Saturday, December 10, 2011

Occupy Geniuses: Cut Education Costs by Giving Free Stuff to Teachers

We have come to appreciate the Occupiers for their fundamental misunderstanding of economics. We’ve also come to look forward to the latest arrest statistics or video of delusional protesters weeping for their Lost Tent City.

I shudder to think what America would look like if they truly had any decision-making power.

Consider the latest zany idea from one “MrMiller” of Sandy, Utah:
Here is my proposal for opening up cheaper education to people in our country. It is my opinion that we don't need to pay professors quite so much money if we go about providing for them in a different way. What if we were to IMMEDIATELY find ways to provide for teachers to live life for free and paid their housing, (or collectively built them new houses, free of charge), gave them free food and also healthcare? If we collectively found a way to eliminate THEIR overhead, then we wouldn't all have to pay so much for them and this would thus drive down costs for all? I have been thinking about this for a LONG time and have decided that that would be the single greatest step towards reducing the costs of education period if we all worked together to do it. It's not even a hard thing to imagine. Anyone disagree?”


The teachers unions are constantly preaching that teachers are professionals. Is this how “professionals” should be treated? Who in the world would want to go into teaching if it meant living in a government house (small and energy efficient, no doubt), driving a government car (ditto), eating government food (something from Michelle Obama’s garden, perhaps?) and being subjected to government-run healthcare (oh, that’s right … ).

These are really the best ideas coming out of OccupyWallStreet? And the teachers unions are actually standing with these clowns?

This is utter nonsense and no one wants to be treated this way, including, I’m guessing, the progressive teachers. But, hey, if the teachers unions are supporting OccupyWallStreet and OWS is coming up with this nuttiness, let’s do it. I’m all for driving down the price of higher education.

Randi Weingarten, what say you?


British small businesses find ill-educated youth unemployable too

There have been many complaints from big business about this

More than a quarter of small businesses struggle to find 'suitably skilled' staff despite rising unemployment, a survey revealed yesterday. The report by the Federation of Small Businesses said many of its members were desperate to hire workers but could not find them.

It warned many school leavers and graduates lacked basic skills needed for a job. These range from turning up on time for an interview to being able to write basic English or do the most elementary maths. The survey of more than 1,500 small businesses showed a 'worrying' 27 per cent have 'found it difficult to find suitably skilled staff'.

The issue will be investigated as part of an inquiry into entrepreneurship by the Federation of Small Businesses and MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Small Business Group.

Brian Binley, Tory MP and chairman of the parliamentary group, said: 'Small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs are expected to be driving economic growth in support of Britain's recovery. 'But they are finding it difficult to get the right people to help them in that task.'

One of the big problems was 'the poor performance in our primary and secondary schools, especially with regard to literacy and numeracy'.

Unemployment has jumped to a 17-year high of 2.62million, amid warnings it will continue to rise as the Government cuts the state workforce.

Despite the massive number of people looking for a job, there are still 464,000 unfilled vacancies, according to the Office for National Statistics.

To add to the problems facing small firms, the report also found 34 per cent had 'difficulty securing finance'. The Federation of Small Businesses is calling on the Government to create more competition on the high street to break up the dominance of the 'big five' banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Santander and RBS.

The Department for Education said the Government was 'prioritising' literacy and numeracy by 'recruiting specialist maths teachers, introducing a phonics-based reading check for six-year-olds and restoring the rigour of GCSE and A-level exams'.


Transgender lessons for British pupils aged five: Classes will 'overload children with adult issues', say critics

Children as young as five could be given lessons on ‘transgender equality’ under Government plans. Information about transgender people is set to be included in the curriculum for personal, social and health education lessons, which are taught in thousands of primary and secondary schools.

The proposal is part of a Coalition policy programme entitled ‘Advancing transgender equality – a plan for action’, which was published yesterday.

In it, ministers warn a wide range of steps are needed to combat ‘transphobic bullying’, which is defined as the taunting of children who express ‘gender variant behaviours’.

The document was produced by the Home Office, which is responsible for equality policy within Government. It states that schools need to be ‘more inclusive for gender-variant children’. ‘We know that over 70 per cent of boys and girls who express gender variant behaviours are subject to bullying in schools,’ the document states.

‘Schools should be a safe and supportive environment for children to learn in. ‘Tackling transphobic bullying helps to address unacceptable behaviour and ensures that our society becomes more tolerant.’

As part of its review of PSHE, the Department for Education will consider adding ‘the teaching of equality and diversity, including transgender equality’ to the curriculum.

But critics said there was a danger that children were being overloaded with ‘adult issues’ as a result of such lessons.

Margaret Morrissey, founder of campaign group Parents Outloud, said: ‘These are adult issues and we should leave it until children are older or until they ask. ‘The problem is we are overloading our children with issues that they should not have to consider at a young age. PSHE is already overloaded with other issues. ‘We have given them sex education and teenage pregnancies have risen year on year.

‘We have told children about drugs education and we have a serious problem with drugs. We have told them about drinking and cigarettes and we have more children with alcohol problems and smoking.’

Transgender people include those who have had sex change operations and people who have both male and female sexual organs.

Other measures proposed as part of the equality drive include help for transgender job seekers and rules for the NHS designed to ensure transgender people are dealt with fairly. The move comes after a Government survey found nearly nine out of ten transgender employees suffered discrimination or harassment at work. Also announced yesterday were longer jail terms for murderers who are motivated by hatred of transgender people.

The basic sentence for anyone convicted of such killings will be 30 years, Kenneth Clarke said. Similar attacks on disabled people will also face the same tough minimum term.

The Justice Secretary said that offenders ‘should be in no doubt that they face a more severe sentence for these unacceptable crimes’.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘Too many transgender people still face prejudice at every stage of their lives, from playground bullying, to being overlooked for jobs or targeted for crime.’

This year it emerged British passports will no longer contain details of the holder’s sex. The move is designed to spare transgender people and those who are ‘intersex’ from having to tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ on official documents.


Friday, December 09, 2011

French school head held hostage by parents demanding a 'tyrant' teacher is sacked

Furious parents today took a headmistress and four other members of staff hostage to try and get a 'tyrant' teacher sacked from a French school.

The extraordinary stand-off saw police flooding into the Roman Catholic Notre-Dame de Caderot school in Berre l'Etang, a suburb of Marseilles, in the south of the country.

'We want one of the teachers fired because he's not up to standard,' said one of the 15 parents occupying the site. 'More generally, we want to see a huge improvement in standards, because at the moment are children are not getting a good enough education. 'We have taken a few hostages, but our children have been held hostage at this school for months.

'The teacher concerned is a tyrant – he treats are pupils abominably. He rants and raves at our kids, causing them psychological problems.'

Christophe Planes, another parent, said: 'We are very worried that the pupils are falling behind in school. 'We think our children are in danger. That's why we have decided to hold the headmistress and a couple of teachers hostage. We want things to change.'

Headmistress Christine Courtot said via mobile phone: 'We had a meeting with parents to discuss their concerns, and then they decided to kidnap me with two teachers.'

The main focus for the parents' anger is a male trainee teacher who is in charge of pupils aged 9 to 10. He has not been named. A spokesman for the school said they had agreed to transfer the teacher to another school, but the parents said they wanted proof.

The siege started late on Tuesday evening when the parents broke into the building and barricaded themselves into a classroom along with the headmistress, two other teachers, and two secretaries.

Although police have surrounded the school, and entered the building, they are under orders not to intervene in the dispute. An Education Ministry spokesman said the school was privately run, and needed to sort out the industrial dispute themselves.

French workers have a tradition of kidnapping bosses during industrial dispute, but this is believed to be the first time that a head teacher has been taken hostage.


Why Britain's private schools have a moral duty not to support government schools

According to Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College, Berkshire, fee-paying private schools have a “moral duty” to help run failing government schools in deprived areas. However private schools are right to question the wisdom of this approach.

First, it is important to remember that the government initially intervened in education in the late 19th century to help support the growth and development of education in deprived areas. However, instead of subsidizing parents and allowing them to choose between a variety of different schools, previous governments directed all public subsidies towards its own free schools, whilst neglecting and ignoring all private alternatives. This subsequently forced the closure of thousands of private and voluntary schools leaving only a small number of private schools to cater for families on a higher income.

As a result, instead of focusing on the development of education in deprived areas, the government soon found itself attempting to manage and control the vast majority of schools serving both rich and poor alike. Unfortunately, any system of education which restricts the freedom of parents to choose will hit those on low incomes the hardest. While better off families can either move to the suburbs in search of a better school or purchase private tuition, those on low incomes who live in deprived areas are forced to accept their local government school, irrespective of how it performs. Government intervention has therefore had the opposite effect from the one that was originally intended.

However, after forcing the vast majority of private and voluntary schools out of business and after creating a system of education which restricts parents’ right to choose and penalises those families living in deprived areas, the government now attempts to blame the remaining private schools for all of the problems which they themselves have just created. And to put things right the guilty private schools must now give a helping hand to the failing government schools which they have helped to create. However, let’s be clear - all apartheid, social division and barriers in education are a direct result of the way in which all previous governments have directed public funds to government schools only, thereby denying parents their fundamental right to choose and eventually crowding out the majority of private alternatives.

Second, to suggest that Eton can help to transform a failing inner city comprehensive government school is to completely misunderstand the nature of the problem. First, I suspect that the knowledge and experience required to educate children who live in deprived areas is slightly different from the knowledge and experience required to educate children who attend Eton. Therefore as Eton will have very little if any knowledge or experience of educating children who live in deprived areas, it is difficult to see what they can bring to the table. Second, all failing (or coasting) government schools located in deprived areas exist because of the way in which all previous governments have directed public funds to government schools only, thereby denying parents their fundamental right to choose and eventually crowding out the majority of private alternatives. It should therefore be blatantly obvious that the only way to solve this problem is for the government to change the way they fund education by creating a level playing field, giving all schools an equal opportunity and by directing all public funds to parents.

Third, by lending their support to failing government schools, private schools will help to prolong the life of a stagnant and immoral government system, which restricts the fundamental right of parents to choose and restricts the freedom of a variety of different organisations to invest and compete in the delivery of children’s schooling. Private schools therefore have a moral duty not to support failing government schools.

Fourth, during the period in which the government proceeded to distort, disrupt and completely undermine the natural growth and development of education in the UK, the private schools that survived have simply gone about their business, doing what they do best, which is providing a unique educational experience to those parents who can afford to purchase it. Therefore to accuse these schools of perpetuating social division, suggests that freedom in education will make those who receive this education better off, only at the expense of those who don’t receive it who will end up worse off. However, one of the key reasons to justify government subsidies in education is because education has some public good qualities, in that the education received by some children will not only benefit these particular children but will also benefit the wider public, who can enjoy the benefits of living in a more educated and civilised society. The better education that one child receives can therefore only be a good thing for the child concerned and for the rest of society.

That said, if Wellington College want to help transform a failing government school then as a private and independent organisation, they are perfectly free to do so. However, attempting to claim the moral high ground by undertaking such an act is a different matter altogether and one that fails to take into account the reason why these schools are failing in the first place and the desperate need for the government to change the way it subsidises and intervenes in education. Therefore, if private schools want to help improve education in deprived areas, they could do much more good by lobbying the government and promoting a change in policy.

In the meantime, if some government schools want to benefit from receiving a service from a local private school then they should be prepared to pay for it. In education, as elsewhere, there is no such thing as a free lunch.


The current British High School exam system is "discredited": Inquiry into cheating row as teachers are 'coached by examiners'

Education Secretary Michael Gove last night ordered an inquiry into claims that examiners have been advising teachers on how to boost GCSE and A-level results. Chief examiners were filmed giving teachers advice on the words pupils should use to get top marks.

Mr Gove said that the footage ‘confirms that the current system is discredited’ and ordered the exam regulator Ofqual to investigate.

The disclosures will add to the row over claims of grade inflation over the past decade and fears over the ‘dumbing down’ of standards.

The undercover investigation found that teachers are paying up to £230 a day to attend seminars with examiners where the advice appeared to go beyond what is allowed. At one such meeting, one of the chief examiners for GCSE history from exam board WJEC was filmed by the Daily Telegraph telling teachers which questions should be expected in the next round of exams.

Paul Evans told teachers at the course in London last month that the compulsory question in the first part of the exam ‘goes through a cycle’.

‘This coming summer, and there’s a slide on this later on, it’s going to be the middle bit: “Life in Germany 1933-39” or for America, it will be “Rise and Fall of the American Economy”… So if you know what the compulsory section is you know you’ve got to teach that,’ he was filmed saying.

When questioned by a teacher on whether this meant they did not have to teach the whole syllabus, he replied: ‘We’re cheating. We’re telling you the cycle (of the compulsory question). Probably the regulator will tell us off.’

In November, at the AQA GCSE English seminar in Brighton, teachers were reportedly told that students could study only three out of 15 poems even though the Qualification and Curriculum Authority states it should be all 15.

In England there are three main exam boards offering GCSEs and A-levels – OCR, AQA and Edexcel – although the Welsh exam board, WJEC, has become more popular.

Critics last night said that the findings were proof that exam boards were lowering standards as they compete with one another to win business from schools. They also warned that it showed examiners were encouraging ‘teaching to the test’.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education said: ‘These findings are shocking, but not surprising, the whole system is rotten to the core. There is no question that standards are going down. Exam boards are competing for custom from schools and the only way to get more schools is to make the exams more attractive. We need to abolish these individual commercial exam boards and create one national exam board that has integrity.’

Announcing the investigation into the claims, Mr Gove said: ‘Our exams system needs fundamental reform. ‘The revelations confirm that the current system is discredited.

‘I have asked Glenys Stacey (the chief executive of Ofqual) to investigate the specific concerns identified... and to report back to me within two weeks with her conclusions and recommendations. ‘It is crucial our exams hold their own with the best in the world. We will take whatever action is necessary to restore faith in our exam system. Nothing is off the table.’

Last night, a spokesman for WJEC said: ‘The advice given in this particular context, relating to nine studies in depth and three thematic studies, is clearly set out in the GCSE History Teachers’ Guide. ‘The examiner at the training course attended… was confirming long-standing guidance on this subject. ‘The alleged use of the word “cheating” appears to have been injudicious, as well as inaccurate; we shall investigate this further.’


Thursday, December 08, 2011

If there's no Santa in your kid's school don't just whine

Neal Boortz

We have some government school bureaucrats in Texas who have decided that there will be no Santa Clause in the classrooms this year. Their first excuse was that Santa was representative of a particular religion. Then, when the inevitable stink arose, they switched their stance and said it was all because Santa Clause would be a distraction. Yeah right. The reason that they didn’t want Santa in the classroom was because he is competition, not a distraction. Remember, this is government; and government doesn’t like competition. What’s more, unlike the private sector, government can step up and end competition by edict and force when it cares to.

Before I go any further here, a word to the parents of the little government indoctrination subjects in this Texas school who are voicing whining about the school dissin” Santa. It’s this simple: If you can easily afford to have your precious little mini-me in a private school somewhere, yet you turned your child over to the government to be educated; or if you have the means and the temperament to home school your child; or (your last available excuse) you are NOT actively working with your legislators, both local and federal, to promote the cause of school choice, then would you do us all a favor and just keep your opinions about Santa in the classroom to yourself? When it comes to preparing your child for life, just sitting around and complaining doesn’t cut it. Either do something, support those who are trying to do something, or put a sock in it.

Now think about this. When you child was about six years old you made the decision to turn him or her over to the government to be educated. Just how much thought did you actually put into this decision? My guess is that you asked the government which school your child was supposed to attend, bought the government school suggested list of school supplies, and packed the little tricycle motor off on day one with nary an additional thought. But after all, that’s what everyone else does, right? You’re no better than they are, and if government schools are good enough for their kids, well you certainly don’t want to be a show off or something, do you?

Tell me: Did you really look into private schools? My guess is that you could have found a private school somewhere near you that wouldn’t have cost you all that much more than a good day care school did before your child became school age. You didn’t search around? No surprise. The government was there for you, so why explore other options?

Maybe home schooling? Did you look into that? No, you don’t have to spend six hours a day hammering the three Rs into your kid. There are Internet assets and plenty of organizations out there to help. College professors will tell you that they can recognize the home schooled child on the first day of class due to their poise, intelligence and maturity. But no, you didn’t look into that, did you? After all, you paid your property taxes and this is all the government’s job, right?

Well, let me ask you this. How much time did you spend looking into the history, purpose and quality of the government school that swallowed up your child? Did you realize that the very people who designed our system of government schools around 100 years ago made a conscious decision to establish a system that would educate your child to the point that he would make a good employee or government subject, but not to the point that he might present a threat to his employer or those who hold power in government? Guess not.

So now there you are, telling everyone how troubled you are that Santa has been sent to detention; but isn’t that pretty much what you did to your child? My guess is that you put far more thought into the purchase of your last car than you did into the education of your child, and that car will be in a junkyard in about 15 years…pretty much the same thing that is going to happen to You, Jr.

Now what was that reason I gave for some government schools to send Santa back to the sleigh? Oh yeah, competition. You chose the type of school: Hebrew Academy, Baptist private school, Catholic parochial school or Muslim madrasah. Every single one of these schools, while teaching educational basics such as reading, science and math, will also try to inculcate the students with a sense of allegiance to the entity running the school; whether Jewish, Christian, Catholic or Muslim. Now just why would you think that a government school would be any different?

In American government schools our children are relentlessly indoctrinated with the idea that the government is there for them when any need arises. In the Christian school it may be “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” In government schools it’s “The government is my keeper, I need not rely on myself.” This is how power is built and maintained, beginning the indoctrination process with the impressionable minds of youth.

I still remember that visit Michelle Obama made to a government classroom here in Atlanta. A picture of her in the classroom interacting with the kids appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. On the classroom wall behind Michelle were the typical alphabet signs; one sign for each letter strung along the wall. Under each of the letters was a word beginning with that letter. Under “M” we had the word “monkey.” Under “N” we had not one, but two words. Those words? “National Government.” They chose not to use “notebook,” something in virtually ever classroom. Maybe the teacher could have used “necklace” or “necktie.” But no. It just had to be “National government.” Never miss an opportunity to keep the federal government foremost in the minds of your children. You certainly don’t think a Muslim madrasah would miss the chance to extol the virtues of Allah, do you?

And Santa? Well the problem is twofold. First of all, Santa is a symbol of a Christian holiday. You don’t want to remind the children that some people worship God, rather than government. Secondly … When it comes to people asking for someone to bring them a present – to give them something for nothing – well, that’s the government’s job. Santa is, as I said, competition and cannot be allowed to survive.

If just half the parents who gnash their teeth and wring their hands over political correctness in our government schools would dedicate a few hours a week to promoting school choice we would take giant steps toward preserving liberty and saving our republic.


The Greatest English Teacher

The Rev. John Becker, S.J., sat at the front of the classroom, paperback in hand, glasses pushed to the end of his nose. As he spoke, he looked intently from one student to another.

“This semester, I am going to teach you how to read 'King Lear,'” he said. “It may be Shakespeare’s most difficult play. But it has a powerful message to tell.”

When we were done reading “Lear,” the priest promised, we would not only understand it, but we would have learned the secret of understanding any thing written in English -- anything, that is, with a meaning to discern.

And we would love Shakespeare.

At the time, I don’t think any of us understood what Father Becker meant. But the things he started teaching us that day made him the greatest English teacher I ever had.

That was in 1974 at Saint Ignatius, the all-boys Jesuit high school in San Francisco.

For several weeks, Father Becker sat patiently with our class as we read “King Lear,” line by line -- out loud. Whenever we came to a word or phrase he suspected we did not understand, he would look with mock ferocity at one student and jovially ask another on the other side of the room to explain what it meant.

When it was clear no one knew, we would look it up in the glossary. Father would then pick someone to read the definition out loud. Then we would read -- again -- the line where the troublesome word had been found.

Reading “King Lear” like this was tedious -- at first.

But as we read deeper into the play -- then moved on to “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” -- we needed to stop and start and visit the glossary less frequently. But we appreciated the need for doing so more. We discovered Father Becker was right. The more we understood Shakespeare’s plays, the more we loved them. Our hard work and attention to detail was rewarded with the ability to detect, understand and appreciate even the subtle nuances of the greatest works of literature ever written.

Then there was the memorization and recitation. At first this, too, we faced with dread.

Father gave us a quota of lines from each play. Each student could choose which ones to memorize and when to recite them. But by the end of the semester, each was responsible for completing his share.

By the time everyone had recited their quota, it was possible Father Becker’s students were as familiar with the most popular lines from that semester’s Shakespeare play as from the latest Grateful Dead or Eagles album.

Then there was the continuous writing and rewriting. Father made us write one essay per week. He gave us some freedom in choosing a topic, but no freedom from the rules of grammar.

He often returned a graded paper with a neat “A/F” inscribed at the top. The “A” was for the merits he thought he detected in your creativity or thought. The “F” was for mangling English.

Father Becker did not give these “Fs” arbitrarily. Using a red pen, he meticulously marked every mistake with a code -- “A61,” D128,” “H53.” Each referred to a specific rule in the Writing Handbook -- a clear, systematic and exhaustive 592-page text published in 1953 by two Jesuits. A student with an “A/F” needed to look up each rule he had broken and rewrite the paper to correct the errors. Father Becker would then change his grade to an “A/A.”

This, too, I found incredibly tedious. But then I went to college.

Father Becker was one of the teachers who recommended me to Princeton. I was accepted. I read more Shakespeare -- and Chaucer and Pope. I earned a degree in English literature. I became a professional writer and editor. Along the way, I had the opportunity to learn from many great English teachers. Yet, as time passed, I more deeply appreciated the teaching of Father Becker.

At St. Ignatius -- in Father Becker’s class and all others -- we wrote the letters AMDG at the top of our papers. They stand for “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” -- To the Greater Glory of God. These are the strategic watchwords of the Jesuit order: Everything ultimately must serve this purpose.

Father Becker taught us that Shakespeare was great not only because of the power and wit and poetry in his language but because his plays truly served the greater glory of God. They helped readers see good and evil and the consequences of choosing one over the other.

Father Becker also taught by example. He had the skills to succeed in many lucrative professions. But he took a vow of poverty and spent five decades as a good and faithful priest teaching boys to become strong and confident Christian men in an increasingly secular world.


The leather lady loses: Controversial rules over free places for the poor in private schools to be torn up

Rules requiring private schools to give free places to poor pupils are to be torn up, after a crunch court ruling. In a victory for independent schools, the Charity Commission was ordered to scrap its controversial guidance, which orders schools to offer bursaries or risk losing charitable status.

Judges on the Upper Tribunal – a body which rules on contentious areas of law – gave the Commission three weeks to withdraw its most sweeping guidelines or have them quashed completely.

The ruling comes after a fierce political row over demands that fee-paying schools must provide wider ‘public benefit’ in order to keep millions in tax breaks. The ‘public benefit’ rules were widely seen by independent schools as a crusade by Dame Suzi Leather, the Labour-appointed quangocrat who heads the Charity Commission.

That has pressed private schools to open up their playing fields and sports facilities to local state schools and offer tuition to some local pupils. But they balked at being forced to hand out free places in order to remain in business after the Charity Commission said providing bursaries was the most straightforward way of satisfying the rules.

School heads claimed that would drive up fees for existing parents and price some families out of independent education altogether.

In October, the Upper Tribunal ruled parts of the Commission’s guidance were ‘erroneous’.

The Independent Schools Council had brought a case against the Commission arguing its guidance must be quashed because it was too vague and claimed the commission was guilty of ‘micro-managing’ individual charities. The commission argued its guidelines were clear and it had only provided ‘supportive assistance’ to help schools keep charitable status.

Yesterday the Commission was told to withdraw parts of its guidance, specifically that relating to public benefit and fee-charging charities, which includes independent schools.

Crucially, the judges also decided each case depended on its own facts and it was a matter for the trustees of a charitable independent school – rather than the Charity Commission or the tribunal – to decide how trustees’ obligations to provide public benefit should be achieved.

ISC general secretary Matthew Burgess said: ‘We were vindicated last month when the Tribunal agreed the Commission’s approach to the public benefit of independent schools was wrong. ‘We trust this ruling will now persuade the Commission to discharge its duty to hundreds of thousands of charity trustees to produce clear and accurate guidance.’

A Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘We have received the Upper Tribunal’s decision and, in accordance with this, will be voluntarily agreeing to withdraw the limited parts of our guidance found by the Tribunal not to be correct. ‘We will do this as part of our review of the guidance, which we said we would carry out regardless of the outcome and is already in hand.

‘It remains that in accordance with the judgement, fee-charging schools cannot be charitable if they exclude the poor from benefit and, if established as charities, they have to make provision for those who cannot afford the fees which is more than minimal or tokenistic.’


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Save the World on Your Own Dime

The taxpayers are being beaten to death by liberalism. Meanwhile academic liberals are complaining that they are taking a beating with recent budget cuts, which they claim are unjust. For the first time in a long time, I agree with the liberals. The budget cuts are unjust. In my view, they aren’t deep enough. If you disagree, consider this: One public university in North Carolina has just found money to start (in the midst of a budget crisis) a new scholarship to reward feminists for engaging in feminist political activism on the job.

Here in the Tar Heel state, this year’s budget cut in higher education is nearly 16%. But there was still enough money in the pot to create a new Janet Mason Ellerby Women and Gender Studies Scholarly Award. The award was created to recognize Ellerby’s “significant contributions to feminist scholarship and activism.”

What are those contributions? Let’s start with activism.

Some years ago, Janet Ellerby learned that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were slated to make an appearance at UNC-Wilmington. Ellerby joined an effort to keep the Cowgirls from coming to our campus. Why? Well, you know the reason. They wear too little clothing and help promote unhealthy (read: sexist) images of what a woman should look like. The Cowgirls were young, thin, and happy. UNCW feminists, on the other hand, place a premium on being old, plump, and angry. The Cowgirls had to go!

Of course, anyone who has ever been to UNCW recognizes the futility of banning scantily-clad women from campus. Our co-eds generally make the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders look like nuns. That’s why UNCW is sometimes referred to as UNC-Whorehouse. Personally, I’m offended by those who refer to our young women as “whores.” That’s why I was disappointed when UNCW hired a rapper to come to campus to call women “bitches” and “whores” back in 2003. (Note: He made $130,000 in the process!). But the rapper, unlike the cheerleaders, was not banned from UNCW by the feminists. Some UNCW feminists consider promiscuity to be empowering. So I suppose “whore” is just a term of endearment.

Speaking of whores, another example of Janet Ellerby’s activism would be the fight for free health care for prostitutes. While under the direction of Janet Mason Ellerby, the WRC placed a large display in the lobby of the UNCW library. The display made an argument for free health care for prostitutes with no moral condemnation of prostitution whatsoever. In fact, the display declined to refer to the women as prostitutes. It called them “sex workers.” If you haven’t seen the connection between these first two examples of feminist activism, I’ll just spell it out below (in bold letters):


None of this should come as a surprise to my readers. Janet Mason Ellerby was the “activist” who placed pictures of naked children in the lobby of the UNCW library as a part of Women’s History Month. Oops! That’s Womyn’s Herstory Month. She did so in connection with her official capacities as director of the Women’s Center. The provost tried to move the naked pictures to another location because pedophiles had previously been caught downloading child pornography right there in the UNCW library. Ellerby had a conniption. And she enlisted the help of the Faculty Senate in the name of academic freedom.

As a result of Janet Mason Ellerby’s activism, faculty members now face no time, place, and manner restrictions on their desire to display pictures of nude post-pubescent minors on public property. But UNCW still refrains from using the term “Christmas Tree” lest they offend the irreligious. Now it’s a holiday tree, wait, no! That’s too holy, now it’s just a tree! And the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are still banned from the UNCW campus. Man, these bitches and hos are relentless!

Have you have ever wondered why I refer to “feminist scholarship” as an oxymoron on a par with “jumbo shrimp?” Just read Intimate Reading, the personal memoir of Janet Mason Ellerby. It will help you better understand her desire to post pictures of naked children in public libraries. In a soft pornographic romance novel sort of way, Ellerby gives a graphic account of losing her virginity at age 16. She talks in great detail about the experience – including her effort to clean the blood off the couch where she had that first sexual experience. From there, she proceeds to write about blood running from her vagina in the shower afterwards. And, regrettably, the graphic account is required reading for many students in Women’s Studies classes.

The Ellerby sex scene might not be true scholarship. But it does have some symbolic value. Whenever feminist scholarship is taken seriously, we all lose a measure of our innocence. And someone is stuck cleaning up a big mess in the aftermath.


British charter schools obliged to promote marriage

The importance of marriage is to be taught to every pupil at the Government's flagship free schools and academies.

The schools will be made to sign up to strict new rules introduced by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, setting out what pupils must learn about sex and relationships. Headteachers will be told that children must be "protected from inappropriate teaching materials and learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children".

But the decision to spell out an explicit endorsement of marriage in the curriculum for tens of thousands of children is highly politically significant, and likely to be welcomed by Conservative traditionalists who have been concerned at a perceived failure by David Cameron's Government to deliver on pledges to support married life.

Mr Gove has introduced the "model funding agreement" as a template for how every new free school and academy is run. Ministers want a dramatic increase in the numbers of both types of schools.

The new rules on marriage are set out in clause 28 of the funding agreement – an echo of the controversy under Margaret Thatcher's government when Clause 28 of the 1988 Local Government Bill banned schools from promoting homosexuality.

The agreement is a distinct change from current guidelines which state that children should learn the nature and importance of marriage and of stable relationships for family life and bringing up children. The reference to "stable relationships", which alludes to couples living together outside marriage and homosexual partners, has not been included in the model funding agreement documents.

The wording of the section suggests a strengthening of traditional values in schools, but will also provoke opposition from those who believe marriage should not be given a privileged status in the curriculum.

Including the teaching of marriage in funding agreements puts a legal compulsion on headteachers to comply. English, maths, science and RE are the only other curriculum subjects guaranteed in the model document.

If the terms of the agreement are broken, funding for the school can be withdrawn by ministers. It may also be possible for parents to legally challenge schools that are not abiding by the letter of their funding agreements.

The funding agreement clause also bans the use of "inappropriate materials" in schools. It is likely to be seized on by campaigners who last week attacked the use of "explicit" sex education material in primary schools and called for a ban on Channel 4's "Living and Growing" DVD used in thousands of primary schools which shows cartoon characters having sex in a variety of different positions.

Lessons in personal, social and health education (PHSE), which include sex and relationship education, are currently under review as part of the Government's general overhaul of the national curriculum, which applies in schools which are not either academies or free schools.

Tens of thousands of children are now taught in academies across the country. The number of "independent" state schools, which receive funding directly from Government and have freedom over finances, curriculum and teachers pay, has mushroomed under the Coalition.

All schools, whether primary or secondary, rated "outstanding" by inspectors can now become academies without going through a lengthy application process, which has triggered a rise in numbers from just over 200 in 2010 to 1,300 now.

The funding agreement marriage clause also applies to the 24 free schools, set up by parents, teachers, faith groups and charities. Sixty more are in the pipeline and Mr Gove has made their expansion his flagship policy.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "Given the benefits that derive from marriage for young people, a short statement requiring that pupils learn its importance is entirely sensible."

But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "For children brought up by unmarried parents or single parents being told that marriage is the only valid family arrangement will be totally contradictory to everything they know about the world. It opens the door for religious schools to teach a really narrow version of what constitutes an acceptable relationship. "It is telling our children that their own family structure is somehow inferior. A lot of church schools would love to do that and this gives them license to do it."

Putting marriage at the heart of the curriculum will make Mr Gove popular among many Conservatives, but inflame tensions with the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, promised to recognise marriage in the tax system in this Parliament. But the plan went on the back burner in coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats, who fiercely oppose special recognition for marriage.

Mr Cameron has said that he intends to honour the pledge before 2015, but George Osborne, the Chancellor, suggested last month there would be no room for tax cuts before the election. In the same month, in a keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Cameron urged party members to back gay marriage.

New Office for National Statistics figures show that marriage is steadily declining, with married couples now making up less than half the population.

However research by the Centre for Social Justice, set up by Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary for work and pensions and the main proponent of tax breaks for married couples, found that children have better outcomes if their parents are married.

However, the issue of marriage is steeped in controversy. But critics said that at a time when the number of cohabiting couples was at record levels, focusing on marriage in lessons would confuse and alienate children.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Academies and free schools have to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. They are required to have regard to the statutory guidance covering sex and relationships education."


Oxford's feared admission interviews

This year’s Oxbridge interviews begin tomorrow. I only know this because a friend asked me if I would give her niece a mock one, as she is at a state school where they don’t coach pupils in interview technique, not with quite the same ruthless efficiency as they do at public schools, anyway.

She is hoping to read PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] at Oxford and as I read one of those Ps as a postgraduate - philosophy, at Durham - my friend thought I could perhaps come up with some questions that would test her. She also thought that because I interview celebrities for a newspaper I must know how to throw a curve ball. I tried to explain to her that the average celebrity has a much meaner intelligence than the average Oxbridge candidate, but she wasn’t having it.

We met on Wednesday, then - convenient for the niece because her school was on strike. I don’t know about her, but I learnt a lot. The first thing is that, if she is representative of 17-year-olds, our state education system is far from dumbed-down. Yes, she is expected to get the usual three As, but she was also articulate, composed and thoughtful. And not once in 40 minutes did she say “like”. She even made good eye contact, which I certainly couldn’t at her age.

When I asked her loaded questions - such as “Is a good person more likely to be a good president?” or “Can it ever be moral to cut benefits from the poor?” or “If you have never been to Canada, how do you know it exists?” - she gathered her thoughts for a moment and then gave considered answers.

Before the interview, I’d asked some colleagues who had been to Oxford what kind of questions I should ask. One said that if the niece is asked to throw a brick through the window, she should open it first. Lateral thinking, see. Another said there are no right or wrong answers to the sometimes strange-sounding questions: they are merely opportunities to demonstrate your originality, logic and ability to argue.

This was borne out by Professor Mary Beard on Radio 4. She said that, contrary to the myth that she and her fellow dons are eccentric sadists who enjoy humiliating very bright and very nervous teenagers, all their questions are intended to help rather than hinder the interviewee. “We want them to talk themselves into a place, not out of one.”

Above all, it seems, candidates are judged on their merits, regardless of background. That seems to be confirmed by the news that even Tony Blair couldn’t persuade Oxford to offer a place to Gaddafi’s son in 2002. Saif al-Islam had to make do with a place at LSE (also known as the Libyan School of Economics). I wonder how Saif would have answered one of the questions I put to the niece: Is dictatorship sometimes a better option than democracy?

I’ll leave you with a story a colleague told me. He turned up 24 hours early for his Oxford interview, due to a date mix-up. He sat outside the tutor’s office for an hour before realising, then had to spend the night in college without a change of clothes. The stuff of anxiety dreams, indeed. When it came to the interview he landed a PPE scholarship, but two weeks into his first term he gave up and switched to history, because he found he hated economics.

The politics don was not pleased - but blamed the economics don for not asking him any questions at interview, because he was too keen to disappear for his pre-lunch sherry.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Apology in 'No Santa' Case

(Nanuet, New York) This story has understandably received a bunch of attention.
After widespread holiday jeers, a teacher at Nanuet's George W. Miller Elementary School has apologized to her second-grade classroom after reportedly telling them there's no Santa Claus.

Leatrice Ann Eng of Pearl River issued the apology a day after she was accused of saying "no" to Ho-Ho-Ho during a geography class last Tuesday.

When the 7-year-olds told her they knew about the North Pole because of its white-bearded inhabitant, Eng reportedly responded that Santa did not exist and that Christmas presents were bought by their parents.
I suggest it's sinful to corrupt the innocence of children.

Robert Owen's vision of educational reform as a road to Socialism

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) is regarded as a great reformer of American education. One of his prime influences was an early advocate of socialism called Robert Owen.

Robert Owen played a large role in Dewey’s formulating ideas. Owen was a social and educational reformer. He was one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen believed that moral reform could only come through the reform of the environment. Once Owen gained ownership of New Lanark, he began to put his vision for its factories and schools into place.

Living in New Lanark, Scotland in the late 1700’s, Owen had the opportunity to purchase the Chorlton Twist Co. Owen openly admired how the previous owner had shown respect for the children of the people working for him which included children. He then went on to purchase the Lanark Company where he found conditions deplorable and implemented a standard of hygiene. The community as a whole found his concern for the welfare of his workers admirable.

At a time when workers in the mills of New Lanark needed saving, Owen provided his workers with decent housing, and banned children under 10 years old from working in his mills. He argued against physical punishment in schools and factories, as well he ensured that this was a standard upheld in his own facilities. Owen hoped that his treatment of children would influence other factory owners to do the same.

Owen’s ideas were shaped by the Scottish Enlightenment and his contact with progressive ideas in Manchester, England as a member of the Literary and Philosophical Society. His general theory was that character is formed by the effects of the environment upon the individual. Hence, education was of central importance to the creation of rational and humane character and the duty of the educator was to provide the wholesome environment, both mental and physical, in which the child could develop. Physical punishment was prohibited and child labor was restricted. In theory, man being naturally good, could grow and flourish when evil was removed. Education, as one historian has put it, was to the "steam engine of his new moral world."

At New Lanark, Owen involved himself in the public affairs of the day, the most important being education, factory reform, and the improvement of the Poor Laws. His first public speech was on education (1812) and was elaborated upon in his first published work, The First Essay on the Principle of the Formation of Character (1813). Together with three further essays (1813-1814), this comprised A New View of Society, which remains Owen’s clearest declaration of principles. In 1816, he opened the New Institution for the Formation of Character and then the Infant School.

Since most children were taken out of school by age 10, Owen offered evening classes, which allowed the children to continue their education while working. Considering the cost of books, paper, and ink, the schooling was nearly free.

Owen’s denunciation of religion evoked a mounting negative campaign against him which in later years damaged his public reputation and the work associated with his name. By the late 1820s, Owen’s roots in New Lanark were loosening. Owen now set about his mission to bring about the new moral world through his plan for well-regulated communities. England, Scotland and Ireland seemed indifferent, but the United States opened up new prospects and in 1824 Owen crossed the Atlantic and viewed the Rappite community at Harmony, Indiana, which was for sale. (Rappite being a Religious Celibate society called the Harmony Society). Owen bought the land in April 1825, initiating New Harmony. The New Harmony community was not a success. By May 1827, there were ten different sub-communities on the estate, and a year later failure was apparent.

About the same time, Owen became convinced that the world of competitive industrial capitalism had reached a stage of crisis and that the leaders of society would now turn to him in their hour of need. What Owen was offering the working class Owenites was social salvation!

These views were expressed in his weekly periodical, The Crisis (1832-1834), and had a following particularly among the labor aristocrats of London who sought to exchange their products according to the labor theory of value at the Gray's Inn Road Labour Exchange, which Owen opened in 1832.

Breaking with these labor movements in 1834, Owen turned back to his plan for a community and founded a journal, The New Moral World (November, 1834) and an organization, the Association of All Classes of All Nations (May, 1835) to prepare public opinion for the millennium.

In the 1840s, Owen embarked on a new settlement. He secured capital from a consortium of capitalist friends and built a luxurious mansion, Harmony Hall, to house a community "normal school" which would train Owenites in a correct communitarian environment. Owen’s concept of a "normal school" was not what many Owenites had hoped for, and in 1844 the annual Owenites Congress rebelled against his despotic control of community policy.

From the age of two the children were cared for and instructed by the community. The youngest spent the day in play school until they progressed to higher classes. There the Greek and Latin classics were discarded; practice in various crafts constituted an essential part of the program. The teachers aimed to impart what the children could most readily understand, making use of concrete objects and avoiding premature abstractions. They banished fear, all artificial rewards and punishments and appealed instead to the spontaneous interest and inclinations of the children as incentives for learning. Girls were on an equal footing with boys.

The educational reformers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dealt with the two, what they thought, were distinct aspects of a young child’s problems. One concerned the claims of childhood as a specific and independent stage in human growth. This perennial problem arises from the efforts of adults to subjecting growing children to ends foreign of their own needs and two, pressing them into molds shaped not by the requirements of the maturing personality, but by the external interests of the ruling order.

Owen put a lot of emphasis on observation and experience as a means of educating. Visual aids, diagrams, pictures, and models were incorporated into lessons and were thought to help facilitate learning. However, toys were never used. Owen believed that children could amuse themselves and if they became bored the teacher would provide something that would educate and interest them. Lectures, when they took place, were to be made short and stimulating, as to make the lesson memorable and compensate for the students' short attention spans.

In addition, lessons on dancing and singing played a key role in the students' education, a vast contrast to the education of the present. Furthermore, military style exercises were a major feature of Owen's schools. School marches and uniforms were incorporated to reinforce conformity.

The word "socialism" first became current in the discussions of the "Association of all Classes of all Nations" which Owen formed in 1835 with himself as Preliminary Father. During these years his secularist teaching gained such influence among the working classes as to give occasion for the statement in the Westminster Review (1839) that his principles were the actual creed of a great portion of them.

In 1854, at the age of 83, despite his previous antipathy to religion, Owen was converted to spiritualism after a series of "sittings" with the American medium Maria B. Hayden (credited with introducing spiritualism to England). Owen made a public profession of his new faith in his publication “The Rational” a quarterly review and later wrote a pamphlet entitled “The future of the Human race; or great glorious and future revolution to be effected through the agency of departed spirits of good and superior men and women.”

After Owen's death spiritualists claimed that his spirit dictated the "Seven Principles of Spiritualism" to the medium Emma Hardinge Britten in 1871.


British government appoints hardline disciplinarians to drive up education standards in schools

Michael Gove is seeking to appoint a team of hardline disciplinarians into top jobs in a bid to drive up standards in schools. The Education Secretary wants to put individuals who share his ideas to be handed some of the most powerful positions in the schools system and Whitehall.

The appointments come amid growing frustration from Mr Gove and his allies about the 'left wing' stranglehold on the country's education establishment.

Many of the appointments will go to senior figures at Absolute Return for Kids, an educational charity co-founded nine years ago by the hedge fund tycoon Arpad Busson. Ark runs 11 academies — state schools free of local authority control — mainly in inner London.

The appointees include disciplinarians such as Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is leaving his post as director of education at Ark to become chief of Ofsted, the schools inspectorate. Mr Wilshaw, once described as 'my hero' by Gove, is known for his hardline approach to sub-standard teachers.

Ofsted's chairwoman is Baroness Morgan of Huyton, an adviser to Ark's board and former political secretary to Tony Blair, who was appointed by Mr Gove earlier this year.

Amanda Spielman, the charity's research and development director, who used to work in private equity, has been appointed on Mr Gove's recommendation to shake up the exam system as chairwoman of Ofqual, the qualifications regulator.

Others being lined up for senior posts include Sally Coates, principal of Burlington Danes academy, an Ark school in White City, west London. Among the roles she may be considered for are head of the School Teachers Review Body, in charge of wage negotiations, running teacher training or replacing one of a swathe of senior officials at the Department for Education who have announced their departures recently.

Critics have accused Mr Gove of becoming far too close to a 'cosy cartel' and that Ark was wielding influence out of all proportion to its size.

But senior Department of Education sources insisted: 'We are just trying to get the best people into the best jobs. Ark is a fantastic organisation which has transformed schools and driven up standards. It is not surprising that their top people are getting these jobs. 'One of the appointments was Baroness Morgan, a leading Blairite. So it is ridiculous to suggest these appointments are political. All the appointments have gone through the official processes.'

But John Bangs, visiting professor at the Institute of Education at London University, said: 'The thing that concerns me most about this development of cosy cartels of super-heads in the penumbra of government benevolence is that... we have a gaping absence of a strategy and policy for engaging teachers as a profession and enhancing their learning.'

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: 'There is a real issue about public interest and how public interest is being safeguarded when you have the political manipulation of key bodies that are there to hold the system to account. 'Part of the issue is that Gove has this very small circle of people like Ark who seem to share his philosophy and vision.'

A spokeswoman for Ark said: 'It is not our policy to shoehorn our people into positions of influence — that [appointing them] is Michael Gove's opportunism to a certain extent. 'It is nonsense to say we have disproportionate power.'


British supermarket forced to retrain school-leavers

The standard of school-leavers is so poor that one supermarket has sent back three-quarters of its recruits for "remedial pre-job training" before they start work.

Morrisons, Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket with 135,000 employees, found that many of its applicants in Salford, Greater Manchester, lacked even the basic skills needed to stack shelves and serve customers. While some had a poor grasp of maths and English, others lacked simple skills such as turning up on time and making eye contact.

Norman Pickavance, the human resources director of Morrisons, said: "Many of the people were just not job ready. They lacked a lot of confidence and social skills. It is quite clear the education system has failed them. "Whatever the environment has been at school, it has not been conducive to instilling basic skills. It is a crying shame."

The warning will fuel concerns that schools are failing to teach the skills necessary for young Britons to find jobs, forcing firms to recruit migrant workers instead. The number of unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds now stands above one million, with one in five people in the age group now categorised as "Neets" – not in education, employment or training.

When Morrisons drew up plans for a new store in the employment black spot of Ordsall, Salford, it promised to give jobs to local youngsters. Of the 210 staff who will start work when the store opens tomorrow, half left school with not a single GCSE to their name.

Morrisons sent back 150 of them for three to six months of remedial training including refresher courses in literacy and numeracy. Some learnt customer service skills at Salford College while others were sent to Create, a social enterprise where "excluded" individuals practice working in a not-for-profit café and call centre.

Garry Stott, the chairman of Create, said: "Can these people read? Yes, they can. Can they write? That's more of a challenge. With maths most people have the basic skills but they struggle with the confidence to use it." He said the main problem was school-leavers whose parents and grandparents who had never worked and lacked the aspiration to work.

He added: "It is too simple to say it is because of the failure of the education system. It's more complex than that. "But when I left school, many of my contemporaries were kicked out of the door on Monday morning by their Mum and Dad and told to go to work. For whatever reason that is not happening."

Government figures show that in 2.5 per cent of households in north-west England, no adult has ever worked – the highest in the country after inner London.

Morrisons is not the first major employer to lamented the standards of school-leavers. Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, the country's largest private employer, said two years ago: "Sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools. "Employers like us are often left to pick up the pieces."

A survey of big employers six weeks ago found that thousands of young people arrive at interviews without the "vital employability skills" required by employers such as a suitable grasp of English, punctuality and a "can do" attitude.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Obama Issues New 'Diversity Guidelines' for Schools

(Washington) Released after working hours Friday, the new guidelines include creative affirmative action measures.
The Obama administration has released new guidelines aimed at encouraging school districts and colleges to keep and pursue policies that promote racial diversity. In the process, they withdrew directives put forward during the administration of George W. Bush.

“Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes, and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world,” U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said in a statement Friday. “The guidance announced today will aid educational institutions in their efforts to provide true equality of opportunity.

“Racial isolation ... denies our children the experiences they need to succeed in a global economy, where employers, coworkers, and customers will be increasingly diverse,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The new guidelines are more detailed than the ones they replaced and seek to reverse what officials characterized as a chilling effect on diversity programs based on cautious interpretations of Supreme Court rulings on integration efforts.

The new rules even opened the door, in narrow circumstances, for race-based preferences, commonly known as affirmative action. The guidelines encourage the use of programs that are technically race neutral but informed by race, such as giving school admission preferences to students from a certain ZIP Code. Some school districts have used geography as a stand-in for race.
The new federal guidance was issued jointly by the Justice Department and the Education Department.

Texas student's refusal to say Mexican pledge, anthem starts controversy

Every day students in Texas public schools pledge allegiance to the flags of the United States and Texas. But when a teacher in a Rio Grande Valley high school assigned students to stand and pledge allegiance to the Mexican flag and sing Mexico's national anthem, one student refused.

The resulting controversy has one East Texas lawmaker wanting changes in the state's curriculum on how culture and patriotism are taught in schools.

15-year-old Brenda Brinsdon entered her sophomore year at McAllen ISD's Achieve Early College High School just wanting to do well in her classes.

But in mid-September she got an unexpected lesson on personal conviction and taking on the system. "I feel that I did what's right," Brinsdon said. "And I know what I did what's right [...] I'm going to stand my ground."

Brinsdon said she stood her ground by staying seated when first-year Spanish 3 teacher Reyna Santos assigned her class to stand and recite Mexico's pledge of allegiance.

Students stood with right arms straight out and palms down, which is how the school district says Mexicans say their pledge.

Calling the lesson "un-American," Brinsdon recorded the class, which occurred the week of Mexico's Independence Day and also the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The teacher also told students to memorize and recite the the pledge individually.

And when the time came for the part of the assignment to sing Mexico's national anthem, Brinsdon again refused. With that, Santos asked the class to stand and led the class in the anthem.

"I told her, I was like, 'I thought this was a Spanish class,'" Brinsdon recalled. "And she's like, 'Well, yeah it is, it's like, it's a cultural thing.' And so I was the only one that sat down."

She was given an alternate assignment.

Brinsdon's father, William, backs his daughter. He said that reciting a pledge to any other nation has no place in public schools. "What are we to do? Just lay down and let it happen?" Mr. Brinsdon said. "Or should we stand up for our country?"

Santos couldn't be reached for comment.

The school district declined several News 8 requests to interview someone with the district. But in a statement, said it was a single lesson on Hispanic culture in one class at one campus, the lesson will be reviewed and students recite the U.S. pledge daily.

This Spanish class assignment, Brenda Brisdon's refusal and the school district's response caused a firestorm on the right.

Conservative websites erupted, getting the attention of Republican State Representative Dan Flynn of Canton. "It was a shock to me," he said.

The Texas Education Agency says the state curriculum outlines what must be taught, but local districts decide how it's taught.

Flynn said since the state allows that much discretion, he'll file a bill again to require more mandatory studies on the U.S. Constitution.

"I do have a problem if we're making that the assignment for young people to stand up and pledge to another country," Flynn said. "It lessens the value of the pledge to the United States flag."

After no one with the district agreed to an interview, News 8 confronted McAllen School Board President Sam Saldivar after a meeting. He indicated he didn't agree with the lesson. "I would have taken a different approach, again I'm not an educator," Saldivar said.

But as the leader of the board that sets policy, Saldivar said there's no decision yet on whether to change the curriculum. "That's a curriculum, a teacher working with the administration," Saldiver said. "As I understand it, it's going to be reviewed, and more likely a better approach will be taken in the future."

Dallas Democratic State Representative Roberto Alonzo said to question the loyalty of the teacher and school district is unfair.

"This is a class," Alonzo said. "This is not doing allegiance to Mexico, it's not you know you are going to be part of Mexico, this is just a class to learn Spanish - to learn an aspect of what is Texas."

Brinsdon said she's been pulled from Santos' class and gets her lessons separately now. Despite the controversy, she has no regrets. "I really hope that I was an inspiration to a lot of youth in America to stand up for what's right," Brinsdon said.


California Dream Act: 3 times more costly than previously projected

New research suggests that the recently passed California Dream Act may actually cost taxpayers more than originally estimated. Due in part to continually rising tuition costs, the revised estimated figure stands at $65 million per year, starting in 2013. This is more than 3 times the initial estimate.

Consequently, the amount of funds available to legal California residents applying for student aid will be impacted. There will be less funding available which will be more widely distributed. The end result is less funding available for legal California residents per individual.

Critics have long asserted that in light of current economic conditions, passage of the Dream Act was and is a misguided option, unfair to legal residents, and representative of thinking based on unrealistic evaluations of current financial and economical trends. Many feel that financial aid to illegal citizens should only be considered in a scenario where a surplus of funding exists, not when state and federal budgets are in a state of extreme deficit.

Those who support a referendum on the Dream Act should contact their local state representatives before January 6th. At least 505,000 signatures are needed in order to put the measure on the November, 2012 ballot. The referendum, sponsored by State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Hesperia, primarily deals with the second part of the Dream Act. This is the provision that allows for undocumented citizens to apply for taxpayer funded state aid. "This is a really, really bad idea," Donnelly said. “At a time when we're broke, when we have two million people unemployed, when state colleges are underfunded and overbooked, we're creating a brand new entitlement." Donnelly also believes the Dream act will create further incentive for increased illegal immigration.


Row as British school tells 11-year-olds to write letter to PM about retirement income for teachers

A school has been criticised for telling pupils to write letters to David Cameron - asking him not to cut teachers’ pensions. Parents were horrified to learn the Year Six pupils had been ordered to write to the Prime Minister arguing he should not reduce public sector pensions.

The children – aged 10 and 11 - were left bewildered by the task, with some even having to ask teachers what a pension was before starting their letter.

Parents have accused the school, which was closed this week after so many teachers went on strike over pension changes, of trying to politicise the youngsters. One, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Surely this is far too political, especially at the moment, for 11-year-olds to be questioned on. ‘About half of the kids in the exam had no idea what a pension was. I believe a number of the children even asked the teachers.’

The pupils were asked to write the letter as part of a three-hour entrance exam in the top stream at the over-subscribed Poole High School for September next year.

‘These exam questions are to test the children’s ability with English and spelling and how to construct sentences,’ the parent added. ‘They are normally asked to write about a journey or holiday or something like that. ‘The subject matter in this instance was totally inappropriate. ‘It was bringing politics into the classroom and was in danger of politically influencing young minds.’

After complaining to the school the parent was told the question had been a mistake, and the teacher who set it was to be formally rebuked. ‘When I complained to the deputy head teacher she was quite open about it,’ the parent said. ‘She said she was shocked and only realised what the question was two days later. ‘She agreed that it was a completely inappropriate question to ask and that she was sorry. ‘I was told the teacher who set the exam question was due to go before the chair of governors for a telling off.’

The school, where three quarters of staff belong to unions which chose to strike over pension changes this week, is partially selective. The three hour examination process is something parents can choose to send their children to.

The school has since apologised, admitting the test was ‘inappropriate’.

Mrs Fan Heafield, deputy head at Poole High School, said: ‘Students are required to take a three hour academic test as part of the school’s annual admission process. ‘This includes a short writing task on a topical subject in the media, of which the students may have some knowledge.

‘The purpose of the exercise is to assess students’ competency in spelling, punctuation, structure of writing and vocabulary. ‘The writing produced by students in this task is intended solely for the purpose of internal marking by an experienced teacher and is not for wider distribution to external individuals or organisations.

‘Clearly, on this occasion, the subject chosen for this task was inappropriate and we would like to apologise unreservedly for any concerns this may have caused parents or students. ‘We will ensure that our pre-test procedures do not allow this situation to arise again.’

Poole High School has recently been accepted to be a specialised school for Business and Enterprise to train pupils to become ‘wealth creators’.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Kicking is sexual harassment?

The school is the sick party here

The mother of a Boston elementary school first-grader being investigated for possible sexual harassment for hitting another boy in the groin says her son acted in self-defense.

Mark Curran, 7, tells FOX 25 another boy came up to him on the school bus and strangled him so he defended himself by kicking the boy.

His mother says he was visibly shaken when he got off the school bus following the incident. “He said some kid choked me on the bus. I said excuse me? He said he choked me and stole my gloves,” says Tasha Lynch.

Lynch says she anticipated a simple resolution when she contacted the school to discuss what happened. “They both had a fight. They both should’ve shaken hands, said sorry and they both should have done punishment extra school work,” says Lynch.

Instead of extra school work, Tynan Elementary School in South Boston informed Tasha Lynch of the sexual harassment violation.

A spokesman for the school says the principal is looking into an incident that occurred on one of the school buses, but they will not publicly discuss a student.

Lynch has kept her son out of school for two weeks since the incident fearing for his safety. She says kicking the boy was wrong, but it should not be a sexual harassment issue.

This is a code of discipline by the Boston Public Schools and is not being investigated by police. Mark Curran has a disciplinary hearing on Monday during which the school reserves the right to suspend him for three days if found guilty of the violation.


British teacher suspended for 'gross misconduct' after giving stranded dyslexic pupil a lift

What a messed-up world we live in!

A supply teacher has been suspended for 'gross misconduct' after giving a lift to a 17-year-old pupil. Martin Davis, who has been teaching for 23 years, risks losing his job permanently because he drove a dyslexic boy home when the student did not have money for the bus. He said: 'I still can’t believe what’s happened. I was just trying to do this boy a favour and now I could be out of a job.'

Mr Davis, 58, who teaches maths and science, is appealing against the judgement by the recruitment agency for which he worked.

He had been posted to Tyne Metropolitan College, in North Tyneside, and was giving individual support to a number of dyslexic boys. Two weeks ago, he agreed to give one of his pupils a lift home after school because the boy had forgotten his bus fare.

But father-of-two Mr Davis was later told by a school official that he had been 'stupid' to agree to take the pupil in his car, and he apologised.

Brook Street recruitment agency then told him he would not be allowed to return to the school because of his alleged gross misconduct.

When he tried to argue against this decision, agency bosses led him to believe that he had been dismissed, and he has now been told that he must not work until an investigation into his actions has been concluded.

He told the Daily Telegraph: 'I spoke to the class tutor and she was devastated. I also spoke to the boy in question to say goodbye and he was upset and angry about what was happening because he said I had been a great help to him.'

The agency claimed it was only following 'procedures'. A spokesman said: 'The worker in question has acknowledged there is a safeguarding issue, and he has been suspended whilst we complete this investigation, which is required by regulation.'

Tyne Metropolitan College said it had no involvement in the decision to suspend Mr Davis.


Australia: Boys and girls may be split in Victorian classrooms

THE Baillieu Government will encourage state schools to adopt single-sex classes if a current trial lifts academic results.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the grassroots trial by at least six primary and secondary schools would examine whether students were more likely to thrive in same-sex classrooms.

He said the model potentially offered students the benefits of a private school-style single-sex learning environment, while giving them the social benefits of co-education.

"If this has benefits, and I think it has, you'll find it makes schools a one-stop shop in terms of social and learning experiences for children," Mr Dixon said. "We're certainly not going to mandate it, it is more a matter of facilitating it."

Oberon Secondary College principal Anne Murphy said the Geelong school would trial two single-sex classes in year 8 next year and consider expanding it schoolwide if successful.

"If, educationally, we find that the kids' learning is advanced from being in a single-sex classroom then I would be hard-pressed to justify not offering that more," Ms Murphy said.

"I know several parents will feel this is a co-educational school and they want their children to have a co-educational experience. In a co-educational school we can give them the best of both worlds."

Dromana Secondary College principal Alan Marr said the school had split boys and girls in year 9 maths and English classes.

"It has been a positive experience, so positive we're considering bringing it down into year 8," he said.

"We've noticed the girls have been much calmer and less hesitant to act things out, and the boys have been more confident to express their own opinions."

Some schools, including Essendon Keilor College and Camberwell High School, have been running boys-only classes for several years to address gender imbalances caused by girls attending local all-girl state schools.

Victoria has seven single-sex girls' public schools but only one for boys. Mr Dixon said it was up to individual schools to decide whether to adopt single-sex classes.

"We will make the findings and all the background material (relating to the trial) available to all the schools in the system and say here is an option that may work for your cohort of students," he said.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said schools considering same-sex classes needed to work around families, many of whom wanted their children to learn alongside the opposite sex. Broad consultation with the school community was critical.

The Queensland Government last week extended trials of single-sex classes after participating schools reported improved results.


A Liberal Fails the Test

By Gary Baker

As the SAT cheating scandal in Long Island continues to unfold, it is natural that people across the academic and ideological spectrum reflect on the causes and effects, and strive to determine the meaning of it all in a broader context. True to form, at least one liberal educator has deflected responsibility from the perpetrators to the system.

Rather than confront the challenges of personal ethics, Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, has determined that society is to blame. Characterizing the use of college entrance tests as “tyranny,” he all but dismisses the actions of those who hired others to take their examinations as an understandable result of a system that places too much emphasis on testing and not enough on a holistic evaluation of the students seeking entrance to college. In the typical liberal fashion, his analysis turns reason on its head, exchanging the definitions of success and failure to a laughable degree.

Addressing the history of college entrance exams, Mr. Mills notes that they were originally instituted for the purpose of finding worthy students away from the well-to-do areas that so long dominated college admissions, claiming that the current reliance corrupts that worthy cause. What he fails to acknowledge is that the tests have in a large degree accomplished that mission. Students across the nation take the tests annually, with superior achievers being identified from across the spectrum of wealth and geographical area. Many who would never have been admitted decades ago will find themselves welcomed with financial assistance and opportunities their parents and grandparents never dreamed of.

Alas, for Mr. Mills and his ilk, the results are a failure. Though the SAT and ACT have been used for decades as valuable, though imperfect, tools for matching students with appropriate colleges, that goal is no longer paramount for liberal educators. Until a test comes along that produces just the right mixture of accepted race and gender, than testing will be demonized, criticized, and dismissed wherever possible.

If Mr. Mills would truly like to reduce the pressure on college bound students to perform, than I would recommend that he push for the removal of the SAT bonus allotted to black and Hispanic students at many universities, which he cites as 310 and 150 points, respectively. As someone who has looked across the table at a college admissions officer, I know that’s a lot to overcome.

As for the tests themselves, they will continue to do what they were designed to do. They will measure the current level of math and reading achievement in college bound students and aid in gaging the potential for academic success at particular schools. As stated before, the assessment is not perfect, but it has been shown to be useful at finding those who cannot make it academically. Sadly, it appears as though it can also identify some who cannot make it ethically.