Friday, April 26, 2013

Powerful Evidence for School Choice

I expressed pessimism a few days ago about the possibility of replacing the corrupt internal revenue code with a flat tax. Either now or in the future.

But that’s an exception to my general feeling that we’re moving in the right direction on public policy. I’ve shared a list of reasons to be optimistic, even on issues such as  Obamacare and the Laffer Curve.

Education is another area where we should be hopeful. Simply stated, it’s increasingly difficult for defenders of the status quo to rationalize pouring more money into the failed government education monopoly. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much been spent so recklessly with such meager results.

That’s true regardless of whether Democrats are throwing good money after bad or whether Republicans are throwing good money after bad.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are realizing that the answer is markets and competition. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing progress all over the country. Policy makers have implemented varying degrees of school choice in states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and even California.

Is this having a positive impact on educational outcomes and other key variables? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.

Here are some of the details from a new study published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

This report surveys the empirical research on school choice. …the empirical evidence consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.

The data on academic outcomes surely is the most important bit of information, so let’s specifically review those findings.

Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.

And since I want to reduce the burden of government spending, let’s see whether school choice is good news for taxpayers.

Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.

Here’s the breakdown of the studies for all the variables.

As you can see, it’s a slam dunk, much as a survey of tax research found that nearly 90 percent of academic studies concluded that class-warfare tax policy is destructive.

Some of the tax research was inconclusive, but not a single study supported the notion that higher tax rates are good for growth, much as this new research from the Friedman Foundation didn’t uncover a single study that found negative results from school choice.

So with lots of positive research and no negative research, why would anybody oppose school choice? Unfortunately, politicians like Barack Obama and groups such as the NAACP side with teacher unions, putting political power ahead of progress and opportunity for kids.


Knitting's classroom comeback: Subject set to return to lessons after school found it improved behaviour and maths skills

It was last taught in the classroom when throwaway fashion was unimaginable and people had to make do and mend.  But knitting, sewing and embroidery are making a comeback in design and technology lessons as children learn traditional home skills again.

Knitting has not been widely taught for decades, but after one school found it had the knock-on effect of improving pupils' maths and behaviour, it is returning for boys and girls aged up to 14.

At Worth Primary School, near Deal in Kent, teachers said it improved behaviour, helped pupils learn to write and encouraged them to have proper discussions with each other rather than play with their phones.

They were so impressed with the impact of a lunchtime knitting club that they started incorporating it into other lessons.  During maths lessons, pupils created a design then calculated the number of stitches they would need.  In history, pupils learned about the clothing worn in the Middle Ages and how to make it.

Headmistress Lynne Moore said: 'It has dramatically improved behaviour, and it really helps communication. Instead of playing on their phones or computers, the children knit and talk to each other. They have proper conversations.'

Teachers and parents are now being consulted on a planned shake-up of the national curriculum next year.

The proposed curriculum states children will be taught 'to plan, design, make, repair and evaluate decorative and/or practical objects, using a range of textiles and employing common techniques such as sewing, embroidery and knitting'.

But Caroline Wright, of the British Educational Suppliers Association, said yesterday: 'These proposals will result in some fabulous knitwear but, sadly, fewer world-class engineers and innovators.'

Make Do And Mend was the title of an official booklet produced during the Second World War when wool was in short supply and women were urged to unpick old garments and reuse the wool. Knitting patterns were issued to the public to show them how to make winter clothes.

After the war, girls learned knitting at school. Its popularity soared in the 1960s when people used new ranges of brightly coloured wool to emulate the latest fashions.  But in the 1980s it went into decline as earnings went up and people could afford high street fashions.

It was phased out of lessons completely with the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988.

However there has been a revival thanks to the internet, with millions of people exchanging patterns online.


British teachers told not to use red ink in case it upsets pupils: Tory MP slams 'political correctness gone wild’

Teachers have been told not to use red link to mark homework to avoid upsetting pupils.  The edict has been condemned as ‘absolutely political correctness gone wild’ which risks leaving students in the dark about where they have gone wrong.

Ministers have been forced to distance themselves from the bizarre policy, insisting no government rules exist on what colour pens teachers use.

The policy would appear to be at odds with the back to basics approach of Education Secretary Michael Gove who has insisted teachers must mark pupils down for poor spelling and grammar.

He has warned that in the past too little has been done to focus on core skills to ensure young people are confident in key writing skills.

Tory MP Bob Blackman revealed his anger after being told a secondary school in his Harrow East constituency had banned teachers from using red ink.  He told MailOnline: ‘A teacher contacted me and said I cannot believe I have been instructed by my head to mark children’s homework in particular colours and not to use certain colours.  ‘It is all about not wanting to discourage youngsters if their work is marked wrong.

‘It sounds to me like some petty edict which is nonsense. It is absolutely political correctness gone wild.

‘My take on all this is to say children need to understand the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.’

Mr Blackman took his concerns to ministers, tabling a parliamentary question whether the government issues guidelines which ‘prohibit or discourage the use of red ink for the purposes of marking or commenting on students’ schoolwork’.

Elizabeth Truss, the ministers responsible for school attendance and cutting bureaucracy, insisted: ‘No, the Department does not issue guidelines which prohibit or discourage the use of red ink for marking student’s schoolwork.’

It is thought the policy is set by the headteacher, and not Labour-run Harrow council.

Mr Blackman refused to name the school to protect the teacher who had spoken out.

But he said he was going to take the issue up with the headteacher to ensure pupils were told when they had got things wrong.

Mr Blackman added: ‘If they have got their homework wrong they need to be told it is wrong and to understand what the right answers are. The idea that they should use this or that colour is madness.’

Earlier this year a US study suggested that teachers should stop using red pens because the colour is associated with 'warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and being wrong'.

Researchers showed students think they've been assessed more harshly when their work is covered in red ink compared to more neutral colours like blue.

Sociologists Richard Dukes and Heather Albanesi from the University of Colorado told the Journal of Social Science: 'The red grading pen can upset students and weaken teacher-student relations and perhaps learning.'

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, slammed the findings saying: 'In my own experience of 35 years in teaching is that children actually prefer teachers to use red ink because they can read comments more easily.

'I think this research is misguided. The problem with using a colour like green or blue is that it's not clear. A lot of schools seem to have a culture where they don't like critcising children but actually this helps them.

'It's not intimidating children want to see where they've made a mistake. I think it's a rather silly idea.'

Under the last Labour government red ink was banned in hundreds of schools because it was considered 'confrontational' and 'threatening'.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

West Virginia teen arrested over NRA shirt returns to class‏

A  West Virginia teenager returned to class Monday wearing the same National Rifle Association T-shirt that led to his suspension and arrest after he refused a teacher's order last week to remove it.

Other students across Logan County wore similar shirts, which display the NRA logo and a hunting rifle, to school in a show of support for 14-year-old Jared Marcum, said his lawyer Ben White.

White said school officials told him on Monday that Marcum's one-day suspension was appropriate because the Logan Middle School eighth-grader was being disruptive. White disputed that position, saying Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and did not disrupt anything.

"Their version is that the suspension was for disrupting the educational process, not the shirt," White said in a telephone interview.  "I don't see how he materially disrupted the educational process," he said.

Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond didn't immediately return a telephone message Monday

Marcum's stepfather, Allen Larieris, said Sunday that the teen was waiting in line in the school cafeteria last Thursday when a teacher ordered him to remove the T-shirt or turn it inside out.

White said Marcum was expressing his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms by wearing the shirt, which he said did not violate the school's dress code.

"We at this point believe that Jared acted as mature as a 14-year-old child can act with the pressure that was put on him," White said.

Logan County Schools' dress code, which is posted on the school system's website, prohibits clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Clothing displaying advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product also is prohibited.

Logan police arrested Marcum, 14, after he was sent to the school office and again refused to remove the shirt. Marcum has said that he was arrested on charges of disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, though White said Monday that the Logan County prosecutor's office is reviewing the case to decide whether to proceed.

The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles who face criminal charges, but Marcum and his family wanted his name and case known.


Anglican school where 75% of the pupils are Muslim drops Christian hymns from assemblies

One wonders why they enrol so many Muslims.  There is a big demand for church school places throughout the communiity.  The usual special privileges for Muslims, one imagines

Hymns have been dropped from assemblies at a Church of England school which has also introduced separate prayer rooms for girls and boys to cater to its mostly Muslim students.

Daily assemblies at Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College, where 75 per cent of pupils are Muslim, are not based specifically on the Bible, but may make reference to it alongside other religious texts.

All of the the meat served at the secondary school, which has over 1,000 pupils aged between 11 and 19, is halal.

Headmaster Paul McAteer said the approach was to be 'sensitive to the fact that we do have many different faiths in the school', but added that Christian values were 'more prevalent here than I have experienced in non-Church of England schools'.

Mr McAteer, who pointed out that the Church of England describes itself as 'a faith for all faiths', told the Sunday Times: 'The values we support are very much Christian values of honesty, integrity, justice.'

According to the school's prospectus its assemblies - which Mr McAteer said contain a 'moral message' - reflect humanitarian and spiritual issues 'that concern everyone'.

The headmaster explained that the gender-separated prayer rooms at Slough and Eton, which is a voluntary controlled Church of England school,  were not specifically for Muslim pupils, but said that it tended to be Muslim children that use them.

A voluntary controlled school refers to one which is state funded but the running of which a foundation - in this case the Church of England - has some influence over.

He said 20 male students would typically attend a lunchtime Islamic prayer session at the Berkshire school.

One of the school aims outlined on its mission statement is 'to promote tolerance and respect for all cultures represented in the school'.

The college was judged 'outstanding' by Ofsted in May 2011 and it was awarded the same rating after a Church of England inspection the following month.

Collective worship at the school is broadly Christian, and assemblies are based on Christian principles but are 'designed to value and not exclude any other faith', the prospectus states.

According to the Church of England, a substantial number of primary and secondary church schools - both voluntary controlled and voluntary aided - have over 80 per cent intake from the Muslim community.


Testing times for education in Australia

There's a case for INCREASING class sizes

IN 1902 Frank Tate became head of Victoria's Department of Education and established a reputation as a progressive reformer. He argued primary school class sizes should be reduced from the usual 60 or 80 to about 50 to improve the quality of education.

"The best progressive opinion at the time was that 50 was acceptable, and obviously classes were typically bigger than that," renowned Australian historian John Hirst tells Inquirer.

"In the 1950s, in my first year at Unley High, I was in a class of 60," he adds.

In Australia today, class sizes have fallen by almost two-thirds since then, the culmination of a worldwide trend fanned by teachers unions swelling their ranks by propagating the fallacious argument that smaller classes improve education outcomes.

"Class-size reduction has been a costly policy that has not translated into a commensurate improvement in overall student outcomes," the Productivity Commission concluded in a report in May last year, which canvassed ways to improve teacher quality without spending a cent.

Andrew Leigh, federal Labor MP for Fraser, studied expenditures and outcomes at Australian schools between 1964 and 2003, during which time class sizes fell by about 40 per cent, and found "no evidence that the test scores of Australian pupils have risen over the past four decades, and some evidence that scores have fallen".

Undeterred, Julia Gillard's latest plan to boost school resources by an extra $14.5 billion across the next six years, based on recommendations by the 2011 Gonski review, will most likely help fund smaller classes still.

The Prime Minister's 1100-word press release, which stressed the huge increase in public spending without explaining how it would improve standards, said only the new funds "would pay for specialist teachers and modern resources".

Andrew Coulson, director of the Centre for Educational Freedom in Washington, DC, sympathises with Gillard's plan, "but the evidence shows we tend not to get what we pay for in education", he tells Inquirer, pointing to a new chart that tracks large increases in real per-pupil spending on government schools alongside stagnant changes in educational outcomes.

"Employment doubled in the public schools without improving student achievement," he says. "If the US went back to the pupil-teacher ratio of 1970, taxpayers would save $200bn annually.

"Successive Australian governments increased the real per-pupil cost of public schooling faster than any other nation during that period and its educational achievement also fell," he adds, referring to a landmark 2000 international study that compared expenditure on schooling and student performance from 1970 to 1994 across 22 OECD countries.

Far from extra spending leading to better outcomes, the study by Erich Gundlach et al concluded "the quality of schooling output tends to have declined in those countries with the highest increase in the relative price of schooling".

The gobsmacked academics politely concluded "educational resource allocation is mainly determined through rent seeking, and not through competitive markets".

As federal opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne points out, education spending, even accounting for inflation, has increased by 40 per cent during the past decade. Even before the new funding announcement, federal spending on schools has been growing four times faster than student enrolments.

The relentless rise in public spending on schools, ever smaller classes and constant or even dwindling outcomes are inextricably linked.

In NSW 64 per cent of the $10bn spent annually on government schools comprises wages for teachers, rising to 77 per cent when school administrators are included. The smaller the classes, the more teachers are required for a given student population.

Analysis by Inquirer estimates that lifting the average primary and secondary class size from about 23 to 27 -- about where they were in 1980 -- would save the NSW government more than $1bn a year, easily more than enough to cover the extra funding the Prime Minister proposes to be spent in that state.

Perhaps worse than the financial cost is the potential slump in teaching quality. Class sizes cannot be reduced in a vacuum.

"Lowering class sizes lifts the number of teachers but inevitably reduces the average quality of teachers because state governments will have to pay individual teachers less because public funding typically can't keep pace," says Moshe Justman, a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne specialising in education. Lower wages for teachers lessens the attractiveness of the profession to other workers.

The economic corollary of lower class sizes and vastly higher real spending is a systematic and intentional assault on labour productivity in one of the fastest growing sectors of the Australian economy. This is perverse, given the relentless national conversation about lifting productivity.

Teaching is not alone; a similar trend is evident in childcare, wherever tighter child-staff ratios have a similar effect.

Declining productivity in teaching is to some extent inevitable, a product of massive increases in productivity throughout the rest of the economy. Teachers -- like concert pianists, butlers and hairdressers, and unlike workers in manufacturing -- are little more productive today than they were a century ago, but their wages still need to rise to attract people to these professions. Swapping chalk and blackboards for pens and whiteboards does nothing to lift standards.

Australian students' flagging performance in global league tables -- dropping between 2000 and 2009 in mathematics and literacy -- prompted the Gonski review.

But Justman points out Australia dropped down the international standardised test rankings mainly against Asian countries. "Asian nations (which are poorer to begin with) typically spend less on education as a share of their national income, but their curricula attach a great deal of importance to standardised tests," he says. "They have larger class sizes and stricter discipline," he adds.

Justman says the PM's focus on global rankings is narrow anyway.

"Becoming one of the top five countries in global PISA rankings is probably as relevant a goal for the future of Australia's economy or society as regaining the dominant position it once enjoyed in international tennis," he says.

If spending ever more on education and reducing classsizes have been so wasteful, why does the trend continue, even accelerate? In 1958 Kim Beazley Sr, a future education minister in the Whitlam government, observed: "The publications that we receive every month from the teachers, especially that of the NSW Teachers Federation, are nothing but propaganda about money; there is never anything in them that would improve a teacher's technique."

Teachers unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter. The recent "I give a Gonski" campaign in Australia, complete with little, hapless children fitted out in campaign garb, tug at the heartstrings of politicians and parents alike. Who wouldn't want to help the children and support a better education?

Gundlach et al conclude: "The structure of decision-making and the incentives within the education sector have to be changed in order to improve productivity." This is also what our own Productivity Commission recommended last year. It said teachers' strict remuneration structure needed to be freed up to pay those with rarer skills (such as maths and science), for instance.

"Money plays only a small role in creating high-performance organisations," says a senior management consultant for private and public organisations, who prefers not be named.

"In education, as much as in other areas, how you evaluate performance, how you set targets, how you make people accountable for outcomes, how people interact with their boss and how people are coached and mentored is usually far more important than how much money is sloshing around the system," he says.

"Schools can only do so much; ultimately family background, discipline and culture play a huge part," says Justman.

All Australian governments will soon be grappling with grave fiscal challenges as public spending spirals upward at an increasing rate, while revenues flag.

However popular shovelling more taxpayer money at schools may be, governments soon may have to think about how to lift the productivity of schools as they do in other sectors.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Freedom Center Ads Depicting Victims of Islamic Apartheid Attacked, Censored in College Newspapers

Every year college campuses across the country hold a festival of hatred aimed at Jews and the Jewish State. Israeli Apartheid Week has become notorious for the targeted harassment of Jewish students, support for Hamas and even physical violence.

This year the David Horowitz Freedom Center responded to Israeli Apartheid Week with Islamic Apartheid Week. Unlike Israeli Apartheid Week, which is based on a lie, Islamic Apartheid Week addresses the sexism, homophobia and religious bigotry threatening minorities in the Muslim world. To promote Islamic Apartheid Week, the Freedom Center attempted to place an ad in forty college papers.

The ad called "Faces of Islamic Apartheid" drew attention to the victims of Islamic sexism, homophobia and theocracy by briefly telling the stories of gay men hanged in Iran, women and girls murdered by their governments and their families for the crime of falling in love and the Christian Minister for Minorities Affairs in Pakistan's cabinet who was murdered for trying to reform his country's theocratic blasphemy laws.

These four women, three men and one little girl were the victims of Islamic Apartheid. Five of them have been murdered. Their memory lives on only when they are remembered. One has been on death row for six years. Telling her story may help save her life. The remaining two live under threat of death.

Instead of listening to their stories, the campus culture of political correctness drowned out their voices and apologized for even allowing their stories to be told.

Nine college papers turned the ad down, five of them in the University of California system which has been criticized for tolerating anti-Semitism. When the California State Assembly passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on campus and warned that no public resources should be used for anti-Semitic hate, the University of California objected on free speech grounds. However free speech for Israeli Apartheid Week did not translate into free speech for Islamic Apartheid Week.

Seven college papers took the advertisement. Of those papers, Tufts University's Tufts Daily, Austin's Daily Texan, and UPENN’s Daily Pennsylvanian ran apologies from their editors for even printing the ad.

Tufts Daily editor Martha Shanahan called the decision to run the ad an "editorial oversight." Daily Texan editor Susannah Jacob denounced the attempt to tell the stories of victimized women and children as "hateful" and "an unspoken incitement to violence."

Martha Shanahan spent two pages apologizing for the existence of the "Islamophobic and violently offensive" advertisement, the existence of Tufts Daily, its staff and her own existence. At no point during her long series of apologies, did Martha acknowledge that her paper had run four editorials in a single week from Students for Justice in Palestine attacking Israel and promoting hatred for the Jewish State. And in an unequal response to this, it also ran a brief letter from Tufts Friends of Israel distancing itself from the ad and politely suggesting that apartheid shouldn't be used to refer to Israel.

Anthony Monaco, the President of Tufts University, took to Twitter to denounce the advertisement for vilifying Islam, but made no such denunciation of the Tufts Daily's op-ed, "The Case for Israeli Apartheid" which (not coincidentally) appeared on the same day as the ad. At Tufts, no one apologizes for accusing democratic Israel of apartheid. There are only apologies when theocratic Iran and Pakistan are accused of practicing Islamic Apartheid.

When anti-Israel voices are outweighed 4-to-1 and the editor apologizes for publishing another perspective that would have made it 4-to-2 then the freedom of debate at Tufts University is in a very sad state. When that same editor prints editorials describing Israel as an apartheid state, but promises to put in place an entire        system of oversight to make certain that no advertisement challenging Islamic Apartheid is ever printed again, then a system of censorship has been put into place silencing the voices of victims and encouraging their persecutors.

The Daily Texan's Susannah Jacob claimed that the crosshairs over the faces of the victims were an incitement to violence when they were actually a way of bringing urgency to the violence that had been committed against them. And making it clear that she never even saw the advertisement that she was denouncing, Susannah described the ad as depicting six women, when it included two gay men, one Christian man and one little girl.

Susannah further distorted the truth about Islamic Apartheid when she described the pervasive sexism, homophobia and theocracy that these people fell victim to as "discrete incidents of violence by Muslims" being used "to implicate all Muslims" while ignoring the fact that five of the victims in the ad had been targeted by their governments or with government backing.

Can the Daily Texan's editor honestly claim that Iran's persecution of women and gay men or Pakistan's persecution of Christians are "discrete incidents of violence", rather than state policy? Could she find a single human rights organization that would agree with such a dishonest whitewashing of the terror under which millions live?

Jennifer Sun, editor of the Daily Pennsylvanian, printed a letter revealing that her paper’s executive board has decided that they “will no longer publish advertisements from the David Horowitz Freedom Center.” This stunning admission of censorship was apparently motivated due to negative campus response to our ad and pressure from the Muslim Students Association and the university’s interfaith student group, PRISM.

The responses to the advertisement have established once again that some forms of apartheid are privileged on campus and that some forms of persecution cannot be talked about. Demonizing the Israeli victims of Islamic terror is within the realm of campus free speech, but speaking about the vulnerable minorities in the Muslim world is not.

If the advertisement was wrong, then there would have been no need to censor it. False claims can easily be disproven. Five minutes with Google would have told every reader and editor whether there was any truth to the Faces of Islamic Apartheid.

It is never necessary to censor lies. It is only necessary to censor truth.

That is why the majority of campus papers – ten so far, including Harvard whose editors said they would not print it under any circumstances -- refused to run this paid advertisement. It is why those few who did have begun making ritual apologies while lying about its contents. It is why the attacks on the advertisement have taken refuge in vague platitudes about offensiveness, without a single attempt at a factual rebuttal. It is why every response to the advertisement has consisted of claiming that speaking about Islamic bigotry is the real bigotry.

There were eight faces and eight names in the censored advertisement that the President of Tufts, the editors of Tufts Daily, the Daily Texan and the editors of ten college papers that turned down the ad, did not want their students to see or know about because it might disturb the manufactured campus consensus that they have constructed with great effort around Israel and Islamic terrorism.

These are the names. Amina Said. Sarah Said. Afshan Azad. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Shahbas Bhatti. Rimsha Masih. Mahmoud Asgari. Ayaz Marhoni.

They were repressed as individuals. Now their story is being repressed on the American campus.

Via email from David Horowitz

The New Liberals’ Hymnal: The Book of Common Core

"Prepare ye the way of the Common Core. And then the Word will be made Fed. And Obama will dwell amongst us forever". Amen. -- From the Book of Common Core

Prepare for the final federalization of primary education in the USA- hereafter known as Common Core- and don’t worry so much about relics written by old, white men like the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Tenth Amendment only helps ensure local control of those things like education policy. It only ensures that we have a big, diverse, vibrant country full of lots of good ideas. And lots of really great ideas too.

That’s so 18th, 19th and 20th Century.

Local community, you see, is overrated. It takes a Big-Assed Village now to dumb down a child. And it takes a federally-deputized standing committee of state representatives that work for Common Core like healthcare exchanges work for Obamacare.

And good ideas are overrated too—seemingly-- when you have Big Box Government run by Big Blockheads just waiting to wholesale cut-rate ideology, disguised as education, at astronomical prices.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Under Common Core a small group of union stooges, educrats and crony-crats from each state will get together and decide the newest version of No Child Left Behind. They will then impose it on the rest of us in the name of the federal government.

Everything taught will have to get the stamp of approval from the Communist Core, uh, Common Core-o-crats made up of various people who have already screwed up education in their own states.

Doesn’t that seem much better than leaving it to parents and school boards at the local level as prescribed under the Tenth Amendment?        

I mean, after all, weren’t those Tenth Amendment guys part of that “patriot” militia that bombed the British in Boston and resisted federal gun control in wake of the Boston Massacre?

And you thought you knew history?  Ha!

Wait until Common Core gets a hold of it.        

Despite record amounts of evidence that federalizing everything from banking, to healthcare, to immigration policy, to student loan financing is screwing up our economy, our society, the creation of jobs and wages --and the financial prospects for our youngest workers—that hasn’t stopped the push for top-down federal “standards” in order to hold schools “accountable.”

Algebra? It’s out. Really. Algebra will be pushed out of middle schools under Common Core.

Under Common Core, a kind of education Death Panel,made up of some of the biggest liberal education crony-crats from each state, will likely replace Algebra by Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States.  The People’s History was written by a real, live socialist/anarchist. Really, it was, even though now he's dead.  

The History is SO bad that it’s won the critical acclaim of Matt Damon and my son’s 7th grade history teacher.    

And what else would you expect from the federal government? 

This is the same federal government that now loans more money to people than private banks do, and thereby ensures the anemic pace of economic and jobs growth.

You see when the government largely turns education over to union stooges and education technocrats that have produced such poor results for teachers, children and parents, it’s a benefit to the government, not a sin.

Because it’s not results the government is after; it’s control.  Result actually could get in the way. If you spoil people by getting them used to actual results, soon there is no room for ideology.

And above all else Common Core is ideal at ideology—and nothing else.

Did I tell you they are getting rid of Algebra in middle school? Really, they are.    

Remember these are the folks who told you that abortifacients have to be made available, over-the-counter, to every girl old enough to plop down the money for it, whether her head reaches the counter top or not. 

So what’s a little mathematics when Alienation Studies have gone a wasting for so long?

It’s not like federally-subsidized and alienated groups go around bombing Boston like those Tenth Amendment guys did.



A generation of unruly toddlers: British Schools Minister says nursery children aren't taught manners

Nurseries are breeding a generation of toddlers with no manners, the education minister has warned.

Elizabeth Truss condemned ‘chaotic’ pre-schools that allow children to do what they want all day long, leaving them unable to sit still and listen by the time they get to primary school.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, she said many nurseries were filled with toddlers ‘running around with no sense of purpose’.

She called for a traditional approach akin to that found in France, where children typically start working with a graduate-level teacher from the age of two and are expected to say ‘hello’ when an adult enters the room.

The minister’s criticism comes as the Government prepares to offer tax breaks to help working parents with the cost of childcare.

From 2015, working couples will qualify for tax breaks worth as much as £1,200 a year per child.

Some Tory MPs have claimed the scheme discriminates against stay-at-home mothers, but ministers say there is evidence that up to a million women want to work but are put off by nursery or childminder costs.

Miss Truss’s intervention suggests the Government believes there is much work to be done to improve the quality of care in nurseries before the tax breaks come into effect.

She said education watchdog Ofsted will be expected to mark down pre-school providers who do not take on better-qualified staff and offer children more structure.

‘This isn’t about two-year-olds doing academic work – it’s structured play which teaches children to be polite and considerate through activities which the teacher is clearly leading,’ she said.

‘At the moment fewer than one-third of nurseries employ graduate-level teachers and have structured, teacher-led sessions. We know that’s very beneficial.

‘What you notice in French nurseries is just how calm they are. All of their classes are structured and led by teachers. It’s a requirement.  'They learn to socialise with each other, pay attention to the teacher and develop good manners, which is not the case in too many nurseries in Britain.’

She said of the UK system: ‘Free-flow play is not compulsory, but there is a belief across lots of nurseries that it is. I have seen too many chaotic settings, where children are running around. There’s no sense of purpose.

‘In these settings where there aren’t sufficiently qualified staff, and children are running around, we are not getting positive outcomes.  ‘We want children to learn to listen to a teacher, learn to respect an instruction, so that they are ready for school.’

The married mother of two, who is increasingly tipped for high office, said it was clear that far too many existing nurseries are ‘not good enough’ – and stressed the importance of good preparation for primary school.

‘Children get into the habit of  waiting their turn, of saying hello to the teacher when they come into the room,’ she said.

The minister highlighted the Government’s changes to rules on child-to-adult ratios, to encourage nurseries to employ better-paid graduates.

Teachers can already look after up to 13 children aged three and four years, compared with just eight for less well-qualified staff.

Her intervention will delight parents and educators who believe a more traditional approach is necessary in vital pre-school years.

However, it risks angering trade union leaders and those who insist it is best to ‘let children be children’ before they reach primary school.

From September, Ofsted will only consider ratings of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ to be acceptable for nurseries and pre-schools; the ‘satisfactory’ rating will be scrapped and replaced with ‘requires improvement’.

Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw recently decried the ‘absolute nonsense’ that more exams are needed to work with animals than young children.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unions do their business on taxpayers’ dime

It's the old "fair share" argument, but this time it holds even less water than usual.

The Maryland State Education Association, the union that bargains on behalf of K-12 teachers throughout Maryland, wants to force all teachers — members or not — to pay union dues. The union claims educators owe their "fair share" because it must represent non-union members in collective bargaining and grievances.

At the moment, 10 of Maryland's 24 school districts already require non-union teachers to pay union dues. House Bill 667 would expand the provision to cover all public school employees in the state.

Currently, the bill, which forces teachers to pay union dues as a condition of employment, awaits only the signature of Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat with designs on the 2016 presidential race. If enacted, the legislation would require school districts to negotiate with the MSEA to set a compulsory fee to "cover" non-union members' representation costs.

The MSEA now represents 80 percent of all Maryland school employees, or about 70,000 workers. According to the Maryland Reporter, fees for non-union members average $400 to $500 per teacher. That's an additional $7 million to $8.75 million for the MSEA if this succeeds.

Of course, MSEA representative Adam Mendelson says this is not about money but about "ending the patchwork approach and creating equity among all educators."

But what if teachers don't want this type of "equity"? What if they don't want to join a union? What if they want to negotiate their own contract? Why shouldn't they be allowed to do so?

Moreover, Maryland and most other states already bill taxpayers for representational services provided by government-employee unions to nonmembers. The practice is known as union release time or "official time," and it allows government employees to perform union duties during their workday.

Most Marylanders have no idea how many millions of dollars of their money already go to pay workers to perform union duties. Through the state's Public Information Act, the Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained union release-time records for nine of the 10 school districts that already require forced union dues. Here are the number of days taken for official time in 2011-2012:

 * Allegany County: 81.5 days

 * Anne Arundel County: 209 days

 * Baltimore City: 84 days

 * Baltimore County: 60 days

 * Calvert County: 120 days

 * Charles County: 31.8 days

 * Garrett County: 17.5 days

 * Howard County: 48 days

 * Prince George's County: 322 days

In Prince George's, where schools fall so far short of the mark that lawmakers voted to turn over control of the system to the county executive, one union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was allotted 3,068.5 hours of release time — at a cost to the district of nearly $90,000. (AFSCME represents bus drivers and nurses for Prince George's County Public Schools.)

In total, the nine districts awarded 973.8 days of union release time, which is equal to nearly 5.5 full school years taken up each year for performance of union duties.

If Governor O'Malley truly wanted to put students first, if he truly valued taxpayers more than unions, he would veto this legislation and force unions to at least enact this system on a county-by-county basis.

But this is Maryland, so don't count on it.


Shorter school days only thwart the young

The career options for state-educated children go hand in hand with reduced teaching time, writes Margot James

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is right to be concerned about the length of the school day in state schools. In his recent speech to the Spectator education conference, he presented his case in the context of international competition. China, he pointed out, is the country that puts our young people at the greatest disadvantage in terms of time spent learning. On average, Chinese students are in class for 17 hours per week more than their British counterparts.

However, international competition is not the only reason to consider lengthening our school day. Social mobility is an equally pressing concern. Although only 7 per cent of the population attend independent schools, they account for 70 per cent of High Court Judges, 54 per cent of FTSE 100 company chief executive officers and 54 per cent of leading journalists. A survey of the big professional firms found that they recruited graduates from just the top 20 universities.

Independently educated students attained three times as many A grades at A-level in 2012 as state school pupils. They are also far more likely to be gaining A and A* grades in subjects required by Russell Group universities.

Problems begin at 14, when students choose their GCSE courses, as the independent school pupils are more likely to choose subjects (apart from English and Maths) that are acceptable to the top universities. According to the Sutton Trust, only 30 per cent of state school students apply to a Russell Group university compared with 50 per cent of independent schools. And that is before the difference in grades is even considered.

I have researched the typical day in the state and independent sectors from a survey of state schools in my local borough of Dudley and of 50 leading independent schools. I have also been working with Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, seeing the work they do to reach out to state school students to inspire them to study the subjects required by top universities.

Comparisons between the state and independent sector reveal that during term time, far more is expected of independently educated students. The only greater demand placed on state school pupils is the length of the school term: state schools open for 190 days per year compared with an independent school average of 174 days.

But having been educated independently myself, I am shocked at the sight of all the state schools emptying at 3pm; when I visit secondary schools, I am always surprised to find netball matches and school-play rehearsals going on in the middle of the school morning.

Most state schools start at 9am and finish at 3pm, whereas most independent schools start at 8.30am and finish at 4.30pm. Furthermore, many of the latter teach on Saturday mornings. On average, independent pupils work an hour and 45 minutes longer in class per day than pupils in the state sector.

So, although the gap between the state and independent sectors is not as great as the divide that separates British and Chinese institutions, it still amounts to eight hours a week. Young people in independent schools are, therefore, in class for the equivalent of just over one day per week more than those in state schools.

The other big difference lies in what is going on during school hours. In many state schools, most extracurricular activities such as sport and drama take place between 9am and 3pm, whereas in most independent shcools they happen after the bell rings at 4.30pm or during breaks. Of course, such activities are vital to development on many levels; but independent schools do not permit them to interfere with valuable learning time.

Unsurprisingly, then, my research suggests that young people in state schools are attending six lessons a day on average while their independent sector counterparts have seven.

The implications of shorter teaching time are not confined to the field of academic progress. The problem affects young people aiming for an apprenticeship or skills training from the age of 16 just as much as it does a potential university applicant. Employers complain that new recruits find it difficult to cope with the length of the working day.

Critics claim that what matters is not the length of a school day, but the quality of the teaching. But while this is of paramount importance, there is nothing to suggest that teaching quality is fundamentally different between the state and independent sectors. In other words, the amount of time spent in class becomes a crucial factor in driving educational outcomes.

International comparisons are instructive here, not just in the length of the school day but also in the autonomy of schools when it comes to determining the length of their day. In the UK, the only requirement made of state schools in terms of opening times is that they must be open for at least 190 days each year. The OECD report Education at a Glance 2012, which includes all members of the G20, found that only in Indonesia and Britain are state schools free to decide on the length of the school day and teaching time.

Fair access to classroom teaching time is probably the best way forward for improving social mobility at the moment – so Michael Gove was right to place this issue firmly on the agenda.


Australia:  Conservative leader says no need for education funding reforms

Coalition leader Tony Abbott says the federal government’s proposed education changes are too expensive and unnecessary because there is no fundamental problem with the way schools are funded.

Mr Abbott said the changes were too costly in the current budget context and that many things could be done to improve education without spending "vast dollops of new money".

“In the absence of anything which is clearly, dramatically better and affordably, dramatically better, I think we are better fine-tuning the existing system rather than trying to turn the whole thing on its head,” Mr Abbott told Sky News on Sunday morning.

Mr Abbott listed greater autonomy for principals, higher teaching standards and a smaller education bureaucracy as some of the cheaper changes that could be made.

But Mr Abbott said he would maintain the changes to university funding which the government announced earlier this month as a way of paying for the increased money that it wants to give to primary and secondary schools.

"I don’t think anyone should expect those cuts to be reversed," Mr Abbott said.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told Fairfax Media that Mr Abbott was locking children into "being left behind".

"Mr Abbott stands for cuts to school funding. In backing the current funding system he is backing children being left behind and trapped in schools without resources to give them a great education," Ms Gillard said.

"He is also backing our nation falling behind the educations standards of our region and losing the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future to Japan, Korea and China."

Ms Gillard failed to reach agreement with the states and territories last Friday about the $14.5 billion education package based on the recommendations of a taskforce headed by Sydney businessman David Gonski.

Ms Gillard wants state governments to increase education budgets by three per cent a year in exchange for a 4.7 per cent rise in federal funding.

After Friday’s meeting state leaders expressed concerns about giving the Commonwealth a bigger say in education while some are worried the proposed new funding model gives greater weight to independent and Catholic schools.

The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, said Ms Gillard could have made a deal on Friday.  "In my view because she is refusing to properly negotiate, she actually pushed people away," Mr Newman said.

Ms Gillard will put her plan directly to parents and principals this week in a bid to create a groundswell of support for the Gonski reforms.

Ms Gillard has given state and territory leaders until June 30 to sign up to the new funding deal.

Mr Campbell said schools would not support Ms Gillard’s plans because they were worried about an additional layer of bureaucracy being imposed on them.

"They are unacceptable and I know when teachers and principals know what Julia Gillard wants them to do, that they will not be as keen on the whole matter unless that is sorted out," Mr Campbell said.

On Sunday, Mr Abbott also said he was working with the Department of Finance to cut the pay of his director of policy, Mark Roberts, who last week threatened to "cut the throat" of the not-for-profit Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, by cancelling its funding, if the Coalition were elected in September.

Mr Abbott said he did not believe Dr Roberts deserved to be sacked but that he had "paid a price" for his "unacceptable" behaviour.

Mr Abbott also repeated his statements from last week when he said he was prepared to consider giving Coalition MPs a conscience vote on the issue of gay marriage after the federal election.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Race row as Tory town says: We don't want your inner-city pupils here

Unless there's an exceptional level of discipline, the fears of the villagers will be realized

Education Secretary Michael Gove last night stepped into a bitter race row raging over an inner-city school’s plan to open its own boarding school in an affluent rural area.

The top-performing Durand Academy in Stockwell, near Brixton, South London, wants to transport 600 youngsters to a site with stunning views over the South Downs every Monday morning for lessons and bring them back on Friday  evenings, free of charge.

It says the scheme will provide them with ‘an Eton-style experience’ and help keep pupils safe from drugs and knife crime.

But the plan has been fiercely criticised by people living near the site – a disused boarding school in  the quiet village of Stedham, West Sussex. They have raised concerns about the number of black and Asian students and claimed that youngsters would need to be searched daily for drugs and weapons.

They have also accused Durand’s ‘super-head’ Greg Martin – who  has been described as a ‘hero’ by  Mr Gove – of ‘spoiling a tranquil place’ by ‘bringing Brixton to the countryside’.

But last night Mr Gove's spokesman hit back and attacked those ‘trying to obstruct an inspirational project’.

His intervention came after a local Tory county councillor expressed fears about the number of ethnic minority students who would attend the school.  John Cherry, 73, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Ninety-seven per cent of pupils will be black or Asian. It depends what type of Asian. If they’re Chinese they’ll rise to  the top. If they’re Indian they’ll  rise to the top. If they’re Pakistani they won’t.

‘There are certain nationalities where hard work is highly valued. There are certain nationalities where they are uncertain what this hard work is all about.

‘If the children are not allowed out of the site then it will make them want to escape into the forest – it will be a sexual volcano.

‘Has anyone asked whether these children want to be plucked from their natural surroundings? They have never done boarding before, so they won’t know how it works.

‘The trauma of taking the children out of their natural surroundings is going to be considerable.’

He added: ‘Stockwell is a coloured area – I have no problem with  that. To be honest, I would far rather Durand took over a secondary school in London rather than  shoving everybody here.’

Anne Reynolds, chairman of a  steering group which has been set up in the area to fight the plans, also questioned whether inner-city children would feel comfortable in such a rural environment.

She said: ‘It might raise tensions in their community. Their peers might say, “Why have you been chosen to go to a special, smart school in West Sussex but I haven’t?”

‘The whole thing is a massive experiment and I think it will be  disastrous. There’s no evidence it will increase their attainment  levels. When you’re a teenager, isn’t it too late to start appreciating the countryside? I don’t know if it’s the right environment.’

At a public meeting in the nearby village of Milland, where actor Hugh Bonneville has a home, one unnamed resident said: ‘You must be wary because you are talking about students who will have to be searched daily for weapons and knives.’ Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie is also ‘extremely unhappy’ with the way the project has been handled and has written to Mr Gove asking him to rethink the idea.

Mr Martin, Durand’s director  of education, last night described some of the comments from residents as ‘shocking’ but vowed to press on with the scheme. It is  hoped the boarding school will open next year.

He said: I’ve heard a few comments made about pupils escaping and I said I’m not building a prison.

‘It’s sad but it makes us want to fight harder for it, and when this councillor sees the hard work and commitment from ethnic minorities I’m sure he will change his tune.

‘At the moment, so many children are leaving our school well educated only to be utterly failed by the secondary system.

‘We want to get pupils away  from hanging around the streets of Brixton and Stockwell, where we have stabbings and a constant threat of trouble. It will be very hard to maintain a negative view when you see students working hard and contributing. You will soon realise these are frankly nothing more than baseless prejudices.’

A spokesman for Mr Gove said: ‘Durand has a superb record of helping some of our most disadvantaged pupils achieve brilliant results thanks to a rigorous curriculum, great teaching and sky-high expectations for all pupils.

‘Durand’s boarding school is a bold experiment and a chance to give inner-city youngsters a truly world-class education.’

And leading black Conservative MP Kwasi Kwarteng urged locals  to drop their opposition to the plan. Mr Kwarteng, whose parents came to Britain from Ghana and who was educated at Eton, said: ‘This school is a very good idea.

‘Obviously, the locals will have some concerns about it, but we have to give these children the chance to get a good education and a well-run boarding school in the English countryside is a perfect way to do that.

‘If the school is a success, as I am sure it will be, it will be a great credit to the pupils, teachers and the local community itself. When that happens everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.’

Durand is a primary school that has been rated as outstanding by schools watchdog Ofsted. But staff and governors are so concerned  about standards at local secondary schools that they used the proceeds from Durand’s leisure and student accommodation business to buy St Cuthman’s School, a Grade II listed building, for £3.4 million in 2010. They want to open it as a boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 19.

Mr Martin has said the idea stemmed from a desire to keep youngsters away from the ‘stabbings and constant threat of trouble’ in South London.

It secured a £17 million handout from the Government to help finance the project.

As an academy, Durand is outside local authority control, meaning it runs its own budgets and can even change the length of terms and the school day.

St Cuthman’s, which occupies 20 acres in an area of outstanding natural beauty, used to be run by the local county council for children with special needs but closed in 2004 and has remained empty since.

At his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in 2011, Mr Gove backed the idea of opening the boarding school. He also praised Mr Martin as a ‘hero’ after for transforming Durand.


Far-Left teachers hijacking protests against British free schools

A small cabal of far-Left teachers is orchestrating a series of strikes and aggressive campaigns against free schools and academies.

The militant activists are using the campaign group the Anti Academies Alliance (AAA) to orchestrate local opposition to the new schools, championed by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, as a key plank of his education reforms.

The group’s three founding members are trained teachers and members of the Socialist Workers Party, a far-Left group whose goal is the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation shows that the alliance is a far cry from the grass-roots movement that it appears to be from its website.

One of the leaders — Nick Grant, a teacher in Ealing in west London — is paid by his local Labour-controlled authority to carry out duties full-time as an official with the National Union of Teachers.

Its other founders are Alasdair Smith, a history supply teacher and president of the Islington branch of the NUT in north London, and Ken Muller, a sixth-form college teacher and assistant secretary of the NUT’s Islington branch. Mr Muller also stood as a candidate for Respect, George Galloway’s socialist party.

Mr Muller has forcefully opposed the establishment of a free school in Hackney, the London borough where he lives. He is described on the alliance website as a concerned local parent, but it neglects to mention he is a co-founder of the organisation.

Another member is Hank Roberts, a union firebrand and president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

He led the occupation of a sports ground in Wembley in north-west London to try to prevent it being taken over by a now-hugely successful academy.

The alliance claims to campaign in 55 areas of Britain, and has organised demonstrations against academies and free schools and supported strikes, which have led to dozens of school closures.

But parents looking at its website would never know that its organisers are Socialist Workers Party (SWP) activists rather than simply a reflection of grass-roots concern over school changes. Parents who support the alliance may have been misled into thinking it is made up of like-minded people, not political ideologues.

Mr Gove branded the campaign “disgraceful” and accused the alliance of being an “SWP front”.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Free schools and academies are popular and drive up standards. It is disgraceful that unions and other far-Left groups are trying to thwart parents who just want a better education for their ­children.

“They defend schools that are failing and block plans for new schools even when parents want them and there is a vital need for new places.

“These people must put ­ideology to one side, and get behind teachers and parents who want to set up new schools with strong discipline, high-quality teaching and small class sizes.”

He added: “The Anti Academies Alliance lives in a parallel world in which the Berlin Wall never fell and central planning was the success story of the 20th century. Sadly, their priority is adult politics, not children’s education.”

The alliance works in tandem with the NUT, which has produced its own 53-page “toolkit” on how to oppose academies and free schools. It includes templates for protest letters, petitions and leaflets.

Critics believe that the AAA and affiliated unions are motivated by self-interest because they fear that teachers’ pay and conditions might be affected by the switch away from local-authority control.

The NUT has complained that academy status has “serious ramifications” for teachers, “putting at risk much that union members have negotiated in recent years”.

Academies have greater scope to set teachers’ pay and conditions, and can dismiss poor teachers more easily than local-authority schools, although most preserve the conditions of staff who have transferred.

Currently about half of England’s 3,200 secondary schools are academies or awaiting approval, and there are 81 free schools, with 100 more in the pipeline.

Head teachers of free schools and academies have complained about what they say are bullying tactics used against them.

Schools have been targeted in London, Sheffield, Oxford, Derby, Birmingham, Bedford, Hampshire and Lincolnshire.

Mark Lehain, the principal of Bedford Free School, suffered personal abuse when putting the case for his new school in the face of opposition from the alliance and its affiliates.

He said campaigners set up websites using the school name to confuse parents, and defamed him. “Amongst other things, those opposed to the school set up an attack blog, cyber-squatting on a version of our domain name so as to confuse parents,” said Mr Lehain. “They spread various rumours on Twitter and Facebook, and handed out libellous leaflets about us outside information events for parents.”

There is no evidence the AAA was behind the attacks, but his experience highlights how high feelings are running in the battle being fought.

He said a debate about the new school was “packed with trade union representatives”.

Mr Lehain said: “At one point I was asked by a member of the audience whether I had any links to News International, Enron or Halliburton — seriously? I’m a maths teacher.

“I was asked how my family were funding ourselves given that I had left my job [at his former school]. I explained that we were living on savings. Quick as a flash, a National Union of Teachers representative in the audience tweeted, 'He says he’s living on savings. I don’t believe him. We should launch an investigation into his financial affairs.’

“That summed up the type of mindset we were dealing with: if you want to do something in your local community, they felt they had the right to invade your privacy and hassle you, your family and friends.”

Toby Young, the bestselling author and Telegraph contributor, found himself under fire when he launched plans for a free school in west London.

A document compiled by Nick Grant and presented to the education authority was written on NUT-headed paper, accusing Mr Young of being unfit to run a free school.

He said: “He went through my self-deprecating memoirs and extracted the most embarrassing material and presented this as painstaking research, which concluded I was unfit to run a school.”

Mr Young described the state schools system as “the last redoubt of the hard Left”, adding: “There’s almost nothing they won’t do to hang on to it. It’s politics at its most brutal and cut-throat.”


Australia:  The academics who hate free speech

by John Speer

The Labor Government’s recent abandonment of Senator Stephen Conroy’s proposed media-regulation laws has brought an end to the greatest assault on free speech in Australia yet attempted. However, the battle is nowhere near over and it rages on in the most trivial of places.

For an an example of just how determined the left is to silence those with whom it disagrees, consider the  recent experience of the the Melbourne University Liberal Club. The MULC is a conservative student organisation that represents a clear minority in the political ecosystem that prevails on campus. Whilst not being directly affiliated with the Liberal Party, the club has adhered to and promoted the values of liberalism since 1925.

In the University of Melbourne’s Orientation Week in February of 2013, the MULC did as it has always done, and set about promoting itself to attract new members. Orientation Week has traditionally been our biggest recruitment drive of the year. In addition to manning our allocated booth at the Clubs & Societies Expo, we also set up a number of stalls around the Parkville campus. These stalls are generally decorated with various Liberal Party corflutes [plastic signs], publications, stickers, and various other promotional giveaways.

Merv Bendle's submission to a Senate panel looking into academic freedom

This year one of the corflutes, kindly donated to us, originated from the 2001 federal election campaign. This particular corflute pictured then-Prime Minister John Howard and his quote “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” On one particular day of O-Week, The Club displayed this corflute proudly at our stall, a reminder of one of the Howard government’s most successful policies.

Within minutes of displaying this corflute, members of the MULC were approached by university academics who believed it to be ‘racist’ and ‘disgusting’. In addition to this, they insisted we had no right whatsoever to display it at our stall. Senior members of The Club explained that whilst they were free to hold those opinions, we were perfectly within our rights to voice our own beliefs and display a piece of official election material.

With the debate ending rather quickly, our stall was soon approached by the University of Melbourne’s security staff, who stated they had received “complaints” about the corflute. They then ordered the MULC booth off campus.

After it was explained that all present were both MULC members and students of the university,  thus having a right to be present on university grounds, the security staff then attempted to remove the corflute from the grounds of the university.

Upon members reminding them that the corflute was the MULC’s private property, they placed it back on the stall.

In a desire not to inflame the situation, MULC members transported the stall off campus and onto public property in order to continue our membership drive.

Whilst this incident may seem trivial, it typifies the difficulties and harassment experienced by conservative and libertarian student organisations. The mentality of the left in the practice of freedom of speech, equating to “I don’t want to see it therefore it can’t be displayed”, is arrogant and abusive. We might also call it absurd, if not for the chilling glimpse of the totalitarian mindset determined to crimp and control all conversation and thought on campus.

And remember, it was not left students who complained about our display but academics, who should be dedicated to the free and unfettered discussion and dissection of ideas.

Not only do such attempts to gag fly in the face of the right to free speech and freedom of expression,  they demonstrate the unwillingness of the left on campus, and generally everywhere, to adhere to the basic principles of democracy. I am drawn to a quote from Voltaire’s biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, and often attributed in error to the philosopher himself. It is this: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Whilst the fight for freedom of expression and speech may be at a temporary ceasefire in Canberra, it continues to escalate in the tertiary institutions of this nation.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Judith Grossman: A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast

Unsubstantiated accusations against my son by a former girlfriend landed him before a nightmarish college tribunal

I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women's rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.

But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of "nonconsensual sex" that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier.

What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice's looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.

It began with a text of desperation. "CALL ME. URGENT. NOW."

That was how my son informed me that not only had charges been brought against him but that he was ordered to appear to answer these allegations in a matter of days. There was no preliminary inquiry on the part of anyone at the school into these accusations about behavior alleged to have taken place a few years earlier, no consideration of the possibility that jealousy or revenge might be motivating a spurned young ex-lover to lash out. Worst of all, my son would not be afforded a presumption of innocence.

In fact, Title IX, that so-called guarantor of equality between the sexes on college campuses, and as applied by a recent directive from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, has obliterated the presumption of innocence that is so foundational to our traditions of justice. On today's college campuses, neither "beyond a reasonable doubt," nor even the lesser "by clear and convincing evidence" standard of proof is required to establish guilt of sexual misconduct.

These safeguards of due process have, by order of the federal government, been replaced by what is known as "a preponderance of the evidence." What this means, in plain English, is that all my son's accuser needed to establish before a campus tribunal is that the allegations were "more likely than not" to have occurred by a margin of proof that can be as slim as 50.1% to 49.9%.

How does this campus tribunal proceed to evaluate the accusations? Upon what evidence is it able to make a judgment?

The frightening answer is that like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved under the Constitution for citizens' protection. Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?

My son was given written notice of the charges against him, in the form of a letter from the campus Title IX officer. But instead of affording him the right to be fully informed, the separately listed allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible. The letter lacked even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.

The hearing itself was a two-hour ordeal of unabated grilling by the school's committee, during which, my son later reported, he was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel or even to have an attorney outside the door of the room. The questioning, he said, ran far afield even from the vaguely stated allegations contained in the so-called notice. Questions from the distant past, even about unrelated matters, were flung at him with no opportunity for him to give thoughtful answers.

The many pages of written documentation that my son had put together—which were directly on point about his relationship with his accuser during the time period of his alleged wrongful conduct—were dismissed as somehow not relevant. What was relevant, however, according to the committee, was the unsworn testimony of "witnesses" deemed to have observable knowledge about the long-ago relationship between my son and his accuser.

That the recollections of these young people (made under intense peer pressure and with none of the safeguards consistent with fundamental fairness) were relevant—while records of the accuser's email and social media postings were not—made a mockery of the very term. While my son was instructed by the committee not to "discuss this matter" with any potential witnesses, these witnesses against him were not identified to him, nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser.

Thankfully, I happen to be an attorney and had the resources to provide the necessary professional assistance to my son. The charges against him were ultimately dismissed but not before he and our family had to suffer through this ordeal. I am of course relieved and most grateful for this outcome. Yet I am also keenly aware not only of how easily this all could have gone the other way—with life-altering consequences—but how all too often it does.

Across the country and with increasing frequency, innocent victims of impossible-to-substantiate charges are afforded scant rights to fundamental fairness and find themselves entrapped in a widening web of this latest surge in political correctness. Few have a lawyer for a mother, and many may not know about the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which assisted me in my research.

There are very real and horrifying instances of sexual misconduct and abuse on college campuses and elsewhere. That these offenses should be investigated and prosecuted where appropriate is not open to question. What does remain a question is how we can make the process fair for everyone.

I fear that in the current climate the goal of "women's rights," with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice—not unlike the very injustices the movement itself has for so long sought to correct. Unbridled feminist orthodoxy is no more the answer than are attitudes and policies that victimize the victim.


A similar tribunal in 2006 led to the suicide of another demonstrably innocent man:  Charles Plinton.  Sad that nothing seems to have been learned since.  H/T Strange Justice

Incentivising excellence in education

There’s a broad mismatch between educational and broader societal progress that’s puzzling. How is it that schools are organised and education supplied today in basically the same way as they were a hundred years ago? The main difference between education and other sectors is the lack of incentives at work to raise performance.

The theory sounds simple: allow competition through choice, and the rest will follow. Of course, reality is not that simple. Choice operates within broader institutional structures that either support or undermine it. So system design, with attention to how to incentivise improvement, is key if we are going to see any genuine transformation in education.

In Incentivising excellence, I discuss how choice serves as a catalyst for improved quality, and propose reforms to this end. The proposals are underpinned by a comprehensive review of the international evidence that takes into account the methodological strengths and weaknesses of studies, while at the same time paying attention to the competitive incentives of different education systems.

The cross-national research, which focuses on long-term effects, finds that independent-school competition is positive for achievement in PISA, the OECD’s educational ranking system. Competition also reduces costs. The total efficiency gains are striking. This contrasts with PISA’s official report, which fails to note any benefits from competition. This report, however, is not an academic study and it is likely that methodological weaknesses are responsible for the results. There is consequently no reason to disregard the proper academic research on the subject.

In terms of national and smaller-scale programmes, the evidence is mixed. Studies either note positive or neutral impacts. The results showing negative effects of choice are few and far between, while some studies display large gains in various countries.

A key lesson is that most attempts by governments around the work to introduce choice have been flawed.  Many regulate in such a way as to prevent strong supply-side dynamics from arising (often partly because the profit motive is absent), don’t allow schools enough autonomy, and prop up failing schools by giving them additional funds. Such constraints work against true competition.

The English school choice model suffers from these same shortcomings. With proximity as the main tie-break device, rich parents move closer to good schools, thus increasing residential segregation, leaving poor parents with few options. In England, therefore, choice has to a large extent been a chimera.

There is a role for the government in education. The benefits of education for society as a whole, and parents’ need for information that might not be in the interests of suppliers to provide, mean there is a case for government involvement in funding and information provision. But this is far from the prescriptive and dominating role the state currently plays.

Transforming the education system into an education market requires more than just the right to choose schools: it requires careful system-wide reform to a change the incentive structure fundamentally. Only then can we expect a revolution that increases productivity significantly.


Long school summer holidays should be consigned to history, British education boss declares, as he warns of more strikes by teaching unions

The traditional long summer school holiday is a relic of the 19th century and must be consigned to history, Michael Gove declared today.

The Education Secretary said it was wrong that terms were still scheduled for a time when children were needed to help out on farms and most mothers stayed-at-home.

And he warned of more strikes ahead, accusing unions of lacking ambition and putting the needs of teachers before those of children in their care.

Some schools have already overhauled their term patterns, abolishing the long six-week summer holiday.

But Mr Gove wants every school to follow suit, with longer days and shorter holidays.

He told an education conference: ‘We can’t afford an education system that was essentially set in the nineteenth century.’

The government has previously suggested the school day lasting from 7.30am to 5.30pm, boosting learning and making it easier for parents to go to work.

Mr Gove said ‘some of the best schools in the country’ recognise the need to change the structure of the school term and move to a longer school day.

New powers for headteachers to pay good teachers more could also be used to increase school hours, he said.

‘It’s consistent with the pressures of a modern society.  I also think it’s going to be family friendly,’ Mr Gove told the event organised by the Spectator magazine.

‘The structure of the school term and the school day was designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy.

‘I remember half term in October when I was at school in Aberdeen was called the tattie holiday - the period when kids would go to the fields to pick potatoes. It was also at a time when the majority of mums stayed home.

‘That world no longer exists, and we can’t afford to have an education system that was essentially, set in the nineteenth century.’

Mr Gove also renewed his attack on teaching unions, accusing them of fostering a ‘culture of low expectations’ which is holding children back.

He added: ‘One of the tragedies of our time is that the teaching unions have chosen to put the interests of adults, ahead of the needs of our children. And that is why sadly, the unions, as a voice of teachers is diminishing.

‘My challenge not to teachers, but to teaching unions – is to do a better job.’

Asked if Britain was facing more strikes in schools, he replied: ‘Yes. There seems to be a competition between the NUT and NASUWT to compete for members, with each one trying to out radical the other.

‘I think that this is a golden opportunity for teachers to prove what they can achieve.’

He urged the unions to set up a Free School, offering to find them a building and provide funding.

In a speech he said that pupils are at a 'significant handicap' compared to youngsters in East Asian nations who benefit from extra tuition and support from teachers.

Mr Gove said: 'One of the striking things about East Asia is that they do not have what we have in England, is the automatic assumption that you divide children into the achievers and the others, the academic and the vocational.

'They believe that every child can be educated. The assumption is that all children at every year will absorb and learn the curriculum. And their expectations are higher than in this country.

'School days are longer, school holidays are shorter. The expectation is that to succeed, hard work is at the heart of everything.

'And if you look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday – and we compare it to the extra tuition and support that children are receiving elsewhere - then we are fighting or actually running in this global race in a way that ensures that we start with a significant handicap.'