uniform approach toward promoting the global general welfare."

"ensures that the basic rights of those we hold dear to access quality healthcare and education is steadfastly supported, uncompromisingly and without discrimination based on race, color, creed, gender, or orientation."

"offers foreign humanitarian aid unconditionally without tying it to religious dogma"

"exercises the right to openly challenge (the president) and hold accountable at all times, even and most particularly in times of war"

Multiculturalism? Socialized Healthcare? Government- administered education? Wartime dissent? If the left had their way, being a patriot would be officially redefined to mean.being a liberal democrat.

At Nathan High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a project was started in 2005 to hang a picture of George Washington in every classroom. John Pribram, chairman of Project George Washington and a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart said:

"I'm grateful (for the success of the project). After Sept. 11, we were united at that point. Flags in front of every house. Patriotism was rekindled. George Washington does the same thing."

One can only speculate at the heated debate that would occur in California over whether George Washington - military hero and devout Christian - deserves the classroom wall. Unfortunately, with Churchill being pulled from the walls in Great Britain, there is now a precedent for more patriotic disillusionment from California's schools.

Perhaps Leo Lacayo, San Francisco Republican Party media surrogate, put it best with his response to San Francisco's anti-war book: "We're not teaching them -- we're basically washing their brains with liberal mish-mash."


College Tuition Inflaters

Okay, Washington politicians, we get it. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are hoarding lots of money while tuition prices skyrocket, and states sometimes cut funding to public colleges. That's all very troubling, but with reauthorization of the Higher Education Act passed by the House yesterday and a final version likely to come up for approval by all of Congress soon, please stop throwing blame around and address the heart of the college cost problem: your constant lavishing of aid on students that pushes tuition up, up, up.

By now, probably everyone has heard the righteous wailing from Washington, led by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), over well-endowed institutions of higher education that don't spend their cash to keep to tuition low. "Parents and students have a right to expect these universities with big endowments to end the hoarding and start the helping with skyrocketing tuition costs," Grassley declared last month.

Grassley's assault on wealthy colleges has generated lots of press and made for great grandstanding, and there's certainly something wrong when ivory-tower endowments, which are tax exempt because colleges supposedly serve the "public good," lose hardly a tuppence in service of the public. But the fault lies with government for giving colleges favored status, and endowment hoarding is hardly driving tuition costs.

Just look at the number of schools with big endowments. A few weeks ago, Sen. Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) sent a letter requesting information to every college and university with an endowment over $500 million. How many schools was that? Just 136, or about 3 percent of the nation's nearly 4,300 colleges and universities. That's hardly enough to make much difference on overall average tuition levels.

Despite the small number of schools being directly harassed over their endowments, most higher education lobbyists are on high alert, especially against threats from Grassley and others to make colleges spend 5 percent of their endowments annually. Unfortunately, to protect themselves colleges and their Washington defenders are pointing at an even more popular scapegoat for rampant tuition inflation than Harvard and Yale: tight-fisted states. "A primary reason that tuition has been rising is that state funding has been flat," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told a gathering of higher education officials in Washington last week, exhorting them to close the "communication gap" between themselves and politicians on Capitol Hill.

But Washington pols, as the HEA reauthorization bill proves, have been hearing that message loud and clear. If the bill passed yesterday is enacted, the federal government would withhold funds from any state that cut higher education spending below its previous five-year average. In other words, states would have to spend taxpayer money to make taxpayer money.

So who are the real culprits behind higher education's ever-higher price tag? Sadly, just like the endowment blow-up, blaming tuition inflation on impecunious state spending is a dodge. State financing of public institutions, for one thing, has no direct effect on the nation's roughly 2,600 private colleges or their tuition prices. Moreover, state spending on higher education hasn't actually been flat. According to the latest federal "Digest of Education Statistics," after adjusting for inflation state higher-education expenditures rose from $46.8 billion in academic year 1990-91 to $53.9 billion in 2003-04, a 15 percent increase. Despite that, the average real cost of in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose 86 percent in that time, from $2,460 to $4,587. So much for the cheap states theory. But what, then, is the real cause of the college cost crisis?

There are many cost-driving excesses in higher education - luxurious dorms, unused classroom space, growing bureaucracies, expensive academic journals, and the list goes on - that are intermediate causes of the college cost problem. They are all, however, undergirded by a single reality: You can't charge an arm and a leg unless people can pay it, and to curry favor with colleges, kids, and parents Washington ensures that those limbs keep coming, taking them from taxpayers and giving them to students and schools.

The growth in federal student aid makes this clear. According to data from the College Board, real federal aid - including grants, loans, and tax credits - ballooned from $48.7 billion in the 1996-97 academic year to almost $86.3 billion in 2006-07, a 77 percent leap. On a per-pupil basis, aid per full-time equivalent student - most of which came through Washington - rose from $6,627 to $9,499, a 43 percent increase. Meanwhile the per-pupil cost of tuition, fees, room and board rose 29 percent at private four-year schools, from $25,031 to $32,307, and 41 percent at public four-year institutions, from $9,657 to $13,589. In other words, college prices kept rising because aid made sure they could.

So who are the real culprits behind higher education's ever-higher price tag? Not endowment hoarders or cheap states, but the Washington politicians who blame everyone else for the problems that they themselves have caused.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wow! Radical new idea! Get rid of dud teachers and hire new ones!

It looks like a typical day at a typical American grammar school: Students proceed in single file down hallways, a class of fourth-graders listens to their teacher read aloud, and students in another class work in small groups on independent projects. But Andre Cowling, the tall, imposing new principal of Harvard Elementary on Chicago's South Side, shakes his head in wonder at it all. Last year, he says, "this wouldn't have been possible."

Harvard is one of several public schools here to get a top-to-bottom housecleaning in recent years - including replacing the principal and most teachers - in a bid to lift student achievement out of the nation's academic basement. The drastic approach is known as "turnaround," and Chicago is embracing it more than any US city, though it's unproven and is controversial among teachers, many parents, and students.

"It's risky in that it's new and has an untested track record," says Andrew Calkins, senior vice president at Mass Insight, a nonprofit group focused on school reform, and coauthor of a report on turnaround schools. "It's logical in that the other choice is to keep on doing what's been tried before, and we know what the results of that will be. What you try to do if you're Chicago is to minimize the risk and maximize the possibility of a good outcome" by thinking through everything that's needed to improve the climate for learning at a school.

As Principal Cowling sees it, the risk paid off. Until Harvard Elementary went through turnaround, the school was like "Beirut," he says - 50 kids running through the halls at any time, holes in the floors and peeling paint on the walls, fights on or near campus, no order in the classrooms. "Now, you can tell it's a school," Cowling says.

For an encore, the city is proposing simultaneous turnarounds at eight Chicago schools in the fall: four high schools and four elementary schools that feed into them. Even for a city that already leads the nation in school-reform ideas, the proposal is unusually bold and sweeping. Districts across the US - many with schools facing reconstitution requirements under the No Child Left Behind law - are watching with interest.

"We want to give families the opportunity to have a high-performing option in the neighborhood throughout [a student's] entire education," says Alan Anderson, director of the Office of School Turnaround for Chicago public schools. "There are a handful of schools that just aren't progressing at the rate we'd like them to," he says. "We know we need drastic change. It's not a decision we take lightly."

The eight schools slated for turnaround are among the worst performers in the district: At the high schools, an average student misses at least 35 days of school a year, dropout rates are above 10 percent, and the passing rate on state tests hovers at about 10 percent. Still, some families wonder whether this will be just another reform that disrupts their kids' lives and replaces teachers they've grown close to, but yields no change in the quality of the education.

Teachers, of course, are upset about a reform that requires a school's entire staff to be let go, even if teachers can reapply. "What kind of instability are you creating for children coming from environments that are challenging and already have instability?" asks Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. "You're having to recruit and train teachers, and then have another turnover. No industry can survive that kind of turnover of personnel."

Ms. Stewart suggests a less drastic reform, already undertaken in several Chicago schools with some promising results, in which the principal is replaced, but not the teachers. "We're not resistant to change," she says. "But we're resistant to this kind of upheaval where you're throwing out the baby with the bath water."

Administrators acknowledge the challenge of finding enough high-quality teachers willing to work with poor children in low-performing schools. But recruiting is easier if there's a dynamic principal who can get people to buy into a new mission for a school, they say. It's also one reason Chicago chose a nonprofit, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), to manage the turnarounds at several of the schools: the Orr High School campus, made up of three small schools, and two elementary schools that feed into them. AUSL, which also manages the turnaround at Harvard Elementary, trains and recruits teachers for urban classrooms. Its proposal for Orr, in fact, includes setting up the new high school as a teacher training academy, where mentor teachers would be matched with those just learning.

"Effective teachers want supportive leadership, positive working conditions, adequate resources, and positive interactions with students and parents," says Donald Feinstein, AUSL's executive director. "When you embed that in a school culture and climate, you can attract more effective teachers."

That wholesale staff turnover - giving a new principal the ability to shape who's working for him or her - is the most crucial element to a turnaround's success, says Mr. Calkins of Mass Insight, but it's not the only one. Other key elements are added time for teachers to plan and collaborate, longer school days or school years, clustering turnaround schools so they can learn from one another, local authority over budget and curricula, and support for teachers and administrators from outside the school, such as the district or an outside group like AUSL.

At Harvard Elementary, Cowling had the whole school repainted, moved his office so he was more visible to the older kids, separated the seventh and eighth grades into single-gender classes, and has the teachers work together for five weeks in the summer to map out the school year and start on the same page. He ended up rehiring just three of the school's original teachers and hired 17 AUSL-trained teachers. "This wouldn't be possible with the same teachers," he says. "The kids would have come back with new paint, and the pedagogical insufficiencies would still be there."

Cowling, who traded a $130,000 corporate job for a $40,000 teacher's salary several years ago and who knows every child in his school by name, says his students' parents are now many of the biggest supporters of the changes at Harvard. But he acknowledges it was controversial at first.

At a hearing last week on the turnaround proposal for Orr, the district office was packed with teachers, parents, and students, many arguing against the change. "We are not science experiments," Bianca Davis, a junior at one of the small Orr schools, told the hearing officer. "On the television, it seemed like you slandered the teachers," added Melissa Winston, a parent, in impassioned testimony. "Society has failed these kids, not the teachers."

That plea to consider the harm to teachers carries little weight with Cowling. The real focus, he says, needs to be on students. "I hired who I thought would be the very best for our kids," Cowling says. "We have a moral obligation. It took some drastic measures to get this building turned around the way we did."


Islamists: Prof Who Objected to Sharing Panel with IDF Veteran Gets $500k to 'Initiate a Dialogue'

The U.S. Department of State has awarded a grant worth $494,368 to University of Delaware political scientist, Brookings Institution fellow, and Pentagon consultant Muqtedar Khan, who last fall objected to serving on a panel with a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces. According to a UD press release, the grant is to be used, "to initiate a dialogue on religion and politics between key members of religious and community organizations in the Middle East and the United States." The press release continued:
Under the grant, participants from Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be on campus this summer for a brief period before traveling to other locations, including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Later a group of American scholars will travel to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take part in similar activities in those countries. A documentary film is planned of the visit to the U.S.

The choice of Khan to oversee a program dedicated to expanding dialogue between religious communities is beyond parody, as Khan himself has a record of thwarting dialogue, at least with Israeli veterans. Moreover, his award is part of a larger pattern of coddling Islamists within the bureaucracies of the State Department and Pentagon.

Last October 23, Khan objected to the presence of IDF veteran and Campus Watch associate fellow Asaf Romirowsky on an academic panel at UD. Organized by students to discuss "Anti-Americanism in the Middle East," the panel was set to go when Khan-writing from Washington, DC, where he had delivered a workshop at the Pentagon-sent the following email to undergraduate Lara Rausch, one of the key organizers of the event:
Laura, I have to speak at the Pentagon tomorrow. My workshop is from 12-4. I hope to catch the 5 pm Acela from DC and will be back in town by 7 pm. I will come directly, but may be late. I am also not sure how I feel about being on the same panel with an Israeli soldier who was stationed in West Bank. Some people see IDF as an occupying force in the West Bank. I am not sure that I will be comfortable occupying the same space with him. It is not fair to spring this surprise on me at the last moment.

Romirowsky, contacted via email, was asked what he thought of the State Department's action of singling out Khan for a substantial award to encourage dialogue, was taken aback. "I seriously question the type of dialogue this will promote given the fact that he wouldn't share space with me on an academic panel," Romirowsky replied. "Dialogue is good if you have something to dialogue about-starting with accepting the others' right to exist," he continued. "Yet, by not sitting on a panel with me due to my IDF service, he basically questioned Israel's right to exist within safe and secure borders." "That itself should throw into question the integrity of any dialogue he might initiate."

In the two months following the story's October debut, Khan offered no fewer than three additional explanations for why he acted as he did. I documented these in December, and concluded that the reasons he gave in the October 23 email above rang truest: IDF vets are off-limits on panels in which he participates. The other excuses were little more than a smokescreen, set off in a vain attempt to reduce the embarrassment his intolerance had brought to himself and the University.

Khan's large grant from the State Department, coupled with his role as a Pentagon advisor, further exposes a troubling trend within those federal departments of coddling Islamists and turning a blind eye toward intolerance. Hesham Islam, special assistant for international affairs in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, has made news lately for allegedly calling Joint Chief analyst on counterterrorism Major Stephen Coughlin, who also reported to England, a "Christian zealot with a pen" and pressing for his removal.

Coughlin is widely celebrated as one of a small number of Pentagon analysts who are consistently tough on Islamism-a stance that has made enemies within the Defense bureaucracy. His thesis from the National Defense Intelligence College, titled "`To Our Great Detriment': Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad," is celebrated by terrorism experts as a clear-sighted warning that too few in Washington care to heed.

Although the Pentagon took Hesham Islam's biography off its web site, stories of his fate, along with that of Coughlin, are mixed. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), who investigated the matter, wrote on February 5 that Coughlin told her there was never a conspiracy to remove him from his job. Some reports claim that Islam himself is on his way out, but Claudia Rosette, who investigated the matter closely, says on her blog that a call to the Pentagon produced a denial of that story. Steven Emerson has detailed Islam's past relationships with Islamists.

One thing, however, is certain: by entrusting Middle East studies specialists such as Muqtedar Khan with huge grants to bring Saudis and Egyptians to America, the State Department and Pentagon are remaining true to form. From former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes's stated fondness for the works of Wahhabi apologist John Esposito-a man who shares Hesham Islam's predilection for Christian-bashing-to Khan's previous work for the Pentagon, our federal departments entrusted with protecting America from Islamists are in fact employing them.


Britain: More wasted education spending

Shocking to say so but there are some things that governments can't fix.

Labour's attempts to cut the numbers of students dropping out of university have cost nearly 1 billion and had virtually no effect, a committee of MPs is expected to warn this week. More than a fifth of students drop out before graduating, a figure that has improved by less than one percentage point since 2000. The drop-out rate is worse in former polytechnics. Even more students are giving up on part-time degree courses, which are to be expanded sharply by Gordon Brown and John Denham, the universities secretary. More than 44% of students fail to complete such courses. MPs on the public accounts committee would not comment on their report in advance of publication, but one Westminster source said: "It is depressing. This shows universities are simply flatlining. Too many students are not getting the higher education they were promised."

The MPs will blame the increasingly impersonal nature of universities that has accompanied Labour's mass expansion of higher education for failing to keep students committed. Many senior academics now take little interest in teaching undergraduates, as most of their department's government grant is based on their output of research papers. Some students complain of going through their entire degree with no academic knowing who they are. A large proportion of students who give up on their studies calculate that the value they gain from their degree does not justify the debts they incur.

Spending on "retention" schemes, such as mentors to support students who are considering leaving, may even make the situation worse - the 800 million pounds spent over the past five years has mainly been taken from teaching budgets. The worst performers include Bedfordshire University and Anglia Ruskin University, based in Cambridge.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Breaking: Equations Not All That Important In Engineering!

Post below lifted from Phi Beta. See the original for links

Soon after the Larry Summers debacle, Charles Murray summarized the reason for the gender gap in math and science:
[There is] a distributional difference in male and female characteristics that leads to a larger number of men with high visuospatial skills. The difference has an evolutionary rationale, a physiological basis and a direct correlation with math scores.

Well, a Smith College professor found a way around that for getting women into engineering: Ignore the math. From the Chronicle:
[The curriculum] emphasizes context, ethics, and communication as much as formulas and equations. Smith, the first women's college to offer an engineering degree, graduated its first class of engineers in 2004, and since the program's creation, in 1999, has attained a 90-percent retention rate

I'm no expert, but I'm not clear on what you can engineer with "context, ethics, and communication." I hope the Chronicle is wrong in saying that this engineering curriculum emphasizes sociology and philosophy "as much as," um, engineering.

To be sure, if teaching in this way improves women's performance on actual engineering tasks, as opposed to just luring them into enrolling and sticking around, I'm all for it. But I find it hard to believe such distractions would improve on a focused curriculum, and I can't seem to find any information on (A) how these students compare to those who got into sex-integrated engineering programs and (B) how these women do when they graduate. Certainly, were the program working well, it wouldn't need affirmative-action deals like this:
Students who maintain an overall GPA of 3.5 and a GPA of 3.5 within the major are automatically admitted to graduate study in an engineering discipline at Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Michigan.

UPDATE: Here I focused on the reason the Chronicle discussed for having a different curriculum - drawing in more women. An engineer reader, however, writes to say there are legitimate reasons to push engineering instruction in this direction:
An increased emphasis on communication is, to me, a no-brainer. My work is highly numerical in nature; and I have spent a good portion of my academic life reading and reviewing papers and books, and interacting with my colleagues in classrooms, seminars, and conferences. So personal experience definitely guides my view. I *heartily* endorse any effort to improve both the written and spoken communication skills of my future colleagues.

And another great point:
There is some variability as to what makes a good engineer. . . . It would not surprise me or bother me if women innately excel in different areas of engineering than others. If that is the case, then it seems natural to me that Smith would exploit that knowledge and tailor their curriculum to suit.

More Handwringing Orthodoxy From The College Board

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

This morning the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a new report from the College Board on the demographics of its Advanced Placement exams. Once again (similar results last year), the overall numbers are encouraging; the numbers for blacks are not. And the College Board blames, well, everybody (except for the tests and the test-takers). First the numbers:
... 24.9 percent of the 2.8 million students who graduated from American public high schools in 2007 took at least one AP test, and 15.2 percent of them earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one test. Those numbers are up slightly from the previous year.... [NOTE: This isn't completely clear, but a check of last year's article reveals that the 15.2 percent refers to all high school graduates, not 15.2 percent of the 24.9 percent who took AP classes - jsr.]

Underrepresentation of African-Americans

However, only 3.3 percent of the students who scored 3 or higher on a test were African-American, despite the fact that black students represented 14 percent of all high-school seniors last year.... African-American students also are less likely than their peers to take AP classes.... Black students accounted for only 7.4 percent of AP test takers last year, according to the report. White students, by contrast, accounted for 61.7 percent of test takers and 64 percent of graduating seniors.

In many states, American Indian and Hispanic students' participation matched their representation in the student body. Nationally, Hispanic students made up 14.6 percent of the high-school-senior population, and 13.6 percent of them scored at least a 3 on an AP test.

In short, black students were significantly "underrepresented" among AP test takers and among those doing well on the test. Trying to explain this "underrepresentation" is a great challenge to our country, requiring the efforts of, among others, our best scholars (such as Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in their impressive book, NO EXCUSES: CLOSING THE RACIAL GAP IN LEARNING). What doesn't help, however, is the moralistic finger-pointing engaged in almost reflexively by representatives of elite institutions such as Trevor Packer, the director of the College Board's Advanced Placement program.
The board sees a "true and startling lack of equity," Mr. Packer said. "African-American students in particular are not receiving encouragement and support."

Does Mr. Packer have any evidence, beyond the "underrepresentation," that black students "are not receiving encouragement and support"? Who does he believe is guilty (and if there truly is a "true and startling lack of equity," it is guilt we are talking about) of not providing the missing "encouragement and support"? Teachers? School administrators? Parents? Peers? If you're going to point your finger at shortcomings in equitable treatment, it at least ought to be clear whom you're pointing at.

Finally, it would be nice to know whether Mr. Packer believes that Asian-Americans, who are no doubt "overrepresented" among the high achievers, have been receiving a disproportionately and hence inequitably high level of "encouragement and support."

Perhaps what the College Board should propose is an Equiable Support and Encouragement Redistribution Act, taking some equitable treatment away from those who receive an excess of it and redistributing it to those who are not given enough.

Starting school at 4 'no help to children'

Children in England start school lessons earlier and sit more tests but still perform no better than in other countries, researchers say today. They find school "stressful" as they are subjected to academic lessons in English and maths at the age of four. In countries such as Sweden and Finland, where children do not start school until seven, pupils often outperform English children by the age of 11.

English primaries are also bigger than in most other countries - with an average of 224 pupils against 128 in Scotland - and make pupils sit exams more often, at a younger age and in more subjects.

In a damaging conclusion, it is claimed more parents educate their children at home or in alternative Steiner schools because they believe schools are "too constrained by the imperatives of performativity".

The findings - made as part of a two-year review of primary education by Cambridge University - will fuel fears that the target-driven nature of modern schooling is damaging childhood.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, described the findings as "devastating". He said: "When it comes to testing in England, the tail wags the dog," he said. "It is patently absurd that even the structure and content of education is shaped by the demands of the tests."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it had commissioned a "root and branch review of the primary-level curriculum". This will attempt to ease the transition from early years into school and will also "consider whether it would be appropriate to allow greater flexibility in school start dates", said a spokesman. She added: "The idea that children are over tested is not a view that the Government accepts. The reality is that children spend a very small percentage of their time in school being tested. "Seeing that children leave school up to the right standard in the basics is the highest priority of government."

In a further conclusion, today's report shows that English schools focus more lessons on politically correct themes such as "diversity, tolerance and multi-culturalism" than in other nations. A study by Glasgow University said this was "especially evident" in RE, history, geography and citizenship. France and Japan were more prepared to celebrate home-grown values in the curriculum.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Welcome to "Palestine Awareness Week" at the University of Michigan

Post below lifted from Anti-racist Blog. See the original for links

Today marked the start of "Palestine Awareness Week" at the University of Michigan. The inaugural lecture was performed by anti-Israel Wayne State University anthropology professor Thomas Abowd. The theme of the event was supposed to be "Introducing Palestine", but the event instead focused on "demonizing and de-legitimizing" Israel.

Anti-Semitic Ann Arbor extremists were out in full force for the launch of the week's events.

You may remember this guy (pictured above and below) from a past ARA/WSU protest at Wayne State, where he held an almost identical sign. ARA/WSU is an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic group based out of Detroit. Most people believe the guy with the sign is Ann Arbor attorney Blaine Coleman, known for his irrational outbursts and public protests.

Below you can see anti-Zionist, and many would say anti-semitic (by most standards) Ann Arbor protester Dr. Catherine Wilkerson, who attended the event. She recently made news after being arrested by the Ann Arbor police.

Catherine spends her weekends intimidating Jews who worship at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor. Check out Dr. Wilkerson and her wacko companions at the S.P.U.R.N. website, dedicated to exposing their activities.

Below you can see the back of Catherine's t-shirt. Of course, she doesn't mind spreading the apartheid lie about Israel. Good thing telling the truth isn't a requirement of practicing medicine, or she might be in trouble. [Update: It seems that Catherine Wilkerson has been fired from her job recently. Her creepy disruptions of in front of Beth Israel congregation seemed to cause some tensions with her employer.] Some members of the week's main sponsor, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), also wore these shirts.

Before the presentation began, Thomas Abowd apparently told some pro-Israel observers at the lecture not to take any pictures or video of him (like this picture of him speaking at an ARA/WSU rally), or they would face unnamed consequences. This is despite the fact that his lecture was open to the public, and was held in a lecture auditorium of a public law school. Why so shy professor Abowd?

On a similar note, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) called the police on one pro-Israel Michigan student who was videotaping the lecture (hopefully he'll send us the link if he puts the video on You Tube). The student was well within his rights to videotape, and it was hypocritical for SAFE to object to the taping since SAFE reportedly allowed at least three other video cameras to record the event (of course the three cameras weren't owned by Israel supporters). Unfortunately, the hypocrisy label and the law didn't stop SAFE from sicking the police on this student and asking that he be removed. After over 10 minutes in the hall with the police, the student was allowed back in, with instructions from the police to stop taping, on SAFE's orders.

It is clear that SAFE supports Freedom and Equality for themselves, but not for those who disagree with them. Certainly not for those who support the safety and security of Israelis. Anti-Racist Blog has been saying for months that SAFE cares little about free speech and free expression- they are just an anti-Israel group with a misleading name- and SAFE proved this to be true at the presentation tonight.

Below you can see a kafiyah wearing audience member. Did her dog chew on the scarf, or is she going to blame Israel for that too?

During the presentation Professor Abowd falsely accused Israel of ethnic cleaning, and apartheid like behavior. One of Abowd's most outrageous moments was when he questioned why "Zionists" would "cry" when Palestinians say they want to push Israelis into the sea; because according to Abowd, the Israelis did just that to the Palestinians. No sympathy for Israelis from Abowd. Professor Abowd also warned that Israel can keep all of Jerusalem, or it can have peace, but not both.

Here are a few more pictures of the audience, which did not come close to filling the lecture hall.

Readers report that in the Q & A, Professor Abowd was asked by an audience member whether he agreed with the message on the swastika sign held by the protester (probably Blaine Coleman) outside. Abowd stated that comparing Israelis to Nazi is tactically a bad idea, and not a comparison he would make. However, Abowd couldn't explain why he compared Palestinians to Jewish victims of the Nazis in his paper entitled "Memories of Flight and Rights in Jerusalem."

In that paper, Abowd wrote,

"Jerusalem’s future status, therefore, must be dealt with...Luckily, there exists a precedent for dealing with and remembering crimes committed decades ago. The theft of Jewish property by various European countries and banks (most notable Swiss banks) during the 1930’s and 1940’s have been brought up with greater intensity in the last decade by various Jewish bodies. These powerful claims for reparations and for the return of stolen property are legitimate, even fifty years later, and those whose property was stolen by Germany and others in the 1940’s must be compensated fairly. But if this principle of restitution applies to these Jewish victims from Europe, should not the same principle also apply to Palestinians...?"

Mr. Abowd also announced that he has a book forthcoming, which will be published by a University Press in California (surprisingly not Pluto Press). He wasn't specific, but the same publisher also published at least one notorious book by Hezbollah supporter and disgraced former professor Norman Finkelstein. Not a great gift for Hanukkah.

Most outrageous in terms of audience statements was when one man called Israelis "savages" and another falsely accused Israel of "genocide" during the Q & A. This hatefest was despicable, but unfortunately all too common on college campuses.

The state of higher edukation in Colorado

Post below lifted from Jammie wearer. See the original for links

First up is this little bit about the Colorado Department of Higher Education trying to block a proposed piece of legislation to grant free tuition to wounded and disabled veterans. They of course make their argument in monetary terms. What these veterans sacrificed for on their behalf can not be measured in monetary terms. The legislation was actually sponsored by a Democrat in their state house.
In an e-mail Monday to two dozen Capitol lobbyists, Cathy Wanstrath, a lobbyist for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, laid out a plan to kill the measure when it is heard by the Appropriations Committee on Friday. "I think you all agree we need to kill this bill, and (the Colorado Department of Higher Education) has been happy to take the lead," according to the memo obtained Tuesday by the Rocky Mountain News. "However, we need your help in the next couple of days to count the votes to kill it in committee."

I wonder if they would be making this argument if it was for, say, in-state tuition for undocumented extended family members of illegal aliens?
But the staff noted that if 10 undergraduates took advantage of the tuition waiver at CU-Boulder for four years, it would cost the school $216,720. A "hugely constrained" budget has no room for such a waiver.

Contrary to popular belief, veterans do not get free tuition, the government doesn't pay for college after your service. That form of tuition assistance for veterans died during the Carter administration. There are two separate sets of rules governing this. One for the Vietnam veterans and another for those of us who served post-Vietnam.

Folks need to get the facts and quit assuming that the educational benefits of today's veterans match those of previous generations. There are plans, but all of them call for the service member to have contributed money to the fund during the time he was serving and there are a lot of strings.