Friday, March 01, 2013

Facebook Photo of Female Students Dressed in Burqas for Lesson on Islam Prompts State Investigation‏

Parents are demanding answers after a Texas teacher reportedly invited female students to dress up in Islamic garb and told the class to refer to Muslim terrorists as freedom fighters.

Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has launched an investigation into the incident. He told Fox News he was disturbed after seeing a photograph of female students wearing burqas and learning that students were reportedly taught that the cause for Egypt’s turmoil is democracy, not the Muslim Brotherhood, based on an article by the Washington Post.

The lesson on Islam was apparently taught in a world geography class at Lumberton High School in Lumberton, Texas, Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes reports.

One parent told Fox News she was “outraged” after she discovered a photograph of her 14-year-old daughter wearing a burqa on Facebook. “I felt my blood press go through my head,” she added.

“As parents we should have been made aware of this and I felt like the line had been crossed,” the parent said. “Christian kids who want to pray have to do it outside of school hours – yet Islam is being taught to our kids during school hours.”

The girl’s dad wants to know why his daughter was learning about Islam in a geography course.

More from Fox News:

    "The parents said they confronted their daughter and told her to explain exactly what she had been taught.

    “They were asked about their perception of Islam,” she said. “Most of the class said they thought about terrorism. And her response was, ‘we’re going to change the way we perceive Islam.’”

    The teacher reportedly told the students that she did not necessarily agree with the lessons –but she was required to teach the material."

Sen. Patrick said he can relate to parents’ frustration.  “Could you imagine if someone asked a Muslim student to dress up as a priest? The parents of a Muslim student might be rather upset about that,” he said.

The Lumberton Independent School District defended the lesson on Islam in a statement to Fox News, saying “the lesson that was offered focused on exposing students to world cultures, religions, customs and belief systems.”

“The lesson is not teaching a specific religion, and the students volunteered to wear the clothing,” the statement added.

According to the school district, Christianity and Judaism were also part of the lesson — but the parents claim Christianity was not discussed in the class.

When the parents contacted the principal at the high school, he told them the content was required under CSCOPE, a controversial online curriculum system that provides lesson plans to teachers across the state of Texas. However, the school district claims the lesson on Islam was not part of CSCOPE.

Janice VanCleave, founder of Texas CSCOPE Review, said that is a typical response from a school system that uses CSCOPE. She also said teachers are not giving students the whole story about Islam.

“They are not telling students how these young women are treated in this religion…In the Islamic countries women are not treated well at all,” she told Fox News.

VanCleave argues that CSCOPE offers no comparable lessons on Christianity or Judaism.

“I do think CSCOPE promotes the Islamic religion,” she added. “I don’t think it’s right to be proselytizing the Islamic religion in our schools.”

Meanwhile, every time lawmakers have asked CSCOPE leaders about Islamic lessons, they have been told “those were old lessons,” Patrick said.

CSCOPE is the same curriculum system that referred to the Boston Tea Party as an act of terrorism and asked students to design a flag for a new socialist nation.


Adults Are Flocking to College That Paved Way for Flexibility

In September, Jennifer Hunt of Brown County, Ind., was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey without ever taking a Thomas Edison course. She was one of about 300 of last year’s 3,200 graduates who managed to patch together their degree requirements with a mix of credits — from other institutions, standardized exams, online courses, workplace or military training programs and portfolio assessments.

Years ago, fresh out of high school, Ms. Hunt had finished enough advanced work to enter the University of Texas at Austin with sophomore standing. But after a year, homesick, she returned to Virginia. Then she married and eventually moved to Indiana. She had 10 children, whom she home-schools, and worked in her husband’s business.

About a year ago, at 39, she resolved to complete a degree. In a kind of a higher-education sprint, she took a number of college equivalency exams, earning 54 credits in 14 weeks.

“I tried to do an exam a week at the University of Indianapolis test center,” where the exams could be proctored, she said. “Each test cost about $80.”

Ms. Hunt estimated that her degree in business administration, plus a simultaneous associate degree in applied science, had cost her $5,300, including books and fees. There are almost as many routes to a Thomas Edison degree as there are students. In a way, that is the whole point of the college, a fully accredited, largely online public institution in Trenton founded in 1972 to provide a flexible way for adults to further their education.

“We don’t care how or where the student learned, whether it was from spending three years in a monastery,” said George A. Pruitt, the college’s president, “as long as that learning is documented by some reliable assessment technique.”

“Learning takes place continuously throughout our lives,” he said. “If you’re a success in the insurance industry, and you’re in the million-dollar round table, what difference does it make if you learned your skills at Prudential or at Wharton?”

At a time when student debt has passed $1 trillion, such institutions seem to have, at the very least, impeccable timing. Thomas Edison, New Jersey’s second-largest public college, and two like-minded institutions — Charter Oak State College in Connecticut and the private, nonprofit Excelsior College in New York — are all growing. Thomas Edison’s graduating class last fall was a third bigger than the class five years earlier. And the idea of measuring students’ competency, not classroom hours, has become the cornerstone of newer institutions like Western Governors University in Utah.

At Thomas Edison and the other such colleges, almost all students are over 21, many are in the military, and few have taken a direct path to higher education.

Pilar Mercedes Foy, 31, a Thomas Edison graduate whose parents did not go to college, said after she got an entry-level job at PSEG, the New Jersey energy company, she realized that she would need a degree to advance. She earned the bulk of her credits through heavily subsidized evening classes offered at work, supplemented by classes at Union County College and 12 credits from the CLEP Spanish exam. For her, earning a degree without taking on a penny of student debt was enough of a milestone that she invited her husband, parents, siblings, in-laws and nieces to the September graduation ceremony.

Thirty years ago, when Dr. Pruitt became president, the Thomas Edison approach was controversial. Some academics, in particular, were skeptical, he said, almost believing that “if we didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t have learned it.”

Results have quieted most naysayers, Dr. Pruitt said. For example, Thomas Edison graduates had the highest pass rate on the exam for certified public accountants in New Jersey, in the latest national accounting-boards report. Still, the approach raises real questions about the meaning of a college degree.

“If I’m giving you a degree, I’m vouching for you, testifying to your competence,” said Clifford Adelman, a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington. “With these nomad students in higher education, whose students are they? There are questions of ownership and ethical responsibility.”

Most Thomas Edison students arrive with some credits, at times earned many years earlier. Others get credits by submitting a portfolio of their work or passing standardized exams like the College Level Examination Program, administered by the College Board. Many complete online college courses from Thomas Edison or “open courseware” sources like the Saylor Foundation. Many bring transcripts from the American Council on Education’s credit recommendation program, certifying their nontraditional programs.


British Headteacher and five staff suspended for restraining aggressive nine-year-old pupil and locking him in the 'naughty cupboard'

A primary school’s headteacher and five of her colleagues have been suspended after an aggressive child was said to have been restrained and shut in a 'naughty cupboard'.

Catherine Woodall, 61, and five colleagues were suspended amid claims that the nine-year-old child was placed in a lockable room after terrorising staff and pupils at Revoe Community Primary School in Blackpool, Lancashire.

Police were called in to investigate allegations of false imprisonment at the 489-pupil school and the six staff, including the head, were sent home.

There were also concerns at the council that staff sent other pupils to the box room whenever they misbehaved. The pupil was confronted by the school's deputy headteacher in a corridor.

She blocked the boy's path through the school and he started to kick out at her. Miss Woodall was not on the premises at the time, MailOnline understands, but has still been suspended.

Other senior members of staff at the school then put the boy in a hold. He was then placed in the small room with a glass window, known as the 'naughty cupboard', to calm him down.

A complaint was made and the local education authority called in police. The staff were suspended pending the outcome of a probe and have been formally interviewed by detectives.

Blackpool Council informed parents about what had happened in a letter sent out yesterday.

One member of staff, who has not been suspended, said today: 'The issue is one of false imprisonment of a nine year old (because) the door on the small calming down room is lockable. This boy had really lost it. What were the staff supposed to do?'

In 2010 Miss Woodall picked up a top advisory and support role under a National College for School Leadership scheme, which means she can oversee headships in other 'challenging' schools.

Parents of children at the school were shocked at the suspensions. Mark Syme, 30, who has three children at Revoe and used to be a school governor, said he was 'gobsmacked'.

Nicola Pearce, 46, who has one daughter at the school, said: 'When I had a look at the letter I couldn’t believe it. One member of staff being suspended is bad enough but six is shocking.’

Luke Carter, 40, who has daughter at the school, added: 'It’s always been a good school but this has worried me.’

A replacement head and teachers were sent to the school to cover the missing staff. A spokesman for Blackpool Council said the issue centred on the 'professional judgement' of school staff involved.

'The issue is one of false imprisonment of a nine year old (because) the door on the small calming down room is lockable. This boy had really lost it. What were the staff supposed to do?'

Councillor Sarah Riding, cabinet member for education and schools on Blackpool Council, said: 'Before half-term we were made aware of an issue at Revoe Primary School that raised concerns to us about the professional judgement made by a number of staff in relation to pupil wellbeing.

‘These concerns have led to the suspension of six members of staff while a full investigation is carried out. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the nature of the investigation until it has been concluded.

‘Although we have no reason to suspect any child has come to harm this is a serious situation that needed immediate action to be taken.

‘In the meantime temporary staff have been recruited and there will be no disruption to children's learning. All parents will receive a letter explaining the current arrangements in place.’

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: 'This allegation, like any allegation involving the well-being of young people, is being taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly investigated as our priority is the safeguarding of young people. No arrests have been made at this stage.'

The probe began months after the school was at the centre of a row over proposals to convert it into an academy.

Miss Woodall began consulting with parents and governors on the possibility of breaking away from council control and becoming an independent facility.

'My son got put in this cupboard room. He got in a bit of trouble at the school last year and was put in a room for disruptive children. But next to that is the cupboard, which they use for children that won't calm down''

Parent Emma Chadwick, 28, whose son was also put in 'the cupboard'

But the move angered union officials and parents, who gathered outside the school gates to voice their disapproval over the proposed move.

One parent, mother-of-four Emma Chadwick, 28, of Blackpool, said her son Harley Marsh, seven, was also put in 'the cupboard'.

She said: ‘My son got put in this cupboard room. He got in a bit of trouble at the school last year and was put in a room for disruptive children.

‘But next to that is the cupboard, which they use for children that won't calm down. It's a room with no windows and is tiny, almost like an under-stairs cupboard.

‘I was called to the school and when I got there he was in the corner of this room crying. It's unbelievable that they would do that to children. The size of it is just so small - it really is like a cupboard.

‘I think they've been using it for a while and the council has acted now to stop it just because there have been so many complaints from parents. It is disgusting that children can be treated in this way when they are at school. It is not the way to discipline children.’

The letter announcing the suspensions of Miss Woodall and her colleagues was sent by Charlotte Clarke, head of the Labour-controlled council's 'Universal Services and School Effectiveness' department.  It said: ‘Before half term Blackpool Council became concerned about the professional judgement made by these staff in relation to the well-being of pupils when isolating them during challenging behaviour.

‘This has led to six staff being suspended. The suspensions are a neutral act to allow a full investigation to take place as quickly as possible.

‘I realise this will be concerning news and I am writing to reassure you that swift action has been taken and the priority of the council is always the well-being of pupils.

‘Whilst the investigation takes place, an experienced headteacher will be in school every day. Once the exact details are finalised I will write once again to let you known the arrangements.

‘Temporary members of staff are also in place to cover the other positions so there will be no disruption to your child's learning. I appreciate your patience during this difficult time for Revoe and can assure that you will be kept updated throughout the process.’

Mother-of-three Felicity Crane, 32, said: ‘I got a letter from the council yesterday like everyone else. I wasn't aware of the cupboard but I don't think the teachers can control the kids there.

‘The idea that they are putting children in a tiny box room as a punishment is shocking. It is very wrong to put a child in there.

‘I have three children, twins aged six and a seven year old, and it is frightening to think they could be treated like that.’

Neil Hodgkins, headteacher at Devonshire Primary School, and Sandra Hall, headteacher at St John's Primary School, have now been drafted in to run the school.

On its website the school says: ‘Revoe is a school where every child really does matter. We aim to provide a safe and healthy environment which enables our children to be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.’


Thursday, February 28, 2013

You can't win

Oxford University accused of bias against ethnic minority applicants  -- based on High School exam results of applicants.  But it is  precisely selection based on exam results alone that Leftists normally criticize.  Oxford has always based admission on a personal interview with a tutor,  who takes a whole variety of factors into account  -- not least of which is apparent motivation, which is in turn a major factor determining success at  university studies.  The Oxford assessment procedure for admission could in fact be pretty well encapsulated by that much favored  word of the Left:  "holistic".

And given the dubious nature of today's British High school qualifications, any reliance on what such qualifications  tell us is incautious.  Hence the growing use of aptitude tests, on which some minorities will score poorly

And the elephant in the room is of course minorities being given good grades simply because they are minorities

Oxford University has been accused of "institutional bias" against black and minority ethnic students after figures revealed that white applicants to some of the most competitive courses are up to twice as likely to get a place as others, even when they get the same A-level grades.

Figures for applications to the university in 2010 and 2011, obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that 25.7% of white applicants received an offer to attend the university, compared with 17.2% of students from ethnic minorities.

White applicants to medicine, one of the most prestigious courses, were twice as likely to get a place as minority ethnic candidates, even when they had the same triple A* grade A-level scores.

Older figures for Cambridge university suggested a similar pattern.

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, who has been a vocal critic of the university application system, said the figures suggested "institutional bias" and proved institutional failure.

Both Oxford and Cambridge, the country's most prestigious universities, have faced questions over the varying success rates of applicants from different ethnic groups. The gap has often been explained as being due in large part to the fact that students from ethnic minorities are more likely to apply for the most competitive courses, such as medicine.

But the latest figures, which for the first time break down success rates by both ethnicity and grades for some of Oxford's most competitive subjects, cast significant doubt on these long-running explanations.

They show that white students were more than twice as likely to receive an offer to study medicine as those from ethnic minorities. The disparity persisted for the most able students: 43% of white students who went on to receive three or more A* grades at A-level got offers, compared with 22.1% of minority students.

For economics and management, the university's most competitive course, 19.1% of white applicants received offers, compared with 9.3% for ethnic minorities. Among the most able, these success rates rose to 44.4% and 29.5% respectively.

There was, however, no statistically significant difference in success rates between white and non-white students when applying to study law at the university.

The issue of race at Oxbridge has regularly hit the headlines, particularly since 2010, when data obtained by Lammy showed, among other disparities, that just one British black Caribbean undergraduate was admitted to Oxford in 2009, a figure later cited by David Cameron.

"When I first raised these issues in 2010, Oxford explained that the figures were due to the prevalence of black and minority ethnic [BME] candidates applying to the most competitive courses," Lammy said. "This new evidence blows that apart. We now know BME students get fewer offers even with the same grades. Where there are interviews and quite large hurdles at the application stage, as with Oxbridge, it is for the universities to demonstrate there is not institutional bias. These figures suggest institutional bias, and certainly show sustained institutional failure."

He acknowledged that in the last couple of years the two universities had made renewed efforts to recruit BME candidates. "That should be welcomed, but what we need is a step change, and that hasn't happened yet."

Admissions tutors don't necessarily know the ethnicity of candidates who don't make it to the interview process, although they do see their full name and details of their schooling, a spokeswoman confirmed. Admissions statistics do show that students from ethnic minorities apply disproportionately to competitive subjects, but that doesn't account for the discrepancies within subjects demonstrated by the figures.

The University of Cambridge refused an FoI request for the same detailed breakdowns by subject and grade, saying it was too costly to be handled under the act. However, it did provide some older figures dating from 2007-09, before the A* grade was introduced for A-levels, which show similar patterns to Oxford.

These figures show the ratio of offers to study medicine at the university to applicants who achieved at least three A grades at A-level was 35% for white students compared with 24% for minority ethnic students, while for law the figures were 38% and 32% respectively.

Both universities rejected any suggestion that discrepancies in application success rates for different ethnic groups were a result of discrimination.

Oxford said it was closely examining the phenomenon. "Oxford University is committed to selecting the very best students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or any other factor," a spokeswoman said. "This is not only the right thing to do but it is in our own interests. Differences in success rates between ethnic groups are therefore something we are continuing to examine carefully for possible explanations. We do know that a tendency by students from certain ethnic groups to apply disproportionately for the most competitive subjects reduces the success rate of those ethnic groups overall. However, we have never claimed this was the only factor in success rate disparities between students with similar exam grades.

"We do not know students' A-level grades when selecting, as they have not yet taken their exams. Aptitude tests, GCSEs and interviews, which are used in our selection process, have not been explored in this analysis and are important in reaching reliable conclusions."

A spokeswoman for Cambridge said the analysis of the FoI figures was superficial and "ignored a significant number of relevant variables", such as subject mix, and performance in entry tests and interviews. "Admissions decisions are based on students' ability, commitment and potential to achieve," she said. "Our commitment to improving access to the university is longstanding and unwavering … We aim to ensure that anyone with the ability, passion and commitment to apply to Cambridge receives all the support necessary for them to best demonstrate their potential."

Rachel Wenstone, vice-president of higher education at the National Union of Students said: "My initial response to these figures was shock – this is quite frightening. Quite clearly, there appears to be some structural discrimination in some departments at Oxford, and the university needs to deal with it immediately.


The humanities and social sciences are in (long overdue) trouble

Graduate students who receive funding from their universities are very fortunate ( 17). To their universities, they are very expensive. Of course, grad students and adjuncts are cheaper to employ than professors, but universities are moving away from relying on tenured and tenure-track faculty to meet their instructional needs. More than three quarters of college teaching appointments are now held by graduate-student, part-time, and non-tenure-track instructors ( 14). As a result, universities have come to regard graduate-student labor not as a bargain but as the norm, and they are beginning to identify which graduate students are the most cost-effective to keep on campus. Those in the humanities and social sciences are used to thinking of themselves as being inexpensive compared to their colleagues in the hard sciences, but when it comes to graduate students, it turns out that that is not the case at all.

In August 2011, Yale University released the results of a remarkable study of its own graduate school. Among other things, it found that even at Yale only 68% of those who had begun a PhD program in the humanities between 1996 and 2003 had earned a PhD by 2010 ( 46). But most striking was a calculation of how much, on average, each Yale graduate student had cost the graduate school over a six-year period: $17,421 in the natural sciences, $126,339 in the social sciences, and $143,170 in the humanities. Graduate students in classics cost the university more than twenty times as much as graduate students in physics ($155,392 vs. $7,401). The numbers do not bode well for the social sciences and humanities. Disciplines that do not attract investment ( 22) are looking more and more like unbearable financial burdens to the administrators of the modern university.

The terrible job market facing graduate students ( 8) has never sufficed to convince universities to reduce the size of their graduate programs, but their own bottom line probably will. In the long run, the study may result in positive change if smaller graduate programs relieve pressure on the job market. For those already in the graduate-school pipeline, however, program cuts will only worsen the funding and employment situation. In its report on the study, the Yale Daily News quoted English Professor Mark Bauerlein of Emory University: “It just doesn’t make sense for people to go to school in the humanities.”


Canadian high school in flap over Confederate flag

A York Region high school has banned students from wearing anything that displays the Confederate flag, which is often seen as being synonymous with racism.

A high school in York Region has banned a controversial flag long synonymous with America’s Deep South, but also with prejudice and racism.

The Confederate flag became popular at Sutton District High School in the last two years, said principal Dawn Laliberté, emblazoned on bandanas, lighters, belt buckles, backpacks and pickup truck windows.

After explaining the flag’s symbolism to students this week, the school implemented a ban.

“Our first step is always to educate. We are only dealing with a handful of students who view it as a white pride kind of thing, so we thought now is the time to get the message out,” Lalibert√© said.

At the sprawling school parking lot, marked by pickup trucks and snowmobile tracks, most students were angry the administration was intervening in what they choose to wear or accessorize with.

Some students in the town on the east shore of Lake Simcoe said the display of the flag wasn’t widespread, and many debated its meaning.

“It’s more about the country values, we don’t think of it as racist,” said a Grade 10 student, who has T-shirts, belt buckles and hats with the symbol, and plans to keep wearing them.

“I didn’t even know it was racist,” said Grade 12 student Jess Pasco, as her friend agreed. “Then I Googled it.”

Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, said the fact people are embracing the symbol “shows that not only is there a lack of black history awareness, but there is also a lack of regular history awareness.”

“The Confederate flag doesn’t represent heritage at all, it doesn’t represent white heritage, or country values or the American way for that matter,” she said. “What it represents is the interest of people in the Deep South to maintain a way of life that fervently and significantly was built upon and included an ongoing use of Africans as enslaved people. For that very reason alone, it is inappropriate and wrong.”

Sadlier said students who want to represent their rural roots should consider an old Ontario flag.

On Friday, officials with the school did not return calls, but the York Region District School Board emailed a statement saying the decision to ban the flag was in line with board policy about respectful workplace and learning environments.

“The board recognizes and respects the diversity of our people as a source of strength and does not tolerate any expression of prejudice,” the statement read in part.

In the United States, debates about the flag’s symbolism continue to make news, and one online petition says the flag is “tearing apart the very fabric of our society.”

A 2011 study in Political Psychology by psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger showed exposure to the Confederate flag resulted in “more negative judgments of black targets.”

In addition to its use by Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, the flag was also a popular emblem in 1950s among people opposed to the civil rights movement and school desegregation, and continues to be a symbol for white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan, the study notes.

Ehrlinger’s study was undertaken using white college students at a “large state school.”  Students were invited to read a story about a black man and then answer questions. When each student came into the room, there was a folder on the desk. Some students saw a blank folder while others saw a folder with a Confederate flag sticker in the corner, which was explained away with, “Oh, someone must have left this.”

The students who saw the flag rated the black character more negatively than those who did not.

Standing on a big pile of snow in Sutton District High School’s smoking area, Grade 12 student Cody Ley said he sees “Southern pride” when he looks at his Confederate flag lighter. He said the rule is “pretty stupid” since people have freedom of speech.

“You can buy a f------ swastika if you want, it’s still racist,” said a student walking by.

When asked if he sees the flag as a symbol of racism, the student replied: “You’re either racist or you’re not,” before he walked away.  “Depends on the way you look at it,” Ley said.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The desperation to get kids into a good British school

Rocketing numbers of parents are fraudulently trying to get their children into the country’s best state schools.

They are being caught using false addresses, pretending to be Roman Catholic, lying about siblings and even impersonating family members in an attempt to secure places.

Over the past five years, the number of council investigations into suspicious applications has risen almost 11-fold, a Daily Mail investigation has found.

The number of sanctions imposed – school places withdrawn or applications not accepted – has risen more than threefold over the same period.

The findings reveal the lengths desperate parents are prepared to go to prevent their children ending up in ‘sink’ schools.

Education experts believe the figures are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ because some councils are more proactive in investigating than others.

Tens of thousands of pupils are set to lose out on their first choice secondary school on National Offer Day on Friday. In some areas, half of them are expected not to gain their first preference.

The Mail submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 152 local education authorities in England on fraudulent applications for primary and secondary schools between 2007/8 and 2013/14.

For 2007/8, 96 councils responded. Of these, 36 gave full or partial data and the rest either did not collect the information or cited exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.

Applications of 99 children were probed which led to 38 sanctions.

In 2012/13, 91 councils responded, with 61 giving full or partial data. Applications for 1,059 children were investigated, leading to 129 places being withdrawn or not accepted.

From 2007/8 to 2012/13 there were 2,599 investigations and 516 sanctions. Extrapolated across the country, this equates to 7,573 investigations and 1,595 sanctions over the period.

Most probes relate to accusations that parents are registering a family member’s address or renting a property in a catchment area. Some also claim false sibling links.

In 2012/13 in Wolverhampton, five places were withdrawn due to parents using incorrect addresses, including a family member ‘posing’ as a child’s father.

Medway Council in Kent withdrew four primary places last year after it found families fraudulently used grandparents’ or childminders’ addresses. Knowsley Metropolitan Council in Merseyside withdrew  11 places from 2008/9 to 2012/13 due to ‘false Catholic baptism’ claims.

In another case, ‘parent A’ tipped off Buckinghamshire County Council last year about ‘parent B’ no longer living at the address provided. The school place was withdrawn from ‘B’ and given to ‘A’.

Hertfordshire County Council has seen an eight-fold rise in investigations, from 56 in 2008 to 455 last year.

Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘We owe it to parents to defend admissions against unscrupulous competition and fraudulent activity.

'This is probably the tip of the iceberg as it’s not being investigated as much as it should be.’


Preschool does not help most kids

The idea that kids should learn to read, write, and add when they are very young has been thoroughly disproven, and in fact, this sort of structured evironment is so bad for boys that it puts them on an early path to being labeled low performers. This is why the rich don’t even bother with preschool—they know their kids will be fine without it. And almost all the research to support preschool is based on lower-income statistics, like preschool keeps kids out of prison.

Kids want to be with their parents when they are young, and given the choice, 84% of women would rather be home with their kids than work full-time. The universal preschool proposal ignores the needs of both these constitutent groups.

We do need good childcare.

What everyone wants is good childcare. That’s why they send their kids to school – because school is our state-funded babysitting system.  Parents who are home with their kids want to have a break from their kids. Parents depend on school to provide that break from parenting duties, but we have no system for giving parents breaks when kids are not school age.

At best, universal pre-K is a babysitting service. Middle-class parents can’t afford good child care, which Obama says in his speech, and he says that preschool is a childcare solution more than an education solution. The real issue here is that he wants to give good childcare to the parents who want it.

That’s really different from saying that all kids should go to school.

The Harvard Business Review cuts to the chase and goes so far as to say that this discussion is not about school. It’s about whether kids are better off having early child care from a family member or a preschool. You have to have a pretty bad family life to think that a stranger, with a 15 to 1 ratio, is better child care for a young child than a mother or father.

Universal pre-K is a throwback to pre-1970s feminism.

Feminist site Jezebel also goes straight from universal pre-K to universal child care, pointing out that more women can work. Which would be a useful discussion if it weren’t that most women with kids do not want to work full-time. But we know they don’t.

Bryce Covert, writing at Forbes, says, “Working parents, particularly the mothers who still do the majority of care work for young children, can’t be expected to take three years out of their careers to stay home with young children until they’re ready for preschool.”

WHAT? We know that kids benefit tremendously from being home with a single caregiver during this period. We know that most women cannot earn enough money to pay for quality childcare, which they would still have to pay for if they had full-time jobs.

Putting universal pre-K on the table is taking away the very idea of choice that women have been fighting for. Women should have a choice to work or stay home with kids. Women should be able to choose parenting. Today we raise girls to think they are in school expressly to get a job.  That is not parenting. That’s as damaging to girls as telling them they are going to school to stay home and have kids.

We do not need our politicians to use their federal funding to denigrate the job of parenting any more than so much of society already does.

We need to acknowledge that school is a waste of time.

This country is already an absolute mess because we funnel kids through an education system for fifteen years to get to a college system that is a ponzi scheme. Even the research that supports preschool concludes that an all-around lousy school system undermines the positive impact of preschool.

We need to admit that kids do not need to go to our schools to be educated. One of the largest education trends is middle class parents taking kids out of school. The most expensive private schools model a homeschool environment because kids can learn through self-directed exploration. They don’t need school.

Middle class parents recognize this and don’t want their kids to suffer through an antiquated education system that was established to educate kids to be factory workers.

Obama is pouring more money into the idea that kids need to be in classrooms in order to learn. In fact, kids learn better outside of classrooms. We already know this, we just don’t have the money to fund it.

School in the US is for poor kids. Underprivileged kids are the kids who have to sit through standardized tests when they should be playing. The movement in this country to get kids out of the standardized tests is solidly middle-class. Let’s have universal protests about the stupidity of school instead of universal pre-K. Let’s enable lower-income kids to have the benefit of being told their time is too precious to sit in school all day.

In light of the overwhelming evidence that kids and parents are better off without preschool, let’s use the funding for universal pre-K to help parents create safe, stable environments where they stay home with their four-year-old kids.

More HERE  (See the original for links)

Australia's federal Leftists  trying to take control of schools from State governments

The State governmenbts are mostly conservative at the moment.  The Federal government will be too soon, judging by the polls

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is vowing to take on state governments which are unwilling to overhaul school funding, amid increasing hostility from some state and territory leaders.

Over the weekend, Victoria announced plans to implement its own scheme, with an extra $400 million in education funding focusing on areas of disadvantage.

Queensland is considering whether it should follow Victoria's lead in the absence of clear details from the Commonwealth on its proposal, and Western Australia has indicated it is not yet willing to sign up to funding changes.

Ms Gillard says she is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Gonski report, which suggested an annual boost to education funding of $6.5 billion.

"It will take political will to get this done. I've got the political will to do it, and we will fight through to get it done," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

"Now I hope that fight is concluded in April around the COAG [Council Of Australian Governments] table, but if there are states that are still holding out from giving kids the best possible education, then we will certainly fight on to secure that for those children."

Under the Gonski plan, each school would receive funding based on how many students are enrolled, with extra loadings for educational disadvantage, including students with poor English skills, disabilities or geographical distance.

On Friday, Ms Gillard told an Australian Education Union conference that if Labor lost this year's election, the opportunity to implement the Gonski report would also be lost.

The ABC understands that the Federal Government only plans to inject an extra $1 billion next financial year, with more money to be "phased in" over time.

Ms Gillard is hoping to reach an agreement with state and territory leaders within months, but several states appear unwilling to sign up in the absence of firm details.

"We've had 18 months of Chinese water torture coming from the Australian Government, and the vast bulk of the populous have no idea what we're talking about," Queensland's Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek told AM.

"What we've seen from the Prime Minister is Julia Gillard saying 'this is what you'll get from the Labor government if we're re-elected'.

"And at the next COAG meeting in April, Premier Campbell Newman, along with the other premiers, will be put under pressure to agree to something, the detail of which we haven't seen yet.

"We can't sign up to Gonski until we see more detail."

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett says the Commonwealth is close to finalising its offer to the states, but he has declined to provide details about how much money is involved.

"My expectation is that in this week and the weeks ahead we will be sitting down and specifically going through with those states who are committed to a national plan for school improvement both what we believe are the necessary components of the plan, and also the likely offers that will come onto the table for us to pay our fair share - as we've always said we would do - and to seek the same from the states," Mr Garrett told AM.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says most funding for government schools comes from state funding.

He says the Gonski report would mean more state funding for private schools at the expense of government schools, something he is not prepared to do.

"We don't have to change. They're our schools. We don't have to do anything," he told reporters on Friday.

"Gonski's a fair report and points to some real issues in education, but just because the Commonwealth Government thinks we should change our funding, doesn't mean we'll do that.

"And in fact we won't."

While visiting a school in suburban Canberra this morning, Ms Gillard announced the appointment of the first National Children's Commissioner, whose job it will be to advocate for the needs of young people.

"As Government gets on with doing tasks across a wide range of portfolios, the National Children's Commissioner is there to make sure that the outlook of children and their needs is always being taken into account," Ms Gillard said.

The Government has asked Megan Mitchell to carry out the role. She is currently the New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Ms Mitchell says it is important to have a children’s advocate at a national level, to review federal laws and policies and to ensure compliance with international agreements.

"I'm really very, very keen to ensure that children’s voice is up there and heard by adults who are making decisions on behalf of and for children," Ms Mitchell told reporters.

"Personally and professionally, I do have an interest in ensuring that we identify kids that are at risk of disengaging from education and social life, as I think there are lots of implications of that.

"I'd like to look at the laws and policies of this nation - and states and territories - to make sure that we very early on pick up any risk factors for kids and act on that."

Ms Mitchell has been appointed for a five year term beginning on March 25.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Massachusetts forces schools to let 'transgender' boys use girls' restrooms, lockers

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has issued orders to the state’s K-12 public schools requiring them to permit “transgender” boys and girls to use the opposite sex’s locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing facilities as long as they claim to identify with that gender.

Many elementary schools in smaller Massachusetts towns include children from kindergarten through eighth grade, making it possible for boys as old as 14 to share toilet facilities with girls as young as five.

Under Chester's leadership, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released an 11-page document on Friday outlining this and other new guidelines giving “transgender” students special status and privileges in Massachusetts schools. Some family advocates are calling the document, which was prepared with assistance from homosexual and transgender advocacy groups, “the most thorough, invasive, and radical transgender initiative ever seen on a statewide level.”

The policy does not require a doctor’s note or even parental permission for a child to switch sexes in the eyes of Massachusetts schools. Only the student’s word is needed: If a boy says he’s a girl, as far as the schools are concerned, he’s a girl.

“The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student,” the statement says. “A school should accept a student’s assertion of his or her gender identity when there is … ‘evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.’” That evidence, according to the document, can be as simple as a statement given by a friend.

That means, according to the newly issued school policies, that boys who say they identify as girls must be addressed by the feminine pronoun and be listed as girls on official transcripts.

They must also be allowed access to girls’ facilities and be allowed to play on girls’ athletic and club teams. The same is true for girls who say they are boys.

The document was issued to clarify the schools’ obligations in light of “An Act Relative to Gender Identity,” a law that went into effect last July. That bill amended Massachusetts law “to establish that no person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of gender identity.”

However, Brian Camenker, spokesman for government watchdog group MassResistance, told LifeSiteNews the DESE’s new directives go far beyond what the law requires.

Camenker pointed out that the only requirement the Gender Identity bill imposed on schools was to add “gender identity” to their non-discrimination policies, alongside other protected groups such as religious or ethnic minorities. Under the DESE’s policy, however, self-identified transgendered students will have more rights than other students, including the right to access bathroom and changing facilities of the opposite sex and play on the opposite sex’s sports teams.

Not only that, but students who object may be subject to punishment under the state’s new “anti-bullying” law, which, like the new school policy, was written with the help of homosexual and transgender activist groups.

Under that law, any outwardly negative reaction against transgenderism can now be considered bullying, and subject to discipline and punishment, according to Camenker.

“The directive is clear that there is to be no tolerance for students who become uncomfortable or upset at these situations being pushed on them,” Camenker wrote. “The school's approach is to be unyielding to any such discomfort, and to re-educate those students to have more ‘acceptable’ reactions and values.”

“[It] is completely natural for a child to feel very uncomfortable using a female name for an individual they know to be male, seeing a boy in girl’s clothing, or feeling it’s unfair that a boy is competing athletically as a girl,” Camenker added. “These feelings are now considered by the school to be backwards and disruptive.”

Andrew Beckwith, attorney for Massachusetts Family Institute, called the document’s definition of transgender “extremely broad.”

“If a male student tells his teacher he feels like a girl on the inside, the school has to treat him in every way as if he actually is a girl,” Beckwith said. “School personnel may be forbidden from informing the parents of their child’s gender decisions, and students can even decide to be one gender at home and another at school.”

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, worries that the new policy could put girls at particular risk for violations ranging from privacy invasions to sexual assault.

“The School Commissioner’s first duty is to protect all students, from kindergarten to grade 12, not endanger them,” Mineau said in a statement. “The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls’ bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students’ safety.”

The DESE expressed awareness that parents and students would likely have concerns, but they dismissed such feelings as invalid.

“Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility,” the document concedes, but then admonishes administrators, “this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

The Massachusetts Family Institute reminded the public that during debate, the gender identity law that led to this new policy had been called the “Stealth Bathroom Bill” by critics. At the time, the part of the law explicitly opening all public bathrooms to self-identified transgender people was removed in response to concerns about safety and privacy.

In schools, however, the bathroom provisions will now effectively be put back in.

Democratic State Rep. Colleen Garry has introduced amending legislation to the current law intended to force people to use restrooms and locker room facilities consistent with their anatomical sex.

“Like many of my colleagues, I am very concerned about Commissioner Chester’s directive to open public school bathrooms to all genders,” said Garry. “This was not the intent of the Legislature, and we need to pass legislation that clearly defines the use of such facilities.”


Higher Education, R.I.P.

 Paul Greenberg
What ever happened to the medium once known as Little Magazines? This country once had a select group of literary and political journals that represented the vanguard of American thought and art. Some were both literary and political. High Culture, it was called when there was still such a thing.

For example, the old and much-missed Partisan Review. Its first issue as an independent journal in 1937 included Delmore Schwartz's short story, "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," a poem by Wallace Stevens, and pieces by Lionel Trilling, Sidney Hook and Edmund Wilson -- once names to conjure with.

A little magazine does remain here and there. On the right, William F. Buckley's National Review still stands athwart History yelling "Stop!" and, on the left, the New Republic is still worth reading even if its gaudy new typography and lay-out make it look like a society matron got up as a streetwalker.

But my favorite little magazine still standing, an almost lone voice of sanity and connection to past standards -- that is, high culture -- has to be the New Criterion, est. 1982 by Hilton Kramer, the late art critic and refugee from the ever-more-with-it, and ever more tedious, New York Times.

An item in the January issue of the magazine caught my sorrowful eye, for I'm of an age at which the obituaries are the first thing I check out in the morning paper. Just to know who's gone today. The dear departed in this case: Higher Ed.

The cause of death was the usual in modern, bureaucratized, obese and increasingly ossified academia: administrative bloat aggravated by diluted standards and the erosion of the core curriculum, the basis of liberal education.

Tenured faculty now teach less and less as the "drudge work" of dealing with undergraduates is shifted to a corps of slave laborers styled adjunct professors or TAs, teaching assistants. In both ill-paid categories, I learned mainly how little I knew. I had to conquer my embarrassment at that continuing revelation every time I stepped into a classroom in place of the real teacher who should have been there.

Now, one by one, the disciplines that were once the basis of a liberal education are eliminated as not worth the trouble. Literature, foreign languages, real history as opposed to current ideology, and the arts and sciences in general give way to simulacra with the telling label Studies after their name. As in Queer Studies or African Studies. (The other day I ran across a twofer: Queer African Studies.)

Consider the sad example offered by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where German is out and Movies are still in. Excuse me, Film Studies.

In this ever-encroaching bog called Higher Education, which keeps getting lower, administrators prosper while scholars grow scarcer. Matthew Arnold, who defined liberal education as the study of "the best that has been thought and said," is dismissed as another dead white male -- if he is remembered at all.

Deconstructionism, post-structuralism, or whatever ism may be in vogue today, is all the rage, sometimes literally.

Cardinal Newman's serene guide to the perplexed, "The Idea of a University," is as forgotten as Ortega y Gasset. Who now cares what such have to say? They're old -- that damning pejorative -- much as Greek and Latin and the King James Bible and Shakespeare are old. It's new that counts, just as tinkling brass and clashing cymbals impress every new generation of suckers under the impression they're music.

While the cost of a university education grows ever higher, higher education grows ever lower, forever ceding ground to popular fashion. All that tuition and all those contributions by well-meaning donors tend to be eaten up by all those overpaid administrators.

An eye-opening survey of college administrative costs in the Wall Street Journal not long ago noted that, when "Eric Kaler became president of the University of Minnesota last year, he pledged to curb soaring tuition by cutting administrative overhead. But he hit a snag: No one could tell him exactly what it cost to manage the school.

Like so many institutions of "higher" education, only its tuition grew higher as the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn't keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3 1D2 students.

That ratio is all too typical of the Higher Learning in America, which hasn't changed all that much since the acerbic Thorstein Veblen wrote his scathing study of it by that name in 1918 -- except to grow a lot more expensive and a lot less substantial.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of administrators, managers, "directors," clerks and factotums high and low at American colleges and universities has increased 50 percent during the past decade -- easily outpacing the number of actual teachers on the payroll. It's part of the reason that college tuition in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

Case in point: the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, whose fund-raising arm (excuse me, Advancement Division) employed 139 at last count in November and had an annual budget of $10 million last year -- and still managed to overspend it by some $3.3 million. And it's not an outlier in the academic herd, but part of a whole swarm of colleges and universities moving ever deeper into the ever broader expanses of ever higher-priced mediocrity.

Soon education itself is reduced to an appendage of administration. Its purpose becomes to support the economy by supplying the requisite number of graduates to fill the slots that need filling. This is called economic growth. No one ever seems to ask what the purpose of economic growth is. That's the kind of question the humanities used to address, but they seem to have disappeared from college curricula, or at least been "downsized" -- out of economic necessity, we're told.

Some days I think the only hope lies in those small liberal arts colleges scattered here and there, like Hendrix and Lyon here in Arkansas, but they're becoming as rare in higher education as the New Criterion in the shrunken world of little magazines.


Minimum Grade

In a bold effort to improve the educational fortunes of students who perform at academic levels significantly below the average of their peers, Congress has mandated a minimum grade to be assigned to each student in each course taught at any school in the country.  Starting in September, it shall be unlawful for any teacher, professor, or instructor charged with assigning course grades to assign to any student a grade lower than C-.

Sponsors of the Fair Academic Standards Act decry the injustice that occurs each time a student earns a low grade, such as a D or an F.  ”It’s impossible for students with ‘D’s and ‘F’s on their transcripts to succeed as they deserve in life,” remarked Sen. Bernie Franken, an Independent from Elitia.  ”This law ensures that no American will ever again suffer that hardship.”

Opponents of the Act worry that the requirement of a minimum grade will prompt schools to refuse to enroll students whose academic preparation or skills aren’t yet sufficient to enable them actually to earn good grades.

Sen. Paul Rand, an outspoken opponent of the bill, admits that ‘D’s and ‘F’s are poor grades that are not likely to win good jobs for students that have many such grades on their transcripts.  Sen. Rand argues, however, that the Act will steer schools away from enrolling less-prepared students and, as a consequence, deny these very students the opportunity to acquire the education that will enable them in the future to perform better in the classroom.  ”It’s an unintended bad consequence of Sen. Franken’s good intentions,” suggests Sen. Rand.

Sen. Franken and other supporters of the Act disagree.  ”I can show you several studies, by prominent professors of education at Ivy League universities, that make clear that this Act will in no way diminish schools’ willingness to enroll all the students who seek enrollment,” said Sen. Franken.  ”Opponents of this Act, frankly, are simply indifferent to the plight of academically challenged students and wish to deny to these students the benefits that are enjoyed by their more-talented classmates.  My colleagues and I merely wish to ensure that these benefits are spread more equitably.  It’s the fair thing to do.”

Sen. Rand responds by insisting that grades should accurately reflect each student’s actual performance in class.  He says that the minimum-grade requirement, to the extent that it doesn’t simply cause academically challenged students to be kept from enrolling in school, will result in report cards and school transcripts that are full of “lies” – grades that do not reflect each student’s actual performance.  Sen. Rand worries that graduate schools and employers will be obliged to find other ways, beside grades, to assess the qualifications of students who apply for admission or for jobs.  He worries that these other ways will be less accurate and more arbitrary than are course grades as these are currently assigned.

“That accusation is typical of Sen. Rand and his ilk,” alleges Paula Krueger, the influential columnist.  ”Sen. Rand is bought and paid for by rich and privileged elites who know that a more fair distribution of school grades will threaten their and their friends’ hold on this country’s levers of power.”  Ms. Krueger shakes her head in astonishment.  ”I’m sure that some small subset of people actually believe the tales told by opponents of this Act, but they are clearly blinded by ideology.  They’re enemies not only of less-fortunate Americans, but of science itself.”

Not that Ms. Krueger thinks the Act is ideal.  ”It’s not perfect.  In my view the minimum grade should be much higher.  I think A-.  And I’d also like to see the minimum grade indexed to grade inflation.  That way all students in America, now and in the future, would be exceptionally high-achievers and very well educated.  But the Act as it stands is at least a start.  It’s progress.”

The President is expected to sign the bill at a Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday.

SOURCE (Satire  -- so far)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brown Shirts at ECU

Mike Adams

East Carolina University (ECU) has launched a new campaign that attempts to pressure employees to affirm homosexuality despite their religious and moral objections to the lifestyle. Couched in the language of safety and inclusion, the program promises to brand as intolerant those who refuse to accept the university's official position on matters of private sexual morality. This is especially problematic, given that ECU is a public university.

The campaign was launched with a profoundly unwise email, sent by university employee Summer Wisdom under the subject line "Gay? Fine by me." She begins:

"This spring the LGBT Resource Office (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) is hosting a program called 'Gay? Fine By Me' and we would love for you and your department to share in this opportunity. The LGBTRO will be ordering shirts that say 'gay? fine by me' and distributing them to faculty, staff and students to promote an atmosphere of support on campus. This simple message helps to combat homophobia by publically (sic) affirming our LGBT community and creating an inclusive environment where all students can feel safe to express who they are. The shirts will be distributed free of charge, though the LGBTRO welcomes donations to the project."

Note that Wisdom, while not demonstrating wisdom, does demonstrate honesty in two ways. First, she admits that affirmation, rather than tolerance, is the goal of her movement. Second, she characterizes refusal to affirm homosexuality as evidence of a "phobia," which needs to be combatted. Her position is simple: Pro gay is fine by me. Anything else is not fine by me. She continues her assault on reason:

"Everyone will be encouraged to wear the shirts on campus and to participate in a campus wide ally project where we will create a Human Rainbow during the annual Barefoot on the Mall celebration. Photos of this massive showing of LGBT support will be publicized on the LGBTRO’s website and social media accounts."

Wow. Everyone will be encouraged to wear a t shirt saying "Gay? Fine by me." Why? Because they know there is opposition on the campus and they need to combat it. In other words, they are going to promote inclusion on campus by "encouraging" people to promote a message with which they disagree. Then they will take a picture to preserve a record of those who conformed. These are the same people who oppose prayer in schools because they think kids will be stigmatized for refusing to bow their heads. She continues:

"The LGBTRO would also like to create an internal marketing campaign by taking pictures of ECU faculty, staff, administrators, student leaders and student groups wearing the shirts. This is where you come in. If you, your department or office, or the student group you advise would like to participate, you can reserve the correct number of shirts on the org sync order form below. Shirts will be distributed March 18th - 20th on Wright Plaza, at the LGBTRO ... times and location for the photo shoot will be e–mailed to everyone who reserves shirts or picks one up at Wright Plaza."

In other words, just in case the photo at the Human Rainbow event fails to identify all dissenters, Ms. Wisdom will arrange for departmental photo shoots. So, for example, if there are ten professors in a department and only nine in a picture, we all know who needs an extra nudge in keeping up with "diversity" and "progress." One could say of the photos that if you're not included, then you're not inclusive. She continues:

"The picture will be yours for your own marketing materials but will also be part of a campus wide poster campaign of Pirate Allies. We are also willing to bring a photographer to you if you are part of a large group or department and would like the photo to take place in your own building or during a pre-arranged meeting instead of walking everyone over to our photo shoot. Please communicate with my (sic) directly if you would like to set up something like this. This is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something great while showcasing support for positive change on ECU’s campus."

Why not offer to put rainbow stickers on the doors - and rainbow buttons on the lapels - of all staff and faculty members who support the cause? That way, when their "Gay? Fine by me" t shirts are dirty, they can have something to transfer from garment to garment. For those who disagree, just give them yellow stars (or come over and sew them on their outer garments). She continues:

"If you or your department would like to participate, the link below will take you to an order form on OrgSync where you are provided multiple options: 1. Reserve the correct number of shirts and sizes for your group, 2. Reserve your shirts AND make a donation to the project, 3. Make a donation to the project without ordering shirts. (Donations to the project of $500.00 or more will add your office or department’s logo to the event publicity flyers as a sponsor)."

Well, that was a real shocker, wasn't it? After all that preaching, she had to ask the congregation for money. Finally, Wisdom signs off:

"Summer Wisdom, LGBT Resource Office, Sociology Instructor."

So Ms. Wisdom teaches sociology. Another shocker! No wonder she is so fixated on ideological conformity. The question is whether ECU department heads will use these photo ops as an opportunity to pressure people of faith into promoting beliefs that conflict with their deeply held religious convictions.


How Universities Devalued Higher Education

By Thomas K. Lindsay
An illuminating controversy erupted recently over a higher-education statistic I employed in a recent op-ed in the Austin-American Statesman. In the piece, I argued that we need strong medicine to mend ailing student-learning outcomes. To accomplish this, I argued, the Texas legislature should enact two bills. The first would require all Texas public colleges and universities to follow and expand on the example of the University of Texas System, which for eight years has been administering the Collegiate Learning Assessment to a statistically significant sample of its undergraduate students — this with the view to measuring “academic value-added,” that is, to measure how much students increased in fundamental academic skills (critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills) as the result of spending four years in college.

It was my second recommendation that sparked doubts. I argued that, “to increase transparency and accountability further, the Legislature should require all universities to include on transcripts not only the grade the student received for each class, but also the overall average grade for the class. This would tell prospective employers whether or not a given student’s high grade-point average was the product of exceptional work or of enrolling in what today’s students call ‘Mick’ (for ‘Mickey Mouse’) courses.”

We need such legislation, I wrote, because studies reveal that the time students spend studying has declined in the last 50 years from 24 to 14 hours a week. “Worse, grades during this period have, paradoxically, increased. Approximately 43 percent of all college grades today are A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960. Inflated grades only serve to diminish the value of a college degree.”

The claim that raised questions was my recounting a study that finds that “43 percent of all college grades today are A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960.” PolitiFact, which has a partnership with the Statesman, was contacted to test the accuracy of my statement.

The results of PolitiFact’s inquiry are a good news/bad news story. The good news (but only from the standpoint of my credibility) is that the assertion scored an unqualified “True” ranking on the column’s “Truth-o-Meter.” To arrive at its judgment, PolitiFact conducted a thorough, professional investigation, questioning a half-dozen sources, chief among them the authors of the grade-inflation study that formed the basis for my claim: Professors Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. The two academics also explained the basis their findings that, in the 1960s, roughly 15 percent of all college grades were A’s. Unless one wants to claim that students are so much wiser today as to merit the near-tripling of the A’s given a half-century prior, grade inflation is the only explanation left.

The bad news? It’s the same as the good, and infinitely more important: My assertion regarding grade inflation scored an unqualified “True” ranking.

These now-verified facts constitute the rationale for my recommendations to the Texas legislature. The good news here is that last week the “CLA Bill” was filed in the Senate (SB 436), and the “Transparency in Student Transcripts Bill” will soon follow in the House.

My hope is that Politifact’s vindication of my claim will lead to a sober evaluation — in both the legislature and, more important, among the public at large — of the seeming madness currently reigning in grading standards. Such an evaluation may already be beginning to happen. I continue to hear nearly daily from both legislators and citizens about the study. As one recent graduate told me yesterday after reading the PolitiFact piece, “I’m angry. My parents and I spent a lot of real money, in exchange for monopoly-money grades.”


The donor culture in American versus British universities

Comment from a Brit

I came to America for the same reason as most immigrants or expats: money. Yes, I was looking for streets paved with gold, and I found it, in the shape of America’s university system. I am incredibly fortunate, and I do not take my funding for granted, but recent news has reminded me just how different the US and UK are in terms of university assets.

On Wednesday, it was widely reported that Stanford University has set a new record for college fundraising, by becoming the first university to receive donations of more than $1 billion in a single year. This is a significant slice of the all-American apple pie – overall, in 2012, $31 billion was donated across approximately 3,500 U.S. universities. Compare this to UK figures, and it becomes clear why the US is the dream destination for so many international students. From 2009-10, the total sum collected by all UK universities was £693 million, according to a 2012 Review of Philanthropy in UK Higher Education by HEFCE. In one year, then, Stanford received approximately the same amount of money as every single university in the UK combined.

No wonder that universities here are attractive prospects for so many Brits (myself included). I have spent time at two institutions here in the US – Harvard (which came second behind Stanford with $650 million of donations last year) and the Bard Graduate Center. Both institutions are well-funded, both staffed with academics who lead their field. Resources are second-to-none, buildings gleam and are up-to-date, and most students receive significant financial aid.

When I contrast these universities with my alma mater, Oxford (who recently received a newsworthy £75 million for the purposes of supporting the poorest applicants), there are clear differences. Of course, Oxford’s resources are unparalleled in the US – no institution here in America can beat centuries of collections, buildings, and reputation. But in the US, there seems to be far more funding for the best students – more money to support students who need to travel for research, well-funded conferences with budgets for speakers, better staffed libraries with brand new digital services. As I look to return to the UK, I see that funding for graduate students is harder than ever to obtain. Government cuts mean that so many UK universities have hiring freezes, and every year it seems that funded places for graduate students are axed.

Of course, I do not mean to say that all US universities are rich and full of brilliant resources, nor do I want to claim that the UK is lagging behind (far from it, UK universities are justifiably world class). But I do want to draw attention to the culture of giving that is so widespread here, and is still in its infancy in the UK. Donations from alumni are not simply commonplace in America, they are expected. Most universities get students to donate in their senior year, and the ‘Class’ donation is put towards a visible, tangible, gift. Before one even leaves, the habit of giving (usually just $5 or $20 at first) begins. Donations are celebrated, every time I log on to the digital library JSTOR, a little window reminds me that “Your access to JSTOR provided by the generosity of the members of Bard’s Classes of ’62 and ’63 in honor of their 45th Reunion.” At Harvard, I would often notice that a gate had been given by a class, or a building refurbished thanks to a reunion fund. Donors can completely transform a university – it was recently revealed that New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given $1.1 billion to his alma mater Johns Hopkins, enabling it to transform its campus and increase financial aid. His first donation, of just $5, was as a recent graduate.

Apart from named prizes at Oxford, most donations are not evident – though I understand that students are indebted to the thousands of generous gifts offered by alumni in the UK too. But there is no ‘Class of…” gift, no precedent to give a small sum in one’s final year. As far as I am aware, none of my friends donate, and I will admit that I have not donated either. In fact, I cannot even comprehend giving when I still have outstanding student loans. I was actually offended when Oxford first contacted me to ask for money, as they ‘suggested’ that I write them into my will – a rather blah leaflet asked me to tick a box if I wanted to leave them the entire sum of my assets, or a named amount – all quite morbid when I had received the flyer as part of my graduation information packet.

The main difference, of course, is that American universities tend to be run as businesses. Though there are public state universities, the highest ranked universities are all private enterprises, unlike back in the UK. I think British universities should remain public institutions, and do not want them to rely on students like me for donations. They are making big efforts to attract donors, and are using the US as a model for this, but it will probably take several generations of students before ‘class gifts’ and regular small donations become the norm amongst alumni. Maybe Stanford could give us Brits some crucial tips. For as long as American institutions are pulling in big bucks, there will be a steady brain drain of British students across the Atlantic.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Black Males Not Applying to Med School

Medical schools risk litigation from ill-treated patients if they hand out degrees to incompetent students so most are reluctant to do that.  So it seems that it has become known among blacks that they will most likely not get "affirmative action" degrees from Med schools.  So they don't go there.

More interesting is why whites are applying less.  Perhaps it is a reluctance to compete with smart Asians

Fewer black men are applying to, accepted to, and attending U.S. medical schools despite an increase in the number of overall applicants and uptick in matriculation among other minorities, a report found.

Black applicants were the second most populous demographic behind whites in the late 1970s. There were more black applicants than Asians and Hispanics combined.

But in 2011, first-time African-American applicants were surpassed by Asians and Hispanics, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) said. Compared with 1977, the number of Hispanic applicants more than tripled in 2011 (3,459 versus 955) while first-time Asian applicants went from 966 to 8,941 when comparing 1977 to 2011.

The number of first-time applications from blacks grew a mere 36% (2,361 in 1977 to 3,215 in 2011).

In fact, black women outnumbered black men applicants in 2011 nearly two to one, the AAMC said.

"Black or African-American males are applying to, being accepted to, and matriculating into medical school in diminishing numbers, which speaks to the increasing need for medical schools to institute plans and initiatives aimed at strengthening the pipeline," stated the report, called "Diversity in Medical Education."

"In response, initiatives have been launched throughout the country in hopes of reversing this trend and producing more graduates. Medical schools are already investing in pipeline programs, but it is clear that additional targeted efforts are necessary," according to the report.

While first-year enrollment was up 18.4% overall from 2002 to 2012 as the AAMC said last fall, that hasn't translated into a great number of more black men.

Non-whites accounted for nearly half of U.S. medical school applications in 2011, the AAMC said. The number of applications from whites has dropped roughly 26% since the late 1970s.

The negative trend for black men could make it harder to meet the growing demand of the primary care physician shortage.

"Black or African-American and Asian matriculants, in particular, have expressed an even greater interest than other racial and ethnic subgroups in general internal medicine," the AAMC report said.

However, all races and ethnicities -- including whites -- show a greater willingness to enter family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics since 2005, the AAMC said.

The AAMC also noted in its diversity report that there's a need to attract a more racially diverse medical school faculty.

More than 60% of medical school faculty are white. Hispanics make up 4% and blacks 2.9%, the AAMC found.

"Notably, this underrepresentation becomes starker among high-ranking faculty," the report stated. "Therefore, these data not only demonstrate the continued need to attract more diverse faculty candidates to the field of academic medicine, but also the need to create more inclusive environments in which diverse faculty thrive and ascend the ranks of academia."


Can We Be REALLY Hard-Headed About Preschool?

Can we be really hard-headed and confront the question: what if there is nothing the government can do for low-income children to improve their educational performance?

Grover Whitehurst, now a scholar at the Brookings Institution, has spent much of his career developing learning programs for young children.  He recently wrote two very good essays asking if we could be “hard headed” about Head Start and Universal Pre-K by admitting that the data shows that such programs have no lasting effect on the low-income children who participate in them.

But let’s take it a step further.  Can we be really hard-headed and confront the question: what if there is nothing the government can do for low-income children to improve their educational performance?  That’s a question that needs asking because, first, Whitehurst doesn’t want to ask it:

"I hope you will agree that we must do something.  A program that is supposed to prepare the neediest children in the nation for school and fails to do so is a program that needs fixing."

Second, the reason to ask it is that low-income children may not be getting the one thing that has been shown to have lasting educational benefits:  parents reading to their toddlers.  A lot of evidence shows that parents endow their children with a lot of advantages in school if they read to them whey they are 3- and 4-years old.  As one summary of the research states:

"When parents hold positive attitudes towards reading, they are more likely to create opportunities for their children that promote positive attitudes towards literacy and they can help children develop solid language and literacy skills. When parents share books with children, they also can promote children’s understanding of the world, their social skills and their ability to learning coping strategies. When this message is supported by child health professionals during well child care and parents are given the tool, in this case a book, to be successful, the impact can be even greater. This effect may be more important among high risk children in low income families, who have parents with little education, belong to a minority group and do not speak English since they are less likely to be exposed to frequent and interactive shared reading."

The problem is that many low-income parents don’t regularly read to their toddlers.  A study in Child Development found that only about half of low-income mothers were reading regularly to their children.

In short, the practices that endow children with lasting educational benefits begin at home.  Low-income families are less likely to engage in those practices.  And the research on Head Start shows that there is not much these programs can do to overcome what isn’t present in the home.

So, to reiterate, what if there is nothing the government can do for low-income children to improve their educational performance?  It’s understandable why Whitehurst doesn’t want to raise this question —- many, many people don’t.  Clearly, it isn’t fair that upper- and middle-class children get the benefit of a parent reading to them when they are young, and so many low-income children do not.  We all want to cling to the belief that there is something that can done for those children who did not receive the necessary development at home.  Sadly, it’s a belief that isn’t supported by the evidence.  And if we persist in it with programs like Head Start, then we are spending resources in a way that will do little good.

If we are really going to be hard headed about early childhood education, we need to ask if there is any government program that can compensate for parents that fail to read to their young children and face the implications if the answer is “no.”


Top British universities lowering admission bar for state school pupils, according to researchers

State school pupils are winning places at the country’s elite universities with lower A-level grades than their privately educated counterparts, say researchers.  They are more likely to be admitted to Russell Group universities with B or C grades than pupils from independent schools.

And those admitted from the state sector are around 20 per cent less likely to have A* or A grades.

The findings are likely to reignite the debate over the ‘social engineering’ of university places.

Some private schools are already threatening to boycott universities that are shown to discriminate against their pupils.

An analysis of A-level grades held by students entering Russell Group universities shows that those from state schools have significantly weaker grades on average. Fifty-two per cent of the qualifications held by independent school pupils entering 19 of the group’s 24 universities in 2010-11 were either A* or A at A-level.

This fell to 42 per cent among state entrants, according to data compiled by the student information website

The grades B and C made up 24.3 per cent of the marks received by state entrants compared with only 18.2 per cent among independent school students.

The gap in achievement was most marked in the highly selective universities.

But it was still apparent at the five Russell Group members that are least popular with private pupils: Cardiff, Sheffield, Liverpool, Glasgow and Queen’s University Belfast.

The research comes as universities face increasing pressure to admit more schools from disadvantaged areas and low performing state schools. Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access, has called for universities to set ‘stretching’ targets for recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This is in return for the right to charge up to £9,000 a year tuition fees. He has previously backed the use of differential offers for students from struggling state comprehensives, allowing them to win places with lower grade A-levels than those from high-flying schools.

While OFFA does not set universities official targets for state entrants, it does challenge them to do more to promote applications from poor students. And guidance on its website says that institutions can mark out poor pupils with potential to succeed by admitting them with lower grades.

Anna Vignoles, professor of education at Cambridge University, told the Times Higher Education magazine that this pressure might explain why state pupils have been admitted with lower grades.

‘Universities are very alive to these targets, contrary to what is often reported,’ she said.

‘When universities have good quality state school students, albeit with slightly lower grades, you can see there is a willingness to get them in.’

Chris Ramsey, of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents top independent schools, said it was ‘unjustifiable’ to ask for higher grades as a ‘blanket policy’.

He said: ‘There may always be reasons for an individual student to be given a lower – or higher – offer than that advertised publicly, but a policy which treated students as simply members of a group would be entirely wrong and should be stopped.’