Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mass. school district under fire for condom policy

A new policy in a Massachusetts public school district that makes condoms available to all students, even those in elementary school, is drawing criticism from some who say it goes too far.

Provincetown School Board Chairman Peter Grosso says because there is no set age when sexual activity starts, the committee decided not to set an age for condom availability.

Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence. The policy does not require the school to contact parents.

The policy was approved by Provincetown's school committee June 10. It takes effect in the fall.

Kris Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, calls the idea absurd.


31 states seek standardized academic exam

This is reasonable as long as the curriculum is sound -- unlikely

Thirty-one states have banded together to compete for a federal grant to create a series of new national academic tests to replace the current patchwork system.

Currently, every state gives a different test to its students. In some states, including Massachusetts, passing the exam is a graduation requirement.

The federal government has said it will award up to two grants of up to $160 million to create a testing system based on proposed new national academic standards in reading and math.

Washington state is submitting the application on behalf of the group of states.

The coalition’s proposal describes a testing system different from what is happening in most states in a number of ways:

* Testing would be online and given at least twice a year to help teachers and parents track student progress.

* The exams would adapt to measure each student’s abilities. It is expensive technology that most individual states could not afford on their own.

* Teachers would be given other tools for ongoing, informal assessment to help them figure out if students are learning on a daily basis.

Individual states will still determine whether to use the high school test as a graduation requirement, said Chris Barron, spokesman for the Washington state education department.

“These funds will go a long way to building the innovative system we need to help our children succeed,’’ Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement.


Return of REAL school sports: British Tories to revive competitive games in bid to turn nation back into champions

Competitive games are to be revived in schools in a bid to turn Britain back into a nation of sporting champions. As the country holds its breath over the World Cup and Wimbledon, ministers want their new 'School Olympics' programme to end the culture of 'prizes for all'.

The sports championships are intended to give every child experience of hard-fought competition. They will reverse a decline in competitive sport brought about by Left-wing councils that scorned it as 'elitist' and insisted on politically correct activities with no winners or losers.

The competitions will involve a wide range of sports including football, rugby, netball, golf, cricket, tennis, athletics, judo, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, cycling and volleyball. Schools will be able to nominate any sport in any age group as long as they can find opponents.

Details of the championships will be unveiled on Monday, hard on the heels of a weekend of sporting drama with England playing old rivals Germany in the World Cup tomorrow and Andy Murray today vying for a spot in Wimbledon's fourth round.

As they launch the initiative, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Michael Gove will say it is intended to ensure the 2012 London Olympics leave a lasting sporting legacy.

The first championship will take place in the run-up to the 2012 Games with further competitions planned beyond that. Paralympic-style events will be staged in parallel for youngsters with disabilities.

Mr Hunt said: 'I want to give a real boost to competitive sport in schools using the power of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage young people – whatever age or ability – to take part in this new competition. 'Sport – whether you win or lose – teaches young people great lessons for life. It encourages teamwork, dedication and striving to be the best that you can be.'

Steve Grainger, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 'Competition has been happening on an ad hoc school to school basis since the demise of district-level sport. 'It was down to schools to sort something out with another school which is maybe a utopian view of how it might happen.

'We have built up a network of 450 school sport partnerships with every school locked in so we now have a really solid base from which to develop competitive sport up to 2012 and lever off the back of 2012 to enable every kid in the country to have a suitable competitive experience in a whole range of sports.'

Schools will compete against each other in district leagues from 2011 with winning athletes and teams qualifying for up to 60 county finals. The most talented budding sports stars will then be selected for national finals – although this currently covers England only.

The pc spoilsports

Lottery funding of up to £10million a year, distributed by Sport England, will be used to create a new sports league structure for primary and secondary schools, culminating in the 2012 finals.

But ministers also hope the championships will reinvigorate PE lessons, within-school tournaments and local leagues. Schools will be expected to host in-house Olympic-style sports days so that children of all abilities have the opportunity to compete and join teams.

The coalition government plans to publish information about schools' sporting facilities and the amount of sport and competitive sport they provide for pupils.

There would also be school sports league tables, so parents can track the success of their children's schools' sports results.

Mr Gove said: 'We need to revive competitive sport in our schools. Fewer than a third of school pupils take part in regular competitive sport within schools, and fewer than one in five take part in regular competition between schools. 'The School Olympics give us a chance to change that for good.'

Ministers hope the initiative will finally end a culture that has seen schools refuse to pit youngsters directly against each other.

In one directive to schools during the last Labour government, schools were encouraged to replace competitive races with 'problem-solving' exercises for their sports days. Teams were also encouraged to perform tasks in rotation rather than compete directly with each other.

A series of Labour initiatives aimed at reviving competitive sport were undermined by the continued sell-off of school playing fields.


Friday, June 25, 2010

For a long life, upbringing may trump education (?)

The attribution to upbringing below is entirely unsupported by the data. Given the hereditary nature of many ailments, the much more likely conclusion from the data is that good genes, not education per se, give educated people longer lifespans

Good health and a long life may have more to do with how you grew up than how much education you have under your belt, research from Denmark hints.

Studies, including the Danish one, have generally found that people with more education tend to live longer and are healthier than those with shorter transcripts. But in the small Scandinavian country, much of that effect vanished when comparing twins who differed in how long they had been in school.

"We were interested in the social inequality in health that we see on the population level," said Mia Madsen, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, who worked on the study. "What's so great about the twins is that you can use them to get a little closer to understanding that inequality."

Madsen said her study was one of the largest of its kind so far. Tapping into national data from 1921 to 1950, she and her colleagues searched for same-sex or identical twins whose educations differed in length and at least one of whom had died.

The researchers found more than 2,000 twin pairs. Overall, the ones with no more than seven years of study -- the minimal requirement -- were about 25 percent more likely to have died. But when comparing twins within each pair, both for identical and same-sex twins, that difference became much less pronounced and could have been due to chance. "The social inequality seems to get smaller when you account for genetics and upbringing," said Madsen. "Maybe it's an indication that very early life conditions play a big role later on."

She added that an earlier study, based on the same data, had found a similar pattern in the twins' general health, also stressing the importance of early life conditions. What those might be is still up in the air, but Madsen said unhealthy eating habits were one likely culprit.

Still, the researchers said the picture wasn't clear-cut. When focusing on those twin pairs who had the largest difference in education -- at least eight years -- they did find a positive effect on life span.

Madsen said her findings seemed at odds with some of the research from the US. "When I look at the twin literature on social inequality, I see two different pictures in Denmark and the US," she said, noting that the two countries had different access to healthcare. "It makes sense that your social position and education in adulthood would matter more in the US than in Denmark."

Maria Glymour, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said twin studies were sometimes hard to interpret because twins with the right differences are hard to come by. Even with a study as big as this there is still a lot of uncertainty, she told Reuters Health by e-mail. "To the extent that there are differences between the results of this study and prior work in the US, it is likely due to study design differences, not necessarily differences in medical care," she said.

"Inequalities in health by education level have been shown in many countries with universal access to medical care, so these inequalities must partially be driven by other pathways." However, Glymour said the idea that some of the tie between education and life span might be explained by early life conditions was important. "It would help us understand the most important ways to focus resources for children."


Britain's evil white middle class students

Big brother is watching how much alcohol you drink. What you put into your mouth is no longer your business.

There is no doubt that middle and upper class British people do drink but they also learn how to control it or not, as desired. Both the present British Prime Minister and the present Mayor of London are, for instance, former members of Oxford's hard-drinking and aristocratic Bullingdon club. The grog would seem not to have done them much harm

Researchers have warned of a “drinking culture” in schools with large numbers of white, middle-class children. Schools filled with pupils from relatively wealthy homes were more likely to be gripped by alcohol problems, it was claimed, raising their chances of indulging in other “risky behaviours” such as drug taking, smoking and shoplifting.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Education, also said that girls were more likely to drink than boys.

The conclusions come amid concerns over a rise in binge drinking among middle-class adults in recent years. A comprehensive study last year claimed that middle aged, professional Britons are more likely to exceed recommended daily levels of alcohol consumption than the working-classes, with twice as many drinking every night of the week.

In the latest study, the National Centre for Social Research analysed drinking patterns among 14- to 17-year-olds in England. The report – based on data from an on-going survey of 15,500 young people – found some 55 per cent had tried alcohol by the age of 14. Numbers increased to 85 per cent among 17-year-olds.

It added: “We also found some evidence of a ‘drinking culture’ in certain types of school, with pupils more likely to drink in schools where there was a higher proportion of white pupils or pupils who did not receive free school meals, regardless of their own ethnicity.”

The study said that children who drank alcohol were "more likely to take part in risky behaviours". This included smoking, trying cannabis, shoplifting and graffiti. They were also more likely to hang around with groups of friends, go to parties and have negative attitudes to education.

The report added: "We found that girls were slightly more likely to have tried alcohol than boys up to the age of 17."


Calif. gets $416M to turn around failing schools

Pissing into the wind

State education officials say the federal government has awarded $416 million to California to turn around dozens of its lowest public schools.

Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday that California received the money from the U.S. Department of Education's School Improvement Grants program.

School districts can apply for grants of $50,000 to $2 million to turn around 188 "persistently lowest achieving schools" that state education officials identified in March.

To get the grants, districts will have to take drastic measures to reform the struggling schools, such as converting to a charter school, replacing the principal, firing half the staff or closing entirely and sending the students to another school.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Layoffs across the board for Los Angeles schools

Despite the pleas and protests of hundreds of employees, Los Angeles Unified officials Tuesday approved a 2010-11 budget that includes thousands of layoffs of teachers, custodians, office workers and other staff. [Let's hope the "office workers" take the brunt of it -- but I'm not optimistic]

The school board also approved hiring John Deasy as the district's new deputy superintendent, seen as a potential successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who is rumored to be eyeing early retirement. For now, Deasy, currently a deputy director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would advise Cortines and stand in for him in his absence.

LAUSD faced a deficit of some $640 million for the 2010-11 school year and officials had initially looked at raising class sizes at grade levels through middle school and cutting some 6,300 jobs.

Tuesday, district officials said that attendance increases, spending cuts and some additional state funding helped save some district jobs and programs.

District officials estimate about 2,700 employees are expected to be laid off starting July 1.

However, some district employee unions dispute that figure and estimate that the final layoff figure will be closer to 4,000.

Many of the employees who in March had been notified they would lose their jobs were later saved under a deal with the local teachers and administrators unions that reduced the school calendar by 12 days over the next two years through furloughs by teachers and administrators.


The Kids Can't Read

By RiShawn Biddle (who has a good solution in his final paragraph)

Forty percent of Atlanta eight-grade students tested Below Basic proficiency in reading on the 2009 edition of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal exam of academic achievement. Essentially two out of every five Atlanta students heading into high school are functionally illiterate -- unable to comprehend a work as simple as Anne of Greene Gables or even complete mathematical word problems such as "Marty has 6 red pencils, 4 green pencils, and 5 blue pencils."

Atlanta isn't an isolated case. Twenty-eight percent of Georgia's eighth-graders -- one in every four -- read Below Basic proficiency. This is a problem with nearly every race, age, and social class. Thirty-four percent of eighth-grade boys tested Below Basic in reading, as did one in every five white students and 40 percent of black students [I can do that sum: Blacks are twice as likely to be illiterate]. The low levels of literacy also aren't confined to the Peach State: Twenty-six percent of America's eighth-graders and one in three fourth-graders are functionally illiterate.

If you've wondered why 1.3 million students drop out every year, why six million students languish in the nation's special ed ghettos, or why girls outnumber boys on campus by as much as two-to-one, just take a look at America's abysmally low levels of literacy. Far too few children, no matter their socioeconomic background, can read well enough to function in an economy in which literacy is more-important than ever. Boys are especially hit hard, often trailing their female peers in reading and falling far behind in other academic studies by the time they reach middle school.

Although the problem may begin at home, America's public schools and education policies have also exacerbated the literacy problem. Few teachers at the elementary level are well-skilled in teaching children how to read; theories such as whole language -- which emphasized reading whole books without dealing with phonics or understanding the context behind sentences and paragraphs -- have also wreaked havoc on reading instruction.

The latest concerns over literacy have been, in part, spurred on by the Obama administration, which unveiled a project called Reading for Understanding Research Initiative to help improve literacy. Under the program, the U.S. Department of Education is awarding $100 million in grants to six groups of researchers (including those from the Educational Testing Service, the administrator of the SAT college entrance exam) to conduct research on how teachers can improve classroom reading instruction. [We already know that: Teach phonics] This, in turn, marks the latest of several efforts (almost all ill-fated) by federal officials to improve how reading is taught in America's schools.

But concerns about reading have become especially acute because of one of the most-troubling trends in higher education: The dearth of young men on campus. Between 1995-1996 and 2007-2008, the percentage of men on college campuses declined from 48 percent to 43 percent, according to the American Council on Education; there are now 1.39 women for every male on campus. Women now make up 55 percent of overall enrollment within the State University of New York system. The gaps are even larger elsewhere: At some colleges, women account for as many as 70 percent of the undergraduate population. Society is only grasping the consequences of this achievement gap, including the high rates of unemployment among males (especially those without high school diplomas) to the rash of more men living at home with their parents. The new gender gap has also become the subject of one of the hottest books in education, Why Boys Fail, by Education Week blogger Richard Whitmire.

But many students are failing to develop all the skills for proper reading. As a result, they are falling behind long before they reach sixth grade. One out of every three fourth-graders read Below Basic proficiency, according to NAEP; although slightly lower than the 36 percent of fourth graders reading Below Basic in 2002, the average reading score remains almost unchanged. Black and Latino students -- the latter of which include first-generation Americans from immigrant homes -- do poorly; 53 percent of black fourth-graders and 52 percent of their Latino counterparts are reading Below Basic. The illiteracy levels know no income barrier: Forty-nine of poor students read Below Basic proficiency while a (less-abysmal) 21 percent of wealthier students also have poor reading comprehension skills.

Boys, in particular, are struggling mightily in reading, no matter the race or income level of their parents. Thirty-six of all male fourth-graders tested Below Basic in reading, trailing their female peers by six percentage points. One out of every four male high school seniors with college-educated parents suffered from functional illiteracy.

The consequences of the failure to achieve full literacy are wide-ranging. The very skills involved in reading (including understanding abstract concepts) are also involved in more-complex mathematics including word problems and algebra. Being a good reader may not mean being equally skilled in math, but poor readers tend also to fail in math computations as well. Fifty-four percent of Atlanta eighth-graders scored Below Basic on the math portion of the 2009 NAEP, equivalent to the low reading levels. Nor are students likely to improve over time. The result is usually the path to dropping out of school and into welfare and prison.

Poor reading also partly explains the 63-percent increase in the nation's special education population (now 13 percent of the nation's public school enrollment) between 1976 and 2006. Among the largest categories of special ed students include developmental delay -- which can just as often mean that the child wasn't taught to read at home, dyslexic as it may mean that a child suffers from cognitive damage -- or emotional disturbance (which can also be caused by the natural rebelliousness arising from frustration over poor reading skills).

Reid Lyon, an education official under George W. Bush, determined in 1997 that most black boys landed in special education because they struggled in reading. As Stanford University Researchers Deborah Stipek and Sarah Miles determined in a 2006 study, low literacy levels in first grade are strong predictors of long-term disciplinary problems.

CERTAINLY READING PROBLEMS CAN begin at home. Families at all income levels who spend less time reading and engaging in conversation with their children -- especially those from impoverished households whose parents tend to be poor readers themselves -- will produce children with low reading skills. But it's not all about income or interaction. Forty percent of all kindergarten students can only learn to read if they are specifically taught syllables, words, letter sounds and spelling. Boys, in particular, struggle because the area of their brains in which language and literacy is developed lags behind that of their female schoolmates.

Educators have understood these problems for decades; reading experts have spent years developing new ways to help lagging students improve reading before they reach fifth grade and work with boys to get them up to speed. This includes identifying poor readers early on and intensive teaching of linguistic skills every day. Few schools have implemented such practices in their classrooms.

The low quality of America's teaching corps -- the biggest reason for the nation's dropout crisis -- also affects reading instruction. Few university schools of education (which educate most of our teachers) do a proper job of teaching aspiring students how to address reading. Just 11 of 71 ed schools surveyed by the National Council on Teacher Quality in 2006 taught teachers all that they needed to provide adequate reading instruction.

A four-decade war over whether reading instruction should emphasize phonics and spelling or Whole Language (a system by which students should learn the meaning behind sentences) has also fueled the literacy crisis. During the 1970s and 1980s, states embraced Whole Language and ignored phonics, forgetting that kids need to know how to also sound words. Only after states saw reading scores decline did they reverse course. Most reading experts argue that phonics and Whole Language are both needed in order to learn reading. But schools aren't doing a good job instructing in either area.

Federal efforts to improve reading instruction -- most-notably President George W. Bush's Reading First initiative -- have either fallen to seed amid controversy or haven't gained traction. The best solution may start at home: Parents could buy a copy of Hooked on Phonics and organize community reading sessions. It may be a while before public schools actually learn how to teach reading correctly -- and improve literacy.


Experienced headteacher suspended after 'argument with pupil'

Sounds like she told the kid how stupid he/she was. That's not allowed in Britain these days. Expect discipline at the school to go even further downhill now

An experienced primary school head has been suspended after allegedly making comments about a pupil. Police were also called but said yesterday that the teacher, who successfully oversaw the merger of two schools to form Eaton Primary, had not committed an offence and officers would not be taking any action.

Mrs Neville-Jones was allegedly involved in an argument with a pupil. The youngster reported what was said to their parents who complained to the school. Mrs Neville-Jones was suspended last Friday and parents were told when they came to pick up their children on Monday.

Fiona Prickett, 34, who has two children at the successful school, said people were in the dark. She said: “Everyone is shocked. She’s ever so nice. “She’s brilliant. She greets everyone and is really approachable. It’s very strange and we just can't believe it."

Bill Taylor, 65, who has a grandson at the school, said: “The pupils came just came out with a letter. It seems a funny way of doing it.”

it is understood that during the argument Mrs Neville-Jones made a comment specifically relating to the pupil. A police source said it was "a case of him saying this, her saying that, and something has got misinterpreted".

Victoria MacDonald, chair of governors at Eaton Primary School, said: "We can confirm that our head teacher Diana Neville-Jones is currently suspended following an alleged incident. "This to ensure a full and fair investigation can take place.”

During a 25-year career, Mrs Neville-Jones has been a headteacher at several other Norfolk schools, including Coltishall Airfield First School and Northfields First and Nursery School in Norwich.

She was appointed head of the former Fairway First and Middle Schools and led the schools through a reorganisation which saw them merge to become 367-pupil Eaton Primary School in September 2007. The school was praised for its work during the restructuring process by inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education as a "caring school" that is "moving forward in all aspects of its work". The school was deemed "satisfactory" while the leadership and management of Mrs Neville-Jones was praised as "good".

Mrs Neville-Jones, who has three grown up children and is a grandmother, resigned from the school in February and was seeing out her notice when she was suspended. The suspension means she is unlikely to return.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “This matter was referred to police under agreed procedures. Initial inquiries have been carried out and no criminal offences have been have been committed. No further police action will be taken in relation to this matter.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Jews and the Bloody-Minded Professors

No wonder Obama sent Winston Churchill's sculpted bust right back to London. Would you want Winnie's beetling brows staring down at you when your White House is just swarming with bloody-minded professors? If Churchill had done nothing else but simply pin the label "bloody-minded professors" on the fascists and Stalinists who ran much of British intellectual life from the 1930s onward, he would still have been Obama's natural enemy.

Without bloody-minded professors in the cozy West, there would have been no Nazi Germany and no Stalinist Russia.

Fascism and communism were the very sweaty exudations of those professors. Karl Marx was a bloodthirsty intellectual whose biggest hero was Herr Doktor-Professor Friedrich Hegel, the Kaiser's own philosopher in Berlin. Prussia was in fact the model for Hegel's utopian state, complete with mustachioed, goose-stepping soldiers with funny-looking helmets with little spears on top. Karl Marx just loved the idea of a militarized society, and in Lenin's Moscow, his followers finally got their chance.

As you might remember, everything worked just like clockwork, just the way the professors said it would. We saw how everybody prospered wherever Marxism took hold. No more poverty, no more inequality, just love and peace for all. You can see it in North Korea today.

Obama's White House is chock full of the bloody-minded. They have learned nothing since the Soviet Empire crumbled. You can't suddenly open a door in this White House without pinning a leftist professor behind it, like a wriggling butterfly. They infest the place, all of them buzzing with bright schemes to fix the world, if only everybody would finally listen to them.

That was Obama's answer to the Gulf oil disaster, to send in a team of professors with no visible expertise in oil engineering. In a comparable, if not direr, situation in Kuwait in 1992, George Bush 41 sent in Red Adair. We can see today how well the professors have solved the Gulf oil disaster.

Importing café talkers from Harvard Square was also Obama's solution to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and we know how that got solved in a jiffy.

Today, the bloody-minded intellectuals are Obama's answer to the very existence of Israel. And America.

A lot of those professors are Jewish -- by ancestry, but not by faith. Or anything else by faith. They are secularists, profoundly alienated from normal people. Like secularists everywhere, they have fallen in love with a goofy messianic fantasy instead of the bad old beliefs. Their spitting rage against Christianity and Orthodox Judaism is a measure of their alienation. They worshiped Obama -- until it turned out that he couldn't stop the oil exploding in the Gulf after all. But don't worry -- they'll find another savior soon, because they're always on the lookout.

I have a friend who is a Jewish secularist, and also a bloody-minded professor -- particularly about Israel. Like Obama, he is willing to see Israel destroyed to protect his faith in utopian internationalism. That's who Obama is. Obama doesn't hate America; he only hates America as a country. See, the Founders got it all wrong. Lincoln was wrong to save the Union. Reagan was wrong to invite the Evil Empire to crumble of its own inner contradictions. It would be good for America to stop being a nation and leave everything to Obama and his buds. That's "progressivism." As G.K. Chesterton wrote, the left loves humanity, but it doesn't have much truck with real people.

In Obama's eyes, America and Israel should not be sovereign nations with the ability to defend themselves. They are just obstacles to utopia, an enlightened world run by bloody-minded professors. Peacefully, of course.

So we see the walking contradiction of MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, the son of a Talmudic scholar, who hates Israel so much that his best buds are in Islamofascist terror groups that crank out an endless stream of murder-propaganda against Israel and Jews. These people would have killed Chomsky's family members in Russia, yet Chomsky is the biggest anti-Israel propagandist on the Left. Chomsky has probably done more to reverse the crumbling of the Soviet Faith in the last twenty years than anyone else. All the Palestinian groups are officially sworn to destroy Israel, and it's fine with Chomsky. He's looking forward to the end with bright anticipation.

The Turkish suiciders on the Mavi Marmara worked hand-in-hand with bloody-minded professors of the left -- Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jodie Evans, and Code Pink. This is the left-fascist alliance of our times, our Hitler-Stalin Pact. Don't ever forget it just because it's not an official treaty. The Left and the fascist Muslims are working hand-in-glove wherever they can, including the White House.

Islamofascists are exactly the same kind of utopians as the left. They just happen to have their heads stuck in the 7th century; they are Dark Age utopians, ready to bring a nuclear Armageddon to clear the way for Paradise on Earth. Al-Qaeda was started by an Islamist intellectual. Jimmy Carter's favorite holy man, Ayatollah Khomeini, was a Shiite scholar who stepped straight out of the 10th century, ready to chop heads for Allah. A million people died as a direct result in the Iran-Iraq war. All because Jimmy decided that Khomeini would be better than the bad old Shah. As for little fascist Ahmadinejad, his favorite suicide theorist, Masbeh-Yazdi, is a Islamic scholar who gave his official stamp of approval to Iran's thugs to rape women and boys before they were executed.

Bloody-minded professors are the unloveliest people in the world. They are the smug enablers for all the totalitarians since the French Revolution. Celebrated philosophers like Martin Heidegger were true-believing Nazis, and famous French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre lent his immense prestige to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, one after the other. How's that for a triple slam?

When Israel refused to let Noam Chomsky into the country a month ago, he responded by calling Israel "Stalinist." If you ever see a video of the Knesseth conducting its debates in Jerusalem, notice how Stalinist it looks, how everybody stands up en masse and enthusiastically applauds the Supreme Leader when he deigns, come to think of it, that's Tehran, not Jerusalem. It's also Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Damascus, and Gaza today. In the Age of Obama, even the United States Senate looks more Stalinist than the Knesseth. Some Stalinist state.

Malcolm Muggeridge saw the rise of British fascism -- pardon me, the British Fabians, who started the Labour Party and the European welfare state in the 1920s. They were all utopians, all raving leftists, and all very pleased to see an ocean of blood in Russia, Spain, China, Germany, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, and any other place that was far enough from their own cozy lives. All for a good cause. Muggeridge started as a true believer, and then, as the Moscow correspondent of the Guardian during the purposely inflicted Ukrainian famine, he gradually fell away from the Soviet faith.

Muggeridge wrote about an evening with the two fabled founders of the Fabian Society, Beatrice and Sydney Webb:
[Sydney] Webb, complacently stroking his goatee beard, explained how under capitalism there might be as many as thirty or more varieties of fountain pen, whereas in the USSR we should find but one. A much more satisfactory arrangement. As he made the point, his bulbous eyes positive[ly] glowed behind the pince-nez. She, fluttering her hands like a mesmerist to shut him up, spoke about Man as consumer and Man as a producer, and how under Socialism ever the twain must meet. ... "Sydney and I," Mrs. Webb had told me, "have become icons in the Soviet Union." ... She sat warming her hands at the fire, holding them out as though warding something off. "It's true," she said suddenly, a propos of nothing, that in the USSR people disappear." She accented the word, showing her teeth as as she did so. (pp. 206-209)

The mass purges started soon afterward in Moscow.

Churchill's "bloody-minded professors" were not innocent idealists, and they still are not today. Sydney and Beatrice Webb knew what they were lying about in the West while a hundred million people died in Russia, and later, China.

Today's bloody-minded professors are not innocent, either. They know that millions of people will die if they get their way. It's their nature to thrive on the suffering of others. They are idealists, you see.


Study supports KIPP success: Review shows school isn't gaming system

A common refrain among those who question the impressive test scores consistently posted by low-income children attending Houston-based KIPP charter schools is that school administrators game the system by skimming top students from traditional public schools and kicking out those who can't keep up.

But a study being released today concludes most students come to KIPP academically behind their peers and finds their average attrition rate is in line with other schools. "What we're finding is results that are positive," said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit research group. "They're statistically significant in most cases, and they're educationally big."

The research, based on data from 22 of the charter chain's middle schools, was commissioned by KIPP in 2007. To date, three benefactors have paid the $1.5 million tab.

KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg said he hopes the work reassures supporters and silences naysayers. "This is great news for the people who have already had faith in us," he said. "For the people who have been on the fence, I hope this makes them true believers."

Houston and other cities must expect schools to prepare all children — including those from poor, minority families - to succeed in college, Feinberg said. Campuses in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston - where KIPP was founded in the mid-1990s - were included in the study.
Motivated to succeed

Jeffrey R. Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia University's Teachers College, cautioned in 2008 that some of KIPP's claims were exaggerated and that policymakers should proceed cautiously with plans to emulate the schools' techniques. Henig called this study well-crafted, adding that it makes "serious effort to address methodological challenges that have plagued earlier studies."

While it controls for attrition, Henig noted that KIPP students most likely come from families who are more motivated to see their children succeed in school. He wonders whether the strong results will hold among newer campuses as KIPP completes a $100 million expansion plan over the next decade.

"Some have speculated that KIPP's expansion creates challenges in staffing newer schools with principals and teachers with the same skills and dedication that were present in the 'pioneer' schools, and it is also possible that later waves of schools locate in areas with less conducive environments," he said. "If that's the case, there is a chance that the sample studied here may have better outcomes than newer KIPP schools or those still to come."
Plenty of evidence

But Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said there is already plenty of evidence to convince policy-makers to allow KIPP and other successful charters to expand. Texas, however, only has a handful of charters to issue before the state reaches its cap of 215. "It helps demolish some of the myths that people hold about KIPP," Smith said. "Some of the ways people have tried to excuse or explain KIPP's success just don't hold water."

The report showed that KIPP schools are much more likely to hold students back a grade if they can't do the work, especially in the fifth and sixth grades. At KIPP's southeast Houston middle school, for example, 6.6 percent of fifth-graders were retained, compared to the state average of less than 2 percent. "The differences likely capture KIPP's philosophy that students should be promoted to the next grade level only after they have demonstrated mastery of their current grade's material," according to the report.

Or as Feinberg put it: "I remind everyone all the time that climbing the mountain to college is not a race. It's not when you get to the top, it's what you know when you get there."

Outperformed peers

Researchers tout the positive, often substantial, effects of KIPP schools, which feature a strong school culture and about 50 percent more instructional time than traditional schools. Results are immediate, according to researchers, and by the third year, half of the KIPP schools studied helped students attain 1.2 years of extra growth in math.

Students at nearly every KIPP campus included outperformed their peers in traditional public school. "It was a little remarkable to us how little variation there was," researcher Christina Clark Tuttle said.

The study attempted to control for the extra motivation of families who select charter schools by comparing students' academic trajectories prior to entering KIPP and by keeping students who withdraw from KIPP after a year included in the charters' performance measures. "It is a conservative approach," Gills said. "The kids who are actually staying in KIPP are probably experiencing even larger effects."

Researchers concede that KIPP schools enroll fewer special education students and non-English speakers. They also note that more lower-performing students end up withdrawing from KIPP. "It is true that the ones who leave are lower achieving than average, but that tends to be true of kids leaving any school," Gill said. "Kids who are highly mobile tend to be lower performers."

The Mathmatica study will continue through 2014 with the next set of results expected to be released in 2012.


More British students 'opting for vocational courses'

Record numbers of teenagers are opting for practical courses such as construction and tourism to secure jobs in the recession, according to research. More than four million vocational qualifications were awarded last year, an increase of more than 11 per cent in just 12 months, figures show.

The biggest rises were in subjects such as travel and tourism, leisure, engineering, manufacturing, construction and business.

It comes as growing numbers of young people struggle to get into university following a surge in applications during the economic downturn. Last year, almost 160,000 people missed out on traditional degree courses and there are fears that numbers will soar further this year.

Lord Baker, chairman of the charity Edge, which promotes vocational qualifications, insisted that the traditional “snobbery” surrounding practical courses was being eroded as more young people adopted for qualifications leading directly to a job.

“There is a massive national shortage of technicians and if we are going to build the nuclear power stations, high-speed rail networks, Crossrail, new housing programmes and broadband links we are going to need many more of them.

“Industry wants more skilled employees and it is encouraging to see so many young people down doing this route, but there is still room for improvement.”

According to figures, the number of people taking practical maths and science courses last year increased by 33 per cent. Leisure, travel and tourism qualifications rose by 24 per cent, while construction was up by 22 per cent and engineering and manufacturing by 21 per cent.

The figures cover a range of qualifications, including apprenticeships, City and Guilds courses and BTecs.

The study also showed that higher-level practical courses were also increasing, with foundation degrees growing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These two year degree courses have been championed by the Government as a cheaper – and faster – alternative to traditional three year undergraduate courses.

The data was released by Edge to mark VQ Day on Wednesday, the annual celebration of vocational qualifications.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free Condoms in a U.S. Public Elementary School

These days public schools don't pay much attention to the tired old topics of yesteryear — reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Now the emphasis is on learning fun stuff, like sexual intercourse and disregarding the wishes of parents:
A New England school district has approved a measure that will provide free condoms to elementary school students and direct teachers not to comply with parental wishes to the contrary.

The policy, unanimously approved by the Provincetown School Committee does not include an age limit — meaning children of any age ask for — and receive — free condoms.

The committee also directed school leaders not to honor requests from any parent who might object to their child receiving condoms. In other words mommy and daddy — you don't have a right to prevent your 7-year-old from getting a contraceptive device.

With their emphasis on corrupting children and arrogating parental authority on behalf of The State, you would think liberals would love this policy. But not necessarily:
The policy does stipulate that kids must consult with a nurse or trained counselor before getting their sexual protection — and that upset some of the committee members, according to the Provincetown Banner.

"I can see some kids opting out because of the conversation. I'm not against [the policy]. I'm just trying to put myself in that teenager's spot," said committee member Carrie Notaro.

"I don't like that students can't be discreet about this," committee member Shannon Patrick told the newspaper. "They have to go and ask for it. I'd rather them not have the conservation [with counselors] and have the condom than not have the condom."

School superintendent Beth Singer attempted to quell these objections by explaining that the kids are so young, they wouldn't know how or when to use a condom if taxpayer-financed counselors didn't teach them. Most likely the kids will want the free condoms to use as water balloons; to instill degeneracy at the youngest possible age, it's crucial that our public employees explain what they're really for.


Britain's independent ("Public") schools have nothing to apologise for

More than 20 years ago, a proud mother dropped her 11-year-old son at the gates of the independent school of which I was head. She had a top First in PPE from Oxford and was being retained as a consultant at a salary that made my eyes water. She was driving an ancient Vauxhall and there were non-designer holes in her non-designer jeans. She sidled up to me and said: "I don't really want the people I work with to know I send my son to a public school."

There is a culture in the UK which is ashamed of independent schools, highlighted by the departure of Vicky Tuck, the Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, to head the International School of Geneva. She gave as one of her reasons the perpetual pressure that puts head teachers on the defensive, the feeling that by running a private school you are doing something "slightly immoral".

Go back 150 years and this sense of shame might have been justified. The burgeoning Victorian upper middle class used private schools to buy social status, and as colleges that would allow their sons to graduate to being gentlemen. In the curriculum, the classics ruled all; as a result, the system offered a good education, but one that was simply not broad enough, so that we fell behind our European competitors in the teaching of maths and science.

There probably was less of a drive back then to create an outstanding state education system, because some of the movers and shakers could opt out (though this has been overstated). Indeed, in those days, the last thing independent schools wanted was social inclusivity. They sold themselves in part on their social exclusivity.

Yet that situation has now been reversed. In their desire for inclusion, independent schools embraced the Assisted Places scheme, and of their own volition have been ditching scholarships in favour of means-tested bursaries. A third of pupils receive fee assistance of one form or another, although some schools offer no bursaries and instead keep their fees down to the lowest possible level so that places are available to many thousands of parents who defy the public-school stereotype.

Many schools charge fees only by default – yet it is a measure of the negativity surrounding the sector that when, some years ago, independent schools collectively offered to educate state-sector pupils at exactly the same cost as at their state school (the balance to be made up by the independent school), this was summarily rejected.

So why should schools that have been described by objective international studies as the best in the world be apologetic? Independent schools should stop saying they are sorry and realise they have a lot to be proud of. Our only remaining natural resource is the intellectual capital of our children, and independent schools out-perform all others. It is telling that overseas students do not seem to share any of the shame some natives feel about independent schools: they flock to them, boosting the economy and often moving on to provide much-needed income for UK universities.

There is another point here, too. For the first time in very many years, independent schools are vital to the knowledge economy of the UK. More than a third of A* grades in GCSE chemistry, biology or physics are obtained from the 7 per cent of pupils who attend independent schools, as are a third of the A grades at A-level in maths, further maths and science, and 49 per cent of the A grades in modern languages. UK plc could not do without the pupils who attend independent schools.

There are other causes for pride. The independent sector has kept the flag flying for competitive and team sport. It blew the whistle when government tried to fix A-level results. It has been a voice of sanity when some of the more insane proposals for reform have been put forward, yet has been at the sharp edge of innovation in other areas.

And it could, and wants to, do much more. It could use its skill in attracting graduate scientists to teaching to provide a soft landing for them, employing such people for, say, half of the week but releasing them to teach in local maintained schools for the other half. In a successful pilot scheme, such a teacher was used to offer masterclasses for the state students their school had identified as gifted in science, but who did not have sufficient access to graduate teachers. The schools involved each paid the teacher for the time they use. The joy is that this does not run into the Somme-like mud of the selection debate. The children in the maintained sector schools remain in their comprehensive.

To remedy the situation, two cultural issues need to be addressed. The first is our tendency to adopt the politics of envy, to which the solution is to provide equal opportunity for everyone to attend an independent school. The second is the issue of selection. We expect Christian and Jew, Muslim and Hindu to live side by side. Are we really not grown-up enough to recognise that there is room in a good education system for both selective and non‑selective schools?

We need our children to be the best-educated in the world. It's time we let independent schools help in that aim, and recognised them as a jewel in our crown.


Australia: Teenager faces life in a wheelchair after bullying sparked suicide bid

And what's the response of the hateful NSW bureaucrats in charge of school safety? A new email address! No word that anything has happened to the bullies

EXTREME bullying has left a teenage boy in a wheelchair unable to speak or walk and taking food and liquids through a tube to his stomach. Dakoda-Lee Stainer, 14, suffered brain damage when deprived of oxygen for more than 20 minutes after attempting to take his own life.

The teen, now under around-the-clock care in priority disability housing, endured months of relentless attacks by bullies before reaching the point of despair. Friends said Dakoda had rocks thrown at him and was admitted to hospital for a head injury as the cruel bullying turned physical.

On the day he tried to end it all he had been accosted by the same gang of youths on the school bus. The teen, who attended Melville High School at Kempsey, on the North Coast, was found in a bedroom at home on September 4 last year - about 13 months after another 14-year-old, Alex Wildman, killed himself at Lismore because of violent run-ins with schoolmates.

Dakoda's family and friends agreed to speak about his plight in a bid to get authorities to take bullying more seriously and prevent further tragedies.

In the wake of the Wildman case, the Department of Education and Training said it would review the way in which counsellors were allocated to schools and trial a new email address in selected schools inviting people to report bullying.

Dakoda's mum Theresa said yesterday: "I can't imagine what those kids (bullies) would have put him through to get him to that state. "I don't know how these mongrels ate away at my boy's strength ... "

Theresa, now living on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, said her son was making progress, communicating with his eyes and by shaking. He was attempting to move his arms and legs. "He lost oxygen to the brain for at least 22 or 23 minutes," she said. "When we got to hospital it took them 12 minutes to restart his heart."


Monday, June 21, 2010

The relentless decay of real scholarship in American universities

Not many people will see Arkansas as a fortress against the barbarism that is threatening to bring this nation down. This kind of barbarism is often displayed by college students -- and not with old-fashioned Animal House hijinks, but by Obama zombies who celebrated in front of the White House by tauntingly singing the old Beatles "Good-bye" song and waving the Soviet flag.

Today's college students have also graduated to high-level anti-Semitism, inquisitions about fellow students' attitudes on such things as gay marriage, and a belief in confiscating private property to redistribute wealth. All this is done after childhoods spent being pampered and flattered while being put into little groups to discuss such problems as global warming -- after watching a former vice president narrate a film about the coming environmental apocalypse.

Very few people knew that the University of Arkansas WAS a holdout, maintaining hearty general education requirements for the past fifty years. ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) recently awarded the university a rare A on its report card on general education requirements. It praised the university for a healthy 66-hour general education requirement that included math, science, foreign languages, literature, and philosophy.

ACTA is not a fashionable group in academic circles. They provide donors and trustees information about what goes on behind the ivy-covered walls, where faculty, indoctrinated by the 1960s radicals, devise classes, determine requirements, and plot to keep out critics.

In May, ACTA president Anne Neal wrote two letters to the trustees and an editorial in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette deploring the dumbing down of the curriculum.

But according to John Ed Anthony, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the fact that a student at the University of Arkansas will be able to substitute Gender Studies for Introduction to Philosophy and graduate with only college algebra, eight hours in science (which could include "Chemistry in the Modern World"), no literature classes, and no foreign language does not mean that the curriculum is being dumbed down.

Anthony, in a letter to Neal, states that such changes are overdue because...the core curriculum has not changed in fifty years! He describes the university's ambition as twofold: "to bring the university's core curriculum in line with peer institutions across the nation, and to empower faculty at the departmental level to determine what their students need to be successful." The passage of Arkansas's Act 182, which makes it easier for students to transfer from community colleges, "expedited a process that was already underway and very much needed."

Chancellor G. David Gearhart, in his editorial published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in response to Neal's, echoed Anthony's call to "empower" faculty, saying, "Faculty must be the driving force on setting the new requirements."

That might explain why Intro to Gender Studies will count as a class to fulfill the six hours required in Fine Arts/Humanities, and why someone earning a bachelor of arts degree no longer is required to the take the sophomore-level philosophy class previously required. At some colleges, such classes in gender oppression are required as standalone classes or are the focus of other mandated classes, like "American Gender History."

The love of wisdom is being replaced by the love of grievances.

Of course, to the newly minted Ph.D.s in such fields, Intro to Gender Studies is more important than those old-fashioned subjects like philosophy, math, science, and foreign languages. They are carrying out Woodstock nation's poet-warriors' battle cry: "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Western civilization's got to go!"

The old subjects are deemed guilty of "Eurocentrism." They encourage linear thinking. They are remnants of the old patriarchy that values logic and skills. Capitalists think those abilities are worth much more than the circular, emotive (illogical) thinking used in gender studies. Philosophy, math, science, literature, and foreign languages do not encourage students to become social activists and community organizers. They encourage students to study the structure of language, learn the philosophical and literary heritage of the West, weigh evidence, solve problems, innovate, express ideas logically, and seek truth.

Gearhart's response to Neal's op-ed demonstrates the rampant institutional decay of higher education. He charged that ACTA's criteria for curriculum "lie outside generally accepted academic norms," noting that ACTA "issued less favorable letter grades of 'D' and 'F' to the following institutions: Vanderbilt, Harvard, University of California-Berkley, and the University of Virginia." He sniffed, "In light of Ms. Neal's column, it appears we are now in danger of joining the ranks of these institutions."

Then he offered, "If so, we are prepared to be judged by the company we keep."

The company the University of Arkansas will keep will be Henry Louis "Beer Summit" Gates at Harvard; Kelly Oliver, philosophy and women's studies professor at Vanderbilt, whose latest book deals with "animal studies"; Michael Mann, former professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia, now at the University of Pennsylvania, implicated in Climategate; and all those partaking in the proud tradition of radicalism at Berkley, from the "free [profanity] speech movement" in the 1960s to protests for continued largesse from taxpayers.

When students aren't even exposed to dialogues on justice and love or the Socratic method, how can they think in a truly "critical" way about "hope" and "change"? If the idea of evidence and truth is dispensed with in favor of perspective (such as that of women or any number of groups), how can students recognize the origins of "spreading the wealth"? Does anybody care if they don't know that there is no such language as "Austrian" or that a pop star president can't get a simple phrase right in the language he says Americans should be teaching their children? Or if the vice president talks about President Roosevelt addressing the American people on television? Doing a Google search doesn't help if you can't distinguish between sources, or if your grade depends on attitude, and not academics.

Chancellor Gearhart wrote, "We are committed to increasing the number of degree holders in the state of Arkansas."

Arkansas is in forty-ninth place in terms of percentage of citizens holding college degrees. And under a system of federal aid that follows bodies in classroom seats, it's to administrators' benefit to make it easy for students to enroll and graduate.

President Obama, in (of course) asking for more spending on education, recently announced his of goal making the U.S. the country with the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020. Gee, I wonder why.


Global warming book withdrawn

Millard Public Schools will stop using a children's book about global warming -- but only until the district can obtain copies with a factual error corrected.

A review committee, convened after parents complained, concluded that author Laurie David's book, "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," contained "a major factual error" in a graphic about rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

Mark Feldhausen, associate superintendent for educational services, this week sent a letter to parents who complained, including the wife of U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, outlining the committee's findings.

"Although the authors have pledged to correct the graph in subsequent editions, the committee recommends that this correction be made to all MPS-owned texts before using it with students in the future," Feldhausen wrote.

Corrected versions will continue to be used in Millard's sixth-grade language arts curriculum, he wrote.

However, the district will cease to use a companion video about global warming, narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, he wrote. The committee found the video "without merit" and recommended that it not be used. Robyn Terry, the congressman's wife, had described the video as a "political commercial."

Lee and Robyn Terry released a statement saying they were pleased with the decision and "impressed" by the district’s handling of the case. "We are pleased with their decision not to use the politically natured global warming video as a classroom instruction tool and that they have set a standard that information-based texts must be factually correct to be put in front of our children," they wrote.

A committee of five middle school parents, three teachers and one administrator met to determine whether the book and video served a proper purpose within the curriculum.

The book, new to the Millard curriculum this year, was part of "Plugged in to Non-Fiction," a collection of books on a variety of subjects. Parts of the book were required reading for sixth-graders in Millard reading and language-arts classes.

Three parents, including Robyn Terry, complained to the district. The Terrys’ 12-year-old son attended Beadle Middle School last year. Mrs. Terry said that the materials used in his class portrayed global warming as fact when scientists disagree.

In the video, DiCaprio attributes global warming to mankind’s "destructive addiction" to oil. He says "big corporations" and politicians gained too much money and power "on our addiction," making them "dangerously resistant to change."

In the letter to parents, Feldhausen said the committee recognized there are "multiple viewpoints" on global warming. The committee recommended that all teachers using the book "make students aware of both sides of the global warming theory," he said.


The Tories have a precious chance to save British schools from the state

The educational establishment has seen off previous reforms – but this time, the revolution could finally take hold , writes Matthew d'Ancona

In the past few days, we have heard much sound sense from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, about schools reform. But here is what the Prime Minister had to say, and it is worth quoting at length:

“No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA [local education authority] will change fundamentally. There will be relentless focus on failing schools to turn them round. Ofsted will continue to measure performance, albeit with a lighter touch. But otherwise the schools will be accountable not to government at the centre or locally, but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free.”

The PM continued: “Where parents are dissatisfied, they need a range of good schools to choose from; or where there is no such choice, [to be] able to take the remedy into their own hands. Where business, the voluntary sector, philanthropy, which in every other field is an increasing part of our national life, want to play a key role in education, and schools want them to, they can. Where local employers feel local schools aren’t meeting local skill needs, they can get involved. The system is being empowered to make change. The centre will provide the resources and enable local change-makers to work the change. We will set the framework and make the rules necessary for fairness. Where there is chronic failure, we will intervene. But the state’s role will be strategic; as the system evolves, its hand will be lifted, except to help where help is needed.”

Good stuff, isn’t it? Except that I am cheating. The Prime Minister who spoke those words was not David Cameron but Tony Blair, and he did so in October 2005, rather than June 2010. But a good idea is a good idea. The Coalition’s plans to enable parents, teachers and other groups to set up free schools, liberated from the dead hand of town-hall control, is a logical extension of the structural education reforms to which Blair (as opposed to his party) became converted all too late in his premiership. Ministers are happy to quote this speech as the ur-text for what they are now doing.

Beyond this ancestry, the free school plan, launched last Friday, is also a practical example of what Cameron means when he talks about the “Big Society”: an idea which achieved negligible traction with voters during the election campaign. As with most stories, political or otherwise, it is better to show than to tell. At the level of political rhetoric, the “Big Society” sounded much too abstract, too formless, too vague. In practice – when translated into specific policies – it is easy to grasp, and appeals to the fundamental human instinct to seek control over our destinies and our communities. The opportunity to set up a school may not animate every citizen: but it has already attracted interest from more than 700 groups. Those who say that the Cameroon campaign to fire up community activism is doomed are dead wrong.

The best book I have read for ages is Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working With Your Hands, an inquiry into the nature of manual work which has caused great excitement in America. Although the book is notionally about Crawford’s own decision to stop being a think-tank director and become a motorcycle mechanic, it is actually a profound exploration of modern education, work and capitalism. One of its many arresting conclusions is that legions of 21st-century white-collar employees who consider themselves “knowledge workers” are in fact little more than clerks, merely following rules and stripped of all discretion. In Crawford’s phrase, they are nothing more than cogs, subject to the “intellectual technology” imposed upon them by centralised bureaucracy.

I mention this book in this context both because I happen to know it is in Mr Gove’s in-tray, and because its analysis applies with horrible precision to our education system. Teachers have been incrementally stripped of the discretion that used to define them as professionals. Most schools are outposts of the town hall and local branches of the Department for Education before they are autonomous civic institutions. The Gove plan for free schools, inspired by similar policies in Sweden and the United States, completely recasts the role of the state in secondary education. No more command-and-control: central government will assess applications (so no state-funded madrassas, Jerry Falwell Academies, or Satanist Sixth Form Colleges), provide funding, and stand well back, intervening only in extremis.

In common with most good plans, this will not be easy to implement. Although Tuesday’s emergency Budget is unlikely to include any major decisions regarding school funding, the spending review later this year is another matter. The Treasury has already made it clear that other sectors of the education budget will need to be cut if the free schools programme is to be fully funded. “Efficiency gains”, the closure of quangos and the axing of redundant schemes will save some money, but nowhere near enough. If it means business about its free schools programme – and I am sure it does – the Cameron Government faces some very thorny decisions this year. The language of priorities, as Nye Bevan said, is the religion of socialism. It is also the reality of fiscal retrenchment.

Second, the free schools plan will be opposed by the education establishment with every fibre of its being. Already, the Anti Academies Alliance (whose patrons include Lord Hattersley, Tony Benn and Fiona Millar) is hard at work opposing the plan. The teaching unions will soon follow. So will the town halls. And we have been here before. In the early Nineties, John Patten, the Conservative education secretary, fought a lion-hearted campaign to enable schools to opt out of local authority control, keeping a totaliser of those that did so on his desk. Lord Patten could tell Mr Gove a tale or two about the lengths to which the education establishment will go to frighten parents and spread misinformation.

In particular, ministers and the New Schools Network (which will assist those seeking to set up free schools) must nail the lie that this is all about entrenching social and educational segregation. In fact, the opposite is true. The status quo is centralised segregation: that is, a multi-tiered system about which parents can do nothing, except by paying fees direct to a private school or the stealth fees of higher house prices near to good state schools. The free school programme gives parents and community groups the chance to take the initiative in the most radical sense.

No government can prosper simply by taking things away, even when a fiscal crisis gives it no option but to do so. Margaret Thatcher won elections because of what she offered: council house sales, shares in privatised utilities, an end to penal taxation. This week will be dominated by bleak news of cuts, and the price we must all pay for Labour’s recklessness. So Mr Gove’s invitation could not be more timely or reassuring: a reminder that there will be gain, as well as pain, in the transformative years ahead.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Detroit school board chief resigns amid obscenity complaint

Mathis is also illiterate -- Only in Detroit

Detroit's school board is refusing to reinstate its former president after he was accused of fondling himself in front of the district's superintendent. Board members gave a letter to Otis Mathis on Friday, saying his request for reinstatement was denied.

The 56-year-old resigned Thursday, the same day General Superintendent Teresa Gueyser filed her complaint. In a detailed letter to the board, she says Mathis repeatedly fondled himself using a handkerchief as they discussed school matters Wednesday.

The letter says she "asked him not to touch himself" on several occasions and he eventually apologized. Mathis declined comment Friday. In his resignation letter, he says he "made inappropriate actions."

Messages left Friday at Gueyser's office weren't returned.


Jewish, Muslim Tensions Rise at UC Irvine After Suspension of Muslim Group

Tensions are high at the University of California-Irvine after the school recommended suspending a Muslim student group for its role in the disruption of an Israeli ambassador's speech earlier this year.

Students at the university say Jews and Muslims have been accusing each other of discrimination and harassment, as both sides have embraced campus speakers seen as hostile to Israel or Islam. Now the proposed suspension of the Muslim Student Union for at least a year has made an already hostile situation worse.

The school revealed this week that it had recommended suspending the Muslim group after 11 students were arrested in February for repeatedly disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who was repeatedly interrupted and called "murderer" and "war criminal" by pro-Palestinian students as he gave a talk on the Middle East peace process.

The Muslim group is appealing the recommendation -- a process that is expected to be completed before the next school year begins.

The appeal comes after more than 60 faculty members at UC Irvine signed an open letter last month condemning what they said was an anti-Semitic atmosphere at the school. "We…are deeply disturbed about activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis," the letter read, citing incidents over the past few years that included "the painting of swastikas in university buildings and the Star of David depicted as akin to a swastika." "Some community members, students, and faculty indeed feel intimidated, and at times even unsafe," the letter read.

But a lawyer for the Muslim Student Union said any tensions on campus derive from a Jewish organization that is not connected to the college: the Jewish Federation Orange County. "A lot of the tension and friction is not on the campus," attorney and activist Reem Salahi said. "It's not divided between Jewish and Muslim organizations. There's more tension between Muslim students and these Jewish organizations pressuring the university."

She said Muslim students have been intimidated and harassed and have even received death threats in which they've been called "every type of superlative imagined."

In recent years, UC Irvine has been accused of fostering anti-Semitic activity as the MSU hosted pro-Palestinian speakers critical of Israel. In 2005, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights found that Muslim students had engaged in offensive behavior, but that their actions stemmed from opposition to the politics of Israel rather than to Jewish students themselves.

Three years later, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to the Education Department expressing concerns that the office decided not to further investigate charges that UC Irvine had failed to respond quickly and effectively to complaints by Jewish students of being repeatedly intimidated and harassed.

But now Muslim students find themselves on the defensive. The university on Monday released a letter from a student affairs disciplinary committee to a Muslim Student Union leader saying the group was found guilty of disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities and other violations of campus policy.

The committee recommended suspending the group for one year, placing it on disciplinary probation for an additional year and requiring the student organization to collectively complete 50 hours of community service, a move that would prevent the group from conducting organized campus events until at least the fall of 2011.

University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the committee's decision will be a binding recommendation to the campus' office of student affairs if the group's appeal does not succeed.

Lawhon said all the focus and attention paid to tensions between Jewish and Muslim students "has largely been generated by the outside community." "There's been a lot of attention on us by outsider groups for whatever reason for things that go on at every UC campus around the state," she said, adding that controversial speakers usually go to all the UC schools in the state. "The only time you hear about it is when they're at UC Irvine."

The Jewish Federation Orange County, which compelled the school to release the letter after filing a Freedom of Information Act, praised the school for its decision. "While we would have liked for the administration to have come to this conclusion more quickly, we are please that after due process, the MSU has finally been sanctioned," Shalom Elcott, president of the group, said in a written statement.

Elcott told that the MSU has been largely responsible for creating an anti-Semitic atmosphere on the campus by inviting speakers who equate Jews to Nazis and rally support for jihad, or holy war. "The MSU has been looking for a battle for a long time," he said, adding that his group is only trying to help bridge the differences between the two sides.

Salahi declined to say whether legal action is being planned in the event of an unsuccessful appeal. But she said students were "outraged" and "disappointed" with the university's decision. "It's unprecedented a university would ever do this," she said, adding that the suspension would "create a really dangerous precedent for shutting down dissent."


Boss of British education regulator given the boot

The education chief responsible for monitoring standards in schools is to be ousted from her post as part of a cull of advisers close to the old Labour regime. Christine Gilbert – the Chief Inspector of Schools, who is married to former Labour minister Tony McNulty – is to quit her £200,000-a-year job as head of Ofsted before the end of her term.

It means the couple will have to make dramatic changes to their envious lifestyle.

Just 18 months ago, before Mr McNulty was forced to resign from the Government over his expenses claims, they enjoyed a combined income of £300,000, chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer and thousands in expenses.

News of Ms Gilbert’s demise follows last week’s disclosure that the country’s most senior military officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, would step down early as chief of the defence staff. He had faced criticism over his handling of the Afghanistan campaign.

Ms Gilbert was due to stay on in the post until October next year but has been told she can leave at a time of her choosing within the next few months. The former headmistress and Labour council education boss, became the first woman to head Ofsted in October 2006. But her appointment led to accusations of cronyism because her husband was a Minister at the time.

Apart from her strong associations with Labour, it is unlikely that her views on education policy would have chimed with those of new Education Minister Michael Gove. Mr Gove has made clear his determination to drive up school standards by beefing up the inspection regime. Ofsted will also have a role in monitoring new ‘free’ state schools, which can be set up by groups of parents and teachers, and operate outside town hall control.

One Whitehall insider said last night: ‘It is felt that it is good time for new leadership at Ofsted. It will have vital new tasks to perform under the new Government and it is seen as important that it has the kind of leadership that can embrace fully this change.’

Mr McNulty, the former Labour MP for Harrow East, was seen as a loyal Blairite and was once a high-flyer in the New Labour ranks.

As well as a joint annual income of £300,000, the couple also had chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer. Ms Gilbert’s was provided by Ofsted while Mr McNulty had a ministerial car. But he was forced to resign as Employment Minister in March last year after The Mail on Sunday revealed that he had breached rules governing Commons’ second homes expenses.

Mr McNulty admitted claiming expenses on his second home while his parents were living in it but insisted he made ‘considerable’ use of the property, which was just eight miles away from his primary residence in Hammersmith, West London. Both properties are worth around £1.2million.

Mr McNulty was later forced to pay back almost £14,000 of taxpayers’ money and lost his seat to a Tory candidate in last month’s General Election. The couple are understood to still be living in the Hammersmith house, which records show is owned by Ms Gilbert.

Her style of leadership at Ofsted, which had a budget of around £230million in 2008/09 and employs 2,150 staff, has been relatively low-key compared to that of her predecessors, Chris Woodhead.

While the abrasive Mr Woodhead – the scourge of teachers and trendy teaching methods – was rarely out of the limelight, Ms Gilbert has virtually no media profile. Mr Woodhead said of her management style: ‘Ofsted has become much more mechanical and bureaucratic under her stewardship. ‘There is also less evidence Ofsted has been prepared to speak out in a way that might embarrass the Government, which is what it should be doing.’

Details of Ms Gilbert’s personal life are also sparse. She was educated at a convent school in London and at Reading University before training to become a teacher. She later became headmistress of a school in Harrow, North London, when she was 32 before becoming director of education in the borough. She moved across London to become head of Tower Hamlets Educational Services in 1997, where she was credited with raising school standards, later becoming chief executive of the council.

Ms Gilbert was awarded a CBE for services to education in the New Year’s honours list in 2006.

A spokesman for Ofsted said: ‘We are not commenting on rumour and speculation.’


Private school fees soaring in Australia too

As discipline in government schools continues to deteriorate, the demand for private schools rises

CASH-strapped parents are paying $7 billion more for school fees and education costs than five years ago, putting unprecedented pressure on the household budget.

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday showed parents paid a staggering $22 billion in education expenses in the past 12 months as private school fees surged to unseen levels due to increased demand for schooling.

That total spend is almost a 50 per cent increase on what parents were paying in school fees in 2005, while inflation over the same period has only risen by a moderate 9 per cent.

The biggest increase was in higher education, where fees and costs surged from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion, mostly in the last 12 months.

Commsec economist Savanth Sebastian said the massive hikes were a direct result of rising populations in a nation that is simply not building enough schools.

Where healthcare services and childcare providers - sectors also feeling the strain of population growth - maintained only minimal growth in fees and costs, schools have been found guilty of blatantly gouging parents.

Given the growing importance parents are placing on education, according to Mr Sebastian, elite private schools and universities know their classrooms will be full whatever price they demand.

"The fact population is growing at the fastest rate in 40 years is adding to the strain on the education system, which warrants the increase in fees because it is a supply and demand issue," he said.

"We have had rising wealth over the past five years, given the commodity boom and improvement in sharemarkets that may have propelled more parents into private eduction.

"But the growth in education fees seems excessive."

Despite a backlash from parents and a Federal Government which was injecting $28 billion into education, elite schools pushed ahead with a 6 per cent increase in fees at the start of the 2010 school year.

The largest fee hike this year was posted by Brisbane Girls' Grammar and East Brisbane's Anglican Church Grammar School which locked in rises of more than 8 per cent.

Australia's most expensive school, Geelong Grammar, lifted its fees 5.5 per cent to $27,700 per student, a step ahead of Sydney's Kings School which increased fees by the same amount to $24,730.