Saturday, March 22, 2008

British politician glimpses the reality of class sizes

And teachers refuse to acknowledge what the evidence has long shown -- that LARGER classes are fine

A schools minister was yesterday heckled by teachers after he backed larger class sizes and suggested that it could be "perfectly acceptable" to teach maths to pupils in classes of up to 70. Jim Knight, was jeered at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference in Torquay after using his speech to advocate teaching classes of up to 38. He went on to say he had seen successful maths classes of up to 70 children with the aid of teaching assistants. The government is planning a national scheme of one-to-one tutoring for primary pupils struggling in reading and maths and promising greater "personalisation" of teaching. Opposition MPs accused Knight of undermining his government's own policy with his comments.

Questioned by one delegate yesterday about how teachers could be expected to teach classes of 38 pupils well, Knight replied that classroom assistants could help make large classes "manageable". "Class sizes are obviously something we take seriously. If they are growing to the extent that the delegate talks about then there are some concerns attached to that," he said. "Teaching assistants and higher level teaching assistants working alongside teachers are very important to ensuring that class sizes of 38 are manageable."

The audience responded with jeers and shouts of "no!" Knight said he had seen a "perfectly acceptable" maths class in Telford of 70 pupils working well in a large room with three or four teaching assistants. "There was good learning going on," he said. Phil Jacques, ATL's executive member for Dorset, said: "Class sizes of 38 should not be made to be manageable. They just simply shouldn't exist."

In what was supposed to be a vote of thanks for the minister, Jacques called the government's national curriculum dismal, tedious, inflexible and of very little value to the majority of children. "No wonder we have large numbers of disaffected children in those schools - in schools where the disaffection results in violence," Jacques said. Knight described the reception he received as "a sort of friendly disagreement".

The government has met commitments to cut class sizes in English primary schools by 2002, though some evidence suggests numbers have crept back up again in some areas. The Scottish parliament has committed to cutting class sizes for the youngest primary children to 18. However, recent research by the Institute of Education suggests that cutting class sizes is a relatively expensive way to improve results, and only a significant benefit when there are a number of unruly children in the class. Instead teachers' assessment methods can have a cheaper positive effect on children's achievement.

Knight's comments came as a government backed review of maths in primary schools reported that teaching is being undermined because it has become "socially acceptable" to brag about being bad with numbers. Every primary school should have a specialist maths teacher and the government should revisit the requirement that new primary teachers need only a grade C in maths GCSE, Sir Peter Williams, chancellor of Leicester University, said. "The UK remains one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable - fashionable, even - to profess an inability to cope with mathematics. That is hardly conducive to a home environment in which mathematics is seen by children as an essential and rewarding part of their everyday lives," he said. "The principal focus of this review is the role of teachers and practitioners, their education and training, and how society values and rewards them."

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: "The government cannot simultaneously say it is going to deliver personalised learning and then support class sizes at the level Jim Knight is talking about. "We have seen a trend over the last few years towards bigger classes and bigger schools. That runs directly counter to parents' priorities and is not the right direction for education in this country."


States to Get Leeway on School Sanctions

The Bush administration is trying to address one of the most common complaints about the No Child Left Behind education law: It treats schools the same, regardless of whether they fail to meet annual benchmarks by a little or a lot. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plans to announce Tuesday that she wants states to submit proposals for assigning different consequences to schools based on the degree to which they miss annual progress goals.

Those goals are largely based on reading and math tests given in grades three through eight and once in high school. Schools are judged not just on average scores but according to how groups of students perform _ such as those with disabilities, limited English skills or minorities. Educators have complained that the consequences for failing to hit yearly progress goals are the same for schools in which one group of students misses the mark as it is for schools in which many groups or many grades fail to hit targets.

The law spells out specific steps schools have to take for failing to make "adequate yearly progress," a category about 30 percent of schools fall into. For example, the law says students in such schools _ at certain points _ must first be given the chance to transfer out and then must receive tutoring. The new initiative will allow states to distinguish between "on-fire schools and those with a smolder," Spellings said in an interview Monday. States will be able to tailor consequences toward specific problem areas. Spellings likened it to diagnosing an illness and then prescribing a cure. She also said it would lead to more efficient use of resources.

Spellings plans to outline the proposal during a visit to St. Paul, Minn. Only a limited number of states _ 10 in all _ will be able to participate at first. Spellings said states must submit proposals by May and that only carefully thought-out plans would get a green light. "Not every state will meet the core principles that are required," she said. "This is complicated stuff that requires sound data systems, good reporting systems." The administration recently expanded to all states a similar pilot plan that gives states flexibility in tracking student progress over time.

No Child Left Behind calls for student progress to be measured with an eye toward getting all kids doing math and reading on grade level by 2014. Spellings said that goal remains unchanged, though many have called it unrealistic. The six-year-old education law is up for renewal in Congress, but lawmakers trying to advance it haven't gained much traction. Without congressional action, the existing law remains in place.

Spellings said she didn't think her efforts to improve the law through administrative action would further stymie efforts on Capitol Hill. "Plan A continues to be getting a good law done as soon as possible," she said.


Australian Leftist wants to thwart white flight

How these animals hate ordinary people who are just trying to keep their kids safe!

Refugees should be settled in a wider spread of locations to avoid large-scale withdrawal of Anglo-European children from government schools, a senior government MP says. In a phenomenon known as "white flight", some parents send their children to private schools rather to state schools with a high proportion of pupils of other racial backgrounds, parliamentary secretary for multicultural affairs Laurie Ferguson said.

He told Fairfax white flight had become a big challenge for multicultural Australia. "People fear there is a monoculture in some suburbs. They believe there is an over-dominance of some cultures in schools which is denigrating the quality of education," Mr Ferguson said. "So they are withdrawing their kids from government schools and sending them to religious or selective high schools. "This leads to further concentration of marginalised communities in government schools and the further stigmatisation of these schools.''

The term white flight was first coined in the US in the 1960s, when white parents sent their children to private schools instead of keeping them at newly-desegregated public schools.

White flight was a big challenge, especially in western Sydney and parts of Melbourne, Mr Ferguson said. "Deliberate policy decisions" needed to be made to diversify the location of housing for refugees and humanitarian entrants, including many settlers from Africa whose children grew up in refugee camps and had limited education, Mr Ferguson said.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Brian Burgess said that in Victoria, the phenomenon was "more like a middle-class flight" than a white flight. But teachers at "radically diverse" schools said white flight was alive and well in Melbourne.


Friday, March 21, 2008

British education "Orwellian" say lazy teachers

They hate having their competence judged. They would not last 5 minutes in business

Education in England could soon become "Orwellian" under a regime of targets, testing, tables, inspections and observation, teachers' leaders warn. Julia Neal, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said this was the likely outcome of over-measured, over-monitored schools. The focus is on tests and targets, not personalised learning, she told her union's annual conference in Torquay. Ms Neal imagined a sinister future with CCTV surveillance in every classroom.

Ms Neal - a history teacher in Torquay Grammar School for Girls - imagines the world in 2013, when children are tested on a rolling basis and take regular mock tests to make sure they are ready for the real ones. "Failure to demonstrate a year-on-year improvement in pass rates would be just too embarrassing," she says. The new Ministry of Trust puts so much faith in teachers' professional assessments of their pupils it deploys inspectors to visit schools, "just to help out". "Luckily for the inspectors, CCTV is now obligatory in schools so they can watch teachers in action at any time, without prior notice. "After all, inspectors are there to offer support, just like a family member, perhaps - just like a big brother."

In this vision, league tables fluctuate weekly, parents wait for the transfer window to open so they can apply for a place at the premiership schools. "What I fear is that children would continue to feel disengaged and alienated, they would behave badly, and their truancy rates would continue to rise," Ms Neal says. Her alternative vision - in which the government has listened to her union's policies - is one in which GCSEs and A-levels have been replaced by a comprehensive diploma. Assessment is carried out mostly by teachers and there are no league tables.

Curriculum flexibility gives teachers the freedom to innovate [or slack off] and schools are "buzzing" with new ways to organise learning, with a new emphasis on "a range of skills rather than a narrow range of knowledge". Talking to reporters, Ms Neal and fellow leaders of the union conceded they did not know of any widespread use of surveillance cameras or two-way mirrors in classrooms, though they said monitoring was more common in newly-built schools and academies.

They said teachers did not object to being observed teaching a class. But they wanted to have a professional dialogue about the process with a suitably qualified colleague - not "a malevolent observer" who might pick out one or two classroom interactions and draw a conclusion just from those. Excessive monitoring stifled creativity and the enjoyment of teaching and learning, Ms Neal said.

The union's deputy general secretary, Martin Johnson, said: "I think it's a sad, sad reflection on the profession at the moment that a lot of our members are quite suspicious of a lot of things." They mistrusted the motives of their managers and of the government. "As to how much that's appropriate, that's another question, but that's how they feel." The Department for Children, Schools and Families declined to comment on the union president's speech.


Postmodernism in Australian education and culture

By Sydney's premier Leftist bookseller, Bob Gould (above). I remember Bob well. He is an old Marxist (and one-time Marist?) who still has that real respect for working class people and their aspirations that the best of the Left once had. He accurately identifies how the modern "intellectual" Left have degenerated into sneering, supercilious and incoherent babblers. I was sad to see one of my ex-girlfriends identified among the sneerers. She is no fool but life must have disappointed her. Introduction to the article only below. It was written in 1999 but I think things have got worse since then

Over the past 15 years the rise of postmodernism and cultural theory has had a devastating impact on the intellectual life of the left in Australia. It has drastically affected the humanities, it has contributed substantially, along with some other factors, to the elimination of narrative Australian history as an academic discipline in some universities. The effect of this sweeping intellectual fashion in the humanities can only be compared with the impact of the cane toad on Australian fauna and the prickly pear on the flora. Like those two pests, the high theory of postmodernism tends to wipe out everything else in the cultural territory through which it sweeps.

Discussion of this phenomenon presents certain difficulties to me at a personal level. Several of the high priests and priestesses of the new clerisy are old personal friends, or at least, not particularly unfriendly old acquaintances. I have witnessed this bizarre beast grow and grow, right from its first landing in Australia via the works of Althusser, Foucault, Thomas Szas and Roland Barthes in the early 1970s.

For my sins, I sold in my bookshop hundreds of copies of books by the above, in the old Paladin and Verso editions, when they were the new and coming thing. They of course competed in those days with such writers as Hunter S. Thompson, Carlos Castenada and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

Surveying the cultural devastation caused by the structuralists and postmodernists, I now believe that, by comparison, Hunter S. Thompson, Castenada and Robert Pirsig, who, after all, don't claim that their writings are some sort of science or history, are much less damaging to the cultural landscape than the high theorists. Castenada et al at least have some virtue as entertainers if your tastes lie in their direction.

Witnessing the devastation of the intellectual terrain by postmodernism, structuralism and the high theory, and having played a part in the wide distribution of many of these texts when they first hit our shores, I now feel a bit like the people must have felt later, who, with the best of intentions, introduced the rabbit or the cane toad to Australia.

I remember when Andre Frankovits (now the companion of Meaghan Morris) who, with his mate Arthur King, had been battling along making hammocks for a living, got the quite smart idea that he would reprint in Australia the works of Baudrillard, one of the early structuralists, partly as a business venture and partly because he agreed with the works intellectually.

I never heard that Andre made much out of the books as a business venture He priced them a bit too cheaply. But they certainly made a considerable impact in academe, and other publishers came along publishing the same and similar books at far higher prices, as the postmodernist intellectual fashion developed.

I have been a bit amazed to observe the rise and rise of my old acquaintance Meaghan Morris, as the Pirate Queen of the new high theory. When I knew Meaghan a bit in the early 1970s, she was a warm-hearted, affectionate, rather insecure, slightly neurotic person (as we all were to some degree in those days), already a considerable polymath, with an enormous but then rather undirected knowledge of Western literature.

I have been positively awed by her rise to become the Australian megastar of cultural theory of this whole discipline, which has devastated the humanities rather more effectively than the Nato bombs devastated the Serbian military machine. At a human level, I'm impressed and pleased by the worldly success of an old friend, but intellectually my reaction is a good deal more ambivalent. I find Meaghan Morris's writings witty and entertaining and, thank heaven, a good deal less obscure than most practitioners of postmodernism, but even in her work I am irritated by the reduction of many questions that require social and human activity and intervention, to witty abstractions.

Most Australian postmodernists and high theorists are far more obscure and pretentious than Morris, and I suspect the popularity of Morris's work rests in the fact that she at least can be understood most of the time.

In a similar way I have known John Docker, another significant Australian postmodernist, and his wife, Anne Curthoys, a respected academic historian turned fellow traveller with postmodernism, most of my adult life. They are old friends. It is a bit cruel to be joining a crusade against a cultural fashion partly created by old friends and acquaintances, but I suppose that is one of the hazards of political and cultural life.

Keith Windschuttle and Alan Sokal

In intellectual activity it's usually fraudulent to lay claim to too much individuality. In developing ideas we always stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and we are always influenced by the books we have read. We usually proceed, if we've got any common sense, by way of study, analysis and, ultimately, criticism of other people's ideas, if we come to disagree with them or grow beyond them. Knowledge is a spiral. If we don't proceed like this and claim too much special individual intellectual discovery, we are usually either (1) plagiarising others without acknowledgement or (2) mad.

In this spirit, I hereby introduce into this narrative the two major recent introductions to and critiques of postmodernism and high theory. They are both, in their own special ways, indispensible for any serious person who wants to come to grips with this cultural phenomenon. The first book is The Killing of History by Australian Keith Windschuttle. This book is extremely valuable because:

(a) it provides an extremely lucid and understandable introduction to the ideas of the high theorists. In fact, it makes many things that are almost unintelligible, intelligible to the reasonably educated reader, no mean feat in this territory.

(b) It provides a very effective deconstruction of these ideas from the standpoint of defending the Western cultural tradition, the enlightenment, and the narrative historical sciences.

I disagree profoundly with Windschuttle's rejection of Marxism in the social sciences. In retrospect, his work on this book and the book itself, took place during a major transition in Windschuttle's outlook. He has now shifted over totally and spectacularly to the neoconservative right in politics. (One wonders whether Windschuttle would now repudiate the explicit defence of the Enlightenment in The Killing of History, from his new, ultra-neoconservative standpoint.)

Nevertheless, despite his subsequent transition to neoconservatism, The Killing of History remains a unique and important book. Its defence of the enlightenment and narrative history is persuasive and extremely useful. There is no book quite like Windschuttle's (which has just been reprinted in the United States) in rebutting the havoc wreaked by postmodernism in the historical and social sciences.

The second book is Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. This is the book that stems from the magnificent, seriously intended deception perpetrated by Sokal on the postmodernist journal Social Text in 1996. Sokal, a physicist, submitted to Social Text a 35-page article, titled Transgressing the boundaries: Toward a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity. This piece included many of the most extravagant and mad reworkings of the physical sciences perpetrated by postmodernists, in one article, with prodigious authentic footnotes at the end.

One of the conclusions of the article was that material reality doesn't really exist! Nevertheless, Social Text did not wake up to the spoof aspect and published the piece seriously as a contribution to intellectual discourse. The Sokal/Bricmont book is mainly concerned with the madness of cultural theory applied to the natural sciences and mathematics. Like Windschuttle, they initially summarise the views of the high theorists that they intend to critique.

They then reproduce their Social Text article as a kind of demolition job, and draw out the lesson that the uncritical acceptance by the journal of their reductio ad absurdum article underlines the potential damage to the natural sciences from indiscriminate application of cultural "theory". One would be very hesitant to fly in an aircraft built or designed by a postmodernist.

More here

Thursday, March 20, 2008

British white working-class boys 'consigned to educational scrapheap by Labour and liberal establishment'

White working-class boys are being consigned to the educational scrapheap because politically-correct ministers and officials are ignoring their poor performance, members of the ATL claimed yesterday. They said boys from low-income homes do significantly worse in exams than any other group of pupils but their plight is being "overlooked" by Labour and the liberal establishment. Initiatives to tackle under-achievement often centre on improving the performance of ethnic minorities, said London-based member John Puckrin. Fears of playing into the hands of the National Front and BNP are fuelling a widespread reluctance to speak up for the plight of the white working-classes, he claimed.

Figures showed recently that only 15 per cent of white boys qualifying for free school meals leave school having mastered the three Rs. For black boys from similar backgrounds, the figure is 22 per cent while for Asians it is 29 per cent and Chinese 52 per cent.

"All too often diversity is only thought of in terms of ethnicity or faith," Mr Puckrin told the conference. "I believe we need to restate and recognise the diversity of class. "The lowest attaining section in education today are white working-class boys; in some of our cities they are also the largest single ethnic minority. "Why have the needs of this group been overlooked? I suspect it is the law of unexpected consequences. "The Labour party has ceased to talk the language of class in order to win general elections.

"Liberal-minded people and the media ceased to highlight the particular problems of this group for fear of lending weight to the arguments of the National Front and BNP. This is a self-defeating position to my mind." He said action plans had been put in place to tackle race and gender divides but "silence then ensued on class".

Mr Puckrin's proposal for a probe into the effects of white working-class underachievement on the economy in specific regions was backed by the union. He also said schools should be given freedom to set lessons in subjects that could assist community cohesion, such as history. He added: "It is historical fact that most of the jobs lost in communities destroyed by Britain's de-industralisation have involved male workers. "It is easy to forget that we once had docks in London and Liverpool, shipyards in Belfast and Newcastle, coalmines in Nottingham and Kent, steelworkers in Sheffield and South Wales. "Investment capital may have moved on to hedge funds, but the people remain."

Studies have previously identified parental indifference and family break-ups as reasons poor white boys have slipped behind other groups. Mr Puckrin's claims underline research last year from Manchester University which found that money was being targeted at pupils with English as an additional language. "White learners from highly disadvantaged backgrounds were reportedly often overlooked," their report said


Politically correct censorship attempt at UB over comments about race

Recently, there has been an uproar over the presence of a philosopher, Michael Levin, who spoke at a philosophy conference in Buffalo. The history to the fight and the behavior of the SUNY Buffalo philosophy department is a window into political correctness in academia. I should note that I have worked closely with two of the persons involved in the case: Michael Levin and Randall Dipert.

Michael Levin is a well-known and extremely accomplished philosopher who teaches at the City College of New York (CCNY). His publishing record exceeds that of any philosopher in Western New York, although others such as the SUNY Buffalo’s Randy Dipert and SUNY Fredonia’s Raymond Belliotti also have impressive records. Levin has a sea of publications, including a significant number in the best philosophy journals in the world (for example, Journal of Philosophy and Philosophy and Public Affairs) and a book with Oxford University Press, the field’s best.

Michael McDonald of the Center for Individual Rights, between 1987 and 1990 recounted how Levin wrote three non-scholarly articles in the New York Times, Quadrant (an Australian journal), and the American Philosophical Association Proceedings arguing that (1) white store owners may take rational steps to avoid being victimized by black criminals and (2) that there is evidence in support of the claim that racial groups differ in IQ. In the 22 years in which he taught at CCNY, McDonald pointed out, Levin had taught more than 3,000 students. No one had ever complained to the university authorities that his speech, conduct, or grading patterns were discriminatory. In addition, his teaching evaluations were strong.

McDonald described how over the objections of its own Faculty Senate and many academic organizations, the College formed a committee to determine whether to revoke Levin’s tenure (protected status given to veteran faculty). In 1990, the Dean (Paul Sherwin) created an alternative section to Levin’s introductory class for students who did not want to take his class. This had never been done before at CCNY. The department chairperson (Charles Evans) protested the creation of this shadow class on the grounds that it was immoral, unethical, and an unwarranted interference with his powers as a department chairperson. The District Court enjoined both policies because they infringed on Levin’s First Amendment rights. This case received nationwide attention because it was a clear instance how the politically correct in academia were trampling on free speech. As a side note, campus speech codes (including the one at Fredonia) are another indication of this problem.

McDonald pointed out that the case was made even more absurd by the college’s refusal to go after Dr. Leonard Jeffries, the chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department at CCNY. In class, McDonald noted, Jeffries gave out booklets arguing that the skin pigment melanin gives blacks intellectual superiority over whites. He also taught his students that white persons are “ice people,” who are greedy and materialistic, while black people are “sun people” who are loving and communal. Outside of class, he argued that the Jews financed the slave trade and in Hollywood had teamed up with the Italian mafia to portray blacks in a degrading manner in the movies.

Levin was invited to participate in the October 2007 Philosophy of Biology Conference that was held at the Center for Inquiry in Buffalo. On Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, three SUNY Buffalo graduate students (Bethany Delecki-Earns, Christopher Buckman, and William D’Alessandro) wrote a letter to the SUNY Buffalo paper, Spectrum, saying of Levin’s position that it is “immoral, philosophically and scientifically without value, and aims directly to underwrite the unhappiness of countless human beings.” They further claimed that Levin’s books “do not swell the sea of honest scholarship by a drop” and that “he did not deserve an invitation to speak.” That day, Professors Dipert and Smith were worried enough about protests to hire Amherst police officers to monitor the conference. Their fears were not without warrant. During the CCNY uproar, the district court found that people disrupted Levin’s class with intimidating and bullying behavior. The conference took place the day after the letter appeared in the paper.

Three days later (Oct. 2, 2007), the philosophy department chair at the SUNY Buffalo, John Kearns weighed in. He said, “(Levin’s) demeaning and inflammatory remarks don’t represent scientific knowledge or sound scholarship, and constitute a sufficient reason for leaving him out. I am entirely in sympathy with the letter published in last Friday’s Spectrum …” Jorge Gracia, the Samuel P. Capen Chair and SUNY Distinguished Professor, at SUNY-Buffalo also noted that “[G]iven Mr. Levin’s history, it should not have been surprising to them that objections to the invitation were voiced.” On one account, the philosophy department divided on the issue of whether Levin deserved an invitation. Against his presence were some of the tenured faculty (except Randy Dipert, Barry Smith, and William Baumer) and four graduate students (including the three who wrote the letter). For his presence were Dipert, Smith, Baumer, some of the untenured faculty, and some of the other graduate students. The difference between the older and newer faculty is an interesting one, although I’m not clear what explains it.

The position of the opposed graduate students and tenured faculty was poorly thought out. First, regardless of whether one agrees with his conclusions, Levin’s work on race and gender is unquestionably excellent and some of the most interesting philosophical work on this topic in the last 30 years. It is probably the best philosophical discussion of the claims that racial differences are in part genetic, that the well-documented differences in IQ are at least in part genetic, and that this has implications for policy and behavior. Some graduate students might lack the sophistication to follow Levin’s arguments but more is expected of senior faculty at a large research university.

Second, the notion that organizers of a conference on the philosophy of biology who invite a speaker endorse all the speaker’s views is silly. In philosophy, it is standard operating procedure for faculty to invite speakers to present arguments with which they disagree.

Third, the graduate students’ letter was weak. In addition, to underestimating Levin’s work, they pointed out that his proposed talk on innateness gives arguments for “ontogenetic fixity” of major human traits. They then noted that “at great reduction,” this is “used to explain the supposed inferiority of women and non-whites …” It is hard to follow their points because “ontogenetic fixity” just refers to genetic inheritability and this is a common notion in biology (for example, this is why some persons have blue eyes). Because it is not clear if Levin is alleged to have committed the sins of reduction or explaining inferiority, the graduate students manage to defame Levin while still having wriggle room. In any case, Levin’s talk was well done and interesting (I heard it).

This pattern is a common one in academia. The radical left who dominate the faculty and administration at many state universities use an array of techniques, including discrimination in hiring, promotion, and speaking-invitations, to silence opposing views. To sort this mess out, the SUNY Buffalo faculty and administration should have a public debate between Levin and a senior SUNY Buffalo philosopher on whether genetics plays a role in explaining the physical or mental differences between races. I am sure that that it would be both informative and good theater. Let’s see whose ideas survive robust debate.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Federal Court Hears Challenge to Arizona Tax Credit Program

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a three-year-old challenge to Arizona's individual tax credit scholarship program in late January, but gave no indication as to when it might render a decision. The case marked the first time a federal appellate court has heard such a case since the U.S. Supreme Court declared Cleveland's citywide school voucher program constitutional in 2002.

At issue in Winn v. Garriot is Arizona's 10-year-old tuition tax credit program, under which individuals receive credits on their personal income taxes for making donations to school tuition organizations (STOs), which enable parents to send their children to the private school of their choice.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging the program's constitutionality, claiming it violates the federal Establishment Clause, said Tim Keller, the Institute for Justice attorney who argued the case on behalf of several Arizona families. "The argument [the ACLU] made in their briefs is that it has the forbidden effect of advancing religion, because of the high percentage of parents who choose, of their own accord, to send their children to private religious schools," Keller said. "That argument seemed to change a bit at the hearing--they said that for a scholarship organization to have religious affiliations violates the Constitution, and that a scholarship-granting organization must fund the entire universe of private schools to avoid an Establishment Clause violation," Keller explained.

Precedent falls on the side of school choice. Winn v. Garriot was originally filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in February 2000; that court dismissed the challenge and upheld the law in March 2005. A previous challenge to the program, Kotterman v. Killian, was dismissed by the Arizona Supreme Court in January 1999 and by the U.S. Supreme Court in October 1999. Both courts found the program to be legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Approximately 25,000 children in Arizona currently receive scholarships to attend the school of their family's choosing through the individual tax credit program. The state operates a similar program that grants tax credits to corporations donating to STOs, which the ACLU is also challenging in a separate case filed last year, as well as voucher programs for foster kids and disabled students. Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island offer corporate tax credit programs as well.

Keller says it would be "absurd" for the Ninth Circuit to strike down the individual tax credit program in Arizona. "The Establishment Clause is concerned with the state remaining neutral regarding religion, and that any funds flowing to religious institutions not be directed by a state actor," Keller explained. "In this case, only private individuals decide which STOs to fund in the first place, and only parents decide which STOs they'll apply to to fund their particular [school] choice. "All the legal precedents have said repeatedly the constitutionality doesn't hinge on where and how the beneficiaries of a particular program intend to use their benefits," Keller continued. "You have to look at all the educational options the state provides. "Arizona has open enrollment, charter schools, magnet schools, a family-friendly homeschool policy, the corporate tax credit program, and two voucher programs," Keller said. "To look at all that and think a parent could possibly be coerced into choosing a religious option is absurd."

Other experts agree. In Missouri, a bill to create a tuition tax credit program similar to Arizona's is pending in the state legislature, and a study showing the benefits such a program would have for the state's residents was released in mid-January by the Show-Me Institute, a think tank based in St. Louis. "Wealthier Missourians already have choice options. We're trying to extend that choice to all Missourians," explained Justin P. Hauke, a policy analyst with the group. "We've estimated that the tuition tax credit bills currently under consideration in the Missouri General Assembly have the potential to save the state up to $14 million per year. "Such legislation is a win-win for everyone," Hauke continued. "It allows taxpayers to target their tax dollars toward education and meaningful reform, it provides options to thousands of Missouri families who otherwise would have little control over their educational options, and it saves the state money."

According to a similar study released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Options, a national group based in Indianapolis, Arizona's tax credit program has saved the state nearly $18 million since its inception.


Imams promote 'our values' on taxpayer dime

Academy's goal to 'appreciate traditions, histories of Asia, Middle East'

A charter school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., is named after a Muslim warlord, shares the address of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, is led by two imams, is composed almost exclusively (99 percent) of blacks, many Somalis, and has as its top goal to preserve "our values." And it uses funds from taxpayers of Minnesota.

The school's agenda was revealed by Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, who noted that she asked for permission to visit the school and interview officials for her report, but was denied. The school also declined to return a WND telephone request for an interview.

But it has been drawing objections from a number of people, including Robert Spencer, the expert who monitors such developments at Jihad Watch. "Can you imagine a public school founded by two Christian ministers, and housed in the same building as a church? Add to that – in the same building – a prominent chapel. And let's say the students are required to fast during Lent, and attend Bible studies right after school. All with your tax dollars," he wrote. "Inconceivable? Sure. If such a place existed, the ACLU lawyers would descend on it like locusts. It would be shut down before you could say 'separation of church and state,' to the accompaniment of New York Times and Washington Post editorials full of indignant foreboding, warning darkly about the growing influence of the Religious Right in America."

But the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which was named after the Muslim warlord who invaded and conquered Spain a millennium ago, has drawn no such protests, Spencer wrote. He called the academy "yet another manifestation of the witless multiculturalism that grants protected victim status to Muslim groups in view of the 'racism' and 'Islamophobia' from which the supposedly suffer. Latitude that would never be granted to other faith groups, particularly Christians, is readily given here."

Kersten revealed there actually were many more links between the tax-supported school and Islam. The academy features a carpeted space for prayer, serves halal food in the cafeteria, has all students fast during Ramadan, features after-school classes for students on the Quran and Sunnah, and the program for the 2007 MAS-Minnesota convention, under the motto "Establishing Islam in Minnesota" asked the question, "Did you know that MAS-MN … houses a full-time elementary school?" On the adjacent page was an ad for Tarek ibn Ziyad. The Minnesota Department of Education confirmed the academy pocketed more than $65,000 in state money for the 2006-2007 year under one program alone.

WND has reported earlier when in Idaho, the Five Pillars of Islam were taught under the guise of history, after the "religion guidelines' used in public schools were assembled with help from a terror suspect, and when U.S. courts upheld mandatory Islamic training in schools. Kersten said the school's principal is Asad Zaman, and the school's co-founder is Hesham Hussein, both imams and leaders of the MAS-Minnesota. After the academy was launched in 2003, they "played dual roles: Zaman as TIZA's principal and the current vice-president of MAS-MN, and Hussein as TIZA's school board chair and president of MAS-MN until his death in a car accident in Saudi Arabia in January," she reported.

Reporters who earlier visited the school had a number of reports: "A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school," reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. "Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them." The report also included school officials' denials that there were any inappropriate religious activities at the school.

Kersten reported the academy was, in fact, originally proposed as a private Islamic school. It was converted when Islamic Relief, a California organization, agreed to sponsor a publicly funded charter school. She wrote she visited a booth for the academy at the MAS-Minnesota 2007 convention, and was told students go directly from class to "Islamic studies" at 3:30 p.m. "There, they learn 'Quranic recitation, the Sunnah of the Prophet' and other religious subjects, he said," according to Kersten.

She noted that beyond the issue of religious influences in a publicly funded school, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the parent of Islamic Relief-USA, has been accused by Israel of supporting Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group. "TIZA has improved the reading and math performance of its mostly low-income students. That's commendable, but should Minnesota taxpayers be funding an Islamic public school," Kersten wrote. "Am I the only one that read this article and found it appalling that my tax dollars are being used by a school that is thinly veiling its attempt to be a public institution?" asked "ali0056" on the newspaper's forum. "I find it alarming that this place of public education is appearing to be so secretive about its intentions …"

"aklemz," however, accused Kersten of failing to do adequate reporting, noting that Keith Ellison, a Muslim elected from Minnesota to Congress, describes Zaman as a "bridge-builder." The school's own website explains that it tries to provide students a "learning environment that recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of Africa, Asia and the Middle East." It boasts of a "rigorous Arabic language program" as well as "an environment that fosters your cultural values and heritage."

"Arabic is the language of culture that holds together the peoples of the middle East, South Asia, North Africa, and East Africa. By immersing our students in this world language, we equip them with a vital tool to communicate with the peoples in a strategic part of the world. … By the time students finish the program, they will be able to understand, read, write, and converse in Arabic."

The school says it is named after Tarek ibn Ziyad, the "Ummayad administrator of medieval Spain. Thirteen hundred years ago, serving in the multifaceted roles of activist, leader, explorer, teacher, administrator and peacemaker, he inspired his fellow citizens to the same striving for human greatness that we hope to instill in our students today." Even Islamic websites, however, explain that he invaded Spain from Africa in a bloody battle after ordering the boats that had carried his soldiers burned so they could not retreat. "This marked the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Spain. Muslims ruled the country for hundreds of years so gloriously and well that Spain became afterwards the fountain-head of culture and civilization for the whole continent of Europe," the Islamists boast.

Spencer, however, raised a question: "Does the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy represent the same idea for those who founded it and now operate it – the burning of boats, representing the determination of Muslim immigrants to stay in the U.S., followed by conquest? …. It is not an illegitimate question."


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

British classrooms have become war zones, battered and threatened teachers say

Violence in the classroom is on the increase, but it is not only the pupils who are the victims, according to a survey that has found that nearly a third of teachers have been punched, kicked, bitten or pinched by children or attacked with weapons or missiles. More than half of teachers say that their school’s policy on pupils’ poor behaviour is not tough enough and two thirds have considered leaving the profession because of physical aggression, verbal abuse and threats.

The survey, published today by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, suggests that excluding the most violent youngsters does not help because they will repeat the pattern of violence at neighbouring schools. Mary Bousted, the union’s general secretary, said that no teacher should have to put up with the behaviour seen in schools today. “Not only is poor behaviour driving teaching staff away at an alarming rate, it is also damaging the chances of other pupils during lessons by causing major disruptions,” she said.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Torquay today, Ms Bousted said that one in ten teachers had received physical injuries in the classroom. Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression. Three per cent of teachers said that they had been involved in incidents involving knives, two thirds had been punched, nearly a half kicked and a third had been threatened.

The survey follows news last month that airport-style metal detectors are to be installed at hundreds of school gates. Official figures also suggest that schools are finding it increasingly difficult to exclude violent pupils because of the growing tendency by governors and appeal panels to overturn the head’s decision. Between 1997 and 2007 permanent exclusions fell by 25 per cent to 9,170 cases nationwide. But over the same period the proportion of expulsions overruled by panels rose from 20 to 24 per cent.

Jean Roberts took early retirement from her post as a deputy head of a primary school in West London because she could no longer stand having to restrain children physically. “Over the years, we are increasingly seeing children who are disturbed, with very little ability to communicate other than through biting or pulling hair. Some are barely socialised when they arrive,” she said. “They kick or they throw things when they are in an extreme state of anger.”

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms. The findings coincide with comments from Jim Rose, the Government’s adviser on the primary curriculum, who said that part of the role of primary schools was to socialise children and teach them how to behave. “Where else would they get it if they don’t get it at home?” he said.



Three current articles below:

Queensland: Teachers fear for their lives

Education authorities are under fire for providing dangerous and "deplorable" living conditions for teachers sent to work on Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait. As the State Government continues to face fall-out from the rape of a nurse on the island, serious safety concerns have been raised about living quarters for teachers. The home retained for teachers has screen doors that won't lock, no airconditioning or washing machine and is generally run down, with broken vinyl flooring and peeling paint.

The father of a young teacher sent to the island from Brisbane this year was so frightened for her safety he wrote to his local MP pleading for an urgent security upgrade to the property. "I am appalled by this situation and believe this is a disgrace to have young female teachers working under these conditions, he wrote on February 26, before the rape was made public.

"There is no security for (his daughter) and the other resident of the premises and recently (a woman) was dragged from her residence and raped." He said his daughter, 24. now sleeps with a knife beside her bed", although it is understood the teacher later explained she had the knife in a cupboard.

The Bribie Island father, who did not want to be named, yesterday said his daughter had first approached her school principal about the state of the premises. "The principal had to get in contact with somebody to fix it up and was told there wasn't any money," he said.

A locksmith was sent to the property to fix security locks and screens at the premises within days of the letter being sent to Pumicestone's Labor MP Carryn Sullivan and then on to the North Queensland seat of Cook's Labor MP Jason O'Brien. Education Minister Rod Welford also personially responded to the case assuring the teacher and her father that the property would he fully repaired.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg said the case raised concerns about the standard of all remote housing for medical and teaching staff. "I raised in Parliament a motion which called for all the safety audits to be released for these type of remote communities around Queensland for the departments of health and education," he said. "The Government didn't release that information and voted down the motion. "If you've got one teacher's house that is like this, you've really got to ask how many others there are."

Education Queensland quick reaction to the teacher's father's letter is in stark contrast to Queensland Health's response to security concerns. The department failed to act on a safety report that warned remote area nurses were at "extreme" risk. 16 months before the nurse's rape in her island home on January 5. The nurse's quarters on Mabuiag Island were described in the report as one of the worst, with no locks, security system or working lights.

The article above by David Murray appeared in the the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March 16, 2008

NSW: Teachers flee as attacks rise

EVERY school day a teacher is assaulted with punches, kicks, chairs and in several cases have had guns held to their heads. The Daily Telegraph can reveal the personal hell some teachers experienced in New South Wales public school classrooms last year - and why so many are giving up on the profession. Teachers filed 252 official reports of assault or serious threats to their safety, including 102 physical assaults, between September 2006 and August 2007.

Reports released by the Department of Education and Training under Freedom of Information laws show teacher safety fears make up almost one-third of reports of serious disruptions in schools. The incident reports show teachers are regularly threatened with firearms or other weapons - from broken bottles to knives - by students, parents or intruders.

A survey of new teachers by the Australian Education Union released this month found nearly half did not see themselves still teaching within 10 years, with "behaviour management" one of the top concerns. More than half said they had not received any professional training in behaviour management. The issue tops the list of teachers' concerns in secondary schools (more than 65 per cent) and is the second most important issue in NSW schools overall.

Among the reports, one of the most worrying cases reported by teachers, a male Year 7 student held a "silver automatic pistol" to a female teacher's head for one minute after he had been stopped from playing tackle football with friends. Police called to the western Sydney high school found the pistol was a "realistic" replica but the teacher did not know at the time. The student was arrested and charged with assault and use of a prohibited weapon. In other cases, a Year 12 girl in the Sutherland area of Sydney's south was suspended after driving a car at her principal, who was forced to leap to safety.

The reports show children as young as five are presenting with mental health problems, often forcing schools to call in a specialist "mental health team". At a primary school in the Lake Illawarra area, a kindergarten boy went berserk and tried to "trash" the classroom. "As the teacher went to shut the door, he was struck in the back of the head by a chair," the report reads. The teacher required physiotherapy after the attack.

Former NSW Central Coast teacher Richard Neville is one of many who has left the profession out of fear for their safety. He ended his 12-year career as a high school teacher after two students attacked him with scissors and a lump of wood. Now a fireman, Mr Neville said he found the job "safer than teaching". "The boy who came at me with the pair of scissors and the one who took the swing at me with a lump of wood were 13 year olds," Mr Neville said.


Strike threat by Cairns State school parents

PARENTS will pull their children out a Cairns state school in a strike aimed at fixing "Third World conditions" there. Strike organiser Mark Cash yesterday said the State Government was failing Trinity Beach State School students and the community. "This school has none of the things other schools have," he said. "They just keep patching it up. There's no real change. "Something has to be done. I don't want to have to shift my kids to another school."

Parents and children yesterday gathered outside the school, ahead of the planned strike, to voice their concerns about its condition. "We need fair, decent facilities," father of two Neils Munksgard said. "We need somewhere where the kids can play when it's raining. The grounds are completely waterlogged." "The classrooms are very crowded . there are a lot of general maintenance issues."

Mr Munksgard said he believed if things were not fixed soon, more parents would take their children out of the school, which was established in 1970. "I put it down to inefficiency and bureaucratic neglect," he said.

Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall agreed the school needed urgent attention, but said a student strike was "ill-conceived". "I don't support the proposition that students attending the school be disrupted and embroiled in an issue that has nothing to do with them," Mr Wettenhall said. "This is not the way to go about achieving outcomes for the school." Mr Wettenhall said he hoped to fix rusty guttering and drain pipes, which were contributing to the school's drainage problem, with special funding.

A statement released by the Education Department yesterday said flooring containing asbestos was being managed in compliance with the Queensland Government's policy. "The school has also organised for maintenance staff to urgently address ongoing problems with the junior toilet block," the statement said. Both the Far North Queensland executive director of schools and the regional facilities manager met with the principal yesterday and inspected the school.

The strike is planned for between 9am and 10am on Wednesday, March 26. Mr Cash said he expected to see at least 300 parents and their children get involved. "Everyone we've spoken to has said they will be coming."


Monday, March 17, 2008

A mocking look at British school insanity

Re: Ed Balls's astonishing revelation, based on unverified research (ooh, my favourite kind) that some state schools are charging parents admission fees

The good ones, obviously, where the children come out the other end largely uninjured. Not the ones where the body-piercing is done with scissors. One school in North London admitted that it was asking for 50 pounds to fund extracurricular activities. It gives you the money back if your kid doesn't get in, though, sadly missing the opportunity to almost define the notion of adding insult to injury.

The schools admissions procedure is mesmerising, even to the childless. Every part of it seems designed to induce the worst aspects of humanity. Some schools are brilliant, some are dreadful, and your child could end up in either. It's like the scene in Flash Gordon where Peter Duncan has to shut his eyes and put his arm in a tree stump to see if he gets bitten by a lethal space-crab.

Not liking their odds in many parts of the country (and let's not forget that Duncan gets the venom), parents play the system - moving house, finding God, assassinating the children next door. O'Brien has to hold a cage of rats over Winston's eyes to make him shriek: “Do it to Julia.” We just have to offer a schools lottery.

I think the new-found religion one is the most chilling, though. If I'd seen my parents acquire a sudden and unexpected fondness for the Pope, I would have thought they'd gone quite mad. And that was before the Vatican issued a new list of seven deadly sins this week, which puts contraception on a par with murder, and prohibits “morally debatable scientific experiments”. I was going to pack up my laboratory and stop trying to build that robot boy, but as an ardent fan of the contraceptive Pill, I guess I'm going to hell already.

But after all the mud slung at pushy parents, now it turns out that the schools themselves may not be without corruption. Some apparently ask for an admission fee, others for compulsory donations. Which, to anyone but an accountant, sounds a lot like a fee. Actually, my accountant thinks it's a fee too. There's something rather brilliant about most of the schools that stand accused of these practices being faith schools. With the faith in Arthur Daley, rather than an omnipotent being, I suppose. Perhaps they could specialise in teaching bribery, and add blackmail, extortion and fraud to the curriculum too. When Ronald Searle invented St Trinian's, he can't have imagined that its moral values would one day seem perfectly reasonable.

The admissions code for schools is a baffling mishmash - you can admit children for aptitude, but not for ability. You can let them in if they have a sibling at the school, but not if it's a cousin. Children in care take precedence and special needs children must be given priority. In other words, the best thing you can do for your children's future is to abandon them, after making sure they have a dyslexic older brother.

But why should schools be the only ones to make money in this whole grotty business? Parents of children who are already at desirable schools should start auctioning off the right to adopt them, thus providing next year's intake with a handy set of older siblings in situ. And why just auction them off once? Each child could sustain at least five new brothers and sisters, surely. And if it's a Roman Catholic school you're trying to get into, that would probably earn you double points.


Australia: Shocking pupil violence report in government schools

As night follows day, weak discipline leads to misbehaviour. The report below is however tame stuff by California standards. Australia has far fewer troublesome minorities

More than 65,000 Queensland state school students have been suspended for disruptive and violent behaviour over the past five years. The startling figure includes 13,838 students in Years 1 to 12 caught with "objects", including weapons, on school grounds. A total of 801 primary and secondary students have been expelled for bad behaviour and "physical misconduct involving objects". Of the state's 10 school regions, a total of 51,734 students were suspended in the five-year period for physical misconduct alone.

The figures come amid a series of violent school-related incidents and police concerns that assaults involving students are becoming more severe. The figures, from September 2002 to June 2007, were released under freedom of information laws to The Sunday Mail. The data is from the department's School Disciplinary Absence database, which was established in June 2002 and records disciplinary action that falls under the categories "physical misconduct" and "physical misconduct involving an object". The database does not contain the words "assault" or "weapon", and Education Queensland would not define "object".

A spokeswoman said physical misconduct, which "can include" poking, pushing and hitting students and staff, represented 30 per cent of all incidents and had remained stable over the past few years. She said the increase in the suspensions for physical misconduct showed schools were taking the issue seriously. There were 14,000 disciplinary absences out of about 480,000 students statewide....

Police, students and teachers told The Sunday Mail that while violence had not escalated, it was a continuing problem. Several police officers said students were using the internet and texting on their mobiles to arrange fights after-hours, or to upload footage of school violence. Two students from a south Brisbane high school said group bashings were becoming more popular.

Stationing police officers at schools had had an impact on reducing violence, officers said. "School-based officers have a better advantage to head off trouble before it starts and be better prepared. Because they are on the ground he can be hearing things," an officer said.

Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford said there was a level of offending behaviour in every school but he did not believe violence had increased significantly in state schools. The Queensland Teachers Union said that while violence was an ongoing issue, really serious incidents were isolated. "Schools are a reflection of society so I think as we see increasing evidence of it in society, we can expect to see the same thing in schools," union president Steve Ryan said. He added the union's concern was that the department supported schools when they took disciplinary action.


Australia: Leftist teachers block military cadet training in government school

An elite girls' school has been accused of sexual discrimination by its own students after banning its army cadet program. Angry MacRobertson Girls' School students who participated in the cadet program say they were aware several teachers were openly hostile to their involvement, with one student alleging the 30 cadets were compared to "Hitler Youth". MacRobertson Girls' High School principal Jane Garvey informed the cadets that the program would cease at the end of the year after a school council decision in November.

The girls allege that the ban is sexual discrimination as it prevents them from continuing in the cadet program with brother school, Melbourne High School. The girls, dressed in military attire, would participate in drills at Melbourne High and attend skills camps.

Year 12 student and cadet under officer Bridget Pianta said some teachers objected to girls taking part in any military activity. "You would think that with a school's ethos that girls can do anything that boys can that they would be encouraging it, especially something that encourages leadership in girls," she said. The highest ranked officer in the cadets, the regimental sergeant major, is a girl from the select-entry, single-sex government school. "It seems to me that it was politically sensitive and by closing the program they hoped it would go away," Ms Pianta said.

Ms Pianta, who helped initiate the program in 2005, said it was widely known that two teachers were overheard calling the cadets "Hitler's Youth". The Sunday Age has independently verified the comment from the student who heard the teachers speaking. After the student made a complaint, it was alleged that the male teacher "had not meant it". "Many of the teachers there are way left of Marxism and I am fine with that if they are honest. But don't try and come across all PC and say you accept others if you don't," the former student said.

In a letter, Ms Garvey told the girls that the program would not continue because it was disruptive and had been subject to administration problems. It was also difficult to find a teacher to supervise the program. A teacher has subsequently been found to run it for the rest of the year.

Melbourne High School principal Jeremy Ludowyke confirmed that his school's council had written to MacRob asking it to allow the year 10 to 12 girls already enrolled to complete their training. He said male and female students benefited enormously from the program, which has been running at Melbourne High for more than 100 years.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Unemployment Training (The Ideology of Non-Work Learned in Urban Schools)

For many urban youth in poverty moving from school to work is about as likely as having a career in the NBA.While urban schools struggle and fail at teaching basic skills they are extremely effective at teaching skills which predispose youth to fail in the world of work.The urban school environment spreads a dangerous contagion in the form of behaviors and beliefs which form an ideology.

This ideology "works" for youngsters by getting them through urban middle and secondary schools.But the very ideology that helps youth slip and slide through school becomes the source of their subsequent failure.It is an ideology that is easily learned, readily implemented, rewarded by teachers and principals, and supporting by school policies.It is an ideology which schools promulgate because it is easier to accede to the students' street values than it is to shape them into more gentle human beings.The latter requires a great deal of persistent effort not unlike a dike working against an unyielding sea.It is much easier for urban schools to lower their expectations and simply survive with youth than it is to try to change them.

The ideology of unemployment insures that those infected with it will be unable to enter or remain in the world of work without serious in-depth unlearning and retraining.Urban youth are not simply ill prepared for work but systematically and carefully trained to be quitters, failures, and the discouraged workers who no longer even seek employment.What this means is that it is counterproductive to help urban schools do better at what they now do since they are a basic cause of their graduates living out lives of hopelessness and desperation.

The dropout problem among urban youth--as catastrophic as it is--is less detrimental than this active training for unemployment.We need be more concerned for "successful" youth who graduate since it is they who have been most seriously infected.They have been exposed longest, practiced the anti-work behaviors for the longest period, and been rewarded most.In effect, the urban schools create a pool of youth much larger than the number of dropouts who we have labeled as "successful" but who have been more carefully schooled for failure.

The fact that this ideology is not a formal part of the stated curriculum but caught in school does not make urban schools any less accountable for its transmission.These anti-work learnings are inhaled as youth participate in and interact with school policies, administrators, teachers, safety aides, and the entire school staff.Community and religious watchdog groups who seek to control the values taught in schools focus on prayer and sex education.They are oblivious to the actual values caught in schools.Following is a brief description of the beliefs and behaviors which comprise this unemployment ideology.

Nowness.(What is the unit of school learning time?)In urban schools learning is offered in disconnected jolts.The work of the day is unconnected with the work of preceding days or subsequent ones.Life in urban schools is comprised of specific periods and discrete days each of which is forced to stand entirely on its own.If homework is not done, or books not taken home (behaviors which are universal for males and almost so for females by the completion of the upper elementary grades), everything students are taught must be compressed into isolated periods of "stand alone" days.Teachers and principals, as well as students, survive one day at a time.

By focusing on what can be learned in one period or in one activity educators claim to "meet the needs of students" who are frequently absent and would always be playing catch-up.(In some urban schools there is 100% turnover between September and June in some classes.)Another rationale for this disjointed curriculum is the number of pull out and special programs which legitimize youngsters missing classes.But the most common reason offered for teaching "Nowness" is the claim that students seldom remember anything they have been taught before.The introduction of any new concept or skill inevitably requires an extensive review of everything that might have preceded the concept.For example, an eighth grade teacher tries to give a lesson on election results.S/he quickly discovers that most of the class cannot explain the difference between the city, county, state, or federal levels of government.The teacher can either back up and spend the period trying to teach these distinctions or offer the lesson to the few who might understand it.Some youth have learned to play dumb in order to keep teachers from ever offering their planned lessons.In most cases, however, students are genuinely ignorant of the most elementary concepts teachers must assume they know in order to offer the required curriculum.

Nowness is the operating norm of the urban school.A successful period or activity is one in which students are expected to prepare nothing and to follow up in no way. In the absence of connections with what students have already been taught (several times) and should already know, and with little certainty that the students will remember today's lesson tomorrow, much of what goes on in urban classrooms resembles daytime television; brief, jejune activities which may generate a superficial passing interest but which require no real involvement.One can tune in to a program such as Jeopardy any day without falling behind.There are always new words so that viewers need not remember the previous day's words.And best of all, the rules are quickly given anew each day.The person who tunes in for the first time knows as much as the person who has been watching every day.Anyone can show up and play the game.

Teachers promulgate Nowness because, like their students, they are trying to simply get through each day with the least hassle.But there is no way to learn any ideas of any consequence or develop skills to any level of proficiency if Nowness controls the conditions of learning.Education is a process of building connections and this process is hard work, hard work for students and even harder work for teachers.By "going with the flow," teachers and schools support the students' misconception that the unit of time in which anything can be taught and learned is something less than one hour.

Showing Up.(What is the minimum standard of satisfactory work?)"The Deal" in urban schools refers to a tacit working agreement between students and teachers. The student does not disrupt the class.In return, the teacher ignores his/her doing nothing.Simply attending is thus transformed from passive existence into a virtue.Being there is all that matters.Work is not expected, merely the absence of negative behavior.Teachers purchase this peace with a passing grade of D- to answer the student who says, "If I never showed up I would get an F.I showed up.I deserve better."By passing students for just being there, school policies and teacher behaviors systematically teach youth that existence is an action.In effect, that if you do nothing bad you deserve something.While attendance is a necessary condition for learning, it is not a sufficient condition.By rewarding inaction, uninvolvement and a detached presence, urban schools promulgate the dangerous myth that the minimum standard for "doing" satisfactory work is showing up.

Make Me.(Who is accountable for what students learn?)Urban schools are conducted as authoritarian institutions.Principals are not replaced because their students are not learning but because the building is out of control.The need for safety from the surrounding neighborhood as well as the need to create an internally safe environment are, of course, understandable and desirable.Unfortunately, this perceived need for authoritarianism also controls the conditions of offering the curriculum and the learning environment of the school.Urban youth believe that the principals, teachers, and staff run everything; that school is essentially "their deal not ours."They see endless rules, a prescribed curriculum, and the pedagogy of poverty (Haberman, 1991).This directive pedagogy supports the students' perception that it is not only the teacher's job but his/her responsibility to see to it that they learn.Students describe good teachers as the ones "that made me learn."

Urban schools reinforce the student perception that teachers bear final responsibility for what they learn.By allowing passive witnesses, the schools support these student perceptions that all relationships are (indeed rewarding) students for being essentially authoritarian rather than mutual.As youth see the world, they are compelled to go to school while teachers are paid to be there.Therefore, it is the job of the teacher to make them learn.Every school policy and instructional decision which is made without involving students--and this is almost all of them--spreads the virus that principals and teachers rather than students must be the constituency held accountable for learning.In a very real sense students are being logical.In an authoritarian, top-down system with no voice for those at the bottom, why should those "being done to" be held accountable?

Excuses.(How often can you be late or absent and still be passing?)Of all the unemployment values urban schools teach, they teach this one best!Students believe that they can be late or absent as much as they want provided they have a good excuse, someone's permission, or a written note.What is taught or what is missed is of little or no consequence.What matters is the quality of one's excuse.And if one has valid excuses, there is no limit to the number of "excused" latenesses or absences a student may have and still be "passing."The value says, "if it's not your fault you are absent, then it's as good as being there." And "being there" passes.

In a recent survey urban middle school students were asked the questions, "How many times can you be late (or absent) in a month and hold a regular job?"Over half the students responded you could be late as often as you had a good excuse.Almost half responded you could be absent any time you had a good excuse.

In discussing these responses with urban youth, none has ever suggested that students have the responsibility of making up for missed work--or even finding out what was missed.If the issue of missed work is raised, students seem only able to respond with the validity of their excuse.It is beyond the realm of their consideration to deal with the issue of the missed work itself.If reviewing missed work is raised as a direct question (i.e., "How do you learn what you missed?"), students respond, "Review is what teachers do."

Non-Cooperation.(Should you have to work with people you don't like?)Urban youth typically respond to differences with their peers by threatening or using force.Any body language or verbal interaction is brief and merely an initial preface to the escalation process.The value students bring to school is one of "might makes right."Indeed, "might is the only determinant of right."Schools seek to teach nonviolent options, peer mediation, and even engage in negative reinforcements as a consequence of overtly aggressive behavior.But in spite of the large number of suspensions, expulsions, and other authoritarian school responses, most of the day-to-day behavior of students is not dealt with by teachers and principals in terms of detention or suspension.The overwhelming response of the school to students' inability to get along with each other is to separate potential combatants.If this were not done, the urban schools would resemble the floor of the Roman Coliseum.Efforts of urban teachers to use cooperative learning in urban schools require heroic, consistent efforts to contravene the street values students bring to school.It is easier and more common for principals, teachers, and safety aides to simply separate students than it is to teach them to get along.

Students come to expect segregation from rivals as a prevention to the problem of fighting.They do not practice peaceful coexistence or improved communication as an alternative to violence.This is because they have been taught the street values of power and control and the school has done nothing to disprove the efficacy of these values in their daily lives.Teachers and principals can't be there when students need them in the everyday situations they encounter outside of schools.Students (and their parents) believe therefore that they must learn to take care of their own "business."The problem is that, in school, where educators do control the environment there is no systematic training regarding alternatives to violence.The easy way out is for educators to pretend that violent behavior is irreversible in urban youth and the simplest strategy is the best one:separate potential combatants.

The effect of implementing this strategy--consistently for 13 years--is to solidly reinforce in youngsters the ideology of noncooperation; that is, you should never have to work with anyone you don't like or can't get along with.

Respect.(On what basis does one gain or give respect?)The naive or uninitiated might assume that schools teach students to respect those who know a lot, or can learn a lot or who at least try hard.In urban schools these values carry such little weight with students that they are unobservable.Indeed, in many schools trying hard or demonstrating initiative is regarded as a negative--a form of toadying to authority.The basis of gaining or giving respect is power.The critical question is "Who can do what to whom?"Between the system and the students, as well as among students, the issue is couched as respect--respect for the power to hurt indirectly or directly.

In response to the question, "When is it o.k. to hit people?" urban middle school youth provide an interesting array of being "dissed."Included on their list is, 'He talked crazy" and "He looked at me funny" (Haberman & Dill, 1995).There is no question that urban youth believe that words or glances which they perceive as provocative require a physical response.They use being provoked as a justification for hitting or even killing the offender.

The issue here is not the students' street value per se but how schools reinforce those values rather than teach, or even try to teach, any alternatives.The concept that one "earns" respect by doing good things is unheard of among urban youth and requires explanation.Respect is something they extend to the powerful--as toward the Godfather??and something one is afforded by virtue of simply looking at a person and knowing his/her potential to inflict physical harm.

School policies and educators who try to respond to youth in terms of power are doomed to failure.There are no legal means for schools to really hurt the students.And once students reach the age or size when parents can no longer control them, the school is perceived as powerless by the students (i.e., schools can no longer report them and get them beaten up at home).Once this age when no power consequences can be administered is reached, the schools and teachers have no basis for being afforded students' respect.

The option open to schools is to not accept the power value and from earliest grades upward to never use it (Haberman & Dill, 1995).It is only by seeking to relate to and control by internal and gentle means that the school has any hope of contravening this power value (Haberman, 1994).Admittedly, it is harder work to try to relate to youth in mutual rather than power terms, but to continue present school policies actively teaches youth that school is no different than the street--just less effective.It's all a question of who can do what to whom.

Much more here

British schools pander to Muslim thuggery

Schools in areas feared to have high rates of forced marriage are refusing to display posters on the issue because they are too hard-hitting, according to a government report. Headteachers are unwilling to put up the posters for fear that they might offend some parents. The disclosure came in findings from the Department for Children, Schools and Families showing that 2,089 pupils were absent from school without explanation in 14 areas of England believed to have a high incidence of forced marriage.

A paper from the department released by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee found that in Luton cards had been issued rather than posters while in Derby most schools were unaware of the poster produced by the forced marriage unit. “In Birmingham, the poster had not been displayed as schools felt that the graphics are ‘too hard-hitting’. “Some schools in Leeds are displaying the posters but others are concerned that they may offend some of their parents,” the paper said.

The areas highlighted by the forced marriage unit as having a “high incidence” of forced marriage are Derby, Leicester, Luton, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Lancashire. The report found that 2,089 children were “not in receipt of suitable education” including 250 in Birmingham, 155 in Bristol, 121 in Derby, 520 in Leeds, 294 in Leicester, 385 in Manchester and 66 in Luton.

But it is not clear how many of these children might have been taken out of school and forced into marriage. Some are being educated at home, some families have moved without leaving a forwarding address and other children are truants. MPs on the committee are now to seek extra information.

Margaret Moran described schools’ resistance to displaying the posters as shocking. She said: “People just don’t want to talk about it. “This can involve violence, rape, kidnap — what more important issue can there be? The cultural thing is just a big smokescreen.”

Martin Salter, another Labour member of the committee, said that the problem was “much bigger than people realise. There has been a culture of silence for far too long. There are far too many local authorities being lily-livered about addressing this issue.”

The department said that it was up to schools to decide what posters to display depending on circumstances but urged them to make such material available. “Posters are just one mechanism to get the message across.”