Saturday, May 24, 2008

Foolish charitable initiative

Bill Gates and Eli Broad didn't become billionaires by tinkering around with hopeless old models. Gates got rich selling the world new computer software it needed and wanted, while Broad's KB Homes provided better, cheaper houses. Unfortunately, offering something new and better isn't Broad and Gates's strategy for their joint education-reform effort. While these titans of industry might be consummate business winners, a forum sponsored by their $60 million Strong American Schools initiative last Wednesday made clear that when it comes to education, they're backing a tired, big-government loser.

Strong American Schools seeks to get education high on the presidential campaign agenda and push for "American education standards," "effective teachers in every classroom," and "more time and support for learning."

So what does $60 million get you when you're trying to put education on the national political map? So far, not much. Education has been almost invisible in the presidential race. During the panel discussion, ED in '08 chairman Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado and superintendent of Los Angeles schools, argued that issues like the faltering economy and national security are hogging all the air time.

Romer is right about other issues eclipsing education and freezing out ED in '08's priorities, but there's more to it. The minor tweaks and empty rhetoric ED in '08 offers up - I mean, who isn't for effective teachers? - are as inspiring as bologna on Wonderbread . . . without mustard. Worse, the national standards Romer and most of the other panelists suggested sound like a more intrusive No Child Left Behind Act, the one education issue that has gotten significant campaign attention - because people loathe it.

"Hillary Clinton's most reliable applause line is about ending the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education program," Bloomberg News recently reported. Barack Obama, for his part, wouldn't scrap NCLB, but would replace its test-driven accountability with multiple, non-threatening measures. Finally, while John McCain supports NCLB, his campaign website focuses on moving power from government to parents.

"[A] public education should be defined as one in which our public support for a child's education follows that child into the school the parent chooses," McCain's education statement declares. The Arizona senator might be onto something, but you'd have probably never guessed it if you had listened to the ED in '08 panel. I say "probably" because amidst all the panel's former and present government officials sat Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the wildly successful Knowledge is Power Program schools. Feinberg paid lip service to better standards from above but emphasized power from below, explaining that KIPP already has the effective teachers, longer school days, and culture of success the other panelists merely talked about because its schools are independent and parents choose them. KIPP succeeds because it isn't controlled by politics.

Feinberg's fellow panelists, unfortunately, didn't get his message - one a lot like McCain's - and continued to obsess over moving authority further up government ladders and crafting classic political strategies such as "consensus building" and "leadership." They just didn't see, or refused to acknowledge, that the key to transforming education is autonomous, parent-chosen schools.

Ironically, the countries the panelists are most afraid will pass us by have clearly gotten the memo about free markets. China and India have explosive economies because they've torn down stultifying economic controls. In education, the ascendant South Koreans consume more private schooling than the people of any other industrialized nation. Even parents in the world's poorest slums know the score. Ongoing work by British researcher James Tooley in impoverished places like Ga, Ghana, and Hyderabad, India, find poor parents turning in droves to for-profit private schools in order to move their kids ahead.

And the message isn't just being heard abroad. States are also getting it. Indeed, on the same day the Ed in '08 panelists got together to chat about their favorite top-down policy proposals, Georgia became the sixth state to offer tax credits for donations to private scholarship funds. All told, 14 states and the District of Columbia offer tax credit or voucher programs, and the vast majority allow charter schools.

School choice - really, just plain freedom - is where the future's at, and if Gates and Broad want to replicate in education the success they've had in business, they'd better change their product fast.


An Academic Bill of Rights in Australia?

By Rafe Champion

The Australian Liberal Students' Federation and the Young Liberals have unleashed an attack on leftwing political bias in university teaching. The problem is real but the proposed remedy may not be effective, beyond lifting awareness of the problem. An alternative is proposed. Taking a cue from the US Students for Academic Freedom organisation, the Federation and the Young Liberals are pushing for an Academic Bill of Rights to promote changes to curricula, hiring of staff without regard to political affiliations, remedies for students who believe that they are being marked down for political incorrectness, etc.

Certainly there is cause for concern about the level of bias in course contents and the attitudes of many teachers towards conservative and non-left liberal ideas. Symptoms of the problem include:

* The dozen or score of economically illiterate books purporting to critique economic rationality, one of them edited by a man who is widely regarded as the leading public intellectual in the land.

* A collection of papers, workshopped through the Academy of the Social Sciences, that emerged rather like a set of anti-Liberal Party political pamphlets.

* Widespread incomprehension of the ideas of Hayek and classical liberalism. So the then leader of the opposition (now the Prime Minister) could launch a public attack on a crude caricature of Hayek without arousing widespread hoots of mirth or gasps of horror from opponents and supporters respectively.

The point is that nobody can consider themselves broadly educated at present without the same grasp of Hayek's ideas (in outline, not in detail) that we expect people with tertiary education to have on things like Darwinian evolution; Mendelian genetics; or the way that the Copernican revolution and Einstein advanced physics.

Similarly everyone in the relevant fields should be familiar with the work of Jacques Barzun on education and cultural studies, Ren, Wellek on literary studies, Karl B_hler and Ian D Suttie on language studies, psychology and psychoanalysis, Bill Hutt on industrial relations, Peter Bauer on third world development, Stanislav Andresky on the methods of the social sciences, Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian school of economics.

The push for the Bill of Rights will generate a great deal of angst without any guarantee of achieving either the Bill or the desired improvements, even if the bureaucratic systems are put in place to support it. Top down intervention is most likely to generate resistance and resentment, to politicise and personalise the problems in a divisive manner.

A non-bureaucratic, "bottom up" alternative is proposed. At the very least this could run in parallel to the proposed Liberal initiative and it should enlist the support of people of good will of all political persuasions. Investigation and discussion should proceed on two fronts; one is the question of course contents, the other is the broad issue of what tertiary education is supposed to achieve.

Taking the second issue first. A recent Unleashed article 'Back to school' (2 May 08) revealed, yet again, a great deal of disappointment and dismay over the university experience for many students. The simple fact of the matter is that Australia followed the US experience, learning nothing from it, despite the clear warning in Barzun's 1968 book on The American University. The sector expanded too rapidly for the process of education to keep up: that is, the discovery of the disciplines and rewards of serious, though not pedantic, teaching, learning and scholarship. But that is a topic for another day.

On course contents, there is a need for a data base on what is being taught, a survey of course outlines and reading lists to identify courses that are not providing students with an introduction to the best thinkers and ideas in the field. This should lead to suggestions for improvements. This may be done in a manner that is contentious and divisive, but it should be possible to proceed in way that is illuminating and educational in its own right. The aim is to recruit the spirit of cooperative scholarship, using a base of evidence to advance the cause of learning and scholarship. There is no need to deny university teachers their own interests, their points of view and their politics. The question is how the courses stack up when they are examined in a climate of civil and robust debate.

The Liberal initiative has been smeared as an attempt to restrict freedom of speech. On the evidence in hand, it is no such thing. It is better described as a long overdue reaction to the radicalisation of the campuses in the aftermath of the Vietnam debate in the 1960s and 1970s.

The task of investigation, reporting and suggestions for improvements can start in a modest way, wherever people with time and energy are prepared to start the process. There was a small beginning a couple of decades ago, with a survey of courses in politics at the 21 universities at the time. It was very hard to find any reference to Hayek and his work. What is the situation today, how much has changed in two decades?

The process needs to be sustained and it needs to generate debate on campus and beyond, wherever there are people with an interest in the life of the mind, in education, in ideas, in maintaining good order in "the house of intellect" (as Barzun called it).


Friday, May 23, 2008

British student union rejects academic's IQ claims

The response from the Left has been a little more muted this time. No attempt to dispute the facts -- which have been well publicised at least since the work of Jensen in 1969, not to mention the big monograph by Herrnstein & Murray

Elite universities are failing to recruit working-class students because IQ is, on average, determined by social class, according to an academic. Bruce Charlton, a reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University, claims that the greater proportion of students from higher social classes at highly selective universities is not a sign of admissions prejudice but rather the result of simple meritocracy.

Student union leaders responded angrily to his claim, which was also dismissed by a minister. Charlton's paper, reported today in Times Higher Education, says: "The UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social-class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes. "Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented. Nevertheless, the accusation has been used to fuel a populist 'class war' agenda. Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes."

He argues: "The highly unequal class distributions seen in elite universities compared with the general population are unlikely to be due to prejudice or corruption in the admissions process. On the contrary, the observed pattern is a natural outcome of meritocracy. Indeed, anything other than very unequal outcomes would need to be a consequence of non-merit-based selection methods."

The National Union of Students described the paper as "wrong-headed, irresponsible and insulting". Gemma Tumelty, NUS president, said: "Of course, social inequality shapes people's lives long before they leave school, but the higher education sector cannot be absolved of its responsibility to ensure that students from all social backgrounds are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential ... many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds. This problem will not be addressed as long as academics such as Bruce Charlton are content to accept the status quo and do nothing to challenge the inherent class bias in education."

Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union for acedemic staff, said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. However, research has shown that students from state schools outperform their independent contemporaries when they reach university." Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, told the Times Higher Education that Charlton's arguments had a definite tone of "people should know their place".

Source. Another comment here

Australia: Reading, writing and all things irrelevant

Curricula have become political footballs

THE social engineers are hard at it again in our schools. Now they have added gambling studies to the endless list of non-core subjects required to be addressed in a day that is something less than six hours long. Across the state, teachers' cupboards are bulging with "resources" on road safety, personal health, obesity, safe foods, civic pride, values, drugs and alcohol, multi-culturalism, child protection, life skills, bullying and anti-homophobia. There's even a program now to teach rugby league in primary classrooms, promoting NRL players as role models for students. Not long ago it was recommended students be taught how to prepare for bushfires.

Despite a stream of warnings, schools are drowning in a sea of worthy but non-essential subjects peddled by well-meaning but misguided people -- usually politicians. It is generally accepted schools should spend at least 80 per cent of their time on key subjects of the curriculum, while the remaining 20 per cent is shared between an exhaustive list of other activities. Governments love to trumpet the success stories of the education system but thousands of students are still struggling with basic work such as reading, comprehension and numeracy.

Sure, the mandarins at the Department of Education and Training will claim they are getting round the problem of subject overload by integrating disciplines so that more than one can be studied at once. The idea is the kids can bone up on their numeracy skills while working on a gambling program. Or some literacy work can be included in lessons on personal health. But even with double or multi-skilling, the school day is in danger of becoming so overloaded with non-core subjects that the depth and quality of literacy and numeracy has to suffer.

For some time principals have feared their schools are becoming a dumping ground for programs that amount to little more than "social engineering". A few years back one school leader calculated that more than 60 extra education tasks were proposed in a 12-month period -- most of them by politicians or community interest groups. Many teachers believe most of these are issues that should be dealt with at home and are hot in claiming that parents have been abrogating their responsibilities.

Over the next three days a million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the first national assessments in literacy and numeracy. In a country as wealthy and healthy as Australia, good results will be expected. But our children and their teachers could be going into these tests ill-prepared. Maybe Prime Minister Kevin Rudd needs to call another 2020 summit to work out exactly how schools should be spending their precious time. Before all the programs piling up on their desks collapse under their own weight.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Galloping bureaucratic bloat ("non-instructional expenditure") is siphoning off the college tuition dollars

Across sectors of higher education, only a minority of spending by colleges supports direct instructional costs, according to a report being released today as part of an effort to reframe the debate over college costs. "The Growing Imbalance: Recent Trends in U.S. Postsecondary Education Finance," is the result of an unusual attempt to change the way colleges and policy makers analyze higher education. The report - issued for the first time today and now to be an annual project - examines not only revenues, but how colleges actually spend their money.

After years in which people have read about tuition going up, and about state support covering smaller shares of public higher education budgets, the idea is to focus on what results from these and other trends. Some of the findings challenge conventional wisdom - such as the widely quoted belief that the top expense for higher education is the personnel costs associated with professors and other employees.

The report was produced by the Delta Cost Project, part of the Lumina Foundation for Education's Making Opportunity Affordable program. The overarching thesis of the work is that higher education will do a better job of serving students if everyone is aware of where the money goes - not just how much college costs. By examining the different spending patterns at different types of institutions, the report notes growing gaps among sectors and among items receiving financial support. For example, spending per student at private research universities is almost twice that of public research universities.

The following data show both the public-private gap and the relatively small share of funds that goes to instructional costs (faculty and departmental costs related to what goes on in the classroom), compared to other education-related costs (such as student services and admissions) and non-educational costs (primarily research and service activities).

While the disparities in these figures alone may raise questions to many people, the report notes other factors that may make the figures even more troublesome. One is that spending per student at public community colleges and master's institutions has gone down, as enrollments have grown and increases in support for these institutions have been modest. Another key factor is that the institutions that spend less and are heading downward in spending per student are the very institutions (along with for-profit institutions) that are enrolling a disproportionate number of the minority and first generation college students whose arrival in higher education is seen by many as crucial to the country's economic success.

Further, across sectors, spending on instruction has become relatively flat, and is increasing at slower rates than in the past. For example, at private research universities, the report finds that the average percentage change in median spending per full-time enrolled student on instruction was 2.2 percent in the period 1987-1996. But in the period 1998-2005, the increase was only 1 percent. (For public research universities, the figures were 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent in those two periods.) Jane Wellman, executive director of the project and author of the report (along with Donna M. Desrochers and Colleen M. Lenihan), said that while the data are not shocking to those who work in the field, "a lot of people will be surprised that the big driver of spending is not instruction."

Another surprise to some, although probably not to those at public colleges, will be the gap in public-private spending rates. "The private research universities are really pulling away," she said.

In addition, the data raise questions about some of the common strategies suggested for public higher education to support its mission at a time of constrained state budgets. While the data clearly show that public research universities attract considerable research support, that money is for specific projects and has not closed the gap in instructional spending, Wellman said. Further, even as public colleges have raised tuition and raised much more money from private sources, those funds have only made up for some of the losses in state support and have not allowed public higher education to keep up with the privates.

Too many legislators, Wellman said, believe that "if you cut money for higher ed, you can replace it" with tuition revenue and fund raising. The reality, she said, is that "there is no more private money pay for the enterprise than there was 20 years ago." "They can't fund raise their way out of this," she said.

The dramatic gaps between public and private spending are in large part attributable to the category of non-instructional, education related costs. At research universities, private spending is more than twice public spending per FTE.

This is where spending is on "amenities and the arms race" of competition, Wellman said - especially in student services. Many critics of higher education focus on this type of spending, equating it with the much discussed competition for the best climbing walls in campus recreation centers. Wellman stressed that much of the spending in this category is actually very focused on education: computing, advising services, counseling services and so forth. Much of this spending is also "consumer driven," in that colleges are responding to their perceptions of services that students and parents want, she added.

Wellman stressed that the idea of pointing out this and other spending patterns was not to declare such spending bad, but to ask questions about whether it was justified by evidence. "Better counseling might be a cost-effective expenditure," she said. But the question colleges may want to ask is whether they can show that. Does spending on a new writing center translate into better student performance in the classroom and in turn to better completion rates? Asking such questions, Wellman said, would help colleges identify both areas for improvement and areas for cost savings (or even more spending).

Similarly, she said that focusing on spending will draw attention to the questionable impact of tuition discounting. Advocates of tuition discounting tend to focus on the impact on applications or yield rates. But looking at spending draws attention to the way tuition discounting (when not needed to provide access for low-income students) reduces tuition revenue, and in turn reduces available funds to spend on educational needs.

Along with the data on spending categories, the report includes sections examining tuition and demographic trends. But the portion of the report that is notably different from other analyses is the emphasis on spending. In keeping with the idea of the Delta Project, the data are being made available for use by colleges and others seeking to do their own analyses. Regional groupings - broken down by sector - are also available on the project's Web site.

What this all adds up to in the report may depress those writing tuition checks. For while the report finds evidence of cost cutting, especially in the public sector, there is no evidence that the changes have led to tuition reductions. And so students are left with insufficient data, the report says, on what they are getting for their tuition dollars. There may be good answers, but the report suggests that they haven't been offered in enough detail to date - either by colleges or by the state lawmakers who are making decisions that dictate both tuition rates and college spending patterns.

In the report's closing section, it poses two questions: "Are college tuitions rising because spending is growing? If so, where is the money going?" The answer: "For more than three-quarters of the students enrolled in higher education, the answer is no: Students at public institutions are paying for a higher proportion of costs, but their money is not translating into a higher level of service. These students are paying more, and getting less. For students in private, nonprofit institutions, the answer is clearly yes: Students are paying more, and the institutions are spending more. But even here, there is not clear evidence that greater spending is translating to improvements in degree productivity."


Official admission: Big failures in British schools

Progress in raising school standards has "stalled", amid fears that the attainment gap between rich and poor shows no signs of closing, the Chief Inspector of Schools suggested yesterday. Christine Gilbert, the head of Ofsted, said it was unacceptable that 20 per cent of pupils still failed to master basic English and maths when they left primary school, while 10 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds who dropped out of education were not in work.

The link between these two groups of underperformers was very strong and was showing no sign of weakening, she said. "We are not seeing enough movement there. The gap between the `haves' and the `have-nots' is not reducing quickly enough," Ms Gilbert said. "We think standards have stalled and we think we need to accelerate improvement, and we are looking at ways of doing that."

Ms Gilbert's comments appear to contradict claims by ministers of "unprecedented improvements" and a continual and "unarguable evidence of rising achievement" in school standards.

They come after research from the Conservatives suggesting that the school system is dividing children along social and economic lines. Fewer than a third of children in the most deprived 10 per cent of households in England gain at least five GCSEs, including English and maths, at grades A* to C. In those areas that make up the richest 10 per cent, more than half do.

Ms Gilbert, outlining radical reforms to England's school inspections, said that they would be more tailored to the performance of individual schools, with greater focus on underperforming schools. Rather than study overall or average school performance, inspectors would focus more on the progress made by different groups of children, including the weakest and the most vulnerable as well as the brightest.

Under the reforms, failing schools will be monitored two or three times a year. Schools judged as "satisfactory" will be inspected every three years, unless they are struggling to improve, in which case they will receive inspections every 12 to 18 months. The best schools will be subjected to a "light touch" inspection every six years, with a short monitoring "health check" after three years.

Ms Gilbert said that GCSEs and national curriculum tests results may play a greater part in inspectors' judgments in future. Inspectors will also take more account of the views of parents in deciding when a school needs to be inspected, through conducting regular surveys. Pupils will also be surveyed regularly. In addition to being asked how happy, healthy and safe they feel, they may be asked how bored they are at school, Ms Gilbert said. A consultation on how Ofsted will fulfil a new government requirement to measure child wellbeing will begin over the summer.

Ms Gilbert said that the inspectorate would trial "lightning" inspections, in which teachers would receive no warning before a visit, so that Ofsted could "see the school as it really is". Schools currently receive two days' warning of an Ofsted inspection. Inspectors are likely to spend more time observing lessons, but no inspection will last longer than two days.

Teachers criticised the proposals, which are open to consultation until August 11. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the "punitive" inspection system would lead staff to resign. "I can see no virtue in nonotice inspections. Schools will feel that an inspection visit is the equivalent of Russian roulette, and inspectors could visit when half the school is on a school trip," she said.

Nansi Ellis, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, questioned the idea of enabling parents to trigger an inspection. "We would like parents to take any concerns about a school to the school itself in the first instance, with the confidence the school will sort out any problems," she said.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Democrats for School Choice

When Florida passed a law in 2001 creating the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program for underprivileged students, all but one Democrat in the state legislature voted against it. Earlier this month, lawmakers extended the program – this time with the help of a full third of Democrats in the Legislature, including 13 of 25 members of the state's black caucus and every member of the Hispanic caucus. What changed?

Our guess is that low-income parents in Florida have gotten a taste of the same school choice privileges that middle- and upper-income families have always enjoyed. And they've found they like this new educational freedom. Under the scholarship program, which is means-tested, companies get a 100% tax credit for donations to state-approved nonprofits that provide private-school vouchers for low-income families.

The program already serves some 20,000 students. The expansion will allow it to assist an additional 6,000. It's no surprise that poor families would embrace educational options, given that their government-assigned schools are clearly failing their children. The high school graduation rate for black students in Florida is 45% overall, 38% for black males. The 52% graduation rate for Hispanics is also nothing to brag about.

What's encouraging is that these parents have managed to convey their pro-choice sentiments to their representatives, who are responding even though voucher programs infuriate powerful liberal special interest groups like the teachers unions. Given that 70% of the program participants are black or Hispanic, you'd think Democrats would be taking the lead on a measure that mostly benefits their traditional constituency. Apparently they needed a little prodding, but we're glad to see they did the right thing.


Amazing: Australian schoolkids to do a serious study of Australian literature

But only in NSW -- and even there the "greats" (Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, C.J. Dennis) seem to be missing

HIGH school students in NSW will have to study at least four works of Australian literature by the end of Year 10 under changes to the English syllabus. The NSW Board of Studies has reworked the English syllabus for primary and secondary students to promote Australian literature in the classroom. The changes specify the study of printed literature - books, poems and plays - over multimedia forms such as film, television shows and websites.

The move follows a directive last year from NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca to strengthen the study of Australian literature in schools. Mr Della Bosca yesterday said a study of Australian literature was important in providing a sense of identity and insight into our national culture. "While Australian literature is already featured across the primary and secondary English syllabuses, these proposals will help to ensure that all students experience the wisdom, knowledge, and talent of our authors," he said. The board will start consultations with teachers later thismonth to draw up lists ofsuggested books and writers for study. The changes could be phased in as early as next year.

Books currently recommended for primary school students include Animalia by Graeme Base, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, Five Times Dizzy by Nadia Wheatley, and Father Sky and Mother Earth by Oodgeroo Noonuccal. In high schools, suggested books for Years 7 to 10 include Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson. Senior students already study Australian literature including Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang, David Malouf's Fly Away Peter, Patrick White's The Aunt's Story and Tim Winton's Cloudstreet.

But the board is proposing a new Year 11 module for Extension English students in Australian literature, covering traditional and contemporary writers. In primary schools, the new syllabus directs that students are given "a substantial experience of Australian literature". This includes regular reading, with the teacher, in groups or independently, of Australian picture books as well as extended study and close study, either as a class or in groups, of novels and poetry. The syllabus also suggests units of work that cross other subject areas, using a detailed study of Australian literature as a link into teaching history, for example.

High school students in Years 7-8 and 9-10 are already required to study at least two works of fiction, films, non-fiction books, drama and a wide range of poetry for each two-year period. The syllabus will now be changed to require that at least two works covering all the genres be "drawn from different types of Australian literature in the print medium". "The selected texts must include Australian literature and other Australian texts including those that give insights into Aboriginal experiences and multicultural experiences in Australia," it says.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Morehouse And The Myth Of “Diversity”

Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

Morehouse College in Atlanta, alma mater of Martin Luther King Jr. and widely regarded as one of the top colleges in the country, and the best for black men, has just made the news by graduating the first white valedictorian in its 141 year history. I’m not sure how many non-black students were enrolled at Morehouse this year, but I’m sure there weren’t many. Back in 1998 an article mentioned that a freshman from Indianapolis “was one of two white full-time students at Morehouse this year,” and added:
Enrollment of white students at Morehouse, founded in 1867, varies from none some years to two or three in a year, said a spokesman.

But wait. Haven’t we loudly, insistently, and incessantly been told that without pigmentary “diversity” there can be no real education? How can “segregated” Morehouse be so successful? By 1998, it’s clear, Morehouse was clearly feeling a bit defensive about its absence of “diversity.”
“Morehouse has always had a diverse, international faculty and staff,” college president Walter E. Massey. “For years ... the school maintained an interracial vision and hosted interracial conferences in defiance of Georgia’s Jim Crow laws.”

So can we assume that if an institution has an “interracial vision” it doesn’t have to actually be interracial? This sounds like “diversity for thee, but not for me.” Not at all, says Sterling Hudson, currently dean of admissions at Morehouse.
I think some of our alumni are a little nervous about a white student graduating from Morehouse with all of its rich history for producing African-American male leaders. But I don't think it's contradictory at all.... “We’re not aggressively pursuing white students,” says Hudson. “But like every other college, we’re interested in diversity. So, if a white student becomes interested in Morehouse — of course we are going to treat him like any other student.”

Of course in this regard Morehouse is not at all like — it’s more like the polar opposite of — every other selective college in the country, all of whom, in the name of “diversity,” are aggressively competing for and courting the unfortunately small pool of highly qualified minority students. “Of course” those other colleges do anything but “treat [minority applicants] like any other student[s].” But that’s not all Hudson said. He continued:
“The interesting thing about [valedictorian] Josh [Packwood]’s experience is that he had a full Morehouse experience,” says Hudson. “When he marches across the stage on May 18 and receives his diploma, he’s going to be a Morehouse Man in every way — except ethnicity.” “I don’t think ethnicity makes the difference; it’s what’s in his heart.”

Perhaps the rest of selective higher education in this country should follow the lead laid out by Morehouse and its valedictorian.
“What Morehouse stands for at the end of the day, and what Dr. King epitomized, it’s not about black or white, it’s about the content of [a person’s] character,” says Packwood. “It’s about me, representing Morehouse in that light -- not as a white man or a black man.”

I suppose there’s nothing ironic about Martin Luther King’s vision being, even if somewhat awkardly, alive and well at his alma mater while the remainder of selective higher education institutions in the country trip over themselves and each other in their racial classifying and their frantic attempts to produce racial balancing. It’s not ironic; it’s worse.

Pro-Abortion Expression Permitted, Pro-Life Forbidden at a major Australian University

The Student Union at Queensland University have shown themselves to be opposed to differing opinion and free speech like many other secular universities around the world. The school's Newman Society has been censored and threatened with disaffiliation from the student union because union leaders believed the group's "pro-woman" and "pro-pregnancy" campaign took a stand against abortion. The poster and leaflets, displayed on a booth outside the student caf,, did not mention abortion but featured a photograph of an eight week old child in the womb, and offered compassion and support for young women who might find themselves facing the difficult challenge of an unplanned pregnancy.

Elise Nally, third-year applied science student and Newman Society secretary, said in a report by The Australian that the union's action was totalitarian and against free speech. "I'd like to know what laws we've broken," Nally said. "The union is acting like a dictator."

Joshua Young, president of the student union, gave this explanation for the union's actions against Catholics on campus: "I know the Newman Society thinks the union is being heavy handed, but the student union voted in 1993 for free, safe abortion on demand so all women have a genuine choice when faced with unwanted pregnancy." From a student body of 30,000, a total of approximately 3,500 voted in the 1993 referendum, with about 1900 in favor of abortion rights, 1400 against, and 200 abstaining. When asked if the vote precludes other views being advocated in campus debate, Young said, "It does."

The Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA), which represents Catholic students in schools throughout Australia, issued a statement criticizing the decision of the student union. The statement said that pro-life groups had been active at the University of Queensland for five years after the student referendum's passage in 1993 and no disciplinary action was taken against them. The ACSA argued that the referendum only established the school as a pro-choice campus, and did not require any particular viewpoint to be suppressed.

"ACSA is concerned that the use of a 15 year old referendum by the UQ Union to take disciplinary action against the Society raises serious concerns for students' freedom of speech and the implications this might have on other student groups at The University of Queensland," the statement declared.

ACSA National President Camillus O'Kane said that, "if the truth becomes something we can simply vote for, it becomes a weapon that can be used against others. This is why freedom of speech is one of the guiding principles of our society. It is a shame that this incident has occurred at one of Australia's leading universities, a place of learning where we should be able to express our views freely."


Monday, May 19, 2008

"Zero tolerance": For student safety or to control them?

Massacre. Suicide-bombing. Mass murder. Conspiracy. WMDs. They love those inflammatory words, don't they? Not just adolescents, who use the words as adolescents would, without gauging their impact, but also law enforcement types, who should know better. The climate that makes chatter of school shootings so endemic can be attributed to the few deranged souls who think up mayhem fantasies in their miserable little journals and cyber-caves. But they're not the only ones responsible.

"Massacre" and "conspiracy to commit murder" were the words (and official charges) of choice when three DeLand Middle School seventh-graders were arrested in March after their "plot" to gun down other students and themselves was uncovered. "The investigators determined the students did not appear to have weapons or means to carry out the threats," a Volusia County Sheriff's spokesman said soon after their arrest. Nevertheless, word of a massacre averted and severe punishment deserved spread through the community. The three children's grind through the system is only beginning.

What, so far as we know, had these children done? One of them posted threatening messages and satanic idiocies on his MySpace page, along with the obligatory references to the Columbine school massacre. No matter how baseless, those references have become iconic for anyone angling for his 15 minutes of fearsome fame. Innumerable journal entries by seething adolescents, in print and online, are no doubt filled with Columbine fantasies. They're ignored, as adolescent scrawls generally (or absent more incriminating evidence) should be regardless of medium. Once in a while they're "uncovered." What should be the occasion for a parent-child reality check, a dressing down or at most a trip to the local counselor, is turned over to law enforcement instead. The cycle of public fear and sensationalism kicks in. For the children in question, humiliation and cruelty (what any form of juvenile-criminal proceedings and detention consist of these days) follow.

There's been a spate of alleged plots in schools lately, locally and elsewhere. Spring is the season of threats. It's stupid students' way of commemorating the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, which took place April 20, 1999 and April 16, 2007, claiming 47 lives between them (the three gunmen included). Earlier this month two schools in New Smyrna Beach swirled with rumors of an attack. Since April, Malcolm X College and St. Xavier University in Chicago, Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., and three parochial schools in Michigan all closed when threats scribbled their way around each campus. Tales of suspicious backpacks, rumors endowed with the power of errant bullets and bad jokes elevated to threat levels worthy of the Department of Homeland Security's paranoia locked down or shut down schools in Oveido, Pittsburgh and South Bend.

And police in Chesterfield County, S.C., in what's becoming a habit of pre-emptive arrests based on private thoughts rather than action, arrested a high school senior who'd been writing threatening messages in his journal for up to a year. He'd referred to an alleged suicide-bombing plot against his own high school as "Columbine III." The boy's parents tipped off police in that one. The boy was charged, if you can believe this, with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

What almost all these allegations have in common is disproportion -- the disproportionate fantasies of the alleged perpetrators, whose frames of reference are cribbed from a culture that blurs the lines between video games, entertainment, celebrity and violence; and the disproportionate response from schools and law enforcement, whose overzealous narratives incite fear by feeding into overheated anxieties. But there's glamour in the language of violence and humiliation. Witness the Daytona Beach police chief's fetish for the word "scumbag," now emblazoned (as "scumbag eradication team") with an obscene image on shirts for the teenagers in the department's Police Explorer program. There's power in the language of violence supposedly averted, even if the upshot of it all is more irrational fear, not more security, and more children slammed into a juvenile-justice system designed to scare and punish, not heal and reintegrate.

We live, it's true, in one of the most violent states in the most violent society of the developed world, the most crime-ridden, the most prison-happy (2.3 million people behind bars and rising). Schools might reflect their world. But sensational incidents aside, schools remain among the safest quasi-public spaces anywhere -- not because they've been turned into fortresses of discipline and order, which they have, but because schools are simply not useful to criminals. Rather, they're being made too useful to the policing mentality of zero-tolerance discipline, perpetual surveillance and unquestioned authority that mirrors a larger transformation of society. Security is the excuse. But obedience to authority has little to do with security, and everything to do with control. Schools in this bogus age of terror are the cheapest, most impressionable, most unquestioning incubators of mass submission.


Assessing British children can only improve their education

The whingeing [whining] about tests for 11-year-olds last week was predictable and depressing. To sum up what Chris Woodhead says below: The "experts" are offering little more than feelgood crap

Last week MPs on the education select committee jumped on what might well now be an unstoppable bandwagon and demanded an urgent rethink of the national curriculum tests in primary schools. Terrified by the prospect of a poor league table position, too many schools were, its members argued, force-feeding their pupils. Joy, spontaneity and creativity have been driven from the classroom. Something must be done, and now.

The fact that the problem might lie not with the tests, but with teachers who cannot accept the principle of accountability does not seem to have occurred to the committee. Neither did its members explain how problems in failing schools can be solved if we do not know which schools are failing.

At the moment, children are assessed by teachers in English and maths at seven and sit more formal tests in English, maths and science at 11. Two periods of testing in four years of primary education. What’s wrong, moreover, with some preparation for tests if the tests assess worthwhile skill and knowledge?

I have to confess to a dreadful sense of deja vu. Sixteen years ago the then Tory education secretary, Ken Clarke, horrified by the sloppiness he found in many of the primary schools he visited, asked Robin Alexander and Jim Rose to research what became known as the Three Wise Men report. I was the third wise man, parachuted in later to represent the interests of the fledgling national curriculum.

Now Professor Alexander is heading up a review of primary education, funded by a charitable foundation, and Sir Jim Rose has been asked by ministers, eager not to be upstaged, to mount his own investigation – though testing has been excluded from the terms of his report.

In retrospect, the Three Wise Men report was one of my more amusing professional experiences. At the time it was a nightmare. Jim Rose is a nice man, but he is not the Clint Eastwood of primary education. Consensus makes his day. I found that Robin Alexander bridled at any challenge to his opinions. He elevated preciousness into an art form. Working with him was marginally less stressful than being married to Heather Mills.

It was touch and go, but in the end we did it, and Robin even turned up for the press conference. The importance of subject knowledge; the need for teachers to teach the whole class and to stop trying to engage individual pupils; the vital role of assessment: the report emphasised commonsense educational truths that had been drowned by a tsunami of child-centred 1960s twaddle.

For all his prickliness, I never knew what Robin Alexander really thought. Now I think I do. Interim reports from his review show that he may well be part of the malaise Ken Clarke tried to cure. Reading a recent lecture he gave, I found just one reference to “teaching”, and that very much in passing. Instead he waxed lyrical about how children are “natural and active learners”; how learning takes place everywhere; how children learn from each other and not just adults; and how “we need to engage with and listen to children, and not just talk at them”.

There is a truth, of course, in each of these platitudes. What worries me is the sub text, which actually is not that sub. Throughout the lecture he cites evidence that his inquiry has uncovered – of “the loss of childhood”, of the “overcrowded” primary curriculum, of our “high stakes national testing regime” and of “teachers’ anxieties about league tables, inspection and the somewhat punitive character of school accountability”. Professor Alexander may, of course, choose to reject this evidence but the burden of much that has been said thus far suggests this is unlikely.

My prediction would be that this primary review will reject most, if not all, of the educational reforms that have taken place since 1990. I can understand why teachers who never accepted these reforms might applaud. But why are so many politicians and parents buying into a proposition that would kill off any hope that state education might improve?

Isn’t it obvious? The better a teacher teaches, the more a child will learn. The key to higher standards is better teaching. By which I mean: teachers who have real knowledge of and passion for the subjects they teach, the highest possible expectations of each and every child, and, obviously, the classroom teaching skills needed to keep order and inspire and enthuse their pupils. We do not need research and reviews into the nature of primary education. We need a remorseless determination to implement these commonsense truths.

Plus, of course, a system of national testing. Robin Alexander appears to be siding with those in the world of education who hate the fact that the tests shine the bright light of accountability into the murky corners of failing and complacent schools. Thus far the government is defending the tests. For once ministers are doing the right thing.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jihad supporters on campus

Below is an email from David Horowitz []

On Monday night, I spoke at the University of California-Santa Barbara about Islamo-Fascism - the ideology of the radical Muslims dedicated to our destruction. Throughout the talk I was heckled, jeered, and cursed - standard treatment on our campuses for anyone trying to rally students to defend America against the jihad. Leading the attempt to disrupt my appearance were members of the Muslim Student Association and their sympathizers.

Tuesday I spoke at the University of California-Irvine - a school that right now in the midst of a weeklong celebration of jihad and terror. The occasion - although it seems these days that supporters radical Islam don't need an excuse to call for violence against Israel and America- was what members of the Muslim Student Association the Nakba or "catastrophe," which is what they call the creation of Israel 60 years ago.

At both universities I called on the Muslim Student Association to denounce the calls for genocide that come daily from Iran's Ahmadinejad and from the leaders of Hamas and Hizbollah. Neither group would take this stand.

Nor is this virulence restricted to universities in California. You'll see in this email that I've reproduced the cartoon attack on me and on the Freedom Center's work in exposing the threat of jihad in America - by the Muslim Student Association at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This cartoon is right out of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Take a good look at it. The anti Semitic hate for anyone who dares disclose what is at the heart of the Islamo-fascist movement oozes off the page. How dare I, or anyone, expose the professors and students on our campuses who serve as apologists for the butchers of jihad?

Of course that is precisely what we're doing with our Terrorist Awareness Project (TAP), and, more specifically, our recent Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week on campuses across the nation - including Wisconsin-Milwaukee. We are exposing the secret agenda of pro-terrorist supporters across the nation, especially on the campuses of our universities. And we're also showing how the Muslim Brotherhood, godfather to al Qaeda and Hamas, helped create the Muslim Student Association and other Muslim student groups as part of its stealth jihad against American institutions.

Founded in Egypt in the late 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood has long used violence as the primary means to its end -- strict compliance to Sharia law, death to all Jews, the oppression of all non-believers, and Muslim rule across the globe. That the ultra-radical, rabidly violent Muslim Brotherhood lurks behind the scenes of Muslim Student Associations across the nation should be of concern to every American!

The theme of our most recent lslamo Fascism Awareness Week was a "Declaration Against Genocide" - the genocide against the Jews first called for by Islam's prophet Mohammed and echoed with increasing menace by radical Islamists in the Middle East and on American college campuses today.

How serious are they about this new genocide? The Muslim Student Association at the University of Southern California has the call for genocide on its website, verbatim. "The Prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time [of judgment] will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them, until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!"

Radical Islam is fascism by another name. And across our nation, our universities - funded by your tax dollars - are harboring what amounts to indoctrination cells for Islamo-Fascism. These universities are allowing these Muslim Student Associations to masquerade as harmless cultural and religious organizations, rather than the front groups for jihad that they are. Not only this, university administrators and student governments are funding these MSA chapters so that they can preach hate and incite violence.

So, today, following my encounters with hatred at UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Freedom Center is launching a campaign dedicated to exposing the bond between the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Student Associations!

We've just published a pamphlet, The Muslim Student Association and The Jihad Network which details the relationship between the violent Muslim Brotherhood and American MSAs. We need to get this into the hands of college students concerned about this front group for terror, and to university administrators, policy makers and members of Congress. This is the first step of our fall campaign to send speakers onto more than 100 university campuses to engage the Muslim Student Association in its lair.

You can get a copy of the pamphlet and donate to David's campaign here

The great difficulty of real scholarship in America today

By America's premier Herman Melville expert, Professor Hershel Parker

When I started research on my dissertation in 1962 I met two candidates for the PhD at Columbia who were amused that Northwestern was offering doctorates and curious about what kind of dissertation I was writing that would involve my going to New York City. When I told them I was going to the New York Public Library or the New-York Historical Society every day to read nineteenth-century newspapers and copy out nineteenth-century letters about Melville and politics, they were dumbstruck. They had a great story to regale their fellow students and their teacher Richard Chase with at Columbia, this guy from the Midwest going to the libraries every day and looking at old newspapers and manuscripts! In 1962, a graduate student going to the archives as if the New Criticism had never triumphed! Almost every graduate student in the Ivy League knew that biographical and historical evidence was irrelevant to interpretation, just as the early New Critics had said in the late 1940s. And here I was coming all the way to New York to look for biographical information! They were too polite to laugh outright, but the way they kept rolling their eyes at each other showed they thought this was the quaintest damned thing they had ever heard. It probably was.

'In 1962 and for many years afterwards I would find that no scholar had ever called for a box of documents or that no one had called for it since one of my teacher's colleagues had consulted it in the 1940s. During the 1940s Stanley T. Williams at Yale had looked at the low quality of work on Melville and had determined that his best graduate students would do biographical-historical dissertations on Melville. When Williams retired in 1953, biographical scholarship died at Yale. Taught by one of Williams's students, Harrison Hayford, I built much of my career on meticulous establishment of chronology. Once in the 1970s, as I explain in my and Brian Higgins's Reading Melville's 'Pierre; or, The Ambiguities' (LSU Press, 2006), p. 199, I laid out the known documents in sequence and helplessly quoted to myself Mr. Compson from Absalom, Absalom!: 'It just does not explain.' Then I realized that none of us had seen one of the documents in full, and that document, sent to me from Houghton Library, solved the puzzle. My devotion to chronology remains: my computerized expansion of the 900 page The Melville Log (1951) (the work of a film scholar, Jay Leyda, not a professor of English) runs to around 9,000 pages. In the long course of transcribing nineteenth-century manuscripts and items from newspapers and books for my electronic New Melville Log in the 1980s and 1990s, I discovered dozens of wholly unknown episodes in Melville's life.

'While I was pursuing my own way, the New Critical repudiation of biographical and historical research continued under different guises, and more virulently. The original New Critics of the 1940s had been trained as scholars back in the 1920s and 1930s. They were ruling out consideration of biographical information in criticism, but they were quite familiar with their authors' biographies. Charles Feidelson, who replaced Williams at Yale in American Literature, had not been so rigorously trained, and each successive generation of teachers and each successive critical movement moved farther and farther away from scholarship until at last Yale was represented by Richard Brodhead and then by Wai-chee Dimock.

'Even textual critics avoided scholarship or at least gave others a way of avoiding it. James Thorpe in the 70s then Jerome McGann in the 1980s championed not texts closest to the author's original intention but texts that got published with the help of family, friends, editors, and publishers--the 'socialized' product. The great appeal of McGann's approach in the 1980s was that it reduced or eliminated work: all the new textual editor really needed to do was identify a text supervised by an editor and base his edition on it. Certainly the textual editor did not need to try to read a difficult manuscript in order to recover what the author wrote, for McGann had repudiated the idea of the author as fiery creator and ultimate authority.

'My own Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons (1984) was less appealing because it celebrated the author's creative process as I established it from working with manuscripts and revisions. In Much Labouring: The Texts and Authors of Yeats's First Modernist Books (1997), David Holdeman said that I 'might almost be regarded as 'McGann's 'anti-self' (to use a Yeatsian term)': 'Like McGann, Parker contests the ontological assumptions of Greg-Bowers editing and of the criticism it underpins, but he interests himself entirely in authorial texts and meanings, constructing a hermeneutics that privileges manuscripts and those early creative processes that he believes are affected least by sociohistorical contexts.' No editor wanted to hear about the creative process. One follower of McGann, Jack Stillinger, in the revealingly entitled Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius (1991), called me the 'most extreme theorist of textual primitivism to date'; my greatest sin, he thought, was believing that 'genuine art is coherent.' Jonathan Wordsworth, another primitivist, and I should have rushed to embrace late, watered-down, dumbed-down 'socialized' texts.

'In the 1970s the latest chic form of the New Criticism was 'Reader Response Criticism,' which once again banished the author from consideration. What counted was the Almighty Reader, the true maker of the meaning. The trouble was that the author kept recurring because his or her name was attached to books. Roland Barthes in 1967 published his influential 'Death of the Author,' and in 'What is an Author?' (1977) Michel Foucault argued for denying the existence of the author while acknowledging an 'author function.' Yet inexplicably Foucault kept cautiously copyrighting his own books just as if he were the real author.

'In the 1970s and 1980s, American imitators of the French Deconstructionists played at dismantling texts but did no textual investigating of their own and ignored all the challenging examinations of major American novels then going on. New Critics and Deconstructionists alike preferred the Appleton The Red Badge of Courage (the product of the social process in which the editor, Ripley Hitchcock, made cuts which had disproportionately massive effects in the little book) while not wanting to read the original version (almost all of which could be reconstructed, I decided, and was in due course reconstructed by my student Henry Binder). Crane critics rushed to defend the expurgated Red Badge, on which they had built their reputations. Now, Mike, people who live in the real world rather than the Ivory Tower understand censorship when they see it. Hitchcock's arrogant hacking away at Zane Grey's texts is well documented, and Jon Tuska in his Foreword to his restored version of Zane Grey's Shower of Gold (2007) happily quotes me as the authority on what Hitchcock achieved with his censoring.

'In the 1980s the latest fad, 'New Historicism,' sounded far more rigorous than 'New Criticism' but it was not new 'Historical' research, not at all. Typically, a New Historicist like Wai-chee Dimock, hired by Richard Brodhead at Yale, acted as if all historical research had stopped early in the 20th century, say the 1930s. Real historians had done nothing after that on Manifest Destiny, she was sure. New Historicists (by now who was surprised?) dismissed the author and consciously tried to repress mention of the author lest he push the Almighty Critic out of the limelight. What was important was not Shakespeare the creative genius and real-life theatre man of his time but the general Zeitgeist, in which a particular author (and an author's particularities) were not of significance. Uniqueness and creative power was always to be distrusted and suppressed. The place of power was held by the Critic, and only Critics gained tenure.

'You can observe the perversely misused power of the academic establishment in strange places. Look at the horror Michael D. Coe coolly describes in Breaking the Maya Code (1992). After the dazzling work of amateurs (at 18 David Stuart was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship!) and some unruly, atypical scholars in deciphering the Maya hieroglyphs, most of the tenured Maya archaeologists turned their backs on the new discoveries. Coe reports that most field archaeologists 'are almost totally illiterate in the Maya script' and few 'if any' know the living Mayan tongue.' They can't read the hierglyphs and don't want to because the writing is primarily about kings, and they want to talk Marxist talk about the masses. As Coe says, 'Imagine someone calling himself an Egyptologist who couldn't read a hieroglyphic inscription, or a Sinologist tongue-tied in Chinese! How can illiterate scholars pretend to study a literate civilization?'

'Richard Brodhead either did not know that Melville had finished a book in 1853 and another in 1860 or else he lied about it in 2002 when he ignored decades of scholarship in order to make it seem that I had made these books up--which of course meant that I was not to be trusted on anything. In order to preserve the status quo in scholarship (that is, the 1921 status) he trashed me as a 'demon-researcher' on a voyage fated to sink, like Ahab's. Late in 2003 Robert Steel boasted that he was bringing a fine scholar to Duke. He brought the Brodhead who in 1996 had published THE SCHOOL OF HAWTHORNE without bothering to look in Sterling Memorial Library to see who had been enrolled in that class other than a few famous white men. In reaction, I gather from the preface, the forces of political correctness came down on Brodhead so brutally that he never risked their wrath again.

'The repudiation of the great creative genius continues. In the 11 April 2008 TLS Raymond Tallis looks at the latest form of this extreme exaltation of the Critic over the author, the invoking of 'neuroscience' in literary criticism: 'Norman Bryson, once a leading exponent of Theory and a social constructivist, has described his Damascene conversation, as a result of which he now places the firing of neurons, rather than signifiers at the heart of literary criticism.' As Tallis says, for many years now the literary work 'becomes a mere example of some historical, cultural, political, or other trend of which the author will have been dimly aware, if at all. The differences between one author and another are also minimized.' New terms (neurons!), old follies. Underlying all of these critical approaches which succeeded the 1940s New Criticism have been attempts to deny original creative genius (that is, to repress or expel the author from consideration, particularly an author with fierce originality) while exalting Critics themselves as the masters of the texts they are teaching.

More here