Saturday, March 10, 2012

Woman teacher suspended after colleagues 'find footage of her moonlighting as a porn star'

It's not illegal and she does it in her own time so it's hard to see why she should be fired

A teacher has been suspended from her job after she was allegedly discovered starring in a 'hardcore pornography' by students at her school. Stacie Halas, 31, who teaches science at Richard B Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard, California, but has allegedly been put on paid administrative leave while officials decide her fate.

Officials at the school sent a letter out to parents telling them to monitor their child's internet usage and they were urged at school not to search porn sites for videos which may star the teacher.

The school held a meeting last night so parents could come and voice their concerns. But not one parent with a student at the school showed up to the meeting, CBS reported.

Though it has not been confirmed, Jeff Chancer, Oxnard School District superintendent, said that an office worker at the school believes the teacher is the one seen in the videos. He said: 'Maybe it's not a crime as far as the penal code is concerned, but we feel it's a crime as far as moral turpitude is concerned.'

The letter to parents stated: 'It has been alleged that one of our teachers is depicted in at least one pornographic video and possibly others on the Internet. 'We are asking teachers to discourage the children from searching for and/or visiting these inappropriate sites.

'We ask that you be particularly vigilant over the next few days with respect to the Internet content being accessed by your child on his or her telephone or other Internet-ready device.'

The California Education Code outlines teacher employment conditions that could lead to discipline or termination, Mr Chancer said. 'We’re trying to determine if there’s a nexus on what she does on her own time and what she does in the classroom,' he told the Smoking Gun.

He confirmed he had seen parts of one video after rumors started sweeping the school last week and said it was 'hardcore pornography'.

Halas could face disciplinary action including losing her job.


British University access watchdog 'should be abolished', says peer

Leading universities should select students on merit without fear of appearing elitist, one of Britain’s top lawyers warned today.

Institutions should resist tailoring admissions to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds amid fears that crude targets can damage standards, according to Baroness Deech, chairman of the Bar Standards Board.

She said that showing preference towards particular groups of students was the “hallmark of totalitarian regimes” over the last 100 years.

Lady Deech, the former principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford, called for the abolition of the Office for Fair Access, which was set up by Labour to ensure poor students were not put off higher education.

She also said universities should use the courts to protect their independence.

Currently, each university in England is obliged to set admissions targets designed to increase the number of places for students from deprived backgrounds, state schools or areas with a poor record of going on to university in exchange for the right to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees.

Last month, Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of OFFA, pledged to subject universities to heavy penalties for failing to hit their benchmarks.

But writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Lady Deech said: “In considering the make-up of university students, there should be no place for talk of ‘over-representation’ or ‘under-representation’, any more than there should be when considering the make-up of the Cabinet or Olympic teams.”

She compared the use of admissions targets to “quotas” imposed on schools and colleges by China during the Cultural Revolution and Eastern European states in the Cold War. “Historically, restrictions against and preferences towards particular groups of students have been the hallmark of totalitarian regimes,” she said.

“They had in common the practice of handicapping the children of the intelligentsia in university admissions and jobs, and favouring the children of the ‘peasants’ and the ‘workers’.”

Lady Deech, a crossbench peer, insisted that universities had a duty to use outreach programmes to aid the poor and help boost social mobility – but not through admissions targets.

She said schools and families remained the biggest barrier to leading universities, adding: “There are too many teachers who are anti-elitism and who discourage pupils from aspiring to enter top universities, and there are too many students who choose a local university so as to remain at home or who have families that discourage their ambitions.”

Lady Deech called for universities to treat OFFA “with resistance”, saying they should “press for its abolition”.

But Sir Martin Harris, the current director of fair access, said the comments displayed a “misunderstanding about how OFFA actually works with universities to help them achieve their access aims”.

“We allow universities a great deal of autonomy in how they approach improving access, allowing them to set their own access targets in line with their access plans,” he said. “Universities spend significant sums of money on access measures – over £390m of their additional fee income according to our most recent monitoring – and it’s only right and natural that they should want to have ways of measuring their progress and evaluating what is working best.

“OFFA has always been clear that raising aspirations and attainment among school pupils from an early age is critical to giving everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education the opportunity to do so.

“However, universities have an important role to play in this and, quite rightly, there is not a university in the country that feels they should duck this responsibility.”


Australia: Apartheid not the answer for Aboriginal (black) schooling

Sara Hudson

Koori schools in Victoria are a prime example of how throwing money at a problem is ineffective. According to The Age, the Victorian government is wasting millions of dollars on schools with tiny enrolments, abysmal attendance rates, and poor academic performance.

Initial findings of an independent review of the schools are due to be presented to the Victorian Department of Education on 26 March. However, it shouldn’t take a review to figure out the concept is flawed and does not provide value for money or a decent education.

The four Koori schools in Victoria (in Glenroy, Morwell, Swan Hill and Mildura) receive $3.9 million in funding a year even though they educate less than 1% of Indigenous students in government schools. The total enrolment in all four schools was only 65 students in 2011. Ballerrt Mooroop College was recently closed by the education department: The school was receiving more than $1 million in funding and employed 13 staff despite having only one full-time student!

Funding for each student in these schools was among the highest in Victoria, with one school, Woolum Bellum College in Morwell, receiving more government funding per student than any other school in the state. According to the My School website, the school received $82,277 per student, eight times the state average of $10,946 per student.

At the same time, student attendance rates in the Koori schools languish between 44% and 64%. Two Rivers College, the only Koori school to post its NAPLAN results on My School, performed substantially below the national average in all categories.

Clearly, taxpayer dollars are being wasted on providing separatist schooling for a few Aboriginal children in Victoria rather than giving more resources to help disadvantaged Indigenous students in mainstream schools.

Indeed, Chris Sarra made the same recommendation in 2009 in a report on the Koori education system. But the state education department ignored Sarra’s advice and spent another three years wasting public funds propping up failing Koori schools.

How long will it take the Victorian Department of Education to realise that separate is never equal?

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 9 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Teacher Suspended Over Chicken Nugget Incident

School district official says substituting a preschooler’s lunch was against district policy

The teacher involved in “supplementing” a preschooler’s lunch with chicken nuggets in Hoke County has been suspended indefinitely.

Parents of students in the Pre-Kindergarten program at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford got a letter from Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes last week saying a substitute teacher would take over the preschool class until the “issue” is resolved.

It remains unclear why the teacher’s actions violated district policy. State officials responsible for monitoring homemade lunches for preschoolers have told Carolina Journal that the Jan. 30 incident that caused a nationwide uproar satisfied state policy.

The letter from Barnes, dated Feb. 28, reads as follows:

“As I am sure you are aware, we recently experienced an unfortunate situation where a failure to follow district policy resulted in the substitution of a Pre-K student’s lunch at West Hoke Elementary School.This letter is to inform you that Ms. Emma Thomas will be a substitute in [your child’s] classroom until we can bring resolution to this issue. We are pleased that [your child] is enrolled in our Pre-K program and we are confident that Ms. Thomas will continue to provide [him or her] with a very positive educational experience.”

The mother of the 4-year-old girl whose turkey sandwich was replaced by chicken nuggets says the teacher is not to blame and shouldn’t be punished.

“We are concerned for Ms. Maynor [the teacher] and want her back in the classroom, as she was only following guidelines,” the mother wrote in an email to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County. “It’s the government that needs to be reprimanded and changed. Teachers should not be put in a situation to overrule the parent’s lunch of choice.”

Giving the girl a full cafeteria tray, which included chicken nuggets and milk, was not a violation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ policy, according to DHHS spokeswoman Lori Walston. “The rules require that the provider at least ensure the missing items are offered,” Walston wrote in an earlier email exchange with CJ. “It would not be a violation for a child to be provided more than what was needed. It is the provider’s choice as to their specific process.” It is unclear why giving the girl the cafeteria tray violated “district policy.”

“[DHHS] can’t offer comparison between our policy and [that of] any district or childcare center or family childcare home, as we would not have the staffing to compare policies of all programs in the state,” Walston said Monday,.

As CJ reported Feb. 23, Cecelia Ellerbe, a child care consultant who works for the DHHS division, noticed a violation of the state’s nutrition policy at West Hoke Elementary Jan. 26. Walston told CJ Ellerbe “observed the lunch routine” at the preschool, which “would typically include walking through the cafeteria area. She could have seen any items that had been placed on tables, but might not have seen all lunches,” Walston said.

Principal Jackie Samuels sent a letter home with students the next day, informing parents that homemade lunches lacking any of the items required under state regulations and U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines — fluid milk, two servings of fruit or vegetables, a serving of grain or bread, and a serving of meat or meat alternative — would have the missing items supplemented by school staff.

The following Monday, Jan. 30, the incident reported Feb. 14 by CJ occurred. A teacher offered a 4-year-old girl a cafeteria tray with chicken nuggets, a sweet potato, bread, and milk to replace the turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, banana, and apple juice her mother had packed for her.

When the girl got off the school bus with her untouched lunch box that day, her mother wanted to know what happened. “She came home with her whole sandwich I had packed, because she chose to eat the nuggets on the lunch tray, because they put it in front of her,” her mother said. “You’re telling a 4-year-old, 'Oh, your lunch isn’t right,’ and she’s thinking there’s something wrong with her food.”

Neither Samuels, Barnes, nor Superintendent Freddie Williamson responded to requests for comment from Carolina Journal.


Infinite Affirmative Action?

In Eric Holder’s world, the need for racial preferences will never end.

By John Fund

Later this year, the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the use of racial preferences in college admissions in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The battle lines will once again be drawn over the meaning of the equal-protection provisions of the Constitution. So it’s noteworthy that Attorney General Eric Holder has just made it clear he’s never bumped into a racial preference he didn’t like, and that he sees no time limit on such policies.

Last month, in an appearance at Columbia University, his alma mater, Holder made a jarring statement in support of racial preferences, saying he “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.” “Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices,” he declared. “The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin. . . . When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”

Holder certainly made his statement on friendly territory. He was interviewed as part of a World Leaders Forum by Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president. In 2003, Bollinger made news when as president of the University of Michigan he was the named defendant in two affirmative-action cases. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the justices by 6 to 3 struck down the university’s policy used for undergraduate admissions, which blatantly sorted students by race and applied different academic standards to achieve desired racial admission outcomes. But in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the court upheld by a 5–4 vote the law school’s preferences policy. The only difference between the two cases was that in the latter case the university was upfront about the preferences it was giving; in the former case it kept them hidden.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the deciding vote in allowing racial preferences to continue, but she made it clear that their days should be numbered. She wrote: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” In Eric Holder’s world, that day will never come.

Some say Holder has already been presiding over the most race-absorbed Justice Department in history. Career civil-rights attorneys such as former Voting Rights section chief Christopher Coates have resigned in disgust, citing the administration’s repeated refusal to apply civil-rights laws evenhandedly. In his book Injustice, former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams has documented with eyewitness accounts that then-deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights Julie Fernandes told Justice lawyers that the new administration was only interested in “traditional civil rights work,” which to her meant “helping minorities.” As she put it before her appointment: “The law was written to protect black people.” More recently, the Holder administration’s affirmative-action guidelines for colleges and universities, issued in December, are clearly intended to increase the use of race-preferential admissions policies. Could it be that Holder has not yet begun to fight?

If so, it makes the need for the Supreme Court to make the correct constitutional call in Fisher all the more imperative. In places where the use of racial preferences has largely ended because of state law, such as California, universities have thrived and have been able to recruit diverse student bodies. But in places where preferences remain the order of the day, there is real harm done. As Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity noted on National Review Online, “The casualties of these discriminatory policies are not only the white and Asian students who are discriminated against, but also the African American and Latino students who are supposedly their beneficiaries, because their academic careers and professional lives are damaged by the resulting academic mismatches.”

This conclusion is supported by an amicus brief filed in Fisher by three members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights — Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow, and Todd Gaziano — which cites mounting empirical evidence that racial preferences do considerably more harm than good.

“If this research is right,” they write, “we now have fewer minority science and engineering graduates,” “fewer minority college professors,” and “fewer minority lawyers” than we would have under race-neutral admissions policies.

How can it be that affirmative action reduces the number of minority professionals? The extensive research cited by Heriot, Kirsanow, and Gaziano shows that as a result of racial preferences, minority students are overwhelmingly at the bottom of the distribution of entering academic credentials at most selective schools. That’s what it means to get into a school on a preference. One’s entering credentials will be below those of the typical student.

These studies show that going to a school that one got into by the skin of one’s teeth is not a good idea. Academic credentials matter, not just in the absolute sense, but also in a comparative sense. Students who attend a school where their entering credentials are similar to the rest of the students are more likely to follow through with an ambition to major in science or engineering, more likely to decide to become a college professor, and more likely to finish law school and pass the bar.

Put differently, if you have two identical students and one goes to Penn State and gets A’s and the other goes to Princeton and gets C’s, the Penn State student is likely to be more successful regardless of his race. And he is likely to be a lot happier.

Indeed, polls show most Americans are rightly uncomfortable with racial preferences. But affirmative action — the kindler, gentler term — has been around so long now that many have forgotten the origins of that peculiar institution. Some don’t realize that the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is cited as the authority for mandating preferential treatment for racial minorities actually forbids all racial discrimination. It all happened before many Americans were even born.

Blame the courts for the perversion of the well-intentioned Civil Rights Act. In employment law, the Supreme Court started out sounding the right note with regard to so-called “reverse discrimination.” It ruled in McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (1976) that Title VII means just what it says and applies to whites as well as African Americans. But to its everlasting discredit, the Supreme Court endorsed preferential treatment for minorities in United Steelworkers v. Weber (1979). In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, managed to hold that Congress would have wanted to permit Kaiser Aluminum and its union to establish quotas for black candidates for highly sought-after training programs. Justice William Rehnquist dissented, refuting the majority’s reading of the statute with clear evidence from the legislative history and repeatedly comparing the majority’s opinion to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities, partly motivated by ideology and partly by concern over the violent race upheavals of the late 1960s, were engaging in similar race-preferential policies. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and in Grutter, the Supreme Court reluctantly acquiesced in those policies as well.

Shortly before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Urban League executive director Whitney Young called for “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” Congress clearly and unequivocally rejected that advice, opting instead for a complete ban on race discrimination in employment and at colleges, universities, and other institutions that accept federal funds. Nevertheless, Young got his way — and more. And more. Before the ink was dry on Title VII of the 1964 Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was making plans to pressure employers to hire more African-American employees. Within just a few years, colleges and universities were violating Title VI’s prohibition on race discrimination by substantially lowering their academic standards for African-American applicants. Young’s decade of discrimination in favor of African Americans had begun. That “decade” has now stretched into its sixth decade.

Here’s hoping that later this year the Supreme Court repairs its previous mistakes and, following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s advice, draws the curtain shut on racial preferences, even if it is a little earlier than her own timetable — which has 16 more years to run.


More than 40 teachers at under-achieving British school strike over 'dangerous' pupils

Teachers at an under-achieving school walked out on strike yesterday in a row over ‘out-of-control’ pupils. The staff claim the headmaster and board of governors have failed to support them in tackling dangerous behaviour by unruly children. Incidents highlighted include a firework being let off in a corridor and a knife being brought into class.

Teachers have also reported pupils regularly fighting during lessons and verbally abusing staff.

Castle Vale Performing Arts College in Birmingham is rated ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted – the third of four possible rankings awarded by the inspectorate. But last year just 29 per cent of students gained five A*-C grades, including maths and English, in their GCSEs – compared with a national average of 58.2 per cent.

Headmaster Clive Owen yesterday said he was ‘disappointed and disturbed’ by the decision of some 40 staff to strike. But the NASUWT teaching union claimed its members had been left with no option but to walk out and called for an investigation into management at the school.

Union representative Ben Ball, who has taught at the school for 32 years, said behaviour was so bad at times that the school resembled a ‘battlefield’. ‘The behaviour of the pupils has got to a stage where action must be taken,’ he said. ‘There is a core group whose behaviour is completely unacceptable, and downright dangerous, who prevent us from teaching the rest of the children.’

He said the school’s behaviour policy was not followed through by senior management, with the result that ‘the kids know that nothing will happen to them if they continue to behave the way they are doing.’ Yesterday morning, most of those on strike manned a picket line outside the school in the city’s 1960s Castle Vale housing estate.

NASUWT has pencilled in March 20 and 21 for two more days of strike action, but said it would suspend these in the event of an approach from the school for further talks.

A teacher on the picket line, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘The children are out of control, they are bringing blades into school, smoking openly and even bully some teachers. But kids will get sent home by the management for not having a pencil case and then when a teacher’s been sworn at by a pupil nothing’s happened.’

The strike meant the school, which has around 800 pupils and 75 teachers, was closed to all but Year 11 students, who are set to take GCSE exams in the summer. Parents had mixed reactions to the action. Some condemned the teachers for walking out, but others had sympathy for their situation. One said the school was ‘like a zoo’ where children ‘run riot’.

Mr Owen said: ‘A number of meetings with the union have been held to avoid this.’ A spokesman for Birmingham Council said it would convene a meeting with all parties in an effort to head off the two further planned strikes.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

CO: 11-year-old girl handcuffed for being “rude” at school

Sounds like a pompous and inept assistant principal might have been a large part of the problem

An 11-year-old Colorado girl was handcuffed and taken to a holding facility at her school for disobeying orders and being "argumentative and extremely rude," reports.

An Adams County Sheriff's Office incident report said Yajira Quezada, a sixth-grader at Shaw Heights Middle School, was found walking in a hallway during lunch by the school's assistant principal, according to the station. The child reportedly claimed she was in the hallway because she was cold and needed a sweater from her locker.

The report said that when the principal began speaking to the child, she "turned and walked away saying, 'I don't have time for this,'" the station reported.

After a counselor tried unsuccessfully to mediate, the girl was reportedly handcuffed and taken to a juvenile holding facility called "The Link."

While the Adams County Sheriff's Office claims handcuffing students in such a manner is standard procedure, the girl's mother blasted officials for treating her daughter like a "criminal."

"They're treating them like criminals. And they're not, they're kids," the girl's mother, Mireya Gaytan, told the station.


A better way of learning

One problem with the usual approach to education at all levels is that it mostly consists of having someone learn something not because he at the moment has any need to know it but because someone else told him to learn it, possibly on the grounds that the knowledge or skill will be useful at some time in the future. It is much easier to get someone to actually learn something if it is of immediate use to him. The best way of learning a computer language, in my view, is not to start by working your way through the manual but to start with a program you want to write. You then have an immediate incentive to learn what you need to write it, and immediate feedback as to whether you have succeeded.

That approach works in a wide variety of other contexts. When my home schooled son was about eleven or twelve, he was running a weekly D&D game for a group of other home schooled kids. It was good training in responsibility. Each week, when the other players showed up, he had to have already done all of the work of preparing that week's session—otherwise the game, his project, would fail. Each week he did. It was, I think, better training than if he had been a student with homework due on a regular schedule. The homework would have been someone else's requirement, with no justification other than someone else's orders. This was his project—and it was obvious what he had to do to make it work.

Suppose you are a comfortably well off parent. Almost everything your child wants—toys, books, games—is available to be bought at what is, in terms of your income, a trivial cost. That makes it hard to do a believable job of teaching your child the importance of saving, of deciding which things he really wants and which he can do without, skills that he will need, as an adult, to function in a world of limited resources.

If your child plays World of Warcraft, he will learn the relevant lesson with no need for you to impose arbitrary limits. He will have a limited amount of gold and a considerable variety of things he would like to spend it on. Increasing that amount will require him to spend time doing daily quests, figuring out what he can craft and sell at a profit and crafting and selling it, or perhaps, if he is a mage, running a magical taxi service teleporting other characters hither and yon for pay. Whatever his effort, he will probably not end up with enough gold to buy everything he wants. Here again, the lesson works because it is, in its own odd way, real. These are the things he has to do in order to achieve the objectives he has himself chosen.

I was reminded of the same point today in a very different context. At lunch there was a talk on the Northern California Innocence Project, which is run out of, and largely staffed by, the law school I teach at. The purpose of the project is to identify people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit and get their verdicts reversed and them released. While the project involves some lawyers and at least one faculty member, a lot of the work is done by law school students. Seen from one side, the purpose is to get innocents out of prison. Seen from the other, it is to help educate our students.

Considered as education, it is a strikingly successful example of the approach I have been discussing. The students are learning legal skills, how to interview witnesses, convince judges, prosecutors, juries, file the right paperwork, make the right legal arguments. They are learning those skills not because someone else has told them they will need them five years from now to do the work someone then will pay them to do, but because they need the skills now to do something they very much want to do, to right a wrong, to rescue someone unjustly imprisoned.


Britain's Faith schools 'using covert selection to reject the poor'

Children from poor families are more often poorly behaved and that could quite rightly lead to their rejection by schools trying to inculcate high behavioral standards

Faith schools were accused of covert selection today as it emerged they are more likely to be dominated by children from middle-class families than ordinary state schools.

Figures show that schools backed by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church take a smaller share of poor pupils than other primaries and secondaries nearby.

Data from the Department for Education reveals that three-quarters of Catholic schools had a lower proportion of children from the most deprived backgrounds – those eligible for free meals – than the average for their local authority last year.

At the same time, some three-quarters of Anglican primaries and two-thirds of secondaries also took a smaller share of poor pupils.

Church leaders defended the figures saying that schools often had wider catchment areas than other schools.

But the disclosure prompted claims from secular groups that middle-class families were allowed to cheat often complex selection criteria to make sure their children secured places.

Richy Thompson, from the British Humanist Association, said: “Repeated academic studies have shown that, in state schools that select on religious grounds, there end up being fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds and that any selection favours more affluent parents who know how to play the system.”

Currently, faith schools make up around a third of state-funded schools in England.

In the latest study, the Guardian analysed data from recent school-by-school league tables to assess the extent to which they reflect their local communities.

According to figures, some 73 per cent of Catholic primaries and 72 per cent of Catholic secondaries have a lower proportion of pupils eligible for free meals – those with parents earning less than £16,000 – than the average for the local authority.

It was also revealed that 74 per cent of Anglican primaries and 65.5 per cent of secondaries failed to properly represent the local area.

By contrast, just 51 per cent of non-religious primaries and 45 per cent of secondaries had a smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals.

The Catholic Education Service insisted that schools often failed to reflect their communities because catchment areas were much wider than those for other schools, with religious children often travelling from miles around to attend.

It pointed to separate DfE data that showed 18.6 per cent of children at Catholic primary schools lived in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas of England, compared with only 14.3 per cent of primary pupils nationally.

A spokesman for the CofE rejected claims of backdoor selection, saying local authorities controlled the admissions of more than half its schools.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Military service doesn't count when it comes to extra points for education, DOE tells New York principals‏

New York City principals are up in arms over a new plan that gives bonus points this year to high schools based on graduates going to college — but doesn’t count those who join the military.

Department of Education officials met with a group of principals last week to explain changes in Progress Reports coming out this fall. Schools that send more kids to community or baccalaureate colleges within six to 18 months will get extra credit.

When a principal asked about points for grads who choose to enlist in the armed forces, he was shot down. “The military isn’t college. It doesn’t count,” the group was told.

In response to criticism, DOE officials say they are working to gather military enlistment records and eventually credit schools for grads who sign up to serve the country — which spokesman Matt Mittenthal called a “strong career track.”

The DOE recently got access to the National Student Clearinghouse, which lists those enrolled at 70 percent of the nation’s colleges, including CUNY and SUNY.

The extra points for college enrollment can help improve the letter grade given to each school — from “A” to “F” — and polish its image.

But principals are shellshocked that young heroes who may be sent to battle won’t get, for now, the same nod as peers who head for the dorms.


Bishop McFadden and “Totalitarian” public schooling

“In a totalitarian government, they would love our system [of public education],” Bishop James McFadden of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told WHTM-TV. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all of them tried to establish — a monolith, so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

McFadden’s remarks touched off a firestorm of complaints from the usual suspects.

Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said McFadden “should not be making his point at the expense of the memory of six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust,” arguing that the bishop had “inappropriately [drawn] reckless comparisons” to that horrific event.

Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, declared McFadden’s comments “completely inappropriate.”

Harrisburg University professor Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, who is also vice president of the local World Affairs Council, told WHTM, “As soon as you throw in those words and you take the debate and the conversation to another level and another context, it is not right.”

In a statement responding to his critics, McFadden apologized to “those who may have been offended by [his] remarks.” He is not, however, retracting them, pointing out that he “purposely did not mention the holocaust” to avoid giving offense — an assertion backed up by the TV station, which stated that “in the 20 minute interview he never mentioned the word holocaust.”

“The Church recognizes the holocaust as a terrible atrocity and evil emanated against humanity and especially those who were the victims of these crimes,” McFadden wrote. “I would never minimize or trivialize the devastating suffering that took place.”

He also elaborated on his analogy:
The reference to dictators and totalitarian governments of the 20th century which I made in an interview on the topic of school choice was to make a dramatic illustration of how these unchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children. Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that bests suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past.

[An] absolute monopoly in education, where parents do not have a right or ability to choose the education that best suits their children due to economic circumstances or otherwise, runs counter to a free and open society.

McFadden could not be more correct. “In 1936,” writes the History Place,
all of the Catholic parochial and Protestant denominational schools [in Germany] were abolished. Christian holy days which had usually meant a day off from school were now ignored and classroom prayers were banned. Celebrations of Christmas and Easter were discouraged, replaced by pre-Christian Yule or Solstice celebrations. The Nazis later forced all teachers to renounce any affiliation with professional church organizations.

Moreover, says the article, indoctrinating students with Nazi ideology became the sole purpose of the schools, to the detriment of genuine education:
National Socialist teachers of questionable ability stepped into grammar school and high school classrooms to form young minds, strictly abiding by the Party motto: “The supreme task of the schools is the education of youth for the service of Volk and State in the National Socialist spirit.” They taught Nazi propaganda as fact which was then recited back by their students as unshakable points of view with no room for disagreement or discussion.

Fascist dictators weren’t alone in recognizing that controlling the schools meant controlling the minds of the youth. “Free education for all children in public schools” is one of the demands of the Communist Manifesto; and Karl Marx’s disciples in the former Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and elsewhere have always abolished private schools in favor of state-run indoctrination centers.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that the public schools of 21st-century America are turning out students thoroughly steeped in environmentalism, socialism, and moral relativism but unable to read their own diplomas. The objective of government schooling is to produce cogs for the state machine, not well-rounded, independent thinkers.

With the facts on McFadden’s side, his critics have been forced to attack his remarks’ propriety rather than their truthfulness, which also reveals the critics’ true agenda: sticking up for government schooling.

The bishop, meanwhile, is seeking to allow parents more options in schooling their children. Believing it is unfair for parents to have to pay twice to send their children to parochial and other private schools — once in taxes and again in tuition — and faced with declining parochial-school enrollment, McFadden and other church leaders are calling for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enact a school-voucher program whereby parents’ tax dollars that are earmarked for education can be directed to whatever school, public or private, parents choose for their children. (A proposal that would have allowed that under certain limited circumstances was rejected by the state legislature in December.)

McFadden’s diagnosis of the problem is correct; his proposed solution, however, leaves much to be desired. School vouchers might very well end up co-opting private schools into serving the state, which would be an even worse situation than the one that currently exists. Private colleges — minus a handful of brave resisters who have chosen to forgo federal dollars — have been forced to obey Washington’s dictates in exchange for accepting federal student aid. Why would anyone expect state governments to hand out money to schools with no strings attached? Instead, private schools would very likely become dependent on such aid and would compromise their integrity by bowing to the state’s demands, ultimately becoming the state’s handmaidens in training the youth to serve Leviathan.

McFadden and other Christians, of all people, ought to recognize the dangers inherent in mixing the state with the private sector. Separation of church and state — in the sense that neither controls the other — has served Americans well over the centuries. Why not separation of school and state as well?


Key dates from history that every British pupil should know: Cambridge don says GCSEs should embrace ALL of the nation's past

Thirty-one key events in British history that all teenagers should study were outlined yesterday by a leading historian.

The dates cover the sweep of British history from the Dark Ages to the present day and include events such as the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the 1649 execution of Charles I and the abolition of slavery in 1833.

Professor David Abulafia, of Cambridge University, said current GCSE studies were disjointed and ‘deadened interest in the past’.

He also pointed out that the exams reward pupils who memorise and regurgitate mark schemes and penalise youngsters who try to demonstrate originality and insight.

Instead he proposes a curriculum which encompasses the nation’s story – and requires exam candidates to write at length.

There is evidence that a generation of university students – including those starting at Cambridge – have lost the ability to write essays.

The professor’s proposed curriculum – produced for the think-tank Politeia – will be submitted to a major review launched last year by Education Secretary Michael Gove. The Government is considering introducing a new curriculum for history and other subjects in September 2014.

Criticising the current syllabus, Professor Abulafia, an expert in Mediterranean history at Gonville and Caius College, said: ‘The lack of continuity is a fundamental problem. ‘What one actually wants is a sense that things join up, a sense of context.’

Under current GCSEs, pupils might jump between units such as Elizabethan England and Germany 1919 to 1945. Units covering a historical sweep often focus on a specific theme, such as ‘Medicine through Time’.

The professor said pupils were too often required to interpret sources instead of studying history itself. This had ‘deadened interest in the past among students’, he said.

His proposed curriculum – published yesterday in draft form – ensures ‘continuity across long expanses of time’. Linked to each event, or ‘transformational moment’, are studies of key people, places and innovations.

Pupils studying the 1066 Norman conquest, for example, would learn about the role of William the Conqueror and might visit the Tower of London. This could act as a spur to learn about the Domesday Book.

Professor Abulafia added that exams also needed reform because some candidates learn mark schemes ‘by heart’. ‘That is not what education is about,’ he said.

‘Writing essays involves making judgments. At the moment examiners don’t know how to cope with judgments. All they seem to know how to cope with is very exactly and precisely placed bits of information.

‘A very important part of any examination even at GCSE level – and you might only be talking about a couple of sides of script – is to be able to present a connected argument and to do it independently.’

Professor Robert Tombs, also a Cambridge University historian, said students appear to have been drilled to write essays in a particular way, making particular kinds of arguments in a particular order, and not writing their own ideas and responding to questions in a fresh or original way.

Politeia is planning to publish curriculum pamphlets written by academics on different subjects, beginning with history, later this month. Professor Tombs, of St John’s College, who is also working on a curriculum proposal, criticised current arrangements.

He said: ‘A curriculum ought to be coherent and not just miscellaneous. It shouldn’t be the sort of thing that enables you to know about Hitler and not Mussolini or Stalin.’

John McIntosh, who was head of the London Oratory School when it was attended by two of Tony Blair’s sons and now sits on the advisory committee of the Government’s curriculum, warned: ‘I find that teachers have become increasingly robotic, they have worked slavishly to the prescribed curriculum.’ ‘A lot of the teaching is simply the minimum required for whatever the next test or examination will be,’ he added.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Santorum's 'snub' about education was no gaffe

by Jeff Jacoby

COMMENTATORS, NOT ALL OF THEM DEMOCRATS, have been having a field day since GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum charged Barack Obama with snobbery for pushing the idea that everyone needs a college education.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum told an Americans for Prosperity forum in Troy, Mich. "What a snob!" Critics, mocking and incredulous, reacted as if the former Pennsylvania senator had uncorked the most boneheaded gaffe since Dan Quayle misspelled potato.

"Ridiculous? Offensive? Hypocritical? Manifestly, all of the above," wrote Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. On The Daily Show, the inimitable Jon Stewart was beside himself: "Just to be clear," he said, "you're coming out against people educating their kids because it's – fancy?" Vice President Joe Biden assured a radio interviewer that Santorum had managed to separate himself from "all of America on this."

I'm not so sure.

Even the formidable messaging prowess of the Obama machine will have a tough time convincing voters that the triply-degreed Santorum -- B.A. (Penn State, 1980); M.B.A. (University of Pittsburgh, 1981); and J.D. (Dickinson Law School, 1986) -- is opposed to higher education. In fact, Talking Points Memo, a liberal website, pointed out that as a Senate candidate in 2006, Santorum touted his support for "loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable."

Santorum's "what a snob!" rebuke was certainly strident, an example of how little his tone on the campaign trail has in common with the sunny graciousness Ronald Reagan deployed so effectively. Like Newt Gingrich, Santorum often speaks as if he believes that political rhetoric, to be convincing, must be intemperate and polarizing. But were his comments about higher education a blunder? The crowd in Troy sure didn't think so: It burst into applause and approving laughter.

Santorum made two points that plainly resonated with his audience. One was that college isn't for everyone: "Not all folks are gifted the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people ... want to work out there making things." In a country where more than two-thirds of adults don't possess a college degree, a president who suggests that there's something inferior in having just a high school education, as Obama arguably has done, opens himself up to a charge of elitism.

Much more explicitly ideological was Santorum's second point -- that American academia skews heavily to the left, and that Obama sees colleges as indoctrination mills for generating more Democrats.

"There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to tests that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them," Santorum said to cheers. "Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."

Too shrill by half for my taste -- red meat for Tea Party Republicans and a guaranteed hackle-raiser for liberal Democrats. William F. Buckley Jr. made the point far more deftly nearly 50 years ago: "I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University." Santorum's gibe, sad to say, had none of the wit or elegance of Buckley's formulation.

William F. Buckley: "I should "sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University."

But a gaffe? Hardly. The left-wing tilt of American universities is by now a self-evident truth. Surveys have long confirmed that liberals heavily outnumber conservatives on college faculties. Does anyone doubt that the Obama campaign will collect vastly more in campaign contributions from people working in higher education than will the GOP nominee, regardless of who that nominee turns out to be?

Politically and culturally, America's colleges don't look like America. They resemble, in George F. Will's phrase, intellectual versions of one-party nations. On campus, as in such nations, dissidents may thrive -- and it is the dissidents who are most apt to tell the truth about the stifling orthodoxies that reign around them.

To the chattering class and establishment elites, Santorum's "snob" remark may come across as weird, fanatic, and disconnected from reality. But when you look at the video of his appearance in Troy, it's clear that plenty of ordinary voters understand just what he means, however inelegantly expressed. And not only understand, but cheer.


"Homophobia" disappearing in British schools, claims expert despite increasing use of word 'gay' to denounce something as rubbish

The stigma attached to being gay is finally beginning to disappear from classrooms around the UK, according to a leading sociologist.

Dr Mark McCormack, from Brunel University, spent six months in each of three different schools in the same town to study how attitudes have changed among 16 to 18-year-olds. His book, The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality, explores how homophobia in Western cultures is decreasing in educational and sporting settings.

He believes pro-gay references are now held more highly and the phrase 'so gay' - a phrase used by some to criticise, is not viewed as homophobic by teenagers.

He said: 'In this research on three high schools in the United Kingdom, I documented that gay and straight male students used pro-gay discourse as a way of bonding.

'A growing body of research documents that homophobia is decreasing in sport settings. This corresponds with a trend of decreasing homophobia in British and American cultures.'

The sociologist also found that teenagers today are more open about their sexuality. But he said the battle is not over against homophobia but that it is getting better. He said: 'These young people see homophobia as wrong. Guys used to prove they were straight by being homophobic. Now, when young guys want to show they're straight, they do it in a more positive way by joking about being gay.'

However, some groups disagree with Mr Cormack's findings.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jess Wood, of youth support charity Allsorts, said: 'It is definitely not our experience, I'm afraid. It remains the second-highest reason children give for bullying.'

She added: 'I do think to try and eradicate the word "gay" is a waste of time; it's embedded in the language, but it's a bogus argument to suggest it's anything other than hideous for gay people to hear the negative associations of the word.'


Australian universities teaching quack medicine

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC health courses are undermining the credibility of Australian universities, according to an editorial in a leading medical journal.

Homeopathy, iridology, reflexology, kinesiology, healing touch therapy, aromatherapy and energy medicine are offered at more than a third of the nation's universities.

But some academics are angry about what they see as a dumbing down of universities by offering courses that lack scientific credibility.

"Pseudoscientific courses sully the genuinely scientific courses and research conducted at the same institution," say professors Alastair MacLennan and Robert Morrison, who co-wrote the editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

They call on all tertiary institutions to review their health-science teaching.

"Their scientists and students should be concerned by any retreat from the primacy of experimental, evidence-based approach in science and medicine.

"Academics at these institutions need to stand up for science."

The professors say acupuncture and chiropractic claims of being able to treat a broad array of afflictions are flimsy.

"The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best, and such randomised controlled trials of these therapies as exist mostly do not support their efficacy," they say.

"As the number of alternative practitioners graduating from tertiary education institutions increases, further health-care resources are wasted, while the potential for harm increases."

Chiropractic is cited as an area of particular concern, with the editorial warning that people in the field are extending their role beyond the treatment of musculoskeletal problems related to the back.

"Some self-regulated chiropractors' associations have a more extreme vision that chiropractic should become the major primary-care discipline," the editorial says.

"Alarmingly, some chiropractors now extend their manipulation of the spine to children, making claims that this can cure asthma, allergies, bedwetting, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, colic, fever and numerous other problems, and serve as a substitute for vaccination ...

"We respect those who distance themselves from such unproven beliefs."

The professors say federal funding is wasted on universities that support pseudoscience health courses.


Monday, March 05, 2012

California college students protest education cuts

But they are too dumb to agitate for something that might produce the needed funds -- such as firing half the "administrators" on college payrolls

Students, educators and Occupy Wall Street activists held demonstrations Thursday across California to protest state budget cuts to education, partially shutting down at least one college campus.

Hundreds of students blocked entrances to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and prevented cars and buses from entering the coastal campus, school officials said.

"The campus has been effectively closed to vehicles," said campus spokesman Jim Burns. "Clearly it's had an access impact for many students, staff and faculty."

School administrators had warned the campus about the protest. Many classes were canceled or rescheduled, and administrative offices were not fully staffed, Burns said.

The Santa Cruz blockade was among the demonstrations held on about 30 college campuses across California to protest rising tuition and call on lawmakers to restore funding to higher education. Rallies, marches, teach-ins and walkouts were scheduled to coincide with state budget negotiations, organizers said.

In San Francisco, about 200 demonstrators holding signs that read "Tax the Rich" and "Refund Education" held a teach-in in the lobby of the California State Building before attending an afternoon rally outside City Hall. College students and Occupy activists around the country held demonstrations as part of a "National Day of Action for Education."

About 15 of the demonstrators were taken into custody when they refused an order to disperse around 6:30 p.m., said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Diana McDermott. The 15 were cited on suspicion of trespassing and released.

At California State University, Los Angeles, about 300 students marched through campus blowing whistles and chanting, "No cuts, no fees, education should be free," according to the Los Angeles Times. At a rally in front of the campus bookstore, the group held signs that read "Stop Privatization" and "Defend Public Education."

The California protests are a prelude to a major "Occupy the Capitol" rally in Sacramento on Monday. Students and faculty members planned a "99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice" from Oakland to the state capital over the next few days.

The protesters are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to reject any budget deal that includes higher education cuts or tuition increases. They also want the governor to support a ballot measure that would raise taxes on millionaires to pay for education and social services.

"We've destroyed our tax base and we stopped funding the most important parts of our society," said Josh Brahinsky, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and union representative who helped organize the action. "We're calling on the state to tax the wealthy and use that money to build services for all of us."

The campus demonstrations were coordinated by ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and labor unions that organized a series of sometimes rowdy campus protests during the fall.


British education boss scraps homework rules

Schools have been given the go-ahead to reduce the amount of homework they set for pupils after complaints from parents that studies are cutting in to family time.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has scrapped national guidelines which set out how much time children should spend doing homework each night. Instead, head teachers will decide how much extra study, if any, their pupils require. Officials said that the aim was to cut bureaucracy, and insisted that homework would remain an important part of education.

However, the move was welcomed by parents who have called for less homework to be handed out. Kirstie Allsopp, the television presenter who has campaigned against homework in primary schools, last night welcomed Mr Gove’s move and said: “Getting rid of the guidelines might free up teachers to think a bit more creatively about it”.

Under the old guidelines, introduced by Labour in 1998, primary schools were told to set an hour of homework a week for children aged five to seven, rising to half an hour a night for seven-to-11-year-olds. Secondary schools were told to set 45 to 90 minutes a night for pupils aged 11 to 14, and one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours a night for those aged 14 to 16.

While the rules were not statutory, teachers came under pressure to follow them as they were said to give “a clear idea of what is reasonable to expect at different ages”. They also allowed parents to challenge teachers who set more, or less, than the recommended level. Many schools reproduced the guidelines in their own homework policies.

Supporters of homework warned scrapping the guidelines could lead to some schools abandoning it altogether, to spare teachers the trouble of extra marking.

Opposition has grown towards the guidelines, fuelled by an anti-homework movement in the United States and research questioning the efficacy of such assignments, particularly in primary schools.

Teachers complain about chasing up missing work and argue that it causes upset among the youngest pupils, while parents have claimed that too much study is making children anxious and reducing the time available for sports and play.

Some primaries have already abandoned traditional homework. Since September Frittenden Church of England Primary, in Kent, has replaced it with an optional weekly 45-minute homework club.

Elizabeth Bradshaw, the head teacher, said: “We had feedback from parents, or notes to the teachers, saying 'my child is very worried that they haven’t completed it on time’, or the child would come in to the classroom in tears because they had left it in the car. We simply wanted to remove that stress and focus on the learning for that week in a homework club where it is done, marked, and informs the learning of the next week.”

Ryde School, a primary in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, regards activities such as a walk in the countryside, playing board games and cooking as “homework”.

Its policy states: “Children are not little adults and therefore cannot be expected to study at home as adults do. Children spend six hours a day at school and are usually tired or 'filled’ with school learning by the end of the day. Homework must be kept to a minimum and be of a light, relaxed nature.”

The Department for Education said yesterday that the shake-up formed part of the Government’s plan to give more autonomy to schools.

Allsopp, who has two children and two stepchildren, said: “If you have three children, what happens to the other children while the parent is settled in the corner helping each one with their half an hour of homework? Eating a pizza alone. It ends up separating families at that key time.

“Learning at home should be about people doing things together as a family – reading a book, eating, watching an interesting documentary, attending an exhibition that ties in with what the child has been doing at school. These things are incredibly important. What I am 'anti’ is the silly task set by a teacher to tick a box.

“Sometimes homework can set child against parent. I remember someone I’m very close to was in Sainsbury’s and the child was in tears saying 'We’ve got to go, mummy – if I don’t do my homework I won’t be allowed in the playground tomorrow’. It is very important that parents back up what goes on in school, that is paramount. But some homework is almost adversarial.”

But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, warned that scrapping the guidelines could send the 'wrong message’ to schools. He said: “The danger is that schools will use this as an excuse to dilute the amount of homework. Middle-class children will do their homework anyway. Guidance for children who are coming from more deprived backgrounds is probably more important.”

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said: “I’m all in favour of trusting schools but I hope that Ofsted will check that appropriate amounts of homework are being set. “There’s a risk in abandoning the guidelines that some schools and some teachers will see it as the green light to get rid of the unwelcome burden of marking lots of homework.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Homework is part and parcel of a good education, along with high quality teaching and strong discipline. “We trust head teachers to set the homework policy for their school. They know their pupils best and should be free to make these decisions without having to adhere to unnecessary bureaucratic guidance.”

The shake-up comes as a new study by London’s Institute of Education reveals that homework, even in small amounts, boosts the academic attainment and social skills of secondary school pupils.

The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project showed that homework was linked to improvements in 14-year-olds’ academic prowess and social skills as well as reductions in levels of aggression and impulsiveness.


Australia: Means-test selective school parents

Smart people will always tend to get rich and will pass on their smarts to their children so this is how it always will be. But rich people already pay more tax. Why penalize them again?

THE families of children attending selective public high schools are among the most affluent, prompting questions about the equity of the system and whether parents should face a means-tested levy.

Entry to a selective school is based on academic performance, but data from the federal government's My School website shows that children whose parents are from higher social and educational backgrounds are over-represented, while those from disadvantaged backgrounds are significantly under-represented.

Educators call it apartheid within the public school system, and a leading private school principal, Timothy Hawkes, has suggested wealthy families with children in selective public schools should make an extra financial contribution to the education system through a means-tested levy.

My School publishes every school's distribution of students across the different quarters of socio-educational advantage from top to bottom. For example, At James Ruse Agricultural High School, the state's top performer academically, almost 60 per cent of its students come from the top quarter while only 4 per cent come from the bottom.

Hornsby Girls High School has the highest proportion of students from affluent backgrounds in the selective system with 68 per cent. Just 1 per cent of students come from the lowest quarter.

Normanhurst Boys High School has a similar profile with just 2 per cent of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and 66 per cent in the most advantaged.

Selective schools in less affluent areas of the state are not immune from the pattern. Penrith High School takes 5 per cent of its students from the bottom quarter while 56 per cent come from the top.

A strong supporter of public education, former principal of Asquith Boys High School Chris Bonnor, now fellow of the think tank Centre for Policy Development, said equal access to the selective system based on academic merit was a fallacy.

"There is a bit of an urban myth which has been peddled that selective schools take students from a wide range of social backgrounds but in reality they don't," he said.

"There is a disproportionate number of children from high socio-educational families in selective schools and that doesn't change when you look at selective schools in middle- to lower-class suburbs."

The social status of children attending selective schools is similar to those attending some of the state's most exclusive private schools.

Mr Bonnor called for a review of the selective school system.

The headmaster at The King's School in Parramatta, Dr Hawkes, said the wealthy parents of children attending selective schools should make a fairer financial contribution through a payment that would work in a similar way to the Medicare levy.

"There is an imperative for parents who send their children to selective schools to make a contribution if, and only if, they have the financial means to do so," he said.

"There is no question that there will be a number of families who are doing it tough and have children in selective state schools.

"These examples will invariably be trotted out and presented as a reason why this idea is inappropriate but these sorts of parents are often in the minority."

NSW has the highest number of selective schools in Australia with 17 fully selective schools, 25 partially selective schools, four selective agricultural schools and an online selective program.

A specialist in school systems at the University of Melbourne, Professor Richard Teese, believes the high number of selective schools in NSW has led to a two-tier public system.

"It's a form of social segregation based on academic selection," he said. "Selective high schools are a way of multiplying social advantage."

"There is an intensification of disadvantage at the other end."

The deputy chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, Brian Chudleigh, said David Gonski's federal school funding review, which recommended a student-based, rather than school-based, funding model would help close the gap between the haves and have-nots.

"In theory, enrolment at a selective school is based on academic merit," he said.

"Unfortunately, that nexus between socio-economic status and enrolment in selective schools is plain for all to see. The Gonski approach to funding would go a long way to helping that situation.

"It's clearly an equity issue. Children from less fortunate backgrounds, while they may be just as intelligent as children from more affluent homes, struggle to compete right from the word go."


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Diversity: The Road to Hell for Black Americans Is Paved With White Benevolence

Often, kindly people believe foolish things, and in her 2003 opinion Justice O’Connor received, unexamined, the foolish notion bequeathed to the Court almost 35 years ago by Justice Powell in Bakke that “student body diversity is a compelling state interest.”

The theme of diversity runs throughout her opinion in the Michigan Law School case. Indeed, it is the basis of her opinion: “…respondents [the law school] assert only one justification for their use of race in the admissions process: obtaining ‘the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.’ In other words, the law school asks us to recognize, in the context of higher education, a compelling state interest in student body diversity….Today, we hold that the law school has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.”

There are many reasons that argue against O’Connor’s opinion, but what seems to have been most neglected is an examination of O’Connor’s use of the concept of Diversity itself in the context of higher education. Although it is used dozens of times in her opinion it remains vague and enigmatic.

She accepts unquestioningly the school’s educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission, and that diversity will “in fact yield educational benefits.” This despite the fact that a study by the National Association of Scholars has shown “that the only educational benefit of proportional representation is…proportional representation itself.” Despite the doubtful claims made by the school that racial diversity “promotes learning outcomes…and better prepares them [the students] as professionals…” these claims remain unexamined in her opinion.

When one searches the decision for some description of the way racial diversity could educationally benefit students one looks in vain. The best that you can come up with is “students who will contribute most to the robust exchange of ideas.” Or “classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting when students have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.”

What does this tell us about the notion that racial diversity enhances discussion—any kind of discussion, educational or not? First, it tells us how stupid the idea is that there is such a thing as a Black point of view or an Hispanic point of view. Eminem does not have the same view of the world as Colin Powell, or Phil Ivey, the world class poker champion, any more than my white point of view is the same as my daughter’s point of view.

Secondly, capacity for discussion is largely determined by thinking, and articulation skills, not by race. Educated individuals are better at discussion because the process of education occurs by means of verbal communication. Different occupations allow individuals to practice verbal skills more or less—teachers more, farmers less. Some families encourage verbal skills, some encourage sports skills. But how can having Blacks, or Hispanics in a class enhance robust discourse, by virtue of their ethnicity alone?

The only educational courses in which uninformed opinions are welcomed, are what is known among students as bulls..t courses—courses in which no education takes place because there is no tradition of knowledge that must be communicated to the student. All opinions are equal, all views are acceptable. These courses are usually centered on some multicultural, or ethnocentric subject—Discrimination in America 101. Such courses will be greatly enhanced by testimonies of racial discrimination from Blacks and anybody else who feels discriminated against.

Any program or course that teaches a discipline which has a body of knowledge, a method, a set of principles, and a body of facts acquired empirically will not have “bulls..t” courses in its curriculum. The teachers of such courses, if they are responsible, will be obligated to use class time to minimize discussion which is not focused on doing the job at hand—teaching the curriculum. Such teachers are not interested in a student’s opinions about the material, only that he or she understands it. Discussion in such classes exists for the purposes of clarifying the material, and only that.

Let’s take a course in neuroscience 101. The professor is not interested in the students’ opinion about the Amygdala (a part of the brain) but only that they understand that its function appears to be storing affective memories and the evidence for that currently accepted hypothesis. There could not possibly be any value in encouraging debate or discussion from the students about this matter simply because their opinions would not be informed opinions. Such a teaching attitude is not repressive, nor does it lead to crushing students’ imaginative or creative impulses. It is just common sense.

You wouldn’t want to learn about the way the brain works from your teenage son or daughter. You would want to hear the story from someone who really is well informed about it. And educational time is a precious commodity. The attitude of the professor of neuroscience towards robust discussion and disagreement is altogether different in a post-doctoral seminar on the Amygdala. There, free discussion is highly desirable, because the discussants are well-informed and the discussion occurs on the very cusp of what is now known.

The fact is that “higher education” is not very high. What passes for education in college is in reality an introduction to knowledge. Even in professional schools, like medical school, the student spends most of his or her time and energy in learning the most basic things in a vast array of clinical and non-clinical science. This is what a cancer cell looks like under a microscope. This artery is called the carotid artery. The signs and symptoms of inflammation are such and such. Baby medicine really. And there is not much room for robust discussion here either; you better know the stuff cold or you don’t get out of medical school—or if you just squeak by you won’t get an internship or residency. Or your colleagues won’t send patients to you. Real medicine starts when you start practicing. Nothing focuses the attention more than having a patient come to see you with a symptom you recognize is serious.

Now let’s turn to the University of Michigan Law School and their claim that racial diversity benefits the educational process by encouraging classroom discussion that “is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting.”

Here is a description of the course in the law of property at the University of Michigan’s Law School:

“A basic survey of the law of property which examines the forms and methods by which property interests are held, used, and transferred, with emphasis on real estate. Includes present and future estates, concurrent ownership…. bailment, easements, promises respecting the use of land, water rights, control of air space, nuisance, adverse possession, gifts of personal property, vendor and purchaser, conveyances of land, land title insurance….”

A more spirited discussion on the law of easements? You must be joking. Clearly this is a survey course with much basic material to be got through in the time available, not much time for robust debate.

Now everybody who has seen the film “The Paper Chase” knows that one of the techniques in the teaching of law school is the Socratic method. The trouble is that anyone familiar with Socratic dialogues understands that the furthest thing from Plato’s mind in writing Socratic dialogues is a free flowing bull session in which every one’s opinion is equal. Students seek Socrates out to be enlightened, because he has the power to lead them from their error to his truth and wisdom. The same is true in law school. The professor has the right idea, and he engages the students in questioning to see if they have the right idea. And since some of the ideas are complex and subtle, many of the students must expose their ignorance or error in order to be corrected. The professor is not really interested in dinner party conversation, or even a more lively, spirited discussion by the students. He is interested in getting the basic ideas across, and if, in the bargain, out of his narcissism and exhibitionism he can present himself as being spirited, lively, and interesting, all the better.

The University of Michigan makes clear that the work of the first year of law school is the standard curriculum taught in most law schools. “Most of the work for the first year is required. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that there are some basic principles which any serious and thoughtful student would choose to study early in his or her career. The study of this fairly traditional material has become one of the experiences shared by almost all lawyers.”

And here is part of the Law School’s statement on the course in civil procedure: “This course is similar to the introductory civil procedure courses taught at most law schools for the last two or three decades…. In common with most courses, this course covers the basic institutions of civil litigation…. At least the rudiments of claim and party joinder and res judicata also are covered. Unlike most first-year civil procedure, however, this course does not cover any of the variety of topics loosely described as jurisdiction. Those topics have been moved into the upper level elective course in Jurisdiction and Choice of Law.”

The fact is that there is big chunk of basic learning that has to be accomplished in law school and there is little time or use for bull sessions—lively or otherwise. The classroom discussion is primarily for clarification, getting the concept right—not for spirited debate.

The basis for O’Connor’s decision was her unexamined acceptance of the idea that racial diversity in itself in some way has educational benefits. This notion is largely a sham, an empty suit, meant to disguise the same old, same old un-American social engineering practices, stacking the deck in favor of preferred groups—often made up of individuals who have never suffered discrimination—and against groups whose members may be innocent of discrimination themselves. Fairness requires getting rid of state empowered favoritism in all its forms.


British University targets 'discriminate against private schools'

Almost half of elite universities are setting targets to boost the recruitment of state school students, it has emerged, prompting fears privately-educated pupils face being penalised.

An analysis of official documents shows 15 out of 32 leading research institutions in England want to increase the proportion of places handed over to state pupils over the next five years. This includes Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, University College London and Warwick. Some universities such as UCL are seeking a 10 per cent rise in admissions from the state sector.

It also emerged that a number of institutions are barring students educated in independent schools from applying for lucrative scholarship programmes worth thousands of pounds.

The disclosure is made in a series of agreements drawn up between individual universities and the Government’s Office for Fair Access, which was set up by Labour to ensure the poor are not put off by higher tuition fees. It is likely to prompt fresh concerns over attempts to “socially engineer” university admissions.

The move follows claims from Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of OFFA, that universities failing to hit their targets could face “nuclear” penalties, including huge fines.

Last night, independent school leaders warned against “generic discrimination”, insisting they would fight any attempt to downgrade student applications “just because of the kind of school they come from”.

In recent years, the number of privately-educated pupils admitted to top universities has grown, with early indications that admissions will rise again in 2012. But Tim Hands, master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, said universities should resist attempts to “politically manipulate” results.

“It’s no secret that top universities resent interference with their admissions,” he said. “They don’t see why tertiary education should be forced to compensate for problems which government incompetence over secondary education has created in the first place.”

From this September, universities in England are able to charge up to £9,000 in annual tuition fees – almost three times the current total. Any institution attempting to charge more than £6,000-a-year must draw up an “access agreement” – signed off by OFFA – outlining targets and initiatives designed to ensure students from disadvantaged groups are not deterred by fee hikes.

In many cases, academics are targeting pupils from deprived families, those living in postcodes with a poor history of going on to university and schoolchildren previously involved in summer schools and other outreach programmes.

But an analysis of documents shows that many selective universities are also setting targets specifically relating to state schools. In all, 15 out of 32 mainstream English universities belonging to the Russell Group and 1994 Group – the two main organisations representing research institutions – want to increase state school admissions by 2016.

UCL, which currently has two-thirds of places going to state students, is targeting a 10 per cent rise, while Warwick is proposing an 8.5 per cent rise. Cambridge wants to increase the proportion from 59 to 62 per cent, while Durham is proposing a similar hike.

Other universities targeting state pupils include Exeter, King’s College London, the London School of Economics, Bath, Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London.

Private schools claim the move amounts to discrimination because it fails to account for the large number of independent pupils from poor homes who receive bursaries and those whose parents go the extra mile to cover fees. It also wrongly implies that all students from state schools – including those from sought-after comprehensives and academically selective grammar schools – are disadvantaged, it is claimed.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, attacked the enforced use of targets, saying more emphasis should be placed on raising achievement of state schools instead of tailoring admissions. But she added: “We know that even with good grades state school students are much less likely to apply to top universities than those at independent schools. “We cannot offer places to those who do not apply.

"By encouraging more qualified students from state schools to apply to us through outreach and access schemes, our universities will have a wider pool of applicants from which to select the brightest and the best.”

Prof Michael Farthing, Sussex University vice-chancellor and chairman of the 1994 Group, said: "Every institution faces a unique set of fair access and widening participation challenges and must be trusted to respond in the most appropriate way."

A UCL spokesman said admission was “only ever based on academic merit”, adding: “All successful applicants are required to satisfy our programmes' rigorous entrance requirements. Our access agreement does not contradict that fundamental principle.”

Cambridge said it set its target because a “representative balance between the [state] maintained and private sectors would be achieved if between 61 and 63 per cent of UK entrants come from the maintained sector”.


Major British universities reveal explosion in student cheating over the last three years

The number of students caught cheating at top universities has surged over the past three years, figures reveal. Thousands were found guilty of plagiarising, taking notes into exams or buying essays on the internet.

Nearly 1,700 students at 20 leading institutions were disciplined for academic misconduct in the year 2010-11 alone, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Around 100 were expelled.

Offences on the rise include cutting and pasting essays from the internet, bringing mobile phones into exams, impersonating other candidates and copying from classmates.

At Oxford University, one student was fined £100 for taking revision notes into an exam, while last year Cambridge stripped a graduate of his history PhD for ‘multiple instances of plagiarism’.

Cambridge also revealed instances of cheating recorded during this academic year, including the case of a land economy student who had their degree reduced from a 2.1 to a 2.2 after being found with a textbook in the exam hall.

And last October a medicine student was found guilty of plagiarism after using material from a sample exercise published as a learning resource.

The Freedom of Information request was sent to the country’s top 30 universities, as ranked by the independent Complete University Guide 2012. Of those, 20 supplied figures.

The University of Lancaster had the worst record with 194 incidents of cheating during the last academic year – up from 175 in 2009-10. It was followed by the University of East Anglia, which recorded 187 incidents of academic misconduct compared with 175 the year before.

Bath reported 182 incidents, a sharp rise from 66 in 2009-10.
Newcastle, where Princess Eugenie is studying history of art, English and politics, had 166 incidents – marginally down from 169 the year before.

‘Academic misconduct’ covers a range of offences including plagiarism, submitting work bought from essay banks, handing in the same piece of work for separate assignments and impersonating another student.

Sanctions range from docked marks to expulsion. In the last academic year alone, 100 students were expelled from the 20 universities for serious academic misconduct. King’s College London has expelled the most – 44 over the past three years.

In the last academic year, 1,665 students were found guilty of academic misconduct, a slight fall from 2009-10 when the figure stood at 1,849 students from 21 universities. The year before, 1,597 students were disciplined for the offence, making a total of 5,111 over the past three years.

The surge in cheating has been attributed in part to the cut-throat job market, which is piling pressure on graduates to do well.

There has also been an explosion in the number of websites that sell coursework – and universities are becoming more adept at spotting such plagiarism, thanks to specialist software.

The figures will fuel concerns over slipping academic standards, at a time when universities are also facing criticism for dumbing down degrees. A report last month found that English universities are ‘not keeping pace’ with international standards. For example, some have dropped maths from certain degree courses because students and their lecturers cannot cope with it.