Saturday, September 05, 2009

Zogby Poll: 25% of College Grads Say Degree Not Worth the Cost

Survey finds 52% of likely voters believe higher education today is worth the price, 33% say it is not

One in four college graduates -- 25% -- believe higher education is not worth the price of attendance, given today's significant college costs including tuition, room and board, and books, a new Zogby-Scoop44 interactive poll shows.

There is a considerable difference in opinion between those who have earned their college degree and those who have not. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents who have a college degree think the money spent on higher education is worth it. Among respondents who do not have a college degree, fewer than half (44%) think higher education is worth the cost. Overall, slightly more than half (52%) of all respondents believe the costs associated with a college education are worth it, while 33% say they are not. Another 14% are not sure. Women with a college degree (65%) are slightly more likely than men with a college degree (61%) to believe higher education costs are worth it in the end.

The interactive survey of 2,530 likely voters nationwide was conducted Aug. 18-20, 2009, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.0%. Margins of error may be higher in subgroups. The survey was commissioned by Scoop44.

While respondents of all ages are more likely to view a higher education as worth the expense, older respondents are most likely to believe the costs of college are worth it in the end - 61% of those age 65 and older feel this way. Among those age 65 and older with a college degree, 70% say the cost is worth it, and more than half of these oldest respondents without degrees (55%) feel the same.

On the younger end of the spectrum, more than half (55%) of those age 18-29 believe higher education is worth the price, while 35% disagree and 10% are not sure. Many of these youngest voters are already well aware of the high price tag associated with college attendance and the hefty student loans they may face after they get their degree, but those age 18-29 with college degrees are much more likely to believe the costs are worth it (62%). Even so, 28% of these younger respondents with degrees don't believe higher education is worth the cost. Younger respondents without degrees are even more likely to think higher education isn't worth the money (41%).

More here

Homeschoolers are beating the state

Moderate temps, shorter days, state fairs, football, peppers and gourds, “Labor Day” weekend….back to school. Except for some. A growing number of families have bucked the autumn tradition of pep rallies and discount office supply shopping. They have chosen to homeschool.

A few posts back, Brad showed how Sweden is trying to outlaw homeschooling. This is a travesty, and if you want to try to help all those young Bjorns and Bjorks who might have had a taste of true freedom, there is a petition here.

Reading about how Sweden is trying to crack down on homeschoolers, I get a very rare feeling of pride to be an American. Liberty lovers are losing the battle on all sides right now, but we do have one extraordinary victory in the recent past we can point to with pride, and that is the homeschooling movement.

In 1964, John Holt published How Children Fail, a small book of observations from a teacher, epic in its implications. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Holt was tearing down the notion of formal classroom schooling so thoroughly that he would kick off an international movement. Holt wasn’t alone, of course. Many parents, teachers, and child psychologists in the mid-sixties were beginning to suspect that kids might be better off if they stayed away from school altogether. So some of them started leaving their kids out.

These early pioneers frequently operated in violation of compulsory attendance laws. In 1976, Holt, now fully convinced that the classroom was a destructive place, called for a “Children’s Underground Railroad” to help children escape compulsory schooling. Families that were homeschooling in secret around the country contacted him. Through Holt, homeschoolers formed a network to help one another and work at legalizing their activity.

Homeschooling grew in the 70s as the movement figured out creative ways to get around compulsory attendance laws. With this growth came successful removal of legislation that prohibited it, state by state, including a landmark case in 1978 that concluded that “the Massachusetts compulsory attendance statute might well be constitutionally infirm if it did not exempt students whose parents prefer alternative forms of education.”

By 1980, homeschooling was completely legal in 40 states, and legal in the other 10 if overseen by a government-certified teacher. In 1983, The Homeschool Legal Defense Fund was founded. Once that legally approved door was opened, fundamentalist Christians began entering the homeschool movement in large numbers. Today homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. 2.5 million kids are doing it.

And, as readers would expect, the homeschoolers are torching their government school counterparts. On average, homeschool students score 37 per cent higher than their peers on standardized tests. There are no discernable achievement gaps between races, genders, and income levels in the homeschool movement, with homeschoolers consistently landing in the 85th percentile or higher on achievement tests, regardless of background. The average annual education-specific expense for a homeschooler is $500. For a government school student, it is $10,000.

With American homeschooling, we have a pro-liberty, anti-state movement that is:

a) Achieving positive results that far surpass the government alternative.

b) Growing rapidly.

c) Allowing a huge number of children to grow up in freedom.

d) Resistant to government attempts to thwart it.

It’s letter D that I think of as I read about the poor Swedish kids. In America, the government, which is winning in the battle against liberty at every turn, is losing its battle to shut down the homeschool movement. In 1997, as the explosive growth in homeschooling was first becoming evident, the National Education Association adopted its first anti homeschooling resolution, saying that homeschooling programs “cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.” Clearly fearing that homeschooling would expose the government schools for the scheme they are, the NEA also resolved that, if homeschooling is chosen, “instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency.”

The NEA continues to adopt an anti homeschooling resolution in their charter every year, and lobbies state governments to make it harder to homeschool. The UN has adopted and is now considering resolutions that clearly are opposed to homeschooling.

Homeschoolers are under the same assault as anyone else trying to secure freedoms from the government.

But unlike most other pro-freedom movements, the homeschoolers are winning.

Since the NEA adopted its first anti-homeschooling resolution, the number of homeschoolers has doubled. Their number is growing at 7% a year, and through an immensely organized nationwide effort, they continue to win court cases and legislative battles making it easier to homeschool in America, even as the NEA tries to make it harder.

In homeschooling, I see real-time activity that improves lives, increases freedom, contributes to our efforts to one day achieve a free society, and successfully holds back the state. Not only is it growing, but its growth rate is accelerating.

Clearly we have a model of success. I wonder what lessons we might learn from the homeschool movement that can be applied to other freedom-seeking efforts.


Australian school wins right to hire male handler for aggressive student

Except for the complete destruction of school discipline by Leftist "educators", this would never have arisen. It is a disgrace that anyone was ever exposed to danger by an unrestrained monster like this. Plenty of thrashings in response to his acts of violence would have slown him down and taught him the badly-needed lesson that violence begets violence

A SCHOOL has won permission for a male handler for a primary pupil so violent the principal fears for the safety of teachers and other pupils. The special school in Melbourne's eastern suburbs was given an exemption by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to employ a man to supervise the youngster, because he is too dangerous for women. The school will now spend between $35,000 and $42,000 a year on the "education support" officer, the Herald Sun reports.

The youngster's "extreme" violent behaviour is escalating, despite intensive counselling and constant talks with the boy's family and protective services officers, the tribunal heard. The boy, not yet even a teenager, is so unruly he is allowed to use the playground only for a limited time in school breaks and under one-on-one supervision. He was also regularly hauled from class because of the disruption he caused, the school's application to the tribunal stated. The age of the youngster has not been released, but the school only accepts children aged five to 12.

The school contended it was "very difficult to provide a safe work environment for our staff, most of whom are female, and for our student population, without a male education support officer".

VCAT gave the school an exemption from anti-discrimination laws so that it could specifically employ a man for the role on August 26. "This student has exhibited extreme violence both within and outside school grounds," VCAT deputy president Anne Coghlan said in the tribunal's decision. "He demonstrates threatening and aggressive behaviour towards students and staff."

While the school accepts students with "severe behaviour disorders", its assistant principal confirmed the latest measure was a first. "This is the first time we have ever done it, that's purely something we decided as a staff to do," she said. "Within our school we have mainly women (staff)."

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said in rare cases some special schools had to take the measure for extremely difficult students. "They get to a size and physical strength that it is a challenge to restrain them for both their protection and the protection of others," she said. "What it is, on the face of it, is an enormous effort by the school to maintain the student in their care and education. "At least we are not back in the dark days where these children were actually shut away. "In these cases we have to make every effort to ensure it is a safe working environment for teachers and other children."

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development spokeswoman Karen Harbutt said the department backed the school's decision.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Using student loans to slow tuition-fee growth

IT’S back-to-school time for college students, which means big tuition bills. Most will defer large out-of-pocket costs until after college through the use of student loans. No one is happy about the explosion in student loan debt to pay rising tuition, but there is a silver lining: We can use student loans to slow tuition growth.

There are two sides to the college affordability ledger: financial aid and tuition. Politicians focus almost exclusively on expanding financial aid, which is crucial, but it’s like chasing a rabbit. Tuition outpaces inflation, grant aid, even health care cost growth, and, most importantly, median family income. To keep pace with rising tuition, student loan debt doubled over the last decade.

To slow tuition growth, supply-and-demand incentives have to change. If suppliers are on the hook for a portion of student loan default costs, they’ll be less likely to run up tuition beyond what they can expect students to repay. If consumer demand can be nudged at the same time toward colleges that are good investments, schools that offer poor value at a high price will have to slow tuition growth and improve student outcomes. We shouldn’t regulate tuition; we should nudge it in the right direction.

Colleges, because their mission rightly is to build and diffuse knowledge, have insatiable growth aspirations. Many will raise tuition as much as the market will bear, and it bears a great deal.

But families choose colleges and borrow almost blindly. They have relatively little information as to how good an investment a particular school is. Ranking guides like that of US News & World Report focus on the top 20 percent of schools and inputs like class size as opposed to outcomes like how much students learn.

If colleges are made responsible for a portion of student loan default costs, they’ll be more responsible in who they let in, how much they charge, and how well they prepare students for good-paying jobs that enable those students to pay off their debt. In the private student-loan market, banks are increasingly placing proprietary colleges on the hook for a portion of student loan default costs. The federal student loan market is five times as large. We need recourse there as well.

There’s a danger colleges will respond by pricing their exposure to defaults into even higher tuition. That’s why we also need to nudge demand away from high-cost, poor-value schools. Most colleges supply a good product, and shouldn’t be penalized simply for serving high-risk populations. But a subset of schools is clearly not serving students well. Community colleges in that group aren’t the issue here, because of their low cost and low borrowing rates. The real problem is with low-level private institutions and shoddy for-profit trade schools. We should steer students away from them, but how?

Few Americans want to see No Child Left Behind-like testing at the college level. But it’s relatively easy to compare colleges according to what students most want out of higher education: good jobs and financial security.

We need a price-to-earnings ratio - that is, price of college to expected future earnings - for higher education. The US Department of Education has the average net price for each college. It can generate lifetime student default rates for each school as well. A private website,, lists median starting and mid-career salaries for hundreds of schools. Put such data together and construct a higher-education value index, including a “lemon list.’’ Just like politicians have to say they approve campaign commercials, make the lemons warn consumers on their marketing materials.

“Warning: One in two Acme College borrowers defaults on a student loan within three years of separation from Acme College. Acme graduates earn an average starting salary of $22,000 a year. Be careful before assuming substantial student loan debt to attend Acme College.’’

Schools will want to be identified as good-value options and shudder at the prospect of being on a lemon list. To avoid it, they’ll be less quick to raise tuition - and more interested in making sure their students get good-paying jobs.


Crooked German academics

Germany's academic community is being shaken by doubts cast on the integrity of around one hundred professors.

The professors, working across all academic disciplines at many major German universities, are suspected to have accepted thousands of euros in bribes from the now-insolvent Institute for Scientific Consulting ("Institut für Wissenschaftsberatung") in Bergisch-Gladbach, near Cologne.

The scandal is the latest in a series of investigations into the Institute's business practices. Public prosecutors searched its offices back in 2005 and again in March 2008, after malpractice accusations first emerged.

In July 2008, the managing director of the Institute was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and a €75000 fine for having paid a law professor in Hanover up to €4000 to accept PhD candidates, some of whom did not fulfill the prerequisites for studying towards a PhD. The law professor was also convicted of accepting bribes.

Files found after the Institute was searched last year created enough suspicion to trigger the current investigation.

Most of the professors involved are of junior status, without full tenure, although some tenured professors are among those being investigated, says Cologne's senior public prosecutor, Günther Feld.

"This is not about selling PhD titles, but about whether academics accepted money to take on particular PhD candidates," Feld emphasises.

Even so, there are grave concerns within the academic community. The federal minister of education, Annette Schavan, said on Sunday that the credibility of Germany's academic community could sustain major damage if the accusations turn out to be true.

The president of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (DHV), Bernhard Kempen, said that a thorough investigation of these cases was urgently needed and that the legitimacy of an agency offering services to students to help them obtain PhDs should generally be questioned.

He called for university regulations to require PhD candidates to sign statements that they have not accepted any outside help in obtaining their PhDs.


Hate shouldn’t be a pillar of Islamic education

When the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Va., requested to expand the campus, protests about the curriculum came to a head. Why allow such an expansion when the school’s books are tainted with hate? The books are the same as those used in schools in Saudi Arabia: Students are taught to incite violence and cause human rights violations, to be hostile toward non-Muslims, and how to punish people, among other shocking passages.

Under pressure from a congressional report in 2008, the academy changed its textbooks — but inflammatory passages remain. An 11th-grade textbook reads: “Scholars of the People of the Book know that Islam is the true path because they find it in their books, but they shy away out of ignorance and stubbornness. And God knows their deeds and will judge them.” The “People of the Book” are Jews and Christians, who are allegedly ignoring the truth of Islam. Even more horrifying, the books promote child marriage, going so far as to condone forced marriage with a 1-year-old child. In Saudi Arabia, there are many examples of such marriages between children who are prepubescent.

There are over 5 million students in the state schools in Saudi Arabia, not to mention the sizeable quantity of students enrolled in Saudi-supported schools across the world, including the one in Fairfax. What students are taught in school should be a concern for the United States, and stopping the problem at its roots should be a top priority.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the school’s former valedictorian, was convicted in 2005 of joining al Qaeda and planning to assassinate President George W. Bush. Another graduate of the academy, Raed Abdul-Rahman Al-Saif, was arrested just last month at a Florida airport while trying to board a plane with a concealed butcher knife.

The existence of a Muslim school in the United States should not even be debated. There has been some strong response to the Islamic Saudi Academy, perhaps some of which may be too reactionary.

Generalizing Islam as a fanatical religion that breeds hatred and terrorism is false. Students instead need to be taught Islam without the influence of the Saudi government and its archaic, strict practices.

Achieving a moderate and appropriate curriculum has proved to be an attainable goal. The King Fahd Academy in London, a sister school to the one in Virginia, used to teach from the same controversial textbooks. Over time, the school modernized its curriculum to contain moderate teachings of Islam. In the United States, students should be able to go to Islamic schools. But getting rid of these toxic textbooks should be part of the package.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Nasty British university finally trumped

A law student who refused to accept the results of her final examinations has won a four-year legal battle to have her marks upgraded. Alice Clarke was given low marks in two assessments for her Bar Vocational Course that all lawyers have to pass to practise as a barrister. She claimed that the low marks for her oral examinations in advanced criminal law and legal negotiation were because of disagreements with her tutors and asked Cardiff University to reassess them. When it refused, she pursued her claim through the High Court.

An independent assessor who listened to her performance in criminal law examination gave her 71 per cent instead of the 40 per cent that she originally received. The university was ordered to allow her to retake the negotiation test, which she passed with 62 per cent instead of 46 per cent.

In a written judgment Mr Justice Wyn Williams ordered that the revised results should be accepted as though she had passed when she sat the papers the first time.

Mrs Clarke, 43, a mother of two, studied law as a mature student after a career as a nurse. She said that the legal battle to have her results reassessed had been worth it even though it has cost her tens of thousands of pounds. She said: “I am very glad to have won but I am sad that I have lost four years of my career fighting this battle. “The university only finally accepted I had passed in March, four years after I took the exams. It’s been a living nightmare but I am just so pleased the court has vindicated me.”

Mrs Clarke was determined to have the original results cancelled out after claiming that disagreements with tutors had led to her being marked down. She said: “I was worried that barristers’ chambers wouldn’t take me on if they thought I’d failed the two papers at the first attempt. “I decided to challenge it through the courts even though I knew it would cost me thousands of pounds. On a professional level it’s simply astonishing, on a human level it’s extraordinary the way I have been treated by the university. They banned me from taking a resit, they banned me from campus and they even began disciplinary proceedings against me.”

After graduating in law in 1998 Mrs Clarke carried on working as a nurse and bringing up her two children Sarah, now 12, and Aaron, 9, before taking the advanced law degree. She was finally registered as a barrister in March and is hoping to find work representing people whose homes have been repossessed.

Mrs Clarke is waiting for a High Court hearing to decide who is responsible for the majority of costs in a case that she believes has legal fees of up to £400,000. She said: “I don’t know the exact amount of my costs but they could be as much as £100,000. There have been eight hearings in the High Court but however much it cost me I was determined to fight to its conclusion.”

In his written judgment, Mr Justice Williams said: “I have reached the conclusion that the decision of the extenuating circumstance committee of June 30, 2005, to refuse the claimant’s application for extenuating circumstances relating to her negotiation assessment should be quashed. “Unless any representation is made to the contrary, I propose also to quash the decision of the reconvened examination board of September 27, 2005, insofar as it relates to the claimant’s application for extenuating circumstances.”

Cardiff University said that it was considering the implications of the judgement:“The university is aware of the judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. At this stage, the university is considering the implications of this judgment in consultation with our legal advisers. “It is of relevance that the university offered independent marking at a hearing as long ago as October 2006. “Mrs Clarke only agreed to this after 18 months and three orders of court. This delay caused the court to order Mrs Clarke to pay towards the university’s costs.”


Australia: School covers up brutal bashing

Days after a 15-year-old boy died after a schoolyard brawl, a Gold Coast high school has been accused of covering up a savage assault that left a 17-year-old boy with a fractured skull. Southport State High School student Angelo Feraru, 17, will need plastic surgery after the unprovoked attack on August 21 that broke his nose and fractured his skull. His mother Mihela is just grateful her son, unlike Jai Morcom, is alive.

Angelo was sitting, eating his lunch when he was attacked by another student and punched in the face. His face was covered in blood and he was taken by ambulance to the Gold Coast Hospital where doctors said the teen's nose was badly broken and his sinus bone fractured. Doctors reset his nose and told Mihela her son would need extensive surgery to repair the damage.

Despite the severity of the attack, Southport State High School failed to report it to police. It handled the issue internally by dishing out a 10-day suspension. [What a joke!] Queensland Police yesterday confirmed they had no record of the vicious assault.

It is understood Angelo's attacker is a fellow student with a history of violence. He was expelled from another Gold Coast school after attacking a fellow student, breaking his jaw. He transferred to Southport High School where he assaulted another Southport student only three weeks before attacking Angelo.

On Monday, Ms Feraru and her son went to the Runaway Bay Police Station to report the incident but were warned against the complaint. The officer who dealt with the pair warned Angelo of the potential fallout if he pressed charges. "They tell us to be careful because Angelo has to live with this kid for the next few months before he finishes school," said Ms Feraru.

Gold Coast police district Superintendent Jim Keogh said it seemed 'incredible' police had only been told of the matter nine days after the assault. He said police needed Angelo to make a formal statement before officers could act on the complaint.

Mrs Feraru said she was scared to send her son back to school.... Ms Feraru said she went to the police station hoping they would stop the violence.

The danger of inaction is all too clear after the death of Jai Morcom last week. The 15-year-old died in Gold Coast Hospital on Saturday after suffering massive head injuries during a brutal brawl over lunch tables on Friday. "It make me feel sick in my stomach," said Ms Feraru.

In a statement released yesterday, Education Queensland confirmed 'an incident took place on August 21 and a student required medical attention'. "A student was disciplined in line with the school's Responsible Behaviour Plan," it read. The department said it would investigate any reports of schools not following policy. [So that's policy?? Expose innocent kids to brutal violence and do nothing significant to prevent a recurrence??]


Australia: Teachers are powerless to stop schoolyard violence

Not exactly surprising in the light of the severe limits placed on discipline by a Leftist government

The bashing death at school of a 15 year old boy in Mullumbimby last week is a symptom of a much bigger statewide problem in schools. Teachers are too scared to step in before things get totally out of hand. Put simply teachers now have little control. The consequences for students of bad, even violent behaviour, are now so insignificant students simply don’t care.

A teacher cannot restrain a student at all, they can’t yell at students or else they will be accused of emotional abuse. A teacher must simply say “please don’t do this” and then hope they are obeyed. Step outside this rigid set of rules and you risk being “EPACed” - every teacher’s worst nightmare. To be “EPACed” is to be investigated by the Education Department’s Employee Performance and Conduct Unit, a Gestapo-like division.

Students know this and play on it and why wouldn’t you if you were a child and knew what you could get away with. Eventually the ultimate punishment for persistent disobedience (after the student refuses to come to detention and throws the detention slip at the teacher) is suspension from school.

This means they are rewarded a holiday for their actions. If there are too many suspensions at a school the department then asks the school Principal to explain why so many students are being suspended and to come up with strategies to reduce the high suspension rate at the school.

Any teacher who physically intervenes in a physical fight in the play ground risks being reported by a student for physical assault and marched off to EPAC, where the onus is on them to prove their innocence.

EPAC acts as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and then executioner. EPAC do not make final decisions using the words Guilty or Innocent. Unless a student actually admits they were lying when they complained about their teacher, then the most a teacher can expect if they are innocent is if EPAC finds “there is insignificant evidence to prove the conduct occurred” the teacher then has this black mark on their record for life.

Some examples of a teacher being EPACed include a primary school teacher and friend of mine in Sydney’s North Shore who broke up a fight by physically restraining a student who was bashing another student.

That teacher was then EPACed and although it was found that the teacher trying to exercise their duty of care, the record of this incident is in their teacher job file held in Oxford Street (where EPAC keep all files) for the rest of their teaching career.

Another incident involves a teacher at a high school who whilst taking students on an excursion to an Art gallery was asked about a particular painting which was on public display which may have been interpreted as having sexual themes. The teacher told the students they did not want to discuss this painting and to move on.

Two female students then complained and the teacher was EPACed for allegedly showing students sexually explicit artwork. Even though EPAC decided that “there is insignificant evidence to prove the conduct occurred” the teacher now has that case in their EPAC file for the rest of their career.

Whilst a teacher is being EPACed they are told by the Principal not to discuss the investigation with anyone at the school. This makes them feel anxious and even more upset and attempts to punish them psychologically even though nothing has been proven against them.

After two accusations where there is “insignificant evidence” the teachers name is reported to the Commission for Children and Young People, (CCYP) essentially they are labeled a child abuser on the hearsay of often vindictive students who know they have the power now.

As a result of all this is it any wonder that what started as a fight in the playground at Mullumbimby lead to a bashing death of a student?. Students have the power and teachers know they can’t intervene physically anymore. The DET student discipline policy and it EPAC procedures are to blame and the situation statewide is only going to get worse as students relish in their new found power at school.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Court orders Christian child into government education

BECAUSE she is a Christian. First Amendment, anyone?

A 10-year-old homeschool girl described as "well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level" has been told by a New Hampshire court official to attend a government school because she was too "vigorous" in defense of her Christian faith. The decision from Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view."

The recommendation was approved by Judge Lucinda V. Sadler, but it is being challenged by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, who said it was "a step too far" for any court. The ADF confirmed today it has filed motions with the court seeking reconsideration of the order and a stay of the decision sending the 10-year-old student in government-run schools in Meredith, N.H.

The dispute arose as part of a modification of a parenting plan for the girl. The parents divorced in 1999 when she was a newborn, and the mother has homeschooled her daughter since first grade with texts that meet all state standards. In addition to homeschooling, the girl attends supplemental public school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities, the ADF reported.

But during the process of negotiating the terms of the plan, a guardian ad litem appointed to participate concluded the girl "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith" and that the girl's interests "would be best served by exposure to a public school setting" and "different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief ... in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs." According to court documents, the guardian ad litem earlier had told the mother, "If I want her in public school, she'll be in public school."

The marital master hearing the case proposed the Christian girl be ordered into public school after considering "the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others." "Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. In this case specifically, the court is illegitimately altering a method of education that the court itself admits is working," said ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton. "The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews. This is a step too far for any court to take."

"The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself has specifically declared, 'Home education is an enduring American tradition and right,'" said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. "There is clearly and without question no legitimate legal basis for the court's decision, and we trust it will reconsider its conclusions."

The case, handled in the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia, involves Martin Kurowski and Brenda Kurowski (Voydatch), and their daughter.

The ADF also argued that the issue already was raised in 2006 and rejected by the court. "Most urgent … is the issue of Amanda's schooling as the school year has begun and Amanda is being impacted by the court's decision daily," the court filing requesting a stay said. "Serious state statutory and federal constitutional concerns are implicated by the court's ruling and which need to be remedied without delay.

"It is not the proper role of the court to insist that Amanda be 'exposed to different points of view' if the primary residential parent has determined that it is in Amanda's best interest not to be exposed to secular influences that would undermine Amanda's faith, schooling, social development, etc. The court is not permitted to demonstrate hostility toward religion, and particularly the faith of Amanda and Mother, by removing Amanda from the home and thrusting her into an environment that the custodial parent deems detrimental to Amanda."

"The order assumes that because Amanda has sincerely held Christian beliefs, there must be a problem that needs solving. It is a parent's constitutionally protected right to train up their children in the religious beliefs that they hold. It is not up to the court to suggest that a 10-year-old should be 'exposed' to other religious views contrary to the faith traditions of her parents. Could it not be that this sharp 10-year-old 'vigorously' believes what she does because she knows it to be true? The court's narrative suggests that 10-year-olds are too young to form opinions and that they are not yet allowed to have sincerely held Christian beliefs," the ADF said.

"Absent any other clear and convincing evidence justifying the court's decision, it would appear that the court has indeed taken sides with regard to the issue of religion and has preferred one religious view over another (or the absence of religion). This is impermissible," the documents said.

The guardian ad litem had an anti-Christian bias, the documents said, telling the mother at one point she wouldn't even look at homeschool curriculum. "I don't want to hear it. It's all Christian based," she said.


Let’s stick up for boisterous boys

Comment from Britain: Dreary coursework and earnest women teachers have let pupils down. Many prefer the excitement of sudden-death exams

It was an axiom of 1970s feminists that, apart from a bit of irritating biology, boys and girls were the same. Girls could be motorbike engineers and corporate lawyers, boys could be homebody childminders. And so they can.

They adjured us to give our girl-babies toy power-drills and press dollies and dusters on the lads. Any female infant found wrapping her Fisher-Price workbench in a shawl and nursing it, any boy-child going “Neeeeeeowwwwwww!” and setting up aerial battles between his toy dustpan and brush, must in this theory be firmly dissuaded.

Worse still was the school of thought that did acknowledge inbuilt differences, but despised them: Jill Tweedie, of The Guardian, wrote with angry scorn even about her teenage sons, and when Jenni Murray’s first boy was born, she relates with horror that a friend hissed: “Poor you, having to raise one of the enemy!”

I never bought in to this viperous pretence, as I grew up with three brothers and spent three years in a rough-and-tumble village school. I saw that boys were not the enemy, but that on the other hand neither were they girls. Alfie at school might push me in a ditch in a fit of high spirits and say a rude word, but Annie would tell sneaky tales behind my back. On the other hand Alfie was creative and daring in the raiding of woodpiles at Guy Fawkes, and when Annie was nice we could yarn for hours.

I like boys and men. The sexes have a lot to learn from one another. Of course, rights must be equal, and of cours,e there have been terrible injustices to women. But the pretend war, the psychological war, is only for amusement — Violet Elizabeth Bott foils William and the Outlaws. We need both sexes to complete the full and fabulous picture of humanity.

Education should reflect this happy synthesis, but it hardly does. In reaction against the days when bigots argued that educating girls caused sterility, and more recent decades when girls were denied sciences other than Domestic, the system has swung over into a bias against boys. As fewer and fewer primary teachers are men (rightly scared of demonisation as child molesters), a feminised culture rises. Boys, says the staffroom, are “exhausting”: lazy, aggressive, disrupters and debunkers, too fond of rude jokes.

More seriously, as the writer Doris Lessing said in a 2001 lecture, boys are told that their gender made the world dangerous. She visited a classroom where an earnest young woman taught that war is caused by the violent nature of men. The boys “sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence”. Out of the classroom, no doubt, they hastened to the shrine of Arnie Schwarzenegger, as the most positive role model.

Meanwhile, girls — more keen to please, gentler, less driven by itching muscular energy, are seen as sugar and spice. Easier for Miss to relate to. I remember once being faintly ashamed of my own gender on arriving in a playground where the boys were tearing around in some wild happy game while a knot of little girls stood still in clean socks, testing one another on their times-tables. With a caveat about oversimplification (there are happy wrestling tomboys and gentle anxious boys), the fact is that boys’ natural behaviour prompts a belief that what they mainly need is — well, controlling.

Quite apart from the literal feminisation of the teaching profession, even school routines militate against young male biology: as fewer children walk to school, boys arrive with natural surplus energy, which it is a torment to suppress. One primary school that used to start with a quiet assembly tried replacing it with ten minutes of energetic running at the start of the day: boys’ disruption in class fell away.

Various studies confirm the way that expectations of boys (trouble! disruptive!) can damage their education. In 1964 in California an experiment was carried out in which 132 five-year-olds were taught reading by a machine: both sexes reacted in the same way and the boys scored marginally higher. Taught conventionally by women teachers, boys’ scores dipped. The plea that teachers have to spend “three times more attention” on boys is countered by researched observations (in an Australian study of 2001) that actually, a lot of this attention is devoted to berating them for “inappropriate behaviour”. Some of which, of course, may be simply boisterousness: a more exuberant style of learning and reacting. Tiring, yes: but natural. Yet even at A level the poor lads suffer punitive assaults on their whole sex as they are forced to study feminist dystopianism like The Handmaid’s Tale alongside smugly pious girls.

For those of us who have been uneasy about this for years, and hated the growing triumphalism about girls outperforming boys, there was a considerable buzz in last week’s exam figures. GCSE coursework is a plodding, dreary business, less a test of knowledge and understanding than of compliance and tidy punctuality. It has ruled the roost under new Labour, but after various scandals is gradually being cut down in favour of the more daredevil, challenging ordeal of the “sudden death” exam where you have to pull out all the stops on one hot summer day.

They cut coursework from maths for this year: and what happens? After nearly 20 years of girls outdoing boys in that subject, the moment the coursework is dropped the boys surge slightly ahead. QED. It is only one small proof, but underlines the strong probability that the style, the ethos, the expectations of schools are demoralising boyish boys.

And hear this: such a bias also damages and demoralises quite a few boyish girls, too. For just as some boys are quiet and anxious, some females are not compliant, quiet, teacher-pleasers prone to apple-polishing and recreational times-table-testing. There are swashbuckling girls who take risks, stir things up, laugh at inappropriate moments, hit deadlines in an adrenalin rush, and prefer the risky terror of the examination hall to organised, deliberative female steadiness.

When we worry about boys we should remember these girls too: just as concern about the status of female professions should include those men who join them. We need yin and yang, male and female, buccaneers and consolidators, nurses and surgeons, stevedores and embroiderers — of either sex. We should celebrate both.


Australian school bullying shame: three children a class bullied daily

But all schools have "policies" about it -- policies that are a vacuity in the absence of significant disciplinary powers

BULLYING has become such a "pervasive problem" in schools that three children in each class are bullied daily or almost daily. Startling research, held by Queensland's Education Department, shows another five children per class are bullied in some way weekly. Education Department assistant director-general of student services Patrea Walton told a community forum at the weekend that bullying was a "pervasive problem in schools" and had been identified as "one of the biggest fears parents have for their children".

The State Government has hired national bullying expert Professor Ken Rigby to help address the scourge.

Up to 70 per cent of suspensions currently handed out in Queensland schools relate to bullying. The horrific death of year 9 Mullumbimby student Jai Morcom, who suffered massive head injuries after he was allegedly targeted during a schoolyard brawl on Friday, has reignited the debate on student cruelty and violence.

Rising school violence continues to dog Education Minister Geoff Wilson, who is trying a raft of measures to tackle the problem, including hiring Prof Rigby. [Ken Rigby is a nice guy but there are severe limits on what psychology can do]

Australia's largest study of school bullying, released two months ago, showed Queensland had among the highest levels of bullying in the country. The forum, organised by the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations Metropolitan West Regional Council, heard terrifying accounts of cyber bullying in which students spoke of killing peers. Speakers also told of messages in which students wrote of hurting students' families.

Ms Walton said research showed bullying victims were more likely to be depressed, anxious, have low self-esteem, exhibit medical problems and talk about suicide than their peers. But she said it was not a recent phenomenon and not confined to schools.

Tullawong State High School principal Leonie Kearney, credited with turning her Caboolture school around through a tough stance on bullying and bad behaviour, said 70 per cent of suspensions she administered related to bullying.

Ms Walton said she didn't believe the proportion of suspensions for bullying would be as high across the state, but was unable to provide a figure, citing no agreed definition. More than 50 per cent of the 55,000 suspensions handed out to state school students in 2008 were for physical, verbal and non-verbal misconduct.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

American parents should demand public school refunds

And now, from the tortured and twisted logic department, comes this little tidbit from an activist opposed to vouchers being used to send D.C. students to private schools. Last week, about 100 supporters of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program held a rally outside the U.S. Department of Education headquarters. According to news reports, about 200 students were awarded vouchers this past spring. Then our federal government double crossed the kiddies and yanked the vouchers.

The voucher program gives parents who are unable to afford to send their children to private schools the same choice the ones who can do, and that's why Robert Vinson Brannum, the activist in question, opposes vouchers. "Not every choice can come on a public dollar," Brannum said in one news report. "I should have to pay for my child to go to private school. If it's acceptable for those who oppose abortion not to have their dollars used to pay for abortions, I should have that same choice."

And, by comparing the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions to the use of taxpayer money to send a kid to private school, Brannum wins the twisted, tortured logic award for 2009. His reasoning is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin to pick his argument apart, but I'll start with this one. Government doesn't compel anyone to have sex. Government doesn't compel women to get pregnant, either.

Having sex is strictly a private matter, one that should be the most private. In fact, when the so-called "pro-choice" crowd supported Norma McCorvey - the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade - in her case that went to the Supreme Court, they used the "right to privacy" argument. They went rooting around in the "penumbra" of the Constitution and just yanked the right out. The "right to privacy" is the ball field the "pro-choicers" chose to play on. Later, they decided that they didn't really mean a "right to privacy" at all, but the right to an abortion at any stage of a woman's pregnancy. And they insisted that poor women should have the same right as rich women, and advocated for public funds be made available for abortions for poor women.

Realizing that they were asking the public to foot the bill for the consequences of a very private act, the pro-choicers completely abandoned their "right to privacy" language. These days they say "a woman's right to choose."

Public education isn't even a different pew in the same church. Heck, it's an entirely different religion. Government makes education compulsory for children up to a certain age. That means those parents who don't have the money to send their children to private school or the time to home school them have to send them to public schools. Once the government has compelled parents to send their children to public schools, it has entered into a contract with those parents.

Government has promised not only to educate children, but also to do so in a safe environment. If the school either provides little to no education or isn't safe, or both, then the government has reneged on its promise. At that point, parents have the right to demand that government provide them with an alternative. I've gone so far as to say those parents have the right to demand the government cut them a check for whatever the per-pupil expenditure is in their district for public education. With that check they should be able to pick between another public school, a charter school, a private school or even a parochial school.

I developed my refund philosophy some years ago, after I learned one Baltimore public high school was so bad that it had a section called "The Level of Death," where the hoodlums smoked pot and played craps and where no serious student or even faculty member dared to venture. Why, I asked myself, are taxpayers required to even fund a public school with a "Level of Death"? What kind of education could possibly go on at the school? Why, none, of course. Maryland taxpayers, I concluded, would be perfectly justified in demanding a refund of any tax money that went to fund "Level of Death" High.

Vouchers aren't about choice. They're about government refunding our tax dollars misused for public education.


Meddling with Britain's final High School exams has hit standards, says top head

The head of the top school for A-levels yesterday condemned ministerial meddling in exams for putting academic standards at risk. Bernice McCabe, head of the North London Collegiate School, warned that syllabuses increasingly required schools to solve social problems instead of promoting rigorous education.

She spoke out as her £11,925-a-year girls' day school topped the Daily Mail's A-level league table for independent schools. Pupils passed 99 per cent of exams at grades A and B, with more than 90 per cent at A.

But Mrs McCabe said political interference was 'skewing' the curriculum in favour of fashionable causes such as encouraging pupils to lead 'healthy lifestyles' and giving them an awareness of poverty. She accused the Government of a knee-jerk reaction to problems in wider society. 'That is inappropriate political interference in education,' she said. 'I would love an exam system separate from Government interference. 'I'm not sure that it's helpful to have such central control. It doesn't seem to have worked particularly well over the last 20 years.'

She added: 'Healthy lifestyles is a sort of criteria that's dominating it in a way that skews things and feels non-educational. 'It's very easy for the Government always to take the moral high ground, and say "how could you possibly disagree with that?" 'Naturally these things are important. But to put that right up there as a top priority brings everything down to it.' Education policy should be inspired by 'a proper education philosophy' and not in response to problems of society-she said.

Mrs McCabe's remarks came as the head of a second high-performing school said top A-level grades had become easier to come by. The availability of examiners' marking schemes and sample papers mean it is 'not hard to get a good grade', according to Cynthia Hall, head of Wycombe Abbey School in High Wycombe. She said: 'A-levels are still an appropriate challenge, but there is much more information for students about what is expected of them.' Pupils can 'see what the job is' and get on with it in a 'methodical' way, she added.

A-level results from 400 independent schools, published today, show that pupils passed 53.6 per cent of exams at grade A, compared to just over 20 per cent at comprehensives. But many schools including Eton, Winchester and St Paul's refused to allow their results to be used in tables for the second year running.

Perse School for Girls, in Cambridge, said the tables were a 'flawed beauty parade'. However, Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said: 'It is patronising to suggest that parents are confused by league tables and that therefore they should not exist. 'Fee-paying parents have the right to know our results.'

Rising numbers of parents are paying up to £2,000 in legal fees as they fight for places at sought-after state schools. A BBC survey of legal firms found that nearly all have been bombarded with requests for help winning school admission appeals. Parents who can no longer afford private education and wish to give their children the best chance of getting into a state grammar school or good comprehensive are said to be fuelling the trend. An initial meeting with a legal firm to discuss an appeal can cost more than £80.


Some British university graduates now working in call centres

“HELLO, I’ve got a 2:1. How may I help you?” Call centres, once seen as the sweatshops of the British economy, are being flooded with job applications from university leavers who have found that traditional career opportunities wither in a recession. Hays, a recruitment agency for call centre staff, said the number of new graduates seeking jobs as operators had trebled in the past year. Thousands of this summer’s graduates are now thought to be applying for jobs through Hays and other firms.

Those which have seen a surge in graduate applications for call centre jobs include O2, the mobile phone provider, and Denplan, the dental health insurer. Cambridgeshire county council has reported a similar trend.

Vacancies for degree-level jobs have fallen 25% in the past year, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, while some economists have warned that those aged 18-25 risk becoming a “lost generation” with nearly 1m of them already unemployed.

The fear of joblessness has led growing numbers of university leavers to enter careers not traditionally seen as suitable for those with a degree. The call centre industry, which employs more than 900,000 people in Britain, insists that the boom in graduate interest is not simply a result of the recession but shows that being a phone operator dealing with customers is seen as a possible route to a high-flying career.

It has also continued to expand throughout the recession, despite the trend in recent years for companies to locate call centres in countries with cheap labour, such as India.

Peter Mooney, head of operations at Holiday Extras, which specialises in selling pre-booked airport car parking and hotels, said he had had 250-300 applications for 17 vacancies at the company’s telephone sales centre near Hythe, Kent. They have included graduates from universities such as Leeds and York. He added that the quality of applicants would mean a highly educated call centre workforce.

“It is partly because of the recession,” said Mooney. “But we expect some of the graduates to stay with us. A lot will go via the call centre for a couple of years and will then be poached by other departments.”

Elspeth Hutchinson, 22, a Holiday Extras employee, graduated from Christchurch Canterbury University this summer with a psychology and history degree. “When I first graduated, I was initially thinking I wasn’t going to stay here long and I would go elsewhere and the recession wouldn’t hold me back, but since then I’ve changed my mind.”


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Precarious Lives of Politically Incorrect Adjuncts

A professor without tenure discovers that even the teaching of basic English is driven by political correctness

I’m an adjunct English professor. When the subject of adjunct faculty comes up, the predictable calls for unionization and “social justice” are often voiced by my tenured colleagues enjoying light teaching loads and by administrators enjoying comfortable salaries overseeing “multicultural” programs. But I know that I would not be among their intended beneficiaries were they made aware of my political views.

It’s not that I sought to be political when I returned to school in the 1990s to earn my Ph.D. I soon discovered, however, that political neutrality—even in literary studies—is suspect. In the academic world, the belief that great literature conveys universal, timeless themes is generally taken as evidence of an imperialistic outlook. The same holds for history, where the reliance on factual evidence and focus on major events are deemed offensive to women and those from non-Western cultures.

My fellow graduate students tailored their programs for the job market: studying African-American and gay writers, and applying the trendy postmodern, deconstructivist literary theories. Since 2002, when I earned my Ph.D. in English, the field has gotten even stranger, with such additions to the ideological postcolonial, African-American, and critical theory courses as “fat studies” and “trauma studies.” An upperclassman can enroll in “Introduction to Visual Rhetoric”—and then presumably in “Advanced Visual Rhetoric.” But how does my study of Plato and Cicero prepare me to teach these classes?

I am considered qualified to teach freshman composition, though. My experience of being called at 4:50 p.m. on a Friday and asked to be on campus at 8:30 a.m. on Monday to fill out the application and teach two classes that morning is not that unusual. At least it’s one way to avoid the scrutiny of my curriculum vitae.

Some of my teaching is done at a community college. Even there, however, one must accept the prevailing ideology, as I discovered during a job interview.

After my teaching demonstration on a nuts-and-bolts aspect of freshman composition (semicolons), the committee chair (a black female who chaired a committee that was all-female, except for one openly gay man), asked how I addressed the multicultural needs of the student body. I mentioned Zora Neale Hurston, the black and decidedly non-political author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, as someone I like to have students read. Apparently, it wasn’t a good enough response.

Although I did not get the position, I was encouraged to apply again. To put my cv over the edge, I suppose I should attend the recommended online and Saturday teacher development workshops and publish papers on multicultural pedagogy.

I certainly could not, however, tout my writing in publications like the Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, and Townhall, even though they might inspire student writers. Some of my colleagues openly brag about being published in the leftist magazine The Nation or having worked on Al Gore’s presidential campaign. That’s perfectly safe, but I no longer list my academic affiliations under my byline. Once I was told that I was no longer “needed” at a school after readers of my columns wrote laudatory letters to the department chair.

Here’s another illustrative case. A colleague who started at a small college as an adjunct was eventually hired on a one-year basis and told he’d be the first in line when a full-time position opened. Then he was asked to submit his application, but was later told that the position now required a “gender historian.” He was not even interviewed, despite having published a book and having received glowing student evaluations. History major “groupies” circulated petitions when they learned that his contract was not being renewed—to no avail. He just didn’t have the right political orientation. Excellent teaching and research didn’t matter.

The sad fact is that history majors, after taking the mandatory gender history class, will be taught from that same radical perspective in their other history classes. These kinds of students probably will seek other majors. I doubt I would have continued my graduate studies had I not been able to select the traditional classes of older professors, who have since retired or died.

And even at the community college level where we have to explain the difference between a noun and a verb, we have no choice in textbooks. One I currently use includes a story by Richard Wright from his communist period (which Zora Neale Hurston called “communist propaganda,” I tell my students). The introduction does not mention Wright’s repudiation of communism later. The grammar handbook uses Alice Walker’s prose as examples of elegant sentences, and the words of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld as logical fallacies. At another low-tier state university we were ordered to put on our syllabi that the course had the objective of gaining “an understanding of race, class, and gender.”

I think what happened a generation ago was that conservative humanities professors failed in challenging the ideology of the radicals—especially the females—who demanded entrance. During my one-year stint as a full-time faculty member I watched a tenured Shakespeare professor voice no objection to the suggestion that a course include Tupac Shakur’s lyrics as poetry.

Or, more generously, the conservative gatekeepers assumed that the radicals demanding entrance would apply the same rules of open-mindedness, objective inquiry, and fair play they did. We now know otherwise.

The colonization of American higher education by the left is remarkably thorough. From the elite universities to the lowest-ranked schools, the deck is stacked in favor of those who want to turn everything from semicolons to Shakespeare into an ideological exercise. On occasion, dissidents like myself can sneak in the back door, but we are in a precarious position.


How British universities fail the poor

By David Davis

You would have to have had a heart of stone these past few days not to have shared the joy in the eyes and voices of all those young men and women celebrating their GCSE and A-level results. It was a proper reaction to the success engendered by their years of hard work and their optimism about a bright future.

Yet behind the celebration of the glittering prizes, there is a darker story to be told. This story is that of an education system designed to create opportunity for all which, in fact, reinforces the class divide in our society. The symptoms are all there for anyone with eyes to see. One in six of our young people is not in school, college or work. Many of them are from poor homes, often with an unemployed head of the household.

Schools in poorer areas are dropping tough subjects - physics, mathematics, history and geography - in favour of the 'softer' subjects such as information and communication technology (ICT) or media studies, in the hope that weaker candidates will do better in these easier topics and prop up the school's position in the league tables.

If this were not bad enough, there are signs that this serial failure by our education system to help kids from poor backgrounds extends into the university sector. About 20 years ago, in a fit of misguided egalitarianism, the then Conservative government abolished distinctions in higher education between universities and polytechnics. Of course, no stroke of the pen could abolish distinctions in performance between them. Indeed, there is some evidence that this action turned some first-class polytechnics into second-class universities. This distinction in quality of education still exists but it is now hidden by the names. Indeed, it is likely that Labour's massive expansion in higher education has made the poor performance of the weakest colleges worse, not better.

Does it matter? Surely a degree is a degree, and any degree is a stepping stone to a professional career. Well, that is certainly true up to a point. Too many professions today brag about being 'graduate only', as if excluding the bright youngsters who could not afford university was some sort of virtue. But there is a harder truth hidden here. Going to university is no longer free.

When I went to university at Warwick, most of my contemporaries had grants, which were supplemented by parental contributions. And, in an era of full employment, there was part-time work and holiday work to be had. Many of my friends got their first experience of real-life earning money on building sites or delivering Christmas mail or working behind a bar. We generally had no debt when we qualified. None of this is true today.

One report out last week predicted that students would leave university with an average debt of £24,000. Poorer students, without wealthy parents to subsidise them, will probably have even bigger loans. Even that underestimates the real cost of university. If you add in all the costs, from tuition fees to the foregone income students would have had in a job for those three years, the real cost of a degree is £45,000.

For most students, it is still a good deal. They earn enough in their career to make up for the costs and lost income. But this is not true for all graduates. For graduates of Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and other top universities, their starting salaries will average between £23,000 and £27,000. Their take-home pay will be up to £9,000 more than that of the average 21-year-old.

This means that for those graduates, typically middle class and mostly the products of independent schools and grammars, their investment in university could deliver them a benefit of up to £100,000 in their career. At the other end of the scale, you will find universities whose typical graduate earns about £17,500. After tax, this is less than £2,000 more than the average 21-year-old earns. On any normal financial return, that never pays off the costs and earnings lost as a result of three years at college.

My university degree guaranteed a job that would pay well enough to justify the three-year investment. No such guarantee applies today. This summer, I surveyed many universities from the top to the bottom of the academic scale. About 20 were willing to give me information including graduate salaries for 2007-08. Of those, about five showed financial returns that were marginal at best and two showed graduate earnings as low as £17,500 a year.

Part of the reason for these poor average salaries was graduates going into 'non-graduate' jobs. Last year, the national average taking this path was more than 30 per cent. For poorer-performing universities, more than four out of ten graduates end up doing jobs they are overqualified for. All this is without counting those graduates who do not get jobs at all. One in ten graduates of the low-performing universities simply joined the ranks of the unemployed. It also ignores those students who start their degree course, incurring many of the costs, but never finish.

Again, the poorer-quality universities do much worse here. One in 11 students do not complete their course at the weaker universities, against only one in 50 at Oxford, and less than one in 100 at Cambridge.

In general, those universities that generate the lowest salaries also generate the highest unemployment figures and the highest drop-out rates. For students attending these institutions, the risks are high, the rewards are low and the costs are no less.

For most young people going to university this year, the experience will be life-enhancing in every way. It will broaden minds, elevate aspirations and open up opportunities that they never had before. But for that significant minority it will be a financial cul-de-sac and they'll spend their 20s enmeshed in debt, unable to get on the housing ladder and struggling to create a career.

We owe these young people a rather more honest perspective of their opportunities than we are giving them now. The Government should publish immediately a league table showing every university's graduate salaries, employment and drop-out rates, and proportions of graduates in non-graduate jobs. Then, at least, we can be sure that, in the struggle for scarce places that will take place during the next few weeks, school-leavers will not be disappointed because they make their most important career choice on what may turn out to be a false prospectus.


Australia: Schoolboy beaten to death as teachers look on

Teachers run grave legal risks if they touch a student -- courtesy of Leftist "compassion" and shrieks about "child abuse"

A SCHOOLBOY squabble during morning recess escalated into a brawl that has left a 15-year-old NSW schoolboy dead. Detectives and forensic specialists descended on Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW and declared the playground a crime scene after Jai Morcom was pronounced dead in hospital on the Gold Coast yesterday.

The Year 9 student suffered massive head injuries in the fight, which began with petty bickering shortly after 11am during "little lunch'' on Friday, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Jai was transferred from Mullumbimby Hospital to Gold Coast Hospital's intensive care unit, where he was placed on life support. He died yesterday morning, 24 hours after the brawl.

His distraught mother Kim last night said: "You don't send your kids to school thinking they're going to die. "Jai was just a gentle little guy. He wasn't a fighter.'' Jai's older brother, Mayo, flew home on Friday night from the NSW ski-fields where he works, to join his devastated parents and sisters, Kyra, 26, and Jade, 22.

A Year 9 student said the fight was between two school gangs. The student said: "One of the gangs stole a seat from our eating area. We stole it back and it turned into an all-out brawl (and) the teachers did nothing''.

The student alleged Jai had been beaten to a pulp and ``it was really scary and intense. It was completely out of control''. A school nurse gave first aid until paramedics arrived, but witnesses said Jai was frothing at the mouth and non-responsive.

Forensic detectives, NSW and Queensland police have been called in to investigate and are preparing a brief for the coroner. A Year 9 classmate, who asked not to be named, said the two groups involved in the fight were the "emos'' and the "footy heads''. "Someone took someone else's table ... Jai was just walking through and the Year 11s just threw him,''she said. "We saw him on the ground and it was horrible. They just ran over the top of him when he was down and kept kicking him.''

Police feared revenge attacks. One student told Ten News last night: "This other kid's going to get killed.''

Tweed-Byron duty officer, Inspector Owen King, said there were several versions of how the incident unfolded and all would be investigated. One was that Jai may have felt unwell and was questioned by a teacher before recess because he did not appear to be himself. [Coverup coming!] "There are a number of conflicting versions and we're not going to speculate,'' Insp King said. ``That will be part of the investigation. "We need to determine exactly what happened. It was recess time, the playground was full.''

There was no CCTV footage, nor had any student filmed the fight on a mobile phone, he said. School liaison police would join councillors on campus tomorrow, he said, describing the incident as tragic and sad.

One Year 12 witness told The Gold Coast Bulletin Jai wasn't fully involved in the fight at the beginning. "He was shoved up against a brick wall near the girls' toilets by his throat. It was pretty rough then started to get more serious. "Someone spat on someone, then they just went psycho and started punching and kicking him. "All these boys came in and they were just dominating him. Then he fell and hit his head. "No one realised he had been knocked out and everyone kept kicking and punching him still.''

Education Department counsellors will attend tomorrow. "We are deeply shocked by the tragic situation that has occurred,'' a spokeswoman said. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the student at this difficult time. Additional support, including counselling, is being provided to staff and students.''

Mullumbimby High School has about 920 students and 75 teachers, and an anti-bullying policy.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

What Will They Learn?

by Walter E. Williams

When parents plunk down $20, $30, $40 and maybe $50 thousand this fall for a year's worth of college room, board and tuition, it might be relevant to ask: What will their children learn in return? The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) ask that question in their recently released publication, "What Will They Learn: A Report on the General Education Requirements at 100 of the Nation's Leading Colleges and Universities."

ACTA conducted research to see whether 100 major institutions require seven key subjects: English composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. What ACTA found was found was alarming, reporting that "Even as our students need broad-based skills and knowledge to succeed in the global marketplace, our colleges and universities are failing to deliver. Topics like U.S. government or history, literature, mathematics, and economics have become mere options on far too many campuses. Not surprisingly, students are graduating with great gaps in their knowledge -- and employers are noticing."

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 31 percent of college graduates can read and understand a complex book. Employers complain that graduates of colleges lack the writing and analytical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. A 2006 survey conducted by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 24 percent of employers thought graduates of four-year colleges were "excellently prepared" for entry-level positions. College seniors perennially fail tests of their civic and historical knowledge.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni graded the 100 surveyed colleges and universities on their general education requirements. Forty-two institutions received a "D" or an "F" for requiring two or fewer subjects. Twenty-five of them received an "F" for requiring one or no subjects. No institution required all seven. Five institutions received an "A" for requiring six general education subjects. They were Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Texas A&M, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), United States Military Academy (West Point) and University of Texas at Austin. Twenty institutions received a "C" for requiring three subjects and 33 received a "B" for requiring four or five subjects. ACTA maintains a website keeping the tally at

ACTA says that "paying a lot doesn't get you a lot." Generally, the higher the tuition, the less likely there are rigorous general education requirements. Average tuition and fees at the 11 schools that require no subjects is $37,700; however, average tuition at the five schools that require six subjects is $5,400. Average tuition fees at the top national universities and liberal arts colleges are $35,000 (average grade is "F").

Dishonest and manipulative college administrators might try to rebut the report saying, "We have general education requirements." At one major state university, students may choose from over 100 different classes to meet a history requirement. At other colleges, students may satisfy general education requirements with courses such as "Introduction to Popular TV and Movies" and "Science of Stuff." Still other colleges allow the study of "Bob Dylan" to meet a literature requirement and "Floral Art" to meet a natural science requirement.

ACTA's report concludes by saying that a coherent core reflects, in the words of federal judge Jose Cabranes, "a series of choices -- the choice of the lasting over the ephemeral; the meritorious over the meretricious; the thought-provoking over the merely self-affirming." A general education curriculum, when done well, is one that helps students "ensure that their studies -- and their lives -- are well-directed."

ACTA says that a recent study reports that 89 percent of institutions surveyed said they were in the process of modifying or assessing their programs. What these and other institutions need is for boards of trustees, parents and alumni to provide the necessary incentive to administrators and there's little more effective in opening the closed minds of administrators than the sounds of pocketbooks snapping shut.


Fewer than a quarter of British pupils get good High School passes in core subjects

Too many are doing "junk" subjects

Fewer than a quarter of children pass GCSEs with a good grade in all four important core subjects, according to figures released today by the Conservatives. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers will receive their GCSE results on Thursday, and results are expected to rise again. The percentage achieving five good GCSEs (A* to C) increased from 45 per cent in 1996 to 65 per cent last year.

However fewer than a quarter got a good grade last year in English, maths, science and a modern foreign language. This figure has fallen each year since 2001, from 30 per cent to 23.7 per cent. It means that almost 500,000 GCSE candidates each year do not get a core combination of passes, the Conservatives said.

Secondary school pupils no longer have to study a foreign language beyond the age of 14, and the number doing so is expected to have fallen again in this week’s results.

Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, said:“These are the core academic subjects that are highly valued by universities and employers. The fact that the number of children attaining these GCSEs has fallen year on year since 2001 is a terrible indictment of the Government’s record.

“The environment children face upon leaving education has never been so competitive, which makes it even more important to reverse this trend and ensure that more pupils are equipped with the rigorous, academic knowledge and qualifications that will give them the best start in life.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “It is misleading to use this combination of subjects as a benchmark of success for all pupils, as many choose not to study a foreign language.

“The true picture is that we have seen big increases in attainment in English, maths and sciences in recent years. The proportion of pupils achieving the equivalent of five good GCSEs including English and maths at 15 has continued to rise from 35.6 per cent in 1997 to 47.3 per cent last year.

“Nonetheless, measures are being put in place to boost language learning in schools.”


Western Australian schools are independent in name only

By Jennifer Buckingham

The WA government recently announced that it would be allowing up to 30 government schools (out of 768) to become ‘Independent Public Schools.’ These schools will have full management of their recurrent budget and will be given more authority over staffing appointments. They will allegedly have more flexibility in the curriculum up to Year 10 and will not have to apply to the education department for permission to expel students.

These are all good things for schools to be able to do. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be enough to create any real change. Some people have wrongly compared this reform to the charter school model used in the United States. In fact, it is more like a small-scale version of the self-managing schools reforms that took place more than 10 years ago in Victoria.

Unlike charter schools, Independent Public Schools in Western Australia will still be subject to the state industrial award for teachers. Schools might be able to choose the best candidate when/if a teaching position becomes available, but they will have no greater powers to get rid of bad teachers. They will have no flexibility with teacher salaries, and mandatory maximum class sizes will still apply.

Again, unlike charter schools, freedom of choice of curriculum will be tightly constrained since the schools will still have to comply with the national curriculum due to be rolled out across the country next year. Independent Public Schools might be able to make the final decision on student expulsions, but they will still have to find another school for any child they want to exclude. They will also still be obliged to take all students from within their enrolment zone, meaning that families who would like to attend these schools can only do so if there are leftover places.

The risk is that these reforms will be used as evidence that school autonomy doesn’t work, when in fact this not school autonomy at all.

The WA education minister, Liz Constable, described the Independent Public Schools policy as ‘an historic leap forward’ for public education in the state. The WA government is to be applauded for taking schools policy in the direction of flexibility and freedom, but this is more of a step than a leap.

The above is part of a recent press release from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310