Friday, November 01, 2013

Socialist history curriculum strides toward Philadelphia schools

City council members in Philadelphia have given the go-ahead to a resolution to allow a socialist historian’s view of America, via his “A People’s History of the United States,” to be part of the public high school curriculum.

The book, by Howard Zinn, looks at American history through the lens of the working people, and of women and minorities, and tracks the various social movements — including the advent of labor unions — that have shaped government reform and policy.

The resolution passed by the local governing body stipulates that the book “emphasizes” the role of these segments of society, “not simply the version retold by those powerful enough to ensure history remembers their actions in a positive light, regardless of the truth,” The Daily Caller reported.

The resolution still needs the approval of the superintendent and school board for the curriculum to be adopted.

The resolution also states: “Council does hereby recognize the need for students to be taught an unvarnished, honest version of U.S. history that empowers students to differentiate between moments that have truly made our country great versus those that established systemic inequality, privilege, and prejudice which continue to reinforce modern society’s most difficult issues.”

The book is controversial among conservative circles. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, for instance, spoke openly of his disdain for its content, arguing that the book did not belong in public school classrooms, The Daily Caller said. Mr. Daniels said of the book: “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools. Howard Zinn, by his own admission a biased writer, purposely falsified American history.”


Common Core Teaches Second Graders to be Good Union Comrades

Aside from the obvious objections to allowing the creators of to get more involved in the education of America’s youth, a new reason to resist the creepily altruistic “Common Core” curriculum has surfaced. New Common Core teaching materials instruct second graders that land owners are intrinsically evil, that business owners are inherently greedy, and Saul Alinsky radicals are the saviors of the everyman. (Besides – and I know this should seem pretty obvious – do you really want the architects of a 17 trillion dollar debt teaching our kids things like basic math?)

According to Fox news, a textbook company contracted to produce materials under Common Core State Standards is trying to teach students as young as second grade about economic fairness by praising unions, protests and labor leader Cesar Chavez, according to an education watchdog group.

Cesar Chavez is one of the liberal movement’s most recent heroes to be considered “in vogue”; as was evidenced by Google’s decision to honor the Labor activist instead of Jesus last Easter Sunday. Chavez’s Saul-Alinsky-inspired-radicalism should put him firmly on the fringe of mainstream Americanism. (A great read on Chavez can be found here.) But, believe it or not, the textbook’s mention of Chavez is only a minor portion of the indoctrination “lesson” plan.

In addition to reading a glowing biography of the Marxist labor leader, students will be asked to evaluate the “scales of fairness” between wealthy landowners, and lowly [non-union] workers.

“Fairness and equality exist when the scales are balanced,” teachers are prompted to instruct the students. They are then supposed to ask the students whether both sides, as presented in the plan, are equal, providing a correct answer of “no” in the teachers’ guide.

See? According to Common Core standards, the fact that wealthy business owners have more than the people they hire, is “unfair.” (Although, in all fairness, second grade might be the right age group for liberals to share their ideas. This could be an honest attempt to keep the left engaged with a demographic that has an equal grasp of market forces and economic theory.)

Although I have not flipped through the comprehensive list of teaching materials tied to this disturbingly Leninist interpretation of economic “fairness”, I can make a safe assumption that the impressionable second grade economists will not be taught about the prosperity generated by business owner’s wealth; or the natural fairness of private ownership and free market.

After all, it’s kinda tough to get a job from a poor farm worker who rents his property.

Economic theories, wealth creation, John Smith’s concept of private property, market forces, and Chavez’s radicalism aside. . . There is still a pretty big question regarding why second graders would need to wrap their young brains around the concept of labor unions and so called “scales of fairness.” Quite frankly, putting any organized bureaucratic government agency in charge of disseminating such information to young children is chilling. And given the government’s tendency to view wealth creators merely as untapped tax-revenue sources, it’s unlikely that such lesson plans would be presented without anti-capitalistic bias.

Once again the common core standards illustrate a decidedly creepy intrusion of politics into education from the highest levels. While education has been largely consumed by leftist philosophies for some time, the danger of Common Core is that this absorption of political activism in the classroom will now be pushed from the Federal level. . . A painfully intense infringement on local control will await any districts that decide to adopt the Fed’s centrally planned concept of “education”.

While Karl Marx is not yet required reading under the Common Core curriculum, this latest example of the Fed’s ideological intrusion into education should set off some alarm bells. Aside from the laughable notion that a greater Federal influence in local schools will benefit the system, it makes the perversions of our kids’ worldview that much easier.

And this, comrades, concludes today’s lesson on Common Core radicalism.


Is College Worth The Cost?

Young Voices is a new project which exists to achieve greater media representation for promising college students and young professionals. Every week a different Advocate will comment on the stories which impact their lives.

The average college graduate holds at least $35,200 of debt and has spent four years out of the workforce, where he or she would be otherwise gaining experience. All this for a piece of paper that by no means guarantees a job. The question that potential and current college students need to ask is: Do the financial costs, opportunity costs, and other factors justify the cost of college? For a select few, the answer may be yes. For a surprising number of people, it will be no.

Does the financial cost justify going to college? It depends on what you want to do in life. If you want to go into medicine (average debt of $170,000, average salary $150,000-$200,000+), law (average debt of $100,433 , average salary $113,310), or engineering (average debt of $52,596 , average salary $91,810) the answer will be yes. This is for two reasons. First, today you cannot work in those fields without a college degree. Second, the average income of those professions quickly pays off debt (assuming you can get the job).

But what about individuals who want to go into art, business, music, humanities, languages, or other fields? The answer will most likely be no. There are alternative options that can prove to be far more useful and financially wiser.

Business students who want to start their own businesses would be far better off leaving the theory back in the classroom and diving in head-first into real-life experience. Most of what an entrepreneur needs to learn can be learned from reading books, taking advantage of free online educational resources like Khan Academy and TED talks, and joining college alternative programs like Praxis. I’ve opened two businesses and I learn more from the few months of work I put into them than all the “professional” education I’ve received from my business classes combined.

Real life is the best teacher there is. The average cost of a specialized music school (one most likely to get students a job) can be $81,000. The average salaries of their graduates is around $29,222. Instead getting of a music degree (and tons of debt along with it), students passionate in music should make their own music and post it on YouTube and sell their music on iTunes or other sites. People like Christina Grimmie and Lindsey Stirling have proven the model works, without college.

For learning music, a personal tutor or teaching yourself by using online tools can be just as effective as paying for a college degree. Instead of spending tens of thousands for a degree in philosophy, history or political science, go to and buy a dozen books for a hundred or so dollars and join an online book club to discuss what you read and learn. Or, write a blog or join a forum site to have conversations with other interested individuals. Go other sites like iTunes U if you want to hear lectures from experts for free!

There are cheap and free alternatives to learning the same things you would earn if you went to college and spent tens of thousands on and went into debt for. And this way you can pick exactly what you want to study, study at your own pace and not waste time on pointless projects.

What about the other benefits of going to college, the networking, the friends, the “college experience” and getting a degree to get a job? This may be the best justification for going to college, but it’s still not that strong. Most people who graduate from college get a job not because they have a degree, but because they met someone who was able to get them in the door at a company for an interview. But you can meet people at networking events that are held all over the country!

Go to trade shows or industry conferences and network with people there to get a job. Employers are dying for employees with real life experience (I know I am for my businesses). If you can prove that you can do the real life work, they will over look the absent piece of paper. Most people end up working in fields they don’t major in. This is because employers don’t care about your major, but care about what you can do.

If you feel “the college experience” is worth massive debt, go for it. If you want to save money, go further in your profession, and start your life early, then rethink going to college. There are so many alternatives that are offered thanks to the freedom of the internet it’s a shame not to take advantage of them. Degrees don’t make you standout anymore, experience does. Get out of the classroom and get started on your real life.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Two Types of Child Victimization at Government Schools

You would think the bureaucrats who run government schools would want to focus on the basics, such as teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.

After all, no nation spends more per pupil on education than the United States. And based on some Cato Institute research, I suspect the OECD estimate of about $15,000 per student is a low-ball estimate of the burden on American taxpayers.

So what do we get for all this money? To be blunt, the results are miserable, with Americans ranking well below average compared to our overseas competitors.

Here are some comparisons on both literacy and numeracy from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You’ll have to click the images to get an enlarged view. But maybe you won’t want to do that since it’s depressing to see that Americans are near the bottom for math skills and well below average for verbal skills.

Geesh, this is embarrassing. I like Slovaks, but I don’t want Americans to be less intelligent. I also like Belgians, but why are they kicking our tail? And I really like Estonians, but they’re putting us to shame.

So how is the education establishment dealing with these dismal results?

Well, they keep asking for more money. But as this remarkable chart from the Cato Institute illustrates, throwing more money at the system is a great way of building bureaucracy. But is sure doesn’t do much for kids. Education spending Cato chart

So you could say this is a form of child abuse. But that would trivialize the plights of kids who are grossly mistreated. So let’s say that the sub-par education provided by government schools is a form of child victimization. Or mistreatment. Or some word that signifies how they are not well served by the government’s education monopoly.

But let’s also remember that sub-par education is not the only bad thing that happens in government schools.

We also have amazing (in a bad way) episodes of intrusive and abusive political correctness.

Here’s a story from Massachusetts about a student being punished for doing the right thing.

    "It’s tough for Eleanor Cox to talk about how heartbroken her daughter Erin is over the punishment she received for doing what she thought was right. …Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol. A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games. …the parents of Erin’s teammates have started a petition to support her."

I’m dismayed, of course, that the school wants to punish someone who didn’t do anything wrong, but what really irks me is that the school wants to regulate and control behavior that takes place off school property and outside of school hours.

To be blunt, it’s none of their you-know-what business. Parents should have primary responsibility for their kids and law enforcement has a role if they’re breaking the law.

Let’s now travel down south and read part of a report about how some mindless school bureaucrats punished an autistic student because he drew a picture of a bomb and brought the drawing to school.

    "…it all started when her son had made the hand-drawn picture of the bomb during the weekend at home. Parham said Rhett is a fan of the video game Bomber Man and drew the cartoon-ish like explosive. She told FOX Carolina on Monday that her son took the picture to Hillcrest Middle School, and that’s where problems arose. Parham said she was told that her son showed the picture to some older children, who reported him to school administration. …She said her son was suspended indefinitely by the school."

Fortunately, the government backed down after the story generated some unfavorable attention for the bureaucratic drones.

But we should ask ourselves why it even got to that stage. And perhaps get some counseling for the little brats who snitched on him. Sounds like they’re future IRS agents in training.

Sadly, this is just part of a pattern we’ve seen in government schools, with bureaucrats hyperventilating over normal kid behavior. Here are some other examples.

*    Bureaucrats suspended a little boy for taking bites out of a pop tart in such a way that it was shaped like a gun.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a 7-year boy for pretending to throw a non-existent grenade on the playground.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a 6-year old boy in Maryland for making a gun shape with his finger.

*   Bureaucrats busted a 5-year old girl in Pennsylvania for having a pink plastic gun that shoots bubbles.
*   A teacher in Rhode Island caught an 8-year old boy with some plastic toy army men.

*   Bureaucrats evacuated a school because an 11-year old boy made a motion detector for his science experiment.
*   Bureaucrats in Florida kicked an 8-year old boy out of school for a year because he had a plastic gun in his backpack.

*    A dual award in Virginia, with half the prize for the bureaucrats who suspended a 10-year old boy for a toy gun and half the prize for the cops who then arrested the kid.

*   A third-grader got in trouble for having toy army men on his birthday cupcakes.

*   Two second-graders got suspended for holding pencils like they were guns.

*   Bureaucrats suspended a kindergartener for having a lego-sized toy gun.

*   Bureaucrats wanted a deaf child to change his sign-language name because it required him to shape his fingers in a way that resembled a gun.

*   Bureaucrats suspended two boys for playing with toy guns while off school property.

Now ask yourself to key question: Do we want to maintain and perpetuate a failed government school monopoly, or should we implement school choice to get better results and less political correctness?

Heck, we should be able to reform our schools if there’s already choice in countries such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Hypocrisy of not so clever Clegg: Harry Mount went to school with Deputy PM and says he's a plodder who owes everything to the joyously maverick teachers he now wants to ban

British Liberal leader Clegg wants all government funded schools to require a teaching qualification of their teachers

How many Government schools inspectors would approve of a half-naked teacher who instructed his pupils in the finer points of anarchic terrorism?

That was the approach taken by Jim Cogan, an English teacher at my old school, Westminster, in the Eighties.

Mr Cogan, who had done his National Service in Nigeria with the West African Frontier Force, liked to teach outside, often stripped to his vest.

On sunny summer days, he marched the class to the boundary of the cricket pitch in nearby Vincent Square, asking pupils to compose an instant essay on ‘How cricket is like life’.

Cogan was a Shakespeare scholar, expert at guiding pupils towards Oxbridge with his vast memory bank of quotes from English literature.  At the same time, he told his pupils that all Oxbridge colleges should be blown up, to end the wicked class divide.

If Jim Cogan’s old pupil, Nick Clegg, had his way, this maverick genius wouldn’t have been allowed to give 35 years of his life to inspiring Westminster pupils.

Mr Cogan studied classics and English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but he never got the formal teaching qualification Clegg insists all teachers at free schools must have.

Barely any of the gifted teachers who taught me and Nick Clegg — I was four years below the Deputy Prime Minister — had a teaching qualification. As a result, our elite education was blissfully free from the blunt, oafish, centralised government intervention Clegg is demanding for less privileged children.

Nick Clegg wasn’t one of the more intelligent boys when he was at Westminster School from 1980 to 1985.

The clever pupils at Westminster — one of the best, and most expensive, schools in the country, costing £32,490 a year — were ‘accelerated’. That meant they did O-levels after two, as opposed to three, years.

Clegg, one of the less bright sparks, was selected for the three-year option. Still, that didn’t stop him making it into Robinson College, Cambridge, in 1986, and, from there, on to the smooth-running conveyor belt to life’s glittering prizes: a scholarship at Minnesota University, an MA at the College of Europe in Bruges, a job with the European Commission and a spell as an MEP, before becoming an MP.

None of this would have been possible without the rocket-boosters attached to his middle-ranking talents by Westminster’s teachers.

I was largely taught by the same teachers — they stayed at the school a long time, attracted by the freedom to teach in the way they wanted, not hamstrung by the foot-dragging, equality-obsessed, knowledge-hating forces of the State education machine.

They taught for the love of their subject and were restricted neither by any national curriculum — which Clegg is also insisting all free school teachers must follow — nor much of a school curriculum. That day’s topic could be changed on the spot.

I remember the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister, in October 1984.  I was 13, in my first term, and our English teacher, David Edwards, decided on a whim to devote the lesson to studying her legacy rather than reading Julius Caesar, our O-level set book.

Of course, we’d end up reading Julius Caesar and doing well in those exams, but only as a sideshow in the general mission to enjoy literature; not as the be-all and end-all of the two years of lessons — or, in Clegg’s case, three years — leading to our O-levels.

The teachers used a deft combination of carrot and stick. David Hepburne-Scott — an Old Etonian who taught physics to me and Clegg and was rarely seen without his Eton tie — could be terrifying. But his  lessons were wonderfully original.

He taught the physics of heat transfer by telling us that, to warm up a cold bottle of red wine quickly before a dinner party, we must stick it behind the fridge — where warm air is expelled.

In the same lesson that he taught us Bernoulli’s principle — which explains why aeroplanes fly — he also told us how to fold our jackets before putting them in a suitcase: turn one arm inside out, fold once vertically, then again horizontally.  I still do it today on holiday — and I remember Bernoulli’s principle, too.

Hepburne-Scott also had an uplifting disregard for petty rules. On a trip to a railway museum, he jumped into the cab of a stationary locomotive, beckoned a group of boys aboard, and headed, steaming, off into the sunset.

My maths teacher, Michael Hugill, taught statistics by comparing the length of words used by the novelists Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh in 100-word extracts from their books.

Tellingly, my other maths teacher, Tristram Jones-Parry, a planet-brained mathematician, later the headmaster, tried to teach at a State school when he left Westminster — and was denied a job because he wasn’t ‘qualified’.  His old pupil, Nick Clegg, must have been delighted.

Jones-Parry was formidable figure. He once bellowed at the young Helena Bonham Carter, who took her A-levels at Westminster: ‘You can’t dress up as if you’re about to go out and milk the cows!’

Richard Stokes, Clegg’s German teacher — last year awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for ‘great service rendered to British-German relations’ — taught his subject through German poems set to music by Schubert and Mozart.

Stokes was another ‘untrained’ but inspirational man who admitted that while at Oxford, he’d get one of the girls from Somerville College to check his translations which were always littered with ‘howlers’.

Of course, Westminster in the Clegg years wasn’t a sepia-tinted paradise, with a common room entirely populated by adored Mr Chips types. As in any school, some of the teachers weren’t much good.

And it helped that the pupils were from comfortable, middle-class backgrounds, often with book-lined drawing rooms at home. It helped, too, that practically all the teachers had been to Oxbridge.

Still, that doesn’t mean less privileged children wouldn’t benefit from the teaching techniques that sent droves of Westminster pupils to Oxbridge and professional careers.

Wicked, patronising critics insist State schools can’t follow the same methods that make private schools the best in the world.

And Nick Clegg isn’t alone in denying poor children the advantages he benefited from by an accident of birth.

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt — son of a peer, educated at fee-paying University College School and Trinity College, Cambridge — insists teachers must have qualifications, even though he has taught in schools in his Stoke constituency without one himself.

Clegg and Hunt come from a long line of privately educated, Left-wing politicians, who pull up the drawbridge behind them.

Shirley Williams, Education Secretary under James Callaghan, was beautifully educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and Somerville College, Oxford, but was determined to get rid of private and grammar schools.

Anthony Crosland (Highgate School and Trinity College, Oxford), Harold Wilson’s Education Secretary, famously said: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland.’

Who wouldn’t want to be free of their hypocritical grasp?

The idea behind Michael Gove’s free schools is they should be  free, if not entirely independent, of the dead hand of Government.

But Nick Clegg is trying to keep a Government grip on them, keep them attached to what Michael Gove calls ‘the blob’ — the immovable, stodgy mass of the State-education establishment.

The result? Talented, free-thinking, unqualified teachers will desert free schools and flock to private ones.

Westminster’s teachers were brilliant because they were free from State indoctrination, free from a Government curriculum, free from the dim limitations of groupthink.

Free, too, to scream at, expel or suspend anyone they wanted. And they haven’t been on strike in 453 years.


It's no surprise that Tristram Hunt says he may educate his children privately. Most Labour grandees do

I'm not surprised that Tristram Hunt, Labour's new Shadow Education Secretary, has admitted he may send his children to private school. Left-wing grandees have a long track record of passionately supporting comprehensives – except when it comes to their own children.

Harold Wilson and James Callaghan both sent their children to private schools, while Tony Blair plumped for the London Oratory, a high-performing faith school in Fulham that was grant-maintained at the time. Tony Crosland and Shirley Williams, the architects of Labour's comprehensive schools policy, both went private, as did Polly Toynbee, who had the gall to attack me on Any Questions for wanting something better for my children than the nearest comprehensive. (You can listen to our exchange on the point here. It kicks off at the 34m mark.) Diane Abbott sent her son to City of London Boys, while Harriet Harman sent one of her sons to a grammar school in Kent. The list goes on. And on. And on.

When I've pointed out this sort of thing before, people below the line have quickly responded by drawing my attention to Conservative Prime Ministers and Education Secretaries who've gone private. The difference is, they haven't spent their careers arguing for greater equality or attempting to deny others the choice they've been able to exercise themselves. (The 1979 Labour Party manifesto proposed the abolition of private schools.) In the case of these Labour panjandrums, it's do as I say, not do as I do.

P.S. If Tristram Hunt is refusing to rule out educating his children privately then he can't be too worried about them being taught by teachers without QTS can he? After all, even in the unlikely event of Labour being back in power in 2015 and forcing taxpayer-funded schools to sack teachers without QTS, private schools will continue to employ them.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

California Strips Privacy From Kids: The Co-Ed Bathroom Law

As I wrote about recently, California is dead set on stripping away the privacy of children - and we need to do what we can to stop the madness.

A few short months ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1266, a first-of-its kind law, now known as the “Co-Ed Bathroom Bill.” The bill, as I’ve noted previously, opens girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and school showers to any child who ‘self-identifies’ as a girl---including boys who decide they really ‘are’ transgender girls. The same holds true for boys—a girl who decides her ‘true gender self’ is a boy, must be allowed to use the boys’ restrooms, showers and locker rooms. In addition, so-called ‘transgendered’ children must be allowed to play on opposite-sex sports teams if they so choose. (Which really means that enterprising boys will dominate girls’ sports teams.)

The law hinges on the child’s right to decide his or her gender—a child might decide to “be” female one day and ‘male’ the next. It all depends on feelings and the child’s “self-identification.“ Translation: I am who I say I am, no matter what my body looks like.

It’s the very definition of unreality.

The consequences are significant, impacting far more than the ‘transgender’ child. Under this law, children lose their right to demand privacy while undressing, showering, or going to the bathroom. Instead, the left’s priority is for transgendered children to feel ‘included’ on an ‘equal’ basis, at all costs, even if that means other children lose their privacy.

The transgender lie is the root of the problem. For the left, it’s an axiom of faith that children must be allowed to choose a gender identity based on how they perceive themselves, regardless of whether they are born boys or girls. Many liberals go even further, holding the nonsensical position that human beings are meant to be gender-fluid, not boxed into the “binaries” of male and female. Gender, they say, might even change from one day to the next.

It’s hogwash.

Even so, normal kids—boys who are boys and girls who are girls—are expected to get with the program in California. If the law stands, you can expect that children who balk at welcoming an opposite-sex child into the locker room or bathroom will be reprimanded and singled out for being hurtful and transgender-phobic. The normal kids will be ‘the problem.’

Worse, where California leads, other states will follow. When California outlawed reparative therapy (treatment designed to help children overcome unwanted same-sex attraction) for children under 18, New Jersey quickly followed suit. Other states are considering similar legislation. If California’s law stands, it’s not just California students who will suffer from the loss of privacy and threat to their safety and well-being. Other states where the homosexual lobby is strong will soon get in line.

How to Save Your Family: Sign, Donate, and Send

This law cannot stand! The only way to stop it is by getting this issue on the ballot as a voter referendum. Parents and other concerned citizens, organized under the coalition Privacy for all Students, have mounted a petition seeking to give California voters a referendum on the new law. That means that if Privacy for all Students collects 505,000 signatures by the November 6thdeadline, California voters will have a chance to vote on the new law—and polls indicate that the repeal of the law would win hands down.

The people of California do not want this law. They deserve a chance to cast a vote in favor of protecting children. But they need our support. Call, text, Facebook, or email your friends in California. Tell them to sign the petition. Go to, sign, donate to help the effort, and share the link with all your friends asking them to donate to the referendum effort regardless of where they live.


Cordray: 'We Want to See Financial Education Topics Integrated Into School Curricula'

"Financial education in schools is critical, but enormous benefits also exist if the education starts at home," Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray told a meeting of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission at the Treasury Department Wednesday.

"We want to see financial education topics integrated into school curricula. We believe this education should begin at a young age and continue through graduation," Cordray said.

"I was down in New Orleans Monday morning arguing to the American Bankers Association that bankers should be going to their state legislatures and their state governors and insisting that financial education be taught in our schools."

Cordray noted that earlier this year, the CFPB released policy recommendations for youth financial education starting in kindergarten and continuing through the end of high school.

(Among other things, CFPB recommends that states strongly consider including a stand-alone personal financial management course as a graduation requirement for high school students. It also advocates that financial management questions be added to standardized assessments.)

Cordray said personal financial management should be mastered by parents as well: "Research has demonstrated that if parents engage their children by establishing a savings account for them, the children are seven times more likely, all other things being equal, to attend college than those without a savings account."

"We want to see every youth, regardless of income, develop financial skills and access services that will help them better navigate the complex financial marketplace. We are particularly looking towards summer youth employment programs as a way to engage youth, teach them about financial services and provide them with opportunities to practice new skills by working with financial partners."

Cordray said the goal of his agency is to "give all consumers the confidence and peace of mind that the financial world is not full of pitfalls that will ruin their lives. The best and most immediate form of consumer protection is self-protection, being able to avoid problems in the first place and to know what you can do about it when you do experience a problem."


Britain: Coursework axed as 'easy' A-levels are made harder and students return to studying traditional subjects

Tough new A-levels will see a return to teenagers studying traditional subjects in greater depth to restore rigour to the exams.

In English literature pupils will focus on eight instead of 12 texts, while in history they will examine a broader sweep of crucial events to better prepare them for university.

Sixth-formers will also need to display more mathematical ability in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, economics and psychology exams.
A-levels will see a return to teenagers studying traditional subjects in greater depth

Changes: Tougher new A-levels will see a return to teenagers studying traditional subjects in greater depth

In a separate move, coursework at A-level is set to be cut back in an effort to toughen up the exams and prevent cheating.

In future, the qualifications should include coursework only if a particular skill cannot be assessed by exam, such as in geography fieldwork or art, exam regulator Ofqual said.

The Government is introducing harder A-levels in most subjects from September 2015, with reformed maths, further maths and languages A-levels following in 2016.

Ministers have already announced that teenagers will be tested at the end of two years – with no exams in the first 12 months – to stop courses being broken into bite-sized chunks that encourage formulaic teaching.

AS-levels, currently taken in the first year of the sixth form, will become stand-alone qualifications, with marks no longer counting towards final A-level grades.

Professor Mark Smith, vice chancellor of Lancaster University, chaired an independent review of A-levels and yesterday a consultation document, drawn up by exam boards and university academics, was published outlining the proposed subject content of the ‘rigorous’ new exams.

In English literature, pupils will need to study a minimum of eight texts, which must include at least three works from before 1900, including one Shakespeare play, and a post-2000 work.

This will enable sixth-formers to look at novels and plays in more detail. Currently, teenagers study six texts at AS-level and a further six at A-level.

English literature candidates will also be examined on a previously ‘unseen’ text. ‘To prepare for examinations with “unseen texts”, students will need to read widely, broadening their knowledge and their critical and comparative understanding of literature,’ the consultation document says.

In history, sixth-formers will have to study topics from a period of at least 200 years rather than the current range of 100 years, which is now considered ‘too narrow’.

The focus on British history has been reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent because it was felt that pupils will have already developed a ‘good understanding’ from GCSE studies.

More maths is being introduced to economics, computer science and psychology A-levels as well as the three sciences.

Other changes include a new emphasis on drawing in art and design, and fieldwork being reintroduced in geography so pupils ‘relate their learning to real experiences of the world’.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Why Teachers' Unions Want Sex Offenders In Your Child's Classroom"

This past week the most prominent teachers' unions made it painfully obvious, they are on the side of the sex offender, rapist, and murderer who has been convicted.

They are not now (and pretty much never have been) on the side of your child.

They claim to represent the interests of teachers. Yet I am hard pressed to find an average teacher who feels like the unions have done pretty much anything for them. The average teacher just feels the pinch when the union bosses take the dues from their paychecks and threaten any who dare to "get out of line."

Yet nary a teacher that could be found this week could take any pride from the unions' latest actions.

This week--in atypical overwhelming bi-partisan unity--the House of Representatives passed a measure that would allow schools to require teachers, coaches, and janitors to be subject to criminal background checks. The measure would allow the school to deny employment to any who had been convicted (not *suspected, indicted, or accused--but convicted) of past felonies. The measure would also allow the school to take a pass on any previously convicted sex-offender. The measure will now head to the Senate.

If the Senate cares about the welfare of children they will pass the measure forthwith.  The problem is--they may not care about the kids.

The Senate is majority Democrat in party affiliation, and Democrat candidates rely heavily upon huge disproportionate contributions to their campaign funds from the unions to get re-elected. So now Majority Leader Harry Reid is being lobbied hard by the teachers' unions to kill the bill, or direct fellow Democrats to vote it to defeat. You can encourage Reid to ignore them by calling his office at 202.224.3121.

But why would the unions representing the teachers of America (who I believe universally support the measure-sans any hidden criminals amongst their ranks) wish to pair up child rapists with children?

My hunch says: They just don't believe anybody cares.

And why should they? This week a movie theater in New York defied the law, and good common sense to openly invite children under the age of 17 to come and see an "artistic" graphic film that depicts intense scenes of nothing-to-the-imagination lesbian sex that runs nearly 3 hours in length. They went so far as to publicly announce that they would not ban under-agers from seeing the film. When writing about it for the New York Times, cultural reporter A. O. Scott more or less admitted to actions that would have had him arrested as a sex offender forty years ago, saying he had proudly encouraged his daughter of 14 to see the film... Twice...

No doubt a generation ago, had he taken his own daughter of 14 to a peep show he would've been listed as a sex offender. The irony of this fact--completely lost on Scott--didn't prevent him from bragging about his "permissive" nature in his column... in the New York Times... admitting his own moral laxity.

Add to this the fact that in more than one case against teachers who have raped their own students, the teachers' unions have come to the defense of--not the child but rather the--teacher in recent months with not an overtly noted outcry from the public and you begin to realize something is desperately amiss.

While our society at one time thought more clearly about sexual activity, sexual content, and sexual contact between children, children and adults, and children and teachers, we don't seem to any more.

In other words the lessening of our sexual mores have led to a genuine shift in what is safe, decent, and good for children.

The grand bet that is being waged is that the teachers' unions can lean on the Majority Leader hard enough to kill the legislation (never bring it up for a vote) and that the average parent will never care.

This is the case only because we are a society that in some measure has stopped thinking for ourselves and instead placed our trust in the "smart people" (you know... the kind that run teachers' unions and talk about sexual prudishness of people of faith at wine and cheese parties in New York and DC) to make the decisions for them.

The question as it rests with you now is...  Are they right?


When Teachers Become the Board of Dictators

The notion of a governing board is to provide authoritative representation within organizations whose interest is jointly held by multiple individuals. For instance, machinery manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. is owned by literally millions of people who have purchased stock in the company. Their relative number of shares equates to their percentage of ownership in Caterpillar. Along with the financial stake, ownership also translates into voting rights for electing members of Caterpillar’s governing board.

The governing board for a corporation or a non-profit is referred to as the board of directors. College and University institutions carry the terms board of trustees or board of regents. At the K-12 level, we use the common term board of education. The selection of the members of each governing board is made by vote of the stakeholders.

The most common vote cast by corporation stakeholders is for the purpose of selecting the members of the board of directors at the annual shareholders meeting. Board members of privately held educational institutions are typically selected by the standing board members. For public educational institutions, both university and K-12, the represented citizens select the board members through the civic election process.

Governing boards are structured in generally the same manner, whether a corporate board of directors, a university board of trustees, or a board of education. Their duties include: guiding the organization by way of broad policies and objectives; appointing, supervising, and compensating the chief executive officer; managing the availability of financial resources; approving overall annual budgets; and accounting for the organization’s performance to the stakeholders.

For a corporation like Caterpillar, the board of directors is a group of 15 professionals who are entrusted by the shareholders to ensure a good return on their investment. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) reports to the Caterpillar Board of Directors. And all employees ultimately report to the CEO. Should the company not perform well, the board is expected to make adjustments to financing or, when necessary, a change in leadership personnel. And shareholders meetings afford the opportunity for the stakeholders to ask driving questions and register their opinions as the ultimate organization authority.

Of course, it would be unseemly for employees to assert their points of view at a shareholders meeting. How awkward would it be for employees to step up to the microphone and give the Board of Directors a piece of their mind about board policy and how their boss ought to be getting things done? Caterpillar has a well-established management hierarchy to accept employee recommendations and a fully staffed human resources department to address matters of morale.

And how unnatural would it seem to Caterpillar stockholders if they were to receive campaigning from company employees attempting to persuade their board membership votes? It would make sense for shareholders to challenge each other in coming to a majority decision about which individuals would best serve their interests in guiding the company’s direction. Employee morale and welfare would certainly rank high on the list of the shareholders’ concerns. But shareholders receiving mail, phone calls, and front-porch visits from the Caterpillar employees’ union would be unwelcome and downright creepy. But that is the methodology of teachers unions in the K-12 world.

Ever since Massachusetts Senate President Horace Mann ushered in America’s first board of education in 1837, voters have been electing their fellow citizens to represent community values in education. And the decisions are not simple. Considerations include levels of taxation, curriculum, and standards of achievement. Every parent argues for the finest preparation, every taxpayer argues for the most effective investment, and every thinking citizen argues for principle.

Once board members are elected, they avail themselves to the citizen stakeholders in public meetings. Policy discussions and decisions are made in the open for parents and taxpayers to witness and to persuade. The system is as flawed and as wonderful as a shared responsibility can be, executing democratic principles on behalf of those most precious to us all.

Each of us remembers that teacher who inspired us to chase our daydream (thank you, Christopher Cox), found a way to make Spanish class interesting (gracias, Señora Balestri), or got us to actually look forward to geometry tests (thank you, Tom Stager). We ask a great deal of those who teach. And we value them for their skills, talents and devotion to our students. But I contend that it is wholly improper for a teachers union to assert itself into the citizens’ debate over K-12 boards of education. And it is plain malapropos for teachers to short-circuit the district hierarchy by addressing the board members directly at school board meetings. These public practices amount to sacred customs that do not invite the interference of a closed interest.


British High School grades 'to be axed' in favour of numerical system

The traditional GCSE grading system is facing the axe as part of sweeping reforms designed to toughen up qualifications for 16-year-olds.

Exam chiefs are planning to scrap the current A* to G structure in favour of one based on numbers to properly differentiate between old and new GCSEs, it will be announced.

The system – applied to courses taught from September 2015 – is likely to result in pupils being given a grade from one to eight, with eight representing the highest level of performance.

Grade boundaries will also be recalibrated to make the very top scores harder to achieve amid fears the existing system provides “insufficient discrimination” at the top end.

The disclosure will be made in a document published by Ofqual setting out the future of GCSEs in England this week.

Further changes could include:

 *  Scrapping the modular system in which GCSEs are broken up into bite-sized chunks in favour of all exams sat at the end of the two year course;

 *  Ensuring that subjects graded entirely through end-of-course exams will involve a test lasting at least three-and-a-half hours;

 *  Axing coursework in most subjects apart from the sciences where practical assessments will form 10 per cent of the total mark;

 *  Abolishing tiered papers – easy and harder exams based on pupils’ abilities – apart from in maths and the sciences.

The conclusions follow a 12-week consultation launched by Ofqual earlier this year amid claims from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that GCSEs had been devalued.

Speaking in the summer, he said there was a "widespread consensus that we need to reform our examination system to restore public confidence", insisting that the new version would be “more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous”.

GCSEs were introduced by the Conservatives in the late 80s to replace O-levels. Pupils were originally graded from A to G but the A* grade was added in the 90s amid fears that the exams failed to properly mark out the very brightest pupils.

It is thought that Ofqual will recommend moving towards a numerical grading system in new GCSEs to signal a clear break with the past. The "U" grade is likely to be retained for pupils who fail altogether.

Reformed exams in English language, English literature and maths will be brought into schools in two years’ time. Changes to qualifications in science, history and geography will be delayed until 2016, it has emerged.

This week, the Department for Education is also expected to publish the final content of the new English and maths GCSEs, with maths syllabuses expected to be double the size of the existing course.

In a separate development on Sunday, it emerged that Ofqual is considering removing a number of “soft” GCSEs from the list of approved subjects sat by 14- to 16-year-olds.

The GCSE brand may be reserved for academic subjects, while disciplines such as media studies, PE and drama are renamed. It would create a clear dividing line between academic and more practical subjects.

An Ofqual spokesman insisted that the proposal would not form part of this week’s report but would be considered separately in the future.

He said the regulator was “looking at whether all the existing subjects should be included in the GCSE brand”.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Common Core Equals Federalized Education

Do you know what Common Core is yet? Here is a taste of what is to come …

Recently, parents in Maryland got concerned when their kids were “FORCED” to take a survey with questions like, “What is your religion?” and “What is your parents’ political affiliation?” and “What is your sexual orientation?”

When the parents asked the school about the survey, they were told no such questionnaire ever took place—and mysteriously, the evidence of the survey was removed from the school website. Then, the school blamed it on one lone teacher.

This is how Common Core operates: in the dark, and when someone asks questions about it, they are shooed away like a pesky fly or accused of “not wanting what is best for the children.”

Just ask the Maryland parent who dared stand up at an informational meeting to ask questions. He was arrested.

Common Core is a nationalized education program that 45 states have adopted, basically sight-unseen. It is a grand progressive plan to create a federal “plan” for each of our kids, Kindergarten through age 20, and prepare them for government service or “the trades.”

According to many experts, this will kill innovation in the classroom, no more personalized study, and educational standards will plummet.

Parents and teachers across America are up in arms—but the peddlers of Common Core are pretending we are just hysterical, misinformed and fear mongering. They are hoping we’ll go away or that people will think better of associating with us.

Michelle Malkin: “Hidden in Common Core is the real objective – presenting the minimal amount of material that high-school graduates need to be able to enter the work force in an entry-level job, or to enroll in a community college with a reasonable expectation of avoiding a remedial math course.”

Jason Zimba is one of the CHIEF DRAFTERS of the math standards. HE ADMITTED in 2010, at a public meeting of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, that Common Core is designed to prepare students only for a non-selective community college, not a university.

Parents and teachers are being completely removed from the education process and the government is stepping in to take over.

Forget the educational standards for the moment, which will destroy the intellect of this nation, and we will explain further—let’s examine the mindset that Common Core weaves throughout its lessons.

All children in all states, at all levels of society, will learn the same lessons in the same way. Those lessons will be that statism is good, humans are harming the planet, wealth is bad, and Western civilization is therefore, terrible by nature.

There are educational videos being used in some schools explaining that everyone has a right to healthcare, high quality food, enough money for retirement, a decent job and a house, as well as the right to join a union. Eight weeks in the curriculum is solely dedicated to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

It doesn’t matter if your kids do not attend a public school. Eventually the curriculum requirements will be included in the state longitudinal databases, and college admissions standards will draw from Common Core expectations.

National standardized tests are already rewritten to align to Common Core.  There will be no escape unless we educate parents and stop it now.


By the end of high school, at least 50 percent of student instruction will involve reading “informational texts” like EPA manuals and government white papers. Fewer and fewer time will be spent on literature classics!

If the federal government creates the national curriculum, who will decide what our kids will learn, what they believe is truth or what ideological pathway they will be “NUDGED” to take?


Common Core wants students to “feel” the answers and have a “deeper conceptual understanding” of the answers, whatever they want them to be, and however they arrive at them. Two plus two can equal ten as long as the student can make a case for how they got there. A Stanford University professor says Common Core will put the U.S. at least two years behind other developed countries in math.

We believe this will strangle our progress much more than that.

The curriculum was developed behind closed doors, with very little input from teachers and without one classroom teacher signing off on it in the end! In fact, the very people peddling the new Common Core approved textbooks and Common Core standardized tests are—you guessed it—the same people who went behind closed doors to develop the curriculum in the first place. 

Even professors who were involved in developing the curriculum have expressed huge disappointment and caution at the outcome.

Obama and his administration don’t want you to know what’s in it. They don’t want you to know how much it will cost. They have no proof it works and they are using “the children” to pressure you into silence.

A teacher responding to criticism of Common Core said: “I am a teacher that understands and dislikes Common Core, and I do not know of any teacher that likes the program. It is another example of BIG GOVERMENT taking over more of our lives. We do not need a Department of Education at the federal level, because states know their educational needs better than Washington.

States may disagree with what the federal government mandates to them, but they will do whatever they have to for federal money. Common Core and many programs get into our educational system in this manner. Doesn't this sound like the way big government is trying to take away our freedoms?

This statist national curriculum will not raise academic standards, it will stifle them. It will end classroom creativity and innovation, and it will indoctrinate entire generations of kids into the belief that the government is their true parent and that is where they should seek all the comforts they need in life.


Duncan on New College Ratings System: 'I Can Promise You, We Won't Do It Perfectly'

A new system for rating colleges based on access, affordability and outcomes doesn't exist yet, but it's coming soon -- despite the concerns of college administrators, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a gathering at the Treasury Department on Wednesday.

"And the goal is, about a year from now, next fall, to go back to the president with a rating system and then going forward, by 2018, to actually start tying some financial aid to outcomes. And that's a scary thought, it's a pretty radical thought," Duncan said.

"I can promise you, we won't do it perfectly, it's something we need to continue to improve, but in a world where we are using scarce taxpayer dollars, $150 billion, all based on inputs (student grants and loans), I don't think anyone can defend the current system as the best that we can offer to young people, to the country."

Duncan admitted that creating a college ratings system will be "complex" and "not without controversy."

"I'm very aware of the potential risk of perverse incentives or disincentives if we don't do this as spotlessly as I'd like," he said, adding that he'll spend the next few months "doing a massive amount of listening across the country" and "having conversations with higher-ed leaders across the country."

"We're coming to this with a great deal of humility," he said.

Despite the nation's "amazing range" of higher-education choices, "we have a wildly inefficient marketplace," Duncan said. There are "too many young folks who think they can't afford to go to college" and there are "far too many young people picking the wrong schools for the wrong reasons." 

The question, Duncan said, is "how do we help young people and their families make better choices?"

Duncan then mentioned some of the "values we want to look for in a rating system."

Increasing access to college "is at the top of the list," Duncan said. "And we want to make sure whatever we come up with, we're encouraging more universities to take more young people who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, who are first- generation college-goers. If we come up with a rating system that somehow discourages that, we will have done a grave disservice to the country. "

(But as previously reported, awarding colleges higher federal ratings and increased federal aid for admitting a higher percentage of low-income students who receive federal Pell Grants would encourage colleges to discriminate against applicants who come from families with total incomes of $60,000 or more. The Obama plan also would reward colleges for having higher overall graduation rates and for graduating a higher number of students on Pell Grants--which could provide colleges with an incentive to lower the academic standards for earning a diploma.)

The second value Duncan mentioned is "affordability," Duncan said. He pointed to a report showing that tuition costs are rising at a lower rate: "But still, the cost of college is wildly unaffordable for far too many -- not just disadvantaged communities but for middle-class families who are thinking college is for rich folks, not for them."

The third criteria for a ratings system is "outcomes," Duncan said: "And I'm really interested in looking, you know, where college graduation rates going up, where university is doing a good job in term of jobs placements, where they're doing a good job of helping young people pay back their loans at the back end."

Duncan said that tying financial aid to "outcomes" is "a scary thought, it's a pretty radical thought. But again, I can promise you, we won't do it perfectly, it's something we need to continue to improve..."

"So it's an exciting time, a tremendous amount of work to do. None of this will be easy. None of this will be without controversy. But if we can drive down the cost of college, if we can help more young people afford to go to higher education, if we can help them make better choices, more informed choices, greater transparency, we think an already fantastic system, again, the leading system in the world, could be much stronger at the back end of this."

Duncan spoke at a meeting of President Obama's Financial Literacy and Education Commission. He was joined by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray.


The grammar school U-turn that could win the election for the Tories

There was an epic and humiliating U-turn on Wednesday when David Cameron announced that he would scrap whatever green taxes he could in order to reduce people’s fuel bills.

The man who put a wind turbine on top of his house, and promised to save huskies from sinking below the  melting polar ice cap, was now sacrificing environmentalism on the altar of political necessity.

Some would argue that an even more important political imperative — certainly so far as the future of the country is concerned — is to improve our education system, and may require a similar sacrifice.

Despite the best efforts of Michael Gove, a sincere and determined Education Secretary, our schools are still going from bad to worse.

A study this week by Dr Gijsbert Stoet of Glasgow University showed how levels of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving had slumped among those educated since the mid-Seventies, when selective education was, in most part, ended.

Tragically, progress has been put in reverse, with millions of children growing up less well-educated than their grandparents.

It is utterly perverse, therefore, that Mr Cameron has set his mind against grammar schools with the same ferocity that he originally supported so-called green taxes.

But repeated studies of British education standards — there was another just a few days ago from the Organisation for Economic  Co-operation and Development, the highly-respected international think tank — suggest that if the PM changed his views on selective education, it would be another popular U-turn.

I have never understood Mr Cameron’s opposition to grammar schools. For it exposes him to accusations of hypocrisy when he is attacked for his own privileged (Eton and Oxford) upbringing.

His stance makes it look as if he is denying an elite education to children who, through no fault of their own, cannot afford it.

In any case, the war against grammar schools is based on several myths. First, children who fail to get into them after the 11-plus are not — as that oaf John Prescott has suggested — simply written off.  At the excellent grammar school I attended, late-developers were admitted at the age of 14 or 16.

The result: about a third of my year went to Oxford or Cambridge universities. Today, a selective system that recruited pupils after the age of 11 as they reached the required standard would transform the prospects of many from poor backgrounds.

Such a policy ought to be combined with a revival of technical colleges. For any selective system must be matched by schools for vocational or technical education that are equally well-resourced.

Our education system has to help fulfil every child’s potential, whether academic or vocational.

Meanwhile, England’s remaining 164 grammar schools feel very vulnerable. Only this week, their teachers expressed concern that proposed funding reforms might sabotage their ability to teach Latin, Greek and music.

On Thursday, anti-grammar school but public school-educated Nick Clegg spoke vacuously about the importance of creating a ‘champions league’ of schools.

That is as relevant to the overhaul of our education system as a pint of beer is to a budgerigar.

If David Cameron can perform a U-turn on green taxes, he should certainly do another on education policy.

After all, it wouldn’t just help to improve the chances of countless children and boost the economic prospects of the country. It might even help the Tories win in 2015.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feds Order School To Ban Packed Lunches Without Doctor’s Note...

A school in Richmond, Virginia is following federal government instructions by telling parents that they need to have a doctor’s note in order for their children to be allowed to bring packed lunches to school, another example of how the nanny state is encroaching via the public education system.

A letter featured on the website instructs parents that packed lunches must be accompanied with a physician’s note.

Dear Parents,

I have received word from Federal Programs Preschool pertaining to lunches from home. Parents are to be informed that students can only bring lunches from home if there is a medical condition requiring a specific diet, along with a physicians note to that regard.

I am sorry for any inconvenience. If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact Stephanie [redacted] the Health Coordinator for Federal Programs Preschool at [redacted].

The letter also includes a handwritten note from a teacher which reads, “Ms Brooks, Please do not send a lunch to school unless a doctor’s note is sent in connection with this letter.” The identity of the school remains unknown, but it is situated in Richmond, Virginia.

The Federal Programs Preschool initiative is funded primarily by the Head Start Program, a Department of Health and Human Services scheme that provides education and nutritional support for children from low income families. Under Federal Programs Preschool, children are provided with breakfast, lunch and a snack.

While informing parents that they cannot make a decision on their own child’s diet, the same school promotes the fact that they sell ice cream during P.E. lessons every week. In a separate post, another parent describes how their child was upset because she was the only student not able to buy nachos and lemonade, which were also being sold during P.E. lessons right before lunch.

“So I suppose that sending a note that says “I choose to skip the GMO’s in the lunches you serve for a more balanced and safe diet as the parent of this child” doesn’t suffice?” writes Trisha Haas, adding that, “Homeschooling is looking better and better every day.”

If parents want to pack a healthy, non-GMO lunch for their own children, and not have their kids snacking on preservative-laden nachos and ice cream, they’re out of luck, because the federal government says so, unless parents go through the ludicrous hassle of obtaining a doctor’s note beforehand.

“So, now, at least one school wants children to have a doctor’s note to say no to the school lunch offerings of hormones, GMOs, preservatives, and grease. They must have the permission of a professional to avoid junk food. A parent’s good judgment is not sufficient, it seems, to make the healthy decision to provide a toxin-free lunch. Does anyone else see the irony here?” asks Daisy Luther.

This is not the only example of school lunches being banned. Chicago’s Little Village Academy public school mandates students eat at the cafeteria or go hungry. Only children with allergies and a doctor’s note are allowed to bring a packed lunch.

Many will see this as another form of creeping authoritarianism being introduced through the public education system, advancing the idea that the state and not parents have supreme authority over children.

It’s a concept also being promoted by the mass media. Earlier this year, MSNBC ran a segment pushing the notion that kids belong to the “collective,” and that the “idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families” should be eliminated.


Awesome Alternative to Campus Feminism

When looking at their course syllabi, young conservative women often find assignments that encourage them to challenge gender roles and unabashedly criticize the opposite sex. When searching for clubs to join on campus, they may find similar options — a host of feminist groups spewing a “women rule the world/men are the enemy” message. One organization, however, is continuing to provide female students with a conservative alternative.

For almost a decade now, the Network of Enlightened Women has been working to ignite a conversation on feminism and conservatism on college campuses which challenges the often misguided messages of college feminist groups. NeW celebrates its ninth anniversary this month.

Karin Agness, the organization’s founder, reflected on NeW’s progress,

    “Ten years ago, when a woman stepped on campus she found chapters of the National Organization for Women, Women's Studies departments and Women's Centers not open to supporting all women. That is partly why we founded the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, to serve as an alternative to campus feminism and provide a home for conservative women on campus.”

To celebrate NeW’s milestone, the organization released a video entitled “Join the NeW Movement!”


'Cram' classes in Australia are mostly "ethnic"

It's 9.53pm on a Monday, and inside a fluorescent-lit office in Glen Waverley 16 tired teenagers are shuffling papers, punching at calculators and wolfing down warm pizza.

They have been here since 7.30, sitting on folding chairs at white plastic picnic tables, listening to their teacher, Kevin Xiao, 28, as he dissects the mathematical methods exam they will face in less than a fortnight.

They listen in part because they clearly adore the exuberant Mr Xiao, the founder of this private tutoring college.

But also because of the only adornment on the walls at Breakthrough Education: laminated posters selling a narrative of success. "11 perfect ATARs in 4 years"; "Median ATAR of 97.65"; "1 in 7 graduates scoring 99+".

The students have come in search of those promised scores, paying $45 a class every Monday night since July to try to dominate the written VCE exam period that begins next week.

"Grab a slice, grab a seat, grab a Coke and let's get cracking," Mr Xiao says, launching into an explanation of another unfathomable problem. "Ten is to H, as 2 is to R, so what does that mean?"

Welcome to the expanding world of "shadow education". In 2005 there were 24,000 people working as full-time tutors in Australia. There are now more than 36,000, and demand continues to grow, particularly in "cram schools" such as this one, which caters to 250 students here and in Balwyn and Box Hill.

Mohan Dhall, of the Australian Tutoring Association, said such instruction was found anywhere that "transfer tests" existed, whether for perfect VCE scores or entry into selective schools.

Tutoring was once mainly a remedial tool to give struggling students a hand up, but increasingly parents trying to give dominant students a head start.

Bareetu Aba-Bulga, 18, sits somewhere in the middle. Of Oromian (Ethiopian) descent, she goes to Huntingtower School, Mount Waverley, studies Indonesian and wants to be an accountant. "It's my dream to empower the women of Indonesia through business," she says.

But she struggles with numbers. Group tutoring has helped, although going to school after school is a challenge.  "It's OK for the first hour, but then we hit 8.30 and I start to fall asleep sometimes," she said, laughing. "Maths isn't always exciting."

Students from St Albans and Werribee, Caulfield Grammar and Melbourne Grammar, and even Mac.Robertson Girls High School and Melbourne High School augment their education here.

Janet McCutcheon, assistant principal at Mac.Rob, said tuition had its place, provided children and parents did not think of it as the only way.  "We don't want them being overloaded," she said.