Friday, November 08, 2013

Obama sends kids to the back of the bus on education

Decades-old desegregation orders on Louisiana school districts, the center of a federal government case against Louisiana’s school choice program, are now emerging as a major distraction for the Department of Justice bringing the case.

The Justice Department is arguing that allowing students to leave public schools for private schools will somehow undermine desegregation of schools in Louisiana.

Yet, when the state in discovery asked for the desegregation orders, the administration responded by stalling. “[S]ome of the Discovery Requests seek documents that may be available only in federal archives and may require significant time to retrieve; the United States will then need to review and evaluate those documents, determine what to produce, and prepare any related objections.”

How embarrassing. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal noted the irony in a statement, saying the Obama administration in its filing had admitted “that it sued the state based on documents the Department of Justice is not able to readily produce.”

Perhaps the reason for that is the case actually has nothing to do with racial segregation. As even the Washington Post editorial board recently noted about the school choice program in Louisiana, “most of the students using vouchers are black.” Meaning, the effect was to boost black enrollment in private schools where they are underserved, not to reimpose segregation.

Since the vouchers are available regardless of race, they cannot serve to segregate at all on the basis of race. The argument put forth by the administration simply cannot follow. It is a non-sequitur.

Instead, there is ample evidence this has everything to do with keeping taxpayer funding flowing to public teachers unions and Democrat Party causes. Indeed, the only thing that might be undermined by the program is enrollment in public schools across the board if school vouchers should become more widely available.

In that sense, the true segregation in education being enforced today is not based on racial quotas, but on the monopoly public schools teachers unions insist on imposing.

“This is the Obama administration, this is Washington D.C., putting the needs of government unions over the needs of our children,” Jindal declared in a recent speech at an Americans for Prosperity gathering.

Gov. Jindal is right. School vouchers take dollars out of public schools, and the unions hate it. It forces them to compete. They care more about pocketing those tax dollars than helping kids get a better education.

So beholden is the Obama Administration and Holder Justice Department to the unions like that National Education Association, they are willing to gut a school choice program that black students disproportionately benefit from. They’re willing to send those kids to the back of the bus by leaving them in failing schools.


Scandal! Tory cabinet minister met distinguished scientist

Thus, from the leftist Independent:  Michael Gove held talks with 'IQ genes' professor

Michael Gove held talks with a leading scientist who believes that genetics, not teaching, plays a major part in the intelligence of schoolchildren, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Professor Robert Plomin, the world's leading behavioural geneticist, met the Secretary of State for Education and ministers at the Department for Education in the summer. Mr Gove's policy adviser, Dominic Cummings, provoked outcry yesterday when it emerged he had backed Professor Plomin's research that genes accounted for up to 70 per cent of a child's cognitive abilities.

Mr Cummings, in a 250-page "private thesis", said the link between intelligence and genetics had been overlooked in the education system and wanted to introduce Professor Plomin to ministers to redress the balance.

A spokesman for Mr Gove refused to respond when asked three times whether the Education Secretary also believed intelligence was genetic. "Professor Plomin has given a few talks to different groups including ministers," the spokesman said.

"[He] suggested lots of different things, for example, that genetic research might allow us to help those with learning difficulties much earlier and more effectively."

Linking intelligence to genes has long been controversial, but Professor Plomin has conducted research showing up to 70 per cent heritability for reading and maths tests at age seven, nine and 12, while scores for English, Maths and science GCSEs show up to 60 per cent heritability in a twin study.

The research is contentious because ministers and educationalists have long believed that any child, from whatever background, can achieve the highest academic ability.

In his document, leaked to The Guardian, Mr Cummings cited at length research by Professor Plomin, including the studies showing up to 70 per cent of a child's performance is genetically derived.

Mr Cummings said: "There is strong resistance across the political spectrum to accepting scientific evidence on genetics. Most of those that now dominate discussions on issues such as social mobility entirely ignore genetics and therefore their arguments are at best misleading and often worthless."

In the document, effectively a lengthy and detailed parting shot before he leaves the Department for Education at the end of this year, Mr Cummings also claimed that mediocrity is ubiquitous in education and criticised the amount of money the Labour government spent on Sure Start and other measures to improve social mobility, claiming billions had been spent "with no real gains". He added: "The education of the majority even in rich countries is between awful and mediocre." ...

Kevin Brennan, the shadow schools minister, said: "His claim that most variation in performance is due to genetics rather than teaching quality will send a chill down the spine of every parent – we need to know if these views are shared by Michael Gove."


Parents Slam Pro-Islam Slant in Florida School Textbook

Hundreds of parents, angry at what they say is a biased student textbook with a decided pro-Islam slant, have launched a campaign demanding equal religious representation and planned a protest at the school board meeting this week.

The book, "World History," devotes fully 32 pages - an entire chapter - on "Muslim Civilizations," including descriptions of the Koran and a listing of the Five Pillars of Islam, The Daily Caller reported. But noticeably missing is information on any other religion.

Protesters are demanding that students tear out the Islam chapter until the school, in Volusia County, provide a like number of pages on other religions, the local WFTV reported.

"The problem is there needs to be balance," said District 2 Deltona commissioner Webster Barnaby, in The Daily Caller. "In America today, Christianity is being relegated to the trash heap. Why relegate Christianity to a footnote in an entire history book, and you give an entire chapter on the teachings of Islam? To suggest that everybody knows about Christianity, that is total ignorance."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, meanwhile, has sent out a statement in opposition to the protest.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

France Fights Public School Islamism

Secular France wants nothing to do with religion. Yet, it has been forced to grapple with its increasing Islamization that appears to be spinning out of control. The French Education Minister has a new plan to push back: a secularism charter in every public school. However, France's misguided efforts are unlikely to solve the problem.

France is officially a secular country with separation of church and state. There is no state religion and everyone is free to believe or not believe as they wish. The expression of religious faith is permitted within the boundaries of public order. All creeds are respected and treated equally under the law. But, unlike America which has true religious freedom and allows religion in the public square so long as one religion is not favored over another, the principles underlying France's 1905 Laïcité laws call for the cleansing of religion from State functions and institutions. Therefore, despite the fact that France's Constitution claims otherwise, secularism reigns supreme over faith.

In recent years, France's secular underpinnings have been challenged. Largely due to faulty immigration policies, France is quickly becoming the most Islamized country in Europe. Approximately 200,000 people immigrate legally into France every year, and another 200,000 people immigrate illegally. Currently, approximately 10 percent of France's population is Muslim (an estimated 4.7 – 10 million people) and the numbers are rising.

Muslim immigrants pose a severe threat to French secularism and therefore to the nation's identity. Many Muslim immigrants show little interest in assimilating, learning French, or integrating into mainstream society.

Increasingly, Islamic institutions and practices are replacing French secular traditions. Muslim University students are demanding separation of the sexes, excused absences for religious reasons, and pressuring universities to alter their curriculums.

In some areas, there are Muslim enclaves governed by Sharia law. In these "no-go zones" government officials have de facto relinquished control. Police, firemen, and even ambulances refrain from entry. At last count, France had 751 "Sensitive Urban Zones", as these areas are euphemistically called.

The French are loosing control in other regions of the country as well to groups of Muslims who regularly violate State laws. For example, in some locales Muslims block traffic and fill the streets for Jummah prayers on Fridays, in violation of French law. Yet, the police stand idly by. There are numerous other examples along the same lines.

In recent years, the French government has been trying to push back against the Islamization of its country. It has introduced several initiatives in an attempt to enforce its secular principles.

For example, in 2010, the Parliament passed a law making it illegal to wear a full face veil in public. Though the Islamic burqa was not specifically named in the legislation, everyone knew that the burqa was the target of the bill. In 2004, the government outlawed all religious symbols and attire in public schools. Students can no longer wear yomikas, crosses, or hijabs to school.

Now on August 26, 2013 the French Education Minister Vincent Peillon has announced that the government will post a secularism charter in each of its 55,000 public schools by the end of September. The purpose of the charter is to remind students and teachers of France's secular underpinning and restore "secular morality". Some of the items embodied in the charter mirror France's Constitution, reiterating that there is no State religion and emphasizing separation of religion and state.

Additional items listed in the Charter expressly assert that the school is a secular institution, students are prohibited from proselytizing, and that students are disallowed from demanding excused absences or challenging class lessons based on their religion.

Minister Peillon's true thoughts on the role of secularism in the Republic are revealed in his 2008 book titled, "The Revolution is not Over", published by Seuil. In it he asserts that the purpose of secular education is "to remove the student from all forms of determinism, whether familial, ethnic or social" in order to "enable each student to emancipate himself". He states that the goal of the school is to produce "a free individual, emancipated from all guardianships: political, religious, familial, social – so that he can make his own choices…."

His writings aspire to a new religion …. that of secularism, as indicated by his language: "the Republican system is forced to invent a new metaphysics and a new religion in which man can transcend himself… It is not a religion of God made man… It is a religion of the man who creates himself thought constant movement". He expressly states that socialism needs a new religion to take the place of the old and that Secularism can be that religion. His claims that done properly, this can create a "new birth", "a transubstantiation" and "a new Church".

Apparently, he and other officials in the French government believe that true religion is the problem and that squelching it in favor of a secular manmade religion is the solution.

To date, there is no evidence that such an approach will work. At the current rate of Muslim immigration combined with its high birth rates, France will be a Muslim majority country in 23 years.

The measures instituted by the French government are largely symbolic. The government doesn't appear to have the fortitude to enforce French secularism by doling out consequences for serious infractions of French law committed in the name of Islam, whether in the no-go zones or elsewhere.

True religion is not the problem. Religions that operate within the spiritual sphere, respecting the laws of the land are not a threat to the fabric of French society. There is no reason to repress the religious freedom of all because of the problems posed by only one "religion" that seeks to impose itself on unbelievers. The government must acknowledge that those who seek parallel societies run by Sharia law constitute a subversive political movement, cloaking itself in the language of religion. France must treat the movement accordingly. If it doesn't, the Islamist threat will continue to erode the foundations of French society.


Are Americans Dumb?

While the overall national results are important, the "whites only" data would undoubtedly be different and perhaps more informative

A recent international assessment of the cognitive and technology skills of 5,000 adults between the ages of 15 and 65 in each of 24 countries bodes ill for America's future competitiveness in the international economy. Administered in 2011 and 2012, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies collected data in multiple languages, in countries with diverse populations, cultures and education. The test measures educational background, workplace experience, use of information technology, and cognitive skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

The U.S. landed near the bottom in numeracy and slightly under the middle in literacy – but only because older people raised the average score. Americans did, however, rise above average in one category: the percentage of low-skilled people.

One of the most discouraging findings indicates that the gap between the children of well and poorly educated parents is wide and might be intractable. As adults, children of the latter will lack the skills and knowledge necessary to move out of the cycle of one low-paid job following another. And unlike countries such as Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands where many such people take advantage of continuing education, few low-skilled Americans display the interest to do so.

Economists say a highly skilled workforce is key to economic recovery. But this study shows many American workers will earn less money and be twice as likely to be unemployed for years to come.


The Slow Death of Free Speech at Harvard

By Harvey Silverglate

A speech to the 55th reunion of the Harvard Law School class of 1958, October 26, 2013:

I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1967. Very early in my career, I represented many students in Administrative Board cases growing out of their protests against the Vietnam War. I represented (with Alan Dershowitz) one group of students accused by the Administrative Board of harassment for closely following the Harvard College Dean, Ernest May, 24 hours a day, chanting "murderer, murderer, murderer." Wherever the dean walked in Cambridge, he was followed.  Dean May was consulting at the time for the Department of Defense. This is why the students followed him and chanted.

The College's Ad Board acquitted the students on academic freedom/free speech grounds, simply advising the students to keep a respectful distance from Dean May when they followed him. This would never happen today. The definition of "harassment" has very much swallowed up the concept of free speech and academic freedom.

By the mid-1980's, I noticed a distinct change in the culture of free speech and academic freedom throughout the entire country, but Harvard, and particularly Harvard Law School, was a pioneer in the slow death of these virtues.                   

The Harvard Law sexual harassment guidelines, 1996

My first public critique of the suppression of free speech at Harvard occurred in a 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Harvard Law Caves In to the Censors." HLS adopted, for the first time in its history, the Harvard Law School Sexual Harassment Guidelines, which deemed certain unpleasant speech to constitute actionable "harassment." This grew out of the publication of the annual Harvard Law Review April Fool's Day parody issue in 1992, the Harvard Law Revue.  The satirical issue contained the infamous Frug parody: Mary Joe Frug, feminist legal scholar at Northeastern School of Law, was tragically and viciously murdered on the streets of Cambridge in 1991. As a memorial tribute to Professor Frug, the Harvard Law Review had published Professor Frug's unfinished draft article on feminist legal scholarship. The satirical Revue made fun of this piece in a highly insensitive parody that contained a warning on the cover that it was "highly insensitive."

Outrage was instant. HLS Dean Robert Clark at first resisted calls for censorship, but finally caved in, as did all but three faculty members attending the faculty meeting that approved adoption of the dean's "Harvard Law School Sexual Harassment Guidelines" that trenched on speech.

I wrote a protest to Dean Clark. He responded: ""Thank you for your letter . . . about your thoughts on the Harassment Guidelines. Your sentiments have been echoed in the faculty chambers along with many others. This discussion is a sign of the times, as is the need perceived among students that we have to discuss this or be seen as uncaring of their concerns."

The Guidelines remain in effect today. There cannot be another such parody at HLS involving gender; nor has there been.

Censorship of The Harbus, November 2002

The HarBus newspaper ran a really rather tame cartoon in its Oct 28, 2002 issue, ridiculing the administration's operation of the HBS career office. Student editor-in-chief Nick Will was called to a meeting with Steven Nelson, executive director of the MBA Program, HBS Career Officer Matthew Merrick, HBS Senior Dean Walter Kester, and HBS Dean Kim Clark - all over a cartoon! Nelson threatened the student editor with disciplinary action, and so the editor resigned for fear of getting kicked out of the school.

The Harvard Crimson reported the story, which is how we know about it. Dean Kim Clark told the Crimson: "We do not want students to engage in discourse that hurts others," and the dean added that the coverage violated "HBS Community Standards." Finally, The HarBus News Corporation legal counsel opined that the criticism was "printable according to free speech laws," according to the Crimson. The HBS administrators retreated presumably in the face of legal advice.

The resignation of Lawrence Summers, 2005

I need not go into great detail about the incident that triggered the resignation of Larry Summers. Some say there were several reasons, including difficult personality traits that grated on some of the more pampered faculty members, or perhaps Summers' adamantly expressed views about subjects on which he was not a certified expert. But there can be no doubt that Summers' widely-reported remarks, at an academic conference held at Harvard on January 14, 2005, run by the National Bureau of Economic Research, was the key precipitating factor that led within a couple of weeks to his resignation after only some five years in the President's office.

What was Summers' error?  He suggested that genetic differences between the sexes might in part account for women's underrepresentation in math, science, and engineering, and that research must be conducted to answer the hard questions and devise remedies. He should have known, however, that in the modern academy, it is no longer acceptable to speak honestly, even intelligently, about gender, race, sexual identity, or any other issue that has already been "decided" by entrenched orthodoxies - that these are no longer acceptable topics for rational discussion and debate, much less scientific research. It did not matter that Summers, in his speech, had actually called for research to be done in this area. His merely suggesting the possibility of a genetic difference between men and women in their ability to master certain fields was enough to bring him down.

Harvard's Richard Freeman, the economist whose invitation to Summers led to the speech that triggered the tumult, was quoted in a January 23, 2005 article in The New York Times to say that he had invited Summers specifically to speak in his capacity as a world-class economist rather than as an institutional leader, because, explained Freeman, had Summers been invited in his role as university president, "he would have given us the same type of babble that university presidents give." (This Freeman quotation alone is a sad comment on what has happened to our academic leaders.)

But the faculty revolt that forced Summers out of the Harvard presidency had grave consequences.  The fact that the university president appeared to have been forced out of office because he uttered a controversial opinion was not lost on anyone in the Harvard community.

A student's private email on  race and intelligence, April 2012

Stephanie Grace, 3L, had dinner with some classmates, at which the hot-button issue of race and intelligence apparently came up. When she returned to her room, she had some further thoughts that she emailed to the dinner participants. Here are excerpts from what she said.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances....

I also don't think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores.... I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects.....

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me.

A recipient of this email apparently forwarded the email to others - I don't know the precise route - but it eventually landed on the desk of Law Dean Martha Minow. I do not know the details of whatever discussions Dean Minow had with 3L Stephanie Grace, but the results of those discussions were evident in separate messages disseminated, one by Ms. Grace and then one by Dean Minow, to the entire HLS community. Herewith are excerpts:

Stephanie Grace, in her email to the Black Law Students Association:

I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.

I emphatically do not believe that African Americans are genetically inferior in any way. I understand why my words expressing even a doubt in that regard were and are offensive.

I would be grateful to have an opportunity to share my thoughts and to apologize to you in person.

Even beforehand, I want to extend an apology to you and to anyone else who has been hurt by my actions.

Dean Minow, in turn, sent an email message addressed "Dear members of the Harvard Law School community." Here are excerpts from that email:

I am writing this morning to address an email message in which one of our students suggested that black people are genetically inferior to white people.

This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student's comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.

As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with the leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community....   A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding. The BLSA leadership brought this view to our meeting yesterday, and I share their wish to turn this moment into one that helps us make progress in a community dedicated to fairness and justice.

Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.

I am heartened to see the apology written by the student who authored the email, and to see her acknowledgment of the offense and hurt that the comment engendered....
The Harvard College Class of 2015 "Kindness" Pledge

The emanations from these incidents showed up at the start of the academic year in 2011 in quite another context. Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman announced that a "kindness pledge" would be posted in the entryway of every freshman residence hall, and each member of the Class of 2015 would be asked to sign the oath on a line designated for his or her signature. The pledge read, in part: "we commit to upholding the values of the College and to making the entryway and Yard a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment." [Emphasis added.] The Oath would remain posted in the entryway of each dorm all year, so that it would be visible, for all to see who in the class presumably valued kindness and who did not or, put another way, who was a good and righteous human being and who was not.

Perhaps Dean Dingman was not prepared for the reaction that quickly followed. Mind you, the "kindness oath" was aimed not just at influencing conduct, but at pressuring freshmen to adopt Dean Dingman's point-of-view on the relative importance of kindness, versus academic achievement, at a liberal arts institution of higher learning.

Most potently perhaps, Professor Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, who served as Dean of Harvard College from 1995 until 2003, severely criticized Dean Dingman's initiative, in Professor Lewis' widely-read and highly-respected blog, "Bits and Pieces." Professor Lewis expressed worry that such an initiative would "set a terrible precedent." He noted that throughout its history, "Harvard has a deep and ancient antipathy to pledges and oaths." Professor Lewis traced this antipathy back to the very founding of Harvard College. More recently, he noted, President Nathan Pusey "raised his voice in 1959 to object to US legislation that would have demanded that certain scholarship recipients swear to uphold the Constitution. Loyalty oaths, even ones affirming unexceptionable principles, are, as Pusey put it, 'odious.'"

Dean Dingman backed down. But the following year he had a surprise awaiting incoming members of the Class of 2016. No pledge this time (that was too visible to the administration's critics), but, instead, without any public announcement such as doomed the prior year's attempt at freshmen thought reform, Dean Dingman managed to slip a stealth attitudinal re-education program into Harvard's freshman orientation week. Harvard undergraduates are now instructed in kindness, its belief and its practice, as a requirement, but this is done not in public, but in private orientation sessions. No wonder Justice Brandeis famously wrote: "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

[Note to the reader: The following section on the Swamy case was included in the original typescript of the lecture, but was eliminated due to a lack of time when the speech was orally delivered.]

So Long Swamy:  No room for hate rhetoric here

This was the headline of a Harvard Crimson staff editorial that appeared on December 12, 2011. The paper reported that a week earlier - on December 6th - "the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted by a large majority to exclude Indian economist Subramanian Swamy's course from this year's Harvard Summer school offerings." I quote further from the Crimson editorial:

The proposal, brought forward by Comparative Religion Professor Diana L. Eck, referenced Swamy's inflammatory op-ed published last year in the Indian newspaper Daily News and Analysis. In the piece, Swamy calls for the destruction of mosques as retaliation for terrorist attacks in India, as well as the disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims who refuse to acknowledge Hindu ancestry. Swamy's op-ed clearly constitutes hate speech, by even the most lenient definition. As a matter of principle, there is no place for hate speech in the Harvard community. Regardless of whether Swamy's article actually has the ability to incite violence, the worthless, hateful bile contained therein itself ought to disqualify the man from teaching at our University. The faculty's decision to remove Swamy from the teaching roster was wise, just, and reasonable."

After going on for a while in this vein, the Crimson editorial concludes:

"The Harvard community has an obligation to maintain a minimum standard of decency among its members. Those who stand for bigotry, hatred, and violence have no place instructing students or wearing the Harvard name. We commend the faculty for their principled decision."

Why am I so disturbed by this editorial, written by Harvard undergraduate journalists? Well, in the past the Crimson tended to be a bastion of support for free speech and academic freedom.  But we see, in this editorial, student journalists' supporting the faculty's censorship based entirely upon a professor's expression, in an off-campus venue in his native country, of views deemed unacceptable at Harvard.

It is Harvard Yard that has become dangerous for the dissenting voice, in contrast to Harvard Square where anything goes. Surely this is a clarion call for us alumni. It is a rather large canary uttering a warning in our academic coal mine.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Leicestershire Police criticised after disciplining schoolboy who flicked elastic band at another boy

A mother has criticised police after two officers were sent to discipline her 12-year-old son for flicking an elastic band at another boy at school.

Angela Brightwell thought teachers had dealt with the minor incident outside the schoolmates two weeks earlier.

Her son told her the band accidentally shot out of his hand and hit a younger boy in the face and he had apologised.

However, Ms Brightwell said her son was left in tears when two officers turned up at his home while he was watching Saturday night TV with his family.

Ms Brightwell, 42, said she opened the front door to find two PCs demanding to see her son.

The schoolboy, who does not want to be named, was then given a dressing-down on the doorstep in view of neighbours and told his behaviour was "bullying" and "not acceptable", said Ms Brightwell.

The police admitted the other boy had not been injured but said he was "traumatised" by what had happened a fortnight earlier.

And after hearing the 12 year-old's version of events the officers left after five minutes and said they would take no further action.

Ms Brightwell said: "I am very angry. I cannot believe the police would investigate something like this - even if he had a mark I still can't believe they would investigate.

"I just want to know why the police were investigating a 12-year-old boy on a Saturday evening. I cannot get over it really. My son is not a bully. I'm really shocked.

"I am horrified they would waste resources on it all."

Ms Brightwell said the rubber band accident happened at the beginning of October outside her son's secondary school in Leicestershire.

He was playing with the elastic when it shot out of his hand and hit a younger boy on the head.

Her son said he immediately ran up to the other lad, who he did not know, to apologise and both were taken into school to be dealt with.

Ms Brightwell said: "My first concern was that the other boy had been badly hurt but they told me that he was fine, just traumatised.

"My son had told me the school had sorted it out. I didn't think it was a big deal, it was an accident, he was playing with it, it flicked out of his hand and accidentally hit the boy.

"He apologised straight away to the boy and thought that was the end of it."

Leicestershire Police said they acted after the younger boy's mother reported the incident to officers.

A force spokeswoman said: "The mother of an 11 year-old boy reported that her son had been flicked in the face with a rubber band by another child.

"Officers attended both families and advice was given. No crime was committed and therefore no investigation was launched."


Romantic poets put rigour back in GCSEs in British exams shake-up

Teenagers must study at least 15 poems, including works by the likes of Keats, Shelley and Byron, for the new English literature exam in a toughening-up of GCSEs.

All pupils will read a series of ‘high-quality, intellectually challenging and substantial whole texts in detail’ as part of reformed qualifications.

Exam boards will set questions on the compositions from five or more different poets as well as 19th- century novels and British fiction or drama post-1914.

Pupils will also need extra lessons to cope with new maths GCSEs and be forced to pay greater attention to spelling and grammar in English language exams due to stricter marking.

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday heralded a ‘rigorous and robust’ overhaul of core GCSEs that will help match the standards expected in other countries.

Reformed GCSEs in English literature, English language and maths will be taught from September 2015. The Department for Education published new syllabuses yesterday and will announce changes in other core subjects next year.

In English literature, there is a new emphasis on reading ‘whole texts’ to prevent children gaining GCSEs by focusing on ‘extracts’ of poems and novels.

The new requirements mean that teenagers must study at least one play by Shakespeare, at least one 19th-century novel, a selection of poetry since 1789, including representative Romantic poetry, and fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards.

Pupils will need to study a minimum of 300 lines of poetry. Current GCSE requirements are far less specific. They stipulate that students must study poetry, prose and drama including texts from different cultures and traditions, contemporary writers and the English, Welsh or Irish literary heritage and one Shakespeare play.

English language exams will include more marks for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar – up from 12 to 20 per cent. Marks for spoken language exams will no longer contribute to final grades amid fears over inconsistent marking in schools.

The qualification will also encourage the study of literature for those who do not take English literature GCSEs.

In maths, a ‘much wider and deeper’ range of content will ‘require greater teaching time and greater testing time’, according to the DfE. This will amount to at least one extra maths lesson a week.

Students will need to apply their knowledge and reasoning to develop arguments and solve ‘real-world problems’. This will include financial mathematics.

They must also learn key formulae by heart such as the formula for the area of a triangle. Currently, formulae are given in exams. The changes form part of a major Coalition reform of qualifications sat by 600,000 teenagers in England each year.

Ofqual, the exam regulator, has announced a shake-up of the structure of GCSEs, with a new grading system, less coursework and a greater focus on end-of-course tests – scrapping modular exams.

The traditional A* to G grading structure will be replaced with a nine-point scoring system.

Mr Gove said yesterday: ‘The new GCSEs in English and mathematics set higher expectations. They demand more from all students and provide further challenges for those aiming to achieve top grades.’


Nervous British teachers ban exotic animal expert from showing children reptiles and snakes for "health and safety" reasons

Teachers banned an exotic animal expert from a school after fears were raised over health and safety.

Reptile specialist Rob Louth was due to present a workshop to a group of children during half-term at St George’s Academy in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

But he was stunned when panicking staff rang him five minutes before his presentation began and ordered him to remove the creatures from the school premises.

Mr Louth, who recently won an award for his nationwide animal talks, was forced to quickly show the devastated children the exotic creatures in their travel boxes before taking them out of the school.

The 35-year-old had planned to show a tarantula, lizard, snakes, meerkats and skunks to the excited young carers in his 90 minute workshop on October 23.

A carer’s organisation had booked the school buildings to give the youngsters - who care for their disabled or seriously ill parents - a well-deserved treat.

Mr Louth said: 'It’s health and safety gone mad. I’ve done displays in schools, shopping centres and parks, more or less anywhere.

'I did a national tour of shopping centres with Skoda on a promotional tour with my animals and you can’t get much more of a health and safety nightmare than a shopping centre. But they accepted me and my licences.

'These kids had come from all over for this workshop and I’d been booked to be there for some time.

'The carers group had hired the school to put on a series of workshops for them as a treat.'

He added: 'I was in and had got all the animals there set up ready to go but five minutes before I was due to start I got a phone call saying no reptiles were allowed.

'I spoke to a senior member of staff on the phone and said can they give a reason but she just said no. Then I said well if I can’t show the reptiles I will just show the invertebrates and mammals’ but then she said no animals at all.

'I decided to stay as long as I could and keep the animals in the boxes so the kids could at least see something and I talked to them about the animals.

'But I had to pack the animals away and leave with a group of deserving kids sat at their desks with their cameras out ready. It was ridiculous.The kids were gutted.'

The carer’s organisation had booked Mr Louth to do his hour-and-a-half workshops on Wednesday, October 23 and Thursday, October 24.

But because of the school’s ban, he was forced to walk the children to a local youth centre and do a rushed workshop on the Thursday.

Mr Louth, from Ruskington, Lincolnshire, added: “This is what I do for a living. I am fully insured.  'I’ve got every licence under the sun. I’m even licensed to work with dangerous animals like a cobra or alligator.

'I’m just really disappointed for the kids. At the end of the day they missed out for no real reason.'


Monday, November 04, 2013

New Report: Grads Not Only Unprepared for Workplace, But Unaware of How Unprepared They Are

Inside Higher Ed reported on the findings of a new survey that shows just how flawed the education system is in America today. Half of college students say they are prepared for the workplace, but hiring managers completely disagree.

It is sad enough that only 50% of college students think they are prepared for the workplace, but the fact that only 39% of employers say that the students are prepared is even more worrisome. 77% of students, but only 50% of hiring managers believed that students were capable of "prioritizing" - an extremely basic job skill. 70% of students, but only 44% of managers believed they could communicate with authority figures/clients. 52% of students believed they were prepared to create a budget or financial goal, but only 30% of employers agreed - making that the lowest ranked skill overall.

The study, titled "Bridge That Gap," included responses from 1,000 hiring managers and 2,001 college students. Students overestimated themselves on literally every single tested skill by at least ten percentage points. There were certain skills that even a majority of the overconfident students did not think they could do, including managing a meeting and making a decision without having all the facts.

"Bridge That Gap"'s findings support the need for student professional development prior to graduation:

93% of hiring managers want to see that the graduates they hire have demonstrated the initiative to lead.

91% of hiring managers hope to see that applicants they hire have participated in extracurricular activities related to their field of study.

82% think the recent graduates they hire should have completed a formal internship before graduating from college.

And it is readily apparent that professional development is still lacking in most students' college experiences:

Outside of schoolwork, the activity that college students identify spending the most time doing is socializing with friends (49%). This was followed by:

Working at a job not related to their field of study (31%)
Working out (29%)

Extracurricular activities not related to their field of study (22%)

Volunteering (15%)

Working at a job related to their field of study (14%)

Extracurricular activities related to their field of study (11%)

Working in an internship related to their field of study (8%)

Attending networking events (2%)

Working in an internship not related to their field of study (1%)
Other (4%)

Experts have been arguing for the complete integration of career services into higher education for some time. More studies like "Bridge That Gap" could provide the impetus for action.


Leading British university in row over two-tier admissions policy

Row as one of Britain's top universities – Bristol – admits pupils from dozens of leading schools with lower grades than their peers. Bristol University is admitting students with lower grades if they attend a school or college ranked among the bottom 40 per cent nationally.

Pupils from dozens of private schools will be admitted to one of Britain’s leading universities with low entry grades as part of a policy designed to engineer a more “balanced” student body.

Bristol University is classifying pupils as being educationally disadvantaged if they attend a school ranked among the bottom 40 per cent in the country.

It has drawn up a list of 1,370 relatively poor-performing schools that it suggests may be putting pupils at a disadvantage during the admissions process.

Students applying from these schools may be given the offer of a place typically one grade lower than the standard entry threshold for other candidates, the university said.

The move comes amid government pressure on universities to widen access to teenagers from poor backgrounds to create a more socially-balanced student body.

But an analysis by The Good Schools Guide shows that the list includes many highly-regarded private schools and state schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted – the watchdog’s highest ranking.

At least 30 fee-paying schools are named including Sedbergh, the boarding school in Cumbria, which was founded in 1525 and charges up to £29,000-a-year.

Others listed by the university include Warminster, the 300-year-old school in Wiltshire, and the renowned Chetham's School of Music in Manchester.

The disclosure prompted claims last night that the policy may be putting pupils at many good schools at an unfair advantage.

It comes as sixth-formers across Britain prepare to apply to university for degree courses starting in autumn 2014.

Under government rules, universities must draw up targets and initiatives designed to ensure students from disadvantaged groups are not deterred by tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year.

Institutions are given complete freedom to choose how to measure “disadvantage”, with most aiming for students from deprived families and those living in areas with a poor history of going on to higher education.

At least 11 Russell Group universities have opted to use state schools as a specific target measure – prompting outrage from fee-paying institutions.

But Bristol has chosen to simply use a school’s overall A-level results as a proxy for disadvantage. The university said it took "into account the educational context in which academic achievements have been gained, particularly if there is evidence that the applicant’s current or most recently attended school or college performs below a defined threshold".

All pupils attending schools in the bottom 40 per cent nationally may be made a “contextual” offer of a place.

It said these offers were “typically a grade lower than the standard offer”.

But The Good Schools Guide found that private schools including Halliford in Surrey, King Edward’s School in Godalming, Surrey, and Aldenham in Hertfordshire, were all included on the list. Other private schools include Tring Park School for Performing Arts in Hertfordshire and Box Hill School, Surrey.

Scores of "outstanding" state schools were also included such as Alexandra Park School, Ernest Bevin College, Glenthorne High School and Hendon School in London, Walsall’s Cheslyn Hay High School and Clevedon School in North Somerset.

Janette Wallis, senior editor of The Good Schools Guide, said the move highlighted the “complexities of broad use of contextual data, particularly regarding school attended”.

She added: “If you want to get your child into Bristol, you might want to consider sending your child to a low achieving independent school.”

A spokeswoman for Bristol said the “bottom 40 per cent” policy had been in use for three years, with the list being updated annually.

The university has been keen to avoid the use of any rules that may be seen to discriminate against pupils from private schools after headmasters urged pupils to boycott Bristol nine years ago in protest over the “arbitrary rejection” of well-qualified candidates from fee-paying institutions.

"We've been using contextual data as part of our admissions procedure for the past 10 years and review our approach regularly to take the latest research into account,” the spokeswoman said.

“We now have a well-established approach of assessing applications holistically by setting academic achievement in the context of school performance. We do not take school type into account."


Sebastian Faulks: All my children seemed to be taught about was Nazis and global warming

Children should be taught about the human dimension of the First World War in schools, not just about “Nazis and global warming”, according to Sebastian Faulks, the author.

Faulks, who is on a committee advising the Government on First World War centenary commemorations, said he hoped the occasion would be a “good chance to try” teaching children more.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, to be published in full on Monday, Faulks said of his children’s education: “All my children seemed to be taught about was Nazis and global warming.

“I don’t know at what age a child can be expected to understand both the political background to the war and the human dimension of the catastrophe — but it’s a good chance to try.”

Faulks, who wrote the bestselling First World War novel Birdsong, has previously said Britain did not do enough to commemorate the conflict when veterans were still alive to appreciate it.

At a literary festival last month, Faulks — whose three children are now aged between 17 and 23 — said he had not learnt about the realities of the First World War in his own school days, and that he believed the horrors had only been widely discussed relatively recently.

When asked whether more should have been done to make veterans feel appreciated when they were alive, he said: “We probably didn’t do enough. I think it is a matter of regret.” He added that it was something he “tried to come to grips with” in Birdsong, which he intended as a “gesture of understanding” to survivors.

“It’s an attempt to reach out to that generation and say somebody born a long time afterwards has tried to understand and hold out a hand,” he said.

The BBC has already pledged to commemorate the human side of the First World War in their four-year season of new commissions based around the conflict. One programme, entitled My Great War, will contain previously unseen footage of First World War veterans speaking about the emotional experience of war, and their fears at going into battle.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a scheme to allow pupils from every school in the country to visit the battlefields of the First World War, as well as reforming the National Curriculum to ensure those aged 11 to 14 learnt more about it.

Last month, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said: “The men who gave their lives in the Great War will remain heroes forever. The last British veteran has now died but their bravery and suffering must never be forgotten.

“This project will ensure that never happens by leaving a lasting legacy of this hugely significant period of our nation’s history and culture.

“Children will learn, at first hand, about the sacrifices made by individuals and communities to secure our nation and protect our liberty. This tangible experience will reinforce what they have learnt in the classroom.”


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Brown Shirts at Brown U?

When New York City's strikingly successful police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, arrived to address students at Brown University, he was harassed, booed and heckled for 30 long minutes. "Racism is not for debate," they shouted. A university official pleaded with the goons, er, students to permit Kelly to speak, reminding them that they would be free to express disagreement during the Q-and-A session afterwards. "Shout him down!" responded a man in the audience, and the crowd did.

Episodes like this are tolerated in America because college faculties, administrators and the press almost uniformly share the students' prejudices and haven't the spine or the integrity to uphold boring American values like free expression. Brown's president issued a wan apology noting that it was a "sad day" for the university, but there were no suspensions or other punishments for those who organized and carried out this thuggish intimidation. Instead, the university will convene "a forum for the campus to discuss our values and expectations as a community." That'll help.

These outrages get noticed in the conservative press and largely ignored by others. It goes without saying that such tolerance for intolerance would not prevail if conservative students behaved this way toward, say, an advocate of same-sex marriage.

Members of the press indulge left-wing students, imagining that their hearts are in the right place, even if their heads are a little hot.

Is that really true? Consider that Kelly has presided over a policing regime in New York City that has resulted in poor and minority neighborhoods seeing victimization drop to levels not seen since 1963. New York's crime rate is the lowest among big cities in the United States. The most dangerous neighborhoods, which are majority black and Hispanic, have seen the greatest improvements in quality of life.

As Kelly noted on "Meet the Press" last summer, during the past 11 years, there have been 7,363 fewer murders than during the preceding 11 years. Based on victimization patterns in New York, that means there are about 7,000 more black and Hispanic young men alive today than would have been the case absent Kelly's leadership. The homicide rate for Chicago teens, for example, is four times that of New York.

Self-styled "activists" such as those at Brown (along with Al Sharpton, would-be mayor Bill de Blasio and the federal judge who ruled "stop and frisk" unconstitutional) claim to speak for the poor and minorities. But who speaks for the majority of law-abiding blacks and Hispanics bullied and harmed by criminals in their housing projects and neighborhoods? As Heather Mac Donald of City Journal points out, "the per-capita rate of shooting in Brownsville, Brooklyn, is 81 times higher than in Bay Ridge, which explains the why the stop rate in Brownsville is 15 times higher."

Mac Donald urges doubters to speak to people like Ivan De Bord, who acknowledges that he was himself stopped by police many times when he was younger. He's now an apartment superintendent in the South Bronx. De Bord welcomes police attention to his building, to keep at bay the gang who colonized the lobby, "smoking (weed), selling drugs, peeing everywhere, not respecting people, playing dice. It's very bad."

It's so easy and, frankly, cheap for Brown students to fancy themselves more enlightened and compassionate toward minorities than Ray Kelly. Most of them come from upper middle class communities. Only about 15 percent of Brown students get Pell grants, for example, which are awarded to students from low-income households. According to The Brown Daily Herald, about 44 percent of the 2012 class received financial aid, meaning the other 56 percent managed to pay the roughly $55,000 yearly fee out of pocket.

Even many of the minority students at places like Brown are not from poor families. A study in the American Journal of Education found that a significant percentage of black students at highly selective institutions were from middle-class immigrant families.

Brown, like other highly selective schools, is dominated by students who've never had to look over their shoulders on their walk to school, worry about whether the drug dealer on the corner is armed, or cower in their apartments for fear of gangs.

Ray Kelly has dramatically improved the lives of poor and minority New Yorkers. That he should be shouted down as a racist is ignorant and fascistic. That Brown tolerates this -- however sadly -- is contemptible.


British schools urged to focus more on maths, spelling and grammar

Schools will be encouraged to provide at least one extra maths lesson a week and place greater focus on spelling and grammar in English as part of a radical overhaul of core GCSE [junior High School] subjects, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Ministers want schools to increase the time devoted to maths to drive up standards of numeracy and put England on a par with the world’s top performing countries. From 2015, maths GCSEs will feature around a third more content and require pupils to master essential concepts in greater depth.

The GCSE syllabus includes a new section on ratio, proportion and rates of change, as well as requiring that children learn key formulae by heart in preparation for the end-of-course exam. It forms part of a major Coalition reform of qualifications sat by around 600,000 schoolchildren across England each year.

In further changes, it emerged that:

* English language exams will include more marks for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar — increasing from 12 to 20 per cent;

* English literature courses will require pupils to study at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th century novel, Romantic poetry and contemporary British fiction from 1914 onwards. The exam will also feature “unseen texts” to encourage wider reading;

* A combined English literature and language course will be scrapped. From 2015, pupils will be required to take a standalone GCSE in language, with strong incentives to choose English literature as a separate qualification. The Department for Education is due to release the new syllabuses in English and maths tomorrow – the first subjects to undergo a radical overhaul. It will make changes in other core subjects next year.

In a separate move, Ofqual, the exams regulator, will unveil a shake-up of the structure of GCSEs, with a new grading system and less coursework.

Speaking in the summer, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said there was a “widespread consensus that we need to reform our examination system to restore public confidence”, insisting GCSEs would be “more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous”. Studies show that English schools devote less time to maths — 116 hours a year or three hours a week during term time — than in most countries. By comparison, Australian schools provide an average of 143 hours a year and pupils do around 138 hours in Singapore.

While there will be no formal requirement to devote more of the timetable to maths, Coalition sources said the extensive maths GCSE – combined with more weighting for the subject in league tables – was likely to encourage schools to provide extra teaching. The syllabus will place a greater focus on “real world problems”, including financial mathematics.


Pimps and Porn in 4th Grade Common Core

The federal government has no business in creating an educational curriculum…no business at all. The U.S. Department of Education, created in 1979, is not supposed to be drafting curriculum for the states. In fact, President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, said, “Any set of questions that the federal government prescribed should surely be suspect as a first step toward a national curriculum [and] a national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.”

However, since 2010 the DOE has managed to get around all that with Common Core.

While there are many progressive slants to the curriculum which have conservatives up in arms, this is not simply a Left vs. Right issue. Many liberals are just as concerned as we are with the non-intellectual slant of the curriculum and the dangerous future it holds for our children and our country.

Men and women across America are standing up to fight the indoctrination program known as Common Core, which will not only teach our children socialism and United Nations-sanctioned ideas, but hinders their intellectual development.

One of the drafters of Common Core, Jason Zimba, admitted in 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.

Please tell them to stop Common Core by cutting off funding because education decisions are always best at the local level, where we live. We cannot let this federal curriculum take root. Urge our representatives to unite, liberals and conservatives, to stop this because our future depends on it.

As concerned parents and grandparents, we gathering research and stories from across the country and we encourage you to do your own investigation into Common Core.

The purveyors of Common Core don’t want you to know what it’s all about until it has infested every school district in every state and is securely rooted in place. Seek the truth now.

You’ll read that the 46 states that have adopted Common Core did so voluntarily and helped develop the program. This is not true.

In fact, Diane Ravitch, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who was appointed to office by both Clinton and George H.W. Bush, says “[The standards] were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.”

But the states couldn’t resist Race to the Top funding, and with $4.35 billion being dangled in front of them in a terrible economy, rushed to adopt the program, sight-unseen and unread.

A YouTube video shows what’s in a Utah English and Language Arts (ELA) textbook called “Voices: Literature and Writing” for first-graders. Remember, first-grade students are typically 6-7 years old.

The textbook says, “Students use their voices to advocate solutions to social problems that they care deeply about.” And it goes on to describe “Emotional Words” that motivate people to “take action.” This first-grade reader talks about how to be an advocate, “social advocacy.”

“Tell students that when they write a call to action, they should include emotional words to get readers to feel strongly about the problem that they want to do what is being asked of them.

Writing a “call to action” for 6 and 7 year-olds?  Doesn’t this sound like Community Organizing for First-Graders?

In Philadelphia, the City Council has already approved some “socialist” texts and is now considering controversial Historian, Howard Zinn’s book, “The People’s History of the United States.” T

More community organizing is taught in, “Si, Se Puede”  - Yes, You Can or Yes it is possible, loosely translated -  is about a 1985 janitor’s strike in Los Angles.  As a matter of fact, “Sí Se Puede” is a federally Registered Trademark of the United Farm Workers Union. President Obama used this slogan in his 2008 campaigns but it also, “Si, Se Puede” became a rallying cry for the 2006 immigration reform protests.

Or consider the book being used, “Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez.” This book seems to answer the question about how communities organize and stand up for their rights against management and challenges. Or, a fourth-grade booklet has a story about a young girl being fearful for the next day because she over-heard her parents talking about how the Unions are good and the Union would be striking tomorrow.

Politically charged rhetoric has absolutely no place in the classroom.

In Louisiana, Activity 8, in grade-one social studies, tells teachers to “lead students to a kid-friendly definition of a hero. Kids watch biographies and then choose five American heroes. People included are Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Cesar Chavez. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are the only other presidents besides Obama, mentioned.

Parents and teachers are being completely removed from the education process as this curriculum funnels down from the federal government.

Also from Louisiana comes this shocking lesson for FOURTH GRADERS, below:

A mom was outraged when her son came home from school with a paper using the words “pimp” and “mobstaz.”

“I try to instill values in my son,” Brittney Badeaux told Fox News. “My goal is for him to ultimately to become a great man, a family man, a well-rounded man. And now my son wants to know what a pimp is.”

Think she’ll get answers from the school? Probably not. What we’ve seen happen is, once parents get wind of what their students are learning, teachers and school districts quickly yank the materials from websites and pretend nothing happened.

Jeremiah Chaffee, a high school English teacher in upstate New York, took to the Internet to denounce the Common Core curriculum as it relates to teaching the Gettysburg address.

“As we…began working on our own Core-related lessons, I was struck by how out of sync the Common Core is with what I consider to be good teaching.”

Chaffee says the teachers were told to teach the Gettysburg Address without “any background context” and not to ask students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.” The Gettysburg Address is simply a speech given by a man named Lincoln.

Chaffee says, “This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn’t delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize.”

He goes on to say, “The bottom line: The Common Core exemplar we worked with was intellectually limiting, shallow in scope, and uninteresting. I don’t want my lessons to be any of those things.”