Saturday, February 27, 2010

Charter schools to become Federal schools?

The Obama administration plans to significantly expand the flow of federal aid to charter schools, money that has driven a 15-year expansion of their numbers, from just a few dozen in the early 1990s to some 5,000 today. But in the first Congressional hearing on rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, lawmakers on Wednesday heard experts, all of them charter school advocates, testify that Washington should also make sure charter schools are properly monitored for their admissions procedures, academic standards and financial stewardship.

The president of one influential charter group told the House Education and Labor Committee that the federal government had spent $2 billion since the mid-1990s to finance new charter schools but less than $2 million, about one-tenth of 1 percent, to ensure that they were held to high standards. “It’s as if the federal government had spent billions for new highway construction, but nothing to put up guardrails along the sides of those highways,” said Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Charter schools operate mainly with state financing, and with less regulation than traditional public schools. A provision of the No Child law offers federal startup grants, usually in the range of $150,000 per school, to charter organizers to help them plan and staff a new school until they can begin classes and obtain state per-pupil financing. The federal money has provided crucial early support to many successful charter schools, but has also attracted many people with little education experience who have opened chaotic schools that have floundered.

The administration’s proposal for rewriting the law would increase federal financing for charter schools to $490 million in 2011 from about $256 million in 2010. It would also, for the first time, allow the funds to be used to finance additional schools opened by a charter operator, if the original school has been successful.

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who is the committee chairman and helped write the No Child law, said in opening the hearing that the law’s requirements for annual testing had placed a spotlight on students across the nation who were falling behind. “But we also know the law didn’t get everything right,” he said, “and we cannot afford to wait to fix it.”

Much debate on Wednesday focused on whether charter schools educate disabled children in the same proportion as regular public schools. Thomas Hehir, a Harvard education professor, said that national research on that question had been inadequate, but that his work in the San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston and other school systems had shown that “charters generally serve fewer children with disabilities than traditional public schools.” Furthermore, Mr. Hehir said, charters in some cities educate only a minuscule proportion of students with severe disabilities like mental retardation, in comparison with regular public schools. That, he said, undercuts the assertions by some that charters are outperforming regular schools.

Eileen Ahearn, a project director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, said that charter schools faced unique challenges in educating disabled students but that many nonetheless do so successfully.


British private schools condemn 'social engineering'

Labour’s mission to “socially engineer” university admissions is built on flawed evidence, according to independent school leaders. Ministers are using unreliable research in an attempt to “blackmail” institutions into taking a larger number of pupils from the state sector, it was claimed.

Andrew Grant, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 250 top private schools, insisted most “independent-minded” academics and admissions tutors were resisting Government pressure by continuing to prioritise the brightest pupils irrespective of background. But, writing in The Daily Telegraph today, he warned that their ability to select could come under threat.

His comments came as another top head – Richard Cairns, from fee-paying Brighton College – called for all university applications to be “anonymised” to avoid any prejudice during the admissions process.

Vice-chancellors are already warning of a squeeze on university places this year following a record rise in applications. Despite the rush, Prof Steve Smith, the head of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said this month that institutions should still be allowed to make lower grade offers to pupils from poor-performing schools as part of the drive to “widen participation” to university. He quoted research from the Government’s Higher Education Funding Council that suggested students from state schools were more likely to get good degrees when compared with independent school peers on a like-for-like basis.

But Mr Grant said the evidence was “wholly unreliable” because it failed to take account of the fact that privately-educated pupils often took tougher courses. According to national figures, they are far more likely to study subjects such as the sciences and languages at university. Teenagers from the independent sector also take up more places at elite institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The comments came as another headmaster said higher education applications should no longer feature the names of pupils’ schools to end the row over admissions and place all candidates on an equal footing. In a speech to the Army and Navy Club in London, Mr Cairns said: “No bright sixth-former - from a private school or a comprehensive school - should feel that there is some hidden prejudice against them. “In consequence, all applications to university should be anonymous. After all, when they sit their own finals exams their papers are sat anonymously. So it should be at the point of application.

“That way, universities cannot be accused of discrimination, sixth-formers will be certain that they will be judged on their own particular merits and, if state schools continue to be under-represented in our leading universities, ministers will have to face up to the fact that it is their fault - and act to address it.”

He said parents who paid for private education – often “going without new cars and holidays” in the process – increasingly feared their children would miss out on university. “So far, such fears are utterly unfounded,” he said. “Brighton College has 60 former pupils at Oxford or Cambridge, four years ago there were only 25. Nevertheless, the fears persist and that increases uncertainty in all quarters.”


Australia: Frequent weapons seizures in Queensland government schools

Not quite up to the machine pistols that are sometimes seized in British schools, though

MORE than 80 suspensions for violence with weapons or "objects" are handed out every week in Queensland state schools. As the State Government vowed to crack down on student violence and bullying yesterday, figures obtained by The Courier-Mail highlighted the extent of the problem. The figures, released by the Education Department, show more than 10,000 suspensions were handed out to state school students for "physical misconduct involving an object" over the past three financial years. More than two students were expelled every school week last financial year for the violation, with 89 recorded, up from 65 in 2003 to 2004.

Yesterday, Premier Anna Bligh announced state, Catholic and independent school representatives would form the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence, which will make recommendations on the best ways to stamp out the growing problem. It follows a recommendation from Professor Ken Rigby in his report on how the state is dealing with bullying, and the alleged fatal stabbing of 12-year-old Elliott Fletcher in his school's toilets at Shorncliffe last week.

Premier Anna Bligh acknowledged there was an "alarming culture of school violence", with the alliance set to address it. But Opposition deputy leader Lawrence Springborg accused the Government of "more talk and no action", saying it had established a youth violence taskforce in 2006 and claimed to have implemented its recommendations in 2009.

Education figures show there were 2797 short suspensions for "physical misconduct involving an object" in state schools last year, down from a six-year high in 2007 to 2008 when 3064 were recorded. But long suspensions – between six and 20 days – have climbed annually over the past six years in the category, reaching 456 in 2008 to 2009.

Education deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said the type of objects used in the suspensions could include pencils and sticks, as well as knives. Replica guns have also been wielded by students.

Ms Bligh said while bullying had always existed, the playground no longer ended at the school fence and had been radically changed by technology, including social networking sites. She said the alliance would focus on preventative measures but also look at security and violent incidents in schools, including the use of weapons. The group is expected to meet within the weeks and start delivering recommendations within months.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Critics: "Anti-discrimination" bill “stifles free speech, advances ‘agenda’”

A bill in Congress that would prohibit discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity could stifle free speech and even lead to "homosexual indoctrination" in the nation's classrooms, critics say.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), or H.R. 4530, was introduced late last month by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, with 60 co-sponsors. Polis, the first openly gay man elected to the House as a nonincumbent, said the legislation will put lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on "equal footing" with their peers, much as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did for minorities and Title IX did for women. "Hatred has no place in the classroom," Polis, a Democrat, said in a statement on Jan. 27. "Every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence. This bill will protect the freedoms of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in the classroom."

But some critics say the bill, if passed, could lead to murky definitions of harassment and provide a universal approach to the nation's public schools despite regional differences on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. "The real danger is how this will be interpreted," said Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank. "The definition of harassment could be broadly interpreted that anybody who expressed a totally legitimate opinion about homosexual behavior could be made illegal. "That's a violation of those kids who want to express opposition to LGBT opinions or behavior. People have a legitimate reason to be concerned about this -- not because they're 'haters' but because you're now trying to balance different rights."

Other critics, meanwhile, say the bill will be used to push what they say is a homosexual agenda in public schools. "It seems pretty consistent with Kevin Jennings being appointed in the Obama administration," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm, referring to the controversial founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network who now serves as the assistant deputy secretary for the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Jennings came under fire in September after acknowledging he should have better handled an incident in 1988 when he was a teacher and failed to report that a boy he believed was 15 years old told him he was having sex with an older man. (Since that time, the former student, referred to as "Brewster," has revealed he was 16 years old, the age of consent in Massachusetts, at the time of the incident.)

"When [Jennings] founded GLSEN, his idea of a safe school was one that pushed a radical homosexual agenda by even encouraging first and second-graders to engage in homosexual activity," Staver said. "So I think that's the impetus behind this bill. We have an administration that wants to push a radical social agenda."

According to the bill, discrimination against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity represents a "distinct and especially severe problem" that has contributed to high dropout and absenteeism rates, adverse health consequences and academic underachievement. "When left unchecked, discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence, in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity can lead, and has lead [sic] to, life-threatening violence and to suicide," the bill reads.

Federal civil rights statutes explicitly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability and national origin, but they do not include "sexual orientation" or gender identity. "As a result, students and parents have often had limited legal recourse to redress for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," the bill continues.

H.R. 4530 is closely modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex. It contains the threat of loss of federal funding for non-compliant schools and says that no state may be immune under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution from suit in federal court for violating the Act.

If this is passed," McCluskey said, "it's going to almost certainly in some places be interpreted far too broadly, and free-speech rights will be trampled."

Numerous liberal-leaning groups -- including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and GLSEN -- quickly applauded the legislation when it was introduced. GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said discrimination based on sexual orientation is a "pervasive problem" that negatively affects student performance.

Eighty-six percent of gay, bisexual or transgender students experience harassment at school due to their sexual orientation, and one-third -- five times higher than a national sample of all students -- missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, according to GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey. "Discrimination of any kind is wrong," Byard said in a statement. "Far too many schools do nothing to address the hostile environments that LGBT students face. We owe it to our children to do everything we can to make sure that discrimination is eliminated from our schools."

But critics say enacting federal law is not the solution. Matthew Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based government watchdog group, agreed that discrimination of any kind is a "bad thing," but he questioned whether federal law will resolve differences of opinion regarding LGBT rights. "Those kinds of conflicts are not resolvable by a federal mandate," he said. "The question is, is there a one-size-fits-all policy for every school in the country on this? It's more appropriate to settle it on the state and local level. Some states would be far more in favor of this than others."

Staver, of the Liberty Council, said the legislation is intolerant of any "opposing or traditional" views and called on Congress to be more focused on the country's economic woes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism. "Those are serious matter that I think American people are concerned with," he said. He said he doesn't think the bill, which has bipartisan support, will pass, saying it's "completely contrary" to American values.

Asked if the Obama administration supports the measure, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said: "While we have not reviewed this specific legislation, the President believes that every child should learn in a safe and secure school environment."


A New Threat to Free Speech on Campus

This past fall, a student group known as “Temple University Purpose” (TUP) invited the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to give a speech on campus. Wilders, one of the leading European critics of Islamism and a possible future prime minister in the Netherlands, was slated to show Fitna, his provocative documentary showing how Muslim jihadists draw their inspiration from the Koran not by distorting its message but by taking its mandates literally. When finalizing the arrangements for Wilders’ appearance, TUP’s student leaders and Temple administrators agreed that the university would cover the necessary security costs for the event, as it does for all speakers. But as campus leftists stepped up attacks on administrators for allowing Wilders’ appearance, the university began to look for the exit sign. It settled on a back handed way of throttling free speech that is increasingly being employed by other schools, USC and UC Santa Barbara among them—forcing conservative student groups to pay costs for controversial speakers whose appearances become security problems because the campus left threatens violently to disrupt them.

When word of Wilders’ scheduled appearance was made public, Temple’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) pressured the administration to cancel the event. Despite its pedigree as a descendant of the Muslim Brotherhood, Temple’s MSA has standing with school administrators as an ethnic grievance group. But it was the implied threat behind their aggrieved protests about the speech that got the university’s attention—to raise hell if Wilders was allowed to appear. Yet Temple was in a bind because it had already okayed the event. Wilders might be controversial, but he was a figure of international stature. However provocative his message, suddenly reversing course and subjecting it to heavy handed censorship would cast the university in a bad light.

Temple let the Dutch politician complete his presentation, though the question-and-answer session had to be cut short when a number of students shouted threats at him, forcing security men to escort him from the stage. But six weeks after the event, on December 3, TUP received an unexpected $800 invoice from Temple University – to cover the costs associated with having provided extra security personnel “to secure the room and building” for Wilders’ appearance. When TUP’s interim president Brittany Walsh reminded Temple administrators, in writing, that they had agreed to pay any extra security costs associated with Wilders’ appearance, she was stonewalled. Walsh and TUP turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the free speech rights of students.

FIRE vice president Robert Shibley was shocked by the way Temple had used the fees to cast a chill on campus free speech and also, in effect, to bankrupt TUP and make it unable to bring other conservative speakers to campus. “In our nation,” Shirley said, “it is unconstitutional to charge a student group extra fees for security simply because a speaker’s views are controversial or don’t meet with the approval of Temple University administrators.” In a letter to Temple president Ann Weaver Hart, FIRE cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, which determined that a local government could not charge higher-than-customary fees for police protection at events simply because they were controversial – reasoning that “speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” As a public university, Temple was bound to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. Just last week Valerie I. Harrison, Temple’s associate university counsel, notified FIRE that the school was waiving the $800 fee for TUP, though she offered no explanation for the decision.

But Temple’s retreat does not mean that this novel means of throttling free speech has been abandoned by administrators anxious to placate campus radicals. A similar controversy arose last November at the University of Southern California (USC), when the College Republicans hosted an appearance by guest speaker David Horowitz. The group was subsequently billed $1,400, ostensibly to cover the cost of additional security that the university had unilaterally arranged for the event. Ultimately a few angry trustees were able to convince the administration to drop these extra charges, although, in a manner reminiscent of the Temple case, USC’s administrators offered no explanation as to why they had reversed course.

Now another confrontation is brewing, this time at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), where former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove is slated to speak (and introduce his new book, Courage and Consequence) on February 25, at the invitation of the school’s College Republicans. Up to now, the projected cost of the event was expected to be $25,000, of which more than half ($12,933) would be covered by Associated Students, a nonprofit organization funded by undergraduate fees. But now, a local group known as SB Anti War, characterizing Rove as a “war criminal,” has announced that it plans to protest the event; some members have threatened to throw paint on Rove, leaving the implication that significant violence was possible if the event went forward.

According to Ryan McNicholas, the College Republicans’ event coordinator, the protest being organized by the left has caused security costs for Rove’s appearance to skyrocket. “Because of protester threatens to throw paint on Rove,” he says, “we have had to redirect more of the funds we received into security costs…. It’s costing us somewhere around $900 an hour to have all the Campus Security Officers and UCPD officers necessary to secure the area. And it’s absolutely ridiculous to force a small organization, like College Republicans, to foot that bill.”

In addition to its plans to demonstrate against Rove’s appearance, SB Anti War has been collecting signatures in an effort to rescind the funding that Associated Students has pledged for the event. The vice president of Associated Students, Chris Wendle, says the original decision to fund the Rove event was unrelated to latter’s character or political persuasion. Rather, it was in accordance with the legal code of even handedness that governs Associated Students. “We have to follow the rules,” Wendle explains. “We’re not going to debate the political opinion of an event, regardless of whether or not it’s Karl Rove. Basically, our decision to provide funding was objective.”

It remains to be seen whether the UCSB College Republicans, like Temple University Purpose and the USC College Republicans before them, will be able to fight off a campus left and its enablers in the administration trying asphyxiate their first amendment rights by a technique morally akin to the poll tax in the Jim Crow South. But even if they do, the era of fees and assessments to keep conservative groups from bringing another point of view onto the monochromatic university is upon us.


British Conservatives would scrap new legal burden for homeschoolers

The Tories would scrap a new duty that requires parents who educate their children at home to be registered with councils. Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said that he would block plans which “stigmatise” home educators. Under the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which has almost finished going through Parliament, local authorities will setup databases of home-educating families and visit them to ensure that standards are met.

It came after a report into home education by Graham Badman, a former headteacher and director of children’s services, published last summer, who said that there was a need for greater regulation. England has one of the most liberal approaches to home schooling in the Western world and it is not known exactly how many children are taught at home, nor whether they are reaching an acceptable standard of education.

In a debate yesterday on the timesonline blog, Schoolgate, one parent said: “Home educators have no faith in government after being treated so badly by Labour. How can that be rectified?”

Mr Gove said that he thought parents who educated their children at home did a wonderful job. He said: “Government should support them and we won’t allow the current Government’s plans to stigmatise home educators to get through.” Mr Gove promised that clauses of the Bill relating to home education would never become law if the Tories won power in the general election.

A report into home education last year revealed a lack of regulation. It said: “It is a cause of concern that, although approximately 20,000 home-educated children are known to local authorities, estimates vary as to the real number which could be in excess of 80,000.” Mr Badman, its author, added: “I am not persuaded that under the current regulatory regime, that there is a correct balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child — either to an appropriate education or to be safe from harm.”

The review found evidence of a small number of extreme cases, where home-educated children had suffered harm because concerns were not picked up. Its recommendations, which were accepted in full by the Government, included parents having to submit statements of what they intend to teach over the coming year. It also said that local authority officials should have the right of access to parents’ homes, after two weeks’ notice, to check the child is making progress.

A spokeswoman for the Action for Home Education group said: “For years home educators have tolerated unfair treatment by local authorities whose understanding of home-based education is, with few exceptions, minimal or non-existent. We are tired of being subjected to unreasonable suspicion and unfair scrutiny when we are doing the very best for our children. “We believe there are moves afoot by government to restrict traditional freedoms to educate children outside the school system and we are determined to do our utmost to prevent this.”


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chaotic race obsession in San Francisco schools

After years of complaints from parents, the San Francisco Unified School District has just taken a serious step toward revamping its well-meaning but labyrinthine student-assignment system, which decides the educational homes for tens of thousands of children.

The current system — designed to meet the terms of a settlement in a long-fought federal desegregation case — involves a complicated computer algorithm that creates student “profiles,” using various economic and educational factors, with the aim of sending students of different backgrounds to the same schools. It has resulted instead in more segregation and has aggravated parents to a point where efforts to manipulate the system have become endemic.

This month, the school district rolled out a new plan. It is designed to more closely consider proximity between a student’s home and classroom. It is to be applied to every child headed for kindergarten. And once again, no one seems completely happy. “I’ll be honest with you; we’re really frustrated,” said Michelle Menegaz, the chairwoman of the Parent Advisory Council, which was established by the school board and has made recommendations on how to fix the assignment system. “We’re really concerned that what’s being put forward now doesn’t reflect the best of our research and it doesn’t reflect the needs the community expressed.”

What everyone agrees on is that the current system is broken. In a quarter of San Francisco’s public schools, more than 60 percent of the student body is of a single race, and academic performance by black, Latino and Samoan students continues to lag. In theory, parents choose up to seven schools for their child, but 20 percent of kindergarteners get none of their parents’ choices.

All of which has been a boon for private schools; San Francisco has a larger percentage of students in private schools — nearly 3 out of 10 — than any other major city in the state. Others families simply move away.

And while advocates of the new plan say it offers more flexibility and simplicity, whether that will be the case is unclear. At a school board meeting on Wednesday, Commissioner Jill Wynns seemed perplexed as to whether the plan would meet the board’s elusive goals of diversity and transparency. “If you don’t know it can be done,” Ms. Wynn said of the redesign team, “how can we trust it will be done?”

Such questions are ringing in the ears of parents throughout the city, especially those — like this reporter — who have a child entering kindergarten in the fall.

Here is how the current system works: Let’s say a 5-year-old — we’ll call him Jake, like my son — wants to go to kindergarten. His parents fill out an application and list seven schools they prefer. The more desirable schools get more applications than they have seats; in some cases that ratio is 20 to 1. That’s where the Diversity Index comes in. Known as “the lottery,” the index uses five factors to determine a child’s profile: poverty level, socio-economic status, English-language proficiency, academic achievement and, for upper grades, the quality of the student’s previous school.

Once that profile is built, the child is placed in one of his selected schools, in a class of students whose collective profile is as different from his own profile as possible. As each child is added, the class profile is adjusted, and more “most different” children are placed. Students living near their selected schools are considered first. The district also gives preference to children who have siblings at the same school and apply on time.

But there is no guarantee that a child will get in a selected school. And once the lottery has filled all the slots, those soon-to-be kindergartners who get into none of their choices are offered a place in a school with open positions. Proximity to their home and transportation are considered.

Designed to be race-neutral, the system has instead been widely criticized as too complex and opaque. “It’s all magic and voodoo,” Ms. Menegaz said, only half joking.

What Superintendent Carlos A. Garcia has now proposed is essentially a new algorithm that, in addition to siblings, weighs proximity to schools more heavily and — in a new wrinkle — considers whether a student attended pre-K in the same area as a selected school.

The fine points are of great interest — or frustration — to parents. But the discussion of the overall goal, diversity, is laced with the themes of race, class and equity. So discussions about it are awkward. For example, school officials say that part of the problem with the assignment system is that parental interest and resources can be inherently unequal. White and Asian parents tend to be very involved in the early stages of the process, while black and Latino ones are less so. The result is that more white and Asian children end up in preferred schools. ‘The applicant pools are not diverse,” said Orla O’Keeffe, the district official charged with redesigning the system.

In addition, schools in some low-income neighborhoods also tend to be less well-attended, draining the intangibles — and the fund-raising — that large and active parent-teacher associations can provide. “Not all of our schools are equal,” Ms. Menegaz said. “They’re not equally staffed, not equally resourced and not equally supported.”

All of which has led to a kind of obsessive paranoia among some parents, who chatter about the process endlessly. Amy Graff, a 35-year-old mother of two who writes about parenting at, became an online celebrity in parent circles when she blogged about trying to place her daughter in a good kindergarten, a process she called “crazy and irrational.” “The school you pick becomes your identity,” Ms. Graff said.

The process of picking a school involves many complicated decisions. Then there are the tours, an exercise wherein dozens of nervous parents — many armed with pads and pens, others taking notes on iPods — try to glean a sense of a school by crowding into classrooms and peering around for clues. Are there A-B-Cs on the walls? Are there computers? Are there cute drawings? (The answers are almost always yes, yes, and yes.)

Hopes are raised and dashed. At Grattan Elementary School — in the trendy Cole Valley neighborhood — I was part of a tour that was told about a fantastic kindergarten teacher who was retiring.

The school district tries to help. Every fall it hosts an enrollment fair. Every school in the city sets up a booth and tries to sell itself. (With financing tied to number of students, under-enrollment is a sin to be avoided.) The fair can be one-stop-shopping, and the resulting crush often resembles a middle-aged mosh pit, as parents jostle to grab brochures and ask questions.

There are reasons to be impressed. One of the strengths of the San Francisco schools is their ambitious language programs. And test scores from San Francisco public schools have regularly risen over the last decade, and are now within shouting distance of the state’s performance targets, lagging slightly behind San Jose but well ahead of Oakland and Los Angeles.

Still, the continuing debate over the best way to achieve diversity has led some to question the priorities. Zach Berkowitz, a San Francisco native and real estate developer who has two children, including a son about to enter kindergarten, said he remembered the conversations about diversity when he was a student. “Thirty years ago we were fighting about the same thing,” Mr. Berkowitz said. “And not once do they talk about education.”

As for my Jake, and thousands of other San Francisco children, admission offers will be mailed on March 12. Not that he seems too concerned exactly where. “I like going to school, Daddy,” he told me recently. “In San Francisco.”


We don’t need no state education

Someone recently said that a particular elementary charter school is a big improvement over government schools because the kids have longer days there and are already thinking about college. I wonder if that’s really an improvement. Kids spend too much time in the authoritarian classroom environment as it is. Homeschoolers are proud of how little time they have to put in to cover the state-required subjects.

And the “everybody must go to college” doctrine is hardly a blessing. How many young people are delivering pizzas with a diploma on the wall and a big student loan keeping them up at night? It’s true that the watered-down, increasingly worthless bachelor’s degree today is expected for nearly every job, but let’s not fool ourselves: For most grads it’s little more than a signal to potential employers that they had the perseverance to get up early four years running and jump through all the required hoops. That tells a human-resources (that term!) director enough about an applicant to separate her from a rival who didn’t to those things. It doesn’t say anything about what she knows or can do.

Charter schools and vouchers are much talked about, but they are objectionable on multiple counts. For one thing, they accept the premise that taxpayers should pay for schooling and that cross-subsidization is something government should compel. These things open the door to government control of private, independent schools. Yes, private schools are already regulated by every state, but they are not as regulated as the government’s own schools are. If the voucher plan is ever embraced in a big way, we can expect elaborate criteria for determining which schools may accept vouchers—and which may not.

Advocates of school choice ought to take seriously what some statists have long recognized. The Democrat Leadership Council pointed out some years ago that “A public school is not defined by who ‘owns’ it, but rather by two features: universal access and accountability to the public for results.” Therefore it matters little “whether public schools are run by a local school board, a group of parents, a teachers union, a Fortune 500 company, or the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

In other words, once “public money” is flowing to private schools, they are no longer really private. The government’s hooks will be firmly set, in the name of “public accountability.” “Follow the money” is not a bad piece of advice, but in this matter a better one is: Trace the money back to its source. That will provide good a indication of what to expect of its recipients.

Competition and Entrepreneurship

As long as politicians, bureaucrats, and anointed education experts control the money, competition and entrepreneurship will never reach full blossom. Competition, Hayek taught, is a discovery process, so until entrepreneurship can operate without political inhibition, we won’t know what we are missing. Providers of educational services — must they be schools? — should be accountable not to bureaucrats but to customers — parents and their children. Yet the various “school choice” plans maintain the State as the ultimate judge.

When education entrepreneurs need worry only about actual and potential customers who are laying out their own money — and not State functionaries — the political inhibitions will be gone, or at least will begin to fade. (As for the poor, see this.) Creativity will be unleashed and children’s individuality respected. Joseph Priestley, the scientist, classical-liberal political philosopher, and religious Dissenter wrote in An Essay on the First Principles of Government, and on the Nature of Political, Civil, and Religious Liberty,
[I]f we argue from the analogy of education to other arts which are most similar to it, we can never expect to see human nature, about which it is employed, brought to perfection, but in consequence of indulging unbounded liberty, and even caprice in conducting it…. From new, and seemingly irregular methods of education, perhaps something extraordinary and uncommonly great may spring. At least there would be a fair chance for such productions; and if something odd and excentric [sic] should, now and then, arise from this unbounded liberty of education, the various business of human life may afford proper spheres for such excentric geniuses.

The last thing we should expect from carefully guided “school choice” plans delivered by legislators and education experts is “unbounded liberty, and even caprice.”

It is only once education is free of the State’s yoke that we may begin to rethink the whole idea of school. It certainly needs rethinking. In the nineteenth century a Prussian-trained elite set out to take education away from parents so that children could be molded into homogeneous “good citizens” ready to take their designated places in the factories, bureaucracy, and military. Schools were correctional institutions. Things have changed little since then. Today the rationale for control by an elite is to prepare children for the competitive “global marketplace” that America’s leaders are constructing and determined to lead. (It’s hardly a bona fide free market.) The current White House occupant lectured the children last September that if they do poorly in school, they let their country down. (Conservatives applauded that message, relieved that Obama didn’t pitch his health care plan.)

From the beginning the government’s schools were dressed in the mantle of science. But as philosopher Bruce Goldberg wrote in Why Schools Fail, it is pseudoscience:
What one finds in schools is, not scientifically justified activities, but an assortment of tasks based on various educators’ subjective views of what knowledge is “worthwhile” or “nutritious” or “civilizing.” Those views are then transformed into scientific truths by labeling them as such. And, finally, the claim is made that children are being shaped, for their own good, by a process that has been shown scientifically to be indispensable for proper mental development. In every one of its guises that claim — and the authoritarian treatment of children based on it — is false.

But its falsity did not prevent huge, impersonal schools bureaucracies and dehumanizing schools from being built, mills for which our children are little more than grist. Finally ending the State’s monopoly — which means taking away the money — will let us bring education back to human scale, with all the respect for individuality that this implies.


British professor who claimed that degrees were dumbed down wins his case

But it's a long hard road for those who defend academic standards in modern-day Britain

An academic who took a stand against “dumbing down” the quality of university degrees won a long-running legal battle yesterday when the Court of Appeal accepted that he was forced out of his job. Professor Paul Buckland will be entitled to compensation from Bournemouth University after a previous ruling against him by the Employment Appeal Tribunal was overturned.

He resigned from the university’s chair of environmental archaeology in a dispute over marking after he failed 18 out of 60 second-year undergraduates who took examinations in 2006. When 16 of the students retook the paper, Professor Buckland failed all but two of them. He thought that “many of the papers were of poor quality”, the Court of Appeal heard. A second marker endorsed his scores, as did the university’s board of examiners, although it took note of the high failure rate and the need to address its causes.

But his department then had the exam papers marked for a third time and the marks were increased by up to six percentage points, moving several students from a “clear fail” to a “potential pass” depending on other results, the court heard.

Professor Buckland, who lives in Sheffield, took exception to the papers being marked for a third time, claiming that it was done “by somebody who did not have the relevant expert knowledge”. He accused Bournemouth University of cheapening degrees and making “a complete mockery of the examination process”. He claimed that the move was “part of a much larger process of dumbing down” and amounted to “an unequivocal affront to his integrity”.

The university held an internal inquiry that found in Professor Buckland’s favour. It said that he should have been consulted on the decision to mark the exam papers for a third time. But he remained unhappy and resigned in February 2007. He took the university to an employment tribunal, which decided in August 2008 that there had been a “fundamental breach of the implied term of trust and confidence” in his employment contract and that he had been constructively dismissed.

The decision was overruled in March last year by the Employment Appeal Tribunal but the Court of Appeal rejected that judgment yesterday and restored the original ruling.

Lord Justice Sedley said that the university could not defend the way it had undermined Professor Buckland’s status and it was the “inexorable outcome” that he had been constructively dismissed. Lord Justice Jacob said that it “ought to be entirely at the wronged party’s choice” whether to accept a repudiatory breach of contract and resign, or carry on in the job. If the university does not settle with him, Professor Buckland’s case will go to an employment tribunal for the level of compensation to be assessed.


Phonics to be enforced as part of literacy teaching throughout Australia

Ideology replaced by what works

ALL states and territories will be forced to follow a set program for teaching reading under the first national English curriculum, which stipulates the letters, sounds and words students must learn in each year of school. The curriculum, obtained by The Australian, dictates what students from kindergarten until the end of Year 9 are expected to know and be able to do in English, history, science and maths.

The English curriculum, to be released for public consultation next week, enshrines the importance of teaching letter-sound combinations, or phonics, giving examples of the sounds and words to be taught from the start of school. Students in their prep year will learn to sound out simple words such as "cat", recognising the initial, middle and end sounds; by Year 1, they will have learned two consonant sounds such as "st", "br" and "gl".

The national curriculum ends the piecemeal approach to what is taught in schools, with state curriculums emphasising different course content and teaching it at different stages of school. The new curriculum is a detailed document that provides specific examples and is longer than many existing state syllabuses, some of which are a couple of pages long for each subject.

The curriculum for the senior years of school, from Years 10 to 12, will be released separately by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority later this year.

The English curriculum places a strong emphasis on the study of grammar, from learning different classes of words such as verbs and nouns in the early years through to the difference between finite and non-finite clauses in high school. In a speech to the National Press Club yesterday, Education Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the "strong appearance" of grammar in the national curriculum. Announcing its release next Monday, she said the curriculum set out the essential content for each year of learning as well as the achievement standards students should be expected to perform.

"This will not be a curriculum `guide' or a supplement to what states and territories currently teach," she said. "It will be a comprehensive new curriculum, providing a platform for the highest quality teaching."

Ms Gillard also outlined the next phase of Labor's education revolution, including the external assessment of schools and the introduction of student identity numbers to enable parents and schools to track a child's individual progress through school.

After the speech, a spokesman for Ms Gillard said the government would investigate different systems for assessing school performance in coming months, including a form of school inspectors and the method used in Britain, where the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills conducts detailed inspections of schools and publishes its findings. "The government believes that some external inspection or assessment of schools would be an additional way of ensuring that our schools are providing the best possible education for our children." the spokesman said.

Ms Gillard said the government would examine "how every school can get the right support and scrutiny to make sure it is performing well and improving in the areas where it needs to improve".

The idea of external assessment of schools was mooted by the national teachers union for public education, the Australian Education Union, in a charter of school accountability reported by The Australian in December. The AEU proposal advocates a system of regular assessments against a set of standards by a panel of principals, teachers and education experts, and then working with struggling schools to lift performance. AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said yesterday teachers wanted to see the detail of the government's proposal on school assessment before giving their support, although they were still committed to the principle of accountability and external review.

"But the government must consult with teachers," he said. "We're seeing announcement after announcement without consultation and the Rudd government has to realise that it needs to consult with the profession. "Ultimately, we're the ones who implement education policy." Mr Gavrielatos said the union was also not opposed in principle to the idea of student identity numbers and welcomed moves to improve the measure of student progress than that currently used on the My School website.

Tony Abbott said students already had unique identifiers in the form of names, and questioned why their results could not be tracked using their names.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deep Thoughts in Plain White English

by Mike Adams

Dr. Adams,

My name is Claire. I am working on a story for the school newspaper, The (UNCW) Seahawk, about Dr. Maurice Martinez and his philosophy regarding Black English in his classroom. I would appreciate the opportunity to ask you a few questions on your views about this issue. I have read your column for and I am very interested in hearing your side of the debate about Black English. Please take some time to think about these questions and get back to me as soon as you have time. Thank you for your time.

Hello Claire. I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that I do not do interviews with the school newspaper because it has a 100% rate of error in representing my opinions. This is not because the reporters tend to be stupid. It is because they tend to be liberal and, therefore, tend to suffer from severe moral rather than intellectual hernia. For example, the last time your paper ran a story on one of my opinion pieces it was insinuated that I wished to bomb gay bath houses in San Francisco although there actually aren’t any gay bath houses in San Francisco. Thankfully, the paper stopped short of accusing me of attempting to rape a unicorn.

But there is good news. I am going to respond to all five questions you have submitted by making them the subject of my Monday column on That way, the paper will not be able to misrepresent my views as they have in the past. is the premier conservative political website in America. So when university administrators try to attack my views it is sort of like Michael Jackson trying to attack Mike Tyson. It also keeps the university newspaper honest.

1. What is your response to Black English being taught in a UNCW classroom? What purpose does it serve to you?

My response is that I am developing a new course proposal to be submitted directly to UNC Wilmington Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo. It will be called EDN 201 “White English.” I’m going to spend an entire semester differentiating White English from Black English and see how long it takes for me to be removed from the classroom.

While I am on leave I will write a book about my experiences. I plan to call it Redneck Jihad: The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping. So my response to your question about “what purpose” this is serving me is simple. I plan to make money off the stupidity of far left professors just as I’ve been doing for years. I plan to use the profits from their stupidity to buy more firearms and go on more hunting trips.

2. Dr. Martinez teaches that one reason for implementing this philosophy is so children who speak this dialect won't be "condemned" for the way the [sic] speak; are his teaching methods an appropriate way to address "No Child Left Behind"?

No, absolutely not. The best way to address “No Child Left Behind” is to repeal it. The Republican Party leaders had it right in the 1980s when they considered eliminating the Department of Education. The federal government has had no business interfering with local schools since we had to send in the National Guard in the 1950s to stop racist Democrats from keeping little black kids from attending the public schools in Arkansas. I think we should get rid of the Department of Education after we first repeal “No Child Left Behind.” That program just proves that George W. Bush was really a big-spending liberal posing as a conservative.

3. Black English is a social dialect that has been defined by sociolinguists, and many claim that more knowledge could be learned to bridge the gap between social dialects and Standard English to help students in school; does this bring validity to Dr. Martinez and his claims, or is his "street talk" best left to the streets?

No, it does not bring validity to Dr. Martinez and his claims. Dr. Martinez was asked to defend his teaching of Black English in the wake of my column last week. This was done at a Black Faculty meeting. Afterwards, a black faculty member who was clearly angry with Martinez called my office. He claimed that Martinez had told them that in his class there were only a few pages of notes on Black English. I sent him the entire 75 page power point presentation. Now, that black faculty member is even angrier with Dr. Martinez. Dr. Martinez has suffered a very severe and self-inflicted blow to his credibility.

4. Controversy has stemmed from the naming of this dialect: is it racist to label Black English as "Black"?

It is not really racist but it is offensive. But I find the United Negro College Fund to be more offensive. Not to mention the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Oh yes, and the Black Faculty meetings at UNCW are offensive, too. Maybe Chancellor DePaolo could reinstate the “white” and “colored” restrooms in the name of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.

5. In your column, you stated that many parents should request their tuition money back. Why do you feel that Black English is a waste of funds?

Well, thanks for asking about my feelings. I like talking about my feelings. But my feelings about Black English require little elaboration. Black English just makes me feel filthy when I repeat it. Kind of like when the feminists chant the c-word in The Vagina Monologues. In White Redneck English we say “At (not “dat”) just ain’t right.” By way of analogy, imagine that you see a large pile of dog manure in your front yard. There’s no need to walk over to the pile and pick it up to know it is manure. There’s no need to rub it on your face or take a bite out of it to know it is manure. You do not have to “immerse” yourself in it or in any way analyze it to know it is manure. You just need to scoop it off your lawn before someone steps on it and tracks it into your hizzie.

It’s the same way with Black English. It is self-evident that it is simply pseudo-intellectual manure. It has no place in higher education.


Islamic Indoctrination vs. Education

by Nonie Darwish

Remember the Muslim Television executive, Muzzammil Hassan, who decapitated his wife near Buffalo, New York? His TV station, Bridges TV, was created to promote the idea that Islam is a religion of peace and friendship. This station’s goals perfectly fit with the intense Saudi PR machine, which is spending tons of money to change the image of Islam in the West — even if it takes denials, fabrications and outright lies.

Several years ago, I debated Othman Shibly, a U.S. citizen of Syrian origin and a Sharia expert, on a Bridges TV program directed by his son, Hassan Shibly. Both bearded men are fierce apologists for Radical Islam and defend Sharia. Dr. Shibly holds a Sufi/Radical Islamist ideology and hides behind a thin veneer of “moderate” Islam, but that façade does not fool someone like myself from the same background. The Shiblys make no attempt to repudiate the claims of men like Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, or other radical Islamists like Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, the Mufti of the Syrian Ministry of Religion under the regimes of both Hafiz and Bashar Assad and Kuftaro’s protégé, Sheikh Rajab Deeb. My interview with the two men was never aired and the Shiblys never sent me a copy of the taped interview as they promised.

That brings me to an email I recently received from a concerned American mother, who said that she was horrified at what her child is being taught by Islamic guest speakers at her child’s high school, Clarence High School in Clarence, New York. The speakers are none other than Hassan and Othman Shibly, who are now lecturing our kids on Islam at New York state public schools. That is done with the help of politically correct apologist educators.

Under their curriculum on the Ancient World, the New York State public schools as well as many other states around the country, require students to be taught about Islam, the spread of Islam, the Golden Age of Islam and the conflict between Muslims and Christians as part of the Crusades. That topic almost always turns political and accusatory when Muslims get very emotional about their history, jihad and religion. Islam by nature is extremely political and promotes a very elaborate legal system that Muslims must live under. To accommodate Islamic education with Western principals of freedom and the Bill of Rights is an impossible task. The two ideologies are at opposite poles in terms of the role of government, human rights, as well as women and minority rights.

Thus, the two systems must eventually become villains. To avoid being politically incorrect, public schools prefer to use Muslims experts or clerics rather than public school teachers to teach the topic of Islam. Our educational hierarchy refuses to see that many devout Muslim experts have a political agenda and are themselves indoctrinated and thus always on the defensive or offensive. I can only imagine what the poor American kids are subjected to. I was on the receiving end of such indoctrination when I was a young Muslim girl.

This is what the mother wrote to me:
“Hello Mrs. Darwish:

I need your help addressing a serious problem I’m currently trying to handle. Recently, my child came home from school and told me about a presentation his Global Studies 9 class had that was given by a man by the name of Hassan Shibly. My child was shocked and visibly shaken at home and told me about the things this man said to the class. The pretext for the presentation was for Mr. Shibly to talk to the class about Islam and dispel some of the ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ Here are some of the things he said to these boys and girls:

‘ The September 11th attacks occurred because of America’s blind support of Israel and the men who carried out the attack were not Muslims, but atheists.’

‘Terrorism is an example of people reacting with their hearts and not their minds…if someone insulted your mother, wouldn’t you retaliate against them? Allah is more important than anything to a Muslim, and if you insult Allah, a Muslim can do anything to defend his belief.’

‘The news media lie…when a Muslim does something, they’re labeled as a Muslim while people of other religions who commit crimes are never identified by their religion.’”

She added that Hassan Shibly’s father, Othman, also came to speak at the school but to a different class. She expressed her outrage that these men were invited into a school to indoctrinate underage, impressionable minds with hate a filled ideology and a hidden agenda. She stated that she alerted the principal to a few links that show Shibly’s affiliations and added that she doesn’t think the principal is convinced. She concluded by saying that so far a decision has not been made whether to bring the Shilbys back to teach or not.

I was speechless after reading this woman’s e-mail. That is outrageous and what is worse is that I have heard similar claims from mothers in California where I live. I wanted to tell all the concerned mothers of America to stand up against this kind of “education” and never feel helpless. We must all speak out before the indoctrination strikes America at the heart. Perhaps this can be one of the causes of the Tea Party Movement. There are powerful forces trying to indoctrinate American children when it comes to Islam. Like I was as a Muslim kid, our kids are being discouraged and shamed from thinking for themselves when it comes to 9/11 or finding out the truth about Islamic terrorism. Their minds must never wander or, Allah forbid, blame Muslim culture or Islam for producing a never ending flow of terrorists.

Muslim propaganda is relentless in trying to misportray Islam in the eyes of the West. While mainstream mosques and Muslim leaders across the globe are shouting jihad, death to America, death to the Jews, and encouraging Muslims to take over the West, our children are told if you fear such threats you are an Islamophobe. When mainstream Muslim schools and universities teach that apostates must be killed and that jihad means “to war with non-Muslims to establish the religion” and that jihad is a permanent war institution against Jews Christians and pagans, we are told to never dare misinterpret this as encouraging violence. Islamic education, like communism and Fascism, must control children’s minds, which is the best system to produce adults who will submit.

I am not the one who compared Islam to communism and fascism; this comparison was made by none other than the most prominent Muslim scholar of the 20th century, Sheikh Abu Ala Maududi, who stated in his book, “Islamic Law and Constitution,” on p. 262, that the Islamic State:
“seeks to mould every aspect of life and activity…. In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states.” Maududi added “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam.”

I wonder if the Shiblys will condemn this popular Muslim scholar to their students or perhaps call him an atheist.

Muslim petro-dollar powers have penetrated our educational system with permission and support from the highest levels of our governments. I cannot blame many teachers and school principles forced to teach this garbage and who are themselves subjected to demeaning sensitivity training on Islam. I blame the people on the top who are hell-bent on promoting Muslim propaganda with the blessings of Saudi Arabia.

If such propaganda continues, future generations in America will gradually become confused. They will doubt their instincts and their sense of good judgment will be weakened. Like the restless and confused populations of the Middle East, they will build tolerance to violence, extremism, hatred, discrimination, anti-Semitism and oppression of women and minorities.

Because of my background, I can smell and taste Muslim propaganda. It is coming to a school near you. The danger is, believe it or not, if you grow up with such propaganda, it can feel and sound normal and even holy. Intentionally or unintentionally, in the name of tolerance, we are bringing up a generation of Americans who will tolerate Islamic Jihad, in the name of cultural relativism and compassion.

Islamic tyranny, like all tyrannies, must use lies, propaganda and fabrications to justify the Muslim duty of jihadist violence to expand and conquer the world for Islam and Sharia. That is why the Arab world is having great difficulty in modifying its hate-filled educational system. Instead of changing, it is trying to change us and desensitize us to its violence.

If this is not immediately corrected, it will be one of the biggest mistakes in American history. What Mr. Shibly was teaching our kids is outright Arab propaganda justifying jihad, 9/11, retaliation as self-defense, and conspiracy theories against Israel. How monumentally foolish and dangerous it is to allow the likes of the Shiblys to have access to American high school kids.


In British education, the high fly, the rest sink. And no one acts

Selection by ability, normal in most countries, has become selection by cash. This is insular, hypocritical and damaging

On the conduct of wars the political parties can disagree, on the economy they can pretend to, but on a key subject for Britain’s future — selection in education — a conspiracy of silence reigns, which as the election approaches will become deafening.

For 13 years new Labour, to this day an almost religiously anti-selection party, has presided over the downgrading of the educational expectations of the lowest in society, the flourishing of the highest, and the extinction of competition between the two. Hence, in large part, the startling retreat of meritocracy in Britain compared with other countries: an LSE report in 2005 showed that in the past 30 years we had gone into reverse, mostly for educational reasons.

It is not about money. Under the hardline, anti-selection Ed Balls the greater the expenditure on education the wider the great divide between state and private. Labour remains neurotic about social class, and sure enough the most recent examination figures are a caricature of their class connotations: independent schools — 7 per cent of total pupils — scored 11,500 straight As against a piddling 9,725 sixth formers in comprehensives.

What will happen when the first starred As are published later this year? I think we know who will get the lion’s share. The result will no doubt be even more anguished contortions in university admission procedures, to avoid the embarrassment of too many starred pupils getting the best university places. Only in Britain ...

The situation would be less appalling if Labour’s defunct ideology were under challenge, but the Conservatives go along with it, and the Lib-Dems you can once again forget. The question the Tories never answer is how the independent schools they largely patronise can be selective in every sense — academically, financially, socially — while the party leadership abhors selection for people who do not have the cash?

Who would have thought that Conservatives would frown on those upstart grammar schools — a personal bugbear of Cameron it seems — as “entrenching advantage,” in the ill-chosen words of David Willetts. From a party with no criticism to make of parents who send their children to private schools (and nor should it), that is a phrase to be rolled around the tongue.

Meanwhile, all parties collude in masking the true position on university admissions, which is worse than people think. In Oxbridge they think something over 40 per cent are from the 7 per cent of private schools — shocking enough. But if you include selective grammars (in well-to-do areas, by and large) alongside selective independents, the 2008 figure is 63 per cent selective. The underperformance of the comprehensives, some 90 per cent of the system, in Oxbridge as elsewhere is tragic.

In Britain any debate on selection is cut off at the knees before it starts: “11 plus,” “a return to old-style grammars” and “writing off as failures” is all you need to say. No serious person proposes any of this. Sir Eric Anderson, former Provost of Eton and mentor to Blair and Cameron, says that the debate should not be about the 11-plus and whether or not to select, but how to do it. It could be later than 11, it does not have to be in separate schools, though that should be an option, since national standardisation introduces rigor mortis into the system.

The British non-debate on selection is insular, ignorant, class ridden, neurotic and to the nth degree hypocritical, especially in the upper reaches. The Sutton Trust’s report on selection in other parts of the world, due at the end of the year, will help. It exists in various forms pretty much everywhere. There are sophisticated systems in France and Germany, where it takes place at 14, and those who don’t make the Gymnasium (grammar schools) may have to content themselves with being doctors or well-paid engineers.

The Indians and the Chinese especially have no qualms about selecting the best suited to particular lines of study. In India vocational emphasis begins at 14, in China higher technical schools start at 15. With the talents of hundreds of millions to draw on, in time these countries will outclass us in field after field. We must hope that ambitious immigrants will increasingly challenge their host country’s indolent and evasive assumptions about how, without effort or distinction, or being drawn into the invidious position of accepting that one person can be more capable in some ways than another, somehow the Brits will always come out on top.

Though perhaps the British case is hopeless? It may be that ingrained cultural factors are at work, a perverse social consciousness that leads the British to think it normal that the upper reaches of society should be schooled according to one theory of education, with remarkable success it seems, while the non-affluent majority should be content to follow a manifestly inferior system. Where else in the developed world are two methods of examination developing, pretty much without comment, one largely the preserve of monnied folk — the International Baccalaureate — and a less demanding one for the rest?

Proof that the egalitarian experiment has run its course is mounting, but no one seems ready to contemplate alternative systems. Rather than face up to fundamentals, gimcrack ideas are imported from countries with a population smaller than London. Meanwhile, all our party leaders and most leading political figures were selectively or independently educated. Not their choice, of course, but it seems to have served them well, and I don’t see many of them sending their own children to the new, non-selective local city academy.

The culture of anti-intellectualism fostered by an egalitarian system means that it is no longer possible to discuss anything much without recourse to celebrity. The clinching argument in favour of a system that gives the non-advantaged a chance against the rest must, therefore, be that an increasing number of our pop stars, comedians, actors and sportsmen and women are privately (ie, selectively) educated.

Britain’s got talent, the TV programme tells us, and I suspect it has, but we won’t go far while selection can only operate on TV shows.


Australia: Schools leaving students at the mercy of bullying

QUEENSLAND schools are failing to properly deal with the two worst kinds of bullying and often don't even check how their existing anti-bullying measures are working, the Government's own expert has warned.

Current approaches to tackling bullying inside the education system are unlikely to stem the growing menace of cyber-bullying. They also are unlikely to curb the effects of children deliberately excluding others. The stark warnings are contained in a highly anticipated report by Professor Ken Rigby, commissioned last year by the State Government. The report says cyber-bullying and social exclusion are "now seen as the most damaging of all to the mental health of targeted children".

After a review of the state's schools, Prof Rigby has concluded they are failing to follow up on how well their existing anti-bullying measures are working. "This needs to be remedied before schools can discover, with confidence, what works at their school," his report said.

Prof Rigby also warned the Government that it needed to continually provide the best new advice to its education department. He recommended every school be made to report annually on its anti-bullying tactics and then be encouraged to note them on their website.

One in three children are bullied in class almost daily, according to research released by Education Queensland last year.

The Rigby report, Enhancing Responses to Bullying in Queensland Schools, highlights a lack of education in schools about the range of anti-bullying measures available. It wasn't all bad, however, with Prof Rigby saying he was "much impressed" during his visits to state schools on their "dedication and sheer inventiveness on what was being done to address bullying". "I have worked with schools in every state in Australia, and it is not my impression that Queensland schools are less dedicated or less effective in dealing with bullying than any other state or territory," he said. "However, I do believe that a good deal of useful advice and guidance can and should be provided by the Department of Education and Training and by other educational jurisdictions."

Prof Rigby acknowledged he only visited a small sample of schools, with only staff and stakeholders – not parents or students – interviewed.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said he would "carefully consider" the recommendations. Mr Wilson said the report was an important step in his commitment to dealing with bullying and behaviour in Queensland schools.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ADF attorneys appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to protect school choice in Arizona

Tuition tax credit program under ACLU attack

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, asking it to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that declared portions of a tuition tax credit program for students unconstitutional. ADF attorneys argue that the program--which allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to private schools--is constitutional because the program involves individual, private choices and funding, not government action or money.

“Parents should be able to choose the right school for their children. Arizona’s tuition program lets parents decide what schools their children and money go to,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “This program involves private money that the government never touches and offers Arizonans a wide array of educational choices. The program is set up to allow any number of organizations to be created for the purpose of distributing donations to any and all types of students. There’s nothing unconstitutional about that."

Last April, the court stopped short of ending the tuition tax credit program as demanded by the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, the court stated that its constitutional concerns regarding the program are whether all school tuition organizations should be forced to fund both religious and non-religious organizations. The court stayed its decision while the case is on appeal.

In response to claims by the ACLU and its allies that the program limits parental choice, ADF attorneys contend that the program’s existing structure gives Arizonans a broad range of educational choices. ADF attorneys argue that school tuition organizations that fund only religious schools do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because they are private organizations that do not distribute any government money. They stress that Arizonans are free to choose other school tuition organizations that fund non-religious private schools, emphasizing that residents can even start such organizations on their own, if they so choose.

"School tuition organizations can legally fund any type of private school, whether religious or non-religious,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Such funding does not become unconstitutional just because non-religious organizations have not chosen to take advantage of the opportunity as readily."


Maine sickos consider banning "biology-based" restrooms in schools

'Transgender ID' in schools under scrutiny by human-rights commission. What harm does it do to anyone to go to the restroom that is best designed to suit their genital arrangements

A proposal by the Maine Human Rights Commission to establish a broad right for "transgender" boys to use girls restrooms in all Maine schools will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled by the commission March 1.

The plan, if given ultimate approval by the commission, will establish mandatory transgender restroom access rules for all Maine schools. The proposal was prompted by a decision last year that found a school in Orono, Asa Adams School, discriminated against a boy by denying him access to the girls' restroom.

Christian Civic League of Maine Administrator Mike Hein said it's worrying because he believes the draft of the proposed regulations was developed in a December closed-door session. "The Maine Human Rights Commission had a secret, closed-door session in December and the public wasn't notified. But Mary Bonauto (director of the Gay and Lesbian Activist and Defenders) was invited to the meeting and she was allowed to present a legal brief at that meeting," Hein said.

The commission said, in documents obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request by Maine's Christian Action League, the June determination that a school discriminated against a boy by not allowing him access to the girls' restroom was correct. "The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred in a complaint alleging that an elementary school had an obligation to allow a transgender student access to common bathrooms consistent with that student's gender identity, and the commission is a party to a court complaint in that case," the commission concluded.

Another document obtained in the same request details the proposal: "Transgender students must be allowed access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity or expression or, if they prefer, to existing single stall bathrooms."

It continues: "With respect to locker rooms and shower facilities that involve undressing in front of others, transgender students must be provided with accommodations that meet their needs and that take into account the legitimate privacy concerns of all student involved."

Bonauto has filed a brief with the commission that says the commission is acting properly in trying to deal with students' "identity" issues. "Practically speaking, making a transgender student with a female gender identity use the boys' restroom would be stigmatizing and have a serious, negative, emotional consequence for the student as well. It would be no less stigmatizing for that student to have to use the boys' room than it would be for any non-transgender girl to be singled out and made to use the boys' room," she claims.

Bonauto suggests restroom usage should not be based on biology. "Applying these rules, it is clear, for example, that an anatomy or biology-based rule for bathroom usage cannot be used to bar transgender students from using a facility consistent with their gender identity," Bonauto said. "Such a rule would fail to give effect to the non-discrimination mandate for gender identity, a result at odds with the plain meaning of the 'gender identity' portion of the statute," she said. "In addition, such a rule is at odds with the Human Rights Act as a whole, since the act seeks to remove obstacles to education, not to impose them. Finally, such a construction would render 'gender identity or expression' meaningless surplus usage with no intended consequences for how schools deal with transgender students," Bonauto said.

On the issue of sports, Bonauto supports rules that require the schools to open doors based on the students' sense of identity. "GLAD supports a rule that allows students the opportunity to play sports consistent with their gender identity, with no exceptions. The guidance provides this rule 'in most cases' and also states that, 'In very rare cases, legitimate questions about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports may need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis," Bonauto said. Bonauto did not respond to a request for comment.

But Hein said the proposals will have a derogatory impact on Maine's schools. "What it comes down to is that we are completely getting rid of the concept of gender. Gender is being stricken in all forms in Maine if this proposed guideline is adopted as is," he said. Hein says the issue of sports competition will be adversely impacted as well. "It completely turns on its head what we consider boys basketball, girls basketball. Gender normative sports will be completely erased under these guidelines. In addition, if the proposed guidelines are adopted, you will have biological boys in the middle school, high school or college setting showering with girls," Hein said.

The difficulties in sports are also a point of concern with the University of Maine. In a letter obtained through the FOAA request, University of Maine Office of Equal Opportunity Director Karen Kemble said the proposal raises some important questions. "As the current language acknowledges, there will likely be cases in which allowing a transgender student to participate in gender-segregated sports in accordance with the gender identity or expression will raise legitimate concerns about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports. Although such requests from transgender students may be very rare, among those, fairness of play may become an issue," Kemble said.

More here

When Free Speech Died

Of the many intellectual perversions currently taking root on college campuses, perhaps none is more contradictory to what should be one of higher education’s core values than the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barrage with vitriol, all at the hands of groups who give lip service the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view.

Coincidentally, just recently two Israeli officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon and ambassador to the United States Michael Oren had the unpleasant experience of confronting virulent anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Muslim students whose ideology on academic debate seems to be “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Ayalon, who spoke at Oxford University, had his speech interrupted by several audience members, including one who yelled incessantly and called Ayalon a “racist” and “a war criminal” while waving a Palestinian flag, another student who loudly read passages of the incendiary Goldstone Report, calls from one charming scholar to “slaughter the Jews,” the intrusion of a third student who remained standing for the entire balance of the lecture while she hurled anti-Israel invective, and another radical brat who threatened to Ayalon that “we will do to you what we did to Milosevic.”

The genteel, soft-spoken Ambassador Oren did not fare much better during his visit to the University of California at Irvine, a notorious hotbed of radical anti-Israelism by Muslim students. During the aborted speech to some 500 people about U.S.-Israeli relations, which was loudly interrupted ten times, boorish hecklers screamed over Oren’s talk such profound observations as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech,” “I accuse you of murder,” “How many Palestinians have you killed?” and “Israel is a murderer.” Even after he took a 20-minute recess to let the crowd cool off and regain its collective composure, he returned to the podium with more volleys of invective, shouting, and speech-stopping bombast from the Muslim students, eleven of whom―eight from UC-Irvine (including the Muslim Student Union’s president) and three from UC Riverside—were eventually escorted out of the hall and arrested.

The fact that UC-I’s habitually craven administrators, led by feckless Chancellor Michael Drake, were even motivated enough by the students’ errant behavior to have them ejected from the event is a promising sign. While the University has always claimed to be dedicated to encouraging debate and scholarly inquiry by letting the Muslim Student Union mount annual hate-fests to demonize and vilify Israel and Jews, the MSU has effectively hijacked all discussion of the Middle East on campus, and their odious events are not platforms at which opposing views are aired and discussed. In fact, these so-called pro-Palestinians seem to care very little about the actual self-determination and state building of the hapless Palestinians. As is frequently the case when speaking about the Israeli/Arab conflict, the discussion often glosses over the real problems of Palestinian culture, politics, and society (including its cult of death), and targets all criticism on the perceived defects of Israel, Zionism, and Jewish power.

Ambassador Oren is hardly what even his staunchest critics could consider an Islamophobe or even a rabid Zionist, perfectly willing to trample the Palestinian’s aspirations for their putative state. A Columbia and Princeton graduate, former Georgetown professor and fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, the American-born Oren is also the author of two seminal books on the Middle East, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East and Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, all of which clearly make him at least as qualified to speak about the Israeli/Palestinian situation as the raucous, boorish students who had decided, in advance of his UC-I appearance, that Oren was morally unfit to even appear on their campus.

This notion—that pro-Israel speakers and scholars do not even deserve, on a moral or intellectual basis, an opportunity to participate in scholarly debate is a very dangerous one, even if it comes from tendentious students. It starts with the assumption that Israel, because of its perceived moral defects and its oppression of the hapless Palestinians and the theft of their lands, does not even have the right to participate in intellectual debate, that academic free speech in Israel’s case can be modified and is not absolute. And while Muslim students and other campus radicals have, both at UC-I and other college campuses, seen to it that speech that they do not approve of, spoken by people with whom they disagree, is shut down with the “heckler’s veto,” they have never missed an opportunity to invite their own stable of slimy, anti-Israel, anti-American speakers. What is more, these speakers have never been shouted down, chased away, or jeered by those students and professors who might well have found their views to be repellant.

A closer look at the ideas tossed about by some of the MSU’s invited guests suggests both the moral incoherence and intellectual debasement that characterizes the human output of these events. Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali, for instance, former Nation of Islam member, convert to Islam, and cheerleader for Hamas and Hezbollah, has been a ubiquitous, poisonous presence on the Irvine campus who never hesitates to castigate Israel, Zionists, Jewish power, and Jews themselves as he weaves incoherent, hallucinatory conspiracies about the Middle East and the West. Speaking from a podium with an execrable banner reading “Israel, the 4th Reich” in May 2006, Malik-Ali referred to Jews as “new Nazis” and “a bunch of straight-up punks.” “The truth of the matter is your days are numbered,” he admonished Jews everywhere. “We will fight you. We will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious.”

At a 2008 event, dubbed “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,” Malik-Ali was at his hateful best once again, standing behind a banner that read “Death to Apartheid“ while he wildly contended that “The Islamic revival should only be feared by those who support imperialism, colonialism, racism, occupation . . . Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah” are not the real terrorists at all, he proclaimed. No, the actual “terrorists are the United States; the terrorists are Israel!”

Another odious guest speaker who regularly makes appearances on the hate-fest circuit is Muhammad al-Asi, an anti-Semitic, anti-America Muslim activist from Washington, DC who has written, among other notorious ideas, that “The Israeli Zionist are [sic] the true and legitimate object of liquidation.” At a MSU-sponsored event in February 2008, “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide,” which repulsively tried to draw parallels between the Holocaust and Hamas-controlled Gaza, al-Asi was a featured speaker. In his speech, he repeated the canard of Jewish control of world politics, suggesting that “Zionists or what some people call the Jewish lobby” had reduced the United States to playing “second fiddle to the Israeli government.”

Just months after 9/11, al-Asi had similar invective to utter towards Jews, in the context of Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Using his favorite image of the ghetto when describing Jews, he observed that “We have a psychosis in the Jewish community that is unable to co-exist equally and brotherly [sic] with other human beings. You can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew, and this has been demonstrated time and time again in Occupied Palestine.”

If ever there were utterances which deserved to be shouted down and drowned out with reason and fact, al-Asi’s hallucinatory ravings probably would qualify. But despite continual complaints from the Orange County Task Force on Anti-Semitism and other concerned UC-I stakeholders, the tenor and frequency of speakers at the MSU’s lurid hate-fests continue unabated, seemingly with the tacit approval of the university administration. The same Muslim students who could not abide even the presence of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, listen rapturously to the loathsome bloviating of Malik Ali, al-Asi, Norman Finkelstein, Ward Churchill, and any other ideological thug who have come to UC-I’s campus with the purpose of vilifying Israel and defaming Jews.

It is, of course, the MSU’s choice to hear whatever opinions they wish from whichever speakers to whom they choose to listen. What is not their choice, however, is to be able to prevent other views from being heard on campus, particularly the complex and thorny Israeli/Palestinian conversation, merely because pro-Palestinian students have decided that they will not recognize the very existence or legitimacy of a sovereign nation, Israel, nor hear that ideas of individuals who are able to defend it and explain the Israeli side of the argument. University officials must repeatedly make clear that campuses must allow many different views and perspectives, and should not try to exclude unpopular thought from being heard in the proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Concern for the long-suffering Palestinians may be a commendable effort, but the exclusion and demonization of Israeli speakers and government officials from the academic community as a tool for seeking social justice for that one group “represents a profound betrayal of the cardinal principle of intellectual endeavor,” observed commentator Melanie Phillips, “which is freedom of speech and debate,” something universities should never stop diligently defending. And they should certainly never abandon that pursuit to the baleful whining of ideological bullies intent on suppressing the views of others.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Welcome to UC Islam

by Mike Adams

Muslim students are not always cowards. But the Muslim Student Union (MSU) is often the least tolerant and most cowardly student group on a given college campus. The gulf between the speech they prevent and what they practice with administrators' consent is enormous. What follows is a summary of a recent, and increasingly typical, incident. I have included links to video of the incident for verification. I have also included the chancellor's complete contact information so that “infidels” can express disgust with unchecked Muslim bigotry and intolerance on our nation’s campuses.

Last week, MSU members sabotaged a speech by Israel's Ambassador to the U.S.A. This happened at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). UCI has a reputation for harboring a particularly aggressive Muslim student population. Ambassador Oren's well-publicized speech was open to the public. The audience numbered approximately 500. At one point, the ambassador had to leave the room, surrounded by body guards, for more than 20 minutes. Ultimately, he finished his remarks, but, due to the disruptions, there was no time for the planned question and answer session. It is worth noting that the speaker is American born and a Princeton and Columbia graduate. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown.

Before entering the hall, protestors prayed loudly outside the building. Ambassador Oren's speech was interrupted ten times. Each interruption was by a lone male student of middle-eastern descent. Each time, dozens in the crowd loudly acted up in support. Despite faculty admonitions, even expressions of faculty embarrassment, the interruptions continued.

The interruptions appear to have been pre-planned then coordinated on site. Witnesses described text messaging between the disruptors and at least one reading his interruption from a crib note. Apparently the protestor was unable to memorize a one-sentence line. Welcome to UC Islam.

Oren maintained his composure despite the chaos. Several times he spoke gently to the protesters, reminding them of mid-east hospitality customs and U.S. free speech rights. After the last interruption, the group loudly left in concert and continued protesting immediately outside the hall. Twelve were arrested.

UCI administrators had every reason to suspect trouble, yet did little or nothing to prevent it. Neither did they stop it once it began. At least one reliable organization gave UCI advance warning of the protest and how it would be orchestrated. Prior to Ambassador Oren's arrival, UCI MSU wrote a protest letter published in the school paper and on its own website.

For years, UCI MSU has sponsored a one week pro-Palestinian/virulently anti-Israel demonstration/fair. Recently it's grown to a two-week fair. Intolerance used to rule the day. Now, it rules the fortnight. Imported Arab and other speakers are viciously propagandistic. The hyperbole has increased year by year but there have been no shout downs. The MSU receives more tolerance than it is willing to give. The administration approves of this sort of free speech. For more than a year, the UCI administration has been "investigating" that certain MSU speakers publicly solicited, then forwarded, donations to Hamas. If true, this violates UCI regulations -- and federal law.


British Schools should not force girls to wear skirts - it discriminates against transsexuals, warns watchdog

How come that the rights of transsexuals trump the rights of everybody else?

Schools which force girls to wear skirts may be breaking the law - because the policy apparently discriminates against transsexuals. Official guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission says the dress code may breach the rights of girls who feel compelled to live as boys.

In a 68-page report on the human rights of transsexuals, the watchdog says that 'requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful'. It says that research conducted for its report found that 'pupils born female with gender dysphoria experienced great discomfort being forced to wear stereotypical girls’ clothes — for example a skirt'.

Many schools across the country insist on girls wearing skirts as part of a strict uniform code which they believe maintains good levels of discipline among their pupils. And although the Commission has threatened to use 'costly legal action' on schools who fail to comply, many are expected to maintain their rule on skirt wearing.

Elspeth Insch, head teacher of King Edward VI Handsworth school in Birmingham, said: 'The message is: not in my school. We’re sticking with our skirts.'

The guidance has been produced ahead of the Government’s Equality Bill which is likely to come into force this autumn. The bill, masterminded by Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, makes it a legal requirement for public authorities, including schools, to consider the impact on minority groups of all their policies — including how school uniforms might affect transsexual people. They must do all they can to ensure transsexual children do not suffer discrimination, or face potential legal sanctions.

The bill extends new rights to people who believe they were born into the wrong gender. They gain this protection 'regardless of whether or not they intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment'. Previously transsexuals had to be under medical supervision or to had to have had a sex change to be covered by discrimination rules. There are an estimated 5,000 adult transsexuals in Britain.

The Commission's official guidance, entitled Provision of Goods, Facilities and Services to Trans People — Guidance for Public Authorities in Meeting your Equality Duties and Human Rights Obligations, says schools have a duty to be 'proactive' in ensuring transsexual students are not discriminated against.

It also cites existing human rights and sex discrimination laws. The guidelines state: 'Uniform is a key issue for young trans people at schools. Many schools have strict uniform codes where boys and girls are required to wear particular clothes, for example, girls cannot wear trousers.'

A spokesman from the Commission said: 'This is all about giving schools information which will help them interpret the law. 'It’s about schools taking a bit of time to consider their policies, how flexible they are in accommodating pupils with different needs, and what they might need to do to both help pupils get the most out of school and potentially avoid situations which might culminate in difficult and costly legal action.'

Girls wearing skirts to school became a thorny problem for St Albans Catholic High School two weeks ago. The catholic school, in Ipswich, Suffolk, banned female pupils from wearing skirts because students were failing to wear them in an 'appropriate manner'. It will force girls to wear trousers from September following concerns that some skirts were being worn too high.

Despite protests from students, the school, which has about 1,000 mixed students aged between 11 and 18, claims its policy has won support by parents and the wider school community.


Australia: Desperation places credentialism under attack

Fast-track teachers to get six weeks training. And they certainly need no more than that. I taught High School successfully without one second of teacher training. Requiring a four-year degree is bureaucratic madness. The "new" idea is obviously inspired by the "Teach for America" program, which has been operating since 1990 and does seem to produce better teachers

TEACHERS could take charge of the most challenging classrooms after just six weeks training under a controversial strategy being considered by the Queensland Government. People with professional qualifications will be sent to teach in disadvantaged schools to plug a shortage of specialist teachers under the Teach for Australia program, The Courier-Mail reports.

But unions have slammed the strategy – which aims to attract high-performing professionals and graduates from fields including law, economics, engineering, science, mathematics and English – as disrespectful to teachers and a Band-Aid solution.

Teach for Australia chief executive Melodie Potts said research shows similar models overseas produce more effective teachers. Education Queensland assistant director-general Craig Allen confirmed the program was being considered and talks were being held with Teach for Australia.

The program involves six weeks of intensive training for six days a week at university, with teachers then placed in disadvantaged secondary schools where it is hoped they will inspire children. Their university study continues part-time for two years and includes a mentor and adviser before they graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching.

Mr Allen said the department was "exploring the potential of Teach for Australia" to attract and retain "high quality individuals in teaching". The teachers are given a reduced workload to help concentrate on their part-time study.