Friday, March 29, 2013

Popping the Higher Education Bubble

Glenn Harlan Reynolds

The economist Herbert Stein once said that something that can’t go on forever, won’t. That observation, sometimes called Stein’s Law, could well turn out to be the theme for the current decade. But nowhere is it truer than in higher education. American higher education is first in the world, but it can’t go on forever on its current path.

Colleges are raising tuition and fees every year, at a rate of increase that far outpaces any reasonable expectation. One might think this is the kind of thing that couldn’t continue forever, but that’s precisely what has been happening over the past several decades. Prices have gone up, and buyers have poured in anyway, buoyed by a flood of seemingly cheap government money in the form of student loans.

As with any bubble, there are doomsayers who are mostly ignored and cheerleaders who say that this time it’s different. But—as with any bubble—reality is starting to intrude.

Though people have been talking about a bubble in higher education for a while, one major indicator that the swelling is approaching its limit was found in last year’s Occupy protests. While the protesters represented a diverse array of grievances, one common thread was that many had run up huge student loan debts for degrees that weren’t capable of generating sufficient income to make the payments.

At an annual growth rate of 7.45 percent, tuition has vastly outstripped both the consumer price index and health care inflation (see chart). The growth in home prices during the housing bubble looks like a mere bump in the road by comparison. For many years, parents could look to increased home values to make them feel better about paying Junior’s tuition—the so-called “wealth effect,” in which increases in asset values make people more comfortable about spending. Or at least they could borrow tuition costs against the equity in their homes. But that equity is gone now, and tuition marches on.

So where does that leave us? Even students who major in programs shown to increase earnings, such as engineering, face limits to how much debt they can sanely amass. With costs exceeding $60,000 a year for many private schools, and out-of-state costs at many state schools exceeding $40,000 (and often closing in on $30,000 for in-state students), some people are graduating with debt loads of $100,000 or more. Sometimes much more.

That’s dangerous. And the problem is not a small one: According to the Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the number of student-loan debtors now actually equals the number of people with college degrees. How is this possible? “First, huge numbers of those borrowing money never graduate from college,” Vedder explains. “Second, many who borrow are not in baccalaureate degree programs. Third, people take forever to pay their loans back.”

Total student loan debt in America has passed the trillion-dollar mark. That’s more than total credit card debt and more than total auto loan debt. Students graduating with heavy burdens of student loan debt must choose (if they can) jobs that pay enough money to cover the payments, often limiting their career choices to an extent they didn’t foresee in their undergraduate days.

Even students who can earn enough to service their debts may find themselves constrained in other ways: It’s hard to get a mortgage, for example, when you’re already effectively paying one in the form of student loans. And unlike other debt, there’s no “fresh start” available, since student loans generally aren’t dischargeable under bankruptcy. The whole thing looks a bit like the debt slavery schemes used by company stores and sharecropping operators during the 19th century.

Now the whole scheme is starting to break down. In my own world of legal education, applications have plummeted over the past few years. According to the ABA Journal, there has been a 22 percent drop this academic year alone, and they’re down almost half from 2007. Business schools, with declining pay and employment prospects for MBA graduates, are experiencing similar declines. Even in undergraduate admissions, colleges are losing the ability to set prices as applicants become more value-conscious. These trends have led the Moody’s rating service to downgrade the outlook for the entire higher education sector to “negative.”

Some in higher education are offended. College should be about improving your mind, they say, not about future salaries. But a recent study of more than 700 schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that many have virtually no requirements. Perhaps that’s why students, on average, are studying 50 percent less than they were a couple of decades ago.

When higher education was cheap enough that students could pay their own way by working part-time, “study what interests you” was reasonable advice. When the investment runs well into the six figures, students would be crazy not to worry about the return. If there’s no return, it’s not an investment; it’s a consumption item. A six-figure consumption item is well beyond the resources of most college-age Americans; nobody would advise an 18-year-old to purchase a Ferrari on borrowed money. But if a college education is a consumption item, not an investment, then they’re basically doing the same thing.

Higher education needs to be cheaper, more flexible, and better. It’s possible that technology will show the way: With the proliferation of online courses, some offered by major brand-name schools like Harvard, MIT, or Georgia Tech, there’s no reason why students should have to go into massive debt. And while an online degree from MIT (when such becomes available) probably won’t be worth as much as traditional MIT sheepskin, it may well outperform degrees from many less prestigious brick-and-mortar schools.

Alternatively, universities could become leaner. Fueled by the bubble, they’ve piled on staff (mostly non-teaching administrators, who now outnumber faculty in many institutions), constructed buildings and palatial athletic facilities, and paid almost no attention to costs. A few science and engineering courses may have inherently high equipment costs, but there’s no reason why it should cost more in constant dollars to get a degree in English literature today than it did 50 years ago. Schools that get costs under control will have a huge advantage. Those that don’t, will suffer.

Today’s university is a knowledge industry using a 19th-century model in the 21st century. If that doesn’t suggest a need for updating, what does?


Investigation launched after British teachers hand a special needs student razor blades so they could self-harm 'safely'

Teachers were ordered to hand razor blades to a vulnerable youngster as part of a controversial 'controlled self-harm' policy at a specialist school, it has emerged.

An investigation is underway after a child at Unsted Park School - which offers education to boys and girls aged between seven and 19 years who have Asperger's Syndrome and higher-functioning autism - was given access to blade kits.

Staff were told to give the pupil access to the sterilised disposable razor and sterile wipes and escort the child to a bathroom where they would be allowed to self-harm in a 'safe and controlled manner'.

Teachers were ordered to wait outside the bathroom while the child was inside, checking on them every two minutes, before the wounds were dressed and cleaned by staff.

The policy was introduced and abandoned within six days at the school in Munstead Park, Godalming, Surrey, and is understood to have sparked protests from staff.

Principal Steve Dempsey and headteacher Laura Blair now face the possibility of being hauled before a Teaching Agency hearing over allegations of unacceptable professional conduct in connection with the policy.

Members of school staff are understood to have raised fears with Surrey County Council's Local Authority Designated Officer over the procedure.

Following the Teaching Agency investigation, a panel from the regulator will decide whether any further action will be taken.

The regulator could decide to refer the case to a professional conduct panel.

A spokesman for the Priory Group, responsible for running the school, said: 'We are always willing to review cases with the Teaching Agency.

'This was a short-term, local procedure introduced by the headteacher and school principal who genuinely believed it was in the best interests of the pupil.

'However, they accept that the procedure should not have been implemented without further approvals having been obtained from key stakeholders and senior management prior to its introduction.'

It is believed the pupil's parents were aware of the policy.

Unsted School was ranked good with outstanding features in its last Ofsted inspection, published in February.

The report stated: 'There are robust risk assessments and health and safety processes which protect young people from harm.

'The behaviour management system at the school is outstanding. Boarders have individual behaviour plans which operate on a traffic light system and clearly identify triggers and strategies for addressing these.

'They also include work with the boarders on them developing the skills to control their own behaviour.'

A spokesman for the Teaching Agency said they were unable to comment on ongoing investigations.

A Surrey Police spokesman said the force was made aware of the policy in January 2012 by Social Services.

The spokesman said: 'A senior strategy meeting, which was attended by Surrey Police, was held on January 19, 2012, to ensure that safeguarding practices were put in place. This was done to ensure that the practice did not continue at the school and was not put into practice at any other school.

'Surrey Police has thoroughly reviewed the matter and is satisfied that there are no criminal offences to investigate.'


Ratbag Australian head-teacher out for good

Former Kew Primary principal Kim Dray, who stood down in 2011 amid controversy over a radical toileting policy, will not return to the school next term despite being exonerated after a 19-month inquiry.

Dr Dray, who was slated to resume as principal next term, changed her mind late last night after staff unanimously voted they did not support her return and parents bombarded the government with complaints.

Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said Dr Dray felt "pretty gutted" by the whole thing, but it would be very difficult for her to return to Kew Primary next term given the hostility.

"I think the department needs to provide a lot more support to her to enable that re-entry to occur," he said.

Dr Dray came under fire from parents after she trialled a "whole class approach" to toilet breaks, in which the entire class would go to the toilets if one child needed to go.

Parents said they were not consulted over the trial and it led to children wetting themselves and girls being too embarrassed to go to school if they had their periods.

In August 2011 Dr Dray asked to be temporarily reassigned while the Education Department investigated because she was concerned about the effect of the media coverage on the school community.

But parents and teachers raised concerns when it was announced Dr Dray had chosen to return to Kew Primary in term two, after she was exonerated following a 19 month investigation conducted by Lander & Rogers Lawyers on behalf of the department.

At a full staff meeting on March 20, Kew Primary staff unanimously voted they did not support the return of Dr Dray.

"Staff made it aware that it was a very toxic environment under Kim’s leadership and staff were divided, vulnerable and damaged," according to the minutes seen by Fairfax Media.

"It is unanimously felt by staff that Kim’s style of leadership does not fit with Kew Primary School and that her return is not in the best interests of the school."

Parents had also met with Kew MP Andrew McIntosh on Friday to express their concerns and an extraordinary council meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday.

But Mr Cotching said Dr Dray had been completely exonerated by an Education Department investigation and should be allowed to resume as principal.

He blasted the department’s decision to investigate Dr Dray under division 10 – misconduct and inefficiency – of part 2.4 of the Education and Training Reform Act, saying it was a "gargantuan stuff-up" and an investigation that should have taken a month had dragged on for 19 months.

"It should never have got to this stage," Mr Cotching said. "It’s the grossest mismanagement of a complaints process I’ve seen in my experience as a principal.

The investigation is understood to have called 20 witnesses, collected three folders of information, and examined every area of Kew Primary’s operation, including school finances, security and Dr Dray’s dealings with the school council, before recommending that no action be taken.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Education Department website removes Chairman Mao quote

"Satiable" in learning?  That is pretty anti-intellectual.  It means you have decided that you know it all.  Very Leftist, of course.  But a very strange thing for a Dept. of Education to put up.  Humble people would see themselves as insatiable in learning

A Department of Education website chose Mao Zedong, former dictator of China, for its “quote of the day.”

The quote appeared on the “Kids’ Zone” website, a DOE educational resource for students, according to The New York Daily News:

“Our attitude toward ourselves should be ‘to be satiable in learning’ and towards others ‘to be tireless in teaching.’”

After receiving criticism, DOE took down the quote, eventually replacing it with one by Abraham Lincoln. After that, the “quote of the day” feature suffered the same fate as foes of communist regimes: it disappeared without a trace.

Chairman Mao is remembered for implementing economic and social programs that led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.


University Apologizes, Reverses Course on Punishing Student Who Refused to Stomp on ‘JESUS’ Sign‏

The odd story about Ryan Rotela, a junior at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and his claim that he was suspended from a class for refusing to stomp on a sign that had Jesus’ name on it, quickly spread across the nation. While the school issued an official apology over the bizarre debacle, questions still surround the incident, as the professor at the center of it, Dr. Deandre Poole, has been silent on the matter.

When the story first broke, numerous outlets, including TheBlaze, reported that Rotela was suspended from the course after complaining about the professor’s in-class assignment. He and other students were apparently told by Poole to write “JESUS” on a sheet of paper, throw it on the floor and then stomp on it.

Rotela, a devout Mormon, refused to participate in the purported activity and told the professor that he found the request offensive. The student was so frustrated that he subsequently went to his professor’s supervisor to complain — and that’s when he was allegedly suspended from the class.

Fox News’ Todd Starnes covered this story as well, adding additional context and writing that the student was initially accused of violating the student code of conduct after the official complaint was made.

In addition to be axed from the class, Rotela was apparently told not to speak with other students and he was also faced with possible suspension or expulsion. These latter claims were predicated upon a hearing that he was slated to go through.

“In the interim, you may not attend class or contact any of the students involved in this matter – verbally or electronically – or by any other means,” a letter that was written by Associate Dean Rozalia Williams to the student allegedly read. “Please be advised that a Student Affairs hold may be placed on your records until final disposition of the complaint.”

Both the student and his lawyer believe that the university’s initial harsh response was retribution for Rotela going public with the story. But, alas, it seems the campus “charges” have been dropped and the university has backed down.

Rotela’s lawyer, Hiram Sasser, with the conservative Liberty Institute, told Starnes that “there will be no punishment” and that the school is “wiping the record clean for Ryan.” He will apparently be continuing in the course, but will not have to deal with Poole in the process.

FAU Dean of Students Corey King also reiterated the school’s regret over the incident, apologizing and telling Starnes that there was no intent to offend.

Rotela was very thankful for the inevitable outcome, telling Starnes that he is gracious for the many Christians who called the college and made their opposition to the controversial Jesus activity known.

“I have two words — thank you,” the student said. “If it wasn’t for all the Christians and the open-minded people who decided to call the university — I would be sitting in a room getting punished, getting sanctioned from the school and getting expelled from the university.”

While it’s inconsequential to this particular case, many outlets pointed to the fact that Poole is also the vice-chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. TheBlaze reached out to Poole when the story first broke, but we have not heard back from the professor.


Is the degree outdated?

Some comments from Australia

Most school leavers take the next step and go to university to obtain a degree. But with changing workplaces and the increasing speed of technology - to what degree do you need a degree?

Earlier this month, Universities Australia released a report from "The Australian Workforce Productivity Agency" warning that the industry demand for people with higher education is set to sky rocket with growth rates of between 3 and 4 per cent every year till 2025.

Yet with so much evolution in the work place and the technologies that are running them, should a degree still be a definitive requirement or has it become more industry specific?

Ten years ago more than 50% of Australians wouldn't have been able to read this article online due to Internet access constraints. Twenty years ago, stories like this were typed on electric typewriters and faxed to editors, while 30 years ago the yellow pages was the number one source to find the phone numbers for people to interview. Times have changed... drastically.

There are still plenty of people in the work force who would have completed their university studies 20 - 30 years ago, a time before tablets, Google and smart phones, a time when you got a bad back from lugging around the fourth edition of a 10 kg textbook or writing your thesis from facts you found in your Encyclopaedia Britannica that took up an entire wall of your house.

According to many employers or if you check out the latest job listings, it's clear, a degree is still a big desire, even though they could have come fresh off the printing press when a mullet was something on your head, not on your plate and a mouse was something that ate cheese.

Of course if your life long dream is to be a scientist or a vet or a lawyer, higher education is not just necessary it's imperative to ensure you learn the knowledge required to execute these types of positions.

But for many other industries where "hard skills" are required to get the job done is university always the right way to go?

Lincoln Crawley, the Managing Director of Manpower Group Australia, New Zealand as well as the President of RSCA (Recruitment and Consultant Services Association) says in the Australian job market a degree is still an advantage.

"This is a complex issue, what is appealing to prospective employers is that a degree gives the impression of a desire for continuous learning" says Crawley.

So if Crawley was presented with two candidates with similar abilities however one has a degree and the other doesn't who usually gets the job? "If two candidates are all things being relatively equal, then it should be the propensity to do the role and add value to the work place that wins the position not the pieces of paper," he says.

At the time this article was written, a number of universities and Universities Australia were approached to comment on this issue from a Tertiary standpoint, but given the current revolving door of Ministers (Chris Bowen's replacement will be the fifth in 15 months) and the aftermath of the spill, no one was available to comment.

Do those extra letters after your name really get you those extra dollars in your pay packet? Does a degree place you in a position of power and strength in the job market or can it just another form of workplace discrimination?

Most people see the advantage of further education and the pursuit of constant learning, but not everybody believes you always need a piece of paper to prove it.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arkansas House panel rejects school choice bill

An Arkansas House committee on Thursday rejected a proposed rewrite of the state's school choice law, as lawmakers debated whether to delay changing the law until a federal appeals court rules on its constitutionality.

The plan, sponsored by Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton, would have allowed students to transfer out of their geographically determined districts under a variety of circumstances, such as when a student performs poorly on state exams or when the transfer would promote racial integration.

Lawmakers have been grappling with how to respond to a federal court ruling last year that struck down the state's school choice law as unconstitutional.

The existing school choice law, adopted in 1989, aimed to prevent "white flight" by barring most transfers where a student wanted to switch into a district where a higher percentage of students were of his or her race. But the federal judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional in using race as the sole factor to determine whether a student could transfer schools.

The state's appeal of the case is pending before the Eighth Circuit, which heard arguments in January.

At the House Education Committee hearing Thursday, a representative from the Attorney General's office and the association of school administrators urged lawmakers to wait for guidance from the appeals court before moving ahead with the school choice proposals.

"We would like to get the Eighth Circuit decision in because we feel like it will address a lot of the questions that come up in this difficult area," said Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson. "It's very difficult to determine what the state's obligations are going forward."

Hammer said after the vote that he thought lawmakers on the panel had opted for a "wait and see" approach in rejecting his proposal.

Lawmakers are also considering two other bills that would rewrite the school choice law.

The author of one of those proposals, Sen. Johnny Key, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the rejection of Hammer's proposal and concerns about changing the law while the case is pending won't change his plans to move forward with his bill. He said he planned to ask for a vote next week before the Senate panel on his school choice bill, which would remove the racial component.

Opponents of Key's proposal said that if lawmakers eliminate race as a factor in school transfers, they will end up with segregated school districts. Arkansas has a history of struggling with desegregation issues.

A competing proposal by Sen. Joyce Elliot, D-Little Rock, would allow individual school districts to exempt themselves from the school choice program if they thought it would be harmful to their district. The Senate Education committee has debated Elliot's bill but it has yet to vote on the proposal.


Oregon professor fired for bizarre tirade, allegedly threatening student protesters

A law teacher with the University of Oregon got a life lesson from the school of hard knocks when he was fired from his position after he got irate with student protesters, seen in an eyewitness video eventually shoving one protester and snatching the phone of another.

James L. Olmstead, an adjunct law professor, was arrested on theft and physical harassment charges after he confronted students from a pro-immigration organization during a campus rally last Thursday and at first seemed to agree with the activists before the public discussion took a sudden bizarre turn.

Olmstead, who also is a land-use and conservancy attorney, started to reject the protestors' peaceful protesting techniques in an exchange that was captured on video and went viral over the weekend on YouTube.

“Start a f---ing war. ... Stop being p---ies,” he starts shouting at the crowd of students. “Start a war, get a gun, shoot me first. I’m right here.”

"This is an aggressive tone. I'm feeling a little threatened right now," one student can be heard saying on the video as Olmstead rips off his jacket and throws it to the ground, appearing to gear up for a physical altercation.

The professor then becomes more irate when one student approaches him in an attempt to calm him down.

Olmstead is seen in the video shoving the student and starting to threaten the group, urging them to “do something” if they wanted him removed. He then grabs the phone of a student who had been using it to film his awkward behavior and puts it in his back pocket.

With the phone still recording, Olmstead can be heard continuing his tirade, shouting, “Do something.”

He continues by stating that the campus grounds are his public property and posing questions to the protestors.

"Do I have freedom to speak to? Can I yell?" Olmstead said. "I'm part of your performance. You need a protagonist."

Olmstead was arrested after his outburst and later removed from his teaching position, and he received a letter from university officials stating that he was banned from campus.

“His teaching responsibilities have been reassigned to other professors on staff,” Julie Brown, director of communications for the University of Oregon, told

Olmsted did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"If a liberal professor attacks like-minded students in this way, I can only imagine how he would have treated students of an opposing viewpoint." Josiah Ryan of advocacy group Campus Reform said in a statement to


I refuse to surrender to the Marxist teachers hell-bent on destroying our schools: Education Secretary berates 'the new enemies of promise' for opposing his plans

By Michael Gove

Exactly 75 years ago the great English writer and thinker, Cyril Connolly, published his most famous book –  The Enemies Of Promise. Connolly’s work explores the ways in which the talented individuals of his time were prevented from achieving their full potential.

It’s time someone produced an update. Because there are millions of talented young people  being denied the opportunity to succeed as they deserve. Far too many are having their potential thwarted by a new set of Enemies Of Promise.

The new Enemies Of Promise are a set of politically motivated individuals who have been actively trying to prevent millions of our poorest children getting the education they need.

Our education system should give all children the tools they need – mastery of English,  fluency in arithmetic, the ability to reason scientifically, a knowledge of these islands and their history – to take their place as confident, modern citizens.

There are many brilliant schools – a growing number – which do just that. Their students earn the qualifications which allow them to choose where they will go on to work, or study.

And they acquire the stock of knowledge required to take their place in a modern democracy  – how to communicate in formal settings, appreciate the arguments in newspapers’ leading articles and understand the  context behind big political decisions.

But, tragically, there are all too many children who still don’t leave school with these basic accomplishments. Businesses report that school-leavers lack basic literacy and numeracy.

Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance, with one teenager in five believing Winston Churchill was a  fictional character while 58 per cent think Sherlock Holmes  was real.

Expectations in science have been so dumbed down that children could be asked if grilled fish is healthier than battered sausages in their GCSEs. And the greatest tragedy is that poor educational performance is concentrated in our most disadvantaged communities – places like Knowsley in Merseyside, Hull and East Durham. Because of my own background, I am determined to do everything I can to help the poorest children in our country transcend theirs.

But who is responsible for this failure? Who are the guilty men  and women who have deprived a generation of the knowledge they need? Who are the modern Enemies Of Promise?

Well, helpfully, 100 of them put their name to a letter to The Independent newspaper this week.

They are all academics who have helped run the university departments of education responsible for developing curricula and teacher training courses.

You would expect such people to value learning, revere knowledge and dedicate themselves  to fighting ignorance. Sadly, they seem more interested in valuing Marxism, revering jargon and fighting excellence.

They attacked the Coalition for our indefensibly reactionary drive to get more children to spell properly, use a wider vocabulary and learn their times tables. Expecting 11-year-olds  to write grammatical sentences and use fractions in sums is apparently asking for ‘too much too young’ and will ‘severely erode educational standards’.

How can it erode educational standards to ask that, in their  11 years in school, children be given the opportunity to use the English language in all its range and beauty to communicate their thoughts and feelings with grace and precision? What planet are these people on?

A Red Planet, if their published work is anything to go by. One of the letter’s principal signatories claims to write ‘from a classical Marxist perspective’, another studies ‘how masculinities and femininities operate as communities of practice’, a third makes their life work an ‘intergenerational ethnography of the intersection of class, place, education and school resistance’.

It is no surprise that two signatories co-authored a paper proclaiming ‘Marxism is as relevant as ever’. It certainly seems to be if you want a position in a university department of education.

School reformers in the past often complained about what was called The Blob – the network of educational gurus in and around our universities who praised each others’ research, sat on committees that drafted politically correct curricula, drew gifted young teachers away from their vocation and instead directed them towards ideologically driven theory.

Some wonder if past reformers were exaggerating the problem in university education departments. Thanks to the not-so-Independent 100 we can see that, if anything, they were underplaying the problem.

In the past The Blob tended to operate by stealth, using its influence to control the quangos and committees which shaped policy. But The Blob has broken cover in the letters pages of the broadsheets because this Government is taking it on.

We have abolished the quangos they controlled. We have given  a majority of secondary schools academy status so they are free from the influence of The Blob’s allies in local government. We are moving teacher training away from university departments and into our best schools. And we are reforming our curriculum and exams to restore the rigour they abandoned.

GCSEs and A-levels had been systematically devalued. We have acted. GCSEs and A-levels will again be taken after two years’ study, instead of broken into ‘modules’, and will stretch children with the challenges they need, such as extended essay-writing and more problem- solving in maths and sciences.

We believe children will  flourish if we challenge them, but The Blob, in thrall to Sixties ideologies, wants to continue the devaluation of the exam system.

These reforms have the support of the growing number of great heads and outstanding teachers who want children to succeed. More and more schools are now being rated good and outstanding. But there are still a tiny minority of teachers who see themselves as part of The Blob and have enlisted as  Enemies Of Promise.
They are the ultra-militants in the unions who are threatening strikes. They oppose our plans to pay good teachers more because they resent the recognition of excellence and they hate academy schools because heads in those schools put the needs of children ahead of the demands of shop stewards.

Previous school reformers have been stymied by these  Enemies Of Promise before. Just last week Tony Blair was lamenting the fact teaching unions ‘have stood out against necessary educational change’ and arguing for the policies this Government is pursuing.

Indeed, across the world those politicians who want to help children from poor backgrounds get on are fighting the Enemies Of Promise. Last week I was talking to the Democrat Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, about his battle with the teaching unions.

That’s why it’s such a pity that, this week, Labour’s education spokesman Stephen Twigg chose to side with the Marxists and failed to condemn the unions who want to close successful schools.

The fight against the Enemies Of Promise is a fight for our children’s future. It’s a fight against ideology, ignorance and poverty of aspiration, a struggle to make opportunity more equal for all our children.

It’s a battle in which you have to take sides. Now that Labour seem to be siding with the militants, it’s even more important that we support the great  teachers and heads fighting for higher standards for the sake of our children.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oregon Math Teacher Escorted Out by Police, Set to Be Fired for Opposing Planned Parenthood in the Classroom‏

An Oregon public school teacher says he’s on the verge of being fired because of his outspoken views against Planned Parenthood and abortion.

Bill Diss, who taught at Benson High School in Portland for 11 years, was placed on paid leave March 19 and recommended for dismissal, the Oregonian reported. That day, the math teacher said he was given a few minutes to collect his things and was escorted from school premises by police, according to the Christian News Network.

Diss is a staunch Roman Catholic and blocked two Planned Parenthood workers from entering his classroom in September because, he said, they lacked proper identification.

Planned Parenthood is a partner in the Portland school district’s Teen Outreach Program, aimed at preventing teen pregnancy, and funded by a federal Department of Health and Human Services grant, according to the Oregonian.

“I think, deep down, it’s because of my views,” Diss told the newspaper. “And that it’s much more important for them to have Planned Parenthood in the schools than to have a really dedicated teacher who really teaches math well and goes the extra mile and does a whole bunch with the kids.”

He was reprimanded for the incident and the workers were eventually allowed in to give a presentation aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy — though school district officials said Diss interrupted them.

In December, Diss helped organized a protest at a school board meeting against Planned Parenthood’s presence in the district, calling it “a chance to get healed so that filth doesn’t have to be handed to other people.”

Former students told KGW-TV Diss is known for sharing his anti-abortion views at school.

“He doesn’t do it a lot, but students do make fun of him for being against it and everything,” junior Ty’sha Harrell said. “When he does talk about it, he does have really good views and everything, sometimes he goes too deep into it. He brings religion into it.”

In one suspension letter provided to the Oregonian, school officials accused him of trying to block students from attending the Planned Parenthood program because of his religious beliefs and told them to “shut (their) mouths.”

“(Students) also quoted you as saying, ‘they would end up on 82nd (Avenue) and that they kill over a million babies every three years,’” the letter, addressed from school principal Carol Campbell and the human resources director, stated.

Diss told the newspaper there was a misunderstanding in the reference to 82nd Avenue, a known hub for prostitution, but admitted to talking about Planned Parenthood and his religious beliefs in class.

In a statement to KGW, the school district said it does not “discuss the nature of personnel issues and actions out of respect for the individual.”

“But I can tell you that we respect the rights of all employees to their own political, religious, social and other beliefs and affiliations and expect all employees to conduct themselves professionally in their work, most especially with students,” the statement said.


Leftist crap in Texas school

A Texas mom is furious after discovering that her son’s school is teaching students that the United States is partly to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

Kara Sands, of Corpus Christi, Texas, took to her Facebook and posted photos of the test administered by Flour Bluff Intermediate School. The test reportedly covered content in a video fifth-grade students watched in class.

Of all the questions about the 9/11 attacks, Sands was most disturbed by question three:

“Why might the United States be a target for terrorism?” The answer? “Decisions we made in the United States have had negative effects on people elsewhere.”

The school was using the stunningly controversial lesson, a part of Safari Montage, to supplement the controversial CSCOPE curriculum system that has come under fire recently, Sands told TheBlaze. CSCOPE also includes lessons asking students to design a flag for a “new socialist nation” and calls the Boston Tea Party an “act of terrorism.”

“I’m not going to justify radical terrorists by saying we did anything to deserve that — over 3,000 people died,” Sands told KRIS-TV.

The irate mother immediately contacted her son’s principal and teacher and set up meetings with them. The school then reached out to the video’s distributor, Safari Montage.

“Representatives say they stand behind the video, but have already changed the corresponding quiz that may have caused confusion,” according to the report.

Another worksheet on the Bill of Rights apparently names food and medicine as “rights,” not a personal responsibility, according to Sands. She said her son’s answer was falsely marked wrong because he labeled food and medicine as the latter.

“When I teach my children that you have to work hard and you have to earn a living and they go to school and learn something different I absolutely take issue with that,” she added.


Now it's the end of the school exchange trip: British pupils banned from foreign homes even though there's NO evidence of abuse

Hundreds of schools across the country have banned pupils from  staying with families on exchange trips abroad because of child protection fears.

British pupils can still visit the home of a French, German or Spanish  student, but many are not allowed to stay there overnight. Instead they must stay in hotels or hostels.

And when school parties from abroad arrive in Britain, those  students also have to stay in hotels, hostels or halls of residence.

Last week, Ceredigion County Council in mid-Wales became the latest authority to ban its exchange students staying with families while on visits abroad, although officials denied the move had been triggered by any specific incident.

‘This decision was based on safeguarding children and ensuring their safety,’ the council said in a statement.

‘Despite undertaking Criminal Records Bureau checks and utilising family agreements, there was still an unknown element to such arrangements.’

Haydn Davey, headmaster of the 1,300-pupil Penglais comprehensive in Aberystwyth, said: ‘We usually send six to eight people to Japan and about 25 or 30 to Germany every year but there will be fewer trips in future. They are going to be difficult to organise.’

Language teachers are dismayed by the trend as there is no evidence that any child has been abused or molested in a family home during a visit.

Duncan Byrne, deputy head at  Cheltenham College and a former chairman of the Independent Schools Modern Languages Association, said: ‘There is a fear of legal action being taken against teachers.

‘Instead, schools are now running sanitised trips where they take 30 children to a chateau in France where they lay on the French experience with some croissants.

‘But pupils are not being immersed in the culture and it’s not the same experience as living with a host family.

'We must not let excessive caution deny pupils valuable life and learning experiences. Schools have got to stand up for what they believe in and find a way to  overcome this.’

The decline of exchange trips has caused such concern in Parliament that Pat Glass, acting chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, is to propose an inquiry on the issue.

‘There is lots of evidence on how important these visits are for language learning,’ said Ms Glass.  ‘It is a case of striking the right balance instead of wrapping pupils in cotton wool.’

A Department for Education spokesman said it was the responsibility of individual head teachers to agree exchange visits which can be ‘very beneficial for children and their language learning.’


Monday, March 25, 2013

Principal Ditches ‘Honors Night’ for More Inclusive Student Assembly to Avoid ‘Devastating’ Average Kids‏

In recent years, there’s been an odd cultural trend emerging. As parents seek to shield their children from negativity, there’s been a major push in some circles to rid schools and youth groups of competitive spirit — all in the name of inclusiveness and protecting kids’ emotions.

Considering this ongoing dynamic — one that tends to anger parents who believe in the rewards associated with hard work and dedication — David Fabrizio, the principal at Ipswich Middle School in Ipswich, Mass., came under fire this week after local and national news outlets reported that he canceled an honors awards night to hold a more inclusive event.

Rather than inviting only those students who have outperformed their peers, the Daily Mail reports that Fabrizio has reorganized the event, called “Honors Night,” and is ensuring that every individual in the school can take part.

In an e-mail announcement to parents, Fabrizio purportedly said that the decision was made in an effort to avoid “devastating” those individuals who did not perform well and were, thus, not invited to the traditional awards event. Parents purportedly shared this note with Fox affiliate WFXT-TV.

“The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average,” Fabrizio wrote to parents.

According to WFXT-TV, the principal’s decision was also predicated upon the fact that academic success is also tied to the support that students get at home. And since not every student gets the same level of academic and emotional support from parents, there’s potential inequality.

Naturally, many parents both in the school district and beyond disagree with this re-organization of an annual event that was meant to herald children’s stellar performance.

Dave Morin, a parent in the district, voiced his frustration in an interview with WFXT-TV.

“It’s been a tradition in Ipswich,” he said. “And you’re very proud as a parent to go into that night and see your child, as well as some of the other children who made, really, some great efforts.”

Parental outrage was apparently so intense that Fabrizio took to the school’s web site to write a statement about the incident. In addition to rebuffing the WFXT-TV report, the principal clarified how the Honors Night program changes were being handled.

“Ipswich Middle School is dedicated to high achievement in every facet of our students’ lives. We did not cancel honors recognition as erroneously reported by FOX News Boston,” he wrote. “We changed our Honors Night from an exclusive ceremony at night to an all-inclusive ceremony during the day in the presence of the entire student body.”

So, students who excel will still be recognized for their accomplishments — and in front of the entire student body on June 17.

“During this ceremony we will honor those who have excelled in academics, in athletics, in the arts and in the related arts. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect,” the principal’s statement on the school’s web site continues.

On one hand, this can be seen as a valiant effort to recognize students who have excelled, while also motivating those who have not. Rather than having children accept their awards in front of families in a closed, evening event, these students will be shining examples to their peers.

Plus, Fabrizio notes that it’s important to expose kids who aren’t excelling to inspirational speakers — something this new-found assembly will allow.

“We had a situation where our best students were being honored exclusively away from the rest of the school. The problem was, those who needed that motivation weren’t there,” Fabrizio told the IPSwich.

But there’s also some interesting counter arguments to consider.

On the flip side, there’s also the fact that holding an evening event was special and offered children who deserve praise the necessary accolades. By simply merging this event with the larger, end-of-year assembly, the unique nature of the awards disappears.


Repeat after me: If 100 experts say it's wrong for children to learn by rote, they must all be nitwits

One of the lessons we all learn eventually, whether from history or personal experience, is the correct answer to the question: can 100 leading experts really be wrong? That answer, of course, is a most emphatic ‘Yes’.

As yesterday’s paper reminded us, the point was deliciously illustrated after Sir Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget. This was when not just 100 but 364 of the country’s most eminent economists wrote to The Times, saying that the Thatcher government’s austerity measures would ‘deepen the depression’.

Of course, we can now date the start of the boom of the Eighties, and Britain’s return from bankruptcy and paralysis to robust economic health, almost exactly to the moment when Sir Geoffrey sat down after delivering his package to the Commons.

Oh, what a comfort it is, to those of us who don’t begin to understand economics, to know that our greatest economists haven’t a clue either.

Climatologists also spring to mind. I’m old enough to remember when you would have had no trouble rounding up 100 of the most distinguished academics in the field to sign an open letter warning that humanity was sleep-walking towards a new Ice Age.

Today, of course, the experts sing from a very different hymn sheet. The trouble is that, as before, the mercury in the world’s thermometers stubbornly refuses to obey their predictions.

I’m not saying there’s nothing in the theory of global warming. Indeed, I find it plausible that if we go on belching pollutants into the atmosphere, they’ll have the greenhouse effect of heating us up — just as it was always believable that they would freeze our pants off by blocking out the sun.

All I’m saying is that no matter how many climatologists tell us the globe is warming up or cooling down, I’ll find their warnings a great deal more convincing if just one of them manages to produce a predictive temperature chart that turns out to be roughly accurate. Until then — or until Mr Miligrant’s new Press commissariat bans me from expressing unfashionable views — I’ll keep an open mind.

There comes a time, however, when a theory has been so comprehensively exploded by the facts, as we’ve observed and experienced ourselves, that even people who are prepared to believe almost anything must come off the fence and declare that it’s plain false.

Such a moment came for me this week when I read the open letter from 100 distinguished academics — 51 of them professors, no less — in which they repeated dogmas that have been accepted as Holy Writ by the educational establishment since they caught on widely during the Sixties.

‘As academics,’ they wrote [although they might, with equal truth, have begun ‘As nitwits.....’] ‘we are writing to warn of the dangers posed by Michael Gove’s new National Curriculum, which could severely erode educational standards.

‘The proposed curriculum consists of endless lists of spellings, facts and rules. This mountain of data will not develop children’s ability to think, including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity.’

They went on to air the familiar complaint that Mr Gove’s curriculum was demanding ‘too much, too young’.

It would put pressure on teachers, they said, to rely on ‘rote learning without understanding’, adding: ‘Little account is taken of children’s potential interests and capacities, or that young children need to relate abstract ideas to their experience, lives and activity.’

Now, despite what I’ve said so far, I accept that a mere layman should, in general, be hesitant about challenging authorities who have devoted their whole lives to the question at issue. And I should admit at once that my own career as a teacher was so brief and atypical that I can claim no sort of expertise.

It began while I was a teenager and still at school myself, when I volunteered to help out at a deprived North London primary school as a means of getting out of playing football.

I was meant to be teaching children with special needs how to read. But, as I remember, my chief duty was to prevent the boys from hurling scissors at each other.

Otherwise, I spent much of my time rejecting, as tactfully as I could, a series of imploring proposals of marriage from a seven-year-old West Indian girl, who had taken a shine to me.

Later, I taught for a couple of terms at fiendishly expensive boarding schools for boys aged eight to 13. I’ll never forget the conversation I overheard one morning when I sat at the breakfast table between the heir to a cereals fortune and Lord Christopher Wellesley, son of the Duke of Wellington.

Cereals heir: ‘How many swimming pools have you got, Wellesley? We’ve got three.’  Wellesley (mentally scanning the family estates): ‘I’m not sure. Seven, I think.’

Hardly the experiences of a teacher at the average school, I admit — although the violent North London primary comes much closer to today’s norm than the exclusive Berkshire prep school.

So, no, I’m no expert in educational theory or practice. But I was on the receiving end of a formal education for many years. I also have four children of my own, whom I observed through the 60 years they chalked up between them at both state and independent schools.

And although a lot of what I learned was taught by rote, I flatter myself that I remain just about capable of thinking.

So I’m emboldened to tell those 100 eminent educationalists that when they rail against schools being made to teach ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, what they are actually attacking is education.

Indeed, they raise an entirely false dichotomy when they suggest that teaching children rules and facts by rote stifles creativity and understanding. Doesn’t all our experience tell us that facts and the ability to think about them go hand in hand, like rules and creativity?

Do those nitwit educationalists really believe that Mozart would have been a more creative composer if he hadn’t been taught the rules of music when he was in short pants? Or that Turner would have been a greater artist if he’d jumped straight to his more abstract stuff, without first being taught the disciplines of perspective, line and colour?

Speaking for myself, I owe a huge debt for my understanding of the way languages work to the doggerel rhymes I was made to learn from the back of my Latin grammar book before I was ten.

I still remember most of them: ‘For indirect command the laws/ Are ut and ne like a final clause .....’; ‘Determine, wish, prefer, try, strive / Take the plain infinitive .....’.

In English, I was made to learn great chunks of poetry off by heart — quite apart from the hymns then sung by rich and poor alike, from north to south.

In history, I learned the dates of the kings and queens of England, along with a salient fact about each one’s reign, from another very bad poem my teacher drummed into me. Here’s a snatch of it: ‘Richard, 1189/ Who fought the Turks in Palestine’; ‘John, 1199/Who did the Magna Carta sign.’

How can knowing that rhyme, which sketches out the basic chronology of the past 1,000 years, be anything but an aid to understanding history? If only children learned it today — instead of being told to imagine they’re a refugee from Nazi Germany one day, and an 18th-century African slave the next — they might have a clearer picture of how our world came to be.

No, those academics are spouting dangerous and discredited claptrap that has demonstrably betrayed generations of children as British schools have slipped relentlessly down the international league tables.

‘Too much, too young’? Why don’t teachers raise their expectations of their charges, as Mr Gove is trying to make them do? They may find they’re amazed by what young minds can absorb.

Meanwhile, I’m beginning to think I should amend my opening question. Perhaps I should have asked: ‘Can 100 leading experts ever be right?’


Australia:  'Why didn't they help my girl?'

A HOBART father is considering legal action against the Education Department after he says his 13-year-old daughter was subjected to eight months of bullying at her school, culminating in her nose being broken and an attempt made to set her on fire.

The father, whose name has been withheld to protect his daughter's identity, said he was left dumbstruck by the failure of school authorities to provide the most basic duty of care. "I'm shattered," he said of the school's inability to deal with the repeated bullying of his daughter.

The distraught father said he could not believe his daughter's tormentors – five 13-year-old girls -- were not expelled.

Rather, the man's daughter has become a victim again by being forced to change schools.

"I was in the army, I protected my country and now I can't protect my little girl," he said.

After being contacted for a response by the Mercury, the Education Department said it would investigate.

"The department takes all incidents of violence seriously and has procedures in place to deal with them," Education Department deputy secretary Liz Banks said.

"In this instance, the school acted promptly and the actions included suspension, mediation and appropriate counselling and support for the students involved."

However, the victim's father rejected Ms Banks' claims that the school had acted "promptly".

He said the school principal failed to meet with him, despite repeated requests.

The father said the school failed to contact police when his daughter, a Year 7 student, was punched in the face by her main tormentor in the school playground on March 6.

The attack resulted in his daughter having surgery last Wednesday to reset her nose, after a week waiting for the swelling to go down.

That assault occurred on her 13th birthday and her father had allowed her to mark it by having her naturally red hair dyed brown the day before.

"The teasing had started off last year with name-calling the usual 'ranga' and the like, and she wanted to dye her hair. I held out for a long time but it didn't stop and I gave in for her birthday," he said.

"I couldn't believe they didn't call the police after my daughter was punched in the face.

"I took her to the doctor on March 6 ... She told me [my daughter's] nose was broken and I took her to the police station."

He said police had been very supportive and were dealing with the matter and the offender was suspended from school for a week.

"The day after she returned from that suspension, [my daughter] was in what was supposed to be a safe zone classroom during the lunch break," he said.

"The teacher's aide supervising the room had not been told that the girls weren't allowed near her and she let them in.

"They walked straight up to [my daughter], sprayed her with aerosol cans of hairspray and deodorant and tried to light her on fire with cigarette lighters."

The terrified girl managed to push her way through the group and run to safety with her clothing singed.

The father again met with the school and it was suggested the best option would be to remove his daughter from the school and place her elsewhere.

"I can't believe it," he said.  "I'm afraid for her life."

He said the Education Department had phoned him yesterday after it was approached by the Mercury.   "They say they're looking into it but they're eight months too late. This is going to scar her for the rest of her life."


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Failing College: Why are we screwing up the world’s best higher education system?

The American higher education system is the envy of the world, or so the clich√© goes. The sons and daughters of foreign potentates flock to our shores, while kids raised on apple pie and Sesame Street claw each others’ eyes out for the chance to attend a top university. With more than 18 million current undergraduates—who pay average annual tuition of $32,000 each—the market for higher education seems to be going gangbusters.

Expanding post-secondary education is a government priority, too. In his 2009 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama declared that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.” He sounded a similar note three years later, saying that “higher education can’t be a luxury, it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

But despite—or because of—this attention, there is trouble in paradise. Enrollment may be skyrocketing, but so are student debt levels and default rates. Tuition costs are increasing many times faster than income, or than prices in any other sector. This is in large part thanks to the gusher of federal money pouring into American colleges in the form of Pell Grants, subsidized loans, and research dollars, totaling nearly $200 billion a year. While the dream is to make college accessible to all, the reality is that subsidies contribute to skyrocketing prices, making college an increasingly expensive and risky undertaking.

Students arrive on campus underqualified, courtesy of an American public school system that has flatlined in quality while tripling its per-student cost. They do less academic work yet receive better grades than their parents did. And their post-college job prospects are dim, with unemployment rates for recent grads hovering at 12 percent.

These wounds are largely self-inflicted, and thus eminently correctable. A problem largely created by government’s distorting money and politics would improve rapidly with its withdrawal. Yet the lasting fix may come from outside competitors, in the form of for-profit schools, massively open online courses, and other specialty schools more responsive to students’ 21st century needs and lifestyles than ivy-covered institutions founded in the 17th.

Students will soon face a more complicated landscape with better, cheaper options for meeting their objectives, whether they are seeking a credential, a skill set, or just a social network.


Delia Smith? She was one of Henry VIII's wives! The shockingly inept answers to history questions given by British  secondary school pupils

Clueless teenagers believe Delia Smith, Jerry Hall and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall were among Henry VIII's wives, new research has revealed.

The shocking lack of knowledge emerged in a study carried out among 2,000 11 to 16 year olds, which also found many are unaware of the Gunpowder Plot or which countries were involved in WWII.

Other clangers included thinking TV builder Nick Knowles built the pyramids and William Shakespeare was the chairman of the BBC.
Henry VIII's wife? Teenagers thought Delia Smith was a wife of the historic monarch

The survey by hotel chain Premier Inn also found one in ten thought Arsenal's Emirates stadium was built before the likes of Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral.

A spokesman for Premier Inn said: 'We are a bit surprised by the fact youngsters don't know their Shakespeare from Sir Alan or where many of the major historical events took place in the UK.

'However it's something that can be rectified by visiting all the fantastic landmarks and places of interest the UK has to offer.

'A third of the school kids questioned said they love learning about history in school and with so much culture on our doorstep it's important to get kids out and about to experience things first hand.

'It's not surprising with families under financial pressure that days out and trips away may have suffered.'

The study showed some teenagers thought Anne Frank was an American chat show host, while others and identified the plague, which killed tens of thousands of people in 1665, as a heavy metal band.

When asked to explain who Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was, teenagers polled gave answers including the founder of the Body Shop, an X factor finalist and the owner of high street fashion chain Miss Selfridge.

The poll also touched on aspects of geography and teenagers didn't fare any better - a third did not know that the city of London was in the South-East.

And a quarter didn't realise Arsenal was a London football club.

Fortunately 91 per cent were aware that last year's Olympics were held in the capital, although a confused one in twenty thought Paris were the hosts.

A spokesman for Premier Inn said: 'The research found that more than half of British school kids have never visited UK landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral.'


Australia: Teachers told to fall into line and use the same teaching methods across a subject

HOW children are taught in the classroom is set to be transformed in state schools.  Principals have been told the same teaching method must be used across a subject schoolwide.

Education Queensland deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said the new "pedagogical framework" - a teacher practice plan - requires state schools to have a consistent teaching approach for the first time.

Ms McKenzie said the move, to be coupled with a push for parents to become more involved in their children's schoolwork, would help lift students' results and take schools from "good to great".

"The research is showing that there needs to be a consistent practice across the school when you are teaching the way you do multiplication, the way you do reading," Ms McKenzie said.

She said it wasn't beneficial for students "to have to learn a whole new way of doing something because that teacher teaches it slightly different".

"Teachers bring their personality and their energy and their professional ideas of how to re-explain something, but there needs to be a consistent approach," Ms McKenzie said.

She said teachers would then be able to work together better to help boost student results.

"We know from the research that if you get consistent teaching practice within the school and that teachers work collaboratively to learn the skills from each other, that students' results will lift," Ms McKenzie said.

"So this is the next piece of the puzzle to go from good to great. This, and working with parents, will take us to the absolute next step."

Schools have until the end of the year to have a pedagogical framework in place, with each state school able to use different methods across subjects.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus, Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller and Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said some schools already had this in place and agreed it could help results.

But Mrs Backus said it was important to remember teacher-student relationships were the most important element of teaching, while Mr Bates said the framework's success would depend on how it was implemented.

The framework has been launched alongside the parent and community engagement plan, following research showing teachers have less of an effect on students than parents.