Friday, September 21, 2012

Academic Dishonesty

 Walter E. Williams
Many of the nation's colleges and universities have become cesspools of indoctrination, intolerance, academic dishonesty and an "enlightened" form of racism. This is a decades-old trend. In a 1991 speech, Yale President Benno Schmidt warned: "The most serious problems of freedom of expression in our society today exist on our campuses. The assumption seems to be that the purpose of education is to induce correct opinion rather than to search for wisdom and to liberate the mind."

Unfortunately, parents, taxpayers and donors have little knowledge of the extent of the dishonesty and indoctrination. There are several clues for telling whether there's academic dishonesty and indoctrination. One is to see whether a college spends millions for diversity and multiculturalism centers and hires directors of diversity and inclusion, managers of diversity recruitment, associate deans for diversity, and vice presidents of diversity. See whether colleges spend money to indoctrinate incoming freshmen with programs such as "The Tunnel of Oppression," in which, among other things, students call one another vile racial and sexual names in order to develop "oppression awareness."

An American Council of Trustees and Alumni survey in 2004 of 50 selective colleges found that 49 percent of students complained of professors frequently injecting political comments into their courses even if they had nothing to do with the subject, while 46 percent reported that professors used their classrooms to promote their own political views. One English professor told his students that "conservatism champions racism, exploitation and imperialist war." The "critical race studies" program at UCLA School of Law says that its aim is to "transform racial justice advocacy." At an East Coast college, an exam was found with questions such as, "How does the United States 'steal' the resources of other (third world) countries?" The answer marked correct was, "We steal through exploitation." An economics professor told his class, "The United States of America, backed by facts, is the greediest and most selfish country in the world." A Germanic languages professor told his class, "Bush is a moron, a simpleton and an idiot."

A recent National Association of Scholars report, "A Crisis of Competence," reported that the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that "more faculty now believe that they should teach their students to be agents of social change than believe that it is important to teach them the classics of Western civilization." Use of public funds for private advocacy not only is academic dishonesty but also borders on criminality.

In today's college climate, we shouldn't be surprised by the outcomes. A survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut gave 81 percent of the seniors a D or an F in their knowledge of American history. Many students could not identify Valley Forge, words from the Gettysburg Address or even the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that only 31 percent of college graduates can read and understand a complex book.

A 2007 national survey titled "Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions," by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, found that earning a college degree does little to increase knowledge of America's history. Among the questions asked were: "Who is the commander in chief of the U S. military?" "Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II." The average score among college graduates was 57 percent, or an F. Only 24 percent of college graduates knew the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.

A 2006 survey conducted by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 24 percent of employers thought graduates of four-year colleges were "excellently prepared" for entry-level positions.

Our sad state of college education proves what my grandmother admonished: "If you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing, you can't do what you're supposed to do."


Britain's mixed-ability classes 'are holding back bright pupils' says head of education watchdog

Bright pupils are losing out due to the ‘curse’ of mixed-ability classes, the head of Ofsted warned yesterday.  Sir Michael Wilshaw said thousands were failing to reach their full potential due to poor teaching methods.

Inspectors will now be critical of schools that do not differentiate between high and low achievers.

This could lead to schools falling into the new category of ‘requires improvement’ (which replaces the old ‘satisfactory’ description), or even being labelled ‘inadequate’.

Statistics published following a  Parliamentary question show that  55 per cent of lessons in English state secondary schools last year involved children with different academic needs.

Ofsted cannot force schools to adopt setting – grouping pupils according to their academic ability in single subjects – or streaming, where ability groups cover most or all subjects.

However, Sir Michael’s intervention is likely to make headteachers rethink their practice of mixed ability classes for fear of being marked down in future inspections.

The chief inspector of schools said that of the brightest pupils at primary schools, about one in five did not go on to achieve top grades at GCSE.  ‘It’s a combination of low expectations of what these youngsters can achieve, that their progress is not sufficiently tracked, and what I would call and have done ever since I have been a teacher the curse of mixed-ability classes without mixed-ability teaching,’ he said.

The former head said mixed-ability classes did not work ‘unless there is differentiated teaching to groups of schoolchildren in the class’ and ‘individual programmes of work’.

He added it was ‘critical’ that if schools had a youngster with low basic skills next to a youngster with Oxbridge potential, this was ‘taken into account and they are taught by people who are experienced and good at teaching mixed-ability classes’.

He admitted it will be ‘hugely difficult’ for schools to tailor the same lesson to both the brightest and less able pupils.  Many schools had recognised this and ‘moved towards setting arrangements’, he said.

Early entry for GCSEs was also ‘limiting the potential of our brightest pupils’, Sir Michael warned.

Many achieve poorer grades and some stop studying core subjects altogether.

Ofsted figures show that about a third of pupils are now entered early for English and maths – more than 200,000 in each subject.

Sir Michael said: ‘We will be critical of schools using early entry, except where they are absolutely confident that youngsters are reaching their full potential. By full potential, we means A* and As if they are bright.’


Australian private schools do add value

Literacy gaps  and socio-economic status

As a result of the Gonski report and the recent budget cuts to NSW schools, the relative quality and importance of non-government schools to education in Australia has again been questioned.

The most recent issue of the journal Australian Economic Papers has an article by Paul Miller and Derby Voon comparing the performance of government and non-government schools in the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy) tests.

The objective of Miller and Voon’s analysis was to determine the extent to which differences in performance between school sectors can be attributed to the different characteristics of their students, including socio-economic status and gender. Their article builds upon other published research papers that use data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The majority of these studies find that socio-economic status does not completely explain school sector differences.

Miller and Voon estimate and compare the contribution of socio-economic status to NAPLAN performance in the different sectors. They find that for Year 3 students, the main effect of socio-economic status is similar in each sector and in each aspect of the NAPLAN tests (approximate r2 = 0.3, a figure that corresponds with the strength of the relationship found between socio-economic status and student performance over the last several decades). The picture changes in high school, however. Among Year 9 students, the impact of socio-economic status is significantly higher in independent schools than in Catholic or government schools.

Overall, the results support the findings of Gary Marks’ studies – the superior test results of non-government schools cannot be fully accounted for by the higher average socio-economic status of their students. There is a ‘moderate value-added effect’ of a school sector once student intake characteristics are controlled.

One limitation of Miller and Voon’s study is that it does not account for the prior ability levels of students. It is well known that literacy gaps exist between students of differing socio-economic status when they begin school. It is therefore likely that students in schools with a lower average socio-economic status have started school with lower literacy levels than their more advantaged counterparts. A similar study comparing the growth in scores between NAPLAN tests in years 3 to 5 and years 7 to 9 would be instructive.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Help wanted: High-performing teachers need not apply

As the Chicago teacher’s strike carries into its second week, many interesting facts are coming to light. We know the average Chicago public school teacher earns more than $71,000. What makes this figure interesting is that on average, Chicago Public School teachers only scored a 19 on the ACT. That is lower than the national average of 21.1 and the Illinois average of 20.9 (see here). The question is not why are teachers earning so much, but why are we attracting so many below average individuals in terms of academic aptitude into the classroom and so few high-performing ones?

Like Chicago, the difficulty of attracting high-quality individuals into the classroom is a problem we face here in Missouri. Teachers score lower than average on a number of standardized tests, includingthe SAT, the GRE, and the Armed Forces Qualification Test (see here). A study using Missouri data found that 20 percent of teachers scored a 19 or lower on the ACT and 69.6 percent scored a 24 or lower.

There are number of issues that perpetuate this problem of below average individuals entering the classroom. For starters, schools seemingly do a poor job of seeking out high-performing individuals.

In a recent study I co-authored for the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, we examined the application documents of 50 randomly selected Arkansas school districts. What we found was pretty alarming. More schools asked teachers what high school they attended (67 percent) than how they did on the teacher licensure exams (13 percent). Approximately half asked for the applicant’s GPA and none asked for ACT or SAT scores. Certainly scoring higher on a test does not necessarily make you a better teacher, but there is ample evidence to suggest higher-scoring individuals are higher-performing teachers.

Even if schools did request academic information from applicants, they would have little leverage to attract high-performing individuals. The single-salary schedule, which is in place in almost all public schools in Missouri, does not allow administrators to pay individuals more for their aptitude or their potential for being a great teacher. In essence, we get below-average teachers because we treat all the above-average ones like they are . . . average.


English adults 'put off education for life' after failing 11-plus exam

What is not mentioned below is that many who failed SHOULD have been put off further education.  There has to come a time when some realize that they are not going to benefit from more education and it may be better to learn that at age 11 rather than after one has done a "soft" degree that gains you nothing but debts

Almost a third of adults have been left permanently scarred by the experience of failing grammar school entrance exams at the age of 11, according to new research.

Figures show that 30 per cent of people were put off education and training well into middle-age following a poor result in the 11-plus, it was revealed.

Some adults claimed that low scores in entrance tests acted as an “albatross around their neck” for more than 40 years because of the shame of being branded a failure at the end of primary education.

The disclosure – in a survey of more than 1,000 adults aged 50 and over – comes amid continuing controversy over academic selection in the state education system.

Most grammar schools across England were converted into mixed-ability comprehensives in the 60s and 70s, although 164 remain across the country.

Existing grammars are still hugely popular among parents and some gain as many as 10 applications for every place.

But the scramble to secure grammar school admissions has led to claims that children are being put under too much pressure at a young age.

Previous studies have shown that more than half of children are given private tutoring for 11-plus exams and some parents start preparing sons and daughters from the age of five.

But new research by Love to Learn, a website offering online courses for adults aged 50-plus, found that the legacy of grammar school entrance exams still had a powerful impact on people 40 years on.

Of those who failed the 11-plus, 36 per cent said they still “lacked the confidence” to undertake further education and training courses, while 13 per cent insisted the experience “put them off learning for life”.

Some 45 per cent of adults with poor 11-plus results said they still carried “negative feelings with them into their fifties, sixties and beyond”, it was revealed.

Gill Jackson, the website’s director, said over-50s had “greater freedom and financial security and they are eager to learn new things which appeal to them”.

“For many though, learning stopped as soon as they left school due to the lack of ongoing opportunities, the need to start earning money or because they were getting married or wanted to start a family,” she said.


The charter school revolution comes to Australia

They're charter schools in the USA and academies in Britain but the concept is the same:  Escaping the educational bureaucracy and the teachers' unions

QUEENSLAND'S first Independent Public Schools have been announced, heralding a new and potentially controversial era in state education.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said 26 schools had been chosen for the first round of Independent Public Schools, which would be given more autonomy than their state counterparts.

Only 30 schools applied for 30 available positions, with just 26 granted, after the Queensland Teachers' Union "strongly" advised principals not to take part.

The QTU had threatened industrial action earlier this year and warned it could create a two-tier state school system turning hard-to-staff schools into impossible-to-staff schools.

Under the changes, principals gain the power to recruit all staff, control their budget and school councils can liaise directly with local industry.

Mr Langbroek said he believed local school communities, parents, teachers and principals knew what was best for their children.

"Independent Public Schools will have the freedom to directly recruit teachers and to build a team that is able to deliver innovative educational practices and have more autonomy to manage infrastructure and financial resources," Mr Langbroek said.

Each school gets $50,000 to assist with the change and an extra $50,000 in funding each year for administration.

"I have no doubt that after the first year, when these 26 schools have experienced the benefits of greater autonomy, we'll see many more schools come forward to become Independent Public Schools," Mr Langbroek said.

Palm Beach Currumbin State High executive principal Stephen Loggie said IPS would enable their excellence programs in academic, cultural and sporting areas to grow.

"It gives them their opportunity to evolve to the next level because IPS removes some of the red tape around the way schools are run and it gives more power to the local community to make decisions that are in their interest," he said.

The 26 include the flagship Brisbane State High School, School of Excellence Palm Beach Currumbin High and Kirwan and Smithfield state high schools in north Queensland.

Primary schools include Ashgrove, Miles, Aldridge, Banksia Beach and McDowall state schools, and Tagai State College in the Torres Strait.

The program will extend to 120 schools over four years.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Professor Who Questioned LGBT Class Faced Probe‏

By Todd Starnes

A tenured California college professor was the focus of a four-month investigation after he wrote a letter to the local newspaper critical of the school’s plans for a new degree in homosexual studies.

The letter appeared in the Alameda Journal after the College of Alameda announced it was creating a new degree program in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. The faculty member raised questions about budget priorities and the appearance of nepotism related to the new degree.

Shortly afterwards, the professor was confronted by an irate co-worker who filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment – stemming from the letter. The investigation took four months. He did not face disciplinary action – but was warned not to discuss the investigation with anyone but his legal counsel.

“This is an egregious violation of his rights under the First Amendment and shows the growing intolerance and one-sided tyranny of community colleges like Alameda,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute and the professor’s legal counsel.

“This action by the community college against this professor – simply for critiquing a new, controversial class on LGBT is a serious violation of the free speech rights of this professor,” he said.

Dacus said they are not releasing the name of the professor over fears he might suffer additional reprisals in the community.

“They treated him like he was some sort of criminal simply because he questioned the merits of the community college spending their limited resources on a class that was purely for the purposes of exploring and discussing controversial sexual lifestyles,” he said.

Messages left with the College of Alameda were not returned.

The college has a history of restricting free speech. Less than 5 years ago, they were the defendants in a federal lawsuit after two students were suspended and threatened with expulsion for praying on campus. That case was later settled.

Dacus said they plan on holding the college accountable after what they did to the professor. He said it’s not unusual for opinions to be stifled in that part of California – near San Francisco.

“That community likes to pride itself on being tolerant,” he said. “But one-way tolerance is not tolerance at all. It’s tyranny.”


The day the British government put rigour back into school exams: Out go GCSEs, in comes the tough new six-subject Baccalaureate

The biggest shake-up in school exams for a generation will see discredited GCSEs scrapped  and replaced with English  Baccalaureate Certificates.

A return to end-of-course exams in traditional academic subjects and the slashing of coursework and resits will ‘restore rigour’ to the education system, Michael Gove said yesterday.

The Education Secretary also announced tough core EBC courses which will be taught from 2015, with the first exams sat two years later.

Students will be awarded a full English Baccalaureate if they succeed in six core subjects: English, maths, two sciences – from physics, biology and chemistry – a language and geography or history.

The GCSE brand could be scrapped altogether in 2016 to make a clean break with a system first introduced in 1988.

A single exam board will preside over each subject, bringing an end to competition which Mr Gove said had encouraged a ‘corrupt effort to massage up pass rates’.

Announcing the reforms in the Commons, he said: ‘It is time for the race to the bottom to end. It is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. It is time to raise aspirations.’

‘After years of drift, decline and dumbing down, at last we are reforming our examination system to compete with the world’s best.’

The aim of Mr Gove’s reforms is to restore O-level-style rigour in a bid to halt the nation’s slide down the international schools league tables. However his ambition to fully replicate the O-level system, in which only the brightest sat the toughest exam, has been shelved following opposition from Nick Clegg.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s intervention also delayed the reforms by a year, raising fears Labour could try to save GCSEs if the party wins the next election. But education sources last night said the reforms were ‘unstoppable’.

Mr Gove also revealed less able pupils would be offered the chance to take the new EBC exams at 17 or 18 instead of 16.

He and Mr Clegg put on a show of unity yesterday with a joint article in which they launched a pre-emptive attack on teaching unions and the Labour Left.

They said: ‘Together we can overcome those forces that have held our children back – the entrenched establishment voices who have become the enemies of promise.’

The proposals will see hundreds of thousands of 11-year-olds, who started secondary school this  term, becoming the new ‘guinea pigs’ of the education system. Exam boards have previously been accused of ‘dumbing down’  GCSEs to attract the multi-million pound business from secondary schools.

But under the reforms, just one will be selected by Ofqual to offer qualifications in each subject in a bid to prevent the ‘race to the bottom’.

GCSEs in other subjects are also being toughened up and are unlikely to keep the ‘GCSE’ title.

Currently, many GCSEs have two tiers so pupils can either be entered for the foundation level – the simpler of the two and the maximum grade achievable is a C – or the higher level, where students can get up to an A*.

Under the shake-up, the foundation and higher level will be scrapped in the EBC subjects, meaning there will be no cap on how well pupils can achieve.

A consultation document by the Department for Education suggests exam boards come up with ‘new and different grading structures’. They will be expected to ‘differentiate’ between top achievers and provide a ‘statement of achievement’ for those who are not entered for EBCs.

The Government’s ‘preferred approach’ is to remove controlled assessment – or coursework done under exam conditions – from all six English Baccalaureate subjects. Other reforms including scrapping bite-sized modules and resits.

The overhaul is expected to result in fewer top achievers. This summer, pupils passed 22.4 per cent of GCSEs at A or A*.

Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s education spokesman, claimed the changes were ‘totally out of date’ and could be a ‘Trojan horse’ for the introduction of a two-tier system in the future. Teaching unions also condemned the change.  Martin Johnson, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘O-levels were abolished 25 years ago for a very good reason: they just tested memory and essay writing, which are not crucial  skills for the majority of jobs or  life today.’

But business welcomed the move. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘Business leaders want a stronger curriculum and more rigorous exams. These measures are welcome progress towards delivering that.’


Many aspiring Australian teachers are dummies

STUDENTS who struggle with reading, writing and arithmetic are being accepted into university courses to train to become teachers.

A national scorecard has revealed students with university admission ranks well below 50 - low by Australian standards - are gaining entry to teaching courses.

The Good Universities Guide says the standard ranges from as high as 90 for entry into Sydney University to as low as 46.5 for the Melbourne Institute of Technology.

In Queensland, teacher admission ranks range from 56 at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane to 77.75 in order to enter a primary school teaching course at the University of Queensland.

But some students are gaining entry with even lower scores under special entry schemes that offer "bonus points" for disadvantage, such as living in regional areas.
What do you think? Does the admission rank matter? Tell us in the comments section below.

The national snapshot underlines the shock findings that almost half of aspiring primary school teachers tested in Queensland in a recent trial struggled with literacy and numeracy questions Year 7 students should be able to answer.

Queensland is struggling to lift the performance of its students in literacy and numeracy testing, with latest results released on Friday ranking Queensland students third-last nationally.

The average Queensland student to sit the NAPLAN tests this year scored below the national average in every category.

All states are moving to enforce tougher standards, with the Gillard Government pushing for reforms to ensure only school leavers ranked in the top 30 per cent for literacy and numeracy can apply.

Professor Stephen Dinham, chairman of teacher education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, said while some courses demanded very high standards, others did not.

"If you are not confident in mathematics, you can't teach mathematics," he said. " We've really got to draw teachers from the top quarter of the school-leaving population.

"If you're taking kids with a score of 40, it's a worry. I'd be saying don't go below 75."

However, Australian Catholic University spokesman Julian Leeser said high marks did not necessarily guarantee a good teacher.

"You can have students with very high scores who are not good teachers. They lack empathy. Teaching is about relationship building," he said.


Harvard cheating scandal which could see over 100 students thrown out was uncovered by an alert black professor:  "The Harvard cheating scandal which has rocked the world-famous university and cast doubt on more than 100 students began with a minor typing error, it has been revealed.  125 undergraduates are currently being investigated over allegations they collaborated on a take-home exam paper for a course entitled 'Introduction to Congress'.    And a leaked letter from the professor who uncovered the cheating reveals the similarities between different students' answers which he believes cannot have been the result of coincidence.  The tell-tale signs included obscure political references, phrases repeated word-for-word, and an extra space inserted into the number '22,500'.  He initially cast suspicion on 13 of the 279 students taking the 'Introduction to Congress' course - but when the university looked in to the allegations, they found 125 possible incidents of cheating.  Two of those allegedly implicated are the captains of the university basketball team, one of whom has withdrawn from college for the year while the other is expected to follow suit.  Members of the football team have also been named"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hoosiers Show the Way

A nice piece recently published in the venerable Economist reports some good news out of the state of Indiana. The Hoosier state, under the enlightened leadership of Governor Mitch Daniels, has enacted a series of school reforms — reforms that are paying off handsomely for the children of the state.

The reforms crafted by Daniels and his superintendent of schools are interesting, among other reasons, because they are so wide-ranging. They include:

* creating a voucher program for poor students;

* encouraging and empowering more charter schools;

* enhancing the autonomy of school principals to fire the obvious deadwood and respond to parents’ legitimate pressures;

*requiring that teacher evaluations incorporate data on actual student performance.

Naturally, the rentseeking teachers unions hotly oppose these reforms (as they oppose almost all reforms, of any kind). Their position is: how dare these miserable, ungrateful, unwashed parents of kids in failing public schools insist on their right to send their kids elsewhere — or gain the right to see pertinent facts about the performance of the public schools?

The piteous cry is, “What is this country coming to?”

Of course, the deepest of the Indiana reforms is the establishment of a voucher program — which may well become the biggest in the country. Despite the unions’ vicious (and also morally vile) jihad against school reform in general and school choice in particular, there are now 32 voucher programs spread over 16 states. These programs educate only a small portion (210,000 students in total) of all America’s K-12 students, but they represent a growing threat to the dysfunctional status quo.

The anti-voucher forces trot out the usual lies: vouchers drain resources from public schools; they violate the separation of church and state. The replies are obvious. For every student who leaves a public school to attend a private one, yes, the district loses money, but it also saves the money it would have spent on that selfsame student. Apparently, unionized teachers can’t do simple arithmetic. Big surprise.

Further, the Supreme Court has already ruled that vouchers given directly to parents (who can decide to use them at religious, or atheist, private schools) do not violate the separation of church and state — no more than Pell Grants and the GI Bill of Rights, the benefits of which have always been usable at religious colleges. Apparently, unionized teachers don’t know history, either.

In fact, the voucher amount is usually much smaller, per student, than what is spent by public school districts. The Economist draws the obvious conclusion: vouchers save taxpayers’ money.

But I regard that as the least important advantage of vouchers. The most important, the crucial, advantage is that voucher programs (and other forms of school choice) rescue kids from stultified lives of needless underachievement.


Price of Obama's 'college affordability'

"No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money," President Obama told the Democratic National Convention as he accepted his party's nomination in Charlotte, N.C., this month.

That sentence - key in Obama's "college affordability" agenda - says everything about this administration's approach to selling itself to the American voter.

What's wrong with the message? Let me count the ways.

-- It ignores reality. There is no reason a qualified poor kid cannot get into college in the United States simply because of money. Richard J. Vedder, director of Ohio University's Center for College Affordability and Productivity, told me that Obama is correct, "people might get an acceptance at a relatively expensive private school that they can't afford to go to." But if students are accepted into one college, they can get into another, more affordable college, such as a community college, where Pell Grants cover tuition.

"If he's saying that not everyone can get into whatever college they want to get into, he's probably right," Vedder said. "I'm not sure that the American people would agree that every student should be able to get into the school they want." As an example, he mentioned Harvard.

-- It hints that GOP rival Mitt Romney would usher in a Hobbesian era in which poor kids are denied all opportunity to a college education.

To the contrary, Brookings Institution fellow Beth Akers recently blogged that Romney has "expressed a preference for redistributing aid dollars toward the neediest students."

Akers concluded that both Obama and Romney want to "tackle" college affordability - Romney through market-based reforms, Obama with increased Pell Grants and price controls.

-- It ignores the fact that a college education is not a ticket to the middle class or beyond if graduates cannot land good jobs.

The Associated Press crunched government data recently and found that 53 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. These graduates need good jobs far more than they need a break paying off their student loans. They need careers. They need to see an economic future, a path that can lead them out of a downsized economy.

Recent graduates need a president who can instill employers with the confidence to hire new workers. Yet all Obama can do is wave the promise of bigger loans that are easier to pay off.  Or not pay off.

-- It peddles a form of loan forgiveness in the name of "affordability."

Congress already passed an Obama measure to cap student loan payments at 15 percent of a graduate's discretionary income and forgive any outstanding balance after 25 years. This year, the Democratic National Committee platform held out "avenues for students to manage their federal student loans so that their payments can be only 10 percent of what they make each month." Actually, last year the president issued an executive order that set a loan-payment cap of 10 percent of income and proclaimed forgiveness of outstanding loan balances after 20 years for some graduates.

Romney's plan is to offer smarter financial aid, countered campaign policy director Lanhee Chen, "by working to create more diverse, affordable options for postsecondary education and by simplifying the financial aid system."

The Democrats' 2012 platform warns: "Tuition at public colleges has soared over the last decade and students are graduating with more and more debt; but Mitt Romney thinks students should 'shop around' for the 'best education they can afford.' "

Like it's a bad thing for young people to think about finances when they look at college or a trade school.

America's student-loan debt now exceeds the public's unhealthy credit-card debt. Still, the Democrats think it's bad for students to think about financial considerations when they pick a school.

The president's remedy is to tell Americans: Vote for me, and you can take out really big student loans. Be not afraid. As Vedder noted, "You've got a pretty good chance you won't have to pay it back."

Key elements of President Obama's "College Affordability" plan:

-- Double investments in Pell Grants. Maximum grant raised to $5,635. Number of grant recipients increased by 50 percent.

-- Help graduates manage student-loan debt with "income-based repayment" schedule.

-- Expand American Opportunity Tax Credits by providing up to $10,000 for four years of college tuition for families earning up to $180,000.


British students spend too long in bed or the pub

Traditional universities allow students too much time to sleep or go to the pub, AC Grayling has said.

The philosopher has rounded on modern institutions for allowing undergraduates too much time of their own, claiming there was “too much slack” on degree programmes.

His comments were made as he prepares to open his private university, the New College of Humanities (NCH).  Some 60 students will be the first to take his re-imagined £18,000 courses, which have been described as “double degrees” because of their workload.

“There's room in an undergraduate's life for more," Professor Grayling said, in an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine.   "There's too much slack. They could certainly spend less time in the pub or bed."

This year’s intake will complete a “major” as well as extra modules in subjects such as science, logic and critical thinking.

Professor Grayling compared his educational philosophy to the Aristotelian principle of making “noble use of our leisure time.”

"The obsolescence-proof thing you can take with you to the future is an ability to think broadly,” he said.

His new college, which draws on the Oxbridge model of one-to-one tutorials, has been accused of encouraging elitism by charging double the fees at Oxford or Cambridge.

Among the lecturers on the books are Steven Pinker, a psychology professor from Harvard; a physicist who served Barack Obama, Lawrence M Krauss; and the historian Sir David Cannadine.

Earlier this year, Professor Grayling suffered the embarrassment of having one of his supporters, Professor Steve Jones, withdraw from the enterprise over its fees.

Professor Jones said at the time: “The fees that he has been forced to apply mean that it can now no longer really claim to be about public education, and, for that reason, I have, amicably, withdrawn from it.”

Professor Grayling defended its charges, saying he intends to extend the college’s £250,000 endowment fund.  "I'd like to raise an endowment over time that can pay for everybody who would like to come to the college,” he said. "But I'm not going to wait for 10 years. I've started now."


Monday, September 17, 2012

When Students Cheat Liberals Retreat

    Mike Adams

The best argument against liberalism is that it doesn’t work. That should be obvious to any teacher who has to deal with student cheating. Even some sociology teachers are beginning to learn this although they are not aware that they are learning it. Like rats in a Skinner box, their behavior is being modified by reality even when they lack the intellectual capacity to recognize it. It warms my heart to see old liberals changing their ways, even if mindlessly. So I have written a column about it, which I am hoping will someday be reprinted by the New York Times.

Liberals are reticent to address the issue of student cheating because it reminds them of the fallen nature of man. Utopia requires cooperation and evidence that people tend to cheat undermines the view that they are inclined to cooperate. So liberals would prefer to ignore evidence of cheating in order to preserve a vision of what “society” ought to be and could be if only they were given the means (read: more of our money) to re-engineer it.

But evidence of student cheating has become too widespread to ignore. So the liberals in my department have started circulating articles on the subject coming from reputable sources like the New York Times (sarcasm = off). Some of these articles and some of the faculty reactions to them have focused on what they describe as “a culture of cheating.” Accordingly, some liberal faculty members have started talking about what needs to be done about it. Others have started acting on it. This should be causing cognitive dissonance for several reasons:

1. Merit is irrelevant. Sociology students are frequently fed the liberal line that people do not succeed in America on the basis of their own merits. The old “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” maxim is more than just a cultural adage. It seeps into the college curriculum in sociology classes that focus on Marxian conflict theories. Students are routinely taught that wealth, power, and privilege are the keys to success. This tends to denigrate the importance of knowledge. It should go without saying that people are less inclined to rely on their own achievements if their efforts are thus devalued. The connection of such notions to acceptance of cheating is fairly obvious. If we teach people that they cannot succeed through legitimate efforts we will soon see them pursue success through illegitimate means. As always, liberals fail to understand that ideas have consequences. And bad ideas can have very bad consequences.

2. Ethnocentrism is unacceptable. Sociologists like to teach others that it is wrong to judge other cultures by the standards of one’s own culture. Such judgments are called “ethnocentric.” This concept has slowly crept into mainstream liberal thinking. That is unfortunate because promoting anti-ethnocentrism is problematic for at least two reasons: 1. it tends to undermine the idea that one’s actions (including cheating) can be considered objectively wrong. 2. It renders efforts to condemn a “culture of cheating” hypocritical. Remember that we aren’t supposed to judge other cultures!

3. Punishment is ineffective. Sociologists routinely teach the liberal idea that punishment is ineffective and the corresponding idea that “society” has an obligation to rehabilitate criminals. Then, in their own syllabi, they warn students that cheating will be punished. Claiming to be shocked when their threats are ignored, they send students through the campus penal system, not through rehabilitation. And the liberal campus penal system can be quite punitive and dismissive of due process. No attorneys, no tape recorders, no note taking, no soup … oops! I mean, no due process for you!

In a nutshell, sociology, like modern liberalism, teaches that we can’t get by on our own merits, we should not judge other cultures, and that punishment does not work. When students cheat, however, the sociologist urges advancement through one’s own merits, condemnation of the culture of cheating, and punishment of the transgressor.

It is little wonder that many students are intellectually lost and morally confused. They make the mistake of taking their sociology professors seriously, which means buying into contradictory liberal ideas. So my advice is two-fold: First, don’t cheat in college because it is objectively wrong to do so. Second, don’t cheat yourself by choosing a major populated by hypocrites who cannot abide by the consequences of their own ideas.


Just as intended, teachers strike hurts families

by Jeff Jacoby

Striking Chicago public school teachers march down Michigan Avenue on September 13. The teachers union rejected a proposed 16% salary increase, and demanded job guarantees for any teachers laid off as Chicago's failing schools downsize. (Getty Images)

THE TRUE LONG-TERM IMPACT of the Chicago teachers strike may be not be known for some time. But there is no mystery about its impact in the immediate term -- anxiety, panic, and disruption for myriad mothers and fathers left in the lurch when 30,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked away from their classrooms last week just as a new school year was getting underway.

"Parents and guardians frantically sought last-minute child care, pleaded with their bosses for leniency, and hoped that their kids would return to school sooner rather than later," reported the Chicago Sun-Times. "Citywide, for thousands of families, stress was high." The paper quoted Martina Watts, a mother in West Garfield Park, one of the city's rougher neighborhoods: "I might be losing my job over this. As long as they're on strike, I can't work. I'm not getting paid."

Construction worker Allen Packer told a TV interviewer that he had to switch from full-time work to a part-time night shift so he could be home with his young daughter during the day. "I kind of understand what they're trying to do," he said of the striking teachers. "But this is not just them." He gestured toward his daughter. "It's her education, first of all. Then my paycheck for the food."

The union went on strike to block school reforms proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, especially a tough teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. The chaos and financial hardship inflicted on so many Chicagoans -- more than one-fifth of whom have incomes below the poverty rate -- was not an unintended consequence of their walkout. To the contrary: The sudden dislocation, the harried scramble to find emergency day care, the extra expense, the turmoil in the children's routine -- they were at the heart of the union's strategy. The Chicago Teachers Union knew that by going on strike it would put countless families in an impossible position. That's what it was counting on.

When public-sector employees refuse to work, innocent bystanders are always the victims. Unions are well aware that by walking off the job, their members can deprive a huge swath of the public of what are frequently essential services -- trash collection, public transit, air-traffic control, classroom teaching. Since those services tend to be legally sheltered monopolies, a union strike leaves the public with few alternatives. Shut down the schools or let the garbage pile up, and voters grow desperate or angry. As public impatience mounts, elected leaders will usually decide they have no choice but to give the union what it wants. Rare is the official who can resist that kind of political pressure.

The private economy is different. Striking workers at a private corporation may demonize management as heartless plutocrats and greedy "1 percenters" who deny employees the pay and perks they deserve. But while union rhetoric can be ridiculously exaggerated, labor disputes in the private sector generally boil down to an argument about economic equity: Workers deserve more of the profits they helped generate. If those workers walk off the job, both sides pay a price -- the company loses business, and employees lose income. Seldom does public opinion play the deciding role. That's because a strike against General Motors or Shaw's Supermarkets doesn't leave consumers with nowhere else to go.

Strikes in the private sector, like the 2007 United Auto Workers action against General Motors, impose costs on labor and management. Strikes in the public sector, by contrast, are designed to inflict pain on the whole community.

By contrast, when public-sector unions call (or threaten) a strike, their strategy isn't to starve management of revenue. It is to cause maximum distress to blameless third parties – ordinary residents – and then deploy that distress as a weapon. That's not economic equity. It's raw power politics.

It's also egregious. In Chicago, the average public school teacher makes more than $76,000, according to union figures -- half again as much as the average private-sector employee earns. Over the past nine years, Crain's Chicago Business reports, teacher salaries in Chicago have climbed 42 percent. And what have Chicago taxpayers gotten in exchange? One of the worst public school systems in America, with a graduation rate of only 55 percent. "Of 100 Chicago Public School Freshmen, Six Will Get A College Degree," a headline in the Chicago Tribune announced in 2006.

Only in government work would employees claim that so lousy a record entitles them to still more hefty raises, or to a level of job security virtually unheard-of in the private economy. Such an outrageous sense of entitlement is among the poisoned fruit of public-sector collective bargaining, which empowers union officials with influence they have no right to -- influence they preserve by exploiting other people's pain.


Major reform to British High school examinations

Michael Gove is to herald an end to a quarter of a century of ‘dumbed-down’ exams this week when he abolishes GCSEs and brings back a tough new O-level style system.

The Education Secretary will announce the new exams on Tuesday in a joint press conference with Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after a furious behind-the-scenes row between the two men.

Mr Clegg has forced Mr Gove to delay the new system until September 2015, which means Labour could scrap it if they win the next Election, due in May 2015.

But Mr Gove won his battle to ensure the new exams are more rigorous and that the top grades only go to the brightest children. The joint appearance on Tuesday is designed to counter claims of another Coalition rift.

The reforms are designed to help schools in England catch up with other countries which have left us trailing in school standards.

The new exams, dubbed ‘Gove- levels’, follow claims that GCSEs, which replaced O-levels in 1986, are too easy. Under Mr Gove’s shake-up, the current system whereby nearly three in ten pupils get A or A* grades will go. Instead as few as one in ten will get the top mark, Grade 1.

Marks will depend on a traditional ‘all or nothing’ three-hour exam at the end of the two-year course, rather than the current system in which up to half the grading is based on modules and continual assessment, followed by a 90-minute exam at the end.

Pupils will no longer be able to bump up their grades with endless re-sits of each exam module. In future they will have to re-sit the entire exam, which is expected to deter most.

There will be more complex algebra questions in maths exams and a return to essays in English literature exams instead of trendy GCSE ‘bite sized’ answers.

And in a controversial move designed to counter claims that GCSEs are far too easy for bright pupils, questions in the new exam will be graded, starting with easy questions and building up to difficult questions which will stretch the cleverest pupils.

It means that less able pupils may be unable to complete the paper. But Mr Gove will argue it is vital to boost standards.

In addition, the new exams will be run by a single exam board following complaints that competition between rival boards is driving down standards.

Board officials have been accused of boasting how easy their exams are, and giving tips to teachers on the content of papers. Ministers said the current rules had created a ‘race to the bottom’ in standards.

According to a 2010 OECD study of 15-year-olds, the UK fell from 17th to 25th for reading, 24th to 28th for maths and 14th to 16th in science over a three-year period.

Mr Clegg was furious earlier this year when Mr Gove suggested replacing GCSEs with a two-tier exam, with a new version of O-levels for top pupils and a new version of CSEs, also abolished in 1986, for less able youngsters. Mr Clegg accused Mr Gove of acting in an ‘insulting and patronising’ manner by failing to consult him in advance.

Mr Clegg’s main objection was that this system would be ‘elitist’ and would ‘stigmatise’ children considered not bright enough.

The two men thrashed out their differences in a series of meetings over the summer. Mr Gove won his battle to ensure the exams can test so-called ‘elite’ pupils.

However, Coalition insiders say there could be further Tory-Lib Dem friction as details of the new single tier exam emerge.

‘Gove is determined to ensure it is much more demanding than the existing exam,’ said one source.

‘Schools will be given time to raise their game and adjust to that. If they can’t, or decide their pupils simply aren’t up to taking the new exam they may be forced to find a different option. That could reopen the debate about having another, less difficult exam.’

Mr Clegg persuaded Mr Gove to delay starting the new exams until September 2015, arguing that a 2014 deadline would cause chaos in schools. It was a blow to Mr Gove who had hoped to show the system was up and running before the next Election. Furthermore, the 2015 start date – with the first new exams in 2017 – means that, in theory, if Ed Miliband wins the next Election, the new exams could be scrapped weeks before they are due to begin.

It is certain to put education at the heart of the next Election campaign.When Mr Gove first floated his ideas of a two-tier exam system, Labour education spokesman Stephen Twigg called it ‘a cap on aspiration’ and accused Mr Gove of ‘harking back to a nostalgic view of the past’.

The new proposals are also expected to run into fierce opposition from teaching unions who claim they could ‘lower aspirations and exacerbate inequalities in society’.

Tuesday’s announcement is a key moment in the fast-rising political career of former journalist Mr Gove, brought up by adoptive parents and partly state-educated. A growing number of Tories believe he is a contender to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, though Mr Gove has laughed off such reports, offering to ‘sign a parchment in my own blood to prove I do not want to be Prime Minister’.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Courageous Conversations" are racist anti-white gobbledegook

Even peanut butter sandwiches are racist in one Oregon school

Dr. Verenice Gutierrez leads a talk about race with her staff just before the school year starts. Racial equity is a top focus for the school and district.

Verenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day.  Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

Guitierrez, along with all of Portland Public Schools’ principals, will start the new school year off this week by drilling in on the language of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training being implemented in every building in phases during the past few years.

Through intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives, the premise is that if educators can understand their own “white privilege,” then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance.

Last Wednesday, the first day of the school year for staff, for example, the first item of business for teachers at Scott School was to have a Courageous Conversation — to examine a news article and discuss the “white privilege” it conveys.

Most of the staff are on board, but there is some opposition to a drum class being offered to middle school boys of color at Scott School.

Fifty percent of the students at Scott are Hispanic; another 15 percent are black and 9 percent are Asian. Eighty-five percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Chuck Barber, who also offers boys’ drum corps at Vernon and Faubion schools in Northeast Portland, approached Gutierrez last year to start up a lunch-time drum class for black and Latino boys once a week. This year, it’ll expand to two classes a week, to accommodate new boys as well as those with experience.

At least one parent has a problem with the the class, saying it amounts to “blatant discrimination and equity of women, Asians, whites and Native Americans.”

“This ‘club’ was approved by the administration, and any girls who complained were brushed off and it was not addressed,” the parent wrote anonymously.

Gutierrez denies that any students were turned away from the drum corps, and vehemently rejects any suggestion that it is discrimination to offer a club catering to minority boys.

“When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it’s for kids of color, then it’s a problem?” says Gutierrez, 40, an El Paso, Texas, native whose parents were Mexican immigrants. “Break it down for me. That’s your white privilege, and your whiteness.”

Like many if not all of PPS’ leaders, Gutierrez has gone through California-based consultant Glenn Singleton’s “Coaching for Educational Equity,” a weeklong seminar on race and how it affects life; she’s also become an “affiliate,” certified to teach the equity curriculum; and she serves on the district’s administrative committee to address systematic racism, a group that meets every other week.

“Our focus school and our Superintendent’s mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another,” Guitierrez’ letter to staff reads.


British  teacher fired for grabbing abusive boy, 16, who hurled a banana milkshake over him

A teacher has been sacked for grabbing a pupil who hurled a banana milkshake at him -  despite neither the student or his parents complaining.

Robert Cox held the 16-year-old boy's arms and pinned him to his chair after being soaked by the drink and suffering a torrent of abuse from the student.

Mr Cox said he feared the boy was about to throw the chair at him. After he let the teenager go, the pupil did pick up a chair and threw it, although not at Mr Cox.

The drama at Bemrose School in Derby was captured on CCTV and governors sacked Mr Cox.

At a tribunal hearing in Nottingham yesterday the 59-year-old said he had now been left 'unemployable' and has twice attempted suicide. He also said he feared youngsters' behaviour was getting 'out of control'.

Mr Cox, who claims he was unfairly dismissed, was sacked in response to the way he acted in the incident on March 4 last year, the tribunal heard.

Married Mr Cox's 13-year teaching career has been ended by the episode.

He said: 'It has had a huge impact on me. I can't get another job now and our financial situation is dire, to say the least.

'In all other public buildings you see posters saying abusive language and behaviour will not be tolerated.

'That is not the case at Bemrose.  'Instead, if you act within the school guidelines to protect yourself, to protect other students and to prevent an escalation of the situation, you are penalised.

'Senior management at Bemrose don't support staff in general at all.

'Just before this incident, a meeting to discuss pupil behaviour and workload was called by the unions and we didn't get past the topic of pupil behaviour because it is considered by the staff to be so bad.

'I worry for my colleagues still there because the message this sends out is that if pupils threaten their teacher, the teacher is likely to be dismissed.'

Mr Cox said the pupil involved in abusing him was excluded for four days.

Governors ruled that he had used excessive force and had escalated rather than calmed the situation.

It was following a commotion in the school canteen when some boys were 'acting up' in front of another teacher.

Mr Cox told one of them, a year 11 pupil, to sit down, at which point the teenager launched into a tirade of verbal abuse and then threw his banana milkshake over him.

Mr Cox, who said he had never witnessed such an outburst before, held the boy by the arms and sat him in the seat.

He did that repeatedly every time the boy stood up because he said he feared the teenager was about to grab a chair and throw it at fellow pupils or a teacher if he did not restrain him.

When the school canteen emptied, the teenager did pick up a chair and threw it at an empty table.

Mr Cox, from Woodville, Derbyshire was suspended and, following a disciplinary hearing, was sacked after the panel concluded his actions had been inappropriate.

They did not believe the boy was about to throw a chair, having watched CCTV footage, and thought Mr Cox's actions and words escalated, rather than calmed, the situation.

Mr Cox said: 'The grainy CCTV footage from 50ft away did not show what I could see, I could see the look in the boy's face and I thought he was going to grab a chair.'

Another member of staff who came to the canteen during the incident said Mr Cox was 'fuming'.

Representing the school's governing body, at the tribunal, Kathryn Duff said Mr Cox had 'manhandled' the boy and that the reason the teenager had thrown the chair was because he was 'frustrated' with the way Mr Cox had treated him.

The tribunal judge, who said he had sympathy with Mr Cox's situation, is due to deliver his decision in writing in about two weeks.

Jo Ward, head teacher at Bemrose School, rejected Mr Cox's allegations about poor pupil behaviour and a lack of involvement from senior managers.

She said: 'The senior staff are very experienced and get involved with the children and we have got a very secure understanding of the school.

'I would point you to the increase in our examination results. Children don't perform like that if they are misbehaving - they can't.'

She said a system was also in place to support staff who may be having problems in a classroom.


Failed, failed, failed: Blair said his priorities were education, education, education. But Labour billions did nothing to raise standards, says report

Billions of pounds poured into education under Labour resulted in ‘no improvements’ in standards, a major report revealed yesterday.

Despite Tony Blair declaring his priorities as ‘education, education, education’ when he swept to power in 1997, a huge increase in spending on schools led to ‘no improvement in student learning outcomes’, the report found.

In fact, the UK’s teenagers have slipped down world league tables in crucial subjects while the country’s schools have become among the most socially segregated across the world.

Britain’s immigrant children are clustered in the most disadvantaged schools, the report found.

Eighty per cent of students with an immigrant background attend schools with a ‘high concentration’ of children from similar families. Only Mexico, Estonia and Finland have higher levels, a study of 34 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found.

Primary school class sizes are bigger only in Turkey, Korea, Japan, Israel and Chile and rising numbers of young people have become Neets, ‘not in education, employment or training’.

The findings are a damning indictment of the former Labour government, suggesting their education policies have had little impact and taxpayers have failed to get value for money.

They come just a day after the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT announced a ‘work to rule’, with staff sticking rigidly to six-and-a-half hour days, refusing all non-teaching duties and threatening strikes.

The OECD study – Education at a Glance – found that expenditure on UK primary and secondary schools and colleges as a percentage of GDP increased from 3.6 per cent in 1995 to 4.5 per cent in 2009, higher than the OECD average of 4.0 per cent.

At the same time, there has been ‘no improvement in student learning outcomes’, the report says.

Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education at the OECD, said: ‘Spending in the UK has gone up really a lot and has not been reflected in changes to [exam] scores. You have seen huge effort on the part of Government and at the same time outcomes have been flat.’

Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics have shown that Labour’s spending on education rose from £35.3billion in 2000 to £63.9billion in 2009.

The OECD monitors standards by administering its own tests in reading, maths and science for hundreds of thousands of 15-year-olds in up to 70 countries every three years.

The most recent results in 2010 revealed that the UK fell from 24th to 28th position in maths, 14th to 16th in science and 17th to 25th in reading.

The average class size in primary schools in 2010 was 25.8 pupils – above the OECD average of 21.3.

Meanwhile, the social make-up of UK schools poses ‘significant challenges’ for immigrant students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to the OECD.

Some 79.8 per cent of immigrant students whose mothers are poorly educated – not achieving any qualifications beyond GCSE level – are concentrated in disadvantaged schools.

This is a higher proportion than any other OECD country. The average level is 55.9 per cent.

However, the situation is not limited to children with poorly educated mothers.

Some 42.5 per cent of immigrant students born to highly educated mothers – those who have a degree – are in disadvantaged schools.

This is also a higher proportion than any other country examined by researchers, with the average being 26.1 per cent. These figures relate to 2009.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore said yesterday: ‘Labour’s answer to falling educational standards was to throw more and more money at the problem.

‘This evidence demolishes that approach once and for all. It’s not how much you spend that counts, but what you spend it on.'