Friday, July 06, 2012

PBS: Brainwashing  America’s Schoolchildren

When most people think of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's education programs, they remember the gentle Mr. Rogers welcoming children to his home, or documentaries offering exciting encounters with whales and other exotic creatures.

These shows still exist. But CPB today produces lessons that glorify the Black Panthers and riots and protests of the 1960s, present rocker Patti Smith as a "patriot" for singing songs that condemn President George W. Bush, vilify Wal-Mart, and sanctify environmentalist Rachel Carson. Although their educational materials claim to be objective, the truth is that their unrelenting ideological slant that promotes the politics of protest and civil disobedience is aimed at re-educating children into becoming far-left activists.

But whenever there are attempts to cut federal funding to CPB, the corporation points to its "educational programming" as proof that the approximately $450 million it receives annually from federal taxpayers is being put to good use. Big Bird and other members of the cast of Sesame Street show up in Congress to tell members of the educational value of CPB-funded programs.

The same justification is offered by state affiliates. For example, in 2011, Georgia Public Broadcasting's marketing vice president, Nancy Zintak, defended their executives' salaries by explaining that "80,000 Georgia teachers have downloaded data more than 5 million times from GPB's educational website. [1]

Georgia taxpayers directly fund half of GPB's annual $29 million budget. Millions more are funneled through the state's public university budgets.

Teachers across the nation do turn to Public Broadcasting for videos, classroom projects, and even entire course syllabi. National statistics are elusive, but those 80,000 Georgia teachers downloading Public Broadcasting educational materials represent 63% of all public and private K - 12 educators in the state. If Georgia's teachers are typical of educators in other states, it is clear that most K - 12 schools rely on PBS to teach subjects ranging from arithmetic to World History.

The PBS Teachers website touts its "high-quality pre-K-12 educational resources...classroom materials suitable for a wide range of subjects and grade levels...thousands of lesson plans, teaching activities, on-demand video assets, and interactive games and simulations." Education is big business for CPB.

Their teacher training and certification are also big business. PBS Teacherline boasts it is "the premiere provider of high-quality online professional development." Their "collection of more than 130 top quality, graduate level courses for educators spans the entire curriculum." PBS offers peer assistance, instructional coaches, and other "productive communications and collaboration," to K-12 teachers.

For the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, providing course syllabi, teacher certification, and other materials to schools serves a dual purpose: it justifies the continuation of taxpayer subsidies for Public Broadcasting while inculcating millions of schoolchildren-a captive audience-with their programming and ideological messages.

For foundations that donate to CPB, PBS, NPR, or state affiliates, PBS Teachers provides a ready-made platform for advancing their ideas and agendas to those same captive student audiences. George Soros' combined Open Society Foundations (OSF) has supported National Public Radio and independent projects throughout the CPB universe, including underwriting documentaries used in classrooms to "educate" students on various causes. In 2010, Soros made an additional grant of $1.8 million to NPR's state government reporting initiative. Other large donors include the Joan B. Kroc estate ($230 million after Kroc's 2003 death), the U.S. Department of Education, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

By creating primary materials through programming and reporting and then producing syllabi packaged by age group based on those primary materials, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has evolved into perhaps the single most influential voice in the nation's classrooms, while defending their own taxpayer funding streams by doing so.

The PBS Teachers Educational Universe

What types of lessons do students get for this money? An analysis of the thousands of lessons available would fill volumes. At first glance, PBS Teachers curricular materials reflect the skill Public Broadcasting has achieved in putting a veneer of objectivity on their radio and television news programs. But a closer look at the courses offered reveals two overriding tendencies: first, a decidedly leftist ideological slant promoting a "social justice" agenda, and second, relentless emotional manipulation of students, the aim of which is to make them into activists for far-left causes.

What Is Being Taught?

The leftist ideological slant is evident in a variety of ways: the quantity of lesson plans focusing on multiculturalism, or identity politics, versus traditional learning; an emphasis on leftist causes and social movements; partisan political material disguised as "media analysis" of elected officials or government policies, and criticism of capitalism and the idea of American exceptionalism. In addition, there is an overemphasis on pop culture, that isn't necessarily leftist, but is of questionable educational value. 

For example:

 *      There are approximately equal numbers of courses about George Washington and "hip-hop" music.

 *      Nearly 100 lessons are dedicated to protest movements, several of which are large, interdisciplinary projects designed to occupy substantial portions of the school day or school semester.

 *      The number of courses dedicated to the theme of environmentalism dwarfs other subjects.

 *      Health and Fitness, Economics, and Current Events curricula routinely feature highly ideological themes, such as the negative effects of a Wal-Mart moving into town (Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town), or the dangers of genetically modified foods.

Even traditional subjects are presented with an ideological bent. Lessons on periods of history such as World War II or major literary works focus on oppression. [2] Short shrift is given to universal themes, major literary developments, or a sense of historical progression.

How Are Subjects Being Taught?  (The Emotion Revolution)

PBS Teachers is leading the shift in education from objective to "emotional" learning. This increasing reliance in classrooms on emotion-based encounters is revolutionary, affecting both what is taught and how it is taught. PBS lessons across the curriculum de-emphasize facts and ideas in favor of eliciting subjective responses and personal opinions from students, or even leading students through exercises designed to make them imagine the emotions of various individuals involved in historical events. Students are evaluated not so much on what they know as on the attitudes they hold.

Consequences of the Emotion Revolution:

 *      PBS lessons vigorously promote an extreme, trans-historical version of identity politics, dividing all people into groups of "victims" and "victimizers."

 *      Lessons and assignments are designed to force students to express political beliefs and engage in coercive, emotion-based exercises in reaction to controversial issues.

 *      Students are forced to engage in a variety of staged traumas in the classroom and with each other, ostensibly to "experience" historical events.  

 *      Students are subjected to obsessive exhortations to "oppose bullying" and "teach tolerance." They are made to play-act instances of bullying and are instructed to discover intolerance and prejudice in their own families, communities, and peers.

By imposing political bias and forcing students to participate in scripted explorations of "appropriate" emotional responses to selective historical events, PBS Teachers is transforming education into re-education. A closer look at individual lesson plans will demonstrate how PBS curricula turn classrooms into recruitment sites for leftist causes.    

Protest Lessons: Pigs in the Street

            Public Broadcasting has become bolder in casting an ideological lens over history, and this is reflected in the classroom materials they produce. Some of the most egregious examples of this ideological bias appear in syllabi covering the protest movements of the 1960's. One such lesson was derived from an episode of the PBS show, History Detectives. The show examines a protest poster from the 1968 Democratic Convention featuring a picture of a thuggish street cop and an upraised "black-power" fist, with the words: "Hot Town-Pigs in the Streets...But the streets belong to the people! Dig it?"

            The Hot Town lesson plan requires students to contemplate the radical street protests and riots of the late 1960s almost exclusively from the perspective of the protesters. The videotaped segments taken from the History Detectives show are narrated by an academic who speaks of having been enrolled in a "Black Panther Party breakfast program" and having "heard a lot of their educational speeches." The violence of the Black Panthers, including murders and armed bank robberies, goes unmentioned as the Panthers are romanticized as mere social workers. The poster crudely depicting policemen as "pigs" becomes the object of a "mystery" hunt to discover its origins.

The Hot Town lesson is typical of many PBS syllabi that deliver radical content from a biased perspective while claiming to be teaching students useful interpretive skills: in this case, the skill is "researching an historical artifact." The lesson enables sympathetic-appearing radicals to reminisce about screaming epithets at the police and rioting in the streets. "Police brutality" is discussed at length, while the Black Panthers' murderous campaign against real police officers and fellow activists is not mentioned. The Hot Town video ends with the poster creator's happy memory of knocking over a police van. He is described as an activist who went from rioting to serving health food to poor people and who now works as a Chicago Ward president for the Democratic Party.

A related "protest" lesson that whitewashes protester violence is the multi-part curriculum, Chicago 10. It uses an animated version of the 1968 Chicago riots depicting violent protesters as victims of police brutality to "encourage people to take a more active role in protest." The lesson also describes the arrest of protesters planning to bomb the 2008 Republican Convention as mere police over-reach that was exposed by courageous activists with cell phones. Revolution in Newark teaches students that the Newark Riots were a principled "uprising." A Civil Disobedience exercise featuring Code Pink activist Cindy Sheehan directs students to imagine "a situation in which they might use civil disobedience" and then write a  journal "reflect[ing] on" their imaginary protest and law-breaking.

PBS protest-based curricula are deployed throughout the disciplines with the justification that the lessons are not only about the protest itself but also are intended to teach "critical thinking" or historical research, or music, or art.  Thus, more of the school day may be dedicated to romanticizing protesters, demonizing those trying to maintain social order, and training children to become activists.

Much more HERE

Math results show up Britain's junky government schools

The ‘shocking’ failure of comprehensive schools to nurture bright pupils is exposed today in a global league table of maths skills.

Teenagers in England were placed 26th out of the 34 counties who achieved the top grade in a respected international test.

Just 1.7 per cent of English 15-year-olds achieved the highest mark – compared with 7.8 per cent in Switzerland, the best-performing European country, and 26.6 per cent in Shanghai, China.

Almost all of England’s top performers attended private schools or state grammars.

Our dismal showing was condemned as an indictment of the failure to nurture ‘gifted and talented’ children at comprehensive schools.

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University, who compiled the figures, warned that provision in  England for able pupils was ‘a mess’ and urged an overhaul including the revival  of some academic selection, but at 14 instead of 11.

He said that Labour’s drive to encourage schools to identify bright pupils had been so ‘confusing’ that some heads gave 100 per cent of children the label and others none.

‘In some cases, “gifted and talented” appears to have been more of a rationing device for popular trips than a means of high-level education,’ he added.

Professor Smithers, working with Dr Pamela Robinson on behalf of the Sutton Trust education charity, analysed the results of international tests in maths and reading set in 2009 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In England, 10,350 pupils sat the maths test, 6.3 per cent of whom attended private schools. Just 1.7 per cent scored the highest grade – a majority of them fee-paying.

England trailed the Czech and Slovak Republics, with 3.2 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively, as well as Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Taking the top two grades together, just 10 per cent in England achieved them, against 50 per cent in Shanghai. This provided further evidence England was ‘a long way off the pace in educating the highly able in maths’, according to the research.

In 2006, English pupils who gained the top level in maths were placed 18th out of the 30 countries sitting the test.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the latest results showed that most able children had been failed by a ‘hotch-potch of abandoned initiatives and unclear priorities’.

‘These are shocking findings that raise profound concerns about how well we support our most academically able pupils, from non-privileged backgrounds,’ he said.

Professor Smithers called for the top 5 or 10 per cent of pupils at age 11 to be tracked through school and for high schools to be held accountable for their progress.

Government targets currently focus on the weakest and middling performers, he warned.

‘It is assumed these brainboxes will look after themselves but they show up rather badly against pupils from other countries,’ he said.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘This report underlines why the Government is determined to act decisively to restore academic rigour to schools and ensure our exams match the world’s best.

‘Until we do this, our young people will continue to pay the price for the previous Labour government’s decision that lower standards were a price worth paying for higher grades.’


Every 11-year-old in Britain will be tested on grammar and punctuation

Every 11-year-old in the country is to be tested on their grammar and punctuation skills.  The new exam in May could also include a check on the neatness of handwriting.  The initiative is aimed at preparing children for tougher GCSEs which will put a stronger emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Primary pupils will be questioned on tenses, subordinate clauses, parts of speech and the correct use of ‘I’ and ‘me’. They will also be expected to use commas and apostrophes correctly, avoiding the so-called ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ where apples and pears are wrongly written as apple’s and pear’s.

The hour-long exam will be taken alongside a reading and maths test as part of primary school SATs.  It replaces a writing test which required pupils to compose extended passages but was unpopular among teachers who claimed marking was wildly inconsistent.

Teachers will instead give pupils a grade on composition, based on their work throughout the year, which will be combined with results in the new test.

It is thought to be the first time pupils have faced a specific national test in spelling, grammar, punctuation and possibly handwriting, although some will have tackled similar questions as part of 11-plus exams.

The brightest pupils will sit a tougher, separate test which may include some extended writing.  Sample questions show it is likely to cover the correct use of semi-colons as well as personal and impersonal forms.

Ministers will decide whether to include handwriting in both tests later in the year.

In a leaflet for parents explaining the new test, officials said the test would encourage primary schools to place a stronger focus on the teaching of grammar, spelling and punctuation than in previous years.

‘Changes are also being made to GCSEs so that from 2013 there will be marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar in key subjects.

‘By developing confidence in these skills early on, your child will improve their chances of succeeding in important qualifications later on in their education.’

However some schools are already threatening to boycott the new test claiming it will narrow their curriculum.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers, along with the National Union of Teachers, boycotted all national tests days after the 2010 election and have warned they could repeat the action


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Report: Top teachers’ union (NEA) losing members

America's largest teachers union is losing members and revenue, potentially threatening its political clout.  The National Education Association has lost more than 100,000 members since 2010. By 2014, union projections show, it could lose a cumulative total of about 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers, a 16 percent drop from 2010.

Lost dues will shrink NEA's budget an estimated $65 million, or 18 percent.

NEA calls the membership losses "unprecedented" and predicts they may be a sign of things to come.  "Things will never go back to the way they were," reads its 2012-14 strategic plan, citing changing teacher demographics, attempts by some states to restrict public employee collective bargaining rights and an "explosion" in online learning that could sideline flesh-and-blood teachers.

"We may be a little smaller, but we won't be weaker -- we'll be stronger," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said.

He said teachers "have been energized" by lawmakers' bids in some states to make it harder to join a public-sector union.

The losses hit as thousands of delegates convene this week in Washington, D.C., for NEA's annual meeting. Democratic candidates for the White House traditionally have lined up to court the group and its 2.2 million members.

This year, President Obama will skip the event. Vice President Biden is scheduled to address the teachers today.

Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, said it's unclear whether Obama skipped the event because he can easily count on NEA's support or because its political influence has waned, in part because of bruising battles over collective bargaining in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan.

Either way, he said, proposals that NEA has long fought, such as private-school vouchers, are gaining traction.

"Obviously in Democratic politics, if they have a half million fewer members at some point and a lot fewer dollars, there's absolutely a point when they're going to matter less than they do today -- and that's going to hurt them," said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Losing that many members is "the kind of shift in the landscape that can force union leaders to shift their stance on issues," Hess said.


Do British graduates need a first-class degree to get a good job?

A combination of too many students, grade inflation and a stalled economy have created a toxic combination for any new graduate seeking paid employment.

After a nail-biting few weeks, the results are in, the champagne corks have popped and graduates up and down the country are breathing a sigh of relief. The hard graft is over, and all that remains for many of the class of 2012 is to attend their graduation ceremonies and toss their mortar boards in the air with a sense of pride.

But after the celebrations have finished, mortar boards aren’t the only things that will come crashing back down to earth this summer. The hundreds of thousands of graduates entering the jobs market over the next few months face increasingly bleak prospects, according to new studies of graduate recruitment.

The latest report, published yesterday, suggests that the labour market has become so competitive that top employers are screening out graduates who fail to gain first-class degrees. Employers say they are so swamped with applications that filtering candidates by the best degree classifications is one of the easiest – and cheapest – ways to reduce the shortlist, the report by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) says.

A separate study out yesterday by High Fliers Research, a market research company, shows that in 70 per cent of cases, graduate employers demand at least a 2:1 degree. Application levels are now some 25 per cent higher than three years ago, partly because of the backlog of graduates still looking for work since the recession.

An average of 73 students compete for each job, although that number rises to 154 in the retail industry and 142 for investment banking posts. Meanwhile, the number of first-class graduates has more than doubled over the past decade, figures show.

Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, says that the demand for first-class intellectual prowess is coming from the top investment banks, consultancies, law firms and accountants in particular.

“The number of first-class and 2:1 degrees has increased notably over the past 10 years – it’s becoming an absolute minimum standard,” he says. “If, during an interview, undergraduates say they might not get a 2:1 after all, many have to withdraw their applications.”

Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, the biggest graduate employer, received 33,000 student and graduate applications for around 2,500 graduate-entry jobs this year, although it does recruit on other factors besides academic achievements. Other industries are experiencing the same overload; oil giant BP received 7,000 applications for 244 jobs, while Jaguar Land Rover saw the number of applicants for its scheme rise by 61 per cent over the year to 10,632.

“The volume of applications is so high that companies could fill their places three or four times over with good candidates,” Mr Birchall says. “They will regret that they can’t view all candidates – it’s incredibly harsh, but many good ones slip through the net.”

Michael Barnard, product manager at Milkround, the graduate careers advice site, says the problem stems from the height of the recession, when many big employers froze their graduate schemes. “This created a graduate jobs backlog, or debt, which we haven’t managed to clear yet. It’s really tough for graduates to find work,” he says.

“Graduates can’t expect to just walk into a decent job any more. If you want to work in London – God forbid, it’s the hardest place to find a job in the world – you will have to accept that you probably need to live in a house-share with five strangers, work in a café to pay the bills and start at the bottom with a big employer.”

He agrees that the UK’s financial industry is driving the trend to filter applications by academic achievement. Other sectors, particularly the creative ones such as media, are less concerned about grades and more interested in skills, extra-curricular activities and experience, he says – something that universities often overlook.

“Universities should pay more attention to creative students, where it’s more about what you’ve done at university, the clubs you’re part of, and so on,” he says.

Those employers who sift applications based on academic achievement do also use an online application form, aptitude tests, competency-based interviews and telephone interviews, according to the High Fliers report, based on interviews with the UK’s top 100 graduate employers. Personality questionnaires and group exercises at selection centres are also used to assess how well-rounded a candidate is, giving applicants the chance to show off “softer” skills beyond academic achievements, such as team-working, communication and presenting skills.

But if the majority of employers specify a 2:1 minimum, many candidates with 2:2 degrees or lower won’t get the chance to show off how “rounded” they are if they cannot apply to start with, Mr Birchall says.

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of GraduateFog, a careers website, and who is leading a campaign against unpaid graduate internships, says the balance of power has shifted dramatically to employers in recent years. “Many graduates are having their self-esteem chipped away as they don’t even get a rejection letter. It is a buyers’ market, with graduates having to work harder and harder to get noticed,” she says.

She believes that the push under the previous Labour government to get half of all young people to go to university has hoodwinked young people into thinking that if they get a degree, a well-paid job and high-flying career path will follow. But many of Britain’s top employers still prefer to recruit Oxbridge graduates, she says, meaning that applicants with lower grades, who went to a non-Russell Group university, stand little chance of being seen.

Graduates who have worked hard at university feel they are being let down by the system. More than a third are starting jobs at the non-graduate level because they have no choice, official figures show.

Cait Reilly, a geology graduate from the University of Birmingham, made headlines this year when she decided to take legal action against the Government for being forced to stack shelves in a Poundland store. She had been unable to find work in her subject area and was claiming jobless benefits while volunteering in a museum. But the 22-year-old was told to give up her placement to work at the high street retailer under a government scheme designed to get the unemployed back to work.

Miss de Grunwald says that increasingly, graduates are being forced to work for free with big employers just to get a foot on the career ladder, but this limits opportunities for those from poorer or disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot afford to carry out three‑month unpaid placements.

Mr Birchall suspects “grade inflation” is behind the huge increase in the number of high achievers who have to lower their expectations when they get to the real world of work; a trend that begins at school. “The minute A-star grades were introduced at A-level was a sign that the A-level system is broken as well,” he says. “It has led to a whole generation of pupils applying to university because they want to, not necessarily because they have earned it.”

But Miss de Grunwald is not convinced. “Companies just can’t be bothered to think of a new way to sift applications. There are plenty of reasons why people get 2:2s – perhaps they had family issues, or an illness, or maybe they’re not academic. But they’re good at other stuff, such as building networks or communicating with people, which is essential in careers such as sales.”

Something the experts can agree on is that the grim surveys of recent weeks revolve only around the biggest graduate employers and do not reflect all companies who hire graduates. Plenty of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are “crying out” for skills and struggle to recruit graduates because they are less well-known, Miss de Grunwald says.

Metaswitch Networks, a fast-growing technology company based in Enfield, hires about 40 graduates a year but has no stringent requirements on academic grades. James Madeley, graduate recruitment manager, says: “Academic ability is an indicator of how clever someone is, but for us it’s about how graduates can logically think through a problem and solve it. We interview and test for that, as a specific skill, rather than degree attainment.”

He thinks universities should forge better links with SMEs to help open graduates’ eyes to the many opportunities that lie outside of the big 100 companies. Mr Barnard agrees: “Candidates unlucky with the big firms can find small- and medium-sized businesses close to the experience they are looking for who are willing to recruit. You’d get more responsibility, quicker,” he says.

For some, it may work out better to avoid the structure and predictability of the large graduate recruitment schemes, Miss de Grunwald argues.

“There are an awful lot of other jobs out there, where graduates can get broad experience and pick up lots of skills. Those that don’t get on to the big schemes have almost dodged a bullet.”


Australia: Whistleblower who brought University of Queensland nepotism scandal to light made redundant

This stinks to high heaven.  Is the new administration just as corrupt  as  the old?

THE University of Queensland has made redundant the whistleblower who brought to light the nepotism scandal that cost the Vice-Chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy their jobs last year.

Phil Procopis, the institution's top misconduct and fraud investigator, left the university this week after 18 years' service.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that it was Mr Procopis who first brought the affair to the attention of senior officials including the Chancellor, John Story.  The newspaper understands that Mr Procopis went to the Chancellor in early September after stumbling across the irregular admission of a close relative of Mr Greenfield to the university's medical faculty while investigating an unrelated matter.

Mr Story then launched an investigation, the results of which have never been made public.

UQ confirmed Mr Procopis had had "an initial role in passing the complaint to the Chancellor" on September 9.  Mr Procopis declined to comment.

Friends and colleagues said he was a man of integrity who fiercely guarded his department's independence.  "He's a truth-speaker," one said.

Mr Procopis's redundancy and the disbanding of his department comes despite Mr Greenfield's replacement, Professor Deborah Terry, announcing on May 17 that Mr Procopis would have a central role in misconduct matters under a package of governance reforms.

Prof Terry told The Courier-Mail this week that, at the time of her May announcement, "the proposed reorganisation of ARMS had not been finalised".  She said the restructuring was the result of a "routine, cyclical" review initiated before the admissions scandal and had been done with the blessing of the CMC.

Mr Procopis's post is the only one to have been cut.  But, Prof Terry said, "it would be inaccurate and wrong" to link the role of Mr Procopis in unearthing the scandal to his redundancy.

"Our code of conduct encourages staff to report matters like this to the appropriate university or external authorities, and as a senior person responsible for assurance and risk management, it would have been a problem had he not communicated it," she said.

The CMC is due to table in Parliament a report into the UQ admissions scandal in the coming weeks.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Education Blob

John Stossel
Since progressives want government to run health care, let's look at what government management did to K-12 education. While most every other service in life has gotten better and cheaper, American education remains stagnant.  Spending has tripled! Why no improvement? Because K-12 education is a virtual government monopoly -- and monopolies don't improve.

In every other sector of the economy, market competition forces providers to improve constantly. It's why most things get better -- often cheaper, too (except when government interferes, as in health care).

Politicians claim that education and health care are different -- too important to leave to market competition. Patients and parents aren't real consumers because they don't have the expertise to know which hospital or school is best. That's why they must be centrally planned by government "experts."

Those experts have been in charge for years. School reformers call them the "Blob." Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that attempts to improve the government monopoly have run "smack into federations, alliances, departments, councils, boards, commissions, panels, herds, flocks and convoys that make up the education industrial complex, or the Blob. Taken individually, they were frustrating enough, each with its own bureaucracy, but taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall -- they always talk about change -- but more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink."

The Blob claims teachers are underpaid. But today American teachers average more than $50,000 a year. Teachers' hourly wages exceed what most architects, accountants and nurses make.

The Blob constantly demands more money, but tripling spending and vastly increasing the ratio of staff to student have brought no improvement. When the Blob is in control, waste and indifference live on and on.

The Blob claims that public education is "the great equalizer." Rich and poor and different races mix and learn together. It's a beautiful concept. But it is a lie. Rich parents buy homes in neighborhoods with better schools.

As a result, public -- I mean, government -- schools are now more racially segregated than private schools. One survey found that public schools were significantly more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority. Another found that at private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

The Blob's most powerful argument is that poor people need government-run schools. How could poor people possibly afford tuition?

Well, consider some truly destitute places. James Tooley spends most of his time in the poorest parts of Africa, India and China. Those countries copied America's "free public education," and Tooley wanted to see how that's worked out. What he learned is that in India and China, where kids outperform American kids on tests, it's not because they attend the government's free schools. Government schools are horrible. So even in the worst slums, parents try to send their kids to private, for-profit schools.

How can the world's poorest people afford tuition? And why would they pay for what their governments offer for free?

Tooley says parents with meager resources still sacrifice to send their kids to private schools because the private owner does something that's virtually impossible in government schools: replace teachers who do not teach. Government teachers in India and Africa have jobs for life, just like American teachers. Many sleep on the job. Some don't even show up for work.

As a result, says Tooley, "the majority of (poor) schoolchildren are in private school." Even small villages have as many as six private schools, "and these schools outperform government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost."

As in America, government officials in those countries scoff at private schools and parents who choose them. A woman who runs government schools in Nigeria calls such parents "ignoramuses." They aren't -- and thanks to competition, their children won't be, either.

Low-income Americans are far richer than the poor people of China, India and Africa. So if competitive private education can work in Beijing, Calcutta and Nairobi, it can work in the United States.

We just need to get around the Blob.


Teaching Economics

 Thomas Sowell

Having taught economics at a number of colleges for a number of years, I especially welcomed a feature article in the June 22nd issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, on how economics courses with the same name can be very different at different colleges. It can also be very different when the course is taught by professors in the same department who have different approaches.

The usefulness of the three approaches described in the article depends on what the introductory course is trying to accomplish.

One professor taught the subject through a steady diet of mathematical models. If the introductory economics course is aimed at those students who are going to major in economics, then that may make some sense. But most students in most introductory economics courses are not going to become economics majors, much less professional economists.

Among those students for whom a one-year introductory course is likely to be their only exposure to economics, mathematical models that they will probably never use in later life, as they try to understand economic activities and policies in the real world, may be of very limited value to them, if any value at all.

If the purpose of the introductory course is to serve as a recruiting source for economics majors, that serves the interest of the economics department, not the students. It may also serve the interests of the professor, because teaching in the fashion familiar in his own research and scholarship is a lot easier than trying to recast economics in terms more accessible to students who are studying the subject for the first time.

Having written two textbooks on introductory economics -- one full of graphs and equations, and the other with neither -- I know from experience that the second way is a lot harder to write, and is more time-consuming. The first book was written in a year; the second took a decade. The first book quickly went out of print. The second book ("Basic Economics") has gone through 4 editions and has been translated into 6 foreign languages.

Both books taught the same principles, but obviously one approach did so more successfully than the other. The same applies in the classroom.

The opposite extreme from teaching economics with mathematical models was described by a professor who uses an approach she characterized as democratizing the classroom, "so that everybody is a co-teacher and co-learner." This has sometimes been called "discovery learning," where the students discover the underlying principles for themselves while groping their way through problems.

Unfortunately, discovery can take a very long time -- much longer than a course lasts. It took the leading classical economists a hundred years of wrestling with different concepts of supply and demand -- often misunderstanding each other -- before finally arriving at mutually understood concepts that can now be taught to students in the first week of introductory economics.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the discovery learning professor sometimes seemed to be the one doing most of the work in the class, "bringing the students' sometimes fumbling answers back to economic principles."

This course's main focus is said to be not on mastering the principles of economics, but being able to "dialog" and discuss "shades of gray." With such mushy goals and criteria, hard evidence is unlikely to rear its ugly head and spoil the pretty vision of discovery learning.

Discovery learning may not serve the interests of the students, but it may well serve the ego of its advocate. Education may be the only field of human endeavor where experiments always seem to succeed -- as judged by their advocates.

By contrast, the third method of teaching introductory economics, in lectures by Professor Donald Boudreaux of George Mason University, tests the students with objective questions -- which means that it is also producing a test of whether this traditional way of teaching actually works. Apparently it does.

The Chronicle of Higher Education also reported on the students. The feckless behavior of today's students in all three courses makes me glad that I left the classroom long ago, and do my teaching today solely through my writings.


Thanks, Gough, for giving us all a chance at university

This is utter rubbish:  The usual Leftist garbage.  Gough Whitlam was the Leftist Prime Minister of Australia from 1972  to 1975. 

It was his conservative predecessor, Robert Menzies, who in fact made university open to all  -- if you had the ability.  And it was a Labor government that ditched Gough's scheme

The Commonwealth scholarship scheme set up by Menzies made the reasonable assumption that only the top third of high school graduates would do well at university and gave that subset both a living allowance and free tuition at university.  I myself got a Commonwealth scholarship  -- and I too come from a poor working class background.  And I ended up with a Ph.D.

Whitlam on the other hand made university "free" to all -- a policy so expensive and wasteful that it was abandoned by the next Labor government  -- under Bob Hawke.  Hawke reintroduced fees and gave loans instead of grants.

I think the Menzies scheme was by far  the most fair, generous and effective of the three systems.  The expansion of university education beyond the top third has simply led to lower standards and a mass of graduates who are no more employable than they would be without a degree.  The unemployed graduate was virtually unknown in my day.  These days it is common.  And a lot of the employed ones are working at McDonald's

So I was able to cruise through university despite having no rich father (and no support of any kind from him at all).  My son, by contrast, also cruised -- but only because I was readily able to pay for his upkeep and his fees  -- which I did.  So which system was fairer to the poor?

Note that I appear to be the same age as the writer below, Geoff Cooper, so he had the same opportunities that I did  -- JR 

Gough Whitlam's visionary tertiary education scheme opened up doors for many.

Officially I am two years too old to be classed as a member of the baby boomer generation but I was one of the many fortunate people whose life was absolutely changed through the policies of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, Australia's greatest ever visionary.

As a working-class kid from the then very poor working-class suburb of Yarraville, it was beyond my wildest dreams to even consider having a tertiary education.

Even completing secondary education to sixth form (year 12) was not on my radar.

My old alma mater, Footscray Tech, only went to year 10 and if you lived anywhere west of the Yarra, your biggest decision after completing secondary school was to join the laudable but limited careers of carpentry, plumbing or other of the building trades. Whitlam changed all that.

Never has one man had such an impact on our nation in such a short time. No-fault divorce, universal health insurance, the first real recognition of indigenous people, a major step towards equal rights for women and access to justice for all, to list just a few of his major achievements.

But for me and many thousands like me, it was his creation of TEAS, the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, that changed my life and I believe allowed many of us to add so much more to our communities because of it.

At the ripe old age of 31 I was able to undertake what previously had been denied me; I gained entrance to Monash University. The rush of mature-age students into tertiary education in the late '70s indicated just how many of us had missed out on an education during the previous 23 years of conservative rule.

The consequence of Whitlam's education policy went well beyond just personal improvement.

Education has far greater impact for society than just leading people into professions or occupations, it often rounds them off as active members of their community and society gains because of this.

I had followed the usual course of the "Westie" masses and become a carpenter, then moved into teaching as a trade teacher. Thanks to Gough, my degree allowed me to teach history and politics in high schools, where I like to think I was able to influence many of the young charges under my care to think about matters political. (Unbiased, of course.)

Higher education also gave me the confidence and knowledge to participate in local government and play roles in other community activities throughout my life.

Forget the Khemlani affair and Rex Connor's delusional plans to run a gas pipeline across Australia, the fact that our country was dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century is something that all Australians should be grateful for.

Thirty-seven years on, today's modern Australia is a direct result of the Whitlam years.

Happy birthday, Gough, and so many thanks for giving me and many of my generation a chance at life that previously had only been the realm of the rich.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Individual career choices, not government quotas, should define the next 40 years of Title IX

This month Title IX turned 40. Part of the 1972 Education Amendments, Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in federally supported educational programs and activities. Sexual harassment and college athletics typically receive the most attention; however, Title IX covers several additional key areas, including higher education access.

Today, the academic focus is shifting to the comparative rates of women and men with degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. But the question remains: do we really need government dictating our choices?

According to Title IX proponents such as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), “In many cases women still lag behind men in earning doctoral and professional degrees, particularly in nontraditional disciplines like math and science. Women receive, for example, only 18 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees and 12 percent of doctoral engineering degrees, due in large part to the hostile environment many face in these fields.” Actual statistics and labor projections suggest that women are more likely basing degree decisions on hard-nosed economics—not fear and trembling.

Among Americans with college and advanced degrees educational attainment by gender suggests at best a balance—and at worst, a disadvantage for men. Roughly an equal proportion of women and men have some college education (17 percent each), an associate’s degree (10 percent women, 8 percent men), or a master’s degree (9 percent women, 7 percent men). The proportion of women and men with bachelors, professional, and doctoral degrees is also a statistical dead-heat with less than a single percentage-point advantage for men.

Yet Title IX advocates don’t dwell on this parity. Instead, they worry that women are not earning the “right” kinds of advanced degrees. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), for example, admits that today women earn nearly or more than half the bachelor’s or postgraduate degrees in biology, psychology, and chemistry (p. 19). They say gender bias explains why women are earning far fewer advanced degrees in engineering and computer science (p. 18), fields projected to grow 10 percent and 22 percent, respectively, over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Chart 6).

These high-growth fields are attracting significant attention from state and national policymakers hoping to reboot the economy and promote global competitiveness. Yet together engineering and computer science represent just 14 percent of all doctorates awarded in 2008-09. Nor are these the highest growth fields.

Women earned the majority of doctorates in 10 of 21 related doctoral fields included in the BLS’ occupational growth projections for the next decade. Men earned the majority of doctorates 11 other fields, but only because two men and no women earned doctorates in communications technologies in 2008-09—hardly a gender bias smoking gun.

More significant is the fact that the fields in which women earn the majority of doctorates are also projected to grow the most. These fields include the top-ranked profession healthcare and related clinical sciences (29 percent growth), as well as public administration and social services (24 percent growth). Other fields in which women earned the majority of doctorates have projected growth rates of 10 to 18 percent, including: visual and performing arts; biological and biomedical sciences; psychology; education; library science; communications and journalism; security and protective services; and architecture and related services (Chart 6).

On average the doctoral fields women choose are projected to grow 17 percent, compared to a 16 percent average in the fields where men earn the majority of doctorates.

However enamored Title IX proponents and policymakers may be with PhD’s, it is worth wondering whether employers outside academia actually consider them vital to their industries.

Moreover, numerous other occupations that do not require doctorates are expected to grow even more than computer science, including personal care services, projected to grow 27 percent.

Many more occupations are also projected to grow more than engineering, including building and grounds cleaning maintenance (12 percent); sales (13 percent); transportation and materials moving (13 percent); as well as installation, maintenance, and repair (15 percent) (Chart 6). But for some reason Title IX proponents aren’t encouraging women to go into those fields.

Artificially leveling the athletic and academic playing fields is bad enough. Worse is government meddling with adults’ livelihoods under the guise of “gender equality.”


British  exam boards HAVE dumbed down as they compete to offer the easiest papers

Exam standards have dropped because boards are competing to offer the easiest papers, a damning year-long inquiry has found.

An influential committee of MPs concluded that the current system allows boards to 'strip out' content from GCSEs and A-levels so they can boast to schools that their exams are 'more accessible'.

The public has been forced to endure years of denials that grade inflation exists even though they can see it 'with their own eyes', they said.

The verdict is a vindication for Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has demanded curbs on competition between exam boards to stamp out grade inflation.

At present, up to six boards set exams in each subject and schools choose which one they wish to use.

In an attempt to tackle a culture of 'competitive dumbing-down', Mr Gove is proposing to allow only one board to design an exam in each subject.

The Commons education select committee today backed the thrust of the reforms but suggested instead devising a single national syllabus for each subject and allowing boards to set question papers against it.  This would remove incentives to dumb down courses and 'race to the bottom' while still allowing the benefits of competition, it was claimed.

Committee chairman Graham Stuart said a system of single national syllabuses would prevent exam boards 'making out their syllabus is more accessible than someone else's'.  He added: 'It would get rid of the perverse incentive to strip out content from a syllabus, to strip out the richness of learning from a course in order to make the course supposedly more accessible, in truth to make it easier.'

He highlighted embarrassing undercover filming last year which showed a senior geography examiner for the Edexcel board telling a reporter, posing as a teacher, that 'you don't have to teach a lot' and there was 'a lot less' for pupils to learn than with rival exam boards.

Steph Warren admitted she did not know 'how we got it through' the official regulation system that is supposed to ensure high standards.

Mr Stuart said: 'We conclude that competition between exam boards creates significant pressure to drive down standards in exams, and that the time is right for fundamental reform.

'We have got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how accessible their syllabuses are.

'There has been grade inflation. There has been a denial it's going on while the public can see with their own eyes that it's happening.

'If you have people denying obvious truths they see in their own lives they will lose confidence in those who are vouching for that system.'

Last month, the Daily Mail revealed that Mr Gove was planning to scrap dumbed-down GCSEs and bring back rigorous O-levels.

Leaked documents showed he has drawn up a blueprint which would tear up the current exam system as well as abolishing the National Curriculum. ...and Gove's wielding the axe on dead-end courses

Michael Gove warned  yesterday that hundreds of thousands of teenagers were being steered  towards dubious vocational courses 'which do not  benefit them'.

The Education Secretary spoke out as he unveiled funding reforms aimed at spelling the end of pointless courses and getting many more 16-year-olds to train to be plumbers, chefs and electricians.

The overhaul of school and college funding for 16 to 19-year-olds is expected to lead to the decline of courses such as the Certificate in Introduction to Cabin Crew, nicknamed the course in becoming a 'trolley dolly'.  The City and Guilds course, which is taken by around 2,300 a year, involves 150 hours of teaching, but it  does not 'require or prove occupational competence' and fails to meet airline requirements.

Schools and colleges will also be encouraged to offer 'substantial' vocational qualifications, which are recognised by employers.

These might include a City and Guilds Diploma in Professional Cooking, which takes two years and includes plenty of practical work or a BTEC in Children's Care, Learning and Development, which also combines theory with practical training.

The Department for Education reported that the number of pupils taking courses in construction trades had halved in a year, between 2008/09 and 2009/10.

Yet a third of vacancies for tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians had been attributed to shortages of workers with these skills.

The shake-up follows a devastating review of vocational qualifications by Professor Alison Wolf, of King's College London, which condemned many as 'dead-end'.

Mr Gove said: 'Around 1.6million 16 to 19-year-olds are in education each year, but as Professor Wolf stated in her review, as many as 350,000 are on courses which do not benefit them. Reform is vital.'

The Education Secretary is not withdrawing the lesser-quality courses but he is removing cash incentives for schools and colleges to offer them.

This could lead to the institutions withdrawing the courses.
In addition, for the first time, teenagers who fail to achieve a C in GCSE English and maths will be required to continue studying the subjects until the age of 18.  The move is designed to answer concerns from employers who complain that school-leavers too often lack mastery of basic skills.


British schools could be made to teach pupils about gay marriage once it is passed into law

Officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education concede that teachers may be under a legal obligation to inform children about same-sex marriage once it has passed into law.

Under the Education Act 1996, pupils must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life in sex education classes.

Critics said the documents, released under freedom of information laws, demonstrate that plans to introduce civil marriage ceremonies for gay couples in  addition to existing civil partnerships, could have far- reaching and unintended consequences.

In March, an unnamed official at the Government Equalities Office, part of the Home Office, emailed a member of staff at the Department for Education, asking whether  the introduction of same-sex marriage will affect schools’ legal responsibility to teach marriage.

The Education Department official appeared to admit the issue has not been considered, saying the email had ‘helpfully flagged up the needs for the department to address the issue and be clear about its implications’.

In another email the Equalities official warned of the  possibility of ‘walking into a  minefield on this’.

By late March, the Education Department had prepared a document on the impact of the law, which concedes: ‘There may be a need for the SRE [sex and relationship education] guidance to include some additional material in respect of same-sex civil marriage.’

The document says it is important the parents are consulted about their school’s sex education programme, and if a majority are unhappy, headteachers should consider changing it.

It adds: ‘If parents remain concerned, then ultimately they have the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons.’ But Tory MP David Burrowes questioned whether schools will be able to exercise discretion on the subject.

‘The issue of same-sex marriage is not just one about equality, but what happens in our school classrooms as well,’ he said.

‘Teachers should be able to exercise their consciences according to their own views on marriage, but that could well be constrained by these proposals.

‘As much as I am sceptical about the Government being able to exempt churches from conducting same-sex marriages, I also doubt whether it will be possible to construct exemptions for teachers.

‘They would be open to legal challenges. Is the Government really going to order primary school teachers to go against the views of the churches that run them?’

Colin Hart, campaign director at the Coalition for Marriage, said: ‘Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.’

Ministers are committed to introducing legislation on same-sex marriage before the next general election in 2015, despite strong objections from church leaders.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Educanto Marches On

The most depressing development in American education this week, although you surely have your own nomination for that distinction, might have been one right here in little old Little Rock.

It seems the elementary schools out in the county are remodeling the once simple report card. Naturally enough, it will no longer be simple. Instead, it could be rendered incomprehensible. For instead of the old letter grades, the schools are to switch to numbers. Lots of them.

A draft policy for the school district calls for "computer-generated" report cards that would list the students' progress in acquiring 15 different skills, more or less, in three different subject areas such as math and "reading and language arts," formerly just plain old readin' and writin'. It's a firm rule in educanto: The vaguer the idea, the wordier its description.

Vocabulary can be telling, and the educantists' inflated language is a sure sign of their insecurity, which they try to mask by ever more convoluted language. Pretension remains the first symptom of a profession unsure of itself.

The proposed new grading system in the elementary schools would go from 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest. In place of the old A, B, C, D and F grades that parents could grasp at a glance, mom and dad will have to go through about 45 different numbers (15 skills times 3 subjects) to find out how little Johnny or Janey is progressing. Or not. Anything to make it harder to understand how the kid is doing in school. And to give teachers more paperwork to fill out when they could be teaching.

Imagine some of the conversations at home when the new, up-to-date, number-speckled report cards get home:

"Great work, Janey! You got almost all 4s. But what's this 3 doing next to 'uses strategies to comprehend text'? What's the problem?"

"I'm sorry, dad. I knew what the teacher was after, but I just couldn't explain it the way I was supposed to. We read a poem that started 'After great pain a formal feeling comes. . . .' And all I could think of was grandpa's house just after grandma died. But I couldn't take the feeling apart the way I was supposed to. When I did, it went away, the way my doll was never the same after we broke it apart and took the stuffing out. It was all there, all right, but it wasn't."

"You're not making any sense, Janey. You'll just have to keep trying till all the feeling is gone. It's part of being a grown-up. Get past the poetry and stuff. It doesn't help you in the real world. It just gets in the way. You don't have to understand, just sound like you do. That's the trick. To make the sale, you've got to sell yourself first. You want to be a success, don't you? Outline. Analyze. Compare and contrast. All that stuff. Follow the rules. They're simple enough. Cut out the daydreaming. Then, I just know, you'll get a 4, honey. You can do it if you really try."

Janey's problem with strategizing may be much the same as the one some of us have with these long, divided and subdivided numerical report cards split 3 different ways and then resplit into 15 sections. It's not Janey's problem so much as American society's in this postmodern, robotic, deconstructed age. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge and knowledge with wisdom.

All those quite different concepts now seem to mix in one vast computer-generated cloud of educanto. Till we can't tell the difference between them. If they're still recognizable at all. Because if a quality can't be quantified -- like intuition, say, or poetry or faith or insight -- it doesn't exist. At least not to the well-trained mind.

With each such "reform" in basic education, the basics grow dimmer. We seem bent on learning more and more about less and less till we finally succeed in knowing everything about nothing.


Poor British pupils 'two years behind wealthier classmates at 15'

And so it will always be.  IQ is hereditary and smart people usually don't stay poor for long

Teenagers from the most deprived backgrounds are lagging dramatically behind wealthy peers in the race for university places because of failure at school, according to major research published today.

Academics warned that the gulf in entry rates between rich and poor students was driven by exam results at secondary school – and not discrimination from admissions tutors.

Figures show that the highest-performing pupils from disadvantaged families lag around two-and-a-half years behind bright children brought up in wealthy homes by the age of 15.

The achievement gap in England is around twice as wide as that seen in some other developed countries, it was revealed.

Despite an extensive Labour drive to boost access to higher education, it emerged that the richest schoolchildren were around six times more likely to go on top Russell Group universities than the poorest fifth.

Pupils from affluent homes have also benefited the most from the huge expansion of university places over the last 30 years, claiming an increasing number of available places on degree courses as social mobility effectively grinds to a halt, researchers suggested.

The disclosure – in a series of studies published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies – will be seen as a blow to the Government, which has repeatedly criticised leading research universities for failing to admit more students from poor backgrounds and state schools.

Last year, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, warned that they had a duty to ensure "British society is better reflected" in their admissions to justify state funding.

They are now required to set tough new targets to widen access to justify tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year.

But a series of academic studies released today suggest that failure at an early age remains the biggest hurdle to university for the vast majority of poor pupils.

Jake Anders, a researcher from the University of London’s Institute of Education, who wrote one of the studies, said: “Policymakers interested in narrowing the gap in higher education participation between young people from rich and poor families should focus their attention on ensuring that students from poorer backgrounds have the necessary qualification to apply to university.”

The IFS published five studies as part of a new journal aimed at investigating the role education plays in boosting the life chances of children from disadvantaged areas.

Together, the reports suggest that levels of social mobility have actually worsened in the last 30 years as rich pupils pull increasingly ahead of those born into poor families.

In a series of key findings:

 *  One study from the IoE reveals that the highest-achieving children from affluent backgrounds are two-and-half-years ahead of peers from poor homes in reading skills by the age of 15 – twice that seen in other western nations;

 *  Another IoE report exposes “substantial” differences in university entry by family income, with children from the richest fifth of families being almost three times more likely to go into higher education – and six times more likely to attend a Russell Group university – as those from the poorest fifth;

 *  A study by University College London and Surrey University found that the rise in academic achievement over the last 30 years was more marked among wealthy students, with the proportion of children from the poorest fifth of households going on to get a degree increasing from just nine to 10 per cent, while attainment among the richest fifth increased from 28 to 37 per cent.

Steve Machin, professor of economics at UCL, said "There has been a meteoric rise in education acquisition in Great Britain over the past 30 years, which has occurred most rapidly amongst those from richer families.

“When coupled with evidence of increasing wage returns to all levels of education, this suggests that the expansion of educational opportunities may have hindered rather than helped social mobility.

“For the Government to have any hope of using education as a means of increasing social mobility in future, it will need to learn from the lessons of the past 30 years."


Foreign students jump the queue: Overseas candidates offered uni places with lower grades than UK teenagers

Foreign students with low grades are being offered places at top British universities ahead of pupils with better marks in this country, an investigation has revealed.

Universities have been accused of making money by rejecting British teenagers so they can fill places with international students who are charged 50 per cent more than the annual £9,000 tuition fees paid by UK and European students.

An investigation found that the official agent in Beijing for the elite Russell Group claimed to be able to secure over-subscribed places for a Chinese student with three C grades at A-level - when British students need at least AAB.

Undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph visited Golden Arrows Consulting in Beijing, which placed more than 2,500 students in British universities in 2011, claiming to be looking for a place for a Chinese student who had three C grades.

Despite being below the entry requirements of most leading British universities, the fictional student was offered a place at both Cardiff and Sussex.

The agent, Fiona Wang said: 'We send student [sic] to Cardiff Business School to study accounting and finance with ACD. So with CCC we can help her'.

An applicant would normally need AAB to take the course at the university. 'If the student wants to study economics, it’s three Cs. So economics she can also do', the agent added.

Ms Wang said that the grades meant that she could also ‘choose’ between the University of East Anglia or Southampton University but not Bristol, King’s College London or Warwick.

Another Golden Arrow employee reportedly offered to doctor documents to help the student’s application, including visa paperwork and offered assistance with the applicant’s personal statement.

Reporters were also told that in order to secure a visa, they should tell the UK authorities that the student would return home immediately after graduation - even if this was not the case.

The number of foreign students in Britain has risen by a third to almost 300,000 since 2006, with the highest proportion coming from China, while the number of British students missing out on a university place reached a peak of 180,000 in 2011.

Richard Cairns, the headmaster at Brighton College, said: 'Universities are increasingly searching for, and needing, overseas fees. It’s something we have noticed. It’s tougher for British students to get into top universities than overseas students.'

Last month 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents warned that any crackdown could lead to foreign students going elsewhere, costing the economy billions.

In a letter to the Prime Minister they said Britain attracts around one in 10 students who study outside their home country, generating around £8billion a year in tuition fees.

Universities take such a valued revenue stream very seriously, with almost all having a dedicated page on their websites listing 'partners' in other countries for prospective students to contact about getting a place.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, told the Telegraph money was the 'main factor' leading universities to push for foreign students.

He said there was a risk that educational standards could be compromised as establishments try to secure their future in an era of uncertain funding.

Golden Arrow admitted that it had found a place for a student at Cardiff with ACD grades but said it was an exceptional case.

The firm denied offering to doctor applications and said it only ‘instructs’ students’ on personal statements but would never 'write on behalf of them'.

Sussex and Cardiff Universities denied offering places to international students with lower grades. The University of Southampton said it would be investigating the allegations.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Low confidence in U.S. public schools is warranted

Perhaps it was the rash of sexual-abuse cases on the part of public school teachers discovered during the 2011-2012 school year.

Or maybe it was the poor impression of educators left by Wisconsin teachers union members in the wake of protests against Gov. Scott Walker.

Or maybe parents finally took the time to go through their children’s backpacks and found the work product that passes for learning these days.

Whatever the reason, last week the Gallup Organization revealed a poll that indicates confidence in our nation’s public schools is at an all-time low.

According to the poll measuring Americans’ confidence in public institutions, confidence in schools is down 5 percentage points from 2011, with just 29 percent expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them.

“This is a new low from the 33 percent measured in Gallup’s 2007 and 2008 Confidence in Institutions polls,” Gallup’s website says. “The high was 58 percent the first time Gallup included public schools, in 1973.”

Put another way — because it’s frankly more startling — roughly 70 percent of Americans have low or no confidence in our public schools. The vast majority of us seem to get that our system of public education simply is not getting the job done.

On the other hand, Americans are nothing if not loyal, sometimes blindly so. In 2010, Gallup found a significant gap between people’s confidence in public education generally, versus their high opinions of their own children’s schools.

In that poll, only 18 percent of respondents gave the nation’s schools as a whole a grade of “A” or “B,” but 49 percent gave high marks to their local public schools, and 77 percent gave those grades to their own children’s schools.

Makes you wonder if that data reflected a sort of broad application of the “Not My Kid” epidemic that seems to be plaguing our nation. (It’s “Not My Kid” who bullies, cheats, shoplifts, talks back to authority figures, spends seven-plus hours a day engaged with media, and can name all the Kardashian sisters, but no public officials other than President Obama.)

Perhaps parents who respond to polls don’t want to admit the truth: Even their own child’s schools — even the best public schools in America — are part of a crumbling educational infrastructure.

When it comes to our nation’s public schools, our collective lack of confidence is not unwarranted. Even as our nation’s children demonstrate their lack of educational progress through standardized tests, America’s schools of education continue to churn out teachers trained to pursue the status quo.

Consider that “progressive” activist Bill Ayers remains a guru of teacher education, despite his retirement from teaching two years ago. Throughout his long and illustrious career, he wrote and spoke to a generation of new teachers, and what he told them was that the purpose of education is the “doing of social justice.”

Not transmitting a body of knowledge and cultural competence. Not ensuring that young people are prepared with skills and abilities to earn a living for themselves and their families. Not to uphold the republic by internalizing the values and virtues upon which it was founded.

But rather, according to Mr. Ayers and most of America’s schools of education, teachers ought to be committed to cultivating “critical thinking” and preparing people to participate in a “democracy.”

I’m not sure how you can think critically about things you don’t know, or participate in a democracy when we live in a republic, but maybe that’s me being picky.

One positive outcome of the lack of confidence in public schools might be action on the part of parents and legislatures to do some critical thinking of their own about the purpose of education, and the conflicting goals of those who seek to prepare our children for the future, as opposed to those who use our schools for social engineering.

Perhaps we’d all have more confidence in our schools if the folks setting the educational agenda in America stopped using them for incubators of social change, and instead simply educated our children in a rigorous curriculum of core knowledge.

Progressive? No. But it would be progress, that’s for sure.


Higher Ed Bubble: Students Pay Just 43% Of Direct Cost

Students are paying less and less of direct college costs, relying more on government grants and loans. That has encouraged universities to jack up tuition expenses, fueling a vicious circle reminiscent of the housing bubble.

U.S. universities charged students $190 billion in 2001-02 for tuition, fees, room and board and more, according to data from Sallie Mae. By 2010-11 that had more than doubled to $410 billion. Even after adjusting for inflation, student charges shot up 72%.

During that time, paying directly for college has declined as a percentage of overall costs, while paying indirectly via government loans and grants has increased. In 2001-02, direct family contribution accounted for 52% of students' higher education bills, while indirect payments accounted for 42%. By 2010-11 that was reversed with grants and government loans accounting for 52% and family contributions amounting to 43%.

'Someone Else's Money'

"What these data show is people consuming higher education are increasingly paying for it with someone else's money," said Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute. "And that includes the loans, because students can get loans at a cheap rate because taxpayers are on the hook for all the risk."

Richard Vedder, an economics professor at the University of Ohio who has studied the economics of higher education at length, sees a link between the price of tuition and the change in how we pay for college.

"I look at the evidence, an explosion in tuition costs accompanied by an explosion in grants and student loans," Vedder said. "What else can explain it?"

When students and families pay for college indirectly, either someone else is paying, in the case of grants, or payments are deferred as with loans. This makes them far less sensitive to the price of tuition and other expenses than they would be if they were paying out of their own pocket. So colleges can hike charges far more than inflation.

Average annual tuition in 2010 for all colleges was about $17,464 based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics. That's a whopping 32% hike after inflation since 2000.

Not everyone agrees that the shift is responsible for the rise in tuition and overall college costs.

"If you look at the for-profit institutions, tuition is pretty much a function of grants and loans," said Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at George Washington University and independent policy analyst for the College Board. "But where the vast majority of students go, (four-year non-profits, state institutions, community colleges) ... there is no evidence that loans and grants lead to higher tuition."

She claims that the share of students receiving federal and state grants is not that high. She blames tuition hikes at public universities on cuts in state aid.

Since 2008, inflation-adjusted state funding of higher education has fallen 1%, data from the State Fiscal Survey show. But real funding jumped 20% over the entire 2000-11 period, suggesting that other factors are behind rising tuition costs.

"To say that there is no evidence is wrong," McCluskey said. "There is a fair amount of empirical evidence that shows student aid leads to higher prices."

He points to articles in Economics of Education Review and Journal of Human Resources. The first one showed that Pell grants did cause higher tuition prices at private colleges but not public institutions. The second found student aid in Georgia — the HOPE scholarship — resulted in higher costs at four-year colleges in that state.

But nailing down the link is hard. One reason is that when tuition rises, students often automatically qualify for more aid. It can thus be hard to determine if tuition is rising due to increased aid or aid is increasing because of higher tuition prices.

"In addition to the empirical evidence, you have to use common sense," said McCluskey. "Basic economics says that when you subsidize something, like we have with higher education, you get more demand and higher prices."


Some British children are too naughty for normal school life and number of persistent offenders is rising, says Government’s behaviour tsar

Some children are simply too naughty to fit into everyday school life, the Government’s behaviour tsar suggested today.   There is a group of youngsters who behave in very difficult and violent ways and who need much more help and support, according to Charlie Taylor.

He indicated that there may be have been a rise in these types of pupils, many of whom display very bad behaviour from an early age.

Giving evidence to the Commons education select committee this morning, Mr Taylor - former headteacher of The Willows, a special school in west London for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties - said that while behaviour in general is improving, there remains a groups of children that persistently behave poorly.

He was asked by Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud, why it was that increasing numbers of pupils are suspended from school for abuse or assault and, at the same time, Ofsted rates almost four-fifths of schools as good for behaviour.

Mr Taylor replied that the numbers of schools rated as good has fallen from around 87 per cent as the bar has been raised on standards of behaviour.

He told the committee: 'Though I would say generally, the trajectory of behaviour within schools is improving'  It is now rarer in schools to have 'no-go areas where teachers fear to tread at lunchtimes and break times', Mr Taylor said.  'So things have improved.

'But I do think there’s a group of children who show very extreme behaviour, very difficult, challenging, violent behaviour, often quite young children, and I would say possibly there has been an increase in those sorts of children.

'You can still be a school who is good on behaviour and still have pupils like that within your school because you’re doing a good job with them.

'But nevertheless there are certainly a group of children who need extra interventions, who need more help, who need more support and for whom the basic standards of just a really well-run school aren’t enough.'  He added: 'The trajectory is in the right direction, but there’s a huge amount to carry on doing.'

Mr Taylor has just been appointed the first chief executive of the Teaching Agency, which will oversee teacher training.

Mr Taylor said that he had concerns that some training courses are not teaching would-be teachers enough about behaviour and how to deal with it.

'Sometimes behaviour gets pigeon-holed as a one off lecture at the beginning of the year,' he said, with a lecturer handing out tips on how to deal with misbehaving pupils.

Mr Taylor has previously called for disruptive children to be identified before they start school to stop them going 'off the rails' later on.

Publishing his report into alternative provision earlier this year, Mr Taylor said that intervening to help naughty children when they are as young as two or three is better than 'waiting until they are throwing tables around'.

Teaching unions have previously raised concerns about misbehaving pupils, with a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) suggesting that poor parenting could be fuelling bad behaviour in schools.   It revealed that behaviour has worsened in the last five years, with pupils kicking, punching, pushing and shoving school staff.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said there is a minority of children who have a 'total disregard of school rules'.

These youngsters are just as likely to be 'over-indulged' middle-class children as those from poorer homes, she said.

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has also warned that schools are often forced to act as 'surrogate parents' in a sometimes self-obsessed culture that fails to instil good values in children.