Saturday, December 03, 2011

Why we must save our sons from feminized education

I have myself seen evidence of the advantages for boys of having male teachers. I sent my son to a private High School where his mathematics teachers were all male and enthusiastic about mathematics. He now has a B.Sc. with a first in mathematics and is working on his Ph.D. in it at a university known for its excellence in mathematics -- JR

By David Thomas

Fred and his father

So now it’s official — young women are outdoing men at work. The Office for National Statistics has confirmed that female twentysomethings earn more than their male peers — 3.6 per cent more, to be precise. As the father of two daughters in their 20s, I can’t say I’m surprised.

I’m incredibly proud of my girls. Holly, 23, is working day and night to make her way in journalism, a profession that is even more competitive and insecure than when I started out 30 years ago.

Lucy, 22, is training to be a doctor, a profession which, it emerged this week, will have more women than men in just six years’ time. I’ve seen how much effort and determination both have displayed, from their first GCSEs onwards.

They went to a comprehensive, so they weren’t spoon-fed their A-grades. They had to put in the hours, keep themselves motivated and sweat for their achievements. They’ve earned their success.

I also have a 13-year-old son, Fred. He attends the same school as his sisters did. He has just as much energy and, when he puts his mind to something, just as much determination. But he is growing up in a world that seems more and more biased against boys; one in which our sons are falling behind our daughters in almost every measurable way.

A world in which politicians still obsess about every conceivable form of discrimination against women, but ignore the young men who so desperately need help.

That’s why it’s time to send out an SOS message: Save Our Sons.
Huge numbers of young men are effectively being thrown on the scrapheap when they are barely old enough to shave. It’s not just that they are failing or choosing to fail within the education system: the system is failing them.

Let’s just start by looking at the facts. Barely half the pupils in this country get five or more GCSE passes at grades A-C. Of those who do, well over half are girls. The majority of boys in this country, therefore, are failing to reach the basic level of educational attainment. Every year hundreds of thousands of teenage boys leave school with virtually no chance of getting any kind of decent, well-paying job.

In fact, of all the class, race and gender groups in this country (with the sole exception of the tiny number of traveller children), working-class white boys perform the worst. A staggering 85 per cent of boys from poor white families fail to get those five good GCSEs.

The prevailing dogma in early education now demands that both lessons and sport are devoutly non-competitive. It requires children to sit still around tables in which they work together as groups, rather than alone at desks. It is, in other words, perfectly suited to sociable little girls and anathema to boisterous, competitive little boys.

Thus it is all too easy for boys to conclude early on that school is what girls are good at — and they, by extension, are not.

And yet it does not have to be this way. When my daughters went to a small village primary school, the teachers were all women. They were absolutely dedicated to their pupils, but they could not relate to the boys as naturally as to the girls. And then, for a single year, a young, male teacher took over the Year Five and Six class of ten and 11-year-olds.

Suddenly the boys in the class had someone they could talk to about football, computers and other Boy Things. There was someone who understood them, and they blossomed. Then that teacher left, and it was Girl Time again.

Seeing that convinced me I would pay for Fred’s prep school education if it meant he would be taught by male teachers and be given the chance to play competitive sport. Sure enough, he thrived in that environment.

By the time they get to secondary school, though, too many boys who don’t have that opportunity are actively hostile to education. That hostility is a defence mechanism, of course, a way of masking their own sense of alienation, but if that outlook continues until they are 16, they may well be headed for the scrap-heap.

Some will get one of the ever-decreasing number of manual jobs that remain in manufacturing and industry, others will join what’s left of the Armed Forces. But many more slip into the twilight, underclass world of unemployment, drugs, crime and the feckless spawning of children who are then effectively fathered by the State via the benefits system.

These young men have little to offer women, no lasting contribution to make to society, no hope for their own lives. They cost society a fortune, all the way from the dole queue to the prison cell. And if that’s not a major social and political issue, I don’t know what is.....

This may be a politically incorrect and sexist observation in the eyes of some delicate Guardian-reading souls, but most women still want a man who can provide for his family, and who is confident enough in his own status not to feel insecure about his partner’s.

And this leads us on to a deeper, more human issue that has nothing to do with statistics or incomes. We have, as a society, lost the ability, or the will, to acknowledge that our sons have anything at all to offer the world as men.

Our daughters, raised in the era of Girl Power, have rightly been encouraged to believe that anything a man can do, they can do, too. But they’ve also been told again and again that they have qualities men lack. They are more emotionally mature, more sensitive, better communicators, better team-workers, and so on.

In other words, they have been taught that men and women are equal — except for all the ways in which women are superior.

There is now a massive equal rights industry that is obsessed with every real or imaginary form of female inequality. But equality must work both ways, and if it is now boys who are lagging behind, then the political and educational establishment must make it a priority to help them.

Though they are rarely celebrated any more, there are solid male virtues that still exist in decent men: reliability, stamina, physical strength, the desire to provide for and protect their families, and sometimes, as unfashionable as it might be, the ability not to be too emotional. There are times when an arm round the shoulder and the offer of a drink can do more good than all the agonised empathy in the world.

All of us, men or women, are moved by pictures of soldiers coming home from war. The men reach down, their arms open to greet the children running towards them in an image that embodies the strength and courage of a warrior and the love of a father.

But who is telling our sons about that kind of positive, benevolent manliness? Who sets them a good example? Having more male teachers, especially in primary schools, would be a start.

And we should stop being afraid to say anything positive about men, or masculinity, for fear of offending women. In a culture in which so many young men do not have father figures at home or at school, too many boys take their lead from the ill-disciplined brats of Premiership football; the swaggering, misogynist materialism of rap music; or the psychotic violence of computer games.

Our boys — including my own son Fred — are full of potential, full of energy and full of ambitions. All they need is the encouragement and the attention to help them realise their dreams.


British schoolchildren to be banned from using calculators amid fears of generation growing up with poor maths skills

Pupils are set to be banned from using calculators in primary schools amid fears a ‘sat-nav’ generation of children are growing up with poor maths skills. Schools minister Nick Gibb said pupils should not ‘reach for a gadget every time they need to do a simple sum.’

It is understood that in future, teachers could be told to stop allowing children aged under nine to use calculators in state schools. Maths exams taken by 11-year-olds are also likely to be reformed – scrapping an existing section that allows pupils to use calculators.

The move comes after a recent survey revealed that Britain was falling behind its international rivals in league tables rating children’s mathematics skills.

British teenagers are now ranked 28th among peers in developed nations after slumping dramatically in the last decade, while Singapore, which has virtually no calculator use for 10-year-olds, was second.

Almost half of all adults have basic maths skills that are no better than those of children aged nine to 11, Government-commissioned research has shown. More than five million people were also found to be struggling with simple reading and writing.

The latest Skills for Life survey questioned more than 7,000 16- to 65-year-olds in England to examine literacy and numeracy levels. The findings reveal that many adults still have maths and English skills similar to those expected of primary school children.

Campaigners warned that there are 'far too many' people with poor basic skills, and more needs to be done for them. In total 16.8million adults - or 49.1 per cent - have numeracy skills at Entry Level 3 or below. This level is equivalent to the achievement expected of a child aged nine to 11.

In literacy, 5.1 million adults, or 14.9 per cent, were at Entry Level 3 or below. Adults with numeracy skills below this level would struggle to pay household bills, or understand price labels on pre-packaged food.

The survey showed that millions of adults are no better at maths and English than five to seven-year-olds.

In total, 2.3 million people in England were found to be at Entry Level 1 or below - the level of attainment for five to seven-year-olds in numeracy, while five per cent were at this stage for literacy. Adults below this level may not be able to write short messages to family, or select floor numbers in lifts.

According to a previously published report, adults are considered to have 'functional' literacy skills if they are above Entry Level 3, and 'functional' numeracy skills if they are above Entry Level 2. Today's survey reveals that 8.1 million adults in England (23.7 per cent) are at Entry Level 2 or below.

Carol Taylor, director for research and development at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace), said: 'We have far too many people with very poor basic skills in this country and the system isn't working for them.

'The headline results of today's survey show a welcome increase in those adults working at Literacy Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) from 44 per cent (in 2003) to 57 per cent, which proves the powerful impact the Skills For Life strategy has had. 'However, it's alarming that 15 per cent of the adult population are performing at Entry Level 3 or below in literacy and 24 per cent in numeracy at Entry Level 2 or below.

'Put simply, around one in six of the adult population has difficulty with aspects of reading and writing which means they are seriously disadvantaged as employees, citizens and parents.

'And around one in four of the adult population struggle with the basics of numeracy, a skill which can have a greater impact on life chances than literacy. 'This is why we're calling for a specific challenge fund to help those with the lowest skills.'


Sex-Ed Classes and the Rape of Our Children's Innocence

As outrageous as it is to hear about the new sex-ed curriculum for New York City schools, beginning with middle schools, there are some school districts for which the program does not start early enough. And so, in June, 2010 the Provincetown, Massachusetts school board voted unanimously to begin distributing condoms to elementary school children upon the student’s request, beginning in first grade and without parental knowledge or consent. (What possible use could a 6-year-old have for a condom?)

After a public outcry, the district agreed to consider restricting condom distribution to grades five and up, meaning, to kids as young as 10. According to the official policy, “the school nurse is to give counseling and abstinence information to a student prior to handing out the condom,” although without parental knowledge or consent.

As for the question of criminality, the age of consent in Massachusetts is 16 (under certain circumstances, it is 18), and in answer to the question posed by a 16 year-old boy who was having sex with his 13 year-old girl girlfriend, the website explained that, “Any sexual conduct with a child age 13 [is] a very serious matter in Massechusetts [sic] whether you are a minor or an adult” (their emphasis).

Doesn’t that mean that this school’s condom distribution is contributing to criminal behavior, not to mention to dangerous and harmful behavior? How can this be allowed?

In a recent article for American Thinker, family activist Linda Harvey notes “that America as a whole is still horrified by child sexual abuse” yet she points to books recommended by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, better named the Gay, Lesbian, Sex Education Network) that recount the sexual experiences of boys as young as 13 with men more than twice their age. How is this not criminal?

Think about it. We are rightly outraged when we hear of the alleged acts of child rape by trusted adults (such as Jerry Sandusky at Penn State), but is there not a rape of a different kind – at the least, an assault on innocence – when schools show virtually pornographic movies in sex-ed classes or conduct lessons in which girls put condoms on boys’ fingers? (For a shocking report, see this article by Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Policy Institute.) And in the countless cases where these kids are anything but innocent, at the least, these schools are condoning, if not actually encouraging immorality.

One mother posted this on my Facebook page: “I visited the sex-ed teacher at the high school our children were going to attend in 1992. I had heard stories about some of her techniques and was very concerned. When I asked her about modesty, she told me that is something she tries to get the kids over as quick as possible. My daughter brought home the curriculum from the class and I was appalled. There were several pages of vocabulary they would have to know, including every perversion I had ever heard of and some that I never heard of. The definition they had for virgin was someone who had never had the opportunity to have sex. The list included polygamy but not monogamy. It even said that sometimes it is beneficial for a marriage if there is an affair.” And that was back in 1992.

On November 30th, a high school teacher from New York City called into my radio show, wanting me to know that things were far worse in the schools than I could imagine, from the way the kids dress and act to the fact that many of them spend far more time playing terribly violent (and often sexually charged) video games than reading books.

He also told me that in his school, there is a table in the hallway with condoms and lubricants. The students can take them freely, as desired. (Does this surprise you?) The other day, a student put a pile of Gideon’s Bibles on the table, also for the students to take freely. As a result, there was outrage in the school – outrage over the presence of the Bibles, not the presence of the condoms.

Is it an exaggeration to say that we need a massive moral and cultural revolution?

During that same broadcast, I received another called from a man in New York City who was involved in teaching sex education to high school students. As part of the program, he tells these students which condoms work best, among other things.

When I asked him, “Then shouldn’t you also teach the kids about responsible drug use and give out clean needles to intravenous drug users?” he responded, “Yes, we also teach about them drug use as well as where they go for clean needle exchanges.”

We need a revolution.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Outpouring of hate from a British "progressive" school

It is shameful but Leftists are hate-driven so it is no surprise. When accused of bullying, they proved the accusation true by being bullies. Amazing. Leftists just can't help themselves. The bile just pours out of them

Amanda Craig

What is it that makes people want to send vitriolic abuse, including death threats, to a total stranger? I can’t begin to imagine. But this year, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I do know what it is like to be on the receiving end of such embittered hatefulness.

Why? Because I’d dared to write a piece in this newspaper about my teenage years spent at Bedales, the progressive public school that was embroiled in a scandal earlier this year concerning shoplifting and under-age sex.

As a pupil at the school in the 1970s, I had experienced a level of bullying and abuse that I still find disturbing to think about to this day and which inspired my second novel, written 20 years ago, A Private Place.

Yet when I set down my painful memories of my formative years on paper, I never imagined I’d be setting myself up as a sitting target for a new breed of modern-day bullies, who choose not the school playground, but the internet to target their victims.

‘Cyberbullying’ isn’t confined to children — it is a contemporary menace in which people can be targeted anywhere, at any time. When my email inbox began to fill up with awful messages, my first reaction was one of exasperation, quickly followed by cold contempt.

I was totally unprepared for the slew of virulent messages that, for the next month, pinged into my inbox via both my Twitter account and my public Facebook page. Many of these messages are unpublishable in a national newspaper, but they included threats to my personal safety, disgusting sexual abuse, venomous comments about my looks and personality, a flurry of one-star Amazon reviews of my novels — and several attempts to hack into my Wikipedia entry.

Astonishingly, those behind them were girls and boys of between 15 and 21 years old, many of whom declared themselves to be current or former pupils of Bedales. They defended the school by calling me bitter, greedy, bitchy and, what’s more, claimed that I ‘deserved to be bullied’. Then they said that the school was wonderful, and that bullying didn’t exist there, and that ‘every single one of (the abusive comments that had been posted about me) was understandable and acceptable’.

The poisonous mob mentality these messages displayed actually did far more to show any current or prospective parent the ugly side of a ‘liberal’ education than what I had written. I was told that ‘we know where you live, so watch out’, ‘your [sic] dead, bitch’, ‘die, you ugly c***’ and so on.

‘You are insulting an establishment you show no understanding of, in a way in which you can only expect a [sic] outraged reaction. You have not only insulted our way of life, our home but us as individuals. I feel personally attacked,’ wrote one boy.

A couple of current pupils were moved to express sympathy and to assure me that things had changed, but these, like the nicer kind of Bedalian student of my own time, seemed far and few between.

One posted a more moderate, thoughtful comment about my article — and his peers turned on him: ‘Stop s***ing her d**k Toby, and stick up for the f*****g school. Your [sic] the minority here!’ wrote one who called himself George Zealington Vaughan-Barratt.

The abuse was so remarkable that two national newspapers picked it up, and one even wrote a leader page column. Yet when the Head of Bedales, Keith Budge, was approached for comment, his response, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph, was to say his pupils were simply defending their school.

The Old Bedalian magazine, edited by a former member of staff, decided to publish a sneering piece, which included a photograph of me printed upside-down and — a lovely touch — an encomium of the school’s creativity by Kirstie Allsopp.

Nobody in authority has attempted to contact me to apologise, and no pupil, as far as I know, has been reprimanded. Now, I don’t take the ravings of over-excited teenagers seriously. But neither do I think anyone should be allowed to get away with this kind of behaviour — least of all the privileged pupils of a £30,000-a-year school.

For such mindless venom to come from privileged children living in conditions which the majority can only dream of, and attending an institution that prides itself on its liberal outlook would be especially offensive.

Every contemporary school is aware of the life-long emotional and psychological damage that bullying can cause, and the responsible ones, both in the state and private sectors, have strong protocols about dealing with such issues, especially online.

Cyberbullying is worse and more cowardly than playground bullying. Even as an adult, I found the abuse deeply offensive. It was extraordinary that I was being addressed as if I were still the vulnerable, innocent 12-year-old I had been all those years ago. What I had described was so painful that I thought nobody in their right mind could feel anything but shame and compassion — and, more importantly, concern about whether the ills I described were still happening.

Instead, it seemed to provoke the opposite reaction. It was extraordinary — and ludicrous. But that’s the thing about the internet. While it has transformed the way people can communicate, it has also allowed some to say the most unkind things to someone they don’t know, have never met, and wouldn’t dare to confront face-to-face.

These so-called ‘trolls’, inspired by envy, rage and spite, appear to live in a parallel universe in which they believe they can threaten, stalk, intimidate and libel anyone with impunity.

You don’t have to do something as provocative as write about your unhappy schooldays to set them off. Just being pretty, happy, or good at what you do is enough. Whole families can be affected by the fall-out, if my experience is anything to go by.

‘Why do people keep saying horrible things about you on Facebook just because you were bullied at school?’ my 15-year-old son asked me, bemused. ‘Because they’re total losers,’ replied my 18-year-old daughter. Having been forewarned by their schools about how to handle online abuse, they were far better placed to deal with it than me.

My husband was the most shocked — and angered — at the hate-filled messages I showed him. He was the one who then had sleepless nights — and who became the most worried about our physical safety.

I am not easily intimidated, but I was admittedly depressed by this evidence of how little had changed about the mentality of bullies. On the flipside, however, the attempts to undermine me caused something rather wonderful to happen.

A number of distinguished authors, journalists and lawyers — many of whom had, ironically, become friends of mine through Facebook — saw what was being posted on my page and sprang into action, unasked, to defend me with both eloquence and wit.

To see the likes of Philip Hensher, Nicholas Lezard, Louisa Young, Chris Priestly and Katy Guest all pouring scorn on these abusive bloggers was rather like the scene at the end of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia novel, The Silver Chair, when the bullies who have been terrorising the children at the progressive Experiment House are punished.

Alarmed by this unexpected challenge, the trolls began, one by one, to delete their messages. Today, they are all gone — though I, and several others, took copies of them, in case they feel tempted to strike again.

People who do not have Twitter and Facebook accounts may be rather mystified by all of this. Meanwhile, those who do may wonder why I have dared to risk further online abuse by describing my experience here.

The answer is two-fold. One is that I believe bullying will never stop unless there is a concerted effort from the top to confront it, and that while any school continues to appear to condone its own smug cult that will not happen. Second, if you haven’t experienced bullying, you have no idea what a scar it leaves on the soul. Just because I learnt how to use my rage in creative, positive ways, writing novels, doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Connecting with readers and writers through the web can be one of the greatest delights of 21st-century life, as Twitter and Facebook host a vast virtual conversation, in which people share views and exchange ideas about everything, from trivial thoughts to breaking news. But more and more bloggers and writers are complaining about the intimidating attacks made on them.

Caroline Farrow, a vicar’s wife and mother-of-three who blogs for the Catholic Voices website, recently revealed she receives at least five sexually threatening emails a day.

One of the least offensive read: ‘You’re gonna scream when you get yours. F*****g slag. Butter wouldn’t f*****g melt, and you’ll cry rape when you get what you’ve asked for. Bitch.’ That anybody can get away with writing in such a horrific manner to another human being beggars belief — but, thankfully, the law is slowly catching up.

The Police Central e-Crime Unit is responsible for investigating malicious communications. For example, a man of 60 has been charged with sending threatening Twitter messages to MP Louise Mensch.

Perhaps the threat of arrest, a criminal record and punishment will help the bullies think twice. For the victim, an abusive Twitter message or email is no different from receiving verbal abuse, or getting a poison-pen letter.

For the bully, though, there is one key difference: although they think the internet affords them anonymity, every message can be traced back to a location and a specific computer. Cyberbullies would do well to remember that before they click the send button.


Why my school will stay open during the strike

Striking British teachers are part of a culture that is quick to whine and slow to find solutions

Striking teachers will today subject children and parents across Britain to serious inconvenience. I think they’re wrong to do so. For the past 10 years, I have been head teacher at Woodberry Down primary school in Hackney, and I am executive head of four schools in total. Woodberry Down will stay open today. The other three schools in the group will not, because of union action. That is a shame. Striking should be the last resort for teachers, and we should think carefully before returning to the days of downing tools at the slightest pretext.

This strike demonstrates a lack of realism among teaching unions. Someone has to pay for public sector pensions – we’re all living longer, the economy is stagnating, and teachers ought to understand these facts.

I worry, too, about the example being set to children. I remember the teachers’ strikes in the Eighties. It was fun to be out of school for a day, but we had no respect for those who went on strike. We felt that the proper teachers were the ones who were still there, teaching. We were annoyed, actually. I remember that distinctly. I recall thinking: if it’s that easy to remove yourself, by going on strike, do they actually need all the people in the building? I wouldn’t want to make myself disposable in that way.

Other aspects of the strike disturb me. I’ve heard some staff saying they’re not marching, but are going out “for a jolly” today. I hope that’s not the case. We get 13 weeks off a year and, while lots of us work long hours, taking a free day to go Christmas shopping is an insult to parents. What happens if a mother, forced to take a day off work, bumps into a teacher out lunching today? What message does that send?

The unions have their own agendas. For example, I appeared on breakfast television with Christine Blower, the leader of the NUT, and she criticised synthetic phonics, a proven system for improving literacy. It was only afterwards that she said she had never seen synthetic phonics being taught in a school. Here was the head of the country’s largest teaching union passing judgment on something she had not seen. This suggested that the ideology was more important than the reality. You have to use the teaching methods that work. Synthetic phonics is one, but Christine Blower hadn’t bothered to see how it worked.

It’s the same with Sats. They’re not perfect, but if you don’t have tests, you cannot tell which schools need help. And yet, when I sat in on Lord Bew’s review of Key Stage 2 tests, I heard union after union demanding an end to Sats without offering any credible alternative. They seemed prepared to jeopardise the educational wellbeing of children – since external assessment such as Sats is essential if you are to have a system of accountability that lifts standards in schools.

This is the paradox about the unions: on the one hand, they’re very Left-wing and want money poured into deprived areas, but, on the other, they reject the measures that do some good for children in poor communities. Sadly, some unionised teachers have lost sight of why they came into teaching. Trying to improve failing schools, I have faced obstruction from militant teachers who have become so bound up in ideology that they have forgotten the children. Very often, the unions won’t tolerate anything that threatens their beloved “work-life balance”.

What makes the schools I run successful is that we have teachers who realise that, especially with pupils who start from a low base, you need to go the extra mile. That’s where vocation comes in. The drive and energy that you need to inspire children will never fit into the NUT’s rigid work-life policy. To make education work you need dynamism, not people who sigh, shrug their shoulders and moan.

Compare teaching with the medical profession and you’ll see that there’s a different ethic there. There’s an ethos of service. We have lost that in teaching, and that is a shame. Either what we do matters, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t matter, and the children can genuinely afford not to be at school for two or three days a year, then why don’t we just increase the holidays?

It all comes down to this: a school exists for one thing, to educate children. Whatever fight you have with the system, engage in the fight in a way that doesn’t undermine you and let down the pupils.

Today’s strike is a symptom of a culture in parts of the educational establishment that is quick to complain and slow to find solutions. I can understand why people are concerned about pensions. Clearly what issues there are need to be resolved. But I think a lot of that concern has been whipped up by unions determined to criticise whatever the Government does. And these unions are determined to live in a world where reality, including financial reality, does not exist.

I didn’t come into the profession for the money. I trained as a teacher because I wanted to improve people’s lives. This is what we try to do in our federation of schools. I love teaching. In fact, I’m looking forward to going into work today. By coming to school I will have helped to make a positive impact on children’s lives, and on their chances of finding fulfilment and reaching their potential – something I would not be able to do standing on Victoria Embankment waving banners.


Chancellor Miller Tear Down This Wall

Mike Adams

Dear Dr. Miller:

Let me first express my great satisfaction over your selection as our new chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I am delighted to have a former Mississippi State Bulldog in charge of our university. I am also impressed by your qualifications. Unlike your predecessor, you were not selected on the basis of your gender or any other irrelevant demographic characteristics. You were selected on the basis of your qualifications. You deserved the position you were awarded. And you’ve been doing an outstanding job so far.

Unfortunately, some of the actions of your predecessor have damaged the climate for free expression at UNC-Wilmington. Among those actions was a decision to post our Seahawk Respect Compact on the wall of every classroom at the university. My purpose in raising this issue is fourfold. I want to 1) highlight (by underlining) a portion of the respect compact that I believe to be problematic, 2) explain how I think it could be misinterpreted, 3) relate a recent classroom incident that shows how it is, in fact, being abused, and 4) propose a solution to the problem.

The Seahawk Respect Compact is indented below. Note that the bold portions are not my emphasis. I have underlined only one small portion for emphasis:
In the pursuit of excellence, UNC Wilmington actively fosters, encourages, and promotes inclusiveness, mutual respect, acceptance, and open-mindedness among students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

~ We affirm the dignity of all persons.

~ We promote the right of every person to participate in the free exchange of thoughts and opinions within a climate of civility and mutual respect.

~ We strive for openness and mutual understanding to learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions.

~ We foster an environment of respect for each individual, even where differences exist, by eliminating prejudice and discrimination through education and interaction with others.

Therefore, we expect members of the campus community to honor these principles as fundamental to our ongoing efforts to increase access to and inclusion in a community that nurtures learning and growth for all.

As you can see, Chancellor Miller, I have a problem with the suggestion that there is some sort of “right” that extends to “every person” and which entitles him to be the recipient of “respect.” Let me explain why this is wrongheaded by sharing a few examples:

* Several years ago, an N.C. State visiting professor expressed the view that all white people needed to be “exterminated” from the face of the earth. He was invited to debate me on Fox News and he declined. When I went on Fox to denounce him, I was not concerned about “civility.” He was not entitled to it. He’s a violent racist. Nor was he entitled to “respect” for his violent racist views. In fact, given his advocacy of violence and fear of debate he was not even entitled to respect as a human being. He just needed a good public shaming.

* Around that time, a professor here in North Carolina wrote to me saying that the Holocaust was the greatest “hoax” perpetrated in modern history. I went on national television to rebuke her. She was also invited to debate me on Fox News. Like the other racist at N.C. State, she declined. I did not - nor do I now - respect her views. I do not even respect her as a person. Put simply, nothing can make me respect an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier.

* Finally, there is a professor here at UNCW who has reportedly articulated the view – in class, mind you – that 911 was the result of a planned conspiracy between Bush and “the Jews.” Because she has tenure, UNCW is stuck with the 911 conspiracy theorist as well as her anti-Semitic views. But what about the occasional Jewish student in her classroom? Should she be required to “respect” her professor’s anti-Semitic views?

I hope you see the danger in granting a “right” to be respected. Once students begin to believe that respect is an entitlement they are granted - and not a privilege they must earn - the academic work product suffers. Bad ideas are placed on equal footing with good ideas and eventually the pursuit of truth suffers as a whole. But the pursuit of truth is already suffering here at UNCW. Earlier this semester, there was a vigorous discussion in one of our social science classes. Ideas were exchanged and disagreement was articulated. But, following the conversation, something unfortunate happened. The professor sent an email to all of his students reminding them that they were required by the Seahawk Respect Compact to maintain a climate of mutual respect and civility. An important question follows: Is there any chance that the professor’s email will not adversely affect future discussions by creating a chilling effect on free speech?

You know as well as I do that student discussions are not bound by the Seahawk Respect Compact. At this public university, they are bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, I ask that you order the Seahawk Respect Compact to be removed from every classroom at UNCW. I furthermore ask you to replace it with a copy of the First Amendment so students will be reminded daily that the right to be unoffended is to be found nowhere in our constitution.

This action will also remind our students that the UNCW handbook is not the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the law. It has not been preserved by the blood and sacrifice of the easily offended.

With all due respect and civility,

Mike S. Adams


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Is this the future of American education?

The Look Like America bill, originally H.R. 1533, seemed a perfectly ordinary piece of feel-good legislation when proposed by Barack Osama Obama. “Our diversity is our strength,” he said. “We must increase the representation of minorites in our institutions to reflect our diverse population and ensure the fairness for which America stands.” Congress passed the bill without reading it. It was the sort of thing one passed. Besides, there was no money involved, and the bill was not obviously anti-Semitic.

Not obviously. But then one of the obscure policy shops that abound in Washington, the Committee for Ethnic Piety, filed suit against Harvard for noncompiance. The proximate cause was an article in the Harvard Crimson, the school newspaper, about a course called Math 55, the hardest math course at the univrsity and thus, Harvard liked to think, in America. The students in Math 55, reported the Crimson, were 45 percent Jewish, 18 percent Asian, and 100 prcent male. The class didn't, said the Committee for Ethnic Piety, look like America.

It certainly didn't.

Harvard, ever sensitive to questions of justice, which it conflated with federal funding, agreed to make the class Look Like America. The administration asserted that only through inadvertence had it failed to notice the clear racism, sexism, and continent-ism occurring under its nose. It established a committee of reform, which set to work.

The first and most ticklish hurdle was The Jewish Question. Jews were two percent of the American population. At 45 percent in Math 55, they were over-represented by a factor of over twenty. The injustice was undeniable. Two percent of a class of twenty-five meant that Math 55 should contain half a Jew. It would then look like America. The Jewish students would have to go.

As news of the proposed ethnographic hecatomb spread across the country, alarm erupted among the prejudiced. Over seven hundred departments of engineering across the country protested. They could see where Looking Like America was going. Math departments, Silicon Valley, the National Institutes of Health—all reeked of injustice, meaning Koreans, Jews, Indianss, and Chinese, and were conscious of sin. They didn't Look Like America. They Looked Like Math 55. In the Bay area, the proportion of geniuses from India in computing was alarmingly high. Some laboratories Looked Like the Punjab. These malefactors knew well that the coming of justice would gut their enterprises.

Desperate to maintain their positions of racial and patriarchal privilege, they pointed out that the Jewish kids, like all the students in Math 55, had 800 math Boards and had done things like independently develop tensor calculus by the age of three. The view from the Gulch was expressed off-the-record by Dr. Gud Soma Darjeeling, president of Santa Clara Neurocomputing, which employed seventy PhDs in solid-state physics, including three Anglos. “Look, the US is in intellectual collapse. The average American university wouldn't qualify as a high-school in Japan. It's crazy. The whole world know it's crazy. But take out the Kims, Khans, Nguyens, Wangs, and Cohens, and what's left is Albania in 1750.”

The lead attorney for CEP, Patricia Mikoyan-Gurevich, wasn't having it: “Ability doesn't exist, and occurs equally in all groups, and anyway justice is more important than patriarchal-racist abstractions. Sexism is clear at Harvard. When an entire class is male, it isn't by accident.”

With this, no one was in disagreement.

Asians were as problematic as Jews. If a Jewish pppulation of two percent required half a Jew in a class of twenty-five, then a six percent population of Aisans required an Asian-and-a-half. Various solutions were proposed. Perhaps a short, light-weight Gujarati would do, or maybe a prodigy of ten from Mumbai. Otherwise, admitting three Asians every two years might serve.

The paucity of females in Math 55 was easier to address. Harvard had already established that there was no difference in mathematical ability by firing a president who thought there might be. Since ability didn't exist and was found equally in everyone, the sxual balance was quickly rendered equitable by eliminating entrance requirements.

Harvard then set about the intricate matter of making the class thirteen percent black, sixteen percent Hispanic, a tenth of a percent Iroquois, and so on.

Meanwhile, CEP turned its attention to the lush pastures of music. The New York Philharmonic, being in New York, was discovered to consist disportionately of Italians, Jews, Hungarians, and so on. It Looked Like New York, which wouldn't do. The American Association of the Musically Hopeless, consisting of the deaf, tone-deaf, mutes, and amputees, filed suit on grounds that their membership was not represented at all. (They carefully overlooked the fact that they were over-represented among rock bands.) This brought up an important juridical question: Since most Americans could not play an instrument, should not the orchestra reflect this?

Thirteen years after the passage of the Look Like America bill, the United States ranked in international measures of mathematics just behind the Central African Republic, the New York Phil couldn't play Happy Birthday, and racial and sexual justice flourished. Yet the vexed problem of Math 55 had not been entirely solved. Progress had been made, yes. The class looked almost like America, counting on its fingers and showing no trace of patriarchalism, which in any event it couldn't spell. However, CEP's Committee on Oppressed and Marginalized Indigenous Peoples of Color noted that the class contained no student from oppressed peoples of the Amazon rain forest. CEP regarded national boundaries as essentially phallic, since they were longer than they were wide, and thus beneath notice.

Harvard, distraught at finding yet another instance of its institutional racism, cast about for a suitable indigene.
After a laborious search the university discovered Wunxputl, a member of the Tloxyproctyl tribe of the Amazon Basin, consisting of twelve people who lived on yams and the flesh of the Three-Toed Sloth. Wunxputl was at Wellesley, where he served in a minor administrative position that had no responsibilities. He had been brought there seven years earlier by the anthropology department, so it could atone for White Guilt. It didn't matter that Wellesley was guilty of nothing. The atonement was a pleasant form of narcissism, allowing the faculty to congratulate themselves on their moral purity.

Harvard arranged with Wellesley to borrow Wunxputl for three minutes every seven years, which it had calculated would satisfy the demands of ethnic proportionality. Justice, at last, had been achieved.


Zero Tolerance Insanity

Desperation is slowly setting in with the educational overseers of our prepubescent and adolescent inmates at America’s public schools. Zero tolerance for innocence is now the rule. Normal affection between human beings has become grounds for opprobrium and punishment at school.

In Palm Bay Florida, for example, a middle school student was suspended for hugging a friend in the hallway between classes.

There’s a zero-tolerance for hugging policy at this school. There’s no difference between an unwanted hug, or sexual harassment, and a hug between friends according to Southwest Middle School's student handbook and strict zero-tolerance for affection policy.

The kid gave a quick hug to his best female friend. The principal saw it. The hug was innocent. He knew that. But both kids were brought to the dean’s office. Both were suspended for violating the zero-tolerance for hugging policy.

“[W]e cannot discriminate or make an opinion on what is an appropriate hug, what's not an appropriate hug," a school district spokesperson explained. "What you may think is appropriate, another person may view as inappropriate."

Elsewhere in Florida, a hysterical Orange River Elementary School administrator called the cops when a 12-year-old girl was spotted planting a kiss on a boy during recess.

On the playground one day two little 12-year-old girls were apparently discussing the matter as to which of them liked a 12-year-old boy more when one of them just walked over and kissed the lucky lad.

Lee County Sheriff’s deputies were immediately dispatched to the playground scene of the “crime” by a call from the schools assistant principal to deal with the situation between two consenting school children who shared an innocent little kiss.

"They called us and said they caught two children kissing on the playground," Sgt. Stephanie Eller told Fox News & Commentary. The deputies took a report and documented the incident, but determined no crime had been committed. No one was arrested, she added.

"If it had been a crime at all it would have been a simple battery,” said Eller. “The battery consists of the unwanted touching of one person to another."

So now I suppose that innocent games of tag on playgrounds all across America will give rise to “crimes” of unwanted touching – battery in the schoolyard – for which the little ones involved will be arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the police station for booking and punishment.

Zero tolerance for touching. Zero tolerance for discretion. Zero tolerance for common sense. Will a pat on the back or the shaking of innocent hands be next?


Bright British children to be sent to 'maths schools'

A rather strange idea -- but it may be a reasonable response to a shortage of good math teachers

A new generation of maths schools will be created as part of a Government plan to boost Britain’s economic competitiveness, it emerged today.

Around 12 specialist institutions for 16- to 18-year-olds will be opened to give pupils expert tuition under the guidance of university mathematics departments

Unveiling the plans in his Autumn Statement, George Osborne said the colleges would help produce graduates in academic disciplines seen as vital to the country’s economic recovery.

On Tuesday, the Chancellor announced that a total of £600m would be earmarked for 100 new “free schools” – establishments opened and run by parents' groups, charities and private companies free of local council interference – between 2013/14 and 2014/2015.

Of those, around a dozen will specialise in maths for teenagers, he said. “This will give our most talented young mathematicians the chance to flourish,” Mr Osborne told the Commons. “These ‘Maths Free Schools’ are exactly what Britain needs to match our competitors – and produce more of the engineering and science graduates so important for our longer term economic success.”

But teachers condemned the move. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “At a time of unprecedented economic pressure it is incomprehensible that the Government is committing that sum of funding to creating 100 new free schools when so many existing schools are in desperate need of investment.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “In naked pursuit of the Coalition's elitist vision of education, 100 free schools and a handful of pupils get £600m while children in 22,000 other schools fight over a few hundred pounds.”

In a further announcement, it was revealed that another £600m would be spent creating additional school places in areas with the greatest “demographic pressures”. It is already feared that many infants are being forced to travel miles to primary school because of an acute shortage of places caused by a baby boom and influx of migrants in some areas. Many schools have been forced to turn hundreds of children away while others have created extra space by educating pupils in mobile classrooms or local church halls.

The biggest pressures have been reported in parts of London and cities such as Bristol and Birmingham.

On Tuesday, Mr Osborne said money would be allocated to places with the greatest need to deliver an additional 40,000 school places between 2012/13 and 2014/15. This comes on top of £800m a year already allocated each year – and an extra £500m for 2011/12.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Magic of Education

Bryan Caplan

I've been in school for the last 35 years - 21 years as a student, the rest as a professor. As a result, the Real World is almost completely foreign to me. I don't know how to do much of anything. While I had a few menial jobs in my teens, my first-hand knowledge of the world of work beyond the ivory tower is roughly zero.

I'm not alone. Most professors' experience is almost as narrow as mine. If you want to succeed in academia, the Real World is a distraction. I have a dream job for life because I excelled in my coursework year after year, won admission to prestigious schools, and published a couple dozen articles for other professors to read. That's what it takes - and that's all it takes.

Considering how studiously I've ignored the Real World, you might think that the Real World would return the favor by ignoring me. But it doesn't! I've influenced the Real World careers of thousands of students. How? With grades. At the end of every semester, I test my students to see how well they understand my courses, and grade them from A to F. Other professors do the same. And remarkably, employers care about our ivory tower judgments. Students with lots of A's finish and get pleasant, high-paid jobs. Students with a lots of F's don't finish and get unpleasant, low-paid jobs. If that.

Why do employers care about grades and diplomas? The "obvious" story, to most people, is that professors teach their students skills they'll eventually use on the job. Low grades, no diploma, few skills.

This story isn't entirely wrong; literacy and numeracy are a big deal. But the "obvious" story is far from complete. Think about all the time students spend studying history, art, music, foreign languages, poetry, and mathematical proofs. What you learn in most classes is, in all honesty, useless in the vast majority of occupations. This is hardly surprising when you remember how little professors like me know about the Real World. How can I possibly improve my students' ability to do a vast array of jobs that I don't know how to do myself? It would be nothing short of magic. I'd have to be Merlin, Gandalf, or Dumbledore to complete the ritual:

Step 1: I open my mouth and talk about academic topics like externalities of population, or the effect of education on policy preferences.

Step 2: The students learn the material.

Step 3: Magic.

Step 4: My students become slightly better bankers, salesmen, managers, etc.

Yes, I can train graduate students to become professors. No magic there; I'm teaching them the one job I know. But what about my thousands of students who won't become economics professors? I can't teach what I don't know, and I don't know how to do the jobs they're going to have. Few professors do.

Many educators sooth their consciences by insisting that "I teach my students how to think, not what to think." But this platitude goes against a hundred years of educational psychology. Education is very narrow; students learn the material you specifically teach them... if you're lucky.

Other educators claim they're teaching good work habits. But especially at the college level, this doesn't pass the laugh test. How many jobs tolerate a 50% attendance rate - or let you skate by with twelve hours of work a week? School probably builds character relative to playing videogames. But it's hard to see how school could build character relative to a full-time job in the Real World.

At this point, you may be thinking: If professors don't teach a lot of job skills, don't teach their students how to think, and don't instill constructive work habits, why do employers so heavily reward educational success? The best answer comes straight out of the ivory tower itself. It's called the signaling model of education - the subject of my book in progress, The Case Against Education.

According to the signaling model, employers reward educational success because of what it shows ("signals") about the student. Good students tend to be smart, hard-working, and conformist - three crucial traits for almost any job. When a student excels in school, then, employers correctly infer that he's likely to be a good worker. What precisely did he study? What did he learn how to do? Mere details. As long as you were a good student, employers surmise that you'll quickly learn what you need to know on the job.

In the signaling story, what matters is how much education you have compared to competing workers. When education levels rise, employers respond with higher standards; when education levels fall, employers respond with lower standards. We're on a treadmill. If voters took this idea seriously, my close friends and I could easily lose our jobs. As a professor, it is in my interest for the public to continue to believe in the magic of education: To imagine that the ivory tower transforms student lead into worker gold.

My conscience, however, urges me to blow the whistle on the system anyway. Education is not magic. Professors can't make students better at whatever job awaits them with learned lectures on arcane topics. I'm glad I have a dream job for life. I worked hard for it. But society would be better off if taxpayers saved their money, students spent fewer years in school, and sheltered academics like me finally entered the Real World and found a real job.


Australian Islamic College bans Afro hairstyle

For disciplinary reasons it has long been held that schools have the right to set standards of dress and presentation for their pupils so I fail to see anything that this school did wrongly. I think the school was rather tolerant in putting up with it as long as they did, in fact. If it is good enough for Obama to keep his hair short, it should be good enough for this kid. And why does Obama keep his hair short? Because an Afro is widely seen as unattractive

IT was the fro that had to go - but the fuzz about this teenager's hairstyle has gone all the way to the Supreme Court as his father claims he was cut off from friends at the Islamic school even after he trimmed his afro.

Mazen Zraika is taking the Australian Islamic College in Rooty Hill to court over the treatment of his son Billal, 13, who was ordered away from the school earlier this year until he changed his afro hairstyle, The Daily Telegraph reported.

After six months of asking him to cut his hair, the Year 8 student and his parents were sent a letter in April advising them that he would be suspended from school until he cut his hair into a style that wasn't in breach of its appearance code. Principal Yasmin Gamieldien told the family the hairstyle was deemed a "mop" and needed to be cut shorter.

But Mr Zraika says Billal - who is of Lebanese and Ethiopian descent - was simply being punished for his natural hairstyle. "His mum Mary is Ethiopian so it's not his fault he's got the fuzzy hair," Mr Zraika said following the school's order.

"They said it's a mop hair- style but that's something Zac Efron has. "He doesn't have to style it or anything. When he gets out of the pool and shakes his head a few times it automatically comes back into shape."

Billal returned to classes following the Easter holiday break, but the family claim they were then sent another letter by staff saying he would be expelled if it wasn't cut within a week, while Billal was left sitting in the front office in "isolation" from his friends.

The teenager had a crew-cut in order to avoid expulsion, but the family claim that he was still forced into "isolation" and kept away from classmates while being told to "catch up" on schoolwork he'd missed.


South Australian private schools six times safer for kids

PUBLIC school students are six times more likely to be assaulted than private school students.

Figures released through Freedom Of Information show there have been 2049 assaults (1 for every 81 students) reported to police in state government schools since 2006, compared to 195 (1 per 472 students) in non-government schools.

Last year, 65 assaults in government schools involved weapons, compared to seven in non-government schools.

The figures follow the vicious bashing of Hamilton Secondary College schoolboy Callan Wade last week. The 14-year-old was so badly bashed that his spleen was ruptured and he was treated at the Women's and Children's hospital intensive care unit.

Opposition Education spokesman David Pisoni said school safety had deteriorated to unacceptable levels under the Labor government.

He said the disparity between the number of assaults in public and private school proved the best results come when communities are allowed back into schools and principals are given the autonomy to decide what works best.

"Under Labor there has been a significant drift in the number of South Australian students choosing to attend non-government schools over government-run schools," Mr Pisoni said.

"A Liberal Government would tackle school violence head on by ensuring principals and school communities are adequately resourced to deal with bullying and violence."

The number of students attending private schools has increased 10 per cent in the past decade while public school numbers have decreased about five per cent.

Education Minister Grace Portolesi said every student and teacher had the right to go to school or work in a safe environment and the government would not tolerate people who acted in a violent or disorderly way.

"The drift from public to the private sector had slowed in the past two years and figures show government school enrolments have increased consecutively each year since 2008," she said.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

School lunch folly

Initially I only published this at my local blog, but just realized it is repeating in towns small and large all across the USA and abroad.

The local tiny-town weekly reports an outstanding debt of $18,000 in the school lunch program. Next month the school board will consider a proposal to sell that debt to a collection agency. They, in turn, will add 1/3rd to it and start working the parents over to pay off their ‘enhanced bills’.

Unsurprisingly, I find some things wrong with this. The big one, of course, is how did the food service department, business manager and school board let this debt get so dang big? The Food Service Director reports, “We have some families who haven’t paid for years.”

If somebody was shopping in your grocery store without paying their bill, how long would you let them continue to haul groceries out the front door? Not long at all with YOUR money, I’m sure. However, the school is working with other people’s money. That, of course, is the obvious difference.

These school two execs who make 140% or 240% of the average Kuna income seem to assume that the scofflaws are just being mean holding out on paying for these lunches. They will be shocked and amazed to learn that in many cases, the school lunch bills turn out to be among many the recently unemployed or underemployed are behind on. Do they even know that part of the world exists?

The school board chairman says he’d rather send a bill to collection than serve a child peanut butter sandwiches – “That would be demoralizing for the student, and other students would know what was going on.”

Oh my gosh, we can’t have students understanding that there is a limit to money – until we club them over the head with that fact the day after they depart our government-run school system and enter the real world.

We can’t send a message that, as Heinlein put it, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch“. That is, not until they are buried in making a living and paying half of that out in taxes to support someone else’s free lunch.

And we most certainly wouldn’t want to FORCE teens into making their own lunch… at least not while they are young and learning the ways of the world. Oh no, far better that we teach them that the government will take care of their needs. All they have to do is accept that adults are thrown in debtors prison every once in a while for what will probably appear to be inexplicable reasons.

If you, I or any rational business person were running the school lunch program, it would be a mere offering of lunch in a marketplace of lunch options. When I hired labor raised in Hispanic cultures, they were amazed that I would buy them lunch… mostly because none of them usually stopped working in the middle of the day. In 7th through 9th grades, if it wasn’t raining, I ate one peanut cup and played basketball for lunch. Those are only two among infinite choices that a real-world marketplace of ideas for lunch offers.


British universities see 15% slump in UK applicants as school leavers shun huge rise in fees

Universities face a record 15.1 per cent slump in UK applicants after the tripling of tuition fees, official statistics show. Rising numbers of British students are being deterred as charges of up to £9,000 a year are introduced next autumn. The Ucas statistics are a blow to the Coalition and suggest a looming meltdown in higher education after years of unbridled expansion.

Universities Minister David Willetts has insisted it is too early in the applications cycle to make predictions about demand for places. But experts believe the overall drop in applications for next year’s courses is one of the biggest.

Vice chancellors are likely to become reliant on lucrative overseas students who pay the full cost of courses – as much as £26,000 a year – to help boost their coffers.

The figures show that 133,357 home students have applied for 2012 degree courses at UK institutions so far, a drop of 23,759 compared with the same point last year. Applications from other EU students have fallen 13.1 per cent to 9,034.

However, the number of applicants from outside the EU has risen by 11.8 per cent – from 14,306 to 15,996 – amid extensive overseas recruitment drives. There has been a 31.8 per cent rise in applications from Hong Kong alone – up to 2,248 – as British institutions target this market.

Overall applications – including British, other EU and non-EU students – to UK universities by November 21 have dropped by 12.9 per cent to 158,387. At the same point last year, overall applications for courses starting in autumn 2011 had soared by 11.7 per cent to 181,814. Students cancelled gap years in the rush to get places ahead of next year’s increase in fees.

Last night Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘I think this is the highest drop outside of the two World Wars, when some universities almost became bankrupt due to falling applications. They were rescued by State support. ‘In the 1980s, when the number of 18-year-olds dropped by a third, the shortfall in applications was made good by mature students and part-time students.’

He added: ‘It will be the less popular universities that will struggle. ‘Students will be questioning whether they would be getting sufficient value from £9,000-a-year from those universities.’

The largest fall in applications (17.1 per cent) is among Scottish students, even though they get free tuition in Scotland. This is believed to be due to a fall in the birth rate, together with a 19.1 per cent fall in their applications to English universities.

Applications are down among English students by 15.2 per cent, Welsh by 10.3 per cent and Northern Irish by 16.9 per cent. Areas of the UK with the largest falls in applications include the North East (-21.4 per cent) and the East Midlands (-20.1 per cent).

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the figures were worrying, adding: ‘Putting financial barriers in front of young people who have been told their entire lives to aim for university is nothing more than a policy of penalising ambition.’

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘We expect some depression of demand due to a decline in the young population, but it is much too early to predict any effects from changes in fees.’

Mr Willetts said: ‘Most new students will not pay up front and there will be more financial support for those from poorer families.’

Students have until January 15 to apply for 2012 courses.

Research suggests they will face an average total bill of £48,503 for three years’ study at a Russell Group [elite] university, including the higher fees and living costs.


The University of Sydney Ranks 18th in the World for Arts and Humanities

As a graduate of the USyd Arts faculty I am rather pleased by this. There are a lot of universities in the world (7,000 in the USA alone by some estimates -- depending on what you call a university)

I thought it was pretty impressive in my day in the late 60s too. The philosophy school was particularly distinguished and I did study philosophy there. John Maze influenced me quite a lot -- as this paper shows

The University of Sydney is ranked 18th in the world in the field of arts and humanities, according to the most recent figures from Times Higher Education.

Three Australian institutions have made the top 20, led by Australian National University in Canberra. Ranked second in Australia is The University of Sydney, which has this year beaten out University of Melbourne, which came in at spot number 19.

The Times Education ranking system claims that their highest consideration factors when comparing universities are the learning environment, research and research influence (citations), innovation and international outlook.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences says of the achievement "The Times Higher ranking for Arts and Humanities places our Faculty in the top 20 faculties of its kind in the world, which is a remarkable tribute to our staff and the extraordinary work they do as teachers and researchers."

"Although ranking exercises such as this must always be treated with care, over the past five years our Faculty has been consistently ranked in the top 25 faculties across a range of different measures, and that suggests we are clearly on the right track. There is still even more we want to achieve, but I am delighted the University of Sydney is now unquestionably seen to be one of the best places in the world for the humanities."

The University of Sydney overall was placed at number 58, therefore to be ranked 18th in the arts and humanities shows that this area is performing particularly strongly at Sydney.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America

In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami's gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students' reading and math scores.

"These are the lowest performing schools, so we need the strongest performing teachers," said Julian Davenport, an assistant principal at Holmes Elementary, where three-fifths of the staff this year are Teach for America corps members or graduates of the program.

By 2015, with the help of a $50 million federal grant, program recruits could make up one-quarter of all new teachers in 60 of the nation's highest need school districts. The program also is expanding internationally.

That growth comes as many districts try to make teachers more effective. But Teach for America has had mixed results.

Its teachers perform about as well as other novice instructors, who tend to be less successful than their more experienced colleagues. Even when they do slightly better, there's a serious offset: The majority are out of the teaching profession within five years.

"I think ultimately the jury is out," said Tony Wagner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an instructor to the first class of TFA corps members.

Teach for America teachers work with not just the poor, but also English language learners and special education students. They provide an important pipeline of new teachers. But critics cite the teachers' high turnover rate, limited training and inexperience and say they are perpetuating the same inequalities that Teach for America has set to eradicate.

"There's no question that they've brought a huge number of really talented people in to the education profession," said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, which advocates on behalf of low-income and minority children, and a longtime supporter of TFA.

But, she said, "Nobody should teach in a high poverty school without having already demonstrated that they are a fabulous teacher. For poor kids, education has to work every single year."


Muslim medical students in Britain boycotting lectures on evolution... because it 'clashes with the Koran'

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain's leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs. He told the Sunday Times: 'I had one or two slightly frisky discussions years ago with kids who belonged to fundamentalist Christian churches, now it is Islamic overwhelmingly.

'They don't come [to lectures] or they complain about it or they send notes or emails saying they shouldn't have to learn this stuff. 'What they object to - and I don't really understand it, I am not religious - they object to the idea that there is a random process out there which is not directed by God.'

Earlier this year Usama Hasan, iman of the Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton, received death threats for suggesting that Darwinism and Islam might be compatible.

Sources within the group Muslims4UK partly blame the growing popularity of creationist beliefs within Islam on Turkish author Harun Yahya who, influenced by the success of Christian creationists in America, has written several books denouncing Darwinist theory.

Yahya associates Dawinism with Nazism and his books are and videos are available at many Islamic bookshops in the UK and regularly feature on Islamic television channels. Speakers regularly tour Britain lecturing on Yahya's beliefs. One such lecture was given at UCL in 2008 and this year's talks have been given in London, Manchester, Leeds, Dundee and Glasgow.

Evolutionary Biologist and former Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed his concern at the number of students, consisting almost entirely of Muslims, who do not attend or walk out of lectures.


Half of children who passed entry exam are turned away from British selective schools because there are no places for them

Almost 50 percent of youngsters who passed grammar school entrance exams were rejected because there were not enough places for them, it emerged today.

New figures show that of the 29,500 children who took the 11-plus, 13,800 passed, but 6,100 of those youngsters were not offered places. They failed because they did not meet entry criteria as closely as children, for example, who had siblings at the school or lived further away.

The survey by the Grammar Schools Association revealed 30,000 children competed for places at the 56 grammars - out of 164 nationally - that responded to the study.

If a similar number of eligible pupils were ejected from the other 108 grammars, it would mean nearly 20 more establishments would be needed to meet the demand for places.

Figures, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, do not include children who have narrowly missed a place at 'superselective' schools, which only take the top performers and do not have a pass mark

Last week education secretary Michael Gove promised to provide children with an 'unashamedly elitist' education.

Bob McCartney, the chairman of the Grammar Schools Association, told the paper: 'These statistics demonstrate the great demand for grammar schools. 'The Government continues to blatantly ignore parental choice. Its approach is based on political motivation and not the pursuit of education excellence.'

Wallington High School for Girls, in Sutton, received 1,400 applications for 180 places and had to turn away more than 300 pupils who passed the 11- plus.

An extra £600 million to build 100 more free schools will be announced in Tuesday's autumn statement.

Money is Magic!

by Gary Baker

An article in the Pasadena Star News has solved the mystery of poor performance in education. The secret is money, or, as the article frames it, the family income. Using modest scholarship, the state has gathered statistics correlating the California Academic Performance Index (API) against a number of factors. The test provides the state with a measurement of student advancement in math and reading. Family income was gauged indirectly by using the percentage of students in state schools that qualified for free and reduced price lunches. Other factors compared included class size, percentage of English Language learners, teacher salary, and per pupil spending. 

The article could be a textbook example of confusing causation and correlation. With the correlation firmly shown by the graphics, the “experts” launch into the accepted reasons why the poor do not do as well as the better off, citing poor health care, less time for study, lower parent involvement, etc. What is never mentioned aloud, certainly by no one in the field of education, is the factor of heredity. It would seem as though it is inconceivable that parents who tend toward success give their children similar traits. 

All of which brings us back to the acceptable answer: magic. Just as it was never the work and talent required for a rigorous degree, but the degree itself that conveyed success, so too with family income. I wonder if there is a plan anywhere to perform a study similar to the one California just undertook that added a measure of parent IQ into the mix. That would be a study that I would pay to see.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Norwegian school's segregation sparks race row

White flight takes hold

A political row has erupted in Norway after a secondary school segregated students with ethnic backgrounds in classes away from white Norwegians. Bjerke Upper Secondary School in Oslo filled one of the three general studies classes solely with pupils with immigrant parents, after many white Norwegians from last year's intake changed schools.

The controversy has highlighted the unease in Norway over how to integrate the 420,000 "non-Nordic" citizens who migrated between 1990 and 2009, and who make up 28 per cent of Oslo's population.

"This is the first time I've heard about this and it is totally unacceptable," Torge Odegaard, Oslo education commissioner, said before pressuring the school to inform parents that the three classes would now be reorganised.

But Robert Wright, a Christian Democrat politician and former head of the city's school's board, struck back, arguing that the authorities had been wrong to block the move. He said that other Oslo schools should start to segregate classes to prevent a situation of "white flight" developing. "Bjerke School has come up with a radical solution to a real problem," Mr Wright said.

The decision only came to the parents' notice earlier this month after Avtar Singh, a Punjabi Norwegian, confronted Gro Flaten, the school's headmistress, on why his son, Gurjot, had no ethnic Norwegian classmates. "She said straight out that the school had experienced ethnic Norwegian students dropping out if they weren't grouped together in smaller classes," he told the newspaper Dagsavisen.

Mrs Flaten said: "We made the decision because many Norwegian students were moving to other schools because they were in classes with such a high percentage of students from other nations. They seemed to be in a minority."

Students at the school have expressed anger at the segregation. "This is apartheid," said Ilias Mohamed, 17, from Somalia. "They do this because I'm from Africa and my father is from Africa But everyone of us is a Norwegian."

But school captain Helena Skagen, 18, said she understood what the school had been trying to do. "They just wanted to keep the Norwegian students at the school," she said. "But they now know that what they did was wrong because you can't split the students according to their culture."

Mr Wright said he believed that the shadow of Anders Breivik, the anti-Islamic extremist who massacred 77 people in Oslo in July, had made discussions of immigration difficult in Norway.


Why we need to talk about history

This vital subject must have higher status in the British curriculum, says the co-author of a new book investigating how our past is taught in schools today.

Here are two quotations that might be taken from the current debate over the teaching of history in English state schools. First: “It is surprising to find how little real knowledge of history is possessed by the average Englishman, or even by the average educated Englishman.” Second: “We need to return to an old-fashioned method which had governed the teaching of history for generations, namely 'dates, conventional divisions and an insistence upon mechanical accuracy’.” Sound familiar? It certainly does; and then some. For the first of these remarks dates from 1906, and was made at a meeting which saw the establishment of the Historical Association; and the second was made in 1924 by Hilaire Belloc.

As these two quotations suggest, complaining about the inadequacy of history teaching in English schools is nothing new: indeed, it has been going on for as long as history has been taught in the classroom, and this means back to the 1900s. So when, these days, Jeremy Paxman deplores the fact that insufficient attention is given in English schools to teaching the history of the British Empire, he is merely repeating (but perhaps does not know he is) a complaint that was made by (among others) Winston Churchill during the Second World War, by King George V in the 1920s, and by Lord Meath, the founder of Empire Day, before 1914.

For as long as it has been taught in state schools, history has always been a controversial and contentious subject. There have been those who thought it was taught well, and those who thought it was taught badly. There have been those who wanted a cheerleading narrative of national greatness, and those who wanted a “warts and all” account of the English past. There have been those who wanted to focus on this nation to the exclusion of all others, and those who wanted to situate England’s (or Britain’s) history in a broader global context. There have been those who thought history is primarily about imparting knowledge, and those who thought it is essentially about teaching skills.

Most of the arguments that are made today are merely the latest iterations of points that have already been made many times before, yet there is scarcely any awareness that this is so. How strange it is that history teaching in schools is discussed and debated, but with almost no historical perspective brought to bear. All too often, there is an easy presumption that there was once a golden age, when history was much better taught in the classroom than it is now, from which there has recently been a deplorable and catastrophic decline. But there is very little evidence to support that alarmist view.

Among other things, history teaches perspective and proportion; yet perspective and proportion are all too often lacking in the current debate on how history is taught in our schools. All too often, individual scare stories are hyped in the media, with no effort to establish whether they are in any way typical or representative; and since there are more than 30,000 schools in this country, any generalisation about what goes on in them is bound to be at best superficial. And we should also remember that the discussion and disagreements about history teaching in schools in this country is paralleled by similar discussions and disagreements in many other countries, too.

Why is this so? Why is history now, and why has history always been, such a contentious subject in the classroom? Indeed, why has it always been, and why is it now, so much more contentious than most other school subjects? Perhaps it is because history is about ourselves, about who we are, about how we define ourselves as a nation, in ways that most other subjects are not. Physics or geometry or Spanish are much the same wherever in the world they are taught. But history in England or in Germany or in Japan or in Canada can be very different, because so much of it is taught in a national framework.

These are some of the broader considerations that inform The Right Kind of History, a book that I have co-authored with Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon. It investigates how the subject has been taught in English state schools from the 1900s to the present, and is published this week. Drawing on a wide range of official materials, as well as interviews with hundreds of former teachers and pupils, one of our aims is to put the current debates on history teaching in a broader perspective, and to make recommendations that are soundly based on the evidence.

Across the 20th century, and on into our own time, there has always been controversy, there has always been continuity, and there has always been change.

Discussion and debate, by politicians, academics, educationalists, pundits and journalists have invariably been polarised. Yet it is clear from the evidence we have collected that in the classroom itself, most teachers just want to get on with the job. Across the whole period with which we have been concerned, history in English schools has never been a compulsory subject beyond the age of 14. Yet this remarkable continuity has been accompanied by profound changes: the advent of the wireless, the television and the computer; the creation of a comprehensive system of education; the creation of the National Curriculum; and so on.

From this evidence-based perspective, we have tried to make clear what the current key problems are in the teaching of history, as distinct from those that erroneously assume a sudden, recent collapse from a lost and lamented golden age. It is our firm belief that the major problem is not the current National Curriculum, which in our view strikes a good balance between the history of our own country and its broader engagement with the world, and the histories of other countries. As such, it should be left alone, and politicians and mandarins should resist the temptation to keep tinkering with it. The major problem we have isolated is that history is still only compulsory in English schools until the age of 14.

Here is the root cause of many of today’s problems, especially the rushed treatment of many topics during Key Stage Three, the danger of repeating subjects (such as the Tudors and the Nazis) at Key Stage Three and then again at GCSE, and the lack of time to give appropriate attention to what is termed “the big picture”. Accordingly, our most important recommendation is that history should be made compulsory in all state schools until the age of 16. This would not only mean the subject would be better taught, but it would also be in line with the original proposals of Sir Keith Joseph and Kenneth Baker when the National Curriculum was being drawn up. They were right then, and their proposals remain valid today. It is high time they were implemented. In more ways than one, there is a great deal to be said for knowing more than most of us do about what happened in the past.


Getting unqualified blacks into university is pointless in Australia too

In much of the USA a black High School diploma is meaningless, not even guaranteeing literacy -- but it will get the holder into some sort of tertiary institution, where graduation rates are low. And even if the student does graduate, his/her skillset will often still not rise much above literacy. Without primary and secondary schools that provide a meaningful education, very little can be done for the black student at the tertiary level.

The folly is less advanced in Britain, with the government putting pressure on the universities to accept underqualified students from sink schools but at least the top tier of British universities seems to be fairly successful in resisting that pressure so far. Sara Hudson below is warning the Australian government that they too should fix the schools first

The Australian Government is conducting a Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. According to the government the review will provide advice and make recommendations on achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, best practice and opportunities inside universities and other higher education providers, the effectiveness of affirmative action policies and the recognition of Indigenous knowledge in the higher education sector.

Our submission to the review (available on our website here) argues that it is not affirmative action or opportunities inside universities that the government should be concerned with but the ‘sink schools’ in welfare dependent suburbs and the Indigenous ‘schools’ in remote communities. These schools do not provide adequate primary and secondary education to enable children to proceed to university. The few Indigenous students from urban welfare dependent families or remote communities who qualify for university are almost always those whose parents have them board with relatives to access quality mainstream schools, or those at quality boarding schools on scholarships.

Conversely, Indigenous students from working families are attending university in record numbers. In 2009 Indigenous higher education enrolment had grown to 10,465 with an estimated 26, 0000 Indigenous graduates in the labour force by the end of 2010. Increasing numbers of Indigenous graduates are going on to quality post-graduate degrees that will enable them to qualify for academic posts. The remarkable success of these students shows that ‘affirmative action’ is not needed.

With a small proportion of the total population, Indigenous academics will always only form a small proportion of academic staff. It is extremely important for their reputation as well as their self-esteem that they are not stigmatized as being appointed by ‘affirmative action’ rather than on merit.

No amount of affirmative action will make any difference for those Indigenous students from urban welfare dependent and remote communities. These students will continue to have low participation in higher education until the deficits of substandard pre-school, primary and secondary education cease. To put it simply, if children are not taught to read, write and count, they have no hope of going to university.