Friday, May 31, 2013

KY: High school graduation includes prayer over student objections

A Kentucky high school continued its tradition of having a student lead a prayer during graduation ceremonies, despite objections by at least six students.

Jonathan Hardwick, Class of 2013 president at Lincoln County High School in Stanford, was given a standing ovation after he delivered a prayer during Friday’s commencement, the Advocate-Messenger reported.

A video of Hardwick’s prayer quickly hit social media websites such as YouTube and Topix, according to the paper, with most online comments supporting Hardwick’s decision.

“Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us,” Hardwick said as part of the prayer.

Lincoln High Principal Tim Godbey, in an interview with the paper, acknowledged that six students — including at least one atheist — had asked him not to allow a student-led prayer as part of the school’s graduation ceremony.

Godbey, who is Christian, said under separation of church and state laws, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored functions.

He noted, however, that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from praying as long as they are not disruptive.

Ricky Smith, an atheist who has been lobbying for a “moment of silence” to replace prayer during government meetings in the area, told the paper he intends to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation about Lincoln’s public prayer, which he feels violated the civil rights of students who are not Christians.


6-Year-Old Given Detention, Forced to Apologize After Bringing  Seriously Tiny Plastic Gun on School Bus‏

A 6-year-old kindergarten student in Massachusetts is accused of causing a “disturbance” and “traumatizing” other students by bringing a very tiny plastic toy gun on the school bus last week.

The “gun” brandished by the young boy was barely bigger than a quarter.

The child’s mother, Mieke Crane, told WGGB-TV that school officials at Old Mill Pond Elementary in Palmer, Mass., seriously overreacted after another student saw the toy and told the bus driver on Friday.

The driver said the 6-year-old “caused quite a disturbance” and left other children “traumatized,” according to Crane.

The kindergartener has been forced to write an apology letter to the bus driver. He was also given detention on Tuesday and may temporarily lose his bus riding privileges.

“I could see if it was, you know, an Airsoft gun or some sort of pistol or live bullets or something. This is just a toy,” the stunned mother said.

Additionally, the boy who reportedly yelled about the toy gun on the bus has also been forced to apologize.

Crane said her son did not equate the extremely small plastic toy gun with an actual firearm or weapon.  “At 6 years old, I don’t really think he understood the zero tolerance policy and related it to this as the same,” she added.

This is hardly the first instance of young students being taught that anything resembling a gun is bad.

In April, TheBlaze first reported that a New York father had his pistol license revoked after his son and two of his classmates talked about going to a boy’s house with a water gun, “paint gun” and a BB gun. School officials called police and apparently felt they had enough cause to revoke John Mayer’s handgun license.

In March, a 7-year-old boy was suspended from school for chewing a breakfast pastry into a shape that somewhat resembled a gun. The boy maintained he didn’t mean to make his food look like a gun.

In January, a Philadelphia fifth-grader was scolded and even searched in front of her entire class for pulling out a piece of paper that was torn into a gun-like shape. A school administrator reportedly yelled at her while other students called her a “murderer.”

Also in January, a 5-year-old girl was suspended for ten days and reportedly labeled a “terrorist threat” for threatening to shoot her friend with a toy bubble gun.

And the list goes on and on.


Two in three British pupils fear university costs: They worry about living expenses and not being able to earn while studying

Two-thirds of children are worried about the cost of going to university even though they think it will help them ‘get on in life’, a new survey has revealed.

They are concerned about living expenses and not being able to earn while they study while those from middle-class backgrounds are most troubled by £9,000-a-year tuition fees.

The Ipsos MORI poll for the Sutton Trust surveyed 2,595 11 to 16-year-olds.

It classified them as being in families of high, medium or low affluence based on questions about their households.

It found that students from the least affluent families (23 per cent) were more likely to cite cost as the biggest consideration when deciding whether to go onto higher education than their richer counterparts (14 per cent).

However, middle-class youngsters - who miss out on means tested maintenance grants - are most affected by tuition fees (30 per cent) when worrying about all the costs.

This compared to 28 per cent of rich students and 26 per cent of poorer ones who agreed that fees were the ‘biggest concern’.

Overall, 65 per cent of students surveyed were worried about university finances - 28 per cent cited tuition fees; 19 per cent, the cost of living and 18 per cent, not earning while studying.

Only seven per cent said they were not troubled by the cost of going to university.

Thirty eight per cent of young people said they were ‘very likely’ to go to university and 43 per cent ‘fairly likely’.

A higher proportion of black and minority ethnic students (49 per cent) said they were likely to go to university than white students (35 per cent).

Of those who were unlikely to go into higher education, 57 per cent cited financial considerations and 49 per cent said they would prefer to do something more practical.

However 86 per cent said going to university was important in ‘helping people do well and get on in life’, with 43 per cent rating it ‘very important’.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said: ‘It is clear from this poll that many young people remain worried about the cost of higher education.

‘Graduates face debts of over £40,000 with the higher fees and many will be paying for their university studies into their fifties.

‘We are urging the Government to means test university fees, as used to be the case, so that those from low and middle income families pay less for tuition.’

Means-testing ended in 2006 when variable fees of up to £3,000-a-year were introduced.

Those with household incomes below £42,611 can currently apply for means-tested maintenance grants.

Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at the University and College Union (UCU), said: ‘We need our brightest young people aspiring to university and the courses best suited to their talents. Worryingly the biggest barrier is the increased cost of a degree.

‘Ministers need to move on from looking at how to squeeze more money out of students and look at the damage the increased cost of going to university is already having.’


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Schooling in Sweden

From an interview in Britain with author Karin Svanborg-Sjöval

NR: Why has the organisation and financing of childcare been a key dividing line between left and right in Sweden?

K S-S: When it comes to childcare, this was the first soft service for which private options emerged in the 1980s. Previously, competition had only been allowed for technical services, for things like snow ploughing and chimney sweeping. The left at the time - and in this respect it may be true that there has been an ideological shift within the left - believed that childcare was crucial for creating a Socialist person. The idea was to start moulding a certain kind of citizen already in childhood and so it was believed that the state should have a monopoly on childcare.

At the same time, that is an explanation for why it didn’t go too well because this is not something that the wider population has ever accepted. This is a very radical utopia around how society should be organised and what the social goals should be. So once there was more honesty around how the left viewed childcare in particular, Social Democrats were very upset, too.

NR: And in the sphere of education, one of the former Social Democrat leader Olof Palme’s favourite phrases was ‘Kentucky Fried Children’ - a reference to the US school system. But there has been a radical school reform in Sweden since then and now the UK has also introduced free schools, a combination of US Charter schools and Swedish friskolor. What would you say to Brits who are sceptical of free schools?

K S-S: Well, as far as I understand, the results have been mainly good so far and that’s hardly surprising. If you agree that education is an extremely important issue for society, then it is also reasonable to allow different types of educational solutions. Education is not just about creating a citizen. Instead, there are many fundamental reasons for having a school system which allows for different ways of operating, which allows for innovation and diversity.

If you have just one system in place then there will always be those who fit in but there will also be a whole bunch of people who do not fit in and I would say that having centrally-controlled schooling, as you do in large parts of the world, is a pretty inhumane approach to education and children.

NR: One argument against free schools has been that such a system creates new dividing lines and that privileged children, or those with parents who are very engaged in their schooling, still tend to go to the better schools.

K S-S: Sure, this happens, but can anyone seriously claim that when there was just one option available and freedom of choice was not there that it would not have mattered for a child whether their parents cared about them or not? That difference will always be there, but one way of challenging it is to give the pupil the chance to get out of his or her social context by providing a system based on freedom of choice where the pupil has the potential to access better education. And that is not possible if the child is dependent on the parents being able to afford to move to an area with better schools.

So I don’t have much respect for that view. I think it is a strange argument to make in Sweden and I think it is an absurd argument to make in Britain, where there was always freedom of choice in education - but only for those who can afford it. The great difference between the Swedish and British free-school systems is that in Sweden the schools are not allowed to take fees, so that means that the freedom of choice applies to all parents, regardless of income.


Sixth Circuit has big labor running scared in Michigan

By Nathan Mehrens

A recent federal court decision has got big labor running scared. And it should be.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Michigan law that bars public schools from collecting union dues, overturning a district court injunction against implementation of the law. The circuit court also ordered the lowered court to uphold the law.

The law in question requires that public sector unions collect their own dues from public school teachers, rather than the school’s payroll system handling it. The unions attempted to argue that not compelling as a matter of law teachers to pay up somehow violated the labor organization’s First Amendment Rights.

The Sixth Circuit responded: “The problem with this theory is that the Supreme Court has already rejected it,” citing the 2009 Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association ruling that stated “The First Amendment prohibits government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech’; it does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression.”

The Sixth Circuit applied Ysursa, saying, “Public Act 53 does not restrict the unions’ speech at all: they remain free to speak about whatever they wish,” noting that nothing in the First Amendment mandates that public sector payroll deductions be given to unions.

The case clarifies the little known mechanism of mandatory dues collection that public sector unions typically have heretofore enjoyed in non-right to work states.

Now that Michigan is right to work, this offends big labor’s ability to raise money in two distinct ways. First, if workers are not compelled to join a union, they cannot furnish union dues. And if the public school payroll systems do not automatically collect union dues, there is no guarantee the teachers will hand them over, either.

These reasons alone would explain the unions’ desperation to overturn the Michigan law.

But there’s an even larger reason, as this could signal a sea change in big labor’s ability to finance Democratic Party operations, particularly in states with large public sector union presences.

Attacking compulsory collection of union dues in the public sector threatens big labor’s political power, not its free speech rights. It also levels a political playing field that once favored candidates backed by the unions. Michigan was once a Democrat stronghold with heavy union support, but has since fallen in Republican hands on a statewide basis.

That is not to suggest that Michigan’s new law is without merit. To the contrary, bloated state budgets include large defined benefit pension and health care liabilities that were won legislatively long ago largely through big labor’s political influence.

It is hardly any wonder electorates and taxpayers across the country are taking a closer look at public sector unions. When so many are struggling in the private sector, why should public sector workers be so well off?

Compulsory union dues in the public sector were just another way for government to secure its hold on power and taxpayer money. And it eventually caused resentment in the electorate, giving Governor Rick Snyder a mandate to do away with the practice.

That is why if these trends against public sector labor organizations are left unchallenged, big labor could be politically threatened in states like California, New York, and New Jersey once thought to be untouchable. And that is what has got big labor scared most of all.


Teachers fired for trivialities

A Bronx teacher has filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired for using the word 'negro' in class. 'Negro' is the Spanish word for the color black.

One of the first lessons one learns in English class is that context is everything. The same holds true in Spanish.

Take the case of Petrona Smith. She says in a lawsuit that she was fired from teaching at Bronx PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported that she'd used the "N" word, according to The New York Post:  'Negro.'

Smith doesn't deny using the word. But she argues that everyone uses it, when speaking Spanish. She was teaching the Spanish words for different colors, and the color "black" in Spanish is "negro." She also taught the junior high school students, in this bilingual school, that the Spanish term for black people is "moreno." And by the way, Smith, who is from the West Indies, is black.   

Smith's lawsuit brings to mind a case in Ohio earlier this year.

The Akron Public Schools Board of Education voted in January to pursue the firing of Melissa Cairns. She was a math teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center.

The school district said that Ms. Cairns posted a photo on her personal Facebook page which showed 8 or 9 out of her 16 students with duct tape across their mouths. The caption read: "Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!" The district says a colleague of Cairns' notified a supervisor of the photo.

On the face of it, this sounds outrageous. But what's the context?

Cairn, a teacher for 10 years, says she gave a girl a roll of duct tape to fix her binder, but the student cut a piece of tape, placed it over her mouth and laughed.

"The other kids in the class thought it was funny also, and they proceeded to pass the tape and scissors around the class. The students, the majority of the class, ended up putting a piece of duct tape across their mouth," Cairns explained.

"I would never in a million years do anything to harm students," Cairns said.

This past week, Cairns was officially fired because "She showed a lack of good judgment. Her conduct was unbecoming of a teacher," Akron Public Schools spokesman Mark Williamson told Newsnet5.

He went on to explain it wasn't the use of the duct tape, but the posting of the photo of children on Facebook that showed poor judgement.

The punishment, as many Akron readers noted, seemed excessive in light of the mistake.

"This is wrong," wrote Lynn Webster. "The Board should take into account what really happened and she was having FUN with her students. Oh...teachers aren't allowed to do that anymore. She should have received a reprimand at most and move on. Shame on the snitch that reported her. Couldn't this have been handled privately instead of running to a supervisor? Now I hope she sues them to get her job back."


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

High School Teacher Faces Discipline for Informing Students About Their Rights

A high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois, faces disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use.

The survey, ostensibly aimed at assessing the needs of students at Batavia High School, was distributed on April 18. After picking up the survey forms from his mailbox about 10 minutes before his first class of the day, John Dryden noticed that they had students' names on them and that they asked about drinking and drug use, among other subjects.

Dryden, who had just finished teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, worried that students might feel obliged to incriminate themselves—an especially ticklish situation given the police officer stationed at the school.

Since there was no time to confer with administrators, he says, he decided to tell his students that they did not have to complete the forms if doing so involved admitting illegal behavior.

Tomorrow the school board will consider whether and how to punish Dryden for taking advantage of this teachable moment. The Batavia Daily Herald reports that "Dryden faces having a 'letter of remedy' placed in his employment file," which "could have consequences up to dismissal."

Dryden's supporters are collecting signatures on a petition asking the board to refrain from disciplining him.


Four out of 10 British graduates will never pay back their student loans

Around four in 10 graduates will have their student loans written off leading to a huge hole in public finances, a study has shown.

At least 40 per cent of the cash borrowed by students will never be repaid - a figure far higher than Government estimates have previously suggested.

Ministers had previously believed that around one third of the total students loan bill would be lost as those students fail to make enough money to pay it back.

However, leading university vice-chancellors, who carried out the study for the Institute for Public Policy Research, suggest that the total would in fact be closer to 40 per cent.

At present repayments do not start until a student is earning £21,000 a year, and any remaining debts are written off after 30 years.

The missing money would leave a multi-billion pound black hole in government finances and makes the current funding system 'unsustainable', according to the research, due to be published on June 10.


Stay-at-home degrees

Normal in Australia but seen as novel in Britain

Today’s IPPR study claims that a number of radical reforms are needed to make the existing funding system more sustainable.

The report calls for the creation of a new generation of cut-price degree courses priced at £5,000-a-year – significantly less than the current £9,000 maximum – for “stay-at-home” students to cut down on the amount of money being loaned by the Government.

It suggests that students could be encouraged to take places on these "fee-only" courses provided that they agree not to borrow money for accommodation or living expenses – cutting the overall loans bill.

The courses would be orientated towards students living at home and those working part-time in a move that could save the Government £10,000 per student.

Nigel Thrift, the vice-chancellor of Warwick University, and chairman of the IPPR’s higher education commission, said: “We are going to need to make major cost savings in the short-term, as well as grapple with longer-term arguments about the future of fees.

“The only way we will be able to afford to expand the number of students is if we offer a new type of degree.

“The current funding system privileges full-time residential courses supported by student loans. But this is not appropriate for many potential students, who want to study vocational courses in their local area, live at home and combine their studies with paid employment.”

Currently, universities can charge up to £9,000-a-year in tuition fees. Students can borrow the full amount from the Government – alongside a further loan for maintenance costs – but are not expected to repay until they earn at least £21,000.

The outstanding amount is written off after 30 years.

Previous Government estimates have suggested that losses to the taxpayer through the system will peak at almost £191 billion by 2047 before the Treasury starts to recoup some of these losses from graduate repayments.

The IPPR study – backed by vice-chancellors including Sir Rick Trainor, of King’s College London, Sir Steve Smith, from Exeter, and Prof Janet Beer, from Oxford Brookes – said: “The current student funding system is unsustainable.

“It shows that there is a black hole in the current system which could be as big as £1bn.

“The commission uses new modelling to show that a more accurate estimate of the total value of student loans that will go unpaid is for 40 per cent of the total value of loans.

“The Government first predicted that it would be 30 per cent but amid concerns that this was an underestimate, subsequently raised this to 32 and then 34 per cent.”


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mrs. O Wants Textbooks to ‘Swap Cupcakes for Apples’ in Math Problems

That kids might be more enthused by cupcakes is ignored.  It's not about the kids.  It's about Leftist control of everything

 First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative is praising textbook publishers for “swapping out cupcakes for apples in math problems,” in a campaign to incorporate health information into the learning resources for kids.

“Today at the White House, we celebrated a group of educational publishers on their development of voluntary guidance to incorporate health information into textbooks and other learning materials,” Let’s Move! said in a blog post entitled, “Cookies 2 Carrots,” on Wednesday.

“Publishers are making simple changes, like swapping out cupcakes for apples in math problems,” the anti-obesity initiative noted. “They are also finding ways to include physical activity in lesson plans – discussing the history of little league baseball and using sports in word problems.”

Let’s Move! – a government initiative started by Mrs. Obama – aims to curb the obesity rate among children in the U.S. Mrs. Obama has recently expanded her campaign to museums and zoos asking them to change their menus, and also wants to “impact the nature of food in grocery stores.”

The first lady now wants textbook companies to join the cause.

Mrs. Obama praised several publishers that are “voluntarily coming together to support the health of our nation’s children,” Let’s Move! said.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO); the Association of American Publishers (AAP), a trade association that represents 300 book publishing companies; the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP); and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) were celebrated at the White House on Wednesday.

“Just as these publishing companies came together thirty years ago to incorporate greater diversity into textbooks, they are now using their platform to have a positive impact on children’s health,” Let’s Move! said. “We congratulate them on their exciting leadership.”


British government  cracks down on universities after claims that alleged Woolwich killers were radicalised at Greenwich University's Islamic Society

Universities were under pressure tonight to crack down on Islamic extremists who spout hatred on campuses. 

An investigation has been launched into claims that a series of radical speakers were invited to events and distributed leaflets to students at the University where both killers are thought to have studied.  The probe will consider whether Greenwich University’s Islamic society had any role in radicalising Michael Adebolajo, 28 and Michael Adebowale, 22.

Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday pledged to look at introducing new powers to tackle Al Qaeda sympathisers who try to recruit impressionable students at colleges.

She has criticised universities for being ‘complacent’ in tackling the risk of radicalisation.

One of Drummer Lee Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebolajo, 28, converted to Islam in 2003 at the same time that he studied at the University of Greenwich.  He was radicalised by the banned group Al-Muhajiroun.

His accomplice in the gruesome murder outside Woolwich Barracks, Michael Adebowale, 22, is also said to have been an undergraduate there and studied on a business course.

The announcement of the investigation came amid claims that a pamphlet written by a preacher who was banned from entering Britain by the Home Secretary in 2010 was distributed during a freshers’ fair at Greenwich University in 2011.

Dr Zakir Naik, the author, said in the booklet: 'Every Muslim should be a terrorist,’ it was alleged.

Dr Naik had been banned from entering Britain the previous year by Theresa May after she ruled that his presence was 'not conducive to the public good'.

Other figures known for their extreme views are said to have appeared in person at the university, including Dr Khalid Fikry, who has supported convicted terrorists.

The society has also promoted videos by another radical preacher, Abu Usamah, on its Facebook page.

Abu Usamah, a Birmingham based imam, featured on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque in which he expressed support for Osama bin Laden and said homosexuals were 'perverted, filthy dogs who should be murdered'.

He has been banned from several academic institutions for his extreme views.

Professor David Maguire, vice-chancellor of the university, confirmed that Adebolajo had been a student there for two years but had been thrown out because his ‘academic progress was unsatisfactory’.

He said: ‘The university takes its responsibilities very seriously in terms of preventing extremism.  ‘We are committed to ensuring that the university is a safe and secure place of study and debate within the confines of the law.  'We have diverse communities on campus and these include a range of different faiths.

‘Given the seriousness of issues raised, the university is setting up an investigation into the association of these two individuals with the university, to assess whether there is any evidence of extremism in the university (past or present) and whether we need to update our policies and practices.’

Professor Maguire said the university had ‘no record’ of Adebowale being a student at Greenwich.

Mrs May is determined to stop extremist clerics using schools, colleges and universities - as well as prisons and mosques - to spread their ‘poison’.  She said: ‘We need to look across institutions like universities, whether there is more work we can be doing in prisons.’

Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, is drawing up guidelines on how to handle preachers who have a track record of inciting hatred.

It has launched a new campaign to show students, unions and academics what they can do to constrain controversial preachers.

The last Labour government introduced its Prevent strategy in a bid to stop young people becoming involved with extremist groups but ministers acknowledged this has stalled.

Rupert Sutton, from Student Rights, an organisation aimed at preventing extremism at universities, said he hoped chancellors would draw up lists of speakers liable to preach hatred or violence.

He said: ‘There is a problem with Prevent at many universities, partly because it comes from government and partly because it is seen as anti-Muslim.

'It needs to be refocused much more clearly as being opposed to extremism of both right and left.’

In January it was revealed that Islamic extremists preached at more than 200 university events last year raising fresh fears over radicalisation on campus.

A dozen events featured speakers with links to the fanatical group Hizb ut Tahrir – a controversial organisation banned by the National Union of Students.

A study by Student Rights warned Islamic extremists were using social networking sites to radicalise students.

Videos of armed insurgents and hate-filled speeches from Al Qaeda figures had been posted on websites linked to Islamic societies at several leading universities.

In 2011, Mrs May said universities were not taking the issue of radicalisation seriously enough and that it was too easy for Muslim extremists to form groups on campuses ‘without anyone knowing’.


Every school could do with a little bit of Eton

Eton's plans to transplant a boarding ethos to the state sector have huge appeal

Eton College was set up by Henry VI, not for oligarchs or little Lord Fauntleroys but as a free school for poor, clever boys. Still, today, at the heart of the most famous public school in the world – and one of the most expensive, at £32,067 a year – that free school survives. College, the scholars’ house, provides a free education for any boy who passes the scholarship exam and can’t afford the fees.

Most of Britain’s ancient public schools were founded on these altruistic lines. It’s only as the schools proved to be so good at educating poor boys for free that rich parents started paying for the privilege. Today, at Eton, there are only 70 King’s Scholars in a school of more than 1,300 boys, with the vast majority still paying their way to the best education on earth. Now, 573 years after Henry VI did his bit for educational equality, Eton’s headmaster, Tony Little, is having another go.

Next year, Eton will open its own state-funded school nearby, at Holyport, near Maidenhead, Berkshire. Tuition fees will be paid for by the taxpayer, and families will pay around £11,000 a year for accommodation and living costs.

Eton will share its playing fields – the ones where the Battle of Waterloo were won – and its guest speakers with Holyport. It will also export its educational ethos – of a free-thinking yet rigorously intellectual kind. Most strikingly of all, Holyport, like Eton, will be a boarding school.

My friend and colleague, Damian Thompson, wrote an intriguing piece on these pages at the weekend on the fading charms of private schools. Now that they’re so expensive, and their not too popular alumni are running the country, they’re losing their charm, he wrote.

But what if you strip away the class and financial aspects from private schools, and reduce them to their elite educational bare bones: what’s not to like? The reason why Eton, and other historic public schools, still dominate the higher reaches of the league tables is not because their pupils speak posh or wear funny clothes – it’s because they’re so brilliantly educated.

Most parents would lap up the intellectual side of public school if it were transplanted to the state sector at a vastly reduced cost – but what about the boarding bit? Haven’t we moved away from Dotheboys Hall, from fagging and being roasted over Big Fire by a new generation of state-educated Flashmans?

In fact, boarding schools have moved on. One of the reasons they cost so much more now is that parents expect more comfort for their little darlings – and individual bedrooms, like all the boys have at Eton, are increasingly the norm.

Even the state sector is beginning to appreciate that boarding – far from being an outdated, brutal relic – can, in and of itself, be a progressive, educational bonus. There are now 34 established state boarding schools, and the Department for Education is opening or planning another 25. Other public schools are emulating Eton’s example, too; Wellington College, in Crowthorne, Berkshire, already sponsors a part-boarding academy.

There’s a very good argument for saying that boarding is in fact much better suited to underprivileged children than rich ones. Well-off children can go home in the evening to their book-lined homes and their professional parents, and do their homework in their quiet bedrooms. As a part-time Latin tutor, I have never worked so hard as when I’ve taught prep‑school children over the kitchen table, with their banker mothers looking over my shoulder to check I know my passives from my subjunctives.

But what if you don’t have that stable, bookish world on tap waiting for you in the evening? If there isn’t even a table for you to do your homework on, let alone a tiger mum to cram optatives down your throat?

Boarding extends the stability and intellectual atmosphere of a good school beyond the bell at 4 o’clock. I was a day boy at Westminster School, but the fact that it also took boarders seeped into its ethos, even for me.

There wasn’t a sudden rush for the exit after the last lesson. Sport, music – and detention – stretched into the evening and Saturday afternoon. There was a feeling of settled, rooted permanence – the same feeling you get from home. One friend – from a broken home, in fact – had to be ordered to go home by the deputy headmaster on a regular basis, because he so loved playing football in Little Dean’s Yard late into the night on long summer evenings.

Boarding isn’t for everyone. It isn’t, like streaming or rigorous teaching, an unalloyed good. I still meet bankers and lawyers in their forties who would do anything rather than send their children to their old boarding school, Eton included. But that’s an emotional, not an intellectual, decision for parents to make. The sort of children who like school will tend to like boarding school. School‑haters won’t want more of it.

Half a century after the comprehensive experiment began, the gulf between state and private schools has never been so wide. No one could conceivably say that comprehensives have beaten the public schools. Isn’t it time they joined them?


Monday, May 27, 2013

Student Loan Problems: One Third Of Millennials Regret Going To College

Here’s an indication of how burdensome student loans have become: About one-third of millennials say they would have been better off working, instead of going to college and paying tuition.

That’s a according to a new Wells Fargo WFC +0.57% study which surveyed 1,414 millennials between the ages of 22 and 32. More than half of them financed their education through student loans, and many say the if they had $10,000 the “first thing” they’d do is pay down their student loan or credit card debt.

That’s no surprise when you consider student borrowing topped the $100 billion threshold for the first time in 2010, and total outstanding loans exceeded $1 trillion for the first time in 2011.  Student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt in the U.S. which stands at about $798 billion.

Delinquencies are also on the rise. The number of borrowers who are at least 90 days late on student loan payments has jumped from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.7% today, according to a study by the New York Federal Reserve.

The problem sometimes is that not all college educations are worth their cost since they can’t guarantee a high-paying job to help pay off that student debt. A report from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys says the rising student debt problem can have a bad impact on the economy. Even in the best of economic times when jobs are plentiful, young people with considerable debt burdens end up delaying life-cycle events such as buying a car, purchasing a home, getting married and having children.

The other problem on student debt is a lack of financial education. The first major financial decision many students are making is with their college loans. It’s a major decision and often times there’s been little financial education, if any, that’s been taught. The Wells Fargo survey found that 79% of millennials think personal finance should be taught in high school; basic investing, how to save for retirement and how loans work were the top three topics they “wished” they’d learned more about.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found student debt has also affected home ownership in the country. Census data reveals that nearly 6 million Americans ages 25 to 34 lived with their parents in 2011, a sharp increase from 4.7 million in 2007.

The CFPB cited The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) saying higher student debt burdens “impair the ability of recent college graduates to qualify for a loan.” According to NAHB, high student loan debt has an impact on consumers’ debt-to-income (DTI) ratio– an important metric for decisions about creditworthiness in mortgage origination.

It’s no wonder then that more than half (54%) of millennials from the Wells survey say debt is their biggest financial concern with 42% calling it “overwhelming.”


School league tables: privately-educated British pupils 'better prepared for top universities'

The extent to which private school pupils are being prepared for places at elite universities was laid bare today in new-style league tables showing how they dominate top grades in core academic subjects.

For the first time, data shows how many teenagers are leaving schools and colleges in England with good A-levels in a range of core disciplines seen as a vital stepping stone to sought-after Russell Group institutions.

It emerged that 150 out of the top 200 schools in the new table are from the fee-paying sector.

St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London and Magdalen College School in Oxford saw 70 per cent of 18-year-olds reach the standard – the highest proportion in the country.

At the same time, around a quarter of sixth-forms – almost all from the state sector – failed to produce a single pupil with good A-levels in a range of academic subjects such as maths, English, science and foreign languages.

The results are likely to tighten private school pupils’ grip in places at leading universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and University College London which demand a string of top grades as a basic entry requirement.

It also appears to reinforce universities’ claims that the dominance of independently-educated students is a reflection of academic standards in schools – and not discrimination by admissions tutors.

The disclosure comes after universities were told to set tough targets to increase the proportion of pupils admitted from “under-represented groups” including poorly-performing state schools. Around half of members of the Russell Group set themselves a state school admissions target.

Tim Hands, the master of Magdalen College School, welcomed the figures but warned against the use of narrow performance measures.

“Of course it’s right to ensure the right pupils get access to the right subjects and then on to the right university destinations,” he said.

“Independent schools, not least because they are less subject to Government interference, have a greater chance of doing this, as the table makes very clear.

“However, suddenly inventing this new competitive measure is yet another unnecessary political initiative and a further misuse of league tables. There is a danger of making many pupils who want artistic, vocational or practical qualifications feel further undervalued.”

Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group, said: “We agree A-level choices really matter. Too few students realise that some subjects and subject combinations can keep open wider degree course options at leading universities.

“However, it would be wrong to use this simple indicator as a measure of the number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a Russell Group university."

Today’s performance tables show how many students get two As and a B at A-level in key subjects – maths and further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages. Data relates to more than 2,500 schools teaching A-levels in England.

It follows the publication of research by the Russell Group showing that students taking academic disciplines are much more likely to win places.

But figures show that 600 – one-in-four – did not produce a single pupil with good A-level grades in these subjects. Just 60 were from the independent sector.

Three-quarters of the 200 leading schools were from the independent sector, including seven in the top 10.

Aside from St Paul’s Girls’ School and Magdalen College School, the other fee-paying schools in the top 10 were: Concord College in Shrewsbury, the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, St Paul’s Boys’ School in west London, Wycombe Abbey School in High Wycombe, the Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton and St Swithun’s School in Winchester.

Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school in Barnet was the top performing state school with 65 per cent of pupils hitting the A-level target. Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex and the Henrietta Barnett School, north London, were also listed in the top 10.

Figures also show a drop in the overall A-level pass-rate nationally.

The percentage of students who achieved passes equivalent to at least two A-levels decreased from 94.1 to 93.6 per cent in 12 months. The proportion of teenagers with three or more A*/A passes was down from 13.1 to 12.8 per cent, it emerged.

Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: "The decline in results at A-level and the fact that many pupils do not get the top grades for university is worrying.

"With 10,000 teachers having left the profession, and leading universities warning that the Government’s exam changes will jeopardise fair access to universities, David Cameron is putting social mobility is at risk."


Australia: Blue-collar blues as university equality fails by degrees

Michael Thompson points out below  the lower participation by working class people in higher education but omits to make a case for that being a bad thing.  With tradesmen making a mint and graduates flipping hamburgers, I suspect it is a good thing

WHY has the participation rate in higher education of people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds - in effect the working class - changed so little during the past 40 or 50 years?

The Whitlam government's abolition of university fees from 1974 ushered in "free" education. However, "equal" education proved more elusive. According to Gough Whitlam's private secretary, Peter Wilenski, the effect of abolishing fees was "found to have had no impact on the socioeconomic distribution of the origins of university students, and was in effect a direct handout to the better off".

Several government discussion papers and the like have reviewed higher education, including the 1996 report by the then Higher Education Council and the 2008 Bradley report. They tell of little change in the participation of low SES students in higher education, with their overall proportion of enrolment having remained static at about 15 per cent across the past two decades. The latest statistics show their proportion at only 16.7 per cent of total commencements last year. And, even if more working class students attend university in the 2010s, their numbers will likely be far exceeded by increases in students coming from better-off families.

Women made up 51 per cent of all students by 1989, with those from middle-class backgrounds now over-represented by 10-15 per cent. Although women's participation is skewed towards arts-humanities, health and education, they are underrepresented in higher-degree research programs.

As for the future, the government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that by 2020 "20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments in higher education should be students from low socioeconomic backgrounds".

But people of low SES make up 25 per cent of the population (to this day they participate at only a little more than half their proportion of the population). Further, their target date of 2020 falls 12 years after it was recommended, and 46 years after Whitlam abolished fees.

The government's target for the low SES evinces a certain lack of urgency on its part. What's been going on?

In 1996, the HEC's chairman, Gordon Stanley, was adamant that the reason for the under-representation in higher education of people from low SES backgrounds is not "barriers to access"; rather, it is their "individual and family attitudes and values about higher education".

Coming from an Anglo-Celtic working-class family, and growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I naturally thought of getting a good job, an apprenticeship. Like most of those of my age around me, my horizons were narrow. No one among my immediate family or relatives had ever finished high school. And there were few visible examples of working-class success. I lacked confidence in my intellectual ability. I never dreamed of going to university.

More insidiously, the working class almost invariably is portrayed by the progressive entertainment industry and media as at best buffoons and at worst proto-Nazis. Lately it is spoken of sneeringly as "bogan". Lindsay Tanner writes that "bogan is the new word for working class", and says calling someone bogan "has become an all-purpose put-down. If you want to label someone crass, crude and stupid, bogan is the word for you."

If people are told often enough that they're dummies with nasty little prejudices, they come to believe it; they internalise it. This stereotyping of the working class as unfit serves to mask the progressives' own class interest.

The HEC warned in its report that if "the desired results to have student population more representative of the groups in the community are to be achieved, the over-representation of other groups will have to be reduced". It's a zero-sum game (in which the losses exactly equal the winnings); an increase in students from the working class means fewer from professional families, many of whom are progressives, whose main asset is knowledge: their university degrees.

The government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that institutions determine how many students to enrol; on the face of it, then, no more zero-sum game.

However, those from low SES backgrounds are likelier to have attended disadvantaged schools. They are typically ill-prepared for university and so do not satisfy the higher entry requirements for so-called professional degrees such as medicine and law, enrolling instead in business (economics and accounting) and arts-humanities.

The abolition of student quotas has seen universities lower entry requirements; now almost anyone is accepted into business and arts-humanities degrees at non-sandstone universities.

Students enrolled in business are often forced to pay the same HECS fees as those in professional degrees (although students in arts-humanities pay less). The money paid by these students has been used to cross-subsidise those in medicine and law. In effect, low SES students are subsidising wealthier students who have attended selective and non-parish Catholic schools where they have been groomed for university studies. A perverse outcome - reminding one of Wilenski's observation.

Where to begin anew?

Why not broaden working-class youths' horizons, and put an end to the undermining of their confidence?

The government supported outreach activities in communities with poor higher education participation rates, along with institutions and schools raising the aspirations of people from low SES backgrounds to attend university.

They may help broaden horizons, but as the figures quoted earlier indicate governments' track record with programs is not encouraging.

Governments could review their advertisements that reinforce the stereotyping of working-class families as dysfunctional, such as those censuring violence against women and the irresponsible behaviour by parents that can lead to underage drinking, as they almost invariably show working-class husbands, boyfriends and fathers as the perpetrators.

The government also may want to consider a prominent and ongoing national advertising campaign encouraging participation in higher education, featuring working-class male and female success stories as role models. Use of the media in this way could go a long way towards broadening working-class youths' horizons and boosting their confidence.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Teen Who Was Expelled From School For Science Explosion Receives Full Scholarship U.S. Space Academy

Kiera Wilmot made an honest mistake, but the police were trying to throw away her life with a felony.  After the community stood up for the girl, the charges were dropped, and she was allowed to move on with her life.   Well, her greatness is really starting to shine, as she was recently granted several extraordinary opportunities through scholarship offers she has received.

Dr. Boyce Watkins recently wrote about another group of students who were arrested for throwing water balloons.   Is it now open season on black children?    We have to start asking ourselves why it’s suddenly become so easy for a black child to be sent to prison or jail.  It appears that learning and education have been outlawed by the school systems, but getting arrested has become a leading trend.  Rev. Jesse Jackson also regularly mentions all the schools in Chicago with “old books but brand new metal detectors.”

Dr. Christopher Emdin, a professor of education at Columbia University, says that the schools are now very similar to prisons in terms of how they are structured, and how the inhabitants are treated.   Kiera overcame her situation, but there are thousands of kids across the country who aren’t so lucky.  Maybe it’s time to attack the system that is attacking us.

Check this out from Gawker:

"Kiera Wilmot, the 16-year-old honor student expelled from her high school after she allegedly ignited a chemical explosion on school property, received a full scholarship to the U.S. Space Academy, courtesy of a NASA veteran who, as a teenager, was accused of starting a forest fire during a science experiment.

The lessons here are simple:  Black kids have potential, and we can’t allow this system to destroy them.  Also, hard work always pays off, especially when it comes to education.  Dr. Boyce Watkins and Minister Louis Farrakhan recently held a forum called “Wealth, Education, Family and Community:  A New Paradigm for Black America.”  In the forum, Dr. Watkins and Min. Farrakhan both agree that African Americans are going to have to think differently when it comes to deciding what it means for your kids to be educated."

“Only a fool allows those who hate him to educate his children,” says Dr. Watkins.  ”People also have to learn that there is a difference between going to school and truly being educated.”


British Employers warned against giving jobs to more qualified students

Maybe they should just roll dice to select whom they employ.  That would be "fair"

Top companies should ignore unpaid internships and degree classifications during the recruitment process to create a “level playing field” for applicants from poor backgrounds, a Government-backed report has recommended.

Employers should attempt to boost social mobility by ensuring that all barriers to good jobs are “eliminated”, it was claimed.

The study found that large numbers of public and private sector organisations were “unintentionally” using tactics that acted against the interests of people from disadvantaged families.

It criticised employers who looked “favourably” upon students who gained experience through unpaid internships, suggesting that sons and daughters of well-connected parents were far more likely to take advantage.

This follows controversy over an auction run by fee-paying Westminster School of exclusive work experience placements for its students.

MPs have written to companies – including Coutts Bank and Fabergé – asking them to withdraw their internships from the auction amid fears it is “explicitly favouring privilege”.

But the latest study – by the Association of Graduate Recruiters and Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services – found that employers may also be discriminating against disadvantaged applicants by selecting staff based on their degree classification and university.

Figures show students from poor backgrounds are less likely to go onto the very top universities.

Criticism has also been made of the existing degree classification system – in which students with firsts and upper-seconds are prioritised – amid claims it is too crude and fails to assess students’ wider abilities.

The report describes a number of barriers to social mobility, including "employers making decisions on the basis of a graduate's choice of university or educational achievements and experience gained through unpaid internships being looked on favourably".

It adds: “We would like to see employers acknowledge these barriers, and eradicate them.

“We did find a number of companies leading the way in this area, providing best practice examples to other organisations.

“For instance, some companies do not stipulate degree classifications and instead use clear descriptors for their entry requirements whilst others use anonymous application forms in assessment centres.”

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, has previously warned that graduate employers are “fishing in an unduly narrow pool” of talent, which risks discriminating against students from less prestigious institutions.

Backing the latest report, he said: “We want to make the most of the great wealth of graduate talent we have in the UK.”


Australia:  Independent Schools unite to oppose Labor Party reforms

INDEPENDENT schools have struck out against the Gillard government's proposed Gonski education funding changes, declaring that the budget shows not only no additional money but a "significant reduction" for non-government schools.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia has warned Julia Gillard that, without funds to replace the budget cuts, "independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students".

The ISCA, like the National Catholic Education Commission, has complained to the Prime Minister about uncertainty arising from the budget's immediate education forecasts and challenged Labor's public claims about increased funding.

There is now a unified national front from the non-government school sector querying the benefits of the Gonski reforms, undermining the Prime Minister's campaign to get the remaining five premiers and two chief ministers to sign a national agreement by June 30.

Ms Gillard has been campaigning all week to get leaders to join NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, claiming schools would be $16.2 billion worse off over 10 years if her reforms were not accepted and Tony Abbott were elected.

The Independent Education Union in NSW yesterday joined the NSW Catholic Education Commission in strongly objecting to the proposed funding changes and asking members to immediately lobby federal Labor MPs over the "little prospect of significant additional funding, to public, Catholic and independent schools in the short term".

"Catholic and independent employer associations continue to be frustrated by the lack of robustness and stability of the proposed models for funding distribution," the union said.

The letter to Ms Gillard from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, obtained by The Australian, said: "It is difficult to undertake a fully informed analysis of the budget papers due to the unusual circumstances of there being no information in the papers relating to school enrolment projections or information on growth factors beyond December 31, 2013."

Overall, the letter says, there is a "reduction in Australian government funding for schools rather than the increases to school funding that the government indicated would flow to disadvantaged students".

The council was having "difficulty reconciling" budget figures "with the government's public commitments".

Specifically, the independent schools complain about the redirection of National Plan for School Improvement funds and the loss of Targeted Programs, which appears to cut funding for the next two years.

"Without an appropriate level of replacement funding from these loadings for 2014 onwards, independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students," the letter says.

"This immediate loss of Targeted Programs means that any replacement funding is required from the first year of implementation in 2014, not phasing in to 2019 or beyond."

The National Catholic Education Commission has also "strongly expressed" its dissatisfaction to the Gillard government over "an unsatisfactory situation" on funding that "still drags on and now threatens to become a political football for several more months".

On Wednesday, the NSW head of the Catholic Education Commission, Bishop Anthony Fisher, said the process and calculations for non-government school funding for 2014 and beyond were uncertain, imprecise, extremely complex and annually variable.

Tony Abbott and the opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, have accused the Gillard government of a "con" and a budget "fiddle" over the figures and rejected Labor's claims that $16.2bn will be lost to schools if the Gonski reforms are not implemented.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said last night Ms Gillard had had "positive discussions" with independent schools since the letter was written. "Funding for independent schools will increase year on year - that is clear from the budget," the spokesman said.