Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Application for LGBTQQCC

by Mike S. Adams

Dear Oberlin College Division of Student Life and Services:

I recently read your advertisement seeking applications for the position of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender/Queer and Questioning Community Coordinator in the Multicultural Resource Center at Oberlin College.

I believe that I am perfect for this full-time, twelve-month administrative and professional staff position, which reports to the Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Multicultural Resource Center. I am definitely not "questioning" my interest in this position. I am ready to begin as LGBTQQCC ASAP!

In your ad, you mention that the incumbent will have responsibility for assessing and addressing the specific cultural/social/ political needs and concerns of LGBTQQ students while also working with other students who belong to historically disenfranchised communities. Among the other groups you list are: Africana, Asian/Pacific American, Latino/Latina, Native American, and multiracial communities, first-generation and, finally, low-income college students.

I want to make it very clear that I am willing to work with any students who are not both pure bred Caucasian and heterosexual - unless, of course, they are first-generation or poor. Also, as one who is 1/32 Native American I subscribed to the belief that with a single drop of non-white blood one ceases to be a Caucasian. I learned this from my relatives in Mississippi and Alabama.

As a member of the Multicultural Resource Center staff, I understand that the LGBTQQCC acts as a link between the Associate Dean/Director and LGBTQQ students, as well as between the Multicultural Resource Center and the rest of the College communities. I also understand that additional responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

*Identify the social, cultural, educational, and political needs of LGBTQQ students, as well as those of other student communities.
* Under the direct supervision and guidance of the Associate Dean/Director, assist LGBTQQ students to foster a strong sense of self, to strengthen individual communities, and to build coalitions with other departments and communities.
* Assist the Associate Dean of Students/Director in identifying the concerns of LGBTQQ students, as well as those of Africana, Asian/Pacific American, Latino/Latina, Native American and multiracial communities, as well as first-generation and low-income college students.
* Work as part of a collaborative team that includes the Associate Dean of Students/Director, the Africana Community Coordinator, the Asian/Pacific American Community Coordinator, and the Latino/Latina Community Coordinator.
* Collaborate on diversity and multicultural education workshops and trainings.
* Help to create connections between the LGBTQQ community at Oberlin College and the LGBTQQ community in the greater Cleveland area.

I noted in your ad that you require a B.A. degree in LGBT and Queer Studies, Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, or related field. I hope you will consider the fact that my PhD in Criminology was actually granted in a sociology department. In order to get a PhD in a sociology department one has to study at least as much worthless "scholarship" as one has to study to obtain a Queer Studies degree. I hope you agree and will, therefore, consider me to be qualified.

I also noted that you require "experience working with the issues and concerns of LGBTQQ students." I have long recognized the fact that the LGBTQQ community has issues - for example, anti-religious bigotry - and I have addressed their issues in numerous columns. I hope you will, therefore, consider me qualified in this regard.

Among your "desired qualifications" I noticed you listed "experience working with the issues and concerns of students of color especially within a higher education context." Given the paucity of "people of color" at my present institution, UNC-White, I consider this the weak point of my application. I hope you will consider my other strengths including my firm commitment to immediately bring "white" and "colored" restrooms back to higher education. This will be possible after we get rid of the "men's" and "women's" restroom distinction that so clearly discriminates against our LGBTQQ brothers and sisters - as well as those who are not sure whether they are our brothers or our sisters.

Your ad indicates that "Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience and skills for an entry level administrative position." I am willing to waive my salary as LGBTQQCC at Oberlin because I am sure that enough material will come from this job to make millions on books, speeches, and columns.

Along with this email, I will send a letter of application, resume and the names and addresses of three references to: LGBTQ Community Coordinator Search, Oberlin College, 135 West Lorain Street, Wilder Hall 105, Oberlin, OH 44074. I will also urge other academic dissidents to do the same.


That degree in Disco Studies may yet come in useful

[British] NuLab has hugely increased state spending on education. This year they will spend well over 80bn pounds, comfortably more than double what they inherited in 1997. In inflation adjusted terms, spending has increased by 5% pa, much faster than GDP. And state education's share of GDP has risen by nearly one full percentage point. In fact, at 5.3% of GDP, we are now spending more on state education than any other G7 country except France (on 5.6%).

So what have we got for all that money? Have we had the promised leap in education standards, and can we now see that bright new workforce equipped to triumph in the post-industrial hi-tech challenges of the 21st Century? Er, no. We've had record GCSE results, record A Level results, and record numbers of university graduates, but we haven't had any of that other stuff - the stuff we actually need. We are spending tens of billions extra every year, yet the results are no better.

In fact, so ill-equipped is the bright new workforce now pouring out of our state schools and universities, that the government is having to pay employers to take them on, even temporarily. Last week, we heard taxpayers' money was being used to bribe employers to take on 35,000 unemployed school leavers as "apprentices" (see this blog). And today we hear another bunch of employers are being bribed to offer an unspecified number of "internships"* to unemployed university grads. Skills Secretary John Denham (most assuredly no relation to The Bloke) explains:

"They [new graduates] will be a very big group: around 400,000. We can't just leave people to fend for themselves. At the end they will be more employable, and some of them will get jobs."

Wow! Some of them might even get jobs? And pray explain again why we've got 400,000 graduates - graduates who are so ill-equipped for life that they can't even be left to fend for themselves. Remembering of course, that when Labour came to power, our unis were only producing 200,000 grads per year.

Yes, we know there's a recession/slump on, but the problems with all these new grads go much deeper than that. As we've blogged many times (start here), both the nation and the students themselves have had shocking value from Labour's gung-ho expansion of "higher" education and its entirely arbitrary 50% participation target. A brief recap:

* Taxpayers now spend 12bn pounds pa on higher education; the students themselves spend a whole lot more

* There are 2.3m students, or 4% of the entire population (including 27,000 doing the Major's favourite, the degree in media studies)

* The 50% participation target is "aspirational" - ie entirely arbitrary (admitted to the PAC by the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England - see this blog)

* The average HE participation rate across the OECD is 35%: ours is already 40% and heading for 50%

* Thousands of graduates now do non-graduate jobs, and that number is growing rapidly- their M Mouse degrees have simply not equipped them to do anything else (according to HESA, 75% - yes, 75% - of 2002-3 graduates were still in non-graduate jobs four years after graduation; what's more, 26% weren't in full-time jobs of any kind

* The average financial return to a degree is plummeting - according to PWC, the gross return to an Arts degree is now only about œ30 grand, and that takes no account of the costs of study and the earnings foregone - net net an average Arts degree almost certainly reduces lifetime wealth.

The truth is that despite all their "challenges of the globalised economy" wibble, Labour have never seen education in economic terms. From comprehensivisation to Laura Spence, Labour's priority has always been social engineering. For them, it has always been far more important to put everyone on the same level, than to pursue educational excellence.

So let's thank God for private education. Because without it, Britain really would be in the merde. All our top jobs would have to be filled by people who'd been processed through our dumbed-down state social engineering factories. Yes, Brown's new Equality Commissar - Haze of Dope Milburn - is perfectly free to rant on about the unfair advantages private education brings on the employment front. But we all know the truth: the reason that social mobility has stalled so badly is that Labour politicians sacrificed state education on the altar of social engineering.

And unfortunately, as the slump gathers pace, the dismal results of their approach are going to be even more apparent. People who may have been employable in a credit boom are going to find it very tough in the harsh future now unfolding before us. As someone whose life chances were transformed by high quality state education, it really does make me want to scream.

*Footnote- So HTF has our deadend government persuaded sensible companies like Microsoft and Barclays to offer these internships? Well, first - as per - it sounds like classic vapourware and probably won't happen. "A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the company in principle "absolutely supports" the idea and had been "really enthusiastic" when the government approached it. Asked what the scheme involved, she said: "We have to sit down and go through the scheme in detail." Hmm. And second, Microsoft... major government supplier... needs to be seen as A Good Citizen in these troubled times... Barclays... big bank with big debts... needs to be seen as A Good Citizen in these troubled times... nope, I don't get it at all.


Friday, January 16, 2009

British Labour's children fail to make the grade at GCSE: Half leave school unable to read, write or add properly

Fewer than half of teenagers finish compulsory schooling with a basic set of GCSE qualifications and one in five fails to gain a single C grade, official figures revealed yesterday. Results for the first pupils to go through their entire education under Labour show that more than 340,000 16-year-olds failed to meet the Government's secondary school benchmark - five GCSEs at C grade or higher including English and maths. More than 135,000 failed to achieve even one C grade last summer.

The figures also show that more than 375,000 secondary pupils - around one in seven - are being taught in comprehensives which Gordon Brown has threatened with closure unless their results improve. A total of 440 schools face being shut down or taken over if their GCSE performance fails to get better by a 2011 deadline. Nearly a third of these schools expect to remain in the doldrums at least until 2010 - putting them at grave risk of closure, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last year, just 47.6 per cent of candidates finished compulsory schooling with a basic mastery of the three Rs and three other GCSE subjects or their vocational equivalent. Results were up on 2007 but progress is half what it needs to be if ministers are to meet a 53 per cent Treasury target set for 2011. The figures also showed that 21 per cent of pupils failed to achieve a single C grade in any GCSE subject, although five per cent achieved C grade standards in vocational qualifications deemed equivalent.

At the other end of the spectrum, one in seven schoolchildren - 14.2 per cent - achieved three A grades at A-level. Grammars, faith schools and part-private academies were revealed as more effective at raising exam standards than so-called 'bog-standard comprehensives'. But the figures for GCSEs suggested attainment in the core subjects such as the three Rs is rising more slowly than for other subjects. The proportion gaining any five GCSEs rose almost four percentage points but the numbers able to count English and maths towards those five qualifications - the Government's preferred measure - went up just 1.3 points. Fewer than one in three students achieved at least a C in a modern foreign language.

The national data, was published ahead of school-by-school tables due out today. The Prime Minister set a minimum standard in 2007 requiring schools to ensure at least 30 per cent of pupils achieve the secondary performance benchmark, and identified 638 schools which fell below the threshold. Under the National Challenge scheme, they are given extra help and monitoring - sometimes including conversion into academies - to ensure they meet the deadline. A total of 440 schools, educating some 375,000 youngsters, remain below the threshold and figures from local councils show that 59 out of 214 schools for which predictions were made are expected still to be languishing below 30 per cent in 2010.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls will attempt to reinvigorate the National Challenge programme today. 'We need to continue to concentrate on the remaining schools and ensure we are giving them the support and challenge they need to make sure no child is left behind,' he said. But Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove said: 'Sadly, too many children are still being educated at schools which the Prime Minister classes as failing, and the gap between richer and poorer schools is widening.'


And these are the schools that Britain's sub-moronic socialists want to abolish:

Grammar schools are taxpayer supported but their pupils are selected for admission on the basis of proven scholastic ability, which is only partly true of private ("independent") schools

Grammar school pupils outperformed their privately educated counterparts at A level by a record margin last summer, piling more pressure on the beleaguered fee-paying sector. As the recession forces many middle-class families to question whether they can afford private education, new figures reveal that the average grammar school pupil attained 73 more A-level points than those educated privately. The points system, in which an A grade is worth 270 points, is used by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to assess applications to higher education.

The latest statistics, based on last year's results, show that a quarter of all grammar school pupils achieved at least three A grades at A level, the highest level to date. The average A-level score achieved by grammar pupils was 966, compared with 893 in the independent sector. Independent schools still have a higher percentage of straight-A pupils, but the gap has narrowed.

It was another record crop of exam results, with the largest annual increase in GCSE top grades in almost 20 years. Nearly two thirds of pupils (65.3 per cent) were awarded five good GCSEs (A* to C), up from 63.3 per cent and the biggest jump since 1990.

Comprehensives scored an average of 727.8 A-level points per pupil, while the average for the state sector as a whole was 757.4. The proportion of pupils passing the Government's tough new threshold of at least five C grades including English and maths rose 1.3 percentage points to 47.6 per cent. It still means that fewer than half of all pupils achieved the standard. About 100,000 pupils failed to gain at least one Grade C. Only half of pupils attained two science GCSEs and only a third passed a modern language. Girls strengthened their dominance. Almost 70 per cent gained at least five good GCSEs, compared with 60.9 per cent of boys.

About one in eight A-level candidates achieved at least three A grades. More girls got A grades in A-level maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and economics than boys. Boys did better at A level in modern languages, usually a female strength.

Nearly a third of the schools threatened by the Government with closure last summer face a reprieve after improving. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, categorised 638 schools as "National Challenge" institutions last year because fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs. That has dropped by a third to 440. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The focus on raising achievement in these schools, particularly in maths and English, is producing results and it is regrettable that the task was made more difficult by the . . . torrent of consultants, plans and meetings that followed."

State school successes included Perry Beeches, in Birmingham, named last year as one of the worst performing schools but now one of the most improved. It went from having 21 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs to 51 per cent.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Washington Court: Teacher-Student Sex Ruled Okay

(Olympia, Washington) According to a state appeals court, sex between teachers and students who are 18 years old is not prohibited by law.
"Thus, we conclude that the legislative history of [the statute] clarifies that the legislature intended ... to criminalize only sexual misconduct between school employees and 16- and 17-year-old students," wrote Judge Marywave Van Deren in an opinion signed by colleagues Christine Quinn-Brintnall and J. Robin Hunt.
It's not clear whether legislators will write a law which protects all students while in high school. Nothing has been reported yet.

Meanwhile, however, the senior classes of every Washington high school have now become target-rich, albeit minefield-dangerous, teacher-student dating environments.
British Independent schools weathering the recession

It is going to hurt. We all know it is going to hurt. But how much is it going to hurt? As the rest of us brace ourselves for a bruising recession, independent schools, outwardly anyway, are calmness personified. "Right now, this does not really feel like a middle-class recession," says David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents more than 1,300 fee-paying schools. "It is business as usual for most of our members. We are certainly not looking over the edge of some kind of precipice."

In theory, independent schools are no more immune than anyone else from economic vicissitudes, but the experience of the last recession, in the early Nineties, suggests that any impact is likely to be significantly delayed. "At times of belt-tightening," explains Lyscom, "parents give top priority to continuity of education for their children. They don't do anything drastic unless they absolutely have to." Statistics bear him out. The last recession started in the third quarter of 1990, with negative growth lasting until the start of 1992. At first, according to an ISC census, pupil numbers held firm. It was not until the end of the recession, in 1992, that they began to decline. There were further small falls in 1993 and 1994. If that pattern were to be repeated, one would not expect pupil numbers to fall appreciably until 2010-11. But savvy schools and parents will certainly not be burying their heads in the sand until then. Budgets are being reviewed and, in some cases, trimmed.

"Schools are used to living in the real world," says Lyscom. "They know how to adapt to hard economic times. The canniest schools will also realise that as one door closes another opens." The plummeting pound, he believes, is a case in point. For parents in Geneva or Hong Kong, the cost of sending a child to an English boarding school has suddenly fallen, not risen. There is a new market out there, waiting to be tapped. "The recession will have all sorts of knock-on effects, not all of them negative," agrees Paul Smith, headmaster of Hereford Cathedral School. "The fees at this school are 10,000 pounds a year, which compares favourably with other independent schools in the area. It is not difficult to foresee parents with a child at one of those more expensive schools electing to send a younger sibling here."

Not all schools, inevitably, are going to survive the recession unscathed. In November, two private preparatory schools, Bramcote Lorne in Nottinghamshire and Brigg in Lincolnshire, announced they would be closing at the end of the term and merging with nearby schools. There will no doubt be other closures and mergers. But then there always are, in good times and bad. "It is the small schools that are most vulnerable," says Jonathan Cook, general secretary of the Independent Schools' Bursars Association. "If they lose, say, 10 pupils from a school roll of 150, that is a potentially crippling blow. At larger schools, economies of scale are possible. You can raise class sizes from 14 to 16 or trim the number of A-level subjects from 42 to 40 without doing lasting damage."

Some capital building programmes may have to be put on hold, according to Cook, although even that is not a foregone conclusion. "Borrowing is cheap at the moment. You can get a builder and strike a good deal. Financially, independent schools are pretty straightforward operations compared with other businesses. They establish how many pupils they are likely to have in the next school year, then plan accordingly."

Pupil numbers for 2009-10 cannot be anticipated at this stage, but there is already plenty of anecdotal evidence, says Cook, of parents struggling to pay fees on time. "They are asking for fees to be deferred or paid in stages and, where possible, schools will do what they can to help."

If education professionals are bullish, many parents are clearly twitchy. There has, for example, been a boom in applications for grammar schools (up 20 per cent in Kent alone). In October, at Wallington County Grammar School, Surrey, there was such a scrum of applicants, more than 10 per place, that police had to be called to keep order during the entrance exam. But it is not panic stations yet. Prudent housekeeping by schools and careful planning by parents should keep the damage to manageable proportions.

Common sense suggests that, despite the optimistic noises coming from the independent education sector, there will be schools that cut their fees in a bid to retain the loyalty of parents. But they are likely to be in a small minority.


A private education and proud of it

Comment from Australia below. Note that private education is a mass phenomenon in Australia. The overall numbers attending private schools are not too different from elsewhere (approx. 7% in Britain, 11% in the USA and 13% in Australia) but that changes radically if we look at secondary school enrolments only. About 40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools. In other words, many Australians are happy with government schooling in the early years but see it as inadequate in the later years.

Language note for American readers: "Whingeing" (pronounced "winjing") is a derogatory Australian/British word for the sort of persistent whining a little kid does when it is tired etc. It is derogatory when applied to adult complainers and critics

LET'S get a few things straight from the outset: I went to a private school; my parents aren't rich; they worked hard to pay for a total of 39 years of private education for their three daughters. Should they or I be ashamed of this? No. I'm tired of the whingeing about private schools, their pupils and parents. The beauty of earning income is that you can spend it on whatever you choose. My parents chose to spend a significant portion of their earnings educating their kids. We worked hard at school and did well, the only way we knew how to repay them.

At 26, am I now an idle eastern suburbs "lady who lunches"? No. The moment my HSC exams finished, I was on my own. I got a part-time job, paid my way through uni and got a "real job" at the end. I now work alongside alumni of both the public and private systems in investment banking.

There is a small number of private school students who do rort the system; who use daddy's funding of a new wing for the school as leverage to get their own way. They are the minority who give us all a bad name. There are also kids in the public system whose behaviour is equally unscrupulous.

Just because I was educated at a private school it doesn't mean I'm lazy, up myself and undeserving of what life presents me. I drive an entry-model Japanese car, rent a small apartment and, like most, struggle to pay my bills and wish I had more money to pursue the things I desire.

Why isn't there similar outrage against people who buy a European car instead of a domestic make because they can afford it? Could it be because it's their money to spend as they wish?

It is time people stopped complaining about the "evils and excesses" of the private school system and started looking at the failures and problems in the public system. For me the most telling thing I've heard was a case of a public school teacher who would not send his three sons to a public school. His wages, by no means excessive, were poured into educating his boys at a private school. If all the energy spent complaining about private schools and their pupils was channelled into improving the dire state of public schooling, we might have a public school system worth defending.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Immigrant Feelings Project

(Wurtsboro, New York) Fifth-graders at Chase Elementary School have been indoctrinated in an immigrant feelings project. Teachers Marilyn Lounsbury, Karen Crofoot and Dorrie Lounsbury were faculty participants.
Students put together their "baggage," which included an autobiography and a letter of reference for their person to come into the U.S. They gave themselves pseudonyms. Students were to talk with their families about their family heritage and also to do research on their country of origin. They were to place artifacts, recipes, facts, the national flag, a map and other interesting things about their heritage and country in a shoebox as their suitcases. Students were given passports and asked to dress as immigrants for their Ellis Island experience.

When they arrived at Ellis Island, they went through a background information check station with Lea Walters and Marilyn Lounsbury where they were to present their important paperwork. They went through a vocation station with literacy coach Ann Kurthy, checking information about their job skills and plans for potential employment. Dorrie Lounsbury put them through the Character Station, where they were interrogated with such questions as "Were you ever arrested? Are you in debt? Did you leave sick relatives at home?"

Students had to be cleared by nurse Pam Shimer. They had their temperatures taken (with candy cane thermometers) and were checked for eye diseases, skin rashes or other health problems. Those who were not cleared medically or in any of the stations had to go to an Appeals Station manned by Karen Crofoot. Linda Holmes checked their baggage. She also did the Money Exchange Station and final welcome to America. Crofoot administered the Oath of Allegiance.
The project is part of a curricula called "Where We Are in Place and Time."

Frankly, it would be prudent to also include in the feelings coursework an exercise which replicates the experience of an illegal alien entering the United States. The experience of trekking through the desert, scaling fences, forging documents, hiding in the holds of ships, and dealing with snakeheads and coyotes (human smugglers) shouldn't be overlooked.

After all, we wouldn't want the youngsters to be confused about the difference between an illegal alien and a legal immigrant. Now, would we?

British parents are turning to "no frills" private schools as the recession hits middle-class families

Note that Britain has a very large range of private schools. One guess why

Schools with fees set at a fraction of the national average are reporting increased demand during the economic downturn. Some cheap and mid-market independent chains are even preparing to open new schools despite fears of falling interest elsewhere. It comes just days after a leading headmistress warned the financial slump would result in a "difficult" year for schools. Jill Berry, president of the Girls' Schools Association, said elite schools should abandon the facilities "arms race" to cut costs.

Grammar schools [taxpayer-supported selective schools] are already reporting more interest, with the number of children taking the 11-plus jumping by up to a fifth this year.

Last year, average independent school fees increased by more than six per cent to 11,253 pounds. It is believed the downturn will lead to increased interest in schools with relatively low charges. The New Model School Company - linked to the Civitas think-tank - is opening two new prep schools in London charging around 5,000-a-year. Its one other existing school in West London is also expanding. Robert Whelan, Civitas deputy director, said: "The demand is fantastic. It is a question of finding buildings."

Talks are under way for a school to join the Alpha Schools Group, which has four "affordable" schools in the capital. Other independent schools are also looking to sell to private education companies which often keep fees down by sharing running costs between several institutions.

Sue Fieldman, of the Good Schools Guide, said lower fees were becoming more important to parents in considering which school to choose. She said: "If you have two schools more or less the same, if one is 500 cheaper, they are going for that rather than the flash swimming pool or the expensive theatre."

Chris Woodhead, former head of Ofsted, runs the Cognita chain, which currently charges an average of 8,500. He said the organisation - which has 44 schools - was in negotiation with more schools then ever before as owners consider selling up. Prof Woodhead has been critical in the past of the "frills and frippery" wasted by some independent schools. "I am not saying that facilities are unimportant but I do think that the competition between schools to provide five-star facilities in recent years has driven fees up," he said. "I think it is the case that if you are sending your children to a school like Eton or Millfield at the top end of the market then a few thousand pounds here and there isn't going to make a great difference. But if you have not got much spare cash you are going to shop around to find the best value for money."

But David Lyscom, chief executive of the ISC, insisted the number of pupils at top independent schools was "holding up well" - and branded talk of falling pupil numbers was "scaremongering". "Anecdotal evidence from heads suggests a healthy sector," he said. "Much as we do not wish to play down the seriousness of the economic situation for the UK as a whole, it should not be assumed that the independent schools sector will be badly hit by the downturn."


British credentialism implodes

Making higher and higher levels of education normal too often leads to overqualification for the available jobs and is very disappointing to kids who have to end up doing jobs that they could have done without a degree

After 12 years of school, four years of university and a degree in business management, Grant Bostock was last week sitting on a factory production line checking the solder on electronic circuit boards. If the solder was not complete, he dabbed an extra bit on. "It isn't exactly what I planned," he said. "I want to do something that gives me opportunities, so that I can work towards something. I am qualified to do all sorts of things, but I am working in a factory."

His hopes of a career that would use the knowledge he spent so much time and money acquiring have faded fast in recent months. "A lot of firms have just pulled their graduate schemes," said Bostock, who lives in Cheadle, Staffordshire. "It feels like hitting your head against a wall. If the jobs are out there, you can try your best; but if they aren't, there isn't anything you can do about it. "I am still living at home, which isn't exactly what I wanted either. I want to move on to the next step of my life, but I am stuck here."

In some ways, however, he is lucky: he has an income even though his job is temporary. Mike Leader, who graduated in English from Birmingham University last summer, is still unemployed despite heading to London in search of a job. "I applied for a few jobs in August and September but I didn't hear back from any of those," said Leader. "Then I decided to go to the Jobcentre and apply for work there. I don't think I've heard back from any job I've applied for there."

He has even struggled to claim benefits amid the bureaucratic maze of Gordon Brown's welfare system. "I'm living with someone who has managed to get a part-time job in a coffee shop so I was turned down," he explained. Despite his degree, Leader remains unemployed. And, yes, his girlfriend, the coffee-shop worker, is also overqualified for her job: she is a graduate, too. They are among an army of graduates emerging from the education system who face the toughest employment prospects for years as the recession deepens. The government, having encouraged youngsters into higher education that has saddled many with large debts, is deeply worried. Graduate numbers are hitting a record high just as the number of jobs is shrinking.

As John Denham, the skills secretary, said in an interview published yesterday: "They [new graduates] will be a very big group: around 400,000. We can't just leave people to fend for themselves." His solution is a scheme to create government-backed graduate internships, paying modest wages, at large firms. Barclays and Microsoft are among those that have agreed to take part, and Denham hopes to have what is being called the national internship scheme running by the summer.

Don't get too excited. Pay will be little more than the current student grant of 2,835 pounds, and it is not clear yet how much, if any, government money would be committed. But Denham hopes that the experience and skills gained by interns will pay dividends. "At the end they will be more employable, and some of them will get jobs," he said. "Employers won't want to let good people go."

However, critics question how many graduates the scheme will be able to help. "Businesses taking on graduate interns is welcome, but this does not match the scale of the crisis facing young people trying to find jobs," said David Willetts, the Conservative spokesman on skills. "This is another one of Gordon Brown's ill-thought-out initiatives that comes apart within 24 hours. It seems pretty clear there's going to be no extra public money for it."

Contemplating his unemployment prospects, Leader also welcomed the idea of internships, but he, too, pointed out one simple drawback. "The bar will be raised for everyone," he said. "When you go for a job, you'll be up against people who have had three months' internship."

So what are the prospects and what can be done? The looming crisis stems from two broad trends heading in opposite directions: more graduates and fewer jobs. Since Labour came to power, it has encouraged more school leavers to apply for university, with Tony Blair originally setting a target of 50% of all school leavers going on to higher education. As a result the number of graduates emerging from the university system each year has risen by more than 70%, from 206,000 in 1997 to 358,000 in 2007 (the latest confirmed annual figure). Even before the credit crunch struck, some graduates were finding it hard to obtain jobs commensurate with their qualifications. At institutions such as Plymouth, Thames Valley and Lancaster universities about 40% of graduates remained in "non-degree-level" jobs six months after leaving university, according to a study published last year. The proportion of graduates still in non-graduate jobs five years after university has also risen: up from 22% for male students in 1992 to 33%.

While students at the top end have seen huge rewards from their investment in education, overall the financial benefits have declined. The extra lifetime earnings generated by having a degree were estimated in 2004 to be an average of 400,000; that has now fallen to 100,000, as even one vice-chancellor, Deian Hopkin of London South Bank University, admitted recently. At the same time higher education fees and student debts have risen.

Coming the other way is the recession, which started in financial services and the City, the source of many graduate opportunities in recent years. Student boasts of fat starting salaries at City banks have been replaced with ruthless competition for a declining number of openings, even for high fliers.

Paul Kavanagh, 20, in his final year of an economics and management degree at Oxford, has experienced a sea-change in the recruitment process. "Every other year the banks handed out jobs to people on my course, but not this year," he said. Despite a predicted first-class degree, he has been turned down for seven investment banking posts. Boutique firms are taking on one graduate this year, compared with up to 10 previously, he said. "All the deadlines are now gone and a lot of my friends are in the same position," he said. "I'm really panicked about it. It's just really bad timing." He is applying to do a masters degree, though he fears the course fees will put him a further 20,000 in debt. "Doing the masters is going to be a real financial struggle and there's only bits of funding available," he said. "Doing a paid internship is definitely something I would consider." ...

A spokeswoman for the skills department said Denham's scheme was at a "very early stage" and the department was still making initial approaches to companies. No detail beyond what Denham had said was available. It could give no estimate for the number of internships that would be created. As the government tries to flesh out the scheme, economic assessments remain gloomy. "While the recession began in May, the rate of recession increased sharply in the autumn," said the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in a report yesterday. The way it has hit new graduates is reflected in the latest labour market figures: of the 137,000 rise in people unemployed in the three months to October, 55,000 were in the 18-24 age group.

Whether or not Denham's scheme succeeds, students are likely to think harder whether university is worth the cost and commitment it now entails.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Richer people have smarter kids

But the British government seems to think it can change that! How come? They cling to the nonsensical but classical Leftist myths that all children are born with equal genetic potential and that heredity does not matter. And I suppose they also deny that being smart helps you to get rich. A lot of denial there but Leftists never have been much interested in reality

A child's chances of success still depend largely on the background and earnings of his or her parents despite the billions poured into education in recent years, according to an independent report today. The Social Mobility Commission, reporting the day before a long-awaited white paper on the subject, finds that social class accounts for much of the gap in attainment between higher and lower achievers. It is evident from the early years that the gap widens as children get older.

Increased spending on education has disproportionately favoured the middle classes, the report says. Last year only 35 per cent of the poorest pupils obtained five or more good-grade GCSEs, compared with 63 per cent of better off children. While the proportion of poorer children getting degrees has risen by just 3 per cent, the increase among those from wealthier backgrounds is 26 per cent.

Martin Narey, chief executive of the children's charity Barnardo's and a former head of the Prison Service, chaired the commission, which was set up by Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. Mr Narey said that children from disadvantaged backgrounds all too often ended up in the worst schools and achieved the worst results.

The report comes as Alan Milburn was appointed by Gordon Brown to chair a panel of industry leaders charged with producing policies to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the professions. Ministers have identified limited access to the professions, such as law, medicine, the senior civil service, media, finance and the upper ranks of the Armed Forces, as a serious obstacle to those from poorer families. Mr Milburn, MP for Darlington, will chair a panel of representatives from the professions who will generate proposals to widen access in their particular spheres.

The panel will report its recommendations to the Government when it produces a policy statement in June. Issues to be considered include financial obstacles to access and progression, the role of work experience and internships, recruitment practices and encouraging new applicants for certain jobs. Mr Milburn said he would be trying to ensure that "the best people, regardless of their backgrounds, have a fair crack of the whip". He said: "This is the right time for the Government to make its core purpose creating an upwardly mobile society again."

Mr Narey commented: "Although any move to open up professions seen as elitist should be applauded, it is far more important for the Government to focus on reducing the inequalities in the education system. "Children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds all too often end up in the worst schools and achieve the worst results. "Only if these inequalities are tackled will children from disadvantaged backgrounds be able to fulfil their potential and become the doctors, army officers and barristers of the future."

The commission said that more resources ought to be provided for schools with the most disadvantaged children and better incentives offered to teachers to work in the most difficult schools. Mr Clegg said: "This expert analysis shatters the idea that Britain in 2009 is a free and fair society. Martin Narey and his colleagues deserve enormous credit for a report that cannot be ignored by anyone who wants a fairer Britain. "It is an outrage and a tragedy that two children born at the same time in the same hospital should have wildly different life chances, based simply on the income of their parents."


Colleges Bite the Bullet

Could the global economic crisis actually force the nation's colleges and universities to rethink their priorities? The Wall Street Journal's Eric Gibson noted, after a recent tour of campuses, that today's student life resembles something like the Court at Versailles. "One college tour guide proudly informed us that upon arrival every freshman is issued a brand-new laptop. Even students who already have one? `Why yes,' the guide replied."

The lavish school menus cater to every ethnicity, food group and taste. And it doesn't take long to realize that maintaining this upscale lifestyle requires "higher taxes," which Gibson says is the reason for all those tuition hikes. "Not even the actual government is that brazen," he said.

However, because of the economic crunch, the pendulum has finally started to swing the other way. In fact, there has been a sharp increase in applications to state schools during the past few months.

Colorado College President Richard Celeste summed up the current situation, saying that "several years ago, we started thinking about sustainability in environmental terms," adding that "now we need to be thinking about sustainability in economic terms."


Monday, January 12, 2009

School Choice: The Real Test

It's official: President-elect Barack Obama's two daughters are attending Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. The decision comes as no surprise. That elite private school launched former first daughter Chelsea Clinton on the path to success years ago. And the Obama girls are certainly used to attending a private school.

The Obamas steered clear of the Chicago's failing public schools, where 34 percent of the students fail state reading tests and only about half the pupils graduate from high school. So there was never any reason to expect the Obama family to subject Sasha and Malia to D.C.'s failing public schools.

Yet as president, Obama will have some promises to keep. Not only to his daughters, but to all Americans. During his campaign, he vowed, "We cannot be satisfied until every child in America -- I mean every child -- has the same chance for a good education that we want for our own children." And the best way to give students that chance is to give their parents a choice.

If parents were allowed to pick their children's school (as the Obamas have now done twice), they'd pick the best available school, not merely the one that happens to be in their neighborhood.

Obama's decision should serve as a teaching moment for his administration's education policymakers. Lesson number one would be that spending doesn't equate to success.

D.C. spends some $14,000 annually on each child in its public schools. A lot of that funding comes from the federal treasury, which means all American taxpayers are subsidizing the D.C. public schools. That's one of the highest per-pupil costs in the nation. Yet if the District were a state, it would rank 51st -- dead last -- in test scores.

To address these failings, Congress created the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program four years ago. The plan provides low-income children the chance to attend a school of their parents' choice. Some 1,900 disadvantaged children now attend private schools in the District.

Parents are happier with the schools they've picked, and the students are making progress, too. A testing evaluation shows that participating students scored higher than their peers who remained in public school.

Sadly, Obama seemed to be leaning in the wrong direction. "What I do oppose," he told the American Federation of Teachers, "is spending public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them."

Yet real reform would involve expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program so that all children in the District can have the chance to attend a safe and effective school. That's not "throwing up our hands." That's doing something. Something other than simply throwing more money at a problem. We'd be expanding a successful program, so students could attend better schools and their parents could be more involved in their education.

The Obamas are already a role model for this, of course. They arrive in D.C. as an intact family, and both Barack and Michelle are clearly involved in their children's education. The key is to take this to the next level by making school choice available to all parents in the nation's capital.

Powerful politicians of all stripes routinely exercise school choice. A recent survey of Congress found that 37 percent of representatives and 45 percent of senators had sent at least one child to private school. The Obama administration could pave the way for a better education system nationwide by extending school choice to those less fortunate than Washington's elite power brokers. That would be a change Americans deserve.


Regulator said 15,000 useless teachers worked in British schools. Nine years on, how many have been fired? Just 10

Only ten teachers have been struck off for incompetence in almost a decade despite a Government crackdown on poor practice, it emerged yesterday. This means only two teachers have been barred for every 100,000 working in the state system since the General Teaching Council was set up in 2001 to protect children from under-performing staff. The watchdog admitted yesterday the system for passing on concerns about weak teachers was 'virtually non- existent' in many areas. Councils are legally required to pass details of incompetent teachers to the watchdog but two-thirds have not made one referral in seven-and-a-half years. 'The issue for us is whether all children can be assured that the teacher in front of them is competent,' said chief executive Keith Bartley.

The revelation that only ten out of 500,000 teachers in the system have been removed makes a mockery of Labour pledges to root out the incompetent. A claim by former Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers led the then Education Secretary David Blunkett to introduce a fast-track procedure for firing poor staff within a month. Labour also backed legislation setting up the GTC within months of taking power in 1997.

Ten years on, Schools Secretary Ed Balls admitted the system needs tightening up and in his ten-year Children's Plan, issued in December 2007, called on the GTC to root out teachers whose 'competence falls to unacceptably low levels'. In response, the GTC has begun an investigation to find out why so few under-performing teachers are being referred to it. In cases where a teacher is dismissed for incompetence or resigns when dismissal is likely, their employers are supposed to inform the GTC.

Figures disclosed by the GTC show it has received 155 referrals from employers in the past seven and a-half years, which resulted in 64 competency hearings. Of these, only ten resulted in the teacher being struck off. A further 39 entailed disciplinary sanctions including suspension or a reprimand. In 13 cases, the GTC ruled there was no case to answer. The GTC investigation will conclude later this year and is expected to lead to a crackdown on employers who shun their duties. Mr Bartley said: 'I am hopeful we can now address the issue in underperformance.' He told the Times Educational Supplement: 'I don't think we are talking about a broken workforce. It's the best qualified it's ever been, and the best trained.'

The number of incompetence cases emerged a few days after current Ofsted chief, Christine Gilbert, warned that ' boring' lessons were contributing to falling standards of discipline. The Policy Exchange think-tank concluded last year that it was likely that teachers are being ' recycled' around the system. Sam Freedman, the report's author, said 'no one believes' that there were so few incompetent teachers.

John Dunford, general secretary the Association of School and College Leaders, said some heads found it difficult to proceed against incompetent staff because a lack of support from local authorities.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

British Private schools urged to accept bigger classes to keep fees down

An eminently sensible suggestion. The desirability of small classes is a shibboleth in modern education but the evidence says that they just encourage the hiring of incompetent teachers. See here

Private schools should consider increasing class sizes to keep fees down as the credit crisis bites, the head of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) has said. Smaller class sizes have long been the selling point of independent schools, and are frequently cited by parents as the main reason for educating their children privately. Typical class sizes in prep schools range from 8 to 16, while secondary schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council boast a pupil-teacher ratio of 10-1, against an average of 26 and 21 pupils per teacher in state primary and secondary schools.

David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, whose members educate 130,000 children aged 3 to 13, said the sector's obsession with keeping class sizes small represented a "self-inflicted wound". "We need to abandon ship on the idea of small classes and focus instead on the quality of teaching and learning. The answer is quality, quality, quality. Small classes are not the answer. Many of our schools could transform their situation by increasing class size. "There is no magic number. You can have schools that are too small. Eight or ten children to a class can be too small. It's too intensive," he told The Times. "For the children it can be like having an intensive tutorial all the time."

John Tranmer, headmaster of the Froebelian School in Leeds and chairman designate of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said that, at 24, the average class size at his school was well above the average for the independent sector. But the school was nevertheless among the top 100 in the country (out of more than 20,000) in the performance tables for 11-year-olds. "There are some schools that still think that trading on class size is the key thing. They are missing the point," he said.

What mattered more was to attract the best teachers. Rather than have two classes of 12, each with a fully qualified teacher, schools should consider merging the two classes under a single teacher and a classroom assistant. "You save on staffing costs, but the teaching quality is the same," he said. "It's all about the quality of staff and the effective use of teaching assistants - they are of incredible support to teachers." Mr Tranmer, who used to teach in a school in Surrey with classes of eight pupils, said that the social dynamics in such small classes could be very difficult to manage.

The IAPS's change in position on class sizes is unlikely to be universally welcomed by many parents, who remain firmly attached to the notion of small classes.

On the wider issue of how private schools would weather the recession, Mr Hanson said that while some parents would struggle to pay school fees, the most vulnerable schools were likely to be very small, family-owned institutions that did not have the backing of a professional association such as the IAPS. Within the association's 560 member schools, he predicted that at least three schools may be forced to merge to save costs. In other cases, schools were achieving savings by forming informal federations to do bulk ordering on equipment or by sharing specialist teachers.


Half-empty government schools in Britain

No mystery why in most cases. Demographic changes are part of the story but low standards and bureaucratic inertia also figure

Tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being wasted each year on nearly 800,000 "empty desks" in schools. According to government figures, nearly one in seven primary schools and one in 10 secondaries are at least a quarter empty, their pupil rolls slashed by falling local birth rates or parents choosing better schools further away. Areas with the most surplus school places range from rural counties such as Kent and Norfolk to inner-city areas such as Knowsley on Merseyside.

With government spending on schools likely to be reined in after the recession, pressure is likely to grow for a "cull" of empty places in primary schools in sparsely populated areas and in unpopular comprehensives. "Many areas are going to be facing some very difficult decisions as primary school numbers continue to fall," said David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, who obtained the figures in a Commons written answer. They cover the period 2001-7. "With this number of secondary school surplus places, it is also clear many parents are rejecting their most local school."

Alan Smithers, education professor at Buckingham University, said politicians were reluctant to reduce surplus school places, despite the expense of keeping them open. "The corollary of parental choice is supposed to be that parents move their children away from poorly performing schools and that those schools eventually go out of business, raising standards across the system," said Smithers. "At the same time local communities are very attached to their schools and politicians are after their votes." The area with the highest proportion of empty secondary school places is Hackney, east London, where 22% are surplus to requirements. In Wakefield, West Yorkshire, 21% of primary places are unfilled.

Another badly affected area is Kent, where the number of primary schools at least a quarter empty nearly doubled from 44 to 80 between 2004 and 2007. In the past year, the council has closed about five schools and amalgamated others.

Those whose pupil rolls have been falling include Cranbrook Church of England primary school near Tunbridge Wells, the register has dwindled from about 400 six years ago to just 215 today. Peter Wibroe, 52, the headteacher, said: "In times of financial uncertainty I believe people will be less inclined than ever to have children, or move to areas like this with their families and boost the intake at small schools. "We have had to adapt very quickly. When I started two years ago, there were 10 classes. Now we have just eight." [i.e. In a private school, changes have been made which eliminate "empty desks"]

Local authorities contacted over the figures said they were keen to avert school closures wherever possible. Some pointed out that it was advisable to retain surplus places because pupil numbers were set to begin rising again after years of decline.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said funding announced in November's pre-budget report by Alistair Darling, the chancellor, for building new schools could be used to reduce surplus places, for example by removing temporary accommodation in cabins. She added: "Closing schools is a drastic last resort."