Friday, April 06, 2012

 School removes God from the song "God bless the USA"

Parents at a Massachusetts elementary school are furious after educators first removed the word ‘God’ from the popular Lee Greenwood song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” and then pulled the song all together from an upcoming concert.

Fox 25 in Boston is reporting that children at Stall Brook Elementary School in Bellingham were told to sing, “We love the U.S.A.” instead of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

After parents started complaining, school officials removed the song from the school assembly concert. The school’s principal released a statement to Fox 25 stating they hope to ”maintain the focus on the original objective of sharing students’ knowledge of the U.S. States, and because of logistics, will not include any songs.”

Greenwood [song author] released a statement to Fox News condemning the school’s actions:  “The most important word in the whole piece of music is the word God, which is also in the title ‘God Bless The USA,” Greenwood said. “Maybe the school should have asked the parents their thoughts before changing the lyrics to the song. They could have even asked the writer of the song, which I of course, would have said you can’t change the lyrics at all or any part of the song.”

Greenwood said the phrase “God Bless the USA” has a “very important meaning for those in the military and their families, as well as new citizens coming into our country.” He said it’s also played at every naturalization ceremony behind the national anthem.

“If the song is good enough to be played and performed in its original setting under those circumstances, it surely should be good enough for our children,” Greenwood said.

An online poll taken by the television station indicated more than 80 percent of viewers were outraged by removing God from the song.

“I don’t have a problem with the song if somebody else does I guess it’s their business,” resident Patrick Grudier said. “I mean It’s on our currency (God).”

But not everyone agreed – including parent Matthew Cote.  “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changing the song,” he told the television. “It’s a public school. If you want to have the word God in the song, go to a private school.”

Reaction on Facebook has been overwhelmingly in favor of the traditional patriotic song.  “Here we go again, more war on Christianity,” wrote one Facebook user. “You can remove God all you want, but the good news — there is still a loving God and He lives.”

Another Facebook user called it sad and disgusting. “I’d like to say unbelievable — but it is so totally believable.”


Michigan Teacher's Aide Said She Was Disciplined for Not Giving Boss Facebook Access

When Kimberly Hester of Cass County, Mich. posted with permission a photo a coworker sent her on Facebook, she didn't think it would offend the public school where she taught, or lead the superintendent to demand access to her Facebook page. But a photo of her coworker with her pants down did just that.

Hester, 27, was a full-time peer professional, or teacher's aide, at Frank Squires Elementary in Cassapolis, Mich. for about two years. A year ago, in April 2011, a coworker texted a photo showing herself with her pants around her ankles, with the message "thinking of you" as a joke.

"She's actually quite funny. It was spur of the moment," adding that there was nothing pornographic about the picture, which only showed the pants, part of her legs, and the tips of her shoes.

"I couldn't stop laughing so I asked for her permission to post it [on Facebook]," she said. The coworker agreed. Hester said all this took place on their own time, not at or during work.

Hester said a parent (not of one of her students) showed the photo to the superintendent, calling it unprofessional and offensive. Hester said the photo could only be viewed by her Facebook friends. The parent happened to be a family friend.

In a few days, the superintendent of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District, Robert Colby, asked Hester to come to his office.

"Instead of asking to take the photo down and viewing it from my friend's point of view, they called me into the office without my union," she said. Hester is a member of the Michigan Education Association, which represents more than 157,000 teachers, faculty and support staff in the state, according to its website.

The superintendent asked that she show her Facebook profile page.

"I asked for my union several times, and they refused. They wanted me to do it right then and there," Hester said.

Colby did not immediately return a request for comment.

A letter from the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District said, "…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly."

Hester's story echoes reports of employers asking job applicants for access to their Facebook pages.

Robert McCormick, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, said normally in the private sector and in a non-union setting there is nothing to prevent an employer from asking for access to a Facebook page. But in a private sector setting, if an employee is summoned to a disciplinary meeting with the employer and requests union representation at that meeting, it is an unfair labor practice to refuse that representation.

"I would be surprised if Michigan law did not follow the same standards," he said.

Louis Chism, the school district's special education director, wrote in an email to ABC News, "At this time it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any aspect of this situation."


Ban on the cane in British schools 'left schools unable to impose discipline and led to deterioration in children's behaviour'

The scrapping of the cane has led to a deterioration in children’s behaviour at school, according to teachers.

Sanctions available to schools since corporal punishment was abolished 25 years ago are ‘totally inadequate’ at reasserting authority in the classroom and lack the same deterrent effect, they said yesterday.

While rejecting a return to the cane, members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers condemned existing sanctions such as detention and suspension.

‘Novel’ punishments are needed to allow teachers to reassert their authority in the classroom, they said.

Delegates at the association’s annual conference voted unanimously for research into ‘effective’ disciplinary methods.

‘When corporal punishment was abolished nothing was put in its place that had equivalent deterrent powers,’ said Julian Perfect, a teacher from London.

Laws forbidding state schools from using the cane or slipper to discipline pupils were introduced in 1987, and a decade later in independent schools.

But Mr Perfect pointed out that subsequent governments had failed to give teachers sufficient sanctions.

He added that while teachers have statutory authority to discipline pupils whose behaviour is unacceptable, governments have failed to suggest methods for making authority ‘meaningful’.

Suspensions and expulsions were now handed out all too rarely amid pressure on schools to reduce the number of pupils who are excluded from school, the conference also heard.

Research by the teachers’ association suggested pupil behaviour had declined further in recent years.

Responding to one of its surveys, a teacher said: ‘The children know that our hands are tied and play up frequently.  ‘In the past two years, we have only successfully permanently excluded one pupil. It is the good students whose education is being wrecked that I feel for.’

Another said: ‘Persistent low-level rudeness and disruption seems to have become a fact of life in education today and no longer raises eyebrows or seems to merit special attention.’

A third reported: ‘I had a female student threaten to kick the smile off my face, in front of a whole class.’

The association’s general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ‘Sanctions do have to be something students don’t want to have to endure.  ‘We’re not saying at all that children should fear teachers but they should respect them.  ‘If they go beyond the bounds of respecting a teacher there should be sanctions.  ‘And those sanctions should be something children would rather not face.’

Proposing a motion aimed at tackling poor behaviour in the classroom, Mr  Perfect said: ‘This does not seek the  reinstatement of corporal punishment but rather the identification of additional forms of sanction.’

Jean Roberts, who teaches at Old Oak Primary, London told the conference: ‘We need more research into behaviour  management particularly sanctions  that work, are equitable and can be  used widely in schools supported by  governments and parents.  ‘We have to ensure more of our classes are not disrupted but are places of real learning for all.’


Thursday, April 05, 2012

CA: School board to parents — “screw the law, we do what we want”

ADELANTO, California - A group of activist parents in this impoverished community were thwarted again in their bid to become the first in the nation to seize control of a public school under a controversial "parent trigger" law designed to shake up chronically failing schools.

Capping an emotional four-hour meeting, the board of the Adelanto School District in California's Mojave Desert voted 5-0 on Wednesday night to reject a petition invoking a 2010 state law that permits parents to effectively seize control of low-performing schools.

But supporters of the petition vowed to challenge the board's action in court.

The trigger effort, backed by a well-funded activist group, Parent Revolution, but opposed by the teacher's union, has been closely watched as a key battleground in an intensifying fight over the nation's $500 billion-a-year investment in public education.

The Florida legislature narrowly defeated a parent trigger bill earlier this month, after a fierce debate, and several other states, including New York, Michigan and Louisiana, may consider similar bills this year.

"The nation is watching this evening. California is watching," said former California state Senator Gloria Romero, who co-sponsored the legislation.

The outcome of Wednesday's meeting marked the second time the Adelanto board has denied a petition submitted by families seeking a takeover, finding they fell short in collecting valid signatures from parents representing at least half of the 642 students at Desert Trails Elementary.

The petition drive has been fraught with acrimony as the two sides accused each other of fraud and forgery in trying to meet the 50-percent threshold or in presenting rescission affidavits from parents who claimed they were misled into initially giving their support.

"I could care less if I don't get elected to office again, but today I stand for all of Adelanto in saying we will not be duped by anybody," school board member Jermaine Wright said in explaining her vote against the petition.

Even after a second rejection, it appeared the debate in Adelanto, a community of about 31,000 people made up predominantly of low-income minorities, was far from over.

Patrick DeTemple, the organizing director of Parent Revolution, said the group planned to challenge the board in court, insisting supporters had collected valid signatures from "a solid 70 percent of the parents."

At its core, the dispute has pitted parents ready to take drastic action to reshape management of their school against parents concerned that sweeping, untested changes promised under the "trigger" measure would worsen the situation.

"Our children are much too precious to turn them over to groups that have no track record of proven success," said Lanita Dominque, a teacher and president of the Adelanto District Teachers Association.

Petition supporters cited years of chronically poor academic performance at the school, where more than half of the students fail standardized state tests in math or reading.

Takeover advocates have called for converting Desert Trails into a charter school in the fall, allowing them to hire non-union teachers or renegotiate the union contract. They have said they would like the charter to be run by a coalition of parents, teachers and district administrators, rather than by a private charter school management company


    ‘Hijacking Holocaust Remembrance’: Video Slams ‘Anti-Israel Radicals’ at Northeastern University

Americans for Peace and Tolerance/On Campus (APT), an organization that claims to “expose radical ideologies that threaten the academic integrity and knowledge seeking mission of America’s college campuses,” has released a disturbing new video. The group, which deals with issues impacting Jewish students who support Israel, is accusing Northeastern University faculty of “abusing Holocaust Remembrance events for political purposes.”

APT claims the video exposes professors and guest lecturers comparing Israelis to Nazis, disparaging Jews and issuing other unfavorable statements in recordings and e-mails. The nearly 17-minute video does, indeed, raise some questions.

“Northeastern is a popular and respected school, but there does exist a problem — mostly confined to a few anti-Israel radicals among the professoriate and the administration,” said APT President Charles Jacobs in a media release. “These individuals have used a chair donated for the purpose of teaching students about the genocide of European Jews to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel and its supporters.”

Jacobs went on to call these actions “unscholarly, insensitive and hurtful.” Additionally, he said that it is troubling that certain Jewish faculty members are not speaking out about these issues. It is “academic freedom,” Jacobs believes, that is used to protect those who he believes are willing to defame the Jewish community.

In a press release, the APT laid out three, specific actions that it is calling for in reaction to the video coverage that has been released:

    1. The University should apologize and launch an independent investigation into how such demonization of Israel and the Jewish community could have occurred on campus.

    2. The University should form a new Holocaust Awareness Committee composed of faculty sympathetic to Jewish peoplehood.

    3. Professors who claim that Jews act like Nazis are engaging in hateful bigotry. To prevent such bigotry in the future, the University should extend its existing minority sensitivity training programs to include the Jewish people.

Below, watch the video that provides evidence, APT says, of anti-Israeli bigotry among Northeastern University faculty members:


British universities to get control of High School courses

A-levels will be designed by universities under reforms aimed at ending years of political meddling in the exam system.  The biggest shake-up for 30 years will see leading academics deciding the content and format of A-level courses as Whitehall’s influence is stripped away.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has written to the exams watchdog, detailing the reforms to courses starting in 2014.  It is hoped that the overhaul will restore rigour to exams, following years of tinkering that have dented public faith in A-levels.

His intervention comes as a study by Cambridge Assessment, which runs the OCR exam board, found that 72 per cent of 633 lecturers questioned – mainly from the Russell and 1994 university groups – have had to adapt their teaching because first-year students are not suitably prepared.

Under the plans, elite universities will publicly endorse A- levels they have been involved in developing and lead post-exam reviews to ensure that standards are maintained. Exam boards will be required to demonstrate that they have consulted academics extensively about subject content, syllabus and the style of questions.

The Department for Education would have no role in deciding the structure and content of A-levels under Mr Gove’s plans, which could also see the end of bite-size modules and the AS-level, introduced by Labour as a stepping stone to full A-level.

In addition, GCSEs may get tougher to prepare students for the revamped exams that follow them.

In his letter to Ofqual, seen by the Daily Mail, Mr Gove said: ‘Leading university academics tell me that A-levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree..... I would therefore like to see universities having far greater involvement in the design and development of A-level qualifications than they do at present.’

He said there should be a ‘particular emphasis on our best, research-intensive universities such as those represented by the Russell Group’, adding: ‘This means that government must take a step back in order to allow universities to take a leading role.

‘In future, I do not envisage the Department for Education having a role in the development of A-level qualifications.  ‘It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their undergraduate degrees having gained the right knowledge and skills, than that ministers are able to influence content or methods of assessment.’

The changes will affect A-levels in key subjects including English, maths, the sciences and history from September 2014, with final exams taken in the summer of 2016.

Confidence in A-levels has been damaged with repeated reforms, such as the scrapping of final exams in favour of modular courses and multiple resits.

Mr Gove said he was concerned that A-level courses split into several modules – which students can keep resitting to bump up their final grade – were hampering children’s ‘deep understanding’. He also questioned the division of A-levels into AS- and A2-levels.

The reforms were disclosed as Cambridge Assessment revealed the results of an 18-month study.  It found that 60 per cent of universities run remedial classes for first-year students to fill glaring gaps in their  subject knowledge and boost essay-writing skills, including basic grammar.

Mark Dawe, OCR’s chief executive, said: ‘The design and content of qualifications has increasingly become the domain of government-funded bodies. One effect of this has been to disenfranchise university lecturers, tutors, and admissions staff.’

The lecturers questioned by Cambridge Assessment called for school exams to contain more advanced material and open-ended essay-style questions to stretch the brightest students.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Census Data Shows Inequality Linked to Education, Not Taxes

Much of President Obama's rhetoric and proposed policies have focused on eliminating what leftwing analysts have labeled a burgeoning income gap.  However, the researchers and analysts that inform this stance and advocate its resulting policies often fail to account for the causes of that inequality, says Scott A. Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation.

Specifically, the role of education in increasing incomes for the more-educated and lowering incomes for the less-educated is substantial.

 *   Just 8 percent of those at the lowest income level have a college degree while 78 percent of those earning $250,000 or more have a college degree or advanced degree.

*   At the other end of the income scale, 69 percent of low-income people have a high school degree or less, while just 9 percent of those earning over $250,000 have just a high school degree.

This data informs a conclusion that most are already familiar with: those with more education tend to make more money.  Yet, this conclusion also explains much of the ostensibly runaway income gap.  Americans are increasingly enrolling in higher levels of education, and this is raising their earning potential while they become wealthier than those who did not seek higher education.

 *   Last year, Census data showed that for the first time ever that more than 30 percent of U.S. adults age 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree.
*  As recently as 1998, fewer than 25 percent of people this age had this level of education.

*    In 2010, there were 5.6 million more Americans with bachelor's degrees than in 1998 and nearly 3.5 million more with master's degrees.

This increased prevalence of education explains a large portion of the growing income gap.

*    Census data shows that in 2010, income for high school degree holders averaged $50,561.

*   A person with a bachelor's degree, meanwhile, made an average of $94,207 -- 86 percent more.

*    Someone with a master's degree made an average of $111,149 -- roughly 120 percent more.

Tax policies that seek to tax the rich in order to level the playing field fail to recognize that income inequality is the natural result of government policies that send more people to college.

Source: Scott A. Hodge, "Census Data Shows Inequality Linked to Education, Not Taxes," Tax Foundation, March 16, 2012.


Islamic Indoctrination in Textbooks

    Phyllis Schlafly

Political correctness has a double standard when it comes to teaching about religion in public schools. Drop Christianity down the memory hole but give extensive and mostly favorable coverage to Islam.

Even the mainstream media have provided extensive coverage of the steady stream of court cases and threatening letters from the American Civil Liberties Union aimed at removing all signs of Judeo-Christianity from public schools. Not only must prayer be prohibited, a cross and the Ten Commandments removed or covered up, a valedictorian banned from thanking God for his help, a football coach prohibited from bowing his head during a student-led pre-game prayer, singing of Christmas carols banned, and school calendars required to recognize winter holiday instead of Christmas, but there is also the complete omission of the history of the Founding Fathers' public recognition of Christianity.

An organization called ACT for America conducted an analysis of 38 textbooks used in the sixth- through 12th-grades in public schools, and found that since the 1990s, discussions of Islam are taking up more and more pages, while the space devoted to Judaism and Christianity has simultaneously decreased. In 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that American 12th graders scored lower in history than in any other subject, even lower than in science, math and economics.

Most of these students are too young to remember 9/11, so current textbook descriptions about 9/11 is all they will learn. In one textbook example of pro-Islamic revisionism, 9/11 is portrayed as "a horrible act of terrorism, or violence to further a cause," without any mention that the attackers were Muslims or that the "cause" was Islamic jihad.

The textbooks generally give a false description of women's rights under Islam. The books don't reveal that women are subject to polygamy, a husband's legal right to beat her, genital mutilation, and the scandalous practice misnamed "honor killings," which allows a man to murder a daughter who dares to date a Christian.

Slavery is usually a favorite topic for the liberals, but historical revisionism is particularly evident in the failure to mention the Islamic slave trade. It began nearly eight centuries before the European-operated Atlantic slave trade and continues in some Muslim areas even today.

Other examples of historical revisionism in currently used textbooks include the omission of the doctrine of jihad or failure to accurately define it. Discussions of Muhammad's life and character are often contrary to accepted historical facts.

Muslim conquests and imperialism are usually omitted or downplayed, and a completely false narrative about the Crusades is given. The books often falsely claim that Islam is tolerant of Jews and Christians.

Another technique is to describe Christian and Jewish religious traditions as mere stories attributable to some human source, whereas Islamic traditions are presented as indisputable historic facts. In one textbook, you can read that Moses "claimed" to receive the Ten Commandments from God but that Muhammad simply "received" the Koran from God.

ACT for America is sending its report to all U.S. school board members nationwide. We hope they read it and tell the publishers the schools won't buy books that contain such errors and biases because that may be parents' only remedy for this indoctrination.

In the year of 9/11, a big controversy erupted at Excelsior public school in Byron, Calif., where seventh graders were being taught a three-week course about the Islamic religion. This course required the kids to learn 25 Islamic terms, 20 proverbs, Islam's Five Pillars of Faith, 10 key Islamic prophets and disciples, recite from the Koran, wear a robe during class, adopt a Muslim name, and stage their own "holy war" in a dice game.

Excelsior was using one of the textbooks that omit information about Islam's wars, massacres, and cruelties against Christians and Jews. Christianity was mentioned only briefly and negatively, linked to the Inquisition and to Salem witch hunts.

The students were given Muslim names and told to recite Muslim prayers in class. They were required to give up things for a day to recognize the Islamic practice of Ramadan, and the teacher gave extra credit for fasting at lunch.

For the final exam, the students had to write an essay about Islamic culture. The essay assignment warned students in these words: "Be careful here; if you do not have something positive to say, don't say anything!!!"

Parents naively thought they could appeal to the courts to uphold their right to reject this class for their children, which was really not education but behavior modification. They didn't realize that federal court decisions have ruled consistently against parents' rights and in favor of the authority of public schools to teach whatever they want.

The parents lost in court. And on Oct. 2, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the parents' appeal from the lower court decision against them.


'Please Sir, we'd like some more': Teachers claim pupils are served 'very small' dinners by cost cutting British schools

Children are going hungry at school as cost-cutting canteens serve up tiny portions despite the price of meals rising, teachers have warned.

In echoes of the era of Dickens' Oliver Twist, portions in some schools are 'very small' and staple dishes run out quickly, a survey of staff revealed.

Yet the cost of school meals is rising, with parents likely to be paying an extra £95 this year compared with 2010/11.

Teachers surveyed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers complained that youngsters are too often given limited choice and unhealthy, carb-heavy meals of chips, pasta or rice.

Some canteens are skimping on portion sizes, prompting suspicions that firms providing school meals are putting profits before children's nutritional needs.

More than a third of staff surveyed believed school meals offered poor value for money, while nearly a fifth said the meals were not healthy.

The revelation came as figures showed how the number of children eligible to receive school meals free-of-charge is rising due to the recession.

The number of children who qualify for free meals edged up from 1,012,000 in 2009/10 and 1,055,00 last year as growing numbers of parents are made redundant.

Discussing the survey findings, Dr Mary Bousted, ATL's general secretary, said: 'It's absolutely the case that children are going in hungry in school and we all know what hunger does to your ability to learn.

'Teachers do raise issues about the quantity of food that children get, and about choice.  'Some teachers are saying that children don't get enough food.  'Some parents say their children may be eating food that is against their religion because the choice has gone, the other option has run out.

'In an age of austerity, in rising child poverty... free school meals become increasingly important as a major source of nutrition for children and young people.

More than two-fifths of primary school children and a third of secondary school pupils are now opting for school meals, according to the latest official figures.

Take-up has been growing since the school meals revolution was kick-started six years ago.

'If they are rising in importance in that way, we need to make sure they are nutritional, they are adequate in terms of quality and there is choice so children can exercise choice in what they want to eat.'

The survey of school dinners, covering 500 teachers and classroom assistants in primaries and secondaries, found that 62 per cent of respondents said the price of meals had gone up in their school this year.

Most said the price had risen by up to 50p per day, leading to an additional cost to parents of £95 a year.  But 34 per cent said meals failed to represent good value for money and 19 per cent said meals were not healthy.

A primary school teacher said: 'The food provided for our school varies in quality. Some meals are delicious, others are far from it.

'The portions served to the children are very poor, and there seems to be no regular inspection of the food, kitchens or portion size by the local authority provider.'

Another primary teacher said: 'There are times that meals are good but others when they are most unappetising. There are occasions when the portion size is very small and there have been times when portions have run out.'

A third added: 'The young children often get very small portions and very limited choice. Children who come with packed lunches eat a lot more at lunchtime.'

Meanwhile, a reception class teacher said: 'The younger children pay the same price but get much less than the older ones. Also they do not get the choice as this is saved for the older ones.'

Overall, staff felt meals were healthy but one secondary teacher said: 'There seems to be a lot of carbohydrates on offer each day.   'There are usually chips, pasta and rice available, while vegetables and salad don't seem to be on offer.

'As the meals are cooked in-house, the choice is limited to what our cook is able to make in large quantities.'

Commenting on the findings, Dr Bousted added: 'One respondent said we could do with more inspection of the standard of the meals.

'If it's not inspected, then there is a danger that private market forces can just take over and you're getting as much profit as you can out of feeding the nation's children.

'If, as is usual they have been provided by an outsourced company, by a private company, the size of the portion and the quality of the food will impact directly on the extent of the profits.'

The findings were published as ATL members debated a motion on free school meals at their annual conference in Manchester.

Delegates passed a resolution recognising that a rise in child poverty will further increase the importance of school dinners and cooking skills for the health of children and young people.

It calls on the Government to introduce a universal credit system to make sure that qualifying for free school meals becomes the accurate indicator of child poverty.

Clare Kellett, a teacher at West Somerset Community College, said some pupils came to school having had no breakfast, while some also failed to eat lunch.

'They don't really need to read Pope and Dickens, they don't really need to read Dickens and write essays about it to find out about child poverty, neglect, hunger,' she told delegates.  'They don't need to read it because they live it, in 2012.'

A School Food Trust spokesman said: 'Every child's appetite is different so portion sizes aren't set nationally - but cooks do get to know their pupils, and should make sure they are getting a portion that's appropriate for them.

'If parents or teachers are ever concerned that children aren't getting enough to eat, we always advise that they talk to their cooks in the first instance.'

She added: 'School meals need to be affordable for families. Our research proves that school food is particularly sensitive to changes in price and in these tough financial times, access to decent food at school for children has never been so important.

'Schools need support to build their market, run their catering efficiently and to deal with rising costs


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A wonderful story from  Thomas Sowell

But also a very sad story because the last sentence rings so true

Although we all know that death is inevitable, we are still seldom fully prepared for the death of someone who has been important in our lives. So it was with the recent death of Dr. Marie D. Gadsden, at the age of 92.

Mrs. Gadsden's only official connection with me was that she taught me freshman English at Howard University, more than half a century ago. But she and Professor Sterling Brown were my two idols when I was a student there -- and both remained so for the rest of my life.

Mrs. G, as I came to call her in later years, was not only a good teacher, and a demanding teacher, but also one with kindness toward her students. I can still remember one very rainy night when a young lady from her class and I were walking up the street together from Howard University, when a car suddenly pulled over to the curb, a door was flung open and we were invited to get in. It was Mrs. Gadsden.

When I decided that I wanted to transfer to Harvard, both Mrs. G and Sterling Brown wrote strong letters of recommendation for me -- letters that may have had more to do with my getting admitted than my mediocre grades, as a night student who was carrying too many courses for someone who worked full time during the day.

Mrs. G put me in touch with a lady she knew in Cambridge, who rented me a room, and also put me in touch with a lovely young woman who was a student at Radcliffe. Mr. Gadsden, her husband whom I had come to know by this time, said to me: "Oh, Tom, now she is picking out your women for you!" He had a great sense of humor.

In the decades that followed, Mrs. Gadsden and I remained in touch, usually by mail, even after we were both long gone from Howard University. Since she had many sojourns overseas, her letters often came from exotic places, principally in Africa.

She was my most important confidante, and her wise words helped me through many tough times in my personal life, as well as in my professional career. She encouraged my work, celebrated my advancement and, where necessary, criticized my shortcomings. All of it helped me.

At one point, I returned to Howard University to teach for a year. Among my students was a young African woman who had studied under Mrs. Gadsden in Guinea. This young lady, just recently arrived in the United States, seemed almost frightened by it -- and by my economics class, which met two hours every night during the six weeks of summer school.

The class was moving ahead at a rapid pace and, when this young African woman fell behind, I knew it would be very hard for her to catch up. She failed the first two weekly tests and, when I spoke with her about it after class, she was thoroughly embarrassed and quietly began to cry.

I then went to see Mrs. Gadsden, who was back in Washington at this time, and who knew this girl and her family back in Guinea.

"So you think she's going to fail the course?" Mrs. G asked.

"Well, she's not going to learn the material. Whether I can bring myself to give her an F is something else. That's really hitting somebody who's down."

"You're thinking of passing her, even if she does not do passing work?" Mrs. G said sharply. She reminded me that I had long criticized paternalistic white teachers who passed black students who should have been failed -- and she let me have it.

"I'm ashamed of you, Tom. You know better!"

Now it seemed as if I could neither pass nor fail this young African woman. In desperation, I began to meet with her in the office for an hour before every class to try to bring her up to speed. At first, it didn't look like these private lessons were doing any good, but one night she finally began to grasp what economics was all about, and she even smiled, for the first time.

The young woman from Guinea did B work from there on out -- and I was tempted to give her a B. But her earlier failing grades could not be ignored, and averaging them in made her grade a C.

When I saw Mrs. Gadsden later, she said, "Our friend was overjoyed at getting a C in your course! She was proud because she knew she earned every bit of it."

That was the Mrs. G I knew. And I never expect to see anyone like her again.


Three-quarters of British universities 'to cut student places'

Growing numbers of bright students face missing out on their first choice university, academics warned today, as figures showed three-quarters of institutions are being forced to slash places.

Almost 100 out of 130 universities in England could be forced to take fewer undergraduates this year numbers following the introduction of Coalition reforms designed to drive down tuition fees, it emerged.

Many members of the elite Russell Group are among those facing reductions, with Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton being particularly hit.

Data from the Government’s Higher Education Funding Council for England suggests some newer universities such as Bedfordshire and East London are expecting to lose around one-in-eight places.

The cuts are being imposed following the introduction of new rules that effectively penalise universities charging more than £7,500 in student fees from this autumn.

It means large numbers of places are being shifted towards cheap further education colleges.

Ministers are also lifting controls on the number of bright students gaining at least two A grades and a B at A-level that universities can recruit – leading to an inevitable scramble towards a small number of top institutions.

Sir Alan Langlands, the funding council’s chief executive, denied the loss of student places would tip any institution into "significant financial trouble".

But Prof Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of Sussex University and chairman of the 1994 Group, which represents many small research institutions, said the figures show that “many excellent students will be denied places at their first choice universities.”

“The number of students universities are allowed to recruit has been cut across the sector, with 20,000 places auctioned off to institutions with lower than average fees,” he said.

“Far from giving the best universities freedom to take on more students this represents a push to a cut-price education."

Today, HEFCE announced funding and estimated student places for universities and colleges in 2012/13.  It emerged that teaching funds had been cut by £1.1 billion – to £3.2bn – while cash for research has been frozen at £1.6bn.

Under Coalition reforms, funding gaps are expected to be plugged by a rise in annual student tuition fees – from £3,290 to £9,000.

But to keep the student loans bill down, some 20,000 places are being taken from all institutions and redistributed to universities and colleges charging less than £7,500.

At the same time, 10,000 places – offered in previous years to cope with a sudden surge in applications – are not being made available in 2012.

In a report published today, the funding council outlined how places would be distributed this year. Some 98 out of 129 universities – 76 per cent – are estimated to see some drop in their student numbers. A quarter could see cuts of at least 10 per cent.

Fourteen out of 20 English members of the Russell Group also face cuts, with Liverpool losing as many as 6.4 per cent of places and Leeds 5.1 per cent.

All 12 English members of the 1994 Group are also facing reductions, including 11 per cent at Essex and 10.5 per cent at Goldsmith’s College, London.

But newer universities are being hit hardest, figures suggest. Cuts of at least 12 per cent will be seen at Bedfordshire, East London, Liverpool Hope, Middlesex and Northampton.

The funding council insist figures are estimates based on recruitment in previous years and final allocations could be higher as universities compete against each other to recruit students gaining two As and a B at A-level. This is likely to benefit the top universities the most.

But the biggest year-on-year rises in student numbers are likely to be seen at further education colleges, which can often run degree courses at a fraction of the price of universities.  Kingston College in West London is seeing a 1,115 per cent rise in places – from 20 to 223 students.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said: “We want a student-focused higher education sector, more choice over where to study and a renewed focus on the quality of the student experience.

“That’s why we’re freeing up centralised number controls, improving information for prospective students and driving a new focus on the academic experience.”

But Libby Hackett, director of University Alliance, said: “Despite continued demand for university places we are seeing significant drops in student places across the sector with some institutions subject to cuts of 12 per cent in just one year.

“The places which are being taken out of the system in 2012-13, or transferring to further education, means that there will be 20,000 fewer young people able to go to university compared to last year.”


British teachers bend rules to boost exam scores: Survey finds test marks are fiddled and pupils bribed

Just like Georgia

Teachers are bribing pupils with pizza nights and fiddling test results to help their schools secure exam success, a survey has found.  Almost 40 per cent admitted the ‘overwhelming pressure’ to ensure that pupils achieve good grades ‘could compromise their professionalism’.

The poll, by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, reveals the lengths that schools are prepared to go to in order to climb league tables.  A quarter of respondents said they gave pupils ‘rewards and incentives’ to work harder. One teacher cited organising ‘pizza nights’.

In addition, 28 per cent said they felt obliged to attend controversial exam board seminars.

The admission follows an undercover newspaper investigation that found some teachers paid up to £230 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners, during which they were advised on exam questions and even the wording pupils should use to get higher marks.

One state secondary school teacher told ATL: ‘I know of an exam meeting where it was strongly hinted which topics would come up in the exam. I was glad my school was there but I felt sorry for those that were not.’

Another said: ‘We don’t go to many exam seminars because we can’t afford it. We probably lose out to those who can.’

The union surveyed 512 teachers, lecturers and headteachers working in state-funded and independent primary and secondary schools, academies and colleges in England ahead of its annual conference, which begins in Manchester today.

Some admitted fiddling exam scores. A primary school teacher said: ‘I have been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up.’  A secondary school teacher added: ‘The school I work at definitely pushes the boundaries of exam integrity. Maintaining their “gold-plated” status takes precedence over developing the abilities of the pupils.  ‘Controlled assessments and aspects of coursework are problem areas for cheating, with senior leadership driving the agenda.’

A grammar school teacher said: ‘In some cases I end up virtually re-writing my students’ homework to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them my subject, French. I do this because there is simply not time to do both.’

Eighty-eight per cent of those polled said the pressure to get pupils through exams prevented the teaching of a broad and balanced curriculum, while 73 per cent claimed it had a detrimental effect on the quality of teaching. Seventy-one per cent said it affected the standard of learning.

In addition, one teacher warned that pupils are ‘close to breakdown’ with the demands being put on them during out-of-school hours and the Easter holidays.

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, said: ‘With the Government’s persistent focus on tests, exam results and league tables, many teachers and lecturers also feel under enormous pressure – often to the detriment of high-quality teaching, learning and development of pupils.

‘School league tables, school banding and Ofsted inspections undermine the curriculum and do nothing to support pupils and their hard-working teachers, lecturers and leaders.’


Monday, April 02, 2012

Two Alabama  teachers caught taunting disabled boy, 10, as 'gross' and 'disgusting' after his mother bugged his wheelchair with recording device

Teachers can be surprisingly unprofessional.  My son is physically robust  and very bright but his female teacher in Grade 4 was contemptuous of him because he sat quietly rather than running around like the other kids.  I spoke to the Principal about it and he promised action but I sent my son to another school for grade 5,  where he was found to be two years ahead of his classmates in reading age.  When my son got a First in Mathematics at university years later, I emailed the  Head teacher and pointed out that one of his alumni had distinguished himself but with no credit to the school

Two Alabama teachers were caught cruelly taunting and abusing a 10-year-old boy who has celebral palsy after the boy’s mother attached an audio recorder to his wheelchair.

The shocking recording captures two voices chiding Jose Salinas for his ‘disgusting’ drooling and reveals he was left alone with no instruction for long periods of time.

The teachers accused, Drew Faircloth and Alicia Brown, have been put on administrative leave from Wicksburg High School, Alabama, where Jose is in the fourth grade.

Melisha Salinas knew her son was not happy at school and he often came home sick but Jose always said he had a ‘good day’ when asked about it. In despair Salinas, a nursing student, took her son to a psychologist who told her the problem could be stress or anxiety but could not determine the cause.

An explanation came when one of Jose’s classmates told Salinas that the teacher’s aide had been mean to Jose three times that day.

Determined to be sure of what was happening herself she attached a bugging device to Jose’s wheelchair and left it recording over three days.  The recording revealed that her son was being cruelly taunted about his disability and ignored for the majority of the day with no-one giving him instruction.

'You drooled on the paper,' a male's voice, allegedly that of teacher's aide Drew Faircloth, can be heard saying. 'That's disgusting.'  'Keep your mouth closed and don't drool on my paper,' a woman's voice identified as Alicia Brown is heard saying.'I do not want to touch your drool. Do you understand that? Obviously, you don't.'

After listening to the tapes. which she said 'broke her heart', Salinas immediately pulled her son out of the school.  'I could not believe someone would treat a child that way, much less a special needs child,' Melisha Salinas told

'The anger in his voices ... and the thing he was getting angry about, [Jose] just can't help.'

She played the tapes to the school board and the teachers were placed on administrative leave.

And Jose, who is known as Little Joe to his family and friends, was able to return to school.

But within days the teachers were returned to their positions so Salinas and other parents took their children out of the school in protest.

Feeling that ‘nobody was listening’ Salinas took the recordings to her local newspaper and the teachers were placed on leave once again. 

'There were some very disturbing things on the tape,' Superintendent Tim Pitchford told The Dothan Eagle.  'Employees were not very compassionate to the needs of the child and the symptoms of his disability. It did not appear on the tapes that there was much teaching going on.'

The  recordings have shocked YouTube viewers and a Facebook page called 'We Got Your Back Little Joe!!!' has nearly 5,000 supporters.

The school board are meeting on April 9 to decide what action to take against the teachers.


UC's Leftist Echo Chamber Drowns Out Diverse Voices

Political activism has drawn the University of California into an academic death spiral. Too many professors believe their job is to "advance social justice" rather than teach the subject they were hired to teach. Groupthink has replaced lively debate. Institutions that were designed to stir intellectual curiosity aren't challenging young minds. They're churning out "ignorance." So argues a new report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," from the conservative California Association of Scholars.

The report cites a number of studies that document academia's political imbalance. In 2004, for example, researchers examined the voter registration of University of California, Berkeley faculty. They found a ratio of 8 Democrats for each Republican. While the ratio was 4-to-1 in the professional schools, in more political disciplines, the ratio rose to 17-to-1 in the humanities and 21-to-1 in social sciences.

Over the past few decades, the imbalance has grown. The report noted, "The most plausible explanation for this clear and consistent pattern is surely that it is the result of discrimination in the hiring process."

UC Berkeley political science professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn't teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don't go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.

"If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion," then critics have to target "where the discouragement happens."

OK. Freshmen sign up for courses that push an agenda of "social justice." Most professors may try to expose students to views other than their own, but others don't even try. The message could not be clearer: In the universe where politics and academia converge, conservatives are freaks.

That's how ideologues self-replicate.

The fallout isn't simply political. The association scolds argue, "This hiring pattern has occurred just as the quality of a college education has sharply declined."

Campus reading lists require trendy books instead of challenging authors, such as William Shakespeare, who can draw students deeper into the English language. Teach-ins are notoriously one-sided. College graduates today are less proficient as readers than past graduates. The National Center for Education Statistics found that only 31 percent of college graduates could read and explain a complex book. In 1961, students spent an average of 24 hours per week on homework; today's students study for 14 hours per week.

At the same time, grades have risen. "Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe," quoth the report.

Though she had not read the report, Brown didn't dispute that today's students have trouble writing a "deep, thoughtful essay" about a passage from Thomas Hobbes or Milton Friedman.

"If Shakespeare were required, I would be thrilled," Brown stressed. But: "Don't pick on liberals for this." Universities have cut back on core requirements because students, parents and alumni revolt.

That may be, but in ideologically lopsided academia, there aren't enough voices to stand up for educating students about, say, the U.S. Constitution. Besides -- this is me, not the report -- in pushing protests, faculty members essentially have assured students that they already know enough to occupy Sacramento. Only a third of them can read and explain complex material, but students already know better than lawmakers and voters how best to pay for education. Why study?

The proof is in academia's acceptance of this imbalance. The old, discredited excuse about why women didn't work in management that I heard when I was young -- because they didn't want to -- now somehow works for the left when it comes to conservatives and academia.

As for UC administrators, "A Crisis of Competence" concludes, "far from performing their role as the university's quality control mechanism, (they) now routinely function as the enablers, protectors, and even apologists for the politicized university and its degraded scholarly and educational standards."

Like those in so many other ailing institutions, they don't know how to change to save themselves.


Parents will have legal right to choose the best school for their children, says British PM

People will have a legal "right to choose" which schools and hospitals they use under new laws overhauling public services, David Cameron says today.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister sets out his vision for ending “once-and-for-all the closed, state monopoly” of public services.

Under the changes, the Government will give people the power to lodge a complaint if they are forced to send their children to a certain school.

Patients will also be able to go to a tribunal or ombudsman if they are not offered a choice of hospitals for medical appointments.

“We are publishing draft legislation that could enshrine in law the right to choice,” Mr Cameron says. “This means if your mother needs hospital treatment, or your child is about to start school, you will get a choice over where they go.

“And if that choice doesn’t exist, or you’re not happy with it, you will have a way to get your complaint properly and fairly listened to – and resolved.

“So if as an outpatient you are unfairly denied the choice of appointment, you will be able to have that unfair and anti-competitive decision over-ruled.”

Last year, Mr Cameron said that private companies, voluntary groups and charities will be given the right to run schools, hospitals and vast swaths of council services under ambitious plans to end the “state’s monopoly” over public sector work.

New draft laws published today will build on this idea by allowing private companies and charities to challenge local councils or hospitals if they feel they are being squeezed out of the market.

“If you are a new service provider who believes you can offer a better service - you will have a way to break through the state monopoly and allow the service user, not the bureaucrat, to be your judge and jury,” the Prime Minister says.

Mr Cameron also wants to see more “neighbourhood councils”, where small groups of residents can force local authorities to fix problems like broken street lights and potholes.  These groups would be like town or parish councils, but potentially covering just four or five streets.

“Some local authorities have been guilty of the same kind of top-down bureaucracy that has for so long been the Achilles heel of central government,” Mr Cameron says.

“I want us to challenge this kind of institutional behaviour, and really turn the tables so local people have a genuine opportunity to come together and take responsibility for the services in their neighbourhoods.”

Cabinet Office ministers have expanded and updated last year's White Paper as they seek to make more progress on ending “clumsy and inefficient” bureaucracy in the civil service.

“Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big state structures we inherited from the last government,” the Prime Minister says.

The Government will also conduct an independent review to make sure “the most disadvantaged in our society” have equal access to choice in public services.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Australia:  Government schools struggle to attract male teachers as non-government sector scores more men

Because there are fewer of them, they have more choice and many choose schools where they are free to teach, instead of having to spend half their time just trying to get the kids to sit down.  I was pleased to see the number of male teachers  in my son's private High School.  It was because of them that he became enthused about mathematics  -- and he now has a B.Sc. with a First in Mathematics

Australian High Schools are heavily sorted.  With 39% of the kids going to private schools,  all the problem kids are in the State sector.  So those who most need discipline and strong role models are least likely to get that.  If the State schools had reasonable disciplinary policies, the chaos would vanish and a career there for those who really want to teach would be more atttractive

AUSTRALIA'S public schools are in the grip of a man drought.  But it's raining men in the non-government sector, where the number of male teachers has grown 25 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the number of male teachers has dropped 2 per cent at the nation's public schools, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.

Schools have struggled to attract male teachers to the female-dominated profession.

Teachers can earn more money in the non-government sector but there can also be more demands outside school hours, such as Saturday sport.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities said the national trend was reflected at the state's schools but they also had a very low resignation rate.

Last year there were 15,274 male teachers at public schools, representing about 27 per cent of teaching staff.

In 2001, male teachers made up about 31 per cent. There were 9734 male teachers in the non-government sector - about 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. In 2001, male teachers represented 23 per cent.

A department spokesman said strategies were in place to recruit more male teachers but quality was more important than gender.

One man happy to be working in the public system is 29-year-old Mark Platt, who teaches Year 6 students at Kellyville Ridge Public School.

The school has almost 800 students from the boom suburbs in Sydney's northwest and nine male teachers - a rarity in the public primary system.

Mr Platt said the pay rate was probably the reason men were attracted to the non-government sector but he enjoyed the challenges of a public school.

"I'm happy where I am and couldn't see myself at another school," he said.

The school's assistant principal, Luke Hogan, said he chose to teach at a public school because he believed in its values.

He said male teachers could provide a positive role model to boys who may not have a man in the family home.

"Every child deserves to have access to an education, whether their families can afford it or not," he said.

James Galea, 24, is the only male teacher in his nine-person faculty at Mitchell High School in Blacktown, which he said reflected the perception that teaching was not an attractive career path for men.

The English and drama teacher said his wife taught in the non-government sector and earned more money than him but the main difference between the two sectors was facilities.


British High School calls in primary teacher to solve its reading crisis as pupils have abilities of a FIVE-year-old

An inner-city secondary school has had to recruit a primary school teacher because so many pupils have the reading and writing skills of a five or six-year-old.

Shocking standards of English among children aged 11 to 13 at the Sirius Academy in Hull led to the pioneering back-to-basics literacy scheme.  It is believed to be the first such scheme in the country in a state-funded mainstream school.

Teacher Liz Atwood is using picture books usually aimed at youngsters barely out of nursery school, working on basic spelling and joining up letters to improve terrible handwriting.

The rise of Facebook and texting are said to be significant factors behind appalling standards of English at some schools.   Teachers say they have encouraged a lazy approach to spelling and grammar as well as the use of abbreviations.

Miss Atwood, 24, is working with 38 children in Year Seven and 24 from Year Eight – around 10 per cent of the pupils in those age groups.

She sees the children in small groups four times a week for 100-minute sessions. ‘Some have a reading age of five years and the reading age is the same age as the writing age,’ she said.

Other schools facing similar problems are said to be monitoring the scheme’s progress with interest.

The teacher was recruited from a local primary school to take up the ‘transitional’ teaching post when the academy opened two-and-a-half years ago.  In that time standards are said to have improved dramatically, with the group’s average reading age increasing by nine months a year.

Some of her students now in Year Eight have advanced three years in reading age since September 2010. Miss Atwood identified ‘routine and repetition’ as the key to improving literacy standards from the previous crisis level.

The bookshelves in her class reflect the primary school level study and include favourites such as Beware Of The Story Book Wolves (recommended for ages four and over), Sam’s Sunflower and several Dr Seuss classics.

The school library also has Don’t You Dare Dragon!, a pop-up style book intended for four-year-olds, and other simple-to-read picture books such as Alfie the Sea Dog.

English teacher Gemma Jackson, 27, said ‘social media’ had a negative impact on school work, with abbreviations such as ‘B4’ frequently being used.

‘When they are reading things on Facebook they do copy the language, so we get a lot of text talk and it can be so difficult to get children to write properly,’ she said.

Commenting on the learning programme, she added: ‘It has made a huge difference and you now see children walking around with books, which you never used to.’

Charlotte Hobbs, 12, has flourished with the extra help and is seen as a success of the system, though her reading level is still  seven years and five months.  She said: ‘It has made a big difference to my life.  'I enjoy school so much I do not want to take a day off.’

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, praised the initiative at the academy school – which has 1,200 pupils – but criticised standards at primary level.

He said: ‘Children should be learning stuff like this when they are five or six, not 11 and 12.  They may say parents need to do more but they have to call the primary schools to account.'


Orthodox Jewish school wants its students off Facebook

Given the safety concerns that Jews reasonably have, this seems an understandable precaution but it surely it should be up to the families to decide

Students at the Orthodox Beth Rivkah High School in Brooklyn, New York, have reportedly been given an ultimatum: Delete individual Facebook profiles and pay a $100 fine or face expulsion.

Considering the negative elements that hold the potential to come as a result of using the social network, the school has apparently decided that the risks outweigh the benefits. This is specifically true when it comes to the potential for the girls to violate the Orthodox code of modesty.

Now, the all-girls school is doubling down on its stance against Facebook and its potential evils.

“Girls are getting killed on the Internet — that’s the reason for it,” explained school administrator Rabbi Benzion Stock in an interview with The New York Post. “The Internet is a good way to ruin marriages and families. We don’t want them there, period.”

The New York Daily News quotes Stock as saying, “We have an eternal ban. A ban from whenever it started.”

Stock went on to claim that the social media platform is “the wrong place for a Jewish girl to be” and that it isn’t a modest tool for the girls to be utilizing.

The Daily News provides more on the latest developments in “Facebookgate”:

    "Administrators cracked down further last week after receiving word that girls were still updating their statuses and sharing photos.      And the renegades were easy enough to find with a search of Facebook, said Stock.     All 33 girls agreed to delete their accounts, Stock said, and paid a $100 fine that will be returned at the end of the school year.    The students didn’t “like” complying, one of the offenders said."

The Post reports that the crackdown initially appeared on, a web site devoted to local news. School officials have countered the news of the ban, which has broken nationally, by claiming that the policy has always been on the books. In fact, the students allegedly sign a contract saying they won’t use social media.

At least one former student has spoken out about the ridiculousness she sees in the crackdown. After being kicked out for using Facebook and dressing without modesty, 17-year-old Chaya Tatik claims that the policy is “not right” and that Facebook helps her communicate with her cousins in Israel.  “Everyone uses Facebook. It’s a way to communicate,” she said.