Saturday, May 21, 2011

Creationism banned from British free schools

If science needs protection from creationist ideas, that does not say much for science

Creationism, intelligent design and other theories that contradict evolution are to be banned from being taught as science in free schools. Critics have warned that evangelical groups will be able to teach such ideas without interference, as free schools will not have to follow the national curriculum.

But now the Department for Children, Education and Schools has issued guidance explicitly stating that teaching such theories as science will not be allowed. The "minimum requirements" guidance, published earlier this week, reads: "Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories."

The guidance is to help those assessing applications for free schools. More than 300 groups have already applied to set up free schools, including one by the Everyday Champions Church in Newark, Notts., which wants to include creationism as part of the national curriculum.

In January Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said applications from creationist groups would be considered on a case-by-case basis. That prompted a letter from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), which warned that creationists intended to use free schools to launch a "concerted attack" on science education.

In March the DfE said Mr Gove was "crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact". Nonetheless, speculation continued that creationism would be allowed, as no guidance was issued on the subject.

A DfE spokesman said on Friday that Mr Gove "will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories". The spokesman said such ideas could be legitimately discussed as beliefs in religious education classes, but not taught as science.

Roger Stanyard from the BCSE - which describes itself as "the leading anti-creationist organisation in Europe" - said it was "largely happy" at the DfE's stance. However, he said: "It depends how it is implemented. People will always find ways around the rules."

Pastor Gareth Morgan, leader of the Everyday Champions Church, said the guidance would have no impact on their plans to open a secondary school for 652 pupils in Newark. They submitted the application in January. He said: "We have no intention of teaching creationism in the science curriculum. It will be taught in RE.

"It is very very clear, and has been from the start, that teaching creationism as science will not be allowed. "We must be happy with that, or otherwise we would not have bothered submitting the proposal."


Falsely accused teachers & students harmed by new U.S. Education Department policy

By Hans Bader (a former Education Department lawyer)

The Washington Post had a sad story on May 14 about a school teacher falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a student with a vendetta against him and a history of bullying. A jury acquitted Fairfax teacher Sean Lanigan after just 47 minutes of deliberations, expressing amazement at the weakness of the charges against him. But he still doesn’t have his old job back.

If the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has its way, more teachers like him will end up being fired even if they are acquitted by a jury of any wrongdoing, and may very well be innocent. It sent a letter to school officials on April 4 ordering them to lower the burden of proof they use when determining whether students or staff are guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault. According to the Department of Education’s demands, schools must find people guilty if there is a mere 51% chance that they are guilty – a so-called preponderance of the evidence standard. So if an accused is found not guilty under a higher burden of proof – like the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal cases – the accused will still be subject to disciplinary action under the lower burden of proof dictated by the Education Department.

Most colleges have historically required "clear and convincing" evidence of guilt. This sensible standard requires less absolute certainty about guilt than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used in criminal prosecutions, but more certainty than the mere 51% chance (preponderance) standard demanded by the Education Department. But under pressure from the Education Department, colleges across the country have now abandoned this safeguard against false accusations.

Many colleges, like Yale, Stanford, Brandeis, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Virginia have now changed the burden of proof in their disciplinary proceedings to comply with the Education Department’s demands, largely eliminating the presumption of innocence. The Education Department investigated these schools at the request of Wendy Murphy, a lawyer who championed the failed prosecution of the innocent Duke Lacrosse players (making a litany of false claims against them and their lawyers), even though their innocence was later conceded by prosecutors and North Carolina’s attorney general. (The woman who falsely accused the Duke Lacrosse players was never punished for her false allegation, despite her prior criminal record and history of false allegations, and recently stabbed to death her live-in boyfriend). Murphy claims that she has “never, ever” encountered “a false rape claim.”

But as another lawyer, Wendy Kaminer, noted in the Washington Post on May 12, “not all accusations of sexual misconduct are accurate or true, and the truth can be especially hard to discern in ‘he said, she said’ cases.” Thus, “the Education Department’s new policies increase the risk that students wrongly accused of misconduct will be found guilty, suspended or expelled, and tarred as stalkers or rapists.”

I earlier explained why the Education Department’s position was not supported by the court rulings it pretended to rely on, and actually conflicted with appeals court rulings making clear that employers and schools are not liable for sexual harassment under Title IX and Title VII merely because they give the accused a strong presumption of innocence.

Now, the Daily Caller reports that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the Education Department a letter on May 5 protesting its attempt to water down due-process rights in campus disciplinary proceedings.

In addition to trying to lower the burden of proof, the Education Department is attempting to deprive accused students and faculty of the opportunity to cross-examine their accusers: “students accused of harassment should not be allowed to confront (or directly question) their accusers, according to OCR, because cross-examination of a complainant ‘may be traumatic or intimidating.’” As OCR puts it, “OCR strongly discourages schools from allowing the parties personally to question or cross-examine each other during the hearing.” This is perverse, since the preeminent legal expert on evidence, Wigmore, called cross-examination “the most powerful engine for the discovery of truth ever devised by man." In sexual harassment cases brought in court, the defendant invariably has the opportunity to cross-examine the accuser, because courts recognize that cross-examination is useful in exposing false allegations.

The Education Department argues that colleges must use a 51%-chance standard in their internal disciplinary proceedings over harassment -- rather than requiring clear and convincing evidence -- because that’s the standard that courts use in most lawsuits, including civil rights cases. But that doesn’t make sense, because the issue being decided in college disciplinary proceedings (whether harassment occurred and the accused is guilty) is different from the issue being decided in court when a college is sued for harassment (whether the college’s response to harassment was unreasonable or “deliberately indifferent”).

The Education Department is glossing over the undisputed fact that the mere existence of harassment by students isn’t enough for liability in a lawsuit against a college. More is required. The school’s own actions in response to the harassment must be culpably negligent or indifferent. As the Education Department itself admitted in its 1997 “Sexual Harassment Guidance,” “Title IX does not make a school responsible for the actions of harassing students, but rather for its own discrimination in failing to remedy it once the school has notice.” (See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties, 62 Fed. Reg. 12034, 12040 (March 13, 1997)).

So to violate Title IX, an institution’s own actions must be proven culpable under a “preponderance” standard — not the mere occurrence of harassment. And whether harassment occurred and whether the school was unreasonable in how it responded to it are two different issues. (For example, in Knabe v. Boury Corp. (1997), a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against an employer that refused to discipline an accused employee because of the lack of corroboration for the accuser’s allegations – even though it assumed that the accuser’s allegations were accurate and truthful – because the employer investigated and in good faith concluded that the accused was not guilty based on the lack of strong proof of guilt. The employer could not be held liable, because its response was “reasonably calculated” to address harassment. Similarly, in Doe v. Dallas Independent School District (2000), another federal appeals court ruled than a school did not violate Title IX, and was not "deliberately indifferent" to harassment, merely because it reached the wrong conclusion about whether the accused was guilty. In Adler v. Wal-Mart (1998), a different appeals court ruled that an employer was not liable for sexual harassment where it failed to discipline one of the harassers, since his guilt was not clear at the time, and holding it liable for its reasonable but erroneous belief that he was not guilty would callously disregard his due process rights. In short, as yet another appeals court put it in the case of Harris v. L & L Wings (1997), "a good faith investigation of alleged harassment may satisfy the ‘prompt and adequate’ response standard, even if the investigation turns up no evidence of harassment. . . . Such an employer may avoid liability even if a jury later concludes that in fact harassment occurred.'”)

What standard of proof is “reasonable” for a school to apply in disciplinary cases? Both legal tradition and constitutional due-process rulings suggest that it is perfectly reasonable to apply a higher burden of proof than 51% -- like “clear and convincing evidence” – when determining the guilt of individuals, rather than the monetary liability of an institution.

First, as FIRE notes, the Supreme Court itself has used a higher “‘clear, unequivocal and convincing' standard of proof” even outside the context of criminal prosecutions, when necessary to promote the due process rights of individuals, and has blessed the use of this higher standard “in civil cases involving allegations of fraud or some other quasi-criminal wrongdoing by the defendant," where the damage to “reputation” resulting from an erroneous finding of guilt is particularly severe (as it surely is in sexual harassment and rape cases).

Second, it has long been customary to use a “clear and convincing” standard of proof in disciplinary cases in general, including sexual harassment and other forms of wrongdoing that can lead to civil litigation. This standard has long been used by a wide variety of decision-makers ranging from college officials and labor arbitrators to state licensing boards and bar disciplinary proceedings.


Local high school seeks principal by advertising in hardcore homosexual newspaper!

How radical and severely anti-family have some public school systems become? Much more than you can imagine.

The town of Milton, Massachusetts is advertising in a hardcore homosexual newspaper for a new principal for Milton High School. The newspaper Bay Windows, published in Boston, has a history of perversion, anti-Catholic bigotry, hatred of traditional values, and general disgusting content. Over the years it has published some of the most vile anti-parent articles you could imagine.

Milton actually was known for being fairly conservative, at one time. But obviously not now.

We don't know what else to say about this. It's complete madness. When a homosexual activist runs the school and all the staff, the indoctrination becomes institutionalized and religious freedom goes out the window. And the students (and their parents) are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Failure of American Schools

By JOEL KLEIN, former Chancellor of NYC schools

TO COMPREHEND THE depth of the problem, consider one episode that still shocks me. Starting in 2006, under federal law, the State of New York was required to test students in grades three through eight annually in math and English. The results of those tests would enable us, for the first time, to analyze year-to-year student progress and tie it to individual teacher performance—a metric known in the field as “teacher value-added.” In essence, you hold constant other factors—where the students start from the prior year, demographics, class size, teacher length of service, and so on—and, based on test results, seek to isolate the individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s progress. Some teachers, for example, move their class forward on average a quarter-year more than expected; others, a quarter-year less. Value-added isn’t a perfect metric, but it’s surely worth considering as part of an overall teacher evaluation.

After we developed data from this metric, we decided to factor them into the granting of tenure, an award that is made after three years and that provides virtual lifetime job security. Under state law at the time, we were free to use these data. But after the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, objected, I proposed that the City use value-added numbers only for the top and bottom 20 percent of teachers: the top 20 percent would get positive credit; the bottom would lose credit. And even then, principals would take value-added data into account only as part of a much larger, comprehensive tenure review. Even with these limitations, the UFT said “No way,” and headed to Albany to set up a legislative roadblock.

Seemingly overnight, a budget amendment barring the use of test data in tenure decisions materialized in the heavily Democratic State Assembly. Joe Bruno, then the Republican majority leader in the State Senate, assured me that this amendment would not pass: he controlled the majority and would make sure that it remained united in opposition. Fast-forward a few weeks: the next call I got from Senator Bruno was to say, apologetically, that several of his Republican colleagues had caved to the teachers union, which had threatened reprisals in the next election if they didn’t get on board.

As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment, under New York law you could not consider a teacher’s impact on student learning. That Kafkaesque outcome demonstrates precisely the way the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.

Let’s start with the politicians. From their point of view, the school system can be enormously helpful, providing patronage hires, school-placement opportunities for connected constituents, the means to get favored community and business programs adopted and funded, and politically advantageous ties to schools and parents in their communities.

During my maiden testimony before the State Assembly, I said that we would end patronage hires, which were notorious under the old system of 32 school districts, run by 32 school boards and 32 superintendents (a 2002 state bill granting Bloomberg mayoral control of the city’s schools abolished the 32 boards). At my mention of patronage, the legislators, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, purported to be “shocked.” Nevertheless, after the hearing, when I went to thank committee members, one took me aside and said: “Listen, they’re trying to get rid of a principal in my district who runs a Democratic club for us. If you protect him, you’ll never have a problem with me.” This kind of encounter was not rare.

Similarly, I faced repeated requests for “constituent services,” meaning good school placements for wired constituents. After we reorganized the system and minimized the power of the 32 local superintendents—the go-to people for politicians under the past regime—a local official called me and asked, “Whom do I call for constituent services after your reorg?” I replied, “What’s that?” Impatiently, he asked, “How do I get a kid into a school when I need to?” I jokingly answered, “Oh, we must have left out that office in the reorg” (actually thinking, silly me, that the school system should use equitable rules for admission). He said, “Go fuck yourself,” and hung up. Despite our constant efforts, or because of them, this kind of political pressure—and payback if we weren’t responsive—happened at every level. Even more important, politicians can reap enormous political support from the unions representing school employees. The two national unions—the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—together have some 4.7 million members, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars in national, state, and local dues, much of which is funneled to political causes. Teachers unions consistently rank among the top spenders on politics.

Moreover, millions of union members turn out when summoned, going door-to-door, staffing phone banks, attending rallies, and the like. Teachers are extremely effective messengers to parents, community groups, faith-based groups, and elected officials, and the unions know how to deploy them well. And just as happy unions can give a politician massive clout, unhappy unions—well, just ask Eva Moskowitz, a Democrat who headed the City Council Education Committee when I became chancellor in 2002. Brilliant, savvy, ambitious, often a pain in my neck, and atypically fearless for an elected official, she was widely expected to be elected Manhattan borough president in 2005. Until, that is, she held hearings on the New York City teachers-union contract—an extraordinary document, running on for hundreds of pages, governing who can teach what and when, who can be assigned to hall-monitor or lunchroom duty and who can’t, who has to be given time off to do union work during the school day, and so on. Truth is, the contract defied parody. So when Moskowitz exposed its ridiculousness, the UFT, then headed by Randi Weingarten, made sure that Moskowitz’s run for borough president came up short. After that, other elected officials would say to me, “I agree with you, but I ain’t gonna get Eva’d.”

In short, politicians—especially Democratic politicians—generally do what the unions want. And the unions, in turn, are very clear about what that is. They want, first, happy members, so that those who run the unions get reelected; and, second, more members, so their power, money, and influence grow. As Albert Shanker, the late, iconic head of the UFT, once pointedly put it, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” And what do the members want? Employees understandably want lifetime job security (tenure), better pay regardless of performance (seniority pay), less work (short days, long holidays, lots of sick days), and the opportunity to retire early (at, say, 55) with a good lifetime pension and full health benefits; for their part, the retirees want to make sure their benefits keep coming and grow through cost-of-living increases. The result: whether you work hard or don’t, get good results with kids or don’t, teach in a shortage area like math or special education or don’t, or in a hard-to-staff school in a poor community or not, you get paid the same, unless you’ve been around for another year, in which case you get more. Not bad for the adults.

But it’s just disastrous for the kids in our schools. While out-of-school environment certainly affects student achievement, President Obama was on to something in 2008 when he said: “The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of [students’] skin or where they come from. It’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is.” Yet, rather than create a system that attracts and rewards excellent teachers—and that imposes consequences for ineffective or lazy ones—we treat all teachers as if they were identical widgets and their performance didn’t matter.

In fact, notwithstanding union rhetoric that “tenure is merely due process,” firing a public-school teacher for non-performance is virtually impossible. In New York City, which has some 55,000 tenured teachers, we were able to fire only half a dozen or so for incompetence in a given year, even though we devoted significant resources to this effort.

The extent of this “no one gets fired” mentality is difficult to overstate—or even adequately describe. Steven Brill wrote an eye-opening piece in The New Yorker about the “rubber rooms” in New York City, where teachers were kept, while doing no work, pending resolution of the charges against them—mostly for malfeasance, like physical abuse or embezzlement, but also for incompetence. The teachers got paid regardless. (To add insult to injury, these cases ultimately were heard by an arbitrator whom the union had to first approve.) Before we stopped this charade—unfortunately by returning many of these teachers to the classroom, as the arbitrators likely would have required—it used to cost the City about $35 million a year.

In addition, more than 1,000 teachers get full pay while performing substitute-teacher and administrative duties because no principal wants to hire them full-time. This practice costs more than $100 million annually.

Perhaps the most shocking example of the City’s having to pay for teachers who don’t work involves several teachers accused of sexual misconduct—including at least one who was found guilty—whom the union-approved arbitrators refuse to terminate. Although the City is required to put them back in the classroom, it understandably refuses to do so. And the union has never sued the City to have these teachers reinstated, even though it knows it could readily win. It has also never helped figure out how to get these deadbeats off the payroll, where they may remain for decades at full pay, followed by a lifetime pension. No one—and the union means no one—gets fired.


Are Teacher Unions Gouging Teachers?

How much money do teachers unions really need to collect from their members to represent their interests with their employers?

One way we can find out is to see how much money the various branches of the national and state teachers unions have left over after paying the people who work directly for the unions themselves, whose jobs are to represent the member teachers at their school districts and perhaps also to represent their interests at the state and national level as well.

With that in mind, any money collected from mandatory union dues that sharply exceeds the costs of compensating the union's own employees or the costs of operating the union itself, such as rent for office or meeting space for the union's employees, would have to be considered to be excessive. If excessively excessive, the amount of dues above that basic level would constitute gouging on the part of the union bosses, who set the level of their represented teachers' dues, as they would be collecting far more in dues than what is genuinely necessary to represent their members' at their employers..........

Using these mean and median figures as a baseline value, we identify any union affiliate with a surplus percentage of member dues greater than 25% of the total member dues collected as potentially having set their member dues in excess of that required to legitimately represent the interests of teachers at their employers. We've shaded the rows of the table where the union affiliate's surplus dues exceed this level.

We also note several union affiliates that appear to have been substantially mismanaged in 2008-09, in that their expenditures for compensating their direct employees exceed the revenue collected by dues imposed upon their union's member teachers. The states that fall in this category include Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Oregon and Washington. The rows for these states have been shaded red in the table above.

But to answer the question we asked at the outset, some teachers are indeed being gouged by their union's bosses - the ones whose state legislatures were controlled by the Democratic party in 2008-09 and whose union bosses are sending the member teachers' money. The amount of the gouging would be approximately the amount in excess of 25% of each education union affiliate's total revenue from their members' dues.

We see that at the national level, where surplus member dues exceed 63% of the total member dues collected. Using our 25% threshold as the cap for "legitimate" union representation expenses, this suggests that the portion of teachers union dues that go to the national affiliate of the NEA could be reduced by 40% without impacting the ability of the teachers to have their interests effectively represented at this level.

The states whose education unions are most gouging their teachers members include Hawaii (with surplus member dues of 66% and 34% for the state's two NEA affiliates), California (54%), Ohio (50.7%), Florida (42.0%), Nevada (41.6%), Massachusetts (37.6%) and Wisconsin (35.6%). At a minimum, teachers' union dues could be reduced by anywhere from 10% to 25% in these states without impacting the union affiliates ability to just represent the teachers at their employers.

Finally, we note a significant divergence between states with legislatures controlled by members of the Democratic party and those states whose legislatures are either controlled by the Republicans or are split between the two major U.S. political parties.

Here, after adding up the amount of surplus revenue remaining after the union affiliates employees compensation has been subtracted from the total member dues collected, we find that states with Democratic legislatures account for $237,616,324 of the total surplus dues collected, or 70.7% of the $335,937,045 of the total surplus member dues collected in 2008-09 for the NEA's state affiliates.

By contrast, union affiliates in states with divided legislatures account for $66,067,598, or 19.7% of the total surplus collected, while union affiliates in states with legislatures controlled by the Republican party have surplus member dues collections of $32,253,123, or 9.6% of the total surplus collected among all states.

There are some different ways to interpret what this divergence means. First, it could indicate that teachers in states with legislatures with at least one division of the state legislature controlled by the Republican party are happier with that situation, as it indicates that the teachers aren't massing funds to support a prolonged strike in those states. That would also mean that teachers in states with Democratic-party controlled legislatures are less happy with that situation, and that they were preparing to support massive walkouts in 2008-09.

Yes, we laughed at that idea too! More likely, what's going on is that the teachers unions in states with Democratic party-controlled legislatures have been effectively captured by Democratic party members, who are using the surplus member dues to fund their party's political candidates at all levels in those states.

But we'd love to see the reaction of the state union bosses with high levels of dues gouging if anyone ever asks them if the reason why union dues would seem to be so much lower in the so-called Republican-controlled states is because Republicans are better at keeping unionized teachers happy!

Much more HERE

Australia: Harsher penalities for school thugs in Victoria

TOUGHER penalties for violent parents and students are on the way as more schools resort to lockdowns to protect students and staff. More than one state school a week is now locking students in to protect them from violence and aggression, compared to less than one a month five years ago.

Education Minister Martin Dixon yesterday told the Herald Sun he planned to increase penalties for the sorts of behaviour that often spark lockdowns. "There is a high expectation in the community that schools are safe places," Mr Dixon said. "Teachers expect that, parents expect that and children expect it and we've got to do everything in our power to ensure that remains the case."

Mr Dixon said schools were generally safe places, but there were some worrying trends with violence that needed to be addressed. He said a department taskforce was working to determine appropriate penalties.

Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said the federation had been pushing for tougher penalties for all illegal behaviour on school grounds. He said higher penalties - as applies to attacks on emergency service workers - were needed to curb a marked upsurge in violence, particularly from parents, in the past two years. "We want schools to have a status that is greater than that of a public park," Mr Cotching said. "When (people) come into a school there should be an understood and accepted requirement about how they behave."

New data obtained by the Herald Sun shows 11 schools locked in students in the first two months of the school year - nine of them because of aggressive or antisocial behaviour. In 2010 there were 23 school lockdowns for aggression and antisocial behaviour for the entire school year. Across 2008 and 2009 there were 53 violence-related lockdowns, up from 20 in 2006 and 2007.

Last month Flemington Primary was forced to hire a security guard after a father who was angry over a personal issue allegedly became threatening and aggressive.

Mr Cotching said principals have no protection or timely support in dealing with parents "who seem to think it is their unrestricted right to abuse, harass and intimidate" principals and teachers.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

School Boots Boy Scouts for Mother Earth

The school in my neighborhood told the Cub Scouts this week that their flyer cannot be distributed because it mentions God in the 12 core values.

While this constitutional misstep is unseemly, it is somehow made worse when contrasted with the always-welcome creed of environmentalism.

Like any normal American, I appreciate living in clean, healthy surroundings. But the green movement went past the point of preachy years ago.

Environmental respect advanced from the “don’t be a litterbug” messages of the 1960s to that crying indian commercial of 1970 to the recycle obsession of the past thirty years. Somewhere along the tour, the movement got mystical. For some time now, environmentalism has looked, walked, and quacked like a religion.

While bothered at what appears to be government-established religion in public schools, I had not made the effort to analyze it until the rejected Cub Scout flyer became an issue in our local school this week.

The message of reverence for “Mother Earth” has unquestionably been presented in this same school district for years. Still on the school website from 2009 are photos, videos and quotes from a local high school assembly where all 2,000 students gathered for a hero’s welcome for visiting Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum.

Ms. Tum is quoted as telling the students, “The Mayan calendar teaches that the earth is our mother.” Then, “Wherever you go in life, get your group together and do something. Teach other young people. If we were to gather a million young people that care for Mother Earth, we’ve done something very successful. Young people need to say: Here we are. We are here to stand for the health of our Mother Earth.”

Does this worship of the environment constitute a religion? Turns out that it does -- since 1998. Merriam-Webster defines Pantheism as “a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.” A bit of search-engine query reveals that the World Pantheist Movement officially established themselves as a religion on June 29, 1998 when they were issued a certificate of incorporation as a non-profit corporation in Colorado. Their website domain name,, was first created on January 23 of that same year.

The salient quotes from the World Pantheist Movement website include, “Why call this a religion rather than a philosophy? Like Buddhism or Taoism, it is both. It is clearly a philosophy. However, it deals with areas of life - especially our feelings of awe and wonder at the universe and love for nature - which are emotional and aesthetic and go beyond philosophy.

These are the proper realm of religion. Unlike straight philosophical systems, pantheism also has its own characteristic approach to meditation and religious ceremony.”

The site goes on to describe the legal benefits of being a religion, including tax advantages, and “being allowed to perform legal marriage and funeral ceremonies.”

I believe that my instincts are confirmed. Strictly controlling every move of the Cub Scouts on campus while celebrating “Mother’s Day for Mother Earth,” as one high school poster reads, is a double violation of the First Amendment.


British university admissions overhaul sparks panic among markers

Plans to overhaul the university admissions system could destroy the accuracy of A-level grades, experts have warned. Pupils currently apply for university courses on the basis of the grades their teachers predict they will achieve. Under Government proposals, from 2014 they will apply after they have received their results.

Universities Minister David Willetts believes the change will help disadvantaged teenagers who are routinely predicted lower grades than they achieve.

But the plans would necessitate a far swifter marking system, and exam boards have said the only way they can do this is by increasing the use of electronic and online marking. This has prompted fears that new systems will be rushed through before the technology is thoroughly tested, possibly leading to inaccurate grades and students wrongly missing out on university places.

Last year a technical glitch in exam board AQA’s system led to the incorrect marking of thousands of papers.

David Vanstone, headmaster of fee-paying North Cestrian Grammar School in Altrincham, Cheshire, and former chairman of the Independent Schools Association, said: ‘It is wholly wrong to rush in a system that isn’t tried and tested. ‘You have to protect the integrity of the exam system to makes sure everybody has faith in it. Accuracy is more important than speed.’

Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: ‘In principle it is an excellent idea but I would like to voice caution. In a bid for efficient marking, rigorous questions may be dropped.’ The proposal is to be included in the Higher Education White Paper.


Australia: A university determined to destroy its reputation for excellence

Choosing its academic staff on non-academic criteria: No men allowed for top teaching jobs in engineering

MELBOURNE University has won the right to bypass anti-discrimination laws so it can choose women for senior academic jobs in engineering. VCAT granted an exemption to the university to advertise two women-only research fellowships worth up to $100,000 a year each because of a "gender imbalance" in academic staff.

The university says girls need more role models at the highest levels of engineering, but critics argue gender shouldn't be an issue when choosing suitable staff.

The School of Engineering said less than one-in-five lecturers and research fellows and only 3 per cent of professors were female.

The head of mechanical engineering at Melbourne, Prof Doreen Thomas, said the exemption was needed to encourage more female PhD graduates to further their careers. "Often women don't apply for the positions. They don't think they're good enough for them," she said. "We need to have women as role models to go out to schools and say: 'Consider doing engineering'."

Former Engineers Australia state president Madeleine McManus said the profession struggled to attract women because of image problems, lack of role models and work-life balance issues.

But labour market analyst Rodney Stinson said it was ludicrous to offer women-only academic jobs when female employment in some engineering fields was as low as 4 per cent. "Why should 4 per cent have representation on what should be an elite group at university level," he said. "Within an academic framework, unless you're studying gender matters, it's ludicrous to look at gender."


New Zealand Schools arrange secret abortions

A MOTHER is angry her 16-year-old daughter had a secret abortion arranged by a school counsellor. Helen, not her real name, found out about the termination four days after it had happened. "I was horrified. Horrified that she'd had to go through that on her own, and horrified her friends and counsellors had felt that she shouldn't talk to us," she said.

She had suspected something was wrong, but her daughter insisted her tears were over everyday teenage dramas.

But Helen confronted her daughter's friends, who said the counsellor had taken the girl for a scan and to doctors. "I didn't know that they could do that."

Helen said teachers could discuss how a student was doing in school or phone parents when their child misbehaved, but would then keep life-changing situations such as abortions secret.

Her daughter had since told her the counsellor "wasn't very forthcoming" with advice. The counsellor did ask the girl if she had talked to her parents, but never pursued it.

Helen said follow-up counselling for her daughter was "nonexistent". She concedes patient confidentiality is a tricky issue and said her child feared she'd be disowned. "She's come to realise that's not the case. But if you're responsible for them, surely you should be told."

Helen has been too upset to approach the school. "Afterwards I was too wild, and I probably still am."

Another mother who was worried for her 15-year-old daughter "hit a brick wall" when she approached the school, and eventually discovered it was a friend of her daughter's who had undergone an abortion. "But I went through the horror of knowing that under the legislation, they did not need to say anything to me."

One teacher told the Sunday Star-Times she had seen parents become "absolutely livid" after finding out they had been kept out of abortion decisions. She knew of a Year 13 student who had had two abortions – one with her parents' knowledge, and one without.

She said the law catered for the "lowest common denominator" – pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, but girls sometimes did not want to tell their parents for fear they would react badly or demand prosecutions for statutory rape if their daughters were under 16.

Christchurch lawyer Kathryn Dalziel, who wrote Privacy In Schools: A guide to the Privacy Act for principals, teachers and boards of trustees, said students who saw counsellors were promised confidentiality, and the service was bound by the Health Privacy Code. "When it comes to contraception and abortion, they [counsellors] would need the consent of the person before they could share information with a parent or the school," she said.

"If that protection disappeared, you can pretty well guarantee the young person won't tell the counsellor a thing – particularly the thing you need them to talk about." And a counsellor who broke the rules and told a parent without the child's consent could be struck off.

Dalziel said she would be devastated if any of her daughters had an abortion without her support. "But knowing it is something that could happen, my whole thing about raising my children is to know how to listen and learn and get information."

Guidance counsellor Helen Bissett said the situation could be an "ethical nightmare", and a number of schools now had wellness centres so girls could see a nurse, not a counsellor. Not knowing how a parent would react was one of the main reasons girls wanted to hide the truth, she said.

"In the heat of the moment, parents can say some pretty rough stuff but once they've got through that, they're often really supportive."

She talked to students "long and hard" about getting a family member involved. Girls had to see a doctor for tests, scans and see two certifying consultants before they could have an abortion. The consultants explained the health risks and the girl had to sign a form saying she understood and consented. "I don't organise any and I never want to," Bissett said. "I go with them to the doctor, but I won't go to a termination."

White Teachers File Race-Bias Lawsuits

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Racial tension is seemingly evident at predominantly-black Thomas Mifflin Elementary School.

Four white teachers, Colleen Yarnell, Nicole Boyd, Debra Marenbach and Marta Ciccimaro, have filed federal race-bias lawsuits accusing a black principal of creating a hostile work environment.
Their lawsuits say that a former principal had them read an article that said “white teachers do not have the ability to teach African-American students.”

The teachers also allege that the principal, Charles Ray III, and others undermined their work by reprimanding them, randomly changing their room assignments and letting black teachers ignore rules that their white counterparts had to follow. Ray also retaliated when they filed union grievances, they said.

“Charles Ray III consistently stated that he had a relationship with top school officials indicating that his conduct was part of an approved policy or was part of a pattern of practices sanctioned and supported by ‘higher authority,”’ the suits allege.
The teachers are seeking an apparent punitive award of more than $150,000 each.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another hate-filled American school administration

They just don't like kids: Girl who reported bus-trip sex punished

A woman said Monday that an Ohio charter school is punishing her daughter for not immediately reporting that she saw two classmates having sex on a school bus and for changing her seat during the bus trip.

Saundra Roundtree told The Associated Press that her 14-year-old daughter told her she changed seats with a boy who wanted to sit beside another girl on a Dayton View Academy school trip last month and then saw the two having sex.

The 14-year-old told her mother the day the bus returned April 22 about what happened on the trip to tour out-of-state colleges, but said she was afraid to report it to school officials. "She wasn't sure what the boy might do in response," Roundtree said. "He might have retaliated against her."

Roundtree told school officials what her daughter said she witnessed, and they said they would investigate, Roundtree, 48, of Dayton said.

School officials told Roundtree on Friday that her daughter would not be allowed to attend the eighth-grade prom or the class picnic next month, but could graduate with her class, Roundtree said.

School officials did not immediately return calls Monday.

"They punished my daughter — who did the right thing by telling what she saw — but did nothing to the eight chaperones who were sitting in the front of the bus at the time and should have been monitoring the kids," Roundtree said. "If they are not doing anything to the chaperones, how can they punish my daughter?"

Roundtree said the actions against her daughter send the wrong message. "It sends the message that she shouldn't have said anything," Roundtree said.

Roundtree said she had to tell her daughter about the punishment when she got home from school Friday. "She was very upset," Roundtree said. "She had been looking forward to the prom all year."

The students seen having sex on the bus were suspended, WHIO-TV in Dayton reported, but Roundtree said school officials would not tell her what — if any — discipline they might face.

Roundtree kept her daughter home Monday and was trying to see if she could arrange home schooling for the remaining few weeks of class. "Other students know, and we are afraid of possible retaliation," said Roundtree, who didn't release her daughter's name.

She said she has contacted a lawyer and would ask the school to revoke her daughter's punishment.


Value of degree questioned as research shows two-in-three British graduates fail to find suitable work

The value of higher education has been cast into doubt after it emerged nearly two thirds of recent graduates have failed to find a graduate job.

New research shows recent university-leavers are questioning the value of their hard-earned degrees, and many are considering moving overseas to find suitable work.

'The UK is failing its graduates. School leavers are faced with difficult decisions. Not only has the cost of going to university risen, but UK employment options are bleak,' said Sean Howard, vice-president of talent management company SHL, which commissioned the poll.

Researchers questioned 1,000 students who had graduated in the past three years, and found that 60 per cent do not have a graduate job. If these figures were replicated across the population, it would mean around 611,000 graduates have not found a degree-level job.

Disillusioned graduates still loooking for that first step on the career ladder have begun to question whether going to university was worth the trouble.

Given the choice again, 28 per cent - more than one in four - said they would go straight into work, and 8 per cent said they would take up an apprenticeship. Two fifths said they would not have gone to university at all if they had to pay the new £9,000 maximum tuition fees.

The findings suggest around 407,000 recent graduates would not have gone to university under the new fee levels.

While the nearly half of respondents (42.9 per cent) had applied for between one and 10 jobs, one in eight (12 per cent) tried their luck with more than 50. Fourty-seven per cent looked, or have been looking, for work for up to six months, and a third have been job-hunting for up to a year.

In an economy still straining to emerge from recession, graduates are increasingly looking overseas for opportunities, raising the prospect that the UK could suffer from a 'brain drain'.

More than a third (36 per cent) of those questioned said they would move abroad for a better salary, 34 per cent said they would move away for better opportunities, and 32 per cent said they would live overseas because of a lack of jobs in the UK. Europe was the most popular destination (chosen by 38 per cent), followed by North America (23 per cent) and Australia (21 per cent).

One in four said they would be willing to work unpaid for more than three months to gain experience in their chosen field.

Mr Howard said: 'Graduates are also under pressure to undertake unpaid internships in order to gain a foothold on the career ladder. It's not just university that carries a high price, but gaining work experience too. 'This could mean a future where the best jobs are reserved for those that can afford to attend university and clock up the most unpaid experience.

'Understandably our graduates are open to the idea of seeking their career abroad, and the UK industry is faced with a potential brain drain. 'If the Government won't reconsider the tuition fees, our recruiters need to reconsider their hiring criteria.'


Australian students caught in the culture war crossfire

Public schools are again the battleground of a culture war. Make no mistake, the debate about the chaplaincy program and religious teacing really is a conflict about culture rather than God's place in a classroom.

The government announced in last week's federal budget an extra $222 million for the National School Chaplaincy program and providing religion classes in public schools. Yet revelations that Access Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison had spoken in a 2008 conference about the "need to go and make disciples" through a "God-given open door to children and young people" will no doubt further rattle those who resist such moves. The Victorian teachers union called at the weekend for an end to religious teaching in schools.

The battle is an extension of the skirmishes during the Howard years around what constitutes Australian identity and history. Many supporters of Christianity-oriented Special Religious Instruction (SRI) would argue, for instance, that Australia has after all been peopled and shaped by Christians of various denominations.

They have a point. In 1947, 88 per cent of Australians identified with one of these denominations. Even the most recent ABS census reveals that Christianity remains demographically prominent, with 64 per cent claiming at least nominal adherence. Inevitably, in some circles, being Australian is conflated with being Christian.

However, the reasoning that this aspect of Australian national identity needs to be preserved – some would say expanded – is faulty in the same way that an exclusively "white" or Anglo conception of it is false and potentially dangerous. Our social reality is no longer the monoculture it once was and it will never be that way again. Much as Christians would see opposition to SRI as an attack on their values and God himself, the glaring truth is that Australians embrace a range of belief systems that are also life-giving. Religious plurality is simply not the same as moral relativity.

What is thus insidious about volunteer-run religion classes is not that they might result in young people taking up a creed, but that in Victoria in particular, it is being run by a patently Christian organisation whose executive has reportedly said, "without Jesus, our students are lost". For we can all soberly agree that young people need a safe, structured forum for exploring what is right and wrong, but we cannot honestly teach them that Christianity has a monopoly on moral values. We insult their intellect when we do so. We also legitimise prejudice against other faiths.

This culture war, however, is not just about Christianity versus other faiths, but faith versus secularism. It is interesting to see secularists argue with slightly more vehemence than Christians what the character of Australian society really is. They see it progressing inexorably away from religious traditions and structures. The separation of church and state is often invoked, though the constitution merely prohibits imposition of a state religion and a religious test for public office.

They may not realise that many church organisations in fact do a lot of work for the state, especially in social welfare. Why is it that no one seems to be concerned, for example, by the prospect of a homeless man turning to God because of his encounters with the Salvation Army, which receives government grants?

More to the point, when secularists (humanists and atheists by another name) argue that religion has no place in schools, they make exactly the same mistake that Christian proselytisers do: they insult young people's intelligence by doing their thinking for them.

This, in the end, is what evangelists and atheists have in common, the fear that young people will be lost if the other got hold. It is what underpins all culture wars – fear for the future.

Christians, however, should not use government schools as a platform for a new-found crusade against secularism. They will lose. They will lose once young people figure out that being secular is not the same as being amoral. Neither should secularists dismiss religion wholesale, as if it does not offer young people a view that is as humane and ethical is theirs. If they genuinely wish for students to be able to freely choose, then that choice must be made authentic by having all options on the table.

From shared fear, perhaps both camps can thus share a common hope: that young people who wish to live authentically and decently as human beings will find what they are looking for.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Australia: Schools in Victoria to teach bilingual curriculum

This is nonsense. Why should kids who already speak the international language learn another one? I greatly enjoyed my language studies but that was just a cultural recreation for me. And Asian languages are far too hard for English-speakers. The time would be much better spent reviving the teaching of English grammar -- JR

CHILDREN would be required to learn core subjects such as maths and science in a foreign language, under a state government plan to curb the "appalling" decline of languages in Victorian schools.

With government figures showing almost 60 per cent of secondary school students do not study a language - and almost a third of primary schools don't offer them - Premier Ted Baillieu has vowed to make language education compulsory for most students, starting with prep in 2015, and progressively increasing compulsory participation to year 10 by 2025.

The Sunday Age has learnt the government is also preparing to create a pilot program, in conjunction with a Victorian university, that would train dozens of primary school teachers to conduct lessons in a language other than English.

Academics and teachers have welcomed the push to boost the teaching of languages in schools, but remain sceptical about what the government can achieve.

The plan has been branded as "incredibly ambitious" given the difficulty of finding qualified language teachers, and many warn that without proper resourcing it will be yet another language policy that fails to deliver.

Over recent decades, dozens of state and federal policies have aimed to change Australia's status as a predominantly monolingual nation - but most have achieved limited success.

Six months before the 2007 federal election, for instance, Mandarin-speaking Labor leader Kevin Rudd announced a $68 million plan to revive Asian languages in schools, but four years later there has been little progress.

However, Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras told The Sunday Age there was no reason Victoria couldn't improve. He said the state had the potential to be the multilingual capital of Australia, but had dropped the ball over the past decade, and it was "appalling" so few people could speak more than one language.

"Over the last 10 years, the teaching of LOTE (languages other than English) has decreased considerably, and what should have been our core


A Word on CUNY, Kushner & Weisenfeld

Kushner is an Israel-bashing leftist. Other Israel-bashing leftists who teach at CUNY recommended that the university honor Kushner with an honorary degree.

Last week, the CUNY Board of Trustees met to consider the recommendation and due to the objections raised by trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the board decided not to accept the faculty recommendation and passed him over for the honor.

Kushner pulled out the McCarthy card. His leftist fans at the New York Times and everywhere in academia rallied to his defense and began a process of demonizing Wiesenfeld.

The university president panicked and took the unprecendented move of overturning his trustees' decision and agreed to give Kushner the honorary degree.

Now the leftist screechers are demanding that Wiesenfeld be removed from the board of trustees because by professing an opinion they don't like, he has destroyed what passes for academic freedom in their twisted little Orwellian world. So four thoughts on this:

First Wiesenfeld is a Jewish hero and deserves the support of all good Jews and supporters of truth.

Second, the fact that the leaders of the major Jewish organizations -- almost all located in New York - have not seen fit to stand up for Wiesenfeld is a mark of shame on all of them. What their silence shows is that there is no reason to believe that they are up to the challenges of defending the Jewish community in the US on any issue of major or minor significance. Wiesenfeld is after all being demonized for the act of standing up to a maligner of Israel. That's all he did. And they cannot even muster the courage to defend him for that.

Third, the assault on Wiesenfeld should raise alarm bells for all parents in the US. It isn't just that universities are increasingly closed to critical thought regarding Israel. Their refusal to countenance the truth in the discussion of Israel -- Columbia, my alma mater just established an institute of Palestine studies. That is, Columbia just established an institute to study an imaginary country and a nation that was invented by the Soviets circa 1969 -- is a signal that they cannot study anything. What the Kushner story shows is that there is no reason for parents to believe that a college degree from most US universities today will provide their children with anything remotely resembling an education.

Finally, while I applaud and respect Wiesenfeld for standing up for what is right, the assault on him raises the issue of whether there is any point anymore to contributing money to corrupted institutions. Many philantropists argue that by funding universitities they buy the ability to influence policies and save them from the inside. But what the assault on Wiesenfeld shows is that this influence is an illusion.


Custard on pupil's arm? £750. Fall off classroom chair? £6,000. How 'compensation culture' is spreading through British schools

A pupil sued his school for £750 after having hot custard spilt on his arm and another was given more than £6,000 after falling off a chair, a survey has revealed.

Thousands more were paid out in the past two years to children who tripped up on the playground, further showing how a 'compensation culture' has spread to the country's schools.

Payouts were also given to a pupil hit in the eye with a pen and another who tripped over an unmarked ramp, according to statistics provided by councils on Merseyside.

Headteachers have told how the claim culture means schools have to put up warning signs every time it rains, while another said that 'even the cotton wool we wrap children in is checked beforehand'.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request which asked councils on Merseyside to show details of every successful compensation claim borough against schools by pupils.

The results shows that more than £50,000 was paid out to pupils' families in the Liverpool borough of Knowsley between 2008 and 2010.

Successful claims included £750 for a pupil whose arm was burned by spilt custard, £3,000 for a child accidentally kicked in the face and a pupil who tripped over an 'unmarked ramp' was given £350.

Other payouts included more than £6,000 for a child who was hit in the eye with a pen and £4,500 to a student who caught their leg on a 'protruding screw'.

In Wirral, Merseyside, more than £21,000 was paid out for seven incidents during the same period. Payouts in the borough included £6,535 for a pupil injured falling off a chair, £4,000 for a pupil injured on a fence while compensation payments totalling almost £4,000 were made to pupils for tripping up on the playground.

And in Sefton more than £6,000 was paid over the same period for two incidents relating to trips in playgrounds and a pupil falling on broken glass.

Jim Donnelly, headteacher at Litherland High School, Merseyside, said scrutiny on safeguarding, which now forms part of Ofsted inspections, and the threat of compensation meant health and safety was embedded into school life.

Mr Donnelly said: 'If it starts to rain we would put up a "Be careful, slippery surface" sign up on exit doors because we know insurers would want to know what steps we have taken.'

Steve Peach, headteacher at Wallasey secondary The Oldershaw, said most schools took out insurance cover through the local authority and carried out robust and daily risk assessments. He said: 'We live in a claim culture and health and safety is now part of every member of staff's job description. 'But unless we refuse to allow children to be children nothing is risk free.'

Mick Burrows is Merseyside executive member of teaching union NASUWT, which aims to have specially trained health and safety representatives in every school to monitor accident prevention. He said: 'Not only would it help protect our members and pupils but bring a reduction in compensation as we'd have fewer accidents in the first place.'

Knowsley Council today stressed the number of claims in the borough had fallen in recent years due to 'schools accessing health and safety support from the council's health and safety team.' This includes advice varying from risk assessments to reporting accidents and safety audits. A spokesman for the authority said: 'The council also organises an annual health and safety conference for all head teachers.'

But Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign For Real Education, said: 'Schools have an impossible job. Accidents do happen.'


Monday, May 16, 2011

Should an American school be like a penal institution?

It’s that time, again: Young people in tuxedos and fancy dresses (and stretch limos), celebrating their near-completion of a dozen years of compulsory schooling with one big dance as they prepare to enter the larger world.

Thirty-three years ago, my wife went with me to our high school senior prom on our first official date. That day marks the jumping off point for a long and fruitful journey that has included seeing our own off to the prom.

Though today I’m oh-so-much more sophisticated, I still remember the amazing courage required to actually do the “asking out” part. A most essential step. Everyone who has ever asked anyone out knows.

Just not quite as well as James Tate now knows.

Tate is the Shelton High School senior first suspended from his Connecticut school on May 6 and then banned from attending his senior prom, only to be miraculously freed yesterday from the school’s zero-tolerance prom-death-penalty, because of massive worldwide media attention (all negative on the school’s gulag-like stance) and a couple hundred thousand active supporters on the “Let James Tate Go to the Prom” Facebook page.

What led to young Tate’s banishment and then to an Arab-style Facebook revolution in the Constitution State?

It began with the unmistakable fact that Mr. Tate is a normal teenage male Homo sapiens in the alternative universe known as an American public high school. James wanted to ask a girl to the prom in a way that would “make her feel special,” so he, with the help of two friends, taped 12-inch tall letters on the brick front wall of the school that read, “Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to prom with me? HMU [hit me up] Tate.”

The school’s response might have been calm by today’s standards — no psychologist, no SWAT team. But, of course, the school principal claimed putting the message up had been a “safety risk,” even though James actually wore a helmet while standing on the ladder pressing the letters to the school’s brick exterior . . . with two friends spotting him. It was further alleged that James and his two also indicted co-conspirators trespassed on school property by being outside the building putting up the message between one and three in the morning. All three students were suspended and, because their suspensions were issued after April 1, they were also banned from attending the prom.

By the way, Sonali’s response to James’ prom invitation was, “Yes.” As for the school’s heavy handedness, she adroitly commented, “This is really upsetting. It’s our senior year and we are supposed to have happy memories, not something like this.”

To his credit, James expressed regret for putting his friends in a bad situation. He told one reporter, “I feel like a jerk for getting them in trouble, and leaving my date dateless.” He also offered to make up for his transgressions by doing “community service — like cleaning up the litter outside the school.”

The school would have none of it. While various students displayed a keen sense of justice and proportion — with statements like “[The sign] could be taken off so it’s not like it was permanent damage and he didn't deface any property” and “She should have just let him off with a warning”—the administration put the school on “complete lockdown” to block any budding student revolution against the educational/correctional institution holding them. On Friday, Headmaster Beth Smith, flocked by police, informed the throngs of assembled media camped outside the school that a planned sit-in had been averted with “no disruption.”

But there was, indeed, a disruption. Thank goodness, Shelton High School’s ridiculous clampdown on James Tate and his friends sent an unmistakably troubling message: that enthusiasm and creativity are punishable; that education isn’t supposed to be fun; that bureaucratic rules come far ahead of common sense and decency; that school is a cold institution, rather than a place that nurtures living, growing persons; and that rather than “sucking the marrow out of life,” kids need to learn to just keep their heads down and move along in line . . . when told to move.

People all over America, all over the world, were appalled and tried their best to help. A Facebook page dedicated to Tate’s cause grew quickly to hundreds of thousands, emails were sent and phone calls made to school officials in Shelton, Connecticut. And a Shelton High School in Washington State reported their phone and email inboxes filled with comments berating them for the stupid behavior of their namesake in Connecticut.

Yesterday, Shelton officials finally — and unconditionally — surrendered. Announcing the abandonment of the school’s hard-line position, and that Tate and his two friends could indeed go to the prom, Superintendent Freeman Burr declared, sheepishly, “James Tate has set for us a new standard for romanticism.” Headmaster Beth Smith, who days earlier had strongly defended her draconian commitment to the no-prom punishment, admitted, “I never thought this would lead to international notoriety.”

But as one poster on the Facebook page correctly assessed, “She didn’t reverse her decision because it was the right thing to do, she caved to the pressure of us, all of us.”

James and Sonali get to go to prom, thanks to people power. But what does this say about placing more money and authority in the public schools? Common sense shouldn’t require a worldwide media storm in order to prevail.


Number of failing British teachers doubles in just a year

The number of teachers classed as incompetent has doubled in just one year, while the number labelled outstanding has halved. Millions of children are being failed by teachers who do not plan lessons, are unable to control a class and have a poor grasp of their subject.

The Ofsted figures, which may reflect a change in assessment methods, disclose that 17,600 teachers were described as ‘inadequate’ last year. This compares with 8,800, or two per cent, in the previous year. Meanwhile 35,200 teachers, out of a total of 440,000, were ranked ‘outstanding’ in 2010, compared with 70,400 in 2009. The proportion of unimpressive teachers labelled merely ‘satisfactory’ has also ballooned from 123,200 in 2009 to 162,800 in 2010.

A spokesman for Ofsted suggested that the rise in the number of poor teachers could be explained by a change in methods of inspection which has highlighted cases which would previously have been undisclosed. He said: ‘Since 2009 we have placed a greater emphasis on classroom teaching, increasing the amount of time inspectors spend observing lessons.’

The apparent slump in standards in the state sector comes as experts warn of a coming crisis in teacher numbers, with 40 per cent expected to retire within the next five years.

Meanwhile, an immigration-fuelled population boom is likely to increase the school roll by 500,000 pupils by 2018.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has promised to make it easier to sack bad teachers. Aware that too many use ‘notorious dodges’ to keep their jobs such as being signed off sick, he is to outline radical plans to get rid of teachers who should not be in the classroom.

Russell Hobby, of the National Union of Head Teachers, said: ‘More has to be done to ease out incompetent teachers. There are some cases where anybody would be better for the children than a bad teacher. ‘And it drags the rest of the teachers down. It really lowers morale and makes matters worse.’

A spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: ‘Naturally we want the best people to be teaching our children. But we would be upset by any attempt by heads to target teachers that they do not like.

‘People need to be treated fairly. Drop-out rates for new teachers are high. Therefore those who do not feel up to the job, or do not like it, leave of their own accord.’


Australia: School class size right, says Premier of Victoria

Good to see the class size myths disregarded. Classes could in fact be bigger with no loss of quality but a big saving for the taxpayer

PREMIER Ted Baillieu has ruled out an increase in school class sizes under his watch.

He made the commitment after his Education Minister Martin Dixon refused to give such a guarantee in a parliamentary budget estimates hearing earlier this week. "There will be no increases in class sizes," Mr Baillieu told the hearing yesterday.

Mr Dixon had refused to comment on class sizes because he said the issue related to wage negotiations with the state's teachers, which are due to begin soon.

Opposition education spokesman Rob Hulls had warned Mr Dixon's refusal to rule it out was code for saying class sizes would rise.

Mr Hulls said under the Labor government from 1999 to 2010, average class sizes in government schools dropped from 25.4 to 22 students.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Indiana School Employee: Education Reform = Nazi Ovens

Last week, my organization praised the Indiana lawmakers for passing some of the nation’s most significant education reforms. In one of Education Action Group’s weekly newsletters, we said that Indiana’s new voucher program and its decision to lift the cap on charter schools will transform the state’s public education system, to the benefit of all Hoosier families and students. (An EAGtv report that details Indiana’s education reforms can be found here.)

Well, EAG’s audacity in celebrating the idea of school choice generated a number of hateful email responses – from unionized Indiana teachers.

The writers (all with the telltale “” in the email address) accused us of “attacking public education” and “bashing” teachers. One writer blamed us for demoralizing “those of us in the trenches and on the front lines of the classroom.”

Anyone who dares challenge the status quo of Big Education can expect such name calling. But as unhinged as unionized teachers can become, one Indiana educator stooped to new lows. An email from a teacher at East Allen County Schools said this:

“Why do you distribute this propaganda? Do you have a conscience? Do you really believe any of this? I am not a union member but feel that Mitch's agenda is killing Indiana. The education agenda is a holocaust against our children. Please understand I am speaking as a grandson of a Holocaust survivor. This is truly as bad or worse than what was done to the Jewish people only it is happening to innocent young people. It is frightening to me.”

According to this—ahem—educator, allowing children to attend a charter school is “WORSE THAN” placing children in ovens like the Nazis did.

Even more disturbing than this teacher’s irresponsible comments is the fact that he is allowed anywhere near a place of learning. It’s darn near criminal that he’s allowed to shape the minds of Indiana’s youth. (By claiming to be “a grandson of a Holocaust survivor,” this teacher believes he is immune from charges of insensitivity.)

Now, some readers are likely thinking that we’re using the words of one loony teacher to smear all union teachers, but we’re not.

The accomplishments of this new crop of education reform-minded governors (Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, to name a few) have caused unionized teachers to lash out at anyone supporting a reform agenda. We’ve received numerous profanity-laced emails sent from teachers who feel threatened by accountability and choice.

The teacher unions’ public image is one of standing up for the interests of kids. They’re just well-meaning teachers who believe in the value of public education. Right.

In reality, the teacher unions are dominated by a group of angry leftists who care far more about their compensation packages and collective bargaining privileges than they do about educating children.

That might strike some as a harsh conclusion, but we’ve got the emails to prove it.


Could Penn. Kids Soon be Subjected to PETA Ads in School?

A national animal rights group has offered a cash-strapped school district an undisclosed amount of money if it allows ads in school promoting alternatives to animal dissection.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has approached dozens of schools across with country with the offer, said it found out about the Kutztown School District’s financial woes over the Internet.

The group recently sent a letter to Superintendent Nicholas Lazo Jr., offering to pay money if the school allows the posting of ads that say, “STOP SCHOOL VIOLENCE. DO YOUR HOMEWORK – CHOOSE NOT TO DISSECT.” Different versions of the ad feature rats, frogs and fetal pigs.

Lazo told the Reading Eagle newspaper that he is gathering more information on the offer. A message left with the district Friday by The Associated Press was not immediately returned. This week, amid community protests, the school board approved a $28 million budget that calls for the elimination of nearly 13 teaching positions.

PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez said the group has made similar offers to dozens of schools across the country in the past few years, but none has accepted. Some schools, however, have taken the group up on its offer of free software that allows students to perform digital “dissections,” Gonzalez said.

“We are always on the lookout for schools that can benefit from our support,” she said.

The group has not specified how much money it would provide to a school that allows ads to be posted, but said it would depend partly on how many ads were placed and in how many schools. “We’d have to sit down with them and work out how much exposure we would get,” Gonzalez said.

PETA already has a site targeting young people called There, students — and even educators — can learn how to start a “campaign” against dissection:


Leading British Catholic school in admissions overhaul

A top Roman Catholic school favoured for the children of Tony Blair and Nick Clegg is set for a clash with the admissions watchdog over plans to root out unbelievers.

The London Oratory School in west London is proposing to introduce an admissions policy that favours children and parents who are more involved in parish life.

The move will be sure to mark out committed Catholics over so-called “pew jumpers” who conveniently discover religion to get children into popular faith schools.

It beefs up the school’s previous admissions rules that focused on the extent to which pupils meet the Church’s requirements regarding Baptism, Holy Communion and attending Mass.

But the change – being introduced next year – could bring the school into trouble with the official admissions watchdog which has already criticised other faith schools for breaching strict entry guidelines.

Last year, Ian Craig, the outgoing Chief Schools Adjudicator, warned schools against using complex points-based systems that benefit middle-class families heavily involved in church activities. He suggested the move disadvantaged children with poorer parents who have less time to volunteer in the local parish.

In recent years, a number of faith schools have been ordered to re-draw their admissions policies for perceived breaches of the code.

Eight Roman Catholic schools in Newham, east London, were ordered to change admissions rules after asking parents and children to meet a local priest for a reference – a move which could favour more articulate middle-class families. A Sikh school was criticised for allocating points to parents who took part in community activities, which could penalise those who are unable to do so for work or family reasons.

The London Oratory is already among the most sought-after faith schools in England and regularly sends talented pupils to Oxford and Cambridge. Tony Blair was famously criticised after bypassing dozens of nearby schools to send his sons across London to the Oratory.

And last year it emerged that Nick Clegg – an atheist whose wife is Catholic – was considering sending his son to the school next year, even though other state schools are closer to his home.

The school’s proposed admissions rules for 2012 prioritise children who regularly attend Mass on Sundays, those fulfilling the Church’s requirements regarding Baptism and whether candidates have received their Holy Communion.

Points are then awarded to recognise “service in any Catholic parish or in the wider Catholic Church by both the candidate and a Catholic parent”.

The Diocese of Westminster – which covers the Oratory – has already clashed with another faith school over its use of a points-based admissions system. It shopped Cardinal Vaughan School to the admissions regulator in a bitter battle with the school, claiming that its entry policy was too elitist.

But the Oratory could escape censure because the Government is currently planning an overhaul of the school admissions code in a move designed to slim down the document and give more power to individual head teachers.

Dr Craig, who refused to comment on the issue yesterday, is due to stand down later this year. The Oratory was also unavailable for comment.