Saturday, November 01, 2008


Yesterday on the program we had a caller Jose. He brought up a lot of interesting points about Barack Obama and Bill Ayers ... and he believes that we have already begun a Marxist revolution in America - similar to that of Latin America. And he believes that this is happening through our government education system.

Now, it only took a 2-second Google search to find a speech that Bill Ayers made in Venezuela in 2006 at the World Education Forum. Before I give you some of the highlights, I want you to keep a few things in mind. According to Barack Obama, Bill Ayers is "just a professor of English in Chicago" and "a guy who lives down the street." Now if this man was "just" a professor, why is he being invited by Latin American dictators to speak at a World Education Forum? Bill Ayers is more than a professor; he is an icon for those hoping to revolutionize the American government education system.

I also want you to keep in mind that Bill Ayers and Barack Obama worked together on education reform in Chicago. We know the story ... Obama was the chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, serving with Bill Ayers. This $50 million fund awarded grants to groups that were trying to improve inner city education. And how did it do that ... not by giving money to the schools, but by giving money to other groups like the Small Schools Workshop. Ever heard of that? Well when Barack Obama was the chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he approved hundreds of thousands of dollars for this workshop ... which was an organization led by Bill Ayers and Michael Klonsky -- former chairman of both Students for a Democratic Society and the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). These are the people who Barack Obama thought would be best equipped to help the ailing inner city schools of Chicago.

There is so much more to this, folks. But it is completely beyond the understanding of government educated myrmidons who swoon at the sight of a "Change We Can Believe In Sign" ready for them to waive like a fool at some Obama rally. What I am driving at is that we know how much government education reform means to Barack Obama. And Bill Ayers was right by his side and a benefactor of Obama's support. We also know that when it comes to education in this country, as President, Barack Obama wants to make sure that your children are educated by the government. Vouchers? No way. Private schools? We'll see. This is a man who believes it is the government's job to educate your children ... and in his past the "educators" that Barack has turned to have been the likes of Bill Ayers.

Now what does Bill Ayers think about education and the United States? Let's return to that speech he made just 2 years ago at the World Education Forum in Venezuela.
I began teaching when I was 20 years old in a small freedom school affiliated with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The year was 1965, and I'd been arrested in a demonstration. Jailed for ten days, I met several activists who were finding ways to link teaching and education with deep and fundamental social change. They were following Dewey and DuBois, King and Helen Keller who wrote: "We can't have education without revolution. We have tried peace education for 1,900 years and it has failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now."

I walked out of jail and into my first teaching position-and from that day until this I've thought of myself as a teacher, but I've also understood teaching as a project intimately connected with social justice ...

Totalitarianism demands obedience and conformity, hierarchy, command and control. Royalty requires allegiance. Capitalism promotes racism and militarism - turning people into consumers, not citizens. Participatory democracy, by contrast, requires free people coming together voluntarily as equals who are capable of both self-realization and, at the same time, full participation in a shared political and economic life ...

Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failings of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome ... Venezuela is poised to offer the world a new model of education- a humanizing and revolutionary model whose twin missions are enlightenment and liberation.

When it comes to our government education system in this country, it might not even matter if Barack Obama is elected in this country. But under Barack Obama, I know that I can expect more federal government and less choice for parents


Canada: Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) are even more hypocritical than you thought - yes, it's possible

The idea behind Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) is to hook kids on hatred of the Jewish state while they are still wet behind the ears in their knowledge of Middle Eastern history, and vulnerable to the sophisticated play on emotions and pity these fulltime activists with no respect for truth bring to bear on their "victims."

It struck me as risibly hypocritical to see them all hot and bothered last week when Hasbara invited Israeli consul General Amir Gissin to speak at York University. Unwilling to subject him to the usual disruptive savaging Palestinian groups - particularly SAIA - routinely apply to pro-Israel speakers, Hasbara insisted on reserved seating. SAIA went ballistic, accusing Hasbara of "racial profiling." SAIA put out a statement: "SAIA believes the university is a space for open public debate, freedom of expression and thought, and one of the rare spaces to question systems of power, authority, and oppression. York University cannot be allowed to begin using police and security to ban students from attending public events on our own campus."

"Open public debate"? Let me take you back to last year's Israeli Apartheid Week on the University of Toronto campus. SAIA set up a full day session of anti-Zionist brainwashing for high school students. They had some other name for it but that was what it was. Nobody but high school students were allowed into the building, and even they had to have identity cards. Profiling? Ya' think? Nobody else was allowed in: no teachers, no parents, no older siblings.

I can't think of anything creepier or more inculpating than a closed-door session to which youngsters only are invited to listen to adult fanatics spewing hatred. So SAIA should just shut up about profiling, since they are the worst offenders in Canada in that department. If they knew the meaning of shame, they would stop lecturing real democrats on the nature of fairness or justice. But shame, like integrity, truth and fairness can only mean something to people with a conscience. And people with a conscience are the first to be "profiled" right out of SAIA.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Education: Obama says schools need more money, McCain wants more accountability

Though education has not figured prominently in the campaign, John McCain and Barack Obama have their proposals. Each falls squarely within their respective party's established political framework: Boiled down, Mr. Obama believes that schools require more resources and federal support, while Mr. McCain wants to introduce to the education system more choice and accountability.

School choice. Mr. McCain would pursue education reforms that institute equality of choice in the K-12 system. He would allow parents whose kids are locked into failing public schools to opt out, whether in favor of another public school, a charter school or through voucher or scholarship programs for private options. Parents, he believes, ought to have more control over their education dollars. Teachers' unions and school administrators find none of this amenable. Mr. McCain supports merit pay for teachers and would establish a bonus program for high-performing educators, as well as devote more funds toward attracting successful college graduates into the field. He would also give principals more control over their schools, including spending decisions, instead of district school boards.

Teachers. Mr. Obama prefers that students stay within the current system, though he acknowledges its many problems. A mainstay of his campaign is his promise to completely underwrite training costs in teacher preparation. He also supports continuing education and mentoring programs for current teachers. So that there is a "guarantee of quality," he backs mandatory professional accrediting for educators and proposes a "career ladder initiative" to reform teacher compensation and tenure to recognize expertise. During a recent speech to the American Federation of Teachers, Mr. Obama disparaged "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice."

No Child Left Behind. The 2001 legislation that introduced national performance standards and accountability to the schools remains a political live wire, particularly in regard to weak enforcement by the Department of Education. Mr. McCain has offered few specific reforms but generally supports the law's broad contours as a good start. Many of Mr. Obama's reform ideas would result in essentially suspending the law's accountability provisions, though not the Washington funding, which he says he would increase.

Early childhood education. Mr. Obama supports a universal preschool policy and says that his "zero-to-five" early education agenda "begins at birth." He would increase federal outlays for universal preschool education by $10 billion annually, handing the states block grants devoted to infants and toddlers. Mr. Obama also wants to expand eligibility for Head Start, the four-decade-old federal preschool program for low-income kids. Mr. McCain believes there is already a profusion of federal programs devoted to early child care and preschool, including Head Start and its many offshoots. He would try to better coordinate the programs and focus them on outcomes to reduce waste. To reward success, Mr. McCain wants to establish "centers of excellence," which would receive more Head Start funding and serve as models for underperforming institutions.

Public service. Though both candidates call on listeners to devote themselves to "causes greater than self-interest," Mr. Obama would see to it that they do, with a plan for "universal voluntary citizen service." In addition to doubling the size of the Peace Corps, he would create a Classroom Corps, a Health Corps, a Homeland Security Corps and a Clean Energy Corps, plus a Green Jobs Corps. Mr. Obama proposes a fully refundable tax credit of $4,000 for college students who complete 100 hours of community service a year ($40 an hour). He would make federal education aid conditional on high schools requiring students to perform 50 hours of service a year.

Higher education. Mr. Obama suggests expanding federal student aid programs, including Pell Grants, and says he will streamline college tax benefits, which are so complicated many students and families don't end up claiming them. Mr. McCain likes the tax simplification part. He also believes that earmarks have compromised the integrity of government-financed research at the nation's universities and promises to eliminate them (the earmarks, not the universities).



The University and College Union (UCU) is facing a court threat if it doesn't retract its decision to encourage members to question the ethics of contacts with universities in Israel. A group of as yet anonymous litigants, who are UCU members, are demanding repayment of any union funds spent on carrying out a national conference resolution which asked academics to consider the moral and political implications of their links with Israeli institutions. Via their solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, the litigants warn UCU that they will sue its four trustees individually for recovery of the money.

A year ago UCU accepted legal advice that its 2007 national conference motion for an academic boycott of Israel was unlawful and could not be implemented. At this year's conference in May, lecturers voted overwhelmingly to call on colleagues to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating".

Their general secretary, Sally Hunt, had warned delegates before the debate that UCU would need to take legal advice on what steps it could take to carry out the motion. The motion sparked off a heated debate and a succession of resignations from UCU members.

In a House of Lords debate, the former independent adjudicator for higher education, Baroness Deech, called on universities to derecognise the union. "These efforts to boycott, or to come as close as possible to a boycott, are contrary to race relations legislation and ultra vires the powers of the union," Deech said. "The UCU has created an atmosphere hostile to Jewish academics and to quality academic research and freedom in this country," Deech added.

On September 26, Mishcon de Reya wrote to Hunt warning her that unless UCU accepted within 14 days that the latest conference resolution was "ultra vires" - beyond its powers - a group of unnamed members would take it to court. As UCU members, its clients were entitled to sue the union and its trustees - Professor Neil Macfarlane, Fawzi Ibrahim, Dr Dennis Wright and Paul Russell - to force it to declare the resolution null and void, the letter said. And they would sue the trustees for the repayment of any money spent on implementing the resolution. If legal action is taken, the union members taking it will be identified, their solicitors say. The 14-day deadline for UCU to reply passed on Friday.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

British high school exams COULD be dumbed down unless watchdog steps in

What? Dumbed down any further?

Standards in GCSEs and A levels risk being dumbed down unless the new independent examinations watchdog is given statutory powers to force exam boards to maintain them, the Government has been warned.

In a highly unusual intervention into the debate about exam standards, Mike Cresswell, director-general of AQA, Britain's biggest exam board, has broken ranks with its rivals. In an interview with The Times, he has given warning that public confidence in the quality of GCSE and A level qualifications cannot be maintained unless the new exams watchdog, Ofqual, has sufficient muscle to prevent exam boards lowering their standards.

Ofqual was created by Gordon Brown and made independent from government precisely to put an end to the debate about the dumbing down of public examinations and to ensure that there could be no suspicion of government pressure on exam boards to set standards at particular levels. But Dr Cresswell believes there is a "major omission" from the proposals for Ofqual's powers. While it is empowered to force exam boards to follow certain procedures in the way they set and mark exams, it has no powers over what level they set standards at.

"Ofqual needs to be given an explicit statutory power to enable it, if necessary, to direct an awarding body to set standards at a particular level," Dr Cresswell said. "It needs to have this power so that it can give credible public assurance that standards are comparable between awarding bodies and maintained over time." Without statutory powers of intervention, Ofqual would be left to the mercy of exam boards, he added. "A regulator who is there to uphold public confidence in standards can't be in a position where it has to negotiate with the exam boards over standards."

Dr Cresswell added: "The awarding bodies compete for entries. They don't compete on standards. If Ofqual had this power [to enforce standards], it would make it much more difficult for that to ever begin."

The main exam boards work closely together in developing qualifications, but there is a tension in their relationship, as they are competing with each other within a finite but lucrative market place. Schools and colleges pay about 400 pounds million a year in fees to exam boards. Mr Cresswell's warning comes after a disagreement this summer between England's three exam boards, which set their own GCSE and A-level papers, about standards in the new GCSE single science exam. The three boards met in August to discuss grade boundaries. They failed to come to an agreement over the mark needed to get a C, officially a good pass. One of AQA's rival boards awarded Cs in one paper to pupils who got only 20 per cent of questions correct and would not back down from this position. Negotiations between the boards broke down.

AQA was eventually persuaded by Ofqual to reduce its own grade boundaries to bring it into line with the other boards, even though it did not think this sufficient to maintain standards. Dr Cresswell agreed to the move "under protest" because he did not want to disadvantage the half-million pupils who had taken his board's science exam. "Plainly, we couldn't possibly have a situation where children doing our exam would be judged against harsher standards than children doing other boards," he said.

Yesterday was the last day for submissions on what monitoring and enforcement powers Ofqual should have. Dr Cresswell has written to the Government to express his concerns and to request a meeting with Jim Knight, the Schools Minister.


Reagan Didn't Graduate from Harvard

One of the first attacks launched at Governor Sarah Palin when she was announced as Senator John McCain's running mate was that she was not smart enough to be one step away from the presidency. Why? Because she doesn't have an Ivy League education. Rather than criticizing her position on taxes, energy independence or the War in Iraq, college students in particular focus on her University of Idaho degree. It has become a rallying cry for my fellow students at schools ranked better than the University of Idaho and flung as an insult into heated debates.

These same students conveniently forget that after graduating from the University of Delaware, Senator Joe Biden went on to graduate 76th in a class of 85 from Syracuse University College of Law where he infamously plagiarized a law review article for one of his papers. They also forget that Senator Barack Obama attended Occidental College in Los Angeles before Columbia University.

Too many people are resorting to this elementary school tactic of calling someone stupid as a trump card during election discussions. After listening to a fellow student mock Gov. Palin's education, I decided to test her theory using the presidency, since that is the position for which these students claim she is not qualified.

Is a degree from a top American college a prerequisite to becoming a successful president? No. Abraham Lincoln led our country through one of its most tumultuous times and is admired as one of our best presidents. He did not even go to college. He is not alone. Eight American presidents did not earn a college degree, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman. Almost 20% of our presidents have not graduated from college.

One of our best presidents of the 20th century graduated from a small school in Illinois, Eureka College, which most Americans probably have never heard of. Eureka College, which currently has an enrollment of about 600 students, did not make the Princeton Review's 2009 Best 368 Colleges.

Furthermore, even some presidents who have earned degrees from top schools have been criticized as being among the worst presidents in American history.

Many liberals decry George W. Bush as the worst president in the last 50 years. Where did he earn his undergraduate degree? Yale. On the flip side, many conservatives hold a similarly negative view of Jimmy Carter. Where did he graduate? The U.S. Naval Academy. Yale and the U.S. Naval Academy are two of the top institutions of higher learning in the United States.

There is no specific educational pedigree that is determinative of the success or popularity of an American president or vice president. Our past presidents and vice presidents have earned degrees from a wide range of schools. The most popular schools for presidents include Harvard with five, William and Mary with four, Yale with three and Princeton and the Military Academy with two each. Among others, past presidents have attended Dickinson College, Union College and Miami University.

The best education is not only obtained from classroom lectures. Much can be gained from independent study and a true love of learning. In an October 22nd People Magazine interview, Gov. Palin said, "I'm a voracious reader, always have been. I appreciate a lot of information. I think that comes from growing up in a family of schoolteachers also where reading and seizing educational opportunities was top on my parents' agenda. That was instilled in me."

Besides having a deep philosophical understanding of ideas, it is also important that one has tested those ideas in practice, learning how to implement the ideas effectively. Maybe this is difficult for my fellow students to understand as they have had little opportunity to put their ideas in practice. But Gov. Palin has done that. She has made spending decisions. She has stood up to corruption. She has vetoed bills.

Too many students are ignoring the real differences between the candidates on the economy, health care and foreign policy, and resorting to personal attacks. In one way this is a victory for Gov. Palin as they concede issue appeals. But at the same time, it is deeply problematic that students are falling for the empty insults and rhetoric.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How I Bombed an Abortion Clinic and Still Got Tenure

by Mike S. Adams

Ann Potts, an Assistant Professor in the Watson School of Education, has disgraced The University of North Carolina at Wilmington by signing a petition in support of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers - himself an education professor at The University of Illinois at Chicago. The real disgrace is actually twofold: First, there is her willingness to support Ayers. Second, there is her unwillingness to support me for engaging in similar actions years ago in pursuit of a very different political agenda.

Some years ago I was involved with a radical anti-abortion group that was frustrated with efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. We targeted two abortion clinics - one in Birmingham and the other in Atlanta - for bombings. We successfully carried out both of those bombings without killing anyone on the premises. We wanted to send our message - at least initially - without any unnecessary bloodshed.

After we carried out the bombings in Birmingham and Atlanta we gathered together in Charlotte, North Carolina for the express purpose of making a number of bombs that would be used in additional attacks on abortion clinics throughout the Southeast. Regrettably, an accident occurred during the construction of those additional bombs. Several members of our group died during the unexpected blast. Shortly thereafter, I left the group and decided to enter the field of higher education.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I do not regret my decision to engage in the bombings of those abortion clinics. In fact, I regret that we did not do more.

Some people on the Far Left in America are trying to hold the Pro Life movement accountable for actions I engaged in before Sarah Palin was even involved in politics. And no one in academia is willing to offer me forgiveness for actions I've never said I regretted. Ann Potts' name is not on a petition of my academic supporters for one simple reason: I don't have any.

For those who are not Swift enough to grasp satire let me explain something: You are presently reading satire.

Put simply, there is no chance that an unrepentant right-wing domestic terrorist could ever land a job in higher education in America. The "liberal" would prevent the white male abortion clinic bomber from teaching on the basis of identity politics. The conservative would arrive at the same conclusion on the basis of principle.

Lest you think that I am exaggerating turn back the clock eighteen months to the last time I spoke out against an academic leftist who supports violence as a means of disseminating his political views. Some readers remember when Kent State professor Julio Pino ( publicly advocated the bombing of innocent Jews by Palestinian children.

I spoke out against Pino's advocacy of violence by writing a column called "How to Bomb a Gay Bathhouse." This was shortly after the controversy involving Ann Coulter's use of the term "fag" to describe John Edwards. In that column, I suggested that Kent State hire Ann Coulter and allow her to construct a website advocating violence against gays since they were silent on the issue of Pino's advocacy of violence against Jews.

When columnist Andrew Sullivan read my column there was much lisping and gnashing of teeth. Too dense and emotionally unstable to understand the satire, Sullivan dubbed me an "ugly bigot" and ran excerpts of my column on his website. And, even after having the satire explained to them, our student newspaper ran an editorial suggesting that I advocated domestic terrorism. The chancellor's assistant, Cindy Lawson, made the dim-witted remark that my column was deplorable even if satire. Apparently, it was deplorable if advocating violence, but still deplorable if doing the opposite.

The way people to my left reacted to my column showed a great desire to find a conservative who advocates domestic terrorism - even in the absence of any evidence he's engaged in terrorism - and to punish him for his advocacy of violence.

But, in the case of William Ayers (, we have a leftist who not only advocates domestic terrorism but has actually carried out acts of terror in his own country. And those who accused me of advocating violence are now either a) unwilling to talk about Ayers, or b) actually willing to sign a petition supporting him.

Ann Potts, who taught at Virginia Tech when a student opened fire and killed nearly three dozen, is a reminder of just how intellectually and morally challenged one can be and still survive in the field of education. Her unrepentant idiocy is a call for the overthrow of the government-run education system - by non-violent means, of course.


Mo. students face punishment for `Hit a Jew Day'

Deplorable though their actions were, I doubt that these students knew of the wider context for their actions

At least four students from a suburban St. Louis middle school face punishment for allegedly hitting Jewish classmates during what they called "Hit a Jew Day." The incident happened last week at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield. District officials said Thursday they believe that fewer than 10 children of the district's 35 Jewish students were struck. District spokesman Paul Tandy said that in most cases, the students were hit on the back of their shoulders but one student was slapped in the face.

It began with an unofficial "Spirit Week" among sixth-graders that started harmlessly enough with a "Hug a Friend Day." Then there was "High Five Day." Soon, though, the days moved from friendly to silly. Next there was "Hit a Tall Person Day" and, finally, "Hit a Jew Day."

District officials believe a handful of children were directly involved. Those who actually struck classmates could face suspension and required counseling, Tandy said. Others who weren't directly involved but taunted Jewish students or egged on classmates could face lesser penalties.

"There is a mix of sadness and outrage," Tandy said. "The concern is a lot of kids knew about it and they didn't take action or say anything."

Karen Aroesty, St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said this was more than a case of bullying. Officials from the group will meet Friday with district leaders to discuss the matter.


Australia: Violence and bullying sweep Victoria's state schools

Frightened students, teachers and principals are reporting more than 12 assaults a week in state schools. Education Department records show 1227 allegations of assault involving state school students and staff have been filed in just over two school years. A further 247 sex abuse cases were alleged. Prep students have been removed from classes following harassment complaints, and threatening gangs and intruders have triggered emergency lockdowns. And 11 departmental employees have been accused of assaulting pupils.

Departmental records obtained under Freedom of Information reveal 890 reports of assaults on students at government schools, camps or excursions from 2006 to April this year. Children as young as six were among the victims, and staff were on the receiving end 337 times. The figures have spurred calls for upgraded protection, more parental control and extra welfare officers.

In the latest vicious attack last month, older invaders are said to have bashed several teenagers with a baseball bat at Keilor Downs Secondary College. Other cases alleged include:

A BOY, 15, rushed to hospital after a machete attack and fight with a former pupil from Copperfield College, St Albans.

A GIRL, 14, stabbed in the stomach with a pocket knife while visiting North Geelong Secondary College.

A BOY, 14, treated for cracked ribs after bullying at Craigieburn Secondary College.

A YEAR 8 student gashed after being shoved through a window at Cranbourne Secondary College.

A GIRL who changed into the jumper of a rival school in the western suburbs before sneaking in and attacking a female student.

BRUTAL brawls and racial feuds filmed and posted on the internet.

ANGRY parents kicking or punching school staff.

Department spokeswoman Helen Stevanovich said values and drug education, and anti-bullying and peer support programs, aimed to counter conflict and promote safety. But Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu accused the Government of downplaying a disturbing problem. He said a vital police-in-schools initiative had been scrapped. "School-aged children must understand that violence or bullying of any kind is unacceptable, and without suitable programs these incidents will continue to occur," he said.

Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said staff were taking more stress leave or retiring early, and parents and teachers needed to work together to tackle declining behaviour. "Proper role-modelling has deteriorated over time, with parents either shirking responsibility or being time-poor. Society is now reaping the repercussions," he said. "More kids seem to have an inability to deal with anger and are playing out what they see in society and films and TV," Mr Ackerman said. He said schools were now more likely to report crime and were boosting safety through camera surveillance, high fences, visitor clearances and staff training to defuse conflict.

But the Herald Sun has been told some schools in areas with stretched police resources don't report all incidents because of poor response times. Police handled a total of 8572 offences, including 502 assaults, in and around public and private schools, universities, TAFEs and other education locations last financial year. This was a 16 per cent drop on five years ago. There were 726 alleged crimes against the person, up from 636 in 2003-04. These included assaults, 17 rapes and 183 other sex offences.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said major assaults often involved intruders trying to "settle a score", but adopting US-style metal detectors would create a damaging climate of fear. "Compared to the broader society, schools are peaceful," Ms Bluett said.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Science comprehension slipping badly among British pupils

Given the way science teaching has been dumbed down almost to vanishing point, this is no surprise. The article below is written as if it were IQ being tested but that is careless. The researcher in fact makes the point that on a task which relies on IQ rather than specific knowledge, there has been no change. It is the teaching that has deteriorated. The kids all know about global warming, the desirability of a low-fat diet and other myths but would they be able to explain the periodic table to you?

Bright teenagers are a disappearing breed, an alarming new study has revealed. The intellectual ability of the country's cleverest youngsters has declined radically, almost certainly due to the rise of TV and computer games and over-testing in schools. The 'high-level thinking' skills of 14-year-olds are now on a par with those of 12-year-olds in 1976.

The findings contradict national results which have shown a growth in top grades in SATs at 14, GCSEs and A-levels. But Michael Shayer, the professor of applied psychology who led the study, believes that is the result of exam standards 'edging down'. His team of researchers at London's King's College tested 800 13 and 14-year-olds and compared the results with a similar exercise in 1976.

The tests were intended to measure understanding of abstract scientific concepts such as volume, density, quantity and weight, which set pupils up for success not only in maths and science but also in English and history. One test asked pupils to study a pendulum swinging on a string and investigate the factors that cause it to change speed. A second involved weights on a beam. In the pendulum test, average achievement was much the same as in 1976.

But the proportion of teenagers reaching top grades, demanding a 'higher level of thinking', slumped dramatically. Just over one in ten were at that level, down from one in four in 1976. In the second test, assessing mathematical thinking skills, just one in 20 pupils were achieving the high grades - down from one in five in 1976.

Professor Shayer said: 'The pendulum test does not require any knowledge of science at all. 'It looks at how people can deal with complex information and sort it out for themselves.' He believes most of the downturn has occurred over the last ten to 15 years. It may have been hastened by the introduction of national curriculum testing and accompanying targets, which have cut the time available for teaching which develops more advanced skills.

Critics say schools concentrate instead on drilling children for the tests. 'The moment you introduce targets, people will find the most economical strategies to achieve them,' said Professor Shayer. 'In the case of education, I'm sure this has had an effect on driving schools away from developing higher levels of understanding.' He added that while the numeracy hour in primary schools appears to have led to some gains, it has 'squeezed out a lot of things teachers might otherwise be doing'.

Professor Shayer believes the decline in brainpower is also linked to changes in children's leisure activities. The advent of multi-channel TV has encouraged passive viewing while computer games, particularly for boys, are feared to have supplanted time spent playing with tools, gadgets and other mechanisms.

Professor Shayer warned that without the development of higher-order thinking skills, the future supply of scientists will be compromised. 'We don't even have enough scientists now,' he said.

Previous research by Professor Shayer has shown that 11-year-olds' grasp of concepts such as volume, density, quantity and weight appears to have declined over the last 30 years. Their mental abilities were up to three years behind youngsters tested in in 1975.

His latest findings, due to appear in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, come in the wake of a report by Dr Aric Sigman which linked the decline in intellectual ability to a shift away from art and craft skills in both schools and the home. Dr Sigman said practical activities such as building models and sandcastles, making dens, using tools, playing with building blocks, knitting, sewing and woodwork were being neglected. Yet they helped develop vital skills such as understanding dimension, volume and density.

Earlier this month the Government bowed to mounting pressure and scrapped SATs for 14-year-olds. Ministers have also created an independent exams watchdog and promised a return to traditional, open-ended questions at A-level plus a new A* grade to mark out the brightest students. A spokesman for the Department for Children said last night: 'Good teachers do not need to teach to the test and there is no evidence that such practice is widespread. 'We have already taken steps to reduce the testing burden, but targets and testing are integral features of any work to drive up standards.'

Last month an Ofsted report said millions of teenagers were finishing compulsory education with a weak grasp of maths because half of the country's schools fail to teach the subject as well as they could. Inspectors said teachers were increasingly drilling pupils to pass exams instead of encouraging them to understand crucial concepts. The report said: 'It is of vital importance to shift from a narrow emphasis towards a focus on pupils' mathematical understanding.'


Australia: Stupid Leftist school "discipline" system a failure

All they do is nag misbehaving kids

A battle is brewing to contain a 26 per cent spike in students being suspended from Queensland schools over the past three years. The alarming wave of aggressive and disrespectful behaviour from southeast and north Queensland students comes as the Government pours another $28.6 million into "positive behaviour strategies" this financial year.

Education Queensland's prolonged trial of the Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support program now runs in one in six of Queensland's 1250 state schools. But an arsenal of strategies including the costly SWPBS appears to have done little yet to curb problem behaviour. Brisbane and Sunshine Coast schools issued 31 per cent more suspensions and 11 per cent more expulsions in 2007-08 than in 2005-06. During the same period, suspensions rose 25 per cent at Gold Coast and Ipswich region schools, and 22 per cent in and around Townsville.

Last week, The Courier-Mail received a flood of messages from readers concerned about "soft" disciplinary codes, particularly the inability of teachers to use the threat of force, or simple punishments to exert control. The Responsible Thinking Classrooms approach was criticised. This is where bullies and other troublemakers go for "time out" after being asked a series of questions.

In such scenarios troublemakers are asked: "What are you doing? What are the rules? What happens when you break the rules? Is that what you want to happen? What do you want now? What will happen if you disrupt again?". The effectiveness of Positive Learning Centres, where suspended students undergo behaviour programs at one of 14 non-school facilities, also came under fire. The new SWPBS program includes the RTC time-out approach but academics, psychologists and politicians yesterday said it did not work in many instances.

While Griffith University school of education's Fiona Bryer backed the latest schoolwide approach for being evidence-based, she questioned the use of RTCs. "If this is repeated and there's no change in student behaviour then the student definitely wins," Dr Bryer said. The education behavioural specialist said she was "definitely anti-punishment" but said errant students needed clearly defined consequences. Dr Bryer said parents and teachers needed to be trained in proven behavioural techniques and it was critical the Government shared and acted on the data collated from SWPBS.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Greg said time-outs and talks might work for some, but it was important to get a primary schooler's behaviour corrected before high school.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Rod Welford said positive results had been gleaned from the SWPBS trials. "Data shows that the program helps reduce problem behaviour and increases academic performance," she said.

Opposition education spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the statistics on suspensions called for change. "What's happening at the moment isn't working," he said. Mr Langbroek said if elected the state Liberal National Party would employ 50 new teachers trained in behaviour management at a cost of $16 million over four years, to combat the problem.


Monday, October 27, 2008

NEA hugely politicized

NEA members and families are a unique and rich voting bloc poised to make a difference in November. With less than two weeks remaining in the 2008 campaign, the National Education Association is fully engaged in an unprecedented effort to mobilize its members and their families to elect friends of public education at the national, state and local levels.

"Watch NEA members and their families on election night if you want to know the outcome of races across the country," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "Our members are in every precinct, county, congressional district and state. Given our unique demographic makeup - women, rural and suburban members - we are the typical swing voter of the 2008 election." Swing voters?? What a laugh. Obamatrons, more likely] NEA is a huge voting bloc with 3.2 million members. When immediate family members are factored in, that audience grows to more than 5 million potential voters.

"In the last two weeks of the campaign, our focus is on getting our members and their families to the polls," said Van Roekel. "We are uniquely positioned to make a difference in closely contested races up and down the ticket."

In 15 presidential battleground states targeted by NEA, members and their families comprise 2.3 million potential voters. And in what the campaign experts identify as states rich with swing voters that could tip the election, NEA is poised to capitalize on the strength of its members. In Florida, NEA members and their families include 309,915 potential voters; North Carolina, 128,769; Colorado, 78,499; and New Hampshire, 34,904.

The number of NEA members and their families eligible to vote are equally impressive when other targeted races are considered. In four gubernatorial races targeted by NEA - Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, and Washington - there are almost half a million possible voters comprised of members and their families. In 11 Senate races targeted by NEA, almost three-fourths of a million voters are up for grabs. Similarly, in 54 congressional races targeted by NEA, there are almost 900,000 potential voters among members and their families.

In addition to traditional phone banking and canvassing operations running through Election Day, NEA members from non- targeted or battleground states are volunteering to canvass and make calls to voters in battleground states. Two hundred California Teachers Association members, for example, made calls to northern Nevada during a recent meeting. Members from Illinois volunteered in Iowa and Indiana, and New Jersey members drove to Pennsylvania recently. This weekend, members from Delaware and Maryland are canvassing and phone banking in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

NEA also is employing multifaceted, personalized communication tools based on micro-targeting models. NEA is communicating with members and their families in unprecedented ways - via Web sites, emails, blogs, mail and cable ads. For example, in October, NEA launched a new Web site and distributed a mailer to undecided members in battleground states pointing out Sen. McCain's wrongheaded prescription plan for what ails America's health care system. The Web site, , enables members and their families to check the facts about McCain's plan and lobby him to change his position. More generally, NEA and its affiliates to date have:

-- Distributed more than 21.3 million pieces of mail

-- Made more than 2.1 million phone calls

-- Sent more than 1.3 million emails to members in battleground states

-- Began defining John McCain in the spring, sending 2 million pieces of mail before Labor Day.

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


Britain: Must they know about sex at five?

One thing stumps me about the news that the Government is to provide compulsory "sex and relationships" lessons for children from the age of five: how much can there really be to say?

On the subject of relationships, obviously, one could go on forever, recommending lengthy homework on everything from Jane Austen to Leonard Cohen lyrics. On sex, I would have thought there was rather less to discuss: one could surely exhaust the topics of contraception, pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases in a matter of weeks at the age of 11, perhaps with a brief refresher course at 13. After that, in what precise style young people proceed with sex in later life is surely a matter for them: there must be some areas to which even the omnipresent hand of the nanny state does not reach.

The news that there will now be a "naming of parts" session for five-year-olds, however - in which they learn the correct words for genitals and the differences between the sexes - gives me the creeps. By the age of five, many children have their own names for their private parts, often of a friendly, silly variety that will do them perfectly well until they are older. Is there really any point in school insisting on teaching them otherwise?

If a friend or relative suddenly insisted on lecturing your five-year-old about the official name for their genitals, apropos of nothing, I imagine they would be asked to shut up pretty sharpish. I am at something of a loss as to why this interference should be thought preferable coming from a primary teacher. And yet a sex education comic - Let's Grow With Nisha and Joe - is already being promoted to primary schools. We learned to read with Dick and Dora: I shudder to think what they would do with that pair today.

The great irony in the Government setting itself up as the supreme educator on sexual and emotional matters is that, when it is given the task of actually looking after confused and vulnerable children all by itself, it is the worst parent imaginable. Girls who have grown up in care are sexually active earlier than other teenagers, and are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant. A quarter of girls leaving care are already mothers or pregnant.

These girls are subjected to the same sex education at school as everyone else: I would be extremely surprised if any of them did not know in theory how to avoid having a baby. The real point, surely, is that they do not greatly want to avoid it. The emotional isolation they experience during their period in the unfeeling British care system means that they gravitate towards men as a source of affection and attention. The prospect of motherhood then offers them both an acknowledged social status and perhaps a reason for continued financial support from the state. Their early pregnancy is entirely logical, for any state that cares to read its own shortcomings written in the logic.

This, to a lesser degree, holds true for very many teenage girls who "accidentally" find themselves pregnant. The phenomenon is not helped by the fact that at the moment there is a wealth of information on what it means to have sex and very little on what it means to be in sole charge of a small baby that cries round the clock.

I believe in the good sense of basic sex education at school for older children, even if my own was pretty much confined to a terrifying film of a woman giving birth, and a hilarious, crackling 1960s film about male puberty called From Boy to Man. (We never got to see From Girl to Woman, despite being primed for yet more helpless laughter: the projector broke.)

There is a danger, however, that any philosophy that mainly concentrates on the somewhat deceptive notion of "safe sex" and the judicious use of contraception is in fact misleading. If a teenager doesn't think that he or she is ready for the life-changing complications that might arise from sex - and few are - then the best advice is not to do it at all. Otherwise, they should be warned that contraception is very far from infallible, and they would be advised to double up on their methods.

I yearn for the day when "sex and relationships" lessons actually do something to make teenage behaviour wiser, and when lessons include: "Just because he sleeps with you doesn't mean he loves you" and "New mum Mary can't go out for two years. It's 3am and the baby's screaming with colic." Sadly, the glum news that Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, has decided instead to start badgering the nation's five-year-olds into naming their private parts doesn't lead me to think that will happen any time soon.

More here

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big Labor Does Gay Marriage

Because a teachers' union has other priorities besides education

Here's a pop quiz: Who's donated the most money to an effort in California to defeat Proposition 8, an initiative on the November 4 ballot that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in the state?

A) Gay-advocacy organizations

B) Civil-rights groups

C) The California Teachers Association

If you guessed "C," you understand the nature of modern liberal politics. And if you didn't, perhaps you're wondering what exactly gay marriage has to do with K-12 public education. The high school dropout rate is 1-in-4 in California and 1-in-3 in the Los Angeles public school system, odds that worsen considerably among black and Hispanic children. So you might think the CTA, the state's largest teachers' union, would have other priorities.

Yet last week the union donated $1 million to the "No on Proposition 8" campaign. Of the roughly $3 million raised by opponents of the measure so far, $1.25 million has come from the teachers' union. "What does this cause have to do with education?" said Randy Peart, a public school teacher in San Juan who was contacted by a local television station. "Why not put that money into classrooms, into making a better place for these kids?"

In fact, the CTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, have used tens of millions of dollars in mandatory teachers' dues to advance all manner of left-wing political causes. And members like Ms. Peart are right to ask questions. In some years barely a third of the NEA's budget has gone toward improving the lot of teachers themselves.

In addition to vigorously fighting school choice and other reforms that benefit underprivileged children but threaten the public education monopoly, the NEA has directly (or via state affiliates) bankrolled Acorn, the Democratic Leadership Council, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and, naturally, the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." Public school teachers of America, take note. This is your dues money at work.


British exam board told to dumb down High School science exam to make it easier to pass

20% is a "pass" in some British exams. In other words, you pass while having learned virtually nothing about the subject

England's largest exam board has been forced to make its science GCSE easier because it was too difficult for pupils to get a good pass. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance said it had lowered the mark needed to achieve a grade C in the exam 'under protest'. It had reluctantly agreed to a request from England's new qualifications regulator, Ofqual, to bring it into line with the level set by rival exam boards. This is the first time that an exam board has publicly questioned the standard of one of its own papers. The step also casts serious doubt on Government claims that exam standards are being maintained.

The controversy relates to a new GCSE science exam taken by more than half a million pupils this summer. It had already been attacked for reducing the factual knowledge required. But it has now emerged that in early August, England's three exam boards asked Ofqual to adjudicate after they failed to reach agreement on setting comparable grade boundaries. The Times Educational Supplement claims that rival board Edexcel awarded C grades in a paper for one of its new science courses to pupils scoring only 20 per cent.

On August 7, just two weeks before results were due to be published, Ofqual wrote to AQA asking it to reduce the boundary for the grade C below what the board had calculated was necessary to maintain standards. Ofqual said the 'least problematic solution' was for AQA to bring its grade C into line with the others.

On August 12, Mike Cresswell, AQA director general, replied, saying: 'AQA is extremely reluctant to adopt a standard which is less comparable with the past than it needs to be.' Ofqual wrote back claiming that all the exam boards believed their grade boundaries maintained standards. Dr Cresswell told the TES: 'We would have preferred a solution that promoted standards that were a little more consistent with those of 2007.'

Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said Ofqual was failing in its duty to maintain standards 'by accepting the lowest common denominator on offer'.