Friday, September 20, 2013

Let's talk bullying

This is a bit idealistic but she has a point.  Most children can be reasoned with rather than intimidated.  But there are always hard cases, of course

For most children across the United States, school recently started back up, and with it come the slogans and campaigns to “stomp out bullying,” and a dozen different ways to say, “Bullying is NEVER okay!” Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? If we put up posters and repeat slogans and create songs and chants, children will surely learn that hurting other people by hitting or name calling or teasing or ignoring is not acceptable behavior in our society. Or will it?

Children will act out what they see those around them doing. Their behaviors in our culture are learned. They learn by watching and then implementing what they’ve seen. So what are we showing our children? I spent a bit of time in a local middle school a year or so ago, and I will tell you what I saw. I saw a 13 year old girl pushed up against the wall by an irate administrator. I saw that adult stand over that child, wave her finger in the girl’s face while lecturing her on how wrong her behavior had been, and when the child attempted to speak in her own defense, I heard the adult woman raise her voice to shut it down by saying, “I am not through speaking!”

A week later, as I walked toward the nurse’s office, I saw a teacher standing beside a young man between the ages of 11 and 13. The child’s shoulders were slumped, his head was hanging down, and the teacher was standing over him as she lectured him. He didn’t even try to speak on his own behalf, so downtrodden was that poor boy.

Do you think these are isolated, random cases? My life experience tells me they are not. As a culture (remember, I used to treat children that way, too, since I was treated like that when I was growing up), we are taught that adults are the authority and adults hold the power to which children must comply – or else. Adults are not to be questioned or challenged. Adults are only to be deferred to and “respected” (meaning children should fear adults – and authority – solely based upon the adult person’s age and status as an adult).

So let’s examine “bullying”. The dictionary defines bullying as, “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.”  Based on that definition, I’d like you to contemplate where young children could have possibly learned such behavior. Do you think they got it from their friends, saw it on TV, or heard it in their favorite music? Or could it possibly be something they have been witnessing since birth inside their culture? I believe it’s the latter.

Any given day, you can see bullying happening around you. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and watch an angry mother grab her toddler by the arm as she fiercely says, “I told you to stop running!” and then forces the screaming child into the shopping cart to be buckled against her will. Go to the park and see a dad yelling at his children, “I said we are leaving now, so get in the car, or so help me, you will be sorry!” Go to church and watch a parent slap a child on the back of the head while sternly shushing and admonishing them to pay attention. The scenario plays out endlessly, and it always has the same message: I am bigger and stronger than you, and you will comply with my demands or suffer a consequence of my own making.

When this is an everyday occurrence in our society, why do people act so shocked and disgusted when one child says to another, “Do what I want or else?” They learned it from us.

Most people agree to this statement, “Children need discipline.” And I agree, too! But discipline does not mean using your will to coerce and force another being against their will, because that is bullying! Discipline means to disciple, to lead, to guide by example, to gently instruct, to help.

If you are against bullying and want to see it stop, I recommend you start by carefully examining your own interactions with the children in your life. If you are against children bullying each other, then please help stop it by role modeling that bullying truly is never okay. Disciple them and lead by example. If you would be respected, respect them first.


Nancy Pelosi Flunks the Preschool Test: More Government Is Not the Answer

When releasing the "Economic Agenda for Women and Families," Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed that America has an early child care and education "crisis" that threatens our economy. Her solution is to adopt President Obama's Preschool and Early Head Start/Child Care Initiative, and create universal government-run child care for all three- and four-year-olds.

A majority of American mothers with preschool age children are in the labor force, and most of these working moms hold full-time jobs. Specifically, 60 percent of mothers with children under six years old are employed, and around 71 percent of those mothers work full-time (35 or more hours per week). On average, preschoolers with employed mothers spend 36 hours per week in child care.

However, close to half of those children are cared for by spouses and relatives (p. 22)-a pattern that has been consistent for more than two decades (Table 3). But is this situation a "crisis," as Pelosi suggests, or a choice?

There's little evidence that employed moms, or most Americans, want more government. On the contrary, there's a mountain of evidence indicating that expanding the federal government's role in providing early child care and education won't improve the quality of care, student learning, or affordability-much less the economy.

Expanding government's role in this arena is more likely to impose expensive administrative burdens, crowd out innovative, personalized non-government early childcare providers, and replace a variety of early education options with a one-size-fits-all system.

To get an idea of the quality of care preschoolers would likely receive at the hands of government, we should review the government's track record with preschool. The federal Head Start Program, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was originally launched in 1965 as a six-week summer catch-up program for disadvantaged students about to enter kindergarten. Today this program has 964,000 enrollees at an annual cost of nearly $8 billion.

According to the two latest Head Start evaluations by HHS, any academic impacts faded out as early as the end of first grade, and others dissipated by the end of third grade. Other longstanding preschool programs touted as models for universal, government-run preschool produced scientifically suspect benefits at best, and at huge expense. Experts involved with those programs also caution that they were never intended for students from middle class families and likely would have no positive academic impacts.

If the impacts of government-run preschool don't last past third grade, how is it supposed to bolster the economy?

Most fundamentally, the federal government has no Constitutional authority over the care and education of children. That responsibility belongs to parents, who know and love their preschoolers best.

Rather than expand government day care and preschool and encourage greater dependency on federal subsidies, all families should be able to keep more of their hard-earned money to pay for the early childcare and education they believe is best.


Quarter of British pupils struggling in three-Rs at end of grade school

More than a quarter of pupils left primary school lacking a good grasp of the three Rs this summer amid particular concerns over a decline in reading standards, it has emerged.

New figures show that 76 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved a “Level 4” pass in reading, writing and mathematics as part of the 2013 Sats tests in England.

It represented a one percentage point increase over 12 months.

But it still means almost 129,000 pupils finished primary education lacking a good understanding of the core subjects seen as a necessary foundation for secondary school.

The Government insisted the majority of children were performing well but suggested too many pupils were still failing in the basics.

It emerged that the proportion of pupils gaining Level 4 – the standard expected of the average 11-year-old – in reading alone dipped this summer from 87 to 86 per cent.

Figures also showed an even greater decline in the proportion of bright pupils gaining an elite Level 5 in reading, with results down three percentage points to 45 per cent.

For the first time, the Department for Education also revealed how many pupils achieved a “good Level 4” – the top end of the marking range – in all three disciplines.

It was revealed that just 63 per cent hit the new benchmark.

In another new development, the Government published figures showing pass rates in its new spelling, punctuation and grammar test, which was introduced for the first time this year.

The DfE said that more than a quarter of children – 26 per cent – failed to achieve a good pass, but numbers increased to 31 per cent of boys and dipped as low as 21 per cent among girls, prompting renewed concerns over the gender gap at the heart of the education system.

Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said: “Today’s figures show the majority of children are performing well and they, along with their parents and teachers, should be congratulated for their achievements.

“However, the statistics also reveal that one in four children is leaving primary school without a firm grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The new test encourages schools to focus on these basics.

“British businesses are very clear – written communication has never been more important. Children need to be able to spell well and write proper sentences to get on in life.”

Today’s figures relate to achievement by some 537,800 pupils in the final year of primary school in England.

Children sat exams in reading, maths and writing standards was formally assessed by teachers in the classroom over 12 months. All three are combined to produce an overall score.

Pupils also took a separate test in spelling, punctuation and grammar, with results being published separately.

According to the DfE:

 *  76 per cent of pupils achieved Level 4 in reading, writing and maths, up from 75 per cent in 2012;

 *  63 per cent achieved a “good” Level 4 in the three disciplines – the first time the results have been published;

 *  The number of pupils gaining Level 4 in reading alone dropped one percentage point to 86 per cent, while Level 5 scores dropped from 48 to 45 per cent;

 *  In maths, some 85 per cent of pupils gained Level 4 – up one percentage point – while Level 5 scores were up by two percentage points to 41 per cent;

 *  Level 4 writing results were up two percentage points to 83 per cent.

The DfE also published the results of pupil progress measures – looking at the amount of progress pupils make between the age of seven and 11.

It emerged that 88 per cent of pupils made the necessary progress in maths, while 91 per cent did so in writing, with both subjects increasing by one percentage point. But scores in reading were again down, from 88 to 86 per cent.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

High School AP History Book Rewrites 2nd Amendment

They appear to think they know more about U.S. law than SCOTUS does

Controversy is brewing around a school district in Denton, Texas, that is said to be using a United States history book that seems to summarize the Second Amendment inaccurately. However, the Denton Independent School District maintains it only uses the book as "supplemental" material and is "disseminating the correct information on the Second Amendment" from other texts.

But there are several other schools that appear to be using the book, too.

"The people have the right to keep and bear arms in a state militia," the definition in the book, "United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination," which acts as a study guide for the Advanced Placement U.S. history test, reads.
The amendment as ratified by the U.S. reads [emphasis added]: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Based on the book's interpretation, citizens only retain the right to bear arms in a "state militia," a case where citizens are called upon during emergencies to protect the state. Not surprisingly, many would take issue with that interpretation.

It could certainly be an accidental misinterpretation by the textbook's author, but people are clearly unhappy with the language and there is already an effort underway to make school officials at Guyer High School aware of the discrepancy. A Texas blogger has also pointed out that the Denton ISD Board of Trustees meets on Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. and is encouraging parents to show up and demand answers.

It should be noted that all of the amendments found in the Constitution are summarized in the referenced text. However, the other amendments don't appear to have raised eyebrows.


Student Indoctrination

The new college academic year has begun, and unfortunately, so has student indoctrination. Let's look at some of it.

William Penn, Michigan State University professor of creative writing, greeted his first day of class with an anti-Republican rant. Campus Reform, a project of the Arlington, Va.-based Leadership Institute, has a video featuring the professor telling his students that Republicans want to prevent "black people" from voting. He added that "this country still is full of closet racists" and described Republicans as "a bunch of dead white people — or dying white people."

To a student who had apparently displayed displeasure with those comments, Professor Penn barked, "You can frown if you want." He gesticulated toward the student and added, "You look like you're frowning. Are you frowning?" When the professor's conduct was brought to the attention of campus authorities, MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said, "At MSU it is important the classroom environment is conducive to a free exchange of ideas and is respectful of the opinions of others."

That mealy-mouthed response is typical of university administrators. Professor Penn was using his classroom to proselytize students. That is academic dishonesty and warrants serious disciplinary or dismissal proceedings. But that's not likely.

Professor Penn's vision is probably shared by his colleagues, seeing as he was the recipient of MSU's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003. University of Southern California professor Darry Sragow shares Penn's opinion. Last fall, he went on a rant, telling his students that Republicans are "stupid and racist" and "the last vestige of angry old white people."

UCLA's new academic year saw its undergraduate student government fighting for constitutional rights by unanimously passing a resolution calling for the end of the use of the phrase "illegal immigrant." The resolution states, "The racially derogatory I-word endangers basic human rights including the presumption of innocence and the right to due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution." No doubt some UCLA administrators and professors bereft of thinking skills helped them craft the resolution.

The New York Post (8/25/11) carried a story about a student in training to become dorm supervisor at DePauw University in Indiana. She said: "We were told that 'human' was not a suitable identity, but that instead we were first 'black,' 'white,' or 'Asian'; 'male' or 'female'; ... 'heterosexual' or 'queer.' We were forced to act like bigots and spout off stereotypes while being told that that was what we were really thinking deep down."

At many universities, part of the freshman orientation includes what's called the "tunnel of oppression." They are taught the evils of "white privilege" and how they are part of a "rape culture." Sometimes they are forced to discuss their sexual identities with complete strangers. The New York Post story said: "DePauw is no rare case. At least 96 colleges across the country have run similar 'tunnel of oppression' programs in the last few years."

University officials are aware of this kind of academic dishonesty and indoctrination; university trustees are not. For the most part, trustees are yes men for the president. Legislators and charitable foundations that pour billions into colleges are unaware, as well. Most tragically, parents who pay tens of thousands of dollars for tuition and pile up large debt to send their youngsters off to be educated are unaware of the academic rot, as well.

You ask, "Williams, what can be done?" Students should record classroom professorial propaganda and give it wide distribution over the Internet. I've taught for more than 45 years and routinely invited students to record my lectures so they don't have to be stenographers during class. I have no idea of where those recordings have wound up, but if you find them, you'll hear zero proselytization or discussion of my political and personal preferences. To use a classroom to propagate one's personal beliefs is academic dishonesty.

Vladimir Lenin said, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." That's the goal of the leftist teaching agenda.


Don't mind the gap: deferring uni shown to give students academic edge

If the road from school to university for you or your teenager takes a short detour via the backpacking trails of Europe, do not be alarmed.

A new study shows students who defer tertiary education have an edge once they are actually at university, over those who take the plunge straight from school or who return much later as mature-age students.

Researchers from the University of Sydney tracked the academic results of 904 undergraduate students over their first four semesters.

The findings contradict the idea that taking a year off can disrupt the "academic momentum" a year 12 student may have developed at school, said the study's lead author, Andrew Martin.

"What we concluded was that a gap year, particularly a constructive gap year, is part of the momentum," Professor Martin said. "You're probably a little more likely to crystallise what you want to do when you come back, you're starting to test yourself out, developing the self-direction and the self-regulation and autonomy that you really do need at university."

While the differences were not huge and all students could achieve good marks, gap-year students had a consistent edge, even when factors such as socio-economic status were taken into account, findings published in the Journal of Higher Education show.

This time last year, Marcus Ho was part-way through a backpacking odyssey through Europe and northern Africa.

Mr Ho, 19, who is now studying a bachelor of commerce and bachelor of science (advanced) at the University of Sydney, also spent five months last year working at a hospital as a wardsman to save money for the trip. He thinks both experiences have helped, not hindered him at university.

"It really made me appreciate how hard it is to be financially independent because I had to fund my whole trip myself," he said.

"It made me realise how important education is. It drove me to try harder at uni as well."


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

British etiquette experts to offer classes in social skills to young people who 'have no idea how to behave at work'

It has been giving Britain’s aristocracy advice on social etiquette for more than 200 years.

Now Debrett’s is branching out from producing guides on elegant manners and will start offering courses in social skills to jobseekers.

The publishing house is offering residential and day courses - starting at a £1,000 - to a generation of young people who struggle to make eye contact or proffer a firm handshake.

Debrett’s developed its programme on ‘social intelligence’ for under-30s after business leaders raised serious issues around young people entering the modern workplace.

Its research highlights concerns over the employability of graduates and school leavers who have no idea how to behave at work.

Debrett’s says that ‘manners, social intelligence, personal presentation and impact can be as important as academic qualifications.

‘With so much focus on exam results and the hectic informality of modern family life and technology, social graces can be a casualty.’

The courses come amid accusations that schools and universities are so focused on academic targets that they are failing to produce rounded graduates.

Instead they are turning out young people who are shy and awkward after spending all their time on the internet or mobiles, who lack the ability to spell or write a letter, and are unable to get through a day without regular online checks on what their friends are up to.

Louise Ruell , Debrett’s director of training, said: ‘Young employees need to differentiate themselves beyond their academic achievements.  The research clearly shows that this is often lacking.’

Ninety per cent of the senior executives on a panel at Debrett’s believe social skills are just as important, or even more important, than academic skills.

Some 63 per cent said their office juniors often lack any such skills at all. A quarter said they had even embarrassed them in front of clients.

Meanwhile, one in four business leaders complained that prospective candidates had inflated expectations regarding salaries and career progression and were over-confident and formulaic in interviews.

Misplaced informality was another complaint. Some 21per cent of employers said young employees had dressed inappropriately for the workplace or had drunk too much at work social events.

Amelia Higham, managing director of Dovetail Insurance, said: ‘There is so much emphasis on passing written exams that there’s no room for them to be taught life skills.

‘Throw in text jargon and overuse of the internet to communicate and you’ve got a generation which cannot connect one to one. Being a nice person to do business with is crucial no matter what business you are in.’

She said she would prefer a job applicant to have good social skills rather than perfect academic grades.

‘We have just had a chap in. On paper he looked fabulous - he had brilliant qualifications. On the second day he had to write a letter - he couldn’t do it. It was appalling really.

‘It’s the whole ethos of this generation - they miss a trick with their attitude of expectation.

‘We all expected to do rough jobs during the summer holidays or whatever, pick fruit, knock on doors selling things, working in a factory. Those jobs taught life skills.

‘Every teenager should have to do some sort of summer job. It would teach them not to rely on the bank of mum and dad and help their development as well.’

The publishing house considers itself an expert on 'knowing the who's who and what's what of today's Britain'

Almost three quarters of the 58 business leaders in the survey did agree that a preoccupation with technology hurts the social skills of young employees, affecting their ability to build relationships with clients.

Even firms whose business is in the digital world are concerned.

Linford Haggie, managing director at Graphic Alliance, a digital advertising agency, said: ‘We want candidates who live and breathe the digital world but too many are over-reliant on technology.

‘They are shy and scared. They don’t want to pick up a phone and have lost any people skills. I don’t blame them, no, they need to have the working world demystified and schools and businesses have a part to play.’


Statist school district fat police

 Compulsory public school education is unconstitutional and profoundly anti-liberty. The United States Constitution provides zero authority for the government to mandate attendance at schools in order to force its educational agenda upon the populace. 
Education is a private personal matter.

Forcing parents and children by law to participate in compulsory education programs clearly violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of association. It compels human beings to accept government propaganda and to associate with government agents whether they like it or not. Part of the fundamental concept of freedom of speech is the freedom to listen or not listen to the speech of others or to associate or not with them.

Likewise, forcing parents and children by law to attend school several hours per day, five days per week over the course of thirteen of the child’s most formative years, clearly violates the Fifth Amendment prohibitions against deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law. It compels human beings to sacrifice their time and freedom to government purposes whether they like it or not.

Today the Statist government education authorities want to violate their captives Fourth Amendment constitutional rights as well. The fundamental right to be secure in your “person” against unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause and a warrant based upon oath or affirmation is being routinely violated by the statists.

In short, the government education statists are treating their child captives just like domesticated animals while they are caged up by force at school. The kids’ entire lives are like an open book under the scrutiny of the authorities. They enjoy no rights. They are forced to attend, forced to listen, forced to associate, and forced to sacrifice their precious liberty to the whims of the government.

Now they are even being forced to surrender their personal dignity and self esteem too. The government goons are weighing them in annual weigh-ins like hogs before the slaughter to determine their body mass index (BMI) for the purpose of deciding whether they are too fat for their own good and the good of society at large.
An individual’s BMI is calculated by dividing their weight by the square of their height.  This figure is then compared to growth charts accounting for the person’s age and gender, in order to understand how they compare to the rest of their peers.  BMI is the primary measurement used to determine if a person is considered overweight and obese.

Those children who flunk the government enforced BMI test have to contend with ‘Fat letters’ sent home to their parents admonishing them to take notice that the government statists have deemed them as overweight. Its part of a whole new scholastic measurement concept: body mass index (BMI) grade report cards. The kids call them “fat letters.”

So it’s no longer about education. It’s about government control of the lives of its subjects. The government thinks it’s their business to determine whether a child’s weight is healthy or unhealthy. Just exactly where they acquired that authority is beyond me; it doesn’t exist; it’s unlawful and unconstitutional.
But good luck when you tell that to the statist school district fat police.


Controversy: Teacher Knowledge Vs. Teacher Diversity

The big story of the week so far (in Illinois, at least) seems to be complaints expressed by the state teachers union at a recent state board of education meeting about the new(ish) TAP test for teacher candidates, whose rigor is much higher and whose adoption has led to a decrease in overall and race-specific pass rates.

"Sixty percent of African-Americans used to pass the TAP, according to WBEZ. "Now it’s 17 percent. For Hispanics, the pass rate has dropped from 70 percent, to 22 percent."

As do most of these kinds of stories, the WBEZ Chicago Public Radio story about the new test's impact (Push for teacher quality in Illinois takes toll on minority candidates) focuses largely on the impact of the test on teacher diversity, and about the emotional plight of minority candidates who want to teach but can't pass the test. Ditto for the follow-up segment (Testing teachers causes unexpected racial division).

There's much less attention on the reality that the previous test was much too easy, that too many teachers lack basic (college sophomore) reading writing and math skills, or that teachers can take the test multiple times, or submit ACT or other scores, and that the WBEZ reporter who took the test appeared to have no problem passing it.

Not everyone has responded predictably to the news, however.  "Do we need teachers who look like our students?" asks Chicago teacher and blogger Ray Salazar.  "Only if they know their content, only if they can teach and engage students, only if they have the social skills to maneuver through class and generational differences, only if they’re focused on students and not on themselves. Being brown and college-degreed and passionate is not enough."

For journalists and others, the fundamental question is whether our primary sympathies and concerns should rest with the teachers, individually and collectively, or with the students and the overall health of the institutions in which teachers work (ie, schools).


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Principal Apologizes for Muslim Poem Read Over Intercom Instead of Pledge of Allegiance on 9/11

On September 11, students at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts had a different morning routine than usual. Instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom, students were read the poem “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears,” a poem about an Islamic woman using the sink at a department store as a footbath in accordance with Muslim tradition.

While Principal Peter Badalament defended the poem, claiming the poem was intended to promote “cross-cultural understanding,” he also apologized for the omission of the Pledge of Allegiance, saying it was accidental.

    "Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the school year; we were unaware that our student Pledge reader had an internship commitment on this day," Badalament said in the statement. "This was our responsibility to know. We humbly apologize that this oversight and communication gap occurred."

While there is nothing inherently wrong with “cross-cultural understanding,” the fact remains that Concord-Carlisle High School has approximately 180 school days that are not the anniversary of a terrorist attack committed by Muslims to promote “understanding.” Two of the four planes used in the attack originated in Boston, and one of the victims was a resident of Concord. The school’s actions were incredibly insensitive, and this mistake should not be repeated next year.


British Liberal leader backs teachers who want pupils to remove veils in class

The Deputy Prime Minister said that he can “totally understand” why people say that children should not to be allowed to wear full-face veils during lessons.

Mr Clegg said that teachers “want to be able to make contact” with their pupils.

His comments came after he said that he was “uneasy” about Birmingham Metropolitan College’s decision to ban Muslim students from wearing the niqab, a veil that leaves a slot only for the eyes.

The college has ordered all students, staff and visitors to remove any face coverings so individuals are "easily identifiable at all times".

The move led to claims that Muslim students were being discriminated against.

Speaking during his weekly Call Clegg programme on LBC radio, the Deputy Prime Minister appeared to disagree with the college’s policy.

However, he said that there are “exceptional circumstances” under which women should be made to remove veils.

“I can totally understand, of course, if you’re passing through security checks at airports, say, of course for those reasons you need to make sure that the security staff can do their job,” Mr Clegg said.

“I can totally understand in the classroom, this is more about full veils - that you want to be able to make contact, certainly eye contact and face contact with your pupils.

“But as a general principle other than those rather exceptional circumstances I’m really quite uneasy about anyone being told what they have to wear.”

In 2007 the Labour government issued new guidance allowing schools will be able to ban pupils from wearing full-face veils on security, safety or learning grounds.

Birmingham Metropolitan College’s policy was disclosed to one prospective Muslim student at the start of the new term last week.

The 17-year-old girl, who did not want to be named, said: "It's disgusting. It is a personal choice and I find it absolutely shocking that this has been brought in at a college in Birmingham city centre when the city is so multicultural and so many of the students are Muslim.

"It upsets me that we are being discriminated against.

"I don't think my niqab prevents me from studying or communicating with anyone - I've never had any problems in the city before."

The teenager said she had decided to look for another college place in the city.

Hoodies, hats and caps have also been banned at the college, which was formed in 2009 after the merger of Matthew Boulton and Sutton Colfield colleges.

Mr Clegg added: “Intuitively I would set the bar very high to justify that. One of the things that’s great about our country is that we are diverse, we are tolerant. People do dress differently, people do have different faiths, people do have different convictions and that is reflected in what they wear and how they present themselves.”

Dame Christine Braddock, the college’s principal, said the policy had been in place for some time and had been developed to keep students safe.

She said: "We have a very robust equality, diversity and inclusion policy at Birmingham Metropolitan College but we are committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst studying with us.

"To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe.

"This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible.

"All prospective and progressing students, as well as staff, have been advised of the policy, which will mean everyone allowed on the premises can understand and know each other in a safe environment."

Last month a judge has halted a court case after a Muslim woman refused to lift her face veil and prove her identity.


British schools banned from insisting parents buy expensive school uniform to ease the burden on family finances

Schools are to be banned from forcing pupils to wear expensive uniforms under new rules to cut bills for cash-strapped families.

Headteachers will no longer be allowed to force parents to buy jumpers, ties and blazers from single suppliers to end the monopolies which have driven up prices.

And ministers will tell schools to change their uniform rules to ensure most items can be bought cheaply from supermarkets.

Three quarters of schools impose rules on where uniform can be bought, with many incorporating special design elements on trousers, blazers and jumpers.

Research suggests that the average cost of a uniform for secondary school pupils is £285 and £156 for primary school children.

An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading found being forced to buy from named suppliers instead of supermarkets means parents of school age children lose out on a total of £52 million each year.

Last week Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove argued that people who find themselves unable to buy essentials, including school uniforms, have themselves to blame for being unable ‘to manage their finances’.

But Lib Dem schools minister David Laws will announce today that he is to overhaul guidance to governing bodies cut the costs for parents.

The new rules, unveiled at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, will ban using ‘exclusive single supplier contracts’ in all but exceptional circumstances.

The Department for Education will say schools are not allowed to use ‘cash back’ arrangements where they receive money if parents place orders with selected firms.

It also means schools cannot insist that pupils wear expensive items of uniform and must not make frequent changes to uniform specifications.

Schools will also have to select items that can be bought cheaply from supermarkets and budget stores, with compulsory branded items kept to a minimum.

Mr Laws said: ‘Costs at the start of a school term can quickly add up, particularly for families with several school age children.

‘School uniforms can be an important sign of identity and pride, but at a time when many family budgets are squeezed parents should not be forced to spend more than they need to.

‘We will send a strong signal to schools that it is vital to secure value for money for parents before changing or introducing new school uniforms.

‘Parents need to be able to shop around to find the best deal. I want to see fewer schools using single suppliers and branded items, which keep costs unnecessarily high.’


Monday, September 16, 2013

Village Academic Curriculum: Racing to the Top of the Money Pile

Is our children learning?

In 2009, Barack Obama pushed a new educational initiative called Race to the Top as part of his stimulus program. Its goal was to improve educational outcomes for public school students by using federal money to entice states to meet certain standards. Three years later, a study by a group called Broader, Bolder Approach to Education – an offshoot of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute – conceded that the Race to the Top program has “fundamental flaws.” “Even in the best of circumstances,” the report notes, “Race to the Top could not achieve what it sets out to do.” And while that sounds like damning criticism from an Obama ally, it's only because their report argues that the federal government doesn't go far enough.

The study defines four “mismatches” between the goals of Race to the Top and hard reality, with the key one being the gap between what states promised for federal money and what can be delivered for the meager share of state educational dollars the Race to the Top grants provided. In all but one of the cases cited, the grant was less than 2% of the state's total educational budget. Very little can be accomplished with that proverbial drop in the bucket.

Given the study's source, it's no surprise that the solutions advocated reach far beyond the classroom, as they cite reams of statistics supposedly showing the relationship between various aspects of socioeconomic status and student achievement. “[U]nless an accompanying set of student, family, and school supports is rolled out with the Common Core,” they sniffle, “a policy agenda that again addresses only a minority of the drivers of race- and income-based achievement gaps will further widen those gaps.”

But is there any reason to believe states won't continue saying they'll do anything in order to keep the spigot of federal dollars flowing? It seems to us that those 30 pieces of silver aren't really worth the strings that are always attached to a check from Uncle Sam.


British School form offers choice of 80 languages including Igbo and Tagalog in an area that is 96 per cent white

When it comes to finding out the first language of children being raised in North Wales, most would assume that English and Welsh were the two obvious choices.

So parents were stunned when pupils were sent home from school with a form asking them to tick the dialect that applied to them from a list of more than 80.

Remarkably, the local authority in Conwy, where 96 per cent of the population is white, says it trimmed the list from one supplied by the Welsh Government, which contained around 300 different languages and races.

The baffling list still included obscure languages spoken by races in far-flung corners of the world, including Igbo, a dialect spoken by people native to south-eastern Nigeria, and Tagalog, which is spoken by just a quarter of Filipinos.

Other languages listed on the form were Kannada, the mother tongue of people living in the Indian state of Kannartaka, and Wolof, the dialect of the Wolof people living in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritius.

It was accompanied by an equally confusing form asking parents to detail their child’s ethnicity, which included seven categories for travellers and gypsies alone, plus around 85 other nationalities and races.

The ‘data collection’ documents were issued by schools in Conwy County Borough Council this week as children returned after the summer holidays.

The area has a predominantly white British population, with less than four per cent coming from an Asian, black or other ethnic background.

The council says the information is needed to help schools ‘provide a better education service’.

But one parent said yesterday: ‘This form was a baffling lesson in geography.  ‘It’s another example of councils trying to micro-manage and know everything about the people who live in their communities.

'While everyone understands the importance of giving every child a good education, this seems completely over the top.

‘This part of North Wales is predominantly white British, but some council bureaucrat, in their bid to be politically correct and not offend anyone of a particular race or ethnicity, has spent time putting this endless list of obscure languages together.

‘It would be interesting to find out what they do with this information and exactly how many children growing up here note down any language other than English or Welsh.  'This whole exercise could be a complete waste of time.’

Geraint James, head of education services at Conwy Council, said collecting data on the first language and ethnicity of pupils was a statutory requirement of the Welsh Government.

‘All maintained schools in Wales are required to complete a Pupil Level Annual School Census,’ he said.

‘The questions about National Identity, First Language, Ethnicity, Fluency in Welsh and Welsh at Home have been included in the data collection form to fulfil this requirement.’

A spokesman for the local authority said the lists had been abridged by the council from the Welsh Government’s own guidelines, which detail more than 300 different languages and races.


Is your child a rusher, a relisher or reluctant reader? Headmaster believes he can transform any youngster into a full-time bookworm

Children love computer games, but one school headmaster thinks he has found a way to turn any child into a full-time bookworm

Whether it’s Roald Dahl or Rowling, Blyton or Judy Blume, most parents try to get children reading and drag them away from computer screens.

But now one headmaster thinks he has found a way to turn any child into a full-time bookworm – by working out what type of readers they are.

English teacher Andrew Barnard has devised a set of categories to help families understand and support young people’s relationship with books.

He believes there are eight types of readers – ranging from ‘relishers’, who consume up to 40 books a year, to ‘regretters’, who want to read but find it difficult due to problems such as dyslexia.

Most worrying for parents is the ‘rechanneler’, a child who used to love books but has been diverted by devices and now spends more time online playing games and visiting social media sites.

Mr Barnard, head of Eagle House School in Sandhurst, Berkshire, said: ‘Children tend to fall into different categories when it comes to reading and identifying these can help parents encourage and support their children’s reading.’

The other categories are ‘regulars’ who read about ten to 15 books a year, ‘rushers’ who read in bursts, ‘reluctants’ who read five to six books a year, ‘realists’ who read only non-fiction and ‘rejecters’ who read only if they are forced to.

Mr Barnard has developed a separate strategy for each category, which teachers and parents can use to get children to rekindle their love of reading.

He said: ‘The longer children have been away from reading, the harder it can be to get them to enjoy it again. As a strategy, parents can consider trying to use online time as a reward for reading time. It may be that eBooks are an incentive.’

Whether it's by authors such as JK Rowling (left) or Roald Dahl (right), most parents want their children to read books rather than spend too much time in front of the computer

He also advises parents of voracious readers – or relishers – to ‘keep an eye’ on their internet use and encourage children to spend more time reading if their interest in books ‘appears to be threatened’.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Muslim girl is ordered by German judge to wear a ‘burkini’ at her school swimming class after she refused to take part as it was against her religion

A German court has ruled that a young Muslim girl must attend mixed swimming lessons at her school wearing a 'burkini' - a full-bodied costume which includes a head-covering.

The ruling is an important one for the country which has over 5 million Muslims, most of them Turks, in the population.

The girl had complained that she felt 'uncomfortable' going swimming with 'bare chested' boys near her and either wanted to be allowed to skip the lessons or be given special instruction on her own.

But the Federal Administrative Court in the eastern city of Leipzig has ruled that 'social reality of life in Germany came above her religious beliefs'.

They said the coverall swimsuit was the best solution for the girl, 13, and noted that several of her friends at the school in Frankfurt already donned burkinis to swim.

The girl, whose family come from Morocco, was represented by a lawyer in Wednesday's hearing who said that according to the Koran, she was not only forbidden from showing herself to boys but also from seeing the topless boys.

But the court said: 'The plaintiff has not made sufficiently clear that taking part in co-educational swimming lessons with a burkini breaches Muslim rules on clothing,' rejecting her appeal against earlier decisions by two courts in the western state of Hesse.

Judge Werner Neumann said an education system in a pluralistic society could not accommodate every religious concern, and the burkini would accommodate the girl’s Muslim beliefs.

'The result would be the widespread disintegration of lessons otherwise,' he added.


Half of British employers say graduates are 'not up to the job': Findings fuel fears universities fail to equip students with life skills

Half of graduate employers complain that most of their new recruits are not up to the job, research reveals.

The findings will fuel fears that universities are failing to equip students with life skills, such as the ability to work in teams, communicate, and be punctual and determined.

To mark the launch of the new edition of the Good University Guide, YouGov surveyed 635 senior managers, of whom 419 were graduate recruiters.  Some 52 per cent of graduate employers said ‘none’ or ‘few’ recruits were ‘work ready’.

Researchers said the study challenged ‘the effectiveness of the millions of pounds universities are spending in augmenting degrees with programmes designed to equip their graduates with the workplace skills to make them an immediate asset to employers’.

The survey also found that 61 per cent said the most important factor when considering graduates for a job was the course they studied. Eight per cent said it was the university they attended.

Alistair McCall, one of the editors of the Good University Guide said: 'University prospectuses are now full of programmes and initiatives promising to give students more than just a degree.  ‘They say they will equip students with the skills they need to make them more attractive to employers.

‘The YouGov survey findings suggest this is an investment that is sorely needed. With the typical degree now costing £27,000 in tuition fees alone, students have a right to be better prepared for the battleground that is the graduate jobs market.’

Last year, Stephen Isherwood, former head of graduate recruitment at Ernst & Young, said that just one in four bright graduates demonstrated ‘all round’ skills such as being able to cope in difficult situations.

Thousands of university-leavers with good degrees lacked the key attributes the firm demanded such as showing determination, being able to recover from set-backs and thriving in difficult situations.

He said: ‘We interview over 3,000 bright graduates every year, but only about 25 per cent have the all-round skill set that we recruit for.’

Meanwhile statistics released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) recently revealed that a fifth of students are unemployed six months after graduating from some British universities.

They fail to get even menial work despite three years of study and the accumulation of debts amid stiff competition for graduate jobs.

At London South Bank University, 22.6 per cent of students were not working or embarking on further study six months after graduating last summer, the HESA figures showed.


Education Dep't Using Civil Rights Law to Get More Black Students Into AP Classes

Education for whites MUST BE DESTROYED  -- if that is what is needed to serve the great God of equality

In a first-of-its-kind civil rights agreement, the Obama administration has struck a deal with the public school system in Opelika, Alabama to get more African-American students into Advanced Placement classes.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights launched its investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to find out if the Lee County School District was providing "equal opportunity and equal access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses and other higher-level learning opportunities" that prepare students for success in their college years and beyond.

The data demonstrated that, district-wide, African-American high school students were underrepresented in AP and higher level courses, including in all higher level mathematics courses, particularly in calculus and statistics courses. 

Investigators found that a disproportionately low number of African American students were enrolled in eighth-grade algebra, which prepares students for the district's highest-level math and science classes, including AP courses. The investigation also found that advanced math was offered to seventh-graders in the district's predominantly white middle schools, but not at the district's predominantly black middle school.

While the district's predominantly white high schools offered a large overall number of advanced courses in a wide variety of subjects, the predominantly black high school had "significantly fewer" advanced courses, and AP courses were offered only online.

"We look forward to working with the Lee County School District administrators to ensure that all students have equal access to a quality education, and are pleased that the district has taken positive steps to increase college-ready access through raising the enrollment of black students in AP and other higher level courses," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.

Federal investigators said the school district voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement before OCR announced its findings.

Under the agreement, the district will:

-- Develop a district-wide plan for addressing the under-representation of African American students in AP and higher level courses;

-- Identify any barriers to African American students' participation in AP and higher level courses;

-- Permit students to participate in distance learning opportunities at schools providing more AP and higher-level options;

-- Establish dual-enrollment courses with the local community college for students at the predominantly African American high school and provide transportation for all students who elect to take dual-enrollment courses;

-- Encourage students at all of the district's elementary, middle, and high schools to aspire to attend college, and to participate in AP and higher level courses.

The district's comprehensive plan will be based on recommendations from an expert consultant, feedback from students, parents and staff, and a self-assessment.

OCR says its mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights law.