Friday, July 05, 2013

DOJ Says Tolerance Trumps Right to Homeschool

The Justice Department said German laws outlawing homeschooling do not constitute persecution and they want a German homeschooling family kicked out of the United States, according to a briefing filed in a high profile asylum case.

“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” the Justice Department brief states in their battle against the Romeike family. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”

Germany has a national law requiring children to either attend public school or a government-approved private school.

The Romeikes had already been fined and German police once forcibly escorted their five children to school. They were notified that they could ultimately lose custody if they continued to home school.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is representing the family in their battle to start a new life in the United States – even as the Obama administration seeks to have the evangelical Christian family deported.

The family was initially granted asylum, but the Department of Justice objected and demanded the Christian family be deported.

“Attorney General Holder is trying to seek dismissal of this case because he believes that targeting specific groups in the name of tolerance is within the normal legitimate functions of government,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “This cannot be the ultimate position of the United States without denying the essence of our commitment to liberty.”

In their latest court briefing, the Justice Department referenced international court rulings that held “parents could not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of the parents’ convictions, because the child has an independent right to education.”

They also referenced a German court ruling that states “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area.”

Farris said he can’t understand why the Department of Justice would think it’s appropriate to punish families who home school.

“We’re trying to provide a home for this family who would otherwise go back to facing fines, jail time and forcible removal of their children because of their religious convictions about how their children should be educated,” Farris said.

Their fate is now in the hands of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision could come at any time.


Boston schools fail to ensure factual Middle East educational materials

Controversy continues to simmer in the upscale Boston suburb of Newton over the use of biased and substandard instructional materials to teach students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recently, the town spared no expense renovating one of its high schools at a cost of $200 million. But Newton’s commitment to its schools has not translated into ensuring that factually accurate material is used to teach students about the Middle East.

The controversy began two years ago when a parent, looking over his daughter’s reading assignment, discovered a handout that accused Israeli soldiers of abusing and murdering imprisoned Palestinian women. The selection came from a textbook called The Arab World Studies Notebook. This textbook had already been exposed for its advocacy of Islam and for making ludicrous claims—for example, that Muslim explorers discovered America and that Iroquois Indians had Muslim names. The outcry that followed prompted the school administration to remove it.

But that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. A more widespread problem was revealed when it was learned that a leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel had given a seminar to history teachers on teaching about the Middle East. Soon, more evidence of inaccurate and anti-Israel materials used in the schools came to light.

Last November, in an attempt to head off the controversy, the vice chairman of the Newton School Committee published an op-ed in local papers offering reassurance that anti-Israel materials were not systematically used in Newton schools. He denounced town residents who had raised the issue for engaging in “McCarthyesque” tactics, and added, “Does it really sound plausible that for years virtually everyone has unknowingly been the victim of the teaching of such horrible material?”

Sadly, the most recent batch of handouts used in the 10th-grade honors class offers new evidence of a continuing problem. It contains a timeline titled “POV: History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” that purports to cover both “An Israeli Perspective” and “A Palestinian Perspective.” It was compiled in 2001 by a young intern with no apparent expertise on the subject.

The author thanked Professor Mark LeVine of University of California, Irvine for reviewing the document. LeVine is an agitator against Israel who publishes on the English website of Al Jazeera. In a guest column in The Huffington Post on Jan. 13, 2009, he likened Hamas’s fight against Israel in Gaza to “the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.” LeVine contended that Israelis have an “addiction” to violence and suffer from “collective mental illness.”

The timeline ignores the religious and ideological component of Arab rejection of the Jewish state. For example, the only reason given for the Arab rejection of the United Nations partition resolution in November 1947 is that the Arabs “considered the proposal unrepresentative of the demographic distribution of Jews and Arabs living in Palestine.” There is no discussion of the religion-sanctioned rejection of the Jewish state, or of Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Husseini’s use of religious and racial bigotry to inflame Arab sentiment against the Jews.

An accompanying class discussion guide called “Class notes for Israel Palistine (sic) (Student & Teacher Discussion)” also dismisses the religious component, stating, “This is a conflict over land.” What lies behind the downplaying of the religious component is an attempt to cast Israel as a neo-colonial state usurping the land of the indigenous population. This narrative, fashionable among anti-Israel academics, designates the Arabs as indigenous people while denying that status to the Jews whose continuous history on the land goes much further back.

The class guide asserts, “Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and Palestinian nationalism seek essentially the same goal: a state that can provide security, economic opportunity, and a connection to a land.” This feigned evenhanded approach promotes a falsehood, for both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas charters call for the dismantling of the Jewish state. An accurate recounting of Palestinian nationalism shows that opposition to the Jewish state came first, while the demand for a Palestinian Arab state emerged only later.

Newton students should read the works of distinguished scholars. Instead, students are exposed to the dogma peddled by anti-Israel activists at teacher workshops, to fringe academics or to error-prone pages pulled from the Internet. One such handout from a website called “Flashpoints” identified Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine (a non-existent state) and incorrectly labeled Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel (it’s actually Jerusalem).

The POV timeline typifies this agenda-driven approach. Students are told that in 1948, “Fighting breaks out between the newly declared State of Israel and its Arab neighbors,” and not that the surrounding Arab states attacked the Jewish state on the day after it was formally recognized by a resolution of the United Nations.

The careful wording of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 to not require Israel to withdraw from all of the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War is described as only the English-language version. The handout contends that altered versions in other languages are equally valid.

Students are told that “rightwing Israelis” call the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”— without being informed that the label “West Bank” originated with the Jordanian occupation from 1949 to 1967.

Palestinian terrorism is downplayed, while rare instances of Israeli violence are highlighted. The first terrorist act inside Israel and the West Bank specifically mentioned is the 1994 attack on Palestinian worshipers by Baruch Goldstein. The murders of 37 Israelis in the coastal road massacre in March 1978 and of 26 Israeli schoolchildren and teachers in Ma’alot in May 1974 are not mentioned. Students are not told that while Goldstein is reviled in Israel, Palestinian perpetrators of terror attacks, like terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, are held up as role models to be emulated by Palestinian children.

Students are told that the Oslo Accords meant that the two sides “were no longer claiming that the other did not have the right to exist as a state of peoples on that land.” Students are not informed that at the Fatah Party Congress in 2009 participants cheered as Palestinian Authority officials vowed never to recognize the Jewish State and reaffirmed their commitment to armed struggle.

A complete and accurate account of the conflict should not be sacrificed on the altar of evenhandedness and the refusal to take sides. With all the upheaval in the Middle East and its impact on America, parents unfortunately cannot count on schools and town officials to ensure that accurate and quality instruction occurs. Parents need to make their voices heard so that their children aren’t fed Pollyannaish revisions of reality.


Math lessons 'failing to prepare British pupils for world of work'

All pupils should be required to study maths up to the age of 18 amid fears GCSEs in the subject are failing to prepare children for the workplace, according to a major report.

Schools and colleges should provide an extra two years worth of teaching because too many teenagers struggle to use mental arithmetic, reasoning, spreadsheets and graphs in their everyday life, it was claimed.

The report – published by the Sutton Trust charity – said that a basic grounding in maths was a prerequisite for most careers, particularly finance, nursing, engineering, construction, transportation and retail.

But it warned that the modern application of the subject in the workplace was “not generally reflected in school mathematics”.

The study, which was carried out by academics from King’s College London, also revealed that children in England were significantly less likely to study maths up to the age of 18 than in many other countries.

Currently, a quarter of pupils study the subject in some form between 16 and 18 compared with 95 per cent in Hong Kong, 90 per cent in Germany and 66 per cent in Singapore.

The disclosure follows the publication of international league tables showing that England is now ranked 26th out of 34 in terms of the proportion of pupils reaching high standards in the subject.

Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust chairman, said: “Few would proudly proclaim their illiteracy. Yet many happily say they are no good at maths.

“The education system reinforces this attitude. For the vast majority of young people, mathematics finishes with GCSEs.

“Maths matters too much to discontinue studying it at 16. Young people’s ability to benefit fully from higher education and play a productive role in the workplace depends increasingly on their mathematical competence.”

The Government has already said that teenagers who fail to gain a C grade GCSE in maths will be required to study the subject up to the age of 18. This coincides with a decision to increase the education leaving age to 17 from September this year and 18 in 2015.

But the Sutton Trust called on ministers to go further by making maths a compulsory requirement of education for all 16- to 18-year-olds, reflecting a move recently outlined by Labour.

Today’s report found that a modern workforce needed skills in mental arithmetic, estimation and approximation, reasoning, using calculators or spreadsheets and interpreting tables, graphs and diagrams.

It found that GCSE maths often taught these skills but not their practical application in everyday life. It cited the example of nurses who needed to administer the correct doses of medicine and mortgage advisors who needed to be able to explain savings to customers.

Researchers said the curriculum should provide students with more problem-solving situations involving “messy contexts that do not have straightforward solutions” to develop children’s skills.

Pupils should also have more opportunity to “interpret and communicate the mathematics that they are involved in”.


Thursday, July 04, 2013

California teachers suing to end mandatory union dues

A group of California teachers is preparing for a Supreme Court battle to overturn forced union dues in a groundbreaking lawsuits filed in June.

For nearly three decades, the Supreme Court has allowed closed-shop unionism, in which public employees must pay dues to labor groups handling collective bargaining negotiations.

The Supreme Court established Beck Rights in 1988 allowing workers to opt out of union dues for political activities, while continuing to pay for union negotiating expenses. The teachers are hoping to take that battle one step further by putting an end to all coercive union dues.

Ten California schoolteachers are challenging California’s policy of forcing all public employees to pay union dues for collective bargaining. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is aiding their suit. The CIR views the issue through the lens of the Constitution, rather than as a contest of labor policy.

“Our efforts are not anti-union; we are trying to solidify the First Amendment rights of public employees to freely assemble,” CIR president Terry Pell said.

The plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction on Tuesday asking the court to waive the teachers’ union dues during the ongoing trial. Pell is certain the motion will fail, which is all the better for the plaintiffs because it will “fast-track” the litigation to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the Supreme Court.

“This is a piece of strategic litigation—we’re trying to get the issue of compulsory union dues to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible,” he said. “We know that lower courts can’t overrule Supreme Court precedent, but this will expedite us through the system.”

The Roberts court opened the door to ending coercive unionism last year when it ruled 5-4 that Service Employees International Union improperly charged non-union members for political activities. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, said the forced dues on non-union members were “indefensible”

“Public-sector unions have the right under the First Amendment to express their views on political and social issues without government interference … But employees who choose not to join a union have the same rights,” Alito ruled. “The First Amendment creates a forum in which all may seek, without hindrance or aid from the State, to move public opinion and achieve their political goals.”

The California plaintiffs take this reasoning a step further. They argue that negotiations between teachers unions and state officials are a political act in and of themselves. Paying money to aid in union negotiations, Pell says, violates the rights of teachers who object to union goals of maximizing expensive benefits, such as California’s underfunded pension plan.

“All public-sector union bargaining—on issues like pensions and pay and leave and seniority rules—are claims on the public Treasury, an inherently political act,” Pell said. “Some union teachers may think this is a good thing, but our clients say that unions shouldn’t be collecting more and more of the public pie while the parents of their students are struggling.”

The Obama administration’s labor policies have only exacerbated the tension between First Amendment rights and financing the political activities of unions.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in December 2012 that non-union employees should be forced to pay for lobbying expenses as an “apolitical” activity, if the costs lead to improvements for all employees.

“The NLRB crossed over the line,” Pell said. “Union collective bargaining or union ads and lobbying that promote increased education spending are overtly political.”

The teachers are not alone in their fight. The National Right to Work Foundation, which won the Knox case, is waging a similar battle in Texas where six airline employees filed a class action suit challenging the concept of exclusive bargaining as an encroachment on the freedom of assembly and speech.

“Union bosses have abused their extraordinary government-granted power to automatically compel workers to fund their political activities unless workers object—a power granted to no other private organization in our country—for far too long,” Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work, said in a statement. “The First Amendment right of workers who refrain from union membership to automatically refrain from paying union dues at all and especially for politics is long overdue.”


New Study: Missouri Charter Schools Outperform Districts

This week, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released an impressive study about the impact of charter schools. On average, the results are modest, but positive for charter schools.

The CREDO study updates a 2009 study of charter schools in 16 states, which included Missouri, and expands the study to now include 27 states. These states enroll more than 95 percent of all charter school students.

School choice critics often cited the 2009 study because charter schools performed slightly worse, on average, than their traditional school counterparts. In the updated analysis, charter schools in the original 16 states improved significantly relative to district schools. Now, the average charter school in those states outperforms the traditional public school in reading and has closed the gap but still performs worse in math.

The primary reason for the improvement of charter schools was the closure of low-performing schools. Using statistical methods, the researchers converted student achievement gains into days of learning. Charter schools that closed since the 2009 study “posted an average of 72 fewer days of learning in reading and 80 fewer days of learning in math before closure.”

In the 27-state analysis, the results are even more positive for charter schools. “Overall, students attending charter schools have eight additional days of learning in reading and similar learning gains in math compared to their peers attending traditional public schools.”

Missouri charter schools performed particularly well in comparison to district schools. On average, students in Missouri charter schools learned significantly more in reading and math. These gains translate to nearly three weeks more learning in reading and more than a month of extra learning in math.

Before I paint too rosy of a picture, the results were not positive across the board. Just like district-run public schools, there is tremendous variation in Missouri and across the nation. The beauty of charter schools, as we have seen, is that the low-performing ones close.


Essay by a teacher in a black high school

I posted the story below in July 2009, shortly after it became available.  Being a creepy-ass cracker, however, I think that such a rare insight deserves recycling

Until recently I taught at a predominantly black high school in a southeastern state.

The mainstream press gives a hint of what conditions are like in black schools, but only a hint. Expressions journalists use like “chaotic” or “poor learning environment” or “lack of discipline” do not capture what really happens. There is nothing like the day-to-day experience of teaching black children and that is what I will try to convey.

Most whites simply do not know what black people are like in large numbers, and the first encounter can be a shock.

One of the most immediately striking things about my students was that they were loud. They had little conception of ordinary decorum. It was not unusual for five blacks to be screaming at me at once. Instead of calming down and waiting for a lull in the din to make their point — something that occurs to even the dimmest white students — blacks just tried to yell over each other.

It did no good to try to quiet them, and white women were particularly inept at trying. I sat in on one woman’s class as she begged the children to pipe down. They just yelled louder so their voices would carry over hers.

Many of my black students would repeat themselves over and over again — just louder. It was as if they suffered from Tourette syndrome. They seemed to have no conception of waiting for an appropriate time to say something. They would get ideas in their heads and simply had to shout them out. I might be leading a discussion on government and suddenly be interrupted: “We gotta get more Democrats! Clinton, she good!” The student may seem content with that outburst but two minutes later, he would suddenly start yelling again: “Clinton good!”

Anyone who is around young blacks will probably get a constant diet of rap music. Blacks often make up their own jingles, and it was not uncommon for 15 black boys to swagger into a classroom, bouncing their shoulders and jiving back.

They were yelling back and forth, rapping 15 different sets of words in the same harsh, rasping dialect. The words were almost invariably a childish form of boasting: “Who got dem shine rim, who got dem shine shoe, who got dem shine grill (gold and silver dental caps)?” The amateur rapper usually ends with a claim–in the crudest terms imaginable — that all womankind is sexually devoted to him. For whatever reason, my students would often groan instead of saying a particular word, as in, “She suck dat aaahhhh (think of a long grinding groan), she f**k dat aaaahhhh, she lick dat aaaahhh.”

Black women love to dance — in a way white people might call gyrating. So many black girls dance in the hall, in the classroom, on the chairs, next to the chairs, under the chairs, everywhere. Once I took a call on my cell phone and had to step outside of class. I was away about two minutes but when I got back the black girls had lined up at the front of the classroom and were convulsing to the delight of the boys.

Many black people, especially black women, are enormously fat. Some are so fat I had to arrange special seating to accommodate their bulk. I am not saying there are no fat white students — there are — but it is a matter of numbers and attitudes. Many black girls simply do not care that they are fat. There are plenty of white anorexics, but I have never met or heard of a black anorexic.

“Black women be big Mr. Jackson,” my students would explain.

“Is it okay in the black community to be a little overweight?” I ask. Two obese black girls in front of my desk begin to dance, “You know dem boys lak juicy fruit, Mr. Jackson.” “Juicy” is a colorful black expression for the buttocks.

Blacks, on average, are the most directly critical people I have ever met: “Dat shirt stupid. Yo’ kid a bastard. Yo’ lips big.” Unlike whites, who tread gingerly around the subject of race, they can be brutally to the point. Once I needed to send a student to the office to deliver a message. I asked for volunteers, and suddenly you would think my classroom was a bastion of civic engagement. Thirty dark hands shot into the air. My students loved to leave the classroom and slack off, even if just for a few minutes, away from the eye of white authority. I picked a light-skinned boy to deliver the message. One very black student was indignant: “You pick da half-breed.” And immediately other blacks take up the cry, and half a dozen mouths are screaming, “He half-breed.”

For decades, the country has been lamenting the poor academic performance of blacks and there is much to lament. There is no question, however, that many blacks come to school with a serious handicap that is not their fault. At home they have learned a dialect that is almost a different language. Blacks not only mispronounce words; their grammar is often wrong. When a black wants to ask, “Where is the bathroom?” he may actually say “Whar da badroom be?” Grammatically, this is the equivalent of “Where the bathroom is?” And this is the way they speak in high school. Students write the way they speak, so this is the language that shows up in written assignments.

It is true that some whites face a similar handicap. They speak with what I would call a “country” accent that is hard to reproduce but results in sentences such as “I’m gonna gemme a Coke.” Some of these country whites had to learn correct pronunciation and usage. The difference is that most whites overcome this handicap and learn to speak correctly; many blacks do not.

Most of the blacks I taught simply had no interest in academic subjects. I taught history, and students would often say they didn’t want to do an assignment or they didn’t like history because it was all about white people. Of course, this was “diversity” history, in which every cowboy’s black cook got a special page on how he contributed to winning the West, but black children still found it inadequate. So I would throw up my hands and assign them a project on a real, historical black person. My favorite was Marcus Garvey. They had never heard of him, and I would tell them to research him, but they never did. They didn’t care and they didn’t want to do any work.

Anyone who teaches blacks soon learns that they have a completely different view of government from whites. Once I decided to fill 25 minutes by having students write about one thing the government should do to improve America. I gave this question to three classes totaling about 100 students, approximately 80 of whom were black. My few white students came back with generally “conservative” ideas. “We need to cut off people who don’t work,” was the most common suggestion. Nearly every black gave a variation on the theme of “We need more government services.”

My students had only the vaguest notion of who pays for government services. For them, it was like a magical piggy bank that never goes empty. One black girl was exhorting the class on the need for more social services and I kept trying to explain that people, real live people, are taxed for the money to pay for those services. “Yeah, it come from whites,” she finally said. “They stingy anyway.”

“Many black people make over $50,000 dollars a year and you would also be taking away from your own people,” I said.

She had an answer to that: “Dey half breed.” The class agreed. I let the subject drop.

Many black girls are perfectly happy to be welfare queens. On career day, one girl explained to the class that she was going to have lots of children and get fat checks from the government. No one in the class seemed to have any objection to this career choice.

Surprising attitudes can come out in class discussion. We were talking about the crimes committed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and I brought up the rape of a young girl in the bathroom of the Superdome. A majority of my students believed this was a horrible crime but a few took it lightly. One black boy spoke up without raising his hand: “Dat no big deal. They thought they is gonna die so they figured they have some fun. Dey jus’ wanna have a fun time; you know what I’m sayin’?” A few black heads nodded in agreement.

My department head once asked all the teachers to get a response from all students to the following question: “Do you think it is okay to break the law if it will benefit you greatly?” By then, I had been teaching for a while and was not surprised by answers that left a young, liberal, white woman colleague aghast. “Yeah” was the favorite answer. As one student explained, “Get dat green.”

There is a level of conformity among blacks that whites would find hard to believe. They like one kind of music: rap. They will vote for one political party: Democrat. They dance one way, speak one way, are loud the same way, and fail their exams in the same way. Of course, there are exceptions but they are rare.

Whites are different. Some like country music, others heavy metal, some prefer pop, and still others, God forbid, enjoy rap music. They have different associations, groups, almost ideologies. There are jocks, nerds, preppies, and hunters. Blacks are all — well — black, and they are quick to let other blacks know when they deviate from the norm.

One might object that there are important group differences among blacks that a white man simply cannot detect. I have done my best to find them, but so far as I can tell, they dress the same, talk the same, think the same. Certainly, they form rival groups, but the groups are not different in any discernible way. There simply are no groups of blacks that are as distinctly different from each other as white “nerds,” “hunters,” or “Goths,” for example.

How the world looks to blacks: One point on which all blacks agree is that everything is “racis’.” This is one message of liberalism they have absorbed completely. Did you do your homework? “Na, homework racis’.” Why did you get an F on the test? “Test racis’.”

I was trying to teach a unit on British philosophers and the first thing the students noticed about Bentham, Hobbes, and Locke was “Dey all white! Where da black philosopher a’?” I tried to explain there were no blacks in eighteenth century Britain. You can probably guess what they said to that: “Dat racis’!” One student accused me of deliberately failing him on a test because I didn’t like black people.

“Do you think I really hate black people?”
“Have I done anything to make you feel this way? How do you know?”
“You just do.”
“Why do you say that?”

He just smirked, looked out the window, and sucked air through his teeth. Perhaps this was a regional thing, but the blacks often sucked air through their teeth as a wordless expression of disdain or hostility.

My students were sometimes unable to see the world except through the lens of their own blackness. I had a class that was host to a German exchange student. One day he put on a Power Point presentation with famous German landmarks as well as his school and family.

From time to time during the presentation, blacks would scream, “Where da black folk?!” The exasperated German tried several times to explain that there were no black people where he lived in Germany. The students did not believe him. I told them Germany is in Europe, where white people are from, and Africa is where black people are from. They insisted that the German student was racist, and deliberately refused to associate with blacks.

Blacks are keenly interested in their own racial characteristics. I have learned, for example, that some blacks have “good hair.” Good hair is black parlance for black-white hybrid hair. Apparently, it is less kinky, easier to style, and considered more attractive. Blacks are also proud of light skin. Imagine two black students shouting insults across the room. One is dark but slim; the other light and obese. The dark one begins the exchange: “You fat, Ridario!” Ridario smiles, doesn’t deign to look at his detractor, shakes his head like a wobbling top, and says, “You wish you light skinned.”

They could go on like this, repeating the same insults over and over.

My black students had nothing but contempt for Hispanic immigrants. They would vent their feelings so crudely that our department strongly advised us never to talk about immigration in class in case the principal or some outsider might overhear.

Whites were “racis’,” of course, but they thought of us at least as Americans. Not the Mexicans. Blacks have a certain, not necessarily hostile understanding of white people. They know how whites act, and it is clear they believe whites are smart and are good at organizing things. At the same time, they probably suspect whites are just putting on an act when they talk about equality, as if it is all a sham that makes it easier for whites to control blacks. Blacks want a bigger piece of the American pie. I’m convinced that if it were up to them they would give whites a considerably smaller piece than whites get now, but they would give us something. They wouldn’t give Mexicans anything.

What about black boys and white girls? No one is supposed to notice this or talk about it but it is glaringly obvious: Black boys are obsessed with white girls. I’ve witnessed the following drama countless times. A black boy saunters up to a white girl. The cocky black dances around her, not really in a menacing way. It’s more a shuffle than a threat. As he bobs and shuffles he asks, “When you gonna go wit’ me?”

There are two kinds of reply. The more confident white girl gets annoyed, looks away from the black and shouts, “I don’t wanna go out with you!” The more demure girl will look at her feet and mumble a polite excuse but ultimately say no.

There is only one response from the black boy: “You racis’.” Many girls — all too many — actually feel guilty because they do not want to date blacks. Most white girls at my school stayed away from blacks, but a few, particularly the ones who were addicted to drugs, fell in with them.

There is something else that is striking about blacks. They seem to have no sense of romance, of falling in love. What brings men and women together is sex, pure and simple, and there is a crude openness about this. There are many degenerate whites, of course, but some of my white students were capable of real devotion and tenderness, emotions that seemed absent from blacks — especially the boys.

Black schools are violent and the few whites who are too poor to escape are caught in the storm. The violence is astonishing, not so much that it happens, but the atmosphere in which it happens. Blacks can be smiling, seemingly perfectly content with what they are doing, having a good time, and then, suddenly start fighting. It’s uncanny. Not long ago, I was walking through the halls and a group of black boys were walking in front of me. All of a sudden they started fighting with another group in the hallway.

Blacks are extraordinarily quick to take offense. Once I accidentally scuffed a black boy’s white sneaker with my shoe. He immediately rubbed his body up against mine and threatened to attack me. I stepped outside the class and had a security guard escort the student to the office. It was unusual for students to threaten teachers physically this way, but among themselves, they were quick to fight for similar reasons.

The real victims are the unfortunate whites caught in this. They are always in danger and their educations suffer. White weaklings are particularly susceptible, but mostly to petty violence. They may be slapped or get a couple of kicks when they are trying to open a bottom locker. Typically, blacks save the hard, serious violence for each other.

There was a lot of promiscuous sex among my students and this led to violence. Black girls were constantly fighting over black boys. It was not uncommon to see two girls literally ripping each other’s hair out with a police officer in the middle trying to break up the fight. The black boy they were fighting over would be standing by with a smile, enjoying the show he had created. For reasons I cannot explain, boys seldom fought over girls.

Pregnancy was common among the blacks, though many black girls were so fat I could not tell the difference. I don’t know how many girls got abortions, but when they had the baby they usually stayed in school and had their own parents look after the child. The school did not offer daycare.

Aside from the police officers constantly on patrol, a sure sign that you are in a black school is the coke cage: the chain-link fence that many majority-black schools use to protect vending machines. The cage surrounds the machine and even covers its top. Delivery employees have to unlock a gate on the front of the cage to service the machines. Companies would prefer not to build cages around vending machines. They are expensive, ugly, and a bother, but black students smashed the machines so many times it was cheaper to build a cage than repair the damage. Rumor had it that before the cages went up blacks would turn the machines upside down in the hope that the money would fall out.

Security guards are everywhere in black schools — we had one on every hall. They also sat in on unruly classes and escorted students to the office. They were unarmed, but worked closely with the three city police officers who were constantly on duty.

There was a lot of drug-dealing at my school. This was a good way to make a fair amount of money but it also gave boys power over girls who wanted drugs. An addicted girl — black or white — became the plaything of anyone who could get her drugs.

One of my students was a notorious drug dealer. Everyone knew it. He was 19 years old and in eleventh grade. Once he got a score of three out of 100 on a test. He had been locked up four times since he was 13.

One day, I asked him, “Why do you come to school?”

He wouldn’t answer. He just looked out the window, smiled, and sucked air through his teeth. His friend Yidarius ventured an explanation: “He get dat green and get dem females.”

“What is the green?” I asked. “Money or dope?” “Both,” said Yidarius with a smile.

A very fat black interrupted from across the room: “We get dat lunch,” Mr. Jackson. “We gotta get dat lunch and brickfuss.” He means the free breakfast and lunch poor students get every day. “Nigga, we know’d you be lovin’ brickfuss!” shouts another student.

Some readers may believe that I have drawn a cruel caricature of black students. After all, according to official figures some 85 percent of them graduate. It would be instructive to know how many of those scraped by with barely a C- record. They go from grade to grade and they finally get their diplomas because there is so much pressure on teachers to push them through. It saves money to move them along, the school looks good, and the teachers look good.

Many of these children should have been failed, but the system would crack under their weight if they were all held back.

How did my experiences make me feel about blacks? Ultimately, I lost sympathy for them. In so many ways they seem to make their own beds. There they were in an integrationist’s fantasy–in the same classroom with white students, eating the same lunch, using the same bathrooms, listening to the same teachers–and yet the blacks fail while the whites pass.

A rewarding relationship can grow up between an exceptional, interested student and his teacher. I have stayed in my classroom with a group of students discussing ideas and playing chess until the janitor kicked us out. I was the old gentleman, imparting my history, culture, personal loves and triumphs, defeats and failures to young kinsman. Sometimes I fancied myself Tyrtaeus, the Spartan poet, who counseled the youth to honor and loyalty. I never had this kind intimacy with a black student, and I know of no other white teacher who did.

Many white students possess a certain innocence; their cheeks still blush. Try as I might, I could not get the blacks to care one bit about Beethoven or Sherman’s march to the sea, or Tyrtaeus, or Oswald Spengler, or even liberals like John Rawls, or their own history. They cared about nothing I tried to teach them. When this goes on year after year it chokes the soul out of a teacher, destroys his pathos, and sends him guiltily searching for The Bell Curve on the Internet.

Blacks break down the intimacy that can be achieved in the classroom, and leave you convinced that that intimacy is really a form of kinship. Without intending to, they destroy what is most beautiful–whether it be your belief in human equality, your daughter’s innocence, or even the state of the hallway.

Just last year I read on the bathroom stall the words “F**k Whitey.” Not two feet away, on the same stall, was a small swastika.

The National Council for the Social Studies, the leading authority on social science education in the United States, urges teachers to inculcate such values as equality of opportunity, individual property rights, and a democratic form of government. Even if teachers could inculcate this milquetoast ideology into whites, liberalism is doomed because so many non-whites are not receptive to education of any kind beyond the merest basics.

It is impossible to get them to care about such abstractions as property rights or democratic citizenship. They do not see much further than the fact that you live in a big house and “we in da pro-jek.” Of course, there are a few loutish whites who will never think past their next meal and a few sensitive blacks for whom anything is possible, but no society takes on the characteristics of its exceptions.

Once I asked my students, “What do you think of the Constitution?” “It white,” one slouching black rang out. The class began to laugh. And I caught myself laughing along with them, laughing while Pompeii’s volcano simmers, while the barbarians swell around the Palatine, while the country I love, and the job I love, and the community I love become dimmer by the day.

I read a book by an expatriate Rhodesian who visited Zimbabwe not too many years ago. Traveling with a companion, she stopped at a store along the highway. A black man materialized next to her car window. “Job, boss, (I) work good, boss,” he pleaded. “You give job.”

“What happened to your old job?” the expatriate white asked. The black man replied in the straightforward manner of his race: “We drove out the whites. No more jobs. You give job.”

At some level, my students understand the same thing. One day I asked the bored, black faces staring back at me. “What would happen if all the white people in America disappeared tomorrow?”

“We screwed,” a young, pitch-black boy screamed back. The rest of the blacks laughed.

I have had children tell me to my face as they struggled with an assignment. “I cain’t do dis,” Mr. Jackson. “I black.”

The point is that human beings are not always rational. It is in the black man’s interest to have whites in Zimbabwe but he drives them out and starves. Most whites do not think black Americans could ever do anything so irrational. They see blacks on television smiling, fighting evil whites, embodying white values. But the real black is not on television, and you pull your purse closer when you see him, and you lock the car doors when he swaggers by with his pants hanging down almost to his knees.

For those of you with children, better a smaller house in a white district than a fancy one near a black school.

I have been in parent-teacher conferences that broke my heart: the child pleading with his parents to take him out of school; the parents convinced their child’s fears are groundless. If you love your child, show her you care — not by giving her fancy vacations or a car, but making her innocent years safe and happy. Give her the gift of a not-heavily black school.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Interest rates on federally subsidized student loans officially double

In the summer heat of the election last year, Congress passed a one-year extension on keeping the interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford loans for college students at the artificially low rate of 3.4 percent — and the sand finally ran out on that temporary stopgap today, hiking the rate up to 6.8 percent. Republicans have been proposing to link students loan rates to the freer financial-market benchmarks instead of allowing Congress to arbitrarily determine what they deem to be an appropriate rate, while Democrats are looking to keep the interests rates as low as they in their infinite wisdom see fit. There’s still a possibility that Congress could pass some kind of deal in the near future, but an agreement isn’t looking likely, via Fox News:
    President Obama included a variation of that market-based approach in the budget he sent to Congress earlier this year, leaving his fellow Democrats trying to block his efforts.

    “Why Senate Democrats continue to attack the president’s plan is a mystery to me, but I hope he’s able to persuade them to join our bipartisan effort to assist students,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said last week

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that a proposal to tie loan rates to the 10-year treasury note yield could never pass the Senate and that he couldn’t back something that doesn’t include stronger protections for students and parents.

    “There is no deal on student loans that can pass the Senate because Republicans continue to insist that we reduce the deficit on the backs of students and middle-class families, instead of closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations,” Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, told Fox News last week. “Senate Democrats continue to work in good faith to reach a compromise but Republicans refuse to give on this critical point.”

Er, we shouldn’t reduce the deficit on the backs of students and the middle class? How about we shouldn’t be continually growing the deficit, the consequences of which will eventually fall upon students and the middle class? Anyone?


Maybe It's OK to Let Student Loan Rates Jump

President Obama long ago began a campaign called "#dontdoublemyrate", trying to get out in front of Republicans on the issue of holding down the interest rate for federally-subsidized Stafford college loans, which were cut in half as a temporary measure and are set to expire today. President Obama launched this initiative last year and it's popped up again this year.

Republicans have now tried to hit back. Majority Leader Eric Cantor today created a "#dontdoublemyrate" report card graphic to promote Republicans' action on the issue:

This is true: House Republicans have attempted to head off the student loan rate jump, while Senate Democrats have refused to entertain any realistic legislation to do the same even as they demagogue against Republicans for refusing to help out students.

The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews has a long discussion of the student loan issue today, but one of the major takeaways is that artificially holding down federally-subsidized Stafford loans is a pretty terrible idea:
   There’s a growing body of literature suggesting that government programs like generous student loan rates encourage colleges to hike tuition. That, in the long-run, makes college less affordable for everybody. Additionally, unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are very poorly targeted aid. If you think, as many experts do, that student loan programs generally lose money for the government, then losing money making college cost less for upper-middle-class kids is a bit hard to defend. Reed and Durbin’s plan, specifically, probably costs about $184 billion over ten years. That’s a lot of money that could do a lot of things.

Republicans have actually successfully gotten out in front of Democrats on the student loan issue. If certain Democrats (like Sen. Elizabeth Warren) got their way, federally-subsidized Stafford loans would become a much larger mess. This might be a better issue to let go, even despite Democrats' incoherence.


More pupils In Britain speaking English as a second language

The number of schoolchildren speaking English as a second language soared to a record high of more than one million this year amid a continuing rise in immigration, it has emerged.

Official figures show that almost one-in-five pupils in primary education now speak another language in the home following a sharp hike in the number of foreign-born pupils over the last 12 months.

In inner London, native English speakers are now in a minority, with the proportion as low as a quarter in boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Newham and Westminster.

Across England, the number of children who do not have English as their mother tongue has increased by 54,000 in the last 12 months and around 228,000 since 2008. The number stands at almost 1.1m in 2012/13.

Figures suggest that the proportion of children starting school with English as a second language has now doubled since the late 90s.

The disclosure – in data from the Department for Education – comes amid concerns that a rise in the number of immigrants is having a significant affect on public services.

It follows the publication of data showing that an extra 250,000 primary school places are needed within the next year, with immigration and rising birth rates cited a major cause of the shortage.

Some head teachers have complained that budgets set aside to teach children from immigrant and refugee backgrounds have been cut – leaving them struggling to buy in specialist support for pupils.

According to the latest data, 1,061,010 pupils speak other languages at home in the current academic year compared with 1,007,090 a year earlier and 832,790 in 2008. The figures cover primary, secondary and special schools.

In all, children without English as their mother tongue make up 18.1 per cent of primary school pupils compared with 17.5 per cent a year earlier.

Figures show that the proportion is higher than a third in 36 local authority areas, including Blackburn, Manchester, Bradford, Leicester and Birmingham.

The proportion of primary pupils speaking other languages tops more than half in inner-London, Luton and Slough.

The highest proportion of children who do not have English as their mother tongue is found in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, where numbers are as high as 76.1 per cent, followed by 74.8 per cent in Newham and 72.3 in Westminster.

DfE figures also show that the proportion of children speaking English as a second language in secondary schools stands at 13.6 per cent this academic year – up from 12.9 per cent in 2011/12.

The figures also show an increase in the number of pupils in England classed as being from an ethnic minority background.

In all, almost three in 10 primary school children are in this category in the current academic year, with numbers reaching almost a quarter in secondary education.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Socialists Honor the Chicago Teachers Union

Socialists Honor the Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis recently claimed she isn’t politically “radical.”  Tell that to the Democratic Socialists of America.

The DSA recently honored the CTU and various activists for their work on left-wing causes at its 55th Annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner in Chicago.

The socialist group recognized the CTU for “consistently stand[ing] for education and professionalism.” The union “has shown that organizing is more than just mobilization and that defending a public good requires an organized public,” the socialist group said,

Since when is walking out on struggling children during a 10-day strike “standing for professionalism”? What does it say about the CTU when it’s winning – and accepting – awards from socialists?

It tells us that this teachers union is not working to prepare children to succeed in the real America, where individual effort and responsibility are hallmarks of a successful capitalistic system that the socialists love to hate.

The DSA also honored Keith Kelleher, a long-time leader of SEIU health care workers in Illinois and Indiana. The DSA notes Kelleher received “a much belated (from 2007) greeting from Barack Obama.”

The socialist group is delivering messages from Obama? What does that say about the company our president kept before taking office, and where his heart truly lies?

William McNary, a rabble-rouser with the far-left Citizen Action, also received an award for his “passionate oratory that has been an inspiration to action.”

EAGnews caught McNary’s style of “passionate oratory” on camera when he challenged Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to a fist fight.

See the video here!

The Democratic Socialists of America is nothing more than a rabble-rousing group that wants to create dissention and attack the social and economic foundations that made America great.

Being honored by such a group is certainly nothing to be proud of.

But the socialist awards do serve a useful purpose for the general public. They identify the groups and individuals that share the DSA’s anti-American views and should be avoided at all costs.


The Shackles of a Diploma

In the face of staunchly high unemployment and the prospect of long term job scarcity, one of the most common solutions is to increase your skill set or pick up a new one; to go back to school.  Throughout most of the last half of the last century, we've had it hammered into us and into our children that we need to attend higher education in order to achieve more profitable employment.  According to the 2000 Census, people with a high school diploma averaged a little less than two thousand dollars a month while people with a bachelor's earned almost double that.  For those who can support a Ph.D at the end of their name?   The average is almost eight thousand a year.  Sounds like a no-brainer investment.

The problem is that while the average salary is higher, the bill in the aftermath can be devastating.  The debt left after a bachelor's degree ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the school and attainable aid.  That lovely Dr. prefix?  Five years in a doctorate program will run between $250,000 to $300,000.  So how does that average out?  The class of 2013 was left with sticker shock: the average debt they walked down the aisle with was $35,200.  Currently, the total amount of student loan debt is approaching a trillion dollars with larger and larger amounts of this debt being delinquent in payments.  When you take high rates of unemployment, people delaying retirement longer, market crashes and bubbles, and severe cuts on services due to government budget control (a phrase I can almost write with a straight face), you have a recipe for an incredible amount of stress on the middle and working classes.  Now, add to that the dangling carrot of higher wages that may in fact actually cause wages to be lower due to loan repayment and suddenly that stress becomes almost unbearable.

With the doubling of the interest rate on these loans scheduled to go into effect next week, this is an economic catastrophe waiting to happen on the macro scale and a tragedy for the individuals that are going to suffer the consequences of attempting to better themselves: the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed so much that, outside of the exceedingly wealthy, higher education has also become synonymous with extreme amounts of debt.

The truth is that any solution is going to have to be both at the student level and at a significantly higher level.  If the United States wants to stay competitive in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics jobs, higher education needs to be both attainable and affordable, allowing these new graduates to use their degrees to participate in the general economy, not just the debt.  At the student level, people need to be more informed about their educational options; an engineering degree that makes $80,000 a year shackled to a $100,000 in debt with a huge interest rate will be worth significantly less to the owner than a technical certificate that makes $60,000 a year with only $5,000 in course fees.  Likewise, these students need to be educated on early investment development. 

A $100,000 in loans, on an average time frame to pay (10 years for students), with 6.8% interest, will total out to almost $140,000 at $1,100 a month.  If you took that same thousand dollars a month and invested half of it in a diversified portfolio, you could potentially be substantially ahead of the $100,000 mark with dividends being paid and a hedge to insure your wealth.

The student loan bubble is going to continue to threaten the personal economics of the next generation until it either bursts or we can come up with a better solution than shackling people with endless debt.  In the meanwhile, getting twenty and thirty-somethings into the market, beginning a diversified portfolio they can maintain is a wise choice that will yield more fiscally responsible adults ready to better participate in the greater markets.


Would your mother understand it? Britain's Education Secretary  bans jargon in education department

The Education Secretary has ordered his civil servants to write in language their mums would understand in a drive to banish jargon from his department.

Michael Gove, known for his love of plain English, has written to civil servants with new "golden rules" to make their letters more comprehensible.

To get them writing "concise, polite and precise" correspondence, he suggested they should consider whether their mum, or his own, would understand each sentence.

The ten guidelines advised officials to read their letters aloud, cut out excessive adjectives and take inspiration from clear writers like George Orwell.

However, Mr Gove also wrote a longer guide containing his philosophy on the art of letter writing, starting with the claim that "concision is in itself a form of politeness".

In this note, he gave several examples of where officials might have been going wrong, including the use of "inflated political rhetoric" or giving “general formulaic replies”.

Ordering them to "cut out unnecessary words", he said: "Rather than writing “the policy that we are introducing is intended to drive a change in behaviours on the part of teachers with respect to the poorest and most disadvantaged children and young people” say “the policy will change how teachers behave towards poorer students”.

Mr Gove, a former journalist, who studied English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, said officials should introduce one idea per paragraph, use a sympathetic tone and make sure they spell the recipient's name correctly.

"The more care you take over elegant composition, the greater the compliment you pay the correspondent," he added.

He also cautioned against sounding self-important in a letter.

“It does not require a writing style modelled on Leonard Sachs from “The Good Old Days” or Sir Humphrey in “Yes, Minister”,” he wrote. “Using inflated political rhetoric of the “first may I say how much I care about X” is not polite. It is a time-wasting exercise in self-regarding pomposity. So don’t even go there. Instead use direct, clear and vigorous language.”

The Cabinet minister has faced opposition among teachers for overhauling the curriculum to bring back traditional spelling and grammar tests in school.

As part of his plans to make education more “rigorous”, he is also changing the English curriculum to make pupils study more classic literature.

The note suggests Mr Gove would like to apply such principles to his own staff.

In the guidelines, first reported by The Mail on Sunday, he suggested officials should read “the greats”, including George Orwell, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Evelyn Waugh. He also gave two more modern examples of clear prose writers: The Times write and former MP Matthew Parris and journalist Christopher Hitchens.

The senior Tory’s intervention comes after several attempts by Government ministers to improve the writing of their staff.

When she was the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening sent employees in her department a five-page essay on grammar in 2011.

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, also drew up guidelines on how officials should use clauses and semi-colons after taking on the job last year.

Mr Gove's guidlines, first reported in The Mail on Sunday, suggest bureaucrats should:

1 If in doubt, cut it out.

2 Read it out loud – if it sounds wrong, don’t send it.

3 In letters, adjectives add little, adverbs even less.

4 The more the letter reads like a political speech the less good it is as a letter.

5 Would your mum understand that word, phrase or sentence? Would mine?

6 Read the great writers to improve your own prose – George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen and George Eliot, Matthew Parris and Christopher Hitchens.

7 Always use concrete words and phrases in preference to abstractions.

8 Gwynne’s Grammar is a brief guide to the best writing style.

9. Simon Heffer’s Strictly English is a more comprehensive – and very entertaining – companion volume.

10. Our written work should be the clearest, most elegant, and most enjoyable to read of any Whitehall department’s because the Department for Education has the best civil servants in Whitehall.


Monday, July 01, 2013

NEA Vice President: NRA, Second Amendment Supporters "Are Going to Hell"

Speaking to all 3,000 of the assembled "progressive activists" at this year's Netroots Nation conference, National Education Association vice president Lily Eskelsen Garcia boldly declared a "prophecy" about the eternal destiny of NRA and Second Amendment supporters, and of politicians and lobbyists working to promote gun rights:  "I'm not an ordained minister; I'm not a theologian, but these guys are going to hell."

Wow.  Going to hell for supporting the Second Amendment?  That type of radical thinking might explain the very high incidence of ridiculous cases involving over-zealous school officials misinterpreting and wrongly enforcing "zero-tolerance" rules--and doing so without exercising even the smallest measure of sound judgment, discretion or basic common sense.

According to a Mercury News article, the high-ranking NEA officer went on to say, "We have to make those senators as frightened of us as they are of the gun lobby. Shame on us if we give one inch to the gun lobby.  They got where they are because they never give up. ... Now the movement is us; we are the ones we were waiting for."

As we note on a near-weekly basis, all of us agree that we want our children to be safe at school, and that reasonable safety measures should be followed.  But, when pressed, gun-control proponents and even President Obama's own administration will admit that the restrictions they are pushing won't make schools and students any safer. 

Do they really think that criminals and madmen will now suddenly and willingly comply with "universal" background checks and modern sporting rifle bans, or that a magazine capacity limit would have stopped Adam Lanza?  No, they don't.  No "educated" person could.


Student loans: Gouge the kids

Interest rates on student loans will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress acts. But it seems increasingly likely that the Congress will take off for the Fourth of July recess without addressing the problem. The major sticking point: Republicans in the House and Senate insist on gouging the kids to help reduce the deficit.

House Republicans passed a bill that would tie the student loan interest rate to that of the 10-year Treasury note plus a surcharge of 2.5 percent, with rates changing each year. That would leave families struggling to piece together financing for college exposed to unpredictable changes in bond prices.

The Republican surcharge is designed purposefully to make money off of students – $3.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office – that would be used to help reduce the deficit. Some Senate Democrats have now joined in a compromise that would lower the surcharge, but still make money off student loans for deficit reduction (an estimate billion dollars over 10 years).

Think about that. Republicans and Democrats have trumpeted the need for corporate tax reform – shutting down tax dodges and lowering rates – that would demand corporations contribute exactly $0.00, nada, nothing to deficit reduction. The reforms would be “revenue neutral.” Companies are stashing away nearly $2 trillion overseas to avoid paying taxes, and the “reform” will ask them to pay nothing more to help government meet its bills.

But students doing what we want them to do – struggling to find a way to afford a college education – get stuck with helping to reduce the deficit.

Shared sacrifice is for suckers.

The fact is we want students to get the advanced education and training that they earn. We don’t want good students getting priced out of college. There is virtually universal consensus that our social and economic prospects will depend on the next generation getting more and better education. And college education or advanced training is necessary, if no longer sufficient, to reach the middle class and to have any hope at the increasingly endangered American dream.

So why gouge the kids taking on debt to stay in school and not the corporations secreting profits abroad to avoid taxes? Clearly corporate lobbies and contributions speak louder in the corridors of power than students and their families.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced legislation to give students that same interest rate that the banks enjoy from the Federal Reserve (0.75 percent) for a year, while Congress a broader program to make college affordable. We subsidize bankers whose excesses blew up the economy, why not subsidize kids struggling to pay for the education we say they need? Conservatives dismiss the Warren proposal out of hand.

Perhaps the most sensible thing Congress can do now, preferably before it takes off on vacation, is to extend the current rates – 3.4 percent – for two years while a serious solution is worked out. Sens. Tom Harkin, Jack Reed, Harry Reid and Patty Murray have introduced a
bill for that purpose. But to date, Republicans in the House and Senate are holding out to gouge the kids. And some Senate Democrats are folding to that demand.

These are the policy choices – in this case making college less affordable, letting corporations pay ever less in taxes – that undermine the broad middle class and contribute to the extreme inequality that increasingly saps our economy and corrupts our democracy.



'Stuffy and old-fashioned': a better description of Oxbridge critics than of Oxbridge itself

The state-school students who've chosen Ivy League universities over Oxford and Cambridge are wrong about the culture of the UK's leading educational institutions, says Tom Beardsworth

Keep Off The Grass. This particular Oxbridge insistence is one reason why Ian Barr, a state school student from Manchester, has turned down a place at Oxford in favour of one at Yale.

The Sunday Times reported that nine pupils have turned down places at Oxford and Cambridge this year, put off by the institutions’ “stuffy elitism and high fees”.

Barr complained that “One of my friends who also went for an interview at Oxford, as soon as he walked into the college was told ‘Don’t walk on the grass or you’ll have a £50 fine’, which seemed to reflect the restrictive attitude of Oxford, whereas at Yale it was much more focused on allowing the students to explore what they wanted to do.”

As an Oxford student this struck me as nonsense. Oxford colleges do indeed instruct visitors to ‘Keep Off the Grass’, though the suggestion – by an uninformed friend – that Barr would have been fined for doing so is ludicrous.

As the Oxford Fresher’s Guide (appropriately named Keep Off the Grass), distributed to several thousand new students annually, shows, Oxford life is varied and inclusive. Potential applicants would do well to read it.

Kebab vans, charity work and ‘Oxmas’ – the premature winter celebration held at the end of November – are far bigger features of the social scene than cosy college dinners and Oxford Union politics.

But there’s one thing Oxbridge can’t get away from: the gowns, dons and stone quadrangles. In the public mind they provoke the same feelings alternatively of enchantment and disillusion that one might get while watching Downton Abbey. But are they any more elitist than the highly exclusive frat houses, for instance, that Barr will encounter once he gets to Yale?

The claim that Ivy League universities in the US are less exclusive than equivalent institutions in the UK is an astounding one. Imagine the public outrage if Oxford or Cambridge were to announce a new admissions policy, discriminating in favour of students whose parents had attended the university.

Yet Harvard and Yale maintain a ‘legacy’ policy that does just this. "Legacy admissions are integral to the kind of community that any private educational institution is,” said Lawrence Summers, a former President of Harvard University. The culture of giving that Ivy League alumni adopt – on the whole – more freely than Oxbridge alumni exists in part because of the promise those universities make to entrench intergenerational elitism in return for fat cheques.

Nine students is a relatively small number. Next year's cohort to Oxford and Cambridge will include more students from state-educated backgrounds than ever before. For all the continued criticism of top universities' alleged intransigence, this is a clear result of the their turbocharged access efforts, for which Oxford and Cambridge – not to mention the successful applicants – deserve considerable credit.

Each of these nine who see the grass as greener on the other side of the pond will have thought through their decisions to study in the US. They may have valid, rational reasons to do so, but believe me, those are not the reasons the Sunday Times reported.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Case Against Student Who Wore NRA T-Shirt to School Dismissed

On June 27th, in a positive resolution to a case which has captured the attention of advocates for First and Second Amendment rights, the case against 14-year-old Logan Middle School Honor Student Jared Marcum of Logan, W.V., was dismissed with prejudice.  Marcum had been charged with obstructing an officer following an incident stemming from a Logan Middle School faculty member's reaction to Marcum wearing to school an NRA t-shirt featuring the words "Protect Your Right" and an image of a semiautomatic rifle. The charge against Jared carried a possible sentence of incarceration.

The entire episode started back on April 18th when Marcum was wearing his NRA t-shirt in school and a Logan Middle School band teacher took exception to Marcum's choice of attire.  The Logan County Schools' Dress Code, however, had no restriction on clothing featuring firearms.  Nevertheless, the teacher demanded that Marcum remove his shirt or turn it inside out. Marcum refused, citing his First Amendment rights, at which point the other Logan County school officials became involved.  During the incident, Marcum's classmates were vocal in support of him.

As Jared persisted in asserting his rights and refusing to remove the shirt, school officials called the Logan Police Department, complaining of an "unruly student."  Police arrived to find Jared in the principal's office, still wearing the shirt.   An officer ultimately arrested Marcum, claiming that his repeated assertions of his rights, even after being warned to be quiet, constituted obstruction of a police officer. Marcum was also given a one-day suspension from school.

Upon his return to school, Marcum again wore the t-shirt that sparked the controversy and was greeted by a show of support from his classmates, many of whom chose to wear similar attire in solidarity. In the days that followed, support continued to pour in from students all around the country, along with rights advocates across the political spectrum. In support of his client, Marcum's attorney, Ben White, made clear Jared's motivation for his behavior, stating, "Jared respects firearms and has training to use them, and believes in the Second Amendment... He believes it's being threatened by current legislation. He wore [the shirt] as an expression of political speech and the need to protect the Second Amendment."

On June 17th, Logan County prosecutors charged Marcum with obstructing a police officer, claiming that Marcum had hindered the responding officer's ability to do his job by "interrupting" and refusing to be quiet when told to do so. The charge carried with it the possibility of incarceration in a juvenile facility. In contesting the charge, White noted that "In my view of the facts, Jared didn't do anything wrong," going on to say, "I think [the officer] could have done something differently."

Thankfully, on June 27th, common sense prevailed, as the parties agreed no further legal action would arise from the case.  In the agreement underlying the order of dismissal, Jared did not admit guilt to any offense, and the State made clear that "[u]nder [the] circumstances [it] is not interested in the possibility of creating a juvenile criminal record for this Defendant."  For his part, Marcum has offered an apology for any perceived disrespect to the officer, and he and his mother agreed to forego any civil action against the City of Logan, its police department, the police officers involved. During the episode, NRA was in contact with and provided assistance to Marcum's attorney.


British graduates taking elementary jobs

More than 20,000 of last year’s graduates were unemployed six months after leaving university, with men more likely to be out of work than women.

Thousands more took jobs that do not require a degree such as window cleaners, office juniors and road sweepers.

Overall, nine per cent of all UK and EU full-time university leavers, or 20,415, were assumed unemployed after completing a first degree in 2011-12, according to figures yesterday from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Women are faring better than men in the job market, the data suggested, with more than one in 10 − or 11 per cent — of male graduates whose whereabouts were known six months after they finished their first degree registered as jobless, compared with seven per cent of women.

Although the total proportion of those unemployed six months after graduation is the same as the previous year, the agency warned that figures are not directly comparable because of changes in the way they are collected.

The statistics also looked at the types of jobs and careers graduates were in after gaining their degree. In 2011-12 more than a third of new graduates working in the UK were in “non-professional” jobs not necessarily requiring a degree.

Around 9,695 people were working in “elementary occupations”, taking jobs as office juniors, hospital porters, waiters, road sweepers, window cleaners, shelf stackers and lollipop men and women.

Rising numbers were working in factories and sales and customer services.

Yet the largest group − 54,435 people − were in the graduate job level group described as “professional occupations”. This includes vets, dentists, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and solicitors.

Prof Michael Gunn, chairman of the university think tank million+ and vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University, said: “Six months is a relatively short time to make a judgment about the value of getting a degree and the occupations which graduates will enter in the future.

“However, these statistics confirm that, even in a difficult labour market, studying for a degree on a full-time or a part-time basis remains one of the best ways of securing employment and a career.”

Simon Renton, University and College Union president, insisted that well-educated workers were still sought-after and were more likely to fare better in the current economic climate. He said: “Students are still in demand.

“A report this week comparing 43 countries’ education systems showed that graduates are three times more likely to be employed than those with few qualifications and that demand for highly-skilled, highly-educated workers is still rising faster than supply.

“If we are to have any chance of being a major player on the global stage we need to be investing in skills at both university and college level.”


Playgrounds could be built on in Britain's school places crisis: Lack of planning 'is putting education at risk'

Under-performing schools could be forced to expand to deal with a chronic shortage of places, MPs warn today.  They say education is at risk because of a lack of planning by the Department for Education.

Some schools may have to turn libraries or music rooms into classrooms or create classrooms  in playgrounds.

The warning comes from the Public Accounts Committee, the latest group to raise concerns about the lack of school places.

In March, a study by the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that by September 2014, an estimated extra 256,000 school places will be needed.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said it is spending £5billion by 2015 on new school places, and that it expects 190,000 extra places will have been created by September.

However the committee’s chairman, former Labour minister Margaret Hodge, claims that the DfE does not know whether this £5billion ‘will be enough to pay for them or even spent to best effect’.

In its report, the PAC says the department and local authorities did not anticipate ‘how much and where pupil numbers were rising early enough and therefore failed to plan adequately for the increased demand’.

The report warns that the need to increase the number of school places should not be done at the expense of quality.

Mrs Hodge said: ‘It does not take much imagination to realise that educational opportunities and standards might be diminished if specialist areas, such as music rooms and libraries, are converted into classrooms, poorly performing schools expanded or playgrounds used to house children in overcrowded demountables.’

Schools minister David Laws replied that the Coalition was ‘clearing up the mess left by Ed Balls and Labour when they were in government’.

He said: ‘Margaret Hodge is right that there is a severe need to ensure there are enough school places but she has failed to pin the blame where it belongs – at the door of the last Government of which she was a member.’