Friday, May 10, 2013

Is college worth it?

Generations of Americans have been told that getting a bachelor’s degree is the key to a relatively prosperous life. But recently the news has been filled with stories of the financial hardships college graduates today are facing.

Borrowers defaulted on $3.5 billion in student loans during the first three months of 2013 alone, and the Federal Reserve has estimated that the current nationwide amount of student debt is over $1 trillion.

Meanwhile, a college education has become one of the most expensive products in America. The cost of college has increased 1,120 percent in the last 30 years, far outpacing inflation. In light of all this, we have asked the question, “Is College Worth It?” The answer is, “It depends.”

One study conducted last year found that approximately 50 percent of the class of 2011 was either unemployed or underemployed. As a result, many recent graduates are putting off getting married, starting families and buying homes.

Colleges are disappointing their students in other ways as well.

One study showed that only 45 percent of college graduates made substantial gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills in their first two years of school.

Too often, unchallenging or novelty academics, such as courses on Lady Gaga, have replaced rigorous learning in the traditional liberal arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.

Additionally, most college campuses have an unabashedly liberal political orientation, and are rife with binge drinking, illegal drug use and the degrading "hook-up" culture.

Before deciding whether or not college is the right choice, it is important to make an honest assessment of a student’s ability and inclination to do college-level work.

If a student has real doubts about whether he can commit to four years of papers, tests and class time, he shouldn’t go. He also shouldn’t go just because everyone else is going, or because his primary motivation is to be part of the party scene.

Many students with these mindsets find themselves part of the roughly 46 percent of students who do not graduate within six years.

Secondly, it is important for students to consider the probable financial impact of their course of study., a website that collects data on the workforce, has shown that STEM jobs pay the most money, and have the highest rates of employment.

Employers desire the hard skills that a computer programmer, petroleum engineer or radiologist can offer.

Conversely, the skills that a psychology, English or political science major might have are not as in demand, and usually pay less.

It might be worth it to borrow more money to study a financially lucrative major than one that is (probably) less so. Did you know that the average new graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology earns more money out of school than the average recent Harvard grad?

Lastly, it does still matter – at least a bit – where you go. Graduates from Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan and other top-tier schools have a higher average salary than graduates of other schools because their “brand” is synonymous with quality.

If a student can get into a highly ranked school, it is probably worth it to go there, even if she has to borrow money. But the student still must make a wise decision about how much it will cost and what she will study.

Many young people wrongly feel that without a B.A., they have no hope of landing a good job in the modern economy.

 The truth is that by 2018 there will be 14 million jobs that will require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Many of these jobs pay good, middle-class wages: nurses, air traffic controllers and IT professionals.

Additionally, America is currently facing a deficit of 3 million skilled-labor jobs – professions like welders, electricians and plumbers that earn good money and can never be shipped overseas.

A recovery of vocational-technical education could be a game-changer in meeting the needs of many students who find the educational system does not meet their particular needs.

Ultimately, a college education can still be a good investment, but it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone.

Students need to make smart decisions about their capacity for academic work, the job prospects for their major, and how they will pay for their education.

Students should make sure it’s really worth it based on their interests and life goals before taking the plunge.


Axing grammar schools has reduced social mobility in Britain, says Eton headmaster

The headmaster of Eton College claims the demise of grammar schools has reduced social mobility in Britain.

Tony Little took over at the helm of the £32,000-a-year boarding school, attended by 20 former Prime Ministers and most male members of the Royal family, seven years ago.

The son of a security guard and a secretary, Mr Little attended Eton College himself on a music scholarship and was 'the first male in my family to be educated over the age of 14.'

But asked whether social mobility is 'flat-lining' or even reversing, as former minister Alan Milburn warned at the launch of a government report on the subject last year, he said: 'That is possible'.

In an interview with the New Statesman magazine, he said he was 'personally not a fan' of the 11-plus examination which was which widespread until grammar schools were largely abolished in the 1970s.

But Mr Little, 59, who used to teach at a grammar school that is now a fee-paying school in Brentwood in Essex before moving to Eton, added: 'But there is no doubt that the demise of the grammar schools has brought a reduction in social mobility.'

Until the 1960s there were some 1,200 grammar schools in the UK, but most were axed in the 1970s and their number is now capped by law at 164. They educate some 160,000 pupils.

They routinely top the GCSE and A-level league tables, and in recent years they have produced more than half the total number of A grade A-levels in difficult subjects such as maths and physics.

On the dominance of Eton-educated men in the government including David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and several of the Prime Minister's closest advisors, he said: 'I think this is one of those moments in history that won't be repeated'.

He said he was pleased the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and actors such as Homeland's Damian Lewis and Dominic West 'who have a rather different take on the world' were also alumni.

'That reflects the Eton I live in', he said. 'The exciting thing about being in a place like this is having bright, young, aspirational people who see the world in very different ways.

'I came from a background that was so alien to any kind of educational experience. My father was a security guy at Heathrow and my mother was a secretary at the local hospital.

'I came in on a scholarship. Not to be romantic about it, but that is a reason why I do the job: I feel an obligation to pay back.'

Mr Little said when his aunt, from Newcastle, was told he had been offered a place at Cambridge University, 'she had heard of Eton, Oxford and all these places, but only by name, so when she heard I was going to Cambridge she assumed I had messed up so badly at Eton I had to be sent to one of the others.'

He cautiously welcomed the government's education reforms which will create a wave of new free schools and academies. But Mr Little said there was a 'huge amount of reform, maybe too much', going on, but 'no joined up plan. He said: 'I think most of the people I work with can't see the big picture we are aiming for.'

Eton College takes 250 boys a year but he said a third of those who finished in the top 100 in the entrance examination were not offered places because they needed to show they could 'thrive in a boarding school environment.'

He said: 'We are not just about academic results, and boys need something else they can bring to the party. I don't really mind what it is – playing the clarinet, football, jiu-jitsu, something that excites and enthuses the boy. From all my experience, if you have that, it translates into other areas and you create a kind of language that is positive.'

Eton itself is sponsoring a free school – Holyport College – which will open next September, a non-selective boarding school seven miles from Eton in Berkshire, where many of the pupils aged 11 to 18 will come from local authority care or at risk groups.


Scrap GCSE grades, say British exam boards: Call for more precise points system because current marks conceal pupils' precise level of achievement

GCSE grades should be scrapped and replaced with points scores, according to the influential organisation that operates Cambridge University’s three exam boards.

The current system needs to be replaced because it creates ‘arbitrary’ categories that conceal the true level of a pupil’s achievement, said Cambridge Assessment.

Candidates can have quite different marks but end up with the same grade, while others with similar marks are awarded different grades.

Schools also end up focusing on the grade C boundary to improve their standing in league tables.
Cambridge Assessment, a research arm of the university which operates OCR, Cambridge

International Examinations and Cambridge English Language Assessment, said the system should be based on a numerical scale.

It ruled out using a ‘narrow’ system based on a percentage in favour of a more accurate scale which ‘could range from 600 to 900 points’.

‘Grades are arbitrary categories imposed on an underlying continuum of achievement,’ said Tim Oates, director of assessment research and development.

‘Scale scores... could reduce some of the undesirable effects in schools of extra effort being concentrated on pupils around the grade C boundary. This would lead to better teaching and learning.’

The Campaign for Real Education welcomed the proposal yesterday but had reservations about an ‘over-complex’ system that parents and employers would struggle to understand.

Chairman Chris McGovern said: ‘Their instincts are correct but we need a simple score like a percentage that is precise but simple enough for everyone to understand.’

However, education expert Professor Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, warned exact scores were meaningless as exams are not a precise form of measuring academic ability.

He added: ‘The other reason [to keep grades] is everybody is used to As, Bs and Cs, so there is no real point in changing the currency unless there is a compelling reason to do so.’

The Cambridge Assessment proposal involves adding up marks from each paper in a GCSE subject and converting them into a points score.

To understand the final score, examples could be provided of the types of questions pupils are able to answer, based on their performance.

Alternatively, the scores could be compared to the grade system it had replaced, the report said.

But Mr McGovern said: ‘If you try linking it with the previous exam you muddy the waters.

‘We need a clean break from the current GCSEs which are discredited because of grade inflation.’ A spokesman for exam regulator Ofqual said: ‘We will be consulting soon on proposals for the regulatory arrangements for the new GCSEs and this will include considerations of how they should be graded.

‘We welcome all contributions to the debates of these important aspects of the qualifications.’
A spokesman for the AQA exam board said: ‘This is an important debate.

At a time of major changes to qualifications it is right that we consider how best to present the results of students’ hard work so that they can be understood and used in the wider world.’


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Vegan students at Calif. high school accused of bullying agriculture students online

Agriculture students at a Northern California high school say they are being bullied online by fellow students who identify as vegans.

Fox 40 reports the vegan students allegedly have been posting angry words against Elk Grove High School's agriculture program on social media sites such as Instagram.

“[One student] keeps posting about goats and sheep and pigs and dead pictures and them being slaughtered,” agriculture student Katie Velon told the station.

Outside vegan groups have also reportedly become involved in the bullying, and some vegan students are passing out fliers on campus. In one instance, meat eaters were called "carcass crunchers."

The agriculture students say they feel misunderstood.  “I don’t think it’s fair for people to be saying that, because they don’t understand the work we put into all these animals. And it’s something we voluntarily do,” student Miranda McCurry tells Fox 40.

A vegan student who spoke with Fox 40 but declined to be identified says she has not passed out any fliers and no vegan student has called a fellow student a "carcass cruncher."


Your Student Loan Shall Not Be Forgiven

There’s a decent chance you know a recent graduate with a student loan balance that makes Greece look tight-fisted. That graduate might occasionally jabber on about “student loan forgiveness,” which is a popular notion among people with large student loans.

The concept behind forgiveness is that college graduates are sweating debt through their pores like vodka, so the government ought to swoop in and write them a check. This plan sounds pretty swell if you’re a recent graduate, but if you’re some kind of weirdo who pays income tax it means you get to foot that bill. So watch out.

One such proposal presently in embryonic form is H.R. 1330, The Student Loan Fairness Act. This particular scheme would create a new “10-10” standard for student loan repayment, in which individuals would repay one-tenth of their disposable income for 10 years, after which their debt would be forgiven.

You’ll notice that representatives usually come up with similar token gestures in order to make graduates appear to be seriously contributing to their loans. For instance, a congressman might suggest that an alumnus periodically toss fistfuls of loose change at their bursar, or set up a “repayment fund” by hoarding pennies in the ashtray of their car. Then at some point, as in H.R. 1330, Uncle Sam steps in and waives their debt away. Their onerous student loan is “forgiven.”

In the world of finance, “debt forgiveness” is not the same thing as regular forgiveness, wherein the aggrieved party absolves you of guilt but secretly nurses a grudge. “Debt forgiveness” simply means someone else pays your debt instead of you. Your tuition bill does not magically disappear, but is rather transferred via legal mechanisms to another shmuck. The federal government steps in to magnanimously fork over the remainder of your tab to a university, loan shark, etc. But “the government,” which sounds distant and vaguely sterile, is funded by you.

And by me, for that matter. Which is irritating, because I strenuously avoided going into debt during college. I attended a state school despite acceptance to a pretentious “boat shoes” school. I obtained my masters degree through a scholarship. I intentionally zigzagged around accruing debt because I had the foresight to realize that both of my majors were utterly useless and would never earn the money back.

Thus, I do not carry a significant debt burden. However, I am still poor, underemployed, and probably eligible for food stamps. Assuming I make enough money this year to even pay taxes, should the government confiscate my income and give it to people who opted for expensive private colleges or who chose even more frivolous majors than I did?

Ultimately someone has to repay all these student loans, be they alumni or taxpayers. I nominate Warren Buffett. He’s always whining about not paying enough taxes anyway. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, Warren Buffett is a wealthy investor from Omaha who apparently was the inspiration for the lead character in the Pixar film Up.

Between his net worth of $53.5 billion and his endearing toothbrush-bristle eyebrows, I would like him to adopt my entire generation as his surrogate grandchildren. Then we can ask Mr. Buffett to use his vast, undertaxed fortune to pay off our student loans.

Better yet, what if we treated student loans like the sorts of investments Mr. Buffett needed to calculate himself in order to become a finance mogul? What if we treated student loans more like private enterprise? For instance, if you approached me for a $40,000 loan to obtain a degree in engineering, I might regard that as a savvy venture, whereas I might deny a $400,000 request to study Jurassic art. In a few years, you would see a dramatic reduction in redundant arts and sciences majors like myself, and no one would ever speak of nurse or technician shortages again.

Student loans, unlike all other species of finance, are ineligible for discharge in bankruptcy. Why not remove this legal impediment, allowing graduates to decide for themselves the pros and cons of filing for Chapter 7, which results in a personal balance sheet purged of debt, but a horrendously blemished credit rating? This option is better than the current option for students, which consists of faking their own deaths. Couple that with student loan speculation, and you could potentially push students toward degrees they might actually benefit from. Allowing them the option of bankruptcy would create an opportunity for true “forgiveness” of debt.

The combined student debt of our nation’s college graduates is massive, sad, and oppressive. We need to come up with solutions to deal with it. But remember: forgiveness of debt punishes someone else. The spiritual world may run on confession and absolution, but the financial realm is still firmly ruled by Mammon and Karma.


Why I don't employ students with first-class degrees, by Lord Winston

Fertility expert says applications who have fallen short make better employees

As one of the country’s leading fertility experts, Lord Winston might be expected to surround himself with the brightest minds at work.

But the Labour peer has admitted ‘deliberately’ discriminating against job applicants with first class degrees.

Those that have fallen short of academic brilliance are often better employees because they are more rounded individuals who work well in a team, the scientist and The Human Body presenter claimed.

‘I know scientists who are amazingly stupid,’ he said. ‘And in my laboratory I have appointed scientists on the whole that didn’t get first-class honours degrees, deliberately, quite specifically, because, actually, I would rather have young people around me who developed other interests at university and didn’t just focus entirely on getting that first.

‘That’s been a very successful strategy. It’s produced a lot of useful science because we’ve worked as a group of friends, a team. That’s very much more important than almost anything else.’

The comments, made to pupils from Clapton Girls Academy who were delegates of this year’s London International Youth Science Forum, may be influenced by Lord Winston’s own academic background.

His initial degree, in medicine and surgery, came from the London Hospital Medical College, University of London, which awards a pass or fail rather than the traditional classification used in other universities.

Education and employment experts yesterday broadly agreed that all-rounders usually make the best workers - although there was surprise at the peer’s bluntness.

Psychologist Professor Joan Freeman, who has conducted research into gifted people, said: ‘It’s a very strange thing to say. I think what he is saying it he doesn’t take people who are single-minded.

‘There are scholarly types who are utterly focused on their work. But there are others who offer other things as well.

‘I don’t think this little squeak from him will put anybody off doing what they want to do. People who get firsts are usually fairly driven.’

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said three-quarters of employers wanted candidates with an upper second degree at least.

But he added some had complained about job applicants with firsts who struggled to look their interviewer in the eye or string a sentence together.

‘There is a discussion to be had with students who go to university and think the only thing they need to do is come out with a superb degree at the expense of other things,’ he told The Times.

‘On that note I would be with Lord Winston. I think that an over-emphasis on the degree class probably is not in anybody’s best interests.’

Universities have been accused of grade inflation in recent years as an increasing number of students graduate with a first. The number has risen by 20,000 - a third - since 2008 and trebled since the late 1990s.

Some 30 per cent of maths students gain a first class degree, with 24 per cent in engineering, 22 per cent in physics and 20 per cent in computer science.

Lord Winston’s selection process would impact more on female applicants than male.

Of the 61,605 undergraduates awarded a first by British universities last year, 34,220 were women - 56 per cent, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

But Glenn Hayes, employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell said: ‘The grounds for someone being able to claim that they were discriminated against in the workplace are limited and include race, sex, disability, gender, age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

‘Professor Lord Robert Winston’s refusal to interview someone strictly on the basis that they gained a first class degree at University does not in itself constitute discrimination in terms of employment law and is not unlawful.’


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Common Core" And The All-Too-Common Tendencies Of Heavy-Handed Government

Is President Obama taking-over our nation’s public schools? Is a United Nations agenda infiltrating America’s K-12 classrooms? No, not exactly. Not Yet. But the so-called “Common Core” public education agenda could be paving the way for some serious trouble.Here are a few basic assumptions that people are making about Common Core – along with the facts of the matter.

Assumption # 1 : “Common Core” is a set of educational curriculum requirements being imposed on the states by the Obama Administration. Technically speaking, this is false. “Common Core,” whose official name is the “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” is not, itself, about curriculum. It is a set of academic standards that students in the various grade levels are expected to achieve. It has not been created by the Obama Administration, but rather, it is actually an effort that first emerged at the state level, undertaken by state governors and state superintendents of education nationwide. The official sponsoring organizations of the initiative are the National Governor’s Association (“NGA”), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (“CCSO”).

Attempts to impose academic standards on public educators date back to the early 1980’s. In the 1990’s it became a state-driven matter, while The federal No Child Left Behind Act, signed in to law by President George W Bush in January of 2002, required the states to create their own academic standards, and then to achieve them, in order to receive federal education funds.

During the past decade, state Governors and state education Superintendents began to collaborate in an effort to bring uniformity to their respective states’ academic standards, and today, there are three primary organizations that advance the Common Core agenda. The NGA and the CCSO, as noted above, remain as the official sponsoring organizations of the initiative. Separately, a group called Common Core, Inc., a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 organization based in Washington, D.C., writes curriculum (not academic standards) that is intended to help educators comply with Common Core Standards.

Assumption #2: The Common Core State Standards Initiative receives bipartisan support around the country. This is true. Both right-leaning and left-leaning individuals and groups across the U.S. support the Common Core initiative. The left-leaning American Federation of Teachers and the Fordham Institute, both champion the Common Core effort, as does the Foundation for Excellence In Education, an organization headed-up by the Republican former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. Similarly, both Republican and Democrat Governors - including Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho), Governor Jerry Brown (D-California), and Governor Duval Patrick (D-Massachusetts), all support the Common Core effort.

Yet just as Common Core receives bipartisan support, it is also subject to bipartisan opposition. The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, along with libertarian leaning groups like the Pioneer Institute of Boston, opposes the Common Core effort. Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who currently serves as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Education, also opposes the Common Core initiative.

Ritz’ election in the heavily Republican state of Indiana is often cited as evidence of Common Core’s unpopularity. In November of 2012, Ritz unseated Indiana’s incumbent Republican State Superintendent, Dr. Tony Bennett, in part by campaigning against the Common Core initiative and claiming that Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core standards would result in a loss of state sovereignty. Ritz ended up receiving more votes in that election than did the new (and popular) Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence.

Assumption #3: The Common Core Initiative allows the U.S. Federal Government to directly control educational content nationwide. This is false. However, a scenario like this could come about indirectly.

Federal law prohibits the federal government from dictating educational curriculum content to the nation’s public schools. In fact, according to independent legal research conducted by the Pioneer Institute, no less than three separate statutes prohibit this from happening.

Yet on President Barack Obama’s watch, there has been a concerted effort within his administration to control public education with the Common Core agenda. Back in 2009 and 2010 when the administration was distributing so-called “stimulus” funds, the U.S. Department of Education devised what was called the “Race To The Top” initiative. Public schools could apply for and receive the stimulus money, but they had to meet specific criteria.

One of the criteria was for schools to adopt teacher evaluation procedures (this was a good thing, despite the outrage to the idea from teachers’ unions). Another criteria was for school districts to adopt higher “college and career standards” for students. And it just so happened that, in order to qualify for the stimulus funds, many states chose at that time to adopt the “Common Core” academic standards as a means of qualifying for the funds.

Interestingly, when the state of Massachusetts first applied for the “Race to the Top” stimulus funds in the first round of funds disbursements, the state had not yet officially adopted the Common Core standards, and ended up ranking only 13th among the 17 states that qualified for the “extra” funds. Later, after Massachusetts officially adopted the Common Core academic standards, the state received a #1 ranking when it next applied for the funds.

The lesson from Massachusetts was pretty clear. Adopt Common Core standards, and you’ll get more money from Washington. The Obama Administration could technically and legally mandate educational content to the states, but it has successfully used a “third party entity,” of sorts – the Common Core initiative – to have its way with the states. Given this precedent, it’s not difficult to see how the feds could eventually begin requiring certain types of curriculum for kids nationwide.

Many of the nation’s Governors and state school Superintendents who support Common Core still like to remind their constituents that the initiative is a “state thing,” not a “federal thing” – and, therefore, it’s a good thing. For them, to reject the agenda is to ignore their brilliance.

But all Americans should heed the warning: when a majority of the states begin to all do the same thing in terms of public policy, we, the people, become an easier target for federal control.


A Leftie who saw the light: A good school freed me from a suffocating, lonely life. But wanting the same for every child made the Left detest me, writes MELANIE PHILLIPS

One of the most toxic successes of the Left in Britain in the past 30 years has been to hijack the centre ground in politics and opinion, leaving them free to denounce as ‘extremist’ anyone who dares disagree with them.

The true middle ground — that area of truth, decency and reasoned debate where I believe most of us situate our thinking — is now vilified as ‘the Right’.

This is as mind-bending as it is destructive. By loudly asserting that Left-wing ideology is really ‘centrist’, the Left has succeeded in presenting their own extremist, anti-social and even nihilistic ideas as unarguably good.

A terrifying example of this is in the wrecking of our education system, where, rather than make things better, a so-called ‘progressive’ creed has actually turned back the clock. Education changes lives. It certainly transformed mine. School was where I — a solitary, serious-minded only child — felt free from my suffocating family background and happy.

Studying also made me feel in control of my life. If I worked hard, I could make good things happen, and they did — Oxford University, followed by a sought-after job as a journalist. Opportunities like this had been denied to my father back in the impoverished Thirties.

His innate intelligence hit an early cul-de-sac when his parents turned down the grammar school place he had won because they couldn’t afford the school uniform and he was forced to leave school at 13. But decades later in the apparently enlightened Eighties, I was horrified to discover that people like him were still being denied opportunity for advancement.

The Left-wing dogma dominating education meant that many state schools were simply not up to the job — and once again it was the poor who were suffering.

In a column in the Guardian, where I had worked for ten years, I wrote in support of a national curriculum the Conservative government was introducing in a desperate attempt to ensure that teachers actually started teaching children something at school.

I argued that, while the better-off could buy their way out of the system through living in leafy suburbs or sending their children to private schools, the poor were trapped by lousy local schools to which there was no alternative for their own children.

The reaction was instant and seismic. In Left-wing Guardianland, there was only one permitted explanation for the crisis in Britain’s schools, and that was the spending cuts imposed by the ‘heartless’ Thatcher government. To suggest it might actually have a point about the breakdown of teaching was simply unthinkable.

My colleagues gazed at me in perplexity and dismay. Overnight, I became ‘Right-wing’. ‘This is a Daily Mail view,’ I was told — the greatest possible crime and insult, since in such circles the Mail is considered to be off the graph in its opinions.  The fact that I had written with passion about the plight of poor people was totally disregarded.

How had I reached this heretical position? By the staggering tactic of actually observing what was going on rather than following some ideological diktat. I looked at the local state schools for my own young children, Gabriel and Abigail, and found them wanting — not because they lacked money, but because the teachers had abandoned structured teaching in favour of ‘play’ and ‘self-discovery’.

There were two decent primary schools in my area in West London that stuck to traditional methods. I could get my children into neither —they were hugely over-subscribed. In the end I gave up and sent my children to independent schools.

I could afford it; but I knew most could not. As ever, I was concerned about those at the bottom of the heap. Desperate parents and teachers intimidated by the education orthodoxy wrote to me in support.

However, friends and colleagues denounced me as a reactionary Gradgrind, a devotee of the unimaginative, fact-obsessed headmaster in Dickens’s Hard Times.

What was ‘progressive’ about an approach that inflicted its most devastating damage upon children at the bottom of the social heap, who depended on school to lift them out of disadvantage but who were being left ignorant, illiterate and innumerate?

I ploughed on, though it was a lone furrow at the Guardian, writing next about the refusal to teach Standard English in speech, spelling and grammar in our classrooms on the grounds that this was ‘elitist’.

How could this be? I had seen at first hand in my own under-educated family of Jewish immigrants that an inability to control the language meant an inability to control their own lives.

My Polish grandmother had not been able to fill in an official form without help; and my father (although born in Britain) just didn’t have the words to express complicated thoughts, and would always lose out against those who looked down at him from their educated citadels.

Teachers wrote to me in despair at the pressure on them not to impose Standard English on the grounds it was discriminatory. They knew that, on the contrary, this was to abandon vast numbers of children to permanent servitude and ignorance.

Yet it was clear that the professors, advisers and experts from the education establishment putting such pressure on these teachers were the supercilious upper-middle classes, who had no experience of what it was actually like to be poor and uneducated or an immigrant, but were nevertheless imposing their own ideological fantasies on the vulnerable — and harming them as a result.

I also wrote about how black parents in inner London were cheering on the government’s education reforms, despairing of a system which had so grievously failed two generations of black children. But at the so anti-racist Guardian, the views of those black parents counted for nothing.

The Left-wing Inner London Education Authority (which ran schools in the capital at that time) could never be wrong; the Tory government could never be right.

My view was that deteriorating education standards had little to do with low pay for teachers or schools starved of money. It was teachers and teaching that made the difference to children’s lives.

The problem was that the entire education establishment had taken a desperately wrong turn and the increasing number of bad teachers were turning good teachers into a beleaguered minority.

Here was, as I wrote in the Guardian, ‘the vicious circle of an education establishment that perpetuates its own myths down through generations of poorly taught children’.

Reaction to this was extreme and ugly. I was described as ‘ignorant, silly, intellectually vulgar, vicious, irresponsible, elitist, middle-class, fatuous, dangerous, intemperate, shallow, strident, reactionary, near-hysterical, propagandist, simplistic, unbalanced, prejudiced, rabid, venomous and pathetic’.

Three-quarters of the letters were hostile. But it was the letters of support which shed a devastating light on the situation in our classrooms.

One educational psychologist wrote: ‘In my job I see small children whose ability to focus on a task is chronic —yet they are put to learn in an [open and noisy] environment.

‘Children do not learn through play but through instruction, explanation, guidance, motivation from an adult. Children need to be taught to make connections, to look for meanings. They do not learn from Wendy houses or computers, they learn from people.

‘And whenever I say this to a group of teachers, the older and wiser ones thank me; they have been waiting for years for someone to make this point. But for some reason they cannot say this in public.  ‘And neither can I — which is why I do not want my name published. My job is important to me, and public condemnation of teaching methods will not be approved.’

A chill came over me when I read those words. What was being described was more akin to life in a totalitarian state. Dissent was being silenced, and those who ran against the orthodoxy were being forced to operate in secret.

Worse still, the very meaning of concepts such as education, teaching and knowledge was being unilaterally altered and thousands of children were being abandoned to ignorance and institutionalised disadvantage.

If ever there was an abuse of power for journalists to investigate, this was surely it. But for most of my colleagues, it was I who was out of step.

In 1996, I published a book called All Must Have Prizes, from the race in Alice In Wonderland where the dodo announces that ‘everybody has won, and all must have prizes’.

Education standards, I wrote, had not only plummeted but education itself had been redefined. It was no longer the transmission of knowledge and culture, but a process of self-discovery by ‘autonomous meaning-makers’, once known as pupils.

Knowledge had given way to creativity and spontaneity. The essay had been replaced by the imaginative story, substituting teaching children to think by allowing them to imagine.

Teaching the rules of grammar or maths was frowned upon for stifling a child’s creativity. Right and wrong answers were no longer distinguished from each other; relativism reigned and children were told to make it up as they went along.

I suspected a deeper and even more sinister ideological agenda here. The so-called ‘New Literacy’, which substituted listening, memorising and guesswork for being taught to decode the printed page, encouraged the use of English teaching to ‘empower’ children to correct social inequalities.

Since teaching children to read was apparently an injustice against working-class students, children were to be empowered by ‘making their own meaning’. Correcting children’s mistakes was an illegitimate exercise of power.

The outcome was the disaster of mass illiteracy among school-leavers and soaring behavioural problems among pupils excluded from classroom life through their inability to read. Even universities were forced to provide remedial courses for undergraduates to  compensate for the inadequacies of the education system.

How had this self-destructive process come about? To my mind what was happening in our schools was part and parcel of a country and a society that had become radically demoralised.

The ideological dogmas undermining education were also eroding family life and the moral codes that kept civilised society together, replacing these by the ‘no blame, no shame, no pain society’.

Respect for authority both in and outside the classroom had collapsed.

Most teachers, I wrote, were unaware that they were the unwitting troops of a dangerous cultural revolution. In our universities and training establishments, they were being taught to teach according to far-Left doctrines whose core aim was to subvert the fundamental tenets of western society.

My book caused a sensation. I was accused of ‘paranoia’, ‘tunnel vision’, ‘unfounded prejudices’, ‘ignorance’ and ‘arrogance’.

I was the author of the ‘worst written book of the year’, ‘a farrago of ignorance and inaccuracy’ and a ‘reactionary diatribe’. A former senior chief inspector of schools called the book ‘beneath contempt’ while a leading professor of education pronounced it ‘cr*p by anybody’s standards’.

He implied that I had cooked the evidence and quoted non-existent sources. Apparently all the teachers, psychologists, government inspectors, university professors, politicians, civil servants, parents and pupils I had spoken to, and all the educational texts and research reports I had read, were just ‘anecdote’ and ‘tittle-tattle’.

None of the evidence I produced was debated, merely denied. As usual.

But the campaign against me took a vicious turn and reached to some surprisingly high places when innuendo appeared in print about the proximity of my views with those of Chris Woodhead, then the outspoken Chief Inspector of Schools.

He had controversially gone to war against what he described as failed teaching methods; in piece after piece, I endorsed his views.

As a result, the education press presented us as conspirators and perhaps more. The phrase ‘an item’ was used. ‘Nothing romantic, you understand,’ wrote one commentator in the Times Educational Supplement. ‘No, the link with Chris and Melanie is intellectual, but it is powerful and dangerous all the same.’

I suspected that some of this sniping was being fed by those around the then Education Secretary, David Blunkett, who seemed to feel personally undermined by Woodhead.


Australia:  Funding students based on race demeaning and wasteful

The Labor government’s education proposal adds grants for Indigenous students on top of the Gonski recommendations for increased school funding. This proposal does not take into account the overwhelming evidence that funding is not a principal constraint on educational outcomes in Australia.

Past funding increases have failed to close the COAG ‘gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

The 2012 NAPLAN results showed that a ‘gap’ persists between the majority of students (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who pass literacy and numeracy tests and a minority of Indigenous students who fail.

A majority of Indigenous students – at least 120,000 out of a total of 180,000 students enrolled – pass NAPLAN. These students attend a large range of mainstream private and government schools. They are mainly the children of working parents who ensure that their children attend school regularly and achieve good results. These successful students and their parents are demeaned and stigmatised by being classed as ‘disadvantaged’ just because of their Indigenous ancestry.

Some 40,000 failing Indigenous students attend schools that concentrate students from low socioeconomic and often welfare-dependent backgrounds. Employers constantly complain that these schools produce school leavers who cannot read, write or count and are not ‘job ready.’ Low socioeconomic characteristics contribute to poor attendance and behavioural problems that undermine school performance. Good teachers leave such schools. Parents enrol their children in performing schools. In the absence of strong principals, such schools become ‘residualised.’

Another 20,000 Indigenous students attend separate ‘Indigenous’ schools in remote communities that have no individual property rights and, therefore, no economy or jobs. These Indigenous schools have developed separate curriculums and teaching standards that fail to deliver literacy and numeracy. There are still 40 Homeland Learning Centres in the Northern Territory that do not have qualified teachers every school day. Although many students do not speak ‘standard’ English, unlike schools with high concentrations of immigrants, Indigenous schools do not have ESL teachers. Attendance is usually poor in Indigenous schools, and more than 90% of the students fail NAPLAN tests.

There is no correlation between funding per student and education performance. Indigenous schools already receive the highest funding, often more than $30,000 per student – more than three times the mainstream school average per student. Yet (with a few notable reformed exceptions), Indigenous school NAPLAN results are persistently at the bottom of all Australian schools.

Using ethnic characteristics to identify students who should receive additional education funding is doubly wrong: Indigeneity is not the cause of high failure rates so race-based funding will not reduce failure rates. Poor teaching, not lack of funds, is real reason for poor educational outcomes.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

#StopCommonCore Rally Draws 9.7 Million

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

Parent Led Reform, in collaboration with Truth in American Education, hosted a second rally via Twitter Thursday May 2nd to stop the implementation of Common Core standards. Common Core standards are national, top-down K-12 education ideology imposed by federal and state government. The #Stopcommoncore Twitter rally reached of nearly 9.8 million Twitter users. The traffic was so heavy and the complaints from liberals so loud that Twitter temporarily suspended the Twitter account of Parent Led Reform.

"The response to our second #stopcommoncore Twitter rally was amazing,” says Shane Vanderhart, spokesperson for Truth in American Education. ”Parents and concerned citizens are awakening to this previously unknown revolution in education called the Common Core State Standards.  'We the people' are starting to have our voices heard.  Last night we sent a strong message that education policy can not be decided by a handful of elites.  'We the people' through our elected representatives must have a say.  Our kids deserve real reform, not a data-less, untested fad."

So prepare ye the way 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.

“We have the attention of ordinary citizens and elected leaders alike and that puts us in a unique position,” said Karin Piper, Founder and Executive Director for Parent Led Reform. “We either simply objected to this federal overreach and left it at that - or- we actually do something about it. And we would rather give it our all and fix education for our kids than pick up our toys and go home.”

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.


Justice Clarence Thomas Defends Segregated Schools: ‘My High School Was Not Inferior’

He is speaking of days before the welfare explosion

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended all-black schools during a recent discussion at Duquesne University Law School in Pittsburgh, saying one cannot assume something is “inferior” because it is “predominantly one group or another.”

“My high school was not inferior. My neighborhood was not inferior. My church was not inferior. My family was not inferior. I have never believed it, and I never will,” Thomas, the second African-American to serve on the high court, said during a discussion on April 9.

“One thing Justice you wrote later in a case called Jenkins that I’d like you to comment on is you said you wrote, ‘It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is all black must be inferior.’ Would you comment on that?” Thomas was asked.

In the 1995 case of Missouri v. Jenkins, the Supreme Court ruled that a District Court exceeded its authority by requiring Missouri to correct racial inequality in schools through salary increases and continued funding of remedial education programs.

Thomas said he didn’t believe the notion that anything that was all black was inferior, noting his own upbringing in the small black community of Pin Point, Ga.

“Well I think it speaks for itself. It’s true,” the Supreme Court justice said when asked about his comments regarding Missouri v Jenkins. “Our schools were closed, because people said they weren’t as good, because they were all black. I didn’t believe any of that stuff.

“I went to all black schools. I lived in all black neighborhoods. I had a wonderful life in those neighborhoods,” he said.

“People think you’re making it up, ‘Oh, you’re trying to paint the South in a way it wasn’t,’ because they have a narrative,” Thomas said.

“I was moving back home when I stopped in D.C., so with all my confusion, I still wanted to get back. My high school was not inferior. My neighborhood was not inferior. My church was not inferior. My family was not inferior. I have never believed it, and I never will,” Thomas said.

“And I don’t think you need to start from the premise that if something is predominantly one group or another that you can make these broad assumptions about whether or not it is inferior,” he added.

Thomas noted that the university that produces the largest number of black doctors and blacks going to medical school is Xavier University, a historically black college in Louisiana.

Thomas was asked whether attending a historically black college was on his “radar screen” when he left the seminary. In high school, Thomas transferred to the St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, the first step in becoming a Catholic priest. After graduation, he continued his studies at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri.

Thomas described how he was planning to go to a black school after leaving the seminary, fueled by anger about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

“Yes, I was done with all white schools. … I was angry. I mean it was 1968. Dr. King had just been assassinated, and I was done with it, and I understand people’s reaction when they’re angry. I was angry, and I got home, and my grandfather being my grandfather kicked me out of the house. So the only school I applied to by then was Holy Cross,” Thomas said.

He explained that the reason he ended up at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts was because he applied out of respect for his chemistry teacher, Sister Mary Carmine, and got accepted.

“The reason I got accepted is because I had almost a straight A average, and then the mythmakers came up with this thing I was recruited. I was not recruited,” Thomas said, calling it “serendipity” that he ended up at Holy Cross.

“Holy Cross saved me. I was going to go to Savannah State College,” he said.


British teachers should 'ignore Shakespeare's boring scenes'

Schools should stop teaching entire plays by Shakespeare to prevent children being forced to “grit their teeth” through the likes of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, a teachers’ leader has warned.

A “film trailer”-style approach to the Bard should be adopted to give pupils a brief taste of his most dramatic scenes while ignoring other parts, it was claimed.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said Shakespeare was “given far too much respect” in schools.

She said too many English teachers wanted to “pass on their reverence” for the playwright by requiring pupils to study his most famous works from beginning to end.

But Dr Bousted insisted that the process often backfired by turning pupils off in large numbers, adding: “Is it any wonder that so many students grit their teeth, learn the lines and, when the exam is over, remember Shakespeare only as something that had to be endured in pursuit of an exam pass?”

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, she urged schools not to “start at the beginning”, particularly when introducing pupils to Shakespeare for the first time.

But the comments angered traditionalists who said the approach represented an attempt to promote “ignorance” and “dumbing down”.

It comes amid a series of Government-backed plans designed to promote more Shakespeare in state schools.

Earlier this year, it emerged that teenagers would be required to study two of the Bard’s plays under a shake-up of GCSEs in England – one more than in existing course specifications set out by Labour.

The change was made following concerns that previous pupils were focusing on small “extracts” of Shakespearian plays to pass exams.

Ministers are also supporting the launch of a dedicated “Shakespeare Week” to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth – giving children as young as five access to lessons about the Bard.

Dr Bousted, a former English teacher, who now heads the 160,000-strong ATL, said Shakespeare provided “compelling drama”.

But she said teachers needed to adopt an imaginative approach to his plays to make them more relevant to modern schoolchildren.

“Don’t start at the beginning,” she said. “Taking inspiration from film trailers, give novice Shakespeare readers a taste of the most highly dramatic scenes in the play.”

She said pupils could proceed onto reading the entire play after being introduced to the most exciting acts, citing Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet as examples of plays that start too slowly.

Dr Bousted insisted Macbeth should start in Act 2 after the murder of King Duncan, while Romeo and Juliet should begin just before Tybalt’s death early in Act 3.

But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, accused Dr Boysted of “promoting ignorance”.

“The whole point of studying drama and Shakespeare included is that you understand the whole play, not just parts of it,” he said.

“It's the computer games mentality that you only have what are seen to be action and excitement but Shakespeare and most dramatists are about far more than that. They're about character and plot development and poetry.

“Quite frankly, if a prominent person like that is saying such things one has a fear for the cultural heritage and for the vigour of the education our children are going to be receiving.”


Monday, May 06, 2013

Hoosiers are right to be wary about Common Core

Indiana has just shot into the spotlight of the education world, with the legislature voting over the weekend to hit the pause button on the Common Core national curriculum standards. But this action is just the loudest strike in a growing backlash against the core, a revolt set off by the arrival of the federally backed standards into schools across the country. And people are right to be wary, especially since core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.

While 45 states have adopted the Common Core, don’t mistake that for enthusiastic, nationwide support. States were essentially coerced into adopting by the President’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink, and the money would be gone. Which isn’t to say there wasn’t opposition — there certainly was among policy wonks — but most people hadn’t ever heard of the standards at adoption time and their effects wouldn’t be felt for several years.

Today, the effects are here, and so is the opposition. Indiana is arguably the highest-profile rebel, with its new legislation set to halt implementation of the core so Hoosiers can, at the very least, learn about what they’re getting into. Nationally, the Republican National Committee has officially condemned the standards, while several states are in the process of potentially withdrawing from the core. Finally, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has requested that a Senate subcommittee handling education end federal meddling in standards and assessment.

What have Common Core supporters done in response to this groundswell of concern? Rather than address worries and evidence that the Common Core is empirically ungrounded, moves the country closer to a federal education monopoly, and treats unique children like identical cogs, supporters have often smeared opponents and dodged constructive debate.

In Indiana, Democrats for Education Reform State Director Larry Grau wrote a blog post and blast email that said, “it’s growing late and some of us have spent the night canoodling with far-right opponents of the Common Core State Standards. If that sounds like you, it’s time you ask yourself this question: ‘Am I going to hate myself for this in the morning?’” Of course the post included not one argument against the standards — just smears.

In response to the RNC’s resolution, Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, complained that the move “will bestow a degree of legitimacy upon the anti-standards coalition.” As if the people who have been decrying the absence of research support for national standards, potential flaws in its content, or other logic and evidence-based concerns have all somehow been illegitimate.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a leading Common Core spokesperson — elected to dismiss the RNC as ignorant for resisting the core. “I don’t really care if the RNC, based on no information, is going to oppose this because of some emotional pitch,” he said. This despite the RNC resolution offering several valid reasons for opposing the Core, including the indisputable fact of federal coercion.

To be sure, there are some specious arguments being made against the Common Core, such as the claim that it requires schools to ditch Emerson in favor of reading EPA regulations. Such assertions should be refuted by people on both sides. But those are hardly the only concerns of core opponents, and many standards supporters are guilty of no lesser deception when they insist, for instance, that the Common Core is “state-led” and “voluntary.”

The vast majority of Common Core supporters, no doubt, are motivated by what they think is best for the country and its children. Unfortunately, many also seem happy to ignore the logic and evidence arrayed against their plan, and to slime instead of honestly debate their equally well-intentioned opponents. Let’s hope that’s not because they think an honest debate is one they’d lose.

As Common Core continues to be implemented, the chorus of opposition is likely to grow, and it is critical that supporters and opponents alike keep sight of their truly common goal: improving American education. Dodging honest discussion is no way to get there.


Time to Ban High Capacity Liberals From Campus

Mike Adams

Not all liberals are created equal. Some make an occasional stupid remark. Others have the capacity to make a lot of stupid remarks without reloading. An example of the latter is my boss, UNC Chancellor Thomas Ross. As a former Professor of Public Law and Government, he cannot be accused of mere bias when he makes demonstrably false statements about matters of public policy. Instead, the public must recognize that he is not just biased but also grossly incompetent. Because his incompetence threatens the safety of all people who come to UNC campuses, including small children, he should be replaced immediately.

Ross recently made a public statement in response to new NC House legislation that would ease restrictions on concealed carry (CCW) permits on our college campuses. One change in the CCW law would allow the permit holder to keep a weapon in the trunk of his car while on university property. Although the bill does not fully remove all campus restrictions on permit holders, Ross had the audacity to say the following:

“We have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our students and employees, and every UNC campus has a trained police force charged with promoting the safety of all people who come onto our campuses. All UNC Chancellors and Chiefs of Police believe allowing guns on campus would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff ,and faculty, but also campus visitors, including parents, siblings of students, and summer camp participants. Vehicle break-ins are one of the leading crimes on college campuses, and even guns brought lawfully onto campus, as contemplated by this bill, could fall into the wrong hands and result in serious injury or death."

We do indeed have an obligation to provide a safe environment for students and employees. That is why we need to relax totalitarian policies that selectively violate the Second Amendment by stripping the rights of law abiding adult students to protect themselves and others by carrying a concealed weapon. They should not be sitting ducks just because they chose to further their education on campuses made dangerous by progressive ideology.

Sixteen refereed publications show that CCW laws reduce violence. Zero refereed publications show that they increase violence. In other words, the laws are good for the public. Shouldn't Tom Ross, a former Professor of Public Law, know what laws are good for the public? Of course, Ross probably does know the research but refuses to share it with the public. In other words, he does not want others to conceal weapons while he conceals the truth. It elevates hypocrisy to a Zen art when a university system president decides to lead by feigning ignorance and suppressing his knowledge of academic research.

Students should not be made vulnerable to rape in order to preserve the ideological purity of overpaid public servants. Of course, the self-serving propagandist has no real interest in serving the public.

While we are on the subject of rape, all university Police Chiefs believe that most campus rape accusations are false. But they won't say that because college campuses are the most politically charged workplaces in America. Put simply, a university police chief will lose his job if he speaks his mind. And that is relevant to the present debate. Many UNC law enforcement officers support the right to carry on campus. I spoke to one last night and he was simply aghast at Ross' statement. But he knows that anyone who opposes Ross will lose his job. Clearly, Ross knows he does not have the unanimous support of the campus law enforcement community. He is simply misleading the public that pays his salary.

I'm glad Ross brought children into the debate. Summer camp participants need protection, too. If the data show that CCW laws reduce crime then we must take the data seriously. Other than having homosexual camp leaders in the Boy Scouts, I can't imagine a better way to protect young campers than having capable guardians with CCW permits. When Ross plays the summer camp card, he is begging the question. He simply assumes CCW laws increase crime or, more accurately, assumes we are ignorant of the fact that they decrease crime.

Now is a good time to recall that a few years ago our campus hosted the rapper Ludicris who sang about shooting b*tches and hoes with his 9mm. In fact, he was paid $130,000 to sing about killing b*tches and hoes. Surely, we can let CCW permit holders on campus for free. Research shows that they seldom shoot their b*tches.

I am also glad Ross brought up burglary. Break-ins do occur on campus. But that is no reason to ban guns from campus. Burglary is one of the crimes reduced by having CCW laws. It cannot be used as an excuse to negate CCW laws on campus. That would be like killing both your parents and asking the court to show you mercy because you are an orphan. If we allowed CCW laws to be fully operative on campus, those burglars would be far more likely to be apprehended, convicted, and imprisoned. Then crime would go down and Ross would probably issue a statement lamenting the fact that "so many people are in prison despite the fact that crime is down."

But Ross continues his mendacity – and I'll respond, after you read the following:

“In addition, a number of UNC campuses house early college high schools, middle schools, or summer camps for younger children. The presence of these young people further heightens our concerns about the safety risks that come with guns getting into the wrong hands. Moreover, when responding to an armed robbery or active shooter incident, our officers would often be hard pressed to distinguish between a criminal suspect and well-intentioned bystanders with weapons drawn, particularly in the heat of the moment. The potential for tragedy far outweighs any potential benefit or convenience to concealed-carry permit holders. We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision that would allow guns to be brought onto UNC and other college and university campuses.”

Children should not be used as human political shields unless the cause is liberal. I mean, liberals have always cared more about children. That's why they abort them by the millions. They don't want them to be born into a world where they could get shot at a UNC summer camp because some Tea Bagger forgot to lock his Glock in the glove box of his Ford F150. Seriously, Tom Ross, if you cared about children, you would shut down all the UNC Women's Centers that “center” on pro-abortion politics. And, while you’re at it, get your anti-gun laws off my body!

Shoot outs last a really long time. In fact, the average shootout takes about an hour, which is long enough for most UNC police officers to finish eating their donuts, flirting with coeds, and finally arrive at the scene of the crime. And then its mayhem! Barney Fife can't tell the good guy from the bad guy. He's shaking like a suspected Christian in a UNC student conduct hearing! (Sarcasm = off. Now back to reality).

As a professor who teaches criminal law, I use hypotheticals all the time. But they need to be at least somewhat realistic in order to be persuasive. When the police are not around and a permit holder encounters a shooter the incident is typically over in seconds and long before the UNC officer finishes writing a traffic ticket in order to raise money for the new Gay and Lesbian Resource Center.

But Ross is right when he says that the current controversy involves an important trade off. He is willing to trade the safety of students in exchange for preserving the dreams of children. Of course, I'm talking about the children who teach at universities and refuse to grow up and face the reality that we live in a fallen world where utopia is impossible and guns are necessary.


Gun paranoia leads to injustice in NC school

Cole Withrow was just a few weeks from graduating with honors at North Carolina’s Princeton High School. But on Monday, the Eagle Scout and active church member was expelled and arrested after he accidentally left a shotgun in his pickup truck.

The 18-year-old is now facing a felony weapons charge and a precarious future for what most people in the community believe was an honest-to-goodness mistake. “I think it’s an injustice for this young man,” family friend Kimberly Boykin said. “He’s a good guy. He’s loved by his classmates and his teachers. You don’t become an Eagle Scout by being a bad seed.”

She said the school district is sending a very bad message to students. “You teach your kids if you’re in trouble or if you see you’ve done something wrong, go ahead and admit it,” she said. “Be a man and it’ll be fixed. In this case, that’s what he did and he’s being punished for it. That’s not the lesson we need to teach our kids.”

Withrow had spent the weekend camping with a group of his friends, including Boykin’s son. The boys went fishing for catfish on Saturday and skeet shooting on Sunday.

He realized he had left his shotgun in his truck on Monday morning as he reached to grab his book bag, said Boykin.

“He didn’t know what to do,” she told Fox News. “If you jump in the truck and leave, then they get you for skipping school. Once you are there you have to say.”

So the teenager, who did his senior class project on gun safety, locked his truck, walked to the front office and called his mother. That’s when the trouble started.

“He was overheard in a private conversation with his mother explaining what happened,” Boykin said. “He could have told a story, but he told the truth.” A spokesperson for Johnston County Schools confirmed to Fox News that they found the shotgun in Withrow’s locked vehicle.

“The law is very clear when a person knowingly and willingly brings a weapon onto educational property,” spokesperson Tracey Peedin Jones said. “The situation was turned over to law enforcement immediately.”

Boykin said he was also expelled for 365 days – meaning that he will not be able to graduate from high school.

“He cannot go back on the campus,” Boykin said. “If that happens he won’t get a diploma. He won’t get to walk across the stage with the kids he’s known since birth. He won’t get to start college in the fall.”

Withrow’s arrest has sparked outrage across this small town, southeast of Raleigh. A Facebook page has been launched to generate support for the boy – and students have launched a Twitter hash-tag “#FREECOLE.”

“He is very honest and respectable and would never intentionally try to hurt anyone,” said classmate Kelcie Thomas. “It was an honest mistake and my whole school is backing him up and supporting him fully.”

The Withrow family is not talking to the media on the advice of their attorney – but Boykin said the family is just heartbroken.

“It’s almost like they are in a fog – something so innocent has turned into this big to-do,” she said. “When you try to do the right thing, you get in trouble.”

The school system is standing by their decision.

“Administration reacted promptly and the proper procedures and protocol were followed,” Jones said. “The situation was turned over to law enforcement immediately. As a result of our investigation, it is our best determination that students and staff were safe at all times.”

Boykin said the problem is that the laws are black and white.

“There’s no room for grey area,” she said. “There’s no room for discretion for human error.”

While his future remains unclear, Boykin said an encounter last week sums up the character of Cole Withrow.

“The kids got their caps and gowns on Friday and after school a group of them went to a local Mexican restaurant,” she recounted. “They were being loud teenagers and carrying on – but when the waiter brought their food – the table got quiet. They all bowed their heads and they said the blessing. Cole was one of those kids.”

Boykin said she cried when another mom told her that story.

“They don’t always make the right decisions,” she said. “But I don’t know what other kind of decision he could have made at that point.”

Like many in this town of 1,000 residents, Boykin is dumbfounded.

“Honestly, my heart just broke,” she said. “I know that it was just an honest mistake.”


Sunday, May 05, 2013

What Students Won’t Learn During California’s Labor History Month

California lawmakers don’t simply like labor unions. They love them.  So much, in fact, that they recently eliminated Labor History Week from the state law books and replaced it with Labor History Month, with the first scheduled for this May.

That means starting tomorrow, Californians (particularly school children) will be getting a steady diet of pro-labor propaganda, displaying the history of the union movement in only the most flattering light.

That’s where EAGnews comes in. We believe it’s necessary to balance that stream of happy history with the rest of the story.

So starting Wednesday (which ironically is the socialist rallying day of May 1), will launch a daily installment of “The Other Labor History: What Kids Won’t Learn.”

All month long – including the weekends because there are just so many rich examples – we’ll highlight a significant moment in Big Labor history that isn’t likely to be mentioned much during California’s Labor History Month.

We’ll share just a few of the many true tales of embezzlement, intimidation, physical violence and many, many other questionable moments in labor’s checkered past.

There are two sides to every story, and we won’t rest until the ugly side of Big Labor history is given equal billing.

Gov. Jerry Brown comes through for Big Labor

The Sacramento Bee reports, “Gov. Jerry Brown, like the Democratic-controlled California Legislature, wants schoolchildren to learn about labor unions, preferably when they are in school and aren't too busy with other matters.”

You know, like learning to read and multiply and think for themselves about various issues, like the true impact of organized labor on the American economy in recent decades.

A website called “Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education,” sponsored by California Speaker of the Assembly John Perez echoed Brown’s sentiments:

“Labor History Month offers an opportunity to give all students something precious: knowledge of where their rights came from, and how to preserve them today.”

And we always thought our rights derived from the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. Silly us.

Can California teachers be expected to cooperate with this indoctrination effort? Consider the following from the California Teachers Association’s labor history page:

“As we honor our workers every day - and particularly those who hold our children's futures in their hands, our educators - we also need to pull together and do the right thing to help return the economy to a healthier state.

“It's time to strengthen our resolve and to reinvigorate the Union Movement. Working for a common goal - with everyone paying their fair share - will propel us to the more prosperous time of the recent past, a time when (we) weren't stripping education budgets and other vital services, but enhancing them.”

Surely the schools will be using material from various sources, like the Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Work Committee or other business-friendly groups, just to present students with a fair and balanced picture of labor history.

Right?  Unfortunately we found no suggested Labor History Month materials that do anything but shine a steady ray of artificial sunshine on the topic. As if there’s nothing sordid, illegal or downright disgusting in Big Labor’s past that’s even worth mentioning.

The California recipe seems simple enough. Start with a dollop of Democratic politicians passing labor history bills with hugs and kisses, sprinkle in a heavy dose of politically liberal teachers presenting their personal views in classrooms, and voila, the unholy alliance has an instant indoctrination program ready to go, all funded with tax dollars paid by people who may or may not be progressives.

What won’t kids learn?

Do you think California students will learn about the Washington Teachers’ Union’s former president Barbara Bullock? In testifying against two of her colleagues, she admitted to embezzling a handsome $5 million from the union to buy such things as a $50,000 silver set in New Orleans and a $40,000 custom-made fur coat.

She and the two others “milked the union bank accounts to buy anything their hearts desired,” the Washington Post reported.

Will they hear the story of Neshaminy, Pennsylvania teacher David Ferrera? Last year he publicly accused his union of employing “terror and fear tactics” to keep teachers in line during a labor dispute with the school board.

Will they be told the story of Pennsylvania teachers union leaders vowing to “confront or shun” individuals who do not conform to the union’s agenda? The union was so serious about maintaining forced “solidarity” it produced a 31-page PowerPoint presentation on the subject.

How about a lesson about the Detroit Federation of Teachers? Putting its thirst to maintain revenue above teacher quality, the union demanded the firing of 70 teachers for non-payment of dues. What if one of those educators was the Teacher of the Year who provided wonderful service to thousands of school children? Too bad. This is what solidarity looks like.

Students would have a great time trying to figure out what happened to legendary Teamsters President James Hoffa, Sr. Now there’s a juicy tale of how Big Labor sometimes handles its internal disagreements and power disputes. And they didn’t even bother with a funeral.

This is just a sampling of the version of labor history we’ll be offering for the next month. We hope you will check out the daily entries and share them with others. There’s a lot more to be learned than the classroom activists in California would lead you to believe.


Florida Teen Girl Charged With Felony After Science Experiment Goes Bad

Kiera Wilmot got good grades and had a perfect behavior record. She wasn't the kind of kid you'd expect to find hauled away in handcuffs and expelled from school, but that's exactly what happened after an attempt at a science project went horribly wrong.

On 7 a.m. on Monday, the 16 year-old mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.

According to WTSP, Wilmot told police that she was merely conducting a science experiment. Though her teachers knew nothing of the specific project, her principal seems to agree.

"She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don't think she meant to ever hurt anyone," principal Ron Pritchard told the station. "She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too."

After the explosion Wilmot was taken into custody by a school resources officer and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. She will be tried as an adult.

She was then taken to a juvenile assessment center. She was also expelled from school and will be forced to complete her diploma through an expulsion program.

Polk County School released the following statement:

"Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff."
So, sorry kids. Don't try any extracurricular science projects on school grounds, especially if they could result in anything resembling an explosion."

Update: Riptide spoke to the Polk County School District about why they felt expulsion was a fair punishment for Wilmot. Their response: kids should learn that "there are consequences to their actions."


'We're just average folks': The family sending all ten of their home-schooled children to college by the age of 12

A mother who home-schools her ten children in Montgomery, Alabama, has opened up about how six of them began their college degrees by the age of 12.

Those of the Harding siblings who have already graduated from college have gone on to become a doctor, an architect, a spacecraft designer and a master's student. Another two - 12 and 14-years-old - are still finishing up their degrees.

But despite the Hardings' incredible achievements at such young ages, their parents - Mona Lisa and Kip - insist they are a family of 'average folks' who simply find and cultivate their children's passions early on.

Hannah was the first to take her college entrance exams - at the young age of 12. 'I didn't expect to pass,' the 24-yead-old told 'So I started crying, because I was thinking, "Now what?"'

She passed the exam and, at just 17, became Auburn University Montgomery's youngest ever graduate, obtaining a BS in mathematics.

The other Harding siblings, spurred on by their parents' encouragement and their older sister's success, were quick to follow suit.

Seth, 12, is the latest to begin at college. At seven, he announced that he wanted to be a military archaeologist. He is now a freshman at Faulkner University, where he studies the Middle Ages.

Just down the hall is Seth's 14-year-old brother Keith, a college senior with a passion for music who is studying finite mathematics.

His ambitious younger sister Katrinnah, ten, plans on taking her college exams next year.

Still, despite the exceptional talents of her brood, Mona Lisa - who studied to become a nurse before staying at home to educate her kids - said: 'I don't have any brilliant children. I'm not brilliant.'

The mother-of-ten also explained that her husband, who flew helicopters in the army and didn't graduate college until 25, is not brilliant either. 'We're just average folks,' she insists.

People who know them, however, would beg to differ.

Seth's assistant professor Grover Plunkett, for instance, said of the 12-year-old, who lives at home rather than in a dorm: 'He's got the highest average in the class.'

But the Harding children insist they are not geniuses. Instead, they credit their achievements to home-schooling, as well as a concentrated focus on their passions, which their parents taught them to hone in on from an early age.

'By the time you get down to number five, number six, they just think learning seems normal,' Mona Lisa said of her children.   'They're taking college classes, but socially, they are just teenagers'

'We find out what their passions are, what they really like to study, and we accelerate them gradually.'

For Serenneh, that passion was medicine. The 22-year-old is currently on her way to becoming a Navy doctor - which will make her one of the youngest physicians in American history.

Younger sister Rosannah, now 20, became a fully-fledged architect at the age of 18.

And Heath, who graduated from Huntingdon College at 15, will have completed his master's in computer science just after his 17th birthday.

'It makes you wonder,' Wesley Jimmerson, Seth's college friend, mused. 'Are they advanced, or are we just really behind?'

In fact, Mona Lisa and Kip are convinced that all children have the capacity to learn at the rate theirs have.

The couple have written a book to illustrate their teaching method and launched a website detailing their unique approach.

The book, called College By 12, is said to feature 'lots of tips of how you can simplify your homeschooling', as well as 'testimonies of how God has worked in our lives'.

College may sound like too much pressure for the pre-teens to handle, but the Harding parents insist their kids are thriving, not suffering.  'All our children would have to tells us is, "You know, this isn't fun any more,"' says Mona Lisa says. 'And we'd do something about that.'

Kip agrees with his wife: 'The expectation is that you're going to have a fun day,' he said as he watched his children play in the backyard. 'Not that you're going to come home with A's.'

Indeed, the couple insists that despite their accelerated eduction, the children have led normal lives.

Their remaining children are seven-year-old Mariannah, Lorennah, five, and Thunder James, three, all of whom are being home-schooled, too.