Friday, October 04, 2013

Common Core: Obama is right, Bush is to blame

The arrest of a parent attempting to ask questions of his elected school board members regarding the controversial Common Core curriculum — uniform curriculum across state lines that many believe dumbs down the U.S. education system and is being implemented in virtually every state in the nation — did more to educate people about this change than all the white papers that could have ever been written.

Subsequently, the Baltimore County, Maryland State Attorney chose not to prosecute the parent, but also defended the off duty police officer who arrested him as having done nothing wrong.

The questions that are being asked are how did we get to the point where parents who are interested in their children’s education are arrested, and when did the federal government decide to take the place of local and state school decision makers?

Petitioning our government is a fundamental freedom in America, yet Robert Smalls learned that in Maryland you can only petition the government by asking the questions that they want to answer, and you better submit them in writing and sit quietly hoping that yours is chosen.

After listening to a long presentation followed by hand-picked questions, Smalls stood up and attempted to ask something much meatier, and found himself in cuffs and off to jail.

Most surprisingly, the crowd reacted by memorializing the event on their cell phones with only a few verbalized objections.

And perhaps that is the answer to how this could happen here.  The people let it happen.

The question of how the federal government, which is funding states which implement Common Core, got so heavily involved in what used to be local elected school board prerogatives in conjunction with parents, you can pull a line out of Obama’s speeches and blame it on Bush.

Republican rhetoric surrounding the federalization of education policy starkly changed from a demand to eliminate the Department of Education to ensuring the “No Child was Left Behind” when President George W. Bush took office.

His signature initiative passed with the support and direction of Senator Edward Kennedy, who played a heavy role in creating the law.  The change of direction from wanting to rid the federal government of a primary role in education to setting national testing standards and forcing local schools to meet them was a cataclysmic shift away from the traditional position of the Republican Party on the issue.

As localities complained about the well-intentioned “No Child Left Behind” law, it wasn’t a Democrat president shoving it down their throats, it was a “limited government, local control” Republican.

Naturally, when the Obama Administration was presented with the opportunity to “fix” the Bush/Kennedy law by providing funds for the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum, they took it, under the guise of the catchy “race to the top” slogan.

Incredibly, the “race to the top” has been criticized as nothing less than planned mediocrity, as math standards are lessened to make it difficult for the average high achieving high schooler to take Calculus, and English language standards have been turned on their head.

Common Core became possible the moment Republicans abandoned the principle of locally determined education standards, which is an important lesson to remember as we watch today’s Congress grapple with Obamacare funding.

Those Republicans who urge that the decision be delayed today will be proposing “fixes” to the law tomorrow.

Once Republicans accept the underlying premise that the federal government has any business implementing Obamacare at all, the party of limited government transforms into the party of “trust us, we can make this work” and Democrats move on to start agitating for a single payer Canadian style system.

And it is these type of compromises that have gotten us where we are today.


Escaping 'Government' Schools

John Stossel

People say public schools are "one of the best parts of America". I believed that. Then I started reporting on them.

Now I know that public school -- government school is a better name -- is one of the worst parts of America. It's a stultified government monopoly. It never improves.

Most services improve. They get faster, better, cheaper. But not government monopolies. Government schools are rigid, boring, expensive and more segregated than private schools.

I call them "government" instead of "public" schools because not much is "public" about them. Members of the public don't get to pick their kids' schools, teachers, curriculum or cost.

By contrast, supermarkets are "private" yet open to everyone. You can stroll in 24 hours a day. Just try that with your kid's public school. You might be arrested.

Now a school choice movement has given government schools a sliver of competition. Private schools, charter schools, vouchers, education tax credits and the Web offer competition. Not all the alternatives work, but with competition, bad alternatives die and good ones grow.

This will help all kids.

But so far, the alternatives reach only a small number of kids. Unions and bureaucrats don't want competition, and they use their political clout to stifle it. But gradually, they're losing.

After fighting homeschooling for years, they've stopped trying to ban it, and today homeschoolers fare better on tests and college admission. So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).

But homeschooled kids participate in all sorts of social events with other homeschooling families -- plus theater, ballet, karate and other classes that most kids get and that some only wish they did.

Homeschoolers do just fine. Somehow, without government control, they prosper.

Defenders of government schools often claim their schools are what create the American "melting pot." Different races, ethnic groups and income levels mix together in government-funded schools.

Bunk. If it was ever true, it isn't now.

University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene examined school classrooms and found that public schools were more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority.

He also looked at who sat with whom in school lunchrooms. At private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

We don't do poor kids any favors by keeping them trapped in the poorly run government system. If you really care about "the public," you should let people go where they get the best service.

When government gets bad results -- high dropout rates, poor test scores -- its defenders say schools need more money. But spending per student has tripled. There are more computers, teachers, social workers, reading specialists, principals, assistant principals, etc. But test scores haven't improved.

Unpredictable things happen when you leave people free to experiment, and competition produces better results than one tired monopoly.

A bizarre column in Slate recently, arguing that school choice might drain resources away from government schools, was titled, "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person".

The columnist wrote, "If every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve ... It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good."

This is how leftists think. Everyone must jump into the government pot. Even if it is mediocre (or worse), we're all in this together. Otherwise, the rich will get all the goods, and the poor will suffer.

Don't they notice that cellphones, cars and air conditioning keep improving yet "poor" people are able to buy them? No.

They don't understand that market competition helps everyone, especially the poor.

I think those who want to force a single-government solution on everyone are just confused -- but if I were as judgmental as that Slate columnist, I'd be tempted to conclude that they're bad people.


'Dumb down your CV or bosses will think you are too qualified': What British job centre adviser told furious graduate

After years of hard work, Liza Fitzpatrick was proud to put her degree on her CV.  So she was understandably devastated when, she claims, a job centre adviser told her to take it off – because it made her ‘overqualified’ for some roles.

Miss Fitzpatrick, 36, graduated from the University of Hull in July last year, and has since been unable to find a job despite applying for more than 200 positions.

She says she was reduced to tears after one of the Government’s welfare-to-work advisers ‘bullied’ her into changing her CV, claiming she needed to make it more basic.

The adviser, who she sees as a condition of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, ‘threatened to sanction’ her if she did not remove her 2:2 BA Honours degree in social and community care work within three days.

Miss Fitzpatrick claims the employment adviser, who she describes as in his mid-50s, told her that he used to be an employer and he would not have taken her on because she was too qualified.

‘They’ve told me I have to dumb down my CV but I’ve studied hard for this,’ she said.  ‘I’d take any job to be able to stop signing on. He bullied me into changing something I was really proud of and threatened that my benefits could be taken away if I did not do as he told me.’

She added: ‘By removing my degree, I would leave a five-year gap on my CV [she studied part of her degree part-time], which I thought would cause me more problems.’

The former care assistant, from Hull, would like to find a job in support work, for example as a probation officer or social worker.

But she has also been applying for jobs at supermarkets and high street shops.

She also volunteers at  a Fair Trade shop to gain retail experience and helps out at North Hull Women’s Centre, a charity that gives women counselling and support.

But she claims her employment adviser said her volunteering was ‘irrelevant’ in terms of finding work.

Her long-term partner, 39-year-old Sean Hardy, later telephoned the Work Solutions job centre.  Mr Hardy, who works in the building trade, said the manager insisted it was not the centre’s policy to advise job-seekers to remove qualifications.

But Work Solutions said that the career aspirations of its customers are not always ‘realistic’ in the current labour market.  In a statement, it said: ‘If customers are struggling to gain employment in their chosen field, we would help them look at other realistic opportunities.  'This can mean re-looking at the make-up of a CV and the labour market it’s aimed at.’

It insisted, however, that this would only be a suggestion, adding: ‘Qualifications and degrees are achievements to be very proud of and we would never request their removal from a CV but would recommend that a CV is focused clearly towards the vacancy or industry sector that a candidate is applying for.’

Labour’s Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, said: ‘It is very worrying that unemployed graduates in Hull are being advised to remove qualifications in an attempt to secure any type of employment.  ‘It is clear that the bigger issue here is the lack of suitable graduate jobs in the city.’


Thursday, October 03, 2013

RI: 7th-grader suspended for having gun keychain

A 12-year-old boy was suspended from a Coventry middle school after his parents said he brought a small gun keychain to school.

Joseph Lyssikatos said the keychain was in his backpack at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School on Thursday when it fell out. A classmate picked it up and started showing it to other students.

A teacher confiscated it and before Joseph knew it, he was suspended.

"This boy was the one waving it or showing it to other kids. Not Joseph. Joseph wasn't doing that so why weren't both of them reprimanded," said Bonnie Bonanno, Joseph's mother.

The keychain in question is slightly larger than a quarter. Joseph told NBC 10 he bought it for 25 tickets at an arcade.

School officials released a statement that said, "Because this is a student discipline issue, we cannot comment on any specifics."

The school's zero tolerance policy states that suspensions are determined by the principal.

However, Joseph and his parents said he was told of the suspension by the school's behavioral specialist, and the principal and superintendent won't return their calls.

The school also informed Joseph's family that he would not be allowed to attend a class field trip to Salem at the end of the month.

"That's disgraceful because, OK, being suspended for three days, and this big punishment is enough for him mentally," Bonanno said.

Said Joseph: "I'm missing the NECAP testing and I'm in advanced math so I'm going to have to re-do all the homework I'm going to miss for advanced math."


Am I a 'social leper’ for caring about my kids?

By James Delingpole

If you believe some Left-wing commentators, I should be locked up for child abuse. The former Labour schools minister, Lord Adonis, thinks I’m guilty of “seriously disabling” my kids by segregating them from society. George Monbiot reckons I’m condemning them to join a “repressed, traumatised elite, unable to connect emotionally with others”. David Aaronovitch maintains that I’m trying to steal an “immoral advantage” over the nation’s poorer children.

My crime? Sending my children to private school, of course. I could have done the decent thing and used my earnings to help drive up property prices in a good state-school catchment area; or I could be splurging the same amount of dosh on an annual skiing holiday, a safari and a lease on that nice, chunky Range Rover I’ve always coveted.

But instead, miserable, selfish bastard that I am, I’ve chosen to squander my money on my children’s education. What kind of monster must I be? Well, in my modest opinion, a loving, caring sort of monster, actually. In fact, the way I see it, parents like me shouldn’t be treated like pariahs – or “social lepers” as Tim Hands, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) lamentingly described us this week. We should all be given medals in recognition of our stoicism, our courage and our self-sacrifice for the greater good of the nation.

Every penny we spend on schooling our children privately is money that doesn’t have to be taken from the taxpayer for our creaking state education system. Moreover, we actively subsidise the state sector: every private school I know now lends out its games pitches, sports hall, swimming pool, and sometimes its specialist staff to less privileged schools. And it isn’t just because they’re bullied into it by the Charities Commission; the private sector, in my experience, is agonisingly conscious of its responsibilities to the wider society.

Partly, this is an understandable response to the kind of chippy, class-war comments we have seen. Mainly, though, it’s because this social responsibility is at the heart of our public schools’ ethos. Many of our older institutions – such as Eton – were established as charitable foundations to educate poor scholars; many of the more recent ones – such as my alma mater, Malvern College – were created in the Victorian era to train young men to administer responsibly and die bravely in fly-blown corners of our empire.

It’s easy now – modish too – to mock the “Play up! Play up! And play the game!” attitude which our public schools (and even more so, our prep schools) continue to inculcate in their pupils. But it’s also lazy and wrong-headed. In what way, exactly, can it be construed as undesirable to teach children the virtues of sportsmanship, pluck, self-confidence, teamwork and leadership? Are these qualities any less valuable in the modern age than they were in the days when half the world’s map was coloured pink?

Well, it goes without saying that I don’t think so. You often hear it said of privately educated children that they are burdened with a false sense of entitlement. But you can only consider it “false” if you believe that a child that has had a first-class liberal arts education, who is as well versed in the classics, history and foreign languages as he or she is comfortable yomping over mountains on Duke of Edinburgh courses, or speaking in a debate, or being hacked to bits in a scrum, is somehow less suited to the real world than a child that has had its self-esteem lovingly nurtured by the state on a diet of non-competitive sports days and institutionalised anti-elitism.

And if the values of the private sector are so pernicious, how come every half-way ambitious foreigner from China and Russia to Jordan and India is prepared to pay hand over fist for what they all know is the finest education in the world? Isn’t it a sign that something is working when, in a free market, consumers are clamouring to buy it?

Yes, I’m well aware that thanks to Michael Gove there are parts of the state sector which are improving. But if a teacher were to describe this on a report, the phrase they’d use would be “could do better” – and I’m sorry, call me selfish, call me socially divisive, but I love my children so very much that this just isn’t good enough for them. I want “excellent” and I want it now.

Oh – and by the way, I’m not a rich person. If it weren’t for the generous bursaries I receive from my children’s schools, there’s no way I could afford the fees. And there are lots of parents in the same boat: at Eton, 20 per cent of the children are on bursaries; at Christ’s Hospital, 88 per cent. It’s still a struggle, though; but one I’ll never regret. My kids will go into the world confident, happy and imbued with an intimate knowledge of the best that has ever been thought or written. And if that makes me a “social leper”, it’s a stigma I’ll wear with pride.


British Education Secretary blasts school militants: Striking teachers are attacked for putting ideology before pupils

Michael Gove accused teaching unions of adopting a ‘twisted, militant logic’ to justify strikes that closed nearly 3,000 schools yesterday.

The Education Secretary said it was bizarre that the NUT and NASUWT were striking against plans for performance-related pay that will see the best teachers paid more.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Gove angrily hit out at the unions as the  ‘enemies of promise’, saying they had selfishly ‘put their ideology before pupils’ interests’.

He added: ‘While we gather here today, the leaders of the militant teaching unions have gone out on strike.  'And the reason that they have gone out on strike, in a new example of a twisted militant logic, is that they want to stop good teachers being paid more money.

‘They are striking against... the growth and potential of poor children.’

His comments came as 2,703 schools were closed as a result of industrial action. Tens of thousands of children missed classes after 49 local authorities in the east of England, the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside, were affected.

Mr Gove savaged claims by union leaders that they were implementing ‘child-friendly industrial action’, saying: ‘There is nothing child-friendly about industrial action.

‘Children lose a day of education, parents have to scrabble to pay more for expensive child care and the prestige of the teaching profession, which we all want to see reinforced and built up, takes a knock.

‘I have a simple message for the leaders of the teaching unions: Please, please, please don’t put your ideology before our children’s interests.’

The Department for Education said only 29 per cent of schools in the affected regions were closed. Figures for partially closed schools were not available.

A spokesman said: ‘The NUT and NASUWT have tried to create as much disruption for pupils and parents today as possible.

‘In spite of this, thanks to many hard-working teachers and heads, only a third of schools in the targeted regions were closed today.’

Thousands of chanting members of the NUT and NASUWT took to the streets of Sheffield, Birmingham and Cambridge to voice their anger over changes to pay, pensions and work conditions.
Among them were children carrying banners with slogans, including ‘Save my future’, ‘Protect my teachers’ and ‘Gove out’.

But angry parents said they had been forced to alter plans or pay for child care. Lisa Chambers, a councillor in charge of education at Tory-led Suffolk County Council, said she had to take her 13-year-old son Alex to meetings.

‘Unfortunately we don’t have any grandparents close to us and friends have got to make arrangements for their own children,’ she said. ‘I have a diary of commitments to people and I really don’t feel I can let people down because of this strike.’

The strike was the third of four one-day regional walk-outs, which will be followed by nationwide industrial action before Christmas. The next will affect London, the North East, South East and South West on October 17.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said she was sorry for the disruption but added: ‘The Government’s refusal to engage in meaningful talks has led to the NUT and NASUWT taking strike action.’

Low turn-out meant that less than a quarter of the unions’ members originally voted for industrial action.

It came as a former American teachers’ union leader from Washington DC urged his British counterparts to think again about opposing reforms.

George Parker said unions spent too much time trying to defend bad teachers and opposing reforms that would help children.

Mr Parker, who received a standing ovation at the Tory conference yesterday, said: ‘Performance pay can work. It’s working in Washington DC.’

Praising the free schools and academies programmes, he said: ‘The concept of removing the bureaucracy that schools have to go through is an excellent idea. I am going to go back to America and get into trouble with my union buddies by talking about these things.’


Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Jason Morgan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student earning his doctorate there, has told his supervisor he objects to the school’s mandated diversity training for teaching assistants (TAs) because leaders of the first session he attended essentially called him – and the whole class – racist.

What’s more, the next session – on how to support transgender students – is something Morgan said he cannot support, as it runs in direct contradiction to his religious beliefs.

The letter, sent by email Sept. 22, states all new TAs in the university’s history department are required to attend one orientation session, two training sessions, and two diversity sessions. Morgan, in his letter, called the first of the two diversity sessions, held Friday, “an avalanche of insinuations, outright accusations, and suffocating political indoctrination (or, as some of the worksheets revealingly put it, ‘re-education’) entirely unbecoming a university of our stature.”

Below Morgan’s letter has been reproduced in its entirety. Morgan, a College Fix contributor, also sent copies of the letter to various Wisconsin news outlets:

Dear Graduate Director Prof. Kantrowitz,

Please forgive this sudden e-mail. I am writing to you today about the “diversity” training that new teaching assistants (TAs) are required to undergo. In keeping with the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, I am also blind-copying on this e-mail to several journalistic outlets and state government officials, because the taxpayers who support this university deserve to know how their money is being spent.

As you are probably aware, all new TAs in the History Department are required to attend one orientation session, two TA training sessions, and two diversity sessions. Yesterday (Friday, September 20th), we new TAs attended the first of the diversity sessions. To be quite blunt, I was appalled. What we were given, under the rubric of “diversity,” was an avalanche of insinuations, outright accusations, and suffocating political indoctrination (or, as some of the worksheets revealingly put it, “re-education”) entirely unbecoming a university of our stature.

Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and students at probably every other public institution of higher education in this country, have long since grown accustomed to incessant leftism. It is in the very air that we breathe. Bascom Hill, for example, is roped off and the university is shut down so that Barack Obama (D), Mark Pocan (D), and Tammy Baldwin (D) can deliver campaign speeches before election day. (The university kindly helped direct student traffic to these campaign events by sending out a mass e-mail encouraging the student body to go to the Barack Obama for President website and click “I’m In for Barack!” in order to attend.)

Marxist diatribes denouncing Christianity, Christians, the United States, and conservatives (I am happy to provide as many examples of this as might be required) are assigned as serious scholarship in seminars. The Teaching Assistants Association (TAA)–which sent out mass e-mails, using History Department list-servs, during the attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker, accusing Gov. Walker of, among other things, being “Nero”–is allowed to address TA and graduate student sessions as a “non-partisan organization”. The History Department sponsors a leftist political rally, along with the Socialist Party of Wisconsin, and advertises for the rally via a departmental e-mail (sent, one presumes, using state computers by employees drawing salaries from a state institution).

In short, this university finds it convenient to pretend that it is an apolitical entity, but one need not be particularly astute to perceive that the Madison campus is little more than a think tank for the hard left. Even those who wholeheartedly support this political agenda might in all candor admit that the contours of the leftism here are somewhat less than subtle.

At the “diversity” training yesterday, though, even this fig leaf of apoliticism was discarded. In an utterly unprofessional way, the overriding presumption of the session was that the people whom the History Department has chosen to employ as teaching assistants are probably racists. In true “diversity” style, the language in which the presentation was couched was marbled with words like “inclusive”, “respect”, and “justice”. But the tone was unmistakably accusatory and radical.

Our facilitator spoke openly of politicizing her classrooms in order to right (take revenge for?) past wrongs. We opened the session with chapter-and-verse quotes from diversity theorists who rehearsed the same tired “power and privilege” cant that so dominates seminar readings and official university hand-wringing over unmet race quotas. Indeed, one mild-mannered Korean woman yesterday felt compelled to insist that she wasn’t a racist. I never imagined that she was, but the atmosphere of the meeting had been so poisoned that even we traditional quarries of the diversity Furies were forced to share our collective guilt with those from continents far across the wine-dark sea.

It is hardly surprising that any of us hectorees would feel thusly. For example, in one of the handouts that our facilitator asked us to read (“Detour-Spotting: for white anti-racists,” by joan olsson [sic]), we learned things like, “As white infants we were fed a pabulum of racist propaganda,” “…there was no escaping the daily racist propaganda,” and, perhaps most even-handed of all, “Racism continues in the name of all white people.”

Perhaps the Korean woman did not read carefully enough to realize that only white people (all of them, in fact) are racist. Nevertheless, in a manner stunningly redolent of “self-criticism” during the Cultural Revolution in communist China, the implication of the entire session was that everyone was suspect, and everyone had some explaining to do.

You have always been very kind to me, Prof. Kantrowitz, so it pains me to ask you this, but is this really what the History Department thinks of me? Is this what you think of me? I am not sure who selected the readings or crafted the itinerary for the diversity session, but, as they must have done so with the full sanction of the History Department, one can only conclude that the Department agrees with such wild accusations, and supports them. Am I to understand that this is how the white people who work in this Department are viewed? If so, I cannot help but wonder why in the world the Department hired any of us in the first place. Would not anyone be better?

There is one further issue. At the end of yesterday’s diversity “re-education,” we were told that our next session would include a presentation on “Trans Students”. At that coming session, according to the handout we were given, we will learn how to let students ‘choose their own pronouns’, how to correct other students who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, and how to ask people which pronouns they prefer (“I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?”). Also on the agenda for next week are “important trans struggles, as well as those of the intersexed and other gender-variant communities,” “stand[ing] up to the rules of gender,” and a very helpful glossary of related terms and acronyms, to wit: “Trans”: for those who “identify along the gender-variant spectrum,” and “Genderqueer”: “for those who consider their gender outside the binary gender system”. I hasten to reiterate that I am quoting from diversity handouts; I am not making any of this up.

Please allow me to be quite frank. My job, which I love, is to teach students Japanese history. This week, for example, I have been busy explaining the intricacies of the Genpei War (1180-1185), during which time Japan underwent a transition from an earlier, imperial-rule system under regents and cloistered emperors to a medieval, feudal system run by warriors and estate managers. It is an honor and a great joy to teach students the history of Japan. I take my job very seriously, and I look forward to coming to work each day.

It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion. I am not in graduate school to learn how to encourage poor souls in their sexual experimentation, nor am I receiving generous stipends of taxpayer monies from the good people of the Great State of Wisconsin to play along with fantasies or accommodate public cross-dressing. To all and sundry alike I explicate, as best I can, such things as the clash between the Taira and the Minamoto, the rise of the Kamakura shogunate, and the decline of the imperial house in twelfth-century Japan.

Everyone is welcome in my classroom, but, whether directly or indirectly, I will not implicate myself in my students’ fetishes, whatever those might be. What they do on their own time is their business; I will not be a party to it. I am exercising my right here to say, “Enough is enough.” One grows used to being thought a snarling racist–after all, others’ opinions are not my affair–but one draws the line at assisting students in their private proclivities. That is a bridge too far, and one that I, at least, will not cross.

I regret that this leaves us in an awkward situation. After having been accused of virulent racism and, now, assured that I will next learn how to parse the taxonomy of “Genderqueers”, I am afraid that I will disappoint those who expect me to attend any further diversity sessions. When a Virginia-based research firm came to campus a couple of years ago to present findings from their study of campus diversity, then-Diversity Officer Damon Williams sent a gaggle of shouting, sign-waving undergraduates to the meeting, disrupting the proceedings so badly that the meeting was cancelled.

In a final break with such so-called “diversity”, I will not be storming your office or shouting into a megaphone outside your window. Instead, I respectfully inform you hereby that I am disinclined to join in any more mandatory radicalism. I have, thank God, many more important things to do. I also request that diversity training be made optional for all TAs, effective immediately. In my humble opinion, neither the Department nor the university has any right to subject anyone to such intellectual tyranny.

Thank you for your patience in reading this long e-mail.


British actress defends parents' right to opt out of state education

Steiner schools are a bit wacky in some ways but are undoubtedly better than most "Comprehensives"

The Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton has defended parents' right to place their children in alternative education systems.

She said the Steiner education system, in which she placed her twin son Xavier and daughter Honor, encourages pupils to become "a fully functional person".

Speaking at an open day for the Moray Steiner School and Brumduan, attended by her 15 year-old children, Swinton said promoting the schools is her only current project, adding that there was "a misunderstanding" about Steiner education as people think it's "flaky" or "woolly".

She said: "When I went into the Steiner school for the first time, I was struck not only by the trusting and familial atmosphere for younger children, but mainly by older children, because I had never walked into a school before where teenagers had been so welcoming and self-possessed and kind.

Steiner education teaches subjects through narratives delivered by teachers and activities, such as learning times tables by passing balls in the playground and learning to write in a sand pit rather than in a notebook, as opposed to conventional methods and textbooks.

The educational philosophy's overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence.

The actress said how top universities valued the love of learning instilled in pupils of the alternative system.

She said: "The new upper school, which has only recently started here, has a 100 per cent success rate in placing students at universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

"A don at Oxford, who sits on the interview board for applicants, said that state education is so under question that they long for Steiner pupils who still have that love for learning."

Swinton famously cut short promotion of her 2011 Oscar bid 'We Need to talk about Kevin' to complete a cleaning shift at the Moray Steiner School.

She jetted back from Spain to scrub floors and wash windows, saying at the time that parents participated regularly in cleaning the school in order to keep the fees down.

Steiner schools are based on the philosophy of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, who founded the first establishment in Germany in 1919.

There are now 1026 independent Steiner schools across 60 countries, with former pupils including actress Jennifer Aniston, broadcaster Emma Freud and singer Annie Lennox.


Faith schools protests dragging children into ideological 'battleground' - bishop

Children are being denied the chance to go to some of Britain’s best schools because antireligious campaigners have turned attempts to expand faith schools into an ideological “battleground”, the Church of England’s education chief has claimed.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, who is responsible for the education of more than a million children, admitted that the Church faced “challenging questions” over whether middle class parents are monopolising places at its most popular schools.

But he insisted that they could best be addressed not by opposing the existence of faith schools but by actively allowing them to expand.

Bishop Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s Board of Education, was speaking as a report warned that children’s education is now being used as a “proxy” for an argument between adults over whether religion should have a place in public life.

The study, by the think-tank Theos, said that debates about faith schools had become too “ideologically-loaded”.  Elizabeth Oldfield, director of Theos, warned against allowing children’s education to become a “political football”.

The report summarises findings from different research examining claims that faith schools are elitist and divisive as well as why they often achieve better than average results.

It concludes that there is evidence for a so-called “faith schools effect” boosting academic performance but concludes that this may reflect admissions policies rather than the ethos of the school.

But it adds that there is no evidence to back up claims that faith schools generally promote racial or social division and say that they have a strong record of boosting social mobility for minorities.

It concludes that there is, however, some evidence of unintended “socio-economic sorting”, with middle class parents better able to secure places at the most sought-after faith schools. But it says the same applies in non-religious schools which also control their own admissions.

In a written response Bishop Pritchard said that campaigns by groups such as the British Humanist Association against the place of faith schools had inevitably triggered a response from churches and that as a result councils were often wary of getting involved by allowing church schools to expand.

“One conclusion to all of this might be that, rather than continually adopting the ‘battleground’ approach, which often leads to a reticence on the part of local authorities to expand faith school provision, a better way would be to celebrate the quality, popularity and success of faith schools and seek to expand them,” he said.  “This way the problems of oversubscription and resulting admissions criteria would be greatly reduced.”

Mrs Oldfield, added: “We need to take care to avoid the education system being used as just a political football in battles that are really about religion and secularism.”

The Bishop of Nottingham, the Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, the chairman of the Catholic Education Service, added: “A golden thread which has run through education policy over the last century is the one of parental choice, and it is in this context that having a diverse educational system is a strength rather than a weakness.

“A wide range of education provision to suit the needs of local communities is essential to the continuing success of English education and Catholic schools play an important part in this rich tapestry.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "Although the report masquerades as a new, impartial, survey of evidence surrounding faith schools, it is in fact mere apologetics in favour of such schools.

"The report omits evidence, misrepresents evidence and even makes basic errors about types of school and types of data that totally undermine any attempt to take it seriously.

"The majority of the evidence on faith schools points towards their being an unfair and unpopular part of our state education system which the majority of people in Britain want them phased out."


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

School official tells students Trayvon Martin case proved it is 'legal to hunt' children

An email sent to students by a University of Maryland official that cites the Trayvon Martin shooting as evidence "it is legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida" is being blasted as the latest evidence of a left-wing bias on campus.

The email, from William Dorland, director of the school's Honors College, starts by welcoming students back to campus, but then quickly veers into politics.

"This year, we learned that it is legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida," it reads, in a reference to the trial of George Zimmerman, who was cleared of all charges in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The email went out to all students in the Honors College.

The political language continued:  "This year, the most activist Supreme Court in the history of the United States and radical factions of gun owners, gun manufacturers, and marijuana users are challenging the very fabric of the nation..."

Dorland then invites students to attend a lecture by former NAACP chairman Julian Bond.

The email comes on the heels of a host of allegations of bias on college campuses around the country this fall -- from a case at UNC Chapel Hill in which funding was cut for two conservative speakers to appear on campus, to an incident at the University of Kansas, where a professor said he hoped the next shooting victims would be children of NRA members.

In the Maryland case, Jim Purtilo, a University of Maryland computer science professor, said the comments struck him as inappropriate.  "It's over the top. But very much business as usual on this campus," he said.

Dorland, reached by phone, told that his goal was merely to stir student interest in the Julian Bond speaking event.

"I didn't regard it as a political statement, I regarded it as trying to stir some student interest in an activity going on on campus," Dorland told

He said that he did receive complaints.  "There were three students and a faculty member who asked me not to use such violent or inappropriate language in the future, and I apologized to them because I didn't want to offend anybody. But I did want to stir things up," he said.

But Purtilo said that he complained to Dorland by email and that Dorland never apologized to him. Instead, said Purtilo, Dorland responded by defending the accuracy of his line about the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Some students reached by were supportive of Dorland.

"[Dorland] is a great academic and has done great things for our university," said Ben Kramer, president of the College Democrats at the University of Maryland.

"While I do not agree with his choice of words [in the Trayvon Martin reference], I respect and agree with his efforts to foster a dialogue about contentious issues."

Others took more offense.

"Sending politically charged emails like this not only alienates students, but also adds to our toxic political discourse," Ross Marchand, president of the campus Students for Liberty, said.

Caroline Carlson, chairwoman of the UMD College Republicans, agreed.  "Claiming that it is 'legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida' is stretching the truth, and frankly, we believe Professor Dorland should be above making those types of false statements in what is presumed to be a factual Honors College email."

Dorland defended his use of that line.  "I think it's stirring the pot," Dorland said about his email. "I think, factually, the sentence -- it may be strained and polemic or something -- but it is roughly at least what many people would say was the outcome of the verdict [of the Trayvon Martin case]. I'm not going to avow or disavow the position because it doesn't really matter what I think."

Purtilo, however, says that the incident is indicative of liberal bias he sees on the campus every day. He related one story that he had seen.

"I was on a committee for a very prestigious award on campus, which basically gives a free ride to the selected student, and I remember our committee once interviewing a young woman from one of the more rural counties of the state. And she was poised and articulate and tremendously well prepared, top scores and maxed out SAT and everything... but she made no secret about her religious views, and she asked about things like whether we had a drug- and alcohol-free dorm hall," Purtilo said.

"The committee's conclusion was, 'oh, she has very strict views, very rigid views -- she would not be comfortable here'... you often hear code words like those, which really mean that the person is right-of-center politically."

Dorland dismissed the idea that his emailed quote was indicative of general political bias on campus.  "I don't really want to suggest to you that I'm backing down, but I will tell you that we've had speakers here from AEI, from the CATO Institute -- and [Arizona Sen. John] McCain was invited to be here."

"In my job here I'm pretty apolitical," he added. "You can ask the students. I will take the side of Pope Benedict on an argument, and the next day take the side of a new Pope. You know, the intellectual position in the world is to engage people and get them to talk about what they believe in," he said.


Kansas school board brings back student-led prayer

A rural Kansas School Board courageously defied 50 years of U.S.  Supreme Court rulings by allowing student-led prayer at all school activities, even broadcasting them on the school’s public address system.

What began as an unscheduled, impromptu suggestion at a Monday ISD No. 480 School Board meeting ended up as a motion that was immediately seconded, discussed and unanimously approved, according to the Leader and Times.

“I think that’s one of the greatest things we’ve ever done,” said Board Member Tammy Sutherland-Abbott, who seconded Board Member Nick Hatcher’s motion.

Hatcher had spontaneously introduced the idea.  “I would like to see us bring prayer back to the games,” he told his fellow board members. “I have struggled with that — not having prayer at our activities — because it’s ‘not the thing to do,’ but if the board thought it was important enough that they would support it, and defend it if the time came, I’d like to ask that we do that at our next meeting.”

The schools superintendent questioned why the board should wait until the next meeting.  “We do live in a democratic society, and I personally feel like our community would support that decision, regardless of the rest of the world,” Hatcher said.

The Leader and Times reported:

Several years ago, LHS discontinued prayer at events like football games. Administration voiced concern that, by making the P.A. system available for prayers led by students or community members, the district could be perceived as sanctioning or even promoting traditional Christian prayer in violation of federal law. Student-led prayers then moved to the football field itself, prior to the game. However, no microphone or speaker system allowed spectators to hear such prayers. Monday night’s vote will permit students to utilize the P.A. system for prayer before football games and all other special activities in the district.

The Warren Supreme Court declared school-sanctioned prayer unconstitutional in the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale. In that case, the New York officials were challenged for encouraging public schools to recite prayers written by them.

The 2000 case of Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, however, is more directly on point. In that case, the court ruled 6-3 that student-composed and -led prayer prior to football games is unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Kansas is a part of a Middle America region unflatteringly known as “flyover country,” where residents pay their taxes without squabble, send their sons and daughters off to fight our wars and whose word is unhesitatingly their bond.

Note that it wasn’t small-ttown bankers that had to be bailed out in the waning days of 2007. They wouldn’t dream of making an investment that could jeopardize the hard-earned life savings of their depositors and shareholders — not when they have to face those same people at the local supermarket, pharmacy or in chuech on Sunday.

More than anything, the people inhabiting flyover country are expected to do all they can for their country and countrymen and keep their mouths shut while the geniuses in Washington, New York and Los Angeles make the really important decisions.

It’s both encouraging and heartwarming to see the people in this area of Kansas rise up and revolt, Spartacus-like, as they tell Washington, D.C.: “We tried your way, thank you. We’ll go back to doing it our way.”


Australia: Literacy failings 'due to ideology'

A "SHOCKING" proportion of Australian schoolchildren are failing to meet basic literacy standards, with a new study blaming a tendency by teachers and government to impose "ideological" theories rather than evidence-based teaching programs.

Writing in the spring edition of the Centre for Independent Studies' Policy magazine, Jennifer Buckingham, Kevin Wheldall and Robyn Wheldall argue policymakers and teachers need to use "scientifically valid" reading methods, not ideological theories, to reduce illiteracy.

In the 2013 NAPLAN results, 11.5 per cent of year three students were at, or below, the minimum standard for reading, despite about 1200 hours of reading instruction.

In an article entitled "Why Jaydon can't read: the triumph of ideology over evidence in teaching reading", the authors say those results do not necessarily reflect student ability.  Rather, they were the product of teacher training and badly advised government strategies.

"National and international tests show that average (reading) achievement is static, with no reduction in the proportion of Australian students at the lowest performance levels," the authors say.

"Poorly conceived government policies and university education faculties wedded to outdated and unproven teaching methods have each contributed to the situation."

Australia ranked second last among English-speaking countries in the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The work drew on studies in Britain, the US and Australia that found a large proportion of training and classroom teachers had insufficient knowledge of meta-linguistics.

A 2008 Victorian study found that only 38 per cent of pre-service teachers and 52 per cent of in-service teachers knew the correct definition of a syllable.

The authors argued a comprehensive reading program incorporating five essential elements - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension - was needed in Australian schools.

"The importance of phonemic awareness and phonics in teaching reading seems to be widely acknowledged among teachers, but many have neither the personal literacy skills nor the requisite professional and practical knowledge to teach them well," the article says.

"Governments must cease wasting money on ineffective 'add-on' programs that add to the burden of schools. If more money is to be spent on schools, it should be spent on up-skilling classroom and learning support teachers."

Ms Buckingham, a CIS research fellow specialising in school education, said a number of successful phonics programs had been refined over the years and had proved to be engaging.

"You need to have great literature in the classroom, shared reading, that love of literature encouraged, but at the same time there needs to be a really strong phonics program," she said.

"Almost 100 per cent of schools would say 'we do phonics' but their idea is not necessarily the most effective or proven way."


Monday, September 30, 2013

The College Board’s False Alarm about SAT Scores 

It’s time again for the yearly ritual: The College Board releases data on recent SAT scores, which show some large percentage of American students are not “college ready.” The alarm is sounded. Much hand-wringing follows. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Atlantic has helped move things along this time with an article entitled “This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim.” The article warns, “For the fifth year in a row, fewer than half of SAT-takers received scores that qualified them as ‘college-ready.’”

Absent from the article is any discussion of what percentage of students should be college-ready. How can the results be “grim” without some a priori understanding of what constitutes success?

In reality, there is a substantial fraction of students for whom “college ready” is not an appropriate goal. The costly four-year-college track simply does not suit the interests and abilities of many young people who are pushed into it.

Rather than gnashing teeth about college readiness each year, a more productive activity would be to analyze the degree to which our school system is tailoring instruction to individual student needs. For example, is vocational training available to kids who want it? Are two-year technical degrees advertised properly? Are gifted students challenged enough? These are much more important topics than tabulating what percentage of students pass an arbitrary test-score threshold.

It would also be nice if more media outlets noted the College Board’s conflict of interest here. In releasing the data, the College Board issued a “call to action,” saying, “These scores can and must change — and the College Board feels a sense of responsibility to help make that happen.” And, coincidentally, ensuring these scores go up will require everyone to purchase College Board exams for years to come!

It gets worse. The College Board offers some speculative reasons about why some students are college-ready and others are not. One is that more college-ready students took the PSAT. (Guess who sells the PSAT.) Another is that college-ready students took more AP tests. (Guess who sells AP tests.) Still another is that more college-ready students completed a “core curriculum.” (Guess who will be selling tests based on the Common Core national standards.)

Ginning up alarm may be lucrative business, but education policy requires a more mature discourse.


Australia: New broom Pyne ready to reshape curriculum

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has warned he will take a much more hands-on approach to what is taught in the nation's schools, as he prepares to overhaul the government body in charge of the curriculum and NAPLAN tests.

In an ominous sign for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Mr Pyne vowed not to outsource his ministerial responsibilities and declared the agency was "not the final arbiter on everything that is good in education".

And Mr Pyne was not worried about sparking a fresh round of "history wars" by claiming the national curriculum favoured progressive causes, saying he did not mind if the left wanted to fight the Coalition on the topic.

"People need to understand that the government has changed in Canberra, that we're not simply administering the previous government's policies or views," Mr Pyne said.  "I know that the left will find that rather galling and, while we govern for everyone, there is a new management in town."

Mr Pyne signalled the interventionist approach in an interview in which he also failed to spell out a clear way forward on school funding.

The new system of needs-based funding is due to begin in most states in January, but it remains unclear how the Abbott government will treat cash-strapped Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, the places that did not strike agreements with the Commonwealth before the election.

Pressed on the school funding issue, Mr Pyne repeatedly said Labor had "left us a mess" and he would consult with the states and territories on how "to fix that mess".

If the new government were to offer more favourable concessions to the hold-out jurisdictions it could open itself to demands by the early adopters - NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT - to pass on the concessions.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli vowed to defend his state's rights, saying the agreement Premier Barry O'Farrell signed with then prime minister Julia Gillard in April ensured no state would receive a greater share of additional funding or more beneficial annual increases.

"We signed an agreement that had a 'no disadvantage' clause in it and that was signed with the Commonwealth government, not with the Labor Party," Mr Piccoli said. "Yes, we would seek to use that clause."

Mr Piccoli said he had not spoken to Mr Pyne since the election but was confident the new government would be much more co-operative than its Labor predecessor.

One of Mr Pyne's immediate priorities is to set up a ministerial advisory group to look at improving teacher training. He said universities should take a more practical approach to training teachers and focus less on theory so graduates left classroom-ready.

Mr Pyne also confirmed plans to reform one of the government's key education authorities by ensuring it was focused only on curriculum development.  ACARA now publishes the My School website, administers national literacy and numeracy tests known as NAPLAN and collects performance data.

Under Mr Pyne's plan all non-curriculum-related roles will move into the Department of Education, suggesting ACARA will relinquish much of its testing and ranking activities.

Mr Pyne said he had not yet started work on the agency's overhaul as it was not a priority, but the Coalition's election-eve costings document factored in $23 million in savings from ACARA's four-year budget, including $7 million this financial year.

Mr Pyne said the review of the national curriculum was needed to ensure "that it is achieving the outcomes that we believe it should be" and hinted he may not accept ACARA's advice.

"I don't believe in handing over responsibility for government policy to third parties," Mr Pyne said. "The Westminster system of government requires ministers to take a hands-on approach to matters within their portfolio.  "ACARA has an important role but ACARA is not the final arbiter on everything that is good in education."

Mr Pyne said the national history curriculum played down "the non-Labor side of our history" despite the Coalition governing for two-thirds of the past 60 years.

In a statement to Fairfax Media, ACARA - which has 117 full-time and 22 part-time staff - said the curriculum for English, mathematics, science, history and geography had been "signed off by all state and territory ministers".  It vowed to continue to perform its current roles, which had been agreed by a standing council of state, territory and federal education ministers.

"We will prepare advice for Minister Pyne on current activities as well as matters that have been raised in policy statements," it said.


The abolition of the U.S. playground

How both Federal and State Regulation Stifles Spontaneous Order and Play

The Bobcat tractor was working its way through a pile of mulch as big as an office building, dragging it from the alley to the playground of a private daycare facility. I asked the crew foreman about the sheer vastness of this mulch pile.

“It’s about the state regulations. There has to be 8 inches of this stuff underneath every play structure.”

“The State regulates even things like this?” I asked.

“The regulations on playgrounds are 15 miles long,” he said. “They mandate every fastener and bolt, the distance and height of every structure, and, especially, the drainage. Just getting the drainage right takes up most of the time and money.”

“But don’t these regulations inhibit others from opening daycare facilities?” I asked. “You would have to be super-well capitalized just to get one going.”

“I can tell you this. I would never do it.”

Hmm. Maybe stifling regulations partially account for the shortage of childcare facilities, the high prices of tuition to put your child in them, and the constant political pressure for the government to provide more preschool solutions for parents.

But where do these regulations come from? Of course the safety Nazis have never met a regulation they didn’t like, but I’m willing to bet they weren’t responsible for a regulatory panoply that extends way beyond safety concerns. The real origin of these regulations stems from the largest providers, who have every incentive to lock out new entrants and make sure every project they land is pricey.

The higher the barriers to entry, the easier life is for the established firms.

The whole scene confirmed all my worst fears. There should be something sacrosanct about the playground. It should be off limits to regimentation and central dictate. And yet the simplified federal manual about every aspect of the playground is 60 pages long, every paragraph presuming that without such guidelines the rest of us would be completely clueless and uncaring about the well-being of children.

Just think about it. Before the first guidelines were issued in 1981, playgrounds for the whole of human history existed in a state of terrifying anarchy. Since then, the federal government has been all over this sector of life. Each state has its own regulations, so they differ across state lines. In Alabama, wood chips are considered fine, but next door in Georgia, chips have to be made of rubber, so that they heat up like burning hot coals in the summer and ruin the playground experience for everyone.

Then, of course, there is the overriding hysteria over safety. A child has to be able to fling himself off the highest point straight to the ground and land as if on a giant bed of marshmallows. Here is a question you're not supposed to ask: If there is no real danger, how can kids really learn about safety? Do we really want kids to come to believe that there is no way you can ever hurt yourself, no matter what you do?

And there’s another complicating factor we aren’t supposed to think about: The safer the environment, the more reckless we are encouraged to be. Drive by any playground that offers those huge tubular structures over old-fashioned slides and monkey bars. What you do you see? Kids are dangerously perched atop the tubes, creating their own derring-do tricks so long as they are allowed to get away with it.

There’s another cost to all these regulations. They codify and ossify the playground, preventing innovation outside the rules. What kinds of play structures might exist if the regulations didn’t codify all existing reality? We’ll never know. Law, legislation, and regulations freeze creativity and innovation. They override entrepreneurship and discovery. They presume that the government has all the answers and there is nothing more to learn or try.

In a digital age in which most of us carry around a magic question-and-answer box in our pocket, consumer ratings of everything are inescapable, and innovation in things we use every day is a feature we’ve come to expect, such laws and regulations really amount to a ridiculous anachronism. How can far-distant bureaucrats know better than producers, owners, parents, insurers, and kids what achieves the right balance between fun and safety on the playground? That is really something the market should be left to discover.

What does a good playground have? Rules? Absolutely. But within those rules, there is freedom and choice about most everything else. That’s why the playground is a child’s delight.

In fact, have you thought of the kids’ playground as a metaphor and preparation for life itself? In the absence of the application of human energy, the structures sit there motionless, lifeless, and static. What makes them fun is the application of human action inspired by the creative imagination. When that element is added, the imagination takes over and you come to play in a world of your own making. The fun you have is human built, and it stems from the beautiful combination of the limitlessness of fantasy and the bounds of physical reality that are impossible to ignore.

Everyone knows that playgrounds are not fun if you are the only one there. A person sitting alone at a playground is a sad sight indeed, a scene you see in movies when a person is sulky or suicidal. No, the point of the playground is the teeming activity of many individuals that somehow emerges into a micro social order without direction from above. You play with others, each child contributing to the joy of every other child. You learn from others. You are inspired by others. You cooperate with others. And you compete with others.

Those who can’t do these things peacefully end up being shunned and lonely and are inspired to improve the next day. Those who do this well grow more popular and successful and are looked upon as leaders and emulated. And so evolves the social structure of the playground.

I’m guessing that you remember some playground experiences from your early years with greater poignancy than classroom time from those same years. Maybe they are bad memories from public school, where there were no owners to work toward the maximum value for everyone. But in a good private playground, with clear rules and maximum choice within the rules, you have an early experience of freedom itself.

On the playground, we were free. We made stuff up. We made our own decisions. We could excel in what we were great at and eschew what we were bad at. It’s the venue in which we really learned about ourselves and discovered the radical heterogeneity of the human population. It’s where we made and kept friends and discovered how to have disagreements that didn’t result in violence.

It really is preparation for real life in a free society. Consider the greatest innovations of our time. The smartphone, the world of computer games, the app economy, and even such technologies as oil fracking all result in the impulse to play and the trial-and-error process that is an inherent part of mixing imagination with the physical world. The bailouts, the welfare, the debt that government creates all stand in stark contrast, a huge pile of mulch under us that purports to cushion our fall but really only ends up robbing us of the sweet adventure of life itself.

Rules, yes, but local ones, private ones, adaptable ones. The new playground environment of centralized rules, public ownership, imposed safety, and regimentation abolishes all play. And in this, it too serves as a metaphor for life under all-around state control.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Just when you think ‘zero tolerance’ can’t get any dumber

So-called “zero tolerance” rules have been in schools for quite a while.  In theory, they are supposed to reduce school violence.  Instead, what they often do is create a nightmare for administrators who often are forced to inflict serious punishments on good kids who make a fairly minor mistake.

However, here lately it seems that some administrators are competing to see who can be the dumbest about the rule.  In Virginia Beach, Virginia, it looks as if an administrator is going for first place:

Two seventh-grade students in Virginia Beach, Va., were handed long-term suspensions Tuesday that will last until the end of the school year for playing with an airsoft gun in one of their front yards while waiting for the school bus.

WAVY-TV reports that 13-year-old Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark will face an additional hearing in January to determine if they will be expelled for “possession, handling and use of a firearm” because the guns were fired at two others playing in Caraballo’s yard.

For the record, airsoft guns fire small, plastic projectiles designed to be fired at people with property safety equipment.  In fact, airsoft is a pretty big hobby with millions of people spending money on guns and equipment to go out into the woods and “play war”.  Now, clearly, Caraballo and Clark weren’t in the woods at an organized function, but they were clearly on private property.

A parent of one of the kids playing with the two boys called the police because she had safety concerns.  Local law is a bit contradictory, but part of it does say that airsoft guns can be fired on private property.

Wouldn’t this be a more appropriate matter for the police and the parents of the children involved?

Yesterday, the decision was made to expel the two boys:

The decision was made unanimously by a disciplinary committee consisting of three members of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools board, according to local news.

Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark are banned from Larkspur Middle School until at least January, when a new hearing will be convened to determine whether the boys can come back to school early.

In a statement, the disciplinary committee said, “This is not an example of a public educator overreaching,” they claimed. “This was not zero tolerance at all. This was a measured response to a threat to student safety.”

Well, actually, it was overreaching.  After all, this was not on school property.  This was a case of kids horsing around on private property.  The committee was quick to point out that one of the boys had been in trouble several time previously.  None of that skips the fact that this took place in the yard of one of the kids, on private property and therefore is none of the school’s business.

Unfortunately, schools aren’t really keen on recognizing when they aren’t in charge any longer:

The school’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy on guns extends to private property, according to the report.

Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, said it’s ridiculous that her son and his friends were suspended because they were firing the airsoft gun on private property.

“My son is my private property. He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school,” Caraballo told the station.

I’m going to assume that Caraballo’s mother meant to say that her son was her “responsibility” rather than “private property” because to mean otherwise would mean her son is a slave or something.  One person can not be the property of another.  Period.  End of that discussion.

Now, as to the meat of this section, there is clearly some disagreement on when a student falls under a school’s jurisdiction.  Frankly, schools are trying to claim more and more of a child’s day under their rules, often without any input from parents.  For example, a middle school girl in Washington state was forced to open up her Facebook page for a principle so he could check up on her friends.  At least one student was suspended based on what the principle saw.  The school justified it by claiming it was investigating bullying…bullying that apparently didn’t happen on school grounds.  So, unfortunately it’s no surprise that schools would extend their draconian “zero tolerance” rules to the moment a child sets foot outside of his house before school…even if he’s not actually getting on the bus.

Folks, I understand the theory behind “zero tolerance”.  I understand it, but I think it’s total bull.  We’ve had kids suspended from school for nibbling his pop tart into the shape of a gun.  We’ve had kids suspended because of the itty bitty gun for a Lego figure.  We’ve even seen a kid disarm a gunman while protecting another student and get suspended (another candidate for dumbest administrator award).

The idea behind “zero tolerance” is that by showing no mercy, you will intimidate students into not bringing weapons to school.  I hate to break it to you, but the kids you need to worry about aren’t the ones who care about being suspended or expelled.  Just like anywhere else, the only people punished by such rules are the kids who actually give a flying flip about being good kids.

Until the powers that be understand that simple fact, more and more kids are going to find themselves suspended under these idiotic and draconian rules while the kids you have to worry about will still have weapons in school.

Hmmmm….dracionain weapons restrictions only impact those who want to follow the rules.  Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

SOURCE.  The more you look into it, the worse the school looks.  See here

Yes, There’s a War on Boys in Schools

What’s happened to The New Republic? YesterdayOn Tuesday, it published a mistake-ridden piece by Alice Robb that sought to trash a recent event hosted by National Review and the Independent Women’s Forum. Most of Robb’s efforts focused on disputing Christina Hoff Sommers’s claim that boys are neglected in the nation’s schools.

According to Robb, high-school boys “study science, engineering and math at much higher rates than girls.” Her source was a news story about students – in Australia. Here is what she would have found, had she thought to look at U.S. Department of Education research.

See original for graphics    

Robb also says that “high school boys participate more actively in class discussion.” To prove this, she links to a 1992 AAUW report that says boys are eight times more likely to call out answers than girls. This claim about the “call-out gap” has been refuted over and over again. As Sommers showed in the first edition of the War Against Boys – and other journalists and scholars have confirmed (see here and here) – the research backing up this claim is nowhere to be found.

In one of her more trivial accusations, Robb suggests that a game Sommers mentions called “Circle of Friends” might not be real. Sommers, says Robb, is baselessly “winding people up” with misleading stories about intolerance of competitive games.

Circle of Friends, a non-competitive version of tag, is featured in an anti-bullying guidebook called “Quit it!,” published by the National Education Association and the Wellesley Center for Research on Women (funded by the Department Education.) The Quit it! curriculum is alive and well, and  according to its academic authors “has been implemented in schools in Connecticut, Manhattan, and New Jersey.” This popular handbook contains many activities designed to render rambunctious children K-3 — especially boys — less volatile, less competitive, and less aggressive.

Robb rashly concludes, “Tag is not under threat.” Wrong again. As a practitioner of Google-search journalism, Robb could have typed “tag banned” in the search box. She would have yielded numerous examples:  Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif.; Willett Elementary School in Attleboro, Mass.; Van Buren Elementary School in Placentia, Calif.; Marengo Elementary School in South Pasadena, Calif.; Discovery Canyon Campus, Evans International, and Meridian Ranch Elementary Schools, all in Colorado Springs, Calif.; and McLean Elementary Schools in McLean, Va. – to name only a few.

For this dazzling feat of investigative journalism, Alice Robb’s piece was selected by the Atlantic Wire as one of this week’s “five best Monday columns.” At Slate, Amanda Hess was so exhilarated by Robb’s “Circle of Friends” revelation that she decided to write her own drawn-out analysis of the merits of freeze tag. (For what it’s worth: Amanda Hess says that schools aren’t hostile to boys because she thinks that freeze tag is more fun than regular tag. Good for her.)

True, the campaign against tag is not evidence alone that our playgrounds and schools have become hostile environments for boys. But this is just one telling example of an increasing intolerance for boys’ play preferences and interests. Rather than debunking the boy gap with “ms.information” or challenging the popularity of Circle of Friends, critics should fix their eyes on a relentless problem in urgent need of solution – the academic plight of millions of boys and young men.


British sixth formers being targeted by U.S. universities as more students look to study abroad because of rising tuition fees

Record numbers of young people are choosing to study in the U.S. as American universities ramp up UK recruitment in the wake of tuition fee rises.

Jumping on the opportunity to attract the UK's brightest youngsters, U.S. institutions are increasingly targetting British sixth formers via recruitment fairs.

In the last four years, there has been an 84 per cent rise in the number of US universities exhibiting at 'USA College Day' - the largest American university fair in the UK.

And last year, 9,000 students jetted off to the United States to embark on higher education courses; it is believed that figure is set to be even higher this year, according to The Telegraph.

Experts claim students are considering U.S. courses since UK university tuition fees have dramatically risen. Many of the country's leading institutions are now charging students £9,000-a year for to courses - three times the previous cost.

Launching tomorrow, the USA College Day fair, at Kensington Town Hall, London, will host a record number of exhibitors, including eight of the top 10 U.S. institutions and 42 first-timers.

The event, held in partnership with University of South Florida (USF) is free and now in its 36th year.

Dr Roger Brindley, vice provost and USF system associate vice president said: 'Given the changes in UK university tuition recently, the University of South Florida represents a tremendous value proposition for UK students.'

This academic year (2012-13) was the first where UK institutions had the freedom to impose far higher fees, and according to the government's Office for Fair Access, prices are set to rise still next year.

Data shows that 64 out of 122 UK institutions plan to increase fees next year. The maximum annual fee for any course is £9,000.

Commenting on the interest in College Day, Lauren Welch, director advising and marketing at the U.S.-UK Fulbright Commission, which organises the event said: 'After several years of rising interest in US study amongst British students, American universities are eager to connect with UK pupils.

'What’s more, it is not just the usual suspects attending this year. We are seeing universities of all shapes and sizes come over the pond this autumn, including many newcomers.'

Ms Welch said that many institutions go above and beyond simply attending the exhibition, and schedule talks at schools 'to fully take advantage of their visit'.