Saturday, October 23, 2010

Schrecker and Me at Brandeis

By David Horowitz

I spoke last night a Brandeis University, as usual under the auspices of College Republicans and with no institutional or faculty sponsorship. As fate would have it, there were two other events with speakers that evening, one an anti-Israel activist named Hedy Epstein, who was sponsored by the Peace, Conflict Resolution and Co-existence Department, and the other a radical professor from Yeshiva University, named Ellen Schrecker. Schrecker, who in the past has gone out of her way to attack me for objecting to the injection of political agendas into academic classrooms, was speaking about her new book, The Lost Soul of Higher Education, which is a defense of indoctrination (the “lost soul” in the title refers to the alleged “corporatization” of the university and its interests). While my talk was a faculty orphan, Schrecker’s was sponsored by the following Brandeis departments: Education, History, Women’s and Gender Studies, Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Sociology, Anthropology, English, Legal Studies and Journalism.

This little disparity tells you all you really need to know about the intellectual orientation of academic faculties and their disrespect for conservative students. For the failure of any academic department at Brandeis to sponsor the talk of a well-known university critic who has written five books presenting a conservative view response to authors like Schrecker was not an oversight. My student hosts had approached these or similar departments and asked them to sponsor my talk and been rebuffed. Nor is this an unusual occurrence. I have spoken at roughy 400 universities in the last 20 years and at only two have I been invited by members of the faculty, and only one by a department. This is one – and only one -- of the reasons it grieves me to see conservatives refer to their antagonists, whose deepest passions are censorious and totalitarian as “liberals.”

As a matter of fact, I would have welcomed the opportunity to share a platform with Professor Schrecker, who despite her intolerant attitudes and collectivist prejudices sits on the academic freedom committee of the American Association of University Professors. This would have been a special pleasure because her new book confirms everything I have written or said about the contemporary university, although when I do, I am condemned by Shrecker and her colleagues as a liar who has made up the facts and a witch-hunter –- “worse than McCarthy,” as a story by Schrecker described me on the cover of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For nearly a decade it has been my claim, which I have documented in four books -- The Professors, Indoctrination U., One Party Classroom and the recently published Reforming Our Universities -- that entire academic fields, newly created in the post-1960s era, are not in fact academic but are political parties, now entrenched in our universities, whose mission is the indoctrination and recruitment of students to left-wing political agendas. I have identified these fields as Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Peace Studies, Cultural Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, and similar inter-discipinary subjects, and have deplored how they have spread their malign influence into other academic areas including all the Brandeis departments that chose to sponsor Schrecker’s talk and withhold support from mine.

And here is how Ellen Schrecker in her book describes the creation of the two new academic fields that pioneered the debasement of the university curriculum: “What women’s studies did have in common with African American studies, however, was its connection to a major social movement. The field grew directly out of second-wave feminism; it was, one scholar noted, ‘the educational arm of the women’s liberation movement.’ As such, it had a strong political agenda, one that was readily embraced by its early practitioners, former New Left activists who viewed their teaching and research as part of the broader feminist struggle against the patriarchal oppression of women. ‘From the beginning,’ historian Marilyn Boxer explained, ‘the goal of women’s studies was not merely to study women’s position in the world but to change it.’ There was thus a ‘continuing commitment …. to advocacy – that is to political action….”

This, in a nutshell, is the Orwellian universe we now inhabit, where totalitarians and character assassins are referred to as “liberals” and where defenders of political indoctrination sit on academic freedom committees and call their critics “McCarthyites.”


British Muslim teacher banned for life for being useless

After he had been teaching for 13 years!

A teacher who is judged to be incapable of ever improving his work has become the first to be banned for life from the classroom due to incompetence. Nisar Ahmed will never reach 'requisite standards' of teaching and cannot work in state schools again, a panel ruled.

The General Teaching Council for England found the 46-year-old guilty of serious professional incompetence and said there was a risk that pupils would be seriously disadvantaged if he was ever allowed to return to lessons.

Mr Ahmed was head of business studies at the John O'Gaunt Community Technology College in Hungerford, Berkshire, from September 2007 to January 2009. He had taught for a total of 13 years at schools across the South-East. His management of lessons was 'invariably' below standard, the GTC disciplinary panel was told.

The school, which has more than 450 pupils, aged 11 to 18, gave Mr Ahmed 'extensive formal and informal' support for more than a year but he failed to improve. Just 13 teachers have been banned from the profession for fixed periods for incompetence since 2000. Mr Ahmed is the first to receive a prohibition order without time limit.

His organisation of classes was deemed 'persistently poor', with class registers regularly left uncompleted and student work folders 'poorly managed' and sometimes left at home or in his car when they were needed in lessons.

Marking was persistently not done or delayed and feedback to pupils was inadequate, GTC committee chair Rosalind Burford said. She added: 'You regularly failed to undertake proper lesson plans. This resulted in a lack of pace and challenge in your lessons and a lack of clear learning objectives.'

These 'fundamental' failings had a significantly adverse effect on his students, she said, adding: 'We could not be satisfied that you have an appropriate level of insight into your shortcomings. 'Thus, we felt you posed a significant risk of repeating your actions.'

Two years ago, GTC chief executive Keith Bartley said there could be as many as 17,000 'substandard' members of staff among the 500,000 registered teachers in the UK. The small number banned for incompetence will spark fears these teachers are simply being recycled.

Mr Ahmed had been placed under a formal capability process in December 2008. He resigned shortly after learning his case would be considered by governors.

Michael Wheale, the school's former headteacher who gave evidence at the hearing, was unavailable for comment. Its current head Neil Spurdell said: 'Under a capability process, teachers do have the opportunity to improve against certain targets and many do. 'The bottom line is you can't have pupils disadvantaged by inadequate teaching. They only have one chance at this.'

Last night Mr Ahmed, who lives in Reading with his wife and their two children, said he would be appealing the GTC decision. He added: 'They have made a scapegoat out of me. I'm deeply unhappy about it and don't deserve to be the first to be struck off for life.'


One in four British employers say exam system doesn't prepare students for work

One in four employers believe the national examinations system is not doing a good job and should be reformed, according to a study. They lack confidence in the reliability of GCSEs and A-levels and are increasingly bringing in their own tests to measure applicants' ability.

Exams watchdog Ofqual surveyed 210 employers, 314 A-level teachers and 358 students to gain their opinions about exam reliability. It found that 23 per cent of employers think the exam system is not up to scratch and needs to be reformed, 48 per cent believed it was doing a good job but wanted improvement and only 18 per cent had no reservations.

Just 14 per cent of employers admit to turning to candidates' exam results when filling jobs. However 65 per cent 'sometimes' use their own tests to assess their skills. Overall, 61 per cent of employers say they are not confident in the exams system, along with six in ten students (58 per cent) and nearly four in ten (38 per cent) teachers.

The report said: 'It would be expected that teachers would be more confident in the examinations system than students and employers as they use the system more than students and employers and are more familiar with the system.'

About 89 per cent of teachers felt their pupils got the grades they deserved, compared to 66 per cent of employers. Only 17 per cent of students believed they got the correct grades.

The survey also shows that significant numbers of those questioned believe that differing proportions of candidates are getting the wrong grade at GCSE, depending on the subject.

Maths and science were perceived to have fewer 'grade misclassifications' than English, where over a third of employers thought at least 30 per cent of candidates had unreflective grades in this subject.

Some 22 per cent of employers believed that more than half of pupils had the wrong grade in English.

The publication of the report comes as Ofqual has set out details of its inquiry into the incomplete marking of Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) GCSE, AS-level and A-level papers this summer.

This resulted in 615 pupils across the country receiving lower grades than they should have. The regulator will identify 'precisely what went wrong' with initial findings expected by mid-December.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Boston public schools emptying out -- as pupils flee to charters or the suburbs

Boston school officials — under pressure by financial watchdogs to cut operating costs but hesitant to close schools — have not made public the full number of empty classroom seats across the city.

Their most recent tally of 5,758 empty seats counts only the excess capacity in classrooms staffed by teachers, officials said in interviews this week. It does not account for the surplus space that exists in no-longer-used classrooms or those that have been converted into storage and meeting rooms as student enrollment has dropped.

The accounting is more than an academic exercise for a district that recently proposed vacating four buildings at the school year’s end. The more empty seats there are, the more money it could be wasting on unneeded infrastructure as it confronts a potential $60 million shortfall next year, fiscal watchdogs say. The higher the number of empty seats, the more pressure leaders will be under to close more schools — a politically difficult process that riles parents, teachers, and students.

Over the past decade, enrollment has declined by nearly 8,000 students to 55,371 last fall, according to the most recent state tally. Yet during that time, the school district has opened three new large schools and has only vacated four small buildings, potentially leaving it with more square footage than when the decade began.

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson has long been hesitant about closing schools, concerned that the district may need the space in the future even though enrollment is expected to decline further into the foreseeable future as more independently run public charter schools open.

Michael Goar, the school district’s deputy superintendent, said yesterday that the district is developing its strategy to balance next year’s school budget and hoped the number of school closures was on target. “It’s very difficult for students, parents, and staff,’’ Goar said of the school closures, which have sparked protests. “I’m hoping we got it right and I’m hoping we don’t have to do another closure next year.’’

School officials declined yesterday to fulfill a Globe request made a week ago for an estimate of the district’s overall capacity that would encompass empty classrooms, saying they needed more time to refine internal numbers.

The variation in how much space is available in a building can be striking in some instances when data comes to light.

A case in point is the Dearborn Middle School, located in a nearly 100-year-old building in Roxbury.

In June, as part of a districtwide report on building use, school officials told the City Council that 79 percent of the 365 seats at the Dearborn were occupied by students, while the rest were empty.

But school officials told the Massachusetts School Building Authority last November, in an application seeking millions of dollars for a massive renovation of the Dearborn, that the building could accommodate 675 students and only 41 percent of the building was being utilized.


Fairfax County Renews Lease for Saudi Wahhabi School

No separation of Mosque and State!

Last night, Virginia’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to extend its lease of county property to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia for the Islamic Saudi Academy. It did so despite new evidence that this Wahhabi school is poised to lose its academic accreditation, according to the Atlanta-based international accrediting giant AdvancEd.

The vote took place after an hour and a half hearing (unofficially summarized here and officially videotaped here) that aired citizens’ concerns about Wahhabism being taught at the school. Until two years ago, it had been documented that ISA texts taught that it is permissible or even required to kill those who leave Islam (which includes the majority of Muslims who reject Saudi Wahhabi doctrine), polytheists (which includes Shiite Muslims), Jews, homosexuals, and others, and that militant jihad to spread the faith is a sacred duty, as described here.

What it now teaches in Islamic Studies no independent observer knows for sure. I was one of the witnesses urging that the county not risk abetting Saudi Arabia’s well-known practice of exporting extremism by renewing the county lease, and I cited new information, namely a letter and an accompanying report I received from the agency that previously accredited ISA (both are posted here).

The letter from ISA’s accrediting agency states that it currently finds ISA “in violation” of five of the agency’ seven standards and that because of this it could not recommend ISA for accreditation status in its assessment earlier this year. It plans to review the school again next spring to see if its demands have been met.

AdvancED, the parent company of ISA’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, sent a special review team to the school last December. On that occasion, unlike its prior visit almost five years ago, the review team included two fluent Arabic speakers, and one who has previously taught Islamic theology at the university level. This was critical, since the religious textbooks in question are written in Arabic.

In its letter of February 9, 2010, AdvancED’s general counsel wrote:

Upon review of material provided by the Islamic Saudi Academy and other agencies, SACS CASI, and its parent organization, AdvancEd, identified the following areas of concern about the school: course material, course curriculum in compliance with standards and non-discrimination policies, teacher qualifications, governance issues, and community and stakeholder involvement. Specifically, the institution appeared to be in violation of the following AdvancED Accreditation Standards:

Standard 1: Vision and Purpose

Standard 2: Governance and Leadership

Standard 3: Teaching and Learning

Standard 6: Stakeholder Communication and Relationships

Standard 7: Commitment to Continuous Improvement

The two standards it managed to meet relate to adequate resources — hardly surprising, since the school is supported by the Saudi government.

Specifically regarding the Islamic Studies curriculum, the review team required the academy to take the following action before next spring: “As with other program areas of the school, [Islamic Studies] curriculum should be in a written format and placed on a regular schedule for review and revision.” In other words, part of this curriculum was not provided, at least not in written, verifiable form, to the Special Review Team. This is in fact the modus operandi of the secretive Saudi academy’s Islamic Studies department.

Other relevant problems encountered by the Special Review Team included:

* “During the Special Review Team’s [three day] visit, the Director General of the school was not available for interview and was not on campus. The Director General did not contact the Special Review team or provide information to them through written or other media.”

* “While the Special Review Team requested interviews with the Director General and the complete Board of Directors, only those members who were also part of the school leadership were made available for interview.”

* Of the requested information for the Special Review Team, “much of the data and information was not readily available or current.”

* “School leadership employed legal counsel to be on site during the teacher interviews.”

* “The Special Review Team requested samples of student writing, which were submitted after screening by the principal and Director of Education.”

In view of all this, the accrediting agency concluded that “they represent a lack of transparency in the operation and leadership of the school.”

AdvancED states: “This lack of transparency does little to quell external stakeholder criticism or suspicion of the school’s curriculum.” This suspicion, it should be noted, was heightened last year when one of the academy’s valedictorians was sentenced to life imprisonment by a U.S. Court of Appeals for supporting al-Qaeda and conspiring to assassinate the president of the United States.

The upshot is that the Fairfax County board of supervisors doesn’t know or care if the Royal Saudi Embassy doing business as the Islamic Saudi Academy, as the lease calls its tenant, is still teaching jihad on county-owned property.


State v private: The A-level gulf widens with British fee-paying students now three times more likely to get straight As

As discipline has collapsed in State schools

Teenagers from private schools are three times more likely to gain straight As at A-level compared with pupils in the state system, figures reveal. Nearly a third of independent school students achieved three or more A* or A grades this summer compared with one in ten state pupils.

Private schools produced more pupils with these grades at A-level than every comprehensive put together – despite educating just 7 per cent of pupils, according to statistics from the Department for Education.

Almost 12,000 pupils at fee-paying schools achieved three A grades this summer – against 10,802 at comprehensives. Only 8 per cent of pupils in comprehensives gained three As, compared with 27 per cent in selective state grammars and 31.4 per cent in the independent sector. The figure for all state schools was 10.6 per cent.

The latest statistics show that the gap between private and state school pupils doubled under the previous Labour government.

In 1996/7, 5.4 per cent of state pupils gained three As at A-level, compared to 15.6 per cent of independent school students – a 10.2 percentage point gap. By 2009/10, the gap had widened to 20.8 percentage points.

The Coalition said it was ‘scandalous’ that the gulf has been allowed to double despite the billions poured into the education system by Labour....

The fall came after an overhaul of A-levels by the Labour government in a move designed to introduce tougher, essay-style questions in exams and allow students to study fewer modules in more depth.

The A* grade was also awarded for the first time this summer as part of sweeping changes made to the exams. One in 12 entries was awarded the top grade, higher than predicted.

At A and A* grade, boys slightly outperformed their female classmates for the first time, with 12.5 per cent of boys gaining at least three top grades, compared to 12.4 per cent of girls.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘It’s tragic that children are three times more likely to secure top A-level grades if their parents can afford to go private. ‘And it’s a scandal for all the billions spent and all the “education, education, education” rhetoric, the gap between the maintained and independent sector actually doubled under Labour.’


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Almost two-thirds of students entering Rhode Island Community College not ready for college work

Many only at grade school level. When are they going to realize that Leftist educational theories are all wrong?

Nearly two-thirds of the graduates of Rhode Island’s high schools who enroll at the Community College of Rhode Island need to take remedial classes when they get there — a troubling reflection of the state’s public school system and a burden for its only community college.

“What it all comes down to is: Are students ready for the rigors of college or whatever they want to do after high school?” said CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale, who is also acting higher education commissioner. “Are they prepared? And we know from our numbers, they are not.”

The problem is widespread, affecting both urban and suburban districts, and even some private schools, according to a recent report commissioned by the state Board of Governors for Higher Education. The report shows that about 60 percent of students who graduated from public and private schools in 2005 and 2006 who enrolled at CCRI needed remediation in one or more areas: reading, writing or math. The percentage was slightly higher in 2007, with nearly 63 percent requiring remedial classes, also called “developmental” classes.

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who oversees K-12 education, said people often remind her that not all students want to go to college, a fact she acknowledges as true.

“But there are two important points to make. One, we need more college-educated adults here in Rhode Island, so that number needs to go up,” Gist said. “And two, even if they don’t go to college, they need a level of skills to be successful in life.… And the skills that students need to be successful at the community college level are the same skills they need to be successful in the work world.”

Gist and Di Pasquale say the K-12 and higher education systems must work together to reduce the need for remediation.

For at least seven years, the number of students at CCRI who need remedial classes has not decreased, despite a series of changes initiated in 2003 by the state Department of Education designed to make academic standards more rigorous and provide more support for students.

CCRI is the only public college in Rhode Island that requires all incoming students to take standardized placement exams in reading, writing and math before they begin classes. In 2007, 2,082 high school graduates from the Class of 2007 enrolled at CCRI, and 1,304 of them needed one or more remedial classes.

Di Pasquale said similar numbers of recent high school graduates have needed remediation in 2008, 2009 and 2010, even though those students had to reach higher expectations to graduate than previous classes, including completing a portfolio or senior project and taking more credits.

“I am surprised because we clearly thought we would see some steady improvement,” Di Pasquale said. “But the numbers have been holding steady.”

The report is another piece of evidence that far too many students are still graduating from high school unable to read, write and compute well enough to perform college-level work, Gist says.

Rhode Island reflects the national average. About 60 percent of students who enter community college around the country need to take remedial courses, according to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University.

The consequences are severe for CCRI, which is straining to address the growing need for remedial classes amid deep budget cuts. More than 4,000 CCRI students are taking remedial classes this fall, and the college had to turn away hundreds more because the college could not offer enough sections, Di Pasquale said.

Research shows that students who require remedial classes are most at risk for dropping out. “It’s discouraging, because if you come in reading at a sixth- or seventh-grade level, you have a long way to go before you can take a college-level course,” Di Pasquale said.


Cincinnati school pushing teens to vote Democrat

Three van loads of Hughes High students were taken last week – during school hours – to vote and given sample ballots only for Democratic candidates and then taken for ice cream, a Monday lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was made by Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Republican candidate for Hamilton County auditor, and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes against Cincinnati Public Schools. “They plan to bring four more high schools (to vote) this week,” Christopher Finney, COAST attorney, said Monday after filing the suit.

It seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent school officials from participating or helping students participate in partisan politics during school hours or with school property or employees involved.

But the school district’s lawyer denies any school connection. “No CPS personnel engaged in the promotion of candidates or any political party,” CPS attorney Mark Stepaniak noted in a written release. CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh said taking students on school time to vote has been done before. “It has to be scrupulously nonpartisan,” Walsh said. Stepaniak said church vans were volunteered to drive students to vote.

The suit alleges three van loads of Hughes High students arrived at the Downtown Board of Elections offices at 1 p.m. Wednesday, supervised by a school employee. School lets out at 3:15 p.m.

When they got out of the vans, the students, the suit alleges, also were accompanied by adults who appeared to be campaign workers or supporters for U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, the congressman being challenged this fall by Steve Chabot. When the students got out of the vans, the suit alleges they were given sample ballots containing only Democratic candidates.

“We want these kids to vote,” Finney said. “I’m not sure them being bussed during the school day is a good thing, but that’s not the thrust of the suit. “If they had fair sample ballots or no sample ballots it would be different.”

The suit alleges those actions violated a 2002 agreement between CPS and COAST where the school agreed it wouldn’t allow school property or employees to be used for “advocating the election or defeat of candidates for public office.”


Let’s end the bog standard in British education

Towards the end of the 19th century and increasingly into the 20th and 21st, politicians and intellectuals became convinced by the idea that they could run the country through central planning than the individual decisions of each and every person acting in their own interest. In this climate of control they usurped and marginalised private schooling, planning centrally what had previously occurred spontaneously. In time the “bog standard comprehensive” came to be the model for all but the richest.

Tony Blair used the term “bog standard comprehensive” in a conference speech, which was coined by the now repentant Peter Hyman. Perhaps it is discourteous to the many talented professionals working in the toughest schools, but its popular usage attests to the fact that it captures the essence of the state we’re in. The “bog” evokes images of stagnation – and this is exactly what has happened under a system directed centrally by the government. While freer industries have thrived in conditions of competition and innovation, centrally planned schooling has languished behind.

Schooling is long overdue for a shakeup to release the talents of the students currently stuck in the quagmire. As an industry, teaching methods are firmly entrenched in the past. For example, most children don’t learn to speak a language despite spending their lives sitting for hundreds of hours in a classroom attempting to do so. Even those with top grades can’t hold a basic conversation. As the language expert Paul Noble points out: “Students realise that even if they do get a GCSE in French, they still won't be able to speak the language”. In contrast, private companies guarantee that business people will learn more than this in a couple days.

This is not a call for another revision of the national curriculum and a new national strategy to push all children into intensive language lessons. This would entirely miss the point. Instead we need to free schools, and the first way this could be done is to allow them to run for a profit. As with any service industry, experimentation would become the norm and best practice would be copied where appropriate. Education companies abroad are ready to invest, while there are many companies in the UK currently teaching adults various skills that would be able to add immense value to teaching children. Without this change, most will be left mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog standard education.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obama signs education initiative for Hispanic children

Two weeks before elections in which Democrats in several states are nervous that depressed turnout by Latino voters could cost them their jobs, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday to improve educational opportunities for Hispanic children.

Obama's order appeared to be, at least in part, a bid to rally Latinos behind Democrats and him this election season. Many Latinos traditionally back Democrats. Their votes could be of particular consequence in close contests this year in Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington state.

A survey that the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center released this month found that education, jobs and health care rank as the top issues for registered Latino voters. Immigration came in fifth, behind federal budget deficits.

The order Obama signed renews the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The program, an effort to determine the causes of the achievement gap between Hispanic students and their peers and to work to address them, first began under President George H.W. Bush.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the elections had nothing to do with the executive order. "It's the right thing to do, not because of the political calendar," Gibbs said.

Meanwhile, a battle for Hispanic votes in Nevada grew more heated as a Republican TV commercial urging Latinos not to vote was removed from the airwaves Tuesday amid an outcry from Democrats that it was a dirty trick against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hotly contested race against Republican Sharron Angle. Reid has fiercely courted the Hispanic vote in the contest against Angle, who supports strict immigration policies.

"Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message," the ad's narrator says in Spanish. The Republican group Latinos for Reform had planned to run the commercials in Nevada, Florida, California, Texas and Colorado through the Nov. 2 election.


University funding deja vu

Comment on the proposed British upheaval by Jan Boucek

Back in the early 1970s, Canada’s universities were in turmoil from plans to sharply increase tuition fees due surging demand for places and escalating costs to taxpayers.

It all sounds so familiar today. Much of the argument then was similar to that of the UK today – who should attend university, who should pay, what should universities charge, what is the role of the state?

Following Lord Browne’s report last week, there’s some indication that part of the debate may be near a settlement. Although nothing is yet formalised, it seems that UK universities will be able to offer whatever courses they choose at near market-clearing prices. Debate has shifted from the public funding of universities themselves to funding the students directly. No doubt the UK government will remain a big partner to the universities, but the overall structure of academia has moved closer to the Canadian model, if not the full American one.

Back in the 1970s, the fundamental economics of a university education were the same as now – is a university education a consumption good or an investment good?

If the former, then there’s little justification for taxpayer assistance to the consumers of a university education. If a pure consumption good, taxpayers may just as well fund tickets for Premier league football matches. If, on the other hand, a university education is a pure investment good whereby the student increases his or her future income, then again there’s little justification for taxpayer funding.

However, the debate isn’t being framed like that. Instead, positive externalities – social justice, fairness, national productivity and the like - are cited for continued taxpayer funding. Of course, positive externalities are in the eye of the beholder: the Sky Sports subscriber may prefer the externalities of Wayne Rooney scoring a goal for England (if only!) to those of an archaeologist deciphering the writing on a Babylonian vase.

In 1973, an academic study tried to measure the investment component of students’ decision-making process. It found very little evidence that students took any notice of their future earnings when selecting their course of studies. As a denizen then of the various student lounges and bars, I can’t recall any discussion about education as an investment decision. We were too busy having fun, with taxpayers footing the bill.

The study concluded that educational decisions taken by students were driven more by non-investment factors – parental and peer pressure, postponing the dreaded time of actually working for a living, the pleasures of a student lifestyle. As long as the money rained freely from above, there was no need to consider payback time.

UK students currently don’t pay anywhere close to the full cost of their education. As the burden of funding shifts ever more to the student, expect their decisions to become more investment based.

That 1973 undergraduate thesis was under the tutelage of the late Edwin West, an old friend of the ASI, and its author was – me. Plus ça change!


Australia: Results from "stimulus"-driven school-building vary wildly in two nearby schools

THEY are both in the same electorate, both have about the same number of students and both have been given $3 million to spend under the Building the Education Revolution.

But the startling difference between what Mount Crosby and Moggill state schools can afford to build under BER has sparked further outrage over the controversial program, which continues to be dogged by claims of wastage.

At Mount Crosby State School, the centre of one of 21 complaints lodged in Queensland against BER, $3 million is not enough to put four walls around an 831sq m hall and to add a 273sq m library and resource centre to the school's existing 111sq m library.

But Moggill State School, which fought to have its own project manager and won, is building a hall of almost 1500sq m and a library and 458sq m resource centre for the same price.

Alarmed by the differences, Moggill State School P&C Association president Scott Meehan says schools that are still to build under BER should be allowed to choose their own project manager, with the rush to roll out the stimulus program no longer needed because the economy had improved.

"DETA (the Department of Education and Training) is administering our project and Mount Crosby – they know what sort of value for money we got for ours," he said. "How could they be comfortable with the value for money that Mount Crosby is getting?" He said Moggill had ended up expanding its hall by another 200sq m when the P&C realised they had change left from the $3 million.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the comparison between Moggill and Mount Crosby showed taxpayers were footing an enormous bill for inadequate facilities at some schools.

He said all schools should be able to choose their own project and construction managers. "This is one of the most outrageous examples of children's education being robbed by incompetent money-wasting administration that has failed to build what some of these very big schools so desperately needed and provided them with facilities which are clearly not able to meet their needs," Dr Flegg said.

But Education Queensland acting deputy director-general Graham Atkins says it is "unfair" to compare BER projects. "No two BER building projects are the same, each requiring a suite of works that must be viewed in the context of the site requirements, input from the community and other factors," Mr Atkins said.

"The site at Mount Crosby State School has required landfill, retaining walls, piered footings and extensive site services due to the site being less accessible and sloping, whereas the Moggill State School site is very flat."

He said it was the school's decision to build a partially enclosed hall rather than a smaller one. "Value for money has been confirmed by an independent audit quantity surveyor at both Moggill State School and Mount Crosby State School," Mr Atkins said.

The discrepancy comes as Queensland's rollout of BER is set to come under renewed scrutiny with the release of finalised investigations over the next month into complaints about value for money.

A recent federal investigation found $1 billion had been wasted in the rush to roll out the recession-busting school program across the country.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Americans split over public education for illegal immigrants, poll shows

Maybe it's the recession. Maybe it's the fight over Arizona's tough new law to step up apprehension of illegal immigrants or the headline news about border violence. For whatever reason, Americans are in no mood to coddle people who are in the United States illegally, even if they are hardworking and peaceable.

Even K-12 education for children brought to the US under the radar by their parents – a benefit that the US Supreme Court has said states cannot withhold – does not enjoy majority backing. Support for educating such children stands at 47 percent, compared with 49 percent who oppose it.

The results may hearten two gubernatorial hopefuls who have urged challenging the relevant 1982 high court ruling: Republican Terry Branstad in Iowa and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado. Other GOP candidates for governor have said they would push for tough laws like Arizona's, but Mr. Branstad and Mr. Tancredo alone appear ready to test the Supreme Court education ruling that discrimination based on immigration status serves "no compelling state interest."

Regionally, support for educating young illegal immigrants is weakest in the West, which has absorbed the lion's share of newcomers in the past generation. Forty-two percent of Westerners support public schooling for such children, compared with 47 percent in the South, 50 percent in the Midwest, and 52 percent in the Northeast. For illegal immigrants, the findings in the Monitor/TIPP poll get worse:

* One in 4 respondents says the immigrants should be eligible for food stamps and Medicaid (health care for the poor).

* Eighteen percent are willing for illegal immigrants to receive access to public housing. That issue came to the fore with news reports that President Obama's aunt from Kenya, who stayed in the US illegally from 2004 until gaining asylum this year, lived during that time in Boston public housing.

* Support for allowing undocumented college students to qualify for federal or state education grants is just shy of 18 percent.

Legislation was recently introduced in the Senate to tighten borders, crack down on employers of illegal immigrants, and provide an eventual path to citizenship to undocumented workers who are otherwise law-abiding. Past attempts to bring similar bills to the Senate floor have failed, and the new bill is not expected to fare any better in what remains of the current Congress.

The Monitor/TIPP poll was conducted Sept. 7-12 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.


Useless Arts and Humanities degrees in Britain

Students taking arts and humanities degrees could be worse off than those who leave school or college at 18, according to research. Male graduates with poor degree grades in the subjects can expect to earn less over their lifetime than those entering the workplace with A-levels, it was disclosed.

The study – the largest of its kind so far – found a strong overall wage "premium" attached to a university education. Average debts accumulated while studying were usually outweighed by a sharp hike in lifetime earnings, researchers said.

Ministers insist that school leavers can earn an average of £100,000 more by going on to higher education. But researchers found significant differences depending on gender, degree grade and course subject. Female graduates earned far more than those leaving school or college at 18, irrespective of their degree, it was claimed.

The study, by Lancaster and Kent universities, said “huge negative effects” were associated with arts, humanities and social science courses taken by men, particularly if they fail to gain at least a 2:1 degree.

The conclusions come just days after the publication of a major report into the future of higher education. Lord Browne, the former head of BP, recommended the abolition of the existing cap on fees combined with a dramatic cut in direct state support for degree courses. It suggested universities would be required to more than double fees – from £3,290 to £7,000 – to maintain current funding levels.

But the latest report suggested a degree still represented a worthwhile investment. Prof Ian Walker, from Lancaster University’s Management School, said: "The strong message that comes out of this research is that even a large rise in tuition fees makes little difference to the quality of the investment.

“Those subjects that offer high returns – law, economics [and] management for men, and all subjects for women – will continue to do so. Those subjects that do not – especially other social sciences, arts and humanities for men – will continue to offer poor returns."

Researchers compared the fortunes of around 80,000 people – graduates and those who left school or college after their A-levels – between 1997 and 2009. It found a large earnings premium for women, regardless of their subject or degree grade. The report took account of student debts and higher tax returns.

Average woman with a degree in the arts, humanities or social sciences, as well as “combined” subjects, could expect to earn £25,000 more per year on average, said the report. This was equivalent to some £1m more over their working life.

But the report found the premium for a man could be less. Men leaving school with A-levels earned an average of £35,000 a year, according to the study.

Those taking law, economics or management degrees could expect to earn an additional £30,000. The earnings premium for students taking combined degrees was £16,000 and those with science, technology, engineering and mathematics was £5,000.

But the study found the earnings premium for arts, humanities and social science degree – which can include fine art, music, drama, history, philosophy and theology – can be “effectively zero”.

It said students failing to gain at least a 2:1 – considered a “good” degree – can earn even less. It said the extra earnings associated with arts and humanities courses were “so low that they turn negative in the case of a bad degree”.


Cambridge University 'may go private'

Cambridge University may be forced to go private amid fears a rise in tuition fees is not enough to allow it to compete with elite institutions in the United States, it was claimed yesterday.

The university is considering the possibility of breaking free of Government control following claims a proposed reform of higher education will undermine its global standing. It comes just days after a review of university finance called for the existing £3,290 a year cap on tuition fees to be scrapped in conjunction with the axing of almost all direct state funding for degree courses.

The move – outlined in a report by Lord Browne, the former head of BP – would give universities the power to levy higher student fees to make up for the loss of taxpayer funding. It is claimed as much as 80 per cent of direct support for degree courses – £3.2billion – will be cut in this week’s Comprehensive Spending Review along with a further £1bn of research funding.

But some top universities fear that Lord Browne’s review stops far short of plugging the funding gap – prompting widespread concerns over standards. Under the review, universities seeking to charge more than £6,000 face harsh financial penalties, effectively ruling out fee rises much above £12,000.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is believed to favour even tighter controls and could impose a £7,000 cap when the Government’s formal response to the review is published in coming weeks.

According to reports, some universities could go private in an attempt to boost resources. A Cambridge source told The Sunday Times: “We have a deficit of £96m a year. We are not competing with Leeds, we are competing with Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.”

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP and former chairman of the Commons education select committee, told The Sunday Times: “I was told by Cambridge they may privatise themselves because they are so aggrieved by the cuts and by Lord Browne’s proposals.”

But a Cambridge spokesman dismissed the report as “pure speculation”. “The university has reached no official position on these matters,” he said. “It will only take one when it has seen the Government’s response to the Browne review and the detail of the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

Other top universities have considered going private in the past. Speaking earlier this year, Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents 20 top institutions, said it was a possibility for some universities. “That would require a lot of consideration and we would hope not to have to go there, but we would certainly have to consider more radical options,” she said.

Breaking free of state control would result in the loss of all direct funding for degrees. Students could also lose access to Government grants and subsidised loans. But it would allow universities to charge unlimited fees as well as escaping Government scrutiny over the admission of more students from poor backgrounds.

In submissions to Lord Browne’s review, Oxford and Cambridge both called for a rise in tuition fees amid claims they were losing £200m a year by subsidising degree courses. Oxford said it currently cost £16,000 a year to teach each student, but fees and taxpayer contributions only accounted for half. Cambridge said it had a funding gap of some £9,000 for each of its 12,000 undergraduates in 2010/11.

Universities fear losing ground to the best in the world without further funding. Just five institutions – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and Edinburgh – were named among the top 50 in an recent international league table.


Monday, October 18, 2010

TiZA, an Islamic Public School, Threatens and Intimidates Witnesses in ACLU Lawsuit

The latest outrage in a textbook case of Islamic supremacism in a taxpayer-funded Islamic school is the thug-like Muslim intimidation and bullying of anyone who challenges this publicly funded madrassah. I have been covering this school since early 2008.

This is a "teachable moment" for the ACLU, which has generally refrained from tackling issues of separation of mosque and state despite its war on Christianity and the separation of church and state. TiZA is an egregious violation of the separation of mosque and state, which is why the ACLU is suing the school. Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Charter schools are public schools, and by law must not endorse or promote religion. But TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

TiZA shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food -- permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day.

Here is what one teacher at TiZA said: "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered." "The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Katherine Kersten of the Star Tribune continues her seminal, brave and singular reporting TiZA vs. the search for truth. Here's an excerpt of her latest, read it all (hat tip George).
The school -- public, mind you -- tries to intimidate all who would challenge it.

In June 2010, the ACLU returned to court to quash what it described as yet another TiZA attempt to intimidate current and former employees from speaking about what they had seen at the public school. TiZA's "Staff Handbooks include a secrecy clause, and related threat of legal action for violating it," according to the ACLU's court filings. TiZA "wields [these provisions] as a sledgehammer to keep former employees quiet about what they saw at the school." As a result, "former TiZA employees have expressed fear about speaking to the ACLU."

According to the ACLU, TiZA's refusal to agree not to enforce the secrecy clause "sends the ominous signal that current and former employees who talk to the ACLU may be forced to defend themselves against a baseless, expensive lawsuit."

On Oct. 1, Judge Donovan Frank agreed -- affirming an order the ACLU had earlier won barring TiZA from enforcing the confidentiality clause in the context of this litigation.

The court's order and memorandum spoke volumes: "It appears that information related to TiZA's business, finances, operations and office procedures is public data and cannot be kept secret." "The relevant question ... is why TiZA, a public charter school, does not want to allow its former and current employees to participate in the informal discovery process to ascertain the truth about how TiZA operates."

The court's strong language in response to TiZA's actions was unusual: "[I]ntimidation and threats will not sit well with a fact-finder such as a jury." As a result of the school's actions, "[T]he Court may be required to draw adverse inferences about how TiZA operates as a result of TiZA's efforts to keep information about its operations secret. ... [TiZA's] behavior during the discovery process thus far ... has not been consistent with a good faith search for the truth."

The ACLU has characterized TiZA's recent actions regarding the secrecy clause as "only the last in a long line of intimidation efforts." Not quite. Last month, an attack was launched from a different front.

Several organizations that are not even parties to the lawsuit went to court in an attempt to disqualify the ACLU's lawyers -- Dorsey & Whitney -- from representing the ACLU on grounds that Dorsey personnel had previously communicated with Zaman about entities involved in the litigation. The organizations include the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN), MAS-MN Property Holding Corporation and the Minnesota Education Trust (MET).

"The ACLU believes Mr. Zaman's testimony relating to control of virtually every significant event at TiZA, MAS-MN, MET and MET's subsidiaries, coupled with his efforts to hide such control, constitute powerful evidence against TiZA's denials that it is a Muslim school and that it funnels state and federal money to other Muslim organizations."

Every time we read about this lawsuit, we have to pinch ourselves and say: We're talking about a public, taxpayer-funded school.


Islamic students at top British university 'are preaching hard-line extremism,' terror experts warn

Think tank finds evidence of moderate Muslims being radicalised and Jewish students intimidated

Radical Islamic extremism is being openly practised at a leading university campus, a report today claimed. Think tank Quilliam said they had evidence of hard-line Islamist ideology being promoted through the leadership of the university's student Islamic Society at City University in central London.

The group had intimidated and harassed staff, students and members of minority groups, it was claimed.

The counter-extremism think tank said they had evidence of the president of City University's Islamic Society, (ISoc) openly preaching extremism during prayers held on the campus during the 2009/10 academic year. They said the president - Saleh Patel, was recorded saying: 'When they say to us 'the Islamic state teaches to cut the hand of the thief', yes it does! 'And it also teaches us to stone the adulterer.

'When they tell us that the Islamic state tells us and teaches us to kill the apostate, yes it does! 'Because this is what Allah and his messenger have taught us and this is the religion of Allah and it is Allah who legislates and only Allah has the right to legislate.'

'When a person leaves one prayer, one prayer intentionally, he should be imprisoned for three days and three nights and told to repent. 'And if he doesn't repent and offer his prayer then he should be killed. And the difference of opinion lies with regards to how he should be killed not as to what he is - a kafir or a Muslim'.

According to students interviewed for the report, the actions of leading members of the ISoc made members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Society (LGBT) feel 'scared'.

Some Jewish students felt 'intimidated', and the group's actions forced ordinary Muslim students to adopt hard-line Islamic practices which led to some Muslim students publishing an open letter complaining that their religion had been 'hijacked' by the ISoc.

Report author Lucy James, said: 'It is deeply shocking that such extremism is being openly promoted on a university campus in central London. 'Such extremism can create dangerous divisions on campuses and, if not tackled, may even lead to terrorism. 'University heads need to recognise this problem and take the lead in tackling it.'

City University London Students' Union released a statement which read: 'The report raises a number of issues so the Students' Union will be in contact with the authors to review the evidence on which the report is based. 'The Students' Union works closely with the University to act in the best interest of its student body and wider University community.'

A spokeswoman for the university added: 'The University is committed to creating as many opportunities for people of different faiths (and indeed of no faith) to meet and engage in honest and respectful dialogue.

'The University and the Students' Union asks that all Students' Union Clubs and Societies - and any external speakers that they invite into the University - abide by its equality and diversity guidelines and values and behaviours.'

'The University works closely with its Students' Union and, on a number of occasions, has offered support to the Students' Union when the Islamic Society has been found to be in breach of these guidelines.

'The University and Students' Union are constantly reviewing their protocols, to ensure that they maintain an environment that is open and welcoming to staff and students.' [Sounds like lots of bulldust and no action]


An inspirational teacher is fired. So who will tell the truth about British schools now?

When deputy headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh took to the podium at the Tory Party conference earlier this month to speak about schooling, her remarks produced two dramatic results.

The first was that she electrified the conference by delivering some brutal home truths about the ­education system, which she denounced for betraying the poorest and most disadvantaged children.

These had been left high and dry by the prevalent ‘all must have prizes’ Left-wing education ideology, which under the banner of ‘equality’ had produced a ‘culture of excuses’ which kept ‘poor ­children poor’.

The second result was that she was promptly suspended from her Church of England school, St Michael and All Angels Academy in South London, on the grounds that she had used identifiable pupils to illustrate her argument and had insulted the teaching profession.

After an outcry, it was reported that Ms Birbalsingh would be returning to her position at the school. But now we learn that ‘following discussions’ she has resigned. The inescapable conclusion is that she has been forced out by the school’s governing body.

Since she had been denouncing Left-wing education ideology and her headteacher is reportedly an ardent ‘Blairite’, it is furthermore easy to jump to the conclusion — as several have indeed done — that she has been pushed out for saying the unsayable about the teaching profession. In other words, she is a martyr to dissent because the education ranks have closed against her in order to cover up the awful truth about education.

In her defence, it is also clear that the school’s sensitivities extend beyond any concern for its pupils, since it huffs that such a generalised attack on schooling can be seen as insulting to many teachers — the all-too-predictable defensive crouch of a profession which refuses to listen to ­necessary criticism.

For the fact is that everything she actually said was nothing other than the pure, unvarnished truth.

As was plain, her target was not the ­individual school but the system, and the way of thinking that has become the orthodoxy in the education world and to which all state schools — and no small number of independent schools, too — are in thrall.

As she so rightly said, exam standards are dumbing down virtually year by year. Even though children themselves are crying out for order and discipline, they don’t get it.

With competition turned into a dirty word, they aren’t allowed to compare their achievements even with their peers in other schools in the state sector, let alone with those in independent schools. So they are even deprived of knowing just how much they don’t know.

In a subsequent article for this newspaper, Ms ­Birbalsingh wrote that there was now a chronic lack of robustness in the classroom, reflected in the increasing use of coursework rather than exams.

Pupils could now get a meaningless BTEC in an invented subject such as ‘travel and tourism’ which was worth no fewer than four GCSEs — while ­modern languages, science or history were in decline simply because they were more demanding.

Her most savage accusations concerned black boys who under-achieve at school through a combination of chaos in the classroom and the demonisation as ‘racist’ of any teacher who dares ­discipline or exclude them.

For saying that ‘black children under-achieve because of what the well-meaning liberal does to them’, everyone should cheer her to the echo.

It’s also not just black boys who have been abandoned in this way, but all those at the bottom of the heap for which school is their one lifeline out of disadvantage.

Such home truths are practically unsayable in the state sector. Over the years, other educational whistle-blowers have been punished for saying them.

Some two decades ago Martin Turner, a distinguished psychologist and expert on dyslexia, was forced out of his job and had his reputation blackened for suggesting that many diagnosed classroom disorders were actually caused by a systemic failure to teach children to read.

And around the same time, two history teachers, Anthony Freeman and Chris McGovern, were driven out of their posts in state schools for attempting to ensure that children were taught a proper historical narrative as opposed to sociological, politically correct gobbets.

Over the years, all attempts at education reform have foundered because of the refusal by the education establishment to acknowledge the damage being done by the shibboleth of ‘equality’ which has brought the system to its knees.

As Ms Birbalsingh observed, teachers are so brainwashed by the Left that they reject any such thinking as ‘Right-wing’. That’s because the Left demonises any challenge to itself on the basis that its thinking embodies virtue itself.

So its ideas are given the status of holy writ, and a kind of secular inquisition is mounted against anyone who dares to question them.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

More on the appalling Alief saga

Legal piranha responsible?

Critics are calling the Alief Independent School Districts three and half year lawsuit against the family of a special needs student retaliatory, mean-spirited and a terrible waste of taxpayer money.

On Wednesday FOX 26 broke the news that the entire Alief School Board is claiming the on-going federal case against these parents has been waged without their knowledge.

Today FOX 26 learned that the legal advice to sue the family of autistic student Chuka Chibuogwu for legal fees likely came from AISD attorney Erik Nichols who in the months preceding the 2007 filing of the lawsuit against the Chibuogwus taught a seminar to fellow education lawyers entitled "Show Me the Money: Recovering Legal Fees in School Litigation."

For months, before the District filed its lawsuit, the Chibuogwu's claimed AISD was not delivering the appropriate education to which their son was legally entitled. The family eventually gave up their battle to win concessions and withdrew Chuka from classes.

FOX 26 attempted to contact Nichols and ask whether his advice to AISD was impacted by a desire to test his legal theory. Nichols has yet to respond.

The strategy has been unsuccessful thus far and cost Alief taxpayers more than $200,000 in legal fees. The case could get more expensive. That's because if the District loses its appeal to the Federal 5th Circuit, Alief taxpayers may be forced to pay the Chibuogwu family's legal expenses, which could run several hundred thousand dollars.

If AISD prevails and the Chibuogwu's are forced to pay, the family claims it will be forced into bankruptcy. Chuka's mother Neka Chibuogwu spoke with FOX 26 about the latest development and the Alief School Board's upcoming October 19th meeting.

"I don't know what they are planning to do, but I would like somebody to tell the truth. I would like them to say that they knew what was going on and I would really like for them to say they did wrong and try to fix it, not just for Chuka, but for all children with disabilities that attend this school district," she said.


Superwoman Just Resigned

The nexus of urban decay is often single party rule – a political sinecure where the incentives for reform are few. The recent Mayoral primary in the District of Columbia provides a cautionary tale.

Unlike most urban Democrats, Adrian Fenty was a genuine reformer. He hired an Education Chancellor, Michelle Rhee; and gave her the power to fire teachers, relieve principals, and close failing schools - at the risk of putting her boss out of work. Indeed, Mayor Fenty lost the recent Democrat primary to Councilman Vincent Gray and now Ms. Rhee has resigned too. None of this is good news for kids. Predictably, the local union has already filed a suit to reinstate those 241 teachers fired for “poor performance.”

When Fenty and Rhee touched the third rail of reform, the academic left mobilized. Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and law professor Mary Cheh made common cause. Weingarten is the anti-hero of Waiting for Superman, a documentary about public education in which Variety claims she is cast as “a foaming satanic beast.” Satanic may be a bit of a stretch, but Weingarten might be the worst thing to happen to public education since head lice.

Icons of the past often foretell the future. Other Gray supporters included Marion Barry and Eleanor Holmes Norton. Barry is best known as a drug addled former mayor. Delegate Norton and her Democrat colleagues in Congress killed the popular DC Voucher program which allowed over 3,300 lower-income children to escape the “ghetto” schools.

The dim prospects for genuine schoolhouse reform in cities like the District of Columbia is not just a local phenomenon. The national outlook is grim too.

When the academic Left brought the AFT into the DC mayoral race, the President and the Secretary of Education went to ground. As Fenty and Rhee were getting mugged by teacher union money, the national party leadership refused to campaign for education reform in their own front yard, the nation’s capital.

Democracy is a bit of an odd duck; sometimes we get what we want and, just as often, we get what we deserve. A pathetic schoolhouse is only possible where no one has the courage or integrity to put children first. In self-segregating cities, the likely victims of inverted models are minorities, black kids in particular. Indeed, the most notorious example of “black on black” crime might be our public school system.

Take the Dexter Manley case. Manley was an athlete who went through the entire Texas public school system and then played football for the Washington Redskins. After football, Manley landed in the Washington Lab School where he tested as a functional illiterate.

Manley was victimized by a system that gave him a permanent hall pass for his race or his jockstrap, or both. If Manley’s teachers applied the same rigor for academics as his coaches did for athletic achievement, Dexter might be a different man today.

For two generations, public school systems have been bottom fishing. Most grade and high school teachers come from the dregs of baccalaureates. And many of these underachievers are credentialed with “education” degrees with little or no substantive knowledge. And many of those weak teachers are now principals or administrators. In short, K through 12 has become an affirmative action program for unionized nitwits. Such swamps are not easily drained; and the muck is now generational.

Yet black parents continue to vote for the urban plantation. Marion Barry ran and won four terms as mayor in DC. If he ran today, he would probably win again. Fenty, sober and progressive in the best sense of the word, was tossed after a term. One of the great ciphers in the wake of Martin Luther King’s death is black urban voters who continue to vote against their own best interests.

On Sunday, 26 September, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared on Meet the Press and preached that “we must have the moral courage” to change. We have no evidence that Messrs. Gray, Duncan, or Obama have the courage or integrity to adopt any education policy any more enlightened than ‘business as usual.’ And who expects superman if superwoman leaves town?


Is university really such a good thing? I spent three years learning to be a Trot

Peter Hitchens comments from Britain

What are universities for anyway? I went to one and spent the whole time being a Trotsky­ist troublemaker at the taxpayers’ expense, completely neglecting my course. I have learned a thousand times more during my 30-year remed­ial course in the University of Fleet Street, still under way.

I am still ashamed of the way I lived off the taxes of millions of people who would have loved three years free from the demands of work, to think and to learn, but never had the chance.

We seem to accept without question that it is a good thing that the young should go through this dubious experience. Worse, employers seem to have fallen completely for the idea that a university degree is essential – when it is often a handicap.

For many people, college is a corrupting, demoralising experience. They imagine they are independent when they are in fact parasites, living off their parents or off others and these days often doomed to return home with a sense of grievance and no job. They also become used to being in debt – a state that previous generations rightly regarded with horror and fear.

And they pass through the nasty, sordid rite of passage known as ‘Freshers’ Week’, in which they are encouraged to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol and to lose what’s left of their sexual inhibitions after the creepy sex educators have got at them at school.

If they have learned self-disciplined habits of work and life, they are under pressure to forget all about them, suddenly left alone in a world almost completely stripped of authority.

And if they are being taught an arts subject, they will find that their courses are crammed with anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-traditional material. Proper literature is despised and ‘deconstructed’.

Our enviable national history is likewise questioned, though nothing good is put in its place. Even if they are study­ing something serious, their whole lives will be dominated by assumptions of political correctness, down to notices in the bars warning against ‘homophobia’ and other thought crimes.

I think this debauching of the minds and bodies of the young is more or less deliberate.

The horrible liberal Woodrow Wilson, who eventually became President of the United States, was originally an academic who once blurted out the truth as seen by many such people. He said in a rare moment of candour: ‘Our aim is to turn out young men as unlike their fathers as possible.’

Well, look at the modern world as governed by graduates who despise their fathers’ views, and what do you see? Idealist wars that slaughter millions, the vast corruption of the welfare state, the war on the married family – and in this country the almost total disappearance of proper manufacturing industry.

Rather than putting an entire generation in debt, the time has come to close most of our universities and shrink the rest so they do what they are supposed to do – educating an elite in the best that has ever been written, thought and said, and undertaking real hard scientific research.

Or do these places exist only to hide the terrible youth unemploy­ment that is a result of having a country run by graduates?