Saturday, March 24, 2012

Swedish Fascism hits homeschooling family

I have pointed out elswhere that Sweden has many of the characteristics of a Fascist state

It's been called one of the worst cases of government abuse ever committed against a home schooling family: the abduction by Swedish authorities of Domenic Johansson, a happy, healthy, 7-year-old boy taken from his parents Christer and Annie Johansson in 2009 as they waited to leave Sweden on a flight to India.

After the abduction, the Johanssons' story spread quickly on the Internet. But three years later, Domenic is still being kept from his parents, and Swedish authorities keep finding new reasons for why the child can't go home.

The Abduction

"This is about the most fundamental right you have. You have the right to your own children, or you should have," Christer told CBN News during the first television interview he and his wife have given since their only child's abduction.

In 2008, Christer and Annie were making plans to leave Sweden for humanitarian work in Annie's native India.

They decided it would be best for Domenic to be home-schooled during the final months before their departure, rather than enroll him in public school.

Christer says Sweden's Ministry of Education told him they could home-school, but local officials levied steep fines and threatened the couple to discourage them from doing so.

Then, as the parents sat on a plane at Stockholm airport for their scheduled trip to India, police came aboard and took Domenic away.

"They took Domenic from the plane," Christer recalled. "Then he threw up until they took him to ER. That's how severe the trauma is. If someone throws up so you have to take him to the hospital, that's severe."

"I have no clue what went on," Annie added. "There was just a stampede. My child had no clue, and I have no clue still what's going on. I can just hear the screams of my child all the time."

Cat and Mouse

According to Christer, the couple was supposed to have Domenic back a few days later. But when they went to pick him up, authorities changed their story. Officials decided Domenic was "at risk," because he had cavities and did not have every recommended vaccination. They also noted he was shy.

Gotland Social Services then found more problems -- claiming the Johanssons' home didn't have enough furniture, and that Christer was a drug addict with a mental illness, even though he passed a drug test and psychiatric examination.

"I went to psychiatric clinic and said, 'Check me thoroughly,' and they did. So I took that paper to court and it had no effect whatsoever," Christer recalled. "I said, 'I'm healthy,' but the Social Services and Social Services' lawyer said 'No, you are suffering from personality disorder.'"

Social Services said Domenic was developmentally delayed, although videos show him flying a plane on a flight simulator before being abducted at age 7, and also speaking clear English.

Authorities were also disturbed that Domenic was too affectionate with other children, greeting his friends with a hug and kiss on the cheek. They called this "deviant behavior."

Christer was then labeled a "human rights fanatic."

Christer said authorities have resisted all attempts to reunite the family. And evidence showing that the pair are good parents has been completely ignored. "It doesn't matter if we have professors or doctors to speak for us. It just doesn't matter," he said.

Swedish Soviet Union?

Exasperated, Christer brought Domenic home without permission in Nov. 2010. Police then raided their home with guns and dogs and took Domenic away again. Christer was put in jail for two months.

"The Domenic Johansson case is the home-school tragedy of Sweden. I believe this was simply a mistake," Jonas Himmelstrand, who heads the Swedish Homeschooling Association (Rohus), told CBN News.

"Officials didn't realize they couldn't take a child on home schooling charges alone. So after they took him, they invented all kinds of other reasons -- and also pride, which is well-known among Swedish authorities, that once they've made a mistake to never admit it," he said.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is helping the Johanssons, said, "It's astonishing to me that free governments who know about this case have not done more.

Donnelly compared the Swedish government's behavior to the Soviet Union. "This local government, backed up now by Swedish courts, have demonstrated that they are capable of visiting the most totalitarian acts on their own citizens, reminiscent of the Soviet Union and communist countries in recent history," Donnelly said.

The Emotional Fallout

Annie and Christer were only allowed to visit Domenic for one hour every five weeks, but even that has stopped. Christer said the son who so obviously loved his parents before the abduction, now no longer wants to see them.

"We haven't had any contact with him since Nov. 2010 - not a phone call, not one. We don't know how he is. We don't know anything," Christer said.

Annie suffered an emotional breakdown after the abduction and now suffers from panic attacks when she talks about what happened.

The Gotland Social Services Board has told the media that secrecy prevents it from discussing the case. But Sweden's ambassador to the United States has defended his government's actions.

Meanwhile, the Johanssons' attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson says the police abduction of Domenic from the plane was illegal, and another court hearing is scheduled for May.

But photos of Domenic before and after the abduction show what Christer describes as boy who has already been "broken into a million pieces." Annie and Christer keep hoping this nightmare will end.

"How can you live without your children?" Annie asked. "It's devastated our life. This has in fact devastated everything in our life."


Va. middle-schoolers assigned opposition research on GOP candidates

A Virginia middle school teacher recently forced his students to support President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign by conducting opposition research in class against the Republican presidential candidates.

The 8th grade students, who attend Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County, were required to seek out the vulnerabilities of Republican presidential hopefuls and forward them to the Obama campaign.

“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one frustrated father, who asked for his family to remain anonymous, told The Daily Caller.

The assignment was for students to research the backgrounds and positions of each of the GOP candidates for president and find “weaknesses” in them, the parent explained. From there, students were to prepare a strategy paper to exploit those weaknesses and then to send their suggestions to the Obama campaign.

Liberty teacher Michael Denman, who declined to comment, unveiled the assignment in mid-January when he broke the Civics Honor’s class into four groups, one for each Republican candidate. The students were then to collaborate as a group and research the backgrounds of their assigned candidate.

Denman assigned two kids to write a paper revealing the identified “weaknesses,” two to write the attack strategy paper and two others to locate an individual inside the Obama campaign to whom they could send the information.

“My classmates don’t actually know a lot, but a few of us tended to agree that the most recent instruction on this project just didn’t seem right,” one of the students told TheDC. “Mr. Denman didn’t tell us where to find the information, just to research on them.”


Some TOP British middle school graduates can't master the three Rs

Teenagers are still struggling with the three Rs despite achieving top grades in GCSE English and maths, the schools minister warned yesterday. Nick Gibb told MPs that some students arrive in the workplace or at university with literacy and numeracy problems.

His warning to the Commons’ education select committee comes amid growing concerns about grade inflation and the ‘dumbing down’ of exams.

Mr Gibb said that, in part, the problem lies in how the curriculum is turned into exam specifications. Exam boards draw up specifications, outlining exam content and assessment criteria, which are scrutinised by exams watchdog Ofqual. He said the current system ‘appears to incentivise’ boards to ‘dumb down’ their exams in order to increase their market share.

‘It’s also to a certain extent an assessment issue for Ofqual about is it possible to pass exams yet not be fully conversant with the whole syllabus?’ he said.

Concerns that children are leaving school ‘not as well prepared for the world of work’ and lacking ‘fundamental knowledge’ for university courses need to be addressed, he said

Gibb added: ‘Education is... about leaving school as educated as you can be. If our certificate awarding process is hampering that, we need to do something about the... process.’

Earlier, Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, told MPs that the watchdog will be ‘crawling all over’ exam boards to ensure their services are up to scratch.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Georgia charter school decision could set national precedent‏

The Georgia Legislature is hotly debating a bill that would allow the state to cover the costs of charter schools even if local school boards reject them, setting up a case that could set national precedent on educational reform.

The legislation to amend the state constitution would allow the Peach State to create its own parallel K-12 system to local boards, drawing on the same limited pool of Georgia's taxpayer funds -- a decision that the Georgia Supreme Court said was illegal just one year ago.

"In the education reform battle often times things boil down to a turf battle, and that's what we have here. We have some local school systems that are worried that by virtue of having state charter schools that some of their turf is getting interfered. But it's about the children and the choice," said state Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta. "It's a control issue, and it always has been."

The amendment would codify the authority of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an organization created by the state in 2008 after complaints that school boards were turning down charter school applicants, preventing competition. But the commission began approving and funding charter schools even at the objection of the local boards, illegal under current law. That's when the Georgia Supreme Court stepped in.

"The Georgia Constitution says local boards control where local dollars go, so if a charter school only gets state approval and not local approval, no way can they receive local funds. They can only receive state funds," said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators or PAGE, which opposes the funding. "The people who are putting this constitutional amendment on the ballot are trying to do that in our Senate right now -- are really trying to do a run-around the Supreme Court ruling."

Critics say the move to create a state board will damage the public education system because the amendment would allow the state to siphon money from cash-strapped districts at a time when they're facing almost $1 billion in cuts.

"Our state is very strapped in terms of funding," Callahan said. "We have cut by over $2 billion the education budget over the past eight years or so, and we have a funding formula that dates back to 1985 (and) has not been updated for inflation."

Education spending accounts for almost half of the state's yearly budget but GOP leaders promise no money will be taken from school districts.

"This bill in no way touches any kind of local funding," Lindsey said. "In fact we put in to the Constitution a specific provision that guarantees there will be no local money used for these state charter schools. But keep in mind also that these schools that are in the more rural areas. It's a lot of these kids that need charter schools the most and it's the children in those areas we're most concerned about."

Lindsey said charter schools are a beneficial addition to the education world -- they build, not break down, community education.

"Charter schools are part of an overall tool in the tool box for education reform," Lindsey said. "It, along with the myriad of other programs, is extremely important in terms of giving parents and students a greater choice in what is the best education for a particular child and it encourages education achievement and success along the way. It creates innovation."

But Callahan said Georgia charter schools don't outperform public schools.

"Parents are hungry for the latest thing -- whatever may be the best for their children," he said. "And that's understandable, but we all need to step back a little bit and take a deep breath. The best research we've had on charter schools and its pretty comprehensive says that only 17 percent of charter schools actually do better than the public schools they replace."

The amendment is supported by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who has gotten involved in the push to get the legislation passed. Lindsey said he is confident the bill will pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support as it did in the Georgia House. "This is somewhere we can all find common ground," Lindsey said.

If it passes the Senate, the constitutional amendment would go on the ballot in November for voters to decide.


‘Johnny No Friends’: the new role model in British schools

Some UK schools are banning ‘best friends’ to spare children the heartbreak of falling out. Bad move

Will Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer soon be banned from school libraries in England? Not because it contains the word ‘nigger’, which has led it to be censored in some US schools, but because it contains a heinous example of young boys being best mates.

In some English schools, having best friends can now get you in serious trouble with teacher. At the weekend, it was reported that primary school children in certain areas are being discouraged from having best friends to avoid the ‘pain of falling out’. Gaynor Sbuttoni, an educational psychologist working with schools in south-west London, told The Sunday Times, ‘I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn’t have a best friend and that everyone should play together… They’re doing it because they want to save the child the pain of splitting up from their best friend.’ Sbuttoni is not the first to speak out against this trend in the UK, and ‘no best friend’ policies have been in place in some US schools for quite a while.

Reading the reports, it might seem like this is just a silly intervention by meddling teachers, which simply needs to be stamped out. But that underestimates what is going on in our schools. The teaching profession is being reformed as a therapeutic profession, often prioritising the delivery of therapy over education to ‘vulnerable’ children and young people. As this new therapeutic profession develops, more and more interventions like ‘no best friends’ will arise, either spontaneously in classrooms or as a result of conscious intervention by school heads, local authorities, government and, of course, Ofsted, which runs with every fad and fashion.

Meddling in young children’s emotional lives is the worst feature of contemporary schooling. Children are now trained to have ‘appropriate’ emotions through emotional literacy classes and so-called subjects like SEAL - the ‘Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning’. The training on offer in such sessions is nothing short of emotional manipulation. Children are taught to be moderate; empathy is good, anger is bad. They are taught to be emotionally dead, out of touch with all the emotions that make up human relationships, passion, anger, jealousy, hatred and even love, which is sentimentalised and sanitised. This is the anodyne therapeutic ethos that now dominates education at all levels.

The excuse given by advocates is that this is all done in the name of protecting children from harmful emotions and emotional relationships. Here’s an example that shows just how manipulative this concern with emotional literacy can be. A friend’s daughter told her that she didn’t like SEAL, but she understood that ‘some of the children in my class have problems with anger management’. She is nine years old and worryingly in danger of becoming an emotional police officer.

These emotional interventions are well meant, but their impact is a dysfunctional one. They create ‘can’t cope’ kids. In this way, teachers are in fact creating the situation that they fear - that kids won’t be able to cope with falling-out, not only with best friends at school but with other friends later in life and then perhaps with girl- or boyfriends. Keeping children together in emotionally safe packs where no one gets too close to anyone else is scary, like something from Brave New World.

Despite the negative effects, teachers adopting therapeutic approaches, expressing concern with emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and emotional wellbeing, will often find they are lauded by parents, schools and local authorities. Schools promoting such therapeutic initiatives can be rewarded with better funding and increased status. This may seem a cynical view, but there is an explanation for it. As teachers have given up their commitment to teaching the traditional subjects, all sorts of fads and fashions have filled the vacuum. The emotional meddling that many of these initiatives involve has an added advantage for teacher and pupils when there is nothing being taught or learnt. The assumption is that children are the best authorities on what they feel. No need to teach them anything!

In the past, children learned their emotional sensitivity and robustness not just from the playground and friends, but also from literature. Poetry, plays and novels teach a range of emotions and feelings that go far beyond the limited and often vulgar interactions of the playground. As their immersion in literature has diminished, children are instead taught lists of ‘appropriate’ feelings. What hope have they of experiencing the higher emotions, those once induced by art and literature?

Many of the best-friend models that we encounter in literature would be damned as ‘inappropriate’ today. Christopher Robin and Pooh; Tom Saywer, Jim and Huck Finn; Iago and Othello; Macbeth and his Lady - all of these relationships have qualities that make them eternal and yet ban-happy teachers would probably find them objectionable.

In the past, therapeutic interventions at school were often about helping Johnny or Sarah ‘No Mates’. These were sometimes effective, helping lonely and sad children to get a best friend. Now it seems that for some emotionally meddling teachers, Johnny and Sarah No Mates are becoming the ideal role models for all our children.


Australia: Victorian Government gives power to school principals

PRINCIPALS are being given greater power to run their own schools under measures to remove red tape.

Education Minister Martin Dixon has announced a series of measures he claims will cut bureaucratic interference and provide more support for schools that are struggling, in line with the recent Gonski review.

The State Government's reforms include handing responsibility for teacher professional development back to principals, as well as funding leadership arrangements.

Principals will also be in charge of the purse strings for services such as speech therapy, psychological services and behaviour therapy.

Mr Dixon said onerous reporting requirements would be abolished to free up principals' time, while new roles would be created to monitor underperforming schools and intervene where required.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some apt comments on America's ever-worsening education system

With some rejoinders, mostly lame

  1. “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.” The campaign trail has historically been a place where reason and common sense go to die, and in the 2012 election that seems to be holding true. GOP candidate Rick Santorum recently made headlines by calling President Obama a “snob” for supposedly saying every American should go to college so that he could “remake people in his image.” Apart from the fact that the president never said that, Mr. Santorum happens to hold three degrees — one more than President Obama.

  2. “Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.” Presidential candidate Mitt Romney would like you to note that he was making odd jabs at education well before Rick Santorum. In September 2011, Romney attempted to paint a picture of the president drinking brandy with east coast intellectuals while mocking blue-collar workers. The “faculty lounge” in question was apparently another reference to Harvard’s faculty lounge, the first coming in August. Romney told veterans Obama’s foreign policy is weak, saying, “That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it’s not what they know on the battlefield.” There’s just one problem, Mitt old chap: you went to Harvard and Harvard people donate money to your campaign.

  3. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school.” Your 9-year-old doesn’t have enough money, you say? Well has he thought about being a janitor at his school? Thus proposed candidate Newt Gingrich at a Harvard (big surprise) speech in November 2011. Newt Gingrich was born 70-years-old with white hair and a tie, which explains why he had no idea it would be excruciatingly embarrassing to be a janitor at your own school. Or that the suggestion was pretty darn offensive.

  4. “The idea that they’re telling us how to educate our children or how to deliver health care or how to, for that matter, clean our air is really nonsense.” The notion of getting the government out of, well, pretty much everything has been en vogue with Republican presidential candidates this season. Before his campaign crashed and burned, Texas Governor Rick Perry was making the least convincing argument of the group. He said he doesn’t think the government has a role in children’s education, a very controversial idea considering the millions of low-income students who depend on government Pell grants to defray the rising cost of higher education.

  5. [The] Department of Education … has eviscerated the constitutional understanding that the control of education truly lies with the parents.” Another GOP flame-out, another controversial quote. Rep. Michelle Bachmann jumped on the ditch-the-department-of-education bandwagon, saying in September 2011 that the Constitution intended for parents to control their kids’ education. Of course, this begs this question: how does federal government involvement in education preclude parents from educating their kids? Is she saying because someone got a Pell grant you can’t homeschool your kid now? We’ve never heard anyone wish that American parents would get less involved in their children’s learning.

  6. “There’s no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to be dealing with education. We should get rid of the loan programs. We should get rid of the Department of Education and give tax credits, if you have to, to help people.” Never one to shy away from controversial statements, Ron Paul has been calling for the abolishment of the Department of Education for some time. Paul is much more of a respected Constitutional scholar than, say, Rick Perry, and it bears mentioning that some distinguished scholars agree with him. However, Paul’s statement that poor students pay for college with tax credits doesn’t make sense when many of them likely pay no taxes as it is.

  7. “I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union are a group of political thugs.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a lot of weight with conservatives, and he doesn’t back down from tough talk if he thinks it will tip the scales in his favor. He has conducted a very public heavyweight bout with Jersey’s teachers unions, calling them “thugs” and claiming they care more about “putting money in their own pocket and in the pockets of members than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children around the country.” So teachers are in it for the money. That’s rich.

  8. “Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.” This one came from the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Sen. John McCain’s camp claimed in a TV ad that Barack Obama wanted to teach sex ed to kindergartners, making grandmothers across the nation spit their tea out all over their Reader’s Digest. The accusation came of a controversial bill Obama voted for as a senator that the left claimed was intended to protect kids from sexual predators, a claim the right denied.

  9. “People should not be coming into the state trying to intimidate lawmakers, offer up threats or anything else. That’s just not the way it’s done, at least not in the Midwest. And thankfully, again, our lawmakers stood up to those sorts of thuggery attacks, and we’re not going to allow that here in the state of Wisconsin.” Although Chris Christie may have dropped the “thugs” tag on teachers unions, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker never actually went there. Still, his reference to “thuggery” has been widely misremembered by many who were offended by what they considered a controversial statement against teachers unions.

  10. “People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around … Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem.” He’s not a politician, but Bill Cosby sailed away from the continent of political correctness when he basically said the civil rights advancements that have been made in education have been for naught. “We have million-dollar basketball players who can’t write two paragraphs,” he said. “We, as black folks, have to do a better job.”


British deputy headteacher fired for carrying pupil, 6, out of playground wins pay-out after becoming so impoverished she had to take work as a cleaner

A deputy head who was sacked for carrying a pupil back to his classroom has won a pay-out after becoming so impoverished she had to take work as a cleaner. Debbie Ellis, 51, and another teaching assistant lifted the boy by the armpits after he refused to leave the playground.

Mrs Ellis had taken action because a sex offender had recently been spotted at the school gates.

But the teacher was sacked after school governors launched an investigation. She then brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the governors of Hafod-y-Wern primary school at Wrexham, North Wales, following the 'grave injustice.'

At an employment tribunal yesterday her solicitor Tudor Williams announced that a confidential pay settlement had been reached.

Mrs Ellis, who has worked as an office cleaner since her sacking in February last year, said : 'It’s a massive weight off my shoulders. I’m pleased and relieved. 'What happened has had a huge impact on my life and my family’s life. It affected my health initially. I’m pleased it is all done and dusted.

'I will take a breather and put life back into perspective and look at my options. I don’t want to go back into teaching right now after what has happened. I need a while to think.'

Mrs Ellis, who was supported by her daughters Claire, 31, and Nicola, 29, at the hearing, added : 'I loved my job. I was very dedicated and was shattered when this happened. I’ve had letters of support, and the support of my husband Edwin throughout.'

Mrs Ellis, from Mold in Flintshire, said her troubles began when she had been in charge of Hafod-y-Wern because the headmaster was away for a day. When the boy refused to come inside after playtime, staff phoned his mother, but she was not able to come to the school, which has 250 pupils, straight away.

So Mrs Ellis and a teaching assistant went outside, lifted the boy under his armpits and carried him indoors.

The incident was reported to the headmaster and the local education authority became involved. She was suspended.

Her solicitor said last year : 'My client decided she had to do something and asked a teaching assistant to go with her. They lifted him under the armpits and carried him to the classroom.

'It’s shown on CCTV footage but the school governing body thought it showed gross misconduct by physical and emotional abuse of the pupil - it doesn’t.'

Mrs Ellis was dismissed a year ago after a two-day disciplinary hearing. She said she had a 20-year teaching career until her life was shattered by the dismissal. Another teacher was also sacked and two teaching assistants disciplined.

Mr Williams, an employment solicitor based in Wrexham, said Mrs Ellis would now have to wait to hear if the General Teaching Council for Wales will take any action. 'The council referred the dismissal to the GTCW,' he explained.

Mr Williams said the financial settlement, before any evidence was heard by the tribunal, was 'very acceptable to my client.'

The solicitor added : 'This school playground had been used as a shortcut and two weeks earlier a man had been spotted performing a sex act outside the school gates. 'Any teacher would be concerned about a pupil being outside in the playground on his own. Anything could have happened.

'Just imagine if he had been allowed to stay there and wandered off on to the main road or a stranger came in and abused or abducted him. All these things weighed on my client’s mind.'

Wrexham council have not yet commented on the settlement.


Government schools as middle-class welfare

Australian commentator Gerard Henderson is really stirring the pot below. But what he is implicitly advocating would move even more kids into private schools, which would undoubtedly be a good thing

These days, it's all the fashion to condemn middle class welfare - except when such largesse is enjoyed by relatively well-off parents who educate their children in a government school.

Last week, a friend who lives on Sydney's lower north shore received a wanted-to-buy letter from a real estate agent. The agent had a client "who is currently looking to buy a 3-4 bedroom house in the North Sydney area". The potential purchasers have two requirements: first, "they are looking to spend $1.3 to $2 million". Second, they are "looking to move into the catchment area for North Sydney Demonstration School".

So the purchasers expect to spend up to $2 million on a house. Good luck to them. And they expect that taxpayers will fund the education of their children virtually free of charge at a well-regarded comprehensive government primary school. After that, the children would still be in the "catchment area" for one or more of the well-regarded government secondary schools on the lower north shore.

If well-off Australians choose to forgo private health insurance and rely on Medicare and the public hospital system, they are required to pay a higher Medicare levy. However, when well-off Australians avoid private education and rely on the government system for the education of their children, there is no financial disincentive of any kind. The taxpayer pays all.

The concept of free education is so ingrained in the Australian national psyche that it is rarely, if ever, challenged. So even the rich can have their children educated for free without economics journalists who bang on about middle class welfare saying a word.

The expert panel headed by David Gonski, whose final report on the Review of Funding for Schooling was recently handed to the Gillard government, did not tackle this issue. Why? Well, it was not in their terms of reference because this is not a discussable matter. That's why.

Gonski and his colleagues recommended that "in a new model for funding non-government schools, the assessment of a non-government school's need for public funding should be based on the anticipated capacity of the parents enrolling their children to contribute financially towards the school's resource requirements".

This is a fair point. However, if the parents' capacity to pay is a relevant criterion when assessing government funding of private schools, why is it irrelevant when assessing the taxpayer funding of government schools?

In other words, why should a person who lives in a $2 million house in North Sydney pay nothing to educate his or her children - while a person of modest means living in a rented flat be required to make a financial contribution to educating their children in the local Catholic primary school or some similar entity?

The question is never answered because it is rarely asked. I made this point some years ago when I received a rare invitation to address a literary festival. The atheist-inclined, sandal-wearing Byron Bay set became most upset when I suggested that in a truly egalitarian society the middle class should make a contribution to the education of their children, perhaps even grandchildren, attending government schools.

The issue of state aid to non-government schools was an issue throughout much of the 20th century. The demand came from Catholics who had established their own separate education system in the late 19th century. A convenient brief account of this controversy can be found in the book A History of State Aid by, among others, Ian R. Wilkinson and published by the Education Department in 2006, when Julie Bishop was the federal minister.

The Catholic campaign achieved two major breakthroughs in the 1960s, when the governing Liberal Party was anxious to ensure preferences from the Democratic Labor Party, which had substantial Catholic support in Victoria and Queensland.

In late 1963, Robert Menzies announced that the Commonwealth would provide all secondary schools with money for science laboratories. Then, in 1967, Henry Bolte's Liberal government in Victoria provided per capita funding for children attending non-government schools. In time, all non-government schools benefited from these initiatives.

Initially, opposition to state aid came from those opposed to Catholic schools. In more recent times, opponents of state aid have consisted of individuals opposed to non-government schools - sometimes because they oppose religious schools, whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Protestant - and sometimes because they believe government always knows best.

What the critics of the non-government sector overlook is the fact that less well-off parents who make a contribution to their children's education reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer. Whereas well-off parents who send their children to comprehensive or selective government schools get a free ride on the taxpayer. Not only on Sydney's lower north shore.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Collective Bargaining Curbs Save Wisconsin Schools Millions

The very legislation that nearly provoked riots inside Wisconsin’s capital also saved many school districts from financial ruin or having to fire significant numbers of teachers, concludes a report released this morning from the Education Action Group.

The Wisconsin legislature and Gov. Scott Walker (R) passed Act 10 in early 2011. It sparked a weeks-long, raucous protest in Madison’s streets and the capitol building, as well as a recall against Walker, his lieutenant governor, and four state representatives. The law limits most public-sector collective bargaining to salaries, not benefits, and caps public employee’s annual raises at the rate of inflation.

“Act 10, or at least some form of it, was desperately needed,” the report quotes from Glenn Schilling, superintendent of Hartland-Lakeside schools. “Collective bargaining is outdated. Things that made sense 20 or 30 years ago no longer make sense. But to get things out of the contract and make needed changes was impossible.”

Facing a $3 billion budget deficit, Walker cut state school spending by $555 per student, advocating the collective bargaining restrictions as a door to balanced budgets for districts that had to then cover their own shortfalls.

Act 10 also let districts require public employees to contribute up to 12.6 percent of their salaries to health insurance and 5.8 percent to pensions. Both figures are just below the averages of what private workers in the state pay for the same benefits.

Because of these requirements, just the ten school districts that saved the most this fiscal year together saved $85.6 million, according to figures from the MacIver Institute.

“Hundreds of school districts saved a great deal of money,” the report says, “which helped them absorb the blow of reduced tax revenue. Those savings would not have occurred without Act 10.”

Freedom for School Districts

Before Act 10, unions could negotiate with districts on nearly any detail of school organization or spending they liked. The report details how pre-Act 10 arbitration systems locked school districts into unwanted, unwieldy practices and high spending.

“The tools given to us were absolutely necessary,” New Berlin finance director Roger Dickson told the report authors. “We could have been facing cuts in programs, increasing class sizes and a watered-down curriculum.”

In New Berlin, the teacher salary schedule was set so that teachers could move from a $38,000 salary to $78,000 annual salary in nine years. Union officials refused to revisit the schedule or an expensive early retirement program, even though the school district was broke, until Act 10 went into effect. Using the act as leverage, the school board was finally able to renegotiate.

Union Budget Obstruction

Since 1998, teacher benefits more than doubled statewide, to $27, 053 per year, while teacher salaries increased by approximately one-quarter, from $37,897 to $50,627. Both increased every year, despite the recent recession, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“Arbitrators could force school districts to give their union employees large raises without strongly considering whether the schools or local taxpayers could afford such an expenditure,” the report notes.

The report lists many instances across the state of union officials obstructing school boards’ efforts to balance budgets, keep taxes low, and maintain education quality for students. It also discusses many bargaining agreements required schools to purchase expensive, union-affiliated health insurance, rather than shopping around.

This school year, despite cuts but able to negotiate health costs and more, districts hired 1,799 more new hires than teachers they laid off or saw retire, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.


Church of England schools 'to expand to combat secularism'

Hundreds of new Church of England schools are to be opened to spread Christianity and combat “aggressive secularism”, it emerged today.

At least 200 Anglican primaries and secondaries could be established within the next five years as part of a major expansion plan outlined by the Church.

A report – to be published later this week – will also recommend rebranding existing Anglican schools to “reinvigorate” them in the face of competition from new academies and free schools.

The Church will also propose a more structured programme of advice to secular schools on improving their religious education and boosting exam results.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s board of education, said major reform was needed to tackle “the level of religious illiteracy in our society”.

He also said the changes – to be formally outlined in a report released on Friday – would allow faith leaders to confront the growing influence of secularism.

It follows comments last month by Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, that British society was under threat from a rising tide of “militant secularisation”.

Bishop Pritchard said: “The whole national context is one in which secularist debates, whether it be on equality, gay marriage, employment in schools, a whole range of things, are bringing up the issues of secularist versus [religious] approaches to society’s life.”

Currently, the CofE runs 4,800 out of 23,000 state schools in England.

But the Church is keen to expand its influence on the back of the academies and free schools programme, which takes schools out of direct local authority control and places them in the hands of charities, entrepreneurs and faith groups.

Speaking before the publication of the report, Bishop Pritchard told the Sunday Times that around 200 new schools could be opened under the reforms in just five years.

The report will also suggest joining with other religions to open a new wave of multi-faith schools.

A group of Church officials is also to be created to design a re-branding strategy for existing Anglican schools, which could result in a new name or logo, internal reorganisation and a campaign advertising the benefits of a faith-based schooling.

Bishop Pritchard, who has led the review, accused the Government of failing to prioritise religious education.

“Successive secretaries of state have discovered that [religion] is such a contentious area and because the level of religious illiteracy in out society is so high, that we don’t know how to handle religious diversity,” he said.


Furious parents withdraw children from Italian nursery after it's revealed teacher posed for glamour calendar

The fathers probably did not object

Furious parents have pulled their children out of an Italian nursery school after it emerged that one of the teachers posed for glamour calendars as part of her extra curricular activities.

Brunette Michela Roth, 38, sparked fury among mothers at the school but - unsurprisingly - not fathers, after news leaked out that she had posed in sexy see through underwear.

American born Miss Roth, who has lived in Italy for more than ten years, has also won several beauty contests including 'Miss Mamma Italiana' and 'Miss Cultetto D'Oro' (Miss Golden Bottom) and has been the talks of TV chat shows and newspapers since the story broke.

In a country which at times still struggles to throw off its sexist attitude and its obsession with scantily clad women it is the latest in a series of stories which have focused on the attractiveness of protagonists.

Only last month a bar owner who served in skimpy tops and short skirts made headlines around the world after her local newspaper printed several pictures of her.

Miss Roth, is a teacher at Castello di Serravalle near Bologna and today was not at all fazed at the fact parents has pulled their children out of the nursery.

She said: 'For me being a model is my second job. I do shoots when school is over and especially in the holidays when I am back in the United States. I am always dressed in the pictures and never naked.

'Maybe I could have been a model but I just love being a teacher. I think there is a little bit of envy going on here and it has gone over the top - there are also mums who tell me that their children can't wait to see me in the morning.'

Miss Roth found herself in the spotlight after posing for a Harley Davidson calendar and after news leaked out furious parents began pulling their children out of the school with one telling the local newspaper: 'She is too attractive and I don't want her teaching my son.'

However Miss Roth hit back and said: 'You just have to ask anyone at the school who will tell you that I am a complete professional when it comes to being a teacher and a model.

'I've heard that the parents who have withdrawn their children are in the park trying to convince the other parents to do the same - I imagined I might get some criticism but I never thought parents would take their children out of the school.'

On her Facebook page their are pictures of the mother of one at the beauty contest as well as her kick boxing in micro-shorts and vest, while she describes her status as 'complicated.'.

Her favourite quotation is: 'Women would like to have more children than that have but if they do they have to turn their back on their careers and professional life. In Italy there is a problem of feminine liberty that affects the possibility of procreating, of having children without being penalised.'

As of today Miss Roth's Facebook page had been inundated with requests for friendship with more than 2,500 subscribers while her local newspaper Il Resto del Carlino ran an online poll which showed 82 per cent of readers backing her.

The head of the school was unavailable for comment but a meeting to discuss the situation is due to be held with parents later this week.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Harsh Rhetoric Tempts Bad Law

The governor of Utah recently vetoed a law that would have banned schools from teaching contraception in sex education classes in the state. I have mixed feelings, both about the veto and the proposed law. As a conservative, I dislike the idea of passing laws that reduce free speech and the flow of information in the classroom. At the same time, as an advocate of a parent’s right to govern the education of their children, I can understand the frustration that makes such a law tempting in the first place.

All things being equal, I would desire decisions about teaching policy at individual schools to be made at the lowest possible level, with the greatest possible deference given to the parents unless some truly indispensable knowledge is at stake. The history of court decisions in this country, most notably in the 9th Circuit, tells a far different story. Parents are increasingly feeling left out of decisions that affect their ability to educate, discipline, or even raise their children without some form of government interference. The spirit of this problem is reflected in the statement of one of the comments of one critic of the proposed laws:

Is it not categorically absurd to think that if we don’t teach our children about it, they will operate effectively from a paradigm of ignorance and make good decisions?”
It would indeed be absurd were that what was actually being proposed. It is not. The statement assumes that only the public school system is willing and qualified to provide children and adolescents with a reasonable level of knowledge pertaining to sex. The history of public schools, particularly in recent decades, hardly shows them to be the last bastion of capable instruction. Indeed, parents teaching students at home have begun to show that parents are quite capable of instructing students better than teaching professionals when available. This is not to denigrate the work of teachers. This simply recognizes that public school settings can seldom match the attention and motivation that parents are able to give their own children. To insist that they are incapable of educating their children with regards to some of the most important decisions they will make in life is arrogant and presumptuous, and does nothing to promote the kind of partnership between parents and teachers that would truly benefit everyone.
Antisemitic students at University of California San Diego (UCSD)‏ supported by faculty


California campuses have become the epicenter for anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American activism, student groups at UC San Diego led by Students for Justice in Palestine introduced — for the third time — an initiative aimed at divesting university funds from “U.S. companies that profit from violent conflict and occupation.”

In the end, the student groups who had sponsored this odious divestment resolution actually lost their bid to implement it.

Supporters of the divestment initiative immediately proclaimed that the initiative had failed because opponents of the resolution were “racists” and bigots. They claimed opponents pressured the student government representatives to vote down the campaign in a manner that created a “hostile campus climate … for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities,” suffering victims who are now “hurt, [and] feel disrespected, silenced, ignored and erased by this University.”These victimized students and faculty also self-righteously proclaimed in a letter to the UCSD administration that the pro-Israel faculty and staff who spoke against the resolution at the meeting should not even have had a voice in the proceedings: “The fact that they can state whatever they like at public meetings because of academic freedom but while also using their positions of authority as professors or staff for power and intimidation is not acceptable.

Letter from The Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East:

We are the members of the board of Scholarsfor Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a grass-roots community of more than 50,000 academics on 4,000 campuses all over the world, who have united to promote honest fact based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We have noted with concern the degradation of civil discourse on campus and the increasing harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel and Jewish students and faculty in Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
In response to that concern, the SPME Legal Taskforce recently produced a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Speech.

Recent events at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) are a case in point. On February 29, 2012, after having tabled it in the two prior years, the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD, the student government) defeated a resolution calling on the University system to divest from US companies, specifically General Electric and Northrop Grumman. UCSD's Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had proposed the resolution, alleging that those companies supply components of Apache Helicopters that are sold to Israel and used by Israel's defense forcesagainst the Palestinian "population."After seven hours of contentious public statements and debate, the ASUCSD voted against the resolution.

One of the speakers who opposed the resolution was UCSD University Professor Shlomo Dubnov of the Music department, who heads the campus chapter of SPME. He reported to us that pro-divestment students at the meeting had used abusive language toward anti-divestment students and had called him a racist.

On March 2, leaders of five student organizations (SAAC, MEChA, KP, BSU, MSA, SJP) who had led the pro-divestment initiative sent a letter to faculty, administrators, and members of the UCSD Campus Climate Council "to address the hostile campus climate being created for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities." The letter alleged that pro-Israel speakers at the meeting who referred to themselves as ‘UCSD staff' or ‘UCSD professor' used their positions as University employees to verbally attack students and to even "erase the existence of many individuals in the room."

Their letter also states: "Students report that at this meeting one particular Music Department faculty member verbally harassed a student outside of the 4th floor Forum," presumably referring to Professor Dubnov, who was the only member of the Music Department at the meeting. He asserts that he never engaged in any direct conversation with pro-divestment students in that setting and that numerous faculty, staff and UCSD students can verify that. Professor Dubnov shared the letter and his denial of the allegations with the head of the UCSD Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, who is investigating these allegations and verifying the specifics with others who were in attendance.

The complaints were never officially filed but sent publicly in a series of emails to the UCSD departments of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies and to the San Diego Faculty Association (SDFA). Without any fact-finding, the SDFA immediately endorsed the allegations and issued a public statement accusing pro-Israel faculty, and Professor Dubnov specifically, of verbally attacking "students of color."

SPME believes that the SDFA has violated the UCSD code of conduct and compromised its integrity by publishing unproven allegations. We urge UCSD to determine which individuals present at the February 29 meeting were actually using abusive language, and to implement whatever procedures the UCSD codes specify.

Received via email

Work experience is key to gaining a place on top British university courses

State school pupils could be missing out on places at top universities because they are not doing enough work experience, a study suggests.

Work placements are seen as essential or desirable for large numbers of prestigious courses at Russell Group universities, particularly medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

But state school pupils are less likely than those from independent schools to undertake such placements, the Manchester University study found.

Researchers found university applications from independent school pupils drew on 55 per cent more examples of work experience than those from state school pupils, and the nature of the work was also different.

State school candidates were more likely to cite unskilled work, such as Saturday jobs, than a placement or internship, while independent school pupils were six times more likely than their state school counterparts to cite work ‘experiences’ instead.

Dr Steven Jones, who conducted the research, said debates on university access must ‘recognise that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement’.

Dr Jones studied admissions requirements at the Russell Group of leading universities and found that work experience was desirable for all veterinary science courses, 91 per cent of dentistry, 88 per cent of medicine, 37 per cent of law courses, 28 per cent of engineering courses and 21 per cent of business and economics courses.

Presenting the findings at a seminar staged by the Education and Employers Taskforce, Dr Jones said: 'There is a need for debates surrounding university access to recognise that work experience is important in the admissions process, and that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement.'

He said state school A-level students with good grades could end up 'missing' from top universities due to a lack of good quality work experience.

Dr Anthony Mann, director of policy and research for Education and Employers Taskforce said: 'Dr Jones's research provides new evidence demonstrating the high importance of work experience to HE admissions.

'It makes a difference to who gains admission to highly competitive courses which are gateways to attractive professional careers. 'It is important that state schools are aware of its importance and helped to access the sort of placements which independent schools routinely source through their alumni.'

Chris Sydenham, head teacher of the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, a comprehensive in West London, said: 'Young people want to do meaningful work experience but placements are often hard to find for those without family or other accessible and usable connections with the working world.'


Australia: Private schooling is clearly better

Randwick Boys High and Randwick Girls High are next door to each other yet separated by a wide divide in academic performance. The boys school ranks 458 on the MySchool website while the girls school ranks 231. So close yet so far apart. Just how distracted are the boys for them to lag so behind the girls in performance?

According to data on the MySchool website, the schools have very similar socio-economic catchment areas, as expected, while Randwick Boys received $1220 more per student than Randwick Girls last year. So why was there such a gap in overall results as measured by the federal government's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scores?

I hadn't realised the difference between the aptitude and attention spans of girls was so much greater than boys of comparable social background. Unless there is more to the story. There is. Randwick Boys High is not unusual. It is emblematic of a broad divergence in performances when like-for-like comparisons are made via the MySchool data base and its socio-economic index known as ICSEA.

The disparity is stark when public and private high schools with comparable scores on the ICSEA socio-economic index are compared.

Just down the street from Randwick Boys is the Catholic boys school Marcellin College. Again, the schools are close in every way except academic ranking. They are close on the ICSEA index. Randwick Boys also received $614 more per student than Marcellin College last year.

Yet in the overall NAPLAN scores, Marcellin ranks 122, far ahead of Randwick Boys at 458. Marcellin's ranking is also more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls, which wipes out the female superiority factor. Another nearby Catholic boys schools, Waverley College, also ranks much higher than both Randwick Boys and Randwick Girls, at 165.

It's not just about money. Although Waverley rated higher than Marcellin in the ICSEA index, and received almost 30 per cent more income per student, Marcellin delivered more bang for the buck, outranking its Catholic rival by 43 places.

Overall, the MySchool is telling us that private schools are producing a better education than public comprehensive schools even when they have similar resources and similar socio-economic catchment areas. The disparity in performance does not change when the comparison is shifted to girls schools.

Again, the distance between Randwick Girls High and a nearby Catholic girls school, Brigidine College, is not great except in academic rankings. The two schools are a couple of streets apart. They are very close on the ICSEA socio-economic index, with a slight advantage to Brigidine. Financially, they are almost identical. Brigidine received $11,337 per student last year and Randwick Girls received slightly more, $11,444 (both below the state average of $12,539).

Brigidine used its similar modest resources to excel, ranking 120 on MySchool, more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls. Another nearby Catholic girls school, St Clare's, Waverley, again with a socio-economic index similar to Randwick Girls, also ranks much higher at 152.

An even more striking gap exists between Randwick Girls and St Catherine's, an Anglican girls school in Waverley. They are only 2.7 kilometres apart and there is not a great socio-economic distance, with St Catherine's ranking 10 per cent higher (wealthier?) on the ICSEA index.

The similarities end there. St Catherine's ranks 52, an elite performance among the state's 783 secondary schools. It also received $21,020 per student, almost $10,000 more than Randwick Girls. That explains a lot.

The difference in incomes came from the pockets of parents, who paid a stiff premium in the expectation of their daughters receiving a markedly superior education than they would at a comprehensive public school. Parents of Brigidine and St Clare's girls also received superior performances for their investment, which usually involves financial strain. These are not rich schools.

Obviously, it is only fair to acknowledge that comprehensive schools are being strip-mined of their best and most motivated students (and parents) by selective public schools and private schools, which now have 40 per cent of the student population.

It is also important to note a wide discrepancy in the percentage of students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds in the seven schools mentioned here: Randwick Boys 75 per cent, Randwick Girls 55, Brigidine 28, Marcellin 23, St Clare's 21, St Catherine's 13 and Waverley College 7.

The high percentage of non-English-speaking-background students at Randwick Boys would appear to account for the drag in the school's relative performance. But this in itself is not a marker of disadvantage. Many of the best schools in the state have very high percentages of such students.

The top academic school in NSW, James Ruse Agricultural High, has 96 per cent of its students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The MySchool data offers an overall conclusion: when private schools and public schools are handed a similar cohort of students and income, most private schools produce clearly better results.

For those with reservations about the MySchool rankings, I share those reservations. However, this is transparency at work.

This is a Julia Gillard-driven initiative that is designed to drive improvements in performances. Soon, the NSW government will introduce a momentous change, giving independence to public school principals.

Headmasters will have to spend a lot more time on management and budgets than they do now. But they will be largely liberated from the NSW Education Department. They will have the flexibility enjoyed by private school principals, and resources can be shifted from the bloated central bureaucracy to front-line schooling.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Governor Jindal’s School Voucher and Tenure Reform Bills Pass Louisiana House Education Committee

Voucher and Tenure Reform Bills Pass House Committee by Wide Margins, Head to Senate Committee

In two landslide votes, the Louisiana House Education Committee passed a voucher reform bill, HB.976, and a teacher tenure reform bill, HB.974, by margins of 12-6 and 13-5, respectively. The bills are part of a larger education reform package proposed by Governor Bobby Jindal, which includes vouchers for students in under-performing public schools, performance-based tenure, and tax credits for individuals and businesses to sponsor tuition for the schools that best meet a child’s educational needs.

“This is great progress for the hundreds of activists engaged in the campaign for school choice in Louisiana,” commented David Spielman, Campaigns Coordinator for FreedomWorks. “We have been working tirelessly to educate taxpayers on the merits of competition in the educational marketplace, especially in a state that currently ranks 49th in the nation. We will be at the Capitol today to urge the Senate Education Committee to pass their versions of the voucher and teacher tenure reform bills today, and to remind them that children are worth challenging the status quo for.”

FreedomWorks and its network of 15,000 volunteer activists in the state of Louisiana launched a grassroots campaign this week to support Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform package. To advance these reforms, a broad coalition of local activists, tea party groups, and educational reform groups have been visiting district offices, phone banking, door-to-door neighborhood walking, as well as hosting strategy calls, education seminars and campaign meetings throughout the state. FreedomWorks plans to maximize the efforts of the activists on the ground with voter education materials, targeted door hangers, yard signs, t-shirts, and bumper magnets. FreedomWorks is confident that these measures will pass both legislative chambers, and despite protests from the unions, end up on the Governor’s desk for his signature soon.


Campus Paper Won‘t Print Horowitz Response to ’Anti-Muslim Bigot’ Charge‏

When David Horowitz, famed pro-Israel and anti-radical Islam activist, spoke at the University of North Carolina, he received a famously chilly reception from the students, including one whose father has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But UNC wasn’t done with Horowitz – he was also hammered by no less than three people in the campus paper, the Daily Tar Heel for alleged anti-Muslim feelings.

Horowitz isn’t taking it lying down. In a letter originally sent to (and apparently rejected by) the Daily Tar Heel, obtained exclusively by the Blaze, Horowitz throws down the gauntlet for his critics and challenges them on the idea that speaking out against radical Islam necessarily makes one a bigot:
Bronson Brim
Chairman Daily Tar Heel Board
University of North Carolina

Dear Bronsom,
I am appealing to you as the chairman of the Tar Heel Board to honor the principles of journalistic integrity that are included in the statement of Tar Heel policy. I note that the Tar Heel policy commits the Tar Heel to embracing standard journalistic ethics and to serving opinions that are not generally heard in the UNC community.
I have been slandered by three opinion columnists of your paper as anti-Muslim bigot. Your own reporter accurately quoted the statement I made in my speech at UNC two days ago that there are good Muslims as well as bad Muslims. I also said in a passage she didn’t quote that the majority of Muslims are decent, law abiding people who want peace. I made no statements in my speech that could be construed as anti-Muslim. I asked your editor Steven Norton to publish a short letter in which I defended myself. So far I have not heard back from him despite repeated attempts to reach him. Is it your policy to allow people to use your pages to defame others without evidence and have no opportunity to respond and clear their name? Consider that the UNC students who invited me now stand accused on their own campus of inviting a religious bigot. Surely, politics aside, the Tar Heel community should have the decency to recognize when an injustice is being done not only to an invited visitor but to UNC students to correct it.

This is my the letter I sent to Steven Norton responding to the slander by Josh Orol and Stephen Mitchell which appeared your paper:
Dear Steven,

While the Tar Heel reporter wrote a fair-minded piece about the circumstances surrounding my speech (and I applaud you for that), two op-ed columns and a letter also appeared which misrepresented what I said and defamed me in the process. I would very much appreciate it if you would run the following as a letter to the editor, or preferably as an op-ed column:

Apparently, it is easier for the presidents of campus Hillel and the Muslim Students Association to condemn a defender of Israel than to condemn those who call for the destruction of Israel and America, and the murder of their inhabitants. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah has called for “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” publicly as have Mahmoud Achmadinejad, the president of Iran, Mahmoud al-Zahar, the founder and leader of Hamas and Ahmed Bahar, a lesser known member of Hamas who was chairman of the Gaza Parliament. The spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusef al-Qaradawi has publicly said that the Holocaust was a just punishment for the Jews and wished that the followers of Allah would finish the job that Hitler started. On campuses across America, members of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association along with assorted leftwing groups have chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The Jordan River is Israel’s eastern border; the Mediterranean Sea is its border to the west. In other words these students are chanting “Destroy the Jewish state.”

In their Tar Heel columns, the presidents of MSA and Hillel accuse me of being an anti-Muslim bigot. This is a lie exposed by the Tar Heel’s own reporter who quoted me accurately saying in my speech, “There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims.” I also said that “the majority of Muslims [are]… “decent, law abiding citizens…who want peace.” I then pointed out that there were also good Germans but that in the end they didn’t make “a damn’s worth of difference.” This is a true statement, and no one would accuse me of being anti-German for making it.

Unfortunately, conflating Muslim terrorists with all Muslims is a typical tactic of campus apologists for jihadists who are at war with Israel and the United States. Opponents of the Islamic jihad against the West, like myself, are routinely accused of being “anti-Muslim,” which is a term designed to shut down debate and make opponents of genocidal movements seem the indecent ones — instead of those who make excuses for them. This concerted assault on a civil exchange of ideas does not prevent these same students from forming groups like “The UNC Committee on Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue” whose founder walked out of my speech when it had barely begun.

The closed-minded students – mainly but not exclusively members of MSA – who came not to listen to what I had to say but with the intention of walking out on cue exemplified an attitude that is all too common on campuses today. The intent of these “protests” is to defame a speaker whose views they oppose but cannot answer intellectually.

The Environmental Studies major who joined their walkout and wrote a letter about it to the Tar Heel is apparently hard of hearing. I did not say that Palestinians were descended from red-headed Philistines. I said the geographical term “Palestine” is an appellation that was given by the Romans to the historic homeland of the Jews to humiliate them since it was indeed from derived the word “Philistine,” their historic enemies.

Mahmoud Al-Zahar, the co-founder of Hamas and one of its current leaders has said, “There is no place for you Jews among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.” If the Muslim Students Association on this campus does not support Hamas or this statement, its leaders should say so. If the student co-president of campus Hillel is appalled by this statement he should not call someone who is also appalled by it “anti-Muslim.” The majority of Muslims, as I said in my speech, are law-abiding, decent and peaceful people who would (or should) be appalled by it as well.

David Horowitz

For those curious what Horowitz is responding to, this sample from UNC Hillel President Josh Orol’s article should sum it up nicely:
To make the broad claim that Arabs want to kill Jews — and that Islam is a militant religion bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States — is to destroy the principle of pluralism that the freedom of speech is meant to uphold.

Horowitz’s remarks marginalize Muslims and their faith, undermining the respect for minorities that makes possible UNC’s diverse but unified student body.

We will not stand for discriminatory generalizations directed toward any group of students on this campus, especially ones with whom we have such a good relationship. UNC Hillel students stand in public solidarity with the UNC Muslim Student Association and all those whom Horowitz has offended. Hate speech has no place in our community.

Orol has yet to author any pieces condemning the anti-Jewish bigotry of many prominent Arab leaders in the third world. Nor is it clear why the Tar Heel has refused to print Horowitz’s reply.


Bullied to death in an Australian school

Indiscipline bears fruit. Guess why 39% of Australian High School students are in private schools?

THE family of teenager Alex Wildman, who took his own life after being beaten and bullied at school, is to receive a six-figure payout from the New South Wales Education department.

The 14-year-old died by suicide on July 25, 2008 at his family's home at Goonellabah, near Lismore, after being bullied by other pupils at Kadina High School.

Alex, described as a "highly intelligent and sensitive young man", endured attacks and threats at Ingleburn High School in Sydney in 2007 and the bullying started again when he moved to Kadina.

A coroner found bullying had contributed to his suicide and made various recommendations, including that the department ensure students at large high schools have access to full-time school counsellors.

The family began a civil case against the department, claiming it breached its duty of care owed to Alex.

But on Friday - the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - a District Court judge was told the case had been settled in favour of the family.

The figure, believed to be close to $1 million, will be held in trust until the youngest of Alex's three siblings turns 18.

A departmental statement later said the death of Alex was a tragedy.

"The NSW Department of Education and Communities offers its condolences to Alex's family and friends," it said. "The recommendations from the coronial inquiry into Alex Wildman's death are being implemented by the department.

"The terms of settlement in this matter make further comment inappropriate."


Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Supreme Court can’t fix university admissions policies

Universities have a history of ignoring the law to engineer the right ethnic mix on campus

The charming assumption of the plaintiffs in Fisher v. University of Texas—a case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear—is that if five robed justices behind mahogany desks tell universities to stop discriminating by race in their admissions policies, universities will stop. (Fisher involves a white female student allegedly passed over for admission in favor of less-qualified minority candidates.) Yet regardless of what the justices say, university officials will give up their firstborns before they let go of their beloved racial preferences.

Fisher backers hope that the presence of John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the bench means that the Supremes will shut the door that their ruling in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger flung open to racial preferences. In Grutter, the Court accepted the University of Michigan’s argument that “diversity” was a compelling state interest. And consideration of race on an individualized basis was constitutionally acceptable to promote it.

After Grutter, the University of Texas went to town.

A little history: The 5th Circuit Court’s 1996 Hopwood ruling had banned the University of Texas from explicitly using race in admissions, prompting then-Gov. George W. Bush to sign Texas’ pioneering “10 percent solution,” a race-neutral way to help state schools keep their minority numbers up. Under his solution, Texas automatically admits the top 10 percent of every school’s graduating class, including inner-city schools. Even liberals admit that this strategy was better for campus diversity than the regime of straight-up preferences.

But once Grutter gave the green light to race-based admissions, UT decided that the 10 percent strategy was not yielding a “critical mass” of minority students in every major and every classroom. Hence, it tacked its old race-based standard onto the new scheme. The upshot? The university’s Hispanic and African American population went up from 23.23 percent to 26.65 percent—a whopping 3.42 percentage-point bump.

Racial preference opponents are hoping that the Supreme Court will overrule the racial component of Texas admissions and—if they get lucky—the Grutter decision itself. But what if they get their wish? Will that usher in a new era of colorblind campuses?

Not a chance.

For starters, the 10 percent solution is something of a scam, one that seeks a specific racial outcome via race-neutral means. But the instructive case of Michigan’s public universities offers more evidence as to what happens when race-ban activists get what they want: nada. In 2006, outraged by the Grutter ruling, Michigan voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that outlawed race in government hiring and college admissions. Undeterred, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman defiantly declared that she “will find ways to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity.”

She wasn’t bluffing.

She enlisted the College Board, the company that administers the SAT, to develop Descriptor Plus, a geo-demographic tagging service, to filter applicants. This involves using demographic factors other than race to identify under-represented “neighborhood clusters.” Here’s how it works, in theory: Descriptor Plus could identify, say, two clusters of low-income students living in single-parent homes, one cluster in a predominantly black Detroit ZIP code and another in a majority-white ZIP code in upper Michigan. The University of Michigan could then decide that it wants to give the Detroit cluster greater preference than the one in upper Michigan, thus achieving a racially balanced student body without openly using race.

Such flouting of voter will would be bad enough. But UCLA law professor Richard Sander maintains that the university’s claims that it had given up the explicit use of race for Descriptor Plus were “total bulls***.” Sander, a self-avowed liberal who opposes preferences because he believes they harm minorities, filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain Michigan’s admissions data for 2008. The university’s minority numbers had barely budged, something that was hard to explain, even with Descriptor Plus. The only way this could have happened was if the university was still explicitly using race, Sander’s regression analysis revealed.

This demonstrates that universities will use proxies, subterfuge and outright violation of the law in their quest for the “right” student mix. And it raises a troublesome question: Is there some way to get them to stop? There’s nothing foolproof, unfortunately. Going through courts and legislatures is an exercise in futility. For example, getting the University of Michigan to give up race requirements would require more time-consuming FOIA requests to gather information, then filing lawsuits (in which the university would outspend and out-lawyer its opponents). Meanwhile, the legislature would have to engage in an intrusive examination of the university’s books, inevitably inviting accusations of abrogating academic freedom.

The best option might be to open up university admissions to public scrutiny through full-disclosure laws. Just as publicly traded companies are required to disclose accurate financial information to investors, public universities should be required to declare what admission standards they use for which groups (including, incidentally, children of alumni and donors, the other big beneficiaries of preferences) along with each group’s graduation rates. This would force the universities to defend any blatant double-standard in public. And smart kids who felt that the university was diluting its standards too much might choose other schools—as might minority students who feel the university is setting them up for failure.

This solution is far from ideal, of course. But realism might be a better friend in fighting this battle than starry-eyed appeals to the Supremes.


Girl, 12, 'interrogated' by school staff until she gives up Facebook password

This is a disgrace. How is this caring for the children?

A 12-year-old girl is suing her school district after staff at Minnesota middle school searched her Facebook and e-mail accounts.

The sixth-grade Minnewaska Area Middle School student, named in court documents as R.S., claims she twice suffered humiliating punishment for things she had written on Facebook.

She was also pressured by school officials to given them her password.Her complaint, back by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges that the girl's First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

It states: 'R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room' as she watched a counsellor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The girl claims she felt that one of the school's adult hall monitors was picking on her, so she wrote on her Facebook wall that she hated the monitor because she was mean. The message was not posted from school property or using any school equipment or connections, the lawsuit states.

Somehow, the school principal got a hold of a screenshot of the message, and punished R.S. with detention and made her apologize to the hall monitor.

She was in trouble again shortly thereafter for another Facebook post, which asked who turned her in, using an expletive for effect. She was given in school suspension and missed a class ski trip.

In the third incident, according to the complaint, R.S. was called in by school officials after the guardian of another student complained that R.S. had had a conversation about sex on Facebook.

The girl was allegedly called to a meeting with a deputy sheriff, school counsellor and an unidentified employee, where she was intimidated into giving up her login and passwords to her Facebook and e-mail accounts.

‘R.S. was extremely nervous and being called out of class and being interrogated,’ the lawsuit says. It adds that the officials did not have permission from R.S.'s mother to view her private communications, and gave her a hard time about some of the material they discovered.

The school district maintains that such searches did not cross any boundaries. A spokesperson said: ‘The district is confident that once all facts come to light, the district's conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate.’


British regulator says English standards in primary schools 'too low'

Standards of English in primary schools should be dramatically raised because too many pupils start secondary education with poor reading and writing skills, Ofsted warned today.

In a damning report, the education watchdog said almost a third of pupils who reached national targets at 11 failed to gain good GCSEs in the subject aged 16. It claimed that standards had been “flat” since 2005 because the demands put on children were too low.

Ofsted told of key weaknesses in the way the subject was delivered at all ages, with schools often shunning creative and extended writing tasks and failing to teach the basics of spelling and handwriting.

It also emerged that many schools were placing an “increasing emphasis” on analysing non-literary texts such as holiday brochures and complaint letters to pass exams instead of requiring pupils to read whole novels and poems.

The conclusions were made as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, prepared to outline a 10-point plan to drive up standards of reading and writing.

In a speech on Thursday, he will call on the Government to set tougher English targets for all 11-year-olds amid fears current demands in primary schools are too low – leaving children struggling with the basics in secondary education.

In a further move, Sir Michael will say that more specialist English teachers should be parachuted into primary schools – or clusters of small primaries – to drive improvements.

He also recommends:

* Giving parents regular updates on their children’s reading age – showing whether they are reaching the basic standard expected for their peer group;

* Prioritising Ofsted inspections in schools with the lowest levels of achievement in English;

* Sharpening up the inspection process to ensure all trainee teachers are being taught how to deliver phonics – the back-to-basics method of reading;

* Tightening up regulations for childminders and nurseries to ensure they place a greater emphasis on promoting speaking and listening skills among under-fives.

In a speech at a primary school in west London, Sir Michael will say: “There can be no more important subject than English. It is at the heart of our culture and literacy skills are crucial to pupils’ learning for all subjects.

“Yet too many pupils fall behind in their literacy early on. In most cases, if they can’t read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school careers.

“As a result, too many young adults lack the functional skills to make their way in the modern world. We are no longer a leading country in terms of our literacy performance: others are doing better.”

Currently, the average pupil is expected to achieve at least “Level 4” in exams taken at the end of primary school. This means they can write complex sentences and spell accurately in English.

Figures show around one-in-five children – more than 100,000 – currently fail to reach the benchmark each year. Results have only marginally increased between 2005 and 2011, it was revealed.

But Ofsted warned that hitting the target was no guarantee of success in secondary education. According to data, 45 per cent of pupils who just passed Level 4 at 11 failed to go on to gain at least a C grade in GCSE exams last summer – the result expected of the average 16-year-old. Some 29 per cent of the total number of Level 4 pupils missed out on a C grade.

In a report on the teaching of English, published to coincide with Sir Michael’s speech, Ofsted said that “too few schools gave enough thought to ways of encouraging the love of reading”, with many pupils failing to read whole texts.

A common activity in many English lessons was the "teaching of features of a persuasive text", said Ofsted, but this was involved "studying holiday brochures or writing letters of complaint" instead of reading novels and poems.

The teaching of writing was also “variable in quality, with too little attention given to spelling and handwriting”, Ofsted warned.

The Department for Education said it was already assessing English standards as part of a wider review of the National Curriculum and was introducing a reading check for all six-year-olds to pick out those struggling the most at the start of school.

“We want England to move back up the international league tables and for children to leave school with the knowledge that will stand them in good stead for their future careers and adult life,” a spokesman said.

But the comments were condemned by teachers’ leaders who accused Ofsted of attempting to undermine schools. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Both Ofsted and the government need to get the balance right between labelling pupils and their teachers as failures, and helping them improve learning. “Countless tests and stressful inspections are not the answer.”