Saturday, March 19, 2011

Children must not have strongly-held Christian views in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Supreme Court today affirmed a decision ordering a young girl into a public school system because her "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view," but the justices denied their ruling had anything to do with religion.

"While the case has religious overtones, it is not about religion," claimed the opinion authored by Associate Justice Robert Lynn and joined by Chief Justice Linda Dalianis and Associate Justices James Duggan, Gary Hicks and Carol Conboy.

"We affirm the [lower court's] decision on the narrow basis that it represents a sustainable exercise of the trial court's discretion to determine the educational placement that is in daughter's best interests," the justices wrote.

Lawyers with the Alliance Defense Fund, who had argued in the case that the clear religious bias against Christianity expressed by a guardian ad litem and adopted by the court was reason to reverse the decision, said the justices ignored the evidence.

"Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children," said allied attorney John Anthony Simmons in a statement released by the organization. "Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views.

"That's precisely what the lower court admitted it was doing," Simmons said. "The lower court held the Christian faith of this mother and daughter against them. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ignored this issue and wrote this off as a 'parent versus parent' issue without recognizing the very real underlying threat to religious liberty."

The high court, while claiming religion did not play a role in the decision, cited statements from a court-chosen guardian ad litem who said, "My recommendations have been somewhat swayed by the way she – the way her religion causes [daughter] to shut out points of view and areas of consideration, and shut out the thinking about points of view," and that "the rigidity of her mom's religious beliefs and how that orders her thinking really causes me to believe that [daughter] would be best served by starting public school as soon as possible."

That's not about religion, the justices wrote. "We conclude that the GAL was expressing her concern about daughter's ability to mentally process, as well as appropriately communicate with others who have differing viewpoints."

The ruling noted the guardian ad litem appointed to consider the child's education recommended "that daughter attend a traditional school beginning in the winter of her fifth grade year."

The mother appealed, with help from ADF, because Marital Master Michael Garner had reasoned that the girl's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view."

Garner's beliefs were adopted by Judge Lucinda V. Sadler of the Family Division of the Judicial Court for the Belknap County in Laconia after testimony from a guardian ad litem that the child "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith" and that the girl's interests "would be best served by exposure to a public school setting" and "different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief ... in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs"

The dispute arose as part of a modification of a parenting plan for the girl. The parents, Martin Kurowski and Brenda Kurowski, divorced in 1999 when their daughter was a newborn. The mother has homeschooled her daughter since first grade with texts that have met state standards.

In addition to homeschooling, the girl attended supplemental public school classes and also has been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities, ADF reported.

According to court documents, the guardian ad litem earlier had told the mother, "If I want her in public school, she'll be in public school."

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

The high court simply adopted the philosophy of the GAL. "The GAL testified to a situation in which daughter became angry with her therapist when the therapist did not read certain religious materials provided by daughter and 'closed down in the [therapy] session,'" the judges explained. "The GAL testified that a public school environment would offer daughter opportunities to navigate experiences in both social and academic situations with others who have differing viewpoints."

Citing the religious testimony itself, the justices, who had written that the case was not about religion, said "the evidence concerning daughter's experiences in her home school and public school settings, along with the evidence demonstrating the impact of her religious convictions upon her interaction with others, including her father, provide an objective basis for the trial court's decision."

The high court, in affirming the trial court decision that the girl needed to be exposed to "perspectives" other than the Christian teaching she experienced at home, said the conclusion was sound.

"The trial court did not express a belief that daughter needed to be exposed to other religions that were contrary to or different from the beliefs of her parents," the justices said. "Instead, it considered the importance of daughter having the ability to openly communicate with others who have a different viewpoint."

"We reject mother's contention that the trial court expressed disapproval of her actions in encouraging daughter to share her religious views," said the justices.

But even they could not deny the mother's Christian teachings during her homeschooling efforts play a significant role.

"There is no doubt that mother's and child's religious convictions have been a pervasive part of the parties' school placement dispute," the judges wrote. "The trial court also remarked that daughter's strong adherence to religious convictions that align with her mother's beliefs likely was the effect of 'spend[ing] her school time with her mother.'"

Simmons earlier told WND the idea of a judge ordering a child into a public school for having a "vigorous" Christian faith is a "dangerous precedent."

"We maintain the [court] allowed itself to get into a religious debate between the parents. And they punished my client, the mother and her daughter," he said.


Budget Woes Bring New Ideas to Detroit

States are beginning to connect the dots between necessary spending and needless spending. As they work to come up with sustainable budgets the status quo is no longer affordable.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tackled his state’s budget problem by discontinuing collective bargaining rights for the state’s public union employees. His bill also requires that these employees start contributing to their own pensions and health-care coverage.

The whole nation was aware of the battle, Gov. Walker vs. public union employees, and many other states began jumping on the “it’s time to fix our budgets” bandwagon.

States like Michigan are taking it even a step further with the city of Detroit. Why not kill two birds with one stone? The city is in economic disarray and its public education system is failing. State leaders are finding a link between the cost of education and the need to cut back spending.

The solution: school choice.

The current plan in Detroit is to convert nearly a third of its public schools into privately run charter schools. These 41 schools under consideration enroll about 16,000 of the city’s 73,000 students and would operate as public school academies starting as soon as this fall.

Not only does this proposal have a good chance of improving student’s academic performance, it would also save the district millions of dollars and possibly prevent schools from closing in the city.

Michigan is already home to 250 charter schools serving more than 94,000 of its students. Academic success at these schools has so far been very favorable.

The Center for Education Reform states that Michigan students that attend charter schools have slightly higher proficiency rates than the 17 urban host districts from which they enrolled students. The data goes on to point out that in math, for example, “52 percent of African American students at charters scored proficient or advanced, while only 47.3 percent of non-charter students from the host districts achieved at this level.”

One of the most significant perks of charter schools are they give students and parents a choice.

“Charter schools give parents more options of where to send their child,” says Americans for Limited Government’s (ALG) Rick Manning. “Also, charter schools have more freedom from the many regulations of public schools. Charter schools allow students and teachers more authority to make decisions. Instead of being accountable to rules and regulations like public schools, charter schools are focused on the students and academic achievement and upholding their charter.”

Another big different between a charter and public school, most charter schools are not subject to a teachers union.

“About 95 percent of charter schools are non-union,” says Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA). This causes a lot of opposition from teachers unions. “Unions lose members,” he says whenever a new charter schools opens. “Every teacher in a charter school means one less union member and unions want more money. This can put a dent in union’s bottom line.”

And this will be the battle Michigan will have to fight.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “In Detroit, teachers in the new charter schools wouldn’t be covered under the current union contract, according to officials. But Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said any removal of teachers from the union’s current contract wouldn’t be legal under state law and ‘would not happen under my watch.’ ”

The plan for additional charter schools is currently left in the hands of the Detroit School Board, though Michigan state legislation is attempting to hand this authority over to the emergency financial managers in the state.

If Detroit is able to adopt this plan it is expected to save the district more than $99 million.

As a possible battle between Detroit’s teachers unions and the school district and possibly even the state gets underway, it is important to note that one reason this charter school plan is being closely evaluated is due to pension costs.

District spokesman Steve Wasko wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal that pension costs were a major financial reason for the proposal.

Like Wisconsin, Michigan faces a similar battle with its public union employees. State budgets simply cannot support their pension systems.

If this proposal is not adopted and these schools in Detroit are not converted to charter schools it is likely they will close altogether in order to help eliminate the state’s deficit, costing teacher’s jobs and student’s educational opportunity.

Will unionized public teachers put the students first and be willing to forego their union membership and teach at a charter school, or will they fight tooth and nail like they did in Wisconsin and force these schools to close leaving students without a school or teacher?

The teachers should do what they were hired to do, and that is to teach and put the children first.


Brighter pupils may soon be allowed to skip a year or two in Britain

"Accelerating" bright pupils was once a common way of helping them but the Left look on it as a wicked denial of that treasured but chimerical "equality"

Bright pupils could be allowed to ignore GCSEs and start studying for A-levels at 14. The Education Secretary Michael Gove wants schools to fast-track the cleverest students as soon as they are ready.

Until now, schools would have been at risk of dropping down league tables if their brightest pupils did not take GCSEs. But the tables may be changed to reflect how many pupils bypass GCSEs to start on A-levels.

A Department for Education source said England should think about copying Singapore, where some 20 per cent of pupils take A-levels early.

‘We are considering much greater freedom for schools to accelerate bright kids past GCSEs to do either A-levels or pre-Us [an alternative to A-levels] and introducing league table measures that capture that and reward schools for it, not penalise them,’ the source told the Times Educational Supplement.

‘We want a system that doesn’t disincentivise schools from doing what they think is in the best interests of the kid. ‘If, for example, you said a group of pupils in the top set in maths were going to skip GCSE and go straight to AS-level [the first year of A-levels], then we want to make it clear that they have done a great job. At the moment, they would all score zero.’

The Department for Education confirmed ministers were considering the idea. Under separate plans, pupils aged six are to be made to read in front of school inspectors, it has emerged.

The random tests are part of fresh measures to raise literacy standards in primary schools after they failed to improve under Labour. And secondary school children will be tested too, with on-the-spot spelling and comprehension tests.

England’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert revealed the measures, which could come in next year, as part of plans to streamline school inspections and focus them on struggling schools.

But Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘There is already enough accountability and assessment measures for reading and literacy.’


Friday, March 18, 2011

TN: Homeschool students gain more access

With sports rules eased, testing could come next

Public school districts already are getting calls from families that home-school their children, hoping to get them spots on football, basketball and soccer teams.

A Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association ruling last year granted access to public and private school teams for home-schooled students beginning in August. It's an opportunity to compete in regional and state tournaments and be seen by college recruiters, an opportunity most of those students don't have now.

"This allows them to try out. There's no guarantees," Metro Nashville Schools' athletic coordinator Roosevelt Sanders said. "But if I'm a great athlete and want to shine, be out front, and if I follow the guidelines, most schools welcome kids who are academically, behaviorally and athletically sound. "

The association's ruling, plus a proposal in the state legislature to give parents who home-school more testing freedom, is a sign to many that Tennessee is opening doors for its children. While some parents prefer to educate their children one-on-one or offer religious and other specialized lessons, they still want access to public school offerings.

"Not all the questions have been answered, but the state is making progress," said Rutherford County pharmacist Beth Spivey, who home-schools her fourth-grader, Sophie. "It would open the door to be able to participate in sports programs. As a taxpayer, I feel like we should be able to participate."

TN stricter than others

School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and other states let home-schoolers pop in for sports and extracurricular activities. That hasn't been the case in Middle Tennessee.

Tennessee parents who wish to teach their children at home register their intent to do so two ways, but only the first will permit those children to play on a public school team.

* They can tell their county school district, which requires them to report annual attendance and the curriculum they use, plus bring their children in for free Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests in fifth and seventh grades and end-of-course exams in ninth grade.

About 3,025 home-schoolers statewide — 5 percent of the total — are registered with public school districts. If they choose to play sports, they can try out for any team in their district, Sanders said.

* They can register with umbrella groups, usually church related, that handle student transcripts and diplomas while allowing freedom from standardized state tests. A February state report showed the three largest umbrella groups combined enrolled 16,000 home-schoolers.

Sumner County-based Aaron Academy, for instance, is an umbrella group for 3,500 home-schoolers.

"We don't have classrooms where they come," said David Longoria, principal for Aaron Academy. "Parents teach their children at home. We have a testing department, records department, registration and athletics."

Members can play on Aaron Academy's football, basketball, volleyball, golf, soccer and baseball teams. Participation has led to college scholarships, Longoria said.

But students registered through umbrella groups can't play on public school teams under the athletic association's ruling. They'll have to register through the public school districts and have their grades checked just like any public school student.

"They have to approve the classes the child is taking are moving toward graduation. Some parents don't want to do that," said Bernard Childress, executive director of the state's athletic association.

He said its legislative council — made up of state, school district, private school and other leaders — felt that sort of oversight would be difficult if home-schoolers weren't registered with local districts. Prospective athletes also would have to make it through tryouts and pay a $300 activity fee.

To play for private schools, home-schoolers would have to pay full private school tuition.

"Heads of schools felt if they were going to play, there was no way they can allow anyone to play before a full-tuition paying student," Childress said.

The ruling is an initial step to open the door for home-schoolers. As with any new ruling, the association will gauge interest and monitor whether changes should be made, he said.

Some don't like ruling

The requirements are off-putting for some home-school parents. "We will not be using the TSSAA ruling to allow our son to play for a public or private school," said Lynne Dyer, a parent from Mt. Juliet who home-schools.

Her son, a junior, plays for Middle Tennessee Fire, a Brentwood-based soccer team for home-schoolers. If students are good enough, recruiters will find them, she said.

Plus, staying off public school teams would help him avoid awkward situations, she said. "Our son would likely be a welcomed addition to a high school program in terms of his skill and attitude," she said. "I am not sure players and parents would feel the same way if he took another player's position."

Barriers may be lifted

State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who home-schooled his three oldest children, proposed legislation this session that, if passed, could lift some of the barriers to registering with public school districts.

It would no longer require home-schoolers who register with districts to take state tests. They instead could take other nationally normed exams, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or Stanford achievement tests.

Right now, parents who home-school registered with public school districts must hold a bachelor's degree to teach high school subjects, but those who opt for umbrella home-school organizations aren't required to have one. Bell's proposal would drop the requirement for all.

"I know parents who have nothing but a high school education, and their children are on full academic scholarships in our state," he said.


The University vs. The Hemiversity

From the truth in advertising divisions of the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Education, consider this possible headline above.

Aren’t most universities today only teaching ‘half’ (hemi-) of the available knowledge out there from human history? Isn’t the goal of a true ‘uni’(all)versity to convey knowledge from all points of view to give a student a well-rounded understanding of the complex world around them?

Truthfully, can any institute of higher education in America today honestly say that they are ‘unbiased’ in any way, shape or fashion and they encourage the full consideration of the entire range of human thought from the liberal end of the political spectrum to the conservative end?

The famous Last Oration of Otter in ‘Animal House’ just popped into our head for some reason, because if American universities are not teaching universally:

'Then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here.....and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!’ Indeed.

We have been struck for many years over the ‘uncivil discourse’ that has dominated America politics for the past 30 years, the past 20 being really bad and the past 10, well, ridiculously destructive and idiotic. We think it has something to do with the idealism of the now-aging Boomers and will abate once they start leaving the national stage, to put it delicately, which we will return to later.

We were invited to speak at a panel at a ‘hemi’versity recently and were struck by the stark admission that college campuses nowadays have next to zero intent or interest in being anything other than a ‘liberal’ place where only ‘liberal’ thoughts and observations are considered ‘appropriate’ and ‘acceptable’.

At least some of the people we spoke with were willing to admit it. It used to be that college presidents and administrators ‘denied such a thing ever occurred on our campus!’, especially those state taxpayer-supported ‘hemi’versities where most of the taxes and large donations come from wealthy conservative businesspeople.

We think college campuses have a role to play in restoring comity (not ‘comedy’) and civility to the public discourse and debate. And it will be once again by becoming a place of ‘universal’ thought and discussion where people can learn to agree to disagree in an agreeable manner, mainly by opening discussion of the full range of views out there.

Our contention is that unless people of different persuasions talk to each other on a regular basis, no progress or compromises are ever going to be made in the public arena. Why? Because if you 'hate' another person for their ‘extreme’ views but have never met them in person, it is next to impossible to ever come to some common solution…on anything.

Ever see a married couple try to reconcile their differences? They can’t do it without talking to each other, many times with a counselor in between.

A true ‘uni’versity could be such a ‘healing counselor’ for a nation torn apart by decades of debate and hate-filled speech on abortion, race relations, gay rights, property rights, illegal immigrants, unemployment, Iraq, the CIA and global warming.

And we need to come together and solve some very large problems like the budget deficit, Social Security, Medicare and tax policy right now, like tomorrow morning before it is truly ‘too late’ to solve them.

Here’s the really odd thing to us: Much of today’s thought that is considered to be ‘conservative’ actually has its roots in the ‘classical liberal’ thinking of the 17th and 18th century in Europe where freedom of the individual and liberty in all human activity began to take root after eons of chieftain and monarchial rule.

If a classical liberal free-range thinker such as David Ricardo or Adam Smith applied today to teach at a ‘Hemi’versity of (name your state)’, would they be considered a ‘crazy right-wing free-market supply-sider whackjob’ or would they be given tenure right there on the spot? We wonder.

Back to the Boomers: Read the great book, ‘Generations’ by Neil Howe and Bill Strauss, written in 1991. You X’ers and Y’ers and Millennials will learn that these two guys are the ones who coined your generations in such a manner first…so blame them if you weren’t named something great like ‘The Greatest Generation’. (you gotta earn that first though)

Neil used to come by the congressional office to discuss his theories of how generations actually have distinctive characteristics as a whole such as ‘idealistic’, ‘practical’ or ‘silent’.

Guess what the Boomers of the ‘free love’, ‘more drugs’, ‘Make Love, Not War’ generation of the ‘60s are? You got it…’idealistic’….just like the Transcendentalists of the pre-Civil War era who wanted to end slavery.

And guess what characteristic trait is both admirable and destructive to both generations at the same time? Their collective sense of ‘righteousness’….the conviction that ‘I am right!’ which means that ‘You are wrong!’.

And that leads to stalemate and a digging-in of heels on opposite sides. Sound familiar, like for the past 10 years?

‘Hemi-versities’ becoming ‘uni’versities again can help restore the sense of balance and practical politics to the national stage, especially as the Boomers die off, (oops! sorry but is it going to happen) and the more practical and solution-oriented X’ers take their rightful place in American politics.

We are actually more optimistic about the future because of this demographic change that is underway right now beneath your very nose.


The proof that British exam results HAVE been inflated: OECD warns UK schools are out of step

Exam grades have been artificially inflated and billions of pounds in increased spending on education wasted, according to a damning international report. It is further confirmation of what many have long suspected: that relentlessly improving GCSE and A-level results have hidden a true picture of failure in our schools.

The report, from the highly respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, concludes that pupils’ actual performance remains ‘static’ and ‘uneven’.

The share of A-levels awarded at grade A has risen continually over the past 18 years and trebled since 1980, it says, but independent surveys of students’ cognitive skills ‘do not support this development’.

Most damagingly, the report concludes that despite Labour’s doubling of spending on education since 2000, children’s success remains ‘strongly related to parents’ income and background’.

The education budget soared from £35.8billion to £71billion under Labour. But Britain has plummeted down worldwide education rankings in the past decade, with nations such as Estonia and Poland overtaking us in reading, maths and science.

The study of Britain’s economic performance by the OECD, published yesterday, focused heavily on failings in our education system, which critics say leaves millions of children entering the workplace without the necessary skills to succeed.

Fuelling concerns that exams have increasingly been ‘dumbed down’ to give the illusion of progress, the report said: ‘Official test scores and grades in England show systematically and significantly better performance than international and independent tests.

‘The measures used by the Office for National Statistics... show significant increases in quality over time, while the measures based on cognitive tests not used for grading show declines or minimal improvements.’

The OECD added: ‘Despite sharply rising school spending per pupil during the last ten years, improvements in schooling outcomes have been limited in the United Kingdom.’

The OECD said there had been insufficient focus on disadvantaged students in educational spending - leading to ‘large disparities’ in pupils’ success. ‘Incomes and educational outcomes are unevenly distributed in the United Kingdom compared to many other OECD countries, and intergenerational social mobility is low,’ the report said.

‘Schooling outcomes in the United Kingdom are among the more unequal in the OECD area. This leaves many students from weaker socio–economic backgrounds with insufficient levels of competence, which hampers their chances in the labour market and higher education.’

Early years provision was also letting down many pupils, it concluded, adding: ‘Disadvantaged children seemed to perform worse in 2006 than in 2001, while the impact of parents’ income on six–year-olds’ cognitive and non–cognitive skills has if anything increased recently.’

The organisation also condemned a ‘confusing and rapidly changing array of often low-quality vocational programmes’ for 16 to 18-year-olds.

It backed the Coalition’s move to create a new network of ‘free schools’, run by charities, businesses or groups of parents and freed from state control, adding: ‘Increasing user choice would... induce stronger competition between schools which could provide better educational outcomes.’

Chancellor George Osborne yesterday said the OECD report provided emphatic justification for the Coalition’s education reforms. He promised new measures to boost social mobility by targeting help at disadvantaged children.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘The latest OECD report confirms that Labour’s spending on education didn’t secure the improvement it should have. But the good news is that the OECD backs the reforms we’re introducing. ‘It supports our plans to open new schools, increase choice, reform league tables and give more support to the poorest.’


Thursday, March 17, 2011

US Public Schools: Progressive Indoctrination Camps

Last week, my main point was that liberals couldn't care less about changing anything in public schools because they are producing exactly what liberals want. And that biased programming will deepen in the minds and hearts of America's young people unless we patriots stand up in every community, resist those progressive tides and demand alternatives.

There are ways to improve national academic imbalances. In Part 2 here, I give seven ways to counter that torrent of progressivism. Among the list of correctives that have been proved to work are the following:

1) Vocalize your opinions to local, state and federal representatives that government and unions need to have less of a role in running our children's education and more of a role in supporting parents' educational decisions for their children. Children belong to their parents, not to the government or unions. And parents must retain the right to personalize their children's education as they so wish.

2) Don't blindly accept a public school's or university's education plan based solely upon its name, past reputation or slick marketing. Confront the administration. Ask the hard questions of teachers and professors.

3) If you experience teachers or courses that create an intimidating atmosphere for expressing varied opinions, disparage alternative views, or advance one-sided political or social ideologies, report them to the administration or the school board. And if your concerns aren't heard, go to the district office. If the district doesn't listen, then take your complaints to other parents and the online community by posting blogs or sending mass e-mails. If our government isn't going to hold our academic institutions accountable, then its citizens must.

4) Encourage local schools and colleges to accept Students For Academic Freedom's "Academic Bill of Rights" and "The Student Bill of Rights," which are located online.

5) Consider starting a countercultural mission by teaching or assisting in a public school, college or university or even in the U.S. Department of Education. Whether or not you have a child in a public school, you still can be an active and vocal part of your school's board, PTA or equivalent. Volunteer to assist in any way that could balance the academic current.

6) And what if public schools don't improve or match the values and beliefs in our homes? Then we must remove our children from public schools and seek private alternatives, chartered schools, Christian schools or home schooling co-ops. Encourage older children to attend a private, conservative or Christian college or university, such as Liberty University or Patrick Henry College on the East Coast and Biola University, Azusa Pacific University, Pepperdine University, Westmont College or Bethany University on the West Coast. As I said last week, if you want to improve U.S. public education, support the competition.

7) Lastly, work to install a Bible curriculum into your public school district. Yes, it's legal, constitutional and being placed right now in thousands of schools across the country. A brand-new electronic version of the curriculum is available this week. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools' curriculum has been voted into 572 school districts (2,086 high schools) in 38 states, from Alaska and California to Pennsylvania and Florida. Ninety-three percent of school boards that have been approached to date with the curriculum have voted to implement it because the course helps students understand the Bible's influence and impact on history, literature, our legal and educational systems, art, archaeology and other parts of civilization. In this elective class, students are required to read through their textbook -- the Bible.

For a contribution of any size, you will receive a starter package with a step-by-step guide, all legal data necessary to satisfy the questions of school board members, letters from school districts that have implemented it, the table of contents of the Bible curriculum, and other NCBCPS information.

Send to: National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, 2816-A. Battleground Ave., Box 313, Greensboro, NC 27408. Phone: 1-877-On-Bible or 336-272-3799. Fax: 336-272-7199. Website:

Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic advocate for public education and believed it was the key to preserving a republican government and society. Yet he was equally an ardent opponent against "any tyranny over the mind of man." Whether that dominance were sectarianism or secularism, conservatism or liberalism, Jefferson (and, I believe, our other Founders) would oppose and seek to correct today's disproportions in our nation's public schools.

If Jefferson supported reform in public education as a prerequisite for a lasting republican nation, would he not expect the same of us today?



Four current articles below

Anyone Who Says Violence Never Solved Anything....

Is such an abject idiot it is probably not even worth engaging in conversation with her. Seriously. Violence never solved anything? What solved the problem of Nazi Germany? Butterfly cakes and Darjeeling tea? When you are faced with evil, it is simply cowardly not to stand against it, even if standing against it sometimes means using your fists.

If someone was attacking my family, for example, I wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to protect them. And if someone was attacking your family and you stood by and tried to negotiate while they were being beaten or worse, I would think you a miserable excuse for a human being.

So when I saw this video of an incident at Chifley College’s Dunheved Campus in western Sydney, gol darn if I wasn’t cheering at the end:

That is one bully who will hesitate to bully again.

When this was posted on Facebook and Youtube (and then removed), the vast majority of commenters supported and even celebrated the right of the boy who was attacked to defend himself. I think he showed admirable patience and restraint.

But guess what the authorities said? Police and bullying experts are concerned by the video’s publication on Facebook and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the older boy’s retaliation against his attacker. “We don’t believe that violence is ever the answer,” Mr Dalgleish says. “We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.”

What a jerk.

Both the boys were suspended by school authorities.

What jerks.

The boy who was attacked had a right to defend himself. No one else was. No teacher was in sight.

That other young people agreed so strongly gives me hope that despite the best efforts of counsellors and social workers, a large part of this generation is refusing to be moulded into a bunch of lily livered nancies.


Unrealistic school bullying policies

SCHOOLS are still using ineffective anti-bullying strategies and some aren't putting their policies into practice, experts warn, as the rate of bullying in Queensland playgrounds continues to climb.

Experts say schools need to be more effective not work harder. Research shows a campaign to encourage child "bystanders" to confront bullies is basically futile, the Courier-Mail reported.

The research, to be presented at a conference in Brisbane tomorrow by renowned bullying expert Professor Donna Cross, will reveal most children are too scared to confront peers who bully. But it also shows "bystanders" can make a crucial difference by supporting victims after the attack.

Prof Cross said it was "almost unrealistic" to ask children to confront bullies on behalf of victims. "Our data is showing that kids won't. They are afraid that they will be targeted (next)," she said.

"But they do say: 'You know what? I can go over to the person who has been victimised and invite them to join my group or get them to come with me.' "Extinguishing the audience will be a very powerful message to children that bully."

She said most schools trying hard to deal with bullying weren't concentrating on this approach and they needed more resources to help them deal with the issue. "They need time to assess their practices . . . and then address those issues, instead of saying: 'I need to do more.' Most schools have policies . . . but they sit on the shelf."

Queensland's state-appointed bullying expert, psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, said bystanders were the main emphasis of his workshops in state schools. "The problem at the moment is we have the Genovese syndrome or bystander effect people don't want to get involved in conflict," he said.


Blacks don't want to send their kids to school with the children of other blacks

I guess I can't blame them. But if blacks don't think much of black children, why should other people think differently?

RACIAL pressures have boiled over again in Dubbo with the Minister for Education, Verity Firth, restructuring the city's school system in a way critics argue will effectively create a separate campus for Aborigines.

The decision will partially reverse the last major reorganisation, in 1988, when the three high schools were amalgamated as Dubbo College, although retaining three campuses.

The South Dubbo campus, for years 7 to 9, will revert to a comprehensive school for years 7 to 12. Delroy campus, in West Dubbo, will continue to cater for years 7 to 9, and Dubbo College senior campus for years 10 to 12.

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The fact that the Delroy campus is in West Dubbo, which has a higher proportion of indigenous families, and will accordingly have a higher indigenous student population, has inflamed local sentiment.

West Dubbo is the site of the failed Gordon Estate, which had a high concentration of Aborigines but became racked with violence and antisocial behaviour.

There are far more non-indigenous families in West Dubbo, but with the creation of a comprehensive high school in South Dubbo, it is expected many non-indigenous families will send their children there.

Alca Simpson, a member of the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, said in a letter to the local paper, the Daily Liberal, that the government was implementing discriminatory policies of the past.

He said past policies had restricted "the self-determination of indigenous students in the public education system in Dubbo".

A meeting of a P&C Association at South Dubbo campus discussed the issue but Mr Simpson said teachers who supported the new system became instant association members and stacked the meeting.

"It is my opinion that this was never about student outcomes as far as the NSW Teachers Federation are concerned but only about teachers' wants and needs," Mr Simpson said.

He regarded it as "a planned move to attack the credibility of honest, hard-working parents and citizens because they chose to voice their opinion and their democratic right to write a letter".

"Why should teachers [union members] who have not shown any interest in attending meetings before last week now show such a big concern over their P&C committee?

"I would also make it public knowledge that the executive and members of the local AECG have … submitted a letter of complete no confidence in the minister's recommendations in regard to the restructuring of the existing Dubbo College Education model."

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said yesterday that claims that an apartheid system was being created in Dubbo were wrong.

There had been problems since the creation of the college system in Dubbo and Ms Firth had decided to give parents two options: a comprehensive high school or a college system. "There are concerns about the model proposed by the minister, in that it may lead to negative consequences. "The federation's policy is that we prefer to have stand-alone, years 7 to 12, comprehensive high schools," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Firth said the new structure would not result in racially segregated education in Dubbo.


Australian universities giving undeserved grades to overseas students

There have been some notorious instances of this

Gigi Foster knows her disturbing research findings on international students won't make her many friends. In a university sector grown dependent on international fee revenue, it might not do much to progress her academic career either.

But the audience she wants to reach is not academe but the policy-makers. It's at this level where change could be driven to address the poor language and cultural skills she says are undermining their performance. "It is risky for me, but it is my duty to look at this," says Foster, a Harvard graduate who moved to Australia in 2003.

But she believes her research provides evidence that universities are too often turning a blind eye to the poor written and verbal English skills of many international students. She says her statistical analysis reveals that international students are being allowed to underperform and this is being camouflaged to an extent by grade inflation.

At the same time, these poor English skills weigh on the results of domestic students in the same tutorials. "I want Australian policy-makers to see what is actually happening," Foster says.

But she believes concerns over fee revenue, sensitivities over the potential for appearing "xenophobic" and political correctness are preventing the sector from confronting the issues.

Wary of the reaction her analysis is likely to generate, she says she put all her "econometric firepower" into trying to disprove the findings, but the effects wouldn't go away.

She says she is astounded that no one in the sector had previously sought to analyse the detailed student data available in universities. With the help of funding from the Australian Research Council, Foster analysed detailed data on 12,846 students made available by the business faculties of the University of South Australia and the University of Technology, Sydney, including enrolment and applications data from 2008 and 2009. The data covered student demographics, course and tutorial selection and marks.

Her main statistical findings are that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds underperform domestic students based on mean marks by four points on a 100 grade scale. She interprets this to be a result of language and cultural barriers.

But she also found that the underperformance is less pronounced when there are proportionately more international students in the class. Effectively, international student marks are buoyed when there are large concentrations of such students, with the stunning finding that classes comprised entirely of international students would on average be 6.5 points higher than those courses comprised solely of domestic students.

She believes this may be evidence that international students are benefiting from markers "grading on the curve" to keep mark distributions similar across course offerings, but effectively they are lowering grading standards.

"The research provides evidence that international non-English-speaking background students effectively free ride on each other, ending up with higher marks than they would have otherwise obtained," she says.

She also found that for every 1 per cent increase in the number of international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials, the marks of domestic students in the tutorials fell by 0.0134 points.

The key policy implication, she says, is that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds should have extensive language and cultural training before starting higher education programs. "The sector is too cash-strapped, or thinks it is too cash-strapped, that it isn't willing to put the fees international students are paying towards that," Foster says.

But while her analysis, published as a preliminary working paper, may stack up statistically, other researchers say they are wary of the interpretations Foster is putting on the results.

University of Melbourne international education expert Simon Marginson and Melbourne Institute economist Ross Williams have not been convinced by some of her interpretations. They point out that international students benefit from being grouped together in that they co-operate more and feel less isolated. "All the research tells us that group co-operation between international students is the norm, especially among same culture internationals," Marginson says.

He says while the study is potentially important, it needs more explanation and wider analysis. Williams also is concerned that in interpreting her results, Foster may be exaggerating the importance of some of the statistical differences she found.

But for RMIT University higher education policy adviser Gavin Moodie, the research is important and Foster's interpretations are valid. "The size and the extent of the effect is much greater than I anticipated and it does seem to be a systemic problem," he says. "Now is the time for case study and individual interviews to be done to find out the particular problem and what to do about it."

Moodie points to the finding that the presence of domestic students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials had a positive influence on international students' marks, suggesting the issue may not simply be poor English skills but the result of cultural barriers.

Foster, who is also undergraduate co-ordinator at the University of NSW, believes her research will resonate with academics who are having to overlook the lack of English skills in assessing students. She says the most common request from students is for English language support, but there are not enough places available.

Business academic Tony English of Flinders University says he has long complained of what he claims is "soft" marking of international and domestic students with poor English skills, only to feel ostracised as a result. "If you raise these issues at a public forum, some people will behave towards you as if they have suddenly realised that you are carrying something like bird flu," English says.

He says academics are subject to implicit but unvoiced and unwritten pressure from management to overlook the lack of English skills of students. Furthermore, those failing large numbers of students risk having their teaching skills criticised, as well as being undermined by negative student feedback. As a result, too many academics are unwilling make a fuss because it could cost them a promotion and perhaps their job, especially if they are casuals.

As English writes in this week's HES, the combination of faculty grade distribution requirements and poor English skills means academics come under pressure if their failure rates are too high. "The whole system is designed to progress students who shouldn't be progressed," he says. "People are pretending this isn't happening and that degrees are what they always were. But I think it is fraudulent."

A former part-time adjunct lecturer in business at a large Sydney university who didn't wish to be named told the HES the lack of English skills of many of his international students appeared to make a mockery of the university's entry criteria based on test scores.

He says he never felt pressure to pass students but he found himself having to ignore their bad English and awarding marks on what he suspected students were trying to express. He says during his five years of teaching, he was shocked to find not once had a member of the faculty sat in on one of his courses to assess his teaching ability.

He notes that last year, out of a class of 110 students, more than 80 were international and, of these, 40 had such bad English that he felt it was compromising their performance. "It isn't international students who are a problem. It is those students who don't have enough English proficiency to be there in the first place who are the problem," he says.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fixing America's Education Problem

Some e-mail messages seem to float around the Internet forever. Most of them, especially the ones about Lindsay Lohan, low mortgage rates, or offshore pharmaceuticals, serve only to clutter up your inbasket. But every so often, a message appears with some valuable nuggets of information. One of these reappeared on my computer last week.

The message starts by listing America’s ten poorest cities, based on the percentage of people living below the poverty line. It then identifies what all ten cities have in common: They have all been run by Democrats for at least 25 years. (Is anyone surprised?) Some of these cities have never once elected a Republican Mayor in over a century! What it doesn’t say is that the school systems in these cities have been run by the Democrats for the same period – in most cases much longer.

The lesson here is that you cannot fix a problem until you come to grips with its source. Most of America has lived in denial about our public education system for at least 30 years. After all, every poll says that the public believes that Democrats are better at handling the issue of education. How can this delusion persist, when the school system in every major American city is a disaster, and every single one of them is run exclusively by a Democrat machine in cahoots with their union partners?

The professional Left was beside itself when America’s education ranking dropped in a study recently released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a reputable organization of 34 of the world’s most advanced countries. But when you read their columns warning of the coming Armageddon for America (nothing new from the left), not one commentary mentioned the fact that their compadres are the ones principally responsible for these problems.

After all, these are the people who gave us the self-esteem movement, English as a Second Language, grade inflation, social promotion, the elimination of Western Civ and the dummying down of education requirements and the curriculum in its entirety. One has to wonder what they thought would become of our educational system after all of these maneuvers.

Interestingly, Robert J. Samuelson, columnist for the Washington Post, pinpointed the problem by breaking it down into its components. The OECD study of 15-year-olds puts America right in the middle at 17th (out of 34), with an overall score of 500, just slightly above the average (493). Samuelson pointed out that while the average score for non-Hispanic whites in America is in the top ten (at 525) and that Asian-Americans actually place second in the world, the scores that brought down American averages were among blacks (441) and Hispanics (466). Only students in Shanghai, China outperformed Asian-Americans (although the study doesn’t state how the other billion or so Chinese fared).

The vast majority of America’s blacks and Hispanics are located in the large cities, and – again, no surprise here – these are the areas where the Democrats and their union friends have the greatest control. And yet, there is very little demand from the left to do anything about this. Of course, most of them are too busy car-pooling their children to private schools.

A recent documentary, "Waiting for Superman," awakened the left to how bad the problem has become. Oprah Winfrey saw the movie and did a show on it, as if she had never known there was a problem with inner-city schools. All of a sudden the left woke up to who actually created the problem – they did.

Before "Waiting for Superman," there was a 2010 documentary by Madeleine Sackler called "The Lottery." Her film covers some of the same territory as "Waiting for Superman," with some of the same principal characters. "The Lottery" focuses on four families, each of whom is attempting to get a child enrolled into a charter school in New York City. The film illustrates the desperation and despair of those who suffer under the yoke of the New York’s education establishment – a burden and a challenge no different than those faced by parents and children in every other major city in the nation. The test scores shown by the OECD study show the devastating effects of these bureaucracies on the children of America.

Eva Moskowitz runs the charter school that is the focus of "The Lottery." The film depicts her attempt to open a second school, along with the reprehensible reaction of the teachers union, which hired ACORN protesters to try and stop the second charter from being opened (ironically, at the location of a former NYC school which was shut down due to poor performance). The interaction between Moskowitz and the school board/city council members is riveting.

Families are staking everything on getting their kids into her schools because they know their childrens’ futures depend on it. And, yet, she is treated as a pariah by politicians whose first priority is to protect the unions.

Ultimately, when the lottery takes place, you experience the elation of the winners, but worse, you share the devastation of the losers. No child in America should be forced to have their future determined by picking their name out of a hat. That is what the public education system has done to these kids.

The responsibility lies in the hands of the education establishment, their union cronies, and, yes, the teachers who vote for and accept these unions and their leaders. They are all guilty of destroying the future of urban children throughout America. The question becomes how we tear down their structure.


Oxford will shave off £1,000 from its £9,000 fees... but only if your parents earn less than £25,000

Students whose parents earn more than £25,000 will pay full fees of £9,000 at Oxford University, it has emerged. And up to £2,100 of this annual amount will fund the fees and living costs of poorer students.

Observers have branded the move a ‘clunky, clumsy and unfair’ attempt at social engineering and an assault on the squeezed middle classes. They also warn the low threshold for full fees will benefit divorced parents and even encourage couples to split before their child goes to university.

Oxford University is the latest to declare that it will charge up to £9,000 for students in 2012, after Cambridge, Exeter and Imperial College London. But it is the first to explain exactly how the figures will add up.

It also announced an array of fee waivers and bursaries for poor students – totalling £7million – designed to comply with the Coalition’s requirements for broadening access. These say that any university wishing to charge fees of more than £6,000 must sign a ‘fair access’ agreement with the Office for Fair Access setting out measures to recruit teenagers from impoverished backgrounds.

OFFA guidelines state universities must spend 15 to 30 per cent of each tuition fee above £6,000 on schemes to broaden access – around £900.

However, under Oxford’s proposals this percentage will represent up to 70 per cent of fees above £6,000, more than doubling the guideline maximum to £2,100.

Oxford will admit 3,150 undergraduates in 2012. Of these, 2,646 will come from households with incomes of more than £25,000.
What a degree will cost

They will contribute £7million every year to bursaries and fee waivers aimed at impoverished students. Just 504 of next year’s students will be charged less than £9,000. Their fees will be staggered in line with household income.

In addition, Oxford will give a raft of cash awards – ranging from £4,300 in the first year for those with a household income of less than £16,000, up to £1,000 for between £40,000 to £42,600.

There will be no concessions for any student whose parents earn more than £42,600.

Social mobility expert Peter Saunders, emeritus professor of sociology at Sussex University, criticised the measure, saying: ‘It’s brazen and overt social engineering and clearly a clunky and clumsy and unfair attempt to redistribute wealth from the lower middle to the bottom.

‘Fees are repayable when people earn above a threshold so parents’ earnings are irrelevant.’

He added that the policy ‘will actively encourage (parents to) split as it could halve their child’s university debts’.

However, Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, insisted: ‘These proposals show the strength of our commitment to being accessible for all, and to attracting the very brightest students, whatever their circumstances.’

The university states that it costs an average of £16,000 a year to teach a student at Oxford – double the cost of other institutions, bar Cambridge.


Australia's proposed national school curriculum is full of Leftist indoctrination

by Kevin Donnelly

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, ALP leader Kevin Rudd staked the middle ground in education by advocating a conservative agenda, embracing a back-to-basics curriculum and a return to traditional subjects.

During her time as Education Minister Julia Gillard also defined herself as an education conservative and described the ALP’s national curriculum as exemplifying a return to academic standards and rigour.

In one speech Gillard described herself as “a passionate believer in the benefits of a rigorous study of traditional disciplines”, and in a second speech she boasted, “What we’re on about is making sure that the absolute basics of knowledge, absolute basics of education are taught right across the country.”

On replacing her as Minister for Education, Peter Garrett maintained the ALP line that education is a major priority and described the national curriculum as “world-class” and “vital to our goal of giving every child a great education”.

Has the ALP government delivered on its promise to develop a national curriculum that embraces the “traditional disciplines” and “the absolute basics of knowledge”? Based on the English, mathematics, history and science documents (dated December 8, 2010) the answer is “No”.

Instead of heralding a return to traditional learning, the proposed national curriculum represents a continuation of the type of substandard, politically correct approach to education that has bedevilled Australian schools over the last 30 to 40 years.

The more traditional approach to the curriculum, while acknowledging the importance of the learner and the fact that disciplines evolve over time, places subjects like history, mathematics, the sciences, the arts, music and languages and literature centre stage.

Matthew Arnold’s view that education should introduce students to the “best which has been thought and said” is often referred to in this context, as is Michael Oakeshott’s metaphor of education involving a conversation that is larger than the individual and that has been going on for hundreds of years.

This liberal view of education, while drawing on a range of cultures and traditions, is closely associated with the rise of Western civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage. In the same way that the nation’s legal and political systems and language and literature owe a great debt to and can only be understood in the context of this Western heritage, so to with education.

Instead of respecting and acknowledging this liberal view of education, the national curriculum gives primacy to three politically correct “cross-curriculum priorities” (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability) and seven “general capabilities” (including intercultural understanding, competence in information and communication technology, and critical and creative thinking).

Every subject in the national curriculum must incorporate the aforementioned perspectives and capabilities. As a result, the disciplines of knowledge are undervalued and distorted to make them conform to the ALP’s and the Left-intelligentsia’s preoccupation with Asia, indigenous Australians, and teaching so-called work-related generic skills.

Instead of Asia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, why not define the curriculum in terms of Australia’s Western heritage and Judeo-Christian tradition?

In relation to the seven capabilities (most of which are subject-specific and impossible to teach as abstracted skills) the case can also be put that it is more important that students commit themselves to the qualities and dispositions associated with a liberal education, such as civility, morality, objectivity, compassion, kindness, humility, creativity and truth-telling.

The history curriculum provides a clear example of this unwillingness to acknowledge the grand narrative associated with the rise of Western civilisation and the importance of Christianity. In one section the document asks students to act with “moral integrity” and to “work for the common good” but the curriculum writers refuse to acknowledge that such ethical values are culturally specific and can only be understood in Australia in the context of the Western tradition.

In an early draft of the history curriculum, while “Christian” appeared once, there was no mention of Christianity. While the most recent document refers to Christianity a number of times (and once to the Catholic Church) the focus is very much on diversity, difference and cultural relativism. When Christianity is mentioned it is usually in the context of other religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam) and there is no attempt to detail the historical and cultural significance of Christianity.

When studying ancient Rome, for example, students are asked to consider the rise of the Roman empire and the spread of religious beliefs, but there is no mention of Christianity. In the study of Medieval Europe, Christianity is included, but the stated aims, that students should learn about “the dominance of the Catholic Church and the role of significant individuals such as Charlemagne”, “the Church’s power in terms of wealth and labour” and “the nature and power of the Church in this period”, indicate that students will be left with a less than favourable impression.

The decision by the curriculum writers to ignore the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) in favour of the politically correct alternatives, BCE (Before the Common Era), BP (Before Present) and CE (Common Era) further illustrates the extent to which Christianity is ignored and undervalued.

It should be noted that the most recent history document represents a slight improvement on earlier drafts. While the draft dated March 2010 made no mention of the Magna Carta, the Westminster system of government and concepts like the separation of powers, the most recent edition does when stating that Year 6 children should learn about “the Westminster system”, “constitutional monarchy” and “federalism”.

Unfortunately, though, instead of representing a balanced approach by recognising the debt Australia owes to its Anglo-Celtic heritage, it is clear that the curriculum writers are still committed to a view of history that uncritically promotes diversity and difference (code for multiculturalism) and that presents Australia as a nation of tribes.

The document’s treatment of migration provides a good example of this bias. Even though migration to Australia since the First Fleet has been primarily Anglo-Celtic and European in origin, teachers are told that students must be taught about “the long history of migration to Australia by people from Asia and appreciate the contributions made over time by Asian Australians to the development of Australia’s culture and society”.

Instead of praising the fact that Australia has welcomed so many immigrants from often hostile foreign shores and allowed them to live in peace and prosperity, the history document, when asking students to study migration, refers to “internment camps”, “assimilation policies” and “mandatory detention”.

Another example relates to slavery, where the history document is happy to refer to slavery during the Roman empire and to the European trans-Atlantic slave trade but, no mention is made of slavery under Islam. It is also no surprise that, when dealing with ideas and movements during the period 1750–1918, Year 9 students are only expected to study “progressive” ideas, with no mention of classical liberal philosophy or the type of conservative ideas associated with Edmund Burke.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Less School Earns Students More Money

If you want a good education and a pile of money, you do not need a college degree. At least, not if you’re an American. Modern-day higher education is failing students both in terms of life-long earning potential and overall educational quality. Today, I will explain why college degrees are becoming inconsequential and offer a set of possible solutions.

When your college funds are going to professors like sex toy demo guru, John Michael Bailey at Northwestern University, it’s probably a good time to look at what your investment is really getting you. The cost of college tuition is rising significantly faster than inflation and wages are not keeping up with inflation, reports The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the average salary for college graduates dipped 1.7 percent from 2009 to 2010, says The New York Times.

More School, Less Pay, Fewer Jobs

Government policies such as high taxes and Clinton-era loose home-ownership policies led to the current economic downturn and have created a situation where a higher education yields higher debt and fewer high-paying job opportunities for college graduates.

Today, a plumber with a high school diploma can out-earn a teacher, an MBA-holder, and, even a doctor. This is due to factors like rising tuition and student housing costs, the greater number of pre-retirement years spent studying instead of making money, mounting student loan debt and the way the progressive income tax hits a doctor harder than a plumber who will spread his or her wealth over more years in the workforce, Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff explains in Bloomberg.

Even before the government-induced economic downturn, U.S. entrepreneurs proved that a college degree is unessential to success. Consider billionaire college dropouts like Bill Gates, Ralph Lauren, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Michael Dell. Or, look at Taylor Swift. The 21-year-old country pop artist didn’t need a college degree to earn $45 million and the title of 2010's 12th Most Powerful Celebrity from Forbes. Yes, Charlie Sheen didn’t go to college either, but let’s just assume that he’s an outlier.

When students graduate from college today, they have a hard time finding well-paying jobs in the private sector. After long searches, many college grads give up on landing a job in their preferred career paths. This month, The New York Times reported that young college grads are joining the public sector in droves. Young people are settling for government jobs, because, at the end of the day, they need to pay the bills.

In February, the President tried to motivate the business community to create jobs with a “neighborly” fruit cake. Unfortunately, businesses can’t magically create jobs from desserts. U.S. corporations have less buying power in the U.S. today due to the 35 percent corporate income tax rate. It is simply more profitable to do business abroad.

For example, by using completely legal income shifting strategies such as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich,” Google lowered its tax rate to just 2.4 percent and cut its taxes by $3.1 billion over the past three years. Less-educated or more business-friendly populations are increasingly taking "knowledge" jobs from the U.S. and the U.K., including teaching jobs, the Guardian reports.

More school, meager gains in knowledge

The quality of a college education is deteriorating while the price is going up. Studies prove that students show essentially no gains in learning during their first two years of college. College is so easy that most students can surf through college by spending 50 percent less time studying than previous generations and still achieve a 3.2 grade-point average.

Even Ivy League colleges are resting on their laurels and failing to live up to their reputation of greatness. “Many other university programs have caught up with them academically,” W. Kent Barnds, vice president of enrollment, communications and planning at Augustina College, told USA Today.

Potential Solutions

1. Eliminate anti-business policies. For example, slash the corporate income tax rate so that U.S. corporations will retain and create well-paying jobs in the U.S. that outweigh the costs of rising tuition and inflation.

2. Encourage innovation by making entrepreneurship culturally acceptable. Not everyone needs to go to college. Sure, Steve Jobs dropped out of college, but now we have iPads. Certain young people will excel by putting the $55,000 a year that they would have spent on tuition at a prestigious institution towards building a small business.

3. Reduce college bureaucracy. Is it necessary to have fluffy positions like the “Dean of Student Life” or the “Director of Campus Diversity?” Leave these roles to student volunteers in campus clubs and students will see the savings on their tuition bills.

What do you think? What are your ideas for preventing college degrees from becoming an unessential debt burdens on young Americans and their parents?


To America's hot-to-protest college students

Not sure about you, but I was absolutely thrilled last week when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the legislation ending most collective bargaining rights for government worker unions. The more these government employee unions get slapped around by reality, the happier I am.

I want to talk about the college students we saw protesting in Wisconsin ... but first, let me remind you that this whole stink wasn’t really about collective bargaining rights. The real foreign object in the punch bowl for the unions and for Democrats was the end of dues check-off; the end of the union’s ability to have dues deducted from member’s paychecks rather than relying on the members to pay those dues voluntarily. Some surveys have shown that over 50% of government union members would stop paying their dues if they had to actually write their own checks. Some of these union members pay more than $1000 a year? Big money.

Think about this: When 50% of union members stop paying their dues this means a lot less money in the pot to pay union leaders. Not only that … it means much less money for union leaders to donate to political parties. Last year about 46% of union members in Wisconsin voted Republican, yet the government worker unions sent 93% of all union campaign contributions to Democrats. Maybe those union members might want to stop paying dues if the contributions are going to go to a political party they don’t support! This would certainly not be good news for Democrats … and now perhaps you have a clearer understanding of just why The Community Organizer sent his “Organizing for America” troops to Wisconsin to keep things in check!

OK … now for the college students. Surely you saw them at the protests last week. For the most part their more cogent moments were spent standing in the Wisconsin Capital waving their fists in the air and screaming “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Now you gotta love a bunch of college students yelling “shame.” The benefits of higher education on display. Shame? Just how much under-age drinking, bong hits and Gawd-knows-what-else went on in Madison the night before?

I’m here to help. I’m here to speak for you and to send a message to these college students -- with your permission of course. If you agree that I have spoken for you then just forward this column by email to a favorite college student of yours. You can also print this and send it by snail-mail. The USPS could use the cash. Here we go:
To America’s hot-to-protest college students:

With all due respect … would you please just …..

Sit down and shut the hell up!

Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It really ought to be one of the first things you study in college. Wikipedia has an entry for you to read if you want to actually learn something. Here’s your link! Dunning-Kruger is about illusory superiority … illusory because a person rates their ability much higher than it actually is. This would pretty much address your pompous positioning in Madison ... this idea that since you are now an actual college student you suddenly are imbued with some superior knowledge that other people – if they just realized how brilliant you are – should tap for the benefit of all mankind. You, and only you, had all the answers to the union vs. the taxpayers impasse in Wisconsin. Congratulations.

You really need to – like -- get a grip on your bad selves. You and the rest of your pampered protestor posse are, at best, three or four years away from your parent’s complete control. You’re still not on your own. Since leaving home you have like existed in the protected environment of a college campus where harsh punishment awaits the slightest utterance that might like hurt your feelings or cause “offense,” God forbid.

Tell you what: When you’ve like been away from your mommies for a while; when you’ve shown that you can handle the rigors of academia … and, most important, when you’ve actually like spent some time on your own like earning your own living, taking care of your own needs, filing out your own tax forms, and living free of the parental and academic umbilical cord … then maybe we’ll be willing to listen to something you have to say.

Until then, please like spare us the spectacle of your moronic moral exhibitionism. Simply put, you don’t have a clue. You know it, and we know it. We also know that your participation in these protests is seen by you as some sort of a like right of passage. Maybe you should try passing some classes instead of passing your ignorance off to the taxpayers who are shouldering the cost for a huge part of whatever education you will actually receive before the harsh, cold winds of reality hit you right in the face.

If you really want something to do … gather together the student body presidents from our country’s 100 largest universities and go over there and like fix Haiti. Do that and maybe we’ll listen. Till then … well, just go back and like read the bold print.


Poor students 'excluded' from race for top jobs in Britain

Students from poor backgrounds are being excluded from the “hour-glass” jobs market after being pushed into taking worthless qualifications at school, according to research published today. Thousands of young people are unable to compete for highly-skilled graduate positions after being “mis-sold” GCSEs and A-levels in practical subjects, it was claimed.

Elizabeth Truss, the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said Britain’s poor social mobility record would only improve if pupils from low-income families were given a “fighting chance” of qualifying for top jobs.

In a study for the CentreForum think-tank, she told of increased polarisation in the employment market. The number of positions in middle-ranking skilled trades or clerical jobs has dropped in recent years because of improved technology and a move towards automated manufacturing, the report said.

At the same time, more jobs have been created in highly-skilled or unskilled positions, creating an “hourglass economy” in Britain, it was claimed. Since the mid-90s, more than 1m extra people have been employed in professional occupations such as the law and medicine, while the number of skilled tradesmen has dropped by 300,000.

But the report – Academic Rigour and Social Mobility – said poor students were increasingly unprepared for the changing jobs market after being pushed into taking vocational qualifications such as media studies at school and college. It meant they were only eligible for unskilled employment opportunities.

The study said: “The middle of the job market is being squeezed and in order to secure the growing number of professional, managerial and technical jobs, applicants require respected formal qualifications. “Low income students who don’t receive the ‘Morse code’ emanating from employers and top universities have been ‘mis-sold’ low quality GCSE and A-levels and find themselves on the outside track.”

The comments follow the publication of guidance earlier this year by the Russell Group, which represents 20 leading universities. It that said pupils taking large numbers of "softer" options, such as media studies, art and design, photography and business studies, would have less chance of securing places than those taking traditional academic courses.

According to figures, students from private schools are one-and-a-half times more likely to study maths at A-level than those in state education. In addition, only four-in-10 pupils in state comprehensives study foreign languages at GCSE, while the subjects are compulsory in more than eight out of 10 private schools up to the age of 16.

Mrs Truss suggested that schools should be measured on how many “Russell Group ready” students they produce. They could be ranked based on the number gaining three academic A-levels, she suggested.


Monday, March 14, 2011

'Superman's' Frankenstein Comes To Life

Last year, even as education reformers all across the country were turning cartwheels in celebration of Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” I remained skeptical. I’ve been keeping tabs on the teacher unions for years, and understand how they work hand-in-glove with the Democratic Party. Since Guggenheim is a well-known liberal (who famously directed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”), I was certain that “Superman” would tiptoe around the destructive influence Big Labor has on the education system.

Last fall, during some down time on a business trip to New York City, I finally gave in and bought a $13 ticket at a Times Square movie theater to watch "Waiting for 'Superman.'" I was pleasantly surprised.

I’d gone in expecting Guggenheim to make excuses for the state of public education. Instead, Guggenheim grabbed the whole thing by the throat and didn't let go.

He told stories of children who were victimized by a system that puts adults first. He told of union campaign contributions that go to politicians who, in turn, act as the teacher unions’ political puppets. He showed rowdy union rallies and rubber rooms and classrooms that were out of control.

I marveled that a mainstream (liberal) movie maker was exposing the sorry state of public education and the destructive nature of the well-heeled teacher unions.

Needless to say, Guggenheim’s film did not play well with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. They set up websites to attack his film. They dispatched high profile speakers around the country to fight back. And they cheered when Guggenheim was snubbed out of a nomination for another Oscar.

I have first-hand experience of how vicious the left’s attacks can get, so I can only imagine how they treated one of their own who had dared to step out of line.

Are these attacks the reason Guggenheim is starting to pull his punches?

In a recent conference call with film watchers, Guggenheim was asked his opinion of the goings-on in Wisconsin. Perhaps forgetting his film's content about union contracts and union priorities, he called collective bargaining an "essential principle." He even went so far as to say that he feared the "pendulum could swing too far the other way and employees could be treated the way they were in the industrial era."

Huh? The idea of a public employee in a sweat shop is laughable. This is nearly as ridiculous as the president of the Michigan Education Association recently saying it’s beginning to look like “the slave days.” If they don't like how they're being treated, they can go get a job in the private sector because things are *so* much better there.

I’m beginning to wonder if Guggenheim is just a naïve Hollywood filmmaker who thought he was doing a community service by pointing out the shortcomings of public education. Perhaps he didn’t realize that he was taking on the power base of the Democratic Party – that the toes he was stepping on are protected by steel toed boots.

“Superman” correctly identified collective bargaining as a serious problem in public education. That’s how schools get saddled with three hundred-page contracts that are chock full of provisions about salary schedules (which reward years of employment instead of effectiveness), lavish health insurance and pension benefits, sick day pay outs, paid time off to conduct union business. . . on and on it goes.

(In Michigan and Wisconsin, the teacher unions even have it written into their collectively-bargained teacher contract that the school district will buy health insurance from a company owned by the teacher union!)

Guggenheim was right to make unions the villains of his film. But now that he’s starting to backpedal about collective bargaining, he’s getting heat from the reform community. There’s a bit of a mutiny on the “Waiting for ‘Superman’” Facebook page. The comments are decidedly opposed to Guggenheim's view, with some supporters going so far as to say they'll no longer promote the film.

Perhaps they'll gravitate towards "Kids Aren't Cars," a film series that pulls no punches and shows the ugly impact collective bargaining has had on American public education.

While the cause of education reform has been around for decades, I believe it wasn't until this liberal's film came on the scene (along with the ugly state budgets) that the issue finally took center stage. Guggenheim's Frankenstein has come to life. He should be proud of that, but he’s starting to waver.

My advice for Guggenheim: re-watch your film and don't go wobbly on us now.


It's poor kids who are betrayed by Britain's State schools

By Katharine Birbalsingh

I’m talking with three black children at one of our top public schools. They are, from what I can see, the only black children there. They joined the school in September, two year 10s and one year 12. They have been given bursaries. They used to attend state schools in London. I know their schools. They are a mixture of good and excellent London state schools. I ask them what the main differences are between school in London and their new school.

“You’re learning all the time here. In London, you only learn in lesson time, and even then…”

I press them on this and it is clear that living on the premises and having lessons so much of the time makes a world of difference. That is something we simply cannot do in the state sector. So I find out more and ask them to compare lessons on their own.

In the end, each one says that what they learn in ONE lesson at this public school would take them three lessons in their good/excellent London state school. So their old classmates continue to learn ONE THIRD of what these lucky children are now learning regularly, thanks to their bursaries. I’m not surprised, but appearing astounded I ask them why.

“Behaviour.” One of the girls laughs in an embarrassed way, shaking her head. The other girl agrees. “Behaviour…the kids in London chat and mess about all of the time. But here they’re quiet and listen to the teacher.”

The boy however stays quiet as the girls tell me how the behaviour at this school is so good they cannot quite believe it. Finally the boy shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s because of the behaviour. Yes, that’s a problem. But it’s because in London, all they ever do is repeat the same things over and over. It’s boring.”

I raise my eyebrows. “You mean the teacher teaches you the same thing over and over again?”

The three of them nod. I look at the boy. “So why do you think your teachers in London do that?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they think we’re stupid.” He pauses. “No, I think it’s because they’re trying to make everyone the same. They’re trying to get everyone in the class up to the same level.”

I know exactly what he means, of course. All three children have hit the nail on the head. The behaviour is bad. The exams don’t judge the kids on their knowledge (on the whole) and emphasise skills. Schools and teachers are under pressure to tick league table boxes. But if you keep teaching the same knowledge over and over, it’s easy and it pacifies the children. Skills get taught well enough to tick the C box. The behaviour remains bad but the boxes get ticked.

I look at the boy. “So what do your friends think about you being here?”

He smiles. “They think I’m lucky. They wish they could be me.”

You bet they do. These children have been given the chance of a lifetime. While it is true that not all of our children can go to public schools, why on earth is it not possible that during lesson time, we might teach our children three times as much as they are currently taught? Because of our prejudice against the poor, that’s why. These kids can’t do it, we say. They’re black. They’re poor. They live on a council estate. Teach them five academic subjects? Impossible! Get them interested in learning about Shakespeare? Impossible! Better to let them rot.

Am I wrong to want ALL of our children to have something similar to this public school?


Demand for a Catholic education has been growing in Wales

There are more than 2,300 Catholic schools in England and Wales, educating around 800,000 pupils and employing 40,000 teachers.

In fact, faith schools are enjoying a boom in many European countries and international research suggests their popularity is based on their ability to outperform secular schools.

Last year’s papal visit gave the Western world’s oldest institution a welcome boost and triggered a celebration of Catholic education in the UK.

Organisers hope a series of events taking place across the academic year will help promote the achievements of its schools.

Dr Martin Price, vice-chairman of the Archdiocese of Cardiff Schools Commission, said Catholic education is often misunderstood. “Our individual schools have a good profile in their communities, but the context in which they operate is less well-known,” he said. “Our schools are some of the most successful in Wales and are constantly at the forefront of Assembly Government strategies, whether on academic, well-being or ethical lines. They are non-selective and have a full range of social, ability and ethnic mix.”

Catholic schools make up around 5% of all those in Wales, with 15 secondary and 80 primary from Anglesey to Newport. Schools are voluntary-aided and receive the same revenue funding as any state school. Their day-to-day running is the same as any other maintained by the local authority, though the church, with contributions from the Catholic community, provides 15% funding for all capital projects.

Dr Price said that with the majority of Catholic schools oversubscribed, governors had to adhere to a strict oversubscription criteria. “Each Catholic school has its own admissions criteria and there are forms to fill in and register with the local authority,” he said. “Normally, we would look at Catholics local to the area first. Then we would look at children who are members of another Christian denomination and why they have chosen that particular school.”

Dr Price said that with a wider catchment area, there are varying numbers of Catholicism in school intake across Wales. But with Catholic pupils from the Philippines, Eastern Europe and India, schools are well-placed to cater for children of all faiths.

According to Dr Price, an influx of Catholic pupils from overseas has contributed to the rise in demand for its education provision. He said: “There was a point 10 years ago when our schools would have been predominantly white. That’s not the case now and immigration has played a part.

“People coming to this country don’t realise that our schools are free. In many parts of the world, Catholic education is independent from the state and parents have to pay.”

The performance of Catholic schools is traditionally very high, though the advent of a faith-based education is not to everyone’s liking. The National Secular Society opposes what it considers a “disproportionate influence of religion in our education system” and teaching unions have passed votes calling for faith schools to be abolished.

Dr Price vehemently opposed suggestions that Catholic schools “indoctrinate” their children. “It’s not about indoctrinating children in church doctrine. It’s about putting into practice moral judgements,” he said. “All schools will try and implicate moral values and it’s to do with ethos and trying to live out the faith. We explain the position the church takes on things.”

Religious education accounts for around 10% of lesson time and is part of the core curriculum in Catholic schools, with English, Welsh, maths and science. But a greater focus on RE by no means detracts from other subject areas. A study compiled by the Catholic Education Service showed that in every category assessed, Catholic schools achieved better results than the average for all state-funded institutions.

Inspectors judged 79% of Catholic secondary schools to be “good” or “outstanding” overall, compared to an average of 64% for all secondaries nationally. Among Catholic primaries, 79% were rated good or outstanding, higher than the average of 68% across the country.

Standards of classroom discipline and moral development among pupils were also far better in Catholic education, with fewer exclusions than in typical state schools.

Anne Robertson, diocesan director of schools in Cardiff, said: “We’re not perfect and have issues like everyone else, but the overall picture is quite good. “The Catholic Church is all about forgiveness and our schools try very hard to see how they can work with certain individuals. “It’s not just the academic standards but often the pastoral care that’s important. We see that as fundamental to what we’re trying to do.”

As co-ordinator of schools in the Cardiff Archdiocese, Ms Robert- son is charged with meeting demand for Catholic education in 10 local authorities, including Blae-nau Gwent and Monmouthshire. “To build a new secondary school would cost at least £20m and the Archdioceses would have to find around £3m of that. So we may need to consider other options such as expansion on existing sites.”

Looking to the future, the Catholic Church is hoping to build on the successful visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK and make policy makers in Cardiff Bay more aware of its work in the community. Dr Price said: “On a local level we’re very good, but from a national level we need to let [Education Minister] Leighton Andrews know we exist. “We need to be blowing our own trumpet that we’re doing things right and we want to influence Assembly thinking. “There’s a lack of understanding about what we do and that’s partly our fault because we haven’t told them,” he added.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Can American universities keep the minority students they woo?

It doesn't sound like any fault of the university that the young lady below dropped out. Other minorities (e.g. Asians and Jews) manage despite being "different". During my long-gone schooldays in a small country town, I was VERY different because I took no interest in sport -- but I still did well at school. And I got real obloquy and none of the propping up that the young woman below received. It's crystal clear that innate ability is the real factor at work -- and that is essentially unchangeable

Lehigh University did a good job wooing Nezy Smith here. She was the sort of student colleges compete for these days – an African-American youngster raised by a single mom who took honors and AP classes but still found time for the yearbook and German club. A Lehigh admissions officer met her at her high school in Lebanon, Pa. then kept in touch for a year, urging her to visit the campus and helping her to fill out complex financial-aid forms.

“He was like my guardian angel, transitioning from high school to college,” Smith said.

She arrived at Lehigh in 2008, elated to experience college life. She dismissed cautions by some upperclassmen that as a minority student she might sometimes feel unwelcome on the 146-year-old campus – for instance, at parties in the hilltop fraternity houses. “No way,” she responded.

But a few months into her freshman year, it happened. She and a group of black friends waited in vain outside a frat house, she recalled, while a member waved others in. Despite doing well in her business and German courses, she felt uneasy being the only black face, at times, in the classroom.

By the next winter, she was gone, joining the roughly 25 to 40 percent of black and Hispanic students who start at Lehigh but don’t finish, depending on the year. The institution that had worked so hard to attract Smith hadn’t done such a good job of keeping her, spotlighting a problem seen at colleges nationwide.

Perhaps no one could have made Nezy Smith feel at home at Lehigh. Perhaps the school simply wasn’t the right fit for her.

Feeling snubbed at frat parties wasn’t the worst part. She would watch white students drive around campus in their cars and see the slender girls trek up and down the hill on which the campus sits. Her family couldn’t afford for her to have a car. And she had curves. “That’s when color came into play. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was black,”

Smith said, recalling how this grew into a full-blown identity crisis by the start of her sophomore year. “I started to not like myself because I wanted to be like other students.”

Nezy Smith took nearly a year off to “recover” before officially withdrawing from Lehigh in November 2009. This past fall she enrolled at Temple University in Philadelphia, where 17 percent of the student body is black. “There are a lot of people who look like me,” she said.


Individual liberty cannot survive a republic of dunces

In an era noteworthy for Muslim terrorists plotting future 9/11s and nukes in the hands of fanatical nut jobs like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea's Kim Jong il, you might think there couldn't possibly be a more serious problem to ponder.

You would be wrong. Consider what happened recently when the Intercollegiate Studies Institute gave a 60-question civic literacy test to more than 28,000 college students:

"Less than half knew about federalism, judicial review, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and NATO. And this was a multiple-choice test, with the answers staring them right in the face," said political scientist Richard Bake, co-chairman of ISI's Civic Literacy Board.

"Ten percent thought that 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' came from the Communist Manifesto," Bake added during a recent interview with my Examiner colleague Barbara Hollingsworth.

Even the smart kids at Harvard failed the test, scoring on average 69, which is a D. Since the vast majority of the students tested are products of public schools, the results represent a comprehensive indictment of public education, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

These are the people who year after year graduate classes in which one of every four kids cannot read at even a basic level. If you can't read the Constitution, or the Declaration, or The Federalist Papers, you won't understand their essential concepts or why they represent so much wisdom.

When even our elite colleges and universities aren't teaching the next generation the basic concepts of the American republic like federalism or the difference between Thomas Jefferson and Karl Marx, it ought to be obvious that American public education is failing American democracy.

Does anybody on America's college faculties remember or care that once liberty is lost, it is almost never regained?

As with so much else, James Madison captures in a wonderfully succinct couple of sentences the profoundly serious implications of raising a generation that is politically crippled by its gross civic ignorance. Madison wrote of the difference between Europe and America, saying: "In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example ... of charters of power granted by liberty."

If you don't grasp how Madison's simple equation makes all the difference in the world for the manner in which this country is governed, then you probably don't understand why liberals and conservatives disagree on just about everything that is fundamental to contemporary public policy.

Take health care. Liberals love the European welfare state, epitomized by Britain's National Health Service, aka a "single-payer system" or the "public option." That is why Obamacare erects hundreds of new bureaucratic agencies to regulate every detail of health care research, delivery and pricing.

That includes hiring thousands of new Internal Revenue Service agents to enforce the individual mandate federal District Judge Roger Vinson just declared unconstitutional. And those 1,040 waivers granted so far under Obamacare are the modern illustration of those European "charters of liberty ... granted by power."

For conservatives, the ideal health care reform is embodied in the Health Savings Account that puts the power of choice in the hands of individuals. That makes insurance providers compete to satisfy customers instead of government bureaucrats.

The bureaucrats are limited to enforcing contracts honestly made and assuring sufficient transparency of services and products to enable individuals to make informed choices. Or, as Madison would say, those with liberty grant a limited charter of power to government to do specific things and only those things.

But a generation that is not taught to recognize the irreconcilable differences represented by the Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto, between Madison and Marx, the Federalist Papers and Rules for Radicals is doomed to be ruled, not to rule.

Individual liberty will not long survive in a republic of civic dunces.


History teaching in Britain fails to give pupils proper view of the past, says watchdog

Schoolchildren fail to grasp how events in history are linked because the subject is taught in “episodes”, an official report has warned. The Ofsted report said many primary and secondary pupils are being let down by a curriculum which does not give them a “chronological understanding” of the subject - instead concentrating on individual topics from ancient Egypt to post-war Britain.

The education watchdog also said that history teaching is being marginalised in state schools, while A-levels are not adequately preparing sixth-formers for more rigorous university courses.

The verdict will be seen as further damaging Labour’s legacy on education and add weight to calls for reform of the national curriculum, which is currently being reviewed by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, with the help of Simon Schama, the historian and television presenter.

Pupils in a typical primary school will study the Romans and Celts, Ancient Egypt, Henry VIII and the Tudors, Victorian life, World War II, the Ancient Greeks, and Britain since 1948 between years three and six - but not what order they are in.

A “fundamental weakness” in primary schools was that some teachers “did not teach to establish a clear mental map of the past for pupils”. The report said: “Some pupils found it difficult to place the historical episodes they had studied within any coherent, long-term narrative. “They knew about particular events, characters and periods but did not have an overview. Their chronological understanding was often underdeveloped and so they found it difficult to link developments together.”

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, said: “Pupils need to experience history as a coherent subject which develops their knowledge, thinking and understanding, especially their chronological understanding, and I hope the current review of the national curriculum will recognise the importance of this.”

In primary schools where history teaching was rated “satisfactory”, inspectors said there was “an unbalanced curriculum with too much attention paid to particular topics at the expense of others” and many teachers lacked specialist knowledge of the subject.

The report also criticised changes introduced by the previous government which allow schools to ditch history as a self-contained subject and instead incorporate it in a general humanities course alongside geography and arts subjects. “Where these developments had taken place, curriculum time for teaching had been reduced and history was becoming marginalised,” the inspectors said. “This resulted in significant gaps and encouraged an episodic understanding of the past.”

England is the only European country which does not teach compulsory history to the age of 15 or 16, with growing numbers of pupils now allowed to drop the subject at 13.

Ofsted stopped short of recommending that history should again be made compulsory at GCSE, but it did urge ministers to ensure pupils receive a “significant amount” of tuition in history to “at least the age of 14”.

Regarding history at secondary school level the report said: “One of the most serious concerns about poor provision was the tendency for teachers to try to cover too much content and 'spoon-feed’ students.” In some cases at Key Stage Three - for pupils aged 11 to 14 - some teachers gave only cursory checks to children’s work books so that “basic errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation were uncorrected”.

The inspectors found an over-dependence on text books at sixth form level, meaning students were unprepared for studying the subject at university.

And the report detailed falling numbers of schools offering history at GCSE. In 2010, 102 maintained secondary schools entered no students at all to sit GCSE history, compared with 77 schools the year before. In State schools, only 30 per cent of pupils took history at GCSE last year - and 20 per cent at academies - compared with half in the independent [private] sector.

The most able students are being let down, the report indicated. History teaching for the brightest was good or outstanding in only 16 of 32 schools analysed, with the rest only satisfactory, it said.