Saturday, February 13, 2010

State meddling hamstrings schools

To show the results of union dominance of the public education system, John Stossel, host of Fox News' "Stossel," on a recent show held up a convoluted chart that detailed, in small print, the amazing lengths to which New York school administrators must go to fire an incompetent teacher. The viewer sees a long and detailed chart filled with boxes connected by arrows. Then, Stossel reveals that what he's holding up for the camera is only the beginning, as he lets falls to the floor several more pages that had been hidden, accordion-style, behind the first page of the termination procedures chart.

The joke - actually much sadder than funny - is on us, as we realize that there's no way that even the worst teacher can get sacked and that it's basically impossible to reform the public school system as it is currently structured. Yet local, state and federal officials go on proposing reforms that will surely turn the nations' bureaucratic, government-controlled public school systems into models of efficiency and high-performance learning.

Many proposals have a point, but trying to reform these unruly systems is like trying to improve a crumbling, crooked old building resting on a cracked foundation by installing new dual-pane windows and nicer carpeting. No one, quite frankly, wants to strike at the root of the problem, which is the existence of a monopoly school system run by the government, financed by tax dollars and dominated by union employees who don't have to please any customers.

California's Legislative Analyst's Office, which has a deservedly fine reputation for analyzing budgetary matters, last week released a report, "Education Mandates: Overhauling a Broken System," which jumps into the fray. It identifies a real problem - the proliferation of state mandates that require districts "to perform hundreds of activities even though many of these requirements do not benefit students or educators." The report pins the annual compliance cost for school districts at more than $400 million. Furthermore, because of a voter-approved 1979 initiative, Proposition 4, the state is supposed to reimburse local school districts for the mandates it imposes on them. California owes districts more than $3.6 billion - and the state tends to defer these reimbursements, rather than paying up in a timely manner.

"In short," the report explained, "districts are required to perform hundreds of activities - many of dubious merit - without regular pay, resulting in billions of dollars in state debt."

Of course, many of these mandates were imposed by the Legislature to improve the often-poor quality of public education across the state and try to assure that all districts were teaching some standardized curricula. But whenever education is politicized (and all public education is political, in that the decisions are made through a political process), this is what will happen. Legislators will pass reforms, many of which are transparent attempts to promote one special-interest group's agenda over another's. You get the good, the bad and the ugly. And all of it is expensive and, ultimately, counterproductive.

The LAO report points to a chart evocative of the long, pointless chart Stossel displayed. This "Mandate Determination Process" reveals a convoluted route by which local districts can seek reimbursement from the state. This reimbursement issue is going to become increasingly contentious in these tough budget times.

Ironically, on the same day the LAO released its report, the leading Democratic contender for state attorney general, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, advocated some costly new education mandates during a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing on school truancy. Harris has been particularly aggressive in using law enforcement in her city to battle truancy, implementing a controversial program that prosecutes the parents of truants and subjects them to jail time and fines. She also proposed a statewide database to track truants - a system that would tie a district's state funding to the adoption of such a tracking system.

Truancy issues typically are local issues, which prompted a reply from Republican attorney general candidate Tom Harman, a state senator from Huntington Beach: "What I wonder is how creating another statewide bureaucracy to monitor it will keep kids in school. I don't think the state is in any position to create yet another new program - especially regarding an issue traditionally handled by locals."

None of this will actually improve the functioning of the school systems. At best, the Harris approach will coerce more people into sending their kids to ill-performing schools, which epitomize the "customer service" approach common in government: Offer poor products and inefficient services, then force people to buy them.

Harris' campaign, by the way, boasts her endorsement by a former state superintendent of public instruction, Delaine Eastin, best known for trying to use her authority to shut down home schools, under the theory that home schooling is a form of truancy. Let's hope a Harris victory doesn't signal a return to these dark days of California education policy. Home-school advocates already are fearful that Harris' approach could endanger home-schooled kids.

The LAO offers this solution to the mandate issue: "We recommend comprehensively reforming K-14 mandates. If a mandate serves a purpose fundamental to the education system, such as protecting student health or providing essential assessment and oversight data, it should be funded. If not, the mandate should be eliminated."

Whom do we thank for that groundbreaking suggestion? Of course, good mandates should stay, and bad ones should go, but in a political process, there's no way of waving a magic wand and making that happen. Maybe the LAO can develop a wall chart with the detailed process the Legislature can follow to attain that unquestionably worthy goal.

The state already spends more than 40 percent of its budget on education. There are stacks of mandates and volumes of legislative reforms passed in recent years. The system still stinks. The only solution is competition. Only competitive systems value the customer and create incentives for efficiency and performance. Happy customers are a better sign of success than long flow charts and endless calls for new legislation and reform.


British private school pupils 'being rejected from university'

Leftist class war still raging in Britain. Karl Marx would be proud

Private school pupils with straight-A grades are being rejected from elite universities in unprecedented numbers, it can be disclosed. Headmasters are blaming a shortage of university places caused by funding cuts, combined with the effect of Labour’s “social engineering” drive that prioritises bright children from under-performing comprehensives.

Two out of three top independent schools approached by The Daily Telegraph said teenagers were finding it harder to get into higher education this year compared with 12 months ago. In some cases, pupils predicted to get three A*s at A-level – along with a string of perfect GCSE results – are being turned down from all five of their choices. Entry to Oxbridge is especially hard this year, heads claim. Some schools reported a drop of around three-quarters in the number of students with offers from Oxford and Cambridge.

Heads said the squeeze was being exacerbated by the Government’s “widening participation” policy. It encourages universities to give lower grade offers to bright pupils from poor schools showing the most potential. It is also feared that universities are prioritising foreign students who can be charged far higher fees.

Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said: “The financial pressures and the social mobility agenda are leading to a situation where children who have worked very hard to get the grades that their forebears got are finding it more difficult than their predecessors to get into university.”

One student from Brighton – rated among Britain’s top 20 schools in a recent league table – has been rejected from Oxford, University College London and Durham, despite being predicted three A*s at A-level, on top of straight As at GCSE and AS level.

The Telegraph interviewed the heads of 30 leading independent schools and two-thirds reported concerns over the admissions process. In many cases, they said universities imposed last-minute rises in A-level entry requirements – often after students had applied.

The disclosure follows the publication of figures this week showing applications to degree courses are up 23 per cent compared with 2009. More than 100,000 extra applications have been made and demand for places at some institutions has doubled in just 12 months. The rise is being driven by students reapplying after being turned down last year combined with a dramatic increase in demand from mature students returning to education because of a shortage of jobs in the recession.

Despite the surge, separate research from the Telegraph suggests that as many as a quarter of universities are actually cutting the number of places for British undergraduates after a drop in budgets. Last week, universities were told that spending would be slashed by £449m in the autumn, including a £215m reduction in cash for teaching and warnings of further reductions in the future.

Steve Smith, the president of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, told the Telegraph that admissions tutors still had a “duty” to identify good students with poorer grades despite the admissions crisis – potentially placing further pressure on places for independent school pupils. “Many students who have shown a desire to go to university are going to be very disappointed this year,” he said. “But data shows that people often do better coming in with lower grades from a poorly-performing school then if they come in with higher grades from a well-performing school.”

Antony Clark, the head of Malvern College in Worcestershire, said outstanding candidates who would have received five offers from top universities were now lucky to receive one or two. “I think admissions tutors are looking closely for the rough diamond who has not been through the private school system but is showing huge potential,” he said.

Peter Roberts, the head of Bradfield College, Reading, said: “We will have some boys and girls who are turned down for all five universities they apply for in the upper-sixth and that’s very hard for a young person who has worked hard and done well.”

Many independent schools send a small number of students to Oxbridge every year. But some told the Telegraph that numbers had plummeted in 2010. Woodhouse Grove School, West Yorkshire, said it usually had three offers, but only received one this year. Elizabeth Enthoven, head of sixth form, said: “I think the competition is much fiercer, and they have their agenda about open access.”

Sunderland High School said it had no Oxbridge offers, despite normally receiving around two. One boy had three A* predictions and straight As at GCSE and AS level but was rejected.

Queen’s College, Taunton, said the three or four places pupils normally gained had dropped to one, while Emanuel School, Battersea, said numbers dropped from around three a year to one in 2010.

Mark Hanley-Browne, Emanuel headmaster, said: “It’s harder to get into the top universities in 2010. We had very good students that didn’t make it who in previous years would have done - people with 10 A*s at GCSE and four As at AS level.”

Other schools told how students were finding it significantly harder to get into other universities, suggesting that the squeeze is being felt across the sector.

In a separate disclosure, the Telegraph surveyed 30 top universities. A quarter said they planned to cut student numbers. This included Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester and the West of England. At least half said numbers were being frozen. In all, between 750,000 and 800,000 students are expected to compete for around 480,000 places. Graham McQueen, head of sixth form, Warminster School, Wiltshire, said: “It’s never been more competitive to get into the Russell Group universities.”

King’s School, Rochester, said the grades offered for red brick universities were noticeably higher. Kevin Jones, head of senior school, said: “My main concern is what happens in the summer. The people who miss their grades by a whisker are going to have problems. “It’s going to be much more difficult to negotiate on results day.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, denied that private school pupils faced discrimination. “Although admissions are rightly a matter for individual institutions, the Government is committed to ensuring that entry to university is determined by aptitude, potential and merit, not where a student was educated,” she said. “There are a record number of students – over 2m – at university. That’s 390,000 more than in 1997 and next year we expect there will be more students than ever before. “But getting a place at university has always been, and should be, a competitive process. Not everyone gets the grades and some decide university is not for them. “But, it is early days and students haven’t even sat their A-levels yet.”


Australia: Bullsh*t program to help poor readers

Teaching them about phonetics and spelling rules is what is needed but instead they get anything but

PRIMARY school children with poor reading skills are making bug-catchers in a summer school program run in Queensland with federal government money allocated to improve literacy skills. The summer school for literacy held in January and last September is intended for children in Years 5 to 7 whose skills are below the minimum standard in the national literacy tests.

The focus of the school is to teach them how to evaluate and make inferences from what they read and to analyse the way authors have expressed their points of view about a topic.

The need for knowledge of letter-sound relationships and sounding out words to read them -- known as decoding -- is downgraded. "The summer schools literacy emphasis is on discussing the meanings of texts and on making judgments about topic sentences and word choices rather than on coding and decoding," information provided for teachers says. "Teachers are encouraged to read texts aloud so that learners can concentrate on the higher-order thinking involved in making reliable inferences. "Teachers are also able to annotate their students' work where necessary, so that encoding difficulties do not prevent students from showing what they understand and can do."

In information provided to parents, the department says the literacy summer school will teach students "how to evaluate texts". "It is important that students understand that authors (the creators of written text, documentaries, stories, films, advertisements, screenplays, video clips, chat shows etc.) all have a particular purpose and point of view," it says.

One of the literacy activities outlined for teachers to do with their students is to build an insect catcher, or "pooter", after reading a magazine about invertebrates. The instructions for making the pooter are out of order and students must rearrange them before they can make the insect catcher. The summer school program is one of the strategies devised by Queensland under the national partnership on literacy and numeracy, for which the federal government has provided $540 million to help struggling students. It will also pay financial rewards to states that lift their performance in the national tests. The Queensland government is spending $5m of its $139m allocation over the next four years on the summer schools.

Queensland Education Minister Geoff Wilson said summer schools had been popular, with parent satisfaction ratings of about 95 per cent. He said about four in five students who attended the September summer school showed improvement in at least one area of literacy or numeracy, with 85 per cent of students saying it made them feel more confident about reading, writing and maths. Other initiatives introduced by the Queensland government included literacy and numeracy coaches in schools and "turnaround teams" to help schools identify and solve problems.

Macquarie University education professor Kevin Wheldall, developer of the remedial reading MULTILIT program, said the Queensland Education Department was ignoring the recommendations of the national inquiry on teaching reading. Professor Wheldall said the inquiry echoed the findings of similar studies in the US and Britain that teaching children letter-sound relationships and how to put sounds together to form words was the necessary first step in learning to read for all students. "I don't understand how they're allowed to spend federal money doing this, given that the money was earmarked for kids struggling with reading," he said. "We know this doesn't work, it's precisely the approach that's failed these kids in the first place. and they're just offering more of the same at summer school."

Award-winning literacy teacher John Fleming, who advocates the teaching of letter-sound relationships, said the summer school approach showed the need to ensure reading was properly taught from the first days of school. Mr Fleming, now at Haileybury school in Melbourne and the 2006 winner of the national award for outstanding contribution to literacy and numeracy, said if students failed to pick up decoding skills, that was difficult to overturn when they were at the end of primary school. "What they're advocating is trying to engage the kids because a lot of them by this age feel reading is not their go," he said. "To be fair, at least they're trying to give them an opportunity to engage in the activity first, but if these kids didn't pick it up when they were in the first two or three years of school, they will find it difficult now."

Mr Fleming said the students' main problem was "instructional deficit" and that they had not been given the skills needed to develop as readers in the first years of school. "They've been immersed and gone through a school that said `When the kids are ready, they will pick it up'," he said. "Unfortunately, for these sorts of kids, that's not true."

A spokesman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said the summer schools program was one of a number of initiatives by Queensland to improve literacy and numeracy, and all the measures adopted by the states and territories under the national partnership were required to be backed by evidence. The spokesman said the bug-catcher activity aimed to engage students in literacy through a practical activity.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Study finds lack of civic learning in U.S. college graduates

College fails to teach civic knowledge - including American history and national institutions - and has an influence on liberal leanings among students, a new study says. The study, conducted by the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, specifically cited typically liberal positions on gay marriage and school prayer.

Richard Brake, the director of ISI's Culture of Enterprise Initiative, said high schools could be partly to blame for a lack of civic knowledge but college courses should provide more concentrated study. "You should reinforce it and go beyond it," he said. "Learning is about reinforcement."

The study tested 2,508 Americans with various education levels on 33 basic civic knowledge questions that included political literacy, American history and economics. The overall average score was 49 percent. College graduates scored at 57 percent. Respondents also answered questions about 39 social issues. The answers were compared with those from a 2006-07 study that tested more than 14,000 college freshmen and seniors on similar issues.

Mr. Brake said college students scored better on questions relating to the history of the 1900s, including those involving Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. He added that this is some indication of the focus of study in the classroom.

A previous study by ISI found that the average college student has taken an average of only four political science, economics and history courses, although they are considered to be parts of a general education curriculum. Mr. Brake said the study found that students who took more than four of these courses scored higher, but his main concern was of the quality of education. He said a fragmented discipline often allows students to avoid taking basic courses that would teach civic literacy.

One portion of the study found that 58 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 compared with 68 percent ages 45 to 64 disagreed that America corrupts otherwise good people.

Mr. Brake said he is uncertain what variables could be affecting the results. He said it might be natural for younger people to be more skeptical, or that the older generation was educated differently.

The study shows a correlation between college education and an increase in liberal opinions on four polarizing social issues. Of those whose education has not extended beyond high school, 24.6 percent believed gay couples should be allowed to legally marry. That compares with 39.1 percent of respondents with college degrees. More than half - 56.6 percent - of those with a high school education, compared with 39.4 percent of those with a college education, thought public school teachers should be allowed to lead prayer at public schools. The report also found that 74.2 percent of those with a high school education agreed that the Bible is the Word of God, while 63.5 percent of those with college education agreed.

When asked whether non-Christian religions could have affected this result, Mr. Brake said the number of respondents who identified themselves as non-Christians was small.

The responses, however, were less predictable at the Ph.D level of education. Those with doctorate degrees answered more conservatively to marriage and public school prayer questions and more liberally with the Bible question and two additional questions.

Mr. Brake said public opinion is complex. "There are all sorts of things that contribute to why you think a certain way," he said.

An additional finding of the study concluded that civic knowledge broadens a person's frame of mind. It said respondents who scored higher on the civic literacy test were more likely to agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs but less likely to agree that free markets bring about full employment.

Mr. Brake said the study shows only that there is a lack of civic education at the college level, and that it does not define right or wrong public opinion. "A lot of this has to do with making more informed consumers," he said. "That's the whole purpose of this initiative."


School Choice Bad for the Environment?

No. It's not a joke. It's the finding from a new paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The argument is school choice leads to more driving which results in more vehicle emissions. The abstract says, "that eliminating district-wide school choice (i.e., returning to a system with neighborhood schools only) would have significant impacts on transport modes and emissions" and the findings "underscore the need to critically evaluate transportation-related environmental and health impacts of currently proposed changes in school policy."

George Mason economist Don Boudreaux appropriately responds in an open letter to the authors:
Why stop with education? Perhaps another future study can be on the environmental impact of supermarket choice. After all, with people free to drive wherever they wish to buy groceries, it's almost certainly the case that too many of us drive hither and yon unnecessarily, wasting our time and fouling the air. I'll bet that your research will show that restricting each American to shopping only at that supermarket nearest to his or her home will reduce vehicular emissions and, hence, help the environment.

Indeed, the possibilities suggested by your research are infinite. No telling how much filth is spit into our environment everyday by people needlessly driving to churches, restaurants, shopping malls, gyms, physicians' offices, night clubs - even friends' homes - when they could easily go to (and, hence, should forcibly be restricted to) churches, restaurants, etc. - and even to the homes of friends - who are located closer to their where they live."

Although it sounds implausible and probably is, environmental policies designed to restrict consumer choice already exist or members of our government are proposing them. Our government is picking off individual freedoms and slowly but surely reducing consumer choice. Vehicle regulations to increase fuel efficiency make cars smaller and less safe. The phase-out of incandescent light bulb will commence in 2012. There are some who want to ban bottled water because it creates too much waste and uses too much energy.

And if there are serious concerns about vehicle emissions, we should measure the inconsequential effects additional driving would have on health and global warming against the benefits of school choice. Having choice is an invaluable benefit of being an American and the more the government attempts to restrict it, the less it will be taken for granted.


History of England starts at 1700, says British university

Academics have attacked a decision by a top university to scrap research into English history before 1700. It was claimed that the move by Sussex University risked jeopardising the nation’s understanding of the subject and “entrenching the ignorance of the present”. Under plans, research and in-depth teaching into periods such as the Tudors, the Middle-Ages, Norman Britain, the Viking invasion and the Anglo-Saxons will be scrapped, along with the Civil Wars.

The university will also end research into the history of continental Europe pre-1900, affecting the study of the Napoleonic wars and the Roman Empire.

The university said it was “reshaping” its curriculum and research following a £3m cut in Government funding. Last week, universities across the country were told their budgets were to be slashed by £449 million next year, including a £215m reduction in teaching funding, with threats of further cuts in the future. Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, has claimed that institutions can use the opportunity to focus resources on their strongest areas.

But in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 17 leading historians said the move was short-sighted and risked undermining the public’s understanding of the past. “To cut everything but the most modern puts in peril the public function of history, entrenching the arrogance of the present and making a mockery of the claim by the minister behind these cuts that 'we also wish to keep this country civilised',” said the letter.

The academics, who all trained at Sussex, said that the decision to sever ties with European history before 1900 was a particularly retrograde step. “For a university which has long prided itself on its European links to abandon the serious study of such pivotal areas of modern history as the French Revolution will mean depriving Sussex graduates of the mental furniture of educated Europeans,” said the letter. “The university risks damaging its reputation as a centre of knowledge for European culture and history more widely.”

The letter to the Telegraph was signed by historians from universities including Nottingham, Southampton, Trinity College Dublin, Michigan, Sydney University and the University of London Institute in Paris.

Sussex is among dozens of universities being forced to make savings following savage budget cuts announced by the Government. The University and College Union estimated that more than 15,000 jobs – the majority academic posts – could disappear in the next few years. Positions are being cut at King’s College London, Westminster, Leeds, Sheffield Hallam and Hull, while entire campuses belonging to the universities of Cumbria and Wolverhampton are being shut. Several loss making courses are also being scrapped across the country. The University of the West of England has already scrapped French, German and Spanish, and Surrey has dropped its BA in humanities.

The letter called on the university to stop proposals to withdraw from “research, and research-led teaching, in English social history before 1700 and the history of continental Europe before 1900”.

Prof Paul Layzell, deputy vice-chancellor, said: “The proposal put forward by the University of Sussex to withdraw from certain areas of research and specialist teaching in history reflects three factors: first, a strategic determination to focus our research in areas of sustainability and strength; second, to align undergraduate provision with areas of demonstrable demand; and, thirdly, a need to reflect the Government’s financial policy for higher education. “The history degree at Sussex, as befits a programme offered by one of the top 20 departments in the country, will continue to be broad based and intellectually challenging.”

He insisted there were no plans for teaching to be “entrusted with non-specialists”.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Queer Theories and Theologies

by Mike Adams

I've decided to enter the ministry. And I'm going back to school in order to prepare. My choice of schools is Meadville-Lombard Theological School. I want to go there so I can take the course "Queer Theories and Theologies" under Laurel C. Schneider. [Meadville Lombard Theological School is a theological school serving Unitarian Universalism and liberal religion]

Professor Schneider's description of "Queer Theories and Theologies" is, to say the least, pretty queer, especially given that it's offered in a seminary:

"This course is a close examination of the development of `queer theory' out of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered liberation movement on the one hand, and the international development of critical theory on the other. Our particular interest throughout the course will be first in exploring queer theory as a public academic discourse and second in discussing what impact this discourse may have on theology and ministry."

Professor Schneider's course objectives are perhaps the most appealing aspect of "Queer Theories and Theologies":

"1. To get confused and yet not give up on thinking.

2. To improve in critical thinking about the intersections of theory (system of rules or principles) with public action so that we may be better able to recognize the ways in which theory often flies `under the radar' in the public realms of church and ministry, government, social movements, and culture.

3. To make at least one practical connection between queer theory as you come to understand it and public theology."

I'm pretty confused by some of those objectives. But I'm not quite ready to give up on thinking. There's hope for me yet.

Whenever one is confused in Professor Schneider's course he (or she or it or undecided) has an opportunity to submit a "weekly reflection." This is the part of the reading schedule that includes a "reflection question" meant to help guide reading for the session. The good news is that the student can use the question to frame a one-page response to the reading, or (and I'm quoting directly from the syllabus) the student can "ignore the question and address one of (the student's) own that emerged for (the student) in response to the session's reading."

I can hardly wait for this part of the class because the readings are both godly and scholarly. For example, students read "The Queer God" by Marcella Althaus-Reid. Later, they read an article by Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, which is in "God's Phallus and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism." Mark Jordan's "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology" also makes the list. But the highlight of the readings is none other than professor Laurel Schneider's article "What Race is Your Sex?"

I thought about writing a rebuttal to Schneider's article called "How Tall is Your Age?" But I decided to call it "What color are your brain farts?"

By session nine of "Queer Theories and Theologies" the student is expected to formulate a central question or thesis statement for a project, which constitutes 30% of the final course grade. Mine will take the form of a final paper called "Why Queers Enter the Ministry."

Some years ago, a man asked for my opinion on why his good friend, an atheist, had decided to go to Yale Divinity School. I told him that the Enemy could do more harm trying to destroy an institution from within than from without.

And so it is with the so-called GLBT (Gilbert) movement. The Gilbert has equal rights. He is not fighting for anything. He is only seeking to destroy anyone or anything that will not validate him. That is why only 4% of gays who live in states giving them a "right" to get married actually do get married. They do not seek to enjoy marriage. They seek to destroy marriage. All because it denies them validation.

Originally, all Unitarians and Universalists were Christians who didn't believe in the Holy Trinity of God but, instead, in the unity of God. Later, they stressed the importance of "rational thinking" and the "humanity" of Jesus. Since the merger of the two denominations in 1961, Unitarian Universalism has emphasized "social justice." Hence the interest in the Gilbert movement.

We live in a time when Gilberts are invading Christian denominations in an effort to destroy their core Christian beliefs. I intend to enroll in Meadville-Lombard Theological School in order to reverse this trend and bring the Unitarians and Universalists back to Christianity.

I want to set them straight, so to speak. I want to save them before their symbol, the flaming chalice, is replaced by a flaming phallus.


Immigration judge: German anti-homeschooling policy 'repellant to everything we believe as Americans’

A U.S. immigration court Tuesday granted political asylum to a German homeschooling family, finding that the German government’s persecution of the family violated the family’s basic human rights. The judge in the case reportedly called Germany’s anti-homeschooling policy “repellant to everything we believe as Americans” at a hearing held Thursday. The Alliance Defense Fund provided funding to the Home School Legal Defense Association for the case.

“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without undue government interference,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “The immigration court has clearly recognized that basic human rights are being violated by the German policy of persecuting home-schooling families. Many Americans are simply unaware of just how bad the policy is. We hope this ruling sheds light on a predatory policy that the German government ought to end immediately.”

“There is no safety for homeschoolers in Germany,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for HSLDA and an ADF-allied attorney. “The two highest courts in Germany have ruled that it is acceptable for the German government to ‘stamp out’ homeschoolers as some kind of ‘parallel society.’ The reasoning is flawed. Valid research shows that homeschoolers excel academically and socially. German courts are simply ignoring the truth that exists all over the world where homeschooling is practiced.”

In granting asylum to the Romeikes, a Christian family from Bissinggen, Germany, U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman reportedly called the German government’s attempt to stamp out “parallel societies” by persecuting home-schoolers “odd” and “silly,” finding that the rights being violated in the case, In the Matter of Romeike, are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate. According to Donnelly, the judge agreed that homeschoolers are a particular group that the German government is trying to suppress and that the Romeike family has a well-founded fear of persecution that makes them eligible for asylum. A written order from the court is forthcoming.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children fled persecution in August 2008 to seek political asylum in the U.S. In Germany, they were fined several times for home-schooling their children and left their home country when it became clear they could lose custody or be jailed. They now live in Morristown, Tennessee.


Christian teacher 'forced out' of British school after complaining Muslim pupils praised 9/11 hijackers 'as heroes'

Hate speech and racism from Muslims is OK, apparently

A Christian teacher yesterday claimed he was forced out of his job after complaining that Muslim pupils as young as eight hailed the September 11 hijackers as heroes. Nicholas Kafouris, 52, is suing his former school for racial discrimination. He told a tribunal that he had to leave his £30,000-a-year post because he would not tolerate the 'racist' and 'anti-Semitic' behaviour of Year 4 pupils.

The predominantly Muslim youngsters openly praised Islamic extremists in class and described the September 11 terrorists as 'heroes and martyrs'. One pupil said: 'Don't touch me, you're a Christian' when he brushed against him. Others said: 'We want to be Islamic bombers when we grow up', and 'The Christians and Jews are our enemies - you too because you're a Christian'.

Mr Kafouris, a Greek Cypriot, taught for 12 years at Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London. According to Ofsted 'almost all' its 465 pupils are from ethnic minorities and a vast proportion do not speak English as a first language. The teacher claims racial discrimination by the school, its headmistress and her assistant head after they failed to take action about the comments made by pupils to him.

He said there was a change in attitude of the pupils after the atrocities of September 11, 2001. They told him: 'We hate the Christians' and 'We hate the Jews', despite his attempts to stop them. He said he filled out a Racist Incident Reporting Sheet but claimed headmistress Jill Hankey dismissed his concerns.

In a statement submitted to the Central London Employment Tribunal he said: 'Miss Hankey proceeded to excuse and justify the pupil's behaviour, conduct and remarks to me as if I had no right to be offended by the child's remarks and conduct. 'Amongst Miss Hankey's justifications for the child's remarks, she said, "If the child was older, say 15, I might take it more seriously. He's only nine - he's only doing it to wind you up".' He added: 'I felt the head's behaviour and conduct towards me amounted to direct religious discrimination. I was intimidated in the way she spoke to me which indicated "Don't come back with such issues again".'

Mr Kafouris, a bachelor, said the comments became more frequent after the head did nothing about the initial incidents. 'In late November and December 2006, a number of unacceptable and blunt racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks were being made by various children in Year 4 where I taught, such as, "The Twin Tower bombers are heroes and martyrs". 'Some children were expressing delight at the death and killing of people of other cultures and religions.

'In the last week of November 2006 a child was talking about stabbing another child and I told him this was dangerous talk and that a lawyer had recently been stabbed by teenagers. His reply was, "I'm glad that man died". "Why?" I asked. "Because he's a Christian and English and we're Muslim".'

He claimed that during a religious education lesson about Jonah and the whale, one of the pupils asked if Jonah was a Jew, before shouting: 'I hate the Jews, they're our enemies.'

Mr Kafouris said he again tried to speak to Miss Hankey about it. 'The head's response was hostile and offensive again. The very first thing she said to me was, "Oh, you again! You're the only teacher that reports these things! Nobody else does!" 'Four times she repeated, "It's because of your lack of discipline that they're saying these things".'

Mr Kafouris was signed off with stress by his GP at the end of February 2007 after assistant head Margaret Coleman warned him not to challenge the pupils in class about their remarks. He says the lack of support from the school has made him clinically depressed and unable to work. He was sacked in April last year.


"Diversity" Research Advances Progresses Accumulates

In a long, interesting, and valuable article in the Chronicle of Higher Education Peter Schmidt reviews what he describes as the "increased nuance and complexity" of a "new wave of research on campus diversity." The new research, he writes,
holds the promise of improving how colleges serve students of different hues. On the fundamental question of whether racial and ethnic diversity produces educational benefits, the latest studies' bottom line is: Sometimes. With the right mix of students. If handled delicately.
Left unsaid, at least out loud, is what such faint and attenuated praise of the new work says about the quality of the old work it attempts to move beyond. At least some of the new scholars are willing to admit that the first generation of "diversity" research left a good deal to be desired.

Many of you will recall the controversial report by University of Michigan psychologist Patricia Gurin that played such an important role in UM's defense of its racial preference policies. (Those two posts, by the way, did not discuss the competence of Gurin's work so much as its honesty.) Now some scholars are having second thoughts about this and other similar work. "n the period leading to the Grutter decision," Schmidt writes,
researchers had been focused on the basic question of whether diversity produced any educational benefits, because the courts' view of the legality of race-conscious admission policies appeared to hinge on the answer.

"There was a rush to get stuff out quickly," says Mr. Milem, of Arizona, who helped generate research used by proponents of affirmative action to make their case. "The lawyers did not want the nuance. They said, `Show us what the outcomes are.' They pushed us to sort of talk in better, shorter sound bites because that is the way it needs to be communicated."

The debate over the persuasiveness of research on this point has remained very much alive in the years since Grutter. In an article published in the Stanford Law Review in 2006, for example, Justin Pidot, who was then a third-year Stanford law student and now is a Justice Department lawyer, reviewed the research that had been before the Supreme Court in 2003 and found it inconclusive on the key question of whether colleges must maintain minority enrollments above certain levels to achieve educational benefits.
Even former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who relied on that research in her infamous Grutter opinion, now may have doubts about whether that research "clearly demonstrate[d] the educational benefits of diverse student bodies."

Of course one need not be a new scholar, or the author of new scholarly research, to find enormous and fatal flaws in the research of Gurin and other early apologists for "diversity." For example, the Michigan Association of Scholars demolished this research (without, somehow, persuading Justice O'Connor et al.) in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Grutter (which I discussed in some detail here). "In an effort to quantify the educational benefits of diversity," they wrote,

the University solicited and then issued a report written by Patricia Gurin, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. Professor Gurin sought to correlate the racial diversity of classrooms on the one hand with hundreds of educational outcomes on the other. Among her results was the conclusion that students' self-reported intellectual self confidence improved more sharply in classrooms where there was greater racial diversity. But only by wading through pages of regression tables will one find the fact (not much emphasized by the University!) that student self-reported intellectual self confidence in racially mixed classrooms increased for white students. For black students Prof. Gurin found either no correlation or a negative correlation. Black student self-confidence, according to Prof. Gurin, either did not improve, or it declined in more racially mixed classes.

As the University would have it, the University is justified in abandoning normal admissions criteria so as to boost the number of black students in order that white students (but not black students) may feel more self-confident. Whether this shows a need for diversity at all is arguable; that it shows a compelling need for diversity is absurd.
The Michigan scholars argued, in short, that racial diversity is not constitutionally compelling because it is not in fact compelling.

Schmidt's article surveys a number of recent studies - some of those, such as those by Thomas Espenshade of Princeton I've already discussed - and his entire article is well worth reading. I was particularly interested, for a reason you will see below, in Schmidt's comments about one of those new studies:
Among the latest studies is a soon-to-be-published paper by two Duke University scholars - Peter Arcidiacono, an associate professor of economics, and Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor of public policy and economics - suggesting that colleges interested in promoting educational diversity face a Catch-22: If they relax admissions standards to take in more black and Hispanic students, their white and Asian-American students are much less likely to reap educational benefits, at least as measured by their acquisition of diversity-related skills assumed to increase long-term earning potential.

On the whole, the study, slated for publication in the journal Economic Inquiry, found only weak evidence that the racial composition of a college's student body has a long-term impact on the success of white and Asian-American students in the areas it measured. And where colleges enrolled black and Hispanic students whose academic credentials were lower, on average, than those of other students, the effect of diversity on the success of white and Asian-American students appeared, if anything, to be negative.
Note well - in fact, note very, very well - the dramatic but unacknowledged assumption here that virtually screams, in vain, for recognition: the value of "diversity" consists of its effects on white and Asian students. The authors, of course, recognize that "diversity" may have other justifications, but they clearly recognize what most "diversity" advocates prefer to disguise: that the justification for "diversity" because of what it does for whites and Asians, not the preferred minorities. Here is their abstract:
This article evaluates the frequently argued but heretofore little tested hypothesis that increasing minority representation in elite colleges generates tangible benefits for majority-race students. Using data on graduates of 30 selective universities, we find only weak evidence of any relationship between collegiate racial composition and the postgraduation outcomes of white or Asian students. Moreover, the strongest evidence we uncover suggests that increasing minority representation by lowering admission standards is unlikely to produce benefits and may in fact cause harm by reducing the representation of minority students on less selective campuses. While affirmative action may still be desirable for the benefits it conveys to minority students, these results provide little support for "spillover" effects on majority-race students....
The hollowness of the "spillover" justification for "diversity" (actually, its only legal justification) has been noted before, such as by the Michigan Association of Scholars quoted above ("... the University is justified in abandoning normal admissions criteria so as to boost the number of black students in order that white students (but not black students) may feel more self-confident").

And, if I do say so myself (well, who else is going to say so?), the discordant, grating song that "diversity uses blacks for the benefit of whites" has been sung here, loudly and frequently, since 2002 (!). Critics of "diversity" often note the unfairness of excluding some whites and Asians so that other whites and Asians could receive the alleged benefits of being exposed to the preferentially admitted minorities. They properly regard such treatment as unfair, I noted in the November 2002 post just quoted,
because they were not treated with what Ronald Dworkin (and others) would call "equal respect." Their interests were subordinated to the (presumed) interests of others in being exposed to more "diversity" than the rejected applicants could provide. In short, they were treated as a means to the more important ends of others.
But, I also noted, the same point could be made about the successful, "diversity"-providing minority applicants.
Even though they were awarded the prize of admission, they too were treated as a means of providing a benefit to others, i.e., the non-minorities who will benefit from being exposed to them. They are not treated as individuals. They are not admitted, after all, to provide "diversity" to themselves but to others. True, they may receive some benefit from being in a "diverse" student body. But they would receive that benefit no matter what majority-white institution they attended. That is, admitting the preferentially treated blacks admitted to any highly selective university does not provide them with any diversity benefits they would not receive at less selective majority-white institutions. The diversity benefit that preferences are said to provide, that is, flows to the non-minorities exposed to the preferentially admitted minorities. This is treating them as a means, not an end, every bit as much as the rejected whites....
I've played this song so many times it has become a broken record - such as here, emphasizing that "whatever benefits derive from diversity are provided by the preferentially admitted minorities, not to them."

They may well receive some benefit from being admitted to more selective institutions than they would have absent the racial preference they received (or course, they are also less likely to graduate), but the diversity benefit they receive cannot justify those preferences because the preferentially admitted minorities would have received the same diversity benefits at the less selective institutions they would otherwise have attended.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the elite institutions that offer racial preferences are using minorities to provide "diversity" to their non-minority students. In return, those students are allowed entry into institutions whose requirements would have excluded them if they had been judged by the same standards as the other students. This bargain may or may not be beneficial to the instiutions or to the preferentially admitted, i.e., differentially treated, minorities, but it is a fallacy to point to diversity benefits allegedly received by the preferred to justify the preferences extended to them. If "diversity" justifies racial discrimination, it is because of the benefits received by the non-minorities who are exposed to the preferentially admitted minorities. To claim otherwise is less than honest.
And here I discussed Hostages to Diversity, a white student was denied access to a math and science magnet program because allowing his transfer would have a negative "impact on diversity." Similarly, two Asian-Americans kindergartners were denied transfers to a school with a French immersion program because allowing the transfer would have deprived the students in their current school of the benefits of being exposed to them. When their parents pointed out that the new school has as few Asian-Americans as their current school, the Montgomery County, Maryland, Superintendent of Schools replied to the school board "that nothing in the school system's policy permits `robbing Peter to pay Paul' by hurting the diversity of one school to help it at another."

I could quote more, such as Paul Brest, former dean of the Stanford Law School, being
honest enough to recognize that admitting minorities so that the other students may benefit from being exposed to their allegedly different perspectives places a burden on them. He notes that "[w]hile minority students complained of the burden of constantly having to educate their white classmates, the minority students learned as well." Of course they did, but the fact they did does not validate the diversity justification for racial preferences. They would also have learned at the schools to which they would have been admitted without preferences. The diversity argument is based on the contributions the preferentially admitted minorities make to others, not on the benefits they undoubtedly receive.
Since Brest defends racial preferences, he obviously thinks the burden their "diversity" preference bestows on minorities is worth bearing.

Tote that barge! Lift dat bale!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Debauching children

A new report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation is advocating that children as young as 10 be given extensive sex education, including an awareness of sex's pleasures. The report, "Stand and Deliver," charges that religious groups, specifically Catholics and Muslims, deny their young access to comprehensive sexual programs and education.

"Young people's sexuality is still contentious for many religious institutions. Fundamentalist and other religious groups — the Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic Schools) for example — have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction. Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex." the report states.

The report demands that children 10 and older be given a "comprehensive sexuality education" by governments, aid organizations and other groups, and that young people should be seen as "sexual beings."

"Young people have the right to be informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services," Bert Koenders, the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, wrote in the foreword to the report. It was his organization that helped fund the report. The report argues that sex education should be "recast" to show sexuality as a "positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights and an expression of self."

Much like a U.N. report released last August that advocated teaching masturbation to children as young as 5, "Stand and Deliver" has set off a wave of protest among religious and conservative groups. Ed Mechmann, spokesman for New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, charged that Planned Parenthood was "trying to teach children sex without values and that sex is a matter of pleasure and done without consequences." He said religions like Catholicism and Islam teach sex as part of a much bigger picture and that Planned Parenthood was trying to de-link sex from traditional values. "It is part of an effort to get children to reject traditional values and accept a liberal American-European view," he said. "In many traditional countries — Catholic and Muslim — it won't work and should be seen as cultural imperialism."

Mechmann also charged that Planned Parenthood's report was compromised because it has a financial stake advocating the changes. "The difference between Planned Parenthood and us is that we don't make money off what we teach and say. They do. They make money off contraceptives and abortions," he said.

Michelle Turner, president of the Maryland-based Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said Planned Parenthood was simply trying to eliminate parental say. "What are they trying to do? They are trying to eliminate the role of mom and dad in the family," Turner said. "For Planned Parenthood to decide that governments, private organizations and religious organizations should make decisions about kids' sexuality is just going too far." "It is part of a bigger push to change the way we think about sex," she said. That sex is all about pleasure and there are no consequences. They are wrong. No matter how much we teach children, some will make mistakes. They will forget. And Planned Parenthood doesn't want to deal with that," she said. "They see religious groups, especially those that counsel abstinence and waiting until marriage, as bad guys," she added. "We aren't."

Planned Parenthood said it was unable to comment because the report was issued by its European office and it was unable to contact them.


Fracking the Academic Left

By James Lewis

Two seemingly unrelated stories this week came together in my mind:

* Howard Zinn is dead.

* "Horizontal fracking" will produce much larger-than-expected amounts of clean, inexpensive natural gas over the coming decades.

What do those headlines mean? Well, Howard Zinn was the mendacious professor whose Marxist People's History of the United States is now a principal indoctrination tool of the college Left -- our "progressives" -- in order to turn out the likes of Barack Hussein Obama and other people who think the United States is a malign force that should go around apologizing for itself.

Howard Zinn, who just gave up the ghost, was the Barack Hussein Obama of American historians, at least in the Audacity of his Mendacity. His book has been assigned to tens of millions of students, making him a wealthy man.

Once upon a time, historians used to try to tell the truth. Professor Zinn was more the medieval kind of moral fabulist, whose self-appointed role it was to collect the mortal sins of the people -- or at least the American people -- and turn the entire history of America into one long catechism of grievances. Oh, well...whatever floats your boat.

The trouble is not so much the existence of obsessive grievance-mongers like Howard Zinn as it is his enormous popularity among the towering intellects of the Left and the enthusiastic adoption of him by thousands of mind-molding pseudo-historians on the campuses of America in order to crank out even more thousands of P.C.-washed young minds ready to be guilt-tripped by the national Organs of Propaganda for the rest of their lives. The Democrats then give more money to the campus indoctrination machine so that even more tenured professors can cut and paste more prefab Lefty fantasies onto the brains of their helpless subjects. It's a sort of perpetual motion scheme, except that nothing productive comes out. Howard Zinn industrialized the anti-American propaganda machine, like some colony of national brain parasites living off its host.

The result is visible on all our campuses, where free speech has now gone up in smoke. If you are caught saying a politically incorrect thought out loud, you may find yourself witch-hunted and fired -- just as Larry Summers was driven out of his job by the harridans of Harvard University before Obama picked him up. If they can destroy the president of Harvard for saying an Evil Thought out loud, they can get anybody. That's why they did it -- to scare all the other Incorrect Thinkers at Harvard.

I sometimes talk with friends who teach in such places, and rumor has it that the well-oiled P.C. apparatus is bigger today than ever. Every once in a while, there is another public witch-hunt; the evil non-P.C. meanies are punished or humiliated, or they just leave. Everybody is now thoroughly guilt-tripped, far more than any old-fashioned Catholic peasant going to weekly confession with the parish priest. At least Catholics would receive absolution for their sins. There is no absolution for the sins of whiteness, or maleness, or heterosexuality -- just a lifetime of taxes and mental drudgery.

The Indoctrination Campus is a reactionary and regressive institution, something the Saudi King would love. That is why Islamism is making such strides on the P.C. Campus -- it has exactly the same sort of dogmatic medieval outlook, it's just as historically ignorant, it's just as self-indulgent, and above all, it blames the same "enemy" -- America and the West, which are directly responsible for the prosperity and well-being of their reactionary parasites.

Indoctrination should have no role on a university campus. But the last jihadi suicide bomber to nearly make it to Paradise flying over Detroit was a big man on campus at University College, London, where he headed the Muslim Student Association. Panty-Bomber was a pure product of the modern university, with a little AQ thrown in. He could learn all his basic ideas just by listening to the BBC, and now even bin Laden is blaming the West warming. At his college campus, the Christmas Day bomber certainly learned nothing positive about Western civilization -- such as the idea that we don't wantonly kill innocent men, women, and children for the greater glory of Allah. Somehow he never got that basic point in his expensive education.

We can see from twenty years of global warming fraud in our "educated media" how the most basic principles of science and scholarship have suffered on campus. No one is more ignorant and mentally fixated than the old media gatekeepers. No one has less basic education in science, the humanities, mathematics, or real history. No one is less capable of elementary reasoning. Our media peasants are just as mind-numbed as their millions of placid victims.

Some time ago, David Brooks, the rumored conservative at the New York Times, said that "the educated class" is at odds with the regular folks of the United States -- the vulgar mob, in other words. But Brooks has it exactly backwards, as you might expect from someone who has to spend his waking hours in durance vile on 42nd Street. The "educated class" is just the indoctrinated class today -- the mass of P.C.-whipped, totally predictable minds. If you want to see individualism -- if you want to see courage, creativity, and original thought -- don't look at the college-educated class. They all march in mental lockstep, even as the WaPo marches to the drum and fife corps of those brainiacs at the NYT.

On the P.C. campus, science and scholarship have withered right along with education. I've spent decades trying to teach college students, and I think I can say after all these years that I've never succeeded in educating anyone. Not even one. Occasionally education has been seen to happen in my classes, or at least I would like to believe so. But education always comes from within. Students bring their eagerness to learn with them; you can't make them educated any more than a parent can "grow" a child. People aren't carrots. You can't "grow" them. They either grow due to some fortunate concatenation of circumstances, or they don't. Education happens sometimes, and you can stand by and cheer when you see it, but you can't take the credit. That's why our colleges don't turn out people who are better-educated than their parents who never went to college. The dreary procession of years sitting in a schoolroom does not an education make. College-trained Americans are so easily suckered that most of them voted for the last Democratic candidate for president. Can you believe that? I still can't. The election of 2008 proves the utter failure of our "education" system.

A politically correct campus is incapable of educating students because it suffocates free thought. The kids know that. They get their real education elsewhere, or they just allow themselves to be brain-stomped. Indoctrination is not education. The only kids to be really educated on the P.C. campus are the young conservatives, because all that brainwashing forces them to think for themselves. The others just end up reciting the catechism.

A college student I know boasted that he voted for Obama "because Hillary was just too white." Years of "education" have taught him to be a racist, if even only a reverse racist. For that we have to thank the Howard Zinns of this world. Thank you, Howie, and don't let the door slam on your way out. You left the United States worse than you found it.

If Howard Zinn is reason to despair, horizontal fracking is a reason for hope. H.F. is a wonderful new technology, a genuine step forward in recovering natural gas bubbles embedded in hydrocarbon-bearing shale. It's a way of drilling horizontally into carbon-rich rock and using high-pressure water to dissolve the rock so the natural gas can be collected in trillions of cubic feet.

H.F. is going to save our cookies, even with all the mendacious eco-madness we see from the politically correct meatheads of our media. Natural gas is the cleanest hydrocarbon fuel. It can be utilized for all the same purposes as oil, and it is many times more efficient than the scientifically wacky "green energy" schemes that Barack Obama seems to love. That means that we can manufacture aspirin tablets from it as well as fuel to keep the world alive. And because vast reserves of clean natural gas are available in Canada and the United States, we stand a chance of surviving the mad oil monopoly of the Saudis and the Twelver Suicide Cult in Tehran.

That is honest progress. The Left will never, ever discover anything as wonderful as horizontal fracking. They can't. They are too reactionary, too stuck in the past with old Karl Marx.

All the preening "progressives" are Zinnian reactionaries, and all the engineers, chemists, and honest scientists -- there still are a few left -- are just keeping the world moving toward a happier and healthier future. If only there were some way to drill into the layer of left-wing intellectuals spread over higher education and frack it to release the academic gas trapped therein.


More On Espenshade On Affirmative Action

I have written a number of times about the recent research on the racial achievement gap and affirmative action by Princenton Professor Thomas Espenshade and various co-authors: here, here, here, here, and most recently here. He is also one of the new scholars writing about "diversity" that Peter Schmidt mentioned in an article I just discussed here.

Please read those posts for a more thorough discussion than I will provide here, but an un-nuanced (though not, I think, unfair) summary of Espenshade's research on data from eight elite colleges is that he and his co-authors find a massive racial achievement gap, correspondingly massive racial preferences in admissions that benefit blacks and Hispanics and bar large numbers of Asians, combined with a commitment to "diversity" that causes them to refuse to recognize the discrimination against Asians for what it is and even to lament what they see as the imminent demise of the race preference regime.

For example, as I noted here, Espenshade and Alexandra Radford noted in a recent article that
[c]ompared to white applicants at selective private colleges and universities, black applicants receive an admission boost that is equivalent to 310 SAT points, measured on an all-other-things-equal basis. The boost for Hispanic candidates is equal on average to 130 SAT points. Asian applicants face a 140 point SAT disadvantage.
Thus, not surprisingly,
[d]oing away with racial preferences for underrepresented minority students would substantially reduce the number of such students at selective colleges.
And, by doing so, it would also substantially increase the number of Asian and Asian-American students at those selective colleges.

I bring all this up, again, because Prof. Espenshade steadfastly continues, either obstinately or obtusely, to acknowledge what his numbers, charts, graphs, and statistical analyses clearly reveal: that "affirmative action" as practiced by admissions officers at elite colleges results in massive discrimination against Asian-Americans. (I discussed an earlier example of this refusal here and here.) He professes, lamely, in a recent interview about his new book with the Princeton News Service that he can't conclude that
because I've never actually sat in on an admission committee. But I'm convinced they don't have an equation like this and say, "OK, if you are Hispanic, you get a certain number of points; if your SAT scores are in this category, you get a certain number of points," right down the list.
In fact, his refusal to recognize the discrimination against Asians that his research clearly reveals is worse than lame; it is silly, as in:
People may read this and want to say, "Oh, because I'm Asian American, my SAT scores have been downgraded." That is not really the way to interpret these data. Many times people will ask me, "Do your results prove that there is discrimination against Asian applicants?" And I say, "No, they don't." Even though in our data we have much information about the students and what they present in their application folders, most of what we have are quantifiable data. We don't have the "softer" variables -- the personal statements that the students wrote, their teacher recommendations, a full list of extracurricular activities. Because we don't have access to all of the information that the admission office has access to, it is possible that the influence of one applicant characteristic or another might appear in a different light if we had the full range of materials.
If this passage means anything, it means that those Asians may look good on paper (grades, test scores, etc.) but for all Espenshade knows they may all share an inability to write admissions essays that can compete with those written by blacks and Hispanics and a similar inability to garner enthusiastic letters of recommendations from their teachers.

This is neither lame nor silly; it is both dumb and offensive.


85% of British young people want more grammar schools created

British "Grammar" schools are academically selective schools that are taxpayer supported. The Labor party hates them, even though they are a highroad to social mobility, which the Labour party claims to support

There is huge support for grammar schools among recent school leavers and first-time voters, a poll showed yesterday. Eighty-five per cent of those aged 18 to 24 would like to see more created, the ICM survey found. And 76 per cent of all age groups would support new grammars, more than three decades after many of the schools were replaced by comprehensives.

The findings prompted fresh questions over David Cameron's decision to abandon the Conservatives' historic support for selective education. The 164 existing grammars already face the threat of closure due to a lack of Government support for the system. Grammar school chiefs said that under Labour their schools were liable to be forced to join with comprehensives to form 'comprehensive academies' or merge with groups of less successful schools. But they said they were also vulnerable in Tory-controlled areas because of a lack of 'top-level political support'.

The poll, commissioned by the National Grammar Schools Association, found that support for grammars is strongest among 18 to 24-year-olds, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds. Seventy per cent of the 1,015 adults surveyed supported retaining the existing grammar schools in Britain and Northern Ireland. Among 18 to 24-year- olds the figure was 75 per cent. Seventy-six per cent are in favour of the introduction of new grammars, especially in urban areas where there are none. This rose to 85 per cent for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Grammar schools across most of the country were converted into comprehensives during the 1960s and 1970s or forced into the fee-paying sector.

Mr Cameron has insisted that selective education is 'unpopular with parents', who 'don't want children divided into successes and failures at 11'. He has pledged to protect the remaining grammars but in 2007 he ruled out creating any more except in existing selective areas with a rising pupil population.

Robert McCartney, chairman of the NGSA, said this did not go far enough. 'The popularity of politicians is at an extremely low level and a general election is due very soon,' he said. 'It's unbelievable that none of our three largest political parties seriously supports either existing grammar schools or the idea of opening new ones where there's parental demand. 'If they want our votes, they should offer what the public wants.'

He said the 'effectiveness and existence' of many grammar schools was threatened by Government initiatives such as the drive to 'federate' neighbouring schools together in formal partnerships. There are also examples of grammar and non-selective schools being forced to merge. 'Such measures usually mean that fewer 11-year-olds are offered the opportunity of a grammar school education,' said Mr McCartney.

A Tory spokesman said: 'We set out our policy on grammar schools in 2007 and it hasn't changed.'


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

N.C. Schools: Those Who Erase History

It is one thing to forget, ignore or misinterpret our nation’s history, but a group of uber-liberal educrats in North Carolina is taking the radical revisionism of America one step further. These politically-correct, taxpayer-funded “thought police” are actually trying to erase American history from our children’s textbooks. What do they want to replace it with? Radical environmental propaganda from left-wing extremists who view American liberties as obstacles to overcome, not safeguards to be defended.

In perhaps the most glaring example to date of our government’s descent into socialist madness, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is attempting to remove all American history prior to 1877 from its textbooks, replacing it with a “global studies” curriculum. Rather than learning about George Washington crossing the Delaware or Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves (while studying from documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation), high school students in North Carolina would instead be indoctrinated with more multicultural rhetoric and the fuzzy science of climate change (while studying from the Koran and the “Copenhagen Accord”). This sort of raw indoctrination is worse than misguided – it’s treasonous.

If this new anti-American curriculum is adopted, American children would no longer learn about the principles on which this nation was established – and the blood that was shed in defense of those principles – they would instead be spoon-fed Obama administration talking points on how intolerant, imperialist America owes a huge financial debt to the rest of the world, one that we can start repaying immediately by helping developing nations “combat global warming.”

“What we are trying to do is figure out a way to teach (history) where students are connected to it, where they see the big idea, where they are able to make connections and draw relationships between parts of our history and the present day,” the chief academic officer for North Carolina’s school system told FOX News.

What rubbish. These government censors are trying to rewrite history, pure and simple. By removing the entire first century of American history from our children’s textbooks, these radicals are doing more than just putting a “liberal spin” on things – they are trying to fundamentally alter the world view of future generations of U.S. citizens. They are trying to rip out American democracy by its roots and replace it with what Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has dubbed the “New Socialism,” the exploitation of climate-based fear-mongering as a means to facilitate a massive wealth transfer from American taxpayers to third-world governments, many of which are hostile to the United States.

Joseph Goebbels would no doubt be proud of such a curriculum – and the objective behind it. Unable to convince the “America of today” to blindly follow Obama’s socialist vision, these “Green Nazis” are endeavoring to create an “America of tomorrow” that is more receptive to their agenda – even as the scientific case for climate change continues to crumble all around them. This attempted indoctrination must not stand. Not only must this so-called curriculum be rejected, but the educrats pushing it must be dismissed and never allowed near our children again.

An abiding respect and appreciation for America’s bedrock freedoms and founding wisdom are the only things currently keeping these socialist hordes from overrunning this county – which is no doubt why they are now being targeted. America was founded on a set of fundamental principles – a core collection of “self-evident” truths that forms the basis of who we are as a people. We cannot allow those truths to be erased – or those principles to be discarded – for anything, least of all the latest liberal zeitgeist.


British schools ‘forced to spend on IT which doesn’t work’

Governments and IT are usually a bad combination

An academy designed to be the first fully wireless school has been blighted by computer problems since being opened by Gordon Brown more than two years ago. The head of the £24 million Bristol Brunel Academy — a beacon of Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme — said that its wireless system had yet to work properly, teachers still did the register on paper because of problems with swipe cards and fingerprint recognition systems were unreliable.

Brunel’s problems, similar to those experienced in other schools, raise questions about the education department’s £1.65 billion annual expenditure on IT for classrooms, which accounts for a significant share of the £55 billion BSF programme.

Armando Di-Finizio, the head of Brunel, said that millions of pounds were being wasted on “white elephant” technology in schools. He said that his school — the first to be rebuilt under BSF — had continuing technical difficulties. “The school was designed to be completely wireless but I have yet to see a school where wireless works well. “We have been told that we have one of the most powerful systems in the country, but it is still not enough. We keep being told that lots of lessons have been learnt. We have had to beef it up out of our own budget.”

Mr Di-Finizio criticised the millions of pounds being spent on technology in schools, and suggested that there was a fixation with constantly updating classrooms with the latest gadgets. A government drive to provide state schools with the latest technology has seen most equipped with a large number of computers and “interactive whiteboards” in classrooms. Some have installed swipe cards, fingerprint recognition systems, and have “virtual learning environments” to allow children and teachers to access the curriculum online.

Mr Di-Finizio said that there were pressures on schools to buy expensive equipment. “One could be led up the wrong path by IT experts. Is it worth having card-swiping and fingerprint detection systems in place, if the teacher still has to do the register? “We introduced a system of swipe cards because it encourages children to use them in the library and to pay for lunch, rather than carrying cash. We spent all this money installing a swipe-card room entry system but the teacher ends up having to do the register anyway, because how do you know a child has not stolen someone else’s card, or isn’t covering for a friend?”

He said that there were problems with some of the latest fads, such as fingerprint recognition systems, which apparently do not work properly if the child has dirty fingers. But he did not call for the removal of technology from schools, saying that it had been useful for raising attainment.

Schools spend £1.65 billion a year on information technology, with one computer to every three pupils in secondary schools, and one to six in primary schools. Yet some heads, particularly those involved with the BSF programme complain that they have lost freedom over their IT budgets, and are forced to buy expensive equipment through designated suppliers.


Western Australia: Gifted kids let down by system

THOUSANDS of potential child geniuses are going unrecognised in schools, leaving many in danger of never reaching their full potential. For some of WA's 35,000 gifted children, their overlooked "gifts" have become a burden, forcing them to turn to misbehaviour or switch off from lessons.

According to US child intelligence expert Deborah Ruf, the education system - particularly primary schools - is failing to get the most out of gifted children. Dr Ruf, who will be speaking at the University of WA this week, said schools spent more time focusing on struggling pupils. "The brightest children spend nearly the entirety of their school years being instructed far below their capacity to learn, with the result that we are losing them and what they could become," she told The Sunday Times.

"Many of these exceptionally bright children are living right now in homes and learning in classrooms where the adults responsible for them often don't know or don't fully understand their potential. "Some of them are mistakenly labelled as behaviour problems. Others flounder in classrooms designed to meet the needs of children who are far behind them in their learning."

Gifted and Talented Children's Association of WA spokeswoman Kriss Muskett said gifted children went unnoticed because teachers did not know how to identify them. She called for teachers to be trained "at an undergraduate level" to recognise different levels of giftedness and how to deal with those children.

The Education Department said gifted primary school pupils were given the opportunity to extend themselves through the Primary Extension and Challenge Program. The part-time program is available to students in Years 5, 6 and 7. There are also 16 secondary schools that offer selective programs.

David Axworthy, executive director of school support services, said WA was the only state to test every student in Year 4 to see if they needed to be challenged, and more than $7 million a year was spent on public school programs designed for gifted students. Education Minister Liz Constable said she was committed to the development of gifted children because she had completed her PhD in the area.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Balancing act: conservatives weigh means against ends as liberal opinion-makers embrace teacher accountability and school choice

THE Obama administration's signature education initiative, Race to the Top, has produced genuine headline news: The Democrats, usually seen kowtowing to organized labor's demands, for once are standing up to a powerful union constituency. The Race to the Top grant competition would remunerate states for using students' test scores in teacher evaluations, a practice the teachers unions have fought for years. A number of conservative reformers are backing the measure, but Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, recently announced that his state would not participate in Race to the Top. What's the catch?

The situation is reminiscent of another time Democrats stood up to organized labor: in the early 1990s, when Bill Clinton backed passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over the objections of the unions. In both cases, the fight between the Democratic party and its union backers dominated the media's coverage. But then as now, a different and more interesting question preoccupied conservatives: Does the policy in question cede too much local power to a national or transnational authority?

At the heart of the question is a debate over means and ends. Not many conservatives in the 1990s argued, as the unions did, that NAFTA would result in the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs. Nor do many conservatives today side with the teachers unions in support of rules that make it nearly impossible to fire incompetent educators. In each case, mountains of empirical evidence slowly persuaded liberal elites and Democratic reformers to agree at least partially with conservatives that a certain end--free trade and teacher accountability, respectively--was worth pursuing.

By 1993, it was no longer plausible to argue that free trade was on balance deleterious to a nation's prosperity. Economists across the political spectrum agreed then, and still do, that removing trade barriers between two countries allows each to increase its total output and thereby grow richer. The only intellectually defensible way to argue against free trade is to make the debate about something other than wealth, such as equality, labor rules, or environmental standards. In the NAFTA debate, accordingly, opponents argued that U.S. companies would move jobs requiring fewer skills to Mexico, weakening the power of unions to bid up the price of unskilled labor and causing the gap between rich and poor to widen.

But liberal opinion-makers were not persuaded that the country should sacrifice its overall prosperity to preserve union clout. NAFTA supporter Michael Kinsley, then of The New Republic, zeroed in on the opposition's advantage in the debate when he wrote that "the person who will get a job because of NAFTA isn't even aware of it yet; the person who may lose a job because of NAFTA is all too aware." Newsweek admonished Americans to "beware the new protectionist preachings. Trade is good for you." And the most influential liberal in the country, Bill Clinton, supported NAFTA.

It is equally difficult to argue now that teacher quality and student test scores are not correlated. Empirical studies from groups such as the New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated that teachers matter, and that test scores are a reliably accurate tool for measuring how much they matter. A Brookings study of Los Angeles public schools published in 2006 concluded that "having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap."

As in the debate over free trade, liberal journalists and policymakers are increasingly embracing the evidence. I first learned of the Brookings study from a Steven Brill article in The New Yorker that absolutely eviscerated New York's United Federation of Teachers for blocking reforms that would make it easier for schools to use tests in teacher evaluations. Amanda Ripley of The Atlantic recently wrote about Teach for America's groundbreaking efforts to track test-score data, link it to each of the organization's teachers, and use it to assess their effectiveness. Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, wrote a column in January praising Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, for her grudging acceptance of the notion that standardized test scores should be part of the evaluation process. (The National Education Association, AFT's much larger cousin, remains opposed.)

In large part, these journalists are following the administration's lead. Obama's appointment of former Chicago public-schools CEO Arne Duncan to lead the Department of Education was viewed by many conservatives as a decent pick, based on Duncan's advocacy of teacher accountability and charter schools. Race to the Top reflects Duncan's support for these concepts: States with laws prohibiting the use of test scores in teacher evaluations are not eligible to compete for the $4.3 billion in grant money available under the program, and other eligibility requirements encourage states to lift caps on charter schools. In general, states make themselves more attractive applicants the farther they move in the directions of accountability and choice.

This is not to say that Obama has been great, or even good, on education. To the dismay of conservatives and inner-city Washington parents, he signed a bill that stripped the District of Columbia's school-voucher program of its funding. He supports a bill that would effectively nationalize the provision of student loans. And one of his appointments to the Department of Education, Kevin Jennings, founded a group that advocated the inclusion of gay-and-lesbian-themed literature on school reading lists, including books that contain graphic descriptions of sex acts between minors and adults.

For these reasons alone, conservatives would be right to approach any of this administration's education initiatives with a profound skepticism. But conservative objections to Race to the Top go beyond Obama himself. Many on the right (including NATIONAL REVIEW's editors) opposed President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act on the grounds that conservatives should fight any bill that entrenches the federal role in education--even if, in theory, it would put the government to work toward laudable ends. Governor Perry reflected this point of view in announcing that Texas would not apply for Race to the Top funds: "Our state and our communities must reserve the right to decide how we educate our children, and not surrender control to the federal bureaucracy."

Few remember now, but similar sovereignty concerns bedeviled some conservatives when Bill Clinton, in an effort to make NAFTA more palatable to union interests and environmentalists, negotiated side agreements on labor and the environment to placate them. Conservatives worried that these deals would create panels with authority to recommend sanctions and other measures to compel compliance.

Though the sovereignty concerns were not without merit, those powers of punishment have proven to be a net benefit in the enforcement of U.S. trade agreements. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). One of the best things about the WTO is that it presents a solution to the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. The Bush administration's decision to levy tariffs on imported steel imposed a tax on steel consumers for the benefit of a few domestic steel companies. The WTO ruled against the U.S. and authorized the EU to levy retaliatory sanctions, thus concentrating the cost of the tariffs on other industries, which were better organized than steel consumers and better able to fight back. Under pressure, Bush relented and repealed the tariffs.

Race to the Top seeks to address the same problem, using a carrot instead of a stick. Tenure rules and caps on charter schools benefit a powerful and well-organized special-interest group at the expense of unorganized taxpayers and parents. But state governments, going broke and desperate for federal funds, have already responded to Race to the Top's incentive structure. So far, eleven states have amended or repealed bad laws to make themselves more competitive candidates for the money, despite union opposition.

Conservatives have legitimate concerns about delegating power over education to the federal government. But state governments have their own flaws, which a little delegated power can mitigate. It's a delicate balance, and it's hard to say right now whether Race to the Top tilts too far in the direction of centralized decision-making. But at least conservatives can take heart that the tide of elite opinion is turning against the teachers unions--and in favor of accountability and choice.


New British teachers lack the training to handle violence in the classroom, survey reveals

Nearly half of new teachers have not been given enough training to deal with violence in the classroom, a survey showed today. Figures also suggest two-thirds of newly qualified teachers have received no clear guidance on restraining violent students. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which carried out the survey, has called for such training to be made compulsory.

According to the union, 49 per cent of newly-qualified teachers and probationers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland felt they had not had enough training to deal with challenging behaviour. One in five said they had been provided with clear guidance on restraining violent pupils, with nearly 30 per cent saying they had not yet covered this area ofthe job in their training.

Guidance by the Department for Children, Schools and Families lists the types of force teachers can use on children. It can include passive physical contact such as blocking a pupil's path and active contact such as leading a pupil by the hand or arm. In more extreme circumstances, 'appropriate restrictive holds, which may require specific expertise or training', may be used, it says.

ATL says the problem with the official guidance is that teachers are not clear on how to interpret it. Sharon Liburd, from the ATL, told the BBC: 'These violent confrontations can erupt very very quickly, they [teachers] need to be clear about what sort of steps they can take to try to stop the situation from escalating, if they have to physically intervene and how, in fact, they do that.'

But National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Mick Brookes said there was no need for compulsory training in schools because many never saw a violent incident. The ATL surveyed 1,001 of its members across the UK.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said new teachers were given support to ensure they had the skills they needed and said the Government's 'behaviour tsar' Sir Alan Steer had noted progress in pupils' conduct across Britan. He said: 'Good behaviour and an atmosphere of respect should be the norm in all schools. 'In his recent review, Sir Alan Steer said that behaviour standards have improved and are good in the majority of schools. 'We are determined to tackle poor behaviour and raise overall behaviour standards - that is why we have given schools clearer and stronger powers than ever before to ensure good school discipline.'


Australia: Something's rotten in the state of NSW - comprehensive public schools

The comprehensive public school classroom is an unreformed rotten borough of public policy. The My School website represents the first significant, successful reform of the Rudd/Gillard era and a welcome departure from decades of union resistance to desperately needed educational change.

Education is a sector sufficiently charged with mythology and vested interests that it's virtually impossible for us to tell each other the truth. At the risk of unfairly disparaging a legion of inspirational teachers, I will now have a crack at that task.

Education in NSW is delivered in five distinct packages: state selective schools, elite private schools, other independent schools (Anglican, Muslim, other religious and non-religious), the Catholic parochial schools, and the state comprehensive schools. The competing power centres, in order of influence, are the NSW Department of Education, the education unions, the federal Ministry of Education (essentially a funding and testing body), principals, teachers and parents. Four out of five pistons are firing - all effort must now be concentrated on lifting the teaching and learning environment of the comprehensive public school.

From a "consumer value" perspective" the selective state school is at the top of the food chain. It costs little to attend, requires little parental involvement and is the most ruthlessly exclusive model. Almost all students attending these schools are the children of first-generation migrants, mainly from Asia and the subcontinent. The smart parents of these smart kids worked out quickly which side of the bread the butter was on. By spending a few thousand dollars on coaching in primary school they can avoid shelling out 50 times that amount to gain access to the quality of teaching and the peer group they want for their children. In terms of results, it's a subsidy worth paying. The Anglo Australians are either too dumb or too complacent to make the same commitment to their children's future.

The selective government school system was extended in the 1980s and '90s as a response to the growing tide of evacuation from public to private schools - worse in NSW than any other state. The NSW Department of Education widened the range of selectivity from academic and agricultural to include centres of excellence in sport, technology and the performing arts. The move was largely successful in fostering great public schools, by drawing on motivated teachers and creating a positive peer-pressure environment.

The problem for public schools generally had been a vacuum of culture. While the non-government schools could define themselves by some coherent religious (or Steiner or other) ethic and community, the public system, in the absence of selectivity, took refuge in concepts of inclusiveness and tolerance, which lacked the horsepower to inspire commitment from parents, teachers and students. The resulting vacuum has been filled by behaviourally challenged students and defensive, disengaged parents - a problem massively exacerbated after the state selective schools and the non-government sector hoovered up the most talented and motivated students.

The so called "comprehensive" school lost its student role models. One public high school principal confessed to me the difficulty he was facing in getting students to accept academic awards at speech day for fear of being mocked and bullied in the playground.

In that climate, the academic results and overall school discipline went into free fall. Many outer suburban "comprehensive" schools, with no effective means to discipline chronic misbehaviour, became a chapter out of the Lord of the Flies. There is a tipping point where the forces of bullying, abuse, high staff turnover and low common-room morale, vandalism and outright violence overwhelms the educational project. Teachers become mere child minders, enduring a job they hate, trying desperately to do something for the few kids who really want to learn. With limited government budgets and without a supportive school community, there is no money for new initiatives.

The comprehensive primary school often evidences a complete drought of male teachers. Low remuneration, low prospects of merit promotion, the risk of sexual allegations in a low-trust culture, and the militant feminism of the teacher unions, creates an intensely male-unfriendly environment. The absence of strong, sporty male teachers is a disaster for boys' education. Education unions, rightly sensing the odds were stacked against them, adopted a strategy of resisting any kind of accountability for teacher and school performance and resisting the empowerment of principals that might distinguish one school from another. Most have no ability to select their own staff or nurture their own ethic, instead suffering a revolving door of department-directed staff transfers.

The unions have worked to maintain a victim culture under which the answer to every question is "more funding", putting all their creative energy into political campaigns that are designed to provide cover for the abysmal performance of most (but not all) outer-suburban comprehensive public schools.

However, there is hope. All the research shows the strongest ballast against the forces of darkness is an inspiring principal. I have witnessed non-selective public schools, drawing heavily from housing department estates and low-income suburbs, that bristle with pride, energy, courtesy and learning - invariably revolving around an inspirational principal..

The My School website is an excellent first step towards parent empowerment and engagement. It allows high-performing public schools to receive the credit they richly deserve, and flushes out the complacent among the privileged private schools.

It should be expanded to include: the number of teacher absences, the turnover of teaching staff, the number of teachers on stress leave, the number of former teachers in litigation with the department, physical assaults, the ratio of male to female staff and some metric for the effectiveness of the school council and the P&C association. It must now be accompanied by genuine devolution of budget and policy autonomy from the department to principals, and opportunities for merit promotion and more money for the motivated teachers we so desperately need to retain.